Well who would believe it's been
a year since we left Canberra. Twelve months of driving, camping
and generally hanging out in some of Australia's nicest places
(and a few that weren't so nice).
Did we do the right thing? Yep.
Are we sick of travelling? No chance. Is the motorhome as
comfortable as we envisaged? You bet it is.
In short we're having a great time,
we've met a stack of nice people and seen a stack of nice
things, even taken a few good photos. What else could you
ask for? (well OK a lotto win would be nice, maybe I'll buy
a ticket one day).
So, after a year we're not old
hands by any stretch (we know people who've been living on
the road for 15 years), we're still learning the ropes, but
we have pretty much settled into the lifestyle.
Some year-one statistics
At the one-year point it seems like a good time to give you
some living expense stats.
- Cheapest fuel, 79c at Bundaberg
- Most expensive fuel, $1.03 at
- Most expensive fuel price seen,
$1.25 (we drove right past).
- Average fuel price, 93c
- Cheapest accommodation, $5 at
- Most expensive accommodation,
$21 at Kununurra and Exmouth
- Average accommodation, $3.05
per night (we free camp a lot)
- Cheapest slab of beer, $24 at
- Most expensive slab of beer,
$39 at Wyndam
- Food & general household
stuff, $89 per week (we never eat out and buy for several
months when possible)
All up we've lived quiet comfortably
on about $17,000 pa, that's $327 per week or $46 per day.
These figures should come down
as we're getting better at bargain hunting, special buying,
free and low-cost camping, home brewing etc.
Is the motorhome performing?
Sure is. It's not fast but we quite happy to plod along. As
for liveability, we literally would not change a thing, the
house is so comfortable and suited to our lifestyle it's scary
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Mon 9 Sep 2002
Soon after pulling into the rest area I head off on the bike to
recce the track into the Bungles. It's rough but not particularly
challenging and certainly no problem for the bike.
For about 30k I feel that we could bring the truck
in, but then I get to Calico Springs. At this point the road passes
through some steep hills and there are three creek crossings that,
while not all that deep (500mmm or so), have awkward approaches
and/or large underwater holes.
I'm about to decide that it would be difficult,
but do-able, when a couple of off-road tour trucks arrive and pull
in for lunch.
Thinking that this is a good opportunity to ask
about the crossing and state of the road further in, I saunter over
to one of the trucks.
The driver is very affable and says that I would
not have any trouble. As they prepare lunch I realise that I have
had nothing but a bowl of cereal all day. I casually mention that
I forgot to bring lunch and that I'm starving, in the hope that
they might throw me a sandwich.
However this merely starts them off talking about
how they have misjudged the ordering of the food and have piles
left over with only a few days left on the tour. As it is obvious
no offer of a feed is forthcoming I said goodbye and wander off,
leaving them to their abundance of victuals.
I wait for them to finish lunch then position
myself at one of the crossings so I can see how they go.
There are deep holes on one side of the crossing
in question and I am interested to see how trucks of a similar size
to ours handled them.
As it happens they lurch quite alarmingly, and
they are smaller and less top heavy than us. I decide that the road
is not for the truck, and ride back to the highway.
After four hours, 80k, and ten creek crossings,
I return to the truck with only one thing on my mind, food.
Tue 10 Sep
Today is spent preparing for trip into the Bungles
and resting after yesterday's ride. There's not much preparation
to do really, it's just a bushwalk on a motorbike.
Wed 11 Sep
I get an early-ish start with a view to completing most of the trip
before it gets too hot. The ride is uneventful enough, I stop for
a few photos and arrive at the visitor centre at about 11AM.
A "photo op" on the road into Purnululu.
I elect to push the bike through the creek crossings
I'm pretty thirsty by now and notice that they
sell cold cans of soft drink. I down a can of orange and mango in
There are two main areas of the Bungles, the northern
end has some spectacular gorges but it's the southern section that
houses the "beehive" shapes the Bungles are famous for.
Also at the southern end can be found Cathedral Gorge, something
I am keen to see.
I decide to spend my time in the southern part
of the park and make my way to the Walardi campground, finding it
Finally I pitch camp, and I have the entire campground to myself too
I set up camp, relax for a while then ride towards
the Piccaninny Creek carpark. Finally I see the beehive rock formations,
until this time I have not been very impressed with the park but
I have to say that the landscape in the south is quite fantastic.
The beehive shaped formations that have made Purnululu famous.
Spinifex, bushland and Bungles.
The quaint "His 'n' hers" loos tucked out of sight
behind a beehive.
I walk around Domes Trail but keep stumbling over
things and realise that I'm a bit dehydrated, so instead of continuing
to Cathedral Gorge I return to the carpark and ride the 15 kilometres
back to camp.
The road to Piccaninny Creek.
By the time I get there I've ridden over 100k
on rough roads, mostly with a full pack and loaded bike, and I'm
Thu 12 Sep
Today I plan to spend time in Cathedral Gorge, but first there is
an urgent matter to attend to.
I've been dreaming of drinks, cans of peaches
and all sorts of cold refreshing things all night. The park shop
at the visitors centre doesn't have any peaches but it's got a heck
of a lot of cold drinks, and I plan to deplete their supplies a
little. I do the 20k return trip, desperate for another can of orange
Returning to camp I collect the cameras, ride
back to the Piccaninny Creek carpark and head off on the walk to
Before long I encounter some amazing eroded holes
in the rock.
Eroded hole in the creek. This hole is about eight feet deep,
I know because I dropped my hat in and had to climb in after
These holes are caused by pebbles being swilled
around during the wet season rains that flood this gorge. The largest
hole is about eight feet deep and a really interesting shape so,
I set up the large camera.
However before I can take the shot a tour group
arrives and the people mill around me and the camera. By the time
I've described what I do, and allowed some of them to look through
the camera, the sun has emerged from behind the clouds, the light
is now too bright and the shot no good.
There is an intermittent cloud cover so I wait
for another chance.
After nearly an hour spent waiting for the right
light, talking to more tour groups, and retrieving my hat from the
hole, I finally get the shot and proceed into Cathedral Gorge proper.
The "Cathedral" is packed with people
so I settle at one side to admire the view. I eat lunch then walk
around looking for a photo. One of the tour guides is dispatched
by her charges to ask "what's the photographer's story".
Her name is Wendy, she and other guides live full-time
in the park during the tourist season then find a house in Kununurra
for the rest of the year.
A not so subtle reminder that these gorges are growing all
the time. You wouldn't want to be camping here when this dropped
After a while everyone leaves and I have the place
to myself, there's a lovely cool pool for my feet, a soft sandy
beach for my back, and the only sound being that of an occasional
leaf falling to the ground. Perfect.
Fri 13 Sep
I'm leaving the park today so pack up the tent and ride to the visitor
centre. I buy another orange and mango drink and get chatting to
the woman minding the shop. We talk about land management, track
hardening, water usage, increased visitor numbers and other national
park type issues.
I buy yet another orange and mango drink and
continue chatting to the woman.
I buy a third drink "for the road" and,
by this time, I've been there so long she gives me a staff discount.
An hour later I reach Calico Springs and it's
a relief to get off the bike and walk it through the cool water.
I stop for a break and watch various vehicles
drive through one of the crossings.
The second creek crossing at Calico Springs.
On leaving the springs I cross the last creek
and encounter a man standing next to his Subaru. Apparently he tried
to cross yesterday but the car got stuck then the motor died, due
to water in the ignition he said.
He managed to reverse from the creek then set
up camp for the night. When I met him it was lunch time the following
day and he is still waiting for the engine to dry out, and the bonnet
wasn't even up.
I briefly try to get to the bottom of the problem,
after all he had managed to reverse from the creek so the motor
must have been running at that point. Eventually decide I don't
care, I just want to get back to the highway and some more cold
An hour and a half later I return to the "mother
ship" and raid the fridge, drinking four large tumblers of
orange cordial before feeling that my thirst was satiated.
Sat 14 Sep
Herb Farlow (one of the CMCA off-road SIG members) and his wife
were driving past and saw our truck so they dropped in. They have
a 1400 series International and are doing a quick loop around half
of Australia in 6-8 weeks. They stay to chat for a short while then
hit the road. (With only a couple of months to drive around half
of Australia they don't have much time to talk).
A fellow WORT owner drops in for a chat.
The rest of the day is spent packing up my bushwalking
equipment and recovering from the Bungles trip.
Just as we are about to settle down for a quiet
evening a 4x4 with trailer pulls in. Emblazoned on the side was
the word "ROC" which turns out to be an acronym for Remote
Outback Cycle Tours (if you don't count the word "Tours"
On the roof was a rack with slots for a dozen
or so bicycles, about five of which are occupied, with a similar
number of people, presumably the riders, inside the vehicle.
Obviously the rest are following somewhere down
the highway. This doesn't bode well for a quiet night as these groups
tend to have sing-songs and just be plain noisy.
Fortunately they must be pretty tired from the
day's riding, there was a small burst of guitar playing, but by
8:30 everyone is in bed.
Sun 15 Sep
We arise at 5 o'clock, as do the cyclists. The truck is surrounded
by their small dome tents, looking like an hippopotamus at a gerbil
Surrounded by cyclist's dome tents
While we are wondering where all these people
go to the loo one of their members emerges from the bushes with
a massive wide-mouthed shovel. Mystery solved.
We pack up and head for Halls Creek.
Not far down the road I see an object in the road;
unable to determine what it is, I steer to straddle it with my wheels.
As we get just a few metres away I see the hooked beak and upturned
talons of a Wedge-tailed eagle.
It struggles and raises its head, staring straight
at me with a single bright eye.
Just a few yards down the road is a dead wallaby
and I think I know what's happened. Wedgies
can be very protective of their meals, even in the face of oncoming
traffic, and I suspect that this one was dining on the wallaby when
it was hit by a car.
The poor thing is obviously quite badly hurt,
if I had realised what it was earlier I would probably have run
it over to put it out of it's misery. Now there's nowhere to turnaround
or even pull over as the roads around here all seem to be built-up
with steep-sided shoulders.
I've been driving around Australian roads now
for over thirty years and have seen all manner of dead and dying
animals on the road, you'd think I would have hardened myself to
it but I find the reverse is happening, every time I see a distressed
animal I am more upset than the last time.
We enter Halls Creek, the supermarket doesn't
have a single piece of fruit but the service station does, so we
buy three apples (at these prices that's all we can afford) then
drive around behind the information centre to top up with some water.
While doing so we're accosted by a local for using
their water. He ranted about people coming off the Tanimi
and washing their vehicles, and what if everybody filled up a thousand
litres of water, it costs money you know.
OK, I know that some outback towns charge for
water and that's fair enough, so how much?
"Oh it's illegal to charge for water but
you should get permission". So where do we get permission,
given that it's Sunday?
"Don't worry, just ask next time" he
said and strutted off.
I'd understand if we were giving the truck a scrub
down, but surely anyone's entitled to get some drinking water.
We finish topping up our tank and leave town.
At a point about 50k from Halls Creek we see a
cyclist ahead. As we get nearer it's obvious that he's a bit worse
for wear, wobbling severely. We drive past but then start wondering
of he's in trouble. "He was very erratic" Chris
said, so we stop and let him catch up so we can see if he's OK.
When he gets to within a few metres I ask if he
would like a drink, "Yes yes" he croaked, promptly pulling
over and falling into a heap of limbs and bicycle bits.
He has a lot of trouble getting up with an obvious
problem in his right leg. I ask if he has a cramp but he replies
that he is partly crippled in that leg.
He guzzles a tall glass of water and asks for
another. We also fill his water bottles but only add about a litre
to his apparently adequate supplies.
He thanks us and proceeds to get back on his bike,
falling over again, this time in the middle of the road. I help
him up, rehang a pannier that had come adrift, shake hands and he
is on his way.
He does seem to have plenty of water but his actions
indicate that he is dehydrated, I assume that he is conserving his
supplies. Maybe too much.
We are a bit worried about him but he has ridden
all the way from Brisbane so, presumably, knows what he's doing.
Half an hour later we pull into the Mary Pool
rest area, and very nice it is too.
Mon 16 Sep
We leave Mary Pool at about 8AM, just as our Japanese cyclist friend
arrives. He seems in good spirits.
We drive all day with a few short breaks, not
even stopping at Fitzroy Crossing.
At 3PM we pull into a great campsite known as
"The Lake", about 90k west of Fitzroy Crossing.
Not long after we've settled in a couple we've
camped with before pull in. They park and proceed to change a tyre
on their trailer. Three fellows from nearby motorhomes saunter over
to "help" (read "stand around and talk to the worker
thereby preventing him from actually doing any work") and so
Two of the others said that they wouldn't even
know how to change a tyre on their rigs if they had a flat, unbelievable.
One also said that his fanbelt came off at Victoria
River and he called his insurance company to have it fixed. A mechanic
had to drive out from Katherine (190k away) to put it back on. Worse
than that, the mechanic was expecting to tow the motorhome back
to Katherine, so the owner didn't even know enough to diagnose this
simple problem and inform the mechanic.
Words fail me...well almost...UNBELIEVABLE!.
No wonder insurance is so expensive.
Tue 17 Sep
We cruise down the highway, stopping briefly next to a giant boab
for breakfast then enter Derby.
Now that's a big boab
Today we finally manage to get in touch with Adrian
& Carrol, friends of ours with a 6x6 Thornycroft motor home.
They've been up on Cape York and out of mobile phone reach for some
To illustrate the difference between the mechanical
abilities of motorhome owners, and bearing in mind yesterday's diary
entry, get this.
While on the rough dirt road to the Cape the Thornycroft
broke a shaft in the transfer case. Adrian just happened to have
a spare (and just happens to be a mechanic) so he fixed it right
where they stopped. They were back on the road in two hours, and
that's with a broken gearbox. Adrian would probably change a fan
belt without even stopping the vehicle :-)
We spend the day in Derby, initially doing some
shopping, then parking out at the wharf.
TIP: The Derby Coles is the cheapest supermarket
we've encountered since Biloela in central Queensland.
We need to stay within mobile phone reception
so move just out of town for the night.
Wed 18 Sep
We wait most of the day, trying to organise with a friend to pick
up some Marsden Mats but we can't seem to co-ordinate things. At
about 4PM we drive down the road and camp near the Willare Roadhouse.
Thu 19 Sep
Only 160k to Broome now so we make an early start, and pull into
town at about 10AM.
We collect our mail then drive out to Cable Beach
where we stay for a few hours. We're due to stay with friends tonight
but want to fuel up first so drive down to the BP depot at Broome
After filling up we check out the wharf then drive
the 20-odd kilometres to the large ocean-fronted block of our friends,
Collyn and Maarit.
A patrol boat moored at the Broome wharf.
Our friend's house.
Parked in the back yard next to our friend's OKA, and I used
to think OKAs were big
We arrive just in time to share a bottle of wine
on the patio while watching the sunset.
Fri 20 Sep
We piled into Collyn's OKA this morning for a tour of the Willie
Creek area, drive up the main road to the pearl farm, then walk
along the shore to have a look at the Indonesian fishing boats.
These boats and their crews have been caught fishing
in Australian waters and brought to this idillic spot just north
Apparently the captains are sent to prison but
the crew are furnished with rudimentary facilities on the coast
and pretty much left to fend for themselves.
On the return trip we decide to use the back road,
a narrow track that crosses a vast mud flat.
Bisecting the mud flat is a tiny creek that must
be crossed, it seems hardly even worth putting the OKA into four-wheel-drive
but we do so just to be on the safe side.
Collyn lines the vehicle up on the creek while
I get out to take a photo of the event, I put the camera on auto
because I reason that I'll only have a couple of seconds to get
a shot. Little did I know that I would in fact have several hours.
The OKA crosses a small creek...almost.
Seconds later it looked more like this
As the OKA climbs the far side of the bank the
wheels begin to spin and within seconds the truck is bogged down
to its axles. Oops.
There's nothing to winch from out here, so for
three hours we battle with sticky mud, rising tides, and a broken
high-lift jack, but to no avail.
Not a tree in sight, it'll be difficult to use the winch
Eventually we admit defeat and call Worldcare
(vehicle recovery insurance people). Within forty minutes a recovery
vehicle arrives and snatches the OKA from its sticky bed.
To be fair we weren't totally out of options (winching
from a buried tyre for example) and, I'm sure, could have recovered
the vehicle. But why have a dog and bark yourself?. A satellite
phone, insurance company and recovery vehicle were at hand, so why
not use them (providing you have a good try at the recovery first).
Sat 21 Sep
Maarit is up early to set up her stall at the markets, we follow
an hour or so later. We park nearby, spend some time browsing the
markets, then get a bike out and into the shopping centre and scout
for a camp site.
Tomorrow is the "staircase to the moon"
and we want to be camped in town to see it. The phenomenon is best
viewed from Town Beach and there is a caravan park right on the
beach, but we take one look and decide it's not for us.
Eventually we find a spot and move the truck to
Sun 22 Sep
Once you've seen a lugger, an art gallery and a pearl then I feel
that you've tasted what Broome has to offer.
There's just one thing left for us to do and that's
see the stairway to the moon, fortunately it's a low tide and a
full moon today so we've decided to hang around and watch this event.
The truck is parked almost right on Town Beach
and at about five o'clock people start arriving to get a good position.
We could actually see things just fine from our
lounge room, but I want to get a photo from lower down, so we make
our way onto the mud flats.
For nearly an hour we wait, eventually the moon
rises and we see the so-called staircase.
To be honest (and maybe it's better on some days
than others) I think this has been very much over hyped. Of course
it's always an impressive sight to see a big orange moon rise, and
even better if there's a reflection in some water, but to make it
a major tourist event is stretching things a little in my opinion.
We eat dinner then leave town to the massive booms
of a fireworks display. It's well after dark by now so we only drive
to a rest area 22k south of the Roebuck roadhouse.
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