It is 0630 on the first Sunday of July 2015. With the precision of a crack military unit (if you include Kaya’s Girl Guides troop as such) we are, after months of planning, finally packing our Landcruiser 200 series to drive out of Canberra. Or more correctly, we commenced the challenging task of rousing the kids from slumber, and cramming our worldly possessions into a huge car which, seemed to be suddenly and alarmingly, far too small. Our first challenge was that after two days of kids' slumber parties (which involved very little actual slumber) we were all sleep deprived. Even our best endeavours resulted in much activity but less than extraordinary results.
Despite all this, the months of endless 'lists of things to do’ was finally over and we were in good spirits for our drive out of Canberra. After loading the car, we walked briskly through the frosty Norgrove Park, down to Kingston Foreshore for one last relaxed breakfast (for now) at our favourite cafe in Canberra, Local Press.
True to form for a winter’s morning, Lake Burley Griffin was beautiful but eery under her blanket of morning fog; a great memory, but equally strong incentive to head North to the warmth.
After a relaxed breakfast, Brian and the crew at Local Press surprised us with a farewell gift of cake as we were leaving. Thanks guys. You’ll be pleased to know that it went down a treat with some unexpectedly decent coffee at a truckstop two hours down the road. A postcard is on its way.
With stomachs full of warm food and heads full of warm thoughts of northern weather, our convoy finally hit the road at the crack of 1030 am. Our friend 'Kinga' had flown in to buy our Commodore Sportswagon and drive it back to WA, so we unceremoniously piled our excess luggage into his car, knowing that we had a few days to work out how to make it fit into our vehicle. By the time we parted company at Wilpena Pound 4 days later, we’d managed to find space for all our gear and, at the time of writing, we have smugly found ourselves with an excess of space.
The first two days were always expected to be just a long-arsed drive and so it turned out to be, with 10 hour days to reach the Flinders Ranges with regular breaks at dire highway truckstops.
We made it into Mildura after dark on that first Sunday night, and the next day was our first morning of waking up in our tents. And what a way to wake up. We were greeted by thousands (well maybe just the one-thousand) pelicans on the Murray River, 10 meters from where we slept. One of the locals said it was the most she had seen in three decades. It was certainly the most we’d seen in any decade.
On our way across the Hay Plain we stopped to take some pictures of the recent housing boom in this mighty economic powerhouse of Australia.
The peak hour traffic was crazy busy on the Hay Plain and even walking across the road was taking your life into your hands.
Oh, how quickly we had lost that city slicker sense of urgency.
We’ve camped in a variety of beautiful locations in our lifetimes, but few better than the beautiful Flinders Ranges.
Definitely a highlight of the trip and a great place for a stroll but brrrr ... you needed that campfire at night to keep warm.
All that was weeks ago now. Life on the road is surprisingly busy and we have had barely a moment to ‘just sit’ let alone get our blog underway but finally, as you can see, we have started. Camping is time consuming and camping with kids even more so. We know, we know, who would have thought? Moreover, we found that all the things we’d postponed in the mad rush of the past few months were still faithfully waiting for us. Really exciting stuff that I’m sure you’d love to hear about, such as finalising kids' school enrolments for Spain, cancelling bills/utilities/insurances, etc. etc. Despite the aforementioned lists of things to do, it’s amazing how many things you can postpone into the “world won’t collapse if we don’t do this today … ” list.
Fortunately the personal admin jobs are (mostly) done now. Although we'd intended to keep a blog from the very beginning, it’s clear now how wildly optimistic that plan was. To be fair, the main reason for the delay hasn’t been the list of things postponed. It’s simply been the happy distraction of getting out and enjoying this amazing continent. The kids are great travellers and have settled in well, albeit seem generally more interested in their screens than the world at large. Every so often though, they surprise us and restore our confidence in the next generation, with displays of genuine interest and comments about something unexpected such as a black cockatoo or a particularly spectacular view. Cajoling them to do 3 hours of daily study to catch up with the British curriculum is a daily ritual and constant challenge of course, but it’s great to spend the time with them. We’ve been using the trip to subliminally indoctrinate them with some personal development audiobooks on skills for life that are not covered in school. You know the sort of things; personal finances, communication skills, resilience, emotional intelligence etc. all of which are apparently much less important than calculus and the precise date that England was invaded for the twenty-third time. Suffice to say that as we head into the desert, we all continue to learn new things every day.