MORE than holidays

I gotta say that I had a weird, kinda empty feeling in my stomach in the first of weeks of school… Even though I liked it! I guess it´s a pretty big change for everyone to go back to reality after 45 days of holidays (same as back in Germany – 6 weeks).

For me it was a “dramatic” change because it is like I just finished a stage of life/ a new fabulous chapter and now I need to say goodbye to it… I know it´s not the end; I will go on trips again, where I will gain similar experiences. Anyway, right now it´s like letting something go.

So I did many awesome things!

I was in Perth for about a week and all in all it didn´t feel like 6 weeks of holidays only! I always looked up to (famous) people who integrated travelling in their job or their vacations in a larger extent than what is common. It probably is their favorite activity/addiction/love or how you want to call it and obviously I couldn’t understand what that really means. It sure seems amazingly adventurous, multicultural and exciting, but I think I can relate to it after my special holidays in Australia.

I dare to say that the fanciness and perfect planning etc. -> things which are making it more glorious and glittery (Australia owns that anyway) aren´t the essentials of an outstanding experience. For me as a person (and maybe for Katrine & Andi as well) one of the most meaningful aspects are still the pure emotions and thoughts (and dreams) you´re usually not “able” to have! Getting into the spirit of being isolated for a short term can be very relaxing!! You´re enjoying the day and that´s it. There aren’t any distractions like media or stressing/overthinking included in my camping routine.

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Also especially in Australia and for me as a quite common European the lifestyle of travelling here in the width of land is absolutely stunning and fascinating. The contrast of being in an undiscovered area to growing up in a “crowded” city and country already inspired me when I was young and now I can live it!! I enjoy the loneliness (together with my family) and I love the simple fact to see (almost) unsettled places and pure nature from the plane straight after taking off in Perth. The “clear” view feels like freedom to me, whose “habit” as a member of a modern family (separated in Germany/ Norway) is seeing inhabited and cultivated land everywhere.

Right now, finishing the blog entry some time later, I actually got used to the school spirit, but I can still relate and get into the feeling I was describing.

Leola ❤

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The beaches of Margaret River

Some say there isn´t much 4wdriving around Margaret River, too many people there, too many tourists. Others disagree:

“Margaret River saw us drive some fantastic little tracks that lead to some of the best beaches we’ve ever been to, along with stunning Karri forests and amazing wildlife”

I am grateful to www.4wdingaustralia.com for posting the above and fully agree with them. It really is stunning there! On a nice weekend in mid January me and the boys took my parents visiting from europe to an extended weekend to Margaret. As showing photos from our WA 4WD & camping adventures is nice but not the real thing, I wanted to show them a little taste of the experience. So, I was determined to find bush & beach in the area:

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park

..is where you find all the beauty! Majestic Karri trees, tight tracks through the forest and picturesque tracks along and down to the beach(es). After exploring Lake Cave in the morning, we checked out the tracks in the park and quickly found ourselves immersed between these impressive trees.

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Our aim was the beach north of North Point with the idea to go along the beach and exit again at North Point. Getting there was a nice decent with spectacular views and the beach looked stunning.

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Going along the beach turned out a bit of a tricky one. Not really possible, very deep sand. Different sand to the very fine sand I had seen so far. Quite coarse sand and rather wet. Consequently very heavy once you dig into it. It was good fun getting off the beach again, finally the Maxtrax came in handy 🙂

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And back on the tracks we went…

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…back a little inland and further south,to approach North point directly. And what a stunning place was that! A rocky outcrop, sheltering parts of the beach, totally quite water while waves were rolling in all around the place. What a magical place!!

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The sand was equally deep on that beach and another vehicle was already bogged big time. Out with the recovery gear again to help them and on the final ascend we gladly used our winch to pull the Hilux out 🙂

All in all a fabulous day trip with gorgeous WA scenery and fauna, stunning beaches and easy four-wheel driving. We´ll be back!

Off and away again

New trip, new plans and many improvements.

New trip

Where to? A nice, picturesque round through south-east WA. Through the Wheatbelt, into the Goldfields, into the big pit, down to the Nullarbor Plain, South to the coast at Cape Arid and then west along the coast with a one week stop over based in Bremer Bay. So much landscape, bush and 4wdriving to take in, it yet again will take a while to process everything. Approximately 2000 km, haven´t done the maths yet, you can do the maths here, day by day: Hema cloud

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New plans

Hhmm, well the plan was to this time actually report from the trip. Plans are plans and plans can change. It´s just not happening. The days are packed with adventures, no space for typing away on something. Looking into the stars has more value. And the WordPress App doesn’t´t really work offline anyway (pictures).

So we are back to the same procedure as last time, we are back from the bush and will gradually report from our adventure, chapter by chapter.

Many improvements

Remember the list of things we wished to do better this time? We figured out almost all of them and it was a treat. On the way back we actually couldn’t´t really find anything that we should change for next time. The solutions to the issues will get it´s own post some time soon. The long-range tank and the water and rubbish solutions on the rear bar improved things a lot.

An enormous difference

Notice the black L on the back of the Cruiser? Yes, the teenager in the family now holds a WA Learners permit and has started her driving lessons on the Holland Track. Is that awesome or what?

Kalbarri National Park

Sandstone canyon with a photogenic hole

Lets write a bit about Kalbarri National Park, where the Murchison River meets the Indian Ocean. 577 km from Perth, the perfect stop over on the way further north. For us it was an excellent place to discover and to break up the long drive to shark bay. We stayed two nights and thus could spend a whole day in the area:

What to do?

Compulsory start of the day is the daily pelican feeding in town. The pelican originally got attracted to the bay by the by catch that fisherman tossed from their boats, now it´s a tradition and heaps of tourists plus pelicans assemble for the daily routine. How big those birds are …
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Then it´s time to head into the national park, yet worth stopping over at Meanarra Hill, an ancient coral reef with a 360deg view of the area and perfectly suited for Titanic posing… img_6591img_6595

The National park offers a couple of jaw dropping views into the Murchison river canyon, carved through red/white banded sandstone over the last 400 million years. If it´s not too hot and you don´t drag three kids with you, you can even go on a hike along the river. Must be awesome!

When you are done digesting these impressive views and the contrasts in colour and material you take the 500 m stroll down to Nature´s Window, yes that stroll even works with a protesting 4-year old. And it´s worth it! As long as you can stand the flies, that is ..
Tataa, Kalberri´s photogenic hole:
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 and yes, there is still more to come, it´s really worth to head down the sand track to the other lookout, the Z-Bend. As rivers tend to do, the gorge cuts along major fault zones, that happen to be aligned almost at a right angle in this case. Thus, the gorge makes some awesome, sharp corners a number of times. At Z-Bend you stand on one of these corners and can enjoy gorge and gorge whether you look East or South. Nice!
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Where to stay?

There are plenty of options directly in Kalbarri, we found a quite nice, more secluded camp site, directly on the river. Murchison House Station is a working pastoral station and offers basic camping both close to the station as well as on the other side of the river for 4WD only. If you want to do the latter, make sure to arrive early in the afternoon as they don´t allow you to cross the river when you arrive to late. Yes, that is based on personal experience.
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Francois Peron National Park

The Colours, the contrasts, the wildlife, the 4-wheeling ..
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I dislike superlatives and yet it´s just so hard not to use them when you describe Australian National Parks. The northern tip of the Shark Bay peninsula, F. Peron Nat. Park, is one of those spots that can´t be described without the words spectacular, one of the most beautiful spots you can find, 4WD paradise, and so on.
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You get there (from Perth) by burning just 130 litre diesel or so and you find yourself at Shark Bay, a World Heritage area. If you´re in a 2WD (and possibly only burned 50 litre gas) you go to Monkey Mia and get to pet dolphins there. I´m sure that´s an awesome expereience. If you´r in a 4WD, you air down to 15-20 PSI and head north into red sand paradise. Then you find yourself in the National Park, head north through the bush and the clay pans and arrive at one of the four or so superb bush camp sites. There may be two to three other vehicles there, enjoying the beach, the fishing the chilling. The first spot is partially rocky (that´s what you see on the photos) and the northernmost is practically on the beach.
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You´ll do a day trip to the northern tip of the peninsula (Cape Peron) and you indulge in the potpourri of turquoise water, white sand, dark-red rocks and red sandstones. And if you´re lucky a 1.5 meter eagle ray glides along the beach just decimetres next to you. It´s one hell of a spot, really!  Not only the geology is exciting, two major ocean currents meet there and you can actually see that! And it attracts an impressive array of marine life, they say.
We just spent two nights up there but you could easily hang out there for a week I figure. In just one day at the cape we saw the mentioned ray, a tiger shark, a bottle nose dolphin family and a zillion of crabs. Hard to imagine that one could get bored in the middle of that.
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After the trip is before the trip (2/2)

Following up on the things we did right on our last trip, here the..

Top 5 things we hope to do better next time:

1. Plan ahead

This one sounds really silly and yet it´s the most fundamental one. Of course one plans ahead, right? Well, if you are going bush, you need to plan ahead just a little bit more. Especially when you base your expectations on European experience. Where did we fail?
  • Outside of the cities you actually need cash, so bring a fair bit of cash.
  • The combination of a fully packed 4WD, a big engine, a rather small tank (85l) and rather large distances between service station is not to underestimate. The machine stopped after only 450 km, that´s not much. So, a long range tank or some jerry cans are a must.
  • You are going out into the wild, you´ll take it as it comes, right? We almost learned the hard way that certain areas (Steep Point) actually need a permit that people apply for 10 months ahead!! Same goes for camp spots there. So, do your research on the locations that need a booking and book ahead, well ahead.
  • The further you go from the Cities, the sparser the supermarkets and the thinner the selection there. The longer and the more detailed you plan your meals, the better you can shop for ingredients, and pack the right amount in parts before leaving. Think about the quantities and how annoying it may be to drag around 1 litre olive oil instead of a small container that is sufficient for the trip.

2. Where to put the rubbish?

You most likely have a superb packing system for your vehicle and you know exactly what goes where. At least when you leave home. Latest after the first night and the first meals you start to carry around a fair bit of waste, likely yucky food waste. We used standard shopping bags and that was not good enough. Especially as you don´t have a “place” for those bags, they fly around in the trunk and the risk for a ripped open rubbish bag is not particularly nice. We hope to find a better solution next time. Suggestions? No, those “4WD-camping-rubbish bags” aren´t the solution either, they are far to big.

3. Laundry management

When it comes to packing and organising your things one issue is often forgotten, where to put the laundry that starts piling up over the days. A proper cloths packing system is crucial with 5 people in one car, sharing two duffle bags for all neccesities. that works all good with these handy zipper-dividing-bags, until you start to accumulate dirty cloths that need to go somewhere. A plastic bag that fits in somewhere in the trunk? Not so good. We actually haven´t yet fully figured out the ultimate hack for this issue. Best we could come up with is an additional, very light and very flexible dividing bag that can separate the laundry from the rest of the clothing items. As the laundry bag gradually increases, parts of the fresh clothes move from one to the other bag (which shrinks in the same time). In the end this would lead to one bag with laundry and one with cloths. Sounds good does it?

4. Firewood

This is not such a big issue as campfires aren’t allowed in most of WA and especially in national parks but if you find yourself at a location where it actually is allowed, you can bet that there isn´t any firewood. So, carry it with you! You would´t want to touch that forgotten, small pile of firewood over there anyway, would you? Snakes like such places …

5. Fly-net (for your head)

Yes they look ridiculous but yes these flies can drive you MAD when you have them all over you the second after you step out of your vehicle.

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Alright, once we´re at it, here are the top 8 things we shall/want/would like to do to the machine before we head bush next time:

8 Most desired Land Cruiser updates

  • Wheel alignment – She´s pulling to much to the left, the left swivel hub needs eccentric bearings to correct the camber (That´s what the no bullshit guys say)
  • Rear bumper / dual wheel carrier – In an emergency reverse, the original plastic (!?) bumper got bent. Time to swap for the real thing, with one wheel and one jerry can holder.
  • Long range tank – 85 liters is not enough and x jerry cans on the roof rack are wrong
  • Drawers – boxes are nice, drawers would be very nice
  • Suspension – will need an upgrade after installing the last three items, also one shock is leaking a bit.
  • Roof rack storage bags – We have real estate up there that would work fine for snorkelling gear / toys and maybe even sleeping bags
  • 3 inch exhaust – For better fuel efficiency, and sound 😉
  • Any other suggestions?

After the trip is before the trip (1/2)

It hasn’t been our first camping trip, certainly not. Some say we even blogged about one of our first major trips.
It has been our first OZ camping trip, it certainly has. And when you do something you haven´t done before, you try – you (may/partially) fail – you learn – and you improve based on your failures.
Doing that for us is a good thing for us, but hey maybe YOU would like to avoid our lessons and rather do the “right” thing without learning the, in the worst case, hard way? wouldn’t´t you? So lets do that blog thing, make a list; No even better make a “top X tips” list! Here we go:
No stop, one second – All experiences reported here, strictly apply to a family of five that travels without a trailer. All are strictly based on our experiences but hey who knows, they may even apply for other travel constructs ..

Top 5 things done right on our 1 week camping trip:

1. Head Lamps

It gets dark early and very fast so close to the equator, that´s something special when you spent years close to the arctic circle. Having lamps is crucial to set up camp, do the cocking, find your things and check for unwelcome critters. Having head lamps is especially handy. The key handiness factor is to have them at the same spot at all times and ideally at an easily accessible spot.

2. Wet wipes

Parents know the benefits of wet wipes to keep the little fellows at least a little clean. On camping wet wipes are gold, they work for so many things besides of keeping yourself and the kids cleanish. Doing the dishes, cleaning your sunnies form sunscreen, wiping of the sunscreen / sand crust from your feet before creeping in our sleeping bag, and so many things more.

3. Zip Lock bags

Leaking things are the most annoying issue when you have limited access to proper cleaning gear and limited to no space to carefully store half open food containers. Everything can be packed in ziplock bags! And then it´s safe and out of the way with very little risk for a mess. Besides of the obvious food items, we stored sunscreen, shells found on the beach, fishing bait, fresh and cut fruits as daytime snacks, … all in ziplock bags.

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4. Oztent

It is a very much not trivial task to arrange camping gear for 2 adults, one teenager a, primary school and a pre-primary school aged kid in one vehicle, a standard wagon and without a trailer. The combination of our Oztent RV´5 with two queen sized 4WD camping mattresses next to each other and one hiking-style camping mattress on the foot-end of the others worked really well. With some routine we had the whole camp set up in not much more than 10 minutes, including all bedding and chairs and table. That´s not to bad, is it?

5. You tell me

I must have something forgotten, what may it be?
I see that this post is getting all to long, so part two follows tomorrow…