We’re Out the Back: Week One


We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of country throughout Australia. We recognise the continuing connection to land, water, language and community. We pay our respect to the cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.

We are committed to walking lightly on the land of ancestors, only taking knowledge and understanding, only leaving footprints and the whisper of our spirits, breathing in the awe of this great land we are privileged to travel and call home.

We come from the land of the Yugara and Yumambeh peoples and have stopped to rest and learn in the lands of the Yeeman, Bidjara, Iningai, Guwa, Indjalandji-Dhifhanu, Warumungu and Arrernte people’s this last week.

The Beginning

It’s a surreal feeling leaving your job, your home and your eldest child (and Raph the dog) behind for three months on the road. A trip we’ve dreamt about for over a decade, and decided to take the plunge just six months ago. Both being on long service leave makes things less daunting, and we’re grateful for that entitlement making all of this possible.

It’s the first time in my career that I’ve taken long service leave that’s not extended maternity leave. It’s also the first time in my career I genuinely feel like I need it. The last few years have been particularly hard work. Testing. Exhausting. Both personally and professionally. While it is all worthwhile work that I’m incredibly proud of, and mostly enjoy, it’s not worth sacrificing my well-being, and that’s where I was headed. It was surprisingly difficult to walk away, albeit temporarily, which further highlights the importance of the break.

I travelled the country with my family as a child. An incredibly valuable experience that I treasure. We did a seven month big lap minus Cape York and Tasmania when I was five… a family of six in a canvas tent. Three years later we did the Cape, and and then in another five we spent some time in Lawn Hill. Not to mention lots of trips in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. Our country is phenomenal, and I believe in sharing it, it’s harrowing history and it’s magic, with our children.

The plan is to spend time at various focus points around the country: The Red Centre, Southern WA, Exmouth and Karijini, the Gibb River Road, Litchfield and Kakadu, Cape Tribulation, then back home… and basically hightail it between the identified spots. The flooding across the north of the country will most definitely impact us, but we’ve carefully balanced planning with flexibility and we’ll just see how it goes.

Taroom: Yeeman Country

We left our home at about 7am on Monday the 3rd of April and headed north west for Taroom towards our number one niece, Sophie. She’s a station hand on a property about an hour out of town.

After breakfast in Toowoomba, we set the sound track to acoustic country followed by some Arctic Monkeys Essentials. Malachi lost a tooth along the drive and put it in his ear bud case for safe keeping – where unsurprisingly it got firmly lodged. It was ultimately freed by way of multi-tool and wrapped in a tissue for safe keeping.

We met Sophie in Taroom ‘town’ and she directed us to the country of the Hay family on the Jamberoo property. Along the way she educated us on what makes quality country and quality cattle, and the various owners of the country along Ghinghinda Road. Sophie welcomed us to Jamberoo, showed us her humble quarters, and gifted the kids an RC boat they’ve been pining for, before introducing us to some of the locals: Dwarf goats Queenie and Victor, poddy calf Fudge, and the dogs Cash and Sally. And of course Brad and Courtney Hay and their 11 month old son Hervey, who along with Brad’s parents Ivan and Tracey, are the proud owners of Jamberoo. Theodore’s highlight was feeding Fudge and having him firmly head butt the bottle. Joey very much enjoyed that Taroom is located within the shire of Banana.

After an entertaining afternoon, we sat down to some drinks and snacks to catch up with Soph and enjoy the landscape. It was luscious from the recent rain. The wetlands (which Sophie affectionately termed swamps), shimmered in the afternoon sun as it set over the western hills. As the sun disappeared the temperature dropped and we needed to open the ‘cool weather’ box much earlier than expected.

After night one in the camper and all working as it should, Teddy and Joey jumped on the back of the quad as Sophie rode it out to the paddock to collect her horse, Tessa. Both Joey and Teddy rode Tessa and enjoyed every minute. We watched Sophie show off all of Tessa’s skills, had one last feed of Fudge, played fetch with Sally and gave Cash a good scratch, before packing up and getting back on the road by about 10am headed for Charleville. We discussed bypassing Charleville and heading to Augathella. Not sure whether we were prepared for another overnight stay, being mindful that we’re still to learn how resilient the kids are with travelling, we chose Charleville as it had much to do should we choose to spend the day.

One the way back to Taroom we saw a family of emu and quite a few impressive large birds, maybe eagles.

Charleville: Bidjara Country

The silver fleck in the leaves of the natives that lined Roma-Taroom Road were a special kind of beauty. It’s amazing the things you notice when your mind is still. We stopped for lunch and a play in the park after checking out Roma’s biggest bottle tree and breathing in the fact that we were in Darren Lockyer’s home town. It was a pretty town, and a great place to rest a while.

We arrived in Charleville that afternoon and stayed at the Evening Star Caravan Park. It was a tidy park and Shirley was lovely. I was grateful for the showers. We are well equipped: Toyota Land Cruiser Troopcarrier towing a six birth MDC Robson off road camper trailer with hot water, toilet, diesel heater etc. But if I can have a hot shower and effortlessly keep my feet clean, I’m relishing the opportunity.

Both Leon and I were keen to get going in the morning. We can no longer take the Donohue Highway from Boulia to Alice as planned because it’s closed as a result of flood damage. Therefore getting to Alice Springs will take a couple of extra days as we travel north towards Cloncurry, west through Mt Isa before heading south on the Stewart, rather than a direct route to the west. An extra day in Charleville wasn’t how we wanted to spend our time and the kids have been absolute champions in terms of resilience. While I would have liked to see the Royal Flying Doctors visitors centre, there is simply not enough time to see everything – no matter how slow you go. The Tooth Fairy still hasn’t been able to locate us on our journey… we keep forgetting to put the tooth out!

Longreach: Iningai Country

It was a green drive, with the pre-lunch highlight being the beef jerky Leon bought from the Augathella service station ‘Nive Beef Jerky’, made in Charleville. Leon would say this is without question the best jerky he’s ever had. I maintain that the the idea of jerky alone is a good enough reason not to try it and see. It’s like it’s even more dead than a well done steak, and even that’s too much.

Blackall was the town of choice for lunch. It brought back memories of our Lawn Hill trip for me, and despite being drawn to the black stump, we ate a delicious meal at The Woolshed Baa and Grill, browsed a local shop, and briefly visited the woolscour where we toured the old shearer’s quarters and dining room. The kids were pretty interested in the bore that delivered hot water straight from the ground and that the people here invested in cold water systems rather than hot.

Before too long we were back on the road to Longreach deciding to stay at Goodberry Hill, a property about 40 minutes to the north of town. Getting to this hidden gem was part of the adventure. Off the main/sealed roads without the comfort of GPS does leave you wondering if you’re heading in the right direction or if you’ve gone too far.

WikiCamps informed us of the property, but we booked through HiCamps, for $20/night and added a baited yabbie pot to the booking in the hopes of securing some red claw. On the dirt road we saw an emu family frolicking in a waterhole, a flock of brolgas, roaming cattle and goats, and a lot of whistling kites. We arrived and were immediately impressed by the Thompson River and our secluded spot. Phil came down on his quad to welcome us just after we arrived and dropped off the yabbie trap, which the boys loaded up and threw in the water immediately.

The moon is rising before the sun sets at the moment which is affecting the brilliance of the night sky the kids have been looking forward to so much. But it is creating some beautiful light patterns across the sky in the early evening. The reflection on the river is particularly pretty. We took an afternoon walk to enjoy the sunset and the vastness of this land before returning to check for red claw… after only an hour there were two! And a bunch of prawns – quality live bait.

We butterflied the red raw tail and barbecued it in butter and garlic over the fire and it was a delicious. After dinner Malachi strummed some soothing tunes on the guitar while Joey accompanied him with his angelic vocals.

The only detraction from the beauty of Goodberry is the flies. We did not expect to get the fly veils out this early, but they were necessary as the sun rose the next morning. We didn’t endure the flies too long and after a quick fish using the prawns as bait, Joey bringing in two that Leon thinks were some kind of perch, and Malachi hooking something exciting that he didn’t quite land using a mussel that Joey found, we headed into town to explore.

We briefly visited the QANTAS museum and observed the planes from a far before venturing to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. It was interesting for all of us, everyone learning about a slice of our history. We all had an interactive, self-directed guided audio tour, and the kids had the added fun of a treasure hunt. I was disappointed that the acknowledgment of Indigenous Stockman seemed tokenistic, and acknowledgement of the impact that the agriculture industry had on the Australian land was non-existent. There were however some fascinating stories and artefacts to engage with and learn from.

After a quick trip to the camping store to get a toaster and a kettle (how did we forget these?!) and a top up at the IGA, we returned to camp and pulled in a cracking catch of red claw which we decided to freeze for another time. Another afternoon walk and the sky, once again, delivered the goods. It continues to be the most impressive experience. I am in awe, constantly. The clouds are sensational. Sometimes puffs, light and soft, staccato across the sky. Other times whispers like spirits dancing over their ancient land. There are times they resemble the frothy white waves of the pacific ocean licking the coast line from which we’ve come. But these clouds really came alive when kissed by the sun as its drawn to the western horizon. Ochre, violet and pink hues feathered through the royal blue sky painting an ever changing masterpiece as day turns to dusk. Breathtaking.

Kungku Kamu: Guwa Country

We packed up slowly and hit the road again after stopping to fill up the water tanks in town (WikiCamps again proving to be a valuable resource). With the heart of Australia being our first major destination, we were continuing to head north west so we could head south from the three ways through Tennant Creek. Knowing we were passing through Winton, part of the Australian dinosaur trail, we were keen to see what it had to offer, but also wanted to make more ground than that today. We decided to stop in Winton and then continue on as far as felt that afternoon then find a place for the night.

We stopped at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History about 20km outside of Winton, and went on a tour of the March of the Titanosaurs Exhibition and a walk through Dinosaur Canyon. This was interesting but underwhelming. The most fascinating thing I learnt was that the Tianssaurs trace fossils were originally located about 80km from where they rest now. There was a three year project that relocated the 55m fossil from its original home (where it was being destroyed by the weather and floods) and moved to the museum. ‘Three lovely ladies’ worked tirelessly for three years to rebuild the fossil. 

We have learnt that we would much prefer to visit towns for fuel and water, but ultimately enjoy what the country has to offer outside of them. A quick consultation with WikiCamps had us decide to stay at a free camp near Kungku Kamu water hole. It’s a small water hole and we weren’t lucky enough to see the waterfall flowing, but the rock formations that surround it were a brilliant playground and a perfect way to show the kids that country is precious and spiritual. The sky delivered once again, the sunset leaving me brimming with gratitude. The fullness of god, whatever you deem her to be, is palpable in a place like this.

After a walk through the rocks, the boys enjoyed a quick dip in the water hole before setting up a fire and enjoying the stars in the evening sky while we enjoyed a delicious red claw pasta in a cheesy white wine sauce. Stars a shining a little brighter as the moon wakes later in the evening.

Camooweal: Indjalandji-Dhifhanu Country

The plan for today is to head through Cloncurry and Mt Isa, and stop for the night at the Camooweal Billabong. The road to Cloncurry was the beginning of the roads being littered with termite mounds. They look frustratingly like kangaroos just off the shoulders of the road.

The sky was cloud free today and as result, a different kind of beauty. The country was flat and largely uninterrupted. The horizon is something brilliant. A feeling I usually only get to experience looking out over the ocean, with 180 degrees of deep blue meeting sky blue. Today it’s 360 degrees of yellow-green grass dotted with the rich green of the natives that stretches as far as the eye can see until it meets the cloudless light blue edge of the sky that grows to a deep blue as it stretches upwards. Interestingly, I don’t feel isolated and still very much feel at home.

We stopped in Cloncurry for a break, a quick trip to FoodWorks and a snack from the Puma service station. As it’s Easter Sunday, I’m sure we’re not getting a true experience of these towns, and what is being called a ‘town’ may need to be revised.

We drove through Mt Isa. Such an interesting experience seeing a working mine literally on the edge of town. I’m not sure if I’ve ever visited or driven through Mt Isa before, but it made me think of a few friends who’ve come from there.

Camooweal had a nice looking pub with a few men on the veranda having a beer as we passed in the afternoon. We thought about going back that evening to watch the Broncos play, but decided to stay hitched and enjoy the radio commentary by the billabong.

The site has only just recently opened, and was clearly underwater very recently. We were hundred of meters from the nearest campers, but not alone. The water was teeming with bird life, countless kites, herron, honey eaters, etc. we set up a nice little fire, had a simple dinner and again enjoyed an epic sunset. The evening was dark, the moon was sleepy. As we turned out our lights and lay back in our camp chairs, the chandelier of stars was magnificent. Malachi in particular was blown away. The sheer volume of stars, the detail, the activity – satellites and shooting stars. Theodore thinks that a more appropriate name for Orion’s Belt/The Big Dipper is Thor’s Hammer.

We have been absolutely spoilt with the most perfect weather and we couldn’t be more grateful.

It was a beautiful Easter morning by the billabong. No egg hunt, but eggs were delivered to each child’s clothes draw, and the bunny even found Jackson at home. Unfortunately, the tooth fairy continues to be geographically challenged and is yet to make her exchange. We set off this morning, continuing to head west. It’s becoming apparent what an epic detour we’ve had to take because we couldn’t take the Donohue. We want to make it to at least Tennant Creek. Karlu Karlu would be ideal.

Karlu Karlu: Warumungu Country

Originally the plan was to visit Karlu Karlu on the way from Litchfield/Kakadu to Lawn Hill, before then moving on to Cape Tribulation. Not only did this recent detour mean it was more logical to visit Karlu Karlu on the way to Alice, but also, learning that Lawn Hill National Park has been closed for months due to damage from severe floods, and that the state of the Gibb is still in question and our path home from central coast WA is uncertain, visiting now was the only way to guarantee we get to visit. The road from Camooweal to Tennant Creek was the most damaged we’ve seen. As long as you slowed down, it wasn’t much of a hazard. There was significant water still around in parts, but none of it over the road when we came through. The edges of the road were clearly very soft and the patches of damaged road would pose significant risk to anyone moving at speed.

The Berkeley Hwy saw the boys’ playlist get a workout which takes you on a journey from Castle on the Hill, to Justice Crew and Beau Ryan, then some Imagine Dragons and Pink… with a dash of Krabby Step and Teen Titans. There’s some sneaky British India, Kiss Chasey and INXS sprinkled in for good measure.

Tennant Creek was a ghost town this Easter Sunday. I have no idea whether this is the usual or just public holiday quiet. We filled up with fuel and decided it was worth pushing on to Karlu Karlu. Leon prefers to drive rather than be the passenger, but until today the driving split has probably been 60/40. Today, Leon did all the driving. It was a big day.

The view of Karlu Karlu as we approached was enough for us to know we made the right decision to push on. The camp ground is among the boulders, it’s well kept and well signed… and surprisingly busy. There were at least ten other couples/families in the grounds.

We did two of the walks in the afternoon after setting up; Nurrku and Mayijangu. The colour transformation of the rock as the sun neared the horizon was mesmerising. As was the way it would peak through the gaps in the boulders as we meandered through them. There are identified sites that are of particular sacred significance that must not be photographed, and for both safety and out of cultural respect, it’s requested that the boulders are not climbed. I was impressed with how well the kids accepted this; however, they also very much enjoyed the easy climb to Nyanjiki lookout we did the next morning that involves a sloping climb over rock to get to the lookout. We chose not to do the Yakkula walk.We all put both hands on the rock at various times, to see what we could feel as per Nanna’s instruction. The responses ranged from ‘cold’ to ‘I’m not sure but something special’. The boys think it’s more respectful and a better experience if you walk on the rock without shoes on so you can really feel it.

Alice Springs: Arrernte Country

We left a week ago today. It doesn’t feel that long. The only things about home that I’m missing are Jackson and Raph. Our three little boys have exceeded all expectations in terms of travelling well and embracing the experience. This does not mean it’s been 100% smoother sailing. They are consumed with things being ‘fair’ which has posed a fabulous opportunity to teach about equity. Absolutely everything is a competition. And there are time where they have zero tolerance for each other. But 90% of the time they are delightful and I am both impressed and grateful. It will be interesting to see how they go when we start some decent hikes. That will require a different kind of resilience.

6 thoughts on “We’re Out the Back: Week One

Add yours

  1. I really enjoyed reading this first post. The descriptions of the sky, the landscape and the spirit filled experience made my heart leap with love for you and your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this first entry so much. Your intimate relationship with literacy leaps off the page and I feel like a stowaway on your journey. The description of landscape gives me goosebumps. I was disappointed that you didn’t watch the broncos lose to the mighty raiders at the pub and know that this also provided an opportunity to teach the boys resilience. Stay safe and I look forward to the next instalment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We are in awe of your words and beautiful photos of your first week on the road. Thanks for inviting us on your exciting journey. Your first day with Sophie was such a great start. It only seemed to get better from there. Thanks for the time and patience you have given in putting this together.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your description of all you are seeing and experiencing brings real images into my mind and it’s all absolutely awesome. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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