Stunning Shark Bay and catching breath in Carnarvon

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Lonely island in the bay – Eagle Bluff
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View along the boardwalk – Eagle Bluff
Sharks at Eagle Bluff
spot the sharks!
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Eagle Bluff boardwalk
Eagle Bluff boardwalk
Eagle Bluff
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Eagle Bluff to the left
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Little Lagoon to the ocean
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Denham Seaside Caravan Park
Fabulous tower in the adventure playground
Adventure Park – Denham
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
Denham
HMAS Sydney II Memorial prayer
Sailor’s Prayer
HMAS Sydney II Memorial - names of those lost at sea
All those lost on HMAS Sydney II
Service Dogs allowed at the Shark Bay Visitor Centre
Service dogs welcome at the Visitor Centre
Sculptures by the Visitor Centre
Sculptures by the Visitor Centre
Sculpture by the sea
Sculpture by the sea
Shire of Shark Bay
Legend at the Shire of Shark Bay
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Little Lagoon
Luna aspires to become a drone
Luna aspires to be a drone!
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I can FLY!
Thong Shack
Thong Shack
Friendly locals
🙂

It was quite a drive out to the peninsula on which Denham sits, but from the moment we turned off the highway, we were fascinated by the landscape, and captivated by glimpses of turquoise blue waters. We arrived in town and it was a hive of activity. Boats, caravans, people swimming right by the promenade, people cleaning their catch at the fish cleaning bays. The nautical themed adventure playground on the main street is nothing short of brilliant. The Legend turned a lot of heads, and the kids were waving at everyone.

The dog friendly Denham Seaside Caravan Park had welcomed us with a powered site for two nights and had some great suggestions for activities in the area as well as sights to see. The kids were intrigued by the fact that the sites are covered with semi crushed shells, and our allocated site had a fabulous view across to the blue seas of the bay.

After setting up the Jayco, we decided to head out for a bit of sightseeing. Eagle Bluff was recommended for the views into the shallow waters, which often sees visitors discovering some of the wildlife that inhabit there. It was absolutely perfect weather, the ocean a mirror in the absence of any wind. Within five minutes of peering down into the water from above, sure enough we spotted a few small sharks. The kids nearly peed themselves with excitement, and Kirstine was pretty chuffed too! Our eldest daughter scoured the information board, and quite confidently identified each and every shark as either Lemon or Nervous variety, much to the amusement of other visitors there. A Shovel-Nosed Ray and several beautiful sting rays were also seen. Watching their wings ripple as they swim is truly beautiful!

Paul was able to get the Mavic into the air for the first time in ages and seeing the smile in his eyes afterwards was fabulous. Flying the drone for Paul is therapeutic, so Kirstine now seeks any and all opportunities for him to fly!

The next day we explored the town, taking in the Shark Bay Visitor Centre’s film and exhibit – Fire on the Water. You really must see this if you are in town! It’s free, and utterly captivating as the 3D movie takes you deep to the sea floor, the final resting places of both ships. Taken from the write up on the Shark Bay Visitor Centre;

“We are delighted to announce the opening of Fire on the Water – the new 3D film and exhibit tells the story of the battle between the HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran, tracing the events of their World War II battle off Shark Bay.

Astonishing deep-sea 3D imagery from the 2015 expeditions to the wreck sites, under taken by Western Australian Museum, Curtin University, and DOF Subsea have been used to create a timeline of the battle and to offer insights into what happened when the ships met off Shark Bay 77 years ago. “

This ties in the haunting memorial to the HMAS Sydney II out the front of the centre, which lists all the names and roles of the 645 souls lost – the entire ship’s company. We drove past the memorial in the afternoon, and the sun shining directly over the memorial takes on the effect of sunlight refracted through deep water. It is completely breathtaking and poignant.

A trip just out of town to Little Lagoon gave the kids a chance to paddle and play, and there were other travellers there enjoying the shallow waters and scenery too. Luna completely forgot herself, transforming again into an excited MerDog as she ran laps around the kids, and chased the Mavic as Paul flew it.

We didn’t want to leave Denham. There is so much to explore! Monkey Mia, Francois Peron National Park, Dirk Hartog Island .. it would have taken time that we didn’t have, but we will most definitely be back.

After dwindling our pantry supplies while in Denham, Kirstine was looking forward to a “big” supermarket again when we got to Carnarvon. The drive from Denham to Carnarvon retraced our steps back out to the mainland, before heading north. It’s not the most exciting drive, unless you’re counting feral goats, but it’s well maintained highway, so it’s easy to drive, particularly if you’re towing.

Wintersun Caravan & Tourist Park was fabulous, with slab sites and plenty of green grass! We were greeted warmly and offered the spontaneous opportunity to speak to an audience of campers before a music performance in the recreation room that night. We had thought of taking them up on the offer, and then some concerns with the Legend kept us totally preoccupied as we formulated contingency plans and discussed options.

The next day we were relieved when the Legend showed no further signs of tantrums, and Paul organised her next service for when we reach Karratha. Kirstine drew up a meal plan and shopping list, ready to take Woolworths by storm. The kids caught up on some school work.

Carnarvon at this time of year has a beautiful climate. Warm during the day, cool in the evening, and though a relatively small town, is quite a hub for travellers on the coast. Apparently in month’s time, most caravan parks will be full of travellers escaping the winter chill for warmer climes. We felt a little like we were back in Queensland, with banana plantations and fruit trees on the roads leading into and out of town. We could easily have stayed longer. This is a sentiment we are finding more and more as we push the trip up along the coast of Western Australia. We are into the last weeks of our journey, and as one of our sponsors pointed out today on the phone, we have quite an adjustment to make when it is all said and done, and we finally say, “this trip is finished”. Even typing those words feels wrong. So often we have been told “come back and see us again”, or “can you come to MY town and talk with us?”, or we simply feel that there is more to be done in certain places, or communities we haven’t gotten to visit. This trip may be drawing to a close, but our journey, our story will continue.

 

Blown away by the Batavia Coast

mindDog at Nature's Window - Kalbarri NP
mindDog at Nature’s Window, Kalbarri NP
Geraldton mural
awesome mural in Geraldton
Geraldton Neos
brilliant playground addition at Geraldton
Geraldton play
super cool playground at Geraldton
Legend at Kalbarri
welcome to Kalbarri

Entry to Kalbarri NP

Kalbarri NP - Murchison River
Murchison River, Kalbarri NP
Kalbarri NP
stunning layers of rock!
Kids at Nature's Window - Kalbarri NP
Kidlets at Nature’s Window
Kalbarri NP Coastal Cliffs
Coastal Cliffs, Kalbarri
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Coastal Cliffs, Kalbarri
Ever been stared down by a kite!
ever been stared down by a kite?
admiring the view at Kalbarri NP Coastal Cliffs
Luna admiring the view too
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Kalbarri Blue Holes
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Kalbarri Blue Holes
Kalbarri Blue Holes
youngest daughter overcame her fear to see the fish
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Blue Holes, Kalbarri
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Blue Holes, Kalbarri
Ziva Blue Holes
Blue Holes, Kalbarri

Approaching Geraldton and seeing signs for the Batavia Coast, Kirstine began googling the history of this ship. It was shipwrecked on its maiden journey in 1629 near the Albrolhos Islands, off the coast of what is now Geraldton. The tragic and violent story of the Batavia’s crew and passengers is lengthy and in parts too gruesome to detail here, but Russell Crowe has apparently bought the rights to a book written about the story, so you may yet get to see the Hollywood version of it!

The Big 4 Sunset Beach in Geraldton welcomed us with an ensuite site. This was a wonderful surprise, as was the packet of doggy treats they gave us for Luna! We had great plans for our time in Geraldton, however Paul was laid low with a cold for a couple of days, so it was a quiet time instead. Whilst Kirstine had sent our media release out to local newspapers, radio and TV stations, it was the ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt who made contact and wanted to talk with us. Paul managed to rally enough to meet with Glenn and pre-record an interview. We were able to listen to it as we packed to leave the next morning. Being as we have not been able to travel to some of the inland centres in Western Australia, we love it when ABC Radio helps us share the message via radio and Facebook to communities about Talking & Listening when it comes to Mental Health. Geraldton has had its own share of problems, and we noticed as Glenn spoke with us after the interview, that he became a bit emotional. He was telling us that it’s hard when small towns experience losses to violent crime & suicide, and the community struggles, having known both parties involved. After the interview went to air the next day, we received a message via Facebook from a man who wanted to give us a feed of fresh crays and fish! We were so very touched but were already on our way out of town!

Kirstine had taken the opportunity to contact Parks & Wildlife (now the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions – BDCA) to mention the experience we’d had when visiting the Pinnacles with Luna. She ended up speaking with the Commercial Business Coordinator, Matthew, and found out that DBCA is in the process of reviewing their policies with regards to access for assistance/service dogs. The DBCA website refers to Assistance Dogs approved by the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC), but even this is difficult to navigate as the DLGC website references the WA Dog Act of 1976. It was an interesting discussion, and Kirstine followed up with an email to confirm Luna’s identification, as well as confirm that both the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 AND the State WA Dog Act protect Luna’s access rights. Education and clarification is definitely needed in parts of Western Australia. Matthew sent us an email to use to facilitate any visits we make to National Parks in the state, and also in a separate email, issued Paul with a permit to fly his drone in National Parks. These are not easy to come by, and whilst there are still restrictions on where he can fly, it’s a special privilege he’s been given.

Both the email regarding Luna and his permit to fly issued by DBCA came in handy when we visited Kalbarri National Park. After making it down to Nature’s Window for some photos at the iconic location, including Luna being one of the only assistance dogs to have been there, we met the ranger on the way back up to the car park. Whilst we weren’t going to be flying the drone at that point, plus it’s banned in that particular location, the ranger was happy to find that Paul had done the right thing in seeking a permit and knew that there are still boundaries on operation. Recreational drone users are a bane for rangers, and this particular staff member told us that he has seen as many as five of them in the air near Nature’s Window. If you’ve been to this wonderful natural attraction, and clambered over the rocks to get there, you’ll understand how dangerous to visitors it would be to have drones buzzing around!

The Anchorage Caravan Park in Kalbarri supported us with a beautiful powered site, and with no caravan in front of us, we had a view over the Murchison River. This is a lovely park, in a great location. With our radio interview also covering the Kalbarri area, and no response to our communications from print media, we concentrated on highlighting the need for awareness in relation to assistance dogs, and also about responsible drone operations. Kalbarri is a fabulous location, and largely surrounded by National Park, which includes the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs. It was a perfect day for flying, and this coastline is simply stunning, but in the case of the cliffs, Paul’s permit said he had to keep the drone 500m away, so it was a No Go. Having already seen the ranger in the park, Paul advised another family at the cliffs against launching their drone, as the penalties are steep. They had a great chat and shared the frustration in missing out on the brilliant location with ideal weather conditions, but flying a drone is a big responsibility and there is nothing like a huge fine to ruin a trip!

To those following our journey, struggling with your own mental health, so much of what we are doing is for you! Australia is such a massive continent, but there are places where you can feel the raw power of the elements. Western Australia has so many of these, and if you pick the right time of year to travel, it’s not busy though the weather is stunning. In Kalbarri, Kirstine took the children to the Blue Holes to swim and float with dozens of fish species in a safe environment. We were in awe of the layers of stone, balancing to create structures that can’t be appreciated by looking at pictures on the internet. The cliffs that form the stunning coastline are withstanding the winds and water that constantly batter them. Are you seeing the metaphor for standing strong when your demons make your life difficult? Like the Coastal Cliffs at Kalbarri, the battle will change you and shape you. You can weather the storm, and there will be friends and family that see the transformation and stand in awe of what you have achieved.

Talks along the Turquoise Coast

 

Yes, Australia has a Turquoise Coast as we’ve discovered. The Turkish Riviera also carries the same nickname, but believe me, we’re still in the land Down Under!

After a bit of a marathon slog from Denmark, via Perth to do some messages, and up to Lancelin, we were chasing the sun and setting up as the last rays of the sun disappeared. Thankfully the Jayco is quick and easy to set up, so we were inside and cooking tea, albeit a late one, soon after.

The Lancelin Holiday Park is under new management and welcomed us with a powered site for two nights. We had lovely chats with the couple camped behind us, who loved Luna’s energy, and frequently gave her hugs and rubs when she was around the caravan. The Indian Ocean, on Western Australia’s coast, has the most phenomenal sunsets. It is something we miss from our time living in this state. Unfortunately the sea spray, and high winds, made it impossible for us to fly the drone or get some photos, however the restless and unpredictable nature of the sea made impressions on our souls.

Sandboarding on the dunes at Lancelin is rated a TripAdvisor #1 activity, so we had to go and try it. The best part is, for a large family travelling on a tight budget, hiring a board for 2.5hrs is $12.50 (plus a $50 refundable cash deposit), so we had to go! The dunes cover a MASSIVE area, so there is plenty of space for sandboarders, quad bikes, dirt bikes, and everything inbetween. Luna wore herself out running up and down the dunes, “saving” the kids from the perils of the sandboard. The kids were exhausted after sliding down the sand but having to walk back up the soft sand with the board. The kids wiped out, Paul & Kirstine had a go, and it was well worth a small amount of dollars to have this family experience. One family decided it was ok to ride their quad bikes over the same dunes as we were sliding on, and as we found out when returning the sandboard, this is a HUGE no-no. There is an etiquette to enjoying the dunes. The lovely lady at the store was cranky that we’d been inconvenienced and hoped that the ranger who’d been patrolling the area reported the people responsible.

From Lancelin we headed to the RAC Cervantes Holiday Park had welcomed us for a couple of nights. We spoke to a beautiful lady, whose daughter is doing better now. The mother had taken her daughter to the hospital, needing her to be admitted to the secure psychiatric wing. This is something Paul & Kirstine have first hand experience with. This wonderful woman is so proud of her daughter’s progress and told us that no parent should have to go through the process of having their child committed under the Mental Health Act, nor should any partner. Paul & Kirstine were struck dumb by this woman’s story, affected deeply by her honesty, but at the same time uplifted by her positive attitude.

We made sure to visit The Pinnacles, stunning limestone formations not far from Cervantes. After an annoying run in with a rude DPAW (now DBAC) staff member who was not aware of the Commonwealth legislation regarding assistance dogs (or even the state based legislation which protects the access of interstate qualified dogs), we entered the park and loved other-worldly aspect of driving around. Whilst some visitors ignored the “don’t climb” rules, we were more than happy to follow the path, park and sightsee, and take photos.

Jurien Bay is beautiful, and the kids had a wonderful time playing with the games created and provided by the local Mens Shed. Were the weather less overcast and our time longer, it would be easy to stay and enjoy this beautiful location.

Despite the overcast skies and petulant weather that refused to highlight the stunning seascape and lands we were visiting, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would recommend anyone venture north of the state capital to see what waits beyond. We look forward to seeing more!

Roaming through Ravensthorpe to Delightful Denmark

Have you ever crossed the border from East to West through Border Village? Did you know that there are quarantine restrictions as you enter Western Australia? If you haven’t already come across this, be prepared. No fresh fruit or vegetables. No honey. Be honest. The inspectors have the ability to make you pull over and fully unpack your trailer/camper/caravan, and they don’t mess around. We were prepared and had either eaten or disposed of fruit & veg before we reached the border. Paul had to show the inspector through the Jayco (though he warned her to watch her head as the pop top was closed!). She checked the fridge, having already looked in the freezer in the Legend, and asked Paul to open cupboards inside the van too. We watched as other inspectors asked for exterior lockers to be opened on caravans, and even for the inhabitants of vehicles to step out so they can check inside. We saw bins of confiscated fruit, and inspectors leaving vehicles with spring onions and capsicums. It is a serious business, and when you consider that they have a huge beautiful expanse of land to prevent unwanted transmission of various pests, the Nullarbor being a perfect barrier, and entry to Western Australia is well protected if travellers do the right thing. Be prepared. Be honest. The penalties are fierce, and the inspectors can make life difficult for you if you don’t respect the responsibility they have.

Esperance was busy with school holiday traffic, so after grabbing groceries and lunch, we continued to to Ravensthorpe. We were shocked though to see a Mallee Fowl at the side of the road only ten minutes out of town! We’re familiar with this part of Western Australia but finding a free 48hr camp in the main street was a blessing. The kids played at the fabulous park across the road (where the clean public toilets also are), and with no internet or TV, Paul & Kirstine played several games of UNO before bringing the kids home to settle for the night.

Arriving in Denmark, we made our way straight to Karri Aura Caravan Park, where we were warmly welcomed to site “lucky 13” complete with ensuite! Fin & Glyn purchased the park, which had been closed for four years, but you would never know now! Laundry, HUGE hooded BBQ, free pool table, new playground, fire pit in the making, views to die for. Fin came and chatted with us, met and fell in love with Luna, told us that she knew of a lady whose husband had taken his own life recently. It was unexpected, as it always is. The lady is only now starting to figure life out, so Fin has seen what happens when suicide impacts on a family. She gets it. She loves what we’re doing. Fin is passionate about Denmark and all it has to offer, and rightly so! We ended up staying another day so that we could catch up on our blog/photos and see a few of the sights as well. Whilst we had to be in the region for a couple of days, it was difficult for us as there were significant triggers for Paul.

Kirstine LOVED the Supa IGA in town, we drove around taking photos of the spectacular coast line, though it would have been fabulous to have sunlight instead of clouds, realistically in Autumn you can’t be too picky! Luna proudly wore her mindDog vest in the William Bay National Park, so that we could see the Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks. Oh the photo opportunities if the sun were shining!! As we were leaving, another family were on their way down to the Pool with their dog, one exclaiming as they saw Luna, “see, I told you everyone brings their dogs here!”. Paul told them that as Luna “is a service dog, she’s allowed here”. It is frustrating to see people breaking rules in national parks, but equally as concerning to see the signs for 1080 Poison. There are several serious reasons NOT to take your dog into national parks. Poison is just one of them.

We ended up having to drive back to Albany for fuel, with a reference to the Youngs Siding petrol station being a BP station not entirely correct. The rude female owner did nothing to improve the mood as we then headed towards Albany BP to refill the Legend, a detour we were not wanting to make.

That evening, the kids enjoyed playing with two others who’d arrived, as Paul & Kirstine tried to decompress playing pool while doing laundry and cooking tea. We eventually relaxed, the kids wanted to stay. Denmark is a beautiful little town, and well worth visiting. Drop off your caravan/camper trailer at Karri Aura and go explore! Wineries, playgrounds, beaches, there is so much on offer! Take your time, enjoy and remember Robin Williams’ words – “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always.”

Charming Coffin Bay & Exiting the Eyre Peninsula

 

 

Whyalla has a lot to offer, and Deb telling us about the Winter influx to town of people wanting to snorkel/dive with the Giant Cuttlefish at Point Lowly had us adding this experience to our list for the future!

We enjoyed the drive down the coast towards Port Lincoln and on to Coffin Bay. The Eyre Peninsula is just beautiful! The Coffin Bay Caravan Park had given us a powered site for three days, and having heard great things about the area, we were most grateful! Being school holidays in South Australia, there were plenty of children for ours to play with, leaving Paul & Kirstine to catch up on some blogging and picture editing. It’s a neverending process, but oh so important to document our experiences and interactions with people. The blog will be the first place Kirstine looks back to as a memory jogger as she starts writing the book!

We went for a drive back to Port Lincoln for some groceries and were quite bemused by emus walking across the road a few kms out of Coffin Bay. The area is surrounded by national park, so whilst not surprising to see wildlife, the casual saunter of the emus indicated that they are used to the humans driving their loud machines on wheels through their environs. The same can be said for the family of emus that strolls through the caravan park, close to humans who watch but don’t interact. Watching the sapphire blue waters as we explored Port Lincoln, we found ourselves staring keenly at the ocean, half expecting to see one of the Great White sharks the area is known for, cruise the surface for us to see. Obviously they didn’t get the memo, but the kids were all eager to know if they could do a cage dive to see sharks! They sure do have adventurous spirits!

Coffin Bay is famous for its oysters, and the oyster beds at low tide are fabulous to behold. Neither Paul nor Kirstine can stomach oysters (and yes, we’ve tried them), but the experience you can book, which gets you out to a seated platform area in the bay to shuck and taste oysters, would have been fun just to watch and learn.

A drive out in search of a geocache for the kids, took us to the fringes of the Coffin Bay National Park, for which you now have to purchase your day pass online. If only we’d had more time! If only we had a boat! Have you picked up that Coffin Bay has a lot going for it? Don’t wait for Summer to go. We had warm weather while we were there, and it was busy even in mid April.

There was no point putting off the inevitable as we left the Eyre Peninsula for Ceduna, and the Nullarbor. As we headed north, we marvelled at the long dry stone walls in paddocks, and looked longingly at the signs pointing to other beaches and highlighting the great fishing available. We know that there is so very much more to see, and Paul & Kirstine are already planning a return for a holiday.

We went from the Eyre Peninsula to driving the Eyre Highway, which crosses the country and is most well known for the Nullarbor National Park. Already very familiar with the stretch of road after at least 5 crossings over the last few years, we are somewhat “Nullarbor Numb”, however we were looking forward to free camping in the Jayco. Sunsets, starry nights, and sunrises are stunning out here, and the first night didn’t disappoint. Paul got to practise some of his night time photography, and Kirstine was up at dawn to see sun rise above the foggy plains.

Our second night on the Nullarbor brought rain, and unpleasant odours from the drop toilets at the rest area we stayed at. There was a number of other campers there, some in tents, vans, cars, roof top tents. A couple near to us loved Luna and spoke at length with Paul about the intelligence of german shepherds. The young man wanted to play with Luna, but as the Nullarbor is full of warnings about the dangers of 1080 & strychnine poisons employed along this stretch, it was a risk we couldn’t take. Luna’s admirer understood this, as he has already had to assist others bury their dogs while he was in other areas on the east coast. Use of these poisons is contentious, and its fairly recent implementation in New Zealand is a cause of conflict and concern. Here in Australia, the poison is used to control feral animals such as foxes, wild dogs, pigs and cats. The problem is that the poison doesn’t discriminate, and companion animals who ingest it are handed a painful death sentence, their owners left traumatised. We had a close call in Queensland last year, which you may recall if you have been following our journey for a while. After overnighting at the fabulous Moonie Crossroads, our youngest daughter found a large piece of “something green” at the base of a tree at the rear of the Cub Camper. 1080 bait. Luna had been sniffing around that tree while on lead.

The next morning Paul got into conversation with a couple of ladies camped near to us. They complimented us on the kids’ behaviour and noticed that they each have their jobs to do around camp. The Legend had attracted their attention, and they were amazed at the support we have for what we are trying to achieve. These ladies, when they arrived, used a plastic bag to pick up rubbish lying around, and mentioned in conversation with Paul, that free camping is ruined by those who leave their rubbish and toilet paper at sites, when cleaning up after yourself is so easy! Cooper had the ladies in stitches as he described the process of “pooing in the bush” – digging a hole, pooing, wiping with paper, burying everything .. sounds straightforward doesn’t it? It is! It was the bum wiggle that Cooper did when describing the process, which sent the ladies off in fits of giggles, but they congratulated him on knowing what he needed to do in that situation.

Everyone should drive the Nullarbor at least once. Is the fuel & food expensive? Yes, but remember where you are! Take the time to stop and see the sights. Soon there will be whales playing with their calves in the Great Australian Bight. We’ve seen dolphins there too. There is nothing like seeing the concave section of coast line that most only ever see on a map. There’s no TV or internet unless you pay for accommodation. There are homesteads, blowholes, charismatic roadhouses, rehabilitated Wedge Tail Eagles, and the excitement that comes from driving across the country. This iconic drive is worth the experience. Make it yours.

Way to go Whyalla!

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After leaving Warrnambool and still experiencing some adverse weather conditions, we pulled up for the night in an overnight rest area at Coomandook in South Australia. It was fabulous to park, stay hitched to the Jayco, just level up and step inside for the night. Things to consider – no 240V AC power, so the fridge was running on 12V DC or gas. No heater/ac, no microwave, no kettle or toaster. Were we worried? Nope! We still had the gas cook top and grill, lights, and the TV, which runs on AC or DC power. Easy peasy! Tea was cooked on the grill, it was a mild rainy night so we didn’t need the climate control, and even though the silos we parked next to blocked the tv signal, we were able to plug in our external hard drive and watch a family Disney movie! Spring rolls and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang .. it was a wonderful evening free camping for the first time in the Jayco. What about the battery if we were running the lights and the TV? Amazingly, though Paul kept getting the kids to read the battery charge level on the wall in the kitchen, we used 0.1V over the whole evening. Yep, you read that right, one tenth of a Volt. Virtually zero battery draw on the Jayco overnight.

It took less than 30 minutes to pack up in the morning, and a lot of that was because we didn’t want to get out of bed! Knowing we were going to be driving the Adelaide Hills in poor weather wasn’t motivation to get on the road. If you’ve driven the Hills you’ll know there’s a lot of inclines, some steep, some slow, but then there’s always the descent. When you are TOWING, it’s a whole different story. We were driving through misty rain, which settled in like fog in some sections, and Kirstine was glad that Paul was driving. The Legend has an automatic transmission, but there are still gears you can use to ease the pressure on the vehicle brakes as you descend the Hills. Most drivers cruise down with their foot on the brake, which means they are running the risk of overheating them. When this happens, they can fail. There are safety ramps in case this happens. We didn’t have this problem, as Paul drove the Legend down in 2nd gear, the REDARC Tow Pro Elite electric brake system helping guide the Jayco down.

Adelaide, Port Augusta and finally down to Whyalla. Paul & Kirstine were exhausted on arrival in Whyalla. Welcomed so warmly, and shown to our site by Deb, who jogged (!) with her rake, to where we needed to park, we were told that if we wanted to stay longer to just let them know, as Whyalla has so much to offer.

Over the course of the evening we decided that a day in Whyalla would be a good way to recover after a couple of long days of driving. 

Using Deb’s advice and Tripadvisor, we set an itinerary for the next day. At the Marina we were lucky enough to meet the resident pod of dolphins. Following in the boats that returned from sea, it is hard to find the words to describe the experience of meeting these beautiful marine mammals in such close proximity. They lingered right by the propellers of the boats and seemed intrigued by the humans lined up on the pontoons next to this. The two females swam with their calves and turned their heads to raise an eye above the water to watch us. Those eyes are incredibly soulful and proof of their sentient nature. The kids held their hands in the water and were able to make fleeting contact with these spectacular animals. For all the human interest in them, these dolphins epitomise marine intelligence, and observed us with the same level of curiosity. Luna wanted to get in and swim with them, fascinated as she was to see these big animals in the water!

Our next stop was the Visitor Centre and Maritime Museum. Cooper had spotted a Geocaching symbol, and we spent a few minutes find our very first geocache as a family! It really is like treasure hunting, and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

The tour of the former HMAS Whyalla is an absolute must, and we are so glad we followed the advice of our hosts at the Whyalla Caravan Park. Teresa is the embodiment of knowledge about the Whyalla, who for a time became the SS RIP after being decommissioned. Focussed on the safety of the visitors on board. We learned so much about the role of Minesweepers in World War II, and how difficult the living conditions on board must have been. Without giving too much away, the sea sickness and cramped quarters for non-commissioned sailors, were a challenge that didn’t distract them from their vital role in locating and neutralising enemy mines.

Teresa was very interested in our trip, and Luna has the great honour of being the first Assistance Dog on board the Whyalla. A guide dog once joined the tour, but the steep steps which necessitated a backwards descent for the handler, became too much for them and the canine. Though Paul helped Luna with some aspects, she was ready for every stair challenge that arose as part of the tour.

Taking a photo or two of us on her phone for media purposes, Teresa told us about a new local initiative, INATT (I’m Not Afraid To Talk), which is a support group for young men started by the local football team. Hand in hand with the Whyalla Suicide Prevention Network, this is another avenue for local men to find support in a safe environment. According to the newspaper article published in the Whyalla News on Thursday 12 April, the Founding Member of the group, Jeremy Edwards said that the “group aimed to break the stereotype that males don’t need emotional support .. we want to get rid of the stigma that you’re weak if you need help. We want to get more men talking about this kind of thing”.

We were so happy to hear that Whyalla is taking positive steps towards supporting their community! This was our first stop on the Eyre Peninsula, and it has been incredibly welcoming and surprising. We’re so happy that we took 24 hours to stop and see a few things that Whyalla has to offer, particularly when it means finding out that mental health and suicide prevention is very much on the local radar, with residents taking positive steps to guide the future of Whyalla.

 

Keeping warm in Warrnambool

 

Our first port of call with our Jayco Expanda Outback! Arriving at the Discovery Park Warrnambool, we were given a lovely sheltered site, courtesy of the Management team. Remembering not to reverse with the Hayman Reese Weight Management System bars attached, we took a moment to dismount them, before Paul parked the Jayco in beautifully!

To say the kids were excited about the caravan would be an understatement! Paul jumped inside to start the preparation, but the kids had to wait outside. It was such a joy to watch their eyes pop when Paul raised the pop top. It was hilarious watching their jaws drop collectively as the bed ends were expanded, and clapping their hands as we rolled out the awning. THEN we opened the door. One by one they stepped inside and gasped. “It’s so pretty!”, “It’s like a hotel!”, “I want to sleep in the other double bed!”, “ I bags the top bunk!”.

It was a lovely afternoon as the kids explored the Jayco, marvelling at the storage, the seating areas, the kitchen, and the fridge. The three taps on the sink confused them a bit, but they’ve since figured it out, and we’ll clarify it for you later!

If you haven’t been to Warrnambool before, the Lake Pertobe precinct is a delight for children of all ages. Different playgrounds, a maze, a flying fox for littlies, and one for older kids (and their parents). Not only that, but there are opportunities to hire paddle boats or petrol driven boats on the lake. All this was only a short stroll from the Discovery Park. Warm in the sun, the kids ran non-stop, while Paul and Kirstine envied their energy. As the sun began to set, a chill settled in the air, so we retreated back to the Jayco and its heater.

At the mouth of the Hopkins River, near Logans Beach, we took Luna and the kids for some beach fun. Luna adores swimming at the beach, and the safety of the mouth of the river, where it can overflow into the ocean when it floods, is a safe place for water play, and an off leash area for dogs. Luna met several good mannered dogs, but her favourite was definitely a 7 month old whippet. Talk about run! For the first time, Luna couldn’t keep up with this canine bunny rabbit tearing up the sand, but she had a darn good go at it. It’s so wonderful when she gets to meet other dogs and have such fun, even better when the owners have raised their dogs right, and everyone plays nicely.

We left the Discovery Park with everyone comfortable with the Jayco and it’s many features, and ready to catch up on some work at our next location. Still Warrnambool! Needing to get our eldest son back to Melbourne for the end of the school holidays, it was going to be easier to stay in town so we could pop him on a train.

The Surfside Holiday Park had been very patient with us as we organised our plans at the last minute. We had an awesome site in a sheltered area, and another with with a Jayco Expanda poptop arrived too. Our kids played with theirs, Luna played with their dogs, and the grown ups shared their fondness for Jaycos. Thankfully the kids went off exploring at the beach, so Paul & Kirstine could sort photos, write blogs and make contact with media. We felt strongly about the latter, we’d travelled through areas like Terang and Cobden, devastated by the massive bushfires of St Patrick’s Day and thereafter. With Paul’s experience in this field, he wanted to make sure that our trip was a reminder for emergency services staff to speak up about their mental health if they are struggling.

The ABC South West Victoria was very interested in our story, and Daniel came out to record an interview and take photos. A lead to the story is on Facebook, and the radio interview was broadcast early this morning. If we can get a link to it, we’ll share it!

The morning came for us to leave, and with it a state wide warning for destructive and gale force winds. Definitely not ideal for towing! Kirstine checked with the front office staff, and they were happy for us to stay another day, waiting out the winds! It was cold, very windy, it rained and it even hailed! All the while, we were safely ensconced within our Jayco. The kids watched a movie, Paul was busy sending emails, and Kirstine got to work trying to catch up on reviews on Tripadvisor for the caravan parks we’ve stayed at, and attractions we have enjoyed.

How bad was the weather? The very important South West Emergency Services Capability Forum had been scheduled for that day. It had to be postponed, as it was the kind of weather that meant that the emergency services would be needed, and they were. The Victorian SES alone, responded to over 1060 Requests for Assistance across the state.

We loved making new memories in Warrnambool and are very grateful to the holiday parks that supported us as we inducted the kids to the world of our Jayco, and then caught up on much needed work. We genuinely hope that some of the local emergency services have seen our photos on Facebook, heard our interview or been told about it. When your career, either paid or voluntary, involves helping people in difficult and disastrous situations, you cannot underestimate the effect this has. If you have an Employee Assistance Program available, or even mandatory counselling after traumatic events, find the courage to be honest. As hard as it may be, as trivial as it may seem at the time, speaking up will change the course of your life for the better!