Noodling for Precious(es)!

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Coober Pedy was a great stopover on the way south from Yulara. We had all been looking forward to it, as we stretched the budget to stay in an underground motel (huge bucket list tick!), and the kids were determined to find opals, as if they simply lay around on the streets for them to find!

Checking in to the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience was fabulous. Debbie is the very epitome of kindness and welcoming, as is Melissa whom we met later. When Debbie met the kids, she took them in to the Opal Room to learn about opals and how to “noodle” for them in the mullock piles at the mine next door. Her magic trick with our youngest daughter, had both children and parents entranced, and I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling it here. Go and stay with your kids and you’ll soon see! The kids got to noodle in a bowl of stones for four pieces of opal each, and it was just like finding treasure for them.

Being underground was a surreal experience. The room was comfortable, and just outside was a gorgeously comfortable lounge area, where we parents later sat and contemplated the shapes and cuttings in the stone walls & ceiling, once the kids were asleep.

We took a little trek out to the Dog Fence, which is the longest fence in the world at over 5000km. It was flat and dusty and altogether beautiful, with the Breakaways ranges visible in the distance.

Back in Coober Pedy, we spoke to one lady at length about our trip and how it all came to be. She was amazed, and empathetic to our cause as she has also suffered severely with depression in the past. It snuck up on her after she nursed her child back to health after an accident, and took her quite a while to pull herself out of that dark space.

A self guided tour through the Old Timers Mine, next door to our accommodation, was brilliant. Hard hats and all, we descended underground to see opal seams, and mining conditions from over 100 years ago. The kids had an awesome time in the tunnels, however Paul and Kirstine will be booking themselves in for chiropractic adjustments after leaning over to traverse the same tunnels after the kids! It’s been a while since we’ve wished ourselves young AND short again, and boy did that ever happen during the tour!

The kids spent nearly half an hour noodling again in the mullock pit (think – sand pit) out the front in the car park, and even us parents got in on the act. Everyone found some shiny wee pieces of opal, and thus our very personalised souvenirs of Coober Pedy.

The next day took us to Woomera and Roxby Downs, and we now find ourselves in Cudlee Creek, just outside of Adelaide, where we’ll be for the next 3 days. We were very touched to have a lady come up to us at Port Augusta and ask to give us a donation. Her son’s life was saved by reaching out to organisations like the ones we are supporting, and she became emotional as she blessed us and continued on her way.

As tiring as it can be as we travel, we are finding that people are so very receptive to our story, willing to share their own, and for the third time now, give us a cash donation. Kirstine will be transferring that money to our MyCause page shortly, noting the location that we received the donation at. For those that don’t like using credit cards online but would still like to make a donation, keep this in mind. If you need a tax receipt, all we need is an email address, and we can arrange that electronically. If you have $5 to spare, it’s all we’re asking, unless you have more to spare, in which case, please feel free!

Of Monoliths, Marvels and Memories : Yulara – Part 2

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As we drove to Woomera today, having spent last night in Coober Pedy (separate blog post coming), and the night before that in Marla, Kirstine spent the time looking through the multitude of photos we took during our nearly week long visit to Yulara, incorporating Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park.

We came to the conclusion that even though we have some amazing images captured as digital pixels, there is simply no comparison to actually seeing these sights for yourself. You may wonder at some of the photos we have included, however, please know that it is in no way a substitute for the experiences you have in visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta in person.

We undertook the base walk around Uluru, knowing it was nearly 10km long and would take 3.5 hours to do. Luna was welcomed into the park upon provision of her identification card from mindDog Australia. The park officer also radioed the rangers in the park to let them know we had a service/assistance dog with us, and as we met them, they smiled and said hello to us AND Luna.

Hats, water, snacks – check! From the moment we left the Mala carpark, we were in complete awe. We saw the tourists who had chosen to climb Uluru, despite signage everywhere asking that you choose NOT to. The climb is not banned, interestingly as the Anangu believe that there is no way to take back the footprints already left by those visitors who climbed. They also follow Tjukurpa, their laws and way of interacting with the earth, which mandates that they try and teach visitors to behave appropriately at this sacred site.

Some of the path takes you right up to the rock, and they have wonderful information plaques and stories along the way. The first stop was at the cave area used by the menfolk to teach the bush boys (older boys) the ways of the Mala (Anangu) men – tracking, hunting, weapons, history. The remnants of their lessons left on the cave walls in intricate drawings, to be enjoyed from the boardwalk path. Kirstine placed her hand on the overhanging rock, and was overwhelmed by the warmth radiating from it, even in the shade on a 25 degree autumn morning. It was an intensely moving experience, and we felt truly blessed that we were able to view these sacred pieces of Australia’s indigenous history. Happy tears soon followed as came the realisation of a dream being fulfilled.

The walk took every bit of 3.5 hours, and we met many people along the way. Some riding bikes, some on segways, others walking the reverse route to ours – but everyone smiling and exchanging greetings! Uluru is not simply an oval shaped rock, and there are no words to describe the immensity of it, as well as the hidden treasures to be found when walking. The multitude of textures on the surface, the water hole, the caves, the sensitive sites which are sacred to the men or women folk and may be viewed but not filmed or photographed, the wondrously scented flora only found in the park … Yes, it was tiring, but invigorating and incredibly satisfying at the same time, for our whole family.

About half way round, we met a couple who stopped at the same rest point in the shade, and were surprised to see our children on the long walk around the base. As happens, we spoke about our journey, and they were very interested in Luna’s role and Paul’s career. As they hopped back on their bikes, they actually THANKED Paul for his years of service. This was absolutely a first for him, and he was taken aback initially until he realised what they had said.

The next morning we drove out to Kata Tjuta to do part of the Valley of the Winds walk, before heading back to camp to shower and tidy up in preparation for our meeting with Fiona, who was travelling to interview/photograph/video us for Cub Campers. Kata Tjuta is another 50km from the entrance to the National Park, and is utterly fascinating. This site is so sacred that whilst we can visit it, the Anangu people cannot share the stories of the domed rock formations. There is very much an air of mystery there, and we will have to go back and do the other walks at the site when we have more time.

We worked with Fiona back at Yulara that afternoon after her flight arrived, and again the next morning as we packed up the Cub to get some footage of us driving towards Uluru. We’re excited to see what she comes up with, and hope that our attempts to not squint into the sun as we were interviewed, worked!

We had so many people come and talk with us while we were camped at Yulara. Significantly for us, the children made a great impression on a large group of indigenous families and friends, who were attending the First Nations conference at Uluru. One lady, Shahnaz, came back to our camp with the children, to tell us how gorgeous they are (which as a parent is always difficult to hear). After speaking with her for a while, Shahnaz offered us some contact numbers for important people in some of the indigenous communities around Australia. We were humbled by this and gratefully accepted her offered information.

Our other visitors included a woman who is concerned for her husband, a retired paramedic with a head full of traumatic memories. A man who has a friend who is in the emergency services and may be putting on a brave front as she is new to the role. A mental health nurse who recognised Luna as an MHAD and thinks our journey is fantastic. An off duty police officer who thanked us for undertaking this trip to raise awareness in smaller communities too.

We are not counsellors or psychologists, but will always listen when people approach us and want to share. Having someone to talk to, even informally, can be the start to a healthier head space, and who doesn’t want that?

Laptops urgently needed!

Hello everyone

Due to an unexpected and unfortunate incident, we are urgently seeking a sponsor or sponsors to provide us with the following equipment. Please note, you do not have to be in the computer sales business to help us out.

* 1x Laptop (High Performance for video editing) –

  • MacBook Pro, Windows 10 Professional or Mac OS X 10.10.x, 10.11.x, or 10.12.x.
  • Minimum 16 GB RAM (prefer 32 GB of RAM to run Avid Media Composer)
  • Intel® Core™ i7 processor/high performance CPU
  • DVD Player/Burner
  • High Performance Graphics Card
  • Wireless Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Additional Battery
  • Adobe Photoshop

* 1x Laptop (Medium Performance) –

  • MacBook Pro, Windows 10 Professional or Mac OS X 10.10.x, 10.11.x, or 10.12.x.
  • Minimum 8 GB RAM (prefer 24 GB of RAM)
  • Intel® Core™ i7 processor/ high performance CPU
  • DVD Player/Burner
  • High Performance Graphics Card
  • Wireless Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Additional Battery
  • Adobe Photoshop

* 3x Basic Laptops for the kids schooling (mandatory school requirement) –

  • Laptop/Mac
  • Pentium IV/Leopard
  • Windows 10
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 160 GB Hard drive
  • DVD/CD Rom Player
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Mouse

* 12 volt car charger for each laptop

We have contacted more than 30 organisations directly, but to date no-one has been able to or wanted to assist us!

Please note: we do not expect one organisation to supply all the items we have requested.  If you can only supply one or two items we wound be very grateful.  If you are not in the computer sales business but you would like to help us out, please get in contact with us on 0427 388 168 or DrivingOzBlackDog@gmail.com

Thank you for your time and we hope that we will be able to add you to our growing list of Sponsors very soon.

If you cannot help us with a physical item, please share within your own networks so that we may be able to sort out this issue as soon as possible

Sincerely,

Paul & Kirstine Roadley

Discussions, driving and a dingo! (Yulara – part 1)

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We are still camped at Yulara, having chosen to stay another couple of days to make the most of our time here. Let’s go over what’s been happening in our world.

We thought our night at Marla was great, having been asked to visit APY Lands. The next morning was very special too. While we were packing up the camper, we had three different people come and talk to us about The Legend’s signage and our trip.

The first lady knew about the “Black Dog”, and as Kirstine spoke with her, it emerged that the this lady’s husband had been very unwell for a few years, but finally turned the corner 18 months ago and has been doing well mentally. A personal story about an animal that “saved her husband’s life”, touched on some memories, and as is common when carers get a chance to share with each other, both our visitor and Kirstine shed a few tears and shared a hug. It is so incredibly painful and all-consuming to watch a person you love suffering with mental illness, but the support that carers provide can make a world of difference.

The next visitors turned out to be husband and wife, though they approached us separately to talk. The wife spoke about how wonderful it is to see us travelling with the kids, how she has a friend who has endured such hardship in her life that she finds it amazing that her friend can face each day. She also spoke of her own depression, and how her husband has said that it’s like waking up to a different person each day. The husband was very interested in our journey, and how we packed up the camper trailer!

We fuelled up at Marla and Paul was asked to help some people try and start their car. Some indigenous fellas needed a hand as their car wasn’t cooperating for them. Paul chatted with them while they worked, and a couple of the men admitted that they had been diagnosed with mental health problems. Paul gave them one of our cards, so that they had the number for Lifeline if they needed it. Unfortunately the attempt to jump start the car was unsuccessful, and we had to leave the guys to see what else they could try. Thankfully one lady travelling with them had a phone and was trying to organise alternate transport for them as we headed off.

We arrived at Yulara mid-afternoon and set up camp pretty quickly. We swear we set new records with each set up and pack down! It was a gorgeous evening with not a cloud in the sky, and it became easy to see why the skies around Yulara attract astronomers both professional and hobby! Paul was able to take some fantastic shots on our Sony DSLR, and it was astounding to see that a digital camera could detect more stars in the sky than our eyes! A sudden sneeze from the hill behind us had Paul grab for the Walther Pro torch that we have affectionately nicknamed “Big Bertha” – a dingo was wandering the hill behind our camp not 300m away! The kids squealed with excitement and the dingo moved off to explore other areas in search of sustenance.

Such an eventful day – Discussions, Driving and a Dingo!

“Now what have you done, Roadley?”

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These were Kirstine’s words as she came back to The Legend after some shopping and found Paul talking to the NT Police …

While we’re preparing a blog to try and sum up the amazing experiences we’ve had here in Yulara, today was exciting in this one encounter with a couple of NT’s finest!

Paul had the opportunity a couple of nights ago to meet the Yulara emergency services, as they ran a simulated exercise at the rubbish bin right behind out camper! Seen from the amenities block while the kids showered and we supervised, – red & blue lights, water spraying from hoses, fire brigade, police .. Paul was thrilled to talk with them after he recovered from the shock of thinking that our wonderful Cub Camper was on fire! They were all impressed by our mission, having seen our vehicle driving around, and the Yulara police asked us to drop in some of our business cards to the station.

We didn’t get to that before we met these two officers in the shopping centre car park this afternoon. Paul struck up a conversation with them while Kirstine was grabbing some groceries, and we are very grateful that they agreed to have their photos taken for our website. They told Paul that what we’re doing is absolutely fantastic, and there needs to be more people talking about mental health and suicide prevention. They also mentioned that what we are doing is extremely important for indigenous communities in the NT, and asked for a bunch of our cards to pass out at Alice Springs and Yulara.

It was a thrill to have a few minutes with some frontline emergency services officers. We are looking forward to meeting many more of you on our travels both in the NT and the rest of Australia.

Look out Northern Territory!

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As we mentioned last time, due to the closure of several of the dirt roads that we needed to travel, we have had to revert back to the black top instead of visiting Cameron Corner, the Strzelecki and Oodnadatta tracks and the communities along the way, but don’t worry, we will make sure we visit these communities before the end of our trip! Whilst we are in Yulara we will be meeting up with a producer to do a Cub Campers video/photo shoot.

Yesterday we stopped at Woomera and the kids were excited to see some models of real missiles/rockets that have been tested at the worlds largest testing facility. Kirstine and the kids were up at dawn today, so if you want to see a couple of pics of an outback sunrise, jump onto Facebook. The caravan park there was fairly quiet, but it’s a great place to stop. We considered briefly stopping at “Spuds” Roadhouse at Pimba, where you can camp/park overnight for free, and we think we may even try that on the way back down south.

Today Kirstine had her first experience driving the Nissan Patrol Legend Edition with the Cub Campers Supamatic Escape.  She got to see for herself how well the Patrol performs and how great the Cub Camper tows. Paul was completely comfortable with her driving, and only said some prayers to an unseen deity about twice before he had to deal with the evil glares that reminded him to be a supportive husband … LOL!!!

It surprises us that “grey nomads” and tourists travel the Stuart Highway with excitement, but there are so many families who put off treks into the heart of our great country. Fear of the Unknown perhaps? Preference for holidays on beaches or with kids clubs? Whatever the reason, there are so many beautiful sights to see, particularly at this time of year when they’ve had so much rain and the red plains are covered with green growth. The sunsets and sunrises alone are spectacular and completely unimpeded by civilisation. Nature in all its simplicity and splendour.

Tonight we are in Marla before crossing the border into the Northern Territory and arriving at Yulara. This is a busy overnight spot! We met a lady this evening who lives on the (indigenous) APY Lands, and is also living with PTSD. She asked us to visit the APY Lands, and promised us a donation if we get to her workplace! That sounds like a great challenge, but even more wonderful was that she INVITED us to go, saying we’d be welcome. This means a lot to us, so we’ll do all we can to make this happen. In the meantime, our next blog post will be from the Northern Territory! A first for Kirstine and the kids. The excitement is palpable 🙂

Hooroo from Orroroo!

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It wasn’t until we had bought supplies and fuelled up in Broken Hill that we discovered that the roads out of Cameron Corner across the Strzelecki were closed. In fact most of the dirt roads in that area were either closed or had a restriction on which vehicles could attempt to drive on them. As disappointed as we were to have to postpone that section of the trip, we decided to head south towards Port Augusta, in order to then take the roads north towards the interior, but not before Paul was interviewed over the phone for a magazine!

We crossed the border back into South Australia at Cockburn, and during a toilet break for the kids, found in the bathrooms a lovely note from the community, welcoming visitors and asking them to stop and have a cuppa and a chat at the post office/general store/hotel. Did you know the small community there pays for their own street lights, so that they aren’t a “black hole on the Barrier Highway”??

Not having travelled this stretch of road before, we were all amused by the various names for townships/localities that we passed through. Yunta, Winnininnie Creek, Oodla Wirra (quarantine stop!!) .. we guess we’d need to do some serious googling to see what the origins of these place names are, much the same as we did when we first moved to Western Australia two years ago. Australia has such a fascinating mix of European and Indigenous place names.

Rather than go right through to Port Augusta, we consulted our Hema HN7 GPS and found a little place called Orroroo. This town with only two letters in the name drew us in from the get go. We’ve liked it so much we stayed for another night after some sightseeing today. Small country towns have so much to offer, and it’s been wonderful to let the kids go free range at the golf course below our camp site, safe and secure and bothering no-one.

We’ve had people come and ask us about the vehicle, about our Redarc solar panels, recognise us from the caravan park when we’re in town for tea. Our business cards are flying out, and we haven’t even had a chance to do our media release yet! There’s had to be so many itinerary changes that we haven’t wanted to disappoint any more people, and the intermittent internet access in some of our overnight locations has also been challenging.  We’ll get into the swing of things, but in the meantime if you see our blog or social media, please let us know if you’d like us to stop by. We’ll need to practise our videography techniques on some people too, so if you’d like to be a guinea pig for us …

“Let me tell you of an interview, with an Old Man Emu ..”

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Monday saw us pack up and head out of Mungo NP towards Broken Hill. The roads are dirt and corrugated as expected, with cattle grids thrown in at regular intervals to make sure you keep to the straight and narrow. It was an easy drive to Pooncarie, which has a lovely grassed oval and play area for kids. From there our route took us to Menindee, famous for their grapes! The road however between Pooncarie and Menindee was extremely rough, making the trip out of Mungo seem like black top in comparison. It was about 10km before we reached town that an excited emu ran out to meet us from the scrub at the side of the road. Paul’s 4WD training and instincts kicked in, and an evasive manoveur avoided a collision. By crikey it was close though, and in the middle of the day! It was the closest we’ve been to an emu, (hence the reference to John Williamson’s lyrics!) and we could see the feathers bouncing on its back as it bolted across the road. Paul said it actually fell over and did a couple of rather gangly somersaults before getting back up and taking off again, such was the shock of nearly being taken out by the Nissan Patrol Legend. We are extremely grateful for the Redarc electric brake system, and the superb handling of the Cub camper in helping to avoid a nasty situation. 

We arrived in Broken Hill in the afternoon and booked into a tourist park, though had to ask for a different site, as the one they had given us had a lovely tree in the middle of it which meant we couldn’t open the rear folding Cub camper. Once this was sorted, we set up camp and enjoyed a pleasant evening. To be honest though, we’ve been totally spoiled by the time we spent at Blackwood, in spacious and peaceful surrounds. Being hemmed in to a small site in a crowded caravan park, is not our idea of comfort. Our vehicle did attract attention though, and another Cub camper came to have a chat about the camper trailers and our trip.

After some research, and needing to stay around Broken Hill for a couple of days while the excellent after-sales service of EvaKool helped us out, we decided to relocate out to Silverton. As we were packing up, another gentleman came over to chat, having noticed our kids helping to load items onto the top of the closed trailer, and thinking that the family packing up together was awesome. Our eldest daughter was rather taken with this man, who spoke with a wonderful accent, asking him if he was Scottish. He congratulated her on being the first person to get it right, and her face positively lit up. Paul being half Scottish, there was some chit chat about clans and affiliations to Robert Burns. This man then asked about the vehicle, the trip, and told us that “depression is a silent killer”. He had served for 20 years in the military, and seen a lot of men suffer with mental illness during this time. Our daughter was only too pleased to give him one of our cards with the website details on it so he could follow our journey.

Before heading out to Silverton and our new campsite, we explored a memorial to Broken Hill’s mining history and paid our respects to those who lost their lives. At the Line of Lode memorial, we met a touring group from the Probus Club, some members from Narrabri. They were positively delightful to chat with, so friendly! Luna attracted a lot of interest, and many of the group were intrigued to hear about a mental health assistance dog.

Silverton is only 25km out of Broken Hill, and the road between the two towns is famous for its “dips”. We have a bit of a tradition of throwing our hands up in the air as if on a rollercoaster, when going through a dip, which Paul rolls his eyes at, but grins nonetheless as all passengers partake.

You don’t go to Silverton and not visit the Hotel, which has taken on several aliases over the years as a location for many movies and advertisements. The memorabilia and photos, cheeky slogans, and relaxed country atmosphere, make for a thoroughly enjoyable visit. The wandering horses that come in to drink from the trough, later make way for donkeys, and even cattle! The kids fell in love with the place, and we’re rather fond of it too.

Paul met with some visitors there who noticed the Nissan Patrol Legend Edition, or The Legend, as we call her. Aside from thinking the trip is incredibly important, it was also nice to have one lady ask how Paul is coping with everything. Probably many assume that because we’re in the public eye and undertaking a huge journey, that Paul’s health is fine. Only those who understand mental illness will appreciate that there are good days and bad days, and often each day is a mixture of both. No-one else sees the uncontrollable leg tremors, perspiration and shallow breathing, symptomatic of extreme anxiety, when Paul gets back in the car. The nightmares and night terrors still plague his attempt at sleep. Driving Oz with the Black Dog is also a way for Paul to challenge his own illness and find some sense of normality in the routine of travel and taking care of his family. Luna is here to support him at every step, and she is the reason that he is able to do this.

Penrose Park at Silverton is infinitely more our style, and with yet another Cub camper also here, feels very comfortable! Bush setting, birds and animals to amuse the children, lovely playground. We put Luna in her boots because of the caltrop weed. We think she must have appreciated it, as she took off after the kids to have a romp, without having to worry about the nasty spiky burrs that have caused us all to attempt our own spontaneous version of Riverdance when encountering them in bare feet! The highlight of our stay here?  Hand feeding the unusual grey/black birds that came screeching at our feet this morning demanding food, which would have been sheer hell for anyone with vivid memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. We also spotted a NUMBAT running across the road as we came home this evening. Seeing one of those in the wild? That was a first for the entire family!

Journey into history at Mungo National Park – Part 2

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Earlier in the day we explored the Visitor Centre and also met a lovely couple from the NSW coast. They simply loved Luna! She is a brilliant conversation piece and isn’t at all shy! The couple were telling us about their daughter, who is a counsellor for a regional university. Everyday she speaks to students who are suffering from mental illness. Some are suicidal. They worry about her constant exposure to such situations at work, but speak to her regularly to ensure she is coping. We gave them one of our cards, and they were going to take a photo and send it to her. As we’ve said, we’re more than happy to go and speak with schools, universities, community groups, to try and break the stigma around mental health. We also met a couple of lovely French Canadian ladies, and after hearing about our trip, they said we should come to Canada and do the same thing! Well there’s food for thought for us .. Even at Mungo, we’re spreading the word that it’s ok to not be ok!

The Walls of China, or lunette, draw visitors from all over the world for the breathtaking colours at sunset. Paul & Kirstine have fond memories of staying here a couple of years ago, and having the entire viewing deck to ourselves to enjoy a summer sunset. On this visit with the children, they were in awe of the colour variance as the sun sank quickly below the horizon behind us, the shadows playing over the lunette. It looks very much like a set from a science fiction movie, but the lunette holds the secrets of Australian history and every so often it gives up one or two of these to amaze the world. If you don’t know the story of Mungo Man & Mungo Lady, do yourself a favour and google it. It’s hard to imagine that 45000 years ago, the whole area was a massive lake, and there was a thriving population of humans.

Accessing the lunette is only possible with one of the Mungo National Park staff or licensed tour operators. It used to be common back in the 70s & 80s to drive your car right up to the dunes and go exploring. Of course, they rely on the honesty and good will of modern day visitors to the park to do the right thing. Our history lies out on that fragile landscape, and after damaging rains over the last few years, they have had to change how people visit the area. The board walks are part of the scenery, and there is ample room at the viewing platform to enjoy the landscape without impacting on it. We respect that these are the traditional lands of the Paakantji, Ngiyampaa and Mutthi Mutthi Peoples.

Mungo National Park is a great place to go and experience the outback and appreciate the rich history we so often forget. There are no phones, no internet, very few lights. You can camp at the back of the park and likely have it all to yourself, or be at the main camp. The Shearers Quarters are fabulous if you don’t want to have to set up a camp. We always knew we’d take the kids there so they could see the multitude of kangaroos and emus, and experience the vastness of our country and how much it has changed over time. What we weren’t expecting is that we find ourselves wondering when we’ll go back again, already craving the peace that can be found at Mungo.