Tropical festivities in the NT

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With word that our eldest son would be arriving into Darwin two days earlier than expected, we had some longer days of driving to get there from Alice Springs. The Stuart Highway north of Alice is a lovely straight stretch of road, and had been cleared a few metres back from each side of the road. The dressed up cathedral termite mounds were very entertaining, and the fresh green growth after the rain added to the kaleidoscope of colours in the landscape.

We didn’t get away from Alice till nearly lunchtime, so the 500km trip to Tennant Creek had us reluctant to set up camp when we arrived. A cabin stay was called for, and the airconditioning was a relief that meant most of us got some sleep.

Tennant Creek to Daly Waters was another 400km stretch, and with longer days of driving combined with heat and humidity, Paul & Kirstine made the decision to use some of their meagre savings to have the family stay in cabins. It took the pressure off needing to set/pack up camp in difficult weather conditions, and meant we could enjoy the journey despite the hours being spent in the car to get us to Darwin in time for our son’s arrival.

The Hi-way Inn at Daly Waters was truly enjoyable. The staff hadn’t had a service dog stay before, but one of the managers was totally up to speed on the law, and expedited our check in process. The new cabins were beautifully appointed, and the tree frogs came out to feed from the insects attracted to the outside lights after dark. Thoroughly entertaining!

Katherine was the destination for a couple of days, and by comparison to the longer days we’d had to drive in the lead up, 300km was a pleasant change!

The Knotts Crossing Resort were so welcoming and didn’t question Luna’s presence at all. Very professional staff! The family rooms have two queen beds, a set of bunks, and a kitchenette. Perfect for us. We were told that this time of the year in Katherine is also known as “suicide season”, not only because of the build up to the wet season rains, but also Christmas being difficult for many in town. Seeing security guards at the supermarket and police at the liquor stores, was an eye opener but sadly nothing new to us after our visit to Alice.

When we left Katherine for Darwin, it was with a sense of excitement and anticipation. It was a destination that everyone had been looking forward to, another city so far away from the heavily populated areas of Australia, that it’s easier to fly there than drive.

Darwin didn’t disappoint. Beautiful infrastructure, clean and tidy, and quiet (due to the mass exodus of government staff over the Christmas period), we explored and marvelled at the lush gardens, and coloured waters of the Timor Sea. Our accommodation for the stay in Darwin made a serious dent in our savings, but was very worthwhile. Hidden Valley Tourist Park is delightful. Quieter in the wet season, there were still a few families in the villas for the festive season. Front verandah, lounge, kitchen, kids room with 2 sets of built in bunks, and a king sized bed in the master bedroom, it felt thoroughly luxurious. We effectively “moved in”, and settled on the verandah to watch the the rain that started just after we move in the last bags.

Eldest son arrived just before midnight, and the kids were super excited to wake up the next morning and find him in his bed.

We’d already decided to step back from the pressures of the trip for a bit and enjoy being a complete family again. Visiting the amazing Darwin Military Museum and its Defence of Darwin exhibit was so worthwhile. The Museum’s Cyclone Tracy exhibit was surreal, and the kids first experience with a natural disaster. The photos, the sound booth with actual recordings from the cyclone, and a huge twisted metal girder that once stood tall and straight till Tracy’s landfall, were confronting but fascinating. Darwin has obviously rebuilt, and grown in population, but it remains the smallest state capital in Australia, with a population of only 146,000 (round figures).

Crocosaurus Cove was a treat for us all. Paul had been determined to see a saltwater crocodile in the Northern Territory, and this was a safe way to ensure that this happened! Luna was welcomed without question. Some of these prehistoric creatures are leviathan in size, and truly marvellous as well as inspiring fear on a primal level. Having one open its eyes to look directly at you with its toothy maw open, is a singularly spine chilling experience! Luna wasn’t sure what to make of them, but was fabulously well behaved, even in the reptile house where every inhabitant was wide awake and active! Had she been allowed, she would have jumped in to swim with the kids in the tank next to the juvenile salties too. It would have been interesting to see her reaction to them being close to the kids, albeit separated by a massively thick piece of perspex.

All too soon our stay in Darwin was over. We slept long and late, we rested, we played tourist, and enjoyed every tropical storm that arrived in the afternoon. We fell in love with this resilient city, which has risen from the ashes of World War II bombings by the Japanese, one of the worst cyclones in Australian history, and has bounced back. It is inspiring, stunning in the warm wet season rain, and completely worthwhile visiting. We’ll be back!

North into the Territory

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Departing Marla just after 9am, we crossed the border into the Northern Territory (NT) and discovered that we arrived before we’d left! Confused? Us too! The NT has yet another time zone, and we wound the clock back an hour. It certainly makes things interesting, keeping track of all the time zone changes along the way.

Kulgera Roadhouse also houses the pub, known as the “first and last pub in the NT” depending on which direction you’re travelling. We topped up on fuel on the drive north, but there are no BP service stations before Alice Springs on the route we were driving. These remote fuel stops are very expensive!

The Big 4 Macdonnell Range Holiday Park showed their support of our journey by providing us with a powered site AND ensuite for our stay. Everyone was lovely, and so excited to meet Luna whenever we visited the office. The kids spotted the waterslide as soon as we pulled up of course, but they know we have the rules that setting up camp and schoolwork must be done before any leisure activities. After setting up the camper, we checked the temperature at the campsite, and read the air at 47.2 degrees Celsius. Yep, it was hot! We decided to go for a drive to get a feel for the town, get some groceries, and enjoy the airconditioning in the Legend.

Anzac Hill in Alice Springs is absolutely a beautiful memorial, to our military participation in overseas conflicts, past and present. The drive up the hill is lined with iron signs, marking in chronological order, the wars that Australia has been represented in. The views from the top of the hill, to the Macdonnell Ranges and over Alice Springs itself, is very special.

Paul was taking some photos from Anzac Hill and noticed that there were spots on the images – dirt on the sensor that couldn’t be wiped clean externally. While Kirstine was grocery shopping, Paul contacted Camera House and found the owner more than happy to clean our Sony DSLR for us, free of charge. We dropped it off and left it with him overnight. Picking it up the next day, he told Paul that there was “quite a bit of dirt” in the camera, but said that was to be expected after the remote roads we’d been driving. It’s so great to have the DSLR clean again – thanks Camera House!!

You can’t visit Alice Springs and not see the indigenous groups relaxing in the shade in the grassy public areas. Some of these are visitors to Alice Springs from outlying remote communities. We’d met a few fellas on their way into town, who’d run out of fuel. Paul always stops for people who are trying to flag down passers by. Whilst they needed unleaded fuel and we were only carrying diesel, we were able to refill all their water bottles while they waited for assistance from other vehicles. We’ve read that the Aboriginal Mens Council in Alice Springs has issued rules for indigenous visitors from outside communities, asking them to respect the sacred sites in town, the women and children, and not to drink too much alcohol or gamble excessively. They also suggest that visitors don’t stay more than a week or two, like a holiday. From what we’ve read and seen, being “on country” is important for our traditional owners. The more that connection is lost, the more lost the individual becomes in a town society that seems to see more of the negatives than the beauty of our indigenous cultures.

The Big 4 Macdonnell Ranges Holiday Park had given us wifi access, so we were able to work on our itinerary and blogs, while the kids caught up on school work. The heat during the middle of the day made it difficult to concentrate, so we found ourselves working in the morning, and then running messages in town for a couple of hours, while sipping on a cool drink.

Our friends at Clearview had suggested we contact one of their suppliers to organise a set of Rock Tamers for the Legend. RV Towing Solutions in NSW jumped on board and organised for us to pick up a set from their Alice Springs supplier. These Rock Tamers are an adjustable and removable mudflap system, designed to defect road debris from damaging what you’re towing, or your tow vehicle itself. After our experience on the Strzelecki Track, with an errant rock smashing one of the rear windows, Paul contacted Clearview to see what the options were. These products are so popular that they can be hard to find. Paul fitted these the next morning, and had a park staff member stop and ask about them while they were being fitted. These Rock Tamers look MEAN on the Legend!! We’re so grateful to have these. No more taping a tarp onto the rear windows while driving remote roads!

Paul had noticed some issues with a loss in storage capability in the second (accessory) battery in the Legend. He contacted an automotive electrician business in town, explained our situation, and they agreed to have a look at the system that very afternoon. These guys are so busy that they’re booked out till Christmas, but they made time for us, to help keep our trip running smoothly. As it turned out, the Redarc BCDC system was operating as it should, protecting itself from overheating due to the excessive heat in the engine bay whilst in the outback. The boss wanted to help us out, and fitted a Redarc Smart Start Battery Isolator to replace the BCDC until Paul can refit it in a cooler part of the vehicle. This was two hours of work for a business already working under pressure towards Christmas, but the owner saw the importance of our trip and wanted to help. This man was humble and wasn’t wanting any recognition, but AutoSparky in Alice Springs went over and above at a super busy time of year. The entire staff loved Luna, and we highly recommend you contact them if you need any work done in Alice Springs!

Eventually the heat got to us and we went to cool off in the pool. Paul runs the rule that if it’s too hot for us to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for Luna. We put her rubber soled booties on to protect the pads of her paws, and she actually seemed happy to have them on! Kirstine had broken a toe, and limped her way to the waterpark. The kids had a complete ball on the waterslide, Luna desperately wanted to be in the water with them, and even tried to climb the stairs to the top of the slide! We made sure Luna got some water play with the hose once we got back to camp, but our last trip to the pool was amazing.

We met Ms M, who’d brought her son to the pool to celebrate the end of the school year. Ms M adored Luna, and was intrigued with how Luna works with Paul. Ms M has a friend, ex military, who also suffers from PTSD and now has an assistance dog to help him with the stresses of life after exposure to the harshness of war. This dog has changed his life, so Ms M was thrilled to meet another canine with the same role. Ms M has a difficult role, negotiating the problems associated with interpreters who assist with victims of violence giving their statements. These interpreters listen to the victim, and have to tell the story in the first person, for official court records. Ms M is concerned with the trauma that these vitally important people may be suffering, as they tell a story that is not theirs, as if it were. The legal reporting aspects of this role are being reviewed, and it is an important discussion.

Another gentleman joined us in the pool, after making friends with Luna. He admitted to being enlightened by Paul’s story of his journey with Luna, and we discussed the fact that dogs are still underrated in Australia when it comes to assisting with medical conditions. There are many groups attempting to change the perspective of the population in this respect.

Alice Springs is a place of contrasts. A town with cultures which clash, sometimes within their own. Natural beauty and a sprawl of human habitats. Do visit, but don’t do it as part of a tour where they only show you the bits you want to see. Talk to people, read the local news, look beyond your initial impressions. It’s an iconic part of the country that is worth visiting and trying to understand.

The Outstanding Oodnadatta Track – finale

Algebuckina Bridge at dawn
camped under the bridge
0600 alarm call at Algebuckina


Paul cooking tea on the Weber Baby Q
full jerry cans help hold a flyaway awning in high winds
stunning lillies on the track
Oodnadatta Track in bloom
Welcome to Oodnadatta
Guess where?
Paul won the “spot a wild camel” bet!
huge willy willy/dust devil
Kids on an old mail truck at Marree
Alberrie Creek sculpture park
sculpture park fave
ROA03354 2
the kids’ sculpture park fave

Waking up at Coward Springs was just wonderful. No traffic, no streetlights, no need to rush! The promise of breakfast at William Creek got the kids moving and packing up camp though. We passed the stunning red Irrapatana Sandhills. Just another example of the varied landscapes along the Oodnadatta Track.

The kitchen was not yet open at the William Creek hotel, the only place in town to grab food. That’s ok because we weren’t after a sit down meal, and basic bar food was available for takeaway. Meat pies were ordered, and Paul & Kirstine enjoyed perusing the walls of the pub, which were covered with business cards, old drivers licences, number plates, and even passports! There is a huge amount of history at the pub, and some gorgeous photographs from the surrounding stations. Definitely worth a stop if you’re on the track. Just be aware that William Creek only has Optus phone coverage, but the little phone we purchased for that reason, was not up to the standard required. This was seriously frustrating, but the phone specs were something we should have checked in advance.

Overnight camp was planned at the stunning Algebuckina Bridge, and after exploring both sides, and a nearby waterhole, we found the best place to be on a hot day – under the bridge!! Slowly we set up camp, including The Palace! We spent a great couple of hours relaxing and playing games, before letting the kids into the shallow waters to cool off. We think Luna was in there before the kids actually! Tea cooked on the Weber Baby Q, and falling into bed, finished off a long hot day. Somehow, Kirstine had to figure out how to wake Paul at dawn so that he could fly the DJI Mavic Pro over the bridge, when the light would be at its best …

She succeeded eventually, and a brief flight got some gorgeous pictures before all the birds of prey woke for the day, and zeroed in on the drone. Packing up was interesting as it was quite windy. Wind can be annoying at times, particularly when packing up the Cub. It plays havoc with the canvas as you wind it up. In this case though, wind = less flies = cooling effect when the sun already has a sting in it.

Again, the promise of breakfast got the kids motivated, and it was nice to be sitting in the air conditioned Legend and on the road to Oodnadatta. The Pink Roadhouse was calling us! “Oodnaburgers” are the speciality of this fabulous establishment, and absolutely good value! They were HUGE and came with a small side of chips. None of us could eat the entire meal. Kirstine chatted with the backpacker working in the kitchen, and found out that about 10mm of rain had fallen around Oodnadatta, which had everyone excited. On some of the stations they had had up to 25mm.

As we found driving on to Marla, heavy rain has impacted on the quality of the roads. There is a reason that the tracks are subject to closure after significant rainfall, and driving on them contrary to the closure, causes huge ruts and damage, which can only be remedied by grading the tracks at great expense. Full as googs from the Oodnaburgers, we marvelled at the pools of water laying by the road, and the stunning lilies that burst into life following rain. Paul avoided the deep ruts, and there were two water crossings where floodways had collected deep pools of rain. Seeing the red gibber plains sprouting green grass, and even the track looking like it may soon need to be mowed, was truly fascinating. Another example of how the Australian outback makes the most of moisture to create life.

We found ourselves looking forward to reaching the black top, as the creeks and floodways became sharp and jarring, even with our upgraded suspension. Paul negotiated these carefully, but it’s clear that this stretch of the Oodnadatta Track needs quite a bit of work after the peak travel period and subsequent rain.

Marla Travellers Rest is a great place to stop and rejuvenate after long stretches of driving. The manager was more than happy to provide us with a family room for our overnight stay. Lisa was up to speed with our anticipated arrival, and got us all checked in. We were all quite hot and bothered after completing the Oodnadatta Track, so we turned up the air conditioning and flaked out on the beds to watch some tv. Kirstine went to purchase some cold water, and spoke with another staff member about our trip. This lovely lady, as it turns out, is working away from home and dreadfully worried about her daughter, who has attempted suicide a couple of times in the past, and struggles to find a psychologist she can trust. Kirstine left some Driving Oz with the Black Dog business cards at the counter, as she had already heard that there were people working shift work at the establishment, who are living with depression. In a small remote community, this is challenging. It’s hard to talk to people you work with, the stigma is still very much real in this respect. Kirstine referenced the contact details for Lifeline on the back of the card, and briefly explained her experience with them. She also let the staff member know that we’ve been told that for some people, reading our blog and following our social media posts, gives them virtual outreach to the world, and hope that eventually, they can find the coping mechanisms and confidence they need to participate in a more enriching life.

When we’re driving remote roads in early Summer, when most people avoid these areas, we are still having meaningful discussions and determined to find ways to help.


The Outstanding Oodnadatta Track – day one

Breakfast wishes from Lyndhurst
Lake Eyre South
leaving Leigh Creek
….. most days 🙂
Luna thinks she needs to drive
Farina Ruin
worth reading when you travel here


Our addition to the Alberrie Creek Sculpture Park
Paul flies the DJI Mavic Pro
Littlies reading about the fauna and flora of Lake Eyre
no breaks, just being cautious!!
Luna at the Curdimurka Rail Siding


The Bubbler mound spring
The Bubbler – mesmerising!
View from the boardwalk at Blanche Cup
Blanche Cup
Coward Springs spa!
actually managed a family photo of sorts!
day time view of Coward Springs spa

After a refreshing night at the Leigh Creek Outback Resort, we headed up the road to Lyndhurst to grab some breakfast and refuel. Paul had already confirmed that the diesel was back online at the roadhouse, and Tam was enjoying the morning air outside when we arrived. She remembered us from our stop after finishing the Strzelecki Track, and was glad to see us back as we headed towards the Oodnadatta Track. Tam adds a thoughtful little touch to all the food she prepares, each bag displaying her handwritten wishes for a great day!

Just past Lyndhurst, we stopped at the Farina Ruin – a sandstone cottage that once housed teams of workers for the Great Northern Railway. The kids marvelled at the fireplaces in each room, and also by all the historical items found at the site, which had been placed on the window sills around the structure. Huge hand-wrought rail pegs, fragments of glass and porcelain, these hadn’t been taken as souvenirs, but instead left for others to enjoy. A massive willy-willy/dust devil nearby was breathtaking. Difficult to photograph, we were able to see the swirling vortex and dust, twisting hundreds of metres into the sky.

Enroute to Marree, the plains gave us plenty to see – hundreds of emus and a flash of bright green budgerigars zipping in front of us.

The southern end of the Oodnadatta Track begins at Marree, and we stopped to have a look at the old railway station before Paul dropped the tyre pressures on the Legend. Knowing that the track is all gravel and stones, it is recommended to reduce the pressure from 36 to about 25psi. This gives a softer ride, and also reduces the chance of damaging the tyres or throwing stones. Our new suspension kit has already been a blessing!

There was much excitement as we saw the sign for the road conditions, and saw that the Oodnadatta Track was OPEN. A chuckle at the sight of the Lake Eyre Yacht Club, complete with catamaran, had us in good spirits.

Our first day on the track was simply brilliant. The Alberrie Creek Sculpture Park had us all wondering how on earth the structures were constructed. Lake Eyre South, 12m below sea level, was a great place to stop and read about the Lake Eyre basin, it’s flora and fauna, and of course, fly the DJI Mavic Pro. The lake is so massive, that it was not possible to fly over it and back with just one battery, plus the salt and heat haze made keeping an eye on the drone very difficult. It’s amazing to think that there is so much life there. On the rare occasions the lake fills, it’s not only the tourists that swarm to it (and the yacht club comes back to life), birds fly hundreds of kilometres, briny shrimp fills the waters, hibernating frogs are revived, and it’s as if the “Pause” button on Life has been switched to “Play” for while ever the water remains.

The Curdimurka Rail Siding is now essentially a ruin, and no longer maintained. A sign asking visitors to respect the history of the property, is all that remains. It is still possible to use the fireplaces in times of need, and one room even had a lawn chair in front of the fireplace, as if it had been used recently. The siding was once a stop on the Old Ghan railway, and also the location for an Outback Ball, which attracted hundreds of attendees.

Before reaching our campsite for the night, we took a detour to see the Mound Springs known as The Bubbler, and Blanche Cup. Completely invisible from the track, these springs are part of the Wabma-Kadabu Conservation Park, and were used by the indigenous people as a source of fresh water. Boardwalks have been constructed to keep visitors off the fragile landscape. Nestled in the mounds of rocks and sand, are deep pools of water bubbling direct from the Great Artesian Basin, whose water is more than two million years old. Lush green grass and water weed surrounds each pool, and lines the path the water takes as it trickles down the mounds forming small natural waterfalls. The Bubbler in particular was completely mesmerising to observe, the sand and mud appearing almost alive as it moved with the force of the bubbling water from underneath. We honestly kept expecting to see something appear from underneath it! It is said that the water once used to form huge columns of water, much the same as a geyser, and it’s not hard to imagine this when you watch the pool.

Coward Springs is a must stop on the Oodnadatta Track. The owners were happy for us to stay there without charge, and as it turned out, we were the only ones there! We found a shady camp site, and set up without rushing. The amenities at this camp site are brilliant. Drop toilets, but non-stinky! Pressed metal features at all the sinks, a “donkey” hot water shower system, and of course, The Spa. We couldn’t visit the Museum on site (Coward Springs was also part of the Ghan Railway), as it’s open in the autumn/winter months only. Paul and Kirstine pored over the maps, the kids played charades (a new game to keep them occupied), and we had tea and waited for the sun to go down.

It was then that we ventured over to The Spa. Climbing into the small pool, with jets of pressurised artesian water is absolutely a highlight of the trip so far. It made it a bit hard to stand in the one place, and there were many laughs as each of us tumbled and stumbled on our feet. At one point, the only sound was the water moving, as we stood and stared up at the blanket of stars above us.

So much of the day surprised us. In an area that intimidates many would-be travellers, we found pockets of life and abundance. It’s no wonder that these locations kept the pioneers of the day, as well as the indigenous people, alive on their travels. Hope springs eternal in the Australian Outback.

The Explorer’s Way – it begins

As we write this blog, we are in Leigh Creek at the Outback Resort. We’ve treated ourselves to a motel stay and pub meal before going bush. It’s been a huge week, so we’d better catch you up!

Finishing up the Strzelecki Track at Lyndhurst, we were all still on a high from our time at Montecollina Bore. There are no rubbish bins on The Strz, so we dropped our rubbish off at the bins in town. The public amenities are lovely. We truly appreciate flushing toilets over drop loos or none at all! Small things huh? We stopped at the Lyndhurst Roadhouse to get some fuel, only to find that their diesel pumps were offline – waiting on a technician to come up from Adelaide. This roadhouse is a major stopping point, and it must be frustrating for them to have to turn customers away. We weren’t so easy to turn away though, and ordered some burgers for lunch. Boy was it worthwhile! Please, if you travel through or past Lyndhurst, do yourself a favour and grab a burger with the lot! YUMMO!

We topped up our fuel at Leigh Creek on the way south, having no choice but to go that way to find a BP service station, get our window fixed and fridge replaced. A vicious side wind took its toll on our fuel consumption, and we rejoiced as we arrived in Hawker and found a BP servo with diesel!

The Big 4 Discovery Park Port Augusta welcomed us, and graciously extended our stay at a discounted rate so that we could attend to repairs. They allocated us a great site directly opposite the amenities block and near the camp kitchen. It was great to scrub clean in the showers and catch up on some washing.

We caught up on our blogs and social media, the kids dived back into school work, and we made the necessary arrangements to repair equipment. We had some heavy rain one evening, and it whilst we were prepared, it was so awesome to have a member of the holiday park staff come to our campsite and others neighbouring, to make sure that we were ok and not flooding!

Our kids are “open books” as we travel, and always share what we’re doing, where we’ve been, and even what we’re having for tea! Our daughters brought a visitor to camp, having told said guest that “mum speaks German! You have to come and talk to her!”. Birgit, her husband and son, are travelling Australia in a motorhome. From Lichtenstein, Birgit is a teacher of Psychology and Pedagogy. We discussed our journey, theirs, and Luna’s role in our lives. The idea of a Mental Health Assistance dog was new to Birgit, and she shared that many schools in her area take their students, from a young age, to visit aged care facilities and mental health care centres. Meeting the residents and hearing their stories, is designed to make the concepts less confronting, break down the stigma, and build acceptance into future generations. It was truly inspiring to listen to this! Australia has a lot to learn from Europe in this respect. Whilst we also discussed that mental health diagnoses are on the rise, that can also be attributed to the current generation being more willing to speak and seek help. We know that it will take another two generations at least, to have the topic of mental health “normalised”, but it is so encouraging to hear of other countries already making huge leaps forward!

We also met with a lady in town who also suffers from PTSD. Hers was caused by the necessity of having to undergo a medical procedure while wide awake. Sounds horrifying doesn’t it? Paul knew of the procedure the lady spoke of, and wasn’t surprised to hear that she had been told while preparing to undergo surgery, that 100% of patients develop PTSD as a result. Her surgeon even took the amazing step of undergoing the procedure himself, so that he could better understand what his patients go through during and after.

Just when we thought we were ready to leave Port Augusta, Paul developed severe dental issue and yet again, we had to extend our stay. Dentists cause Paul severe anxiety, from negative childhood experiences, so when the pain caused him to speak up, Kirstine knew it was serious. Neni’s Port Augusta Dental Care fit us in for an appointment, and were really understanding of our situation. After a thorough examination and an invasive procedure to extract an infected tooth, we took Paul home to rest. Luna wasn’t able to be in with Paul while all this took place. One of the few times where she could be legally excluded because of the surgical nature of Paul’s treatment. The dental nurse was fabulous. Her own husband has anxiety and depression, so she was very focussed on making sure that Paul was as comfortable as possible. She loved that we are travelling through smaller communities to be seen. Her own husband’s experience has been that people will often share their innermost thoughts and feelings with complete strangers. Doesn’t this highlight how important organisations like Lifeline are? When you are struggling, there is always someone who will listen, even if you don’t know who they are.

Today we were finally able to get back on the road, after thanking Sharlene for her support during our stay in Port Augusta. It was lunchtime by the time we got away, refuelling everything at the BP Roadhouse on the way out.

We retraced our steps back through to Leigh Creek, marvelling at the crumbling sandstone ruins of pioneer houses, numbers of emus along the way, and the huge willy willys/dust devils along the plains. With new music on the USB, we’ve entered a new stage of family carpool karaoke.

Maybe it’s a good thing that we’re going to be off grid for a couple of days on the Oodnadatta Track, and also that you can’t hear us all singing from where you are!

Luna – the Mental Health Assistance AND Herding Rescue Dog

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(no children were harmed in the taking of these photos .. just nibbled a bit 😉 )

Montecollina Bore was a gorgeous place to swim whilst in the SA outback. No other people for kilometres around, except for the odd passing road train, it was brilliant having a deep pool of cool artesian water to give respite from the soaring temperatures.

As we’ve mentioned before, Luna ADORES water and swimming. She skipped around us as we walked in the direction of the bore, and once in sight of it, pelted to the edge to launch herself in.

We first discovered that the pool was very deep when Luna, who’d been walking in the shallows, disappeared before bobbing back up, soaked all over, and came paddling back to shore. She’d slipped on the muddy clay and right into the deep water. No “easing into it” gradually the way we humans do!

German Shepherds are exceptionally clever, and have a strong herding and protective instinct as well. We’ve observed in the past, Luna pacing around a pool, vocalising her concern for the kids swimming. If we secured her to the fence by her lead, she becomes anxious because she can’t get to the kids. Here at Montecollina Bore, Luna couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted the kids IN or OUT of the water!

While swimming in the shallows, if the kids splashed too much for her liking, Luna would try and grab them by their arm/hand/clothing, to bring them back to shore.

Then when the kids went to get out of the water, she’d chase them back in to keep them together, or if already out, tried to herd them back out if they tried to go in. Suffice to say, it all became a game, and we had some great laughs with the kids “running the Luna gauntlet”, to get into or out of the water. It was great exercise for everyone, and kept Luna on her toes.

Luna is protective of us all, and is never at ease if one of the pack is absent or distant from the rest. This amazing canine is a devoted part of our family, and somehow manages to take care of all of us. It’s no wonder that she flew through her training to become a fully qualified Mental Health Assistance Dog for Paul. Her instincts, though sometimes conflicted around water, as we’ve described, become solely focussed on Paul when he needs her – vest or no vest. Her dedication to Paul impresses all who meet her.

Luna enhances and enriches our lives, and allows Paul to again live a Life. One he no longer wanted to be part of 18 months ago. For that alone, we can never thank her enough.

We love you Luna!

Riotous rocks, Time Travel & an Outback Oasis

Dawn at the bore
114 year old Montecollina Bore
sunset over the dunes
Domino constructions despite the flies
No words .. ❤


Turning onto The Strz


Cameron Corner


Time Travel to three states!


New “window”
point of impact …
rock meets window


refueling from jerrys in Tibooburra
Showering at Montecollina Bore
aerial view of the camp at Montecollina Bore


Cameron Corner
Dingo Fence at Cameron Corner
Geographical Centre where SA/NSW/QLD meet


roast pork in the outback

“Tibooburra” has a population of about 150, and means “heaps of rocks” in the local Wangkumara & Maljangapa language. We pulled in to refuel from our jerry cans using the very clever siphon hose that Paul insisted we buy. No more sucking on garden hose and gagging as the fuel arrives before poking the hose into the tank (not that we’ve had to do this, but you know what we’re talking about!). These siphon hoses with the “jiggler” are simple physics at its best.

Being Sunday, the town was quiet, though we knew that would change, with 350 people due through town as part of a rally event headed to Cameron Corner. The turn to Cameron Corner is actually before the Tibooburra township, so we headed out, excited to finally be on the road to the corner marking where South Australia (SA), New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD) meet on the map.

Harsh gravel roads, littered with rocks of all sizes, made for slower going than on the black top or dirt. We could hear the “tink! tink!” of the stones hitting the underside of the Legend and the Cub. A “crack!” changed that in an instant, with Paul declaring that we had lost a window. Kirstine was horrified and turned to see one of the rear door windows transformed into an intricate jigsaw of tiny safety glass fragments. Poor Cooper had tears pouring down his cheeks, as his beloved Patrol was “broken”. We pulled over, as the window began to collapse, and Paul pondered a bush mechanic fix to keep us going. Kirstine climbed onto the Cub to access cling film from the kitchen tub. Chequerboard gets HOT in the sun, did you know that?? 15 minutes later we had a new “window”, several layers thick and secured with gaffer tape. Had we had clear contact on board, that would also have been useful.

Arriving at Cameron Corner, we opened (and closed!) the Dingo Fence, and entered SA from NSW. Tow minutes later we were in QLD at the Roadhouse, before finding the bollard which marks the geographical union of the three states. With one finger, the kids were transported in an instant to different locations and time zones. Our eldest daughter found herself in QLD, youngest daughter back in NSW, and Cooper remained with us in SA.

We’d originally planned to camp at Cameron Corner (the camp site itself is in QLD), however with 350 people and vehicles due, we decided to continue on to what would have been our stop for the next day – Montecollina Bore.

The track from Cameron Corner out to the Strzelecki Track, affectionately known as “The Strz”, passes through pastoral properties and is a beautiful drive over continuous crests and the accompanying valleys. The day became overcast, and there was a cooling wind as we stopped to make quick sandwiches, observed by several cows resting in the shade of a nearby tree.

There are so many colours in the outback landscape. We’re sure most city dwellers think of the outback as desolate, flat and bland, but we guarantee you this is not the case. Some of Australia’s largest properties are in these remote areas. Millions of hectares to run their cattle free range, and water available via bores sunk into the Great Artesian Basin.

Montecollina Bore is one of these. Sunk in 1903, this 114 year old bore has created an oasis in the outback. We arrived late in the afternoon and set up camp. This was also the first tine we set up our mesh room, nicknamed “The Palace”. This room would become our sanctuary from thousands of flies, and provide us with ventilated shade in the heat of the day. After cooking a quick tea, we sat in The Palace, and following sunset, sat in silent awe of the clear night sky and its blanket of stars. Kirstine commented to Paul that she had never that known the constellation of Orion was so detailed. All most people ever see is the focus points – belt, head and the major stars indicating head, arms, bow and legs. But Orion came alive in the Outback! The figure filled out from stick figure, to human form, and was truly a wonder.

It was such a liberating sensation to sleep with all windows open on both the Cub Camper and 3Dog Camping roof top tent. It was a first for the kids, and after a few nerves about see-thru walls and dingos, they embraced the night vision and outlook as they lay in bed.

The next morning was windy! Fine sand from the surrounding dunes filtered through the mesh windows and walls, leaving a layer over everything, and making it ridiculously frustrating to try and boil water on the cooktop to make coffee for Paul and Kirstine!

The wind died off in the early afternoon, and the heat remained. We ventured over to the bore pool, and spent a blissful couple of hours swimming. We have no idea how deep the pool is, but the water was unexpectedly chilly about 1.5m below the surface, so it must be deep! Luna was thrilled to be in water again. We do work to keep her cool, and water is an easy way to achieve this.

The heat got to Paul that evening. A nasty side effect of the medications he needs to take. He retreated to the Cub, and slept under the light breeze created by small 12V USB fans purchased in Wagga for these conditions. Sometimes all you need is air moving, to keep you comfortable in hot weather. We managed to cook a roast pork, complete with crackling, in our Weber Baby Q, so at least Paul had a good tea before falling asleep.

Our last day at Montecollina Bore was a bit rough. No wind this time, but as we sat in The Palace and played card games, we measured the temperature at 46.5C. Kirstine had already taken the kids for a dip in the bore pool, and everyone was under strict instructions to drink water and electrolytes. When Paul was working as an ambulance officer at the remote Olympic Dam mine site in SA, the instruction was 1L per person per hour. Paul set up our 240V pedestal fan in The Palace. How could we run a 240V appliance without being connected to power? we hear you ask.

Redarc provided us with an additional solar blanket, meaning we have combined 262W of potential power generation, allowing us to run our Redarc 2000W inverter for our 240V appliances. We ran the fan for about five hours, and the solar blankets had no trouble maintaining the battery voltage. Trust me, the fan kept us all sane in very uncomfortable conditions! Without it, we may well have had to sit in the Legend with the AC running.

After another swim, we set up the popup ensuite and Smarttek 6 hot water system shower, to rinse off the fine algae from the bore pool, which stuck to any fine hairs on the body! The five of us showered, switching the water off/on, using the shower head, to rinse. We used the 20L water in our reserve jerry can, and didn’t need to heat it up. It was already over 40C!

The next morning Kirstine woke everyone just after 6am, so we could pack up before the heat of the day. Unfortunately, the flies were already awake, so we experienced pack up while wearing fly nets! Dishes were washed in the hot water running direct from the Great Artesian Basin at the bore, and three hours later we were sitting in air conditioned comfort, and on The Strz again.

We left our oasis, and wonder how many people can say they’ve camped there. In late Spring, not so many we’re sure, but in Winter it must be a cracking place to be.

Go see it for yourself!