Getting Adventurous – Getting to a Hidden Secret

My courage is building and I’m learning what I like. Maybe getting closer to who I am…

My initial attempts at camping on the boat mimicked a little of those I follow on YouTube. In doing so, I’m discovering what’s really me. For example, I tried bow fishing but got a little board and kept getting distracted with all the scenery and wildlife LOL!

I’m an explorer/discoverer at heart. I love the sounds of nature. I work full time, so this for me is a recharge. I’m not into the adrenalin experiences but am definitely wanting to feel alive by soaking in the energy of the natural environment.

The feeling of water spray on my face as I head to my objective… The sound of rain on my boat tarp as I cook my breakfast early in the morning… The crispness of the air watching the morning mist rise from the water… These are the things that I really enjoy about the outdoors.

Whilst I’m great at getting friends and family in position to catch fish, I don’t really catch any and get board flicking lures. So I bait fish when I do so I can soak up the environment.

So with these insights developing, I looked at the Google and Deckee maps and did some research, finding a river arm that has no information, no maps or charts and only one historical article talking about the region roughly 100 years ago.

I studied and prepared. Narrow passages, low trees overhanging my path, shallow water, swamp were all things I had to plan for and be prepared. Safety equipment and back up plans if I got stuck or something went wrong as there was also most likely no mobile phone signal in this area.

You can see the video of the adventure here: https://youtu.be/mditxgDck3o

My launch boat ramp is always really busy, so I managed to juggle work and launch on a Friday and beat the rush.

I travelled up my familiar path into this wonderful region, reaching my start point up river where I had never gone before. The entrance into the area has two obstacles from the two possible approaches. One is a narrow passage I’d have to squeeze through with my boat, additionally not knowing the depth. The other is a vast shallow sand bar which may or may not have a path. I opted for the narrow entrance.

I dropped the VHF antenna, lowered the bimini with excitement building of what I was about to discover. This was mixed with a good dose of nervousness about if I got stuck because my boat is not easy to man handle with its 1,500kg weight. Slow and steady was the name of the day as help would be hard to reach me if I significantly grounded.

With the quietness of the electric motor, I edged my way through and was presented with the expansive view of the inland lake as I came out the other side. Luckily the wind was low and not a cloud in the sky so I could see the numerous sand bars in this shallow lake.

My first objective was to reach a unique sandstone outcrop that rose out of the surrounding swamp. I found a landing spot and it was like I was on a deserted island. The outcrop rose many metres about the surround area. I could not see another person from where I stood looking out the the horizon across the lake.

I could have lingered much longer than I did. I was keen to see if I could reach the end of the river arm as my second objective. At the end of that arm was a complete unknown of if I could reach the the inland lake that was said to hold Jurassic fish because of its remoteness.

I headed up river slowly, as I had now idea of depths or if submerged logs were hidden under the water to take out my prop at anytime if I collided with them. It was a pleasant afternoon and as the sun was getting lower, I decided to go as far as I could and set up the boat to camp for the night.

It was a magical environment. Birds singing, colourful waterlilies and reflections so crisp it was hard to tell where the water met the land. I settled in for the night, having dinner by the sounds of crickets and slowly getting sleepy. Content that I had now reached objective two.

Getting to a crisp morning to the chorus of scores of birds, my mind was on if I could reach objective three – the inland lake. It was apparent that there was no way I was going to be able to get my boat through. I didn’t plan to bring a kayak, I will next time.

I had breakfast and got ready to scout for a land approach.

After a couple of hours of searching and assessing risk I decided not to proceed. I had an EPIRB with me, my concern was if I found a boggy spot in the swamp that I could quickly sink in during my passage, it would be the end of me. I decided I would give this approach a go another time with a friend.

With a friend that can fish LOL!

My First Bow Fishing and Catfish Eating Trip

I’m just a rookie at this stuff, but I feel my sense of adventure growing…

My first YouTube video was a hit and what a great excuse to make me get out on the water more often!

Strangely enough, the fear is still there although somewhat diminished.

From my first trip I realised I had to make some modifications to how I stored things to make it more comfortable. I also changed the boat prop pitch and added an alloy anti-ventilation plate to improve economy. I’m now getting about 2.7km per litre of fuel on my big tinny. A larger casting deck made room for gear underneath and a stable platform to try bow fishing. Something I’ve always wanted to try – I’ve had my bow for 30 years!

I’m not much of a fisherman. I seem to be able to get others onto the fish, but as soon as I throw a line in nothing happens LOL. I always catch Fork Tail Catfish so decided I am going to try and eat one. The next big one I catch is dinner, or lunch 🙂

Part of trying some more action was to try and make my video more interesting – more on my findings there later.

I set out on this trip very eager. I didn’t plan the destination/objective very well. The real objective was to try two new things:

  1. Bow fishing.
  2. Cooking and eating catfish.

Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/xyyf6yUxqBE

I’d prepared for both. I set up a home made fishing rig on the bow as I didn’t want to spend the money yet unless I enjoyed it and I decided I would cook the catfish fajita style.

With these objectives in mind I forgot about what I really like about boat camping – exploring, scenery and nature.

I tried bow fishing, it was a bit of a drag and I kept getting distracted looking at birds.

I caught a catfish, cooked and ate it.

I then found myself having fulfilled my objectives and headed home after one night out. I think the bigger driver for heading home was the location and scenery was a bit of a downer. The river was also packed and very uncomfortable from all the noise and waves.

I’m grateful to have got out on the water but this trip didn’t give me the recharge I wanted.

I discovered quite unexpected on this trip however, I’m on a journey of discovering another layer of who I am.

My First Trip Camping on the Boat

It sounded like an exciting idea. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next…

I was afraid!

I watched YouTube after YouTube video of solo adventurers getting out there and exploring glorious countries around the world. I was all for getting out there and after several months realised I was afraid.

On my own, what would happen? What if I came across the wrong people? What if I had a medical emergency? What if… What if…

Yet, watching the people on YouTube pushed me to a limit and somewhere I crossed a line to decide to just do it. So I started slowly. I started camping on the boat in view of people and in small steps that I could handle with my comfort zone. I started detailed planning for managing the risks rather than being paralyzed by them. Practicing setting up camp so I could handle the worst weather conditions and set up from inside the boat. How would I eat – keep things simple. Staying warm. Act if I had an equipment failure.

In doing this, I built further momentum to do a trip I’ve always wanted to do. I trip into a remote part of the river into wilderness area where there was no phone coverage and little, if any people.

As the trip got closer, the fear started to build again. On my first attempt, I used the weather as an excuse and failed to leave. This really annoyed me so I attempted again and finally got going. This was it! I was on the move on a 120km return trip over four days.

As my first night approached, I found the fear welling up again. But now my mind was in risk management mode. So I found a place to camp in the middle of the river between two protruding branches from submerged trees. This was it, I had my “moat” and came to grips with just staying awake sipping hot chocolate and sleeping when sleep came.

I out lots of layers of clothes on as it was winter and quite cold. I put my little oil candle on and sat there listening to the night bush sounds. Sleep came and I went to sleep waking in the morning from my first solo, remote camp to mirrored reflections and the sound of multitudes of birds.

I did it!!! My confidence building, if I did it once I can do it again. I was adamant that I would the bet made with my wife when I left that she thought I’d chicken out and come back.

You can see the video of the trip here: https://youtu.be/meS30eh_e6M

As you can see, it was an awesome trip and I have to say I’m hooked now. Now my challenge has shifted to choosing the next destination.

Camping on Your Boat

rivRecon is dedicated to helping you camp on your boat. From motivating you through our own adventures, to information on setting up your boat and staying safe on the water.

This is a personal passion for me. Appreciating the silence of the mind, magnificent natural scenery, flora and fauna, with background music provided by the pure sounds of nature.

Do you like the idea of camping on your boat but just need the courage to take the next step and do it?

  • You might feel afraid of camping on your own
  • Camping on the water is different from other forms of camping
  • Not knowing what to do might make you a little frightened
  • You may feel the boat you have limits you
  • How do you stay comfortable?

There are many benefits of camping on your boat compared to 4X4, Land or Hike camping such as:

  • A camp site on your boat is like having a caravan or motorhome
  • The ultimate free camping – camp anywhere on the water that is safe
  • Your camp is always pointing into the wind, you don’t have to move your tent or 4X4 all the time
  • Fishing right at your door step
  • If you don’t have the right spot, you can easily move
  • No mud, sand, dirt getting dragged into your tent all the time
  • It can be more secure from others and wildlife (if done right), it’s like having a moat around your camp
  • If weather changes you can easily move to shelter
  • You can camp as remote or in civilization as you want or can tolerate
  • You can have all your gear with you and be quite comfortable
  • Your boat becomes multiuse – not just for fishing. There are many things you can do above and beyond traditional camping

If I can camp you can too! I was afraid for many years of going camping solo but always yearned to do it. I found inspiration from others on YouTube, imagined how I’d like to do it and researched loads. I even tested camping on a tiny inflatable and small boat with my sons until I finally settled on a boat right for me and the adventures I wanted to have.

I drew on knowledge from my military experience, land based camping and our one year trip around Australia to help you answer the things for yourself so you can do it to:

  • How to stay safe and secure
  • How to setup your boat so it is comfortable and easy
  • How to create that “camp fire” feel safely
  • How to think about food and storage
  • Setting up the ideal on water camp site
  • Tips and tricks to maximize space
  • Keeping everything low cost and not have to be a millionaire to enjoy the camping on your boat lifestyle

I now document my approach on this website and associated YouTube videos so you can learn too.

Camping on Your Boat – Checklist

You can get a lot of inspiration from boating camping, 4X4 camping and hiking camping. Here are the unique things to remember when camping in your boat:

Safety and Security

  • Carry all boating safety gear for your region
  • Check the weather, conditions can change quickly and become dangerous
  • Have first aid gear – not just general but also snake bite kit and vinegar for stinger bites
  • Enough water for your trip and back up options
  • Emergency boarding ladder ready to go
  • Be educated on dangerous animals in your area (Land and an in water)
  • Understand the hazards such as submerged logs, visibility, shallow water, Other boats, navigation aids, Over head cables, cables ferries, etc
  • Ensure personal security. Be aware, look for signs (rubbish), lockable cabinets and boat security, carbon monoxide and other vapor risks
  • Core temperature control – in and out of the water
  • File a trip plan with a friend or coast guard

Shelter

  • Take care anchoring. Look for smooth bottoms, keep the boat in the direction of the wind, keep away possible falling trees on bank, be aware of current and tide variation
  • Ideally have shelters that keep rain out of the boat. A heavy downpour can sink a small boat
  • DIY tarps work well when lashed to the boat
  • Consider the wind, temperature and insect conditions in your area
  • Control condensation with ventilation and sponges
  • Ensure your sleeping gear can keep you warm if it is wet
  • Have layered clothing sets to easily adjust to conditions

Water

  • Smaller containers of water are easier to carry and make it easy to adjust weight distribution around the boat
  • Carry fresh water filters for emergency use
  • Consider desalination options if travelling more remotely or on in salt water
  • Carry a tarp to catch rain water

Food

  • By all means take a cooler or refrigerator if you like, but keep a good supply of food that does not need cooling
  • Keep it simple
  • Keep food in watertight containers
  • Be careful cooking on your boat. Fire hazards, fuel vapors, carbon monoxide poisoning and other risks are real!
  • Vacuum sealed food lasts longer
  • Keep cooking gear simple and easy to maintain (have a back up)

Around Australia Trip Next Phase

One year around Australia went so quickly!

We dashed back to the east coast in a run to get the kids into interviews for school. We still hadn’t decided totally on where to settle down but knew it would either be on the north coast of New South Wales or the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

The dash across the country saw us drive for 7 days, averaging 10 hours per day. As we cam up through the outback of New South Wales, floods were hitting and roads were being closed behind us.

I was so nervous about the kids going into the right years that I frantically taught them some craft skills that I thought they would have to have LOL.

Going to the interviews, the schools were adamant that we must have home schooled them due to how well they did on their “tests”. What a testament to what a trip around Australia at ages 4 and 6 can do for kids, especially with our philosophy of now devices for them on the trip or in the primary school years. Who would have thought they’d learn so much from just being engaged with everything we were doing and seeing, even when driving.

We ended up settling on the the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. We booked into a caravan park to get the kids ready for school and fore ourselves to find jobs somehow. A prerequisite to finding a place to rent.

We are grateful that we both found jobs in our fields, working remotely with our home as a base. Over the time we have settled into the area and truly feel like this is home.

We reminisce often on our trip. The older boy remembers much but the younger one remembers far less. Could be a good excuse to have another trip! Sadly our caravanning has dwindled with business of life crowding in again as the boys are now well and truly into their high school years, friends and wanting to go on their own adventures with friends.

The caravan is now guest accommodation, doubling as a kitchen and bathroom area for the swimming pool area. We tried renting it for a while but this didn’t sit well with us because no-one really treated as well as we do.

We continued to use our little inflatable on the rivers here but soon outgrew it. I upgrade to a tinny so I would have the “puncture” stress but quickly outgrew it so we upgraded to a large tinny that I could use for boat camping, we could tackle the coastal bars to whale watch and get into bigger fish action and take it far and wide into croc country.

We did a couple of trips on bigger hire boats along the Queensland coast to try that style of camping. The boys loved it but we felt it was a bit limited in how much adventure we could have.

The boys continue to mature into adults at a pace we are still coming to grips with. It’s sad and exhilarating at the same time to see them designing their own lives, excel at what they do and at some point making their own life and adventures.

I’ve now decided to continue my adventures on my bigger tinny, leaving it optional for the family to come along if they want to. I’ve created a riveRecon YouTube channel to document my adventures and use it as a motivator to get out there regularly.

Now for the next volume…

Around Australia 46

The plan was to get to the airport in plenty of time to set the boys up in a corner to watch the airplanes while I got Mom and Uncle S and brought them to the boys for a surprise!  Well, the best laid plans…..we hit major traffic on the freeway out to the airport (forgotten what traffic can be like in a city!) so we got there after the plane had already landed and our new arrivals were collecting their bags.  Kia was completely overwhelmed by the surprise of seeing his beloved and much missed Mamani – he just kept clinging to her and even shed tears of shock and joy!

It was an all too quick visit (of course) – Uncle S (visiting Sydney along with the rest of Dad’s family) stayed only a  couple of days, but we can’t thank him enough for the huge effort of crossing the country just to be with us! He had such tremendous patience with the kids and went along with all our plans and it was great to spend some time chatting about our family back in England.  We spent one day at Rottnest Island – beautiful island paradise, but really not recommended for a day trip. It was a hugely expensive ferry ride over (and extremely rough and nausea-inducing to boot!) and the island is basically a collection of lovely beaches and coves perfect for all sorts of water-play (fishing, swimming, snorkelling) – so you need at least a few days to explore them at your leisure.  But November is way too cold to get in the water anyway!  We did see quite a few quokkas though!

A much more relaxed day was spent at magnificent Kings Park (another place where all the hype is actually true) at the Synergy play area.  There are other playground areas within the park, but we couldn’t drag the kids away from the little lake with baby ducks and the dinosaur statues! And their playtime with other kids meant Mom and I could do some catching up with all the gossip from home.  Of course the weather was flawless! We did end up “dumping” the kids with Mom a few times (so easy to fall back into the old routines) – one day was spent in Freemantle where I visited the Freemantle Prison (very interesting tour and story about this prison which was built in colonial times and only closed its doors in the 1990s), Mike ran around doing some errands and the boys kept Mom busy running around the playground near the marina.

On our last day together, Mom and the boys caught the ferry across from Perth to the zoo – apparently it was even better than Taronga Zoo!  I spent the day at the WA Museum (the main exhibit area about the history of Swan River colony was closed that day, but they had a wonderful Indigenous history area including a great section about the Stolen Generation) and Michael got to spend some quality alone time at a 4WD show. It was sad as always to say bye to our beautiful Mamani, but at least this time it will only be for a month! Kia did a great job holding it together ;o)).

We spent the better part of the next day at the Rockingham foreshore. Being a Saturday it was packed full of local families enjoying the sunshine.  It was too cold for our boys to venture into the water, but they were happy with sandplay and time in the playground. We always need a couple of quiet days to recover from the excitement and whirlwind of a family visit!  The next day we spent a lovely few hours on a beautiful sunny day in Mandurah walking along the lovely marina canals (the kids’ new obsession are houseboats which are basically any boat that you can sleep in and there were plenty moored in the marina and even a few for sale) and having lunch on the waterfront.  Mandurah has a very laid back (and expensive) feel to it and we were sorry to leave it so quickly.

Kia was unwell the next day, so we all had a very quiet day inside and gave him a whole day (!!) to recover! The next day we drove out to Cape Naturaliste and did a 4km loop walk to the various lookouts.  Absolutely gorgeous!  But flies out in force again which always dampens our enthusiasm for the outdoors. Kia and Mike had gone ahead and Tiran and I had to bush-bash our way back to the road when we lost sight of the minimal track markers – Tiran made sure to tell Daddy that it was him that showed Mom the way out of the bush (yeah right!!). Although a few people had seen some whales off one of the points, we weren’t so lucky this time.  We drove down to Eagle Bluff beach for lunch – what an absolutely idyllic spot.  The water actually wasn’t too cold, but we had to rush back to Busselton and our tour of the Underwater Observatory.

The jetty at Busselton really is something to see!  It’s nearly 2km long, with a train that runs the length of it and an underwater observatory at the end.  We arrived just in time for the train ride (with 30 seconds to spare) to take us for our tour in the observatory.  While interesting, it actually wasn’t necessary as all the information is displayed on boards throughout the place anyway.  The observatory descends 8 metres below the surface with massive windows on 3 different levels where an artifical reef exists along the pylons of the jetty.  Definitely not disappointed in the array of fish we saw, but the whole experience was over-priced ($75 for the family).  Kia and I opted to walk back along the jetty – another beautiful day and lots of people fishing (we saw one guy reeling in a fish that was chased all the way back by a cormorant – he nearly caught himself an easy dinner)!

I have to say I really wasn’t prepared to be so thoroughly enamoured with the southwest corner of WA!!

Around Australia 45

A second trip down to Geraldton, but this time we actually stayed and had a look around. The foreshore area is really lovely and by chance on the Sunday we arrived there was a sailboat race happening – we had no idea who was racing or who to cheer for, but it was a beautiful sight on the water! We visited the memorial to the HMAS Sydney – hands down the loveliest one I have ever seen. And we learned the story behind the WWII tragedy at the WA Museum Geraldton which is fantastic – apparently the ship got duped by a German warship masquerading as a Dutch merchant ship and opening fire at close range. We could easily have spent longer in the museum, but ran out of time.

Luckily, we ran into a lovely family (J, A, M, O and R) we had met at Warroora Station a few weeks ago – their daughter (R) gamely tried teaching Kia and Tiran the basic rules of cricket! They were quite happy to be smacking a ball with a bat anyway. The next day we headed to Southgate Beach and the famous sand dunes – they were quite high indeed. Kia fearlessly scaled the highest one and had a few runs, including a tandem one with Michael which led to a face full of sand for poor Daddy (see the pictures); Tiran took it much slower (as it’s his way), but he did stay much cleaner at least! Kia had a good stack on his 6th run and the ensuing tantrum signalled the end of sandboarding for the day.

We spent a couple of nights at a free camp spot along the coast called Cliff Heads. We had heard good things about this place from other travellers, but to tell you the truth it was a huge disappointment (for us anyway). The beach was completely covered in dried seaweed (so not the nicest smell or even a good spot to go for a walk along the beach), the seas were rough, it was so windy Mike had to hide the BBQ in the bushes to cook dinner, and of course when the wind stopped, the flies swarmed! Maybe we just got there at a bad time of the year?? It was a good excuse to catch up on some blogging anyway.

The next 2 nights were spent at an absolutely beautiful spot called Sandy Cape Recreational Area. We found a great camp spot right next to the beach and had a very lazy couple of days (it was actually a relief not to have any sights to see or things to experience for a change, so we could just relax). Although there was a swimming area of the beach nearby, it was way too cold for THIS family to get in the water! But we saw lovely dolphins swimming by in the mornings and afternoons. And the boys had their first close sighting of a tiger snake (holy crap!) when they were walking around the dunes – thank goodness they listened to the advice they learned at the reptile show at Coffs Harbour: when you see a snake, you freeze! Well done boys!

We were spending a couple of nights with friends M & L near Lancelin, so we stopped in at the Pinnacles on our way down. They are certainly a fascinating phenomenon – sandstone fingers growing right out of the sand in clusters – but I wouldn’t really call them spectacular. The good thing is that there is a driving path all the way around so you can take the easy way around, which of course we did. Stopping at a lookout a few kilometers down the road, we spied a lovely beach and I suggested we take a closer look, which is how we happened across Wedge Settlement. This is a freehold settlement of ramshackle fishing shacks built by local “squatters” as holiday beach accommodation. Not particularly impressive in structure, however they do have a “hospital” (a small shack with a red cross, so I guess that qualifies) and even a helipad for emergencies. And Mike (along with 3 other tourists just checking things out) got talked into helping a resident move an extremely heavy cast iron oven into his hut. Beautiful beach though!

And then a wonderful weekend of getting utterly spoiled by our lovely friends at their farm! We can’t thank them enough for their hospitality! L had even thoughtfully got out some of her son’s old toys, including a big box of Lego which kept the boys happily occupied for hours. We actually did nothing but eat, drink, be merry and relax – and to stretch out in an actual house and have a shower with continuous running water were wonderful – funny the things you miss when you don’t have them! It was really sad to say goodbye and we sincerely hope we see them again soon and be able to repay their kindness.

We checked into our caravan park in Freemantle (can’t believe we’ve made it all the way to Perth!) and spent an exceptional luncheon and afternoon at my manager’s house with the WA contingent of BMS. It was so fantastic to see them all again. It was perfect in every way and after 3 days non-stop feasting our clothes were straining at the seams!

All excited about seeing Mom and my uncle S from England tomorrow – we haven’t told the boys that Mamani is coming; can’t wait to see their faces when she shows up!!

 

Around Australia 44

We left Monkey Mia and explored further in the southern part of the Shark Bay Heritage Area. First stop was Ocean Park, which although quite a small attraction (with a big lagoon for the sharks and about 8 above water tanks for everything else) has the fabulous advantage of being run by marine biologists. So instead of a tour guide rattling off their litany, these guys actually knew what they were talking about and did so with great enthusiasm. Of course the boys’ favourite part was the shark feeding, but the whole thing was very interesting.

We camped one night at Eagle Bluff – although the weather wasn’t all that conducive to beach combing (very very windy and when the wind subsided for 20 seconds, a swarm of flies from all directions attacked!), the view from the boardwalk above was more than worth it. Such fabulously clear and shallow water – we easily spotted the sharks and sting rays swimming about lazily. We camped near the mouth of a creek, so the boys had safe shallow water and sand to play with – they very creatively set about re-creating the throng of marine animals we had seen over the past few days (sharks, dugongs, dolphins, rays).

After 3 days of lack-lustre debating, we finally decided to have a stab at reaching the western-most point of mainland Australia – Steep Point. We checked into Hamlin Station where we learned the true meaning of fly infestation – they were UNBELIEVABLE!! We arrived at lunchtime and the boys and I wouldn’t leave Optimus the rest of that very warm day for fear of swallowing some! A day trip to Steep Point (160km of dirt roads, sand tracks and some dune crossings) requires an early morning start and we were off just after 7am the next day. Mike and Ironhide did a great job on the dunes, some of which were pretty high and once we reached the coastline, the views were breathtaking!

After the obligatory pictures comemorating our success, we had a very crunchy lunch on the beach (it was another extremely windy day and despite sitting in our beach shelter which was covered with our mosquito net to keep out the fly infestation, and a tarp against the windier side, the sand still found its way in!). The boys had their compulsory go at fishing (it was never going to work with all that wind, but there’s no telling them that – especially Michael!) while I combed the beach for some lovely trochus shells. And then we decided since we had driven all this way, we should explore as many of the side tracks along the rugged coast as possible – so we checked out Thunder Bay (the crashing of the surf was indeed quite loud) and along a few more dunes down False Entrance followed by a VERY rough rocky ground towards the Zuytdorp Cliffs (which weren’t all that visible from that location).

It had been a few months since our last adventure, so providence decided we were long overdue. Returning along False Entrance Road (10km) towards Useless Loop (100km of corrugated dirt road back to sealed highway), we heard an all-too-familiar and stomach-churning grinding noise from the truck. A quick check under the truck confirmed that the power steering fluid was leaking (a problem we had thought had been fixed after an expensive day in Normanton). It was 4:30pm and as we had still had some daylight but no mobile phone reception, Mike bravely tromped through the bush across a couple of sand dunes (scraping bare legs and brushing off palm-sized orb spiders along the way) to reach a high spot. With the barest of signal available, he managed to contact the NRMA Premiumcare office only to be advised that towing was not covered on unsealed roads (and we were at this stage 105km from the nearest sealed road).

Braving his way back across the wild country (and after some serious venting), he decided to try and fix the problem as best he could to get us back to civilization. There was a sizable tear in the hose, and despite abundant lashings of gaffa tape (oh if only we had bought rescue tape when we had the chance!) the steering fluid oil dripped right out. It was by this stage 6:30pm: the sun had set and darkness descending rapidly, the boys were hungry and a bit scared from the lack of confidence their worried parents were exhibiting and we were literally in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! We decided to drive out and deal with any mechanical damage we may cause the truck later.

Now the really STUPID design of this truck is that if the power steering goes, so do the hydraulic brakes (give a genius award to the designer!!). So not only had standard right-hand turns become 3-point turns, Mike had to brake by down-shifting the gears! We knocked into a moronic kangaroo who just stared at us as we screeched to a halt in front of him (he was ok and hopped away) and got very lucky that the numerous rabbits along the way knew their way around cars. We arrived back at camp exhausted but elated at 10pm (a day trip to remember indeed)!!

The next day was Melbourne Cup Day – the very kind and resourceful camp manager (J) and another fellow camper (K) spent a couple of hours in the morning with Michael fixing the power steering hose (temporarily until we get to Geraldton) and we had a lovely Melbourne Cup lunch to watch the race (what an amazing finish – by a nostril!). The next day we bid farewell to Shark Bay (and the damn flies!) and headed into Kalbarri which is an absolutely lovely little seaside town and very quiet in early November. We were in the process of filling up our water tanks at one of the foreshore facilities when Mike noticed the hose was leaking again. Spent the next half an hour finding a hose specialist in Geraldton who fit us in first thing the next morning, so we packed up and continued driving to Geraldton – a very long day of driving not appreciated by the boys!

The next day was spent in Geraldton: an hour and a half in the morning at Pertek fixing the hose, then to the information centre for maps and information only to find the hose leaking again (already!!) so back to Pertek for another hour, then just lazing around on the foreshore near a very windswept beach before driving all the way back to Kalbarri (talk about exhausting)! And to make things worse, we had our first road-kill casualty of the trip – a horrible feeling to thump over the small and utterly stupid kangaroo!

We camped at Murchison Station on a very sandy area which made levelling out quite difficult, but it was lovely and quiet and the property itself had the most magnificent views of the nearby mountains. Our afternoon at Rainbow Jungle was absolutely wonderful – a massive display of just about every sort of parrot you can imagine, including macaws from South America. Tiran’s favourite part was walking through the huge open aviary looking for the beautiful feathers (I think we found about 30!) for his collection. Kia made friends with cockie in the front cage and they put on a song and dance show for us.

We then spent a couple of hours driving to the various lookouts along the coastal cliffs and spotted a few whales breaching and tail slapping – the sight never ceases to amaze and excite us! The next day we took the boat out on the Murchison River to give the boys a bit of fishing time. There are so many sandbanks to be negotiated along the way that trawling was quite difficult. We then dragged the boys along to Kalbarri National Park to see the gorges and Nature’s Window (absolutely gorgeous!) but the flies were pretty bad , so I left the 3 boys in the car and did the walk to Z-Bend on my own. I think we have all reached gorge-saturation point now!

Around Australia 43

This was the first time on our trip that I was actually depressed to be leaving a location – we all could have easily spent another week or two in the beautiful Exmouth area! We dragged ourselves away and drove to Coral Bay, stopping at Kairis Seafood for some prawns and bugs (Tiran really wanted to try some crabs but none available) and pictures of the Big Prawn. Coral Bay is pretty tiny and built completely around tourism – but you just never tire of the colour of that water!!!! It is totally impossible to resist snorkelling (unless you’re Tiran of course) – the coral in the bay is very close to the shore, but some of it was bleached which was sad to see. Still plenty of colourful fish to see.

At 3:30pm was the daily fish feeding spectacle – the fish can tell the time of course so they congregate at the appointed place to be fed handfuls of fish pellets. A couple of them were nearly as big as Tiran and they really go for the food and whatever else happens to be near it, including your toes (had to bury them in the sand to keep them)! It was great fun, especially the squeals of laughter from all the kids gathered around.

We spent the next 3 nights at 14 Mile Beach at Warroora Station, an absolutely massive sheep station (these things are measured in thousands of square kms) with a good amount of ocean front land set aside for camping. By chance the caretakers had left that day, so we slipped into their oceanfront camp spot – very nice indeed! The first day’s boating saw Michael land a very nice sized spangled emperor – such a gorgeous fish, it was sad to eat it! Tiran actually ate half himself (he has declared it his favourite so far). And we experienced something we hadn’t felt in over 4 months – rain! Well it was more a spittle of about 12 drops of rain, but still…..forgotten even the concept of rain!

It’s sheep shearing season around the stations, so we wondered over to the homestead where the travelling shearing crew (6 shearers and 4 assistants including a wool grader) were busy getting through the hard work. Talk about back-breaking work! The kids loved the little lambs hanging in the paddocks waiting for their de-fluffed mothers to return – sadly sometimes the separation becomes permanent and the abandoned lambs die (saddest thing I’ve seen!). We followed that up with a snorkel on beautiful Elle’s Beach (got so close to getting Tiran in the water, but still no luck). It was amazing having the beach all to ourselves – like your own little piece of paradise.

I made us backtrack to Coral Bay to visit the shark nursery (we’d been so enthralled with snorkelling last time I had completely forgotten about it) – about a 1km walk from Bill’s Bay is Skeleton Bay which is a very large, very shallow lagoon where reef sharks come to breed from November each year. We couldn’t get too close to the sharks – they swam away as you neared – but it was a lovely sight to see anyway. I was really annoyed we hadn’t brought the snorkelling gear with us because if you lay in the shallow water with your mask in the water, they approached close enough for a good look.

We spent one night at Point Quobba near the blowholes – lovely area, but it was late afternoon and cloudy when we arrived, so we didn’t really get to enjoy it. The next day we drove the short distance to Carnarvon and picked up the Gascoyne Food Trail brochure – all the tourist magazines had made it sound as if there were fresh food stalls every 2km, but in reality there were perhaps half a dozen plantations that sold direct to the public (gotta be careful not to believe everything you read!). We did the drive around and picked up a few things – some fabulous strawberries (best since Tasmania actually), corn, beans, paprika and some free-range eggs too. We had intended to experience One Mile Jetty, but since we had to pay for the privilege of walking on it, we decided to view it from the shore instead (not all that impressive really).

There was a big storm forecast for the area which thankfully didn’t really eventuate – got more rain, which is really putting a strain on the wonderful bubble we had built around us (where weather hasn’t really been a factor of consideration in our day to day planning). Spent one night at a lovely lookout rest area and then drove into Shark Bay Heritage Area. We stopped first at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites – now they aren’t much to look at, but much respect must be shown to the lumps of cyanobacteria (clumped together with lots of sand and sediment) as it is through their mighty efforts that the world was oxygenated sufficiently to allow life to evolve. The stromatolites in this area are only about 2000 years old, but they are the descendents of those from 3 billion years ago. Next stop was Shell Beach – an entire beach made up entirely of very small bivalve shells – a bit hard on the feet! I had no idea shell grit has so many uses: road base, cemented together to make brick-like blocks for building, even as a calcium additive to chicken feed (apparently strengthens the hardness of their eggs).

A quick stop at Denham to get some information and to see the Shark Bay Discovery Centre (what a complete waste of time and money!) and then off to Monkey Mia resort which was totally booked out for the long weekend (luckily Michael had booked us a camp spot about 3 hours prior!). We met up with new friends P & K and their 3 kids for a sunset drink on the beach while the kids played happily together for a couple of hours. The next morning was dolphin feeding time – the lovely bottle-nose residents come by to feed 3 times during the morning, starting around 8am. There must have been nearly 200 people on the beach for the first feeding, but thankfully reduced dramatically for the next one around half an hour later and Kia got picked to feed them. This of course led to a very disgruntled Tiran – we negotiated that he could chose a movie to watch that night and have his favourite dinner (chicken nuggets); he was so happy with this arrangement that he actually refused to stick around for the last feeding in the hopes of being chosen! Actually the highlight of the very commercial and overcrowded endeavour was the viewing of the newest addition – a 2-day old baby dolphin; wanted to grab him out of the water and cuddle him to death!

We then took our own boat out dugong spotting – these things are pretty hard to spot. Luckily K had gone on a cruise the day before and gave us some tips on what to look out for – basically scan the water surface for a blob of brown! We only managed to get close to a couple of them (and I couldn’t get a good picture from so low in the water) but we spotted around 8. The dolphins came frolicking around a couple of times as well which was beautiful. Not really sure what we think of Monkey Mia – it’s certainly a beautiful spot and the sea-life spotting was great, but would we put it on our must-do or return-again list? Probably not.