A Travellerspoint blog

Home Sweet Home

The final installment

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Bringin' it home on Phil Croot's travel map.

After two very long days of driving I arrived back at Gidgegannup around 4pm on Tuesday. This included an 18 hour day across the Nullarbor - from Streaky Bay to Norseman, about 1400km. While this was hard driving, it was fueled by the strong desire to get back to my beautiful family, and it was a fantastic feeling driving through our gate and down our winding gravel road to meet a very welcoming wife and boys. Driving back through the wheatbelt was impressive for all the green that is about. So glad that we have had a good winter.
Canola fields east of Merredin

Canola fields east of Merredin


The only real hitch during the trip was a slow leak in one of the caravan tyres, which meant stopping and putting a bit of air in every 200km or so, until I was able to have it repaired at Southern Cross.
Frank, the wheel wiz from the land of the long white cloud

Frank, the wheel wiz from the land of the long white cloud


With the hindsight of a few days rest, the drive home was not as difficult as I anticipated, although the 18 hour day on the Nullarbor did push my endurance to the limit. I did not see a single kangaroo in my night stint, and considering the number of dead carcasses on the side of the road, this was very fortunate.
Leaving Streaky Bay early in the morning supplied the most inspirational moment of the drive. With the rising sun breaking through patches of fog, the vista of rolling green wheat fields was achingly beautiful. I was listening to a couple of worship CDs (Chris Tomlin), and was moved to tears as I sensed the presence of God all around me. I feel very strongly that the natural world is a significant source of nourishment for our spirit, and it is important that we don't allow ourselves to be disconnected from these places for too long. Of course, God is everywhere, but I think we have to work much harder to see Him/Her in a world constructed of glass, cement and bitumen.

The only missing piece in the blog is the stretch we drove between Sydney and the Gold Coast. We really enjoyed the North Coast of NSW, and highlights included a really great caravan park at Emerald Beach, Coffs Harbour, where we also visited the Big Banana. Further north, Ballina had a wonderful river foreshore, where you could walk/ride for a few kms right to the ocean, out onto the groin to watch the surfers weaving their magic up close on outstanding waves. It was amazing to drive across bridges spanning massive rivers every 100kms or so, there is just so much more water in these areas than we are used to in the West. We drove through Byron Bay on the way to Tweed Heads, but it was a sunny Sunday afternoon and the town was absolutely packed and very difficult to negotiate with a caravan in tow. Looked likes a great little town with a strong alternative culture, but we will have to see it in more detail next trip!
The Big Banana

The Big Banana

Frozen bananas dipped in chocolate

Frozen bananas dipped in chocolate

Phruity Phil

Phruity Phil

Lunch at Port Macquarie

Lunch at Port Macquarie

Emerald Beach, near Coffs

Emerald Beach, near Coffs

Beautiful beaches at Forster-Tuncurry

Beautiful beaches at Forster-Tuncurry

Speaking of the next trip... we are starting to plan for doing the top end by 2014. This will probably be the last chance we have for a big trip with the boys, before TEE studies set in. We loved so much about the chance to travel in the caravan as a family, and would recommend the experience to anyone. The Windsor was just about perfect for what we needed, so the plan is to keep it and start saving travel money all over again! I just need to find a job sometime soon...

Posted by Phil Croot 18:44 Comments (1)

Meet Geoff the Beekeeper!

sunny 22 °C
View Bringin' it home on Phil Croot's travel map.

Today has been spent driving across South Australia, and it has brought back some fond memories of our time in SA as a family. Lots of old stone buildings and a really diverse landscape that changes rapidly. I am free camping tonight between Port Augusta and Ceduna, with the aim to get back to the Lutheran Church at Ceduna for 10am tomorrow.
Koongawa Rest Stop

Koongawa Rest Stop


Big pause in the writing... as I was about to upload the photo above, a truck pulled up next to me and the driver called out Hey! It was quite dark by now, and so I felt a little uneasy as I opened the door to see what he wanted. And so the saga began. Geoff the Beekeeper wanted to know what I was doing?, was I alone?, and did I have any beer? At this point it was sinking in that I was in a vulnerable position as there was no one else at this isolated location, and things could go pear shaped quickly. We chatted for about 15 minutes, as I stood in the stairwell of the caravan, not being able to really see who I was talking to in the dark. Geoff suggested that we build a campfire and talk about the big questions of life. He had experienced a bad day, had started early on sundowner drinks, and was consequently having trouble holding a conversation (and walking). It was probably a service to others on the road if we did have a bit of a fire.
Four hours later I knew a lot about Geoff's life, and had been able to strike up some sort conversation that had touched on many issues. The setting of the fire was stunning, with Milky Way stretching across the sky above us. Geoff is 52, single, a little crazy and, reading between the lines, desperately lonely. We concluded that most of the world's problems could be solved if we cared about others more than we cared about ourselves. Sometime after 10pm I managed to convince Geoff that I needed to hit the sack, and he pulled out his swag and snored solidly next to his truck until 5.30am when I made him a coffee before hitting the road. God will honour Geoff's sincere searching, and I was reminded again that it is the people in the margins of life who teach us the most. So I think all my discomfort was important as a life lesson.
Geoff, the Fire and another Scotch and Red Bull!

Geoff, the Fire and another Scotch and Red Bull!


As I experienced a glorious sunrise, I felt more tired than at any other point on this drive home. A sign for the Streaky Bay turnoff beckoned, and the idea of a Sabbath rest day at Streaky Bay became irresistible. Have I ever told you that I really love this place? After looking at more real estate windows, and asking about job opportunities, I had a lovely lunch, and then managed to get some washing done and cook a couple of meals for the coming travel days. It was very restorative, and I even managed to get some exercise in with a run along the foreshore for a few kms.
Roughing it at Streaky Bay (Salt and Pepper Calamari)

Roughing it at Streaky Bay (Salt and Pepper Calamari)


Now I am all packed and ready for another big day of driving tomorrow. The Nullarbor beckons, and the smell of home is getting stronger. Once I reach Eucla there will be less than 2000kms to go.
I am looking forward to reuniting these characters with their delightful owners.
Friends watching over me

Friends watching over me


Not sure about wireless reception for the next couple of days, so there could be a small gap in the musings. Until then.

Posted by Phil Croot 06:11 Comments (0)

Broken Hill

sunny 28 °C

Tonight I am in Broken Hill, on the border of NSW and South Australia. No GPS dramas - the whole drive (600km) was on the Barrier Highway. Music today included Bach's Mass in B Minor, David Bowie and Jamiroquai. I also listened to a couple of podcasts (Roy and HG, and an interview with NBA commissioner, David Stern, by Bill Simmons).

There was another fruit miscalculation: everything needed to be eaten or thrown 10km before Broken Hill, whereas I thought it would be on the SA border, 50km west of Broken Hill. This meant that I ate about 8 apples, 4 mandarins, a punnet of strawberries, an orange and a grapefruit as I drove! Still needed to throw out a few tomatoes and a bag of oranges - no thermomix heroics this time around, as there was no space to pull over and set up the generator.

I have booked into a caravan park tonight, so that I can watch the Dockers. It is difficult to know which will feel longer: driving 600km through semi-arid countryside or watching the Dockers try and stave off the Collingwood juggernaut. It is sad to say that the Dockers have featured in many of my poor experiences of this trip.

Sorry about no pics. I am not really into taking photos with no people interest in them, I will try and work on something for tomorrow.

Continuing the retroblog...

Leaving Kiama, we drove up to Sydney to a caravan park in Lane Cove, about 25 minutes from the CBD. The caravan park is situated in the National Park. We enjoyed the rain forest surroundings, the wildlife and the sense of solitude. Sydney is a crazy place, and driving is a nightmare. Fortunately there was a train station within walking distance,and so we bought a family weekly pass and basically did all our travelling on public transport. Sydney Harbour is truly wonderful. The boys enjoyed the train over the Harbour Bridge, and seeing the Opera House and the Rocks area. A trip on the Manly Ferry, a visit to see Cars 2 on the IMax big screen (the largest cinema screen in the world) followed by a meal at Darling Harbour were highlights. We also joined a great little church at a shopping centre, called "Soma", which had a great relaxed feel, and an excellent teaching pastor.
The Opera House

The Opera House

The whatsit Bridge

The whatsit Bridge

The Rocks, Sydney

The Rocks, Sydney

Cars 2 on the largest cinema screen in the world (Darling Harbour)

Cars 2 on the largest cinema screen in the world (Darling Harbour)


We unfortunately did not see much sunshine while we were in Sydney, but the city has such energy and natural beauty that it didn't really matter. Next we were off to the Central and North Coast regions.

Posted by Phil Croot 04:02 Comments (0)

The Back of Bourke

Plus a bonus Canberra Retroblog

sunny 26 °C
View Bringin' it home on Phil Croot's travel map.

I was trying to be clever with my reference to fleshing out the cliche of 'the back of Bourke" in the last blog, but unfortunately my GPS did not get the subtlety of my comment. The fastest route to Perth from Goondiwindi involved 4 hours of single lane, potholed roads yesterday afternoon. It also involved hundreds of cattle grazing on the side of the road, dozens of emus and a few kangaroos and sheep. To round out the experience there were about 30 bone shaking, caravan thumping cattle grids. I calculated last night that the "fastest" route was about 30 km shorter than if I had travelled down the Newell and Mitchell Highways. I am pretty sure that it would not have taken quite the same amount of time - bad Tom Tom! That will teach me to trust technology.

Having said all this, it was a stunning day with cloudless skies and a max in the mid to high 20's. I pulled out some CDs, and enjoyed listening to the Corrs, Toto, Elton John and Nickleback in between the tracks skipping with the bounces and bumps of the road. It was also interesting looking at the Artesian fed agriculture along the way (cotton, grain, beef). The East Coast is so much more fertile than the West - hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of rich, dark, loamy soil. The terrain will probably become more arid as I head towards Broken Hill today.

I have promised previously that I would retro blog a couple of the gaps in our travels. The blog left off just after we arrived in Canberra. It was cold, with temperatures dropping to -4C in the nights. We did not end up going back to the snow fields - the boys were not disappointed as there were many other things to do, including a couple of visits to the War Memorial, Parliament House, the AIS, and Questacon (Scitech on steroids).
Canberra 046

Canberra 046

Canberra 071

Canberra 071

Questacon fun

Questacon fun

AIS Sculpture

AIS Sculpture


The War Memorial was incredibly moving, and I felt so proud to be an Australian - not necessarily my default position. The Hall of Memories is one of the most beautifully designed buildings I have ever experienced. Later as we went to Parliament House and sat in on question time, I was less proud to be Australian, and very convinced that we need leaders of substance rather than posture.

From Canberra we travelled through Goulburn, and the Big Merino. Then it was off to the coast to free camp near Kiama, just south of Wollongong. The trip down the mountains was the worst drive of the trip, with a 10km steep descent including hair pin bends and nowhere to lay off. So there ended up a queue of a dozen cars behind us as we crawled down the hill, with the pungent smell of burning brake liners in our nostrils. Kiama was a stunnning little seaside town, famous for its blow holes, but the swell was too low for us to experience them.
Beautiful Kiama

Beautiful Kiama

Mega Merino at Goulburn

Mega Merino at Goulburn

Time to hit the road again. Next retroblog: Sydney.

Posted by Phil Croot 14:09 Comments (0)

The solo run begins.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Angela and the boys arrived home safely in Perth yesterday afternoon (Tuesday). We had a fantastic finish to the trip, revisiting two great caravan parks at the Sunshine Coast and Tweed Heads.
About to get on the plane

About to get on the plane


We had magnificent weather on the Sunshine Coast and enjoyed Noosa, Coolum Beach, picking strawberries and visiting the lovely Montville in the Hinterlands.
Isaac buried deep in thought!

Isaac buried deep in thought!

Beautiful Noosa

Beautiful Noosa

Picking

Picking

... then eating

... then eating


The Gold Coast was not so great weather wise, as we had heavy rain and strong winds for much of our stay. But the boys loved getting back to a couple of the theme parks, and revisiting some of the fun places we had visited with our families a month ago. We have had an amazing time, but everyone has also been looking forward to getting back into the regular routine of life at home.
Sea World

Sea World


So I am now driving the long haul back to Perth. It has been a bit of a sombre day: I am missing my family of course, but in addition one of my best mates had surgery today to remove bowel cancer. The doctors have also discovered cancer in his lungs, and he and his family are in a tough place right now. This is our fourth friend to be diagnosed with cancer since we left Perth.
Life is full of questions that can't be answered. Through the long hours available to ponder and reflect at the moment, my conclusion is that faith in God is just that - a belief in a divine presence that requires stepping into uncertainty, confusion. Faith can only be measured by the extent we allow ourselves to doubt. The Apostle Paul calls this the foolishness of the Gospel - but our western rational minds gravitate continually toward the wisdom of the Greeks.

My journey takes me through the back of Bourke tomorrow - putting flesh on an iconic Aussie cliche. Talk again soon.

Posted by Phil Croot 04:37 Comments (2)

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