We kept pretty much to the original high level plan of going through western Queensland including Mount Isa and Lawn Hill NP then across the top on the Savanna Way stopping in at Lorella Springs before joining the Stuart Highway at Mataranka then heading north to Darwin visiting Litchfield NP on the way. After Darwin we headed south down, stopping into Kakadu and then headed for the Alice. A restock saw us head west to West McDonnell ranges and Finke Gorge NP before making our way round to Kings Canyon and the Rock/Kata-Tjuta. Our final dash south is via Coober Pedy and then across the Oodnadatta Track coming out near the Flinders Ranges. From there the temperature dictated a hasty retreat back to bricks and mortar back in Canberra.
We only booked into Adel's Grove and Coober Pedy before we left, the rest was left to about 4 or 5 days out at best, usually it was the next night or even just drive-ups in some circumstances. This ease of planning meant we were able to switch the number of days at certain locations so that we can see others. For example we reduced the number of days at Kings Canyon so that we could visit Palm Valley and that was well worth the visit.
Picking highlights for the trip, like the Cape York trip, was very hard as there were so many great places we visited on this trip. Forcing ourselves to pick a few, from the parents perspective the highlight places or events were
- Uluru and Kata-Tjuta
- West McDonnell ranges
- The Big blue skies everywhere
- Ubirr tour and tour guide Annie; and
- going places without crowds
- Darwin and catching up with Alice and Scott
- Mindil Markets
- Coober Pedy and
- Mataranka / Bitter Springs
Things we did well:
- Food planning for extended stays away from major shopping centres. A big lesson learnt from our last trip to Cape York. Katie did a sterling job at making sure we had enough variety to keep us all very well fed throughout the trip.
- Fuel planning, when to get fuel in the Jerry cans and when not. We got this pretty right although there were a few places like Tennant creek that we banked on there being fuel and would have been a bit stuck if there wasn't. We should really have a Jerry full all the time to ensure if one town is out we have enough to get to the next.
- Kids home work was considerably better than previous long trips but it only got good in the third week once the parents had got into a rhythm. We found the currency of additional iPod time to be a major driver.
- Dental hygiene, vast improvement by dad and the boys to ensure its done each night and each morning regardless of the activity.
- White boards, we purchased small (39 cm square) white boards for the boys and it worked a treat for in car activities be that maths or spelling or simply drawing their latest idea for a submarine or camper. The drawing bit varies depending on what the conversation had been that day.
- Water management: we certainly were able to last longer on the 85litre tank than last time. The addition of cordial can even the more calcium rich bore water seem OK if it's cold enough!
- Cash management: We ensured that we had cash where we needed it, we only used cash where that was the only option, i.e. national parks or way out there. We did find that there is pretty much card in most places though. There is still the occasional % surcharge for credit but this was rare and the option of using savings account was there as well.
Things we could have done better
- iPods, this time they had iPods whereas last time they had iPod shuffles. We got the iPods to allow them to more easily shuffle through music they were listening to. The added benefit is you can play games on them as well, in particular their favourite at the moment, minecraft. It drove us batty how they were so focused on these blasted devices. I don't think though a single bit of music was heard!
- Competition, patience and approach to issues: this time we found the competition between the boys was so much more evident than last time. If one did or said something, the other would have to chime in. Their patience isn't getting any better, waiting in queues for the smallest amount of time seems to bother them, they can't stand up either and have to lean on something that's holds them up, be that mum / dad or a leaning post of some other kind. And also their thinking was always about what they don't have not what they do! We kept having to explain what an opportunity they have to learn rather than whinging they didn't get the right ice cream at a shop after a walk! :(
- We struggled to stay in a place for more then 3 nights no matter how good it is. We get itchy feet after 3! We need to learn to chill out a bit more.
- Dad can't grow a beard. 3 weeks and he ends up just getting hairy. Maybe a beard trimmer would have made it look neater.
- When we all worked as a team it was amazing how easy setup and packup process can be. The boys now do a range of tasks like packing the stairs, lights and folding down legs etc that make the process a little easier and faster.
- We are still taking things we don't use: ie fishing rods, need to be really firm and only take what we need...noting this will change from trip to trip
- Electrical updates for the next trip will be to include the ability to charge the fridge battery from the solar panels. We found that the fridge battery would benefit from some extra attention when the camper is at 100%. The panels are more than capable of keeping it there, even with the fridge running all day. But if we take the fridge with us then it struggles to keep things going for more than a day or so, especially in the hotter weather.
Some stats :
- Total kilometres travelled : 10963km
- Number of days : 47
- Numbers of stops : 24
- Number of one night stays : 11
- Number of two night or more stays : 13
- Free camp nights : 3
- Cost of food : $2,300
- Cost of fuel : $1,785
- Accommodation : $1,400
- Average fuel cost : $1.34
- Most expensive fuel : $178.9 (Yulara) most expensive seen was $3.00 @ Lorella Springs
- Cheapest fuel : $1.13 in Canberra
- Average Daily cost including all tours etc : $190
Some lighter sides
- Funniest town seen or visited would have to go to Bing Bong seen around the Boorooloola area.
- When talking about all the army trucks coming up the highway, Katie asked where they all sleep, the logistics would be amazing. My reply, any where they bloody well want to!
- The number of Challengers spotted on this trip has been amazing. Towing all sorts of vans and trailers, it seems a much more popular car to touring these parts. At one stage there was four in a single caravan park. Charlie was still the toughest looking one though!
- The number of shirts on ant mines on the Stuart and other highways. Every 100 metre or so the art of making a terminate mound look like a person using a old shirt and sometimes a hat and sun glasses is extraordinary. There are thousands of them and some go to quite some effort. We wondered if the terminate minded, does t bother them?
- The convoys we passed be it 2CV's(70 or more) Landrovers (43 in one and 13 in the last one seen) are great fun. You can listen on the uhf to all the chatter.
- Your caravaners wave being acknowledged is much greater in the morning than the afternoon. We think that this is due to the strength of the pointer finger wavering as the afternoon stretches on. In the colder southern states the finger just didn't work with very few acknowledgements, maybe to cold to lift a finger.