Recap: Family Road Trip

This way to adventure signMy husband Shane, our Son Riley and I traveled 9865 kilometers (6130 miles) in 38 days, living out of our Toyota Landcrusier 80 series 4WD, trekking to the tip of Australia. We did this trip back in July–August 2015 and I’m only now getting to sit down and go though the journal I wrote each day.

Travel Collage

We had planned this trip for three years and pored our hearts and wages into it. Before this trip the furthest Riley had traveled in a vehicle was to Narrabri once and with plenty of rest stops that was only a eight hour trip. Riley proved to be a really great traveler, bar kicking the passages seat regularly and a really great camper. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself and flourish in the new and constantly changing environments.

On the first day we had planned on leaving at 3am, but due to satellite phone collection issues we didn’t leave to 11am. This meant that we finished the days driving in the dark. It dawned on me as we were heading out of Lake Macquarie that I had only driven the cruiser four times; once when we first bought it, twice to work (it was practically stock standard back then) and once again when we moved house. It was at this point that I started to freak out about how many kilometers on this trip I would be driving. I had a panic attack later that night when a Road Train was up my ass thundering down the road on the way to Moree. I ended up having to pull off the road, let him pass and then try to calm down. There were many times on the trip where Road Trains caused me extreme stress. In the end Shane did most of the long haul driving.

By the end of day nine Shane had chucked a major tantrum and wanted to dump the roof top tent on the side of the road and buy a camper. Shane and my father are currently building a camper to use on our next trip. Shane ended up fed up with having to pack up camp every time we wanted to go for a drive, something I had pointed out might be problem when we were planning the trip, but he had been adamant that he didn’t want to tow on the tracks we were going to drive.

Earlier on in the trip I decided that kangaroos and cattle are two of the stupidest creatures alive. The roos stop, stare at you, then run right towards your vehicle and some of the cattle are not much better. They are both cute as buttons, but oh so stupid.

We spent more on food and accommodation than expected, but less on fuel, so it all sort of balanced out. All up we burnt through 1686.11 litres of diesel in 9865 kilometers. That’s, 17.09 litres per 100KM. She weighted around three tonne fully loaded so we couldn’t really expect any better than that. The Landcruiser did really well for a 23-year-old vehicle; other than the passenger side mirror falling off on the road to Lorella, the rear number plate falling off on the Development road and the alternator playing up towards the end, she was golden. Oh what a feeling, TOYOTA! I actually had an intense dislike for this vehicle before this road trip, but I fell in love with her for her strength and capabilities on the red dirt tracks of outback Australia.Crusier Collage

We made it through The Old Telegraph Track and The Frenchmens Track no worries. But The Creb Track (Cains regional electricity board track) beat us, as it was just too wet. The Creb also beat two other vehicles ahead of us on the track when they rolled over. We were having fun slipping and sliding around until the Nissan Patrol in front of us popped a Tyre off of its rim. As the boys were rectifying that problem, two dirt bike riders came through and warned us of the rolled vehicles up ahead blocking the track. We turned back. The Creb had only reopened the week before we attempted to do it and it was officially shut the day after we were there.

Riley the farm boyRiley enjoyed a road side tractor and farming equipment display in Ilfracombe more than anything else on the trip.

Shane and I enjoyed Longreach’s Qantas Museum and Stockmans Hall of Fame but wasn’t all that entertaining for then 2-year-old Riley.

Lorella Springs was stunning and our week there wasn’t enough. We hope to go back in 2018 for three weeks. Riley’s first time in a hot spring (luke warm) was at Lorella and he was fascinated by the fact that we were in the water and surrounded by bush. Previous to this he’d only been swimming in our local council pool or at a beach.

Riley went on his first ever boat ride when we went for a gorge cruise in Lawn Hill National Park. He then went for his 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th boat ride on the ferry’s to and from the mainland to Thursday Island and Horn Island. The tour we did of Thursday and Horn focused on the WW2 and was really quite fascinating. Considering we were in and out of a bus all day Riley behaved really well.

Whether it was little kids trying to copy him swinging from a handrail, grandparents missing their grandchildren wanting to talk kiddlet, or fellow passengers playing peek a boo over the seats on boats and buses Riley managed to make new friends young and old wherever we went.

We did the Tip of Australia walk and took “the photo”.The Tip Photo

We had three vehicles in our convoy on the Creb and picked up a fourth, two Belgians way out of their league. I was getting really anxious that we were going to be stuck out on the Creb. Darren had to practically tow the Belgians up every hill. it was a nightmare, I just wanted the hell out of there. I actually said at one stage “I want my mum!” because I really needed a hug, but I corrected It to “I want my Uncle and his damn lifted twin looked steroid enhanced Range Rover”. At one stage when were at a stand still Riley decided to belly flop off of the back tail gate into a massive mud wallow. i was in tears by the time we got into Cairns late that night.

For Riley the playground at Cairns Coconut Holiday Park was a close second to the display in Ilfracombe for enjoyment.Coconut Playground Collage

The Lava Tubes at Undara were beautiful and fascinating for an adult, but wasn’t all the entertaining for Riley.

Riley and I got crook on the boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef. Shane went and did a snorkel tour while Riley and I recovered from the boat ride out. We then went and did a semi sub boat tour and Riley seemed to enjoy it. He was mesmerized watching all the bubbles rushing past the windows. Thankfully the ride back to Cairns on the big boat was smoother and we didn’t get sick.

There is a lot of day to day stuff I’ve left out of this post, but all in all it was a fantastic family bonding experience. Even still I was so happy to be back home in my own bed, with a flushing toilet, hot shower and electricity. Home never looked so damn good.

We are very lucky in Australia to have such a diverse and beautiful country, one in which I intent to explore more thoroughly with my family.

Planning: The Tip Trip

aussietipfamilyroadtripThe planning for our “Tip Trip” started back when I was pregnant with Riley, who will be two on the 27th and involved selling Shane’s Nissan patrol 4wd Ute.  We had ‘‘The Troll’’ set up so we could live out of it on camping trips, but it was only a two seater and we now needed a family 4wd wagon. Hence an 80 series Toyota Landcrusier was purchased. We left “The Cruiser” as it was with only the addition of a baby capsule. Other than a few nights out bush bashing and an Easter trip to Narrabri It hasn’t really left the yard. You see Shane has vehicle he’s given to use for work purposes and we use my little Mitsubishi Lancer wagon “Lancey” the rest of the time.

To The Tip Map

We intend to travel inland on the way up. First stop will be Lighting Ridge, then onto Chareville, Longreach, Winton, Mount Isa, Lorella Springs, Hells Gate, Lawn Hill, Normanton, Musgrave, Branwell station, the Old Telly Track and finally Loyalty Beach.

From The Tip Map

Then back down the coast via the Peninsular Development Road, the Frenchmans Track to Chili Beach, Captain Billy’s landing, Weipa, Musgrave (again), Lakefield National park, Cooktown, the Creb Track, Cains, Undara, Airle, Lake Awoonga, Caloundra, Coffs Harbour, then home to good old Lake Macquarie.

It’ll be approximately 12,000 kilometers all up, not including sightseeing kilometers.

The modifications and work that has been done on the Cruiser falls into two categories (1) add-on’s for trip and (2) had to do because they were worn out.

(1) Roof rack, roof top tent, in vehicle water tank, rear bar with two spare wheels, Engel 60 ltr camp fridge (transplanted from the Troll), light bars, reverse camera, Hema GPS mapping software for Shane’s iPad, iPad holder, rear storage draws and cargo barrier.

(2) Heavey duty clutch kit, reconditioned transfer case, braided brake lines, suspension (springs & air bags), wheel bearings, cv’s, rust repairs, heat gage and winch.

I’m not going to talk about the cost involved in getting the Cruiser up to scratch as it’s a sore point between my husband and I. The Cruiser has cost us a lot more than planned and wasn’t in as good of a condition as we originally thought – but at least the damn expensive bitch is all good now.

I’ve been so stressed out over the whole trip I think I’ll just calapse once it’s finally here screaming “IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING”. I’m really looking forward to doing sweet f*** all at Lorella Springs & Loyalty Beach, just relaxing, reading, swimming and going for walks through the Daintree rainforest.

doing nothing cartoon

I am worried about our our dog Ellie being home alone for two months. Ok so she won’t really be alone as my parents only live two houses up from us, but still the poor thing will miss us, probably. I am really nervous about being in Croc territory and Riley getting eaten. Like having nightmares about it nervous. We’ve been trying to fit as many supplies in the Cruiser as possible. Drinkable water and food for Riley is first priority. We have seriously limited room for food for ourselves – oh well hopefully i’ll lose some weight on this trip LOL. I’m hopping Riley is going to be a good traveler, the furthest he’s every gone was Narrabri and that was when he was having two naps a day. With so many Kilometers being spent behind the wheel, I’ve downloaded a fair few Audio Books and plan to play them over the otherwise wasted hours of driving.

Oh and did I mention Riley is still in nappies – all those dirty Nappies – Oh My.

Shane’s super keen for the trip, he’s loving the idea of not having to go to work for two months, as well as getting some fishing in, driving the Creb and old Telly Track and taking Riley on the glass bottom boat for the Great Barrier Reef tour. It’ll be wonderful to see his face light up at all the fishes.

The only thing Shane is really worried about is getting the Cruiser stuck somewhere and damaging his pride if we have to be helped out haha.

I imagine Riley is most looking forward to getting to sleep up top of the roof top tent with me and take up all the bed, as well as terrifying me by constantly trying to run off. I think he’s too young to worry about much, but hell hath no fury like a toddler whose banana and yogurt supply runs out. And I know I’ll get a tantrum every time we have to pull him away from park play equipment.

On the trip I’m going to be keeping track of the kilometers traveled, litres of fuel used and our food and accommodation costs.

These are my Approximations before the trip and I think it’ll be interesting to see how far out they end up:

Fuel Costs $3,000.00 – We are not even sure of the exact kilometers we’ll be travelling, it’s rather hard to judge some of the areas we will be going to.

Groceries for three for two months $2,500.00 – so that includes everything from nappies and soap to milk and sausages.

Accommodation $1500.00 – most of the parks we will be staying at do have a small daily fee and even though we will be camping as much as possible there will be a few times where we will be staying at a hotel on the really high kilometer days.

We will be trying to pack as light as possible with the bear minimum of bedding, clothing and cooking equipment being taken. A small first aid kit, emergency EPIRB and recovery gear. While squeezing in camera equipment and a few special small toys of Riley’s. And a small range of tools with the following spare parts: fuel & air filters, assorted hoses, clamps & belts, engine oil, brake & power steering fluid, wheel bearings & grease as well as some assorted fuses.

20150531_123915

Riley “enjoying” the Barrington rain

We did a practice day trip up around Barrington Tops to see how the Cruiser will chug along fully loaded. We averaged 6.41 kms per Litre (15.61 Ltrs/100km) – the Cruiser weighs around three tonne fully loaded, so that’s probably pretty good.

I’m going to keep a journal while we’re away and when we get back share the best bits with you, what we enjoyed the most, how the Cruiser held up on the tracks etc.

thank-you-clothesline-752x483

Now for the THANK YOU roll call: Triggs Motors, Dennis Trigg, Gordon Trigg, Sean Davies, Scott Holms, Jacob Hector, Mark Elliot, Graham Mitchell, Paul Clarke, Toronto Brake Service and Carey Bay Auto Electrics for helping out with getting the Cruiser ready to rumble.

And an extra BIG thank you to Gordon Trigg for talking Shane out of spending more money on s**t he didn’t need, like diff lockers front and rear.

Until Next Time, happy traveling everyone.