Ultimate Motorhome Holiday Competition Entry
‘You must be mad! What about all those big spiders?’ was the response we got from some people when we announced, on retiring, that we would be travelling round Australia and New Zealand in a campervan for 3 months then heading off to SE Asia to travel round by bus and train. Fortunately we didn’t take any notice (and didn’t see any big spiders) and headed off anyway for the trip of a lifetime!
My two sons were our inspiration as they had each spent nine months in Australia during a gap year and loved every minute. Why shouldn’t we have a gap year too?! On arrival we chilled out near Cairns for a few days then picked up our first van. We were not impressed, but being wholly ignorant of campervan hire we had picked a very budget company and got what we paid for! However, undaunted we set off down the East coast – venturing inland as far as Karumba (where I spent a ‘big’ birthday) and after a plethora of wonderful sights and meeting many interesting people we ended up in St. Kilda, Melbourne (probably our favourite city) where we spent a week or so before transferring to New Zealand.
This was a whole different story van-wise. This time we had booked a motorhome through Cheapa Campa and the comparison was marked! We were upgraded to a 6 berth from a 4 berth and enjoyed luxury indeed. Although it was a big vehicle we never had any trouble on the routes we chose and getting up and down steep hills wasn’t a problem. The van had all mod cons, everything worked properly and it came well equipped with the kit we needed.
Our experience of road travel was a marked contrast here. There seemed to be a different view round every corner. Disembodied peaks and rushing ice-blue rivers fringed with wild lupins created a senses over-load. At Milford Sound a pod of dolphin curved through the water and together with rainbows of spray they were a photographer’s dream. A kea bird paid us a visit one day and cheekily hopped into the cab to have a look round. Fortunately we caught him as we returned to the van because we have been told they can be very destructive. He wasn’t phased and looked us up and down before taking his leave. Keas are in the top three most intelligent birds on the planet apparently.
After this we didn’t think twice about who to hire from when we returned to Australia the following year. Again, we were upgraded to a 6 berth and couldn’t believe our luck! This time we travelled in a big circle from Perth back to Perth through the Red Centre and via the Kimberley. I think this was my favourite area, but necessitated the hiring of a 4WD for several days. I particularly loved the remote wilderness locations and the chance to see wildlife close to.
Our first stop in The Kimberley, Windjana Gorge, treated us to a chance to see the amazing bowerbird building its nest. This intricate arrangement, built on the ground, consisted of a tight-knit bower of twigs with a silver and white colour scheme. This was provided by bottle tops, bits of silver paper and other items scrounged from litter bins. Inside the nest was a beautifully arranged special gift for a prospective mate – half a dozen shiny kangaroo droppings! The male bird fussed around his creation endlessly (see the video) and was eventually rewarded by a female coming to visit. Coyly she inspected the accommodation and then after a ritual hopping around each other they flew off to flirt on the toilet block roof. Later the happy couple came to our camp cooker and begged scraps in a very familiar fashion, much to our amusement!
Other experiences included swimming in Bell Gorge on my next birthday and having to be hauled out by onlookers when I couldn’t get up the slippery rocks (!), seeing wild camels at the Olgas and being peered at by dingoes from the long grass. I ventured alone into the underground cavern of Tunnel Creek hoping to follow the river a kilometre or two and walk through to the other side, but had to stop because my torch wasn’t powerful enough. I tried to attach myself to a couple who were also walking through but they didn’t want a hitch hiker so I turned back. However, I still experienced the total darkness and mystery of this secret place. Freshies had left their belly marks on the sand where they had slipped silently into the water at our approach and tiny green frogs hid in rock crevices. Next time I will do the whole walk!
Talking of frogs, did you know they can squeal? I found this out when I tried to grasp one that was sitting in a sink in a camp wash room in order to put it outside. It made such a noise I dropped it very smartly and used a different bowl!So much to see and do and we only scratched the surface. How I long to go back. On cold wet days in England I point my phone at the ground and an app I have shows me the night sky of the Southern hemisphere. The Southern Cross shines brightly, beckoning me back to my lovely Australia. One day……..!
Scenes of Western Australia.
Wangi falls, Litchfield NP. Sir John Gorge - a remote location in The Kimberley. The bowerbird building its nest.