Two months of OUR BIG LAP are now done and dusted. In one breath it feels like the time has flown, but in the next breath we stop and think about all the places we have been in that time and all the amazing things we have done and encountered and we are blown away. It is amazing that all that can be achieved in two short months, and especially considering we are travelling in parts pretty quickly, but not at what would be described as break-neck speed.
Nightly check of where we have been, where we are and where we are going next...
Since our last update we made our way across the Queensland Gulf section of the Savannah Way on our way up to Karumba. We went to Karumba to fish and fish we did! We tag teamed on a fishing charter with one of us going one day and the other the next and we picked up a nice little haul of blue salmon and Lloyd landed an impressive Spanish mackerel which was the perfect way to celebrate his birthday while we were there. From Karumba we had stops in Gregory Downs and Adels Grove – two spectacular slices of paradise in the middle of an otherwise dry and dusty landscape. From Adels Grove we farewelled the Savannah Way for a while heading south to Camooweal on our way to the Red Centre.
Fishing in Karumba. This town is famous for its fishing and sunsets, but sunrise (pictured above) is pretty spectacular too!
Our time in the Red Centre was absolutely unforgettable and I would do it all again tomorrow if I could – Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, the Mereenie Loop, Ormiston Gorge and all of the West MacDonnell Ranges, the East MacDonnell Ranges and Alice Springs… every destination unique and memorable in its own way.
I tried to pick a couple of highlights from the past month but honestly, to choose one destination over another is quite impossible and would be an injustice to them all.
That said, there was one very special moment that will remain a trip highlight and that was the reveal of the big surprise we had been keeping from Ava and Finn when their Grandma and Poppy came knocking on our caravan door in Uluru! Their reaction was utterly precious and it was a moment that Lloyd and I will never forget.
What followed was a chance for Lloyd and his parents to relive their last visit to the Red Centre some 28 years earlier when they did their Big Lap as a family. For them some things had changed and some things had stayed the same, but such is the aura of the Red Centre, and having the opportunity to share the experience with their grandchildren, I think it is fair to say that in many ways it was like they were seeing all these wonders of nature for the first time.
SOME OBSERVATIONS AFTER TWO MONTHS ON THE ROAD AND TIME SPENT IN THE RED CENTRE WITH TODDLERS…
Life feels so unbelievably normal (in a very non-normal way) right now. The kids have absolutely, 100% adapted and I could get very used to having my team mate and co-parent being available 24/7! That is where the non-normal comes in, because obviously this is something that is not sustainable in the long run, but for the moment we are doing our best to appreciate and enjoy it.
There are many signs that tell us the kids have adapted to our current lifestyle but the main two are:
When Ava asks us how long until we get to our next destination we will often say, “two hours” to which she replies, “Oh, that’s not very long”
A hike to a gorge or other point of interest is no longer met with an Oscar-worthy display of theatrics about legs that are so tired they may just fall off. In fact we don’t get any theatrics any more… Ava is easily kept on task and distracted from any legs that may be at risk of falling off by relating any hike to an epic Moana adventure to restore the heart of Te Fiti; and Finn is kept happy by being in charge of finding the next path maker which Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife have so kindly put in place to keep mums and dads like us sane when trekking to all these wonders of nature.
Our kids have become freaks at spotting dump points… caravan park dump points or public dump points in outback towns. If your town has one, and we are driving through, our kids will sniff it out (not literally… I hope!)
They think it is awesome and super cool to get to help Dad make use of the dump point. Gross little darlings.
Our bed is never, ever, ever, ever clean. And I am not just talking about dirt on our sheets… no, no. I am talking like sand, grit and goodness knows what else in our bed EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. It seems that our bed is the kids’ social hub and no matter how many rules we try to put in place about getting into our bed before having baths, or at least wiping your feet before getting in, there is just no winning this battle. I console myself at night by telling myself that all the sand and grit is like a full body exfoliation treatment…
Postcards – buying them is easy. Writing on them and then getting around to posting them is not. To all our family and friends we are thinking of you and probably have a postcard intended for you floating around the caravan somewhere.
The meticulous cleaning of the car both inside and out and the washing of the kids’ car seats before we left was a complete and utter waste of time. We can laugh about it now.
The full clean inside the van was equally as futile...
Regardless of what time you wake up, and no matter how much of your site you pack away the night before, with toddlers you will not hit the road on travel days before 9.00am.
Doing the laundry (especially after 4 or 5 days of free camp and national park stays) is profoundly and deeply satisfying, especially if you manage to clear your laundry backlog entirely.
The novelty of travelling on unsealed roads (corrugations, dust, rocks…) wears off eventually.
The novelty of creek crossings on unsealed roads does not wear off ;-)
With toddlers (well ours at least) you will rarely get to stop and take a photo of an iconic landmark or sign (think crossing state borders, road signs etc.) The kids are either a) asleep; or b) the 20 minutes it will take to get the two year old back in his car seat is not worth the five minute photo opportunity stop.
If you do happen to stop at a landmark, or find a picturesque place for a family selfie your kids will not cooperate. The level of their non-cooperation directly correlates to the number of other tourists in the vicinity, or people waiting for their turn to take a picture at the point of interest.
A couple of our MANY nice family photo fails!
The kids will happily spend hours looking at photos of themselves on your iPhone despite apparently not wanting to be in the photos (see point above)
Amidst all the great days there are some not so great days but already I know when this is all said and done we going to look back and know this is the most amazing thing that we could have done at this stage of our lives.
I am already secretly planning OUR NEXT BIG LAP when the kids are a bit older, and not so secretly dreaming of our next van (you know, the one without bunks!) and OUR BIG LAP AFTER THE OTHER TWO BIG LAPS once the kids have flown the coop!
Safe and happy travels everyone!