HEADING NORTH TO THE RED CENTRE | TRAVEL AUSTRALIA WITH KIDS

 Photographs above by the amazing wildlife photographer, Toby Glenn (slightly biased, he is my boy)

Photographs above by the amazing wildlife photographer, Toby Glenn (slightly biased, he is my boy)

The Underground Motel is the perfect blackout condition for sleep ins, with no natural light flooding in. I woke later than usual, although still at 6.30am. The kids slept in till nearly 8 and seemed quite surprised when I turned on the light and told them to get cracking.

Over the past couple of years, I have been reverting to a more minimalistic lifestyle and trying to be less of a consumer. When we went to the UK a couple of years ago, I became obsessed with capsule wardrobes, Project 333 and the Vivienne Files, and soon enough, the whittling down of the clothes merged into other aspects of my life. Blogs such as The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, Be More with Less and Unfancy and of course, the phenomenon of Marie Kondo and ‘Konmari method’ all appealed more and more to me. When I knew I was going on the trip, my rental lease ended at a similar time and I used the opportunity, knowing my ‘stuff’ would go into storage, to declutter to the max. I ended up donating about 50% of my goods. I didn’t think I had a lot to begin with, but there you go. I managed to fit most of my stuff into a storage unit meant for a 2 bedroom place (coming from a 4x2!) and a few more items left at a friend’s house that I will need as soon as I get back, mostly work items. It is still a work in progress, but this trip is proving more than ever how little you really need to get by. 

Even in the past nine days, I have removed items from the car that we just aren’t using. There is a waterproof duffel bag on the roof that now has half our clothes and a few things we will only need in specific places (extreme cold, sports etc) and I have left various things at different places. I had so much schoolwork packed for the kids and I know we won’t get through it all. I bought a handwriting book for Charlie with us! I’m insane!! His handwriting is neater than mine already and do I really give a crap about Victorian cursive when a) in high school no one cares and b) in adult life no one cares and c) my handwriting changes on an hourly basis depending on how I’m feeling! It’s legible. That’s all I care about. Sorry education system… I left a box of school/exercise books in a caravan park in their recreation room, so I hope someone benefits from it. We still have more than we will probably get through. 

So long story short, the car was packed yet again. I left behind cling wrap, baking paper, an older tupperware container and some food (unopened) that we just weren’t using and was taking up space. Again, I’m hoping someone can use it. I bought enough food/staples for a month but one can only live on soup/noodles every now and then, not every night. 

On the road out of Coober Pedy and we were on our way to Marla, the last fuel stop before the SA/NT border. It was a cruisy drive. I started off the morning listening to a Game of Thrones podcast. I have fallen in love with podcasts on this trip and have subscribed to many! It has to be quite an interesting one, or I start to zone out too much, but of course, GoT stuff is on point. 

Marla arrived and brought with it trees and some well looked after grass!! Lunch was had, ice creams were consumed, and we were on the road again. After not many caravans on the Nullarbor (not much of anything really!), suddenly on the Stuart Highway it is van central. All the grey nomads heading north for winter? I did a lot of leapfrogging today and I am quickly becoming the overtaking queen. It is very liberating not to have to tow anything. I really appreciate the freedom it allows. In most places, we are the only ones with tents, especially dome tents. There are a few trailer tents/off road camper type things. Sometimes this is good…apparently Yulara - Ayers Rock Resort - is overrun with vans at the moment and yet has an expanse of unpowered sites for tents. Sometimes it is bad i.e. in Ceduna where we were surrounded by vans and their loud TVs and also driven mad by crazy bright caravan park lights that shine in your tent all night long!

I think a lot on the road. These epic drives every couple of days are conducive to thinking. Today I even thought about thinking. I even thought about writing about thinking about thinking. And here we are. Your brain takes you into some weird corners when the kids are occupied and you are faced with endless horizons, mirages on the road, ever changing landscapes (oh look, that little bit is green….oh wow a little pool of water….this scrub looks a bit different….look a dead cow). Honestly, if I could drive and write at the same time, I’d have a novel by now. George RR Martin eat your heart out. Okay that’s two Game of Thrones references in one post, I’m taking this too far. Sorry it was a good episode. And yes, my only luxury is finding wifi (or hotspotting my phone) to stream GoT once a week. Let me have that much I tell you! Anyway, back to thinking…and thinking..and thinking some more. Brain starting to hurt. I’m only trying to work out the meaning of life and all that codswallop. 

The Northern Territory State Border arrived and we pulled in for a quick toilet break and the obligatory ‘I’ve crossed the border’ photo. The speed limit then changed to 130 and I struggled to get anywhere near it. After being so used to cruising at 110, it felt super fast to go up to that level. I’m not *cough* one to go under the speed limit, and yet here I was, not really wanting to go more than 120ish. I still flew past everything else. Vans still doing 80-95 and other vehicles 100-110. It was fun pushing it a bit, but I think it will take a bit to get used to! 

We arrived in Erldunda earlier than expected and had booked in and set up the tents well before all the vans streamed in and started setting up. I paid an extra $10 for a powered site as they were grassed (it was cheap here anyway and they didn’t charge me for the kids). The unpowered site was uneven, rocky, sharp and had anthills everywhere. Worth the extra $10 for nice cosy grass under and around my tent thanks. They have a pool here and the kids were straight in, although of course it was freezing. I jumped in, much like Pandurra, and got straight out again. Refreshing, but too cold to stay in for long. They have kangaroos and emus in enclosures here and I’ve promised Charlie he can feed them tomorrow with the pellets you buy from the shop. There is also a sunset viewing platform so I took a glass of wine up and we watched the sunset from behind the cloud formations. About eight other people had the same idea (I’m not the only alco, yay!) and we all had a chat.

It must be nice in a way to be a ‘grey nomad’ and have everyone around you be from the same generation. I do miss people my own age. There was a family at the tavern where we had a relatively cheap counter meal for dinner and I latched onto the kids and the adults. They were some of the few kids we have seen so far and the parents were about my age. I started talking to the mum but with 4 kids (one breastfeeding), she had a bit on her hands. She looked at me and said, ‘Why did I think doing a road trip with the kids was a good idea?’. I must admit, I’m glad I’m past the baby/toddler stage. But at least she has another helping hand. No way could I do this alone with four kids, two is hard enough. Not that it’s been that hard so far. Awee bit of bickering. Getting them to do their schoolwork is hard. They don’t mind doing the journals every day or learning by doing/going places, but sitting down and doing paperwork is driving all of us batty. I’ve a good mind not to worry about it quite frankly! I’m just trying to get them to do a little bit every day, not so much for Charlie, but Tobes is in high school now and I worry about him not learning enough to complete his exams at the end of the year. Since when are exams in Year 9? I didn’t have exams till Year 11 I’m sure. 

So now we are just a couple of hours away from Yulara, Uluru and Kata-Tjuta and the beginning of our Red Centre holiday within a holiday. Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, West McDonnell Ranges all coming up. I can’t believe we get a whole eight days here, nearly as long as the trip has been so far. Hopefully that will mean a bit less $$ spent on fuel, definitely our biggest expense so far.