There’s something about Central Australia that really resonates with me. Every time I’ve visited this part of Australia I’ve felt relaxed and at home. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve left feeling a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger and I’ve left wanting to return. It could be the relaxed way of life, influenced by an indigenous population who are still firmly connected to their culture. It could be the remoteness of this place that just screams ‘adventure’ or perhaps it’s the striking desert landscape of reds, browns and muted green. Either way, this place is amazing and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Seven weeks ago we crossed the border from Queensland into the Northern Territory. We stopped at the border sign and I cried with excitement and happiness. You see, whilst I have visited this place three times, Dave has never been here. Every time I have flown into Alice Springs, it was for a university placement and my husband could not join me. I have had amazing and life changing experiences in this place, but I have never been able to share it with him. The number one place I wanted to visit on this trip around Australia was the Northern Territory. We’re here, and the past seven weeks have been spectacular.
We stopped off in Tennant Creek where Nella took her first steps and I had fun revisiting places I hadn’t seen since 2010 when I spent 5 weeks in the town completing my teaching practicum.
After Tennant Creek, we headed to a tiny place on the Stuart Highway called Ti Tree. After three years of maternity leave, I spent two weeks teaching the upper primary class at Ti Tree School. It was challenging but a good experience for all of us. Dave had his first stint of being a stay-at-home dad and tells me it’s easier than I make it out to be. I hadn’t taught in years, had never taught primary school students and it had been a long time since I’d taught indigenous students. Suffice to say, I felt like I had literally thrown myself back into teaching. By the end of the two weeks I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, just in time for the school holidays to start and us to continue on our journey.
In Alice Springs we enjoyed chilling out for a week. Dave caught up on his TAFE studies, we went to the annual Beanie Festival and explored the West Macdonnell Ranges. I had a stall at the fortnightly Todd Mall Markets, which are my favourite markets so far. I sold loads of stock, every customer was friendly and I met some very interesting people.
We then headed to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Watarrka (Kings Canyon). There’s a reason these places are such popular tourist destinations. They were absolutely amazing. We walked around 30kms over 6 bushwalks over 8 days. We were very thankful for our Ergo and Tula baby carriers. We got lots of positive comments from fellow bushwalkers when they saw us walking some difficult trails, each with a child on our backs. We realised we are stronger and fitter than we ever imagined and that even though our children are only one and three, we can complete almost any single day bushwalk we come across. Even Jarrah walked over 5km one day before needing carried in the Tula. It was awesome to see our three year old climb to the top of Kings Canyon, whilst many adults around him struggled. He’s learning that he’s fit and strong and I think that’s important.
We spent another week in Alice Springs before heading out to Gem Tree on the Plenty Highway. I’d read on camping forums on Facebook that it was an interesting place to visit and it didn’t disappoint. We camped in the red dirt under the Mulga Trees at Gem Tree caravan park. The kids dug in the dirt and ran around and rode their bikes. I had never seen them so filthy! We fossicked for gemstones and came out with a small bag of garnets, 3 of which were big enough to cut and make into jewellery. Now we just need to decide what to do with them. Twice a week the caravan park puts on a camp oven roast dinner under the stars which we partook in. It was delicious and definitely worth keeping the kids up late for.
This morning we left Gem Tree and drove over 500kms to Tennant Creek. We’re back in the same caravan park we began our Central Australian adventure in and it’s time to head north. Soon we’ll leave Central Australia and see what the northern parts of the Territory have to offer. I’m excited about the next bit of our adventure but also a little sad to be leaving this part of the country. I know I’ll be back here again one day.
Before I founded Tree & Pixie Creations I was a high school teacher. I still am a high school teacher, just one who has been on unpaid maternity leave for almost three years. When I was at university I was awarded the fantastic opportunity of completing one of my practicum placements in the Northern Territory. The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation sent six of us to Tennant Creek for a month to teach. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. Since I have such fond memories of learning to teach in the territory, it made sense for me to register to teach in the NT so I could pick up some casual work during our travels.
Last week whilst we were in the wet tropics, near the Daintree, and it was pouring with rain and I was going insane inside the caravan with the kids, I received a call from a little school in Central Australia asking if I could teach for a few weeks. We did the maths and worked out a date I could arrive and suddenly we were off! After over two months of travelling the East coast of Australia, it was time to head West.
Since our kids are so young, we tend not to travel more than around three hours in one day. We find that’s the maximum they last before they start losing the plot and screaming the car down. It’s the reason why we are unsure if we will get an entire lap of Australia done in a single year. But, suddenly we found ourselves with two weeks and 2200km to travel. Unless we want to spend every night in different place, we are in for some longer travel days.
We woke up yesterday morning in the Atherton Tablelands (near Cairns) and began our biggest day of driving yet. We drove for what felt like forever with screaming and arguing children. We had bought new toys for them the day prior, but realised that instead of keeping them entertained, it just gave them something to fight about. We had purchased Jarrah an etch-a-sketch, but Nella was incredibly jealous, so we had to make a stop and purchase her one too. The sibling rivalry has begun! For the first time ever, we resorted to bringing out the tablet and putting on a movie for the kids.
After 5 hours we passed through Townsville and turned onto the Flinders Highway. We had our first night’s free camping at a roadside rest area where we could watch the road trains and listen to the freight trains. Jarrah loved it.
This morning we set off for another big day of driving. We stopped in Charters Towers first thing in the morning, before heading further west.
At lunchtime we stopped in a tiny town called Balfes Creek, where we found a tiny playground, some toilets and a closed pub. We had a picnic lunch and came across a lady named Tracey who is walking her way around Australia to raise money for the Black Dog Institute and raise awareness for depression and mental illness. She’s a mother, a grandmother and is literally walking around Australia pushing all her belongings (and her little white dog) in a cart. Talk about inspirational! She left from Byron Bay 6 months ago and is averaging 25km a day. Check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/onewomanwandering. I think travelling alone and on foot around this country takes bravery. I asked her what made her decide to walk and she told me that she’s never really liked people (or walking) but is now seeing the good side of the human race through her travels and is loving it.
After waving goodbye to Tracey, we kept heading west. The kids once again started whinging and fighting, so we stopped and set up camp at the back of the Prairie Pub. The pub was closed and whilst we were setting up we saw a man ride into town on a bicycle and sit out the front of the pub. I went to have a chat to him and found out he was from Japan and was riding his bicycle from Brisbane to the Northern Territory to look for farm work. His English wasn’t that strong and I tried to explain he could just set up camp and talk to the pub owners later, but I’m not sure he understood. Instead, he sat out the front of the pub until 5.30pm when the family who owned the pub returned and opened up. He then came to the camping area and pitched his tent. By this stage Dave had cooked us Bolognaise for dinner, so we invited the Japanese tourist to our campsite for a meal. He was very grateful. I told him I thought he was brave. Imagine coming to Australia with very little English and riding a bike thousands of kilometres to the desert to look for a job. Just amazing! These people make what we are doing seem like a walk in the park.
After dinner we went inside the pub for a drink and got talking to the lovely owners who were very friendly and hospitable. The pub was filled with interesting memorabilia and antiques, including mannequins having a drink at the bar and a room with a trampoline and toys for the kids. I even felt comfortable enough to breastfeed Nella whilst sitting at the bar. The owner joked that I couldn’t breastfeed in the pub and I laughed too and joked that I would post online and he’d get some lovely publicity from outraged mothers. We all had a good laugh and I realised I’ve never received a negative comment for breastfeeding in public. Hopefully I never will.
The past two days have brought us from the rainforest to the outback and what a difference that’s made. I’m sad that we won’t see the ocean for a few months, but excited about returning the desert and the characters we’ll meet along the way.