The Scribbling Nurse

Lost one, gained one

We are now Territorians!! Goodbye Western Australia!

We’ve arrived at our first major destination of Darwin! Getting in yesterday in the late morning, we splashed around in my brother’s pool until it was time to pick my mum up from the airport who has come up from Albany especially to see my graduation ceremony.

We’ve had a great time on the road the past couple of weeks since my last post. We stayed in Kununurra for one night before making our way to Lake Argyle. Swimming in the infinity pool, we looked out over the ‘inland sea’, Australia’s second largest man-made  water reservoir on which we would be sailing the next day.

Tim and I hiked down the 400m rocky zigzag to a pontoon where we met and chatted to a guy who was from the town of Denmark, only 40 minutes from Albany. He had picked up a Russian girl who was cycling her way around Australia or as the guy said ‘hasn’t done much cycling since I picked her up!’. It was beautiful swimming in the deep clean green water surrounded on one side by steep rocky walls and lightly scattered with houseboats and a million dollar yacht, all of which would never leave Lake Argyle after the rigmarole of getting them there in the first place!

The sunset tour of Lake Argyle was beautiful with two tour guides who gave a great informative tour as we sailed around the enormous dam. The highlight was the swim while we watched the red bushfire sun set over one of the islands.

We stayed for 3 nights and were all packed up and ready to leave on the third day to be told me Lake Argyle employees that the road to the Northern Territory was closed and there would be an escorted convoy back to Kununurra. As we couldn’t be bothered unpacking and setting up the camper again, we decided to join the convoy to Kununurra and stay in a hotel for the night (or as it turned out, a couple of nights! The air-con and great swimming pool at Kimberley Grande hotel were too inviting!).

Before the convoy started, a long line of cars waited at the Lake Argyle road turn-off and we all watched as flames licked and gnawed at bushland right across Victoria Highway. Willy-willy’s took smoke and turned it into a dark grey spiral high into the sky as we stood mesmerised. It was a strange but great opportunity to have a chat with a few people before we all moved onto the next legs of our journey.

Once the road as open through to the Northern Territory, Tim and I made the 4.5 hour drive to Katherine and rocked up the Shady Lane Caravan Park where we planted ourselves next to a mango tree laden with hard green mangoes. Night time crept around the corner, actually it was sprung upon us because we lost 1.5 hours due to the time difference, bats came out to play; shrieking and throwing themselves into the branches of palms and mango trees creating a racket. We shone our torch into the trees and watched them hang upside staring right back at us until they flapped loudly and crash landed into a another tree, away from prying eyes.

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We went on a 2 hour boat ride along Nitmiluk gorge where you ride on one boat, get off at the end of one gorge, walk past some beautiful and intriguing ancient Aboriginal art, then hop onto another boat to ride down the second gorge. We were lucky enough to spy a freshwater crocodile nestled in a crevice under one of the gorge walls, his beady eyes looking at us with a ‘bugger off’ expression.

We moved onto Adelaide River and stayed at Mt Bundy Station only a few km’s from the little town centre. Staying at the unpowered camp area along the Adelaide River, we were never along with wallabies, cane toads and a menagerie of birds all rustling, squawking and at one point, getting into our rubbish AGAIN! The swimming pool overlooks a paddock where we swam watching donkeys, horses and buffalo nibble on hay bales and probably eyeing us off jealously as we cooled off in the 40 degree celsius heat!

The next day we visited Douglas thermal springs where sand and water were super-burney in the hot hot sun! I splashed across one of the streams in my thongs, lost a thong stuck in the mud so turned back, picked up the thong, dropped it and swore like a fishwife! We then went up to Butterfly Gorge with us both hoping it would be a cool oasis, opposite of Douglas thermal springs. However we are at the end of the dry season so the river was murky and stagnant. The walk was beautiful however!!

Arriving at Adelaide River Inn, we met Charlie the Buffalo who was the buffalo Mick Dundee hypnotised in Crocodile Dundee. He died in 2000 and was stuffed to be forever looking over 303 Bar in Adelaide River!

So now we are in Darwin and I’m about to go and get beautified for my graduation ceremony tomorrow! My little 4 and a half year old nephew is currently playing an Elsa ‘Let It Go’ birthday card on repeat right next to me while Tim encourages it. My determination to finish this blog entry is stronger than any mind-numbing Disney song arrggghhhhh!!!!

Talk soon! Rachel! xoxoxo

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We swim anywhere!

In the wise words of Hanky the Christmas Poo: ‘Hooooowdy Ho!’

We are in Kununurra WA after spending 6 days doing the Gibb River Road. But let’s start back to… Cape Leveque?

We drove along a shit of a road from Broome to the Dampier Peninsula and turned up to Kooljaman Cape Leveque caravan park to be told there was no room at the inn. So we drove up to Cygnet Bay and checked into a cute little campsite a couple of kilometres from the main reception/pool/reception.

The next day we drove back to Kooljaman Cape Leveque, determined to swim at the iconic beach. We paid $35 to access the beach in our car so we made the most of that by soaking up the sun (a little too much), drinking apple cider and swimming until our skin macerated.

We were keen to get going to start the Gibb River Road so after two nights at Cygnet bay, we zipped along to Derby arriving in 39 degree (celsius) heat. So what did we do? Checked into a cheap motel with an air conditioner and swimming pool just to relax and ‘luxuriate’ before we headed off again!

Our first stop on the Gibb River Road was at Windjana National Park where we visited the start of Tunnel Creek; a tunnel and creek in the pitch black. I say the start because we clambered over the rocks to the entrance, stood oohing and aahing at the striped granite and dark green pool of water while the buzzing of bees filled the entire cavity THEN realised that the one and only torch we brought along with us was almost on the blink. We had searched for Tim’s powerful headlamp but couldn’t for the life of us find it so we settled on sharing the torch. Tim was still keen to give the tunnel a crack with the dodgy torch but I envisioned us sitting in thick pitch blackness waiting for a good samaritan (AKA a tunnel visitor with light) stumbling across us. So we erred on the side of common sense and turned back.

That afternoon we visited Windjana gorge which is home to heaps of freshwater crocodiles. I forgot my camera so you’ll need to take my word that I counted at least 40 freshy’s floating around in the gorge.

The next day we drove to Silent Grove camping area and set up in a circle of trees. The campground (like Windjana campground) had flushing toilets and hot showers which was fantastic. The next day we visited Bell’s Gorge which was gorgeous.

We use a big plastic tub filled with a squirt of woolly wash and water and the corrugations of roads act as an agitator to ‘wash’ our clothes. As we were hanging out the latest knotted mess of clothes, Tim reached into the bucket of murky water and pulled out his headlamp, dripping but very clean and smelling of eucalypt! Miraculously the torch, once dried and sweet-talked, actually works again!

We decided we want to spend 4-5 days in Lake Argyle so zoomed along the corrugated road to arrive at Home Valley Station to spend the night before the piece de resistance of El Questro Station. Home Valley Station was nice but nothing much there. We camped at the riverside camp about 4km’s away from the main area. Saltwater crocodiles inhabit the Pentecost river and we were told to camp on the west-side of the camping area. We unfortunately (or fortunately?) didn’t see any salty’s but the next day saw too much of bitey ants absolutely bloody everywhere! Standing to wash the dishes resulted in bites until I got absolutely fed up and declared we would pack ‘all this shit up now and get out of here’. Well, in the time it took Tim to have a shower, I had finished packing up the camper trailer, reversed the car and hooked it all up ready to get the heck out of there as soon as Tim’s squidgy thongs hit the dirt. Tim said he should have taken a few bitey ants to let loose at future camps so he can sit back while I flit about packing everything up!

We wanted to check out El Questro Station and see if it was actually as great as what we had been told. We paid $120 for 2 nights unpowered camping and what they call a ‘Wilderness Pack’ which gave us a weeks access to all gorges etc on El Questro Station. The campground was beautiful with tall trees and plenty of space. We set up our camp and went for a swim at a ‘croc-free’ area of the Pentecost river.

The next day we were up early to visit Zebedee thermal springs which are only open between 7am-12noon. The springs were beautiful and quite intimate with a sign in the carpark saying ‘If the carpark is full, the springs are full so come back later’. Tim and I found a nice deep little pool and sat in about 25 degree celsius water.  Small waterfalls tumbled over the edge and a few people climbed higher to other rock pools.

After Zebedee springs, we went straight to Moonshine Gorge where we had a wonderful swim and met some great people with whom we chatted while floating around in the deep green water. There was a sign warning of fresh-water crocs inhabiting the area, however they were turned off by the sight of so many people in bathers so they hid the entire time!

In the evening, we drove up to pigeonhole 4WD lookout and watched the sunset which was just beautiful. Every Saturday night, El Questro holds a ‘Gourmet BBQ and live entertainment night’ which we attended. It was great and really laid back.

We were told about a place called The Grotto which was apparently amazing so we went up there before Kununurra however it must be better just after wet season because the gorge had all but dried up. We are now in Kununurra in a cabin enjoying having a TV and couch before we head off to camp in Lake Argyle!

Goodnight!! xoxox

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Our Story

Reading some other stories about how travelling came to be, it occurred to me that there are lots of you out there in this spectacular world who have no idea who I am nor how I came to be a nurse and travelling Australia.

So this is our story.

Tim and I met way back in 2010 and I moved in with him in 2011. Initially we decided we would like to buy a few acres and a house somewhere on the outskirts of our hometown Albany in Western Australia.

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I was working as a personal care assistant in aged care and Tim was (and is) a boilermaker working for a locally owned company. In 2011, I was offered a scholarship by my then manager to become an Enrolled Nurse. Working towards this goal, I also worked full-time while studying part time. As is required for many areas of study, I was required to attend clinical placements at hospitals so I used all my annual leave attending these full-time placements.

Tim and I loved to go away on weekends (or whenever I had a few days off, working shift work and all) and one particular weekend in 2012, we camped at Bluff Creek, a beach further up the coastline from Cheynes Beach WA. Sitting under the black sky scattered with bright stars and a warm campfire burning next to us, I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Albany paying off a mortgage having never travelled. I told Tim that I wanted to travel when I finished studying (both my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then Bachelor degree in Nursing). Tim said he would do it with me, so that night, we decided that when I had finished my degree and Tim was due his 10 year long service leave, we would pack up and become nomads. That year, so far in the future, was 2018.

For the next 6 years, I finished studying my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then my Bachelor of Nursing all the while working full time. I spent every hour of my accrued annual leave to attend clinical placements which left me feeling really exhausted and pretty burnt out.  However I left aged care and began working in Mental Health, an area I have and always will be passionate about. I was extremely lucky to have a brilliant manager who encouraged and supported staff studying so I was able to attend clinical placements when offered and even travelled to the Northern Territory for a full 2 months of clinical placements in various Aboriginal communities. I had the best time of my life in those 2 months and it ignited a deep and profound respect and passion for providing health care to Indigenous communities. I had wanted to be a Remote Area Nurse for a long time and this placement cemented my goal to become one and work all around Australia.

We set a date of 17th August 2018 when we would be driving out of our driveway and on the next part of our lives. This date was quickly creeping up and we had heaps to do.

We listed all our furniture on Facebook Buy & Sell groups and were surprised at how easily and quickly we were able to sell everything. The house became more and more empty until the final night was spent on a mattress on the floor.

We had saved money and added the dosh from selling our belongings to our travel kitty. I had paid off my debts over the years and Tim had chosen a real estate to lease his house through.

I didn’t have much furniture, having given away or sold a lot of it when I moved in with Tim. However it was harder for Tim emotionally as he was selling everything he had worked hard to buy especially his beloved motorbike, couch and TV.

We had a cat Leila and dog Izzy as well. Leila has gone to live with Tim’s dad and reports back are saying Leila is loving being a lap warmer and spends her days snoozing on ‘Grandad’s’ lap or under his bed covers! Izzy is staying with Tim’s sister until we settle in Alice Springs. Tim’s sister has 4 kids, the two younger ones being at home more and are loving playing with Izzy. We feel so comforted and grateful that our pets are being cared for so well and in homes full of love and attention. Of course we could have taken Izzy with us however we really wanted to see a lot of National Parks and decided it would be kinder for Izzy to remain in Albany rather than having to spend time in random kennels while we are on the road.

So that was how we came to travel, in a nutshell. Of course there were a lot of emotions going on. I had been living back in Albany for 12 years and Tim had lived there all his life (apart from stints living away) so we were leaving friends, family and pets behind, not to forget stable jobs! However now we are on the road, we keep in touch regularly via social networking, phone calls, texts and postcards!

I’m sure many people who travel, both overseas and around Australia are often told how ‘lucky’ they are. But luck has nothing to do with it. Travelling and having the funds to travel requires a lot of work, sacrifices and dedication. For seven years while I studied both my EN and RN I never had a holiday, not to Bali, not over east, not one holiday. Tim and I took little breaks for a day or two but otherwise I was either working and studying full time and/or attending clinical placement in hospitals (full time shifts).

We both had our sights set on becoming free from the daily grind and worked hard to achieve it. Once I finish my grad year in Alice Springs, we will be back on the road picking up nursing/welding work to fund our travels.

I am sitting at my laptop at a place called Cygnet Bay on the Dampier Peninsula. It is a balmy evening and I’m sipping on icy cold apple cider, looking forward to what tomorrow brings. In a couple of days we will be doing the Gibb River Road then heading to Darwin for my graduation ceremony on the 12th October.

So if you want to travel, anywhere in the world or around your own country, you CAN do it! It doesn’t need to be expensive and you can do it on a budget. Just work hard and save as much as you can, you can always pick up work on the road if you need.

There are heaps of Facebook pages that are really informative and helpful. I have found quite a few really helpful, here are some links:

MY RIG Adventures

Not Grey Nomads

Trekking Downunder

Seeking the Serenity

Thanks for reading! – Rachel xoxox

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An itch to scratch

Tim is on a couch. This may seem unremarkable but it’s the first time he has been on a couch for 5 weeks and for Tim, that is a lifetime…and a half. Thanks to a person very dear to me, we are spending the night in a really nice apartment suite in Broome WA before we leave for Cape Leveque tomorrow. One of the prerequisites of booking a hotel/motel/apartment was that it HAD to have a couch, lounge, settee, sofa, a rose by any other name. For me, a microwave. Not that I’ll probably use it but it’s the things you just don’t have when camping.

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Moonlight Bay Suites – A beautiful place to stay.

ANYWAY, we are in Broome WA and Broome WA has impressed us hugely. We have spent every evening swimming at Cable Beach in calm inviting turquoise water, floating around, chatting, diving under the water and constantly appreciating being here swimming when 5 weeks ago we would be working, or studying, or just still entwined with the daily grind. I’ll get back to Broome.

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We spent two nights at Cape Keraudren, a coastal reserve north of Port Hedland in East Pilbara. We camped overlooking oyster reefs where the tide came in and out twice a day. We saw a little octopus with a few missing limbs who seemed really friendly. We also loved watching the hermit crabs scuttle slowly around.

We would like to have more fond memories of Cape Keraudren but every time I look at my arms and lower thighs, I see sandfly sores, multitudes of them. We got eaten alive at Cape Keraudren! Yes, we did have Bushmans spray on but they got through the mosquito mesh of the camper trailer and attacked us as we slept. They are nasty nasty nasty little buggers! They are the itchiest itchy’s we’ve ever ever had!!

We did walk around the beach and had a beautiful swim in the water and also listened to our neighbour gently sing along with his ukulele as the sunset which was a real bonus. The view when waking up was just beautiful! So maybe Cape Keraudren wasn’t all that bad!

We aimed to get into Broome on Tuesday 18th September and were making good time until we came to Sandfire roadhouse where the rest of the highway was closed due to a bushfire. We joined truckies and other tourists who were all waiting around and hoping they could get on their way sometime soon. We sat around for a few hours but had enough so went back 40 km’s and stayed at 80 Mile Beach for the night.

Eventually we arrived in Broome and checked into Cable Beach caravan park. We’d recommend this caravan park because of the beautiful shady trees and decent size camping sites. Upon request, we were given a site directly across from the amenities. After lunching at Zander’s on Cable Beach, we went for a drive and swim at Cable Beach then back to camp.

We got our car fully checked-over and serviced as we are doing the Gibb River Road in a week so we know it’s all schmicko to go!

The weather here has been just divine, ranging around 30-33 degrees. The past couple of days Tim and I visited Malcom Douglas’ Crocodile Farm, had a game of mini golf (which I WASN’T thrashed in, like SO WASN’T beaten by over 20 points!) then wandered around Chinatown and each had a neck/head/shoulders massage. We then had a swim again at Cable Beach and went off to the Town Beach Markets yesterday evening.

This morning I was booked in for a deep tissue massage and was slightly nervous as I’ve never had a proper body massage before. The lady led me into the room, asked me to take my shoes off then pointed to the mattress on the floor. She then left me there. I took my shoes off then stood awkwardly waiting for her to come back. I felt like Mr Bean, wondering if I should take my clothes off or wait until she tells me to. The masseuse returned, looked at the mattress then at me and laughed ‘please, take off your clothes and lie down’ and scuttled out laughing and talking in Thai about the idiot client she has to massage. The massage was amazing and I felt as loose as a goose when I left, although it hurt like fuck at some points! I think I walked like Mr Bean once it was done!

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Broome has one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever encountered. It is just so chilled out and is a really nice place just to slow down and enjoy. There is so much to do during the day and in the evening. We are sad to leave but we are travellers now so must move on! Plus, I’ll apply for nursing posts here so we can enjoy it more one day!

Tomorrow we are off to Cape Leveque then will get ready to do the Gibb River Road so I’ll have some adventures to write about then!

Lots of love to you all! – Rachel xoxoxo

 

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The ocean beckons!

I’m sitting at our trusty camp table listening to the canvas of the camper trailer get tickled by the wind coming off the ocean. We are back on the coast and it feels wonderful!

We had a really nice few days in Tom Price, a nice little town which likes to have green trees and grass and plants because the residents seem to constantly have their sprinklers on, even in the dead heat of the day. The Tom Price caravan park we stayed at was brilliant. We paid $32/night for an unpowered site which was directly across from the amenities block. We chose a site with a beautiful shady tree at our door step which helped with the heat. The facilities were clean and the crystal clear swimming pool was just divine!

We did some touring, drove past the house I lived my first 4 years of life in and generally relaxed. We drove up Mt Nameless which is the highest point you can drive a car in WA at 1016m. The views were beautiful and we even tried to find a geocache hidden there but no such luck.

After spending most of our last day in Tom Price doing laundry and sorting the car, we left after three nights to go to Hamersley Gorge. We had envisioned another Wittenoom Gorge where we could meander along the gorge until we came to our own little spot but Hamersley Gorge is more like the gorges in Karijini park; you can’t camp anywhere except designated spots and then hike down to the gorge. Too touristy. So we had a look at the gorge and decided to drive to an abandoned homestead called Tambrey Station and call that home for the night.

The campsite at Tambrey Station was very dusty but flat and open with a camp fire ready to go once we found some firewood. We arrived mid-afternoon so set up and relaxed. I made spaghetti bolognaise in the camp oven which was delicious (if I do say so myself!).

The next morning we were up at 6.30am to pack up the camper before the heat kicked in. Then we walked around the ruins of the old homestead. The house was made of red mud-brick and was solid. Even the fireplace was made out of mud-brick. There was a grave on site for three people, the farmer Thomas Cusack who died aged 43, his wife Dosh who lived until she was 90 and their youngest daughter Prudence Leake who only died 6 years ago. On Prudence’s grave plaque was written ‘I must go back to the Tableland, Where life can be rough and hard, Let me return to the mud brick house, Of heat & drought & the worry of debt, Then the joy in the coming of rain, I must go back to the Tableland and have my share of it’.

The Roebourne-Wittenoom Rd is the worst road we have driven on so far! Diabolical! The corrugations were deep and constant and the road had so many small floodways which you couldn’t see until you were almost upon then and had to brake sharply to slowly cross. The Karratha – Tom Price Rd wasn’t much better but it at least turned into bitumen.

We left to head north to Karratha and as we were listening to an audio book we rattled past a sign saying ‘Python Pool’. Anything that sounded remotely like it has water in or near it was much needed. We drove east for 20km to the most beautiful and inviting waterhole we have seen so far! Neither of us had our bathers but the site of the water drew us in and we leapt in fully clothed! The water had a lot of minerals in it and was very buoyant. Tim and I floated around on our backs looking up at the gorge walls rising high above us. As we swam, we chatted to another couple who had travelled from NSW.

We got to Karratha and had lunch at a tavern. We found a car wash and hosed the car and camper off. I used the BP toilet and was unpleasantly surprised to find there was no toilet paper anywhere. And this wasn’t a shake and shimmy kind of dunny trip either. So I sat poised, waiting for another customer to leave the bathroom before I jimmied my pants and scooted into the next cubicle! God help anyone who walked in in the middle of my crab-walk!

We then headed to a place called 40 mile beach which is a 53km drive south of Karratha. The caretaker is very friendly and we are now set up in a beautiful private campsite with our very own access to our very own part of the beach!

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Wikicamps is actually coming in handy despite us doubting it when we first started. And as usual, talking to the locals is the best way to find great places. We are now heading back south until we reach Shark Bay then we’ll come back up the coast to Darwin exploring the coast further north of Karratha.

I’m writing this in a Word document because I only have one bar of reception and it’s just too damn slow. Ugh, first world problems!

Talk to ya soon! Xoxoxo

P.S Check out the Outback Traveller Magazine on Facebook! It’s starting up and will be amazing!

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Get to the sun!

We have left Albany! We left last Friday the 17th August 2018, 45 minutes later than we anticipated. Who cares, all good. The car took ages to fill both tanks with 270L of diesel but while doing so, we met a guy who was about to cross the Nullabor to Victoria.

I spent a gorgeous day with my oldest brother and his family in Busselton. I watched my nieces netball game and had a 9 holes of golf with my brother, nephew and my nephews friends. And I won! woooohooooo! It was also nice sitting up until 1.30am on the Friday night just talking with my brother of whom I don’t get to see that often.

So I am sitting here with the sun beaming down on me as the afternoon progresses into the evening, tapping away on my keyboard in a destination that I thought we would simply pass through rather than spend the night in. What happened?

We got to Bunbury Farmer’s Market and the car wouldn’t start. RAC was called who diagnosed that the regulator on the alternator is buggered. So we have checked into a caravan park in Bunbury to get it sorted tomorrow.

After initially feeling really bloody pissed off, especially on our very very very first day of our adventure, we’ve both calmed down and just relaxing. It WILL get fixed and we WILL be on our way to get to the sun!

I’m having a glass of wine while I type and Tim’s having a beer while he watches me type. Forge ahead we say! Next update will be north of Perth!

Keep posted!

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No Fixed Address

‘So where shall I send the final bill?’ she asked. Cancelling all our subscriptions and services, we had heard this question multiple times. ‘No fixed address’ I reply ‘Email it please’.

In 66 hours, Tim and I will be itinerant with NFA. Woohoo!

Our house is getting sparse. I have one basket of clothes and three pairs of shoes. Our dog and cat are going to family while we travel to Alice Springs. Izzy the dog will be flying to Alice Springs when we settle there but Leila the cat will stay with ‘Grandad’ (Tim’s Dad).

Alice Springs. I got a nursing graduate program in Alice Springs hospital! It was my first choice so I am absolutely THRILLED to start there early next year! I have nominated to go to ED, ICU or Surgical to build my skills and knowledge so I can go on the next year to do the transition to remote area nursing program. I feel so proud to be a new staff member at Alice Springs Hospital and both Tim and I are looking forward to making new friends in the N.T.

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The last few weeks I have been catching up with friends as much as possible. Tim has been getting a lot of work done to the Landcruiser and we’ve been selling and giving away furniture and belongings. Neither of us work anymore so it’s given us more time to get things ready. We’ve been cleaning the house, sorting out insurances, buying more camping stuff and finally downloaded Wikicamps Australia.

I’ve been going through a flurry of emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness but overall, I can’t wait to hit the road and get north of Perth to feel the heat. Albany has been wet wet wet so sunshine is the light we will be pursuing! A few of my dear friends bought me a St Christopher (patron saint of travellers) pendant and chain which I have not taken off (except for the photo!) and a colleague got me a pen engraved with The Scribbling Nurse.

And I got matching tattoos with a beautiful friend of mine who actually comes from Alice Springs! We drove home alternating between crying and laughing while reminiscing the years of our friendship.

Tomorrow and Thursday the rest of our furniture is being bought and collected so we will have a mattress on the floor of the lounge for the night.

I’ll be spending two nights in Busselton with one of my brothers and his family while Tim will visit his friend in Capel. On Sunday morning we will leave early and drive as far as we can to get north of Perth and to really start our journey!

So stay tuned because I’ll be updating often with lots of photos of our journey!