Well…. What a nervous start to an adventure! Borders open, borders closed, then luckily a-little-bit-open! Regional Victoristan given the green light to travel to the NT! No stopping on the way to the airport, masks all the way. Virgin canceled our flight just the day before but luckily Jetstar was flying to Darwin Friday night so we grabbed some last minute tickets!

Thought we’d check out the Qantas Club but,well, not a soul in the terminal. I have never seen a more deserted airport in my life.

Tragically I was unable to even buy a beer at the airport. Kath and I managed to pretend we were in Business once we were on board!

Still, no complaints at all…. We were on our way! Tim, Deb, Sue and George had driven our car and van up to Darwin and it was waiting for us. In an enormous leap of faith Kath did a Click-and-Collect Coles order which would be waiting for us Saturday morning!

Well we started today a bit weary: arrived in Darwin at 2am where Tim very kindly met us with our car. We drove to our van and tucked into bed at 2:30am. Then it was up at 8:30 to collect the Coles shopping, get a debrief from Deb and Tim, then hit the road for the 320km drive to Katherine Gorge.

We arrived late afternoon, knackered but grateful to be here. A warm, balmy night and dinner at the pop-up restaurant by the pool. Great start!

We’ll spend 3 nights here with plans to explore nearby Edith Falls and of course Katherine Gorge.

Kath and I started the day with a 5 k walk over the nearby escarpment up to a beautiful lookout over the Gorge.

Then a walk back to camp through a seriously batty grassland next to the Gorge….

After breakfast we headed for Edith Falls, about a 90km drive from our campsite at Katherine Gorge. Charlie drove but he had to make some L plates from the cereal box first….

We did the 8.5k walk to Sweatwater pool and had a great swim and lunchtime picnic.

Stunning views everywhere here and a perfect 30 degrees. No complaints!

What a day! We spent the entire day canoeing up the Gorge. Hard work with the portages but as almost no other people did the full day hire we pretty much had the place to ourselves!

And the cliff jumping…. Crazy!!

We returned at dusk and managed to get up to the lookout in time to see the bats heading off up the Gorge…

Mataranka/ Bitter Springs

After a fairly lazy start we packed up and headed for Mataranka. This is the setting for the book “We of the Never Never” and is the epitome of the middle of nowhere! We thought we’d stay somewhere posh-sounding: Territory Manor [caravan park]. \240Well…. We ended up driving straight through and instead found a secluded site at Bitter Springs Caravan Park.

The hot springs are beautifully warm and crystal clear and just a short walk from our site. But….it was very busy so we ticked it off the list and thought we’d shorten our time here to one night only.

Managed to lift the tone with some champagne though!

Kath and I made a quick trip to Mataranka Homestead and frankly we were glad we didn’t stay here: really run-down feel and lots of people crammed into a way-too-cozy hot spring….🤮sorry no pics of this place!

On the road to Limmen National Park

After an early pack-up and a last shop in civilisation-ish at Mataranka store, we hit the road for the very remote Limmen National Park.

The road was brutal with severe corrugations for hundreds of kilometres. We refuelled at Roper Bar Store, the most desolate place any of us have ever seen….

Not many people out this way, but of course the odd road train!

Just before dusk we arrived at our campsite, thoroughly shaken to bits. We opened the caravan to discover proper carnage: the fridge had broken shelves and somehow managed to concoct a recipe of two broken eggs, a bottle of Fever Tree tonic water and some oil from the Meredith goats cheese into a brown sludge pooling on the floor… along with dozens of “spare” screws, a broken cupboard and shelves.

All the cans had had their paint stripped by the vibration. Kath and the kids played Bananagrams in the evening, while I spent a few hours with the impact driver screwing the van back together!

We had quite a nice campsite though. It was called “Butterfly Falls” but Kath thought it might be better named “Butterfly Drips”….a bit harsh I reckon!

The Lost City

On the way out of Limmen, we walked around the “Southern Lost City”.

These incredible geological formations were breathtaking: I think pictures tell a thousand words here!

We then motored on to our destination: Lorella Springs Wilderness Park. We checked in, parked up in the campsite, opened the van….

And found everything A-OK!!(😅)

Lorella is a one million acre property, with so much to explore you could spend years here and not discover it all: gorges, hot springs, fishing, beaches…. All joined by fun and challenging 4WD tracks.

We still had time for a quick explore before sunset: Wildfire Gorge was… gorgeous !


Today dawned unusually cloudy and cool (for here).

Ollie helped refuel before we set out….

We headed for a few gems including Helicopter Pool (good) and Nanny’s Retreat (awesome)!

On the way home we collected some firewood and enjoyed the 4WD tracks!

We also managed to snag the primo camp site back at the ranch!

More Exploring at Lorella

Today we set off on more gnarley 4WD tracks to two of Lorella’s top spots: Nudie Springs and Teardrop Falls.

At Nudie, the water comes out at 50 C from the rocks which makes some amazingly colourful patterns in the water. In the pool itself it’s a lovely 36 degrees or so….

We then went on to Teardrop Falls which was quite a journey: 20kms of punishing 4WD followed by a steep climb to to top pool.

On the way we stopped at the beautiful gorge:

The pool at the bottom was a bit green but after the scramble to the top we were rewarded with a stunning amphitheater to ourselves…. perfect for lunch and a bit of cliff jumping!

We then headed back to camp along some great tracks. There was even time for the kids to do a bit of homework before dinner!

Drama and Excitement at Lorella

Today we woke excited- we had our helicopter trip ahead of us, taking in the Lost City, the coast for some fishing and lunch at a waterfall!

I headed to reception after breakfast to find a bit of a commotion: a man was having a heart attack and needed to be evacuated to Darwin. I was the only doctor around so I helped out. We took him via helicopter to nearby Nathan River, to meet the care flight ambulance to take him to Darwin. He made it there safely but it was a tense chopper ride as his O2 saturation dropped to 84% when we had to ascend over the range. We flew low level for the rest of the flight….

The evacuation raised a few issues which hopefully will save a life in the future: Lorella needs to have their airstrip certified for RFDS/ Care Flight to save a chopper transfer. They also need to add a few things to the first aid kit including a defibrillator (I took our own on the transfer) as well as oxygen, basic drugs etc.

The morning drama pushed back out family trip a bit but we headed off around noon: first stop looking for dugongs and some fishing in the Gulf of Carpenteria!

Kath trying her luck!

I didn’t have much luck until… I had a 4ft shark on the end of my line!!

After a long battle it just got away! I think Nick our pilot was secretly relieved… and so was Kath because the shark would have to sit next to her on her chopper!

Off across the “Savannah”….

To a beautiful secluded lunch spot!

Kath prepping lunch…..

Great jumping spots for the kids!

View of the “Lost City”…

Then it was back home at 5:30…. What a day! We finished off with steaks at the homestead for dinner.

Another beautiful day at Lorella!

Today we headed out to “The Waterslide”. One of Lorella’s iconic swimming holes. It was fairly busy when we arrived so we hiked up the creek to Indiana “Falls”. Well- they would have been in the wet season!

We hiked back down to the waterslide and had a beautiful picnic lunch.

Then amazingly everyone cleared out and we had the place to ourselves!

Except for a bit of wildlife!

We headed home chilled and relaxed. Kath and I headed up the hill to take in the sunset with a G+T. Tomorrow it’s off on the bumpy road to Hells Gate Roadhouse en route to Lawn Hill NP in Queensland…..

Achy Breaky Megadrive

Today we packed up and bade Lorella farewell at about 9am. We had a big day ahead: all the way to Hells Gate roadhouse in Queensland, with 500km on dirt roads.

The roads were beyond awful…. Creek crossings, floodways and bone-jarring equipment-killing corrugations.

We limped into Boroloola for fuel, and opened the van to find next level carnage. Even the fridge had broken free and was dangerously mobile. Not to mention the drawers that had emptied themselves, and the hand fulls of “spare” screws.

The suspension of the van was sounding dodgey but I ignored that for the time being….

The delights of Boroloola….

We drove well into the night (scarey) and managed to avoid ‘Roos and cows.

We crossed the border into Queensland at 9 pm (no police there!) and finally arrived at Hells Gate a bit later. The roads in Queensland were WAY better! Phew!

Everything had had quite a rattle-about in the van!

The gin survived, but dusty though!

We had a nice spot at Hell’s Gate and enjoyed their home \240made sausage rolls for dinner.

Tomorrow we’re bound for Lawn Hill National Park where we’ll stay a few days.

Today we hit the road after bacon and egg rolls from Hell’s Gate. We refuelled at Gregory Downs Roadhouse, and someone passing mentioned our van was making a few strange noises….

Better check that out at some stage!

We arrived in the mid afternoon and set up camp at Adels Grove. We were in the ghetto section but it turned out to be the best- large shady site just a few metres from the beautiful river.

This morning we headed for the gorge. The water colour is a stunning turquoise, from dissolved minerals as the water passes through the rock. We did the walks which were beautiful, and despite it being pretty busy, we found a few quiet spots….

Nice spot for lunch after our swim under the beautiful Indarri waterfalls….

Charlie did a bit of the driving on his homemade L’s!

When we got back to camp I though it was time to take a look at the suspension and brakes.

Oh no!

All but one of the electric break wires had broken; the right rear brake assembly was destroyed; both shock absorbers on the right were broken, and the bolt holding a major part of the suspension on the right side was half hanging out.


I fixed the wires, removed the broken brakes (which were reduced to blobs of broken metal rattling around in the casing) and got the bolt back into place. The nut had long since dropped off so I drilled a hole in the bolt and inserted a split pin. Fingers crossed!!

Today was canoe day in the Gorge. Everything here at Adels Grove is pretty disorganised and the canoe hire was true to form! Unlike Katherine Gorge where we were barked at by a German backpacker and made to wear life jackets, here a laid back dude waived us into out leaky canoes and that was it.

We paddled off into the gorgeous gorge….

….. until Kath and I started sinking! The guy did say “you gotta bailer? You’re gunna need it!!” We realised why pretty soon. We pulled up on to a rock, and I had to use some skanky rope hanging off our canoe to repair \240the hole, using the knots as plugs. Seemed to keep the leak to a bailable level!

We got away from the crowds and found a lovely picnic spot high on the rocky gorge.

Another amazing lunch spot for our picnic….

It’s amazing how trees survive on these steep cliffs, putting down crazy roots to reach the water….

We paddled back, just one portage on this trip.

Then a bit of firewood gathering for tonight’s camp….

Fossils and relaxing….

Strange title I know. We happen to be only 45km from Riversleigh, one of the world’s top fossil sites, where examples date back 50 million years, and the rocks 500 million. That’s older than us!

The road was apparently going to be bad, but the grader had just been through so it was a breeze.

It was certainly interesting, but the main wonder was how palientologists have the patience to go through these bits to re-create these life forms of the past.

We headed back to camp for a bit of chill time this afternoon. I tinkered with the suspension, called a mechanic in Airlie Beach to plan for our brake repairs \240and we had a few swims in the beautiful river….

We decided to modify our travel plans a bit given our issues with the van suspension and brakes. We would avoid dirt roads so we will have to skip Cobbold Gorge and take the southern road instead.

Tomorrow we plan a big day…. If the van can make it. Hopefully Airlie Beach by Monday afternoon?

A long day on the road!

Well it was a bit stressful to be honest. Van and questionable brakes and stuffed suspension and we were planning to go as far as we could east today.

We got up early, had a fry-up breaky at Adels and then hit the road.

A few horses on the way!

We planned to refuel at Gregory Downs but there was no fuel. Luckily we had some reserve in our jerrry cans and did a refuel and headed for Burke and Wills roadhouse.

We were hoping to get a bit more information about their tragic expedition here, but there was nothing but feep fried food and long queues for fuel….

We took the small road to Julia Creek, refuelled and continued along the Flinders highway.

We drove into the night and set up camp out the back of Pentland Hotel. Real back- of-beyond feel here! Kath and I braved the bar, had a couple of beers and bought some jerky. We had hot showers, then \240Kath’s chilli con carne and a couple of rounds of Bananagrams in the van.

We managed 900km today. Off to Airlie Beach tomorrow, breaks and suspension willing!

We woke to a freezing cold morning in Pentland and put the diesel heater to work.

Our muddy site was pretty modest!

We hit the road bound for Airlie. Really flat terrain for hundreds of km….

Then near the coast the mountains loomed. We were close!

We made it to Airlie intact which was a great relief! My suspension fix worked nicely…

Next was to have the mechanic look at the van, wash the car and van (not easy), and check in to our site for a night.

Then off to shop and dinner at Airlie (good steak, shocking band!). Tomorrow we’re off to Hamilton Island for a couple of nights while our van gets fixed…

We packed up and dropped the van off to the mechanic (good luck fixing it).

A morning coffee then off to Hammo!

Kath set up her home office on the boat….

We had a relaxing couple of days at Hammo!

Great apartment on th 19th floor!

Then a catch up wth the Whites and McCutcheons at their awesome pad….

Kath and I started started the day with a fabulous walk around Hammo….

Charlie did some guitar practice and some illegal buggy driving….

Nice view from the lift!

…..and a lovely posh dinner at the Beach Club to round off the day…

It was a windy start this morning. After a great breaky at Sails we all headed for a walk up to Passage Peak to burn off a few calories….

Can’t help a quick plane pic!

Quick bit of go-karting before heading back to Airlie Beach.

The ferry stopped for some passing whales. Sorry no pics were up to standard!

We collected the fixed-up van and polished the car: busy next 24 hrs ahead…. Collecting the McKenzies from the airport to start our sailing adventure, and then hand over the van to Fiona!

Beautiful start to the day!

The McKenzies made it from Melbourne and after a dinner together last night Charlie, Jas and Ollie did the Park Run….

We gave the van a final clean….

…. Did the world’s biggest shop….

And transferred it to the boat!

And here we were on Aliara!

We spent the night in Airlie Port on board and went out for dinner at Sorrento’s. Tomorrow we had to face a 4 hour briefing before we were let loose on the boat. Mark is the skipper and I need to obey his commands! (😬)

Thankfully we passed the test with Lachie who signed us off after the briefing.

Kath handed over the van to Fiona and her friends…. Though will be tricky as Victoristan has just closed the border to NSW…🤯

May need to leave the van with Kev in Brisbane….!

Anyway it was time to set sail!

We stayed last night at anchor at South Molle island. The resort here closed after cyclone Debbie in 2017 (it was in pretty bad shape before then!).

It was spooky looking around….

We did a beautiful walk to the local peak Spion Kop \240with awesome views….

The next morning we set sail for Tongue Bay on Whitsunday island, en route to Whitehaven beach for the night….

Beautiful swirling sand here with a lovely lookout

Then on to stunning Whitehaven beach. This is a massive tourist destination but later in the afternoon the tour groups leave and we had the place pretty much to ourselves (except for a few yachts!)

Today we woke at anchor at Whitehaven, had a lazy breakfast then sailed the short distance to Chalkie’s Beach at Haselwood Island. We had pretty strong winds and luckily found a mooring close to the beach.

The snorkelling here was awesome and we were accompanied by an inquisitive turtle for ages!

Because of the winds we headed back to Whitehaven to anchor for the night (poor us)….

We were glad we weren’t stuck on that awful super yacht ….

Some pics of our cozy cat:

Practicing for our return to reality next week….

We started the day with a walk to Chance Bay which was very secluded and beautiful. The weather wasn’t great today with low clouds threatening to rain….

After the walk Mark and I swam back \240to the boat…

Today we’re bound for Hamilton Island, but we’ll call in to Linderman Island’s Club Med resort- abandoned after cyclone Yassi 10 years ago.

It was sad to see, such amazing infrastructure left to rot…

Apparently there are plans for a posh rebuild at some stage….

The crappy weather rolled in briefly for our sail to Hammo, but the northerly change meant warmer, tropical weather for the next few days.

We had a nice night in Hammo, kids had pizza on the boat and the oldies dinner at Manta Ray in the port….

We woke to tropical weather today and not a breath of wind.

Mark trying not to look at the super yachts….

We set off for Mackerel bay on Hook island, 3 hours of motoring on glassy seas (about 2 weeks of sailing if we were relying on the wind!).

We were joined by a few whales….

And spent a lazy afternoon and night at Mackerel Bay which was simply stunning:

We awoke to beautiful weather and a decent northerly breeze. We headed up the east coast of Hook Island to Butterfly Bay for lunch….

Most things went well….except for Ollie!

And a quick video message from Jo for Dan Andrews:

Then we headed around to the north of the island to anchor for the night and take in our last tropical sunset:

Dinner on board….

And drinks under the starry sky….

Well, all good things must come to an end. The morning was beautiful as we motored back to Airlie Beach.

We bade farewell to the McKenzies and hopped on our ironically named ferry “Freedom” to take us to Hamilton Island airport and then home to lockdown….

Nice view of our plane arriving….

Off we go….

Linderman looking very nice from up here!

Lovely flight (hope the kids were ok in eco)

Aaaah the first sights of home!

And that’s it.

A stunning, extraordinary adventure through this awesome country. Against the odds we’ve traveled for a month, not a mask in sight until today.

I have a tear in my eye as I write this, for I think our family adventure days may be done. The kids are growing up so fast, Charlie doing VCE \240next year.

Thanks for the amazing memories xxx