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Thread: Nick & Pam's Big Lap Trip Report

  1. #1

    Default Nick & Pam's Big Lap Trip Report

    We're baaaaaa-aaaaack!!!

    Hoping this is the right place for this - it wasn't an SJC official trip so felt it didn't belong in Trip Reports

    We are super excited to see everyone at the Club meeting tonight!

    The below is a month-by-month highlights reel. There's a whole lot more detail and photos over at our blog - nickandpam.com - click on "All Posts" to get a list of all the posts we made while on the road. There's also a zoomable & scrollable map from our GPS tracker here.

    June 23
    - left Sydney, first night at the free camp near Lake Lyell. So cold that our BBQ tank wouldn't work - so sandwiches for dinner it was! Frosty morning the next day but beautiful and nothing could get our spirits down.



    July - Bendleby Ranges - a working station in the South Flinders two days drive west of Sydney with some awesome 4wd tracks and isolated campsites with private drop toilets and firewood delivery.


    Met up with Jeep Club and conquered the Simmo!


    Worked our way north from Birdsville through Outback QLD, dinosaur country, Atherton Tablelands, before tackling the Cape.


    August, made some new friends on the CREB track who convoyed with us all the way to the northernmost tip of Australia, on the Frenchman's track and Old Telegraph Track! Amazing experiences and beautiful country up there.


    Headed south and west via Weipa and Karumba (famous for prawns!), then even further west to Lawn Hill / Boodjamulla National Park on the border of QLD and the NT - beautiful turquoise river at the bottom of a gorge.


    Over to the NT at Daly Waters and up to Mataranka and Bitter Springs - a natural hot spring fed lazy river which is absolutely crystal clear under the surface. Bring your pool noodle to float along and a mask and snorkel to check out the many freshwater turtles and fish.


    September saw us heading into to Katherine and Lichfield for more exploring and gorge/waterfall swimming, and up to Darwin and the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets.


    We spent a week in Bali for Pam's birthday and closed out September with five days in Kakadu where we saw absolutely huge crocodiles, pristine ancient Aboriginal rock art, and stunning waterfalls and plunge pools.


    At the beginning of October it was getting really hot, and we just barely made it crossing into WA just ahead of a bushfire which caused a closure of highway 1 all the way from Kununurra to Katherine for three days (that's 500km of highway). We spent that time in the Lake Argyle Caravan Park's infinity pool drinking Matso's Mango Beer.


    Over to Kununurra and south to the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu) and Wolfe Creek Crater, both once-in-a-lifetime sights which cost us nearly a month. We ended up discovering upon our return to Kununurra that the Jeep had a mean splaying stance which was diagnosed as a cracked housing and necessitated parts to be ordered and delivered from SBR in Perth. The roads leading to the Bungles and Wolfe Creek are some of the worst we saw in all of Australia - even worse than the PDR up on the Cape for those who have experienced it. .


    Kununurra wasn't so bad, we made more friends and absolutely killed it at trivia nights at the local pub three weeks in a row, but we were also very happy to be on the road again at the end of October, and the day after the Wet's first big rainstorm. The Gibb River Road was now closed for the season and we would tragically miss out on one of Australia's most famous dirt pilgrimages.


    Zooming over to Broome on bitumen at 80km/h to break in our new diff and axle we were relieved to escape the 45C weather of Northern WA in the Build Up and to check out sunset with the Jeep on Cable Beach.


    In November we proceeded to follow the coastline down with a brief detour into Marble Bar (apparently we couldn't get enough of the scorching heat), with one campsite worth mentioning at 40 Mile Beach that was a real stunner, oceanfront camping for free and far enough south for croc-free swimming.


    There were two places we willingly got "stuck" on this trip and Cape Range National Park was the first. We simply couldn't get enough of snorkelling with sea turtles and stingrays on Ningaloo Reef where the coral is still colourful and the marine life plentiful. Reluctantly dragging ourselves away it was on to Shark Bay, home of Francois Peron National Park and Steep Point (westernmost point of Australia) a quick stop for us this trip but on the list to linger next time.


    December found us in Kalbarri, a photogenic area of red rock gorge systems, hiking trails, and oceanside cliffs, and then heading south to Perth where the scenery quickly and noticeably changed from desert and red rock to forests and beaches and then to the first skyscrapers we had seen in many thousands of kilometres.


    A visit to Vic and our fill of $20 city frou-frou breakfasts under our belts and we were off again to explore Margaret River and the Southwest Corner - the next place we found ourselves lingering and very reluctant to leave. Wineries, breweries, cheesemakers, bread makers, chocolate shops, meaderies and more...this region boasts any type of food or drink your tummy desires, plus gorgeous deserted beaches and secluded state forest free or low-cost camping. Pretty much paradise.


    We spent Christmas Eve through Boxing Day camped next to a creek just outside of Denmark WA and then made a move to tackle the Holland Track, a former gold miners shortcut from Hyden to Coolgardie. Sadly we were foiled again by a bushfire when we ran into rangers in the process of closing the track halfway through our second day.


    New Year's Eve in Kalgoorlie, home of the SuperPit, was fairly low-key and we wished we had spent it at one of the quirky Outback Pubs nearby instead (one of which has a horse as a bouncer - Kookynie). New Year, New State though and in January we were off across the Nullarbor to cross back into South Australia.


    The Eyre Peninsula home of Coffin Bay National Park was incredible, one of our favourite memories from the trip is camping among the dunes in Coffin Bay NP, shucking oysters we had purchased for $1.25 a piece, having a few cold beers and just watching the sun go down over the ocean.


    Up to the Barossa where we spent one of the hottest days of the summer (remember the heat wave in South Australia in January?) sipping shiraz and fortifieds with a friend we'd made up in Kununurra.


    Slightly behind schedule now thanks to Ningaloo Reef and the Southwest Corner, we zoomed down to Melbourne to catch our ferry over to Tasmania where we planned to spend all of February and a week in March mainly on the famous Wild West coast. Foiled by bushfires again (sadly, some of the worst in Tassie's history) we needed to adjust our route to head East first and ended up missing the West Coast entirely when our pinyon seal went and we were grounded in Launceston.


    March saw us back in Sydney and what was effectively the end of our Big Lap, as we then took a holiday from our holiday to see Pam's grandmother and do some touring in New Zealand.


    In April we returned from NZ and bolted up to Queensland to attend Jeep Jamboree 2019, before flying off to Nick's brother's wedding in Vietnam, where we spent most of May.


    We saw some Brissie highlights and drove Bribie, Moreton and Straddie before continuing south In June. We stayed at a couple great beach campsites before veering inland to hit Canberra for a few days, ensuring we checked off every state on the trip!


    It's incredible how massive this country is, how wonderful the people are (we made many friends we'll now have for life), and just how much the weather and seasons impact the best-laid plans. We made it back to Sydney on June 15th, in time for our citizenship tests on the 17th and we are now both citizens and have our whole lives to continue exploring!


    There are a whole lot of places on our "Next Time" list, including:
    - West coast of Tasmania
    - Gibb River Road and Kalumburu
    - Dampier Peninsula
    - Karijini National Park
    - Dirk Hartog Island
    - Victoria High Country & the Snowy Mountains
    - More desert & red centre outback







    Last edited by Mohawk; 1 Week Ago at 05:56 PM. Reason: added map link

  2. #2

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    Amazing!

    Quick question - how did you find out what attractions/things to do and see at each location?

    I've sometimes wondered how much planning vs how much stumbling goes on in these trips.
    Martin H. | 2014 JK Unlimited (white) | 2015 Grand Cherokee (max. steel)

  3. #3
    Club Secretary Dave's Avatar
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    Oh I am so just copying this for your trip report for the minutes
    Was great to see you tonight, although not that long since Jambo...
    Dont stay too long OS, weve got long trips to plan!!
    Missing you already [emoji22]
    Dave


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by SnakeDoctor View Post
    Amazing!

    Quick question - how did you find out what attractions/things to do and see at each location?

    I've sometimes wondered how much planning vs how much stumbling goes on in these trips.
    Hey, this is Pam - chief Navigator and Planner The short answer is, I had about two months planned out (up until the tip of the Cape, using Dave's excellent Cape York itinerary as inspiration, and of course following along with the SJC on Dave's Simpson Desert trip). After Cape York, we had a general idea of the things we wanted to see - Katherine, Kakadu, Lichfield, Gibb River Rd, Ningaloo Reef etc - but we discovered so much more along the way through talking to other travellers. Many of the people we ran into were Grey Nomads (so travel half the year, every year, and have some great tips) or were travelling in the opposite direction to us and we were able to exchange info and valuable tips about our journeys so far.

    Some places were just lucky discoveries turning off at an interesting-looking side track.

    Specific attractions in each area...again other travellers are the #1 resource for stuff to see and stuff to miss. The Lonely Planet Australia guidebook was valuable in more populated areas to learn about the history and points of interest that piqued our interest, but it had about three pages devoted to "The Outback" so became pretty useless north of Cairns until we got to Perth. i-Centres in country towns are usually very helpful but will caution strongly against four wheel drive tracks and anything with even a puddle of a water crossing (I imagine they've had a fair few inexperienced backpackers come through with rental 4wds that then need recovering). In the real outback, roadhouses will share track conditions and sometimes interesting local secrets (depending on how much they like the look of you and how much they don't want the local swimming hole appearing in guidebooks and apps and getting invaded).

    There sure is a lot of interesting stuff out there - a year was not long enough.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave View Post
    Oh I am so just copying this for your trip report for the minutes
    Fair trade for how much we stole from your itineraries!!

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