Out and About:
two years on the road
INTERVIEW SOFIA FORTUNATO
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY GEORGIE MIKUS
Can you tell us more about you and when/why did you decide to go wild and live on the road?
We’ve always loved travelling! We met in London in 2007 and lived in Egypt and Scotland before coming home to reside in Melbourne and Perth. After a few trips back and forth across the Nullarbor with our beloved kelpie in our 2003 Honda Accord and swanky $35 Kmart pop-up tent, we knew we wanted to travel Australia when we got married. Life had other plans and we lived in the Aboriginal community, Kunawarritji (well 33 on the Canning Stock Route) for 4 years where I was the Head of Campus/Teacher and Ben the Ranger Coordinator. Located approximately halfway between Port Hedland and Alice Springs, it was the middle of nowhere, or as we’d like to say, centre of everything! We bought an Oztent and a 100 Series Landcruiser and set off north exploring the Kimberley, Gibb River Road, Dampier Peninsula and Broome; to the east from Kunawarritji to Uluru, Alice Springs and West Macdonnell Ranges and venturing west to Karijini, Exmouth, Millstream Chichester National Park and Marble Bar. When Charlie was born, we decided it was time to upgrade to a Jayco Journey pop-top and set off on our version of ‘a lap’. Jimmy was born 19 months later and we upgraded to a JB Gator bunk van to fit everyone in to travel off the beaten track.
How is a normal day for you on the road?
The days we’re not on the move, we are usually out and about exploring. We love checking out walks, especially nature walks. We take our time and play games and make it as fun as possible. We usually stay in free or cheap camps so we have lots of space to play. On travel days, we are super slow! Just packing up and getting on the road can take most of the morning. But if we’re honest, the driving days are equally enjoyable. The kids are snoozing and it’s adult time.
How many places have you visited? Do you stay for long periods in one place?
Since the kids were born, we have explored many different regions of Aus trying to follow the sun whilst venturing in all different directions! We’ve driven to the coast, centre and outback of NSW. Highways are not our thing so when we arrived at the Sunshine Coast, we headed back to the red dirt and drove west over 1000km to the furtherest town from the sea, Eromanga on the Natural Sciences Loop. We checked out dinosaur footprints and artesian baths as well the dinosaur loop of Winton, Richmond and Hughenden. Julia Creek, to the west, was a highlight where you sit in artesian water baths drinking wine and eating cheese whilst watching the sunset! Fabulous!
There are so many awesome places in the NT! Floating on noodles in Mataranka, the gorges in Kakadu, swimming in Litchfield.... the list goes on.
Driving back into WA, Lake Argyle is quite the sight to see. We drove hundreds of kilometres exploring El Questro on Gibb River Road with unbelievable lookouts, gorges and springs.
The white sandy beaches of Eighty Mile and the red cliffs of Barn Hill station are places we continually find ourselves heading back to.
A bit colder, and unexpectedly one of our favourite states, was Tasmania. The scenery is amazing! Free camping at Bay of Fires, wombat filled nature walks at Cradle mountain, the rugged Tarkine and Western Wilderness, ranges and lakes on Gordon River Road and the picturesque Mount Field. Our number one tip for Tassie is to check out the information on the, ‘60 Great Short Walks’ so you can plan the best fit for you and your family. We loved them!
From the whole big and wide land of Australia, can you tell us your top three places and why?
We couldn’t decide so instead we have a top four!
Outback Queensland. Artesian baths, vastness and red dirt
Gibb River Road (including Mitchell Falls) gorges, waterfalls and red dirt
East Pilbara. remoteness, gorges and, again, red dirt.
The western wilderness in Tassie. Ranges, lakes and the forests.
If you could give five tips to parents who want to do the same, what would they be?
No need to overly plan. We love the flexibility to stay longer, shorter or head in whichever destination.
Take your time. We love exploring but kids can get cranky! When out adventuring we stop to smell the flowers, inspect things and play games such as hide and seek. Trying to cram too much in is stressful.
Get off the beaten path. We didn’t go travelling to drive on a highway. There are so many amazing regional and remote areas to explore. Think outside the box of doing ‘a lap’ to explore inland Australia. We’re now back in Western Australia and excited to be heading back on the road.’ Instead of ‘We’re excited to be heading back on the road
If possible, have a practice run with your setup and cull, cull, cull! A practice weekend or week away will help you weed out those items you don’t need. Decide on the toys you want to take then scrap half! Charlie’s favourite toy was a stick in a water bottle!
Allow time for the family to settle into new routines. Life on the road may be a little cramped. Give yourself and your family time to adjust to a new normal.
How do you financially survive on the road?
As well as saving before leaving, Ben’s work allows him to work remotely and Georgie is on leave.
We’re also looking forward to launching our travelling business Learn Out and About @learnoutandabout. We believe exploring Australia provides unlimited opportunities for learning which mainstream programs don’t recognise. Taking inspiration from On Country programs we created in the far East Pilbara, we’ve tailored an inquiry based, student centred learning program, aligned with the Australian Curriculum, for families.
What was your experience during COVID-19 restrictions in Australia?
When we started to hear about COVID-19 we were in Tasmania. We continued travelling for a few days, however, everything was changing drastically every day that we decided to head back to Country Vic to be near family. It was difficult to get an earlier fare on the Spirit of Tasmania with the caravan, however, with persistent calling we were able to get back to Vic by late March. Although we enjoyed having the space of self isolating in the caravan in the machinery shed on the farm, as well as being close to Grandad and Nanny, a toddler and a crawler in mud can get pretty exhausting!
We’re excited to be heading back on the road
again! We’re not 100% sure what to expect, but we have plan A,B and C and are open to being extremely flexible! Who knows what to expect in 2020!
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