Wave Rock, rocks!

It's a 4+ hour detour to get to the isolated outback town of Hyden and well worth every single "are we there yet". We figure on seeing the impressive 100 metre long, 15 metre high Wave Rock and heading straight back, but a host of other attractions, including more feature rocks, two albino kangaroos, Mulka's Cave adorned with aboriginal handprints, and the chance to picnic alongside the famous Rabbit Proof Fence, all entice us to stay a second day and night.

Quote of the trip from Budge, when asked by Rikki to pass her a slice of apple, as he swats some pests from his face: "Would you like flies with that?"

Rikki surfs the wave as her brothers look on from the shallows. (A short while later things are a tad more tense after Rikki scales too far up the rock face and has to be rescued by Budge, who, after reaching her, can't quite work out how to be of help without toppling backwards himself.)
Three little Biharys inside Hippo's Yawn.
The Rabbit Proof Fence proves to be not attitude proof, as evidenced by the fairly dismal response from the kids when we ask them to 'pose like a bunny'. No matter how many times we look at the pic, Benji's expression still cracks us up.

And even luckier...

Happy 6th Birthday beautiful Rikki..... On our last day in Lucky Bay, Rikki loses her tooth too, so that's two big milestones ticked off. (Unfortunately she loses it in the car after Jack pulls on a stuffed toy that she is holding in her mouth, and the tooth comes out with it... after which she really does lose it (the tooth, that is).... after which she really really does lose it (the temper, that is)...
Jack, King of the Waves.
We manage to ration our five boxes of matzah (packed before leaving Melbourne) so that they last the whole of Pesach. Budge wins the inaugural "can you turn your last piece of matzah into a map of Australia" on the eighth day, by taking his own Aussie bite... and then another... and then another...
Santa Rikki shows once again just how much fun can be had washing up the dishes.

Getting lucky in Lucky Bay

Not hard to understand why we feel so lucky in Lucky Bay:
* Sands voted the whitest in Australia;
* Kangaroos on the beach (and by the toilet block... and behind our tent... and at our door...);
* Walking trails and 4WD tracks of breathtaking, biblical beauty;
* Campsite luxuries like flushing toilets, solar heated showers and drinking water on tap;
* Scores of fellow camper kids to befriend;
* Not forgetting the simple fact that we snare ourselves a campsite during the very very busy Easter break, given there are only 18 up for grabs.

Lucky Bay helps us see one another through new, rested eyes. We discover in Jack an unbridled love of the sea and surf, which has him diving beneath waves for hours on end. Rikki teaches us to see new potential in the ordinary – turning washing up duty into games of suds, and sand banks into slides. Benji continues to amuse with his unique take on life, from walking everywhere barefoot (“I’ve got my superfeet on again today!”) to standing at the water’s edge on top of his boogie board to show that he can surf the waves. While us grown-ups come to appreciate our different yet equally important ways of connecting with the land – Sam needing to explore by foot, Budge by car.

We camp out in Lucky Bay for the whole eight days of Pesach, our body clocks finally, fully, in sync with the sun. Lucky, lucky us!

Kangaroos greet us on the beach on our first day in Lucky Bay. During our stay we also see seals, goannas, lizards, dolphins... and on the last day, a snake (proudly spotted by a very excited and not in the least bit frightened Benji).
Starting our ascent of the very steep Frenchmans Peak mountain.
Descending Frenchman's Peak with Benji in saddle. 
Budge heading off for another snorkle in the sea. We each receive our own snorkle set this trip, but Budge is the one most enraptured with the underwater world thus far.

Chag Pesach Sameach

In our mobile home, miles from the comforts and community of Melbourne, everything about Pesach - the Festival of Freedom - seems to resonate more loudly and more authentically with us this year. We scrub our van, our car and our clothes clean of chametz (and sand… and dirt.. and dust…) then settle in to share two intimate seders together, each an experiential delight.

Our wonderfully simple, simply wonderful seder table, with home-baked matzot to boot! (The matzot are the highlight of the chag, only to be surpassed a few nights later with a matzah-version of apple crumble that is, in Jack's effusive praise, "a dessert for a king!") 
Everyone's comfortable on pillows in our seder tent. Let the seder begin. (Easier to see now that our handwashing water jug is in fact the kettle and our white tablecloth is a single-bed mattress protector... which actually proves to be completely appropriate after Benji spills his 3rd glass of grape juice).
Benji looks on as Jack scans ahead to find out how long to go before he can hunt for the afikoman again on second night seder.

Esperance n' Woody Island

Bushland makes way for farmland as we arrive at the pine-tree speckled, seaside town of Esperance, where we plan to spend first night seder before making our own exodus to the nearby Cape Le Grand National Park and its renowned Lucky Bay. Time enough to squeeze in a day trip to Woody Island - replete with sea-lion spotting, an island hike, lizard feeding, swim n’ snorkel n’ slide, and a glass bottom boat ride - and a very special memorial dinner in honour of the late Nana Cenci.
Feeding the lizards with carrot scrapson Woody Island.
Jack flying off the end of Woody Island's fabulous version of a water slide, Sam bobbing in the water below. Both Budge and Sam also brave a turn, Sam's descent proving to be the most vocal of the three (after she finally pitches herself forward after freezing in fear at the top).
Budge busy preparing dinner to mark Nana Cenci Bihary's Yartzeit. We dine on her cauliflower soup with galushka, and beef paprika goulash with nokedli, and the chef does her proud.

Mind blowing, mine blowing Kalgoorlie.

We decide to take a spontaneous side-trip to Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the mining mecca where everything is super-sized… the mines, the machinery, the blokiness of the blokes and, alas, the flies. Parts of the place are still recovering from the earthquake that struck a year ago. Nonetheless it stands as an impressive monument to the scale of industry that can be created when man sniffs gold in the ground… and sits in stark contast to the quaint outpost of Coolgardie which we pass through on our way back. (Coolgardie is the site of WA’s first goldmine, which proved to be far less "fertile" than Kalgoorlie’s Golden Mile).

The trip gives us the chance to pull off the highway and camp out for another Shabbat ‘neath the stars, where our toilet tent makes it's debut, Jack makes his first campfire from scratch, and Sam and Rikki make their first challot using wholemeal flour - clear winners all round!

Peering down at the enormous Super Pit in Kalgoorlie, so big that it can be seen by astronauts in space.
In Kalgoorlie we meet another member of the “Australia’s largest…” family – this time it’s the giant Scoop. (Muck, Dizzy, Rollee and the rest of Bob’s gang are nowhere to be found).
Budge en route to the entrance of Australia’s oldest-and-still-operational brothel in Boulder, leaving Sam back in the car to explain to the kids "what's a brothel...?"
No sooner have we set up camp before Rikki's hitched up her home-made tree swing. Meanwhile Benji's turning the rocky terrain into a BMX wonderland and Jack's busy building his own mini-golf course using twigs and leaves. City slickers? Hardly…!

From Nullarbor... to Norseman

Having conquered the Nullarbor, we stop to celebrate in Norseman, our arrival marked by the great Buckwheat Puff Willy-Willy that is created in the car when Sam opens the sunroof by mistake as the kids are munching on them from bowls.

We restock our supplies of fresh fruit and veg, which have NEVER tasted so good… and stay just long enough to cycle the town on our bikes (everyone), tackle the walking tracks (Sam and her piggybacking “koala bear”, Benji) and clean out those pesky lil’ buckwheat puffs from every nook and cranny in the car (Budge… who else!).
The gang display the certificates marking their crossing of the Great Nullarbor.
The corrugated-iron camels, an icon of Norseman. Camel and horse silhouettes also appear on every street sign in the town.
Benji turning tricks on his BMX. The other crowd pleaser is his “Dukes of Hazard” take-off where he runs alongside his bike holding onto the handlebars before swinging himself up and onto the seat.

The long and (not) winding road

The Nullarbor's Eyre Highway includes the longest straight stretch of highway in Australia, at a staggering 146 kilometres.

Worth pointing out that this photo was taken of the sign that appears at the END of the stetch, after Sam failed to have camera ready to snap a photo of the sign at the start as we whizzed past it... causing Budge to be more than a little peeved with her, having apparently reminded her not only to have the camera ready, but also about how important the photo was to him... thereafter turning the road into the longest sulkiest straight stretch of highway in Australia, copious apologies notwithstanding.

More Nullarbor Trekking

Throwing a rock out to ocean at the Southern most tip of Australia. All children under strict instruction to remain BEHIND the bush.
The Nullarbor sunrise bestows blessings upon the day and upon us. 
Taking our bearings at the border crossing from South Australia to Western Australia. No fruit or vegetables can be taken over the border so our car snack repertoire becomes suddenly sparce and far less healthy. In the last 24 hours we have crossed three international timezones (a feat that will play havoc with our body clocks for days to come...)
Another attempt to do justice to the magestic juxtaposition of earth against sky that is the great Nullarbor Plain and again, failing miserably. Fortunately the memories in our minds are sharp and strong.

The Great Nullarbor Trek

It takes us three days to cross the Nullarbor. Three days travelling through a landscape that leaves us awestruck and humbled in equal measure. Vast plains stretch as far as the eye can see in every direction, with an evolving terrain that blends continuously from grass to shrub to sand to dust, from dense to sparse, from dark to light. We camp in the wilderness both nights, bearing witness as the days turn to night then back to morning once again.

The absolute highlight is our stopover at the Head of Bight, where the sheer majesty of the ocean and cliff panorama weakens us at the knees. That, and Jack completing a camping rite of passage when, on day 2 of our great Nullarbor trek, he sets off with shovel and dunny-paper to do his first bush bog. Ah, the naches.

The famous Nullarbor sign that keeps appearing as we travel down the Eyre Highway. A complete over-promise. We do not see a single camel, kangaroo or wombat the whole way. 
The view from the front seat, which  fails dismally to capture the sheer magnificence and scale of the flatliner horizon abutting heavenly skies.
Mum and daughter at the whale lookout at the Head of Bight. Unfortunately we are not visiting during whale season but the waveless ocean and its vivid hues of blue are more than enough to keep us captivated. (Although truth be told, the kids were more captivated by the caterpiller that they saw on the hand rail at the lookout - "Wow, look! Yellow AND black! Did you see it, dad? Did you see it, mum?)
Cuddles at the cliff top lookout at the Head of Bight. Great shot, Rikki!

Fun in Fowlers Bay

Fowlers is a self-sufficient eco-village at the end of a forty kilometre dust track that veers off the Eyre Highway not long after entering the Nullarbor. We miss the turn-off the first time and have to double back – and are rewarded for our effort with an unexpected sand dune oasis that leaves us breathless when we gaze upon it, and even more breathless when we tackle it with a toboggan.

Most memorable moment…? After experiencing one false start after another when pushing the toboggan off and failing to get enough friction to send it more than a few inches, we apply a thick coat of wax to its base and send Jack burning down a dune. He skids to a stop, jumps up and proceeds to do what can only be described as a jig, giggling and hooting like a madman as he hops from foot to foot. Yes indeed Houston, we have lift-off!

Jack and Rikki on the second toboggan ride for the day. Moments later they veer off course and front-rider Rikki gets her hand scratched badly by the clump of trees on the right... not a great start and it's a good half hour with plenty of coaxing before she'll board the 'boggan again. Fortuntely once she does, scratches are quickly forgotten.  
Father and son speed down the slopes.
Rikki taking a private moment out on the dunes, nursing her scratched hand and bruised pride. 
Ending the day with a spot of fishing. Jack's now in charge of sussing out with the locals what's biting and purchasing our bait, but this time it's Budge's turn to catch dinner for us all.

Chilling in Ceduna

The aboriginal meaning of Ceduna is "a place to stop and rest" and that's exactly what we do. Much of our stay is dusty, windy and rainy but it still manages to offer up its own unique highs:
- Like coining the phrase "crap-a-van park" when on the first night, with all the premium parks booked out by the Grey Nomads, we are forced to make do with the somewhat less attractive alternative on the outskirts of town (green pool water, anyone?). Ironically, after we befriend another family of six camped a few vans up, the kids rank the park as one of their faves.
- Like our first full family ocean swim, with everyone - even Sam - paddling out in the water.. and noone - except Sam - keeping an eye out for the White Pointers that populate the area.
- Like seeing our first live scorpian, inside the toilet block, no less!
- Like reaching consensus that we love our home baked challah so much, we'll henceforth double the dough to bake enough for Friday dinner AND Saturday brekkie.
- Like the sight of Jack sprinting off into the distance on a cold wet beach, completely oblivious to the chill of the water, becoming a mere speck on the horizon literally within minutes- after a day of inclement weather keeps us inside, giving him (and his testosterone) a severe case of cabin, nay, caravan-fever.
- Like the excitement involved in preparing a taco feast as a team, Jack on cucumber chopping duty, Rikki on tomato chopping duty, and all hands on deck to grate the cheese.
- Like window shopping for stuff on Friday and returning the next afternoon to buy it... only to discover that small towns do still run by 1980's trading hours, with toy shops (sorry Rikki) and newsagencies (sorry Jack) and hardware stores (sorry Budge) all shutting at midday on Saturday and not opening again until Monday. Luckily the IGA is still  open, so it's comfort food in lieu for all.
- Like sending the kids on ahead to the showers before getting distracted and losing track of time... then being blown away when they return with bodies scrubbed, hair washed and combed, jammies on and teeth brushed, chests puffed out proudly and deservedly so. Seems we've been underestimating the gang until now.
From here we face the much anticipated but nevertheless somewhat intimidating drive across the Nullarbor Plain, where we'll exit SA and begin our exploration of WA. All of us have demonstrated, to ourselves and each other, how resiliant, how adventurous and how independant we can be. Nullarbor, here we come!

Tucking in to the great Taco dee-nir.
Three Biharys completely bushed.

So long, Streaky...

As we depart Streaky Bay bound for Ceduna, the last really big outpost before the treeless desert of the Nullarbor, we stop by the replica of the biggest shark to be caught, ever, on a line. It took a full day to pull that baby in... and gives Jack a new perspective on his own fishing achievements to date.

My, what big teeth you have...

Streaking in Streaky Bay

Our four day stay in Streaky Bay will be remembered for many things.
• The Bay where the caravan park packed the vans in like sardines, but nobody cared because the park was literally ON the beach … a beach that stretched endlessly in either direction and whose ankle deep water was a playground of wading, paddling and pippy hunting fun.
• The Bay where we saw our first Sea Lions and sampled our first sea salt.
• The Bay where Benji and Rikki caught their first fish…another fine dinner taken care of!
• The Bay where we discovered how much fun it is to hand feed pelicans.
• The Bay where the kids polished off 2 to 3 family-size tubs of yoghurt a day, but we didn’t care because after more than 2 weeks of gastro and with shorts slipping off them, we would do anything to fatten them up.
• And the Bay where, of course, one of us had to do the obligatory streak… Cue Benji, in the early morning, on his bike, riding bareback.

Late afternoon stroll through the shallows in front of our caravan.
Peering down at the Sea Lion colony at Point Labatt.
Passing the salt at the Salt Lakes.
Pelican supper time.

Dolphin alert at Venus Bay

Another over-nighter, this time in Venus Bay. Benji and Sam spot their first dolphins during a morning hike along the cliff tops, we clock up plenty more fishing hours, and all enjoy the chance to traipse through the marvellous rock formations known as Murphy's Haystacks as we depart.

Time out to watch the waves crash to shore on one of Venus Bay's ocean cave walks.
One for the "freak of nature" book. We stop to watch a train of caterpillers cross Venus Bay's main road, head to toe in single file. 
Exploring Murphy's Haemorrhoids... that is, Haystacks.

Elliston and it's long long long jetty

Our overnight stay in Elliston gives us the chance to walk along one of the longest and oldest jettys in Australia, jutting a staggering 470 metres out to sea. With the two youngest Biharys needing to be carried the whole way due to the biting cold winds, it feels twice as long as that, but the gale does nothing to dampen Jack’s mood as he discovers with glee “I’m drooling sideways!”

We are now hugging the coast along the Great Australian Bight where awesome ocean views, mighty cliff faces and expansive shores are par for the course... and present us with a few road signs that remind us just how far away from our own Vic Roads we've strayed.

Rikki edges into the water, looooong jetty in the background.
Good for a laugh...
And another...
And another...!