There was one special reason that we made our way back to Perth this time, and that was my application for a new visa. After taking into consideration the world’s current situation and the Covid-19 lockdowns around the globe, we came up with a new plan. As Australia is, at this point of time, probably one of the few countries where the Covid has not been spread dramatically, we made the decision to extend our time here.
So we decided to get another year long visa for myself and also extend our Carnet de Passage for Voukefalas. That way, we will have enough time on our hands to complete “the Loop”. On top of that, we hope that by that time the pandemic will also be over as well, so we can continue our original route driving back to Greece via Asia. Just to be sure though, in case that I would be denied a new visa and as the fines for overstaying are heavy, a backup plan was also in place. We will drive Voukefalas, on a crazy rhythm, through the center of Australia straight to Brisbane from where we will ship him directly back to Europe and fly over to meet him on the other side. See, we want to make sure that if we get caught in a lockdown in any country that should be within the EU.
The above though proved to be an ongoing process so first things first. After applying for the visa online, I was booked in for a medical checkup (required for the new visa).
Meanwhile we managed to fit in a quick escape outing on the coast in Billy Goat Bay, where we free camped overlooking the crystal waters of the bay and in Cliff’s Head, another free nature-based campsite, located 313km north of Perth, on the Indian Ocean Drive. Both places are located among limestone cliffs and overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of the Coral Coast. To stay here, you need to be fairly self-sufficient as there is no running water or power on site and the access is via a gravel road.
Upon our return, we found out from the newspaper that there was a four day 4×4 travel show happening in Perth, and that should not be missed. Without any second thoughts, we booked our tickets and went for it. Now if you are wondering whether we need more things, the answer is no, not really, but shows like that one have always good new overlanding ideas on display. And yes, I admit it; we are addicted to checking out good new overlanding ideas!
An extra bonus on that show was the stages set up for “a meet and greet“of some of the YouTube Australian overlanders that we follow in social media. I must admit, it was a weird feeling meeting them in person and having a chat about traveling the world and their perception about the effects of Covid-19 on traveling and overlanding but it was definitely worth it. When it came to the rest of the stands, most of them were targeting to caravanning, something that is very popular here in Australia. Among them there were some very interesting innovating ideas that were good to see. We carefully picked and added some small gadgets for our vehicle that mostly were storage solving solutions related. The next day, with the regular service of Voukefalas done and with no further news on my visa, we left Perth behind and took the route back north and inland this time, as we had some unfinished business up there.
A visit to the starting point of two of the most iconic outback routes that both were closed at that moment for Covid-19. After a quick overnight in Mount Magnet, a real outback town, we reached the small settlement of Wiluna. Here is the start (or finish point, depending on the direction you tackle them), for two of Australia’s most extreme 4WD adventures – the Canning Stock Route and the Gunbarrel Highway.
These rough, remote routes head through unforgiving wilderness for thousands of kilometers. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, they were off limits as both pass through Aboriginal communities that the access was restricted in an attempt to control the spread of Covid into them. So without a lot of options in our hands, we compromised into getting a taste of them by driving in an out the first 120km reaching the first three wells of the Canning Stock Route. In the old days, they were the only source of drinking water for the cattle that attempted this route. We also did a small part of the Gunbarrel Highway, where we picked a great spot for an overnight under the outback skies. On our way back, we were told to pay a visit to the local visitor center, where we learned the story of Warri (1909–1979) and Yatungka (1919–1979), an Aboriginal couple from the Mandildjara tribe (a Martu people) of the Gibson Desert, who spent about 40 years isolated and lived nomadically in the Australian deserts. Near the southern entrance to Wiluna, their statues stand in order to pay a tribute to the ‘Last of the Nomads’ that fell in love, but since Aboriginal law forbade them from marrying under pain of death, they ran away into the desert and survived for decades on their own.
When a severe drought hit the region in 1977, they were found, close to starvation, by a Mandildjara elder and explorer, Stan Gratte, and were forgiven. All the above info was taken from the documentary we watched. We were left astonished learning more and more about how harsh the land can be out here and how the Aboriginal people came up with different ways in order to survive. The very knowledgeable ladies in the visitor center, as well as the detailed explanation signs in the museum, made us understand how the Aboriginal cultures have evolved over thousands of years with strong links to the spiritual, economic and social lives of the people. This heritage has been kept alive through an oral tradition, with knowledge and skills passed on from one generation to the next through rituals, art, cultural material and language. Aboriginal culture has never been static, and continues to evolve with the changing times and environment.
On the opposite side and away from the visitor center, we also came face to face with the new generation’s living addictions, making us sympathize as well as criticize the modern Aboriginal way of living. Substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide and infant mortality rates in indigenous communities remain significantly higher than in the non-indigenous community.
That results to indigenous Australians expected to live for around ten years less than non-indigenous Australians. Although the government’s attempts to provide assist on those matters by improving the standards of living among the communities, the future does not look likely to change, as none of the elder members of those communities can provide solutions, since most of them are already addicted to alcohol. What a pity really!
With a bitter sadness about their future and the Canning Stock Route box kind of ticked (we had planned to do the whole Canning Stock originally), we drove south to Leonora, a mining town that also marks the starting point for the unsealed Great Central Road (or the Outback Way). Other than that, the town’s main point of interest are the remaining of Gwalia mining town that included the magnificent Gwalia State Hotel, a large open cut mine, the old miners’ cottages and other commercial buildings, deserted by their residents in December 1963, when the Sons of Gwalia Goldmine closed. A very special attraction was the Hoover House. The mine manager Herbert Hoover, who commissioned the house, was later to become the 31st President of the United States of America. Further south, we visited Lake Ballard, a lake were art sculptures can be found scattered in the salt plains, before we reached Kalgoorlie for one more time and celebrate my birthday with a great meal at the local pub.
Heading west now, we stopped to check out Wave Rock, a large granite formed some 60 million years ago by weathering and water erosion. We camped right at the foot of the hill and spent the next two days exploring the surroundings, before we went back to the coast in order to complete our WA highlight list. The small holiday towns of Dunsborough and Yalingup were the perfect last additions to the already magic WA experience we had so far. Next up, the road led us back to Denmark and our magical farm in order to organize our new tiny home.
A plan to set up a small home down here that has been Rochelle’s dream. So after almost three years of existing only on a piece of paper, this crazy dream was finally ready to become reality. We picked a beautiful piece of the farm’s land overlooking the sunrise and we started setting up the foundations for the arrival of the container home. The idea behind this project is to keep it as a small base down here, since we have no other place to stay. Another reason for being back was Rochelle’s midway party (50th birthday). As for the way that this would be celebrated, as you can imagine, us overlanders picked an alternative way by putting together a Caravan Party, a three day event called Rochella (Rochelle’s version of Coachella) where 30 or so caravans with family and friends will come together for an unforgettable three day party!
We obviously, as per Rochelle, had to include bits and pieces of some of the five star glam in order to turn it into an unforgettable mega event. Once a GM always a GM! We will keep all the details on that though for next month’s post. Till then… Discover your passion and then take one step every day to live it.