Coming Home and Lessons Learned

So we’re home. And home is lovely. After months of living in arid landscapes, red dirt and deserts we had forgotten just how ‘green’ Cairns is. It’s so pretty with the mountain backdrop and rainforest. The ocean isn’t the glorious aquamarine of the WA coast but its lovely in a north QLD kind of way. Isn’t it wonderful we have experienced it all?

mick swing
The beach vista in North Queensland. It is rather lovely.
The West Australian Coastline is worlds different in light and water clarity. Totally lovely.

So we did it, the trip of a lifetime, and it was just grand. No regrets. We gave up our jobs and drove 20232 kilometres across the top, down the west coast, across the middle and a quick dash down south. Fantastic. Australia is amazing.

So here are some random statistics on our experience travelling remote Australia by 4WD.

Free camp near Karajini National Park. Totally splendid view and I have ordered this photo as a huge metal artwork for our wall at home. Great photo by Kevin.

The ultimate trip cost

  • We were away for just over 16 weeks in total and we spent $18 681 in total. I’m happy with that. I had budgeted for $1000 per week plus an extra $4000 for car repairs and maintenance. We came in under budget in our weekly spending averaging at $800 per week and went over in the car expenditure which blew out to $5860. Three services in Kununurra, Tom Price and Kapunda, front wheel bearings in Broome, rear parabolic springs and 4 Cooper tyres in Geraldton and, thanks to the Simpson Desert, new rear shock absorbers in Kapunda. We didn’t actually need the new Coopers but we were getting frustrated with the flats we were getting on the skinny split rim tube tyres and opted to replace them with fatter tubeless. No flats since so it was worth it.

    Sexy beach shot on the beach in Geraldton. New shoes and a nice butt lift.
  • We travelled 20232 km and spent $4696 on fuel. The most expensive fuel was at Mt Dare Station SA just before the Simpson Desert at $2.15 per litre and the cheapest in Kapunda SA at $1.21 per litre. That’s a bit uncanny that South Australia wins the crown in both cases and it wasn’t even planned.

    Good on you South Aussie – both cheap and expensive
  • Food came in at $4514 and we ate way too much chocolate. We would stock up on chocolate and other assorted snacks when we got to a big supermarket as that sort of stuff is too expensive to buy in remote locations. We bought 6 blocks of chocolate in Broome (after 2 weeks on the Gibb River Road) as it was so cheap and ate them all in 3 days. That’s why I had to buy moo moo’s in Broome. We ate a little too well and were not as disciplined as we are at home. Let’s not talk about all the kitchener buns and chocolate donuts in Kapunda. I’m paying for that extravagance now.

    A South Australian Kitchener Bun. Taste bud heaven. One for breakfast every day. Need more moo moos.
  • Accommodation costs were very reasonable at $1957. A good mix of free camping, national parks, the luxury of three nights in a cottage at Geraldton and a couple of nights in a cabin at Kapunda because it was freezing cold.

    Free camping at its finest. James Price Point north of Broome
  • Miscellaneous spending was $1654. This money was put aside for tours, entry fees and everything else. There were quite a few Op Shop purchases in there. It was one of my favourite activities in a town; pottering through an Op Shop in an exotic new destination. My wardrobe expanded unnecessarily and exponentially much to Kevin’s perturbed amusement and mild disgust. (Chuckle)

See my other blog on more detailed trip costs The Savannah Way from Cairns QLD to Broome WA: How much does it cost?

Other random observations as follows…..

  1. Between us we managed to read 28 books and listen to 3 audio books. Every book swap was taken advantage of with much gusto. That’s what we did in the evenings. Read books and ate chocolate.
  2. Ugg boots are just the best footwear on holiday, even in warm country (clean feet with ease)
  3. I made bread 14 times in the Weber Baby Q, and with home made lentil soup this was our most popular meal choice. (Chocolate for desert of course) We called our Weber ‘Baby you fat bitch’. A little harsh I know, but she was so big and heavy and took up a lot of space in the camper. We wouldn’t have gone without her though. She gave us so many awesome meals.
  4. The two equally worst roads were the Simpson Desert crossing and the Kalumburu Road to Mitchell Falls in the Kimberly. Both were particularly punishing to our vehicle but the scenic reward was worth it so no real regrets there.
    Simpson Desert bounce over 1000 sand dunes like this. New shock absorbers……
    Corrugations on the Kalumburu Road. They were doozies….

    See my blog THE GIBB RIVER ROAD for more on this…….


  5. People ask what was the absolute highlight of the whole trip and I find it impossible to narrow it down to one place. We saw and did so much that was absolutely stunning, each in its own unique way. So many ‘wow, moments. I loved it all.
    Dales Gorge at Karajini National park

    So the highlight has to be the length of our trip. Four months was an ideal time frame. We didn’t feel pressured for time and we felt the pure joy of freedom to explore at our leisure. That was a sufficient length of time though as by the end we were both weary. I don’t think you can keep appreciating it as much if you do it perpetually. It was time to come home and we actually started to look forward to a couch, a TV, our own toilet and a bed where Kevin doesn’t have to climb over me to go out for a wee. It’s the little things.

  6. Kevin and I, for the first time, spent 24 hours a day with each other, for four months in a confined living arrangement. We survived, we laughed a lot, we became more tolerant, we relaxed into a comfortable camaraderie and it made our relationship stronger. It was a fantastic experience to share.
    A shared experience at its finest

    See my blog for more on snorkelling with whalesharks Waves, Wild Wind and Whalesharks

  7. We saw hundreds of emus in all states. They were the dominant wildlife on this trip which was great because I love them. They’re so quirky.

Lessons learnt along the way

Follow the weather. The perception of a holiday is 95% dictated by the weather, especially when living under a canvas roof. A place that is simply magnificent in sunshine becomes bleak and horrid in wet, bleak, cold and overcast weather. During the winter months the North of Australia is the place to be. Gotta love warmth and sunshine.

Just add sunshine to turn an ordinary scene into paradise


Less is more and will save you grief. We overpacked. Too much ‘stuff’. I tried to be minimalist when we packed but failed and it became obvious when at our first service, the mechanic assumed we were there to get our suddenly sagging rear springs replaced. We carried too much ‘just in case’ stuff and things that only got minimal use. The heavy generator and max tracks sat on the roof rack the whole way with no use, the boat only got used twice, the BBQ plate that got used once, there was too much stuff in our internal cupboards like the heavy camp oven that didn’t get used, too many clothes (in my section). The excessive weight of our vehicle became stringently obvious in Kapunda when the mechanic replacing the shockers couldn’t lift the vehicle with a 4 tonne hoist (our gvm is 3.3 tonnes). No wonder we suffered trying to cross the Simpson Desert and had the considerable expense of replacing our suspension.

Up and over the dunes with our heavy load. There is a lot of useless weight on that roof rack just to start with and I’m pretty sure ‘Baby the fat bitch’ was bouncing her way up and down the floor. See my blog Crossing the Simpson Desert: What the heck were we thinking?

It’s nice to have a home to come back too. We did actually consider selling up everything to travel perpetually prior to this trip. Sell the house, hit the road and be totally free. That’s a romantic notion though and I’m glad we didn’t go down that path. It’s wonderful to be free but living in a confined space, always on the move takes its toll. I’m positive that the thrill of travel wouldn’t be as great if it was a way of life rather than just a holiday. I guess it’s a personal thing because some people happily do it but we need a place to go ‘home’. Then we can plan and get excited about the next adventure. And there will be more………..

Thank you

So to those people that faithfully followed my blog on this adventure, thank you for coming with us, thank you for the likes and nice comments and I hope you enjoyed the journey. I hope I encouraged other people to do similar and inspired you to visit these amazing places in our beautiful country. It is so worth it. We are much richer for the experience. Kevin and I have luckily both got our jobs back straight away so we didn’t even have to line up at Centrelink, which is a huge bonus. We took a risk and the reward was beyond our expectations.

There will be more………….

Cape Leveque with my favourite WA colour scheme

Broome and Dampier Peninsula


Laverton to Uluru: The Great Central Road into Australia’s RED HEART.

Just what is it about Lawn Hill Gorge?


Adrenaline filled adventure at Karajini National Park

and more …….

millaa millaa
Home is beautiful too, lets never forget that.

The Savannah Way from Cairns QLD to Broome WA: How much does it cost?

How much does it really cost to travel The Savannah Way from Cairns to Broome?

I have written this blog because when I was planning our trip I searched the web in vain for someone to tell me exactly how much it costs out there on the road to help me with my savings plan. Everyone was very elusive so here I am very upfront with our dollar cost.

It has taken us 8 weeks to do the complete Savannah Way Route from Cairns to Broome, including a detour up to the top of the Northern Territory and Cape Leveque, north of Broome.

It’s an extraordinary road journey right across the top of Australia with such diverse, magnificent scenery and the weather has been warm enough to swim everywhere. That’s the joy of being in the North while the Southern States are freezing cold.

We took our time across the route but swayed more toward the natural scenic attractions that we could access ourselves by 4WD. We didn’t do any tours or go to attractions aimed at reaping in the tourist dollars so you won’t see those expenses here (like Horizontal Falls which would have cost us $1800 for a day tour).

We have discovered with the right set up, travelling around Australia is completely do-able on a limited budget. You can go for days at a time without spending a brass razoo in the most idyllic locations.

So here are our financial stats for The Savannah Way – Cairns to Broome over 8 weeks.

TOTAL AMOUNT SPENT           $6769.97

Over 8 weeks this equates to an average of $850 per week and covers absolutely everything, including almost $1000 on car maintenance and repairs.

The exact breakdown is as follows…………

  1. FUEL:                        $1643.03

We have travelled 7793 kilometres and most of that on rough dirt roads. The most expensive fuel was at Drysdale Station and Mt Barnett Roadhouse on the Gibb River Road at $2.05 per litre and the cheapest $1.26 in Darwin.

  1. ACCOMMODATION: $ 1084.40

Broken down into the following categories

Free Camping:                   23 nights                                 $0

Caravan Parks                   10 nights                                 $ 417

National Parks                   17 nights                                $ 289.40

Private or Stations              8 nights                                $ 301

Motel (Darwin)                    1 night                                  $  77

We saved a lot of money on accommodation by choosing to free camp more often      and there are some amazingly scenically attractive free camps out there still. Take advantage of these places while you still can.

Free camping at Coulomb Point North of Broome. I cried when we left as it was so perfect.

We were camped on the point and had this beach to the left of us…..

And this beach to the right of us. Just gorgeous and it was really quiet.

  1. FOOD and DRINK: $2106.36

We could do better here as we tend to go a bit silly when we reach civilisation after spending a couple of weeks in the bush eating camp tucker. We eat really well because we carry a fridge and a freezer but it’s still nice to have a pub meal, some nice café style breakfasts and coffees and a little bit of takeaway. Let us remember we are on holidays after all. A carton lasts Kevin a whole month so we can’t even blame alcohol. Our food tally may even decrease a little now that my hunter and provider is catching fish (grin).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


  1. MISCELLANEOUS $973.18

This includes everything else – the four moo moo’s I had to buy in Broome because we are eating so well (chuckle – oh dear many a true word is spoken in jest), gas refills, haircuts, chemist purchases, clothes, fishing gear, market purchases etc. It doesn’t take long to add up.


  1. CAR MAINTENANCE $963.00

Two flat tyre repairs in Katherine, a 5000k service in Kununurra and the two front wheel bearings needed replacing in Broome (no wonder after the Gibb River Road).  We still believe prevention is better than cure in respect to our vehicle. It is our home and lifeline so a few hundred here and there is better than thousands down the track.


So, in terms of dollars it has cost us just under $6770 thus far to have an experience that is beyond value and absolutely priceless. It’s a low enough figure that makes it possible for us to survive without an income, live off our budgeted savings and know that giving up our jobs (or putting our jobs on hold) to do this was the right thing to do. The value of this trip can’t be measured at all in monetary terms, it’s in the breath-taking moments that leave an imprint on the soul. In big moments like gazing at Mitchell Falls or small moments like last night when I was cooking dinner in our camper.  I look out the left window to see the sun sinking in a blaze of fiery brightness in the Indian Ocean and I look out the right window to see the giant white orb of the full moon rising just above the glowing red cliffs. Phenomenal moments worth a million dollars over and over again.  That’s what it’s all about. I wish I could capture these moments in a bottle to use as an elixir later on when we do go back to working class reality; transport me straight back to that moment. But alas, I know it cannot be and we just have to enjoy each and every precious moment here and now.