Summing Up …

The big trip west was a big success. A lot of places on the journey we had visited before, some of them only by flying and then renting a vehicle. The route joined  a lot of familiar dots and it was the first time that we had driven across the Nullarbor.

We chose to take the dog which excluded us from National Parks and some other reserves that we would like to have visited. More on that later.

We were 43 days on the road and covered 14,243km (8,900 miles).

The total cost was in the order of $9,000 which includes our food which we would have had to buy if we’d stayed home and a couple of bits of camping kit which we will enjoy for a while longer. So in comparison to a 6 week trip over seas for two it was a cheap holiday.

The planning for our trips is usually done by one of us working largely on their own. On this occasion it was me and it was a pretty detailed plan which we were able to stick to quite closely. There were a couple of unscheduled stops for repairs. We were able to resume where we left off, we did skip a couple of our intended campsites to make up a little time.

Flexibility is a great asset, we substituted some intended campsites for others for three reasons, to shorten the day’s drive, to extend the day’s drive or because Gayle found better options (on the net or in a book that she recently won in a competition … Camps Australia Wide, edition 10, by Heatley & Gilmore which came in handy).

Too much flexibility though can lead to raised tensions in the vehicle at 4pm, middle of nowhere and no idea where to camp. We know from past experience that this is best avoided. It didn’t happen on this trip.

The kit we took was a Toyota FJ Cruiser and a Kwik Kampa by Stockman. Into which went the necessities that have been honed by years of experience. Overall I’m very satisfied with the performance of both major items.

The hole in the transmission cooler was probably due to impact with a stone and might have been avoided if I’d driven slower on a corrugated gravel road. Just one of those things. I love my FJ.

Total fuel cost was $3,390.37 which bought us 1,897 litres of petrol. That works out at 13.3 litres per 100km. In remote places fuel is expensive. Mt Barnett on the Gibb River Road holds the record at $2.15 a litre, we paid $1.99 at Ceduna on the Nullarbor. The cheapest fuel was in the settled districts of South Australia, a mere $1.35.

The Kwik Kamper, one of the pod campers to come out of the Stockman stable has been with us for a while. It’s the second one we’ve owned. We bought it for the ease and speed with which it goes up and down. The other great virtue that it has is its light weight, it doesn’t greatly affect the handling of the car and it has only a small impact on economy.

Camping gear choices are by necessity a compromise. The Kwik Kampa tends to accumulate a lot of water on the roof  when it rains and inside when the temperature drops below the dew point. If you are considering a camper-trailer and you are usually on the move rather than staying in one place for two weeks you should put it on your short list. It’s a case of continuing evolution at Stockman and the present offerings may be even better.

Fifi McGee came with us. She is a Fox Terrier. She adds something to our lives every single day. On the odd occasion something has to be left out. She travels and camps really well and is no trouble at night. She’s noisy when we first arrive at our campsite but soon settles.

We try to give her plenty of exercise first thing in the morning before the drive and we stop for her benefit every 90 minutes or so. And it’s not to our disadvantage to have a short walk and a stretch at the same time. She has a strong attachment to the car and camper but doesn’t seem to care where they  are … so long as they’re in the same place she is.

It means no restaurant meals, no national parks and some places just have to be left off the itinerary. We weigh up the pros and cons for each trip. This time it seemed a good idea to take her along and it was.

What will we take forward to future trips? Number one is take more time. Number two is match the destination to the season. Our next trip to the south of WA will be in spring for the wild flowers. Future winter trips will be spent north of the Tropic of Capricorn.

Fifi McGee …

Since I happened to mention the dog I thought I might give you her back story.

Grandpa and Grandma lived on a farm in the Victorian Goldfields. They have two daughters. One is the lovely Gayle, my current squeeze, and henceforth TLG. The other is TLM. If you read any journal articles you will adjust quickly to the abbreviations, if not you’ll get the hang of it eventually.

TLM is married to TUJ. The two daughters between them have provided Grandpa and Grandma with three granddaughters. So far I have mentioned nine humans, now lets tally the dogs. This is a dog family. Between them they had eight dogs at the time in question. Which meant that there was a significant deficiency. Grandpa and Grandma normally had a dog each but Grandpa’s Border Collie had shuffled off this mortal coil.  TLG and Bobby McGee had no dogs, they liked dogs but also liked their freedom.

One of the granddaughters, Sara, loves her Grandfather and sought to address the deficiency. She had often heard his stories of Fox Terriers that he had kept in younger days. She would buy him a Foxie.

Since Grandpa was 87 at the time there was every prospect that there would be a dog left over at the time of his eventual demise. No problem says Sara – with so many dogs in the system there is bound to be a vacancy for a sweet little Foxie when the day comes.

Grandpa fell in love with the dog and named her Fifi.

Fifi was a monster, a total nightmare. She whined non stop, bounced all over her housemate Fleur, a beautiful old black labrador, she bounced all over the furniture. She reduced a couch to shreds. She bounced so much her feet barely touched the floor. On average she was an aerial dog. Grandpa doted on her, the rest of the world detested her.

A year later the folks had to leave the farm because of Grandma’s failing health. No dogs were allowed in the retirement village by order of the residents committee. TLG is one very persuasive human. She doorknocked every unit in the place and got the rules changed, one dog could go.

Now if that dog were Fifi the rules would soon change back again. Fleur got the nod, Fifi got the flick.

Next port of call for the unruly Foxie was TLM’s house. Confronted with a psychotic, rebellious dog that had never been confined or walked on a lead or disciplined or left alone, didn’t shut up and rarely touched the ground … it had to fail and it did. The decision was made in two days. Sara you got us into this mess you take her.

So Fifi joined two other dogs and proceded to turn its new residence upside down. TLG and Bobby McGee began to take her at weekends to give Sara some respite.

Sara lived in a suburb that limited households to two dogs. When someone dobbed* her in the choice was stark. She came to live with us. Fifi, not Sara.

No problem. I grew up with dogs and knew exactly what to do. The objectives were simple. The dog would :-

  • walk on my left without pulling
  • sit on command
  • come when called
  • sleep in the laundry
  • stay away from the table when we were eating

The retraining was intense and took about 12 months but in the end I was successfully retrained.

Five years have passed. Grandma and Fleur have both passed away. Fifi gets to see Grandpa most days and they are still very much in love. These days Fifi generally sleeps on our bed, will sit on command if the grass isn’t wet and sometimes comes when she’s called. TLG and I now camp in State Forests rather than National Parks.

And what could be better than two fine companions, a campfire and a bottle of wine?

Translator’s note * To dob in, Aussie slang for to tell tales, tattle, rat out.