How to tour with kids
The Bouma family live out their Around Oz dream, baby and all. Here's how they survived.
The sun was slowly setting and the majestic rock walls of
Windjana Gorge in the Kimberley were alight with the most amazing
colours. Soon the sky was filled with countless stars and we just
sat in front of our camper trailer, with our three children fast
asleep, absorbing the beauty and ruggedness of this remote
destination in north-west Australia.
It's hard to believe that two years earlier Chris and I had hit rock bottom. Chris found working in Townsville as a carpenter a drag, our life was a routine and we didn't have enough time to be together as a family. So we planned a four week camping holiday in FNQ just to get away from it all.
We met a family with a four-year-old girl and a six-month-old baby girl in Cape Kimberley. They had been travelling around Australia for almost four years. Husband and wife were nurses and could work anywhere around the country.
They had the baby on the road as well; it just meant they stayed in one place longer.
It didn't take us long to make up our minds. We had always dreamt of going on the big trip around Oz but figured we needed to save up tonnes of money before we could go. Now we were planning a two-year working holiday around Australia. We were filled with hope and excitement, life was going to be an adventure. We figured we would need a year to get the right gear together and to save enough money to keep us going for at least four months before we had to find work.
First things first, we had to buy a rig. We already had a suitable 4WD (Toyota HiLux Surf) with aftermarket suspension, long-range fuel tank, snorkel, bullbar and a cargo barrier. An offroad camper trailer was the obvious choice as we wanted to go to remote places, and we needed decent living space as we would be travelling with our two and a half year-old son Shannon and our 15-month-old daughter Chantelle. Within a month of coming back from our holiday we looked at a second-hand offroad trailer and bought it for $7500. It needed a bit of work but hubbie is handy and with the help of some friends we soon had a rig that we were confident would take us all the way around Oz. Chris built timber double bunks for the kids that could come apart and pack away on top of our bed.
With only six months to go until we hoped to leave we had the biggest surprise of our lives: I was pregnant with our third baby! Of course we were very happy because we had both said that we would love to have a third child. However, we weren't too sure about the timing. After adjusting our expectations we decided to still go on the trip, five months later than originally planned and with all the baby gear that we thought we wouldn't need. It is amazing how much stuff you have to bring for such a little person but Chris being the world's best packing expert figured out a way to fit in the double pram, baby carrier, porta cot with foam mattress and all the other things that come with a baby.
The only other challenge was the fact that we had to move out of our rental house in June 2008 and with the baby due in September we weren't going to leave on our trip until early December. This problem was easily fixed; we would pack all our furniture in a shipping container (which we had to buy) and live in our camper trailer until we were ready to head off on our big adventure. Friends at church generously offered room for us to camp at their property outside of Townsville for as long as we needed to.
In September 2008 little Hannah Jane was born and 10 weeks later we spent our last night in Townsville. I cannot describe to you the sense of elation and excitement when we finally set out with our family of five including a newborn baby to explore this amazing country. It felt like we had a new lease on life and life was worth living. There were places to see, people to meet and memories to be made. It felt so incredibly good to be on the road and to be living out our big dream, there is absolutely nothing like it.
Talk about adventure! From almost getting blown away in Robe, SA, to our son Shannon breaking his arm in Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges; from seeing whales for the very first time at Cape Leveque, north-west WA, to watching the most spectacular sunsets on the Wild West Coast of Tassie, life has been awesome and according to hubbie Chris, 2009 was the best year of his life. The three kids have seen the Red Centre and spent the night in the desert; they have seen Australian native animals from close-up (including crocs at Windjana Gorge in the Kimberley) and most of all they have enjoyed having mum and dad around most of the time. It isn't all rosy and easy but the positives most certainly outweigh the negatives.
FUNDING ON THE RUN
One of the biggest uncertainties was finding a job but I was able to get a part-time job at Darwin International Airport through an employment agency and I also worked part-time as a disability aid in Darwin. If you are keen and willing to do whatever, you should not have any trouble finding a job, particularly in remote and isolated areas. We are now in the very fortunate situation where I work as a proofreader for different Australian airports (thanks to my first job in Darwin) and write travel articles with hubbie taking the photos; this is another dream coming true.
We now stand before our second year of travelling around Australia and we can't wait to have more adventures and add more fantastic memories. Life is no longer a drag, work is anything but routine and we spend heaps of quality time with our kids who are now four, three and one and a half years old. We certainly don't have any regrets apart from not doing this even sooner!
OUR WORST EXPERIENCE
One of our worst experiences would have to be our stay in Mt William NP, north-east Tasmania. First we sat through 40ml of rain which we used to catch rainwater in our big buckets (there is only bore water in the park). Our poor neighbours had their dome tents set up in a dip and had no choice but to pack up all their wet gear in the middle of the night. We survived the rain without any trouble but the next day the wind started blowing, with wind gusts soon reaching gale force. We were silly enough to go on a day trip to the lighthouse which was about a 40-minute drive from our campsite. By the time we came back the shower tent had been blown over and the annexe was looking rather sad with one supporting pole having come undone. Chris and I looked at each other and decided to pack up and go (it was 3 pm) because we knew we wouldn't be able to sleep if we stayed. One hour later the trailer was hooked up and we drove to a place called George Town where we spent the night in the car because the wind would not relent and setting up was simply not an option. The next morning we rewarded ourselves and the kids with the most amazing hot breakfast at the bakery in Exeter. The incredible meat pies made up for an average night of sleep.