Location: Mulga Park Station- Victory Downs/Mt Cavenaough
Distance: approximately 140 KM’s
After a couple weeks on the trail, I feel like we’re all getting into the groove. Justin and I feel much lighter physically (Bondi bikini season here we come!), emotionally and Morgan seems really happy.
Our packing, sleeping and cooking systems are getting better, more comfortable and more efficient, our bodies are adjusting and we are covering more KM’s a day, which is great because it means we have a little bit more time to enjoy the little things.
The first couple days and even weeks felt hard but now with each passing day, the anxiety and stress seems to fall behind with each step we take and the adventure keeps unfolding and ever changing in front of us.
Our daily routine looks a bit like this and we aim to walk between 18-25 kilometres (11-15 miles) a day:
- 6-6:30 am wake up
- I get up, meditate, make the fire, put on the kettle to make hot water for Morgan’s milk and our morning tea
- Justin starts making breakfast and packing up the camp and his cart
- 8-8:30am we aim to be on the trail walking
- 10:30am break/snack/play
- 12:30 – 2:00 pm lunch/play
- 4:30 set up camp/play
- 5:30 dinner
- 6:30 bed for Morgan
- Repair time/packing for the next day/pre making meals/ star gazing/ medical stuff for blisters etc
- 8:00 (if we are exhausted) -10:00 bed for us
For Justin one of the biggest challenge is the weight of his cart – with up to 130kgs of water alone, he is the slower and the more steady walker in our group.
For me, one of my biggest challenge (and delights) is Morgan. I’ve learned I have to be flexible and accommodate her. I may have a target in my head and have the energy to achieve it, but she may not, and that’s OK. We walk when she says walk and stop when she says stop. I am basically her camel for all intents and purposes. Awesome. Just what I have always wanted.
In the morning when its cooler, Morgan is often happy playing in the cart with her toys or books or is happy just looking out at the view. When she has a nap in the cart, I walk as fast as possible knocking off as many kilometers in a hour as I can, often leaving Justin several kilometers behind us. In the afternoon she likes more stimulus and we often listen to music, or sing songs – the alphabet song and twinkle twinkle little star are a popular one these days for her, not so much me.
I am really enjoying the walking, especially when she is napping and I can just go and zone out, meditate or listen to a podcast or two. My body is handling it really well so far and I am getting faster and faster. It’s nice to feel fit again after having Morgan last year. Its nice to challenge myself, do something totally different and force myself to show up everyday and be present. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is walk again that day but somehow it always feels good to do it.
The start of week four we stayed at our first proper Australian ‘Cattle ‘Station’ as they call them. These properties are huge and have often been run by the same families for generations. Australian cattle stations (ranches) are often synonymous with the Australian Outback and are by far the biggest in the world.
Australia’s cattle stations are located in the north and the central regions of the Australian Outback. Because the country is so remote, dry and vegetation so sparse, traditionally huge pieces of land are needed to support enough cattle to make a living. The style of farming cattle in the Outback is often different from other types around the world. In the Outback, the animals are basically wild. They are usually born and grow up without any human contact. Kids are home schooled and the nearest pub, shop or neighbour is hundreds of kilometres away.
Entering Mulga Park Station was the first time I had even seen a an Australian Cattle Station, well outside of the movie Australia, but sadly there was no Hugh Jackman walking around shirtless on this one.
There was however a lovely family (Shane, Alethia and William) who opened their home and offered us a shower in the shed and a place to do some much needed laundry. After over a week without a shower (the longest I have even gone) and clean clothes this was a huge and welcome treat.
At Mulga Park Morgan was in heaven. William is an 11 year old who lives on the station and after his home schooling was over, he showed Morgan around the place, giving her turns on his billy car, swing set, slide, trampoline and showing her his impressive stock whip skills. She was in awe, and so was I. Here was an 11 year old that seemed to have more handy skills than I did. Did I mention we met William as he was driving the families pick up truck out of the front gate to do some chores around the farm? He can barely see over the steering wheel but there he was driving like he had been doing it for years, and according to him, he has!
Morgan also got to play with the three farm dogs which were much different to her dog Ollie back home. These were real working dogs – a bit different to her hypoallergenic, emotional support, non-shedding labradoodle back home (who we all miss dearly and send air kisses to every morning).
In the morning before we headed off, they topped off our water cans and we were invited in for a lovely farm breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked lovingly by Alethia and I think Justin was the happiest I had seen him in awhile. If you know Justin you know how much he loves bacon.
We had about seven days before we hit our second food drop and the next station, Victory Downs/Mount Cavenagh – one day after.
This week in contrast to the others seemed to fly by. We consistently hit our walking targets and I felt more present and able to enjoy the amazing sunrises and sunsets and was feeling less dog tired. I was even enjoying the chats we were having along the way with some of the few people that passed by us on meandering and bumpy red dirt roads.
Our camp spots were often nestled in the bush some with amazing views over Mt Connor (Attila).
Night in the Outback were hitting zero degrees but our sleeping set up was comfy, warm and cozy.
We had spent tons of time picking out the right tent and set up for these extreme desert conditions, (North FaceV25) for us and a Pea Pod 2 for Morgan, modifying the bottom with an additional foam layer for warmth and to keep out the sharp bindi’s, rocks and spikes covering the ground, warm sleeping bags and inners for us and a custom NorthFace down baby bag for Morgan. And as the nights hit below freezing we were really glad we went to all the trouble to plan this aspect of the expedition so well.
So far we have met a variety of lovely and colourful people. There have been pumpkin farmers, prune farmers, orange farmers, cat hunters (yes this is a think out here apparently there are lots of feral cats), lots of grey nomads (many of who raised their kids adventuring out bush) and the many folk living and working out in the remote indigenous communities we passed by.
Our intention was always to do this trip unassisted, meaning we would have no support vehicle following us and we would organize our own food and water drops and pick ups. But the lovely people we have passed haven’t let us go it alone and whole heartedly appreciate and love all the kind words of support, genuine inquiries into if we are OK and needed anything, and all the waves and honks along the way.
I have to say, this country does get in your bones. I don’t know how, why or in what form but in so many ways I feel like this country is calling to me, to us, and this is just the start to our relationship with the Outback.