Have you ever wondered what it would be like to throw all your belongings into your 4WD, pack your kids into the backseat and drive off into the sunset for an adventure lasting not days, but months? Paul Kowalski has done just that.
In March 2014, Paul, his wife and two young daughters jumped into their trusty Toyota Prado and embarked on a three-month trip that took them through South Australia and Western Australia. Here is his story.
In the days leading up to the start of March in 2014 life was extremely busy with final preparations for the trip of a lifetime. In the madness of getting ready, it was not possible to stop our imaginations from wandering into the possibilities of our journey across Australia from the ACT on the east coast to the west. My wife and I had planned to go to Western Australia in the past to take landscape photographs for years but we never had enough time and driving in our own vehicle was a must. We were drawn to the amazing locations the state has to offer and as a professional landscape photographer a trip like this was a big priority.
For almost 18 months before we left our focus was planning and preparation. We wanted to make sure that we could get the most from the three months we would be going to spend on the road with our two daughters in our four wheel drive and off road camper trailer. I have vivid memories of the day we left, getting into the car when we were finally ready and driving out of the driveway knowing we would not be back for three months was a surreal experience.
The plan was to skip our way to South Australia, visiting various locations along the way such as Burra, Streaky Bay and Fowlers Bay. We then hit the Nullarbor and would be travelling further west in Australia than we had ever been on a photography trip in the past. Eucla was a clear stand out of the trip over and would be the first of so many incredible locations we would visit in Western Australia. Eucla was also our first real chance to test our Cooper S/TMAXX tyres in the event of photographing the abandoned jetty and incredible sand dunes, which required driving in deep sand and on incredibly sharp rocky tracks. We travelled on some of the roughest, most corrugated, dusty and sandy tracks we have ever seen on this amazing trip, with Eucla marking the start of the real adventures off-road.
It felt great to be getting to some of the locations we had been wanting to visit and photograph for so long but arriving at Cape Le Grand National Park was very special. It had been so high on our list of places to visit it almost seemed like a dream to be arriving there. We stayed at Lucky Bay for almost a week and the results were all that we could have hoped for. The blue colour in the water and the white sand were just as good as we had imagined.
It was time to move on so we started making our way towards Perth but we had many places to look at along the way in the brilliant South West. We stopped in at so many amazing places including the Stirling Ranges, Betty's Beach, Albany, Two Peoples Bay, Peaceful Bay, Rame Head, Augusta, Hamelin Bay, Dunsborough and Busselton to name just a few. We made it a priority to go down as many dirt tracks as we could find in order to see as much as possible and get as many great photographs as we could.
After spending one night just north of Perth and photographing amazing conditions at dawn it was time to head north. It was exciting as we were going to be heading inland to some of the desert regions of the state, something I had been wanting to witness for many years.
As we packed up that day, thoughts of the Pilbara filled my mind, but with 1500 kilometres to drive to get there it was time to take it slowly and safely. After three days of driving up the Great Northern Highway and bush camping, we arrived at Karijini National Park, by far the most spectacular and unique national park we would visit on this journey. It was so different to anything we had experienced before. The roads in Karijini were rough, corrugated to no end, with no shortage of washaways and heavy iron ore gravel. Everything got tested on these roads. This experience proved to us that Cooper tyres are tough - standing up to these roads with no issues what so ever. The right tyre pressures were all too important here, we generally had to run our tyres lower than in other dirt situations and we left them at 22 psi so the ride could be a bit smoother. The red dust that I had been longing to see for so long got into everything. It stained our clothes, our shoes and our skin but the beauty of this region was so very worth it.
After spending a week at Karijini and photographing as much as we could, it was time to move further west - Exmouth and the Ningaloo reef were next on the list. We arrived at Exmouth to find the area had suffered from huge floods only the week before, meaning that many of the areas were not open at that time. We stayed for a few days and managed to visit some great locations then started to head back south. It was time to start making our way back to the Nullarbor along the west coast to Perth. Coral Bay was a big stand out where we found beautiful beaches and deep sandy tracks. Another big highlight of the west coast was Shark Bay, in particular the area around Denham and Cape Peron. The road out to Cape Peron was just good fun, deeply rutted sand and clay with the view of red desert sand meeting the ocean as the end result of the drive. It was a really special place.
We would then head further south to Kalbarri, Cervantis and the Pinnacles to then head inland once again to meet up with the Nullarbor and start our trip back across. We stopped again in Eucla to photograph some of the best light of the trip at the old jetty. The tracks that seemed so rough at Eucla on our way over now seemed a little more sedate, it seemed as though we became accustomed to being rattled around in our four wheel drive. We then darted back across the Nullarbor, bush camping along the way. It was great to sit around the fire at night and reflect on this amazing time that we had experienced as a family.
We had a bit of time up our sleeves so we spent four nights at Haslam near Streaky Bay, a great place to unwind and get ready for the next stage. We used this time to do some of our last off road driving, just searching out lesser known places. We left Haslam and once we got passed Port Augusta, Swan Reach was high on the list so we visited and were not disappointed. The large vistas of the Murray River and the larger than life sandstone cliffs at places such as Big Bend were a grand sight.
All too suddenly it was time to head for home in the ACT. By the time we pulled into our driveway, we had driven almost 18,000 kilometres in three months and, as a family, had experienced the most incredible journey together. It was also amazing to get home safe and sound with no major issues, our Cooper's certainly helped with that. This trip is something we will always look back on with the fondest of memories.
Thinking of going on your own journey? Whether it’s for three months or three days, having the right tyres will give you peace of mind knowing that every occupant of your vehicle is safe. Call 1300 COOPER or contact us for expert advice.
All photos are courtesy of Paul Kowalski Photography and subject to copyright.