Paul Kowalski set off last week on an epic journey with his family across the Northern areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. If you missed his first blog make sure you check it out here http://ow.ly/4mMZAI. The blog highlights his vehicle preparation and planned itinerary for the trip.
We will be following him on his journey and keeping you updated, so make sure you keep an eye on our page.
"This really is living for us. After jumping in our Prado and finally leaving on Thursday for our epic trip North, we stayed on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River for a great first night of peace and quiet. We have done some kilometers since then, totalling 1,350 so far. During the last few days we have also visited and stayed on the Murray in Mildura and then on the banks of Lake Bonney near Barmera, after crossing into South Australia. We have free camped the first three nights, a priority for us. The freedom of a trip like this is starting to settle over us, there is nothing like the open road and a map. We have settled in Moonta on the Yorke Peninsula for a few nights before heading North up the center" Paul Kowalski
"We had a couple of days off traveling at Moonta in South Australia, what a campsite this was right on the water on the Yorke Peninsula. It gave us a chance to fix a few issues and re-pack some important areas of our set up. We also experienced some amazing light behind the lens at dawn and dusk. Since leaving on Wednesday we have been meandering our way North up the Stuart Highway. We made a stop on Wednesday night at Lake Hart, an enormous dry salt lake, and realised half of Australia's fly population lives there. We are now bunking down for the night in Coober Pedy whilst making preparations to head to Lake Eyre for a night or two, via William Creek. This is now all uncharted territory for us and we are enjoying the new sights and outlooks. We will head back into Coober Pedy in a few days and then continue North to Uluru." Paul Kowalski
"Over the last four days we have done some kilometers, the majority on dirt tracks. After staying in Coober Pedy last Thursday night we traveled out to William Creek and then onto Haligan camp ground on the shores of Lake Eyre. What an amazing experience this was with plenty of water in the lake. The road in was rough, corrugated and contained plenty of wash aways but the trip was so very worth the effort. After staying Friday night, we made our way back out to William Creek and then decided to travel up the Oodnadatta track to see the famous pink roadhouse. From there we headed to Arckaringa home stead to photograph the amazing scenery of the painted desert. We then headed out to re-join the Stuart Highway and have made our way to Uluru. The dirt driving was relentless and tested our set up and tyres. Apart from a couple of electrical issues we came through safe and sound. We will stay in Uluru for a few days and then make our way further North to Alice Springs, the back way." Paul Kowalski
"After staying at Agnes Creek over night on the 25th of April we headed over the border to the Northern Territory and then West to Uluru. We have visited before and wanted to show our children this amazing place. We stayed at Uluru for three nights chasing the light with camera in hand and taking in the sights. From there we headed to have a quick look at Kings Canyon, what a place. After packing up and leaving our comfortable camp site we hit the dirt again to tackle the Mereenie Loop Track. A shortcut I had been wanting to drive for a while, taking us into the West MacDonnell Ranges. What a rough and corrugated 156 kilometers this was, everything got tested. I made sure to drop the S/TMAXX tyres down to around 26psi to soften the blows, they held up very well. Many a car and caravan/camper trailer part was left on the dirt along the way from many a vehicle, from bike racks to tent poles. We managed to only lose our front water tank water due to a big rock taking a large chunk out of it. We hit the bitumen once again and settled at Redbank Gorge in the West Macs, this is a special place but Ormiston Gorge was our next location and it really typified this region for us, just an amazing place. We are now in Alice, to re-supply, we will head out to Trephina Gorge in the East MacDonnell's and then North once again to the Devils Marbles and beyond, the Kimberley is calling." Paul Kowalski
"Over the last few days of our journey North we have seen a dramatic change in the scenery, from dry desert to hot springs and vast forests. We left Trephina Gorge in the East MacDonnell ranges last Tuesday and realised the threat of some big rains on the horizon for central Australia, so we high tailed it North. We visited the amazing Devils Marbles and then the, out of the way, Longreach Waterhole. Both are equally as amazing but Longreach Waterhole was hot, at 37, and very humid but was like a mirage, we have not seen this much fresh water for weeks. There was also abundant bird life here from Herons and Black Kites to Pelicans. We could see the huge weather system we have been trying to avoid in the South each day and are now in Mataranka and feel we have missed it. Onto Katherine Gorge over the next few days, a location I have been longing to visit and photograph for many years." Paul Kowalski
"After leaving Longreach Waterhole we continued to head North and settled at Bitter Springs. We were surprised at just how quickly the scenery changed from arid desert to the tropical North, from no water to an abundance of running streams and springs. It has been hot and humid, even the locals at the springs were complaining about the unseasonal weather, like the build up to the wet again, 35 or 36 degrees with 95% humidity. Bitter Springs was a great stop but just for the night. Katherine Gorge was high on the list of visits and we settled there next. What an amazing area with deep gorges, plenty of water and plenty to do. But with the Kimberly waiting we stayed for a few nights and plan to head back through here on our journey East, in a months time or so. The weather has been so hot that we had to re-locate our freezer to be situated in our camper trailer, it just wasn't able to stay cool enough in our front tool box. We made this change over at Big Horse camp ground near Timber Creek surrounded by some of the first big boab trees we have seen. We have now settled in Kununurra and have been waiting for the Gibb River Road to open back up. Recent heavy rains closed the majority of the road for four or five days, very surprising. We will hit the Gibb on Thursday, as it is now open again, and can not wait for the next phase of our trip and what it has in store. We will spend several weeks on the Gibb on our way to Broome and Cape Levique. So until we have service again, talk soon." Paul Kowalski
"It was a little eerie to be finally at the doorstep of perhaps the most talked about four wheel drive track in Australia, the mighty Gibb has a story or two. All roads were open after heavy rain in many parts, some receiving up to 200mm in just a couple of days, a week or so prior. The anticipation for this part of our journey had been growing for the last week, now we were actually going to do it. We stocked up with as much food, water and fuel as we could carry and hit the track. We decided to stop at Home Valley Station first and were surprised by the great facilities there, a pool, a restaurant and great hot showers. This meant that just prior to this we crossed the legendary Pentecost River. I have seen maybe 1,000 different photographs of this crossing, being there was a great feeling, it really is the gateway to the Kimberley on the Eastern end. We set about searching out photographs of the iconic Boab trees with the Cockburn Ranges in the background in this great area. After a day of scratching around and following some rough tracks I was amazed and very happy with what I found. We also spent a day looking around El Questro, what a place with so much to see and some rough tracks. Branco's Lookout Track was a stand out for its rocks. It was just too slow and rough and we were too late in the day so we turned around and got out. We may try to explore more of El Questro on the way back through.
With the lure of the waterfalls running we hit the Gibb again, I really wanted to get to Mitchell Falls, people coming from the west were telling us how good it looked after the recent heavy rains. After turning off the Gibb and onto the Kalumburu road, we made it to Drysdale River Station next, Mitchell Falls was on our door step.
We only stayed a night at Drysdale but got permission from the owners to photograph the very impressive Drysdale River the next morning at dawn, a great experience. We were soon packed up and on the move whilst also realising the depreciating condition of the road. Once we reached the Mitchell Falls turn off and King Edward river crossing, 108 kilometers North of Drysdale, the track turned to a mess of water, corrugations and larger rocks. It took us a further three hours to drive the 76 kilometers into the Mitchell Falls camp ground, with everything well bolted down and all tyres down to 24psi. We watched our Prado turn from an off white to the colour of the mud on the track, it really was great fun.
After setting up camp I couldn't sleep that night, the anticipation of walking into the falls the next day was too great. I couldn't stop wondering just what it was like and how much water would be passing over the escarpment. We had invested heavily to this point and I hoped to no end that it would be worth it after one of the driest wet seasons on record. To be continued in Part 2." Paul Kowalski
"In Part 1 we had made our way to the Mitchell Falls camp ground in the amazing Kimberley. We had been shaken around the car, been covered in mud and were having the time of our lives. After a sleepless night I decided to make my way into Mitchell Falls at around 9:30 the next day to see it for the first time. The anticipation was ever high. My family and I walked together to a smaller waterfall called Little Mertens Falls where we all had a swim and cooled off, it was already 32 degrees. From there we split up, I continued to Mitchell Falls where as my wife, Belinda, and two daughters, Chloe and Lili, hung around in the water and made there way back to camp later on. I briskly walked the four kilometers but in retrospect I was a bit late in the day, it was hot and dry. I made it to the top of Big Mertens Falls, which is just before Mitchell Falls, to find a bit of water passing over the escarpment. I quickly made my way to the top of Mitchell and just stood in ore of the sound, the falls were roaring. At this point, I still couldn't see the actual falls, but the sound and the water spray bellowing up through the gorge were a sight to behold. It was at this point I knew the conditions were excellent, I just laughed to myself, how lucky I was to be in that moment.
I quickly made my way around and crossed the knee deep river feeding the falls to the viewing areas on the side of the cliffs, my jaw dropped, the falls were pumping. So much more water than I had anticipated was charging down the four tiers, this is the most impressive waterfall. I then set about finding a vantage point for photographs, which proved to be difficult. A few hours later I then walked back out, in the hottest part of the day, a bit of a mistake, with plans to venture back the next morning.
To see the best of the light at the falls I needed to see it at dawn. I left our campsite in thr dark at 4am, to allow me to get into the falls with enough time, the results did not dissapoint and it was much cooler. The day after our whole family walked in together to experience this amazing place. This really created a highlight of the trip for us all, I am also very proud of my 4 and 6 year old for making it in there. That same day we decided to tackle the track to Walsh Point, on the coast of the Kimberley. This is by far the roughest road we have travelled on this trip so far. Low range was a necessity for much of the two hour journey.
The next day we packed up and made our way out for a quick stop over a Drysdale again. We pushed further south the day after to reach Manning Falls near Mt Barnett Station, back on the Gibb. This is just another fine example of the Kimberley, great waterfall, crystal clear flowing water and a rich red and yellow gorge.
The next day would see us move again, we were running low on supplies and wanted to see the best on offer. We settled at Bell Gorge, another amazing spot of which we all walked into for great swimming and photographs. The water even down in this area was flowing well and the area was pristine. We stayed here for two nights and took a very worth while side trip to Lennard River Gorge.
The tracks were easier further down the Gibb but the road into Lennard included a tricky little river crossing and a challenging walk in. But the outlook once in there was very worthwhile. The next day we briefly visited Windjana Gorge but the weather was unseasonably wet. We decided to head into Derby.
Before we knew it our Gibb experience was done, we bumped back onto the sealed road with a thud and just like that we had made the adventure of the Gibb a reality. I would highly recommend the journey in this part of Australia to anyone with a 4x4, just keep your tyre pressure down. This is a tough road with many tough tracks leading off it. We met countless parties travelling each way and many had suffered serious car damage. For us It is all about the great memories that we have created as a family, the places we visited and the fact that we have done it. We were simply blown away by the locations, I believe some of the best in Australia can be found along the infamous Gibb, we will be back, one day." Paul Kowalski
"Since getting off the Gibb we have put some bitumen under the tyres of our Prado. We needed to head east. Not before stopping in at a few important places though, and getting into some more dirt tracks. After staying in Derby we headed straight to Broome, after the Gibb we were running low on everything and needed some rest and a re-supply. Broome is now on our favourite places list, perhaps because we had not seen the ocean for some time, either way it is a great place to spend a few days. From here we pursued a couple of day trips north to Willie Creek, both south and north sides and up to Quondong Point. The main dirt roads, the Cape Levique track included, were like giant dirt half pipes to drive in, some serious grader work here. Photography on the south side of Willie Creek saw us being closely watched by some smaller salty's but the lure of the almost iridescent blue water was worth the effort.
We packed up our camp in Boome and decided to head to Cape Levique, a place we had been wanting to visit for years. What a destination this is. With such a laid back feel we could have stayed for a few weeks. The road up from Broome held some pretty decent corrugations but overall wasn't too nasty. We managed two nights at Cape Levique, the beaches are pretty special. Broome saw us for another night as a stop over and then it really was time to hit the highway. We love Western Australia, the thought of having to cross the border into the Northern Territory was dawning on us.
Gieke Gorge was the next stop on our list. We arrived late after a long day in the car on the Great Northern Highway. This is just a spectacular place, the colours in the gorge are fantastic. I ran into the gorge with around twenty minutes spare to climb and find this great location before sunset to have to then turn around and run out to the car to get out before it closed for the night.
The next big item was Purnululu, this is a big ticket item and a must do. This place is like nothing I have experienced before. The track was surprisingly good, despite what we had been told, certainly very scenic. Once in and set up we turned our attention to looking into locations at both the north and south of the National Park.
Picaninny Creek was the stand out for us with the incredible domes. Each morning would see me rise well before dawn but on the third and final, my eldest daughter came along to share the experience, special times. We also visited Echidna Chasm, wow, with the light coming into the thin gorge at the right time of day and a very talented lady singing opera in the gorge, it was like another world.
We unfortunately had to leave Purnululu but the next chapter of our journey will include Litchfield National Park and Darwin. We hesitantly crossed the border into the Northern Territory, saying goodbye to the west, at least for this trip anyway." Paul Kowalski
"Since our last post we have put some diesel through our Prado. We firstly visited Litchfield National Park. What a spectacular place but unfortunately the Reynolds River track that we wanted to travel was closed due to rain damage. We persisted in the park and stayed at Florence Falls, swimming regularly and then moving up to Wangi Falls which was just as spectacular and incredibly popular. The water in the rivers here is incredibly clean, we were blown away by the fish and abundance of bird life. There was a location just north of Litchfield that a local Ranger told us about that had great magnetic termite mounds. He let us know that the best place was on the Reynolds River track but as we said, it was closed so this was a pretty good second option for some great photography. There was also burning off all around us whilst we visited, just fires left to burn out. Certainly something we are not used to coming from the south of the country.
We moved on from Litchfield, managing to meet up with a family member who lives in Darwin. Great chance to have some time out of the car, the camper and the seemingly endless and unseasonal humidity. It was also a great chance to do a much needed oil change and essential service on our vehicle, bit overdue.
We then travelled east to Mary River, near Kakadu, to go on a billabong tour to see plenty of birdlife and a few Crocs. All too suddenly it was time to head east, 2,600 kilometers east, to Cairns.
All too suddenly our time budget has become rather tight. We travelled down from Mary River to Three Ways, free camping. Then along the Barkley highway and have ended up at the amazing Lawn Hill. It was great to drop the tyre pressures and hit the dirt again, another adventure into a very special place . We contemplated taking the Savannah Way top road to get to Lawn Hill, through Limmen National Park and along the dirt, but realised we would see little of the east if we did so. We will have to do this trip another time we feel.
A lot of car time over the past three days. This is such a vast country. Looking forward to getting to Cairns but have a few stops planned along the way." Paul Kowalski
"We rolled into Karumba late in the afternoon, mid last week. We were only able to stay for a night but had been told so much about the place that we just had to take a look. It was certainly worth the drive and was great to see the coast once again. We managed to find some shells at Karumba point, buy some of the best prawns we have ever tasted and photograph a great sunset.
We pushed on the next day to free camp at Cumberland mine and Billabong, a great little spot with a great water way full of birds and a great stand of termite mounds. The next day would see us hit Cairns. We had travelled almost 2,600 kilometers in seven days and were in for a big change in scenery. All too suddenly our fuel warning light came on. When you are towing your home and driving your only mode of transport thousands of kilometers from home the thought of dirty or water laden fuel is a big concern. We quickly pulled over to drain the filters to find nothing but fuel. We run as secondary filter system, down to five microns, so I wasn't too concerned about nasty bits getting into the engine, but what was happening? My first thought was dirty fuel but after a quick call to the great people at Cairns Toyota it turned out that our main, factory, fuel filter needed replacing.
We hit rain a couple of hundred kilometers down the road. This would mark the first instance where we have had to use our windscreen wipers in nearly ten weeks of travel. We had driven into one of the wettest places in Australia, a clear difference to some of the places we had been that are some of the dryest.
Belinda has visited this area before but the rest of us could only speculate on what it would be like. A far cry from some of the dusty places we have been. All are unique none the less. Once in Cairns and once our fuel filter was replaced at Toyota, the big ticket item was to visit and photograph Mossman Gorge. WOW, is all we can say. The water here is remarkably clear but the green colour makes it all the more special. We visited twice in two days, this is an immensley popular place for good reason. The second visit would see Paul up there very early to escape the crowds. We also hit the railway to Kuranda, amazing engineering fete, and caught the sky rail back down to enjoy the rainforest from above. We had some time to put our feet up in Cairns, visit the local tourist attractions, take in some of the beaches as there was no need to pack up and set up each day, a nice change.
We have moved further south today to Etty Bay. A great little place we were told about by some very kind fellow travellers. We are literally right on the beach.
We think the Prado might be missing the dirt roads. Maybe further down the coast we can get into some more tracks." Paul Kowalski
"South to the Whitsundays through the Sugar Cane.
In the last couple of weeks we have seen a dramatic change in the weather and the landscape. From dry outback Queensland to the wet tropics of Cairns. Further south, Etty Bay proved to be a great little spot, we even managed to see a family of Cassowary's on the beach, another first for us. We managed a day trip to a great spot at Josephine Falls. The water here is some of the cleanest we have ever seen. The falls cascade down over five levels in total, into deep iridescent pools. Perfect for swimming and perfect for photographs.
Leaving Etty Bay would see us put in a big day in the car to reach another beautiful spot further south we had been told of called Hydeaway Bay, in the amazing Whitsundays. The beaches and outlooks here are really fantastic and it was seemingly nice and quiet in comparison to some of the other locations we have visited in the Whitsundays so far. The pick of our time spent here would be swimming at Cape Gloucester. It was so calm and still here and the water was so clean and clear. We spoke to a couple of locals who let us know that we had picked a great day to visit with the camera. It really was good luck.
In preparation for our time on Hamilton Island we stayed at a great caravan park at Cannonvale, near Airlie Beach. All too suddenly we were on the boat bound for the islands. It really is beautiful out here on Hamilton Island. We have been cruising in our golf buggy and enjoying the slower pace. We regretfully left our car and camper trailer back at the Cannonvale caravan park, it felt like we were leaving our house behind after nearly three months of relying on the set up so heavily.
Island life is consuming though, and almost too easy. Back to sleeping indoors, having running water and all that we need at our fingertips. It is all a bit weird for us after being on the road for some time. We plan to visit the much anticipated Whitehaven Beach on Friday and the surrounding area. We can't wait for this, to get behind the lens on this beach and at Hill Inlet are very big ticket items for us.
Next update coming soon." Paul Kowalski
"Slowing down in the Whitsundays.
We have spent a great nine days on Hamilton Island, it really has allowed us to slow down, be together and experience the local area. By far the pick of our time here would have to be our full day tour to Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island. There has been a real mixed bag of weather, plenty of wind and some rain. My biggest concern was that the weather would be ordinary for our visit to Whitehaven Beach. This is yet another bucket list item for us to photograph and we really needed great weather. The day turned out to be perfect, in fact one of the best weather days of our entire trip, with little wind and sunshine all day, we felt extremely lucky. We left Hamilton early Friday morning, bound for Whitehaven with high anticipation. We had a very special day together, travelling with Cruise Whitsundays to see the best of the area. What we didn't know before researching for Hamilton Island is that two thirds of it is national park. There are some great walks through unspoilt bush and I was able to visit Coral Cove and South East Head for photography. South East Head provided a great vantage point towards Lindeman Island and showed some of the more remote beauty of this island, away from the busy areas. We have also thoroughly enjoyed the events and facilities on island, just perfect for a family that has been on the road for over three months.
We head back to the main land Tuesday of this week, keen to get back to our vehicle and Camper Trailer to head further south and into New South Wales." Paul Kowalski
"Heading south, for home.
After leaving Hamilton Island last week it really was great to get back to our Prado and camper trailer. Waiting for us like a familiar face, just where we left it, ready for the next leg of our journey.
Reality was that we needed to start to seriously think about getting home, we had stayed on the island for three extra days and it had eaten into our time frames a little. We high tailed it out of Airlie Beach and headed to Carmila Beach a few hours south. What a spot, where you can camp right on the water. To our surprise there were some big tides here, in excess of nine meters, we were a little surprised. During the night it sounded like a river was running just outside, it was the massive tide coming in. After a one nighter here we headed further south to Tannum Sands for another overnight rest. A great little spot for families with a nice inlet and calm beaches, although still a little crocky for our liking. From here we hit Hervey Bay, this is a great area that we simply did not have any time to give justice to. This area is a big re-visit item for us, particularly Fraser Island. Brisbane was next on our list, to meet up with a friend and we now find ourselves at the great location of Woolgoolga, after crossing into New South Wales. A few days ago we also lost function in our main fridge, it has had it and won't cool anymore. This has been a tough trip on our gear. Fitting enough food and all of my 170 rolls of film into a 35 litre Waeco, our so called freezer, has been interesting. But we keep saying at least it didn't happen in the middle of the Kimberly.
Fair to say we have been hitting the bitumen but we need to be home by next Friday. Woolgoolga is a great place, not far from Coffs Harbour, it offers great beaches and easy access. We headed up to Ebor Falls today to try and photograph the area but the weather was not conducive, great drive none the less. From here we will head to Crescent Head and then Hawks Nest. It feels like we are reading the last couple of pages of a great book, knowing the end of this epic journey is very near." Paul Kowalski
"Coffs coast, thoughts of home.
We decided to stay in Woolgoolga for three nights. We are nothing short of exhausted of the set up and pack up of our camper trailer, it was nice to just leave it all set up. Whilst in Woolgoolga, we gave everything a clean up and focussed on photography and spending the last few days of camping together. Some of the colour in the sunrises were outstanding, some of the best we have seen for the entire journey. There is nothing better as a landscape photographer than seeing immaculate colour.
We managed to find an out of the way track onto the beach just south of Woolgoolga giving us a chance to get the Prado off the bitumen again.
Unfortunately the weather was due to change so we packed up to leave for Hawks Nest. We arrived late afternoon to the great caravan park and before long the wind started and didn't stop all night. It was so strong at times it felt like a plane was landing over our camp.
With little sleep, we rose the next day to more wind but otherwise fine weather. After a leisurely morning it was time to pack up our last campsite for the trip. There has been plenty of memories thrown around our car in the last few days, greatest places, favourite camps etc. So many places visited and so many memories made.
We have settled with Belinda's father on the Central Coast. This is a great area but our thoughts are filled with what has been such an epic journey. Now that our trip is finishing, we are realising what we have achieved. More on this in a few days." Paul Kowalski
Late last Friday afternoon we rolled into our driveway in Canberra, we just sat in the car for a while in deep contemplation of we had just undertaken, an epic journey of almost 20,000 kilometers. It didn't take long for me to daze away to the trip, in particular the Kimberley, thinking about the adventures we had up there and how remote we were. Sometimes getting home from a big trip can be frustrating, I have experienced that before, but this time I was just happy that we had achieved it, we were all safe and we had experienced some exceptional places as a family. Luckily our car was also still in one piece after going through so much travel on the roughest tracks we have ever driven, it received a very deserved wash including plenty of high pressure hosing to get the copious amounts of dust moved out.
In the days leading up to getting home we were lucky enough to visit Belinda's father on the Central Coast for a few nights and it gave us all a chance to stop but to also have a look at a full map of Australia that he gave us. It really wasn't until we looked at the overall picture of where we had been that the scale of what we had just undertaken started to sink in, gee we travelled a long way and it was so fantastic. Australia is an amazing country of contrast and beauty and we visited and photographed some of the most iconic and breathtaking places on offer, memories to last a lifetime.
So now we need to unpack and check over everything, yep we broke some stuff and well and truly tested everything to the finest degree. We also have been trying to get our minds back to reality, back to our business and gallery in Bungendore, back to work and school, back to the daily routine. If I will admit one thing, it is that we are well and truly bitten by the travel bug in this country. Including our last big trip to Western Australia in 2014, we have effectively driven around the country now. We just can't wait to see more and more and we feel very privileged to have been able to travel like this at a young age with our children.
We would like to personally thank you for following our journey to the north through these posts. The trip was amazing, exhausting, hectic and mind blowing. We experienced many highs, a few lows, but overall we are just appreciative of this incredibly diverse country that we live in. Just quietly, we are already starting to make plans for the next trip, we just can't help it at this stage.
Maybe we will see you on the track one day soon.
Paul, Belinda, Chloe and Lili Kowalski."
Stay tuned for Paul's trip summary.....