It’s just after 7am and I’m standing on the edge of a rickety wooden pontoon, alone at the edge of the vast and expansive Lake Argyle, in Western Australia's Kimberley region. The heat is rising.
The wet season is just a few weeks away and the build-up is making for hot nights and even hotter days.
Above, eagles soar and swoop over the cool, sparkling waters of the lake just over the border from the Northern Territory.
After a morning hike down a rocky and twisting path to the water’s edge, I’m desperate for a swim — yet I pause.
There are said to be more than 30,000 freshwater crocodiles in the lake, living off an abundance of barramundi.
The mammals don’t usually go for humans, unless cornered, unlike their more aggressive saltwater counterparts. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged not to worry. But still. Should I jump?
“Mummy, do it!” shrieks my boisterous 10-year-old son as he races down the hill behind me with his sister, eight, and my husband close behind.
Finally, I take the leap, the refreshing water soothing my skin and washing away any regrets or fears of what may lurk in the depths below.
And, just like our extraordinary road trip from Darwin in the NT across to Broome in WA, had proved so far, breaking out of my comfort zone was both daunting yet incredibly liberating.
As a family we had jumped into the unknown — literally — from the very start of our 2000km adventure. It was our inaugural road trip in a motorhome as well as our first time on the remote highway that links the NT with WA.
Arriving from Melbourne, we had acclimatised for two days in a Darwin hotel, relaxing over mango smoothies and pad Thai at the colourful local market, before picking up our comfortable rented Britz Traveller family motorhome. We excitedly unloaded our luggage, books and DVDs, with the children opening every door and cupboard in the rental motorhome as if it were one giant present.
With sleeping capacity for six, we had plenty of space as a family of four, but naturally we found it was always a bit more roomy when the children were outside playing. Tempers could occasionally fray when cabin fever and boredom struck.
Our first stop wasn’t pretty, but it was important; a large supermarket south of Darwin. We’d heard the small local shops on the remote route were overpriced and offered little in the way of fresh fruit, vegetables and palatable bread.
It was a good tip, as it turned out. We may have gone a bit overboard with our two trolleys laden with icy poles and meat for the freezer, let alone snacks, fruit, pasta and soft drinks, but it lasted until we did another big shop later in the journey.
We also stocked up on huge water bottles. But we’d need more. It would be so hot it sometimes felt as though we were drinking it faster than we were buying it.
HOT ON THE TRAIL
After our shopping efforts it came with some relief to arrive at our first proper sight-seeing stop for a much needed swim. Berry Springs is 60km south of Darwin and is a series of waterholes where you can swim or simply relax and sun yourself on a rock like a lizard. It's a sublime way to wile away an afternoon.
Starting our journey late in September, we knew temperatures would be warmer than we'd have liked — hovering around 38C-40C most days — but we soon discovered that our on-board air-conditioning unit was thankfully very powerful. The only downside was that it only worked when you stopped at a campsite and connected to power, and didn’t work when the vehicle was moving.
Instead, while driving between campsites, we had to rely on the air-conditioning at the front of the vehicle which didn’t quite have the reach to cool down the whole motorhome. Thankfully, we’d brought a portable battery-powered Coleman fan which helped cool the children strapped into the dining room area seats.
THE JOY OF NATURE
Our first night was at a caravan park near the entrance of Litchfield National Park where I was unexpectedly joined in the camp showers by a musty green baby frog on the wall.
“So this is how it’s going to be, is it?” I joked to my daughter, who found my startled close encounter with the local wildlife simply hilarious.
The next day we stood in amazement as we visited the park's iconic magnetic termite mounds. These clusters of weathered sandstone pillars all face the same direction like elegant gravestones.
Moving on, we enjoyed discovering some of the park’s sensational waterfalls, including Wanji Falls and Buley Rockhole. They cascade into beautiful clear pools, surrounded by lush greenery and the scent of jasmine.
The children giggled and squealed as they dived under the water collecting ancient little stones from the river bed, raising them above their heads like raffle prizes.
After visiting several waterfalls, we soon realised the benefits of having our rental motorhome waiting for us in the carparks; namely fresh towels and outfit changes, cold drinks and fruit in the fridge. In short, it turned out to be our very own little haven on wheels.
However, as we headed into the ancient lands of Kakadu National Park, we soon realised why many travellers choose a 4WD coupled with a caravan or camper trailer rather than a motorhome.
You can explore more remote offroad routes and reach more attractions with a 4WD, while leaving your caravan parked back at your campsite.
Without a 4WD we were unable to drive across the famous Cahill’s Crossing and into Arnhem Land or visit the local indigenous art community.
It was a lesson to learn for future trips, but it certainly didn’t hamper our enthusiasm for the expansive and iconic park, which is 20,000sq km, or the activities we could do from our comfortable base at Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru.
Away from afternoons by the pool, we booked an exciting boat trip on East Alligator River where we saw endless saltwater crocodiles swimming and lounging on the riverbank.
We also took the short drive to Ubir to see the indigenous rock art and enjoy the sunset across the park.
When you discover such beautiful locations it’s hard to move on, but the road ahead was beckoning and we had many kilometres to travel before our final destination of Broome.
After a few hours' drive south, Nitmiluk Gorge (commonly known as Katherine Gorge) would soon delight us with its majestic beauty and sheer size.
Located on the lands of the Jawoyn people, rock art sites dot the park and a boat trip through it meant the guide's ancient dreaming stories brought the silent gorge walls to life.
At the end of our tour we were left to have a refreshing swim in a waterhole at the edge of the river. Our guide caused a lighthearted commotion among our group of 30 tourists by suggesting he’d spotted a “smallish” crocodile in the area two weeks before.
Nitmiluk Camping and Caravan Park is right next to the visitor centre and is surprisingly alluring considering its remoteness.
In a touch of luxury, chefs cooked a wide variety of dishes in the camp restaurant next to the pool. But again, it was time to hit the road for our longest day of driving — just over 500km in one go.
We left Katherine, where we found an all-important dump point for our on-board waste en route, and crossed the border into WA determined to reach Lake Argyle before nightfall.
After the long drive, we were happily ordering dinner at Lake Argyle Resort under a heaving mango tree and a canopy of stars as a guitarist played live music, prompting my children to dance the night away hand in hand. It was a harmonious sibling memory I will cherish forever.
The next day, a sunset cruise was the perfect way to see the full scale and size of the lake; passengers were encouraged to swim around the boat at sunset with staff handing out cups filled with sparkling wine or beer. It was an offer we couldn't refuse.
And so it went on. The freedom, the fun and the views. As we clocked up the kilometres through the majestic Kimberley towards Fitzroy Crossing, we were greeted by endless boab trees and remarkable rocky hills and embankments in one of the Australia's last wilderness frontiers.
When we eventually arrived in Broome, I was so delighted at our pretty, landscaped caravan park, the RAC Cable Beach Holiday Park, that I leapt into the swimming pool. Fully clothed.After all, our family had a lot to celebrate.
Having driven 2000km we’d made it all the way to this gem of a pearl-farming town. A camel ride in the sunset, followed by stone-baked pizzas and mojitos on the terrace at Cable Beach Resort, was the perfect end to our family trip.
But it won’t be the end of the road.
We have vowed this was just the first of many more outback adventures. The curious frogs in the shower will be back, and so will we.
The journey from Darwin to Broome that the Morris-Marr family took was 2000km. Britz has a variety of motorhomes, campervans and 4WD options available to rent from the Darwin branch. These can be booked for return trips, ie Darwin to Darwin, or one-way journeys, such as Darwin to Broome. For more information, pricing and booking details, call (08) 8981 2081 or visit www.britz.com.au
BIG4 Howard Springs Holiday Park:
- (08) 8983 1169,
Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru:
- 1800 811 154,
Kakadu National Park:
Litchfield National Park
Nitmiluk National Park
Nitmiluk Camping and Caravan Park:
- 1300 146 743,
Nitmiluk Gorge Boat Tours:
- 1300 146 743,
Lake Argyle Resort:
- (08) 9168 7777,
RAC Cable Beach Holiday Park:
- (08) 9192 3336,