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Travelling with two rescue dogs around Australia

Travelling with two rescue dogs around Australia

by Belinda Noel

July 10, 2018

Sophie it's great to finally get a blog out of you! You were one of the first people I met in Sydney when I moved here five years ago, I think we both came at very similar times and had some mutual friends. You moved straight to the Bondi area and have been there ever since. Can you tell me a little bit about why you came here and why you love Bondi and Australia so much?

Moving to Australia was a bit of an accident, I was given an incredible secondment opportunity to spend three months here and ended up extending that somewhat… I’ve been here for five years now and consider it home. I love the outdoors lifestyle, all the opportunities for adventure we have on our doorstep, and how friendly and laidback the people are. Also the wombats. I love wombats.  

You're a forenstic accountant by day, but a dog lover, and explorer outside work. Can you tell me a bit more about where you got your passion for travel from and some of your best trips in NSW...

I was very lucky to travel a lot with my family as a kid and I did a couple of big backpacking trips in my early 20s. One of my favourite things to do in NSW is take a day trip to Avalon or Whale Beach with my best friend, which usually incorporates two of my great loves – brunch, and Beyonce. I’ve also had some lovely relaxing trips with my boyfriend and the dogs at remote bush properties in Kangaroo Valley where we consume inordinate quantities of cheese, and some great girls weekends at Seal Rocks. 

Last year you embarked on a massive trip with your boyfriend around Australia for 6 months with two rescue dogs. What made this come about and can you tell me a bit more about the trip..

We both love adventure and the outdoors, and had always spoken about doing a big trip like this. We were spending time together over the Christmas break and thinking about our plans for the upcoming year, and decided that if we didn’t commit to it then, it might never happen. Six months later we were on the road.

We drove a “big lap” of Australia (around the circumference), and covered 32,000km. We wanted to focus on areas that weren’t as accessible, so we spent most of our time in Far North Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia. We mostly stayed in bush camps and small shire run campsites (which were usually dog friendly) and left the caravan parks to the grey nomads!

Preparation is key and I know you guys did a lot of prep. Can you tell us a bit more about what you did to get organised and ready for such a trip such as courses, savings and trip planning!!

We did a first aid course and a 4wd course, both of which I was grateful for when my boyfriend tore his hamstring, and when we got the car badly bogged driving on dunes in Western Australia. The main planning was making sure we had the right recovery equipment, spare parts, safety equipment (sat phones and EPIRB), first aid kit for humans/dogs, and making sure we had what we needed to go off grid – spare fuel, solar panels, generator etc. We planned the route VERY loosely, we knew vaguely how long we wanted to spend in each state, but we wanted the flexibility of taking each day as it came. Most of the planning went towards knowing we were safe and well-equipped, and we read blogs by other travellers on their experience to identify what we needed. 

In terms of savings, we were mindful about not saying yes to everything we were invited to, and inviting people over for a wine rather than going out to dinner, or meeting up for a walk and a coffee rather than an expensive brunch. We set a weekly savings goal, cooked big meals and took in leftovers for lunch, and took public transport rather than Ubers. By making small adjustments and being strict about not making unnecessary purchases (and holding each other accountable!), we saved for six months’ travels in just over five months. We also made sure our savings weren’t just for our planned expenses on the trip, but for any emergencies and to tide us over when we got back before we started earning again.

What were some of your favourite places and memories from your trip on the road?

I left my heart somewhere in Western Australia, somewhere between the Kimberley and the Ningaloo reef. The scenery is spectacular, and there’s a great sense of adventure on the road. I also loved Kakadu and Nitmiluk and think everyone should go, both are easy trips from Darwin. It sounds very cheesy but my favourite memories are the little moments – like jumping in the ocean by camp for a morning swim and discovering we were swimming with a pod of dolphins, or relaxing with a red wine by the fire under a spectacularly starry sky after a big day of hiking.

What are three things you know know that you didn't know before you set off?

I already knew it to some extent, but travelling through the Northern Territory and Western Australia you get a real sense of the incredibly special relationship between the indigenous Australians and the land. A lot of the beautiful natural places we visited were places of significance to the local communities and it was fascinating to read more about this and understand in greater detail the spirituality of where we were exploring.

I have a newfound appreciation for life in remote areas of Australia. We spoke to families on cattle stations who would drive crazy distances once a fortnight to get groceries and other supplies, whose children were being educated online via School of the Air, and I learnt a lot about the amazing work of the Royal Flying Doctors whose airstrips we would occasionally see. We were lucky that when my boyfriend tore his hamstring we were close to the regional hospital in the indigenous community at the tip of Cape York, at times in the Kimberley we were 1,500km away from one. We became much more appreciative of access to basic things we take for granted in Sydney -  grocery stores, bottle shops, affordable and clean fuel, drinking water. 

Tyre pressures! They make such a difference when driving off-road or on beaches.

I can imagine there are highs and lows on such a trip. What were the main things you learned about yourself? 

It took a while to adjust to not making plans. Every morning, in the beginning, I would feel like we had left late or that we had somewhere to be even though we didn’t, and it took a while to settle into a more relaxed pace of life. After a while, it came much more naturally, but at the beginning, I found it quite frustrating. Likewise, it was difficult at first adjusting to not being busy all the time and not having things to think about. A lot of the time we didn’t have phone signal, so none of the absent-minded scrolling through social media could happen, and at first I would frantically be trying to keep busy – cleaning the van, going for a walk or trying to convince my boyfriend to play chess with me. It took a while to be okay with just doing nothing, but after then I was often at my happiest simply sitting at camp with my boyfriend and the doggos.

Any advice to buddying travellers with dogs?

Do it! Our dogs are both rescues, and one is particularly fearful of unknown people and animals, so we had to manage that. We made the van a safe space for him and he could go in there if he was too overwhelmed by other people or noises at camp. We worked out what worked best for us in terms of proximity to other people, we tried to camp by ourselves as much as possible which we preferred anyway. We set up addresses at post offices in towns along the way to get food and toys for them. 

The biggest challenges are not being allowed in national parks with them, and 1080 bait which is prevalent throughout rural Australia, and cane toads in Far North Queensland which can be lethal. We were lucky that we could almost always find a campsite on the border of a national park where we could leave the dogs, we always did this at first light so it wasn’t too hot, and of course left them plenty of water etc. We used a great app called Wikicamps where you can filter by pet-friendly campsites. Baited areas are always signed, but baits can be dropped elsewhere by birds or small animals. It meant there were long periods where we had to keep the dogs on the lead, but they still had a great time hiking with us. 

It definitely requires a bit more planning and can be a bit more restrictive, but the dogs made the trip for us. We explored a lot of pet-friendly areas that we would not have otherwise been to, and their enthusiasm and excitement for the great outdoors when we were feeling hot, dusty and tired after long days driving on dirt roads always made us smile.

What are your weekend hotspots in and around Sydney on the weekends?

I usually keep it pretty local and love the coastal path from Bondi to Bronte, Icebergs, and the Bondi markets (so I can put the corn fritters in my face). For longer trips I love Palm Beach and the Royal National Park. 

You've obviously seen and watched WOM Book grow and evolve what are your thoughts on the project and now you finally have your book?!

I think it’s amazing! It looks beautiful and is such a great resource. I already have used it for inspo and it looks great on the coffee table. I love the way you brought so many people together to share their ideas, and it’s great learning more about what’s on our doorstep.

Where can we find you on socials?

Insta @doggosontour


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