A few weeks ago we drove our car Quigley, home. This meant two, very full days of driving.
Day 1 would be “The Track” from Nhulunbuy to Katherine.
Day 2 – Katherine to Numbulwar. We had done “The Track” in September last year when Sam was almost one and he coped amazingly well. But how would he cope now with two days in the car as an almost two year old? Especially

as the longest trip he’d had done since driving the track last year was the drive from Melbourne to Shepparton, just a week before… and he slept through most of that!
I stocked up a little before we left with goodies and food to keep Sam amused. I probably paid far too much for the gimmicky toys… but they allowed us to keep our sanity so I don’t mind too much.

A dolphin that squeaks (Jason questioned my sanity with this one…)

A rubber chicken that has lights that flash when it jiggles
Party blower / whistles (Another concern for Jason)
A fabric dog that giggles and vibrates when you squeeze it (more on this one later….)
Monkeys in a barrel
A Bat and ball on an elastic string
And the best of all…. A megabloks Thomas the tank engine… the one toy which will be guaranteed to keep him

amused for quite awhile.

We had some other toys we’d brought from home and supplies we’d bought for the plane flight to Melbourne (another blog coming there…). Soft toys, a few books, some kids CDs and if desperation really demanded it, the laptop with full battery power to watch a DVD.

Day 1. Nhulunbuy to Katherine
We decided to leave early so hopefully Sam would sleep longer. So we packed the car the night before, set the alarm for a crazy hour and left Nhulunbuy at 4am. There were a few complications to this early morning start…. 1. Sam woke up when moved and stayed awake for quite awhile as the car shuddered and shook over the corrugated road. The first 200 kms of road were the worst of the whole day’s drive. 2. All the toys that flashed, giggled or vibrated with movement were activated with every bump of the car… distracting the driver and keeping Sam from sleeping.

This might show you how bad the bumps were….

3. Fog! Driving on badly corrugated roads in the dark with fog and a boat, meant our progress was quite slow. I was on animal watch, but thankfully there wasn’t anything to be seen.
The drive to Katherine was pretty uneventful. Thomas didn’t even make it out of the bag, as the dolphin, flashing chicken, some kids CDs and books were satisfactory entertainment. The ploughman’s lunch (a Jason favourite) was a great idea for a picnic lunch. Salami, cheese, bread, olives, gherkins, chutney and sun dried tomatoes… Yum! Even Sam loved it! Our toddler has sophisticated taste buds. We loved seeing the wild horses along the way and a beautiful gorge.

Only three stops for the day for nappy changes, toilet visits and to collect all the toys that had fallen on the floor and reposition them in the bag next to Sam for the next round of playing. Twelve hours later, we arrived in Katherine. We checked into our hotel, ate tea, slept and then began all over again.

Oil was leaking from this truck so Jason went to check for any people… thankfully it was all clear!

Day 2 – Katherine to Numbulwar
Up early, car packed and McDonalds for breakfast. (Jason finally had ice cream on his hotcakes…) We decided to make the most of a supermarket and do a two month shop before heading off home. So while Jason and Sam refuelled the car, I raced around the supermarket for the first trolley load, met Jason at the register and he scanned all the items, packed them into bags and loaded them into the car while I filled the next trolley. It was so nice to be in a BIG supermarket again with choices! Maybe I should post one of my shopping lists on line one day so you can see what a two month shop even looks like . Car packed to the top, even some groceries in the boat esky and off we went. Home was calling. Sam was asleep before we even left Katherine, which was a little frustrating but made for a peaceful drive after a frantic shopping adventure.
The road to Numbulwar was a new one for us, so we enjoyed the new sights. Cool rocky outcrops, river crossings, palm tree lined creeks, more wild horses and buffalo. The first two hours or so of this road were sealed which was even more lovely! When the asphalt ran out the fun really started as the road then became VERY bumpy and rocky. This was about lunch time… (actually it was about 2pm… lunch time when you’ve had a big morning tea in Katherine… because McDonalds brekkies just aren’t that filing.) and for reasons I can’t remember now we decided to eat on the go… so out came the ploughman’s lunch again. Lunch involved me putting various parts of the lunch onto Sam’s little fork and passing it over to him in the back seat to eat… three little gherkins in one round, a few olives on the next forkful… and so it went. Jason, trying to dodge pot holes, bumps and rocks, picked at the bits of food on the plastic container next to him, when it was safe to do so.
And so the journey went on. We made it Ngukurr late in the afternoon and were planning on visiting the Armstrongs, another missionary family connected with our church, but luck was against us. We had messaged them on Facebook about calling in but didn’t have a phone number or an address. We thought we could just ask someone for directions, but we were wrong. We drove around and asked four or five people… all who knew them but didn’t know where they lived. We even found the church and knocked on surrounding houses, but still no luck. In the end, with Sam screaming to get out of the car and time getting later we decided to head home. We stopped a few miles down the road for Sam and Jason to stretch their legs. I resorted the toys back into reach, refilled water bottles, and found more hidden snacks for the last few hours of driving.

First sign to Numbulwar… on the outskirts of Ngukkurr

It was in this last three hours that Thomas finally made an appearance from out of the bag. And we were right it was the toy that kept him busy for quite awhile…. Until it fell onto the floor and mum had to do all sorts of stretchy bendy moves, almost dislocating her shoulder, to pick it up for him to play with a little longer. More horses and buffalo to see. Pretty scenery… but oh how good it was to get to the place on the road where things became familiar… we were nearly home!
We got home about seven hours after we’d left Katherine, just as the sun was setting and mozzies were biting. Time to unload… one bag of flour had popped and made a mess in the car. Everything else seemed to have survived the jiggling and bouncing quite well. Or so we thought… until we noticed the next morning that we had a flat tyre on the Landcruiser… 1200 kms in two days and we get a flat tyre in our driveway! Now that’s the way to do it! Glad to be home… but not so excited to unpack suitcases, shopping or do all the washing…