First day at school in Italy

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We moved from Melbourne to Milan (a small village near Milan) less than a month ago.  Christmas holidays has been great with our families and friends.

Yesterday my kids started a new page of their lives: going to Italian school.

We were all a bit nervous AND curious AND excited.

We kissed the girls goodbye at 8.30am.

At 4.30pm, after a long day thinking about them, we waited at the school gate, trying to read their faces as soon as they came out. They were happy faces, a bit tired. They started talking in English as if they  needed to breath again after 8 hours of only Italian.

“So how was school? Did you like it?”

“Yes, only two problem: the canteen was yucky and the toilets…well there is no toilet, only a hole!!!”

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I smiled and I tried to reassure them that we can solve these “problems”.

 

Melbourne-Uluru (and back): 4 states, 3 kids, 2 adults and 1 tent

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The moment we decided to move back to Europe was also the time when we decided we had to explore a little bit more Australia.

Something we didn’t want to miss out was the desert, without any doubt. Which better way than driving through it to have a memorable experience?!

The first idea was to rent a camper but being a family of 5 and wanting cheap options didn’t get along well, so we opted out for an 8 seat-van and a tent.

Our trip from Melbourne to Uluru has been memorable for the following reasons:

  1. driving through 4 states with 3 kids and a tent; people’s comments “are you crazy?”
  2. driving for more than 5,000km in 11 days
  3. watching amazing sunsets
  4. seeing Australian animals in their natural habitat
  5. learning that the desert changes and can bloom during spring time
  6. having lunch in a roadhouse is a unique experience
  7. sleeping in a dugout: simply great!
  8. my husband buying me a pair of opal earrings, what a surprise!
  9. road trains: I loved them!
  10. my kids quietly listening to audio books for long hours drives.

You can read our trip day by day in the following posts:

day1  day2  day3  day4  day5  day6  day7  day8  day9  day10  day11

If you’re wondering how much does all of this costs:

  • petrol = $ 750
  • 10 nights in camp sites = $ 638 (including the night in the dugout and the one in the cabin)
  • hiring a 8 seater van = $1400
  • food and extras = it’s up to you 😉

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Melbourne-Uluru (and back): day 11

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DAY 11: NARACOORTE – MELBOURNE

It’s been our last night in the tent and I know we’re gonna miss it; it’s been our first holiday in a tent as a family and I can’t believe it went soooooo well!!!

In Naracoorte we visit Naracoorte Caves National Park which is South Australia’s only World Heritage site!!! (info here).

The caves have acted as pitfall traps, collecting animals for at least 500,000 years, preserving the most complete fossil record we have for this period of time. Palaeontologists have excavated and dated many of the fossils in Naracoorte Caves and have reconstructed the skeletons of a number of the megafauna that inhabited the area so many years ago.

We have one of the tours of the caves made for children and it is very interesting both for the kids and us adults.

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After this fabulous tour in the caves it’s time for us to drive back home. The kids are tired and excited to be going home after such a long trip.

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It’s been great. Simply an amazing trip.

The kids faces when they get home and see their toys are just priceless!

Melbourne-Uluru (and back): day 10

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DAY 10: PORT GERMEIN- NARACOORTE

Port Germein on a Sunday morning in very quiet, we leave while the local are getting ready for a Sunday market that looks interesting. The sea is calm, we have our breakfast on the seaside and off we go.

238km from Adelaide. Not too far.

On the road we pass a gorgeous lake, called Bumbunga lake, in a place called Lochiel, it has such amazing colours, unfortunately you can’t see the pink/purple/blue in the photo.

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We arrive in Adelaide but we find out that there is a special event in the city and it’s a bit of a nightmare parking our van so we decide to carry on driving and stop at a small German village called Hanhdorf, which we love.

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The place has a special European feeling that we love and the hills around it are just beautiful.

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We drive a little bit further and we finally arrive at Naracoorte; I feel exhausted but the camp site is nice and the kids can’t wait to play at the playground and jump on the jumping pillow once more.

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At the camp site there is an old double decker bus parked in front of our tent;it gives such a strange English touch to the place!

Melbourne-Uluru (and back): day 9

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DAY 9: COOBER PEDY – PORT GERMEIN

Today we are going to leave the desert behind us, our destination is south of Port Augusta.

8.40 am it’s my turn to start the day driving and we stop after 252km in Glendambo at a roadhouse and here we meet a Berliner motorcyclist and have a little chat with him. He’s travelling on his own, how brave!

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we also meet a solitary cyclist who tells us he’s riding back to Perth…wow!!!

We reach Port Augusta at 4pm and keep on driving, it’s weird to be out of the dry area. We stop at our first traffic light in 5 days!!!

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We find a camp site at the sea-side, I’m so happy to see the sea in this trip!

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Port Germein has the longest wooden pier in Australia!

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We enjoy another great sunset on the sea 🙂

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Melbourne-Uluru (and back) – day 8

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DAY 8: ULURU – COOBER PEDY

It’s time to head back home. During the night we heard some dingos not too far away from our tent and that was a bit scary but they went away pretty soon.

We are ready to say good-bye to Uluru and drive back home. We leave at 8.20am, we are kind of sad but also happy to be able to say to Little Mr. Copycat that we’re going home. He can’t believe his ears and smiles; looking at the desert he also says that the grass it’s a bit too long, it needs some serious mowing.

Long grass in the desert – affirms Little Mr. Copycat

Our first stop is in Erldunda where there is a roadhouse with an emu farm where the kids can feed them and observe this funny animals.

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Erldunda is apparently also the geographic centre of Australia, wow!

We keep on driving and we only stop at Kulgera again for our lunch. Yes, again, we liked it the first time so why not stopping here again – plus, there aren’t so many other options! 🙂

desert in spring time with purple little flowers

desert in spring time with yellow bushes

At some point we slow down, a cow is slowly crossing the road!!!

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We are going to arrive in Coober Pedy a bit late tonight but I’m excited as we are going to sleep in an underground motel, I can’t wait!

On the road we stop again to put some petrol in the van and I can finally take a photo of a road train. I’ve never seen a road train in my life before this trip and I am fascinated by them. Maybe it’s something to do with my Little Mr. Copycat aka truck lover.

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We arrive just in time to relax and observe another beautiful sunset.

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I love the underground motel, so lovely decorated, with a modern kitchen where we can cook our beloved pasta 🙂

Melbourne-Uluru (and back) – day 7

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DAY 7: ULURU

After a very good night sleep, we are ready to explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (info here).

To enter the park there is an admission ticket of 25$ per adult (children go free), it’s a three-day pass, really worth it.

We start our visit from the information centre but we don’t find it that informative. On the other side, we find out there is a free guided tour of Uluru in the morning and we are very happy to take part in the tour.

Our guide is very passionate about the Aboriginal culture and gives us plenty of information about this place while we walk around and stop at the most “important” spots.

we are a big group of tourists and the guide does his best to be heard by everyone

this was the place where the boys used to sit and learn from the eldest with the help of pictures on the wall. They learnt various things such as how to recognise important plants to eat or how to defend themselves from snakes.

Here the eldest used to rest in the shades when they where too old to attend important ceremonies

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beautiful red colour but the guide says that originally it was kind of grey, now it’s rusty!

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Uluru was a very important place where to find drinkable water (rainy water) and go hunting for animals who also came here to drink. This was a very good spot to teach the kids how to hun.

I’ve learnt so many things and most of all how important this place has been for centuries for the Aboriginal people; I now know a little bit more about it and I can say for sure that this is NOT “just a rock in the middle of nowhere!”.

Melbourne-Uluru (and back) – day 6

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DAY 6: COOBER PEDY-ULURU

It’s a sunny day, we wake up ready to drive up to Uluru, which means 751 km! Will we make it?

We leave Coober Pedy at 8.30 am (which is not that early for such a long day!), we say goodbye to this landscape full of opal mine hills.

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We are full of energies and can’t wait to reach Uluru. On the road we see an eagle eating a poor kangaroo; it’s the first time in my life I see an eagle so close to me!It doesn’t want to leave its prey, I have to stop the van to make sure it flies away.

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The desert in spring time has amazing colours, I can’t believe my eyes!!!

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During the drive I am so lucky to spot a group of camels but I can’t stop and take a photo 😦

After a long drive we finally reach the Northern Territory, yuppie! We feel sooooo happy even if Uluru is still a long drive away.

We stop at the first pub in the NT called Kulgera and we really enjoy its food (Mr. Bingles eats a camel hamburger and likes it!) and the atmosphere.

Kulgera pub, NT

We keep on driving and at about 140km from Uluru we spot a big mountain and we think it’s Uluru, but it’s not!

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We have to reach Uluru before the sunset as at that time lots of animals like kangaroos wonder around and can easily cross the road in front of us. We also need to put up our tent before the sunset (6.30pm). The pressure is on.

I can’t believe we made it! We arrive at Uluru at 5.40pm, put up our tent and walk up a little hill in the camp site to watch the sunset.

Uluru at sunset. It’s not a great photo as I don’t have a great camera but it’s my first sight of Uluru and it’s special to me

Suinset over the Kata Tjuta, which is the indigenous name for The Olgas and means ‘many heads’

I can’t wait to visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park tomorrow!

Melbourne- Uluru (and back) – day 5

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DAY 5: WOOMERA – COOBER PEDY

8am we are ready to leave Woomera, the sun is shining but the air is cool. While driving I can feel the wind moving slightly our van.

I’m a bit worried about driving in the middle of nowhere, knowing that for many kms there is nothing else but the road and the landscape.

We find a few more salted lakes, they are so fascinating!

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After a couple of hours drive we stop at a roadhouse for a break. Here you can find the basic stuff for your needs: a petrol station, a pub, a motel.

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After a few more hours drive we finally spot a sign of Coober Pedy.

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We are there, yuppie!!! At the camp site putting up our tent is not that easy, the ground is very hard and there is a bit of wind; we manage to put it up and decide to go for a tour in town.  One of the best known places is the underground Church:

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It’s very interesting seeing how people dug this place, it’s feels cool and safe, no humidity at all! We also go for a tour in an opal mine.

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The guide explains us the history of this place, how they dig to find their luck and how people live underground as historically they wanted to sleep next to the place they were digging to protect it from thefts. Now there are many underground houses in Coober Pedy as temperatures outside can vary from -3C in winter to 55C in summer while underground temperatures are stable at 21-24C all year round. We visit a modern underground house and I love it, so solid and simple, unbelievable.

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A huge mural tells the story of Coober Pedy, how people risks their lives to find the perfect opal and become millionaires!

Very unique place Coober Pedy.  Its name was given from aboriginal people and it means white man’s den.