About six weeks out from arriving in the most remote capital city in this wide, brown land, we had already started talking about putting the brakes on. We had been on the road relentlessly for 6 months, with the constant pressure of setting up, planning, packing up and driving on. All this, while trying to keep two kids busy and happy, home school and keep pouring energy and love into a startup business. In the end it was this last part that tipped the scales – we needed time and we needed consistent bandwidth! Austockphoto had started to take shape nicely, but needed the type of attention that only a consistent home base and a little more time without kids would allow. The facts that we had a close friend based in Perth, our daughter Luca was missing the classroom and our car was showing signs of fatigue, only made the decision easier. A few phone calls later, school and daycare places locked in and we were bound for Fremantle … Fabulous Freo!
That last drive into Perth was a little anxious given our car had been smoking and struggling for the last couple of weeks. The relief was palpable as we drove into our first Freo caravan park and were able to unhook our heavy load. We chose this park because if it’s handy location; the closest park to town, schools and our friend’s house while we found our feet. Unfortunately it had all the charm of a dodgy nightclub on a Sunday morning. As we were arriving in the middle of the WA school holidays we had booked ahead for two long weeks – lesson learnt. After riding this time out we moved 10min further out of town to a lovely, leafy, green tourist park right next to a nature reserve. There was a large long term resident population here, and you could see why. Looking back the park was a real microcosm of Freo itself – an eclectic bunch of people from all walks of life, but all super welcoming and generous. We quickly caught onto the Saturday morning bacon and egg rolls for $2.50 and the kids were shown the ropes two local brothers named Diesel and Cougar! Unfortunately it was time to say goodbye to Nanna Boo, but we were thankful for her 6 weeks of help and humour through some rugged country and tough times.
It was a strange but good feeling having a fixed address for a little while. Shortly after arriving the big news was that Fremantle City had just been voted into the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 cities to visit – things were turning up trumps! We couldn’t have been happier with Fremantle Primary School where Luca slotted in seamlessly into a sweet little kindergarten. Her class had it’s very own campus separate from the main school, complete with a huge green play space, veggie patch and chickens, all topped off by the best teacher EVER! It was the perfect environment to witness our timid little girl’s growth over the last 6 months. She made friends easily, danced her heart out at the Hairy Disco, joined in the end of year school dance and concert performances with gusto, and went on play dates and sleepovers like a seasoned veteran. This was a new daughter. We wanted our road trip to help broaden the horizons of our kids experiences, but we also wanted it to help them to relate to people more easily and to become more resilient. One Big Tick.
And then there was possibly the fanciest daycare centre we had ever set foot in up the well-to-do end of town in North Fremantle. We had loved the daycare in Sydney our kids had attended, but this centre stepped it up a notch or three. We’re talking a recently renovated heritage building, vaulted central atrium ceilings that housed the dedicated art studio, and massive outdoor play spaces. There was still the chaos that comes mandatory with all daycare centres (god bless those early childhood workers!), but we were blown away by the friendliness and facilities offered to our ragamuffin son. Despite some serious separation issues initially, Sully had a ball, and made some great friends along the way.
With the kids kept busy for part of the week, our third child, Austockphoto, also blossomed with a bit more attention. We were able to put consistent energy into spreading the word, meeting with photographers and following up leads. Being in one spot for an extended period also gave Sydney-based Austockphoto founder Claire a decent window to drop in for another visit. It was great to see Claire, update her on our adventures, and undertake a few days of serious business tweaking. For the first time on the trip it felt like we actually caught up and could plan ahead and work out what the end goal really was, and what it needed to look like. Suddenly we wondered how we had managed to get anything done at all during the previous 6 months.
Then there were the little bits of magic that happened while we were in town that really made our three month stay pretty special. There was the quality time that we got to spend with our dear school friend Jess and her little girl Alice – something that had been so fleeting over the last 20 years due to the width of this huge continent. There was the chance to catch our favourite musician Darren Hanlon at the iconic Freo venue Mojo’s, where Kass grabbed the chance to jump on stage for a quick pic. Then there was surviving the adventures of ice sliding on Monument Hill, getting windswept on Penguin Island, and the sea sickness brought on by an otherwise lovely day trip to Rottnest Island on the yacht of some generous parents from Luca’s school. All-in-all we agree with the Lonely Planet. A vibrant arts scene, good weather, nice beaches, great food. We arrived in a new city as total strangers but have never felt so welcome in such a short space of time … we’ll be back.
Unfortunately the year came to an end all too quickly and it was time to make a decision. Stay on in Freo for the start of 2016 and see how it goes or get back on the road and finish our road trip, ending up somewhere on the east coast. It would have been oh-so-easy to stay, but in the end the pull of family and friends got us moving again. We booked in around three weeks of travelling around the beautiful south west of WA, before we would make the long drive East. We were excited and daunted at the same time.