Taking the Big Lap puts most grey nomads on a very steep learning curve … particularly those doing it in a giant converted bus!
Frank and Jennifer Wilmink may be veterans of the open road now, having taken a seven-year full-time adventure and numerous ‘shorter’ trips, but they’ve made their fair share of mistakes along the way.
The one that stands out most to Frank though is the time they got horribly bogged in WA’s remote Mid West.
The couple were on their way to Mt. Augustus where they had agreed to help a station owner run a small caravan park. They got as far as Meekatharra when they discovered the roads into the station were flooded. They waited there five days before police gave the all-clear … but drama lay ahead.
“About 150 kilometres out of Meekatharra, I approached a large quantity of water across the road and approached it by going to one side and, yes, I got bogged,” said Frank. “I was down to the axles … I cried!”
He says he has since learned that the best thing to do in these situations is to remain on the ridge of the road.
“As we hadn’t seen a vehicle in the previous hour, we got the shovel out and started digging,” said Frank. “What a useless exercise!”
Luckily, after an hour or so, they were rescued by a council road grader.
“It pulled us out of the bog in little time at all,” said Frank. “I often wonder now if my tyre ruts were ever repaired!”
While it wasn’t a great start to the adventure, Frank and Jennifer spent 16 happy weeks out at the Mt Augustus station where they booked in campers, worked in the shop, cleaned the facilities, refuelled vehicles, and fixed the steady stream of flat tyres.
It was the first of many station stays for the couple who made it one of their main Big Lap missions to help farmers when and where they could.
Having converted their bus themselves back in the late 1990, Frank and Jennifer sold the much-loved vehicle a couple of years ago. For now, they have paused their travels in New South Wales and, unsurprisingly, they are on the land.
“We have settled in Kempsey on 100 acres on the banks of the Macleay River,” said Frank. “And we’ve helped grow many crops of organic garlic!”
But the open road will eventually beckon once more.
“We will be doing it again,” said Frank. “But in a smaller vehicle!”