One country, one camper trailer, one family, one amazing adventure
As I stumbled through the rain and mud to the tiny toilet hut, I disturbed a very damp kangaroo and her joey who were sheltering there. As she bounded reluctantly off into the bush, she turned back to me. We shared a look, one mother to another, and the meaning was so obvious that I laughed out loud: -This is shit, isn't it?'
After years of dreaming about taking a year off to go camping, Lorna Hendry and her family finally did it. Fed up with the endless frustrations of juggling work and finances, and never having enough time to spend with their two kids, Lorna and her husband James quit their jobs, rented their house out, packed up their shiny new camper trailer, and took off around Australia. Having only been camping once in their entire lives, this may have been a bit rash...
Fresh from the not-so-wilds of Fitzroy, the family crossed deserts and rivers, took ill-advised short cuts in the most remote areas of the country, stood on the western edge and the northern tip of Australia, stumbled onto its geographic centre, and lived in remote communities in Western Australia. They lived and breathed every inch of the land they travelled through, occasionally stopping to pinch themselves. Lorna and her family returned to Melbourne three years later, forever changed. Would they do it again? Absolutely.
Wrong Way Round is the wonderfully frank and heartwarming story of that trip. The ups and downs of life on the road are mapped brilliantly by Lorna's shrewd observations, dry humour and often moving recollections. It's a story about four people who had to get out of the city to become a family. It's about this beautiful and harsh country. And it's about the adventures that you can have if you step outside of your door and turn left instead of right. They may have been travelling the wrong way around Australia, but it was the best decision they ever made.
Lorna Hendry was a freelance graphic designer and studio manager for many, many years. Finally unplugging herself from the computer, she took off to travel around Australia with her husband and two young sons. What was meant to be a one-year trip turned into a three-year adventure. On her return to Melbourne, she began writing Wrong Way Round. She is now working as freelance writer and editor, and teaches in RMIT's Professional Writing and Editing course.
Wrong Way Round
Author: Lorna Hendry
Question: What inspired you to write about your family trip?
Lorna Hendry: I guess it really started as being a way to preserve my memories of the trip, but it ended up being more than that. I really wanted to help anyone who was considering doing something similar with their own family but who might be a bit daunted by the idea. I thought if they read our story, they'd realise that if we could do it, anyone can!
Question: How difficult was camping when you'd only done it once before?
Lorna Hendry: We took so much stuff with us when we left that it was actually pretty easy (except for packing it all up every few days). As the weeks went by, we started leaving things behind in caravan parks or donating them to op shops. We'd been told to make sure we could sleep well and eat well, so we had really comfy beds and I spent a lot of time on the road thinking about food and planning meals. I did have to get used to wearing filthy clothes and going without showers for days on end, but I worked out that if you give the sheets a really good shake it's almost as good as washing them. But we had no deadlines and most days were pretty relaxed so on the whole it was a lot easier than being a full-time working parent. Mind you, we did put our tent up the wrong way for about four months, so maybe we weren't as good at camping as I like to think.
Question: Can you tell us about where you visited?
Lorna Hendry: We decided to drive clockwise around the country. That's not the way people usually go (hence the title of the book), but we wanted to get to Western Australia before we ran out of time or money. We detoured up to the Red Centre first, then drove across the Nullarbor to WA, up the west coast to the Kimberley, across the Northern Territory and outback Queensland and then up to the tip of Cape York. We tried to stay away from cities and large towns as we could, so we spent a lot of time in national parks. If I had to choose my favourite place, I'd have to say the Kimberley. It's incredibly beautiful – we swam in waterfalls and gorges, saw ancient rock art and I felt very much at peace there.
Question: What did you learn about yourself whilst travelling?
Lorna Hendry: That I have absolutely no sense of direction and I can't read a map. (OK, I already knew that!) I was surprised by how resourceful I became, and also that I was capable of doing nothing. Before we left, I'd been so busy for so many years that I wasn't sure I'd be able to relax. I also thought that I would always be a city girl at heart, but now I'm really craving another long trip up north. I really love being out in the middle of those massive, quiet, wide open spaces.
Question: How did the trip, change your family for the better?
Lorna Hendry: We all got to know each other really well. You can't hide anything when you live in a tent, so we saw each other at our best and our absolute worst. I can be a bit sulky, but it's hard to stay grumpy when three other people are laughing at you. Also, the time we spent home-schooling our kids was incredibly valuable. They are both in high school now and that experience really taught me how they learn – and they are both very different. I know when to offer a bit of help and when to leave them alone to work through things their own way.
Question: How important was it to include the ups and downs of life on the road?
Lorna Hendry: Well, there's no point writing about travelling if you aren't going to be honest! And sometimes what looked like a -down' on the surface (like taking a shortcut up Cape York that turned out to be a goat track) turned out to be one of our best adventures. The hardest bit to write about was when my youngest son had an accident and was evacuated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. That brought back some difficult memories.
Question: How does it feel to be back in Melbourne, now?
Lorna Hendry: We've been back for a while now, but the initial settling in period was pretty hard. Our sons adjusted much more quickly than we did, although they did try to head off to the first day of school in bare feet! James and I both went back to work straight away and we struggled with the faster pace of city life. We had to hide at home on weekends so we could recover from the working week. One of the first things we did was organise a camping trip across the Simpson Desert – we had to have something to look forward to. The dishwasher and the inside toilet were pretty good, though.
Interview by Brooke Hunter