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Four-wheel drive Western Australia

Ninghan Station, WA

Braving the Western Australian outback and her first time behind the wheel of a 4WD, Emma George joins a tag-along tour of Ninghan Station.

I hit the accelerator and aim for the middle of the puddle, the boys screaming with delight as I add another layer of red sticky mud to the already thick casing we have accumulated on our 4WD and camper. My family measures a good weekend by how dirty we are when we return home and our outback trip to Ninghan Station in Western Australia is so far panning out to be a pretty good one.

Planning the Family Holiday
My husband Ashley had joined a mountain bike race and the boys and I, not wanting to sit at home and let him have all the fun, decided to join a tag-along tour on what would be my first real 4WD trip. I felt confident in the knowledge that I would be travelling in convoy, meaning there would be plenty of fellow travellers to rely on.

Although touted as a wildflower trip, we knew there would be plenty of off-road action if the blossoms didn’t quite cut it for the boys. Already seasoned campers, my boys (aged eight, six and four years) assured me they would help with setting up and packing away camp. I saw it as a good opportunity to show them that mum could be just as fun as dad – and that I was just as capable towing the camper and negotiating off-road tracks – well, at least I hoped so.

Tea time & tadpoles
The 4WD convoy met at El Caballo Blanco at 8.30am on a Friday, the kids more than happy to skip a day of school. It felt like a luxury to leave the map book at home as we met up with Campire Escapes’ Nick Underwood, who reassured us he was going to look after everything from here on out.

Travelling with a predominantly senior crowd, I find myself hoping the kids aren’t going to cramp anyone’s style. The 14 cars are given a briefing on convoy etiquette – such as waiting at each turnoff until the next vehicle arrives – and handed goody bags and nametags. With UHF radios switched on, our 4WD train rolls out along the Great Eastern Highway ready for a three-day adventure.

Not long after we hit the dirt tracks, we are weaving our way around the lush green paddocks of Western Australia’s wheat belt. In the seclusion of our car, the kids and I share some private jokes about the wildflowers, but we eventually concede that the views are pretty amazing, and the blossoming wild flowers too.

It feels like we have only just settled on the road when we pull up at a little spot called Petrudor Rocks and hidden kettles and baked goods begin appearing like magic – we are just in time for morning tea.

I turn my back for one second and my youngest two are already up to their waist in water. I rush down to shoo them out but the damage is already done; they are drenched and we are only one hour into the trip. Beaming in excitement, the pair shove their caps under my nose, brimming with the biggest tadpoles you could ever imagine and asking me where they could keep them in the car.

The Wild West
Although the 200,000 hectare property is around 400 kilometres from Perth; the scrubby roads, ruins from farming days long past, unique rock structures and wide open spaces give a sense of being in the middle of the outback – rather than just a few hours from the city.

As the convoy meanders through gates and tired old pastures, we finally arrive at the campsite. The boys are beside themselves, a huge monolith appears before us and they start shouting instructions as to where we should pitch camp. Since this is ‘their trip’, I yield, rock views it is. I even reverse the camper so our kitchen and dining table have the perfect vantage point.

Barely containing their excitement to climb, run and explore, I remind the boys of their promise to help set up camp before they disappear. Although I could have done it quicker on my own, I want the boys to learn. Jobs done, they race up Ninghan’s answer to Ayers Rock, while I cook dinner and keep a side-eye on them. The campfire is a great meeting point and the boys are soon busy roasting marshmallows for dessert.

We wake early and under the beautiful pink light of the rising sun, I watch the boys scale the rock and let myself enjoy this simple moment. I unhitch the camper trailer from the 4WD, pack our lunches and pile the kids into Red Dog with the prospect of more 4WD action and perhaps another layer of red mud. It was obvious we had been playing in the puddles as our car is covered from head to toe while most of the other vehicles only have a slight dusting of red dirt. More fun for us!

I am excited about testing my four-wheel drive skills up Mount Singleton and leave plenty of space behind the car in front before I tackle the steep ascent. Nick is on the radio and his assistant carefully points to the roads I have to take, tells me which gears to select and guides me through the more technical aspects of the track. We make it to the top without any problems and join the rest of the tour for a picnic lunch, walking to the cliff edge to take in the spectacular views.

Sunday morning comes too soon. On our return home the kids are bursting with stories to tell Dad. With one glance at our mudplastered car and camper, Ashley rightfully assumes that we had an amazing road-less-travelled outback experience.



Getting there
Qantas operates daily flights to Perth from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.


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