We caught up with our ambassador Mike McCarthy and his wife Sophie, both musicians & songwriters following their epic journey around Austrailia as part of their 'SO MUCH SEA' music tour.
Ever since I met the Mulvilles I've been on a mission to marry a great woman and travel Australia with her.
The Mulvilles, Cam and Kate, live in Yeppoon QLD and I visited them once when I played music at a wedding nearby. They had a classic old Toyota Troopy they were trying to sell and I wanted it so badly but couldn't quite afford it. They had recently travelled Australia in the Troopy and I was in awe of their adventures.
Skip forward a dozen or so years and here I am on the North Coast NSW with my amazing wife, Sophie, and a Troopy, called Dusty, with most of our earthly possessions inside. We have been travelling around and through Australia for the last six months playing music, going on surf adventures, fishing and camping under the stars. I suppose you could say my dream has become reality.
Our home is Avoca Beach NSW, an area known as the Central Coast of New South Wales. It's Darkinjung country and is a stunning area nestled between Sydney and Newcastle. Sophie and I were swimming at Avoca when we both realised it was time to start planning a trip around Oz. So we worked hard and planned our trip for the next 18 months. I am a musician and songwriter and Sophie is a music teacher and also plays melodica, piano and sings with me.
We left Avoca Beach and travelled south to Crookhaven heads where we found great south coast waves, flathead and bream in the rivers and friendly locals. Our first house concert was in Werri Beach and we played on a pontoon to a beautiful group of people. We cruised our way down to Eden, stopping at many of the fun surf spots and national parks on the way.
We made tracks out into the Victorian High Country, notably Bright and Mount Hotham where we really tested out the Troopy though some stunning and rough terrain. It was here that we coined the name 'Dusty Slim' for our beast of a vehicle.
Our travels then led down to Melbourne, Torquay and Geelong where we played and met up with some old friends. We fell in love with Melbourne all over again and could have stayed if it wasn't so early on in our journey. There is so much happening in that city and creatively we felt right at home. Even though many times on our trip we have thought 'geez we could live here', there is something amazing about momentum.
And so with that momentum we found ourselves on the 'Spirit of Tasmania', the car and passenger ferry leaving from the port of Melbourne down through Bass Straight and into Devenport Tasmania. Wow, Tasmania, what a magnificent destination. We had five incredible weeks in Tassie, hiking (The Overland Track and Freycinet peninsula), surfing, fishing, four-wheel driving adventures and playing music in the pubs of Hobart and Launceston. We also had a chance to have an Easter break with Soph's family who flew down to have a holiday with us at Four Mile Creek on the east coast.
The next stop for us was Bendigo, Victoria. We had a date with The Old Church on The Hill. I decided to pull out our recording gear for this show. One studio microphone into a pro tools rig was all we used for the recording and it worked a treat. The church sounded magnificent and the atmosphere was incredibly warm. I spent the next few months preparing to release this as a 'live' album and it came out on Bandcamp early July 2015 (check it out at http://music.mikemccarthy.com.au and read the review by Rebel on a Rainbow).
From Bendigo we meandered our way past The Grampians and back down to the coast through farmland and eucalypt forests and camped out near Portland for a few weeks. Portland is a big shipping town with timber seemingly being the biggest export. It is a rugged stretch of coastline, possibly the coldest we've been on this trip. One day whilst fishing in Port Fairy a local fisherman gave us a couple of fresh yellow fin tuna steaks, he had three fish well over 20kg, impressive fish that are caught regularly off this coast. When we returned to our cam, two French guys came over and gave us a few bottles of local wines as they had been working at a local winery and had been payed in bottles. Their car boot was full with boxes of cabernet sauvignon. So we ate and drank like royalty around the fire that night.
Old Dusty had his biggest test when we entered South Australia and decided to camp behind the sand dunes. We had read about this camping spot up a beach and over the back of the dunes. It sounded rad. The weather was horrendous and the surf was huge and wild and perhaps, in retrospect, I shouldn't have been so 'gung ho'. We hit the beach and within twenty metres were bogged. The sand was so soft and the beach on a difficult angle…we were so stuck. To cut a long story short, Soph and I dug for two hours, dropped the tyre pressure to 7 psi, said a few prayers and safely backed the troopy out of trouble. We had averted a mini catastrophe and felt humbled by the experience.
We didn't end up spending much time in South Australia, as work opportunities just weren't opening up for us. We decided to drive up through the middle of the country and see the desert. I had been offered some shows in Alice Springs and Jabiru in the Northern Territory. All of a sudden with our plans changed, we were pointed north and on our way to Alice Springs.
The desert was unlike anything we had experienced. At first glance barren yet full of little surprises such as huge salt lakes and strange rock formations that appear out of nowhere. There's nothing quite like driving for eight hours, pulling over on the side of the road, collecting some wood, cooking your meal and camping out under a canopy of stars. We visited Uluru (or Ayers Rock) and it really was a special experience. We understood, on an even deeper level, the strong connection to country that the Indigenous people of this country have. All through our travels we learnt more about the fragile and precious land we have been blessed to live on.
We played shows in Alice Springs Darwin, notably the Darwin Ski Club on sunset. I don't know who would go water skiing up there but there is a club for it. I was always on edge about crocodiles in the Northern Territory. Fishing the billabongs in Kakadu for Barramundi the kids would constantly see 'Gingas', the aboriginal name for saltwater crocodiles. We had an awesome time in Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Kakadu is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and we'd had the privilege of exploring it with some of the traditional owners.
We decided to drive across the gulf country along the Savannah Way from Katherine in the Northern Territory to Cairns in Far North Queensland. Five days of corrugated roads, creek crossings, flies and livestock. By this stage we had the troopy firing towards the Coral Sea, we were so keen to swim in saltwater again without fear of being eaten by crocodiles.
After washing off for a few days at Binalong Bay, QLD we headed south to Yeppoon but the weather was against us so we drove down to Noosa where we caught up with our old friends the Wegeners. Tom Wegener is a master craftsman in surfboard building. He is well known for his adventurous builds of old style longboards and Alaia's. We finally got some waves at Noosa and I felt a flood of relief being back in the ocean.
We had some more shows booked in around Byron Bay and spent a little over a month in the area, surfing, fishing, playing music and visiting old friends. This area never ceases to amaze me and there are so many spots to explore. Even though there had been a spate of Great White shark attacks in the area we still managed to get some nice longboard waves in and enjoyed walking the beaches.
Now we are on the journey home via the beautiful mid north coast NSW through fairly familiar territory. I guess it will be strange being home, yet we are excited to see our friends and family again. I guess it's good to note, as one wise traveller we met in Tasmania told us, “Even when you're not 'travelling'… you're still travelling.”
If you would like to read more and see pics from our trip please go to http://somuchsea.tumblr.com/
You can also listen to our 'LIVE' album at http://music.mikemccarthy.com.au
Mike and Soph McCarthy.