Surviving Antarctica: Field Training Officer

Story and Photographs by Shane Ness.

“Im also missing out on all the Screaming and the Pooing”

Tony Donaldson Field Training Officer Mawson Station, Antarctica.

Antarctica might be the most extreme place on earth, but could you imagine how tough it would be teaching survival techniques at -30C? Tony Donaldson a Mountain Guide from New Zealand is the Field Training Officer at Mawson Station over winter and he is up to the challenge.

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Climbing Fang Peak

“The scope for danger or loss of life is a lot smaller then it is back home”

Tony Donaldson,

“When things go wrong down here, they go wrong very quickly”

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When it all turns to Custard

Antarctica is a destination very few ever reach, designated  as “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Antarctic Treaty) Antarctica has captured the imaginations of intrepid adventurers for decades. You really feel you are at the edge of the world in Antarctica, some of the most isolated people on the planet.

“I wanted to see how I would fare, working in a really harsh environment”

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Search and Rescue Training

It takes a certain breed to be able to complete a winter, someone who is tough, capable of facing any challenge this icy world throws at them. An Antarctic winter has an uncanny knack of throwing everything it has at you, almost in an attempt to break you. Tony had an extra challenge, something very few would be able to cope with. Tony and his partner Svata had their daughter Anne while he was in Antarctica.

“Svata had our daughter Anne on the 22nd of Sept”

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Tony at home with Anne

“It’s been challenging missing some of the initial steps”

Tony says reflecting on the first few months of being away from his new born daughter.

Antarctica is isolated, really isolated, so isolated that once you arrive you are stuck until the summer returns 9 months later.

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Now this is remote

Once the Australian Ice-Breaker, The Aurora Australis leaves the station, taking with it the previous winter staff, you quickly realise how isolated you are. All of a sudden, station life goes from 40 people down to just 14. The station is quite, you cross paths with your new family in the corridors of the red shed. It starts to sink in, you are some of the most isolated people on the planet.

Thank you for visiting Tatteredpassport, Have you been somewhere super remote? Or have you visited Antarctica? I would love to read your comments.

You can find more stories from Antartica and many more adventures by clicking the FOLLOW button. You can also follow my adventures on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Why You Should Travel to Tibet

Story and Photographs by Shane Ness

“Jokhang was an interesting combination of smells, colours, faces and sentiments. I felt blessed to be so close to the heart beat of Buddhism and yet so saddened by the annihilation”

Alisa Gwyn, Sydney Australia

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View of Lhasa from the Potala Palace

Why Tibet? Isn’t it dangerous? It’s not the real Tibet anymore. These thoughts did play a part in my decision to visit, but not in the way they were intended. I wanted to visit Tibet to see what is really going on there, I wanted to see the Tibet as it is today, with all its beauty, destruction and sadness however what I got, was much more than that.

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Walking The Jokhang

I was on an organised tour with Intrepid Travel, we met our crew in Kathmandu, Nepal the day before we would enter Tibet. We had our own reasons, however one rang true, we want to see it for ourselves.

We hadn’t been in Tibet for long, before we started to see the effects of the occupation. On our visit to the Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace we were quickly aware that we were being watched.

“We were even aware of one of the cameras following us around the room”.

Samantha Stocks an editor from Somerset England said.

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Intrepid Travellers in traditional Dress

Samantha, her husband Elliot and fellow Intrepid traveller Lauren had just been persuaded to wear traditional dress, by two Tibetan ladies who were hiring the clothes for tourist to try on.

“They were very charismatic ladies! Friendly and smiling. I enjoyed the interaction with the women who helped us to dress in the garments, and I hoped that the money we gave them would stay directly in their hands and not find its way into the Chinese government’s”. Samantha Stocks.

As we walked around the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, I noticed Alisa sitting with a monk.

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The Jokhang and the Tattoo

“I have a line out of the Tibetan script tattooed on my forearm. He sore my arm, reached for a pen in his bag and finished off the rest of that particular chapter in the Tibetan script”

What does your Tattoo say?

“Boundless compassion, Love and kindness”

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Intrepid Travellers walking the Kora

It is this love and compassion that the Tibetan people have, even with all the destruction and oppression they have suffered that has changed the way that I see everything. When I asked my tour if they would suggest Tibet to their friends, the answer, did not surprise me,

“I would, and I wonder whether the only thing that will really keep the Tibetan culture alive in Tibet in any form is tourism. But I would like to see more literature on responsible tourism in Tibet, so that tourists can ensure that their money goes into the hands of Tibetans for the most part” Samantha Stocks

“Yes YES ANDDDDDDD ABSOLUTELY! Before it’s completely nothing more than a country encased by a false pretence” Alisa Gwyn.

Antarctica: Walking To Work In A Blizzard

Antarctica is a magical place, its raw natural beauty, it’s remoteness, it’s ability to bring the best out of everyone who visits here, but it’s not always perfect, Antarctica is a wild, untamed natural environment and that is one of the reasons why I come here.

It is unpredictable and here, you can see and feel the full force of mother nature.

Working in this environment brings some very unique challenges, simple things, like don’t leave you tools lying around, they will either freeze or blow away, your drinking water freezes in its bottle, and simply getting to work can be an adventure.

This day I needed to get to work in a blizzard. It is blowing between 40 to 60knots,

which is around 70 to 110kmph. With the blowing snow our visibility is less than 100m, this puts us in the “Field Travel Condition” of CAUTION, meaning we are restricted to station limits and we should call ahead before we go outside.

Here I walk from The Emergency Vehicle Shelter to the Operations Building a short couple hundred metre walk.

Thank you for visiting TatteredPassport, please Like and Share this post with your friends. You can follow TatteredPassport by simple clicking on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your screen or on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and BEME.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Quad Biking On Sea Ice: Antarctica

Even in the most remote, isolated and extreme place on earth, there is still space to have some fun.

Living and working in Antarctica brings some unique challenges you just do not get working in capital cities or even in remote mine sites. The isolation here means we can not get parts delivered until summer, the extreme temperatures can freeze anything, and the wind has been known to even blow away the anemometer, the device that gives us the wind speed reading.

So you can imagine we are kept busy by these conditions. However you know the old proverb “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.” So what do we do for fun?

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Curtis Bureaux asked a question

On station we have plenty of things to occupy our free time. In the bar area we have a dart board, pool table, table tennis and a soccer table. We also have a Gym and a climbing wall. However this week the Sea Ice in the recreation area has been opened allowing us to travel on the sea ice. We went out with the FTO (Field Training Officer) to conduct our Sea Ice Travel Training, we learnt how to measure the sea ice thickness, how to read the maps and where we are allowed to go.

Thank you for visiting TatteredPassport, I hope you have enjoyed this video. Please  Share with you friends and FOLLOW by simply clicking on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your  screen. You can also find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, BEME and Snapchat.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

My Bedroom in Antarctica

Do you live in an Igloo?

Would you believe thats a question I have actually been asked. I am certain is was intended as a joke, but it does raise a legitimate question about how we live down here. So I thought, I will do a series of short videos about our day to day life, to show what we do and how we live in the most isolated and extreme place on earth.

We live in a specially designed building which we call “The Red Shed”. The Red Shed is built on a system called AANBUS, Australian Antarctic Building System. The walls are almost 1 meter thick and are made up four pieces of freezer wall with an air gap in between. This is unique to the Australian Antarctic Program and is great at keeping us warm inside.

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The Red Shed Mawsom

My room is number 21 and I am on the top floor over looking East Arm and one of the Wind Turbines. Our rooms are quite small, which is fine as I spend most of my spare time in the communal living areas, like the bar, pool room, dog room and around the Dart board. We have all the creature comforts in our rooms like phones, internet connection, power outlets, and a comfy single bed. You would have seen in the video that I have a Humidifier, this is because Antarctica even with all this ice around is the driest place on earth. The Humidity outside is around 20% and inside the building can drop to as low as 10% making it quite difficult to sleep at night time, so a simple way to bring a little bit of humidity into my room is to have a humidifier. This one is real nice as I can add a few drops of essential oils, which is a great way to have a few nice smells around. As there are no plants other than the our Hydroponics room, or any natural smells, our sense of smell is heightened and we can smell the slightest change in the way the wind blows, blowing the smell of the diesel generators or even when the doctor is roasting his coffee beans, everyone all over station can smell them.

As you can see my room looks just like your room back home, however I do I have a few things that are unique to Antarctica. The “Normal, Caution, Danger, Stop” sign you sore, is our Field Travel Conditions guidelines. This outlines when you are allowed to go outside. Normal is basically fine weather and all travel is ok, Caution is visibility is less than 100m, and wind is up to 40knots, you are only allowed around station limits, Danger, visibility is less than 30m, winds are above 60knots. This is a blizzard and you need permission to go outside for urgent requirements only and STOP, it’s really, really bad out and no one is allowed outside.

I also have a few signs like The Mawson Station Search Zones, Fire Hydrant locations and Building and Structures. I need this for my roles as Electrician, Fire Chief and Emergency Response Team member. As we are so isolated, if anything like a fire, or someone goes missing, you can’t call the authorities, we are it, so we are our own emergency response.

I also have a few little things from home. My little Loch Ness Monsters, I bought them in Scotland in 2012, when my wife and I were on a road trip around the UK. They travel with us everywhere. The pink one is Crazy Ness and the blue one is Cool Ness. They sat on the dash board of the Kombi on the road trip across Australia. I also have some Tibetan Prayer Flags that I bought when I was in Nepal in 2014. The prayer flags remind me of the incredible spiritual journey I had through Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet in 2014.

So that is a run down on my room. I hope you enjoyed the video and the little insight into what life is like down here. If you have any questions about Antarctica, about what I am doing here, or about life down here, please ask in the comments and I will see if I can do a video on it for you.

Please FOLLOW by simply clicking on the Follow button at the bottom of your screen and SHARE with your friends. You can find TatteredPassport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and BEME.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

ANTARCTICA: Aurora Australis Timelapse 2016

It is late and I am walking back from the Power House, there is a slight Aurora happening so I grab my camera, what happened next was out of this world.

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The Aurora starting to take form

Its the 1st of May 2016 at 830pm, I am walking back from the Mawson Power house, I slight Aurora is appearing in the night sky, nothing special, but its there. So I thought this might be a good chance to practice my Aurora Timelapse. I have never taken a timelapse of an Aurora before, or used my new timer remote, but tonight is the night.

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Aurora over Mawson

Its a little windy tonight so i set the camera up in the shelter of the “Red Shed” (living quarters) and face towards the ANARESAT, that big golf ball looking thing. To my suprise, this is when the sky decides to go crazy and show me one of the most epic Aurora’s I have ever seen.

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Aurora over Mawson Station

I was hoping for a return of the great Aurora the next night, and was not disappointed, infact, the next night was even more incredible.

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Aurora over Wombat

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport. You can follow the adventure by simply clicking on the follow button at the bottom of your screen or on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Beme.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Shipwrecked in Antarctica

Outside my window, the wind is pumping 130kmp/h, then I hear the loud scream of the SAR Alarm. I grab my survival bag and head to the mess, the primary muster point. That is where I am informed that the Aurora Australis, Australia’s Ice-Breaker has broken its moorings and run aground in Horseshoe Harbour. This is going to be a long day.

The local time is 9:15am (3:15pm AEDT) on Wednesday the 24th February 2016. Mother nature is showing us how much power an Antarctic blizzard has, sustained winds of 130kmp/h and zero visibility. You can hear the wind hitting the “Red Shed” (Living Quarters) the windows, they are pure white, you can’t see a thing out there. We all gather and our Station Leader Jen Wressel informs us that the “AA” has broken its moorings and run aground on West Arm. “The ship remains watertight, with no damage to the hull of the vessel”

The Aurora Australis departed Hobart on the 11th of January 2016 carrying 66 expeditioners and has been conducting marine science around the Kerguelen Plateau Region in the Southern Indian Ocean before arriving at Mawson Research Station on the 20th of February 2016 to conduct the Mawson Re-Supply.

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Aurora Australis on the Rocks

After the briefing the Field Training Officer who is also the Emergency Response Team Leader calls the ERT which I am a part of, to meet up stairs. We gather and discuss the options. We know that we can’t go out there now it is too dangerous, we also know that the crew on board are safe and that the ship remains water tight. So we gather all our ERT equipment and return in an hour. This goes on for a while, the weather is atrocious, and stays this way for 2 days.

The next day I managed to get the first image of the ship. It really looked battered, there were huge pieces of ice, frozen on the bright red iron, you could only just make out the tiny AA 2, the Aurora Australis’s little tug boat moored to the side of ship. It was strange to see the ship there. We new where it was, but the last time I had seen it, it was moored in the middle of the harbour.

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Aurora Australis Icebreaker

Blizzard conditions remained for 2 days, the crew on station were doing well, our concerns lay with those on the ship. We have been working hard and by this time we had laid plans for the crew aboard the AA to transfer to Mawson, when the weather conditions allowed. We have now been informed that there is a breach in the hull. It is only minor and in a section of the hull that normally holds ballast water. “This breach has occurred in an area of the ship that poses no risk to the stability of the vessel or of fuel leaking into the environment”.

The following day the weather lifted and we initiated our plans to transfer all expeditions from the AA to set foot on Antarctica. This was a real relief for the current team at Mawson and I am certain for the crew that have been aboard the AA since it left Hobart 7 weeks ago. We welcomed the AA crew to Mawson and escorted the new Mawson-ites up from the wharf to the warmth of the Red Shed.

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Aurora Australis Mawson

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Aurora Australis A ground at Mawson

On the 27th of February the ships crew managed to re-float the AA at 7:20pm AEDT (1;20pm Mawson time) using the ships ballast and work boats. The crew aboard the AA conducted a full assessment of the ships damage, whilst the AA stayed with in the vicinity of Mawson Station. This took 4 days to complete and on the 2 March the AA sailed, on its way to Fremantle in Western Australia.

The marine science expeditioners aboard the AA and the previous wintering crew remained at Mawson until the 2nd of March. They were transferred to Casey Station via the Japanese Ice-Breaker The Shirase, and onward to Hobart Australia on the 14th of March via a C-17A Globemaster III, operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The Shirase is operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (Japanese Navy) for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE)

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The AA Shipwrecked

It was an incredible experience, super challenging for everyone involved on so many levels. Mawson is designed to house 40 Expeditioners, during the grounding there were 80 people on station. This stressed the very small water producing capabilities meaning the entire station was on strict water restrictions. One, three minute shower every three days. The waste water treatment plant was well over capacity, however “Team Plumb” did an incredible job at keeping everything working well. There are only 42 rooms on station, which meant many people needed to share the very small rooms, some slept in the library and some in the “Dog Room”. There were many little things that popped up as well, we didn’t have enough chairs in the Mess for everyone to sit down for dinner, we needed to get more coffee mugs, plates, cutlery and glasses from “The Green Store” and the very small dish washer, well that was pretty much going all the time. Even with all this extra stress on the station, everyone got along great. It was great to have the scientist on station. In my field I tend to talk to other tradies, Electricians, Plumbers, Mechanics and Carpenters, so having someone from a field so far away from what I do was super interesting. I spent a lot of the time asking questions about their research and about their time at sea. I also found a new light on my trade. I don’t tend to see what I do interesting, the things that I do everyday for work are just work, however these were interesting to them. It was a mutual cross skilled interest in someone else’s life, something I really valued and something you just don’t get anywhere else other than here in Antarctica.

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Mawson and The AA

After this huge start to our season, the Mawson Wintering crew, the 69th ANARE had settled into station life and had built a community we are all proud to be a part of. This does happen usually but the challenging start, I felt helped it along. I look forward to what this season brings and I invite you to join me on this adventure. It will be a long year down here, there will be ups and downs, there will be incredible challenges and lifetime friendships. This is going to be one adventure I will never forget.

Thank you for stopping by Tatteredpassport, if you have liked this post, please SHARE with your family and friends. You can FOLLOW Tatteredpassport on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and BEME, or simply by clicking on the FOLLOW BUTTON at the bottom of your page.

One Life, One Search,
Peace Out,
Shane.

ANTARCTICA: Vlog# 1, Frozen World

G’Day, For those of you who are new here, Welcome. My name is Shane, I am an Electrician and I will be spending and entire year working in Antarctica. That does sound crazy and I guess it kind of is, but this challenge is life changing.

I have been asked a number of times now, what is it that I do in Antarctica? So I thought a great way to actually show you all is to vlog it. So this is the first episode of ANTARCTICA: Vlogs by Tatteredpassport.

As you know I am an Electrician here at Mawson Station Antarctica. Mawson is located in Australia’s Antarctic Territory in Eastern Antarctica at (67, 36S, 62, 52E). Over winter there are only 14 people on station, two electricians, two plumbers, two mechanics, one carpenter, one BOM observer, one BOM Technician, one Field Training Officer, One Doctor, One Comms Operator, One Chef, and one Station Leader. We are some of the most isolated people on the planet right now. This itself brings some very unique challenges you would not experience working any where else. Which over the course of the year, I hope to show you.

This vlog is pretty much my usual day on station. I was on call as Electrician meaning I attend any alarms that come through the paging system, I was also on Power House Observations, which has me check the power house at 0800 and 2000, (8am- 8pm). I am also the Hydroponics Master and was on Hydro Obs this week, so you get to see our hydroponics room, where we are growing some fresh vegetables

I hope you enjoy the vlog and a little bit of a tour and insight of life in Antarctica. If you have any questions please ask, I hope to do an Antarctica Q&A soon.

Thank you for stopping by Tatteredpassport, if you have enjoyed this post please share, you can also follow by simply clicking on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your screen. You can also find Tatteredpassport on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat and BEME.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Flying south for the winter

Story and photographs by Shane Ness

Antarctica’s wild nature captures the world’s imagination. This white continent caught me and now I get to join a very unique club, for those few people who have wintered over in Antarctica.

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The AAD’s A319 at Wilkins Aerodrome

Australia has been a part of the Antarctic story for 100 years. Sir Douglas Mawson infamous expeditions in the 1930’s have led the way for decades of Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) expeditioners to work in this icy, remote, extreme and beautiful continent at the bottom of the world.

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Whoop Whoop Hercules

I remember the start of my Antarctic story. I was an apprentice electrician in the 2000’s. I heard that electricians could work in Antarctica, but I felt it was out of reach for your average bloke. Little did I know that 10 years later I would be writing this story from Mawson Station Antarctica, preparing to winter over.

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Vesfold Hills Davis

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Welcome To Davis

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Davis Street Sign

Why Antarctica? I get asked this all the time. For me it is a part of the adventure, I thrive on challenging myself. The Antarctic adventure is not just bout exploring far off lands, it is about the challenges of working in such an extreme environment. The challenges of living in a small community for 12 months and the challenges of being away from my loved ones. This is going to be my biggest challenge ever.

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Davis From The Air

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Ice Berge moving

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Pan Cake Ice

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Rumdoodle from the air

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Twin Otter @ Rumdoodle

Thank you for visiting tatteredpassport, if you have liked this post please share with your friends. You can also follow me by clicking on the “FOLLOW” button or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and BEME.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

The Ethical Road Trip: Australia

The Ethical Road Trip started out as just another adventure, but grew into something that I am super proud of. I could never of imagined what I would learn on this epic journey.

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The Beginning of the adventure

Early in the planning process we decided to support a cause, but what cause? Mental Health was the obvious answer for us. We have supported beyondblue in a previous adventure and mental health is very close to our hearts. We contacted headspace, well aware of what they do and who they help. Headspace is the Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12- 25 year olds.

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Nullarbor Sunset

Young people are living in a world that is so different from when I was growing up. The pressures of online lifestyles, effects young people in a way I could never imagine. When I was at school I was bullied, but the bullying stopped at school. These days every one has a smart phone which allows the bullying to come home with you, the bullying doesn’t stop, and this is only the start. There are so many issues and levels to youth mental health.

The Ethical Road Trip saw my wife Kristy and I drive a whopping 8500km from Perth to Hobart in our 1976 Kombi. The trip took us 4 weeks and we had the time of our lives. Yes we saw some incredible places like Wave Rock, Esperance’s beautiful beaches, we crossed the Nullarbor, drove on the 90 Mile Straight, Australia’s longest straight road, visited The Great Australian Bite, drove along the Great Ocean Road, watched the sunset over the 12 Apostles, climbed a mountain and saw Tasmania’s natural beauty first hand. What we got from this journey was much more than just beautiful sites, we had time to talk, we had time to enjoy the journey, we had time to take in the experience, we fell in love all over again. A road trip is much more than a road trip, a road trip is an experience like no other, an opportunity to live your life.

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The first stop Wave Rock Hyden

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The best beaches in the world

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Australia’s Longest Straight Road

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The Great Australian Bite

Help us help headspace, you can donate via “The Ethical Road Trip” everyday hero page, or can help raise awareness by simply sharing this post and starting the conversation around mental health.

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Uluru Sunrise

If you haven’t already you can FOLLOW TatteredPassport by simply clicking the follow button at the bottom of your screen. You can also find me on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat and BEME.

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Our View from the Kombi

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A perfect day at Cradle Mountain

Thank you for stopping by.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.