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They laugh and admit they are no Leyland Brothers but sisters Ann Turner, 73 and Denise Maguire 68 reckon their 24,000 kilometre trip around Australia came with a bit of true grit and plenty of that adventurous spirit. 

In their well-kitted van, they set off on April 4 last year returning to family just in time for Christmas.

You suspect it is a well used line that's garnered many a laugh but what makes two sensible older ladies, one still a part time teacher, the other a former administration officer, give up the comforts of home for a squishy bed in a van and the open road?


My husband John and I often talked about travelling around Australia and then one day I realised hed been dead 26 years and I was no closer to that dream, Ann said.

I don't think I could have done that trip with anyone other than Denise. We brought out the best in each other and there were lots of moments when we felt really confident but there were many places emotionally that brought us undone.

Denise likens their partnership to a winning team on grand final day.

We went the right time in our lives, the right time of year: we performed well, our health was good and things just came together that no obstacle was too great, she said.

Things would happen, normal every day things that would become pretty funny straight away, but we dealt with them. We got bogged once and the spare wheel fell out and I am running down the road chasing after it. Boy did we laugh about that

The sisters reckon much of their trips success was in the planning and meeting the right people who never once told them not to go.

We wanted to make sure we always had enough power so if we couldn't make a caravan park or powered site that night we would not be left in the dark, Denise said.

At Battery World Morayfield, the owner Larry helped us set up alternate power in the van and even gave us his mobile number and said if we got stuck to call him no matter where we were. I have to say we did call him once when we were up near Kununurra WA when the existing battery we had in the van gave us trouble. We should have taken his advice and changed over that cheaper battery before we left but he put us in touch with the nearest store to help.

Everything ran off our batteries: our lights, fridge and water so we needed to make sure they were always charged it gave us confidence. So they virtually installed batteries for dummies. They put in an amp and volt metre we could keep an eye on when things were running low and never run out. They changed the original charge system for us, which was a bit dodgy.

We were lucky we always found the right people. There is something to be said about finding the right people to help you. You don't have to be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone.

Ann has no regrets the trip took her longer to achieve and said many moments were made even more memorable because the timing was right.

I did have a lot of trepidation, she said. Denise and I have very different personalities: I put barriers up and Denise doesn't. There were places we would travel and I would go oh I don't know and Denise would say just do it. Like Parry's Lagoon in WA where we drove to a lookout at an old telegraph station left from the war days, and the road to get there was white-knuckle stuff. We shouldn't have driven that road! When we got there, this family pulled up in their motor home. We watched as millions of birds rose up from the wetlands.

Here we were in the middle of nowhere and their mobile phone rang and it was someone from home telling them their pet bird had died. The children were really sad but here they were watching amazing birdlife at first light. It was quite a spiritual moment. To think they got that call right at that time.

For Denise the trip also gave her a chance to return to a remote Western Australian aboriginal community where she once worked as a teacher a decade ago.

The Kimberley stays in your soul, Denise said. Everyone should get there. It looked like I wouldn't get to meet up with the community I taught because they were displaced because of flash flooding but again fate stepped in or was it our timing and somehow we managed to be in the right place at the right time. We were able to reconnect with both parents and students I had known in the past.

I told you she was more adventurous than me, Ann quips. All those years ago she took off to the outback to teach in remote Aboriginal communities and this trip has enabled me to return with her and see where she lived and the people she taught.

From French backpackers to other mature travellers, the sisters shared many stories  making sure the cocktail hour was always observed. And they did raise the occasional eyebrow.

We would meet some other caravanners and they would look at our small van and say so you both sleep in there? and we'd nod, another well-told story starts to unfold. Then they say are you sisters or what? and wed laugh and say were not or what

We went all that way and are still talking to each other there's something to be said about that, they chorus together.



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