When we think of cats travelling around Australia, what we need to understand is that Willow wasn’t the first and she certainly won’t be the last. This morning we are meeting a 2-year-old Burmese named Bonnie, a little cat that’s travelled some serious miles with her family over the past year.
Willow and I park up in a little reserve at Eagle Hawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula. It’s a part of Tasmania we’ve been spending a lot of time in lately. It’s a place where luscious forests with ferns and streams meet white sanded beaches and unspoilt shoreline.
A 1994 Isuzu Winnebago coasts down the hill before pulling into the reserve. This has to be Camp Winnie.
Out steps Lisa, Shannon, Jess, Chloe, and of course, Bonnie the cat.
This may be the first time we have all met in person but I have been following their journey for a while now, even before they left their town South-West of Sydney in 2020. Shannon messaged a few years ago and told me about how he was renovating the old winnebago, how he was getting it ready to accomodate the family and a cat, the shoestring budget they had, and how excited they all were to be taking that leap into leaving a life behind for year and doing the ‘big lap’.
Shannon couldn’t tell you how many hours he worked on this van, building the bunk beds for the kids, Bonnie’s litter tray compartment, replacing everything that needed replacing on the nearly 30-year-old van.
Then they took that leap, and they adapted together. Bonnie explored the forest, stretched her legs in the desert, and purred by the pacific, like all good van cats that had come before her.
When we’re missing home she comforts us, Jess says.
Now, after over a year on the road they are experiencing Tasmania, with Bonnie now joining the ranks of Top Cats who have visited every state in Australia.
Shannon tells me about their lives over the past year, the places they have visited, and stories from the road. The kids have been home schooled and I don’t think you could get a better lesson in geography, history, geology, and biology than a year on the road around Australia.
Oh, and Bonnie, how she has thrived, how they all have.
The 5 of them have been sharing their Camp Winnie adventure on youtube. They have made some really great videos together. I feel they have captured the Australian road trip experience really well with stunning landscapes and down-to-earth narration, with lots of shots of Bonnie running around beaches, exploring, and even sitting in the back of a dinghy.
Now, a Van Cat Meow / Camp Winnie crossover wouldn’t be complete without the two kitties meeting each other. I bring everyone over to our van where Willow is lying on the bed. She jumps down onto the table and greets everyone. She’s quick to serve up some head boops but isn’t much interested in Bonnie who is hanging over Shannon’s shoulder.
Maybe there’s a little bit of inter-van cat rivalry there, but Bonnie isn’t much interested either!
It’s nearly lunch time now. I need to head up the coast and Camp Winnie have a lot of exploring to do – the blowhole, the tessellated pavement, and the Port Arthur Historic Site.
Willow and I say goodbye as the four humans waved.
Over the next few weeks Camp Winnie will be heading home after over a year on the road, though their concept of home has been challenged. They have successfully done what many dream of doing, but few achieve – they took that leap.
For Jess and Chloe, they will return to school with the seed of adventure planted in their minds, the memories of this trip with them for a lifetime, forever shaped by their time on the road.
For Shannon and Lisa, I’m not sure if life will ever be the same but I feel that one day the road will be a part of their lives again.
Oh, and Bonnie, will she pine for those desert sands between her toe-beans? To travel around Australia is a gift, to see it through the eyes of a cat is a greater one still.
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I’m lucky to meet lots of people (and cats) on the road, and I know each of them got there by asking a simple question – what could life be like?
It was great to meet the Camp Winnie family and of course, Bonnie. If you’d like to see more take a look at their Youtube, Instagram, or Facebook. I especially recommend part 2 of their Tasmania series on YouTube which features Willow and I!