Adventure tour guide by Jo Castro
Choccy Thomson

Today I’m talking to the better half in the Thomson household (only joking Greg!)

Welcome to Choccy, Greg’s lovely wife, a friendly and dynamic person who’s always got a funny quip and a cheery smile.

Together Greg and Choccy run tours for Adventure Wild in the north west of Western Australia in the Kimberley region. You can read more Secrets from an adventure tour guide here where Greg spills the beans and gives his take about life on the road.

Adventure tour guide by Jo Castro
That’s Greg, Choccy’s husband, by the way … down in there! He’s smiling – promise! Thanks Peter for this photo 🙂

Choccy, please tell me, how long have you been an Adventure Tour Guide?

Since 2009

What’s the best thing about your job?

Definitely having the chance to be outside, and running tours in the Kimberley which is a gorgeous part of Australia. Being out in nature, showing people around, having fun and lots of laughter too.

What’s the funniest thing that that’s happened?

Well, Greg mentioned the event in his interview about being a tour guide … But I’ll elaborate. That girl was me and when I got back on the bus having been to the rest room I felt something wriggling in my pants. I was sitting at the back of the bus and wriggling around. Then I couldn’t stop laughing and made quite a bit of noise and had to tell everyone, “Don’t Look” now, as I whipped my pants down and pulled out a lizard!

What’s the worst thing that’s happened?

Someone had a heart attack once at quite a remote gorge, that was awful.

What surprises you most about people?

That everyone is so different and you never  know what they’ll be like or who they are when you see their names written on a booking form. We’re nearly always pleasantly surprised and get to meet some lovely people.

What are you favourite places in the Kimberley?

Hard to choose, but I’d say … Marlgu Bilabong, Parry Lagoons, El Questro, Mornington Wilderness Park, The Bungle Bungles, Bell Gorge, Silent Grove.

Adventure tour guide by Jo Castro
How deep is that creek, Choccy? I dunno. Let’s send the guests across first to check for crocs and make sure it’s ok for the bus to go through! Lol! Just joking!

What do people forget to pack?

Their false teeth, prescription glasses, medication, and personal items like toiletries

What is the question that you hear people asking the most?

There are probably three. How far is it now? What’s for dinner? What are we doing today?

What advice would you give for anyone wanting to explore the Kimberley on their own

Research where you want to go and understand the distances. Tell people where you’re going. Always take lots of water, sunscreen, first aid equipment, a hat. Be fit, be careful, take photos and leave only footprints. Most of all Have Fun!

Australian outback, the Kimberley by Jo Castro
Top and Clockwise – Wyndham, a sausage sizzle, morning tea at Marrlgu Billabong, tour guidess Choccy.

What equipment couldn’t you live without?

My Leatherman (Swiss Army knife) – it has everything I need on it!

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to run tours?

You have to be organized, think ahead, laugh at yourself, have fun, get enough sleep and try not to burn the candles at both ends – you can do it for one trip but not 10! I also need to plan in advance, what I’m going to be doing the next day otherwise it all falls apart.

What does a day in the life of Choccy look like?

Wriggle out of my swag.

Go to the loo.

Put the kettle on.

Set up breakfast things.

Adventure tour guide by Jo Castro
“Right, time to get lunch going. Any helpers?”

Chop lunch things – cucumber, tomato, anything that can be prepared in advance.

Go for a walk or swim with the tour group

Adventure tour guide by Jo Castro
Picking a few flowers of the forest, for jam one night.

Have lunch

Go for a drive – generally a pretty long one in the Kimberley.

Set up camp

Have another swim or walk.

Adventure tour guide by Jo Castro
Hiking in the Kimberley. Phone, medical kit, and leather hat … Choccy style.

Think about what nibbles to get up for sundowner time

Eat nibbles, crack open a bottle of champagne if we’re at a lovely spot.

Prepare Dinner.

Eat dinner, have a beer, sit around the fire that the men might have got going.

Go to bed.

When we are back in Broome, we might have one or two days turnaround time, during which I have to check the manifest for guests’ dietary requirements, do the laundry, clean the bus and trailer and do the shopping for the next trip.

I’ll also prepare  as much food as I can freezing meals where possible and sort out the equipment for the next trip such as the new sleeping bags and make sure the swags are clean.

Then I need to stock up in general. There’s a lot of shopping to do, for instance we need 30 litres of milk, 25 loaves of bread, 15 kilos of muesli, 1.5 kilos of weeabix, 2 jars of marmalade and 2 big jars each of vegemite and peanut butter, 4 kilos of flour, 6 kilos of tomatoes and the list goes on – and we generally re-stock in Kununurra.

As you’re together in stressful situations, or at least together 24/7, How do you make your relationship work?

Kimberley May2012 JAC 639 x 500

Greg and I make sure that we are professional when we are at work, which is solid for 6 months of the year. It’s all work for us then, not play. In the six months afterwards we go on holiday, and we play.

Thanks Choccy, it’s been great to chat to you and to hear a little about your life on the road. If anyone wants to know more about the trips that Greg and Choccy run please click on some of the links throughout these two posts that will take you to a day by day guide of a 12 day tour to the Kimberleys.

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  1. The places Choccy mentions as her favourites are mine too – though I haven’t been to Mornington yet. What a life! though I don’t think I could hack the pace with all that cooking! Could I just go along as the “officaial photographer”?
    You didn’t ask her where she got the name Choccy from?? LOL
    Great post Jo – your posts are making me want to go back to the Kimberley – one day I hope in the next couple of years.

  2. The cooking is intense, I don’t know how she manages 🙂 OK, I know I have the background to her name written down … Choccy, you ok with this? 🙂 And thanks, Jill, and I hope you do get back up to the Kimberley in the next couple of years.

  3. Super interesting to hear about the other side of the tour guides! I always kind of imagined, as I’m sure many people do, this wistful carefree life of travel guides who just wander around the brush all day taking people with them, but in reality there is so much planning and responsibility on their shoulders. Thanks for sharing a slice of life with us!

  4. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)

    I’m probably one of the few Americans who visited Perth, Freemantle and Rottnest Island before visiting Sydney. However, we’ve yet to make it out into the bush. I think a guided tour is probably the way to do it — at least at our age and given are almost nonexistent camping experience.

    PS: I once found myself in a bathroom in Peru with a tarantula, but I think I’d have to be revived if I had found a lizard in my pants. (BTW, keeping a tarantula in the bathroom is a very good way to make sure no one spends too much time in there.)

  5. I know Dana, from the outside it looks an idyllic existence but if you dig a little deeper the responsibilities and planning are huge.

  6. You are one of the few, I’m sure Suzanne, so good on you 🙂 Most tourists visit the Rock (Uluru), The Reef (Great Barrier) and The Bridge (Sydney Harbour), and then run out of time or money to come to Western Australia. Hope you enjoyed it. Getting out into the bush in WA is a whole new experience though, and one to put on the bucket list. Oh, a Tarantula, that would have been a bit scary too 🙂 Good ploy though to make sure the bathroom isn’t always busy!

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