Sunday, October 7, 2007

Adelaide to Perth via Darwin

G'day folks, this is our very first blog and possibly the last, let me introduce us, my name is Frank, my wife Brenda and our dog Kia, recently we travelled this wide brown land of ours, actually, as you will read, it was more green than brown. I kept this log for our own records and memories, from this I was going to send some excerpts to family and friends as emails but when it came to sending, I wasn't sure of what to send and what to cut so I sent the lot, as 9 emails while we toured. After finishing the trip and speaking to a couple of people, it was suggested that I make a blogg and share our story, in order to encourage other people to travel, you see most of the articles you read of people who are touring, are doing it with a new 4WD and new caravan and lots of money behind them, we on the other hand toured in our 11yo Commodore and with our 27yo Jayco Songbird 15ft pop-top. Although we are both in our early fifties, I have had 2 heart attacks in 1985 and 92, the last of which put me out of work. Brenda has had back surgery twice including a fusion, though the surgery was a success, Brenda has been left with constant residual nerve pain, which at times leaves her bed ridden for a couple of days.If you have been thinking, we can't tour Australia because we have an old car, or we are on a pension and don't have much money or our van is too old, please continue reading and you will see that we too are on a pension as our only income, and we met a lot of people out there enjoying this wonderful country of ours with less than we had, both in funds and equipment and there were a few out there who's health was worse than ours. This is a long blog, day by day we take you through our wonderful 16 week trip of a life time (which by the way we plan to do again as there are a lot of places we couldn't go), if you were to print it you would have about 50 pages, if you wish, do as some of our friends did and print a few pages every day and read them before you go to bed it may even invoke some wonderful dreams but don't just leave them as dreams, make them become a reality and get out there, on the road, go out and enjoy this wonderful land of Oz.

Tuesday 15th May 07, The first day of the big trip, headed off from home at 9.45 on through to see our friend Roderick in Salisbury on the way out, he blessed us and our trip and sent us on our way with not one but two bottles of wine and two boxes of chocolates and we were on the open road by 11.15. Stopped at Dublin for lunch and filled up with LPG @ 57.9CPL, Decided not to go into Pt Augusta tonight stopped at Horrock’s pass on the Wilmington road 36km from Pt Augusta, got there at about 3.45, nice views, we went for a walk about 2km down and by the time we got back there was another couple in a campervan parked for the night.

Wednesday 16th headed off from Horrock’s pass went into Wilmington nice little town, set out exactly the same as Quorn, waited till 9.45 for the toy museum to open at 9.30 but to no avail so headed north to Pt Augusta filled up with Gas, nearly a full tank from Dublin 306Km although there was a head wind yesterday and a fair bit of hill driving into and out of Wilmington, still not good mileage at 90kph, so decided to stick to 80-85KPH today to see if it improves, stopped at the water tower lookout and the adjacent park for morning tea and to play with Kia for a while, up to now she has been a car hussy but now she looks at us and you can read “are we there yet” written on her face, we’d been to Pt Augusta before and did the touristy things then, so after the tower and filling up with water headed off, stopped at Ranges view lookout, about 50Km, where we stopped for lunch then onto Pimba filled up with Gas at 85.5CPL “ouch” 35 litres for 168Km a little better mileage but still not great although head wind again all day then onto Lake Hart to stop for the night only another 41Km, beautiful spot especially the valley coming into it, it was quite unexpected in the middle of the outback.

Thursday 17th Today we are supposed to go to Coober Peedy but Lake Hart is so nice we decided to stop here for a day of rest, although Brenda’s back is a hundred times better than it used to be and can handle driving around home and shorter distances, these long trips are not going to be too great and we were in the car for about 5hrs on Tuesday so we are going to have to change our plans a little for now and make sure we don’t travel more than 4hrs per day, if we have too, then we have to take a day of rest.
Last night there was a lady, in her 50’s, sharing the rest area with us, she is travelling on her own in a Toyota Hi-Ace campervan, has been for 4 months and will be till Christmas and will do it again next year, brave lady doing it on her own, she too is on the pension only, so that’s why it’s taken her 4 months to get from Brisbane to here and she hopes to make it to Darwin before having to head home for Christmas. Today we walked to Lake Edna, about 2.5km on the other side of the road through scrubland it was about 22degrees with a NW breeze a beautiful walk, not much water in the lake but everything is green due to heavy rains a few weeks ago by the time we got back there was another lady travelling on her own, with her dog, but she’s in a 35ft Winnebago with a trailer on the back and a little 4WD, she left central Victoria 7 months ago and intends being on the road about 15 years. We just lazed around reading, Brenda knitting and short walks and by tea time 2 other vans had pulled up for the night a couple, form VIC, doing the same trip as us but they’re due back in Adelaide for the Masters games in October and a couple and their Daughter (Burt, Anneke and krystel) from Holland touring OZ in 12 months then going back, organizing another visa and coming back again to tour more of OZ. I had chopped some wood today so we had a camp fire and talked till about 7.30 then it started raining, Burt had just been saying that everybody here wants to see rain but them, they see too much of it and it’s hard to understand, wanting to have rain. Settled in for the night and watched a movie. Tomorrow onto Coober Pedy, maybe?
Friday 18th well we did get to Coober Pedy, man what a drive, change after change in the scenery from green lush scrub to green lush open terrain back to scrub and back again almost in he blink of an eye, the scenery was constantly changing, it’s hard to believe that this is the outback, first flat then valleys, not the grand canyon or anything but unbelievable undulating hills we seem to be constantly going uphill, we even said any further up and we’ll be meeting our maker, even up past Glendambo it was still green, funny sight there a tank recovery vehicle on the back of a truck, puts a whole new slant on “drive defensively” lots of traffic on the road, a lot more than we thought we would see, then as suddenly as it had changed before from a lovely green field of wild grasses and shrubs it went to arid sand and rock, it was almost as if we went to sleep and woke up in a different country, this trip as been one of surprises as I said before we saw a tank and as we were driving along I saw in the distance a road sign with a plane on it and looked around for the air field, but as it turns out we were driving on it, a stretch of road is designated as the emergency air strip for the flying doctor, funny we’ve never driven on an air field before, we stopped for lunch at Bon Bon rest area met more interesting people and as it turns out they are at the same caravan park as us, we were going to stay in the rest area outside of town but it said on the camp 4 book “dusty” and it sure was, saw a truck go past then nothing but dust for about 30 seconds so decided on top tourist Park that allows dogs. Tomorrow we look around Coober Peedy.

Saturday 19th our first day of visiting a new town, Coober Pedy, didn’t know what to expect but we were still surprised, town of friendly people of mixed races, 45 different nationalities we’re told, it was just a bush settlement till the mid sixties when the main rush started, although mining started here in 1916, saw a picture of the Presbyterian church in 1965, where the TAFE college is now surrounded by buildings, but back then, only 40 odd years ago it was on it’s own on a dirt track, visited Old timers mine museum an old mine set up as it used to be in the beginning of the opal rush, up to modern times including real dugouts as they were then and are now, real interesting and amazing that the temperature in them doesn’t change all year round, stays at 21-23 degrees, also visited the Catholic church also a dugout, the first underground church in town, although now they all are, then went into a number of shops looking at opals and dreaming, prices ranging from $45 for a small ‘triplet” a small layer of opal laminated to a dark background to bring out the colour then laminated to a layer of glass to make it look bigger up to $22,000.00 for a real beauty full of fire, Brenda actually got to hold it, the shop keeper was a really nice guy, George, a Greek fellow his dad is the miner his Mum the cutter and he and his Mum mind the shop , also had a drink in an underground café. Tomorrow onto Marla south rest area about 235km from here.

Sunday 20th Had a late start today got up late and packed up then thought we’d go to mass at the underground church a real little beauty, very peaceful, prayed for a safe journey and also for a couple in the caravan park, they arrived yesterday on the 2nd day of an 11 week trip and went into town, she fell over and badly fractured her wrist, nothing they could do at the hospital in town so they flew her to Adelaide and he is driving back today. The priest was saying that there would be no mass in the church next week end as he was away on the great cattle muster, not actually mustering but he has been asked to bless the whole shebang and say mass next Sunday for them as they will still be in his parish, he hopes the following week end they will have made it into Hawker parish as he would like to be back in his church, also while he is away it will give him a chance to visit some parishioners he rarely gets to see, as his parish is 600,000 square kilometres, no that is not a mistake 600 thousand that’s the size of some countries in Europe. Headed off at 11am Onto Marla on petrol to see distance range as it turns out about 400km to the tank so we have a range of about 750km with petrol and gas, but this is still in a head wind it hasn’t let up, didn’t want to stop there, spoke to the local police and asked them about the road side stops and they suggested that we give the next one a miss and go on to the one after that 83km away, as we were leaving Burt and is family pulled up and that’s where they are going to stay as well, so on to Agnes creek and what a beautiful spot a dry creek bed full of river red gums the country side around here is almost as green and full of trees as the Willunga hills(in summer that is) but still a lot of grass, it was amazing how the plains of dry dust, sand and rock of the Coober Pedy area changed back to green and in some places there are still some rain puddles and areas of lush green grass, I wish my front lawn looked as green. Today saw our first wild life 3 wedged tailed eagles, 2 emus some kangaroos in the distance and a few wild brumbies, tomorrow onto Kulgera, Erldunda, and The Northern Territory.

Monday 21st headed off from Agnes creek at 9.15 left Burt and family having breakfast, they’ll catch up later tonight at the next stop. Onto the NT. Border, nice roadside stop very clean inc. toilets, well kept, lots of info about the Territory, the onto Kulgera there LPG was 89cpl, it’s getting dearer, went to Erldunda, turned left towards Uluru, it’s hard to believe that this is “the outback” other than about a 100km stretch near Cobber Pedy it’s all green and we have the photo’s to show you, talking of photos I missed some opportunities yesterday with the horses and others so the camera is on my lap today mind you I just downloaded 135, today only, a few are fuzzy and were deleted so don’t worry about having to see too many but it is so beautiful out here I couldn’t take enough photos to show you, had decided to stop at Sandy view wayside stop for the night only 28km from the rock so went past Curtin springs, when we got to sandy view it was more like an overtaking lane, yes it did have a bbq two rubbish bins and a shelter with rain water tank but it wasn’t meters from the road it was the road , so we turned around and went back to Curtain springs, saw Burt and family go past tried to flag them down but they waved and went on so we thought that once they saw the stop they would come back too but they didn’t. Curtain springs is definitely not the RITZ but $20 for powered sites-which there were none left of 8- and free unlimited, unpowered sites so this will do us tonight, we have pushed it too long and Brenda is really sore so instead of going to the rock we might have a day of rest, we’ll see how Brenda pulls up

Tuesday 22nd today Brenda wanted to go to the rock, although we should rest we are both keen to see it and can’t wait, so up at 8 and we were going to pack up and take the van to Yulara, but we left the van here instead, it’s only 60 odd km and the site is free here, and Yulara is $29 for unpowered so off to Uluru, the lady working at the gate says where are you from and when we said Aldinga beach, she says “Oh I know where that is my son has just built a house on Seahaven way” about 10 doors down from Amanda and Dave, but anyway, in we went and on to the rock. Our first view of it was fantastic. we spent an hour at the cultural centre before going to the rock which was very interesting and informative about not only the Uluru but the local Anangu people and we also caught up with Burt and family, then went on to the rock, when we got up close it was like standing in front of history, I honestly cannot describe the feeling I got from this piece of rock, to say it was the most awesome thing I have ever seen is the greatest understatement I have ever made, Brenda had a lump in her chest which welled and it became a very emotional moment, it almost felt like she was in a very special church, she really believes the rock has an aura, it really was a spiritual moment for both of us. Not that we would have climbed it, because of it’s aboriginal significance and our fitness, but it was closed due to high winds at it’s summit of 800ft about 345mt, and we were not able to do the walk the 9.4km around it as Brenda was too sore from the previous day, so we drove around it and had lunch at it’s western side, it’s hard to describe but all I can say is, it seemed to change it’s appearance with every metre we drove and was never the same twice when you looked at it. We stopped near the gate where the climb starts and went close to it and once again the presence of history was very strong. After spending 2 hours looking at this awesome sight, we went to “The Olgas”. After the incredible experience of Uluru we felt that The Olgas were the poorer relatives and we were a little disappointed, if you ever come here you should do it in reverse and visit The Olgas first, had we done that we know that we would have appreciated them more, although 2 walks are available, we could do neither. We then went back to Yulara and had a cuppa while waiting for the sunset caught up with some people we have been crossing paths with along the road and chatted for a while, then back to Uluru and the turn off to The Olgas where we stopped to see the sunset, instead of going to the viewing area where there were too many people, it was very quiet where we were and a fantastic experience to see the sun set on Uluru in absolute peace and quiet, when the sun had set we headed back to Curtin Springs with hardly a word shared between us , tomorrow we WILL rest!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday 23rd Today we are staying put and relaxing a bit, have some washing to do so asked if there are washing machines available and yes we can use the ones near the motel units $4 per load but it’s a 5kg machine so it’s not so bad (not that we have that much) then hanged the clothes on their line at the back of the kitchen where there is a beautiful green lawn, they have as much water as they want here, they pump it straight from the artesian basin, 91 meters down, it’s ok for drinking but it is mineral water and it is slightly salty, they also have a number of aviaries with a myriad of birds, talking of birds, this morning, 6am mind you, I still can’t sleep in, I took Kia out for a walk, we rarely take her off the lead because of the possibility of dingo or eagle attacks, but being so early I thought it would be safe for a while to let her, let off some steam, so she was running around having a mad minute when the local emu thought she was having too much fun, jumped the fence and off after Kia, she took off like a rocket towards the caravan with the emu in hot pursuit and me chasing the emu in case it caught up with Kia I would have had to kick up the kiber to make it let go, if anyone was watching they must have wet themselves at the sight of a little dog chased by a big bird, chased by an even bigger guy, the dog barking, the emu thumping and the old feller panting. As it turns out the dogs here at the station give the local emus some curry, so they get their own back on any little dogs that come in, so now when Kia sees the emu she runs between my legs and growls at the emu, spent the rest of the day relaxing and chatting with a couple of people resting here as well including Burt and family who arrived this afternoon, found out Burt was a cop in Holland told him about Lew (Brother–in-law) being a cop in SA and he gave us a tie and badge from Dutch police, Burt’s daughter commented that Kia had become a redhead now (because of the dust here) so Brenda had to give her another bath while watching out for the emu who still wants a piece of Kia. Before going to bed decided to spend another rest day here, as I said it’s not the Ritz, but it is spacious, the amenities are (stained due to dust and minerals but) clean, the people friendly and at a cost of $2 each for a shower we’re not complaining.

Thursday24th not much to do today just take it easy, park is empty by about 10am and fills up again around 3. Today the tap decided to pack in again (I had to fix it two days ago) so I pulled it out cleaned it and super glued it together hope it holds out till we get to Alice then stepped out of the van and smelled gas, checked and the regulator we bought last year was leaking so turned off the gas and took it off, it was leaking around the rim which is pressed together, had some “KNEAD IT” a 2 part epoxy filler that goes hard as steel so mixed some up and fixed that, once again hope it holds out till Alice so now I’ve had to work on my rest day, bugger it’s a hard life and someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me. Two vans pulled up beside us both from NSW but originally from UK and Wales by the evening there were about 25 vans or tens, chopped some wood, as we cook on an open fire when we can, Burt and co were going to join in, and the neighbours asked if they could so they cut wood as well and we had the fire in a communal fire place by the time the fire was going and we all settled with our chairs and drinks there were 9 of us there, not one born in Oz and 7 different nationalities we had a great night I polished off a bottle of wine (thank you Roderick) and we left them talking at 9.30 and went to bed, slept like a baby.

Friday 25th today I slept in till 6.50, Brenda till 7.30 so we packed up, leisurely filled up with water (free and used the filter) so we gave a donation to the flying doctor and headed off to another way side stop unfortunately it is a day stop and not for camping so had lunch and a Nana nap, then went on to Mt Ebenezer station which also has a free camp ground by the time I write this 5 other vans have pulled up one hire camper, a Winnebago, a HUGE 5th wheeler (caravan hooked up to a 4WD ute in the same way a semi is hooked up to the truck) and 22 ft van and a Nissan Urvan not a camper just the van and they fold the seats down, it’s interesting the way people travel, from one bloke I saw in his 60’s on a motorbike and his sleeping bag on the ground to people sleeping in swags beside the car, to caravans from 10 to 27ft and there are a few of those and lots of Winnebago’s and all staying in free parks as much as possible. As we got here Brenda took out meat for tea and I must have turned the freezer down too much and every thing was defrosted so we had to cook it all, the people here let us use their BBQ free of charge, so we’ll give them a donation for the Flying doctor, all these places have the donation tins and who knows one day we might need them (hope not). We’ve had tea and we’re now going to watch a movie.

Saturday 26th left Mt Ebenezer about 10am, the freezer doesn’t seem to want to freeze the food, so rang Amanda to get her to send the Warrantee papers to Alice to see if we can get it fixed there, it may be that it’s just going to take time, on to Erldunda back to the Stuart Highway, turned left for Alice didn’t fill up as LPG is 95cpl and petrol $1.94 we have enough gas to get to Stuart Creek Station, where we are staying tonight and petrol to do the other 106km into Alice as the price $1.29 and 75cpl we are told AND we can use the discount dockets, the lay of the land between Erldunda and Stuart Well is amazing we went through the Basedow ranges and it looks similar to the Flinders, you can see that they were formed by geological disturbance and in the valleys are beautiful creeks and rivers (all dry beds) but full of Desert Oaks and river red gums as well as other trees and grasses although they are a little more brown, some places look like oasis, Stuart Well is the home of “Jingo the singing dingo” and when we got here he was performing for some of the gests as he was led out (on a chain) I asked if he was friendly enough to pat and got a very sharp nervous NO! the guy didn’t really have to speak I think I read on the dingo’s face “um tasty little morsel” as he was looking at my hand, so I wasn’t going to chance it anyway, The freezer is starting to freeze the meat but it’s taking too long so I asked if they could put it in their freezer for the night and again “yes, no problem” so were here in the free camp with 2 other couples one in a Winnebago who were at Curtin Springs clean loo’s and showers but of course just a dry dust bowl in the free park, the caravan park is clean and full of trees but only lawn on the tent sites by the time I write this (5.30) there are 7 others and they are still coming in, tomorrow ALICE SPINGS.

Sunday 27th Left Stuart Well and headed to Alice, only 106km, the view seems to be getting better and the hills too, we went over one that would rival Willunga hill and we were only doing 45kph at the top. When we were back at the border we met a man and his son who told us the scenery got better as we went up and boy was he right, we then started to go through the edge of the west Mc Donald ranges and it was better still we are in awe of the scenery this place has to offer, the weather here is around 26-28 degrees and a few tufts of cotton wool in the sky, we’ve been in shorts and t-shirts since Coober Pedy. It is amazing how many people are on the road and how our paths keep crossing it’s like meeting long lost friend and when you speak to them their experiences of scenery are just as surprised as yours, we all know we can’t see it all so we swap stories on what we’ve seen and done. We are now here at Alice and booked into the caravan park $60 for 2 nights for that we could do 400km on gas, most of us on the road feel the same way, just today we were talking to a couple we met in Cobber Pedy and they said that they had spent $70 on dinner and regretted it when they saw the bill and he said he wouldn’t do it again because you can get a long way on that money, last night I spoke to the couple beside us and they were asking me how it was in wayside stops because they too were sick of paying money that could go in the tank, rich or poor we would rather put petrol in the tank and see more of this wonder filled land than have electricity, running water and a bit of grass. It’s very late (8.30) were off to bed ni-night.

Monday 28th We started the day by putting Kia in doggy day care at 8.30am “not happy Jan” (Brenda) because they were going to put her in a little cage for the day so when Brenda said that she couldn’t leave her there like that the girl assured that she would keep her in the office all day, so off we went for the day , firstly east to Emily and Jesse gaps (gaps between two mountains) and they were lovely peaceful places then west of Alice we had been told to go to Standley chasm at 12 o’clock as that is when the sun is straight up and the colours are at their best and it was fantastic, walking between two walls of solid rock 60 or so meters high 4 meters apart to see the wonderful colours of nature, after having walked through a valley full of eucalypts, native pines and, palms and water grasses in the permanent water holes, I tell you other than the differences in plants this almost looked like we were walking in the Dandenong’s instead of the “harsh” outback, from there we went back towards Alice and stopped at Simpson’s gap, we thought “Oh yeah just another gap” but it looked bigger from the road so in we went and boy are we happy we didn’t miss it, firstly walking up to it, there is a sign “no swimming” and it’s all sand in the creek bed so I thought “good start” but as we entered there were signs explaining about the endangered “rock wallabies” and showing where they might be and sure enough there were a couple sunning themselves on the rocks, as we went into the creek we saw the most magnificent permanent water hole that covered the whole area between the two mountains (about 10 meters) and was about 30mtrs long and looked to be about 1.5 meters deep of pure crystal clear cold water with a few water weed gently flowing through it, the rock above 3 meters high was covered in rust and lichens and below that was a shining, polished silvery, pink and purple rock, the signs explained that when the creek is in flood, the sand from the river bed sand blasts the rock clean and shiny, I have once again taken 140 photos in the last two days, had I taken 1000 I still could not do justice to this amazing landscape. After spending about 1hour taking in all this( and the time went so fast) it was time to head back to Alice, had a walk around town a little, we went into Todd mall where a myriad of nationalities are doing the same as us, there were a number of artist (aboriginal) displaying and selling their art, and unlike what we were led to believe none were drunk and disorderly but all were courteous and very willing to talk about their art and what it depicted we did see 2 drunks and both were white, that is not to say that it doesn’t change and yes we have seen a number of drunk Aborigines, but NONE have been rude and when we say hello they all reply and have ALWAYS been courteous. It was then time to go get Kia, we’ve really missed her today, when we got there, they had set up a blanket for her in the office behind the gate where she could see outside and she was waiting for us there and woke up as we approached, all in all it has been another wonderful day.

Tuesday29th today we were going to move into the bush park area of the caravan park as it is cheaper than the powered sites and there is more we want to do in Alice, we found out that the national transport museum wants volunteers and in return for 10 hours work per week per person they give you a powered site with all the amenities of a caravan park so for 20 hours easy work, and as they know about Brenda’s back she’ll be choosing the tasks she can do, we are saving 14 days at $30 so well stay here and do about 2 hours a day then see what we want to see and get into some of the attractions around Alice for free as we are volunteers here, we recon that’s a great deal, so the travelling has slowed and we are saving for the next leg, we are also waiting to hear back from Peter so while we wait, we save.

Wednesday 30th Not too much to say for today, we started the day with doing some of our time here at the National transport museum, we dusted the top rooms where there were a myriad of memorabilia of trucks of all sorts, buses and militaria then down to the main building and dusted trucks ranging from 1913 Albion to huge heavy transport truck, the Rotinoff Viscount (only one left in the world) especially made to transport bulldozers, to modern day semis, one 1950’s Bedford had an Austin mini cooper S and learned that in 1966 they came in, all top 6 places at Bathurst, reaching up to 123 MPH (195KPH) man that’s quick when your bum’s dragin’ on the ground, another had a 1962 Valiant “S” series, my dream car for many years so I got to clean it, we did 2hrs then went into town and did a little shopping but it all was a bit much for Brenda and she was quite sore so we went back and rested, later we all had a shared tea as some of the volunteers were leaving and we headed off to the caravan at 8.30 and were in bed by 9.15

Thursday 31st May Started the day with a phone call from Peter in Adelaide River for those who don’t know him, he was best man at our wedding, it was good to hear from him and we can’t wait to get up there. Brenda is still very sore today (too much stretching to dust) so we’re not going to go anywhere, I’ll do some work with one of the crew here, as it turned out I did 8hrs not hard work shifting old caravans and truck trailers around with a crane and digging some holes with a “dingo” great fun, but a long day so, now I’ve written this we’re going to watch a movie, we raided the kid’s DVD collections so we have a few to watch.

Friday 01 Jun 07 Another long day today measuring, digging and preparing more holes, we are building a large pergola for which the timbers came from an old railway building with 12 picnic tables and benches made out of railway sleepers, other gangs have worked on it and now there are 4 of us on it, this afternoon we had a working bee and filled in all the holes with “rapid set” and put in the stirrups for the tables and benches then planted a whole heap of trees there were about 10 of us for the working bee, then the organisers put on pizzas and drinks around a camp fire made of all the cement bags and sleeper off cuts all the volunteers turned up, some have left, new ones are in and there were 18 of us in all, it was a great evening but I’m shagged so turned in at 8.15, showered, watched ½ a movie, and I was asleep by 9.45, these early nights are great but unfortunately my body clock hasn’t adjusted so I’m awake at 4.30 and wait till 6.30 to go watch the sunrises which are wonderful here, today(Saturday) the sky looked like it was on fire (could be rain later) and then watch the hot air balloons take off from the field about 1.5km from here, then write this, read a little then make Brenda breakfast in bed when she wakes, although I go to sleep early, Brenda doesn’t get to sleep till much later.

Saturday2nd Well today a rest day, we both got stuck into cleaning the van, the last two days we just put things down somewhere and it was getting out of hand, then I cleaned out the boot of the car and we went into town and did some shopping, got the new tap, the old one is complaining and wont be long before it gives up the ghost and a new gas fuse the old one carked it a couple of days ago and since it had saved us from a possible big boom while in the Riverland last year, we didn’t want to be without one, the gas regulator is holding well, so I’ll chance it, then some food shopping, although everything up here comes from good old Adelaide the prices are surprisingly very similar, we then went back and put everything away, because of the limited space we have a plastic crate on the bench seat in the van as well as the WEACO fridge which we use as a freezer but there is only so much you can store in a 15ft van luckily we do have a small pantry. Lazed around for the rest of the afternoon and looked around the museum it is a very big place, we went up to the pergola site where 3 guys were working today and one of them had his dog there with him (tied up) since it is only Kia’s age,14 months, she decided that he looked lonely and went to play with him, unfortunately he is a Rottweiler and though they played well and had fun they both rolled around in the dust, well!, the black and tan Nicco and grey Kia both ended up the same colour as the dirt which is a dusty reddish brown so for the 5th time since leaving home Kia had a bath, there is no bloody way she was going to get on the bed in that state, then we took her over to near the tea rooms where there is a bit of grass and let her dry off there, we hadn’t had a chance to get into the old GHAN side of the museum before so we went and had a look at it very interesting especially when we got to a young couple who must have been on their honeymoon and were getting more than very amorous in the back of one of the carriages, she was red faced and he didn’t show himself until we went into one of the rooms and they bolted for the door, out to the car and off they went. Tonight a few of the people here have gone out for the weekend we are having a quite evening on our own and just vegin’. Tomorrow we are going into the west Mac Donald ranges stating 150km west and working back.

Sunday 3rd Today out sightseeing we started by going to Hermannsburg 136km due west someone told us it was worth the trip as there is a lot of history there (it was the first aboriginal settlement in the NT, by Flynn, founder of the flying doctor) and the solar panel electricity plant. Well that someone turned out to be a fool, other than the solar plant which might have been worth the trip had there been a pub or at least somewhere to have a coffee it was a waste of time the historical part of it is just like any other “pioneer” village, a whole heap of old dilapidated buildings with no doors or grills where they used to be and an entrance fee, we have been through so many of those we didn’t go in, the rest of the town is still an aboriginal settlement and the only road open to the public was the one to the power plan and the museum the others were marked residential area please do not enter, the residents are probably sick of tourists gawking at them, the whole area up here is a self imposed dry area, enforced by police and aboriginal rule, from there we could have kept going to our original destination of Glen Helen and Ormiston Gorge but it is 90km of dirt road and that could be bull dust so we went back 68km to the other turn off and 80km to Ormiston Gorge on the way there we stopped at Ellery big hole, well we just didn’t expect such a large permanent water whole in the middle of the “outback” it is about 130mt long and 60mt at it’s widest is has clear water teaming with life including some ducks and is surrounded by huge cliffs that rise about 80mt into the air, it is a gap and you can see through it but you could only reach it by swimming across, there are signs next to the life jackets saying that swimming is allowed but warning that cold water can cause cramps, when we got there, there was a German tourist who had lifted his trousers up to his knees and gone in but didn’t even get passed his ankles, the water is very cold, we brought drinking water with us in the fridge and it is the same temperature, it’s a very beautiful place and definitely worth the trip, then onto Ormiston gorge, that too was absolutely magnificent we had been told that since we couldn’t go to King’s canyon not to miss this as it is as good, it is unbelievable, once again permanent water and even a sign saying NO FISHING, (ha! I never catch anything anyway, why should that upset me?) but the cliffs here are at least 200-300mt high, they look to me as high as ULURU, and they are a wonderful array of colours, covered in parts by rust others by grass and once again trees growing out of the smallest cracks in the rock, the river bed is sand worthy of any beach and there were even people sunbaking, mind you it’s only about 16 in the sun with a cool southerly breeze, must be pommy tourists! The weather when we got to Alice was 28 in the day and 16-20 at night, on the third night we got a cool change and it dropped to about 10 reaching 22 during the day within 2 days is was 0-2 at night and still 16- 22 in the day. We are told that this is winter other than about 3 weeks in July where they get some rain and it can get as low as 12 IF it’s cloudy, poor things how can they cope with that, we might stay here a couple of months!!!! Just kidding. Anyway after Ormiston Gorge we went to glen Helen Gorge and that was ok but nowhere near as good as Ormiston so just took a couple of photos and left called into The Ochre Pits on the way back and stayed for about 20 minutes walking among the 5mt cliffs of the most beautiful array of coloured earth, sand and rock ranging through all the colours from pure white to yellow, orange, red and purple. Headed back to Alice, stopping at two wayside stops to take more pictures of amazing valleys and hills and of a natural rock formation that looks like it is part of an ancient fortification, it is about 6ft wide and at least 10km long before it disappears into the distance, In some places only inches high others 8-10mt, the ground slowly slopes up to it on the road side and drops away to 10-15mt on the other. We got back at about 5.30 had a wash before it got too cold, cooked some tea and settled in to a movie

Monday 4th Quiet day today went to do some more work while Brenda stayed at the van to do dishes and washing clothes and bedding, I raked a bit of dolomite and while I was doing that a subby putting up a shed, jack hammered through a water pipe so had to turn the water off and organise to close off the toilets and for visitors to use toilets at the Ghan museum, although now it is all one place it used to be separate and has a different water and power supply, so while the water was off Brenda painted a bench, it stands in front of the Kenworth Hall of fame and of course has to be Kenworth red, I took the opportunity to fix some leaky taps that had been giving me the irrits since we got here. The water in Alice is high in calcium which is great for your bones but not too good for plumbing so I had to re-seat the taps, the tool supply around here is not too great so by the time I had done that 4hrs had passed so gave up for today had a kip (needed it after all the hard work) and then went into town to pick up a couple of things and check email.

Tuesday 5th Another work day, Brenda’s back didn’t cope with bending and stretching for yesterdays painting so I’ll put the next 2 coats on, while I was working at it the owners, Kel and Liz came to ask when we planned on leaving and when I told him Friday 15th he asked if we could stay on another 4 days as they have to go on a business trip and they would appreciate us staying on till they come back on the Monday afternoon but we declined as our trip has already been put back 2 weeks, they asked if Brenda thought she’d cope with the shop, ticket and souvenir sales, and she tried it out today and coped better than the physical work she’s tried so that’s what she’ll do on Thursdays, after the painting I did a little more work on the pergola but it was easier today we had help from a guy from the local prison out on work pass he works here one day a week instead of working at the prison, finished at about 4 and took it easy, had our showers, and I cooked a Pad Thai for tea, I’m writing this while Brenda’s doing the dishes and making custard for dessert, we’ll watch a movie and have an early night, tomorrow we’re going to visit the Desert park and reptile centre.

Wednesday 6th Man what a day we’ve had, we got our letters of introduction from here to visit the reptile park and desert park, we got to the reptile park just in time for their show, where we were shown a shingle back (stumpy) and blue tongue lizards and a bearded dragon as well as a olive python and we got to hold them, all bar the snake were fully grown, the snake was only 6ft long then we went out and looked at all the other reptiles they have including a crock, it’s only a small property about the size of 2 house blocks so we were only there about 1 hour, from there on to the desert park, well as you drive past you just don’t realise the size of it, just the driveway is nearly 1km long and inside the park there is about 2km of tracks meandering through desert rivers, woodland, and sand country habitats with demonstrations on bush survival and bush medicine by aboriginal guides, nocturnal house, and animal enclosures and numerous aviaries, some walk through, and a bird of prey demonstration, unfortunately no eagle, at the admin centre you can borrow an mp3 player and at 30 points around the place you punch in a number and it gives you a self guided tour or you can join a guide for an information filled tour. All up we spent 4 hours there and could have spent another 2 but we’re both tired so we headed back, went for a walk with Kia and Brenda cooked Thai lemongrass, coconut and lime, pork with rice (as you can tell we’re not eating well while we’re away!) and settled in for the night. The letters of introduction are part of the deal of working here at the museum and saved us $60 for the day. The reason we are telling you about money spent and saved is not to boast or cry poverty but just to show that it can (hopefully) be done on a budget, as when we get back I am hoping to send this to a caravanning website that I found a couple of months ago who are interested in using such material to inform future “grey nomads”.

Thursday 7th Brenda worked in the shop today for three hours 9-12 so it was my turn to be house husband and do “the chores” after that I went to the small store room behind the shop to clean up a bit, well that took 2 hours, meanwhile, Sid, the guy showing Brenda the ropes had to go and take care of another burst pipe and left Brenda in the deep end, fending for herself, luckily she had spent a couple of hours there on Tuesday and it wasn’t too bad, it’s a busy little place and Brenda recons she took about $500, unfortunately not everything is priced so a lot of it is guess work by what’s charged for other similar items, Sid was back by 12.15 and we went off to have some lunch and have a kip, then went into town to do a little window shopping, when we got back Kel & Liz asked us to join them for tea at a local club so while Brenda is doing lunch and afternoon tea dishes I’m writing this then shower and get ready for tea.

Friday 8th A day off for both of us and a chance to spend a day with Kia as well, a lot of times we go to places where we can’t take her, so we leave he in the van, she has travelled extremely well and when we leave her in the van for the day she has never done any damage so she has had a lot of treats. We went to have a look at the eastern suburbs of Alice springs which are separated from Alice by the famous Todd river and boy his place is a lot bigger than we thought, although only 25,000 inhabitants, it is very spread out it’s almost as big on this side than the town itself, some of the houses here look like they belong in any posh suburb of any other capital city, then we went back into Alice, parked the car near the information centre and walked to Anzac hill, we knew the general direction but not exactly how far it was, as it turns out we were only about 2 km from it and we went to the top, a good climb but uneven steps made it more difficult than it should have been, we of course took some pictures but the video camera decided to poop itself and we’ll have to get it fixed, I think I had about 1hr10 of film from before, but I’m not sure, it’ll have to wait till we get home, we can still take short films with our digital camera, from up there we spotted a few of places we hadn’t been and decided to have a closer look, down we went and walked around town for about another hour and saw a new shopping centre and an old house called “the residence” we wanted to see by then it was 12.45 so we went back to the van (it’s 10km from town centre) had some lunch left Kia asleep on the bed (she was buggered, those little legs of hers have been going ten to the dozen and she had to jump most of those steps to Anzac hill) and we went back to have a look at “the residence”. For a short period in the 50s and 60s the centre of Australia was its own territory and the house was built by a stone mason from Clare (SA) for the governor of central Australia. In 1963 when her Maj and prince Philip came to the territory (the only reigning monarch to do so) two bathrooms were added -one each- and that is where they stayed we got to walk through the Queens bedroom, LA-DI-DAH!! Brenda being a po- eh I mean English, thought it was fantastic, I liked the history behind it and the way the house has been preserved, also Charles and Di stayed there when they came in the eighties, as the lady who works there said, at the time it was one of the most beautiful residences in Alice which was just a little bush town and was made even better by the addition of the 2 private bathrooms, now with all the modern hotels and other facilities it would be passed over, the only thing removed from the house has been the royal “throne” so that no one can say that they sat on it, the entry was a gold coin donation and was worth it, we then went into the shopping centre did some more window shopping, other than 3 bottles of vino for $15 bargain- and back to the van where Brenda cooked a curry, no, not really Roderick, it was just a simple meal, and we invited Sid (the bloke who helps look after the place) to join us, after that all the volunteers had a get together in the makeshift kitchen and we met the 6 new people, we were told by Kel on the quite that Liz Martin will receive the Medal of the order of Australia on Monday, and we are having another get together then, tomorrow is the time trials for the Finke desert race so 2 of the guys and I are going over to see that. The race is a big event here and Alice is filled with people from all over Australia who have come just for it, you can’t move in this place for bloody tourists!!!!

Saturday 9th Today for something totally different I told Cinderella that I wanted the caravan and car vacuumed and the car washed while I went to the Finke desert race, then I woke up and remembered that Brenda had told me that, that’s what she was going to do today, so after making Brenda breakfast in bed I went to the race with the 2 other guys, this is a race, as it suggests, across the desert from Alice to Finke about 230km, today was the time trials, the prelude they call it, where they vie for first place on the “grid”, the race involves cars, 4WDs, dune buggies, motor bikes, quad bikes, and side cars, they leave Sunday morning spend the night in Finke and come back on Monday, they head off at 8am and start arriving at 10am so you can imagine the speeds they reach, at times 160kph on sand and corrugated tracks, one of the locals told me that last year he was 40km out of town where the corrugations are 1mt long and 50cm deep and there were only tyre tracks across the top of the corrugations as the cars went so fast, they didn’t go down into them but only skimmed across the tops and the bikes only had their back wheels skim the tops, on Monday we are going to take the museum bus to go and catch the first few arrivals. We got home at about 1.15 and CindeBrenda had finished her chores which made the other guys ask how I had achieved such a marvellous thing, I just said it’s all in the things you do for them, I found Brenda having afternoon tea at the café, we went back to the van, had a nanna nap and veged for the rest of the day

Sunday 10th Brenda was awakened today by the sound of the old Ghan train being started and the horn blowing, they had arranged to take the volunteers out for a ride, this is another day, where Brenda wished her Mum could be with us, we had breakfast and cleaned up then went over to the station, unfortunately when we got there the government officials had misunderstood what was happening and thought we only wanted them here to start the train and move it to the front of the station, they needed to inspect the track before it was moved down further and they didn’t have time, so we missed out, it wont run till next Sunday and we wont be here, ah well, next time maybe? I put the bike rack on the car and we went into town parked and rode around some parts of Alice we hadn’t seen before, Kia was with us, she rides in a basket on the back of my bike, after a couple of hours Brenda took her and did a wee in the Todd river, Kia that is not Brenda! We then went home and veged the rest of the day, after all, it is Sunday; we have to rest some time.

Monday 11th (pub hol. Queens b/day) Well today I was going to go to the race with some of the guys and then come back and do some work, that turned into going to the race to catch the first arrivals then going home for lunch and back to the race to catch the bikes while Brenda and the girls sat, chatted and knitted a great time was had by all, while we were back for lunch I heard a train in the distance and sprinted to the railway track, that was a waste of energy because the driver couldn’t get in touch with the Alice station and stopped just outside the museum it was the Ghan and we were able to take photos at our leisure so now we have photos of the old and the new Ghan. When we got back from the race we had an early shower and prepared for tea, the owners supplied food and drinks and we celebrated the award of the Medal of the order of Australia being presented to Elizabeth Martin (Liz) the CEO of the museum, a great achievement being recognised for all the work she does not only here but for the trucking industry all over Australia as well as helping truckies and their families, we then had a bonfire, which was more of a signal fire for incoming UFO’s and is probably the reason why this was the first night in 12 days the car wasn’t frozen in the morning, we left at about 9.30 as the celebrations continued well into the night.

Tuesday 12th Another beautiful day, 20 degrees and a light breeze, mind you the light breeze is cold, it’s good being out of it, the coldest day we’ve had has been 15 but with sunshine all day and no breeze we were all in tee shirts and the locals were wearing jackets, we were told that this time last year the mornings were colder, remembering we’ve had frost on the car 11 mornings out of 12, but last year they got down to -7 thank God were here this year. We worked on the pergola again it is nearing completion but I wont see it finished before we leave, I have to tell you this pergola is 6 sided each side 6mtrs long and 12mtrs across, it has 12 sets of sleeper tables each with 2 benches as well as a 12ft serving bench, that’s why we seem to be always working on that project, I also fixed a leaking toilet cistern, Brenda made a curry for Liz and Kel to say thanks for having us and for tea last week and it went down a treat, we chatted till about 9.30, one of the volunteers, Ib, yes that’s his name just 2 letters, he’s Danish came and joined in about 8.30, he came here the first time for 2 weeks, 5 years ago and has been back every year from 3 weeks to, this time 5 months, he told me of some of his travels, 4 years ago he had been out 5 weeks when he went through a creek and his van got stuck so he unhooked it and drove to the top of the next hill where his car broke down so he stayed till his food ran out 2 weeks later, this is in the middle of the Tanami desert, so he made a video where he asked for it to be sent to his sister back home made a loaf of bread with what he had left and had his “last meal” an hour later a goanna came past and that was dinner, over the next week, five more goannas became his food, then he was found by some tribal Aborigines and he lived with them for 5 weeks, he is now 70yo and going back to Denmark for 6 weeks to see his sister and family, then back to Oz and continue his touring, he’s been on the road 7 years and now has a bus he has converted, the people you meet in this wide brown land (mind you to now it’s been more green than brown) continue to amaze us, from down to earth people like Ib to a couple here who boast a ½ a million $, 5th wheeler custom made rig and 3 million $ house back in Vic; which no one here is impressed by as we all see ourselves as tourers and equal, all here to see this beautiful country.

Wednesday13th Yet another lovely day though very quiet, veged in the morning cleaned up a little in preparation for leaving. 2 track packing, levelling and straightening machine came by today, what amazing pieces of machinery one is about the length of 2 ½ road graders, it shakes, lifts the railway track and sleepers and compacts the gavel under it, the other about 2/3 the length, straightens and levels the track and replaces it and compacts it into place as well as clean up and sweeps behind, all automatically with 1 operator each they are followed by a truck equipped with lift-up train wheels so that when they finish for the day, they leave the machines on a siding and take the truck to the nearest town via either rail or road which ever is quicker, we were told of these machines here at the museum as they will be coming here shortly to repair the damaged track and re-align the rest of it, they have 36km of track and it is going to cost $850,000.00. We went to town in the afternoon and picked up a couple of things then went to the botanical gardens, now picture that, botanical gardens, what do you see, green grass lots of flowers tall trees, one you would find in any capital city, that’s sort of what we expected, now remembering that although there is a lot of water available here from the artesian basin (NO restrictions here, we’ve washed the car twice this week with the hose) this is the beginning of the dry and fire ban season and the plants depicted here are desert plants so it is kept as authentic “desert” as possible, other then the occasional evidence of dripper systems to ensure plant survival, it is very dry and dusty with shrubs and trees of all the different landscapes of the area eg. River, water hole, mountain, plains and mallee, although the dry weather flowers are out they are very beautiful but extremely small on small plants and you could easily walk past them without knowing they were there, after walking around there for about 40 minutes we went to have a look at the airport, it’s quite modern and there is a lot of work going on to bring all the shops out from behind the security gate, we wanted to look at the shops, so I had to disarm, I left my pocket knife and multi-tool at the HERTZ desk and we went in, now; when we went to Brisbane 2 years ago, Brenda was picked out for drug screening, which we understood, because of her back pain she takes pain killers and that was picked up in the walk through screen, so of course in Alice, as Brenda goes through she once again is asked to come to a screening, it’s just a wand they pass over you and all your belongings then put a small swab form the wand in the machine so I said to the guy “Brenda is on medication for chronic back pain, that’ probably what it is” and he says “no this is a random check for bombs and explosives because of pine gap” can you imagine the look on both our faces. We didn’t realise that pine gap was so close to Alice, apparently it is only about 25km from here and visible from a hill about 3km at the back of the museum down a dirt track, we are borrowing the 4WD tomorrow to go and see it (and take pickies). We came back to the van and put things back into hidey holes in preparations for travelling, although the sun has shone all day, today, it was only about 14 with a real ICY wind, it was too cold to go and shower, so we had sink wash today by the heater.

Thursday 14th Well as promised Sid took time off his busy day(he’s leaving today and going home, middle Victoria, he was supposed to be here 1 week but has been 6) and took us to see pine gap, we travelled along the base of the hills and some times had to go to low 4WD as the terrain is fairly rough, as we drove I asked Sid, if the tracks that looked like dog tracks in the sand were actually dingo, and he said that he wasn’t sure if there were dingos this close to town, that they were probably camp dogs, as we were getting close we passed two ladies in their sixties who told us that we should be walking, about 2 minutes latter we came across a large dingo who was walking along the track, when we stopped to take a photo he stopped, and actually gave me a great shot, but then turned and walked and stopped again to look at us, as we looked around there was a smaller female standing about ten meters from us to the right partially hidden from sight as she jumped behind the rock we understood that the larger one was the male trying to lead us away from the den and in fact when he had lead us about 50 meters away he jumped into the rocks and ran back towards the den. We wanted to drive up the last hill to take photos of pine gap but there was a 3ft high farmers type fence so we couldn’t drive any further so I said to Sid “let’s get out and walk, it’s not that far” he went pale and told me that the last time some volunteers did that they were only 75 meters into the property when American helicopters and hum-vies turned up and they were arrested, it turns out that the Yanks have cameras it the trees and the constantly watch the fence line and because every one went to that last hill for photos, they acquired more land and took the fence line back, it took the people 3 hours to convince the Yanks that they were only tourists, they were taken back to the museum with a stern warning, so we turned around and went to the second to last hill, about 1km back and took pickies from there, I was assured that the yanks have very clear photos of me taking photos of them. We then headed back along the top of the hills, man what a view from up there, we were looking down at the plains between us and the west McDonald ranges (about 5km) and the plains to the right as far as the eye can see, about 300meters below, it is beautiful, then I looked at Brenda the colour had drained from her face, I had forgotten to tell Sid that Brenda doesn’t like heights, and the track was sometimes only 4-5 meters from the edge, we were committed to the track and had to keep going, it was only about another 2km to go on the way we also saw some kangaroos (about 10) including a big red, the first kangaroos we have seen close up since leaving Pt Augusta, we went back to the van and passed the 2 ladies walking and told them about the dingos, they said that they had seen kangaroos but not the dingos, they would have walked within 50 meters of them and were visibly shaken, we spent the rest of the day shopping and preparing to head off tomorrow and had afternoon tea with lady Liz, Kel and Sid before they head off to Melbourne.

Friday15th we were going to get on the road early but Brenda didn’t sleep well last night and slept in, it gave me a chance to do yesterday’s blurb, at 7.55 the first of many of the volunteers turned up to say see you and wish us safe travelling, by the time they had all come and we’d had breakfast and packed up it was 10 before we left, still having to fuel up and check email before going, got one from a mate(hi Brian) who is sending this to a friend in England (Please ignore any comments about po: err English), anyway we hit the road at 10.45. Great we start to the trip with yet another bl@@#y hill, who said this country was flat? The terrain today was undulating with once again a myriad of flora, ranging from grasslands to quite thick scrub at times almost forest like, the grass is quite brown in places but considering the fact that this is the dry season it is still green in others, weather is sunny everyday but still cold because of the icy wind, last night got to -1 and the water was frozen in the tap, stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn to take pickies, it’s only 35k, moved on went through to Ti Tree and gassed up at 97cpl the most we have paid so far went in to pay and have a look at the shop/restaurant/pub and there’s a coffin in the corner on the end of the bar where all the spirits are kept it was a lovely pub and worth a look at, then onto Stuart memorial wayside stop, on the way a car went past us and about 300meters in front did a swerve on the road, there was obviously something on the road, when we got there it was a road pizza that had, as early as this morning been a kangaroo and was being feasted on by 2 huge wedge tailed eagles, they didn’t even move until I blew the horn, which could have been a mistake because as we got there they took off and their wing span was wider than the car, when we got to Stuart memorial there were already 5 vans there and by the time tea was cooked there were 11 of us settled for the night ranging from an old guy (looks bout 90 not out) in a Nissan Urvan to a huge 5th wheeler, 3 or 4 of them have satellite dishes, must be watching footy, we’ll watch another movie.

Saturday 16th moved off this morning at 9.30, 2nd to last to leave, within ½ hour we were driving through rich green grassland, unbelievable how green it is, went through Barrow creek (town) well a pub/petrol station and 5 houses and there was a little water in the creek, then onto Wycliffe well, the UFO capital of Australia, the sign says there is even a BIG 4 caravan park there and a petrol station/shop and 1 house, we think the owner of the house got fed up with being alone, thought up the idea of UFO’s one evening in a drunken stupor and some idiot built a shop and caravan park(build it and they will come) there was a water hole with water in it so I suppose the stop wasn’t totally wasted, that is rare around here! It is beautiful terrain that we have travelled today with the green grass plenty of trees and the Spinifex grass now in seed that almost looks like a blanket of snow, onto Wauchope and the devil’s marbles it is so beautiful here, the rocks (marbles) are gigantic brownish red granite boulders that look like huge unwashed potatoes that someone has balanced one on top of the other, sometimes slicing one up and placing it among the others, the area is about 1.5km square and is also covered with green grass, red earth and seeding Spinifex of green and white, and flowering trees, the colours range from the deepest of reds to the lightest of browns with everything in between with splashes of white, silver, black and green with the yellows and reds of the flowers and the blue of the sky, they are a smorgasbord for the eyes, these cannot be the devil’s marbles but God’s playground. We met someone here who told us they were in Alice last night, and it looks like we left at the right time, They had -4 this morning, mind you we weren’t cookin’ either I recon we must have been close to 0 as well. We thought we were crowded last night with 10 other van around us, well there must be at least 30 other vans around, this is not a free overnighter but at $3.30 a night each, definitely well worth it, it’s clean, clean loos, and a million $+ views.

Sunday 17th we left the devils marbles after a night of, on and off showers it has been raining since 8.30 last night, and according to the guy who cleans here, it has rained a fair bit in the last couple of weeks, which explains the greenery and flowers, he also told us not to leave our shoes outside as the dingos will take them, they love smelly shoes, good to know! We travelled once again in so many different types of terrain and surrounds, flat at first then through another mountain range and into a forest of tall ghost gums back to grassland and into mallee scrub about 6ft high, all the while there are termite mounds ranging from a couple of inches high and wide to 5-6 ft high and 2ft thick with so many of them at times they looked like a silent army guarding this beautiful land in which the Spinifex reins supreme, no matter where you look the green and white of the Spinifex looks like a giant woven rug, we went onto Tennant creek pop. About 3.300 it was established along with the overland telegraph but also became the site of Australia’s first gold rush in 1933. We merely looked around and headed for our destination of Banka Banka. About 5km from Tennant creek the first of 5 straights started, it turned out to be the longest so far this trip, at 39km of dead straight road and at long last we started going down hill and continued for 62km almost like steps, down then flat for a couple hundred meters then down again for a few kilometres into some beautiful valleys. The sky remained cloudy all day with a few spits of rain which never developed into an actual shower, we arrived at Banka Banka at about 2, this is another station (cattle) which has set up a campground in order to cash in on tourism, unlike other places who charge astronomical prices, they only charge $6 per person, there are no powered sites but there are very clean ablutions blocks with all other amenities of a park. Unfortunately today we did have some bad luck Brenda has lost one of her gold bracelets somewhere between the devils marbles and here, she is pretty upset about it, however I told her to look at the bright side, when we stopped for lunch we did find a jaffle iron, now we can make toasted sandwiches on an open fire!!! She didn’t see the funny side of that somehow. Tonight there was a presentation of slides here to show us life on a cattle station, the owners have three stations in the area and this is 11,600 square kilometres with 58,000 head of beef cattle, they use fixed wing aircraft, motor bikes and horses when they muster and can take 2 days to clear one paddock which range from 90 to 560 sq. km.

Monday 18th We both had a good nights sleep last night, so we were up early, I slept in 6.15(wish I could sleep till 7 one day) but we were asleep by 9.30 so can’t complain too much, left Banka Banka by 8.30, though it threatened to rain again last night we woke up to a dry, sunny day but with a strong southerly which kept things rather cool, left with jeans and windcheater on and turned the car heater on as well, once again the country side keeps changing from pasture to scrub to dense mallee, the road since we left has been good and is even better here in NT with at least 10-15 meters cleared each side of the road, so in an emergency if you have to go bush there’s plenty of room to do so and not worry about chopping down trees, we have again loooonnngg straights 1 bend and straights again and today we bettered yesterdays by 10.8km at 49.8km although with up hill down dale you can only see 10-12 at the most till the next crest. We were going to go to Dunmarra for the night but got there at 12.30 so had lunch, gassed up and went onto Daly waters pub, only 45km further, this we were told not to miss and we’re glad we came, it is an historic pub established in 1930 and is full of not only great characters but hats left by tourists, not to be outdone some have left their underwear, badges of police, fire brigade and armed services from all over the globe as well as aboriginal artefacts, horse riding equipment, farm implements, sawn off shot guns, bits of rifles, bank notes, matter of fact just about anything you can think of, I don’t think there is a bit of wall not covered by something. Tonight there is a show (don’t know what, but it’s on so we’re going) and also a beef and barramundi dinner, $19.50 a head, we’re going to give it a miss and have quiche and salad, $40 will give us ½ a tank of fuel and get us closer to Peter, doing 250km a day seems OK so well do that for the next 2 and arrive at Adelaide river Thursday. Back on the keyboard after tea and we went to the show, it was, Sax and the single girl, no prizes for guessing what it was, had we met the “girl” in the street and someone told us she was an entertainer, we wouldn’t have believed it, she is short scrawny and has about 10 years experience at being 40, she has a repertoire ranging from Louis Armstrong to Acker Bilk, 20’s to 50’s and even some Elvis and while her singing talent isn’t her strong point, she plays the sax well and we had a great evening. We had a shower after the show and let me tell you a bit about this “caravan park” it is an area next to the pub that is making the owners a small fortune probably more than the pub itself, remembering this is the dry season and when it’s the wet it doesn’t rain, so it’s a dust bowl, not a blade of grass, big enough to accommodate about 150 vans 50 with power and while the rates are good, $9 per person for power and $5 without, the “amenities” are minimal, there are 6 sheds, about 1.8m x 2.1 (6ft x 7) with a loo and a shower in each, they are set behind some powered sites and you have to go between the vans to get to them (poor sods’ll hear some colourful language when I go for my constitutional at 10 tonight and go rectum over turkey on someone’s power cord) and it’s first in first served and wait your turn when you need whatever, it did seem to work though, we never saw a queue. Yesterday the park was full by 2.30pm and today there are only a few spots left, the powered sites are all taken up and crammed in like sardines but everybody seems to be loving it as the floor show continues and there’s a guy out the front singing and doing bush poetry.

Tuesday 19th we wanted to get an early start today to beat the traffic out of here and to make sure we got a place at the free park 60km from Katherine, I was up at 5.30 as usual and woke Brenda at 7; we were so efficient we were on the road by 8. The sky was cloudy and threatened to rain all day. The Spinifex has disappeared over the last day (200km) and has been replaced by tall native wild grass sometimes blocking the view past 15mt from the road, but the termite hills are forever there, China may have it’s terra cotta army but we have a spectacular site in these mounts that range in colour from white to red to brown and almost everything in between, depending on the minerals where they are built, as we went further north their shape changed from a conical shape to cylinders that look like fingers, one even looked like it was in the middle of a hand with the other fingers folded as if to say ……. Well you know, another was a lady holding a child and another, as we looked at it we both said at the same time “a family”, some like turrets on a castle, but all of them still reminiscent of a silent army some standing tall, some crouching in the grass others well camouflaged in their earthly colours. The trees are now mostly tall, some we have not seen before, they are a eucalypt but as they loose their bark the trunk is left a most beautiful shade of orange with a tinge of pink, we found out later these are salmon gums, makes sense, it is salmon coloured; others have yellow flowers or red or pink, the wet season may be over but the colours remain. With the dry, the deciduous trees are now loosing their leaves so with the colours of the flowers also comes those of Autumn it is a strange sight but absolutely fabulous. We got to The way side stop by 11.45 so just had a cuppa and went on to Katherine, found the show grounds and went to see the lady I had rung from Alice about a free site (work for site) we do not want to stay any longer than over night but she was ok with that and we told her we will call back on our way west, upset some of the Indians at the showgrounds, it is only supposed to be a park for big rigs only and a couple told us that we had to move, yet here we were in our little van, amongst $150,-350,000 rigs and they had to share with commoners, but stuff ‘em we were doing our bit and this is where we were told to park, when we told Kathy her answer was more or less the same, for tonight’s stay she asked us to clean a couple of small pavilions of cobwebs and sweep the floors using a blower, today we we’re glad that Brenda’s Mum wasn’t with us, the cobwebs were only that of Daddy long legs, BUT, they make them a bit bigger here, one of them I reckon could just about carry Kia away, took a couple of pickies here at the showgrounds, of trees, once again unseen in SA, they are mahogany tress as big, as a large eucalyptus, not that specky, but the inhabitants were, there are 4 trees side by side and in them a colony of flying foxes, has to be at least 2-300 if them, none of these critters at home either, but our job was done in 1&1/2 hours, we went into town and had a quick look around, posted a card to Danika & Ethan , got a bit of fruit and gassed up ready for tomorrow. The threatened rain came, not even enough to wet the ground just enough to be a nuisance.

Wednesday 20th we were up and on the road by 9.30, as we left Katherine I said to Brenda this is the most uninteresting bit of scenery so far for the whole trip, but that changed in about 15 minutes it started with the termite mounds they make everything bigger here, even these, where before, there were 40-50 every 100 meters or so, there are now only about 5-10 but they are 4-5 times the size they ranging up to 3.6m high and 2.1m thick (12ftx7) these things are monstrous compared to what we’ve seen before, the trees have also changed, there are now a lot of salmon gums, palms of all different sorts and a lot of grass, most of it old and brown but there are vast areas where burn off has occurred, before the fire season, and the tall brown grass has been replaced by lush green new growth, it is still overcast quite cool, heard on the radio that this has been the coldest 24hrs on record for Katherine, it’s about 18 today. Once again the colours are amazing, in the foliage there is every shade of green that you can imagine as well as brown, orange, pink, red, maroon and silver, the flowers of orange, all shades of pink, red and one we don’t know what it is, but we’ll find out, is a bright yellow, no leaves on the tree just branches and yellow flowers, the land for the first 150km is very “undulating” and at times we’re only doing 60kph when we get to the top of a hill and there are a number of overtaking lanes here, this area is reminiscent of the approach to Adelaide down the freeway from Murray Bridge, only 2 “towns” on the map, Pine creek about 200 inhabitants, 90km from Katherine and Hayes creek, petrol station/caravan park/pub, 140 km from Katherine still in the hills but soon the terrain changes to just flat flood plains with small hills protruding every 15-20km, a lot of the trees are now gone and only reappear in the hills, we’ve had a strong tail wind all day and 205km after leaving this morning we arrive at Adelaide river at 12.30, it’s great to see Pete and Georgie again, they’re both wearing jumpers as the southerly is keeping the weather cold at about 16-17, set up the van and had a coffee with them, had lunch, a “Nanna” nap and veged the rest of the day catching up on old times, went to happy hour, something started here by Pete and Georgie, for the tourists to swap stories and hints, most people turned up in spite of the weather, had tea with them and settled in for the night.

Thursday 21st A quiet day planned today, did a few “chores” clothes washing etc, and took it easy till about 10, took the bikes off the van and rode into town; we thought another one of these with a pub and not much more. Just on the outskirts of town there is a small pioneer cemetery, we like looking at these for the history they hold, there were only 6 graves with 3 known the others unmarked, though I knew about a world war II cemetery being here, I thought we would find the same sort of thing, when we got there, there we found a large beautifully kept, landscaped garden cemetery of about 1 square kilometre, here are buried those who died during the 19th of February 1942 Japanese air raid on Darwin, the only war time bombing on an Australian town, and military personnel from the area who died in war time, there is wonderful history here and the place is immaculate, the cemetery is just over 1km from the town on a road that follows the river, which at this stage is only a few meters wide, and no there are no crocks here (most of the time) there is the occasional one when there is a flood in the wet season, the road verge is also kept mown and has a variety of plants and flowers as well as plaques telling the history and formation of the town, on the way, we had passed a couple of streets so we rode around town, it isn’t big by any stretch of the imagination and we didn’t pass one house where the garden wasn’t well kept, it is a lovely little town where everybody seems to be friendly, saw a memorial to a past Sgt of police of Adelaide river, shot on duty here back in 2000, we stopped in at the famous Adelaide river pub where Charlie is, he is the buffalo who appeared in “Crocodile Dundee I and II”, stuffed of course he died a few years back, we’d never seen a buffalo before and were amazed to see that, for an animal of 1 tonne+, they have such short legs, only about 2ft, so it looks stunted but his horns are 2.1m (7ft) wide, there is also a stuffed 3.1/2m crock there, nasty looking critter, all in all this is a very nice tidy little town well worth stopping at for a day or two.

Friday 22nd Georgie offered to look after Kia today while we went out, headed south west of here towards Douglas Daly area, there are gorges, hot springs, water falls, etc, etc and a lot is in national park so, can’t take dogs. Left at about 10 and stopped at Robin falls first, there are signs to say, where you are but not how far to get there so sometimes you end up turning around when the road gets a bit rough and you’re not sure how much further it is, then if you do get there, you have to park and walk it still doesn’t tell you how far sometimes there’s not even a sign, just a walking track, this was the case, only about 2km of dirt track, a bit rough but ok in the car, thinking this is the dry season there may be no water at the falls but when we got to the car park there was running water close by so we started following the track which started as sand but quickly turned to rock, branches, boulders, up, down:,,,, you get the idea, after about 10 minutes it was fairly rough going and I was worried about Brenda’s back so I said I’d go ahead and check it out, I didn’t want to get there and find that it wasn’t worth Brenda’s struggle, so I walked another 5 minutes before I could hear the water fall, it was lovely so I took some photos and went back for Brenda, the falls are in 2 stages, the first about 1.5m wide and 15m high and fall into a small pond about 8m round then the water cascades into the stream about 5m below over an area about 4m wide the terrain is all rock and the area is full of paper bark gums, palms, flowering shrubs and wild grasses as well as a host of water plants, the water is cool and crystal clear with fish (small) and frogs, from there we headed for Douglas hot springs it was already 11.30 and we both wanted to get to hot springs, the weather is still overcast and cool, would you believe that the day before yesterday was officially “the coldest June day ever” that was the head lines and we’ve hardly seen sunshine or blue sky since the devil’s marbles, anyway another 80km further we got to a dirt road once again, we got about 5km up and came to a sign “shallow water crossing” and a dip in the road the water in about 15m wide and looks a bit deep but a falcon station wagon has just come through it so I asked the driver “what’s it like” and he says it ok just go through no problem, I took off my shoes and waded in to check the depth just in case, then some guys turned up in a hire car, the passenger gets out and also checks and says to go trough, I told them that I have a chain and if they get stuck I’ll drag them out, they went through no problem so we went through as well, we are glad that we didn’t turn around, we’d never been to a hot spring and didn’t know what to expect, Douglas hot springs looks like any other stream, actually in the wet it is a river, so the bed is about 20-30m wide full of lush trees a few palms and lots of sand with a stream of about 1m wide in places and up to 3m in others and we stepped in and I jumped out again, it’s a weird sensation stepping into a steam that your brain is telling you is just like any other and should be cold but is about the temperature of a HOT bath, we went a little further upstream where the water comes out of the ground and is narrower and I wanted to cross over and stepped in and straight out again after burning my foot, it was later I read that it is 60 degrees when it comes out, yet 10m to the left of it there is a steam 6m wide and a couple deep, of cool water and there are even fish in it we lay in the hot water for about ½ hour then it was time for some lunch and head back. At 4.30 we went to “happy hour” everyone brings their own drink even if it’s just a cuppa and tells of their travels and such, there are about 15 vans in tonight and quite a few people turned up and we were all still there at 7, so Pete got out some snags and put on a sausage sizzle, Pete said if just a few of the campers mention to others along the way that the happy hour is great, it might bring a few more visitors this way, we finished up at 9.30 and settled in for an early night.

Saturday 23rd An easy day today relaxed till 10.30 and went out to see Mt Bundy station, wasn’t too sure where it was, only knew to the east of town somewhere, so went, turned left into town and drove till we found a turn off, 20 km further realised that we must have missed the turn off so turned onto a dirt track that said, crater lake rd, didn’t see a crater or a lake but got back onto bitumen, still overcast today so no sun to navigate by, turned left again and ended up in Batchelor, we were about, 40km from Adelaide river, and this is where we have to come to get to Litchfield national park and we looked around, it is a bigger town than Adelaide river and it is also really well kept, there is a beautiful park. had some lunch and headed back, saw the sign to Mt Bundy and followed it through Adelaide river and on the other side, I should have gone right then left, and it was only about 4 km from the town centre, there is always a reason for things that happen and when we got to Mt Bundy we realised the reason why we had gone the wrong way, I wont tell you about it, there’s nothing to tell, we turned around and went home, got back to the van park and there are today about 20 vans, not many stay for longer than a week it more if a transient park, 4 left this morning and 9 came in, had a good happy hour, unfortunately not too many turned up, the sport club, which the park belongs to opened the bar tonight and also had Barra and chip, so bought some and had tea before settling in, found out that the tower on top of the hill here is a TV repeater so put the TV card in the laptop and watched “the rookie” on channel 7, the first bit if TV we have watched since the 14th of May.

Sunday 24th we were up and on the road by 10 today, we wanted to go to Litchfield national park. It starts about 30km from Batchelor and the road winds through undulating country for about 200km back up to Darwin, you can’t see everything so we chose Wangi falls (60km) as the furthest point and worked our way back, Wangi falls Are the easiest of the falls to get to in the park as you drive almost right up to them and there is only a short walk, which means that they are also the most popular, they are about 45m tall and 1m wide for the first 25m where cascade onto a rock which spreads them to 5m by the time they hit the pool below, the pool itself is 65m round and quite deep in parts, swimming is allowed, but there is a sign, that at times there can be fresh water crocks but they don’t hurt you unless you purposely agitate them, my luck I’d get a cranky one so decided on a bush walk instead, the sky is still overcast but the sun breaks through now and then, the walk here is about 2hrs long graded as a class “C” so moderate with 1 section up hill that takes you behind the falls, it meanders through wonderful rain forest vegetation and although it is “the dry” there is plenty of water as at the top the creek separates and not only goes down the fall but covers an area about 1/2km wide which supports this rain forest. Next stop was green ant creek, there are green ants up here, about the size of our bull ants in SA but the front is orangey beige and the back lime green, there is some water in the creek and a 2.7km walk to get to Tjaynera falls. It was 12.30 so decided against another walk just now but sat at one of the tables provided and had lunch then onto Tolmer falls, these are one of the most spectacular falls in the park and cascade over 2 escarpments into a deep plunge pool abut 100m below there are 2 ways to get to them, a short cement path (a couple of hundred meters) or a 1.7km walk through the scrub that takes you to the creek and the back of the falls, We were glad to have chosen the longer walk, there were hundreds of Cycads, form just a couple of inches high to over 8ft with black trunks a foot thick, the fronds open like a beige parachute, the area was burned of recently and it looks like the fronds got too hot and are dieing, the young plants are green, but through of photosynthesis the fronds of the older plants are this colour and look to be covered in velour, with the contrasting black of the trunk, dark grey of the local rock, bright green of the bushy native grass and green of the eucalypt with their white trunk it is almost like being on another planet and a very beautiful sight, the walk to the falls follows the creek with spectacular rock formations, at one place it’s a little hairy as you get fairly close to the edge of the path, it is quite safe but not for those afraid of heights, which Brenda is, she did make it but with a lot of encouragement from me and a couple going the other way who told her that this bit was the worst of it, I’m proud of the way she conquered her fear, the falls were spectacular, the only place to see them from, is a viewing platform, which is at a higher point to them, the pool below is not safe for swimming and the forest is home to several colonies of rare ghost bats and orange horseshoe bats so it is inaccessible. The next stop was Buley rockhole and Florence falls, part of the same creek, Buley rockhole is a series of holes in the rock that forms the creek, some only a couple of meters wide and 1ft deep, the biggest 8m x 4m x 4m deep, the water is crystal clear again and about 19-20 degrees, it also contains a lot of minerals and when we came out, our skin felt like the same as when we had been to Douglas hot spring, onto the falls, 2km further down the road, there are 2 places to see them from, the platform above them and at the base 175steps down, it was good exercise but we are glad to have gone down there, had a swim in the pool, that is about 45mt across, swam to the falls and “showered” under them, if you stop too long, the fish (only small) nibble at you, it feels like someone hitting you with a rubber band so it’s good to keep moving, when we came out of the water, some guy told us that a black snake had been swimming there 10 minutes earlier, THANKS, back to the car and onto our last stop at magnetic termite mounds, this is a low lying area where termites cannot have any part of the nest underground, due to floods, so to keep warm, they face the nest to the east where it will warm quickly in the morning sun, they stand 2m tall and all point to magnetic north, the area looks like a giant graveyard with it’s monolith style head stones it is quite an amazing sight, It is now 4.30 it’s been a long day, taxing on Brenda’s back, so it’s home in time for tea and a relaxing day tomorrow.

Monday 25th MUCH too big a day for Brenda yesterday all those walks and getting in and out of the car took it’s toll and she is in a lot of pain this morning, so much so that I had to take her to the local clinic, they had to give her some pain relief and she spent the rest of the day in bed, so today I just pottered around and took a good look at the bird life around here (NO! The feathered type for those of you thinking differently) unlike SA there are no bland looking birds like, sparrows or starlings, instead there are little birds (don’t know their name) about the size of a sparrow but they have a greyish/green front, dusty yellow back and brown hood, there are Brolga’s, brown kites, about three times the size of hawk, whistling kites, a bit bigger still, the occasional eagle but not close to here so Kia is safe, red tailed black cockatoos, white corellas, sulphur crested cockatoos, galahs, but they are a much lighter pink here than at home but I think one of the most colourful is the bee eater, it is a small bird about 3 inches long, has a long slightly curved beak like that of the honey eater it’s chest is leaf green with flecks of blue, like a peacocks tail, the head is bright yellow and it has a black stipe around the head over the eyes that makes it look as though it’s wearing a mask, even the wood pigeons have colour on them which is dusty pink and purple, there are so many bird sounds that are different here that I don’t know which is which and in the early morning and evening that all makes for a wonderful cacophony of sight and sound. Pete’s nephew is coming in form Brisbane today for a couple of days he and his partner are touring NT for a week, they invited us for a roast dinner unfortunately Brenda is still in bed, she insisted I go to tea and I brought some to her, tomorrow will be a better day for her I hope.

Tuesday 26th Brenda’s back was still bad today so we’ve had another quiet day, a chance to just veg, thank God my body clock has let me sleep in till 7 for the last 5 days and I feel better for it, but today we just lay around reading and planning the next week or so. The sky has finally cleared, the weather is great about mid to high 20s and a cool breeze at night, they recon it’s cold but all us southerners think it’s great, at the moment, 8.30am(Wednesday morning) it’s about 16, Pete, the woos, is still walking around with a thick cardigan on and we’re in shorts and t-shirts. Unfortunately Peter and Georgie’s commitment here is more or less 7 days a week and we can’t spend as much time with them as we had hoped, we only get morning/ afternoon tea and some time in the evenings as people are in and out of here at all times of the day, we want to go to Darwin which is only 100km from here, but all caravan parks are booked out at this time of the year, if you intend coming up here, BOOK AHEAD, we tried to get a room for 1 night and go up there for a couple of days, but they are pretty well booked out for this week and the only one available was $115 for the night, for that price we can drive there and back nearly 5 times from here, at 130kph speed limit that’s no time at all, so decided to go early one morning and look around, if need be we’ll go back another day.

Wednesday 27th A big day today but not as much walking as Litchfield and all flat, we went to NT wildlife park, by the time we got there it was midday, it’s a great place and well worth the entrance fee, you can walk around or catch the shuttle train (bus really) to all the main attractions of which there are about 10, walk though aviary, aquarium, rain forest etc, etc, and each one takes 20-45min to get through, there is also a bird of prey exhibit but again no wedgy, mind you I suppose you’d have to be pretty big to have one of them sitting on your arm, but there were two different types of kites and a black buzzard, the one that breaks open an emu egg using a stone, and afterwards we got to “meet” a peregrine falcon, and a sea eagle, they were magnificent birds, the aquarium had a walk through part inside a glass tunnel with a sting ray, a couple of saw fish and some large fish all fresh water, as well there was another large tank with a crock, numerous smaller tanks with all sorts of marine life if I described all the different exhibits, I’d fill two pages just for today so I’ll leave it at that except to say we had a fantastic day and would recommend it to anyone, we got home at nearly 6 just in time to invite Peter and Georgie for tea, well, we cooked and took it to their place, those of you who know our van know it’d be a very tight squeeze with 4 adults in here.

Thursday 28th Up and away early today, on the road by 8, destination Darwin, Peter and Georgie go into Palmerston, a suburb of Darwin, once a fortnight and said they’d show us around the main points then let us do it in our own time. We went to Macca’s to send and receive our emails and caught up with them after their shopping and went into town. Darwin is not what we envisaged, so we were disappointed, it is clean, tidy and fresh with a beautiful large botanical garden but when you say, capital city, you expect bigger and vibrant, we were forgetting that Darwin has a population of less than 75,000, so it’s more like a large country town, we drove around to have a look at the town and then parked in the middle and walked, there are no shops in the centre of town, other than a small centre with Coles, liquorland and a few small shops the rest of the main street is set up for back backers with cafes, where a meal will cost you no less than $14, even a hamburger with the lot is $8 and a coffee is $4, some hippy type clothe shops and tourist agents by the score, all vying for the tourist dollar, shopping centres are 7-17km from the city centre, in the small centre we found a baker’s delight and had some lunch, we both ate for $8 and bought and ice cream in the only shop of interest to us in the main street, and headed for Fannie bay (I did have some fun with that name, but Ill keep this clean J) found the old goal and looked around, it was built in 1883 and was used till 1979, except for a period of 3 years during the war when the town was taken over by the military, it was a medium security prison but did have a maximum security cell block and a number of people were hanged here, the gallows are still there, the prison is being restored at the moment, by prisoners of the new gaol, but it is still in good condition, unfortunately, most of the records are missing due to, the humid weather, a lot were lost during the war and what was left disappeared on the 24th of December 1976 when cyclone Tracy flattened Darwin, the prison did hold men, women and children as well as having a 2 cell solitary which were built with padded walls as there was no where to keep mentally disturbed patients in town, I was only able to stay in one of the cells for a few seconds when I felt a sharp pain in the middle of the chest and my chest tightened up, I felt cold and started to sweat all very reminiscent of my last heart attack, I had to get out quick and it took a few minutes for the very oppressive feeling to go away, I have never felt that anywhere else and don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t nice. There are still 2 inmates there, 2 monitor lizards walk the grounds and although there are a number of places where they can get out the guide tells us that they always stay there, we only saw one. It was then 3 o’clock so form there, we did a bit of shopping and looked around the “burbs” then went back to the Mindil beach sunset markets, they are set on the beach front and there are about 150 stalls 70 of which are food from anywhere and everywhere including ozzy bush bbq, where I had to try crocodile, which is like a cross between pork and chicken, and also buffalo sort of a gamey beef but chewy as boot leather, the other stalls pretty much like any other market with everything from tea towels to art to more tour companies, the ocean here is not a greeny blue like in Adelaide but a bright azure blue the ocean is calm and apparently rarely has waves higher than 1 foot the sand is almost beige in colour and you have to go out about 100mt before you are waist deep, there were only a few people on the beach although it was about 26 degrees and a calm windless day. This has been a long day, second in a row, and we still had food shopping to do as well as a 100km trip back so we left before full sunset and back to Palmerston, we did still see the sunset although not from the beach, but when the sun is so BIG and so RED and sets the sky on fire without the aid of a single cloud it wouldn’t matter if you were 30km away from the beach, it was the end of a good day in Darwin.

Friday 29th The weather has been great this last week with day temperatures in the mid to high 20s and around 14-17 in the early mornings, except for this morning all the local are complaining of the bitter cold, it was 7 degrees at 6am. We have decided on one more day in Darwin, there are a number of attractions in and around Darwin and one day is definitely not enough to see it all, you’d need about 2-4 weeks and a bulging wallet, we are going to see the jumping crocodiles and the botanical gardens and if there is time we’ll decide on whatever else, but that will have to wait till Monday, as we’ve had 2 big days and Brenda’s back is sore, she spent the whole morning in bed this morning and was limping the rest of the day, she needs a rest so we’ll take a couple of days off. One of the door seals on the car is torn, so we picked one up from the wreckers and I’ll fix that today and then we’ll pretty much veg till Monday. We’ve paid for another week here and decided to leave on Wednesday the 4th July, go to Katherine for 3 days or so then, go west young man; or is that head west old fart; something like that, head for Perth anyway, it’s 4,357km from Darwin to Perth, that’s just over 4000 from Katherine, we’re itching to get to Perth, and Burnie and Allan are waiting for us to get there, but it’s no good getting there and Brenda being in pain for a week, so we’re looking at 4 weeks between the two 200km a day for 5 days and 2 days rest we may do it faster, but we’re not pushing it and there is a lot to see.

Saturday 30th June Brenda’s back is still sore so another rest day today, we started planning the trip west and working out which free camps to use and distances, we went for a walk into town and picked up a couple of rocks on the way back, where ever we’ve gone I’ve brought home unusual looking rocks, so why should this trip be any different, I’ve got about 12 so far, but I have to keep them small for weight reasons of course. When we emigrated to Australia we thought we would see kangaroos hoping through towns, guess what we saw today, it’s taken 40 years but it happened, 3 of them , we had a/noon tea with Peter and Georgie and a friend of theirs from Darwin, then we all decided to got out to the pub for tea, got to spend time with Pete reminiscing old times back at Frognall in the 70s just what I came here for, Pete even bought me a Bundy rum, reasonable prices for the meals at the pub, $15-$22 but it was $12 for a vodka/orange and a glass of red, can’t afford to get sloshed here, that’s for sure. While we were having tea, we were watching a cloud of smoke in the distance as the sun was setting, and I said that the greenies from the southern states would have a field day here, the fire brigades don’t put fires out here, they set them. On both sides of the road from well before Katherine the sides of the road are blackened some fresh and still smouldering others from a couple of weeks back and all the way to Darwin as well, we have driven past one and no one is there or one takes notice, they are cold fires, the road verge and any large expanse of land not farmed is set alight every year or 2 at most, just after the wet and before it gets too dry and they let it burn on it’s own, because it is still largely green it burns slowly sometimes flares up into quite a big fire as there is wild grass here that grows 8-9ft high (that’s where the Wherethehellarewe tribe lives, old joke)but most of the time it just smoulders, the dead fronds of wild palms burn off and the bottom leaves of trees die off but come back within a couple of months as well as fresh grass next wet season, it also keeps wild life away from road verges and causes less accidents, because of the yearly burn off they very rarely have large bush fires here such as the ones we see every year in the southern states, when we loose stock, houses, property and sometimes lives, because of these life saving burn offs, I’ve heard more than one person say the motto here is “save a tree burn a greenie”. The kites and other birds of prey are not very common in these parts in the wet season but return when the burn off starts and they are seen circling over the fires waiting for rats, mice , lizards and snakes to come out, so with setting a fire, lives are saved, property is saved, resources are saved, accidents are avoided, insurance is kept lower, fresh growth is produced for wild life in the early wet, birds are fed, rodents are kept to manageable numbers and undergrowth and dead litter is eliminated, maybe we should learn from them.

Sunday 01 July Today feels like another lazy day so no plans, veged most of the day and watched ½ a movie then Pete and Georgie came for a cuppa we were just finishing when Burt, Anneke and Krystal arrived, they’ve been to Darwin for Burt to have meetings and had bypassed Katherine then went back and were just finishing up there and were going back to Darwin when they received the email we’d sent them from Palmerston, so they came here to spend a couple of days with us, we spent 1 ½ hours catching up on our travels then went to happy hour at 5.45 and stayed till 8 as there were fireworks on the centre area of the race track, the showgrounds is also the local racetrack where the Adelaide river cup in held in early June, the bonfire and fireworks for the occasion of Territory day there was a sausage sizzle at the ARSS club (I’m not being rude that’s Adelaide River Show Society) but we didn’t go, made a quick tea and settled in for the night.

Monday 2nd We were having breaky when Pete came to take our photo to make some FROG cards for us, we swap addresses with a few people we meet and instead of writing it down all the time, people have a card with their details on, peter has one with the title FROG, Friendly Retired Older Generation so he made some for us with our details. We were supposed to go to Darwin today but Burt and Anneke (pronounced Annnaka) and Krystel called in to see us especially and we couldn’t just go and leave them here to their own devices so we all we decided to go to the NT wild life park, they hadn’t been and we loved it the first time. Once again we are grateful that Peter and Georgie looked after Kia for the day which gave us the chance to go into a national park, we left at 11 and had lunch as soon as we got there then started our tour, we are really glad we went a second time as there were so many animals and birds that were hiding the first time and we hadn’t seen, such as 2 crocks and a fresh water whip ray, the only sting ray to inhabit fresh water, and about a dozen finches in one aviary that must have been nesting because of being overcast, this time they were all out, they had blue, red, orange, yellow and green on them. This place is amazing, because of the set out of the park and the astronomical number of trees in the place, which includes a natural monsoon forest that you walk through, at most times it feels like you’re the only ones there and there is such peace and quite that you can only hear the sounds of nature, with the unusual bird calls of the Territory, the breeze in the trees and the trickling natural springs, it is magnificent, When we left at 6.10, Burt’s was the only car left in the park and we enjoyed it as much the second time around. We had another great day, we got back to camp at 7.30 in time to make tea, shower and settle in for the night.

Tuesday 3rd we were on our way to Darwin by 9.10, as we wanted to make the jumping crocodiles for the 11 o’clock show, up the Stuart hwy and turned onto Arnhem hwy, right on the corner there is a place called ”the didgeridoo hut” which is an Aboriginal owned art gallery a great place to see and buy indigenous art, they also have 2 friendly cockatoos on a perch outside, a small fresh water crock and a number of pythons, all very tame and approachable, the manager was there and he let us hold the snakes, the longest is about 6ft and 4kg, good size but still smaller than George, Adams carpet snake at 8 ½ ft and 9kg, but they were all really nice, from there we went through Humpty Doo, I kid you not that is the name of the little town, it’s on the map, look it up, I think that a great name, on to the jumping crocks, we got there at 10.55 just in time to grab the last 2 tickets on a boat that holds 120, so if you come up, BOOK AHEAD, I should heed my own advise! The tour started a little late but was worth the wait and the $21pp, it lasts 1 hour and slowly meanders up the Adelaide river which by now is about 70mt across and there is a crock of at least 2½m in length approximately every 200m, they’ve been doing this for 21 years so have nicknamed all the crocks and recognise them by sight, trying not to feed the same crock every time they slow the boat to a crawl and you see the crock approaching, just like in the movies, only it’s head and sometimes tail cutting rough the water, then it sides up to where they have hung a piece of meat on the end of a pole, the cock then lunges up at the meat bringing it’s body out of the water one came out so far that it’s back legs were out, we were on the bottom deck, glassed in mind you, and I got some great shots just then a large tinny went passed with about 20 people on board, if you were on there you’d be praying the motor didn’t die! Meat is also hung off the pole when a white belied sea eagle turns up and it swoops down and digs it’s talons in and flies off with it’s “catch”, we were lucky enough to have 2 on that trip, after about 45 minutes of feeding the crocks and sea eagles (the 2nd largest bird of prey in Australia) we head back slowly and small pieces of meat are thrown in and the Black kites and brown kites swoop in and grab the meat off the top of the water, they are different to the eagle who has to land to eat, they eat “on the wing” they grab the food and transfer from claw to beak whilst flying, at leats 30 of these turned up for some tucker and put on quite a show for us. We then went to do some shopping and look around the suburbs, this is a town of only 75,000 people so the pace here is slower and calmer than Adelaide, most people we have met are friendly, courteous and helpful and whether in the street or being served in a shop everyone calls you mate or buddy, the atmosphere is more like a country town than a city, we headed back to camp just in time for Peter cooking another sausage sizzle so no need to cook tea just relaxed and chatted with other campers before settling for the night.

Wednesday 4th Didn’t go anywhere today, we’re getting ready to leave, after being in the one spot for 2 weeks things are out of “touring” place, waeco fridge, washing bucket, etc, are under the awning and a general clean up is needed, such as vacuuming when Brenda has the chance to borrow a vacuum, we avoid dirt roads as much as possible with the van but with this dry weather there is a lot of dust all around so a general clean up of van and car is needed as well as any little repair jobs before we hit the road, had a swim in the pool then a shower and it was time for happy hour then we had tea with Peter and Georgie, we had bought a nice piece of beef while shopping the other day and some salads so we asked Georgie to cook the meat for us all, they told us that they were going to Palmerston tomorrow so we decided to stay till Friday and go to Darwin again, we didn’t get to the botanical gardens or Berry springs so we’ll do that tomorrow, we shared a good evening, meal and bottle of wine together and as Pete had made some vegies as well we have enough food left for a parting meal together tomorrow night.

Thursday 5th It was quite humid during the night we needed the fan all night even though it cooled down and we woke up this morning to find the racecourse shrouded in mist Which became fog and was still around at 9 when we left for Darwin and didn’t clear up till ½ way there. We arrived at the botanical gardens at 10.30, it is a park of 45 hectares filled with plants and trees from not only northern Australia but also from Asia and as far as Madagascar, there is a monsoon forest, rain forest, African forest, and of course a myriad of plants, so unlike those at home, or like one I nurture in Adelaide, in a pot, it is 4 inches high has variegated leaves of green, yellow, orange, brown and red, but here there just in the ground and 5ft high by 2ft wide, there are palm trees of all shapes and sizes from 2ft high up yo 25m, there are flowering plants by the hundreds in red, white, orange, purple, yellow, cream, green, the gardens are filled with all sorts of birds attracted to all the different types of plants so once again the sounds are fantastic, with all these exotic plants and bird calls, it’s almost like being in a jungle movie waiting for Tarzan to come out and guide you trough to the next sensory experience, as you walk you are unsure as to whether to look up, down, left, or right because you know that no matter where you look there is a new and wonderful experience for your senses, it was 1.30 and difficult to leave the beautiful botanical gardens of Darwin, but it was time to meet up with Peter and Georgie, and hand over Kia, they were going to look after her while we went to berry springs, just outside Darwin near the nature park. Parks and wildlife in other states have a lot to learn from NT parks, this is a nature reserve, NO entry fee, NO parking fee, BBQs supplied, wood for BBQs supplied on a high fire danger day but because of recent controlled burn off, no danger around here paths, cement steps and signing to the springs and pools, all well kept and mown, clean and plenty of rubbish bins and did I mention NO ENTRY FEE. The first pool you get into is a cool spring into which a warm spring joins over a small fall so it is about 20 degrees, the spring at about 26 is also nice to sit in and we went under the water fall where there is a space big enough for 2, 3 at a squeeze only high enough for head and shoulders, quite an unusual sensation, then the stream leads down to a larger pool about 50m away you can swim (in parts only a couple of feet deep) the pool is 25m round and 15ft deep because of the number of people in the water the pool is slightly cloudy but you can still see the bottom but the first pool is crystal clear, it was yet another beautiful place and we can see how people fall in love with the Territory, we headed for camp at 4, did some preparations for leaving and shared another good meal with our hosts, it’s going to be hard to leave them tomorrow.

Friday 6th Although we were in no rush to leave, I woke Brenda at 8, otherwise it would be all go, go, go before we left, we still had a few jobs before leaving, by the time were ready it was 10, we said see you to Sue and Robert the people across from us, they arrived the day before us and were only there for 3 days, they leave on Saturday, so they say, they’re in no hurry to leave, they told us that they, as well as the other campers they have spoken to, really like the relaxed atmosphere that Pete and Georgie have created here and their generosity, they are well suited to this job. Then to see Pete and Georgie, we had a coffee together, and made plans to meet in WA in 9-12 months, we are running late so instead of doing the bottom bit of WA this trip, we’ll do that together, then they’ll come back to Adelaide with us for a while, we said our goodbyes and left at 11.30, so many things we have done would not have been possible without their help and we thanked them for it, stopped at Pine creek for a lunch on the run and into Katherine at 1.30, organised our site and jobs for the tomorrow (changing 30 taps) and settled into our spot, we were just about to have a coffee when Glynn and Linda came up, we had met them at Adelaide river on their way through from Coolalinga (near Darwin) they have been on the road for 4 years and they were on their way west as well, they stopped at the showgrounds because they knew Pete and Georgie, I told them about the showgrounds at Katherine and working for your site and also wanting paid help here so they called in and they are now working here for a couple or so months, Linda had told me that she was from Mclaren vale and Glynn from Sellicks beach, for those who don’t know they are both within 15km of home, Aldinga beach, they had a coffee with us and as we talked Brenda said to Linda “you look familiar” and she told us that she used to work at the Victory hotel in Sellicks, then she said I also worked at Colton court, That’s a nursing home in McLaren vale, she used to be one of my mum’s carers and remembers her well, how small a world is this? Who would have thought that after 4500km of travel, 3000km away from home, 2 years after Mum has gone, we would meet one of her carers? Jason the grounds manager called in to see us and while we talked asked if anyone could do sign writing, I showed him the bit I did on the van and that will be our job for the other two days keep, just redoing some old faded signs, he offered us a job for three weeks to 12 months but we declined, next time maybe, we’ll have no plans to get anywhere until we get there and maybe earn a few dollars on the way, it amazing how many jobs are going up here. We then went into town got some potatoes for tonight’s curry then home and settled in.

Saturday 7th we had a job to do today to earn our keep so I woke Brenda at 8 and we had breaky, Jason came at 8.45 and told me where the taps were and turned the water off at 9 by 10.15 we were done and off into Katherine tourism to work out what to do, the weather is a lovely 27 degrees and the nights have gone down to 10 just perfect, we are told that this is winter but it doesn’t feel like it, we even went into a shop and they had a winter clearance sale, but for today Cuta Cuta caves, 27km south, we had passed them on the way up but no dogs allowed so this time Kia is guarding the van, diligently, yeah right, I can hear the snoring from here! When we got there it was time for lunch, we brought it with us, which was just as well there is no kiosk here, cuta is Aboriginal for star, cuta cuta means many stars, the minerals in the area seep through the ground with the rain and form crystals, on the stalactites and stalagmites, that look like stars at night, to get to the entrance there is a 400m bush walk with plaques explaining the area and formation of the caves, when you get there you wait for the guide who is inside with the last group, he takes you all in through the mouth and about 10m down the steps, the tour goes for about 1hr, approximately 500m inside the cave, that’s only about 1/3 of the cave, where the air becomes hot and humid, some people do go further into the cave but for research only, the guide we had on the day, Denis, was very good at his job, informative, funny and interacted with the group well, he seemed to have a knack of picking people who would also interact, and that made the tour light hearted as well as educational the caves are beautiful and are inhabited by bats but further in where it is hot and humid so we didn’t see any and the tours finish well before dusk which is when they come out also the local snakes come to the entrance for a bit of take away, the lass at the ticket office tells us that they include tree snakes, olive pythons and king browns amongst others, most of which are often found in the toilets here, on the way out, I found a tree and Brenda held on till we got back to town, an olive python wouldn’t be so bad, but I do NOT want to come face to face with a king brown, we have 6 of the most venomous snakes in the world, here in Oz, and he is #2 and although there are some differences between olive pythons and king browns, you have to look closely, I wouldn’t be around that long. We went back to camp, gave Kia her tea and went out again to the hot springs, unlike those of Douglas springs, these are only warm, a constant 32 degrees, it is the river here only about 10-15ft wide and 4-6 deep with absolutely crystal clear water we waded for about 1hr, then went back and after a lovely day and settled for the evening.

Sunday 8th It was 10 o’clock before Jason came to see us and said that instead of sign writing we were to paint some cattle gates and we got started, 1 ½ hrs later we had some lunch and headed off to Katherine gorge 27km to the east, a beautiful spot of 13 gorges in total, on the Katherine river where it is around 30-50m wide, there is boating, swimming, walking (1 to 17.5km) and picnic tables on lush green lawns, the only way to see all 13 gorges is by chopper and there are boats cruises to the first 3, we decided on the 3.5km walk, the ranger told us it was a medium walk of 1km with 75 steps to the lookout, and a 2.5k walk back along the escarpment, it is a medium walk, if your young and fit, it was good exercise with the up hills down dales just to get to the steps, then when you got there you had to be part mountain goat to get up them, the first 15 or so were metal and even, the rest were rock or cement additions with rock in them, some were a couple of inches high, others at knee height and at times seemed about 1ft from the edge, with Brenda’s fear of heights, need I say more, it took us a while, Brenda wanted to do it and didn’t want to go back, we made the top and the lookout, about 80m above water level, from there you can see 17 mile valley and the first gorge, to explain the view in detail would take 2 pages, in one word, breathtaking, from there, there was certainly NO turning back so, onward down the track, it was a lovely pleasant walk among the trees, shrubs, grasses, palms and even some Spinifex the sun was hot and it was cool in the shade especially after a down hill section when we were following a creek on one side and a 10m high cliff face on the other shading us from the sun, the flora thrived in that spot and was greener than the rest of the track, there were a number of trees which had started growing in cacks in the rock then run out of soil so had sent out roots along the rock face to find nutrition, one was about 5m off the ground, had 8 roots sent out like tentacles hanging on to the vertical face of solid rock, looking for the slightest crack to hold on to and down to the base after having twisted and curved over about 7m others reaching sideways 4 or 5 meters and 2 reaching up, 1 arriving at the top, you could see where the tree had grown and died and broken off twice but now that the roots had reached nutrients and life giving water, the life had come back to it and three new healthy branches were once again growing skywards, we were amazed at the will of mother nature to hold on to life, then we came to the downhill part of the walk, boy if only this was snow and we had skis, a couple of time I slid and nearly ended up on my a… err backside and Brenda once, we were taking steps no longer than six inches in places just to stop ourselves from breaking out in a run, anyway we made it down in one piece and didn’t see anyone piled up at the bottom so we guess most people made it, the exercise was enough for Brenda’s back for one day so back to the car and to camp, we took it easy for the rest of the afternoon with a couple of strolls around the showgrounds.

Monday 9th The walking and especially the near fall Brenda had yesterday was too much for her back to cope with and she is very sore today and stayed in bed while I worked for a couple of hours, then we just took it easy the rest of the day went into town for some window shopping, walking on flat ground is better for Brenda’s back than sitting, got fuelled up and went back to get ready to leave tomorrow.

Tuesday 10th Brenda was still limping badly this morning and obviously in pain so I wanted to stay in Katherine another day for her to rest but she insisted on heading off, so we packed up and were on the road by 8.30. the road for the first 50km or so, was not at all what we have been used to, it is narrower, rough and is cut through a lot of crests so has banks on either side, no wide verges and a lot of trees so for the first time since we have been on the open road we feel almost hemmed in, after that it opened up but the road continues to be rough and in parts even has truck tracks moulded into the road so when the van hits those it follows it and bounces around behind the car, at least we had a tail wind so that was one fight we didn’t have, about 100km from Katherine we saw our first “wild” boab tree and now around 250km we are in the thick of them little ones, big ones, most as depicted in pictures but other almost like mutations, have 2 or 3 trunks one we passed had the one main trunk but also 7 others growing from the base, one had fallen over but continued to grow so was 2m high and 8m wide with all it’s branches on one side, they look like someone has gotten a large bottle and used it as a vase for sticks, they are a deciduous tree so have lost all their leaves at the moment. It’s still hard to believe this is winter, although it drops down to 5 or 6 at night, it is around the 24-28 degree mark in the day and quite hot in the sun, we haven’t seen a cloud in 2 weeks, the sunrises are awesome, unlike those at home which are a beautiful golden yellow fading to blue then black, here the horizon is gold fading upwards through yellow, orange, crimson, red and brown, then into the early morning night sky, the sunsets even better. As we were on the road so early we travelled over 300 km today, although we’ve travelled a long way we broke the journey up and had plenty of stretch breaks at all the wayside stops, historical markers, etc for Brenda to stretch out and her back has coped with it, it’s not great but ok, we were supposed to do only 150km so we are ahead of schedule, but we need to stop in Kununurra to look around for a couple of days so it’s ok, the show is on there and we can’t get a park so we’ll free camp 40 km out and look after a van for a couple we met at Adelaide river and they’ll return the favour the following day, that’s the plan for now but, things do change, so we’ll see

Wednesday 11th Off and on the road at 9, we’ve been told by many people that the free camps fill quickly and if you want a spot you have to be there early, the road although wider hasn’t improved, we noticed another difference along this stretch is that it is lonelier, not that we are alone but we can go ½ an hour to 45 minutes before passing another car at times, some just cars on their own, some road trains, but mostly cars and caravans, we didn’t stay at the next camp, after checking the map it was only 62km further and still 107 from Kununurra, we went through the border and the check point there for quarantine, we had finished all our fruit bar one mandarin, but they also take all fresh vegetable and honey, because of a disease that kills bees, luckily we only had a teaspoon full but we did have 2 tomatoes, ½ a cucumber and ½ a lettuce, which isn’t much but at Katherine prices, that’s was nearly $10 worth. There was an aboriginal woman sitting at the border and when we walked past she asked if we were going to Kununurra and if she could have a lift, I had asked the ranger if he knew her and what she was after, he said that she was a local and had been waiting 2 days, so we gave her a lift, she told us that she lived in Kununurra but they also had a block near the border that they are building on and they want to return to bush living, their car had run out of petrol and she was going back to organise someone to take petrol back and she had been waiting 2 day for a lift, on the way to town she was telling us all about bush tucker, how they find wild honey, that the nuts from the boab tree are eatable some are sweet some are (dalgou) aboriginal for tasteless, they can be eaten raw or boiled, what trees are used for medicine, washing, soap, and which trees burn slow an which burn fast, depending on whether they want to get warm or cook food, for example they use bloodwood for cooking damper or food in hot coals as it is the slowest burning wood, it was a very educational ½ hour drive, she was grateful and very thankful for the ride, we were thankful for the bush tucker lesson. We looked around Kununurra and chose a few things we wanted to do such as the zebra rock gallery which mines and refines all sorts of Kimberley siltstone including okapi, similar to zebra but the stipes are not regular, ribbon stone, with colours that range from light and dark grey, reds, burgundy, black, tan and cream and is dated at more than 1200 million years old, rainbow stone, astronomite, which is dark brown and has small, different sized white spots all over it and looks like the night sky with all the stars and zebra rock which is brown and white and literally looks like the stripes on a zebra we looked at the river which looked tempting for a swim as it was 26 degrees but we are too close to the coast and there are crocks here so decided on going to the lookout instead, we did some shopping to replace lost salads and got some gas at 88.9cpl, I’d given it a miss at Timber creek as they wanted 109.7, mongrels, I had petrol which worked out cheaper, no unleaded at the station we were at, so I’ll pick some up tomorrow, we headed for a camp spot 45k out of town but found one 12k out that wasn’t mentioned in the road traveller’s bible, CAMPS 4, 5 other people there already, nestled at the foot of a hill surrounded in trees on one side, overlooking a little valley and a small mountain range on the other, this’ll do us for the night, gee it’s a hard life but someone has to do it, might as well be us!

Thursday 12th We are in WA now that means the clocks went back 1 ½ hours, just when I was waking up at 6.30, I’m back to bl@@dy 5am again, I can’t win with this sleeping in bit, we headed off at our leisure this morning as we were only travelling about 100km, going into Wyndham, on the way we saw a couple, from the last stop and that we had also met at Adelaide river, they had pulled into a way side stop, one we had chosen for tonight, so we stopped as well, they had unhooked and were spending the day there so we unhooked and left our van in their care while we went to Wyndham, as we got in we passed a guy whom we had met in Coober Peedy and at Alice springs, he was the one that had told us about working at the transport museum, and we stopped then went into town for a coffee and a catch up, we then got some fuel and directions to a couple of attractions, first, the dreaming park where there are bronze statues of an aboriginal family, a kangaroo, dingo, lizard and snake we met some of the locals and they told us the story of the park, the dreaming that the statues represent and of the area, they said that we shouldn’t miss the five rivers lookout on top of Mt bastion, that was our next stop, although Brenda’s fingers were digging into my leg most of the way up, as there is a shear drop on one side as the road snakes up the mountain with sharp twists and turns, reminiscent of a car chase in a James Bond movie, the view from there was terrific, and as the name suggests it is where the rivers ( I can’t remember the names) including the Orb river come into 1 huge channel and go out to sea, from there you can see for miles and miles, we saw an aborigine there who was reading the paper and when I said “nice place to read your paper” he started to chat and we got another history lesson, he is 70 and has written a book about his peoples story and aboriginal rock art of the area, which mind you is over 1000 sq km, he showed us the book it is called “THE MAN FROM THE SUNRISE SIDE’ and his name is Ambrose Chalarimeiri, we’ll track that book down when we get home, it looked as interesting as it’s author, we thanked him and went on to the crocodile farm unfortunately there was no show on that afternoon but they still wanted to charge $15 each to go and look, after telling us that they make them come out for food and we might not see anything, sounded inviting but we declined and went onto the prison tree, 25km of dirt road max speed 60, at times at a crawl due to bone rattling, tooth loosening corrugations in the road and 5 creek crossings, all dry, as we get to 250m from it there is a water crossing AND a sign, warning of estuarine crocodiles, that’s the saltys, the mean buggers, no getting in the water to see how deep it is here, unless a French tourist comes by and we can convince him it’s ok, luckily a 4WD came through and the water was only ½ way up his wheels so we went trough, the prison tree is a boab tree, about 12 to 15m in diameter, the trunk 7m high and it’s hollow with a hole in it large enough for a large person to fit through, it was used, over 100 years ago, to keep prisoners in while waiting to be transferred to a proper goal, quite an amazing piece of history. It was then 4.15 and as the sun goes down at 5.30 it was time to head back to camp and settle for the night.

Friday 13th another lazy start to the day, we were on the road by 9.30, I know it seems early for lazy start but remember our body clocks are 1 ½ hours forward, I was up at 5 and Brenda at 7. We headed off towards Halls creek, destination for today Leicester’s rest, a 239km trip, resting for the night by the Ord River, the trip was fantastic as we travelled through the Kimberley ranges a wonderful mix of the Flinders, Willunga hills and Mt Lofty ranges for us crow eaters, for the rest of you, a beautiful sight you’ll have to see, there are less people on the road here and we only pass traffic every 40 minutes or so and only one caravan passed us all day, the road here is disappointing compared to the beautiful roads up through the centre, they are good but narrow and only have one lane bridges, (which have signs saying “no passing or overtaking” what an understatement, it’d be a tight squeeze for 2 push bikes to pass, it’s tight enough to pass on the 2 lane road let alone on a bridge that you expect to hear the sides of the van scraping the guard rails, that’s when there are guard rails) went trough Doon Doon and Turkey Creek, the name is now changing to Warmun, and they had LPG, so I stopped, looked at the pump, switched to petrol and kept going, I was NOT going to pay $1.20 for gas with $1.55 petrol on board, Halls creek is bound to be cheaper as we were told petrol is also $1.55, As we talk, listen to music and sing when we travel we don’t really notice the km go by and stopped for lunch at 12.30, at a little stop on the side of the road, then moved on and 3km further crossed the Ord and came to our rest stop, the mighty Ord here is more like a mighty trickle, a river bed of about 150m wide, which you can see that in the wet is that wide and more by the evidence of the debris left behind, but at the moment is a running creek of around 2-4 meters wide of crystal clear water, which is good as when we were in Turkey creek, we were so shocked at the price of LPG , that we forgot to get water, we have enough for drinking and cooking but not for washing, ourselves or our clothes so, down to the creek with 2 buckets and filled them the water, we had enough for a good wash, it is so clear that it looked blue in the bucket, if we ran short in the tank I would have no qualms about drinking it. This rest area is split into 2 parts, 60m apart both with a toilet and could easily accommodate 50 vans but there are only 22 tonight, a number of camp fires are going including ours, on which we cooked tea and warmed our bath water so, this evening has cost us nothing in fees or power or gas, the only way to go, the setting here is great lots of trees, 50 or 60m from the road and the creek bed only 20m away with the sound of trickling water, huge shady trees through which the breeze is echoing and the sounds of a symphony of birds, it is going to be a peaceful night, by 6.30 the sun has gone down, tea is finished, ablutions complete, no moon out but with the absence of any street light the night sky lights up to billions of stars, a hundred times more than we see when we are in a city or even a small town, the milky way actually stretches from one horizon to the other, what a wonderful picture to go to sleep with.

Saturday14th If we’d had water we would have stayed put today as this is one of the best free camps we’ve been to but we ran out of drinking water and Brenda isn’t keen on drinking river water so we moved off at 10am, the road has improved and is back to two wide lanes all the way still not much traffic and the scenery is great although we are now moving out of the kimberlies, we saw 2 large herds of wild brumbies today, man they’re magnificent looking animals, also a lot of wedged tailed eagle some soaring high on the wind, some feasting on some recently served road kill, one of which was a horse where four eagles were dinning and scores of kites were soaring above waiting their turn looking like a scene from a western, a little further we came to the first spot in our journey where the scenery was uninteresting and there was nothing to look at, as we came over a crest all we could see for the next 12km, was a small hill range on the right and a large field of about 10-15km wide of 30cm high dry grass with a slight tinge of green dotted with a few shrubby trees, then as we went over the next crest we were rewarded with the most beautiful small range of hills made up of large brown and red granite boulders, interspersed with lush green trees, the silvery trunked boabs, green and gold Spinifex, and termite mounds which now have changed shape once again, to look like someone has mixed barrow loads of brown concrete and poured them one on top of the other as they dried to form circular overflowing layers, they are up to 8ft high by 8ft wide, with all this colour it’s hard to know what to point the camera at first. We got to Hall‘s creek and found the shell station for gas but the pump was broken so got petrol at 149.9 still cheaper than 1.20 gas, normally here the gas is 88.3cpl, there was also a bakery where Brenda got our first fresh bread for weeks and rolls for lunch, even Coles at Kununurra only sells frozen bread , then onto Mary pool rest stop, right next to the Mary river this stop is about 200m from the road and as we approach it we saw some water although not running and a sign warning of crocks BUT this is fresh water so they’re not nasty unless you stir them up and we parked on the bank but 100m from the water, this is big enough for at least 100 vans comfortably, has 4 toilets and lots of bins, lots of shade, a flock of about 300 corellas as well as a murder of crows and scores of birds all screaming to be heard over each other in the trees it’s noisy but a great natural sound, we decide to stay here 2 days, IF the great natural sound isn’t too much too early in the morning, we had lunch and fetched some fire wood, enough for 2 days, tomorrow we veg.

Sunday 15th Well the corellas left at 5 o’clock last night and didn’t return till 8.30 am, the crows however stated arguing at 5.45, but I was awake and they didn’t disturb Brenda so we stayed another day, other than doing some washing we had quite a lazy day, walked along the river and around the park twice and took some photos of the local crock when he came out to sun himself, the water here, isn’t as pristine as at Orb river because it isn’t flowing but it is still clean enough to wash in, so since it has been a week since we’ve had a hair wash we took a couple of buckets down to the river, came back to the bank and washed our hair, the water was cold but damn our hair felt good afterwards. The corellas hung around all day and it was nice but I don’t think I could take too many days of this noise. Tomorrow we move on.

Monday 16th we left this beautiful rest stop with the corellas screeching in the trees and headed for Fitzroy crossing, a little town of 1500 people that survives on mining just up the road and a little tourism, there is a gorge about 20km north of the town but we didn’t go, as we have found out, that because all the caravan parks in Broome are booked out for 2 months, they have opened the overflow park at the community centre and they allow dogs so, we are going to stay a couple of days there and we’re watching the pennies, plus it’s lunch time and if we don’t get going we wont get a place at the next rest stop. Looked around the town, fuelled up, gas at 89.9 and petrol at 145.9 that’s not too bad, from Wyndham to Halls creek we were actually heading south and away from the coast, now going west we are heading back to the coast, the boab tree must be a coastal fringe tree because it has made a reappearance after being absent for the last 300km or so and they continue to amaze us in their shape and size, when only a young tree they look almost like any other deciduous tree with a normal size trunk, as they grow older so does their girth, hey I must be part boab! The biggest one we have seen must have been around 22m high with a 15m canopy and at least 15m in girth, there is another one at Derby which was used as a prison tree which I believe is 14m around the base. The vista along this stretch of road is not as good as we have experienced but as this is the start of the west Australian wild flower season, there are a number of them starting to flower and it is colourful, there are flowering bushes along the sides of the road, not all in colour but in clumps of colour, at one stage you are driving through a red patch for what seems to be km after km, then green for a while then it changes to yellow km after km then purple for a while the back to red and so on, although it is all fairly flat land, it is mostly a lovely drive, it is getting long though, I think mainly because we are both getting home sick, this is the longest we have been away from our family and we miss them, Brenda more so than I and today as we heard the song “God must have spent a little more time on you” Brenda felt a sudden sadness and started crying, that is the song that came out nearly 8 years ago when Danika was born and we have always called it her song, we had about 30 km or so of being very quiet and sedate, we will be in phone range soon and we’ll ring them, which will ease things off a little but we are still at least 7 days away from ringing, it is hard. We arrived at our next rest stop and it too is a little disappointing after the last 2 beauties, it is much smaller with room for about 15 vans, only 50m from the road and the bins are overflowing but it is free, as I write this at 7am Tuesday, 2 vans, of the 12 here last night, have already left others are preparing to leave, there are 8 top notch pigeons doing mating dances outside our van, the sunrise was a glorious Galah pink and grey which morphed to the most amazing masses of molten gold clouds on a light blue background with the trees silhouetted in black, boy I got some more great photos.

Tuesday 18th we left by 8.30 and headed for Derby on the north coast of WA, on the way we had our first argument with wild life when a flock of galahs flew in front of us, one inevitably zigged when he should have zagged and ended up hitting the car, I didn’t see a body bounce behind us so I guessed it was against the grill, I pulled over to check and sure enough there it was, stunned, sitting on top of the air conditioner condenser, I got some leather gloves out of the boot and pulled it free, it had got a pretty hard knock and thankfully wasn’t putting up much of a fight, were we had stopped there was a road kill and many crows and kites feasting on it so we couldn’t leave the Galah there else it would have been desert so, we turned around and took it back 1km to where we had hit it and placed it in a tree to recover then went on. Derby boasts, not only the longest drinking trough in Australia, built to be able to cope with 500 cattle at the same time but also the biggest tide change in the southern hemisphere today the tide went from 2.57m to 10.37 and back to 2.23m, it was amazing to see the water come in so quickly and rise so fast and much, but what was really strange was that the sea here is brown, the whole area is mud crab country and therefore is all mud not sand so, with mud and rapidly moving water the sea is brown, no one here can swim, as there is NO beach, NO sand and crocodiles rule the waves. When we got there, there was a guy, net fishing for mullet to use for bait and Brenda said to him “aren’t you afraid of crocodiles” he said that you sort of grow used to them but you can’t get complacent and always be on the lookout, a while later after our walk along the jetty there was an aboriginal lad there about the same hight and built as our son, Adam, and Brenda said the same to him his reply “they should be afraid of me” with a big smile on is face, he was wearing a crusty demons shirt and looked so much like our son they are almost twins and I told him so, he and his friend chatted to me while Brenda chatted to the friends mum, I found out a lot about the area and “muddies” mud crabs, Brenda found out that the lad’s father is one of the elders and wants his son to get ahead so is sending him to the local catholic school, all in all we had a great day, we went back to the prison tree to spend the night as there were no signs to say no camping, we had met an elderly couple from Murray Bridge who were going to do the same, as it was we were not alone in doing that as we shared the site with 7 other people.

Wednesday 18th As we were in a tourist spot we wanted to be on he road before they started coming in and we planned on around 8am but the first one arrived at 6.30 so we hurried and got out of there by 7.10 and had breakfast on the go, the trip was good and the vista has now changed to mostly flat, with slight undulations and lots of trees and shrubs, a lot of them are flowering, mostly yellow with some a light green and ten times as many are just starting to break through in red so in a couple of weeks this place will be ablaze in colour, we arrived in Broome by 10.30 and settled in to the caravan park, this is the Police Citizen and Youth Club, PCYC, and is only an overflow caravan park so the power is limited to 10 amps which means that we can’t use anything with an element, no kettles, frypans etc, but we have lights and clean amenities, though we are squeezed in here pretty tight, the good things are, 1; they take dogs, and most people who travel with dogs do the right thing and their dogs behave, 2; it is cheaper than other caravan parks and 3; all the money they raise goes back into improving the facilities here so it is helping the community, anyway we settled in, then went and found McDonald’s so we could send the emails, had lunch and went to the tourist info to see what there is to do, we decided on a quite day today just a little sight seeing starting with cable beach, on the way Brenda asked what the whirring sound was, I couldn’t hear it and we continued but it got louder and I pulled over to check, the alternator was making strange sounds and spitting out bits of plastic so a trip the auto electrician was our first stop and sure enough the alternator “ist kaput” and needs replacing, no sightseeing today and first thing in the morning the car goes to the doctor to have a $340 transplant, still could have been worse, it could have happened between 2 towns and we could be stuck on the side of the road for a few hours, waiting for a tow truck so we went back to the park, got the bikes off and rode around a while, had a look at a beach, a pioneer cemetery and looked at a park in which we couldn’t go because, NO DOGS ALLOWED, these signs seem to be everywhere here, BROOME IS NOT A DOG FRIENDLY TOWN.

Thursday 19th The car was back from the auto electrician by 9.30 and we went into town, walked around Chinatown and looked at dozens of pearl stores, I think there are more of these, than opal shops in Coober Pedy, lots of beauties for sale up to a great black pearl necklace for $10,900.00, we weren’t tempted though, it just wasn’t ritzy enough for us, so we strolled on, there is a strong Chinese and Japanese tie to this town as a lot of the early divers were Asian as well as a number of aboriginals who were “taken from the bush and forced into pearling”, for some reason the word slavery never appears here, it was a lovely morning and we went back to the van, to get the gas bottle to have it filled then went to look at the port and he famous cable beach, …well (yawn) it’s ok I guess but when you come from the not so famous, but far, far, far better, Aldinga beach in SA with it’s beautiful soft off white sand, where you can just drive onto the beach, lovely blue water and waves big enough to at least body surf, it’s hard to be impressed by a beach that feels like it’s made of a mixture of sand and clay, is grey in colour, and has the consistency of royal icing and waves no bigger than 4 inches high, been there, done that, took a couple of photos, the best part of being here was watching Kia run around like a fool, then dig a hole in what is supposed to be sand then sit in it for a while to cool off, went back to the van, there are lots of things to do in Broome, camel tours, Harley tours, plane flights over the horizontal water falls (a series of lakes surrounded by land with small channels between them and as the tide rises and falls the sheer volume of water passing through the small channel looks like a water fall flowing horizontally), four wheel drive tours, fishing tours, etc, etc but that is if your money is unlimited, this is a tourist town that wants the tourist dollar and not people doing it on the cheap, we spoke to the guy at the petrol station filling the gas bottle and he says there is lots of work going here but it’s hard to get staff, people here are paying $600 to$800 per week for rent, one of the girls in the station has a I bedroom flat and that is $500pw, houses here START at $550,000.00, the new estate in town starts at $750,000.00, tomorrow morning we head off about 150km from here.

Friday 20th Well not much to say today, and you’re probably thinking hooray, left the caravan park at 9.45 and after buying a new phone away card to connect at hotspots we went to Maccas to get the email Danika had sent us and said she wished we’d get it before we left, then the laptop wouldn’t connect and this computer illiterate old fart didn’t know how to fix it, so had to find a computer shop and so on and so on and finally left Broome at 11.30, into a head wind but as we turned west 40km up the road it went to a tail wind. The scenery is much the same but as well as the green, yellow and red flowers, orange, other reds and purple flowers are showing up making this drive very colourful only 150km into Goldwire rest area this is a nice place big enough for 30 odd rigs but there are only 14 of us tonight, the next rest area is only 60km from here then nothing for 280km according to CAMPS 4 so well give the next one a miss and go on for the 340km to the next one, which promises to be one with a view and a river, 60km from Pt Hedland where we’ll stop for a couple of days.

Saturday21st we were on the road by 7.30 and had fruit salad for breaky on the run, scenery around here is fairly dull, there is a lot of grazing land so the plains are flat, interspersed with thickets of scrub some starting to flower but most not, although there is the ever present millions of termite mounds and now the boabs have disappeared as they are only between Broome and just north east of the WA/NT border. Starting around the centre of Australia the dirt turns a reddish colour, hence the name “the red centre” but the colour has nothing on the red of the sandy soil we have encountered from Derby to here, in the past when I saw a photo of red soil I thought it was touched up somehow but I have seen it with my own eyes and taken photos of it and it’s hard to describe, people will ask the same of my photos. We went on to Sandfire roadhouse which gets a mention on the map, it is no more than a hire an office “shed”, with petrol pumps out the front, a non working gas pump and a caravan park out the back, when I say a caravan park I am being VERY, VERY generous it is in a much worse condition than the worst of the parking bays we have stopped at and the toilets, which are in the far back corner, which are also the public toilets for the roadhouse, are the most disgusting I have ever been in, that’s saying something when I even had to use one on the banks of the Todd river in Alice, I don’t think a cleaner has even stepped foot in there, in the last 6 weeks let alone clean them, we decided to not get any food there and went on to Pardoo roadhouse being the only other roadhouse between Broome and Pt Hedland, which in comparison was the Ritz, though still not as clean as it should be, got some LPG and some lunch and on to the De Grey river rest stop, having passed so many creeks and rivers that are dry we didn’t expect too much but as it turns out the river, although low, is about 20-40m metres wide and has clean water with lots of little fish in it though we’re told that no big ones are bitting, still I might get the rod out, it’ll be yet another time that I don’t catch anything, after we found a spot and settled we went for a walk, this rest stop is not level like most others and is on about 3 levels as well as being about 500m long so there are many, many sites to choose from, in the sun or in the shade of great tall gums with abundant bird life and tonight there are at least 50 rigs settled, some look like they have been here a while, since most of the roads here are on stations and unfenced, we also have cows roaming amongst us we just have to avoid walking in the soft patches, this is not the first time we have shared a rest area with cows and by now Kia knows what they are so when we are driving along and looking out for stray cows on the road and one of us says cows, Kia jumps from side to side of the car looking out the windows to see them, this is a great spot, we are ahead of schedule as we told Bernie and Allan that we’d get to Perth around the 8th of August so we might spend a couple or three days here.

Sunday 22nd Just a quiet day today, after we finished with the “housekeeping” we relaxed by the river fishing and reading, Brenda read a book and I actually caught a fish, it was a catfish and I am told they are eatable but it went back in and I didn’t even give it a kiss, I found out that 6 other people have fished here and I am the only one to have caught something, that is a complete turn around as I am usually the one that doesn’t catch anything, other than that it was just a veg day relaxing and walking around the campground, we were invited to sit around the campfire with the people in the van next to us and their relies and as they were having tea we took ours there and joined them for about 1 ½ hours before settling for the night.

Monday 23rd I was awake at 5am again but we wanted to get going early, Brenda’s back doesn’t cope well with early mornings but the free camps we stay at, are very popular and if we don’t get there early we could miss out and have to drive another 100km or stay at a parking bay, which are usually close to the road have no shade and are very dusty, so I started packing a few things and had a coffee while I waited for a ½ decent time to wake Brenda, she woke at 6.45 and we had a quick breaky and left at 7.30, I cannot tell you what the scenery was like only that the road was good, mostly white, like most of the road since Katherine, sometimes black and had grass for about 10m on either side we think we passed a rocky outcrop but we’re not sure, there was a fog which kept our speed down to a maximum 65km and hazy visibility to approximately 100m, that stayed with us till we left Pt Hedland at 12.30 after having spent 4 hours and only seeing the few things we stumbled on and having NO scenery at all, except a hazy view of the town from the bridge on the way out and a 1.5km long iron ore train and the salt stores and drying pans all we can say of Pt Hedland, iron ore which is mined further a field is brought here by train (which holds the world record for the longest train at 7.4km long with 6 locomotives and 640 wagons) then loaded onto ships bound for China and Japan, it is a mining town and lives on that, tourism is only a “by product” BHP even charges $24 to tour the mine, unlike at Leigh Creek in SA where a tour is free, the people we met were friendly and helpful, but because of the iron ore the town appears to be very dirty as everything is covered with a layer of rust even the walls of all buildings, in the 70’s there was a population boom and the town had no more suitable building land so a satellite city was built 20km away it is called South Hedland and is where the majority of the population is as well as most of the shops we had a look around there to, the fog was clearing, it is much better and cleaner and is a hive of new buildings and building sites, there is plenty of work up here but you must be able to cope with the weather, there is no “wet” season they have an average rain fall of 357mm and often temperatures in the mid to high 40s in summer, at the moment is a beautiful 29 and 14 at night, after refuelling at 84.9 and 145.9cpl, we went on to the Yule river rest stop 62 km further along, we got one of the last few good places in the park those who came later had to park on the track, ½ this site has been closed off and the toilets are not clean as the word is the council is trying to close it down, probably because it is a good place to stop, by the river, very popular and close to town so the caravan parks are missing out on money, they probably have a lot to do with it but they are fully booked out at the moment so the council is probably waiting till the season calms down a bit, it would be sad to close places like this down and tourism will suffer for it, as a lot of people can’t afford to spend anymore time in caravan parks. The water in the “river is flowing but only a little bit and a lot of the larger ponds are filled with algae, we went for a walk and Kia went into one of the grubby ponds, she was dirty before but now she is really bad, so Brenda went back got her shampoo, we went to the clean flowing pond, she swam for a while, then we moved her away from the water and gave her a wash and rinse then she swam some more and she is about 2 shades lighter, got the fire going to cook tea then, after an early start, it had been a long day for Brenda’s back to cope with so we settled for an early evening.

Tuesday 24th we decided to stay here a second day and when I got up we were once again blanketed in fog, what a beautiful feeling as the sun rises, in the east the sky is turning from black to blue then to yellow and orange fading into a deep crimson, the air is a crisp, damp, 8 or so degrees the sun is breaking through a white haze, to rest its warm rays on a sleepy riverbed where ducks, pelicans, shags, cormorants and a flock of pure white spoonbills lazily wade through the gently flowing spring and pools left warm by yesterdays sunshine, the only noise in the background is the song of waking birds, the green kingfishers, whistling kites, top notch pigeons, the blue winged kookaburras, corellas, wood doves and a myriad of others, all joining in a gentle symphony of morning calls, the night sky is still fading in the west holding onto the last of the morning stars forming a background for the gums on the other side of the riverbed 120m away shrouded in mist, the sand, though light brown in colour and worthy of the finest beach is cool under your feet, facing away from the camp you have the feeling of being the only person in the world able to enjoy this wondrous peaceful paradise, soon the campers awake but unlike towns and cities, everyone here seems to respect the peace of the billabong and all are moving about quietly and speak in whispers, so as to not disturb the gentle peace in which we are, even those who are packing up and moving on do so quietly, as they drive off the cars and vans seem to glide though the air without noise. Some people have moved out of a lovely shady spot close to the river, about 30m from where we were, we choose to move to that spot, it is at the base of the bridge but there is no traffic after 9pm so it is still a quite place. Brenda’s hair has been giving her this irrits and there is a lady here who is a hairdresser and she is going to give Brenda a haircut so we washed our hair by the river, the water is about 23 degrees, later we went back to the water, Kia and I had a swim but Brenda’s back is very sore so we took it easy and relaxed the rest of the day, walked around the campsite and enjoyed the wonder of the billabong with it’s large tall river red, paperbark, ghost, blue and number of other gums all supporting wildlife from insects, to lizards, to birds living on their branches and nesting in the hollows it is nature as God provided, too lovely to leave, we’ll stay another day to give Brenda’s back a chance to heal. What a fantastic place to recoup!

Wednesday 25th Fog again this morning but not as thick as the last 2 days, the sun comes up and evaporates it to lead us into another lovely day, it gets pretty hot, by about 2 it’s around 30-32 degrees but the breeze picks up by 4.30-5 and it cool down to leave the evening at around 20 till it drops to about 8-10 by early morning, heck I even have to wear a wind cheater till 9am still, we enjoy it while we can as in about 8 days we will be back below the tropic of Capricorn and the cold weather. A nice young couple, recently emigrated from the UK, had been in the site next to us and came to say, see you, before leaving, in these camp sites it is quite different to caravan parks, you may only meet someone for one day, sometimes more, but you become like neighbours straight away, as we all share the love of this great open land, we share stories and tell each other where to visit and what to avoid all the while knowing that you may and often do meet further along the way as was the case with Bert and family, and if you are going in opposite directions you might meet again next year, we have swapped addresses with quite a few people and we will meet again. It’s just as well we didn’t move on today as Brenda is in a fair bit of pain, the van step was wet and she fell out of the van a few days ago, we think that’s catching up with her and has had to spent most of the day in bed but it has settled by the evening so we hope it has passed.

Thursday 26th After a quiet morning we left at 9 am, the scenery around here is a little bland, it is mostly grazing land and mostly flat though there are sand dunes in the distance hinting at the proximity of the coast, the one thing that keeps this drive interesting is that which Western Australia is famous for, wild flowers, the kaleidoscope is forever turning and the colours are wonderful, most are only weeds but the show they give, keeps us looking for more, in the carpet of green and fawn of the once again present Spinifex, there are all the colours of the rainbow and more, the Sturt desert pea has now also made an appearance and is forming throw rugs of green, pink and red amongst the brownish red of the earth, there are trees with white flowers that look like an elongated parrots beak with a pale yellow tongue, others that look like small brushes made of tiny parrots beaks but are red others orange, some flowers are so insignificantly small that they can only be seen when you are walking and you must look straight at them, lest you miss them, but when you pick it up and look at them, they are perfectly formed and they come in all shapes and colours including the most magnificent tiny , wild orchids, not only the colour of the flowers are intriguing but the rocks also, we have been through iron ore country so most rocks not only have their own colour but also that of rust from new to old, then we went trough copper country which changed the rocks to green of all shades, the same goes for the wild life we encounter being in Oz, you’d think I’d say kangaroo but other than road kill, we have seen more in nature parks on this trip than in the wild, we do how ever see lots of eagles, kites, black buzzards, white breasted sea eagles ( oh I forgot now to be PC we have to say white bellied sea eagles; NO JOKE, they actually have changed the name: don’t know what the PC idiots are going to do about Cockatoo though) birds in their hundreds, wild brumbies, camels we were even serenaded by a couple of them last night as we were going to sleep and passed them on the road this morning, dingos and we did see 4 wallabies yesterday so the scenery is bland but it is forever changing, we went to Roebourne looked around the old goal and once again of the 8 or 9 people to be hanged all were aborigines, as were most of the inmates, most of whom were incarcerated for breach of work contract, for walking away from the station and refusing to work (most didn’t even know they were on a contract) and the aborigines on the station were on the inventory of the property along with the sheep, in return for their “services” most only got food rations, shelter and the clothes they were forced to wear. We then went to point Sampson and into honeymoon cove where we had lunch, onto Karratha to get water and check with the tourist bureau on our activities for tomorrow, all 4 towns I just mentioned are within 50km of each other, then went to our rest stop for the night, it is also by the river, it is a beautiful spot but not as good as the last 4 and much smaller, tomorrow we go back 10km, to the shell roadhouse, leave the van there and look around Karratha and Dampier.

Friday 27th We left our spot by the river at 9.30 and headed back towards Karratha, before leaving another camper told us that there was a free overflow park in Karratha itself, when the caravan parks are full the city allows you to park on the open area in front of country club and the showers and toilets are available till 7pm, at no charge, when we stay at a rest area we are able to have a sink wash but gee you feel better when you can have a shower, so we refuelled and went into Dampier first, looked around and took photos of the Dampier archipelago, which comprises 42 Islands and of the wharf area, it’s a nice town, our next stop was the north west shelf, gas plant unfortunately there is no tour available but at the visitor centre there are a lot of displays and a movie explaining all about the gas formation, extraction and transport, it was all very interesting, then onto some aboriginal rock carvings which, some are dated at 20,000 years old, the road to it was corrugated and too much for the van so I did a 5 point turn (narrow road) and left the van locked up at the junction and went in, the terrain here is undulating and the majority of hills are made of what looks like giant piles of rocks placed there by landscapers when you get close you realise that the smallest of these rocks are bigger than a wheel barrow and up to the size of a bus, the place where the rock carvings are is, such a hill, about the size of three footy ovals and 4 or 5 stories high, you can walk right around it but we only went about 200m in, as it was fairly strenuous for Brenda and we didn’t want to set her back. The setting, a hill on both sides, fresh water spring flowing gently in the centre, not a sound to be heard other than our foot steps and this is only 4km from one of the largest gas plant in the world, the rocks of the valley floor are cleaned with the rain and are similar in looks to granite but not as rounded, the hills bear the colour of rust due to the iron ore in the ground, in our mere 200m we saw at least 100 carvings of fish, birds, turtles, kangaroos, lizards, snakes, hunters with their catch, families, groups of men and so on and so on, the peace in that valley was the same as you experience when walking into an old church and you can feel the presence of people past, almost as if the were watching you, unfortunately there have been the occasional disrespecting idiots who have been here and added there own “carving” but it doesn’t take from the solace and peace of this incredible piece of history. We then went a little further up the track, which then turns to bitumen for 1km till you get to the beach then goes nowhere else, we couldn’t understand why the last bit is bitumen and the first bit dirt, weird, but anyway, the beach didn’t have a grain of sand on it, it is 300m long, 50m wide and it is entirely made of sea shells and small stones, then at the waters edge it turns to pebbles, we spoke to the only other person there an aboriginal man who was there with a group of kids, they were further up the beach, on an excursion from Roebourne school, he told us a lot about the area, we then went into the Karratha tourist bureau and got our permit to camp, picked up a few groceries, while there we looked in a land agent window and decided not to buy a holiday place up here, there was a 1 bedroom unit going for $507,000.00, a plain 3 bedroom 1 bathroom house between $698,000.00 and $800,000.00 no wonder they earn good money up here, we then went to settle into our spot and had afternoon tea at the country club, well siting beside our caravan after another great day.

Saturday 28thAt 3 o’clock this morning we woke to the unusual sound of tok….tok….tok….tok…tok..tok..tok..tok.tok.tok.toktoktok on the roof of the van, we were all quiet even Kia was wondering what the sound was, then we remembered that it is called, rain, the first we’ve had since the 17th of June when we were at the devil’s marbles, exactly 6 weeks, unfortunately it didn’t last as rain but turned to mist and only served to turn the dust on the car and van to mud, nowhere to wash the car, we don’t have any taps here so it’ll have to wait till some other time. We have to fill up with water before leaving Karratha today as we saw a sign on the highway “restricted water available for the next 642km” as we are stopping twice overnight and possibly 2 nights in one spot, we have to make sure we have water, it is available for a gold coin donation from the tourist bureau, the 2 places we are stopping are rivers but in the north they could be dry rivers. Our first stop is only 169km away so we took our time and left at around 10.30, the road to the south west of Karratha is mostly flat with a few small hills, once again fairly plain and a lot of grazing land all unfenced so there are a few cows on the road and you have to watch out, there is also the occasional one that didn’t move out of the way of a road train and the carcass is left, as was the largest amount of road kill kangaroos on this trip there must have been at least 100 today which gave us a wonderful show of wedge tailed eagles and kites, they are all well fed and one stood fast and looked at us as we passed, he must have stood 3 ½ to 4 ft, what a magnificent bird, amongst the grazing land lies billions and billions of Spinifex bushes which supports wild life from insects to lizards to Spinifex hoping mice, with that come snakes looking for food, we have seen all bar the latter than God, but we did see some tracks, we know they are about as the rule is, if the lizards are out so are the snakes, and there are tons of lizards about, the wild flowers are putting on more and more of a show and the Sturt desert pea is a shameless plant here and grows everywhere there is another plant that is more prolific and it is covered in flowers that look like white pipe cleaners, by the time we have travelled 50km the cloud has gone and there is nothing but blue sky, so one again the trip today is one filled with colour. We arrived at our destination, the Robe river rest stop and it does have some water in it and it’s teaming with birds here, corellas squawking in the trees, cormorants and shags sunning themselves, 6 black swans gracefully floating around, and 2 magnificent ospreys showing us how fishing is done, they float effortlessly high above the water till they see a fish close to the surface, then point their legs down with the talons extended ½ fold their wings to loose hight and when they are sure of the catch fold them completely to dive into the water, disappear completely below the surface to reappear a few seconds later and take off holing their prey, we set up the van with a water view, Brenda made lunch while I finished setting up and got the fishing rod ready, had lunch and a kip, then I went to the water placed some meat on a hook and fed the fish, after a while, satisfied that they were well fattened for the osprey, I went back to the van and prepared the fire to cook tea tonight, not fish, and we veged the day away with a little reading and relaxing, gee it’s a hard life.

Sunday 29th I made French toast for breaky this morning and after a slow morning we took off at about 9.30, the road is good as is the case most of the time and the scenery is ok but not much to write home about, in contrast to yesterday there is no road kill for the first 100km, we stopped at Nanutara roadhouse for morning tea had an iced coffee and chocolate milk, that was enough a hamburger here costs $12.50, met 2 other couples from SA one from Kingston the other from Pt Pirie and the lady knows Margaret, who was Danika’s day carer for the 3 years Amanda and Danika were in Pirie, small world isn’t it, they are going to the same spot we are so after a chin wag decided to camp together at Yannarie river, when we get there this one is a dry bed, lots of trees and enough room for 150 rigs, we got there at lunch time and had lunch together then we went for a nanna nap, then a walk, afternoon tea with the others and veged the day away again, this used to be a road building depot and when they finished with it levelled it and left a toilet and chemical toilet dump point shelter and lots of shady spots, tonight as we settle there are 35 vans in for the night.

Monday 30th We were the last ones to leave this morning at 10 and headed slowly west, we have decided to give Exmouth a miss as the season for what I really want to do there, which is swim with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, is over but we are going to have a look at Coral Bay, the trip is unexciting and so is the scenery other than, as we drive we are going over sand hills around 10 to 30m high, some where the road has been cut into them to make the hill easier then flat terrain then sand hill and so on, these hills are 200m to 2km apart and between them it is absolutely flat, all hills run north south, this goes on for about 30 minutes, termite mounds which have been absent for about a week are making a come back and are dotted here and there and the flora is non existent especially as we turn north west off the main highway and even the wild flowers have deserted us, for the first 100km there is nothing much, then as we approach the coast (within around 80km) the whole area turns green, we have heard that there has been a lot of rain in the area and it is evident in all the greenery, obviously there is more rain around these parts, as the shrubs and trees are also growing in number, then we turn south for Coral bay and it is all green dotted with patches of yellow, white, purple and red flowers the birds have returned and we even saw emus, there are now hundreds of termite mounds, they are 6-8 ft tall 5-8ft round and look like loads of mortar poured one on the other, they are the same shape and size as all the way through WA, it’s strange how they are so different to the NT, then we turn west for Coral Bay, the book tells us it is the gateway to Ningaloo reef and a paradise of snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming and coral reef watching, our excitement builds at seeing the wonderful Coral bay, we finally arrive and the reality is, Coral Bay is an oversized caravan park where vans are crammed in like tuna in a sardine tin, it has a couple of small supermarkets a coffee shop and three tour booking shops where you can spend ridiculous amounts on snorkelling, scuba diving and coral reef watching, streets so narrow that two quad bike have to negotiate about who goes on the footpath, no signs to tell you where what is, no where to park a car and caravan other than booking into a caravan park as the few spaces available are taken up by other unsuspecting dopes like us taken in by the tourist hype, we found a spot on a grassy area where other people were forced to park went to the bakery and got some fresh bread and we finally found something good here, the road leading us out of town, we were looking for the sign to 14 mile beach, where we planned to stay for a couple of days at $5 per night, per person, but alas no such sign, that’s probably been taken down by the park owners or is that town owners, so we went on southwards and settled into a roadside stop 60km away, the sky has become overcast and is threatening rain, by the evenings end 14 other vans have settled, 6 of whom had been trapped as we were into going to Coral, bring plenty of money with you Bay, others heading that way and we told them to make up their own minds but to be prepared of our experience, I made a camp fire to cook tea and talked to a young couple from Canada, who are touring for a year then settled in for tea, dishes and ablutions, we must have this down pat, this is the 4th night in a row we finish dead on 7.30, watched 3 episodes of CSI Miami, Amanda sent us on DVD, and went to sleep at 9.30.

Tuesday 31st July we were off by 9 this morning and the weather is overcast and drizzly there was no rain as such over night but as we head south there are more and more wet patches on the road, we stopped at Minilya roadhouse to fuel up and I asked what sort of weather they are expecting, the response “floods” the girl says that the road between here and Carnarvon has some shallow water crossings and after Carnarvon the road is closed for up to 4 hours at a time, as we travel the last 2 weeks of rain are evident in the large volumes of water at the roadsides and this whole road as no bridges over low lying areas but just flood ways luckily only one still has water in it and it is only 6 inches deep, as we approach Carnarvon the chatter over the UHF radio is all about the road closures on the other side of town so I broke in and a truckie told me that 4WD are getting through but no cars till later tonight, there had been road works, then the unseasonable rains came and 2 days ago a truck lost control and jack-knifed on the dirt and turned the lot into an impassable quagmire and also, because of the rain there are a number of water crossings after that which is the reason for the 4 hour road closures, but it’s not all bad the wildflowers have returned and are putting on a fabulous show of white, yellow and purple the whole 140km from Minilya to Carnarvon. Brenda’s back has given her jip for a few days now and she has wanted to push on but she is very sore today, with the road closure and water crossings still to negotiate, which could mean being stuck in the middle of nowhere on the road, literally, and possibly overnight, we decided that we are going to take a 2 day break and book into a caravan park, other than Adelaide river with Pete and Georgie, we have only spent 6 nights so far in a park so we will splurge, we had met some people on the road who have a dog like Kia and the are going to the Capricorn park and gave us the number, it is the first park as we come into town and we booked in, by the evening the no vacancy sign has gone up as have a number of other parks we saw. After doing a bit of washing, Brenda lay down for a couple of hours and gave her back a well earned rest, we then walked around some of the town and drove around to get our bearings and a preview of tomorrow’s activities, IF Brenda is up to it, I wouldn’t mind just sitting at the beach feeding the fish.

Wednesday 1st August Brenda was still sore this morning but on the mend so we took it easy till bout 11 and then went out, the first thing we saw was the OTC dish, which is only 300m from the park, it is quite an impressive sight lit up at night, there are 2 of these in Australia the other is in Parks NSW and is the famous “twin” from the movie, The dish, they are remnants of the space race to put a man on the moon, they were the communications bases between NASA and earth, one gets quite a sense of history standing near and on the satellite dish where those famous words came through “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” that some of us heard on TV, and the memory of having a day off school to see the lunar landing was so near. Not far from the caravan park there are a number of market garden stalls so we stocked up on fruit and some vegies, nice to buy fresh bananas at $2 a kilo, I also bought some star fruit, it’s ok but could have done without, we went into town had lunch, then saw a number of other places and had a walk in the park and on a jetty and let Kia run riot on a deserted beach, Carnarvon is a nice town, well set out, clean and there are many things to see and do here and the locals are friendly, I didn’t go to feed the fish but we did by some cheap local crab and prawns for tea, We went back to camp for a late afternoon tea and had a lazy evening relaxing. Brenda doesn’t eat seafood so I was forced to eat the 2 crabs all by myself, couldn’t let it spoil could I? I did save the dozen or so prawns for tomorrow, or a late snackJ

Thursday 2nd After a pancake breakfast we leisurely packed up were on the road at 10, the unusual recent rains very evident as there were huge lakes on both sides of the road, at times it looked like we were driving on a lake and the water was lapping at the bitumen, at the road works site gravel had been placed on the semifinished new road, to be used while the bypass road was being repaired, it has been mostly overcast the last 2 days but the sky is all blue as we head south again and we have booked in for 1 night at Monkey Mia, the kids had given Brenda some money for Mother’s day and with that money, she wants to see the dolphins up close. We were supposed to spend the night at the Gladstone lookout which is in our book but when we got there, we had lunch and decided to keep moving it had a great view but that was it, not a tree, no …nothing, except a lot of wind and nothing to shelter us from it, we went on and turned towards Shark Bay as we drove, we saw a tourism sign saying “stromatolites” after both saying “what are stromatolites” we turned in and went the 5km into Hamelin pool, it is a very small settlement of 4 or 5 buildings with a 12 or so site caravan park, on a site where the old telegraph station is, a large flagpole which was used as a navigational marker and also a shell rock quarry, shells have deposited over thousands of years and calcium has leached out and fused the shells together, is had been cut out in blocks, with a standard crosscut saw, to make buildings blocks, it is now only mined to repair old buildings made of this stone in this area, then on to the stromatolites, they are also known as living rocks, they are a living organism which traps sand within itself and then grown another layer, only the outer layer is alive and it only grows 1cm per year between low and high tide levels, it will die if stood on and even if touched so there is a board walk to view it and lots of explanatory plaques as well as volunteers to talk about the area, there are places were it has died due to wagons being driven over it 100 or so years ago, which is still evident after all these years and also where the water has receded and left rocks in their place, the stromatolites were the first living organism on earth over 600 million years ago and excrete oxygen, scientist say that they are responsible for producing 20% of the earths oxygen and the development of air breathing life on the planet, at low tide the oxygen bubbles they extrude are clearly visible, they live in very salty water which is caused here by an extremely large sand bar which reduces the tide flow and causes the water to be twice as salty as standard sea water, all in all this was a very interesting place and well worth the detour we then went on to shell beach which too was interesting to see then onto our rest stop for the night, no trees here either but a large hill behind us which cut the very strong wind down to a manageable level, we are on whalebone bay [shaped like a whales rib bone] with our stops and 300km behind us it’s time to light the fire to cook tea, after watching the wonderful sunset we settled for the night and for the first time since we left Adelaide we are on our own tonight.

Friday 3rd I was awake early and with nothing much to have to pack up I thought I’d try my luck at feeding the fish, it was low tide, very shallow and I didn’t even get a bite, so we had breakfast and headed off by 8.30, the scenery around here is just coastal shrubs and grasses not many wild flowers as we are on a peninsula and the wind can get pretty fierce, we stopped at ocean park, which had been suggested by one of the volunteers at Hamelin pool, it is a small marine park with a number of tanks, small and large, they are only just starting out and are building an aquarium here, 6m deep 2 stories high and about 15’ in diameter, that will be finished at the end of the year, it is not a big fancy place, but the staff are friendly and very informative about the marine life of shark bay, there is everything there from small reef fish to stone fish, sea snakes, hand fed black snapper, mulloway, long toms, ( I think that is what we call snooks) lemon shark, a 2.5m tiger shark and some nervous sharks, I’d be pretty nervous too, if I was sharing a tank with a tiger shark! The tiger shark is soon to be released into the ocean as they are migratory animals and cant be held in captivity more than 3 or 4 months without getting stressed and dying, so another has to be caught to replace this one, it was very interesting and worth the $12 entry fee, from there we went straight to Monkey Mia, checked in and set up, then down to the beach, there are 3 feedings feeding times between 7.30 am and 1 pm, these are wild dolphins no one knows what time they will be in or how many, the dolphins are usually there at 7.30 and then come in when they want, today it was all over by 10 and it was now 12.30, we went down to the beach and walked around and three dolphins came in, Brenda waded into the water, calf deep and one came to her, within about 2ft and lay on his side just looking at her, the look in her eyes was pure joy and I think the highlight of this trip for me, this has been a dream of Brenda’s for many years and now here she was face to face with this magnificent creature the dolphins moved off about 5 minutes later and Brenda got to interact with another one but not as close, a little later we hired a 2 person glass bottom boat and slowly cruised the coast for an hour, the weather is not hot but at 22 and only a light breeze it is just perfect for shorts and tee shirts, after a long dip in the hot tub and a shower we took some drinks to the beach and watched the sunset then went to the monkey bar and had fish and chips then back to the van to settle in after a wonderful day.

Saturday 4th The dolphins are in early so I had to get Brenda up at 6.50, early mornings are not good for her so she has been sore all day, we were down at the waters edge at 7.20 and so were 3 dolphins, by the time the rangers got there at 7.30 the were many, many people and 7 dolphins, the ranger talks for about 30min then the food buckets come down, as the others come with the buckets the dolphins start to line up, only 3 of the 7 are being fed, 3 are calves and the other is too shy yet and only looks on but is coming closer. Up till 1995 everyone got to feed dolphins but they became dependant on human feedings and stopped hunting, some got sick and died so now the rangers restrict the feedings and some dolphins only get 2 fish others 5 depending on their age and size, all are named and recognised by the rangers, out of the 100 or so people to be there this morning, Brenda was lucky enough to be picked as one of the feeders, in the spiel the ranger tells you to hold on to the fish tightly till the dolphin takes it, but when Brenda bent down to feed piccolo , the ranger said you’ll have to let go, this one likes to make believe she caught it herself, this now tops my highlight list for this trip, after the fish are gone the buckets are rinsed in sea water and that is the signal that there is no more fish and the dolphins go back to sea, we went back to the van, had breakfast, packed up and moved out, but parked the van outside the marine park to go and have one last look at these wonderful creatures, when we got there at 10 the ranger was doing her spiel of the 3rd feed of the day so we walked to the jetty to look from there, Brenda told me to take my socks and shoes off and go to the water to see if I might get picked, although I wanted to, I thought that we had been lucky enough for Brenda to be picked this morning, and have interacted with dolphins yesterday so I didn’t think I would be picked but Brenda insisted that she was ok and for me to go down, I stood at the waters edge as people were being picked around me, when the ranger said “what about the man in the Philip Island top” and pointed my way, I had to look down and realised she meant me so I went down and fed Puck who is Piccolo’s daughter, what an amazing day and it was only 10.30, we left Monkey Mia thanking God for the wonderful experiences of the last 24 hours and went into Denham, another lovely little coastal town, looked around, toped up with fuel and went on to Eagles bluff a camp spot with a view and a boardwalk, the camp spot wasn’t that great, but the view from the boardwalk was spectacular looking over to Denham and across to Dirk Harthog island, down at the base of the bluff three sharks were cruising the shallows for a feed, as we got to the lookout a tour bus arrived and a young lass patted Kia, she asked what her name was and she had a strong accent so I asked her where she was from and her reply was, Belgium, her parents were coming towards us and I told them I was born in Libramont, we spoke French for a while before they went off with the tour, twice in 2 days we meet someone who speaks French, yesterday in the hot tub there was a Frenchman and his 9yo daughter, the most French I’ve spoken in a couple of years, on to the next rest stop but it too wasn’t as nice as Whalebone bay so we went back there, unfortunately tonight we have to share it with 4 other couples, who think it’s a nice place too, they are travelling together but after we had set up they invited us to join them for a drink, they had started a while before us and were well on the way to a good time as they sang and danced to their music, we stayed with them for about an hour before getting tea, by the time we had finished they were getting their’s so we settled for the night.

Sunday 5th we left Whalebone bay at 9.45, there is only one road in and out of shark bay so it has been a 300km detour, worth every cent, although shark bay is a heritage area and Monkey Mia is world renowned, we were really, pleasantly surprised, at how affordable everything was, in Denham powered sites were $24 and we paid $29 in Monkey Mia 25km away, where the entrance fee into the park was only $12 for the 2 of us, the shops and restaurants we also reasonable. We didn’t go on one but even the cruises were only $54 for the sunset cruise to $99 for the day cruise which includes the sunset cruise, our small glass bottom boat was $35 per hour, the whole place was not a rip off like a lot of other tourist places and was well worth the detour, we topped up fuel at Overlander roadhouse and headed south again, no towns between Denham and our stop for the night but since they have a licence or some even a real pub attached and usually a caravan park of some description, roadhouses classify as a town and get a mention on the map, the next one is Billabong but only 50, or so, kilometres away so through that and on to the rest stop for the night, the lay of the land is flat and the shrubs stay very much the same all the way to Billabong where it starts to get undulating still with mostly shrubs and not much grass the soil has been sand all the way although it did and still does go through an array of colours from white to brown, yellow and red, there are not many flowers at all. For about 10 minutes we went through a forest of woolybutt gums we haven’t noticed any of these since the Territory, the trunks are covered in a dark [woolly] bark for about the first 1/3 then a smooth silvery grey the rest of the way but here, they stood out as they were not only silvery grey but some were silvery green, or red or even brown it was interesting to go through a forest of trees of the same species but different colours. We arrived at Galena bridge on the Murchison river this is a large rest stop situated on both sides of the river, it has a new toilet block [on one side] and could cater for at least 100 rigs, it is 2 o’clock, we have nothing to do but relax until tea time, having picked up some fire wood along the way as there is plenty on the road side and most rest stops are stripped of wood, we slept and read, saving the scenery of a lovely river, filled with black swans, water fowl and other small water birds gently gliding along the water till later, savouring the view over a simple meal of bangers and mash with vegies cooked on a campfire.

Monday 6th We were heading south again by 8.30 and almost didn’t go to Kalbarri as it was raining in that direction and I didn’t want to go 100km out of our way to see rain, but we took a chance anyway, it did rain most of the way in, but although the wild flowers are just starting out, the Banksia flowers, as well as others made up for it, it was still raining when we got there but cleared within ½ an hour, Kalbarri is a beautiful seaside town on the mouth of the Murchison river, there are a couple of caravan parks and a lot of holiday accommodation which all seem to be full. We spoke to a couple from Busselton who come here every year, at this time, and they say it is the coldest day they have ever struck here, a local tells us that the weather is only bad in July, not usually as cold as today and they were swimming here till mid June. Yes, we did wear our driaz-a-bones while it was raining but we thought it was a nice winter’s day, though the strong breeze was quite lazy, it didn’t go round you, it went straight through! The mouth of the river is protected by a natural reef, which has a natural channel in it for boats to go through so there is a harbour as well as safe swimming beaches, though the waves on the other side of the reef were at least 8ft high and quite wild because of the wind, on the beach there were none, we looked around, walked around and took photos and I must say to do the town justice you would have to spend at least 3 days here but we don’t have that time, on the way out we visited Rainbow Jungle, it is a totally self funded sanctuary, where they breed all sorts of Australian cockatoos and parrots, particularly endangered species, though they do have some from overseas including three macaws, the place is set up with lots of palms, plants, water features including waterfalls, stone walls and a large walk through aviary and smaller aviaries along the edges, at times it almost feels like you are in a jungle, the birds are well fed and cared for and the whole place was magnificent and worth the $12 entry fee, we were in there 1 and a ½ hours and could have spent twice that long looking at these beautiful birds, there are a number of other things to do in and around town but it was now 3 o’clock and time to leave, we got to our rest stop at 4.45 and set up the van and camp fire then another van pulled in, this stop is small compared to the last and could only cater for about ten vans, tonight as we go to sleep only 4 rigs are in as well as a guy and his son in swags.

Tuesday 7th We got to Geraldton at 9am and went straight to the tourist bureau to get some idea of what to do, in some towns we just look around but in the bigger ones you have to find out, Geraldton, has 25000 people and is fairly well spread out as it turns out there is a lady from Brussels who works there and we had a long chat. We started at the old goal then went to Macca’s to send the last email, then onto the Catholic cathedral designed by Monsignor Hawes, who came to Geraldton in 1915, it is a wonderful building finished in 1938 but the paintwork inside is, light and dark grey horizontal stripes and all stones that form the archways and circular leadlight windows are beige and orange alternatively, when you walk in, it strikes you like a 10kg sledge hammer, being catholic I’d say it must have been a freebie, surely no one would ask and pay, for something like that, all we could say was “Lord, what have they done to your house” unfortunately, for us, the paint work took away any beauty that the building has, from there after refuelling we went to Nazareth house also designed by Monsignor Hawes, It was built as a convent and orphanage for the poor sisters of Nazareth it was later turned into and is now a nursing home with the sisters still living on the top floor, there is an addition on either side of the original magnificent old building and they have both been made to match in almost perfectly including the roof tiles, it is not open to the public but we asked if we could take photos of the building and we were shown some of it [on the outside] and told we could drive right around, then onto the HMAS Sydney memorial, she was sunk, somewhere off the WA coast in 1942 after a battle with the German raider Kormoran, with all hands on deck, the memorial honours the 645 Australian lives lost, it is one of the best memorials we have seen and a beautiful solemn place to visit which has great views of Geraldton and its great port where there were 3 ships in and another 5 waiting to take on wheat, Unfortunately we only have part of today to look around, we really need 4 or 5 days, next time! We have to move on, it is now 3.30 and we have 1 and ½ hrs drive yet before we stop, our longest day on the road yet.

Wednesday 8th we had 200km to cover today before our destination so we didn’t have to rush and we were the last of 4 rigs to leave at 9am. The wild flowers are putting on a good show, though the majority won’t be out for another 2 or 3 weeks yet and we are driving with carpets of mainly yellow on both sides of the road sprinkled with patches of purple, red, orange, white, lavender, pale blue and pink, the trees also are flowering with the majority being banksias, with coconut sized flowers of orange and white, all this surrounded by lush green fields of young wheat or grazing land makes for a photographers delight, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, a thousand pictures wouldn’t do justice to what we are driving through. We turned left off highway 1 and headed for Moora, then, our destination, New Norcia, it is the only monastic town in Australia, built and totally owned by the Benedictine monks, there are still 6 monks here, the youngest 36, the eldest 96 who doesn’t get around too well, so he has a quad bike to take him to all his duties, he is on his 4th bike having worn out the first 3. We joined a 2hr walking tour and learned all about the town and the monks, they did at one stage run 80,000 acres, with 4 boarding schools, for boys and girls, white and aboriginal all segregated, the last to close in the 90’s was a Marist brothers college, they now only own and manage about 32,000 acres, they have apiaries, orchards, vegies, sheep, and vines all the produce is used for daily life and to make goods to sell here and export. As well as their own bread, they make their own Shiraz and Cabernet/merlot, which I must say is very nice, thank you, and they have an allowance of one bottle [2 and a ½ glasses] with lunch and dinner, sounds good to me! There are great buildings here as well as art treasures, magnificently hand carved alters and furniture, hand painted murals on walls and ceilings and a museum and git shop, we could not see all of it today and we will spend a bit of time here tomorrow before heading into Perth, tonight we spend at the caravan “facility” behind the roadhouse it is far from the Ritz but there is a shower and power, and for 12 bucks a night who’s to complain?

Thursday 9th All visitors to New Norcia have an invitation to morning mass at 7.30 so we both got up early and celebrated mass with the Benedictine fathers, thought of our friend Roderick and the special masses we have shared with him and wished he was with us today. Although we had done the walking tour yesterday, there were a number of things we had not seen that are accessible to the public all the time so we went back to see them, one, a Marian shrine at the site of a miracle, where the early monks and the local aborigines were saved from a fire using a painting of Our Lady and prayer, and a number of other things that were too numerous to see the first day, then into the museum where there are all sorts of things from the early days of New Norcia as well as the art gallery, there are paintings there dating from the 1400s to present day, then I said to Brenda that we should get back to the van and clean up a bit and head off, on the way back I had to detour to the loo and asked Brenda if she was going too, another miracle should be attributed to New Norcia as Brenda said “no you said we had to clean up”, the first time in our married life she has done what she was told, it felt good, I’ve been telling her for years to try it but she wouldn’t, oh well that’s my lot for the next 32yrs I suppose. We headed of to Bernie and Alan’s and arrived just after lunch time, caught up with news and chatted for the rest of the day and late into the evening.

Friday 10th to Friday 17th we’ve been on the go every day for a week or so, so we took it easy and we haven’t seen Bernie and Alan for 15 years so the first 2 days were just catch up days. It is the first time we are away from home for Brenda’s birthday and she was sad, not to be in Adelaide celebrating with the family, so on Saturday evening we went to The Breakwater restaurant to celebrate, the restaurant is at Hilary’s harbour, which is a shopping and dinning precinct built over the water as well as a harbour, it is a very nice place, on Sunday they took us for a drive to a lookout and to King’s park, we had been there 18 years ago but there are many changes like a tree top board walk and a new memorial to those who fought on the Kokoda trail and I must say it is a great park and it has great views of Perth and the swan river. Monday Brenda and I cleaned the car, you can imagine what it looked like after 4 weeks of living in mostly free camps and bush sites without a vacuum or a wash, we’ve saved the van for another day, in the week passed Alan has taken us to a number of places north and south of the city, Tuesday we went to have lunch with Allan’s parents at Hilary’s harbour, Wednesday to Terry and Jane’s who have a 5 acre property about 1 ½ hours south of Perth, Terry is Bernie’s brother and we haven’t seen him since he was 15, Kia had a great time with lots of room to run around and she met Darwin the alpaca both were as interested as one another. Thursday he took us to the old Fremantle goal which was built by convicts in the 1800’s and only closed in 1991, there are 3 tours that can be done of the goal, the standard tour is 2 ½ hours, the great escape tour, which takes you through all the escape attempts and as well as the female prison, the 3rd tour takes you through the underground tunnels made to pump water up from the aquifer to supply Fremantle for many years but are also the way the convicts were brought up from ships rather than being paraded through town, that would have been a great tour but at $50 each was a bit much this time around so we did the standard tour which shows you right through the only intact and largest convict built goal in Australia including the gallows room and solitary confinement, no strange experiences here thank God, then we went on to the Fremantle harbour had lunch and after a leisurely walk around the harbour area we headed home. Unfortunately Bernie’s boss is on holidays at the moment so Bernie can’t have time off and be with us but at least she has week ends and one week off the week after next, today the 17th we went to see Anne and Will other friends from when we were in Melbourne, when we were in Perth 18 years ago we stayed with them and haven’t seen them since so did some catching up with them.

Saturday 18th to Friday 24th Bernie’s dad, Heinz, was my boss in the Air Force so we know all the family and wanted to catch up with all of them, Saturday Bernie and Alan had planned an evening family BBQ, it was good to see them again, Sunday we went to Harbour town, shopping, this is about ten times bigger than Adelaide’s and is a lot cheaper, in saying that I think that is the only thing that is cheaper, when we were here 18 years ago, houses were roughly ½ the price of Adelaide. Now they are about twice the price with the median price for an average 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom, being around $500.000, even eating out, a pie is $3.50, fish and chips, you can’t get under $9.50+ and meals in restaurants around $25 minimum. Monday we went to Frank and Nina friends of Mums we have known for many years and had lunch with them, Tuesday Alan took us to Rockingham, 1hr south of Perth, to see Heinz and Madge, we weren’t able to talk to them much on Saturday and we wanted to spend more time with them, we also saw Bernie’s sister Ruth who wasn’t able to make it to the barbie, then onto Brian and Kirsty’s, their son and daughter-in-law, we got home at 6.30 just before Bernie. Wednesday we had lunch with Alan’s parents and spent the afternoon with them, Thursday I did a couple of small repair jobs for Alan and Brenda did some washing and ironing for Bernie, Friday we went to some other friends of Mum’s, Cordelia and Malcolm and had lunch with them, actually it was more like a smorgasbord with 3 different curries, parathas, rice, Dahl and deserts as well

Saturday 25th- Thursday 30th Saturday was a quite day we did some shopping in the morning and in the afternoon we went to one of the local beaches and walked along the foot path, though it was cold and windy it was a great enjoyable, invigorating walk and topped off with a cup of coffee at the café, well situated at the beach side, Sunday after a lazy start we headed off to Fremantle again and went to the markets, this is a food market as well as having crafts, art, food, and all the other stalls usually found at any market, it is a very busy place and took a few hours to get around, we looked around for a place to have lunch and though finding a place was easy, finding one that had room for the 4 of us was more difficult and finding one that didn’t require us to hold up a bank to purchase from the menu was nigh on impossible, Fremantle is the place for tourism and it is reflected in the prices charged in restaurants, I mean $24 for a bowl of minestrone and 2 pieces of bread is ridiculous, we found, just around the corner a La Porchetta restaurant and went wog for lunch, and before any of you cry foul over that term, we have wog friends and they know it’s a term of endearment, then off course for desert we tracked down the local Baskin and Robbins, for those of you who don’t know the name, as we didn’t before going to the NT, think of the best ice cream you have ever tasted multiply that by 30 different flavours multiplied by the choice of standard cone, waffle cone or tub, small, medium or large, multiply that by any combination or as a Sunday or banana split and you now have some idea of what this place is like, we got home at about 5 and we didn’t have anything to eat till about 9 then all we could manage for tea was a few mini sausage rolls. Monday was the van clean up day, we have left it long enough and since we are heading off Friday, it was time we did it, it took most of the day including the shopping for the trip home, in the evening we visited Charles another friend of Mum’s and had tea with him, once again a 3 dish banquet followed by apple pie and custard, we have to leave Perth soon or we won’t fit in the car. Tuesday was the 1st of Bernie’s days off, it has been a hard couple of weeks at work for her so we took time to just veg, Wednesday the weather turned crook so we had another day at home and I put up a couple of lights for Allan, that had been ordered and came in during the week, Thursday the weather had fined up so Bernie and Allan took us to Toodyay, [ pronounced 2 J ] York and Northam some great little towns about 90km from Perth we were out all day and had a wonderful day .

Friday 31st Aug We were up at 7am and packed and ready to go at 8.15, we went to Macca’s for breaky and to send off the last email, then we said see ya to Bernie and Alan, it was hard once again to say bye to old time friends and we think it was even harder for Alan to say bye to Kia, the weather bureau had predicted a mainly fine day and we headed off, about 20min from the edge of town, Alan caught up with us, as the fathers day present the kids had sent, arrived at their place when they got home from breaky, another farewell then onward, by the time we had travelled 100km the sky was all blue with not a cloud to be seen, the terrain to get out of Perth is all hills and for the first 5km we didn’t get over 60kph and it was 2hrs before we saw the all blue sky, the flora is ever changing from very dense scrub land, which there is still a lot around Perth, to swampy marsh to grazing land and so on, the way side stop we were supposed to have stopped at was no more than a lay by and we decided to go on to a better one, another caravaner had told us of a nice one but that meant we had to travel 450km and we decided to go for it, it is a long way for Brenda’s back to cope with but we have to try it some time, we travelled on trough the wheat belt and it was nice to drive through an area filled with lush green fields interspersed by the bright yellow crops of canola and the occasional field of blue gum crops, by the time we reached the other end though you could see that this eastern part of the wheat belt gets a lot less rain as the crops were a lot thinner, at one stage we ended up behind a wide load, a plough towed behind a truck it was folded in 3 but was still 7.5m wide it took up the whole road, the pilot car was telling every one to get off the road, that slowed our journey a little as we followed it for about 10km before he pulled over to allow traffic to overtake, we travelled on to Koorarawalyee rest area where we spent the night, it is a nice spot able to cope with at least 50 rigs but only 7 of us are here tonight.

Saturday01st Sep we headed off by 8.30 and went into Coolgardie, fuelled up, had a quick look around and onward east, we are missing the grandchildren and we’re eager to get home we want to cover another 450km today, at this rate we’ll cut down our trip to 7 days, the scenery today is once again ever changing at times it seems almost like we are about to come into desert then is changes to forest then back to scrub land, at one stage we were travelling through an area of tall gums that range from brown to red to light green to avocado green all looking shiny as if they had been foiled, then we went around a bend in the road and, literally around the bend it had changed to grazing land, the terrain ranges from flat to mainly undulating to quite hilly in places with lots of straight stretches ranging from a couple of kilometres to 37km but tomorrow we reach the mother of all straights as we come to officially the longest road straight in the world, coming in at 146.6km that should be interesting, man that’s longer than you can travel in some countries, the weather is great, though we did start the day at 1degree but the sun has been out all day and by 10am we were in tee shirts and the window open, it didn’t even cool down that much after the sun went down, we have stopped at the camp site beside the Balladonia roadhouse for $13 we can have a shower and there are many other vans here. You meet so many different people on the road, last night there was a guy at the camp site travelling on his own on a Harley, towing a small camper behind him, that’s the second one we’ve seen, and today we met a couple travelling in a mini bus converted to sleeping compartment she is driving the bus, he is driving a 4WD towing a caravan converted to kitchen and dinning room, they are travelling with their SIX children and she is due in 10 weeks they sold up in Darwin, are moving to Toowoomba, going the long way around to see some of Australia while they can and are even travelling with their 2 dogs and 1 cat, boy what a menagerie! We have actually travelled 474km today, with a few stops to see some sights and having being slowed down to 40 and 60kph for road works over a distance of 49 km, we were on the road for nearly 8 hours, it is way too much, I’m not happy with pushing it so much, as it is playing havoc on Brenda’s back and she is in a lot of pain so tomorrow we’ll take it easy in the morning leave a little later and only do 350km or so.

Sunday 02nd We start today with the sky overcast so the night has been warmer, it is father’s day and Brenda insisted on making breakfast, we took it easy and headed off at 10am and were the last ones to leave, soon we get to the longest straight in the world, one would think that driving 146km without a bend in the road would be boring but the drive, which took about 1 ½ hours was kept interesting by the constantly changing, once again up hill and down dale and ever changing scenery, the flora keeps changing as does the colours of the wild flowers from yellows to pinks to reds to purples and though not as prolific as in the north of WA they are still wonderful and are a feast for the eyes and an attention getter for the mind as well as talking points, the 1 ½ hours went by before we knew it. We travelled on through Caiguna, Cocklebiddy, where we stopped and Brenda bought me lunch to celebrate father’s day, and Madura, all being typical outback towns, a petrol station with a pub attached, a caravan park and motel on the side and that’s it, because it has a pub it is worthy of being called a town and earns itself a place on the map. The road is long, but with 22 parking bays, 4 being rest stops with toilets available there is ample opportunity for the weary traveller to stop and stretch their legs, which we took advantage of a few times as there is a strong southerly blowing which hits us from the right and every time a road train goes by it throws us around a bit, just before arriving at Madura there is the Madura pass lookout, it was a totally unexpected sight, the lookout is on a hilltop approximately 200mt above Madura and looking over the flat terrain that, soon you are to be driving on, after so many hills and valleys we didn’t realise we were so high up, form there you look into the distance and it is absolutely flat as far as the eye can see, the start of the Nullarbor plains, tonight we stopped at a rest stop with one other van nearby about 30km from Mundrabilla.

Monday 03rd From Madura to Eucla, 120km the terrain stayed the same, hills up to 200mt high to the left of us and flat plain to the left, this is not what we imagined, I would have thought that there would only be salt bush and dirt as far as the eye can see, for hours on end but although Nullarbor means “no trees” there are lots of them around and the scenery is once again forever changing, there are many places with hardly any trees but shrubs are still around, at other times you can’t see further than 40mt past the road, there are not many flowers here as the average rain fall is only 250mm per annum but there is a lot of green, coming into Eucla, you get your first glimpse of the ocean then veer left and climb the hill, the roadhouse is neat, clean and they have the cheapest LPG, by 10c, than any other place on the plain so we fuelled up, unfortunately yesterdays side wind has turned to a strong easterly and we’re going directly into it, but at least the sun is out. Just after Eucla we crossed back into South Australia, from Eucla to Nullarbor, we are back to mild undulations and the road follows the coast as close as 100mt and as far as 2km, there are only a few places that you can see the ocean as you are driving but there are a number of lookouts where you can stop and go to the edge of the cliff, here you are about 60 or so metre about the ocean looking south, nothing between here and Antarctica, mind you that is reflected in today’s wind, it is icy, but the views of the ocean meeting the cliff face along the great Australian bight are amazing, I have seen it in photos but NOTHING can prepare you for the real thing, we noticed people coming out of their cars going to the edge taking a photo and leaving but we walked along the cliff tops, there are signs to warn you where the cliffs are undercut, so it is safe where there are no signs and from some of these places you can see the awesome power of the sea as the waves crash onto the cliffs, yet more amazing sights in this awesome country, someone had told us that the Nullarbor would be dull, colourless and boring, with the multitude of greens in the flora, to all the different shades of browns, reds and whites of the dirt and rocks to the range of blues, from azure to royal, of the ocean we have plenty of colour to sustain us for a week let alone a couple of hours of driving, from there we stopped at Nullarbor, you guessed it a roadhouse, licensed of course, and topped up with $20 of gas, the treeless plain that this area is named after, is here and goes for 28km along the road and there is nothing other than salt bush, the one small shrub that is different to the salt bush, about 3ft x 3ft and dark green, stands out like a pimple on a bum, it is almost eerie to drive in such surroundings, when we have had such wonders all around us for the last 3 ½ months. Still driving through THE Nullarbor we turned off into the Head of the bight centre to go and see the whales, here the southern right whales, so named in the whaling days because they were the right ones to hunt in the southern oceans, migrate yearly to calve in the relatively warmer waters and stay till the calves have gained enough weight for the return journey to Antarctica, as we enter the area a sign tells us there are 50 whales, the cost of entry is $10pp and after a 150m walk to the viewing platform there are only 4, 2 mothers and calves, are close to the cliffs and lolling about in the waves about 120m from us, we are disappointed that, not more, are here, but that’s the luck of the draw, as we and others watch on 1 mother and calf slowly come closer and are within 50mt of us when baby decides to play up a bit and swims under and over mum, as she surfaces baby is forced above the water and the play goes on for a few minutes, then it is feed time, the mother must lay on her side to feed so baby can still breathe, there we are witnessing a beautiful sight of a 4-5 ton baby feeding and yet another beautiful memory for this trip, after about an hour we leave the sanctuary thoroughly frozen and head off to our rest stop for the night, unfortunately the one we chose is still in the treeless plain so, we drive on another 45km to a small one WITH trees, tonight is our 2nd on the road we spend alone.

Tuesday 04th Our body clocks are still on WA time so by the time we were up and dressed, packed and on the road it was nearly ten o’clock, we went on through Yalata and Nundroo, we were driving through scrub land and open terrain and suddenly it changed almost as if we had driven through a curtain, we were in grazing land and there were a number of farms around, one can see that this country doesn’t get much rain as the fields are quite brown and we commented that this is the driest we have seen since leaving home and it is only early spring, if this is a sign of things to come we are in dire straights for summer, at least the folks around here are, we stopped in at Penong to see a mate but he was at work, his wife and son were home and we spent about ½ an hour with them before getting back on the road again and on to Ceduna and the fruit fly check. We feel that for this part of the trip we have become “white liners” a road term for those who live only to travel and find the next free stop, seeing nothing, only the white line in the middle of the road, but we are missing the family and heading home, we will be back this way and have already seen spots where we want to stop. Tonight after having travelled 395km we are at a parking bay 2km out of Poochera we though we would be alone again but just before going to bed another van pulled up.

Wednesday 05th The roadside stop near Poochera was close to the road and since we were really tired we had both had a good sleep, we slept so soundly that we didn’t even hear a truck pull up in the same bay for the driver to have a kip, having gone to sleep at 9, we both woke up early when the truck traffic started, we heard the first few but we woke around 6am, after I downloaded the photos we had breakfast cleaned up and were on the road by 8.15, 87km to Kyancutta (aboriginal for rock hole), there we rang ahead to Michelle and Brett, Brenda’s cousin but they weren’t home, so we went on to Kimba, there we found Michelle in her shop and spent ½ an hour with her, then on through Iron Knob and to Pt Augusta, we got there at 1.30, got gas and moved on, we had spent some time there on the way up and stopped for lunch about 25km out of town, as Brenda was making a sandwich I noticed that, in the paddock on the other side of the road, there were some emus, Kia’s friends, not, we have travelled thousands of kilometres around Australia, seen a dozen or so emus, at most 3 in one mob and 300km from home there are 35 of them just grazing in a paddock, the land of surprises! Someone had told us during the trip somewhere in this wide brown land, actually it has been more green than brown but anyway, that once you are on the home straight you just don’t want to stop, as it is we have been travelling a lot faster and further than usual on this leg of the trip and we have already travelled 331k m today but it is too early to stop now and we can almost smell home, with another 280km to go, we are both going to be buggered and Brenda is going to feel the effects of this day for many to come but the family, home and our own bed are calling, it will be dark when we get home but we decide to push on, we are going past Pt Pirie in 20min, Amanda used to work here and we’ve done this trip very often, it is 3 o’clock, we know we are 3 ½ hours from home and from here the car is on auto pilot we spend the rest of the time hardly talking , sometimes reflecting on this wonderful trip and before we know it we are turning off Main South Rd into Aldinga, Kia knows we are home and she starts to whimper, we made this last leg of the trip in 5 days it was supposed to take 10-14, we have not told anyone we are home we want to surprise them, we went to Amanda and Dave’s and just knocked on the door and Danika squealed as only a granddaughter can when she saw us.

Frank’s epilogue It has been a wonderful adventure full of surprises, every day filled with amazing sights, I have kept over 2000 photos, deleted many, we have seen wild kangaroos (not many live) horses, donkeys, pigs, snakes, lizards, camels, dogs, crocodiles, buffalos, emus and other birds of all colours, shape and size from the smallest azure blue wren to the amazing, graceful wedge tailed eagle, our eyes have feasted on every shade of green and brown in the foliage of bushes, trees and grass, every shade and colour you can imagine in the flowers that range in size from as small as a match head to the size of a dinner plate, we have been to the awe-inspiring, spiritual Uluru (Ayers rock) to Kata-jutta (the Olgas), we have seen mountain ranges, gaps, chasms, gorges, rivers, dry and full, we have camped by rivers, camped alone and with others, at night we have seen more stars in the sky than one thought possible, we have met interesting people from all walks of life, all living each day to the fullest enjoying this amazing, huge, beautiful land. All in all we have travelled 15,930km on a journey which has filled us with awe; I will leave you with a quote from Banjo Paterson in Clancy of the overflow which captures the adventure in a few words, over the last 16 weeks we have imbibed “the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, and at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars!”

Brenda’s epilogue What can I write about my last 16weeks or so, well like Frank, leaving Pt Augusta, I felt sick at reading the sign that said Darwin 3000 or so km, I wondered firstly, will we have enough money and would the car make it, what if we broke down on the side of the road, would anyone stop to help us, we were told do not stop for anybody, we could be there for days, I felt the tears welling up inside but then I heard trust in the lord; and my fears vanished. We’ve had so many great times and met so many good people, it has been wonderful. On the way home I asked frank 10 things that had an impact on him, I would like to tell you mine [1] would have to be the uncertainty of leaving Pt Augusta. [2] Uluru, it’s hard to put it into words, I guess I would have to say I was so enthralled by this rock, the aura was so soft yet powerful, I was mesmerised, I would have liked to have walked around it but I knew that 9km was too much and Frank would have worried about me all the way, I was just grateful to be there. [3] Was watching Frank’s anticipation as we drove closer to Adelaide river, with every kilometre we drove, his excitement grew at seeing Peter again, it was like watching a child opening a present, I had only seen that once before, flying into Brisbane 2 ½ years ago to see Richard. [4] Climbing Katherine gorge, though I was frightened and my heart was racing, the view from the top was exhilarating and worth the knee trembling experience. [5] Talking to the dolphin, I waded into the water and he swam to me, I was a mere ½ metre from this amazing creature and he lay on his side listening to me as I told him I had travelled such a long way to see him and how beautiful he was, this graceful bottle nosed dolphin just lay there listening as if he could understand every word I said, Frank told me later , that a ranger was standing a few feet away and a number of people were watching this unfold but I was totally unaware of any of it as I was engulfed in awe, until a stupid bl%%*& woman came bounding into the water to take a picture and scared him away, also the next day, feeding Piccolo was fantastic and funny because I had to let go of the fish as she likes to pretend to catch her own. [6] Watching frank feed Puk later in the day, I was glad we both got the experience. [7] Getting to Perth and seeing Bernie and Alan again after 15 years and giving Bernie a hug after her long day at work. [8] Standing at the edge of the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight, watching the teal ocean and the power of the waves as they crashed on the cliff face 60 or so meters below us. [9] The whales, mother and calf playing and feeding within 100m as we stood and watched from the platform above. [10] We had been counting down the kilometres from the border but in Pt Augusta when I saw the sign that said “Adelaide 303km” I had the reverse effect that I’d had exactly 16 weeks prior.
I have seen and done many things in the last 4 months that I would never have dreamed I could do, like, showering with a frog in an open topped shower block, climbing up the side of a gorge, standing behind a waterfall, hand washing clothes daily to save money, sleeping in a sandy bed as it’s impossible to keep it all out, sleeping by the side of the road and not staying awake all night worrying, although this wasn’t my dream but Frank’s, I wouldn’t change a thing and I am glad I shared the dream with him, I hadn’t realised just how much Frank knew and how he can describe things in a way that makes you present in the moment. Love to you all Brenda

It hasn’t always been easy and funds were tight but we have come out the other side planning the next trip, we hope you have enjoyed our journey, our adventure, and we’ll catch up with you somewhere, out there, in this wonderful Land of Oz. Frank and Brenda

Our next trip, Tasmania , you'll find the blog of that trip on

Our third trip was in 2011 a reverse of our first trip where we got to do a few things we missed out on the first time, including visiting the beautiful south west of WA, visiting and staying at Coral Bay (we changed our minds about the place) and fossicking for garnets at Gemtree you can read all about it on