Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Broome 14 – 21 September 2006

We leisurely observed Broome and found most of what there was to see and do. Enjoyed the museum a lot but squirmed at the old diving suits that give you claustrophobic feelings - just imagining putting one on, let alone being lowered in to the sea - another case of a hard life for the early settlers from 1880’s. Broome had lots of unpleasant situations and we cringed at the system of black birding of Aboriginals for pearl diving. Heather was upset at seeing a photo of a row of men with large chains linking their necks and ankles that still existed in Broome until the late 1950s.
We enjoyed beautiful swimming at Cable Beach which is surprisingly quite a distance from the town, as it is the image of Broome that everyone sees. It is magnificent to watch the sunset on the ocean. The resorts are all located here, but you are unable to see the water from the resort because of the huge dunes in front.
Relaxed around Broome some more until Heather got ready for her trip back to Sydney for her brother’s wedding and to catch up with family. She is even able to squeeze in a return trip to Melbourne to see Katie and Carl briefly. While she is away, Peter has got himself a job, which Heather thinks is mad!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Broome - Stairway to the Moon

Geikie Gorge NP

Ngumban Cliff Sunrise

Broome 10-13 September 2006

Got up early (5am) and onto Fitzroy Crossing to see the Geikie Gorge, for an 8am boat trip along the gorge. The cliffs were originally a ocean reef of microscopic algae (350 million years ago!) that had been compressed into limestone, then pushed up, then eroded away. It has left a pattern of delicate lacework of white stone caverns and caves. Saw a number of fresh water crocs sunning themselves on the rocks. When we finished our boat trip we both wondered about making a mad dash to the coast for the moon event. We decided YES! We drove to Broome all afternoon and the air conditioner supported us by coming back to 25% and the squeal muted most of the time. We just turned the music up louder! We were told that the Stairway to the Moon wouldn’t be back for a month so this was our only chance. We ended up driving 550km to get there, which is the longest we have travelled in a day. The Stairway occurs when the full moon coincides with a low tide, and the moon reflects off the exposed mudflat. Unbeknown to us, the evening also coincided with the end of the Broome Festival, so we had fireworks and music to accompany the Stairway event. They had the most amazing didgeridoo music filling the air as the orange moon rose and shone across the mudflats. We had a great position and were so pleased we made the dash!
Broome itself is a sophisticated town and very different from the other settlements we have seen on our travels. It is a bit like Noosa, with big resorts, tourist shops, small Chinese influence and a beautiful setting. Lots of the views are hard to get from the resorts etc because of the beautiful dunes. So we feel very privileged to have scored the front row right on Roebuck Bay at the caravan park. The people on this site had been here for a 4 months and had just left! Seems lots of people are heading south. We have more heat but with less tourists. Reasonable compromise! The climate is fine here and we don’t need air-conditioning on the site as there is a sea breeze!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ngumban Cliff Sunset

Ngumban Cliff Lookout 9 September 2006

We were warned by other travellers to stay clear of the Kimberly towns because of the hostile reaction of some Aborigines. However we enjoyed having a good look around Halls Creek, bought some lovely fruit and veg there, chatted with a Aboriginal man waiting outside the bottle shop to buy alcohol who was going home the next day down the Tanami Track to the NT border - this was his closest bottle shop. We parked on the corner of Highway 1 and the Duncan Highway to have lunch outside the bottle shop. Whilst we were there the owner came out and turned on the sprinkler onto the cement footpath! Behind this was a big poster of a Polar bear reclining with a Bundy rum. Now he had everything! The sprinkler was on and he was getting cooled, all on the Duncan Highway!! Great photo opportunity. One that the boys in our family may well like to print and frame!
Travelled on through changing country to beautiful rock plateaus that herald the beginning of the West Kimberlys. Found a wonderfully elevated camp site without shade but with magnificent views. Enjoyed a chat with our neighbours who were Germans and had visited Australia 3 times.
Watched a giant full moon peak over the horizon, as we camped on top of a cliff overlooking the low lands. Shared this with the Germans who told us they were off to Broome to see the Stairway to the Moon event in Broome the next night. We both felt disappointed as we had planned to see this but didn’t know the times. We had a very blowy night that actually was a bit on the cold side! Who cared! Not us!

Sipping a Cool Bundy

Bungle Bungle NP (Spring Creek) 7-8 September 2006

Someone said you either love or hate Kununurra. Think we left there a bit cold on that score. Before we left we got the squeal in the air-conditioner fixed. Left in HEAT that was melting us at lunch time and found that the squeal was back and the air-conditioner did not work at all. So we drove on knowing we had just wasted $20!
We really struggled with the heat and Heather was done-in using the water atomiser every minute. The thought of the next days without air-conditioning was depressing. We managed to stay cheerful and discussed our lives before aircon. We decided old cars must have had better air circulation. Remember quarter vents and not so much black plastic! As we drove on the clouds built up in the distance and the look of a storm was there.
We settled in at a magnificent camp right at the entrance to the park, however as we set up the RAIN came pouring down. We did not fear being bogged (with ½ doz others because it still seems impossible) and Heather cleaned the car windows in the rain and loved getting wet!
Up early at 5am to try and do the Bungles in a day. After a 2 hr trip to cover 52km of bad dirt road and numerous water crossings, we got to the Bungle Bungle NP. We did not remember to turn the air-conditioner off in one particularly deep water crossing and guess what? On another very HOT day we were with out air-conditioning! Heather really started to think this might be the end of her travels! We discovered the main attractions are both in opposite directions in the park and also about 20 – 25 k each on rough dirt roads. Both features were really worth the trip and we really were amazed. The Cathedral was cool and grand. No photo can capture it as it is very 3D. It reminded me of St Pauls in London with the hole to the sky. Below were beautiful sand and a pool of water. The arch was majestic and produced very strong echoes. The actual pagoda type hills were an amazing sight and seemed to stretch on for ever. The Echidna Chasm was fantastic. We inched our way through high, narrow ramparts that was so restricted you couldn’t stretch a cat let alone swing it. Though the way we are eating and putting on a bit, we were surprised to get through ourselves! It was so narrow that Pamela Anderson couldn’t squeeze through. It was so narrow that the rocks got trapped between the walls as they had fallen down. Looking up to the sky through the narrow gap was inspiring. Back to the heat of the car where we thought about fuses! A change of fuses and suddenly (after dropping the only spare in the dirt and luckily finding it) we were air conditioned again! Well we just drove home in heaven and marvelled about being cool, adjusting it down because we were too cold! Heather can now continue on the travels in style!

Bungle Bungles - Echidna Gorge

Bungle Bungles

Kununurra 5 – 6 September 2006

We cleaned out all our vegies and fruits, consumed the last of the honey! Then to the border that looked like the border crossing in East Germany from our 70’s travels! Out in the bush too! They are very particular but we got through quickly. Saw another van there getting the full works with guards pulling everything out! The protection seems to focus on the banana industry the most, but there are obviously other agricultural industries in the Ord to protect.
The day was another really hot one and the air-conditioner was a necessity! The scenery was again very different and we could ‘feel’ the Kimberly country. The boabs are fantastic looking like the trees in the Wizard of Oz. Will have to re-look at that movie to find out why it felt that way. The trees look like characters from another land but friendly and interacting with each other! Often dancing! They are different from the QLD ones with much bigger bottle bottoms! They look so ancient!
Lots of fires burning quietly and continuously, with no response by fire services. It wouldn’t happen in NSW with Firie Phil in charge!
Still HOT! The air conditioner has started to make weird squealing noises.
Drove into Lake Argyle and we were amazed at the size of it - it is really amazing. It contains 75 times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour and its all fresh and topped up every year without fail. The little village is really only a roadhouse sized one with camping pub and petrol. There is very little room to drive around and everything is located on the water, which is considered geographically as an inland sea. Moved out of town to visit the old relocated station house of the famous Duracks. (Mary Durack the writer of Kings in Grass Castles). They had to give up the property for the flooding of this lake which was opened by Menzies in the 60’s. One of the sons is on the property and happy to chat to you. We engaged in a conversation
about the terrible under utilisation of the amazing amount of water. Michael pointed out that there is only 30,000 hectares under irrigation in the Ord system. We were also amazed that this resource is so underused, but there are lots of stories and talk about it what to do to fix the problem.
Arrived in Kununurra which is a young town about 40 years old. Lots of greenery and lovely farms around. Bought rockmelon and honeydew melons for $1 each and the flavours were the best. In Woollies and Coles they have imported ones and the cost is about $5 each! The mangoes are hanging heavily on the trees but still very green and look like another 4 weeks before they will ripen - the campsite must have been an old mango farm. Nevertheless we took 4 of the bigger ones and have them wrapped in newspaper, ever hopeful! We visited all the main attractions and really enjoyed the Hidden Valley NP, immediately behind the caravan park, which is made up of the same rock formations as the Bungle Bungle NP.

Lake Argyle

Saddle Creek 4 September 2006

Up early and on our way. Scenery changed to thick bush. Lots of steep hills with ragged cliffs. Victoria River was a surprise – wide and full, as most of the creeks we had seen were dry. Stopped at Timber Creek – at first we thought we had driven through it but realised that WAS the town. This has happened before! Some towns are hardly there! The day was very hot and the night did not have any relief! We definitely felt very hot and bothered and very happy to get up early and be on our way to the WA border.

Preparing for the Border Crossing

Limestone Creek 3 September 2006

Fathers Day! Laura left some Sol beer which seems to be a great idea around these parts! i.e. the beer! Set off for Katherine after we had stopped in at a mechanic to get new parts for the air hose. The guy lived in a remote area near the falls and was quite happy to help on Fathers Day and made up the part from his bits. He was curious as to where we got his number! The phone book! Very hot and less pleasant weather now. We are probably a bit behind the main crowd, which is good but if we were a month earlier the climate would be better. Did the grocery shop next (standard Woolies and Coles all around Oz by the way) and drove straight out onto the western journey. An Aboriginal guy knocked at our door in the carpark and asked if we would like to buy a boomerang. We declined as we did not need a second hand, plywood, made in Japan one for $20! Unusual to be approached - can’t say he didn’t try! Stopped the night at a bush camp with a few other people, one couple coming from the opposite direction and happy to give a few pointers on what lies ahead. This is always a great source of information and we, too, love to give out tips.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Kakadu - Yellow Water

Yellow Water Croc

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Edith Falls NP 2 September 2006

Drove south out off Kakadu and got to Edith Falls about lunch time. When we got there we discovered that the air hose that connected the braking system to the car had broken – after we just got the whole system working in Darwin!
We found it to be hotter than we expected and really enjoyed swimming in the big plunge pool fed by a water fall! Beautiful - but not as nice as Wangi Falls. We went in twice. The camp ground was good and unusually, full of Germans. In the evening as they relaxed and got louder and louder we thought we were in Germany with the kookaburras! Weird moment!

Kakadu - Yellow Water Sunset

Aboriginal Paintings at Kakadu

Mardugal NP 30 August – 1 September 2006

Camped in the National Park camp site to give Laura a better taste of the bush. The commercial camp at Yellow Waters was about 7 k away but ours was more beautiful. The birds at night were noisier than the day birds and were actually beautiful to listen to, then suddenly at about 4am it is deadly quiet for a few hours. The South Alligator River was just behind us, hence the large bird population. We took a boat trip at 0645 hrs onto the Yellow Waters and put that experience up as one of the highlights. All the birds concentrate on the shrinking waters and there are thousands up very close and not even slightly interested in us floating by so closely. We probably saw every water bird you could think of including jabirus with a nest on the top of a dead tree, with a baby the size of a stork standing up. We also saw a pair of brolgas who are the dancing birds with lovely long red legs. The daily arrival of the magpie geese in their tens of thousands made a terrific noise. Mixed in on the flats with them were the Whistling ducks, Burdekin ducks and so many other species of beautiful white creatures. We really felt like we had been spliced through nature and were invisible. It was goose bump stuff. The crocs were just fishing around and the birds practically walked all over them. The guide said the crocs usually only eat fish in this environment. There is so much life it feels unreal. We returned to the area the next evening and watched another spectacular sunset made very red by the constant smoke from the numerous grass fires. It was amazing to watch the tens of thousands of magpie geese go flying back to their roosts. The classic V formations were repeated over and over with some amazing variations.
Laura was dropped off on Friday to the Aurora Resort, at South Alligator 40 k west of Jabiru, to work for few months so she can save some money before she moves on to Nepal. She has to save as there is nothing to do there! She has another job in Jabiru in a child care centre that she wants to do on her days off and they are busting to have her.
She gets free food and board at the resort as she will be the manager of the café, so it should work out well.!! We said our good byes as we separated again on our own adventures and expect our next hugs in 6 months! For Laura it will be Kakadu to Kathmandu!

Jabiru 28 – 29 August 2006

Stayed 2 nights in the local caravan park as it had a great pool and made a good base whilst we were with Laura. Jabiru is smaller than we expected - like Woomera but more alive. It is there for the tourists but also for the uranium mine nearby. It has a few essential shops and services. We had a drink in the Sports Club overlooking the lagoon. Laura tried to contact the HR manager of the local resort over two days but the manager was hopeless and it all came to nothing. They had advertised and Laura had emailed but you could sense some problem. One girl offered that 20 staff left last week and there is a real sense of no guests! As Laura was looking for a job for a few months before heading O/S, we stopped into a resort on the way in, to see what was available. There is no shortage of work up here and Laura was offered a number of jobs straight away. She decided to take one at the Aurora Resort, 40km west of Jabiru and maybe do some childcare work on her days off. We think this must be the end of the season. You hear conversations about when the build up will start. Seems to be like the big boogie man’s shadow hanging over everyone! Some locals are not that concerned but none say it’s an easy time, as the humidity before the monsoon is terrible. Tourists are scared off by it and leave a bit soon. From Jabiru we went on a late afternoon excursion to Ubirr to view the Aboriginal rock paintings. They were better than we expected and were a real art gallery. The lightning spirit was particularly fascinating with hammers on his knees to make the sound. Another wall was covered with all the foods and was virtually a menu! This area also has lots of creatures drawn in X-Ray style including bones and organs. Another art style here was contact art from their first encounters with white man. These showed guns, axes and men with their hands in their pockets which was fascinating to unclothed Aboriginals. We climbed up to a great lookout at the same site to watch a spectacular sunset over the flood plains. It is a timeless land with nothing changed and is lush green as all the water has been draining away over the dry and confined to smaller lagoons and creeks. It is impossible to see in the wet as it is all cut off. It would be a job to be done by plane. Whilst based in Jabiru we also went to another art site that was also very impressive called Nourlangie. One wall depicted a group of people dancing. One huge rock shelter was very impressive for art and as a place to be it was wonderful. It caught the most wonderful breeze and on a 32 deg day it was like air-conditioning. The art we have seen around here depicts the stories more clearly and increases appreciation of the Aboriginal culture.

Peter showing how he killed a croc during the war

Laura enjoying the fish-life

Big Ted at Work