Monday, September 22, 2008

days 53 - 54 mataranka to alice springs

headed toward alice from mataranka. stopped at the daly waters pub which was pretty cool. all manner of stuff hung up all over the place. the bar is covered in business cards and there's bras hanging everywhere and a thong tree (foot type thongs that is) and hats and coins and 'paper' money and licence plates and drop bears and flags. there is literally stuff hanging everywhere. outside is just as chockas with stuff as inside. a little pub, 5 kms off the main road and so worth the visit.

we continued south to the devil's marbles where we stopped for the night. they are really amazing, balancing on each other and looking like they could fall at any minute. the sunset over the marbles was very nice to see and that night the moon was nearly full and there was a great opportunity to take some night time photos of the rock formations.

next day saw us up early and off to alice springs. between the marbles and the alice we passed wycliffe well which is the unofficial 'ufo sighting' capital of australia; aileron which has a giant statue of an aboriginal man on the hill behind the roadhouse; and the tropic of capricorn. in w.a. the line of the tropic scores a very staid and proper sign. in the nt the tropic line gets a whole sculpture and rest area in its honour.

we arrived in alice in time for lunch and then got ourselves setup at the caravan park.

days 55 - 57 alice springs

by the time we got to alice springs we were all a bit natured out so it was good to spend a few days doing other stuff. we looked at art galleries and souvenier shops. we visited the alice springs cultural precinct which is made up of galleries and museums and craft works. we also visted the rfds centre and the school of the air headquarters. the kids got to go on a camel ride and we drank good coffee in cafes. it was a really nice, relaxing couple of days.
our one attempt at nature tourism was a bust. we went out to see standley chasm but it is on private property and they wanted almost $40.00 for our family to go on a 15 minute walk into the chasm. i wont rant here but needless to say it was a classic example of the exploitation of australia's natural wonders for the good of a select few. interestingly, there was nowhere that we could find that actually listed the price of entrance to the chasm. the best we could find was a listing that mentioned "a small entrance fee". methinks 40 bucks isn't small. so not only is it gonna cost money to get in, but you've also gotta drive a 100km round trip to find out just how expensive it really is....

on the other end of the scale, the cultural centre cost us $20.00 to get in for two days and had 6 different possible venues to visit, all in the one place. awesome. also, it costs to get in to both the rfds display and the school of the air display but both places state clearly that the entrance fees you pay are considered donations to the organisation. both of these places were very interesting and very well laid out. the school of the air was particularly inspiring.

we stayed at the mcdonnell range caravan park for the duration of our stay in the alice. it was very pleasant with free pancakes on sunday morning and a range of other 'entertainments' on other nights of the week. one night was a didjeridu player who was very good and liam won a cd for being the best didj player in a kids competition. we had talked about buying a didj and the show was the catalyst that finally sent us over the edge. the day after the show we went out and bought a didj which has sat in the camper, wrapped in its bubble wrap, waiting til we get back to albany to be dragged out and played.... (we hope!!!)

all in all alice springs has been one of the more enjoyable stops we've had. everyone had a good time there, we made some new friends and we saw some great stuff.

day 58 alice to yulara

in planning our trip we somehow managed to mess up the distance between alice and yulara. we thought 300kms but it is in fact closer to 500kms. so we had a longish day in front of us, particularly as dad wanted to take a detour to the henbury meteor crater site. its only 20ish kms off the main road on the road to kings canyon. it couldn't be all that bad could it??? hmmm perhaps the most corrugated and roughest road we've travelled on especially with the camper in tow. oh well, never mind. we got to the craters eventually, counted our teeth, checked all the bits that might have fallen off the car and the trailer to find everything is ok. good o. the craters are in the middle of a vast open, flat plain and are quite amazing. not as spectacular as the wolfe creek crater, but for a certified space nut like me they were still very cool. well worth the pain involved in getting there.

we arrived at yulara in time to set up the camper and then go out and do some looking around. then we drove the 20kms out to uluru to see the sunset over the rock. wow. very very special indeed.

day 59 yulara

today was driving out to kata-tjuta (karta-choota) and looking around out there. we stayed around the campsite for the early part of the day and then went out to kata-tjuta for the afternoon so we could do a few walks and then watch the sunset over the rocks here. another stunning day, seeing some of australia's most iconic landmarks up close and personal.

the work that has been done installing interpretive signs and trails around these places is great. there are lots of places to visit and heaps of information about the things you see, both from the anangu point of view as well from a western european point of view.

kata-tjuta is less well known and yet just as spectacular as uluru. i really enjoyed going out there and seeing it. from ground level it looks like a long stretch of rock formations that are strung out in one long line but in fact, it is a clump of rocky outcrops and weathered boulders that form a cluster arrangement. aerial photographs show something completely different to what you expect. btw kata-tjuta is translated to mean 'many heads'.

day 60 yulara

today i went out early to see the sunrise over uluru. i headed out in time to get to the viewing space about 20 minutes before sunrise. i should have left 30 minutes earlier because by the time i got to the viewing space there was already 100s of people and cars and buses out doing the sunrise thing. fortunately i found a quiet little spot just off to the side of the main viewing space where i could sit and take some photos and then just enjoy the view and the atmosphere without the noise and commotion of the other people.

after sunrise i headed back to the campsite, grabbed ruth and the boys and we headed out to do some shopping for provisions before having some lunch and then heading back out to uluru. we drove right round the rock, stopping to do a couple of walks and looking at the place where you can climb the rock if you want to and if the conditions allow for the climb to be open.
everywhere you go there are reminders that the traditional owners would rather that you didn't climb uluru, but they still allow you do the climb if none of about 15 different conditions occur. too hot too cold too wet too windy too dangerous too sorry etc.

we visited the cultural centre which is very interesting and has some amazing local traditional art plus a very comprehensive collection of information about the traditional owners and the role uluru plays in their spiritual and practical lives.

after the cultural centre we went back to camp and made some curry which we stuck in some boxes and took out to the sunset viewing space where we sat and ate dinner and just enjoyed the sun going down and the changes it makes to the colours of the rock. ahh yes a lovely way to finish the day.

parting is such sweet sorrow

Its been a while since i posted anything and almost as long since i really sat down to write anything. my grandma got sick very quickly and passed away after a few days of being basically comatose. while we have been expecting this for some time now, it still came as a shock and has knocked me around a fair bit. not being in a position to be able to attend grandma's funeral has also added to the weight of emotion and travel writing really hasn't held much interest for me. i'm back on the wagon again now and will hopefully be adding updates a bit more regularly.

here's something of a synopsis of where we've been and what we've done in the meantime.

purnululu lead to several days in kununurra. i was fortunate enough to be able to do a flight with slingair which took in much of the countryside around the town, as well as a significant amount of time flying over purnululu. seeing the bungle bungles from the air after seeing them from ground level just a few days before was truly amazing. the few spots you visit from the ground shrink into insignificance when you see how vast and complex the place really is from the air. i took the 6am flight which gave great views of the bungles with the sun rising over them which you don't properly experience at ground level because the sun comes up on the wrong side of the range.

whilst in kununurra we also checked out the zebra rock gallery, the diversion dam and a bunch of small galleries and the weekly markets in town. it was a pleasant stay and we managed to get a bit of rest and relaxation in as well.
as we were preparing to depart on our last day the car refused to start and that cost us a new battery and 3 hours fluffing around getting reorganised.

leaving kununurra we headed east for the border with the northern territory, advanced our watches by the hour and a half required and suddenly were nearly 5 hours behind schedule for the days plans. the day was stinking hot into the bargain, so arriving at timber creek we chickened out of camping and grabbed a night in a motel room.
mum and dad rang that night letting us know that grandma was very ill and not expected to survive the night. true to form she did survive the night and fought death off with a stick for three more nights before succumbing...

timber creek passed into katherine which was pleasant but quite hot. on arriving in katherine we went straight to the springs in town which were lovely. after a swim we headed into katherine proper and had a look around town, visiting the vistor's centre and the local library before attempting a cache (unsuccessfully at first) and then visiting a bunch of caravan parks before settling in for the night at shady lanes. we had intended to stay at edith gorge, but with news immenent regarding grandma we decided to stay in town where we could guarantee phone reception.

Kakadu and Darwin

We headed out from Katherine and stopped in at Edith Gorge on the way to Kakadu. It was amazing. the pools and gorge were ok but the grounds were all lawn and green and brick paving and fences. it looked like a resort not a gorge!!!

on to pine creek for a quick cache and then into kakadu. we stayed at the cooinda resort / lodge place which had camp grounds as well as cabins and rooms and the like plus a pool and a bar and several restaurants. all very swish... the campgrounds were ok but they did seem to have a fetish with watering everything all the time. obviously no water restrictions in kakadu.

kakadu was amazing and we only did the easy bits. ubirr (oo beer) was the highlight for me with aboriginal rock art and a view to die for. you could see for miles and the view took in everything from rainforest to swamp to rocky outcrops to dry arid land. i wrote about it in the piece we wrote for grandma's funeral. a bit of heaven here on earth. ubirr has now officially been added to my list of all time favourite places. btw there was a cache to do there too.

for the rest of our stay in kakadu we climbed things and swam in things and watched crocs swim in things and did caches and visited visitor's centres and etc etc etc.

on the morning we were leaving kakadu to head for darwin we received a call from my mum and dad to say that grandma had passed away. we did a cache on the way out of kakadu which we dedicated to grandma and then basically drove straight to darwin.

i couldn't face camping just then so we splashed out and upgraded ourselves to a cabin for 5 nights so we had a place to be on our own and quiet if we so desired.

darwin was good for us. there was plenty to do to take our minds off the sadness and we had a great time there. we visited the wildlife park, did a jumping crocs tour, went into the city and on sunday night we went to the mindil beach markets. the markets were marvellous. arts and crafts and food and junk jewellery and food and music and food and did i mention food????? and people..... there were heaps of people there - tourists and locals alike all happy and having a ball at the markets at the beach - huge!!!!! we also did a couple of caches on our last day. they were all micros and we found them all too. yay.

Darwin to mataranka was next. a quick one nighter to drop off our trailer and say gday to yvonne, the owner, who used to work at the tafe college in albany where i work (when i'm not holidaying my heart out).


Nhulunbuy (New-Lun-Boy) was a great adventure. 720kms one way, with 600 plus of gravel road, corrugations and river crossings to get there and then 4 full on days of 4wd ing, camping, boating and fishing, all the while in the company of our good friends the Walkers. We got to see dolphins herding and feeding on fish jumping from the water at Cape Arnhem, water buffalo grazing on the dunes near the coast, and long toms skipping across the bay on their tails. I caught a largish striped spanish mackeral which was a great fun catch and almost as good to eat and we spent two nights camped out at a place called Scouts lazing around a beautiful billabong, swimming and reading and sleeping and eating - very close to perfect.

Our last night in town was out at the local golf club for dinner which was incredibly busy for a sunday night even if it was fathers' day, but the food was served quickly and was very very enjoyable. i had a thai green chicken curry which was awesome.

after having spent the first 6 weeks or so of our trip being bagged by various people for having a pretend 4 wheel drive, i'd like to take this opportunity to say tthhhhhhpphhhhtt. our baby 'escape' has been to the bungle bungles, branco's lookout at el questro and the water's edge at cape arnhem. rough roads, steep high clearance tracks, miles of sand and beach and the little baby pretend 4wd never missed a beat and only ever complained once when we had to stop because the car in front got stuck first..... onward and upward i say...

after our time in nhulunbuy we headed back in to the main road and once again headed south, back to spend a few days hanging out at the territory manor as the guests of yvonne and darryl martin. yvonne used to work at great southern tafe sharing her time between external studies and the footy tipping department. our stay was great with cool nights and warm days. we spent our one whole day there swimming at the mataranka thermal springs. even liam our non-swimmer was acting like a fish. the flying foxes had been there about 4 days when we were there and the noise and the small was beginning to build. we met some people a few days later who had been at the springs three days after us and said that the smell had risen to unbearable by then so we obviously were there just at the right time.

we watched darryl doing his barramundi feeding and catching show and ate at the restaurant there. a very pleasant stay indeed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

days 22 - 25 - broome

5 days just kicking back, relaxing and doing tourist things. during the week we have visited souvenier shops, pearl shops and tourist shops. we ventured out to gantheume point to see the dinosaur footprints and the lighthouse. we have done some geocaches and had dinner on cable beach while we watched the sunset. we have sat out on the edge of roebuck bay and watched the world pass and we've done some of the bush walks around the bird observatory. it has been good doing nothing and not be on the move all the time but as the week draws to a close i'm starting to feel like i want to get back out on the road.

our original plan was to tackle the gibb river road from here but we have decided to do just the first 150 odd kms to winjana gorge and to then drop down past tunnel creek to fitzroy crossing. after fitzroy we'll do halls creek and wolfe creek before heading up to purnululu and kununurra. we'll then take a half day to drive out to el questro so i can say i've been there and so we can do a geocache that is in need of being found.....

song for the week: we're all going on a summer holiday

day 26 - broome to winjana gorge via derby

stopped at derby for fuel and to do a geocache at the derby wetlands project where they have turned the town's water recycling / treatment area into a wetland area for birds. they seem to have been very successful as there are literally millions of birds hanging around. everything from crows and ducks through to raptors and water birds.

from derby we headed out the gibb river road and then turned off to winjana gorge. the campsite here is amazing with showers and flushing toilets......

winjana gorge is also pretty special with towering rock faces and huge break away sections of rock guarding the almost subteranean entrance to the gorge. the river that lies along the bottom of the gorge is full of fish and freshwater crocs, so we got to see our first wild crocs of the trip. the fish include archer fish which shoot a jet of water at passing insects to catch them and then feed.

once through the narrow entrance, the gorge opens out into a wide river plateau which is currently mainly dry so we could walk along the river bed and get up close and personal with the crocs. very cool.

song for the day: elton john's crocodile rock

day 27 - winjana to fitzroy crossing via tunnel creek

tunnel creek is awesome. ciaran and i walked its length. it is a 800m underground section of river that has a number of breakout sections where the roof has dropped in, leaving the tunnel open to the elements. there are a number of sections where you have to wade through. at this time of year the water didn't ever get much deeper than knee deep, but in the wet season the tunnel can fill completely making it impassable. the signs at the entrance to the gorge talk about wading through chest deep water and even of having to swim sections. i don't think ciaran would have coped with that but he did very well all the same. you have to have a torch for some sections as it gets very dark and in one section, not only is it dark and you have to wade, but you also have to contend with thousands of screaming ghost bats who aren't very happy with the fact that you are invading their home.

having done tunnel creek we moved on to fitzroy crossing where we stayed at the incredibly delightful fitzroy crossing lodge caravan park. compared with the town caravan park this place is heaven.

song for the day: dire straits' tunnel of love

day 28 - fitzroy crossing

geikie gorge today. this gorge is different to all the others in that it is wide and open with the river running down one side of the gorge and a wide sandy flood plain taking up the rest of the gorge floor. it was a long walk through - about 4kms - and not as spectacular as the others we have seen so far, but it was interesting, and dec have put a lot of effort into providing information along the walk trail to make the hike that bit more interesting. dec also do a boat cruise up the river but we chose the walk this time.

probably the most interesting thing about the whole gorge experience was the signs at the gazebo where dec sell their tour tickets and souveniers. the signs show the level where the water has peaked when flooding in the wet season since about 1985. the highest / deepest was at the very top of the roof which is about 5 metres high. they have aerial photos showing the area during the flood and you cannot see the top of the gazebo at all.

song for the day: how deep is your love

day 29 - fitzroy crossing to halls creek

fitzroy crossing was a dump but the caravan park was really nice. halls creek looks nice and the caravan park is a wasteland. dust dust and more dust - should have camped by the road at mary pool like we were going to cos there was way less dust there.

not much to say except that every piece of room based accommodation in halls creek is taken unless you wanna pay $179.00 per night for something that amounts to a motel room with an extra bed in it and the caravan park is near on empty hmmmmmm.

turns out that the caravan park isn't all bad. it is relatively clean and the nights were good and quiet - oh well.

song for the day: warumpi band's i left my heart behind in fitzroy crossing

day 30 - halls creek - wolfe creek crater

having spoken to numerous people about the top end of the tanami desert road, we'd heard various descriptions from, "good road" to " worst road i ever drove on". so it was with some trepidation that we set out on the 300km round trip from halls creek to the wolfe creek crater and return. it turned out that while the road was quite corrugated in some places, it was pretty easy to sit on about 90kmh for most of the way.

the crater itself was very spectacular. at 850ish metres in diameter and some 20 - 30 metres deep it is the 2nd largest identifiable meteorite crater in the world. in terms of impact, pieces of the meteor that caused the crater have been found over 4kms from the point of impact. we climbed the outer ridge and then dropped down into the crater itself. once down, we did a geocache that is there and then wandered out to find somewhere close to the centre of the crater's circle.

the climb out was very steep but not too daunting .

the day's other highlight was that we finally managed to get some decent photos of an eagle - even if it was eating road kill.

later in the day we drove out to the china wall, about 15kms out of halls creek on the duncan road. it is a surreal looking "wall" of quartz that has withstood the effects of erosion due to its hardness, whilst the softer surrounding rock has succumbed. the white quartz seam stands in stark contrast to the surrounding red rock and it looks like nothing so much as a chunk of the great wall of china.

song for the day: when you wish upon a star....

days 31 and 32 - purnululu national park

majestic, otherworldly, towering... the list could go on. the bungle bungle range really is one of the premier destinations in western australia and from all accounts, australia.

for days leading up to our visit to the park, we had been hearing horror stories about the road in. you can buy stickers and magnets and hats that proclaim "i survived the road into the bungles." the road in to the park is 53 kms long and we had heard varying comments on the time it would take to traverse the road from one a a half hours to three hours. the most reliable comments seemed to come from a family we met at fitzroy crossing who were similarly aged and kitted out to us. they said it took them 2hrs to get in and around one and a half to get out again. they also commented on the various river crossings and significant drop offs we were likely to encounter. in the end the road turned out to be the toughest we had travelled so far, but not really super bad in my opinion.

corrugations, high sitting rocks, and tight weaving sections of road turned out to be the worst of it. none of the 4 river crossings or 2 large puddles really presented any great problems. the spare tire sitting on top of the car tried to commit hari kare about half way in but a bloke coming the other way pointed out the imminent demise of the tire and we saved that. the only other drama was our front number plate trying to detach itself. again, we caught it in time before it fell right off.

the park is basically in two sections. the northern end with echidna chasm and mini palm grove and the southern end with cathedral gorge and the picaninny creek walk and gorge. each end has a campground and there is roughly 50 kms between the ends. our original plan was to camp at the northern end on night one and then head to the southern end for night two. we actually only ended up needing one night as we left halls creek quite early and by the time we drove to the turn off, dropped off the camper trailer (we could probably have taken it in without too many problems but chickened out based on the descriptions we had of the road), and got into the park proper, it was still only about lunchtime. so we headed to the northern end and knocked off echidna chasm and the lookouts in time to get back down to the southern end and set up camp there.

echidna chasm was ruth's favourite of the park. it is a long, narrow chasm with huge walls up either side. the chasm is open at the top for nearly the whole length, letting light in and creating some stunning effects in the colouring of the walls. there are some seriously large boulders that have been caught high up in the chasm as they have fallen from even higher up and they present something of a sobering view as you pass under them, hoping you're not going to be the one they choose to fall on. the boulders are made of what they call conglomerate - a mix of rocks and mud that looks like nothing so much as giant chunks of gravel.

local legend (spread by tour operators cashing in on the naivete of japanese tourists with long socks pulled up to their knees and large german tourists with three different digital cameras none of which they can use without help from unsuspecting passers by!!!!!!!) has it that touching the wall at the very end of the chasm will bring good luck. liam considered the fact that the boulders didn't choose to fall on our heads after we touched the wall, as proof of the truth of the legend.

after echidna chasm we checked out some lookouts which provided amazing views of various sections of both the bungle bungle range and the osmand range. we then headed to the campsite.

just before dinner, i went off to take some sunset shots of the ranges. while waiting, the helicopters and planes were all returning from their late afternoon scenic flights and at one point there were no fewer than 4 helicopters and 1 plane in view and in fairly close proximity to each other. it reminded me of the beach scene from apocalypse now, and is therefore the reason behind my choice for song of the day.

we bought a little three man tent in halls creek because a.) we weren't taking the camper into purnululu and b.) it was the biggest tent we could find that didn't involve taking out a loan with the reserve bank of australia.... we spent a rather cramped night with the four of us squeezed into the tent sleeping on a mattress made of blankets and towels. at least we were fairly warm, because it was pretty jolly chilly outside.

the next day we were up quite early and off to see cathedral gorge and do the domes walk. the beehive domes are spectacular with red/orange and grey/black banding. the red is iron oxide and the grey is cyanobacteria. the domes are not only stunning to look at but are also huge in size and seem vast in their spread across the land. they actually take up a very small part of the purnululu park but from the ground they seem massive.

cathedral gorge is so named because of its acoustics which are said to rival those of the sydney opera house. again, the gorge is magnificent, with massive stones and enormous walls that defy credible explanation and which cannot be truly captured in a photograph. there were quite a few others with the same idea as us, to be up and at it early, so while not crowded, there was a steady stream of people through the gorge while we were there.

having donemour gorging and walking for the day, we headed off for the spring creek stopover to collect the camper, grabbed some fuel at turkey creek (our first $2.00/litre), and proceeded to make way to kununurra. what is it with these places and their "u" s.

groovy fridge magnet of the day: i survived the road into the bungle bungles.

song for the day: ride of the valkyries

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

from the reef to the range

day 14 - coral bay

quiet day today. ciaran woke with a very sore tummy and then proceeded to throw up. spent the day looking after him and just lazing around the campsite. quite a peaceful day really - all things considered.

song for the day: white stripes - icky thump

day 15 - coral bay

ciaran much better today. this afternoon we went on a glass bottom boat tour of the inner reef just off coral bay itself. truly amazing what you see under the boat. the coral here is hard coral and so is mainly brown and dark greens with the odd splash of other colours. there are four main coral types here; brain, cabbage, staghorn, and a word starting with 'p' that eludes me right now. within these four main types there are over 150 different species of coral found in the bay. there were also heaps of fish - from enormous norwest snapper down to tiny little electric blues. according to the guide on the boat there are over 600 distinct species of fish to be found on the reef. the tour lasted an hour and we were moving the whole time and we were over the coral the whole time too. the reef really is huge and in good health.

we all went back down tot he beach late this arvo to catch the sunset. it sets right over coral bay and is a most spectacular view. there must have been 50 or 60 people down on the beach to see the sunset - all with cameras - so i'm not alone in that.

ruth and the boys watched a movie on the laptop and i wandered down the road to look at the stars away from the town lights. the night sky is so much clearer and brighter up here away from the light pollution of the cities and towns. saw several "shooting stars" and 5 or 6 different satellites. i find it incredibly comforting knowing that wherever i am in australia, home is just to the right of the southern cross.

song for the day: nothing specific but it would have to be something by dave graney and the coral snakes surely....

day 16 - coral bay to tom price

back to another long day in the saddle after some days with less travel. 540 plus kms with the last 100 or so on gravel. we could have travelled via paraburdoo and stayed on the bitumen the whole way but that would have added another 50 or kms to the trip and it wouldn't have been half as much fun. lots of cows and eagles and hawks along the way.
got into tom price late in the afternoon, got set up and then headed out to buy tea. the only place we could find open was a chinese restaurant so we bought dinner there - 5 minutes after we bought the chinese we found a takeaway joint hidden behind some other shops and in a really odd spot. that would have a been a much better option for us considering ciaran's allergies - but hey thems the breaks. btw the chinese was actually quite delicious.

song for the day: U2 - red hill mining town

day 17 - tom price

went out to hamersley gorge today after doing a bit of shopping in the morning. the last time i was here was almost 20 years ago - and nothing's changed. it is still as beautiful and as awesome as ever but with perhaps a few more tourists now. hamersley has become a bit of a forgotten place. with the closing of wittenoom there is really no need for people to travel on the road that passes hamersley gorge unless they are specifically going there. the other end of karijini national park (about 60 kms away) is where all the action is with all the other major gorges in that area. still, imho, no visit to the karijini is complete without a trip to hamersley. we had planned to continue out to wittenoom but the road was quite bad and the kids really weren't that interested so we gave it a miss.

when we got back to tom price we drove to the top of mt nameless which just happens to be the highest peak in west oz with vehicle access. the view from the top is spectacular, overlooking the mine and the town with views to mt bruce (2nd highest peak in wa) and mt meharry (highest peak in wa). the road to the top is single lane and 4 wheel drive only, due to the steepness of some sections. it gets a bit hairy when you meet cars coming down as you're going upespecially on some of the tighter corners.

after nameless we went to do a geocache at kings lake. i was in tom price when the lake was officially opened. it was the parting gift of the current mine manager of the time and he created a lake with grand visions of people swimming and boating and windsurfing without ever having to leave town. unfortunately his plan was fatally flawed with no allowance being made for cyclone run off and the whole thing being built way too close to the town's water treatment plant. these days, kings lake is a very pretty picnic spot with lots of green grass and a little bit of water contaminated with effluent from the treatment plant. too bad really, cos the official opening was a party to behold. they trucked in more booze than you can imagine and had food and music and all manner of other entertainment for a one day splurge to rival the best of them.

spent the evening sitting out under the stars watching the universe go by. again saw lots of satellites and shooting stars. very cool.

song for the day: the church - under the milky way

day 18 - tom price

today was the other end of the karijini. circular pool, fortescue falls, joffre falls and oxers lookout. ruth and the boys thought joffre was the most spectacular spot of the day. but after hamersley from yesterday, i reckon circular pool takes the cake for wonderful. circular pool never sees sunlight on its surface, so the water is incredibly cold. back in the olden days - when i was younger and more resilient - the caper was to climb down to the pool, swim across and back (preferrably without dieing from the cold) and then climb back up to the car park to get your circulation going again. not only did i mange the swim, but i did the climb in bare feet. needless to say there was much blood from my sliced up feet and the shock of diving into the cold water is an experience i will never forget.

we dropped in to the karijini visitor's centre which is quite an amazing place. the outside is like some retro futuristic cyber punk fortress made of huge sheets of rusted steel. think blade runner or one of the many australian movies of the mad max ilk and you'll be getting close. inside was all sorts of art and an interpretive section on the changes the karijini has seen over the years and the changes in the roles that the local aboriginal people have had in the use of the area.

groovy sign for the day was one that read: wirlankarra yanama. yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda: go with a clear open and accepting spirit and the country will not treat you badly.

song for the day: the eagles - rocky mountain way

day 19 - tom price - indee station

we had planned to jump all the way from tom price to eighty mile beach but after the last 500 plus km day we decided that trying to do 700ish with kids and trailers in tow was just gonna be asking for trouble. so we opted to stop and spend the night at indee station and it turned out to be a great decision.
the station was pretty primitive - dongas for ablution blocks and a camp kitchen but the people were really friendly, the place was incredibly quiet and the surrounding area was fascinating. indee station has in its boundaries a spot called red rocks which is a largish group of (funnily enough) red rocks that sit on the edge of the turner river. the rocks themselves probably aren't anything special but they are home to a bunch of very old aboriginal carvings and engravings which are fascinating. it is also very close to the site of a commercial airliner crash from the 60s and there is a memorial to the people on that flight right near the rock. whilst we were scrambling about looking at the aboriginal carvings we saw what looked like a fire in the distance. turned out that it was actually a quite large twister - biggest one i've ever seen - that lasted a good 5 or 6 minutes winding its way through the bush.

the road out from the station to red rocks passes through the station's 'boneyard' where they have all their cars bodies and stuff dumped. in the middle of it all is a whole pile of old dongas and infrastructure, the remains of the station from a cyclone last year which pretty well destroyed the place. the evidence of the damage was mind blowing. the cyclone must have been a screamer cos the twisted carnage it left behind was intense.

song for the day: greenday - boulevard of broken dreams

day 20 - indee station to 80 mile beach via port hedland

another day on the road, another bunch of geocaches under our belts, another day of amazing sights and interesting facts. really just travel travel travel at the moment.
80 mile beach caravan park is stuck out in the middle of nowhere, right on the beach and yet has over 200 powered caravan bays plus cabins and unpowered sites and even a small camping area just for tents. its huge and when we got there at 3pm in the afternoon there wasn't a powered bay to be had. we got a nice spot in an unpowered site but strike, what a lot of people in the middle of nowhere - its incredible. sunset was quite amazing made perhaps even more so by the fact that there must have been 300 people stretched along the beach fishing, collecting shells, sitting having a quiet drink, all watching the beautiful sunset.

song for the day: john cougar - small paradise

day 21 - 80 mile beach - broome

well i finally feel like we're getting some decent way in to our holiday. so far its been amazing, so many interesting places and so many stunning sights to behold. i just love it. but when you get to broome and look at the map you really can see that you are a long way from home and its a good feeling to know that you are making some headway into your planned travels.

got into broome about lunch time and went and did a few bits of emergency shopping that needed doing and then headed out to the broome bird obseratory for a few days in a chalet rather than in the camper. the bbo is a bit primitive and the facilities are quite minimalistic but we have walls and a roof that don't need pulling down or putting up and we've got space to put our junk and the tardis that our trailer has become can be stripped out and cleaned up and repacked in a few days time.

we've extended our stay here by one night as it looks like we're going to have to get the car checked out because the airbag light has come on and won't go off. hopefully we have just jarred a connection loose on the gravel somewhere and it won't be some major job that needs doing.
no plans for tomorrow, just to sleep in late in a real bed and then relax for the day.

song for the day: pigram brothers - johnny walker's shoes

rain... did somebody say rain????

day 11 - exmouth

the plan for today was to do a quick trip out to charles knife road, grab a cache and then have a quiet relaxing time for the rest of the day. you know what they say about the best laid plans....
25kms out of town to the turn off only to find the road closed. funny - other people we talked to said it was open yesterday... oh well - mark it down as a did not find....

back in town and over to the shire to double check on the road closure. the guy they need to ask is out of range but they'll let me know when they know. over to the visitor information centre to look at souveniers and their sign says the road is open but with caution. oh so confusing. 20 minutes later the phone rings - its the shire saying that the road is open again. it had just been closed while they checked on its condition.

back out again and up the road to the first lookout where the cache is hidden. WOW....
i've been lots of places and seen lots of things but this is really a special place. the cape range is a jagged uprising of rock that creates a division between the eastern and western sides of the north west cape. the western side of the cape is the famous ningaloo reef, the eastern side is the stretch of water that separates the cape from the mainland. in close it is called the exmouth gulf.
from a distance the cape range looks much like any other australian range of hills. lowish in height, grey green in colour and relatively smooth and rounded undulating from end to end. however, once you get up into the range, the story changes completely. the smoothness and the grey green disappears replaced by jagged cliffs and enormous canyons in all manner of colours from dark reds to wind warn greys. the rock is a mix of limestone and what would appear to be volcanic type stone. the wind and water erosion has created a stunning vista that words and photographs really can't do justice to.

given the right light and the right conditions, the potential for amazing photos would be unlimited. unfortunately we scored another overcast and threatening sky so while the view was truly magnificent, the photos are somewhat muted.

we drove through the ranges to a spot called the thomas carter lookout which was something of a disappointment when compared to some of the other views on offer but still pretty special all the same. on the way back down we stopped about 20 times for photos much to the disgust of liam and ciaran.

song for the day: U2 - in god's country

day 12 - exmouth to coral bay

only 155 kms today so we started out by tightening the bearings on the trailer wheels and then played a round of mini golf at the exmouth mini golf place. of course being pack up and travel day, it was raining again so golf was a bit damp, but not too bad - could have been considered excellent even seeing as I won. there was a large group of ladies at the place enjoying scones and stuff for morning tea. half were inside but the other half didn't fit, so they were sitting outside under a very meagre cover. they were all sitting at a long table with their umbrellas up having a great old time. i took a photo of them and we had a laugh about the weather. so the rain wasn't able to dampen everybodies' spirits.

the trip to coral bay was very wet, but by the time we got there the rain had pretty well passed and the sun was beginning to show itself a little. the rest of the day was spent setting up and just hanging around and looking around town (1 pub, 2 sets of small shops and two BIG caravan parks).

song for the day: fats domino - i'm walkin'

day 13 - coral bay

went snorkelling on the inner reef today. the coral here on the inner reef is hard coral and is all browns and dark greens with the odd splash of electric blue and dayglo green. there were heaps and heaps of fish. not being a fish expert i can't really tell you what I saw but there were at least long toms and sargeant fish and norwest snapper.

shaggy - if you read this, be pleased to know that word from the experts here suggest that both the inner and outer reefs are in good health and look to have an excellent long term future.

song for the day: cyndi lauper - waters edge

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

another day in paradise if you don't mind the rain

day 7 - saturday 26th july

out to monkey mia for a second visit because yesterday's ticket is valid for 2 days... ruth really loves watching the dolphins, so it's good for us to come and see them. same sort of show as yesterday with the same group of dolphins (give or take 1 or 2). we watched the first show and then most of the second show before heading off to capture our first 'virtual cache', a photo of the monkey mia resort entrance wall.

we went to peron homestead on the way back to denham. the homestead is right on the edge of the francois peron national park and is used as a base for calm / dec / whatever they call themselves now. met an old bloke out there who lives in denham but does odd jobs out at the homestead. he used to work on the station before it was subsumed by the government for environmental purposes. he reckons the last owner was frank love of loves buses.
the homestead itself is off limits but they have a really nice hot tub running which is fed directly from the artesian basin below the property. magic hot water direct from the ground. the kids loved it (and so did I)...

back in to town to sit around and relax. took the kids down to the town jetty to jig for squid but to know avail. yesterday you could see the squid in the water and there were heaps of them. today - nothing - nada - zilch.....
song for the day: jimmy barnes - working class man

day 8 - sunday 27th july
denham - carnarvon

another day another town... took to the road and headed for a one day stopover in carnarvon before heading off into the bush. nice trip up the highway with not a huge amount of traffic although it did take 40 minutes to get fuel at the overlander cos we had to wait for all the caravans and winnebagoes getting fuel too.

got into carnarvon and discovered that what we thought was a booking wasn't. ended up being squeezed into an unpowered site in the park's overflow section along with a bunch of others who also must have just dropped in. got set up and then off to do a couple of caches. one up at the old satellite tracking station and one out at the one mile jetty. the jetty is now one kilometre then a big hole where there was a fire and then another couple of hundred meters to the end. they still run the coffee pot train out as far as the damaged bit. the satellite tracking station has had a range of different roles but it is most famous as being involved in helping track the lunar landing mission in 1969.

turns out that this weekend is show weekend in carnarvon, so there's heaps of people around and lots going on. 7.30pm ish they had the most bizzare fireworks display i've ever encountered. there was a standard display and then about 15 minutes later there was half a dozen more shots fired and then 5 or 6 minutes later there was a couple more... weird hey!!!

at dinner time i got yakking with a bloke who recognised our car from albany and as we talked we realised that he had been a student at the amity hostel back in the late 80s / early 90s when i worked there as a supervisor. small world.

not much later the rain set in. it was light but constant through the night. the camper leaked a bit but we survived. come morning and we were just getting up and down she comes in buckets. its raining inside almost as much as outside. we packed up in record time and quite obviously weren't in any need of showers that morning.
song for the day: david bowie - space oddity

day 9 - monday 28th july
carnarvon - exmouth

bitter disappointment... the rain in carnarvon has extended inland and whilst only light now, is forecast to get heavier and more persistent. looks like temple gorge and mt augustus are going to be a no go. flipped a coin and decided to skip the inland leg now and maybe come back at some other point in the future (maybe christmas???) to tackle that bit. headed north instead and aimed for exmouth. secured an unpowered site at the exmouth cape holiday park. got here in reasonable time despite the fact that it rained the whole way here. only the last 20 kms or so have been dry. caravan park lady says it hasn't rained here all day. hahahaha - we'll soon change that.

got in and set up, put tarp over camper so there will be no leaks tonight. people all around looking at us wondering what we are doing. we have learned... we are stopped in a new town - it's gonna rain.

settled in, went for a quick drive around town, got dinner organised and then started cards with the kids. not long after, the drizzle started. there's a mad scramble around us as everyone gets there gear undercover. they won't be looking at us so strangely from now on. we've brought the rain 2000 kms with us. we're not letting go now !!!!!!
song for the day: panic at the disco - northern downpour

day 10 - tuesday 29th july

ahhhh yes. rained most of the night and blew a gale for a while and guess what - no leaks. yay!!!!!!

today we went out and visited a whole bunch of places along the ningaloo reef. out as far as yardie creek and then back into exmouth via bloodwood creek, turquoise bay, the jaribi turtle interpretive centre, the exmouth lighthouse, the wreck of the mildura, bungedi beach and then exmouth. did caches at yardie creek, the mildura site and bungedi.

as awesome as the natural wonders are up here, in some ways their beauty is overshadowed by the immenseness of the aerial array at the harold e holt navcommsat. the array (and the complex that goes with it) is huge. while i think that it doesn't detract in any way from the surrounding environment, it does dominate the area.

the cape range divides the exmouth peninsula and as we drove along the ningaloo road it struck me how odd it was that on one side of the rad there were these magnificent mesas and hills and gorges, and on the other side was this reef with turtles and whalesharks. a real juxtaposition of the dry and almost decaying age of the rasnges with the life and new beauty ofg the reef.
the other fascinating feature of the landscape up here is the termite mounds, literally thousands of them. everywhere you look there seems to be more of them. most of them seem to be dormant or dead or something - at least not crawling with termites - so i wonder where the live mounds are?????

film night at the caravan park tonight. they have an outdoor cinema area and an amazing camp kitchen with indoor and outdoor areas, internet access points, seating for 70 or 80 people, microwaves, toasters, kettles, fridges, ovens, the works. blows your mind really.
song for the day: the cat empire - saltwater

Friday, July 25, 2008

around the state in eighty days....

days 2 - 6

kalbarri / denham / monkey mia

day 2 - perth - kalbarri

long day in the saddle - 8 hrs or thereabouts. traffic getting out of perth was ok. found the ford at regan's ford. lots of water in the moore river.

saw an old t-model / austin / old small skinny car with a camper on top. funny thing to look at. the camper was 3 ft wider than the car.

blown over trees at greenough, two big trucks with big metal things on them. thought we were gonna get stuck behind the trucks but they turned off at port denison.

took coastal scenic route to kalbarri from geraldton via horrocks beach.

setting up camp we broke the zipper that joins the annexe to the camper. no zipper, no annexe. brought wrong cord for the electric light. forgot to bring mantles for the gas light... had tea in the open by torchlight. staying at anchorage cp. early night. nice quiet night's sleep ahhhhhhh.

song for the day: i can see clearly now / the rain has gone / bright shiny day / blue sky.....

day 3 - kalbarri

spent the morning looking around kalbarri. got new light and some more mantles for the gas light. did geocache at red bluff.

had an early lunch and headed out to lynton to the old convict depot where the convicts were held pending work at port gregory or on the lead mines. there is a pensioner guard's hut as part of the complex. interesting cos one of my great great great rellies was a pensioner guard. did geocache at lynton.

back in to kalbarri from lynton and stopped at a whole bunch of lookouts on the way. amazing awesome sights to behold. contrasting colours and savage cliff lines juxtaposed with tranquil seas. natural bridge, castle cove, grandstand, shellhouse, eagle gorge and red bluff. highlight waould have been the walk out to the top of red bluff. way up high with views to everywhere. astonishing.

song for the day: this is the sea by the waterboys. once you were tethered now you are free that was the river this is the sea...

red bluff

sunset over kalbarri

day 4 - kalbarri

went into town to see the pelican feeding. got there a bit early so bought coffee. nice coffee but jolly expensive. pelicans aren't really my thing but the lady doing the presentation was funny and it was interesting watching people's reactions as the fed the birds. liam and ciaran both had a go.

straight after pelican feeding we headed out to the gorges north of kalbarri. more 'a' words. we went to the ross graham and hawks head lookouts forst. funnily enough we saw a magnificant hawk out there. firstly flying around and then sitting quietly in a tree surveying its kingdom.
back towards kalbarri to nature's window. lots of people but still an amazing place with amazing views. the kids were suitably impressed.

then on to z bend. ruth and ciaran did the short walk to the lookout which they said had the best views so far. liam and i did the longer walk down to the river to do a geocache. the climb down and back up again took about an hour and we spent about that long clambering over the rocks, crossing the river and climbing up the other side to get the cache and then back again. our first 4/4 cache and well worth the effort. the path down to the river goes through chasms and old waterfalls and trees growing out of the rock walls of the gorge. not too many complaints from my old body and liam did really well

bit cloudy and very windy tonight but nothing too serious so far.

song for the day: take me to the river - which was the title on a sign we saw at z bend.

pelican feeding

natural window

day 5 - kalbarri - denham

5 hours solid rain last night.... despite the many hours spent sealing the canvas on the camper before we left, after an hour or so the water started coming in. we didn't need to evacuate to the car or anything but everything got very damp and we didn't get much sleep.

packed up early "ish" and headed for denham. stopped at nerren nerren to do a geocache and then continued on past billabong to the overlander and then stopped for lunch between hamelin and nanga on the road out to denham.

arrived in denham around 2pm and organised to stay in a bungalow rather than the camper so we can dry everything out properly. ok ok i admit i'm a sook but hey its my holiday.

song for the day: from the 'beaches' soundtrack - i think its going to rain today

day 6 - monkey mia

off early this morning to get out to monkey mia for the 8am feeding show. very overcast this morning but no rain. extraordinary light filtering through the clouds as we headed over.

the first feeding session there were only two dolphins in close and there was only a moderate sized crowd. very informative talk about the dolphins and their lives. the scientists are doing some very interesting work and have developed what is almost a genealogy for the group of dolphins that come in to the beach on a regular basis. ciaran and liam got to feed the dolphin, but ciaran was the one who actually put the fish out.

the second session had about 8 dolphins turn up, and the crowd was still quite small which was good. the dolphins are quite noisy, squeaking and squawking and making little farting noises. the ladies all oohed and ahhed when the dolphin near me was doing its farting thing. if it had been me making the noise i would have got slap on the head... where's the justice.

wandered back to denham via the little lagoon and have spent the rest of the day kicking back and relaxing.

song for the day: an obscure title from manfred mann's earth band - singing the dolphins through (great southern tafe readers - ask jim b.)

ummmm.... dolphins
morning sun
kids feeding dolphins
aristocat boat

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 1

July 20th 2008

Off from the rain and cold and storms in Albany and on our way to the wild uncharted north. Day 1 - 400kms - Albany to Perth to visit my mum and dad and spend the night before we head off to the warmth tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

long service leave is coming....

Sunday the 20th July - 3 months long service leave happens - photos, stories, places, people, play...

Updates as often as internet happens.