Getting close to our destination now. You can tell we are now in WA because of all the gratuitous sunsets over the ocean photos (Broome, Ningaloo). On the east coast we were never committed enough for getting up before dawn and walking down to the beach. Just pulled into Geraldton after another long day on the road. We have driven from Ningaloo, which is about 900 kms north of Geraldton. Ningaloo / Cape Range National Park was another highlight of our trip. It was great being just below the wet season. The ocean was refreshingly cool, no worries about stingers or crocodiles. No humidity or afternoon storms. Cooling afternoon sea breezes with fantastic snorkelling right off the beach. Sounds like paradise - pretty close. Julie and I are already planning a return trip.
Christmas was very low stress. Woke up at 6 am in Karratha and we were on the road to Exmouth by 7am. Only a short 500 kms to travel so we were in Exmouth by noon. Most things were closed in town, but the one place you can be guaranteed to be open is the Chinese restaurant. Easily found it because it was the only shop in town that had cars parked all around it. They were doing a roaring trade with a $25 buffet. Not feeling like stuffing ourselves we bought a special fried rice take away and took it to the beach overlooking the Ningaloo reef. After lunch we continued down the coast into Cape Range National Park and stopped at Turquoise Bay for some amazing snorkelling (pity we don't have an underwater digital camera to show you all the pictures of the prolific wild life on the reef). Thinking that it would be quite, we were surprised to see the car park was full. At least natural beauty can't be closed for Christmas and what better way than to spend the day communing with nature.
We were going to set up camp at Cable Beach (Broome), but as we were checking into a caravan park Julie spied that they had an offer of stay two nights ina self contained cabin and get the third night free. We were glad that we took up the offer. That night Broome had a tropical thunder storm that passed right over head. It is the second closest we have been to lightning strikes. Those of you who know us well would of heard about our experiences in Mexico and this experience had a feeling of de ja vu about it except we didn't have scuba gear on our backs. The clouds were building in the early evening and we decided to head into town (6 kms from Cable Beach) to buy some take away. While we were waiting for the order to be filled the storm broke and torrential rain started falling with distant lightening lighting up the sky. Once our order arrived we hopped back in the car to return to Cable Beach. The torrential rain made visibility poor and every few seconds the sky lit up with forks of lightening so we preceding cautiously. The interesting thing was that every turn we took seemed to take us closer to the lightening. Having had a similar experience before we were both nervous, but feeling reasonably confident being in the car. Half way back the streets and houses went pitch black, with the lightening taking out the power grid. It made the contrast between the lightening strikes all the more vivid. I continue to notice that we are heading for the centre of the storm, but I do not want to say anything because Julie seemed close to loosing it. The final stretch of road the rain was coming down so hard I could not see were to turn off, but lucky Julie saw the caravan entrance when the sky lit up. As we turned the corner the lighting and thunder hit simultaneously. The lighting seemed to hit about 20 metres to our left and Julie saw the flames coming from the fork. At this point Julie loses it and I don't want the car to be in the firing line anymore. The caravan entrance was a large tiled archway which I parked under for ten minutes waiting until the time between the lightening and thunder was greater than 5 seconds before preceding the last hundred meters to the cabin. The short dash from the car to the cabin drenched us, but we were glad to be returning to a fixed structure rather than our tent. Even with no power we enjoyed our dinner in the safety of the cabin.
We are in Katherine Gorge National Park at present with one more night to go before we head on to Kununurra. The gorge is beautiful, we spent four hours this morning canoeing up into the 2nd section of the gorge. Great swimming but a little nerve racking due to all of the fresh water crocodiles and the very remote chance of a salt water crocodile.
Last night at the camp ground we met a Dutch couple on holiday on there way to Adelaide. We got to talking to them around a camp fire and did not get back to our tent until about 11 pm. When we did get back to the tent we were greeted by a pack of kangaroos that had guilty looks on their faces. As we walked closer to the tent we realised why they looked so guilty. They had torn a hole in the side of the tent and dragged food out of our food box to eat. I have never heard of kangaroos causing such damage! We have used sticky tape to patch it up at the moment and when we get back to Perth I will do a proper repair on it. The funny thing is that from the amazing selection of food the kangaroos could have taken they only took a 4 years old packet of dried mash potato and some old dried bananas that I was going to through out anyway. I really hope the one that eat the dried mash potato got a really bad stomach ache when it all swelled up in its belly.
Now I have been meaning to write about this one topic that Queenslanders may find offensive. So if you think you might be offended please skip to the next paragraph. I have now driven in every state of Australia except SA where my parents drove but I was in the car and I am amazed at the patchy strips of bitumen that Queenslanders call roads. Its seems that as soon as you leave the coast, the roads deteriorate to a point where you are driving on a so called highway that is made up of a single strip of bitumen with no markings and gravel on either side. The theory is that when another car comes the other way you both pull half off onto the gravel so that you don't have a head on collision. When we reached our first petrol station I asked the owner if the road was going to improve. He responded defensively by saying "which state are you from?" I answered with WA. He then said "oh, well no wonder you think the roads are bad, you only have one major road in WA so it doesn't cost much to maintain it" I politely pointed out to him that WA has a lot more than one mayor road and that there is a considerable size difference between the states. He proceeded to babble something about a comparison between Victoria and Queensland being unfair due to the size difference. I which point Allister tried again with our original question of were they going to improve? He responded this time with "Yes, once you get over the bridge of death you then reach 'The Super Highway' which will get you all the way to Normanton." At which point Allister and I got back in the car and headed on to 'The Super Highway'. The bridge of death turned out to be a 500 meter one lane bridge that I am really glad we did not meet a road train on. 'The Super Highway' turned out to be a normal road with two lanes and white lines. The problem was it only lasted about 20 km and them we were back on the one lane Queensland roads that lasted all the way past Mt Isa to the NT border. I never though I would be so happy to be in the Northern Territory. Queensland is a funny place, they have a 9 cent per litre rebate on petrol so it really cheap to drive around but its bloody dangerous because they must have spent the entire main roads budget on the petrol rebate so they can't afford to fix the roads. I know that I am going on a bit a about this topic but I really do think there is no excuse for it and considering the tourist dollars that flood into Queensland it is a disgrace.
It has been really hot today with lots of sticky flies so I am really glad that it is approaching dusk. Allister is off doing a one and a half hour walk that I just could not face after four hours of paddling in addition to the heat. He should be back soon. So we are off to Kununurra tomorrow where we will only stay one night and then we are going to drive for as long as we can the next day to try and get to Broome. If we get too tired we will stop at Fitzroy Crossing. We are thinking of staying in Broome for a few days.
Well since my last diary entry I have had many close encounters with animals. None of them pleasant and none of them were court on camera. Our first encounter was after a long day of driving when we were about 4 kms from Undara NP and a suicidal kangaroo decided to head butt the left hand side of the car while we were doing about 60 kms per hour. You wouldn't think it would do that much damage but it did and for the last six days we have had to climb through the drivers side of the car because we can not open the passenger door. We are taking the car into get it serviced tomorrow and we are going to see if they can get the door working because we have organised to have the car fixed in Perth when we get there and I don't think I can put up with it that long.
The next animal encounter was while I was walking to the gold phones at Undara to ring the car insurance company, when a kamikaze bee decided to attack my ankle. I fumbled around trying to flick it off and get the sting out without falling into the garden beds that were on both sided of the path. I finally got my act together when I realised that I was surrounded by bees so I quickened my pace along the path and around the corner to the phones where I came face to face with a meter long whip snake. I swear I was about to step on top of it when it reared up at me. I back peddled as quick as I could while the snake reared so high it actually fell backwards and sideways into the garden and took off. After I had got my adrenalin levels under control I proceeded to phone the car insurance company. I had forgotten how much bee sting hurt. It kept me awake for two nights throbbing.
Smaller, less exciting encounters were had with fly's, red bats, locusts the size of mice, cicadas, mosquitos, cane toads, rocket frogs and rat wallabies.
On the local news there has been weather warnings for a 60 km radius around Darwin for the last couple of nights. The warnings describe lightning, thunder, heavy rain and 100 knot winds so we are staying in a motel for the two nights that we are in Darwin. What luxury!!!
Update on Samoa.
Well after the initial excitement of hearing the news we started asking a few more questions and it became apparent that the initial information given to us was not quite accurate. We have now been told that a January departure is very unlikely and there is a possibility of a March departure but a June departure is more likely with a chance that it may stretch out to being an end of 2003 departure. They have advised us to not put our lives on hold and to go ahead with whatever we had planned for 2003 so our destination is still WA with the possibility of buying a house in Denmark. It looks very unlikely that we will actually go to Samoa now because the act of getting on with our lives will probably put us in a position that would make us not able to go. Things like having a mortgage or starting a family stop you from being able to go.
Hinchinbrook Island is the largest rain forest island in the world and more than 95% of the island is untouched. There use to be Aborigines living on it but small pox and diphtheria killed most of them and the rest were moved onto the mainland. Several descendants of the remaining families still live in the area. There is a famous walking track on the island that is about 60 km that runs up the east coast. A week or so before we arrived they had some excitement on the track. It all started 6 years ago when a 68 yr old man was dropped off at Ramsay beach to attempt the walk. The ferry driver tried to talk him out of it because the track is pretty rough and it is not recommended to walk it alone but he went anyway. Three days later the ferry driver found the guys pack and most of his food on a beach half way along the track but could not find him. A search was undertaken but there was no sign of him and eventually they gave up hope. So just recently the same ferry driver was picking up some hikers at Ramsay beach who had just completed the hike. One of them approached him and asked him if anyone had ever gone missing off the track so the driver proceeded to tell him the story at the end of which the hiker said "I found him". Due to the extremely dry weather the hikers have been having to walk up the creek beds to the mouths of the creeks to get fresh water and this particular hiker had done exactly that and was heading back when he saw something shining on the creek bank. As he approached he yelled out to his friends "GOLD" but when he went to pick it up he realised that the gold was in a tooth which was in an unturned skull. The authorities found most of his bone and ruled accidental death.
There are three ways you can stay on the island, you can camp, you can stay in $400 a night tree houses or $150 a night cabins. We wanted something special that was not camping but not something too special so we stayed in a cabin. Very nice, a little rustic but perfect for our needs. The resort is an eco business and from the beaches around the cabins you can hardly see any evidence of a resort at all. We were told that you could swim at the beaches but to be warned that there has never been a serious jellyfish sting at the island in the 30 years that people had stayed there but that there is always a risk this time of year. What they didn't tell us was that there had been thousands of minor jellyfish stings. On our first snorkel we encountered a jellyfish, not very nice, so from then on we mainly swam at the resort pool.
We spent one day doing a day walk which was nice but very hot and dry. Another activity that they encourage is fishing off the resorts jetty. I was really keen but I had to persuade Allister to have a go. Typical Allister style in two nights of fishing he catches a red emperor and a mangrove jack. I caught an undersize mullet. Obviously I am not very happy about the whole Allister fishing business.
Due to it being the off season the resort is really quiet at the moment and for our last two days we were the only guests. We got to know the staff really well and the chef even offered to cook our mangrove jack for us. He is Fijian so he cooked it crispy sweet and sour. It was wonderful.
We left the island on Sunday afternoon and did not get into Cardwell until 5 pm so we stayed that night at a caravan park in Cardwell. Because we wanted to leave early and did not want to have to mess around with out large tent we decided to sleep the night under a mosquito net. In the whole time that we have been travelling it has rained heavily at night maybe twice. Well when we went to bed you could see the stars but when we woke up it was pissing down. Luckily we had camped next to the open air camp kitchen that had a corrugated iron roof. We very quickly picked up the air bad and mosquito net and moved. The other thing about that night that was a let down was the mosquito net. I don't know if we bought a dud or if mosquitoes have got smarter but by morning we had at least 10 fat mozzies flying around inside the net. They were so fat they definitely could not get back out but surely mosquito nets are not meant to work as mosquito traps. I think we will be soaking the mosquito in insect repellent if we ever get brave enough to use it again.
At present we are in the Daintree area camping at Noah's beach. We head off tomorrow from Undara Volcanic National Park where we may have some more exciting adventures.
For those people following this trip you will have noticed there is a two week gap in our itinerary. Well sorry about that, but you can blame Clinton for being very persuasive and the fact that we have a new niece to see in Melbourne (check out the pictures) clinched it. Not to mention helping fund our five year anniversary to Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge.
Our trip restarted back at Mackay Airport where we were pleased to see our car and camping equipment in one piece. We really noticed the heat and humidity while putting the bikes back to together. Last time travelling up the coast we slowly acclimatised to the conditions, but going directly from Melbourne to Mackay you really notice the change in conditions. Having seen enough of Mackay the first time we drove directly to Airlie Beach. As expected we didn't like the look of it, so we drove back to the highway and stayed the night in a motel in Proserpine. Proserpine isn't known for much and only has one restaurant, which happens to be Chinese. Being brave (and a having no other choice) we decided to give it a go. It was definitely the place to be - all you can eat buffet meal for $14. Interestingly enough we learnt that Chinese food needs to be coated in 2 cm of batter before Proserpinians will eat it. Also we were lucky enough to pick up some fashion tips from a bloke wearing stubbie shorts with baby blue lambs wool moccasins and a mullet. (The 2 cm of batter turned a shrimp into a king prawn)
As you can imagine we wanted to stay in Proserpine longer, but our urge to keep travelling put us on the road again before breakfast. Next stop was to be a National Park north of Townsville, however after learning that there had been no rain for a year and the rivers were dry we decide to camp in Townsville. Townsville is an interesting place and we spent a day wondering along the strand and learning about the Pandora shipwreck in the local Museum. We planned to stay another day and do a day trip out to Magnetic Island, but while scanning the internet we saw that Hinchinbrook Island was available and only two hours north. So we cut our stay short and headed to the town of Cardwell (closest to Hinchinbrook Island).
On the way to Cardwell I wanted to check out Lumholtz National Park because it was supposed to have been one of our places to stay. The most spectacular site to see in Lumholtz NP is the Wallaman Falls. They have 268 meters drop and the pool at the bottom is 20 meters deep. Because of the drought there is no water flowing over them. Even without water it is still spectacular (check out the pictures).
It is getting late and I don't want to rush our Hinchinbrook adventures I will keep you waiting until next diary entry. In the meantime check out the pictures.
Well, strangely enough we have ended up back in Melbourne this week. It seems that Norwich was having a crisis and could not cope without Allister's input. It is unusual having electricity and running hot water after seven weeks of neither. We were in Mackay when the urgent call came so we left the car at the airport. We leave civilisation on the 30th of November to continue along the Queensland coast for a while longer.
Prior to being in Melbourne we were at Eungella National Park which is rainforest country but obviously very dry at present. The day that we flew out of Mackay it started raining so things may be a little different when we return to our journey if the wet season has started. If you refer to the photos you will see one of the highlights of the trip so far. Due to the dry conditions we went seeking water and found the most amazing water hole. Fresh cool running water with a water fall in the middle of a rain forest. Perfect.
Our other news involves Australian Volunteers International (AVI). When we got into Melbourne we had a phone call from them telling us that they had amazingly found work for both of us in the same place. The independent nation of Samoa previously called Western Samoa. We have been given a week to think about it and if we decided to accept the jobs it still does not mean that we are definitely going. They will present our CV's to the Samoan Government who may decide that they do not want us. If all goes ahead then departure date will be mid January 2003 finishing mid December 2003. The position offered to me is Podiatrist at the main hospital in Apia the capital of Samoa. Allister has been offered a position at the Department of Inland Revenue for the Samoan Government. Our accommodation will be simple with fridge, stove and cold running water which is better than we have had for the last seven weeks. Our wages will be about ST$10 000 which calculates to about AU$7 000. We have been told that AVI people a lowest paid volunteers in Samoa but we should be able to make ends meet because we have the combined incomes. I think we will be taking the visa card just in case.
We will be keeping you updated on all developments in this area. If we do end up in Samoa next year then there will be an open invitation to all our friends and family to come and stay. There is tourist accommodation if hot running water is essential and there is fantastic snorkelling and some good diving around the islands, there is also an active volcano that you might want to take a look at. Can you tell that I have already read the Lonely Planet on Samoa from cover to cover?
Long time between diary entries, but we have been busy relaxing and adventuring. We are holding up well, despite the good weather and great scenery. Since the last entry we have travelled 900 km's north and as you would expect the days and ocean are getting warmer.
After Nambucca Heads we headed for Bundjalung, which is a large National Park in northern NSW known for its beaches and fishing. Beach driving is allowed so we decided to try a 4WD only alternate route coming back from a day trip to Evans Head. We were feeling as cautious as virgins being the first time and all, but an old bloke parked at the start of the beach section geed us up and said "You'll be alright mate, done it twice today". This was enough for us so we headed on down. Everything went great until we reached the point of rejoining to the main road. This part of the track had been over used and in the dry conditions had very deep canyons of dry quick sand where we were supposed to drive. This section was only 25 metres long before bitumen and less than 1 km from our camp. To go back would have meant an extra 80 km's, so we decided to give it a go. Alas, the Forester does not have enough clearance, so we had our first bogged experience. Lucky for us a ranger came along after 5 minutes of trying and pulled us out the last 20 metres.
We only stayed in Bundjalung for 2 days because we wanted to get to Brisbane for the start of the Ashes Tour. My expectations were that we were either going to see a great day of Bowling with many English wickets or a great day of batting with many Australian runs. Australian didn't let me down and we saw Hayden and Ponting slaughter the English bowling to all parts of the ground. We had excellent seats and one Ponting six came within a few metres of us. While in Brisbane we stayed with another very generous friend, Sheldon, who had only moved into his house the day before after returning from Melbourne. Thanks, Sheldon - you are welcome at our place anytime.
Brisbane was a short stop and we were on the road again to Burrum Coast National Park. On the way Julie wanted to stop in at the Australian Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter. I was pleasantly surprised at how professionally it had been put together. Two hours was enough to see everything, but it would be a great full day for a young family.
As per normal I wanted to camp in a National Park, in this case Burrum Coast NP, however it was 4WD access only so we weren't so sure whether we would be able to make it in if the road was too sandy. We arrived at the entrance of the NP at about 5:30pm so it was getting late and the road looked border line so we gave it a go. Being the second time we were a little more cautious, but after a couple of km's in it seemed to be going fine, but Julie was getting nervous and started insisting I turn around and go back to the nearest caravan park. I however am I little more stubborn and kept going. Sand gets deeper, car goes slower, try to shift down, car stalls. At this point Julie rightfully has that look and gets out of the car to inspect the damage. March flies and large mosquitoes swarm us we try to dig the car out and Julie easy convinces me that it is time to turn around if we can get ourselves out. After letting the tires down, chocking the tires and digging the front of the car out we successfully drove back out to Woodgate.
Woodgate is very long town where everybody wants a view so it is a couple of blocks deep, but 10 km's long. It has only one caravan park and the night we book in 60 campervans had previously arrived as part of the "Campervan Club" and booked every powered site. Not too phased, the caravan park owner says they have one spot that is next to their shed at the back of the property. Not having much choose being dark already we decide to take it. When we get down to the site it is actually the tracker driveway to the shed. However, it is flat, private and only a couple of hundred metres away from the toilet block, so we were not to fussed.
Ended up enjoying the location. Good beach for swimming. Good bicycle path for cycling. Good walks in the National Park. One day we organised a 12 km's day walk through the Burrum Coast NP that would take us past the camping ground we were originally headed for. Great walk through different parts of the park ranging from standard bush to groves of sheoaks to mangrove swamps. The walk was a circuit and the half way point being at the camp ground on the beach at Burrum Heads. Once we reached the campground we stopped and enjoyed the location looking down the beaches. The beaches looked great and Julie thought it would be more enjoyable/easier walking back via the beach. I was sceptical, but I knew we could cut back to the path fairly easily if necessary. As we continued back via the beach it was looking hopeful until we rounded the head. The beach slowly gave way to mangrove swamp and with the tide coming in, unpassable without a boat. Julie's idea was to get a dingy of people fishing to give us a lift, but being a bloke there was no way I was going to give up that easily by asking somebody else for help. Rather than walk 4 km's back up the beach I pulled out the compass and headed north cross country towards the path. The plan was successful, but Julie was pretty freaked out by all the spider webs and 500 metres of cross country seems like 5 km's of normal path so we were both happy to get back to the path.
Hideaway Ferns is a fantastic little resort 45 kms north of Yeppoon on the border of the Byfield National Park. We thought about staying in Byfield NP, but the camping is 4WD only and after our previous two tries we didn't think third time lucky. Hideaway Ferns is run by a married couple and has a restaurant, cabins and camping with plenty of activities like canoeing, tennis, cricket, swimming, spa, etc. The camp sites have been chiselled out of the rainforest which gives a very private feeling and means that we have had many different visitors and an amazing array of noise during the night especially at dawn. Taken full use of the facilities and been canoeing the last two days. Camping only costs $24 a night, but it feels like a private 5 star resort. Highly recommend it if you are up this way.
If you have read this far down then you must be family or a bored friend, we love you either way.
At present Allister is having the shoo away Kookaburras that are trying to eat our chicken dinner. They have become so tame that even if you wave your hands and yell they just ignore you, so he has worked out that the plastic bag swung at them works best. If you look at the Animal photos you will see one of the culprits.
We had a wonderful time in Sydney with the Glynn family but all good things come to an end and we travelled on to Booti Booti NP. Recommended by Kev and Deb. The beaches where wonderful, especially shelly beach, but a warning about all of the nude 60 something's sunbaking on the beach would have been good. Allister and I got quite a shock as we walked down the path to the beach and was greeted by a 60 something bare bum. The amazing thing is how quickly you become acclimatised to different realities. After about 5 minutes the shock had worn off.
We are now at Nambucca Heads which is a really small town that we picked off the map. It has turned out to be a really nice area with nice beaches and great mountain bike tracks really close to town. Last night we went and saw Red Dragon at the local cinema. It was really good, really scary. I was too scared to go to the toilet block in the middle of the night so it is really luck that I didn't need to go. Lucky for Allister anyway because I would have made him come with me. He is a wonderful boy.
We are moving on to the Byron Bay area next. By the way we have been eating very well lately thanks to Moya. The Tandoori paste is wonderful as well as the chocolate and macadamia nut cookies and the Byron bay chilli salsa was fantastic. We will have to restock our supply when we get there.
The sites in Canberra were so exciting. That's all I am going to say on that topic, if you want more information ask Allister. In Canberra we stayed with Dale, one of Allister's friends from work, wonderful hospitality. Thank you Dale.
After Canberra, Murray left us for the lure of the west and Allister and I moved back to the coast where we began our search for a new camp site. After three dirt tracks, two hours and a fight we ended up at Pretty Beach. We decided on a beach front camp site hoping the weather does not get too bad. On our second day we experienced the most amazing weather variations ever. The morning was warm with a mild westerly wind. By midmorning we were engulfed in a dust storm that we heard on the radio was showing up on satellite. By lunch time the weather had improved and we went down to the beach for a swim. On our return to the camp the weather suddenly changed with strong cold easterly winds arriving with no notice. It was so strong we had to add extra pegs and ropes to hold the tent down. Eventually it blew over, but not until the temperature had dropped by about 10 degrees.
Our stay at Pretty Beach was great, so relaxing. On Friday we broke camp and got back on the road for Sydney. The drive into Sydney was stressful as usual, lucky we were so relaxed.
Things are going really well so far. We are in Canberra at the moment so that Allister can consume as much information as possible in as short a period of time as possible so that I don't get too bored. We did the National Museum today and tomorrow he wants to go to the War museum and Parliament House but only on the proviso that he rides with me around the man made lake.
Before Canberra we have been in a national park near Mallacoota called Croajingalong or something like that. It was beautiful and we saw the most amazing collection of animals including a lizard laying eggs, red belly black snack, echidna and all other expected Australian animals like kangaroos and kookaburras. I also had two ticks and a F#$%ing big black spider on me. As always the boys escaped the camping creepy crawly free and were amazed at how loud I can scream when being attacked by an eight legged freak. The car is going really well even though Allister has backed it into a pole and a tree on two separate occasions. No great damage done and it really feels like our car now, dents and all.
We have had Murray Reed with us for the last week, which has been great but he is heading back to WA tomorrow so Allister and I will be heading back to the NSW's coast for a few days and then on to Maurice and Em's place for four day's camped on the new lawn. I can't wait to see the babies.