Unloading the van was a bit of a mission I have to admit. All of you will know that we (well I) am quite good at accumulating stuff. And stuff we accumulated! Luckily the hostel room was uncharacteristically huge so we had plenty of space, and as luck would have it that very evening we met a couple who were hiring an identical van to ours doing pretty much the reverse journey that we had done. We very generously let them have all our superfluous stuff (for a small fee) and were subsequently back to the small(ish) amount of gear that we arrived with. I like Perth. But its a strange city where the suburbs seem to be more popular than the actual centre. Luckily we met up with Jims second cousin a local lady who took us out to 1 such suburb for a lovely lunch one day. We also met up with a guy we met on the Kakadu trip for a few drinks. Another night we even went to the opera, preceded by a lovely dinner (belated birthday celebration for me seeing as we were in the back of beyond on the actual day). So since we hit the bright lights we have actually been social butterflies. None of the 9pm lights out we had developed in the van and weve even been able to sleep past 8am some mornings! There is hope for us yet, we are still young at heart.
So here we are. Our last night in Perth, Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. Ive finished my book and packed my bags already and now Im twiddling my thumbs. Jim is trying to pack and finish his most recent essay due any day now but still insists he doesnt leave everything until the last minute!
So thats just about all folks. We have a couple of days in Singapore en route home but frankly I dont think they are going to be entertaining enough to write home about. Im sure we have some more photos to upload and we will get them on as soon as possible but we took less and less as we headed south and the scenery became less interesting. So I guess this is bye for now.
Try and keep in touch, all be it sporadically like myself, and you never know when we will meet again, for some it will be sooner than others.
All those in New Zealand will be thoroughly missed and thanks for making our time there so enjoyable. All those in England we look forward to seeing you all very soon.
Well you will be pleased to hear that the weather picked up somewhat for the remainder of our time in the South of WA. We explored Jewel Cave, a huge underground limestone cave. Jim climbed 61 metres up a tree on a ladder type structure to see the view, Debbie politely declined. We visited the loudest Blow Holes we had ever seen/heard, thankfully the weather went downhill that day so they were roaring like a dragon. Then we started to make our way back to beautiful Perth.
Rain, Rain and more Rain
Kalbarri was our last sunny day. The next day we set off south amidst rain and hideous winds, stopping briefly to change the wiper fuse (Thank god for Jim really) and then longer than expected because of the flat battery that neither of us will take responsibility for! (Although Debbie was driving and left the lights on when we stopped - neither of us will take responsibility for it!!?!?!) Cervantes was our next stop to see the mighty Pinnacles. Loosely described as the Aussie Stonehenge they are by no means as big but as far as the eye can see there are stones randomly clustered everywhere, ranging from 1 foot to 10 foot high! Try and spot me in the photos when they eventually make it online.
The rain continued as we headed across to New Norcia, a monastic town famous for its bread, and followed us all the way to the Swan Valley just north of Perth. Thats OK, you dont need good weather to wine taste but apparently here you need a very good map. It has to have been the strangest wine region we have been to, vineyards interspersed with bankrupt petrol stations, cafés, mechanics and factories. As you can imagine we struggled through and managed to find some lovely wine and somewhere for a slap up lunch.
We come back to Perth for a few days before we eventually depart this hemisphere so we decided to head straight through it to the popular Freemantle, where it kept raining so we had to take refuge in the bookshops and cafés. It was awful I can tell you! The rain again followed us the next day to the beautiful Margaret River region where you find us now. Tasting chocolate, cheese and wine from dusk till dawn. Its just such a shame that we can only buy enough to last us the next week or so.
Now I shouldnt complain about the rain really, god knows Australia needs it but this late in our travels after 2 months of Dry it is starting to wear us down a little. We have stopped enjoying the delights of cooking out in the open and started searching for caravan parks with good camp kitchens to huddle inside (if the grey nomads dont hog the place all night when they could be in their nice warm vans which they are doing as I try and write this with numb fingers!)
Never fear we have sussed out a fancy shmancy hostel in Perth to move into in a few days and are busy enjoying the delights of the south before we head back.
So after enjoying a few warm but windy days in Coral Bay still trying to get a tan and scaring all the fish away with the pretty much still translucent skin it was time to get back in the van and do the most dreaded leg of the journey. South into the cold!! A short stop at the quiet Hamelin Pool to look at the Stramatolites
..enter Jims scientific explanation here
.then we hit Kalbarri. It sounds awful to say it but another lovely National Park with beautiful gorges (Its hard to believe that you can almost feel like you have seen enough already). The best thing there really was dinner. This restaurant started life as a Ice packing warehouse, then moved onto be a fish exporters. Forced to close in the 80s from a pilot strike they decided instead of shipping the fish to the punters they would bring the punters to the fish. Hardly done up from the original building they merely added a few BBQ hotplates and some mismatched wooden and plastic chairs. Serving whole fish with a side of chips (and randomly stir fry rice and veg?!) Jim and I gamely ordered 1 each (they were cheap as) and a side salad (trying to be good). Big mistake. We tucked into 1 and barely made a dint in the other and the salad just wilted on the plate! There must have been about 100 people there and there was room for 4 times that. These guys must make a mint on a busy night. The short walk back to the van attempted to alleviate some of the food but we were still full the next day.
Location: Coral Bay, Australia
Well we left karajini after visiting Tom price and one of the largest open cut iron ore mines in the world (photos uploaded). We spenty a night in the worst campsite in australia called the nanutarra roadhouse!
The next day we woke and drove to Coral Bay and luckily got the last site in the campground. Not too much to say about this area and up to exmouth, we spend our days sunbathing and snorkelling and thats about it! Apart from one day where it rained constantly, the reef has been our daily call and what a reef it is. Not as famous as its east coast cousin, the ningaloo reef is 100 times closer to the shore so you can literally wade out, flop forward and it is there in front of you! We have seen turtles. sharks, sting rays and 000's of fish!
We are getting our last little dose of sun as from here on its due south and back to the australian winter!!!
Don't forget it's Debbie's birthday tomorrow (28th) all her presents can just be sent to her Melton address for convenience!!! Sentiments can be sent via the website!!
Karajini National Park
We stayed 2 nights in these beautiful surroundings, the second night was a luxurious campsite with flushing toilets and a shower! We spent the first day investigating the beautiful Dales Gorge, we did the usual; walks and watering holes. Jim went for an early morning dip in fern pool and had his toes nibbled (by the fish not Debbie).
We finished early luckily because that afternoon it rained!!! Only for about an hour but this is supposed to be the dry season, it isnt supposed to rain until November! The Dales Gorge is easiest to get to so it was busy and there were lots of families around and for some reason they only choose to seal to road to that gorge. We went to the Weano Gorge the next day. Along a 4WD track (something we arent supposed to do in a rental van) and through a ford! (something we definitely arent supposed to do). We made it safely through (thanks in part to jims superlative driving skills)(as the Visitor Centre lady had assured us we would) and didnt really worry about it until we met some people who had abandoned there vehicles and hitched in, coupled with about 5 attempts to actually get the van into reverse gear on our return journey.
The walks were amazing though. As you can imagine Jim insisted we do the hardest walks and it was well worth it. The walk to Kermits Pool was hard, lots of edging and bridging along rock shelves and through gulleys, but it was well worth it. We didnt see anyone until we were half way back which was good because Jim enjoyed a dip in the very cold pool at the end and if they were faster theyre may have been some embarrassing faces all round (well the water was very cold!). Someone had to stay dry to take the photos for evidence!
As always the national parks are beautiful in their remoteness but it is nice to get back to a campsite (and smooth roads!) and have a shower and cold food from the fridge!
On a separate note we realised tonight that we still have a piece of cheese that we bought in Adelaide over a month ago and its still fine!!!
On the Road Again
So as much as we enjoyed relaxing and sunbathing in Broome (and we really enjoyed it!) it was time to get moving again and with each stop we are gradually managing to reduce what we leave behind. This time it was only the washing up liquid and it is amazing how long you can go just borrowing off your next door camper. We might not bother replacing it!
The next place we were aiming for was Karajini National Park. It is 1000kms+ from Broome so we decided to break the journey at a beautiful little campsite at 80 mile beach. A popular spot for fisherman the brochure said and it wasnt kidding. We found our site and quickly nipped over the sand dunes for a stroll on the beach. Every metre for as far as the eye could see were fishermen (and women) casting off into the surf (literally you couldnt see a stretch of beach fishermanless and we could see a along way!) and yet in our admittedly short 15ish minute stroll we didnt see anyone catch anything!
Geike gorge or not
We awoke at 5.30 to drive for 4 hours to catch a boat ride through Geike Gorge. We had been told it was pretty special and not to be missed. Despite our best efforts it seems we arrived two minutes too late for the boat (4 hours for the next one!) so we thought bugger this for a game of soldiers and kept driving all the way to Broome! 900+kms in a day.
We arrived at Turkey Creek to set up camp for a couple of nights, the following day we were heading into the Bungle Bungle National Park for a 10 hour day walking and exploring. Later that evening we were joined in our camping exploits by another couple, a rather curvy girl and her man who we guessed were joining us on the tour the next day. Obviously, she arrived wearing her driving clothes, a very short skirt and tight top. When we awoke at stupid oclock the next morning (4.45am!!!), we got ready for the tour and jumped on the bus with the young lady nowhere to be seen. After a quick dash by her man she arrived at the bus in the same miniskirt and tight top, and spent the next ½ hour complaining that she only needed another 3 minutes to finish her make up and put on her lippy and that he shouldnt have rushed her! Luckily the lack of lip adornment didnt unduly prevent her or us from enjoying the days activity!
The Bungle Bungles are an amazing collection of eroded banded sandstone lumps. They have this amazing structure, see the pictures as they are hard to explain, but for those that want to know, the red bands are clay poor, the black bands are clay rich. The cyanobacteria can only live in the clay rich bands as they hold water for longer and allow the bacteria to survive and produce the colour. Clay-poor is like a drought for the bacteria! We did a couple of beautiful walks into two of the most picturesque chasms and all tried to snooze on the way back as it was a pretty long day and we both needed our beauty sleep!
After spending our day in Kununurra stocking up on lovely fresh food straight from the farm and trying the Kimberleys only Rum producer, we headed out to Lake Argyle for a tour. Its the biggest man made lake in Oz, and we had luckily timed our tour to coincide with the grey posse! We spent the morning cruising the lake with them, Lake Argyle was pretty impressive not very deep but huge. Enough water to supply all the farms in the Kimberley with water for three years even if they dont get another drop of rain. About 21 times the volume of Sydney harbour!
From there we drove back through Kununurra and on to Wyndham. Nice lookout with five major river systems in view but pretty dull apart from that (and the bakery!). We didnt stay long and headed straight to Turkey Creek, our gateway to the Bungle Bungles!
Location: Broome, Australia
Sorry we have been out of touch in a while. We've finally arrived in Broome (info on our route here to come, oops left if behind when i came to the internet cafe). It is soo lovely and Oz's favourite holiday destination so we decided to have a little holiday within a holiday ourselves. We're staying here in a campsite near the beach and generally just lazing around. It's pretty busy here but Jim prefers the clothes optional side of the beach which is a little less crowded but unfortunately the view isn't as good!! It's super hot about 29 degrees celsius most of the time. Almost a little too hot for little old me in the middle of the day so we tend to seek some shade and take a siesta after lunch.
You finally get to hear from me for a change as Jim is studying hard. He has a essay due for his philosophy degree in about 7 hours and has pretty much just started it. He insists that he doesn't leave things to the last minute but that doesn't explain why I have to amuse myself for the afternoon while he crams to get it done! Having spent 2 months in each others pockets though it's not such a bad thing to have some time apart and I'm using it well.... yes I'm going shopping, with his money!
So bye for now.
Location: Kununurra, Australia
Back on the road again.
After a few chores in Darwin we got backed in the van (we do miss her when we are away) and headed to Litchfield National Park (about an hour south of Darwin). Much of the same but easier access. Gentle walks and therefore slightly more crowded waterfalls and pools but just as lovely and refreshing. We discovered that we had left about 5 items in the hostel and of course they had mysteriously disappeared when we rang up to enquire, so we have vowed to remain in the van for the rest of the holiday. At least then everything stays where it should be. We saw our guide, Grady, at Litchfield. Who after only 1 day off was back on a trip again this time for 5 days covering much more ground. Dont know how they do it, I was knackered.
After a brief stop over in Katherine we headed to Western Australia. We had heard all about what food you can and cant take in so we had had honey on toast for breakfast everyday for a week and chopped peeled and sliced the veges just as requested. When we get to the border the guard politely stated that the rules had changed and he had to take everything of us!! The little bugger, all that effort for nothing. No wonder the shelves in the supermarket in Kunnunurra (the next biggest town) were empty.
Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was playing at the drive-in that night (just one showing a week). So we made up some pizza for dinner, wrapped it up and took it to the cinema. We had our own wine and chocolate so decided to forgo the sachets of popcorn they were cooking for people in the microwave! We got out the deckchairs and watched the shooting stars till the movie started! And then again half way through as the projector had a little fit!
As we crossed the border the guard told us of the time difference, 1.5 hours from NT! This makes a lot more sense as about 1,000Kms west is the coast and the vast majority of people live over there. Unfortunately it means that here in Kunnunurra the sun sets about 5pm and rises about 5.30am which only compounds our already sun influenced sleep patterns and now it feels like bedtime at 6 oclock!