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Down Under with Dr Bob & Sandra PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

Down Under with Dr Bob and Sandra

Dr Bob and Sandra are now in Australia, having flown to Brisbane after a few days in Singapore. They have bought a Hurricane Caravan and a four-wheel-drive Land Rover Discovery to pull it right round Australia in 12 months. After visits to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo and Fraser Island, they are ready for the road!

Judging by their previous writing, we are in for a treat of detailed discovery as they work their way round 3 million square miles of the flattest, driest, reddest continent on earth.

In recent years, Dr Bob and SCustard_large_to_go.jpgandra have renovated their mountain home in Spain, visited their second home in Goa and explored Spain in their motorhome, affectionately known as 'Mr Custard'. We met them in southern Greece.

Their two earlier major articles on this website describe visiting a number of Spanish Fiestas by motorhome and following Spain's Silver Road from Gijon on the north coast to Seville in the deep south.

For Dr Bob's advice on what you need to know and do in order to travel successfully in Australia, click: Dr Bob's Australian Prescription.

For more of Dr Bob's excellent travel writing, click:

Dr Bob Returns to Australia

Dr Bob in Morocco 2010

Dr Bob's Moroccan Prescription

Dr Bob in Portugal 2010

Click: Travel Notes Australia for a summary of our 3 journeys in Australia by bicycle, by buying a motorhome and by hiring a motorhome. 

For other articles on motorhoming in Australia, click here.

To contact Dr Bob and Sandra, email:

Introduction

Dr Bob and Sandra

April 2006 

Hi Guys - just a quickie. We arrived at 6.45 am and by 1.30 pm had purchased a brand new Traveller Hurricane locally. Actually, it was built in November 2004 but was slightly pitted by hailstones with a saving of $A10K. Will send photos ASAP. Tomorrow it's off to look for a 4x4 and arrange Bank, Insurance, etc.

Excellent start: we even had a friendly Immigration Officer who thought Spain preferable to India - I ask you!

The Journey 

5 May 2006

All well here, in fact it is better than well. We have now put together a tentative itinerary and our newly-bought Land Rover Discovery flew through its RACQ inspection.

We visited Australia Zoo today, and are due to leave for 4 days camping on Fraser Island early next week. After that, we set out in the caravan and Discovery. The caravan is just about fitted out but there are a few extra things to get for the Discovery. We will have 6 wheels and tyres all told plus a gas barbecue, grill etc. so we can off road in the bush for days at a time. Tenting will be a novelty for Sandra!

I can't tell you how friendly we have found the Australian people. It makes you fear that the British (next to the French and Arabs) are destined for purgatory!

19 May 2006

Arrival

We are writing this, the first of our 'Oz Wanderings', less than 48 hours after leaving our friends in Mountain Creek, near Brisbane, to begin our anti-clockwise journey around Australia. Now I know that this will sound foolish and presumptuous, but in the 3 weeks to date we have formed such a positive impression of the country and people that we are thinking of storing the rig at the end of the 12 months, so that we can return for other visits when we come south again to New Zealand and the Pacific Rim countries. Anyway, we'll see how we feel nearer the time.

We arrived in Brisbane at 0730 hours on 27th April, after an overnight Qantas flight. As usual, I notified my availability as a Doctor to the cabin staff and, much to my surprise, was rewarded at the end of the flight by a bottle of Australian wine. This small kindness was to set the tone for the weeks to follow. Customs and Passport Control was thorough and seemed just as crowded as at Manchester, but we were soon through and met outside by Geoff, wearing an English rugby shirt for identification. Still, at 6'4" he does stick out somewhat. Marge was parking the car but we appeared before she had a chance

The Caravan

Then we were off to start looking for caravans. Although we had set a budget of $A20K for this item, we ended up doubling this amount. Before I go any further I will give some figures which may be of use/interest.

£1 = $A2.45 and 1€ = $A1.66 but I will leave everything in $A (just written as $).

The caravan cost us $39K but this was for a brand new Traveller Hurricane, which had suffered minimal damage by hailstones with a resultant $10K reduction in price. We did look at second-hand caravans but generally the condition was horrendous and the price startling, so we decided, given the apparent minimal depreciation, to go for a new one. This price also included the transfer to our name, which would have cost approx $300, and a few bits and pieces. Fully comprehensive insurance on the caravan at its fixed purchase price was $450 for one year.

The Discovery

Next we had to look for a vehicle and it was several days before we found Pegasus, the Land Rover Discovery – a 1997 model, white, 143,000 km, with tdi, full service history and one previous owner. We purchased it from a dealer just outside Brisbane and the cost of $14,340 included change of ownership. Prior to purchase we also invested $140 in an RACQ inspection and this was Value for Money. The comprehensive insurance at the fixed price was $417 and the Road Fund Licence (Rego) for the year, (paid early as we shall be travelling), was $538. If this seems a little excessive, it's because of the insurance system here. The Rego includes the Road Fund Licence and compulsory 3rd party person liability, so that if you hit someone they and you are covered. The rest of the insurance level is up to you to decide: whether 3rd party property or fully comprehensive. It takes a bit of understanding and 2 vehicles means 2 sets of fees. Certain insurers do not cover windscreens which you claim with your main policy, but with an excess of $300 and a windscreen starting at $340, there is not much point in claiming.

We joined RACQ (RAC Queensland), which also gives access to motoring services in all the other States. One drawback is that as non-residents we can only have the lowest level of cover, with severe limitations on the towing provided if roadside repairs are not possible. Still, that's all there is.

Equipment

So that was the vehicle sorted? Well almost. There was the electric brake control to be fitted to the 4x4 and also a cut-off, so that the recreational battery on the caravan does not steal power from the 4x4 but allows charging as you go along. That cost a total of $500. We also bought water hoses (on a site you can couple up directly to the caravan water system, which is then pressurised at mains pressure) and sundry items. The 4x4 needed headlight protectors and spare belts.

Then we had to fit out the caravan and here we have to express our gratitude to Geoff and Marge, who loaned us a whole load of things. Geoff even came up with a tool kit and a roof rack for the 4x4, so we could carry the extra wheel and tyres. Strangely, one of the biggest costs was the storage baskets to fit in all the caravan cupboards - and the caravan has far more storage space than our much missed motorhome, Mr Custard.

Eventually, 3 weeks later, we were all ready to go, although of course during that time we weren't exactly dormant - Geoff and Marge saw to that. So what did we do?

The Wild Life

Well, there were innumerable journeys to the coast and coastal strip, the surrounding mountains and national parks. The coast is spectacular and one Sunday we took a cruise to Pelican Waters via Bribie Island (named after a convict, would you believe). Pelican Island and Pelican Waters really lived up to their name and we were able to watch these huge birds at close quarters as they have learned to congregate at the fish gutting tables, where the local sports fishermen prepare their day's catch. They really are the most awful gluttons (the birds that is) but are very careful only to swallow fish they have vetted for size. They are also quarrelsome and size definitely matters - Might is Right. We walked in sub-tropical/temperate rainforests and became acquainted with the numerous bird species.

In fact, here in Mountain Creek we wake each morning to a dawn chorus (aka cacophony) of parrots, mynas, parrakeets, cockatiels, butcher birds, crows, magpies, cockatoos, lorikeets etc. Then later we watch them splashing in the swimming pool or raiding Buster's food bowl (family dog - what a sweetie). The various Clubs here are also an eye-opener, especially the RSL (Returned Servicemen's League). Now you know how snobby and elitist these places usually are in UK? Nothing like that here, where as bona fide travellers you are welcome to use the Club's facilities which are excellent. The food has to be seen to be believed and there is often live music. We spent 2 happy evenings wining and dining, the last to a Roy Orbison Tribute singer (bit naff I know!)

Australia Zoo

However, of the sights seen to date 2 stand out above the rest - Australia Zoo and Fraser Island. The trip south to visit Gail and George, Pegasus's first owners who live on the Gold Coast just south of Surfers Paradise, was also a great day out, meeting yet another super couple who we shall keep in touch with.

Anyway, everyone knows of Australia Zoo - Steve Irwin. Now personally I can't stand the OTT show-boating, but then you realise how shy and self-effacing I am myself. Anyway the great croc hunter, whose face appears everywhere and who is constantly mentioned by staff, was away up North on some ecological trip but most of his staff appear to be carbon copies in manner and language. Still, all this aside, one cannot detract from the spectacle that is Australia Zoo. Founded by Steve's father, it was quite small and unimpressive until Steve assumed control and, more importantly, met and married his American/Canadian wife, Terri. A member of the volunteer staff informed us that she was the brains of the organisation, with Steve being the show man. He and Terri now have 2 children and their line of clothing is sold at the Zoo (rather like the Beckhams).

The Zoo experience is excellent with all manner of animal shows, including the croc-feeding spectaculars. Now I am not sure that spectacular would be the correct word but they are certainly riveting, educational and ecologically sound. Truth be told, I found the staff as entertaining as the creatures they were displaying. They really seemed dedicated to the work they were doing and when we spoke to them we found that the largest cadre are volunteers. Even among the employed staff, there are those who are part-time. Returning to the volunteers, we found a young woman of 20 from Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, who had arrived here without the promise of any post but with the initiative to come and try. She now has to find a sponsor if she wishes to stay in Australia and joked that she might have to marry an Australian as a last resort.

But this is what we have found here: a large number of interesting people who are prepared to stand up and give it a try. One guy we met at a Flying Club, where Geoff took Sandra for a flight in an Ultralyte, emigrated to Sydney from South London 22 years ago and now has a life any of us would envy (and at only 42 years of age). His story was fascinating but has been repeated by others since, each slightly different but each indicative of a certain manner of individual and personality. Anyway, I note I have digressed again. Oh, another thing - TV here is c**p, so you have to get out and do something!

We stayed at the Zoo for a full day, petting kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. All very entertaining and all with an educational element, so we felt we left having learnt a lot about some of Australia's wildlife and their habits. An excellent day where we found the people as interesting as the animals and habitats.

Although I was going to restrict myself to just the 2 visits, I feel I must mention more fully the kindness of Gail and George (Pegasus's first owners), who invited us to their home to collect an extra wheel and 2 tyres together with a dashboard cover and a CD player. We would love to have stayed longer (and we shall be visiting on our way back up the coast at the end of our circuit, if we don't meet up in Northern Australia where they are planning a trip), but time was running away. We had to pack for Fraser Island which was to be our first camping trip, to check our newly purchased tent, stove, etc, etc.

Fraser Island

So finally we were off to Fraser Island, which is the largest sand island in the world, being 122 km long and ranging from 5 km to 25 km in width. Vegetation includes heathlands, wetland communities, grassland, shrubland and several types of forest, including dense rainforest which is truly spectacular. It is composed almost entirely of loose siliceous sand. Some 40 freshwater lakes lie in the sand mass and 72 colours of sand can be found in the island's coloured sand cliffs. There are 329 species of birds, most of which are migratory. You almost become blasι at the daily sightings of sea eagles returning with fish clutched in talons - almost! Other wildlife that inhabits the area includes dasyudids, bandicoots, possums and gliders, pottoroos, wallabies, rodents, bats, echidnas and dingoes. Reptile species include snakes, sea snakes, frogs, dragons, geckoes, goannas, skinks, sea turtles and freshwater turtles, which inhabit the lakes in abundance. Whales will be spotted off-shore in about a month's time. Swimming is prohibited due to the extreme nature of the waves and tides and the presence of Bronze Whaler sharks.

We spent an incredible 5 days, only slightly spoiled by the daily rainfall and fresh evening winds which made barbecuing impossible, though we had 3 primus burners so no problem there.

There are 2 ferries to the island, both quite expensive, plus a daily charge per person and per vehicle. You are issued documentation to attach to the vehicles and tents and we were visited once by a ranger to check our papers and also to reinforce instructions about not feeding wildlife, especially the dingoes. Several years ago this was allowed and common but it caused a number of attacks and one child fatality. Now this practice carries a hefty fine of thousands of $A.

I mentioned the 2 ferries, one local and one run by an Asian Consortium which bought a 5-stars resort on the Island and then assumed that they had the sole ferry franchise. There were lots of dirty tricks, culminating in a Court case when they were fined 1 million $A but unfortunately the slander and trouble continue. Well, we did say there were snakes and rodents in paradise.

Travelling to and around the Island is dictated by the tides as you can only circumnavigate during low tide, when you can race along mile after mile of golden sand, unpopulated apart from birds and the other 4x4's and fishermen. Although we were in a private vehicle, most people travel the island in tour or hired vehicles and the huge 4x4 buses can hold over 30. Everyone appeared friendly and keen to help when unfortunates bogged down and every vehicle carries a 'snatch-strap'.

We spent hours one day watching a bottle-neck of bogged down vehicles trying to get through a sand gully that bypasses Indian Head. There were no angry scenes or voices and one group told me they came every year at this time to watch the chaos caused by inexperienced drivers, many driving 4x4's for the first time, not driving on flattened tyres or keeping their speed up as they changed gear, etc. Hours of entertainment!

Driving around the Island through the permitted forest roads was magical and it certainly tested the off-road abilities of Pegasus (our 4x4). Not a problem and we took some pictures of the less hairy spots where we could stop and photograph the track. Parrots and kookaburras (both the common and the azure-winged) were everywhere, as were kites and eagles. We swam and dived in the lakes, chasing the turtles which we couldn't catch, and body-boarded down the sand blows into the lake waters. Great fun. We explored the history of the Island at Central Station, the heart of an Island community of forestry workers until this was finally banned 20 years or so ago.

There is a lot more I could say about the beauty of the Island and the treks through the forests and drives along the coast. Visit www.fraserisland.net for more information about this truly spectacular Island arc.

Finally . . . .

All too soon it was time to board the ferry and return to the mainland to wash and pack, ready for the first solo leg of our adventure which takes us back to Tin Can Bay, just south of Fraser Island, to watch and feed the dolphins - we'll tell you what happens.

We hope the sun is shining wherever you are and whoever you are with, and that no wandering raiders are visiting your tents on a nightly basis.

4 July 2006

QUEENSLAND COAST, TIN CAN BAY to CAIRNS

Introduction - Well, I know it may seem a long time since the last travelogue, especially after the quick fire ones on The Silver Route (of Spain), but, believe it or not, we have travelled 4,700 km since the last report and we have yet to clear Queensland. Today we are in Cairns (for the second time) and are waiting for the Land Rover garage to call and tell us the 4x4 has completed its 150,000 km service and the front wheel bearings have been repacked (don't ask me, it's all rocket science!).

So before we start we'll go through a few facts:

1 GBP=$A2.45

1 Euro=$1.66

Petrol Unleaded $1.29-$1.38 per litre, although it will get more expensive in the outback and down south

Diesel $1.29-$1.42 per litre, so far

Now this could be a marathon, so we shall start with a quick run down of the places to date (so have Australian Maps/Atlases at the ready):

Brisbane-Tin Can Bay-Maryborough-Childers-Apple Tree Creek-Bundaberg-Brisbane-Childers-Bundaberg-Mon Repos-Moore Park-Agnes Water-1770-Gladstone-Rockhampton-Koorana-Rockhampton-Capricorn Caves-Emu Park-Yappoon-McKenzie Park-Duaringa-Emerald-Rubyvale-Sapphire-Mackay-Eimeo Beach-Proserpine-Airlie Beach-Bowen-Ayr-Alva Beach-Townsville-Rowes Bay-Balgal Beach-Ingham-Wallaman Falls-Lucinda-Cardwell-Billyana-Tully-Hull Heads-Mission Beach-El Arish-Paronella Park-Innisfail-Babinda-Cairns-Mossman-Cape Tribulation-Daintree-Port Douglas-Mount Malloy-Mareeba-Granite Gorge-Mantaka-Cairns.

I know that sounds a lot but actually there are loads of villages and beaches in between and we have really only mentioned the highlights.

So where to start? Perhaps the salient points of each place but without the trimmings:

Tin Can Bay - We stayed overnight next to the Boat Ramp as at 8.00 am there was the opportunity to feed a dolphin FREE. There is a long story about an injured dolphin many years ago which was fed over years and then reappeared with its son. This individual still appears most mornings, better if on a full tide, sometimes bringing a friend. Would you believe local government actually tried to stop the practice of feeding them but it was overthrown. Volunteers provide free fish and you have to wash your hands in antiseptic soap and not touch the dolphin, which is called Mystique (I know that sounds female) and is an Indo-Pacific dolphin. It was quiet on this particular morning and Sandra went back on 4 occasions. The dolphin really wasn't hungry but obviously enjoyed the spectacle, coming back to Sandra repeatedly even when there were no further fish. Magical - and what a start to the first day. I had a different start, I slipped on the slimy quay and cracked a rib ( and yes, it does take 4-6 weeks to heal).

Childers - We had an interesting talk and handling display by Ian Jenkins, formerly of South Wales via East Africa, duly draped in pythons and handling crocodiles (with the jaws firmly taped!).Visit www.snakesdownunder.com.

Apple Tree Creek - 'Flying High', an enclosed aviary of 3 acres with thousands of native birds - as colourful as reef fishes.

Bundaberg - Slight delay here as we developed a number of faults on the Caravan and had to tow it back to Brisbane. All were solved in a day but we decided to purchase a 2-kw Silent Honda generator to be fully independent - money well spent!! That night we wild camped on a local field and awoke to the raucous call of cockatoos to find ourselves surrounded by kangaroos.

Back to Bundaberg and a pathetic tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery which is a legend in Oz. Apparently it used to be great until the early 2000's but with a change of ownership and swingeing Health &Safety regulations the tours are now but a shadow of their former glory. In fact our 2 tour guides seemed to be rehearsing for a TV amateur comedy show. Abysmal. With the tickets you had 2 free rum-based drinks of a veritable cornucopia, and as it was only 11 am. we left squiffy.

Mon Repos - Turtle Beach and Information Centre, where we met some lapidarists on the beach and heard all about his arthritis. This we shall have to revisit at another time to see the females laying and the young hatching.

Moore Park Beach - A fabulous 2 days of sun and beach. Met a local resident (Neville and his Rhodesian Ridgeback) at his Summer Beach home. He normally owns and runs a vineyard on the Murray River. Kangaroos on the beach!

Agnes Water and 1770 of Captain Cook fame - Saw the Memorial which looked as though it had been thrown up by YTS workers or the usual Brit builder in Spain.

Gladstone - The most superb Botanic Gardens to date. Coffee Cruise of the harbour and islands to get an overview of the local industry, which is substantial, and yet the coastline is unspoilt by effluent. We backed this up after lunch with the Industrial Bus tour. You just have to see the coal trains with 100 wagons carrying 20 tonnes each and dumping from the bottom. The terminal can load 4 ships simultaneously at 6,000 tonnes per hour per ship. Any delay costs the town $20,000 per day. Gladstone is the second coal port of Australia, after Newcastle.

Rockhampton - where we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn

Koorana - Crocodile Farm where they breed salt water crocs. for the leather trade. Each of the crocs in the breeding pens has a unique story and I could spend a page of A4 relating them. They cull at age 3-4 years approx, 1 croc per day, with a belly skin of 30 cm. The European houses are now requesting 40 cm, which means a year older at least, but for premium prices. The eggs are removed from the nests and incubated at a higher temperature to guarantee mainly male crocs, which grow more quickly. The meat is sold out or served up in the cafe and we returned 48 hrs later for Croc Kebabs and a Croc Pie. (They won a prize in Queensland for these pies). Having seen the power and threat of the adult beasts we could say we had croc stuck in our teeth and not vice versa (and we would like that to continue).

Emu Beach and Yapoon - A few days chilling in the sun and a bit of fishing. Well it's stressful, you know, all this enjoyment!

Capricorn Caves - A terrific tour guide who was so enthusiastic.

From Rockhampton we turned west to visit the gem towns of Sapphire and Rubyvale. Emerald isn't so named for the stone but rather for the green of the surrounding pastures. We visited a mine at Rubyvale and were shown fossiking by an elderly female miner who would have made a superb RSM. She had the mine next door. Sandra got really enthused and kept going to other people's tables spotting gemstones - guess she has the eye. WELL WORTH A RETURN VISIT, but the stones are better and cheaper in India.

MacKay - A few days on the beach watching the rain fall.

Ayr - Best Fish & Chips in memory and Alva Beach where we were shown how to use a yabby pump. These are small crayfish that are either eaten or used as bait.

Townsville - A whole string of memories:

1) Billabong: a nature park where we first fed Rock Wallabies. They are only about 18 inches high and hold your hand as they are fed.

2) Reef HQ: a series of huge aquaria with scheduled talks and videos.

3) The Museum of North Queensland with its huge exhibit of HMS Pandora, which sank on the Barrier Reef when returning to the UK with prisoners from the mutiny on HMS Bounty. You could have spent the entire day just following the story of the Bounty, the Pandora and its discovery and reclamation from the sea, which is still ongoing. The Museum was actually rebuilt and extended just to house this exhibit.

4) A moment of real kindness! We had parked for 2 nights in a Cinema car park, partly because each evening we went in to see a film(X-Men, The Last Stand and The Da Vinci Code). On the second night at about 10 pm a Police car drew up and Sgt Tony Melrose informed us that he was worried about our safety and risk of vandalisation, so if we could be ready in 10 minutes he and his relief, who would be dropping him home, would guide us to a safer spot. The spot was on Rowes Beach directly opposite a caravan park, where they were all crammed in like sardines. 'Don;t worry' he said 'we won't move you on, but as there's 5 miles of beach, just move down a bit tomorrow'. They were probably paying $30/night in the CP and here we had a Police escort to the beach opposite. The next day we dropped off a letter of commendation to his Inspector.

Balgal Beach - Evenings watching Beach Thick Knees and a Tawny Frogmouth. (Both birds, in case you were wondering.)

Ingham - which we thought was just great. We visited Wallerman Falls, which are the longest single drop falls in Australia, and on the way back stopped for a Cassowary who obviously thought the traffic was a food source. What a ham! He walked around the 4x4 looking in the windows and allowing some great photos. We couldn't believe our luck.

Then out to Lucinda and the longest sugar jetty in the world and the Italian Cemetery, which looks like New Orleans and for the same reason. The following day was the TYTO wetlands and a plethora of wildlife. On the final day we visited the library for free Internet and a book sale at 20c/book. 32 found their way safely to the Caravan.

Hull Heads - Superb fishing on a river mouth. Caught a few. Weather poor.

Mission Beach - Still reeling after Cyclone Larry. No sign of the much publicised Cassowary.

Paronella Park - The dream of a Spanish immigrant, Jose Paronella from Pamplona, who landed in Oz in the 1930's. See www.paronellapark.com.au for the full details. The night walk was led by one of the owners and his enthusiasm, even after the destruction of the cyclone, was inspiring and humbling. A must!

Cairns - A rapid northern move as we found the Council Park full and we had heard the scary stories about the Police and their huge fines. They don't move you on, they come back in the morning and hand you the fine. In fact from here northwards we thought really disappointing and somewhat clouded by the crash commercialism. It's just OTT as they try to separate you from your $$$$'s. The Tourist Information Offices are all there to sell packages and not really to empower you, and please don't try to explore low or zero cost options - you may as well have a case of the pox. We left well alone and moved on to:

Mossman - From where we visited Mossman Gorge and then a day trip to Cape Tribulation, which was really a holiday village and beach ('where the rain forest meets the reef' - it rained all day). So we cancelled the trip to Cooktown. We had intended leaving the caravan at Mossman and driving the inland route to camp on the way south on the coastal route which is 4x4 only. The ground was so saturated that it would have been like sleeping on a leaky water bed (for those of you that know ), and we are getting no younger.

Mareeba - Where we camped on the Rodeo Showground. Unfortunately the huge annual rodeo is 15th and 16th.of this month but hopefully we shall get to see one somewhere along the way. We visited Granite Gorge which was awesom and far better than Cuidad Encantada just north of Cuenca in Spain (where Arnie filmed 'Conan the Barbarian'). They don't have Rock Wallabies in Cuenca!

That evening, thanks to a trip to the local launderette (and there are launderettes in every town and village), we ended up in a drive-in movie watching 'Poseidon 2006' and 'V-Vendetta' and eating fish and chips in the Discovery. Great evening. The Utes (Utility vehicles ) would park back end to the screen and then the occupants would put blankets, seats, etc in the back to watch the films. Another first.

Now we are back in Cairns, having spent yesterday evening in the rain-forest 30 km north of here, near Kuranda at the end of Kevin & Rebecca's drive. (Friends of friends - thanks to Margaret and Barry). Went fishing in the Baron River and landed a 7 lb long-finned eel. Just like playing a tree trunk! The same tree trunk then snapped my rod!

Conclusion - So here we are at the end of the journey up the east coast and shortly to drive west to the Atherton Tablelands, with hopes of platypus spotting, etc.

We are having a ball and the decision to retain and store Old Bluey and Pegasus are now virtually engraved in stone. The people we have met and the kindness experienced defy description. What a country, and to think I turned down a job in Sydney 34 years ago!

So, instead of my usual benediction, a final thought for so many of you, our friends:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Henry Thoreau, American naturalist/philosopher.

Wherever you are, we miss you and think of you and hope the sun is shining, if not physically then metaphorically.

Email dated 18 July 2006

Hi Guys,

Just a quick update so you don't think we have forgotten you.

Well, after a lovely few days with our new friends at Kuranda near Cairns it was on the road again, this time heading west. Back through Mareeba we went and then on to a NEW ROAD. We really liked Mareeba and it was here we went to the drive-in movie theatre. From Mareeba it was on to Atherton and the Atherton Tablelands where, in spite of a sojourn at Platypus Park, we failed to see one. The next day we drove to Tarzali Lake where it was 'no see, no fee' but there was a big sign outside saying: 'Still closed after Cyclone Larry'. Really annoying as the Tourist Info was still giving out pamphlets! Then on to Ravenshoe, where 2 days of platypus-watching went unrewarded but we met the most interesting people.

Grahame, who runs the local steam train, and Ray, the site caretaker. Ravenshoe also has the most informative and educational Visitor Information centre to date. Just up the road was Innot Hot Springs and, whilst we didn't stay on the campsite there, we did lounge in the hot springs next to the adjacent creek. Undara Lava Tubes were next and, although we thought that Capricorn Caves were better, the site is good and we met some Kiwis who now travel with us intermittently (more of them later). Georgetown was next and then 20 km past an idyllic lake next to an old goldmine. The lake was a blizzard of birds and at night you could hear the wild pigs screaming on the opposite bank. The huge white water lilies were spectacular. On to Normanton and then Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Bought some excellent prawns and king salmon here.

South and on to the Matilda Highway and our first Development Road, with the adventure of the road trains which can be up to 53.5 m long. Now that was an experience all the way to Cloncurry, where the Development Road ends. We stayed here for the rodeo before turning west again for Mount Isa. As we had done a mine tour at Cloncurry, we really just stocked up and passed on through. 188 km further west, just past Camooweal, we final exited Queensland and into Northern Territory. Approx 400 km further along the Barkly Highway and at 3 Ways we finally turned south to Tennant Creek, staying last night at The Pebbles.

Tennant Creek doesn't seem very safe as there are hordes of indigenous sitting around in groups drinking (and it's only 10.30 am). Must be a shortage of soap and water as well!!!!!!!!!!!

Weather not too good and certainly it's COLD at night and will get colder as we approach the centre - but that's for another day.

DARWIN, NORTHERN TERRITORY.

15 August 2006

Hi All,

So here we are in Darwin at the top of Northern Territory. First of all the usual info.

£1 = $A2.23      

€1 = $A1.66

Distance from Brisbane (departure 17 May 2006) = 10,850 km (6,780 miles).

Fuel here in Darwin is $A1.35/litre (60p) but we have paid up to $A1.82/litre (82p) on the Barkly Tablelands and $A1.69/litre (76p) at Uluru (Ayers Rock).

The itinerary to date:

Cairns – Mareeba - Atherton - Tarsali Lakes - Ravenshoe - Archer Creek - Innot Hot Springs - Undara Lava Tubes - Georgetown - Normanton - Karumba - Cloncurry - Mount Isa - Camooweal - Barkly Homestead - 3 Ways - Tennant Creek – Devil's Marbles - Alice Springs - Stuart's Well & Rainbow Valley – Uluru (Ayers Rock) - back up to Alice Springs - Tennant Creek - 3 Ways - north to Daly Waters - Mataranka - Cutta Cutta Caves - Katherine - now here at Darwin.

Since Cairns we have covered 6,200 km (3,900 miles) in 6 weeks although from here to Uluru (Ayers Rock) is 2,000 km (1,250 miles) approx. There is always the open road but we rarely do more than 200 km (125 miles) a day before finding somewhere to camp overnight. Well, we have a year and we need to stay within budget and that includes fuel costs.

Right, so what have we seen so far? Well, if we logged everything we probably wouldn't leave this terminal for the next 16 hours. The country is just awesome and every road brings something new.

Back to our departure from our new friends, Kevin & Rebecca, in the Rain Forest above Kuranda just outside Cairns. We had the most sincere welcome and were only sorry that we couldn't stay longer. Still, there's always next time and what an idyllic spot to revisit! Back through Mareeba, where we had been previously and then to Atherton and the start of the Atherton Tablelands. Three days of frustration as we tried to spot a platypus in any number of lakes and creeks - better luck further along the road. Then to Ravenshoe where we met 2 incredible guys - Ray, the one-eyed Canadian caretaker of the site at the old Railway Station and Grahame who part-runs the private locomotive from Ravenshoe. What a great double act! Unfortunately the train was being repainted, so again one for a later visit.

On to Innot Hot Springs where we hollowed out a depression in the gravel at the side of the creek and cooked ourselves. Lobsters were only a pale comparison when we came out (better than paying to go in the Caravan Park which straddles the Springs).

Our next destination, Undara, is well known as the site of the Undara Lava Tubes. Mile after mile of these echoes from a time when the world was molten. Expensive, and after you've seen one old tube you've probably seen them all. Now, it's strange how you build up expectations to somewhere like the Lava Tubes, to walk away after the tour with a metaphorical shrug. Not so the next night, when we wild-camped at a lake just outside Georgetown. This would have to be our idea of paradise, with its hundreds of wild birds, feral pigs fighting at night and white water lilies as big as your head with centres as yellow as the sun. Thousands of them littering the surface and closing as the sun set. We saw Lily-walkers for the first time and a Black-headed Stork. It was a real wrench the next day to drive away and see the lake disappear in the rear view mirror.

On to Normanton where we camped by the river and got eaten by mosquitoes. Apparently caravans and vans can have 2 sizes of mesh and we obviously have the larger one. Another lesson! Leaving the caravan outside Tourist Information the next morning, we drove the 70 km to Karumba on the gulf. Hard to believe that caravanners spend months here each year - guess it must be for the fishing. Half a day was enough for us, but we did call in to the Barramundi Centre for an interesting talk and tour of the breeding facility and purchased some excellent soft and broken prawns from the local fishery. (Yes, we got them cheap!)

This had taken us as far north as we were going, so it was back to Normanton and then south on the Development Road to Cloncurry. Actually this was the second Development Road that we had been on, with the first from Innot Hot Springs to the Normanton crossroads. Now for those of you who don't know what a Development road is (wait for it), it's a road still being developed. So for long distances the 2 lanes are reduced to 1 centre lane which 2-way traffic has to share. This is just inconvenient, as you move over so each of you has one set of tyres on the tarmac. That is, of course, until a ROAD-TRAIN materialises.

These behemoths are up to 53.5 metres (176 ft) long and whilst they are often driven by gentlemen, who realise they are driving a lethal weapon, sometimes they are not. Still, the rule of thumb when pulling a van is to get off the road and stop. If they are knights of the road, they will partly pull over and then 30 or so huge tyres pebble-dash your vehicle. So you get over and stop. Luckily, there were not too many road trains, but on day 2 of our run south to Cloncurry it rained and the edges turned to a morass. We could feel the caravan tyres slide as we pulled part off the carriageway, so eventually it was safer to stop for everything coming the other way, so that we didn't lose control. Most caravanners were as polite as we were but some, obviously related to minor royalty, acted as though they were road trains or were to have uninterrupted passage. These we didn't move over for, as I find such an attitude unacceptable wherever we meet it.

Finally to Cloncurry, where we attended a Rodeo/Bushman's Campdraft and visited a huge open-cast copper mine about 35 km out. Really impressive, especially the huge dump trucks that we all see on wall hangings, with 200 people spread over them to indicate size. Yes, they really are that large.

Leaving Cloncurry, it was west to Mount Isa where we stocked up before heading over the Barkly Tablelands. Crossed into Northern Territory 188 km west of Mount Isa and 6,567 km from leaving Brisbane. Now, our friends had warned us about price hikes out in the bush and here there was a straight 50 cents/litre increase on diesel and if you wished to take a shower, then it was $5. Thankfully, we have 'en-suite'. And so we finally pulled in to 3 Ways and a left turn down towards the Red Centre. First stop was Tennant Creek, where we felt really intimidated by the nature and manner of the local indigenous population. We only stayed as long as we needed and then headed south towards Alice Springs, passing our nights in free campsites or at monuments along the Stuart Highway.

For this stretch of the road we were not alone, as we had acquired the company of 2 motorhomes with the families from Sydney and New Zealand respectively. Tim, from Sydney, had to have his evening camp fire and although this was pleasant it actually got a little tedious after a while. Still, all good, clean fun. On the way down we passed through Wycliffe Well which is the UFO capital of Australia but no relatives dropped in to visit.

We liked Alice Springs, stocked up and visited Alice Springs Desert Park, which we would vote on a par with the Oz Zoo. We trailed backwards and forwards looking at mountains and valleys before heading south again to Stuart's Well and the home of Dinky the Dingo. Now it's things like this that make Oz wonderful and charming. Dinky is a Dingo of international renown and has even figured in Trivial Pursuit. (Can anyone tell me if it's just the Oz version?)

In the evening Jim, the owner of the bar, caravan site and servo (service station), gives a talk about the Territory as he knew and knows it from the time he arrived in 1952. Then he sits at the piano and plonks a few notes, at which point Dinky gets up on the keys and starts to howl along. It's really quite a sight. Of course dingoes don't bark, they howl. Jim then gives a talk about dingoes which is really informative. Promising to visit on our way back, and with only a side trip to Rainbow Valley to watch the rock walls change colour at sunset, we continued down to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Well, we've seen it and it really is just a huge rock, much of it sub-surface, but apart from the colour change at sunset and the guided ranger walk/talk, that was it and we were on our way north again. Well, YOU HAVE TO DO IT DON'T YOU??????????

As the first 1,000 km only took us back to Tennant Creek, enough said, but then, once again, it was a NEW ROAD. On we went to Daly Waters, which has a nationally known pub which we thought was a bit of a dump. The comedian, Frank, sits a model wooden house on his head and then 2 black chickens (chooks) on top of the house. He says they are Wedge-tailed Eagles and everyone laughs. Later on he poses for photographs behind the bar and Sandra has them to prove it!

Next to Mataranka where we encountered the second Hot Springs of our journey. We had been told by fellow travellers that Bitter Creek was the best and so it was. Can you imagine floating downstream in a small creek through lush tropical bank-side vegetation with the water the temperature of a hot bath. You then get out, walk back and do it again, and again, and again... We really loved it but then not as much as the Thermal Pools at Katherine 200 km further north, where we sat below a small weir and it was like being in a spa or jacuzzi.

In between we had Cutta Cutta Caves which have to be the most beautiful cave architecture visited to date. We had liked Capricorn Caves but these were better and there was a story about WW2 etc. Apparently they had been called Smith Caves, after their finder, and then later 16-mile Caves, from when they were rediscovered by servicemen during WW2. Later, however, they asked the local indigenous population for a name and hence Cutta Cutta, which means Lots of Stars - so now you know!

We really liked Katherine and did the obligatory 4-hour cruise through the nearby Katherine Gorge. More of the Aboriginal history, so ask if you are interested. However, for us there was more beauty that evening sitting in the barbecue area above the landing stage and watching a male Bower Bird performing. For our UK viewers, imagine a really large Thrush jumping around a bower of intertwined sticks formed into an arched tunnel, and then suddenly there's a large pink carnation on the back of the bird's neck. The colour was incredible and we watched for hours. (I know - get a life!) Parrots everywhere and then, as dusk fell, we were surrounded by dozens of walleroos. Magical.

North from Katherine to Darwin, where we are until tomorrow. We realised the part this area played in WW2 when we noted the dozens of airfields along and off the main highway, some of which can now be used as free campsites.

So, what to say about Darwin as a State Capital City? Well, you can get cheap prawns and the Internet is only $A2.70/hour, but what about a city where the most voted for attraction is feeding the fish at high tide on the local beach. And even then you have to shell out $A8 for the privilege! Actually, for us the best was the 'Jumping Croc Cruise', where crocodiles up to 5 m long are enticed to jump up to take hanging chunks of meat. Darwin stands on the 70 km long Adelaide River and it is a chilling fact that there is approx one saltie (saltwater crocodile) per 50 m. Now they may not all be huge but would you really want to risk it or go for a swim in the sea - no matter what the authorities say?

So that's it for now. Does it sound good? We think it's absolutely brilliant, the people and the country. Thank the Lord they have a skills shortage - one never knows.

The places we have seen, the birds and animals that continue to amaze and bedazzle us and the kindness and openness of the people just cannot be described. BUT WE'LL KEEP ON TRYING.

To close, our usual benediction (an Irish prayer), which actually we have cribbed from 'Camps 3', a directory of the free campsites throughout Australia:

'May the road rise to meet you; may the wind always be at your back, the sun shine warm upon your face; the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand'. We thought it was apt!

PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

16 October 2006

So, here we are in Perth having arrived 3 days ago. Since Darwin we have travelled 7,241 km (4,525 miles).

1 GBP = $2.43 and 1 Euro = $1.66. There have been fluctuations but we transferred all monies at the beginning, with just a little top-up.

The route went as follows: Darwin-Katherine-Timber Creek-across the border and into Western Australia and the first town of Kununurra-Wyndham-Derby-Broome-Port Hedland-Roebourne-Point Sampson-Cleaverville-Dampier-Karatha-Exmouth and Tulki Beach-Coral Bay-The Blowholes-Carnavon-Kalbarri-Geraldton-Dongara-Geraldton-Cliffhead-Greenhead-Jurien Bay-Cervantes-Lancelin-Perth.

So, referring to the previous 'Wanderings', a good time in Darwin where we stayed on the Rodeo Ground and had to pretend we had a pet, as this was a condition of staying there (otherwise they are in competition with Caravan Parks). So every so often one of us would bark loudly or growl, and I would walk around with a lead whistling. No, sorry, just joking. As we said, not much in Darwin but we enjoyed the Jumping Crocodile Cruise.

Back to Katherine via Copperfield Dam, which is an idyllic free campsite by a dam where the wildlife is just great and only 8 vans are allowed at any one time. The weather had warmed up and swimming in the Dam was like a warm bath. Freshwater Crocs have been seen but they are harmless unless you approach nests. Didn't see any, but we let others get in first.

We stayed a few days in Katherine as we decided to have a radio/CD fitted in Pegasus to replace the radio/cassette. So, another few days lounging by the river at Lower Level National Park. Throwing scraps for the circling kites to catch was a real charge. Dozens of black kites circling and swooping above us.

Leaving Katherine, it was through Timber Creek and to the NT/WA border. Now here you have to dump all your fruit and veg, birdseed, honey etc, and they check for cane toads (that none have stowed away on your vehicle). The Ranger came on board to check the cupboards but it was all cursory and low key and there were no sniffer dogs, although he told us that they were thinking of introducing them for the toads. Through in to WA and on to Kununarra. Kununarra we thought boring and so we moved through to Wyndham via Maggie Creek. Not too much at Wyndham but we parked on the Wharf for some hours and overnighted at 5 Rivers Lookout.

Back to Maggie Creek and on through Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and then Derby, where we visited The Prison Tree, Myall's Bore and Cattle Trough and Frosty's Pool.

We tried to find the artificial wetlands but failed due to lack of signage. We watched people fishing from the jetty where there is an incredible rise and fall of tide. Derby has the highest tidal range in Australia, and the 2nd highest in the southern hemisphere.

40 km further west and we were in to Broome, where we spent a very enjoyable week. We swam off Cable Beach with the incredible rollers, where I lost a pair of sun glasses, visited the lighthouse and the dinosaur footprints, and Willie Creek Pearl Farm, where we learned about cultured pearls. The 2-hour tour was great Value For Money and highly informative, with breakfast (smokoe?) thrown in. We took to the water to visit an oyster tray line in the river and saw the resident 3-metre saltwater crocodile. He isn't approaching the boats at the moment, but when he does, he's history and will be trapped and relocated. He appeared a tiddler compared to some we have seen on our travels to date. It was here that I lost my specs into the river, but felt on balance I wouldn't try to retrieve them.

As we left Broome it was the Shinju Festival, of which we caught the opening procession. A bit amateurish compared to Spain.

Port Hedland was the next call, where there was little apart from a video in Tourist Info. The Salt & Iron Ore Industrial Tours where not VFM compared to Gladstone in Queensland, so we didn't bother but made our way to Roebourne and Point Sampson, but with no free camping available we pulled west to Cleaverville, which is a beach 26 km from Port Hedland and 12 km off-road. Absolutely fabulous if you like isolation and wildlife. We asked the caretaker if it was OK to swim, but he replied 'too many Joan of Arcs' (sharks), so we didn't. That afternoon while we were lounging on the beach he brought us some freshly caught fish as 'I've too many as it is'. An excellent dinner, as you can imagine.

From Cleaverville it was on to Karatha where we were able to free-camp up at a Shell Roadhouse. We went to the library (book-swap and internet facilities), where we saw a slight domestic. This guy hauled his wife (in plaster and on crutches) out of their vehicle, dumped her on the library steps and drove away. The library staff were very supportive.

We visited Dampier, which is the beach part of Karatha, driving down to Hearson's Cove where we were to watch 'Stairway to the Moon' – the moon across the sand flats at low tide. Actually what stands out in our memory were the dozens of Red Kangaroos on the track back to the road. Most impressive. Otherwise, not too impressed with Karatha and Dampier, both of which were very expensive with the caravan gas at $33 and $35 just for a cylinder swap. In Katherine it was $15. The fuel was also exorbitant!

Our next port of call was Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef where we spent an idyllic week at Tulki Beach - $10/day, no facilities except toilet and only 8 vehicles max. We swam in the lagoon and over the reef and we saw a green turtle, rays, an octopus and a myriad of fish. I was able to borrow a mask so I wasn't left out. This is one place we shall be visiting again and have already earmarked April 2008. Here, the spectacle 'par excellence' is the Whale Sharks on their yearly migration - we shall be back! We didn't go Whale Watching but in retrospect wish we had. Probably further south.

Much of the peninsula is a National Park, abounding with wildlife of every form. At this time we were still phoning UK almost every night and on our first trip to the Visitor Centre phone 6 km from the beach (leaving the trip a little late), we saw 73 kangaroos on the way there and 79 on the return journey. There was an Osprey nesting on the Communications Mast at the Visitor Centre and during that week we saw 6 Bustards. Amazing. The Visitor Centre was fabulous and the staff really friendly and helpful. We were really sad when the time came to leave, but even as we were driving out of town we counted 11 Emus just walking across the cricket pitch and grassed areas. Up to that stage, apart from zoos, we had only seen the occasional bird far off the road in the Bush.

Next stop was Coral Bay, but too commercialised for us so we stayed the day and then pulled back on the highway. However, in the 100 km here we saw 18 Wedge-tailed eagles, many close up and personal.

On to The Blowholes, a natural phenomenon just north of Carnavon when the tide blasts through funnels in the coral reefs. Impressive. We visited the plaque to HMAS Sydney 11, and fed the reef fish from the beach. Here again there was an Osprey nest on a small island 30 m off the beach and we spent hours just watching them diving for fish. Plenty of food here and they are on their second brood for this season. There were also dozens of Australian Hobbies, which are beautiful chestnut-coloured raptors. It appeared that some agency, maybe CALM (Conservation and Land Management), had attached wheel rims horizontally at the top of power poles, and on these ledges the birds had built nests. What a cost-effective strategy.

After these points of exceptional interest, Carnavon itself was a bit of a disappointment so we just purchased some prawns and went back onto the highway and drove through to Kalbarri. This is a clean neat little town, overflowing with Caravan Parks. On day one we visited Rainbow Jungle, which is a parrot breeding centre, and the Sea Horse Breeding Centre (one of only 2 in Australia - the other in Tasmania). Both were exceptional, with the latter being a new experience for both of us. Millions of sea horses are netted from the sea each year and the huge majority will die, as they will only accept live food. The ones reared here in captivity are 'trained' to accept dead shrimp so they will survive. To date it's only a small cottage industry run by a husband and wife, both marine biologists, but it was an excellent visit.

It was opposite Rainbow Jungle that we experienced another act of kindness, this time by a young man called Mason. We had pulled to the side of the road to park, as the car park wasn't big enough. We sank in the sand and even Pegasus couldn't pull us out. Mason was the first to stop, before driving off to get a tow-rope. Too thin and it broke on the first attempt. Undeterred, off he went for a hawser and we were dragged clear. In the meanwhile we had had 3 other offers of help and had met a lovely couple who were there for their wedding anniversary. Outstanding! It so revives one's faith in human nature.

The next morning, after wild-camping out of town, we returned for pelican feeding on the beach, to which only one bird turned up. Still, the day before there had been none and the volunteer feeder gave an excellent 20-min talk on Pelicans. Apparently this spectacle has been going on for decades, as a result of a local fisherman who used to gut his fish there. If he didn't do so, the birds used to cross the road and tap on the window with their beaks. When he sold up he ensured that this legacy was carried on. Kalbarri had a poor Visitor Centre and Library and the Internet was $1 for 5 minutes, which is scandalous.

Passing the Pink Lake at Port Gregory, where we pulled over and took photographs before having morning coffee, it was on to Geraldton. The lake is really impressive, apparently more so at dusk. The colour is due to a particular bacterium, Dunaliella salina, that inhabits the salt crystals, which are harvested by a local company as a rich source of beta carotene.

We really liked Geraldton and it was here that we met Steve Whyatt of Whyatt's Independent Land Rover Services. We were able to park up in his yard while work was being done on Pegasus. Steve has an arrangement with the Shire, whereby caravanners having work done on their Land Rovers can stay at the rear of the yard. We were connected to power and had water available, but eventually there is to be a discrete area at the rear with a disabled toilet etc. The cost of a 160K service and replacement Rear Pinion Seal was less than the 'pukka' Land Rover dealer in Cairns charged for a minor service. That was why we went back a week later for work to the water pump. Now, as we travel, we target Land Rover owners, with or without caravans, and hand out his card and a recommendation. We've promised to go back for the Major Service at 200K, when the rear engine seal is replaced.

In Geraldton we visited the various beaches on the scenic route and stayed at historical Greenhough. Here the prevailing wind causes trees to grow almost horizontal, parallel to the ground, and we have the photographs to prove it. Actually the wind was the one negative factor - towing in the afternoon, and against the wind, was a nightmare as we watched the fuel gauge drop. We calculated we were losing 30 km for every 100 km travelled. We went on the op shop trail (these are charity shops just like in UK and are real VFM) and had fish and chips at a great restaurant adjacent to Town Beach.

On to Dongara which we liked almost as much as Geraldton. 35 km out, we came upon a couple, the Marshalls, their car broken down on the side of the road. The previous Samaritan had stopped, sacrificed their drinking water and then suggested they flag down a caravan as 'they always carry lots of water'. We do and so we filled up the coolant system of their car with hot water, but to no avail. Head Gasket. So, in to Dongara, taking Arthur with me in the 4x4 and Audrey with Sandra in the van. Straight to Tourist Information where we met Anne-Marie who only works part-time on a Saturday. She took over (ex-forces) and in short order a mechanic and tow truck arrived to take the Marshalls back to their car. The car was then loaded and back they came.

Now, the Marshalls live at Harvey some 200+ km south of Perth, and there is no car hire in Dongara and no buses until Monday. Would you believe this incredible young lady offered them a lift to Perth where they were attending a book signing and from where they could obtain transport: that's 400 km+. Needless to say we sent a letter of commendation to the Shire. And the Marshalls? Well, we have been invited to see them further down south and were presented with a copy of Arthur's book 'Yes, there is life besides Cricket' which tells of his family history of 100 years. We have already read the book and found it fascinating (all except the cricketing bits -sorry Arthur). And for you Australians, he's the Arthur Marshall of Marshall Spreaders.

We spent days wandering Dongara, the surrounding beaches and just relaxing before returning to Geraldton and Steve.

Driving south from Dongara, we left the Brand Highway and took the more scenic Indian Ocean Highway. We stopped at Cliffhead, where on a free campsite we were just 10 m from the sea edge (memories of Greece), and then Greenhead where we had THE EXPERIENCE OF THE TRIP SO FAR. I realise you must be tired of the superlatives by now, but to swim with the sea-lions at Greenhead's Fisherman's Island ranks up there with one's first parachute jump, first dive in the Red Sea, Hammerheads off the Galapagos Islands … no need to go on.

Rod of Greenhead Sea-Lion Charters was exceptional and swimming with these mammals was a memory we shall take with us. They play with you, nose against you, pull at your fins and put their nose to your mask. They love the out-board of the dinghy and follow Rod out from the beach. We had 2 children with us, who were using the body boards provided. Wherever the children were, there were the sea-lions. They appear to have an affinity for them and this is the norm. 2 hours of heaven and an experience we would recommend to anyone, regardless of age. Another must for the future!

Cervantes, further south and the Pinnacles National Park. Thousands of limestone pinnacles which early explorers thought were the remains of a city. Load of rocks really.

Lancelin, which seemed to be an up-market town where the prawns were an unbelievable price. No wonder the freezers were full. Tony now tells us that they are not locally caught, as the fisherman can't be bothered, but are trucked in. We didn't think the town very welcoming but enjoyed a day on the beach, where we watched Terns fishing. But then that evening we met Tony & Robyn, and here we are on their drive.

We met them in a free campsite 100 km north and spent a lovely evening yarning. Now this we still have difficulty with: 'Just park in our drive, we won't be back until Sunday'. So here we are. Their sons Jason and Mark have been superb and Mark even reversed us in (that's right, still no good at that). We are plugged in and can use the home computer - hence this effort. Such amazing kindness, a trait which appears to be endemic here, and when combined with an incredible country, just makes for a memorable and unparalleled travelling experience to date.

Enough I hear you cry, so yes I think that is sufficient for now, and I will leave Perth for the next episode. Don't hold your breath too much, as neither Sandra nor I like cities so we shall be keeping things to a minimum. I guess you either like cities or not and we are not city folk.

STREAKY BAY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

23 November 2006

So here we are on a Library Internet which is FREE. Another bonus is that they do a book swap for travellers and others, although I must say that over the last 6 months we have really stocked up at library sales, op shops, etc and now carry a veritable library. Just wish we had the space to bring them back to Spain.

Yesterday we visited an Oyster Farm which was really excellent with a complimentary oyster for Sandra and 4 for me (sounds fair!!!). Actually Sandra wasn't over-impressed but I found mine lovely and sweet and salty. So we purchased 12 and had them last night as Oysters Kilpatrick (with Bacon, wine, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, etc). 1 minute in the microwave and it was a veritable feast - all for $5.50 which is €3 or ₤2.20. I had 8 and Sandra 4.

Today we were at an Abalone Farm and the guy was so enthusiastic it was magical. Would you believe that the divers out collecting the wild abalone here can earn $40-60,000 PER DAY? The negative are THE GREAT WHITES, or WHITE POINTERS as they are named locally. There were quite a few stories about close encounters, even though they now work from Shark cages on the bottom. Too 'iffy' for me - and at this rate of pay you would think they could afford to have a look-out person. In the local Shell servo there is a reproduction of a Great White which was caught locally on rod and line. YOU JUST WOULD NOT BELIEVE THE SIZE!!! It would keep you out of the water. Here attached to the Jetty is an enclosed swimming area, so I think that says it all.

So now we know about Oysters and Abalone, though with the latter at $35/tin - I don't think so!!! Abalone is a marine snail which is like one half of an Oyster. It attaches itself directly to its surroundings and is generally active nocturnally. So now you know - we didn't.

The weather is a lot hotter now as it's the start of Summer here and probably the blankets will be coming off shortly. Unfortunately we have done this before, only to have to put them on again. Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow we head south again from Baird Bay where, weather permitting, we are going to swim with sea-lions again. There may also be dolphins. Well, we enjoyed the sea-lions so much the last time we thought we would try again. (Can't have too much of a good thing!!!).

Did we mention that we thought Esperance was the most unfriendly place in Oz so far? We sent the CEO of the Shire a letter of complaint and, in all fairness, they replied by email and said they would love to see us back again. We replied that on the 2007-8 trip we would go from Norseman to Haydn to Roebourne specifically to miss Esperance out. No reply to that one. Albany however was absolutely brilliant but where we free-camped at Cosy Corner West, it's not permitted between December and April and that's when we shall be going through next time around.

The people here in the South are just as happy and friendly as those we have met along the way round, although going across the Nullarbor we had one 'iffy' moment. At 10 pm. we had a knock on the caravan door and it was 2 Aboriginees who had allegedly broken down. We told them we didn't have fuel and they then wanted water and sandwiches, etc. I was in the doorway talking to them, Sandra behind me with the can of MACE. Anyway another vehicle pulled in and they were off! So what do you do? Apparently this is the usual ploy and even in Elche, Spain, we have had Gypsies try the same trick with water.

So that's us for now and all is good and the journey continues to be the experience of a lifetime. Sandra is doing brilliantly with her Spanish lessons on CD and we purchased a personal CD player so she can continue on the beach, in the car or van, etc. I'm being lazy but then so long as I have Sandra along I am covered. Actually I have listened to the CDs and they do seem a good way of learning. Still, I should want to take notes.

Not sure yet where we shall stop for Xmas but in 2 days there will only be 1 month to go. Isn't it amazing how time flies by? Still so much to see, and we are already looking at Turkey for next Summer. Will see!

From Adelaide to Melbourne

February 2007

Here we are at Lakes Entrance, Victoria having completed the leg from Adelaide to Melbourne, a distance of just 1,726 km (1,040 miles). Thankfully, diesel prices have reduced since Adelaide, where we recorded the lowest fuel price so far at $1.14/litre. (It was $1.179/litre just outside Melbourne).

1 GBP=A$2.5 1 Euro= A$1.66

Meeting friends in Adelaide (motorhomers we had met for a whole 2 hours north of Perth), we settled in on a caravan site adjacent to Christies Beach – a pleasant site, although at $25/day it was hardly inexpensive. In addition there was a road to one side which tended to be busy and noisy 24/7.

Adelaide was a lot more compact than Perth and we did a number of trips including one to the Zoo with our friends, Ian and Jenny. Next time we should be able to park on their drive as they have since found alternative parking for their own motorhome.

Adelaide was also very useful mechanically, as we were able to purchase 3 nearly new Michelin tyres for the Discovery at $110 each ($375 each new) and a second-hand Steel Bull Bar for $730. We had made enquiries in Perth and had determined that a steel set was $1,700, Aluminium $1,350 and Composite $1,050, so this was a real bargain. Even better was that trading in the existing front bumper equalled the cost of fitting. Pegasus also had his 170,000 km service, which detected no faults whatsoever. We stayed in Adelaide for about 7 days and will stay longer on our next visit. However, it was fast approaching Xmas and we wanted to be settled for the big day.

So, we left Adelaide on 22.December 2006, since when we have travelled through:

Narrung-Kingston-Mount Gambier-Port MacDonnell-Mount Gambier-Nelson-Cape Bridgewater-Portland-Narrawong-Port Fairy-Warnambool-(start of The Great Ocean Road)-Port Campbell-Loch Ard Gorge-12 Apostles-Princetown-Otway National Park-Lavers Hill-Glenaire-Cape Otway-Apollo Bay-Lorne-Aireys Inlet-Angelesey-Torquay-Geelong-Melbourne.

Leaving Adelaide, we drove south to Narrung on the banks of Lake Alexandrina, which we had chosen as our site over Xmas. A really beautiful spot which we reached by ferry. No charge, as all ferries in South Australia are free. The bird life was truly spectacular and we spent days watching squadrons of pelicans, cormorants, grebes, black swans, ducks etc. We shared the green with a fellow traveller who, for the remainder of the year, is an opal miner at Andamooka (south of Coober Pedy). He was camping in the shed on the green and sailing the lake in his small cruiser. He spends 3-4 months a year sailing in this area before returning to his claim.

All was fine until Boxing Day, when the site was overrun with about 50 mixed-race individuals of all ages. We figured all was not well when our neighbour came over to say goodbye and beat a hasty departure. Three hours later, with golf balls flying around and children using the caravan and 4x4 as an adventure playground, we followed. Still, it is Aboriginal Land and we had had a lovely Xmas, although I wish I had caught more fish. Also, I discovered why Australians treat carp as vermin! The carp I caught here, which in UK would have dragged me around the lake, just went 'belly-up' and simply allowed themselves to be reeled in. Most disappointing!!

Along the Princes Highway to Kingston, where we spent a few days at Pinks Beach -we were the only ones there. We drove into Kingston for the launderette and shopping and walked the beach and jetty. Not at all crowded, which unfortunately was not our finding at Robe and Beachport: places we drove into and then summarily vacated.

On to Mount Gambier, stopping 12 km south of the city at Little Blue Lake. What a wonderful spot to stay! This entire area was the site of past volcanic activity and all the lakes and sink holes are the result of it. Little Blue Lake was our own swimming pool and with superb weather we swam and chatted to fellow travellers and people just bringing their families to the swimming hole, as it was too windy on the coast. It was like a cool bath. Although we were the only 'free campers' on the site, we felt well able to leave the caravan whilst we visited the seaside town of Port MacDonnell, renowned for its lobster. On an excellent day out, we filled up with water at the quay before driving the scenic coastal route, taking photos of Camel Rock, Captain's Head Arch and the furthest point south in South Australia. We visited the local penguin colony, although we were only able to spot 4 in the distance. We finished with local seafood at a take-away and back to the caravan.

We also made a number of trips into Mount Gambier, visiting The Blue Lake which is the town's water supply. We also visited Valley Lake and Umpherston Sinkhole, where we were fortunate to be able to feed a possum. The gardens at the sinkhole were originally part of a private garden with a small lake at the bottom. The lake is now gone, due to a fall in the water table, and the sinkhole gardens are owned by the city. The possums are normally visible at night when they come out to be fed and the entire gardens are floodlit. We were lucky, as there was a mother and baby who obviously felt a diurnal lifestyle more beneficial. I returned to the 4x4 for an apple, which she took gently piece by piece. Sandra was able to stroke her without difficulty as she sat eating, although the baby didn't emerge. Unfortunately it was the only one we saw.

We also visited the Wildlife Park at Valley Lake, which teems with bird life, as well as seeing a kangaroo, wallabies, and 2 emus, in a really lovely setting. We walked to the Centenary Tower (where Sandra got locked in) and also the Cave Garden in the middle of town, which must be spectacular when water is gushing into it. With the prolonged dry weather, however, it looked a little sad, a perspective enhanced by the supermarket trolleys that had been hurled into it. We stayed at Mount Gambier for a good 5 days before travelling east into Victoria.

Crossing the border 15 km from Little Blue Lake, our first stop was at Nelson where we took on water for the caravan, emptied the toilet cassette and visited the local beaches. Very disappointing and scruffy, so we made our way to Cape Bridgewater where we unhitched before visiting the Petrified Forest (actually Salt Tubes), and the Blowholes (non-existent). There is a seal colony but a 2-hour walk in 40 degC seemed a little excessive - maybe another day. From Cape Bridgewater it was into Portland, where we did some shopping before driving east and over-nighting at Sawpit Campsite, set deep in a forest. No as quiet as we would have liked, as there was a motorhome meeting being held there, with lots of comings and goings. It also rained heavily.

Next was Port Fairy which we really enjoyed. We parked at the causeway leading to Griffiths Island and then, risking the heavily laden skies, we walked the perimeter of the island which is home to a colony of mutton birds. Thousands of these birds leave each morning, flying out to sea to feed before returning at dusk. We were unlucky and didn't see them returning, although the reeking burrows were there, as were numerous scattered corpses. Port Fairy stands at the mouth of the Moyne River and is really beautiful. However, further sightseeing was abandoned, as the heavens opened and the rain lashed down. We were soaked. We free-camped for the night just east of the town, in the hope of returning the next morning for a cruise to Lady Julia Percy Island and its seal colony. It was not to be, as the weather took a turn for the worse and we moved on east.

On to Warnambool and the start of The Great Ocean Road. Now, we had had great expectations regarding this stretch of the journey, although our friends in Adelaide had tempered hopes with 'You will be on the wrong side of the road and Sandra will have to look across you for the view'. So it turned out. In fact it was a huge anti-climax. The road surface is awful and, with it being school holidays, the road was crowded and we were aware we were impeding traffic. A really difficult tow. Also, everywhere was crowded with holiday makers, although it bemused us as to why it was so popular. (I guess because it lies between Adelaide and Melbourne, and near all the towns in North Victoria!). The little towns along the road were inevitably packed and the campsites just had to be seen to be believed. The units (tents, caravans, motorhomes) were so closely packed together that the cars had to be parked beside The Road itself. It made us feel claustrophobic just looking at them.

Things to see? Well we called in at The Bay of Island, Loch Ard Gorge, The Twelve Apostles and Cape Otway Lighthouse. So we have been there and 'bought the tee-shirt' but on our next journey we shall take the inland route along the Princes Highway. I mentioned The Cape Otway Lighthouse but actually you can't even get close enough to take a photograph without paying an entry fee of $12.50 each, so that was a no-no. Leaving Apollo Bay we strained to identify Sausage Gully where, we had been informed, koalas were just 'falling out of the trees'. We need not have worried about missing it, as it was well marked by all manner of tourist buses, cars, people-carriers etc. And yes! there were dozens of koalas visible, all sitting there and doing nothing. Still, with a brain the size of a pea and on a diet of gum leaves, what can one expect?!

So, exiting The Great Ocean Road at Geelong, it was along the M1 and into a very very smoky Melbourne - but then, you will have heard of and seen the magnitude of the bush fires devastating the State. More of this in the next travelogue.

From Melbourne to Brisbane and Mountain Creek 

March 2007

A bit of a 'pot pourri' here as we are compiling this as we go along, in preparation for the end of our journey and our flight to Hong Kong at the beginning of April. We start here in Canberra, the Nation's Capital, where we once again stayed with new friends and travellers that we met on the road. Barbara and Frank live in Canberra and we met them right at the start of our journey at Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands. We were all on the Rodeo Ground. Whilst still in Victoria we received an email from Barbara asking where we were and not to forget to call in. Really heart-warming.

So, assuming that this travelogue started at Melbourne we have:

Melbourne – Bairnsdale - Lakes Entrance - Bombala (NSW) – Cooma – Canberra – Cowra – Orange – Bathurst - Katoomba - Pacific Highway North – Forster – Taree - Coffs Harbour – Grafton – Ballina – Brisbane - Mountain Creek (100 km north of Brisbane and back to our starting point).

Distance travelled from Melbourne to Mountain Creek, Queensland - 3,845 km (2,400 miles).

So, quite a mixed time since the last email! As you may know, we received an SOS from fellow travellers when we were just west of Melbourne and, as a result, drove straight through Melbourne and on to Tambo Upper, not far from the fire front in Victoria. Hans and Margaret have a smallholding of 46 acres between Bairnsdale and Tambo Upper and, with the approaching fire front, they were a little concerned about going to work. Hans especially, in working for the forestry, was on 'the line' 14 hours/day. So each morning after he and Margaret had left for work, we would bring out the tractor towing the water pump and, having tested it, would keep watch for embers. This went on for 3 weeks before the situation ameliorated somewhat. In that time we had a few days off, and trips to Lakes Entrance, Paynesville, Eagle Point and the Silt Jetties. Unfortunately with the fires raging to the north, we were prohibited from exploring The Great Alpine Road due to traffic restrictions. Still it was lovely on the farm with a plethora of bird and wildlife. As the fire risk diminished we set about catching up with farm work, remaining there for a further 3 weeks before moving east.

The only real trip of this period was a tow back to Melbourne and the Traveller factory to the north of Melbourne. (Our caravan is a 20' Traveller Hurricane.). What service and what kindness! We thought we only had minor items to take care of, although we had been plagued by electrical eccentricities all the way around. The diagnosis? A faulty on-board battery charger, which was summarily replaced with one 10 times more powerful. A new splash-back, repair and modification to upholstery, a new front water tap etc, all within 36 hrs. And not a cent did it cost us. We were almost embarrassed. We stayed on the factory lot, connected to water and electricity, and had a tour of the factory itself which was extremely interesting. Another set of superb people!

Back to Bairnsdale and then on to the State Forest outside Lakes Entrance where we camped for 5 days. We saw the biggest goanna to date at about 1.5 m. A fearsome beast. We shopped at Lakes Entrance and dined overlooking the sea. Really picturesque and touristy and a great favourite, except for this current year. The majority of tourists evacuated when it appeared the fires would only stop at the Ocean and so the town has been dealt a horrendous financial blow. Hardly any tourists were visible while we were there, with 'Vacancy' signs everywhere.

Leaving Lakes Entrance, it was on to Newmerella Logging Station for an overnight stop and then, crossing the State line, to Bombala, New South Wales. Now Bombala was our final chance to view a platypus in the wild and we were reassured that NSW has the highest concentration of platypus in the nation. Well, there were certainly enough for us and we spent an idyllic 5 days camped by the side of the Bombala River at The Platypus Reserve. We met so many interesting fellow travellers, and each morning and evening we would sit by the river, or stand on the lookout, and watch platypus. It became quite addictive and once we had spotted them from the lookout, we would go down to the river bank waiting for them to resurface. Then it was just a question of 'freezing' until the animal dived and then following it up or down stream. Magical!

Question: what are new-born platypus called? Puggles. And did you know that the female has no teats but that instead there are 2 patches of skin which ooze milk. Although we saw one enormous one, most were about 18" long.

On to Canberra and our friends, parking up in their drive. Frank was kind enough to reverse the caravan in. Day 2: they took us on a sightseeing trip of the city and what a beautiful city it is. The city is plotted/developed on a triangle, which can best be appreciated from the hilltops overlooking it, and it's incredibly green.

When the separate colonies of Australia were federated in 1901 and became States, a decision to build a national capital was included in the constitution. The site was selected in 1908, diplomatically situated between arch rivals Sydney and Melbourne, and American architect Walter Burley Griffin won an international competition to design the city. In 1911 the Commonwealth government bought land for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and in 1913 decided to call the capital Canberra, believed to be an Aboriginal term for 'meeting place'.

Then it was the first of our two visits to The National Museum of Australia which is really impressive. Don't you appreciate these so much more when the signage is in English?

Gratefully there are no dusty cabinets for fading exhibits here. New technology and hands-on interactive exhibitions present the social history of Australia and its people. The aim of the Museum is to explore what it means to be Australian, examining key issues, events and characters. 'Tangled Destinies' explores the relationship between people and the land and 'Horizons' reveals the story of Australian immigration. The 'First Australians' gallery puts Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders' history in perspective. There literally is something for everyone at this dynamic and colourful building, with its diversely angled walls and engaging landscaping.

Day 3 and The War Memorial and Museum: which rates as the most popular tourist attraction in the city. I know, that's a bit sad, but it was comprehensive and eminently moving. As we arrived, one of the ex-forces volunteers was starting to give his free tour and we tagged along. These things are always better when there is a personal connection, and as he wandered from the WW1 to WW2 exhibits, you could see the memories alight in his eyes. He must have been at least 80, but there was the military bearing and the steely eye. His presentation was excellent and at the end we had to stand in line to shake his hand. And YES, I know I am biased.

At the Memorial you have numerous video/DVD presentations, including one of 'G- George' a Lancaster Bomber that completed 40 sorties over Germany without the loss of a crew member. This is done so tastefully, as was the representation of the Japanese Midget Submarine attack on Sydney Harbour. And all this is free. We were there for a full day, returning the following day for The Commemorative Area, which includes The Cloisters, The Hall of Memory and The Courtyard that contains the pool of Reflection and The Eternal Flame.

The Cloisters contain The Roll of Honour for Australian War Dead, recording the names of over 102,000 Australian servicemen and women who have died in War. The Western cloister contains the names of those who fell in WW1 and the eastern in WW2 and other more recent conflicts. Somewhere in the Roll of Honour is the name of The Unknown Soldier, whose remains are interred in The Hall of Memory.

The Hall of Memory, as well as the above, has mosaic and stained glass windows designed by Australian artist Napier Waller. The mosaic consists of over 6 million tesserae imported from Italy. The mosaic inside the dome is divided into 7 segments, representing Australia's 7 pointed federal star. The open hands symbolise the earth giving up the souls of the dead, who rise in the form of winged sarcophagi towards the sun, the symbol of eternal life. The circular cornice incorporates such Australian motifs as wattle leaves and black swans, and an unbroken gold chain symbolising continuity. Each of the 15 panels in the 3 stained glass windows portray an Australian in the uniform and equipment of the First World War. The figures typify the qualities displayed by those servicemen and women.

On 11 November 1993, an unknown Australian soldier from WW1, who had been exhumed from a cemetery in France, was re-interred in the Hall of Memory. He symbolises all Australians who have died in War.

The unknown Australian Soldier is one of 46,000 Australians who died on the Western Front during WW1, and one of the 18,000 Australians killed in that war who have no known grave.

A truly inspirational symbol of Australia's continuing commitment to its Armed Forces.

Day 5 and Parliament House: The home of Australia's Parliament and the meeting place of the nation, Parliament House, is located on a 32 hectare site on Capital Hill and is the focal point of Canberra. Designed by Romaldo Giurgola it was opened on 9 May 1988 by HM The Queen.

The layout of the building takes visitors through a journey symbolic of Australia's history: the Aboriginal mosaic in the Forecourt, the use of marble and timber in the Foyer providing a link to the arrival of Europeans, the Great Hall tapestry and embroidery making subtle reference to the settlement and cultivation of the land, whilst The Members' Hall, designed as a lofty ceremonial space, is at the heart of the building.

Forming into another free guided tour and starting at The Great Hall, we learned about Parliament House, visiting both The House of Representatives and The Senate (the Lower and Upper Houses respectively). As Parliament was not sitting, we were able to sit and take photographs. Then up to the roof of the building which is partly lawned. Majestic, panoramic views of the city spread below and around you. Here you get a true feel for the size of the Flagpole which is 81 m high and made of stainless steel. The flag itself is 12.8 m x 6.4 m, approximately the same size as the side of a double decker bus! Another excellent day out!

On our final day, a Sunday, we went to a 'Concert in the Park' which was a joint venture between the city and the American Embassy: all for free - although it was Country & Western. It was nonetheless very enjoyable, as was the pizza that followed.

Monday, and it was a sad farewell to Canberra and our gracious hostess Barbara, who empowered us to do so much.

We had decided to pull north but, having arrived at Orange, we decided that we would find the coast more interesting and so went directly east, striking the coast at Gosford just north of Sydney. And no, we didn't do Sydney as we were 'citied out' after Canberra. We decided to explore Sydney on our next visit and on the way down to Tasmania.

Now, I should like to report that we found this part of the journey as stimulating and interesting as the previous ones - however, such was not to be. Yes, we pulled through the various coastal towns up the NSW coast and, although pretty, they were also congested and commercialised. We tried a few of the National Parks: equally packed and, at $23/day, no bargain. Then we received a call from our friends in Brisbane, suggesting that we just make our way back and then sort out some short trips. That was good enough for us and so, with the usual 200 km/day and calling in at the coastal highlights, we travelled on up to Queensland. Crossing the state line of course brought us through Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast, which is an exact description if you like asphalt and tourism and high density population. Not for us, and anyway we had visited Surfers Paradise when we visited Pegasus' previous owner, George, just after we purchased the Discovery in 2006.

Finally back to the Sunshine Coast and Mountain Creek. A note of pathos as, travelling north, one sees the signs for Australia Zoo, the majority of which still show Steve Irwin in a number of poses with crocodiles ('salties'). Strange to think he is no longer with us, but what a life he led! Now there are newer posters with his wife and daughter, Bindi, who appears to have inherited his crown. Let's hope she doesn't follow Judy Garland!

So here we are again, although this time the Disco and caravan are on the 'nature strip' (grassed area) outside the house and connected to the electricity.

What a journey and what a country! A country matched only by THE PEOPLE. We have to say it, after Europe 'a breath of fresh air'. We have met such openness, honesty and friendship that it will be difficult to leave. However, our date for departure to Hong Kong hastens towards us and we have all sorts of payments to arrange for storage, insurance, Rego (Road Fund Licence) etc. Still, we are within budget and will shortly be producing a financial guide for those of you who may be tempted to follow in our wheel tracks.

So 31,614 km from start to finish or just under 20,000 miles.

The 25 Best and the 5 Worst Experiences in Australia

Here, to finally finish, are our 25 best experiences on this journey and our 5 worst! Now this list is purely personal and is not even remotely inclusive. Make the journey yourself and see if you agree. Sandra says that beauty is always there, you just have to be able to see it.

So, by State from the start of our journey:

Queensland

Fraser Island

Tin Can Bay

Paronella Park

Cumberland Mine Lake, Georgetown

Granite Gorge, Mareeba

Barramundi Farm,Karrumba

Crocodile Farm, Rockhampton

Townsville - Reef HQ and Museum of Queensland

Northern Territory

Alice Springs

Rainbow Valley

Dinky Dingo at Stuart's Well

Copperfield Dam

Jumping Crocs, Darwin

Katherine - Lower Level National Park, Hot Springs & Gorge

Western Australia

Greenhead - Sea Lions

Ningaloo Reef,Exmouth

Willie Creek Pearl Farm, Broome

Crystal Cave, Augusta

Nullarbor Plain & Head of Bight

Whale World, Albany

Cosy Corner, Albany

South Australia

Baird Bay - Sea Lions and Dolphins

Coober Pedy

New South Wales

Bombala Platypus Reserve

Canberra

By way of balance, here are the disappointments:

The Rock (whatever you wish to call it) - an anticlimax

The Great Ocean Road - ditto

Esperance - unfriendliest place in Oz

Tennant Creek - most threatening place in Oz

Barkley Homestead - most expensive servo in Oz and a real rip-off

Next time we'll be revisiting a few but seeing so many others. As our friends say, 'there are just so many roads, and it is a kind and easy country for travellers'. As they say here, you have to go the other way, 'so you can see the back of the road signs'.

Can't wait to start the next journey!

So until Hong Kong,

Our Fondest Regards to all our friends. You can contact us at:

Dr Bob & Sandra, Queensland, March 2007

For Dr Bob's advice on what you need to know and do in order to travel successfully in Australia, click: Dr Bob's Australian Prescription.