Southport Revisited – The End

Sep 2 – I drove across the Northern Territory border, back into Queensland today, the state we started from.

Queensland/NT border

Queensland/NT border

Vandals everywhere, it seems.

NT/Queensland border

NT/Queensland border

Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. ~1,900ks to the Gold Coast to close the loop!

The scenery on the road from Three Ways Roadhouse, Northern Territory to Camooweal, Queensland, crossing the Barkly Tableland – frying pan flat in all directions, horizon to horizon.

north west Queensland

north west Queensland

Suby & TAS enjoying a breather and taking in the scenery

Suby & TAS enjoying a breather and taking in the scenery

Encountered a round-up on the drive to Mount Isa – breaking the tedium of the long drive.

cowgirls on the job

cowgirls on the job

Open ranges without fences along the highway. They call it “droving” here.
Ohighway round-up

highway round-up

Sep 6 – Arrived at Longreach for the night. I broke my rule for the 1st time and drove through dusk, into the darkness to get there. As soon as night fell, the kangaroos started to fly through the air! Mobs of them zooming across in front of me and through the grass along-side the road. White knuckle driving for the last hour into camp. I sure won’t do that again.

Sep 7 – Leaving Longreach this morning, I saw the carnage along the highway – kangaroo bodies everywhere – sister and brother, mother and daughter, father and son – bodies for miles and miles on the road out-of-town.

That afternoon, I crossed the Great Dividing Range (GDR), back onto the eastern coast heading for Emerald. I last crossed the GDR, heading west, last December when I left Bellingen for Tamworth.

After driving for a day and half across a pancake flat plain, it was a shock to hit the hills of the GDR – curves, hills, up, down and around.

Driving hard to reach Clermont, I clipped a kangaroo’s tail as it flew out of nowhere, across my ‘bow’. Just like the picture below, only from right to left. Just had time to touch the brakes – didn’t want to jack-knife. It was enough to give him time to fly past with a small smack on his tail. Couldn’t stop to see if he was OK – hope he was.

roo crossing

roo crossing

I met 4 of those monster trucks today with ‘crazy’ loads on board. I learned in Western Australia, if you see 2 point cars, then you better get your ass off the road, because there’s something humongous coming! One point car, OK, but 2, get off the road if you can. IF YOU CAN, being the key. I had negotiated several successfully today until late afternoon when 2 point cars came up out of nowhere, with the MOTHER OF ALL LOADS right on their heals, no warning. There was no time to find a place to pull the van over.

They caught me on a section of Queensland highway without a shoulder, right in front of a bridge without rails that dropped off into a deep gully. I had about 2 seconds and 30 cms to pull off the highway as best I could. I could have trashed the car and van by driving them off the bridge into the gully, but I took the gamble and just had to sit and watch this monster roar buy at high-speed, hoping it wouldn’t destroy me, the car and the van. This is cowboy bullshit!!! – Jeez Putu.

Something like this, only traveling at 80 or 90k/hour right at me.

hell on wheels

hell on wheels

I’m awarding Queensland the raspberry for the worst roads in the country. I think I’m qualified after the miles I’ve put in. In no time at all after crossing from the NT into Queensland I noticed the narrow roads and their wavy, bumpy, lumpy condition. Their crumbling edges, lack of verges – grass and bush growing up to the edge of the pavement in places. Today I went from paved highway to dirt/gravel patches on and off many, many times. This is the main highway from Longreach to Rockhampton – WTF.

Are interstate highways funded by the commonwealth government? If they are, you voters might want to check, because someone in the QLD government may be pocketing the coin instead of spending it on highway maintenance. They’re a mess compared to the rest of OZ, where the roads are mostly excellent! My beer tonight was a geyser when I opened it, so shaken up after today’s drive.

Slowly, slowly Putu.

Sept 10 – I sold TAS today! A couple from Moranbah bought her. Good old gumtree.com.au. My sweet TAS. She’s sheltered me so well for almost 11 months now. Many miles and experiences shared. Sunshine, rain, wind, dust, road trains, kangaroos, cattle, dingoes, emu, camels, the Nullarbor, mountains, plains, 300k stretches without petrol, loneliness, laughs, excitement, adventure!

Sept 14 – I left TAS in Moranbah today with Gayle and Gary. So sad to leave her behind. I know they’ll take good care of her, Laurel and Ian. They’ve been looking for a long time and knew all about the Bottaro brothers. I know she’ll be in good hands.

I made the run for the Gold Coast, stopping overnight in Rockhampton and Hervey Bay. These are places I’ve been before, but I couldn’t call my trip complete until I reached the starting point in Southport, just down the highway.

Here’s my new home after leaving TAS behind.

home now that TAS is gone

home now that TAS is gone

Sept 17 – we drove into Southport this afternoon and passed the caravan park we started from last November – no flags waving, no cars honking, no band playing – oh well … you done good Suby!

I’ve been everywhere man – Southport, Murwillumbah, Bellingen, Tamworth, Mudgee, Lithgow, Gundagai, Melbourne, Lancefield, Green’s Beach, Beauty Point (Launceston) , Seven Mile Beach (Hobart), Lake Burbury, Strahan, Burnie, Apollo Bay, Portland, Keith, Adelaide, Nuttbush Retreat (Port Augusta), Streaky Bay, Fowler’s Bay, Border Village, Fraser Range Sheep Station WA, Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Albany, Big Valley Sheep Station (Margaret River), Perth, Geraldton, Cue, Tom Price, Port Hedland, Stanley, Broome, Fitzroy Crossing, Turkey Creek, Timber Creek, Pine Creek, Darwin, Cooinda, Batchelor, Mataranka Homestead, Three Ways, Alice Springs, Yulara, Camooweal, Mount Isa, Longreach, Clermont, Rockhampton and Hervey Bay – and all points in between!

Here’s the map (thanks Joy): Ctrl/click

http://maps.google.com.au/maps/ms?vps=2&ie=UTF8&hl=en&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=209198152440536352020.0004d957157c9d1f2073c

As my favourite philosopher, Forrest Gump, said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”, like my trip to Bali. So, get out there and keep opening doors, because when you stop, well …

Folks, thanks for following and sharing your thoughts.

Thanks for the idea Nancy.

** The End **

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Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta is a 25k drive away from Uluru across the surrounding plain, all part of the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park. All too much for words or the camera lens.

the story

the story

Do the 2 click on these.

from the south across the desert plain

from the south across the desert plain

Kata Tjuta - highest point 546 metres

Kata Tjuta – highest point 546 metres

The Valley of the Winds walk is a 4 hour circuit through this rugged terrain. The white dot in the centre of the photo below is a walker along the trail – perspective.

Valley of the Winds

Valley of the Winds

no crowds here

no crowds here

You can just make out that white shirt again on the ridge in the centre below – 2 click.

rough terrain, up and down

rough terrain, up and down

After talking me into doing the full circuit, the walkers below ‘chickened’ out, turned around and headed back to the start. I walked down into the valley, looping around to the left to finish the walk alone. I know it’s trite, but it sure was like the ‘land before time’ – expected to see dinosaurs running across the plain down there.

looking down on the 'land before time'

looking down on the ‘land before time’

~35 degrees, hot sun beating down, 4 hours of walking, one step at a time. Long, long, long shower back at camp later.

along the trail in the Valley of the Winds

along the trail in the Valley of the Winds

This is the start of the road from Kata Tjuta to Docker River near the Western Australia border. Once there, the road heads out between the Gibson Desert to the north and the Great Victoria Desert to the south, dirt road all the way. It’s called the Tjukaruru Road. Hundreds of kilometres before hitting pavement again somewhere north of Kalgoorlie. You don’t head out there unless you’re very well equipped and really know your ‘stuff’.

'highway' to Western Australia

‘highway’ to Western Australia

Farewell Uluru/Kata Tjuta, it truly was a pleasure! Thank-you.

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Uluru

I’ll do separate posts, 1st Uluru and then Kata Tjuta.

Uluru/Kata Tjuta (U/KT) National Park is almost 500ks and a 6 hour drive into desert country from Alice. They’ve built a resort town called Yulara nearby to house the visitors. There’s a petrol station, a hotel, a supermarket, a campground and of course a pub – that’s about it. Some folks say the area is over commercialized now, but I don’t agree. I think they’ve done it tastefully and kept the town site well away from U/KT.

I think the visit to this national park was the highlight of my trip around Oz. U/KT and the surrounding country don’t disappoint. Just awe-inspiring. For me, this was one time when the reality of the event met all of my expectations or even exceeded them. There were many more natural wonders to see. Wish I had allowed a few weeks instead of the 4 nights I camped here, but by this stage of the journey I was on a mission to finish.

For me, it was an emotional experience driving up to Uluru. You just go “WOW”. Words fail, as do photographs. It’s just too much to take on board. It’s 348 metres (1,142 feet) high and is 9.4ks (5.8 miles) in circumference. Do the 2 click on these.

what can you say?

what can you say?

Folks that climb follow the ridge traveling from the centre up to the right and then walk across the top to the highest mid-point of the rock. About 35 people have died doing the climb. They drop things, try to get them back and fall off – 348 metres – a one way trip.

I walked around her – 10+ks given the course of the track – 3 1/2 hours in the hot sun, 35 degrees, with five, 600ml water bottles in my pack – no sweat!

spot the climbers on the top ridge

spot the climbers on the top ridge

There are several water holes around the base of Uluru – difficult to comprehend when you consider the surrounding desert country. They say it’s an incredible sight when it rains out here and the water pours off the cliff faces. This particular cliff rises straight up, probably 100 metres above the water hole.

water hole - note high water mark

water hole – note high water mark

flowers pop up out of the sand

flowers pop up out of the sand

I missed a spring bloom just starting here

I missed a spring bloom just starting here

It’s a single rock and like an iceberg, 7/8′s of it is below ground level. It might be a giant brain, placed here by folks from outer space. A kind of control centre for our solar system.

brain matter?

brain matter?

sense of scale is lost here

sense of scale is lost here

My constant companion around Alice/Uluru/Kata Tjuta. You’re never alone.

me and my shadow

me and my shadow

one of her toes

one of her toes

Aug 28 – up at 6:30 for my last day at Uluru/Kata Tjuta. Headed to Uluru for a tour with a park ranger.  I love these. The last one was at Kakadu and these guys/gals know their stuff. A chance to learn about the history, geography, flora and fauna at Uluru. The tour started at 8. It was a cold morning ~7C (45 for those Fahrenheit folks). It would be 35 by afternoon.

A small group of 20 or so tourists showed up and we met our Aussie national park ranger, Mate (not his real name).

Off we went on a 2 hour walk/discussion. Along the way, one of the visitors asked Mate some questions about the local aborigines. Questions related to the condition of the people.

Mate said that while it wasn’t the purpose of the walk, as he’d been asked direct questions, he’d do his best to give answers. Not opinions he said, but facts as he knew them.

This is a précis of what he told us, not a quote, but his message as best I can summarize it:

Mate began by saying that he didn’t like talking about this part of the local history and felt ashamed by the story.  He said that he’d be in a fight within 5 minutes of walking into a local pub and having this discussion.

The Anangu (local aboriginal tribe) people have lived in the Uluru/Kata Tjuta area for thousands of years. Anangu here today are directly descended from those who lived here 10,000 years ago. You could consider them one of the oldest and most successful cultures on earth. They lived in complete harmony with their environment and coexisted with their neighbouring tribes, flourishing all that time.

Then, about 140 years ago, the 1st British explorers arrived. The Anangu didn’t know what to make of them. They arrived on the backs of other animals – horses and camels – something completely unknown to the Anangu. When 1st seen, the new arrivals seemed joined with their animals, and then strangely separate themselves from the animals as they dismounted. They ate food from bags they carried with them and didn’t have to hunt and forage for food. On and on it goes.

We’re better prepared for the arrival of beings from outer space than the Anangu were for the arrival of the British. There are Anangu alive today that can remember the 1st time they saw white men.

The British claimed all land in the name of the monarch – all the land across Australia. Later, some of the land was leased to settlers by governments of the day.

Anangu were driven off their land, rounded up and assigned to stations leased by the settlers. Anangu worked on the stations and were paid, not in cash, but in food and provisions, effectively making them prisoners of the station managers. The Anangu were not permitted to leave the stations they were assigned to.

Police hunted escapees down, returning them to station managers in leg shackles and neck irons. Police units hunted Anangu down and shot them on site, killing as many as possible.

The story goes on ……

As Mate said, you can destroy a people in a very short time, but it will take generations to re-build their dignity and sense of self-worth.

The end of Mate’s talk.

Well, things are improving slowly.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke returned the Uluru/Kata Tjuta land to the Anangu some years ago. The Anangu lease it back to the government as a national park. Today, a committee of 4 senior Anangu women, 4 senior Anangu men and 4 government officials manage the park.

After the walk, I sat down on a bench at the base of Uluru where the climbers ascend. I watched the climbers and thought about what I’d heard and seen. The Anangu ask visitors not to climb. Uluru is woven into their history and is culturally sacred to them.

While I sat there, along came a group of about 15 school kids in uniform, with their big floppy hats, bright eyes and eager faces. Boys and girls about the age of 12 or 13, I’d guess. They ignored the geezer on the bench and sat together as a group just next to him. Soon a school teacher came along and began to quiz them about climbing the rock. As teachers do, he didn’t lecture, but asked them why you might not want to climb the rock. Well, the kids soon came up with the 3 reasons – safety, environment and culture (aboriginal).

So I thought, “this is how it goes, little by little, step by step”.

Rangers talk with the visitors. Teachers talk with the children. People talk with each other. Things improve over time. “Slowly, slowly Putu.”

Generations, Mate!

I walked away feeling a little better, impatient, but better.

a request from the Anangu

a request from the Anangu

pause and reconsider

pause and reconsider

Poor photo below, but it demonstrates the challenge. According to surveys most visitors choose not to climb. Apparently, they’ll close the climb permanently when the number of visitors wishing to climb drops below 20%.

the majority don't wish to climb

the majority don’t wish to climb

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Alice Springs

Aug 17 – Left Darwin, headed for Alice Springs. Alice has always had a special ‘ring’ for me, ever since my 1st visit to Oz in the sixties. Now, I was about to see her for myself. It was a 3 day drive from Darwin to Alice – uneventful and boring even. A lot of driving through featureless scrub land – flat without any visibility, like driving through a scrub tunnel.

One noteworthy exception – on the 1st day out of Darwin I stopped for a break at Larrimah, a blink and you miss it town on the Stuart highway south of Katherine. Went into Fran’s Tea House. Fran’s about 5′ 2″ and built like a brick you know what. Her café is in the old Larrimah police station and museum. She’s posted hand-written signs everywhere – chalk on blackboards – menus galore, others reading “don’t enter, private, blah, blah” – It would take a good half hour to read them all. I asked Fran for a coffee and a scone, and she came out of the kitchen with 2 scones and a slice of banana cake – just wonderful – the best scones I’ve tasted in a long, long time. The coffee was just so delicious too – “I grind the beans myself” Fran says with this huge beaming smile. Photo courtesy of Australia’s Outback Northern Territory website. Fran’s on the left.

Fran's Devonshire Tea House, Katherine Area, Northern Territory, Australia

At one point, a customer arrived and walked into Fran’s kitchen, not knowing she was entering the kitchen. Fran asked her not to come in there because …. The woman left in a huff without ordering. You’ve got to picture this – in the middle of nowhere, about 5 people at a café – the next ‘watering hole’ a long, long drive away and a person takes offence at such a trivial event? Anyway, I sat there enjoying my coffee and scone (took the other scone and banana cake with me for later on the road), soaking up the surroundings and taking in the ‘show’ – man there’s a ‘show’ everywhere you go, even in Larrimah!

When it was time to pay, Fran invited me into her kitchen, yes into her kitchen, where she gave me 2 stuffed toys – she had a collection in there. Fran insisted the kangaroo had to go to Canada. So Natalie, here it comes. The little pink teddy went in the mail to Riley. Sorry Amber, I’m thinking of you, but I only had 2 and you’ve probably outgrown teddies anyhow – I love you too.

sweetheart Fran's gifts

sweetheart Fran’s gifts

If you’re ever in Larrimah stop at Fran’s, say “G’day”, sample her goodies and just sit and enjoy the experience. Wonderful!

Alice sits in the very centre of Australia, surrounded by desert country. It’s ~1,500ks from Darwin in the north and ~1,500ks to Adelaide in the south.

Alice somehow fell short of my expectations. I guess it’s the old saying about “the best part of a thing is the anticipation of it”. I imagined so much and pictured an old town in the middle of the desert with cool Aussie pubs up and down main street, folks sitting out on the covered verandahs enjoying a cool one. Well, it turns out it’s just another modern town with that plastic feel they have. I mean there’s even an enclosed mall, a Woolies, a Coles, a MacDonalds, a Hungry Jacks … and sadly, a lot of vacant store fronts. No offence Alice – very nice, but … hmmm. I did find a yoga studio though.

I loved the wild country around Alice – she sits in the middle of the MacDonnell ranges, east and west. Here’s a few photos – rugged and beautiful with hints of what lies in the country beyond. Do the 2 click for the best view.

the MacDonnell Ranges

the MacDonnell Ranges

The Todd River ‘flows’ through the centre of Alice. Some locals have a hard time remembering when the water last ran, but apparently it has flooded parts of the town in the past. They hold annual ‘boat races’ here running through the sandy river bed – the Henley-on-Todd. There’s a great walk along the Todd. In no time at all you’re in the outback, walking through this wonderful Mars-scape country – hilly, dry, rocky, sandy dirt, all to yourself. Walked there every day.

the Todd River

the Todd River

it has flooded parts of the town

it has flooded parts of the town

Day trips out of Alice visiting the gorges in the east and west MacDonnell ranges.

several gorges cut through the range

several gorges cut through the range

Baggy ass shorts, sorry Billy.

the Ghost Gum

the Ghost Gum

Do the 2 click below to count the flies on my back and hat. You you can’t see the ones buzzing around my face.

gold lies in them thar hills

gold lies in them thar hills

Glen Helen water hole

Glen Helen water hole

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Darwin

I arrived in Darwin on June 5th and it’s now August 13th. That’s pretty much winter in Darwin – June, July and August. Time to get on the road again and get this journey done. While here, I’ve enjoyed side trips to Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks and a wonderful visit to Bali.

Taking stock, since the Gold Coast last November, I’ve covered 9,000 of the 14,000ks to do the circuit. Just 5,000 to go. Again, these distances are straight-line between major centres – Gold Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth … They don’t include Tasmania or any of the side trips. Alice Springs, 1,500ks due south of here, is next – into the ‘red heart’ of Australia. Tennant Creek is on the way. What do you want to bet there’s no water in the creek. Photo op. Here’s a progress map (Ctrl click).

http://maps.google.com.au/maps/ms?vps=2&ie=UTF8&hl=en&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=209198152440536352020.0004d957157c9d1f2073c

I met Ian and Beth here, a great couple on holiday from NSW, living somewhere between (?) Sydney and Lithgow (sorry guys, forgot the name of your town again). We were neighbours for a week or so. Thanks for dinner Ian and Beth. Ian was on a mission re-tracing his father’s footsteps. Beth supported him all the way on his journey – how good is that! Ian’s father was stationed up here in the RAAF during WWII. I’ve read the Japanese made almost 100 air raids against Australia. Photo below courtesy of the ‘Australian Geographic’. The caption read “Smoke plumes rise after the 19 February 1942 attack that left more than 250 dead. (Credit: Australian War Memorial)”.

Smoke plumes rise after the 19 February 1942 attack that left more than 250 dead. (Credit: Australian War Memorial)

The Japanese commander that led the attack against Darwin, also led the attack against Pearl Harbour, 2 months earlier on December 7, 1941. Hope they got his ass somewhere along the line.

Went out with Ian to visit the site of a WWII RAAF air strip along side the Stuart Highway. Very hard to imagine what it was like for those young guys in the early 1940′s. Stuck up here in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, in the heat, humidity and rain, with the snakes and insects – defending their home against the Japanese. Makes the hair rise on the back of your neck.

Some entertaining things I saw here and there around the Darwin area:

Advertisement: “Casual roles for experienced chefs, stewards & kitchen-hands. Kitchen-hands will need steel capped boots and salad prep experience.” – steel capped boots? For kicking the customers?

Walking through Batchelor, I came across a historic church site. The sign outside read “saint Barbara, patron saint of gunners and miners”. I guess this was in reference to WWII and the local mining days. The church knows how to cover all the bases. Patron saint of gunners – go figure – praise the lord and blast the enemy!

Sign in the laundry:

makes you tip toe after dark

makes you tip toe after dark

A sign in the men’s washroom (who takes photos of signs in men’s washrooms?). Still smelled like it hadn’t been flushed in a month. Maybe they need to get John Elferink on the job?

government & management involved in everything

government & management involved in everything

What a guy below! BTW, you can see Ian through the window.

jack of all trades

jack of all trades

Do the 2 click to see the caption and the buffalo hunter in the lower right quadrant.

check out the buffalo hunter - priceless

check out the buffalo hunter – priceless

A cruise on the Adelaide River. These crocodiles are very well fed. Otherwise they’d be jumping a lot higher.

croc rising to take the bait

croc rising to take the bait

I bracket these 2 together, because there are “crocs” in this building. I know. I went in one day to watch democracy in action and was ‘entertained’ (disgusted) by a buffoon chief minister. Should I use his name? Ah go on, why not? John Elferink – it’s difficult to argue with the truth. You can’t see the bars at the top of this building. I’m told they’re designed to hold the roof on in high cyclone winds, but I think it might have more to do with all the hot air in the building. Perhaps generated by some of the occupants. I enjoyed my visit to parliament.

Parliament House

Parliament House

Lovely, warm day, but no swimmers. Something to do with crocodiles.

Darwin Beach - no swimmers? crocs mate!

Darwin Beach – no swimmers? crocs mate!

This is where the Darwin Kiwis will watch the All Blacks beat the Wallabies this weekend.

Shenanigan's - had dinner with Doug Ward (new kid in town) here

Shenanigan’s – had dinner with Doug Ward (new kid in town) here

Darwin is HOT. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. The aboriginal calendar has 6 seasons. Two of my favourites are called the “knock ‘em down storms” and the “cold weather season“. I’m here in the cold weather season (June – August). It was freezing one morning when I fell out of bed, a numbing 24C. During the day the high only got up to 34 and then at 8PM it’s a chilly 30 – burr! If that keeps up, I’ll be looking for my winter longs.

The great game of cricket, named after the famous English school of the same name, where the game was invented (like Rugby). Or the insect, whichever works for you. None of the players knows what’s going on. That’s why there are so many of them on the field at one time – to help each other figure out what should be done next. In fact, they can play for an entire week without a result – game ends in a draw after a whole week! When this happens the players wander off the field scratching their heads thinking ” WTF”! As do the fans. Then there’s LBW, out for a duck, silly mid off, gully, wicket, stumps? Who the hell knows?

cricket at the oval, does anyone know what's going on here?

cricket at the oval, does anyone know what’s going on here?

I caught up with 2 brothers-in-law here. What are the odds on that? Wes Turner, Linda’s brother, lives here. Doug Ward, Nancy’s 1st hubby, moved here a few days ago. Both ex brothers-in-law, but I guess once a brother-in-law, always a brother-in-law! Jeeze, there are so many ex’s of every kind around!

Well, I see this next haul as the last stage of the Oz journey. There are a lot of empty kilometres between Darwin, Alice, Uluru and the east coast. And, once I get to the coast, I’ll be traveling over old ground. I’m getting restless and ready to move on. The 12 foot pop-top has lost its charm :) She’s been good to me and is in perfect shape, but its time to pass her on to another lucky person.

Good-bye from Darwin. PS. one regret, I didn’t get to look into any Charles Darwin history – seems to be overlooked here? It certainly isn’t obvious, but … maybe next time.

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The Beginning – Southport, QLD

BLOG catch-up in Darwin.

This should have been my 1st entry, but Nancy got me started on the BLOG when I was well down the road. I‘m adding it now to pick up the start of the journey.

My goal is to more or less get around Australia’s circumference, beginning in Southport on the Gold Coast, traveling a total of ~14,000ks in a ‘straight’ line to Melbourne, to Adelaide and so on until I get back to the Gold Coast, before the 2013/14 wet season. The 14,000ks excludes Tasmania and all the side trips here and there. I’m heading south and traveling in a clockwise direction so I’ll be in the south during the summer and the north during the winter, the opposite of where you’d want to be in the northern hemisphere during those seasons.

November 6, 2012 – Day 1 – Laurel and Ian, the folks I bought TAS from,  accompanied me to the caravan park in Southport, showed me the ropes and got me set up. They’re great people!

Want to buy a caravan in Sept/Oct, Laurel and Ian? I know where you can get a good one, at a super price!

I stayed in Southport for a couple of weeks, getting accustomed to life in a 12 foot home on wheels. Here’s “TAS” named for Tasman Rose, Dad’s boat. She may be small, but she’s cozy, dry and comfortable – home for maybe a year. Do the 2 click so you can get in close.

my 12' home on wheels for a year

my 12′ home on wheels for a year

the galley

the galley

As Shawn says, this gives new meaning to “breakfast in bed”!

double bed - fun to make

double bed – fun to make

view from the outside

view from the outside

The neighbourhood in Southport. Taken near the top of the 78 floor ‘Q1′ residential tower in Surfers Paradise, Queensland. My caravan park is just at the top left corner.

Toronto 15,000 KMS at 2 o'clock

Toronto 15,000 KMS at 2 o’clock

Sydney 900 KMS at 12 o'clock

Sydney 900 KMS at 12 o’clock

I took a baby step with my 1st move to the next caravan park down the road. Laurel gave me a checklist of “to-dos” for packing up and getting on the road. I still use it as a last check every time I head out, although it’s pretty much automatic now. I get a chuckle out of Laurel’s “… sweep the floor …” . I mean, this is a guy’s pad now. I know it’s time to sweep when I’m bringing things into bed with me, stuck to the soles of my feet.

So, I studied the map, found a caravan park in Murwillumbah, NSW, a whole 62ks away, and set out. I had to stay in the region until I sold my old Kia. The short hop to M gave me practice and a little confidence. Now, I’ve packed and unpacked so many times that its become one of my very ‘favourite’ things to do, ya right!

Arrived at the park in Murwillumbah, backed onto the site, got out to look around and was met by a welcoming committee of Water Dragons. Being a North American city boy, I wasn’t too sure what to make of them. What are they? Are they poisonous (seems like almost everything in Oz is poisonous)? Do they bite? Well, turns out they’re harmless and good company. Stepped out of the van one day to find a little guy lazing back in my shoe.

Jurassic Park - Water Dragon

Jurassic Park – Water Dragon

harmless & neighbourly

harmless & neighbourly

Eastern Rosella - seed dinner, standing on a grass stalk

Eastern Rosella – seed dinner, standing on a grass stalk

Sight-seeing around M. This is near the top of Mt. Warning NSW, looking into a 20 million year old caldera – 2 hours climbing up, 2 hours down!

near the top of Mt. Warning

near the top of Mt. Warning

Finally sold the Kia and so I was free to go. Next stop Bellingen a little over 300ks away – better practice. Lovely town.

Camped in the town show grounds next to Blake who was living in his Toyota 4×4, no tent, no tarp, just the Toyota. He slept in the car with all of his stuff stacked around him. Sat at the tail-gate of the Toyota most of the day with his laptop, working on his book on electro-magnetism. He disappeared every day late in the afternoon, returning with a bottle in a brown bag. When he finished that it was time for bed.

Enjoyed dinner in town with Ray and Jean and David and Diana – thanks Ray and Jean – seems like 100 years ago now!

Bellingen show grounds - market day, hippies galore

Bellingen show grounds – market day, hippies galore

On to Tamworth, up over the Great Dividing Range. 1st real test for the Subaru and TAS – the climb and the winding roads. No problems at all.

Tamworth is the country music capital of Australia – pretty much closed for Christmas. This is the main street on Christmas Day. It’s longer than it looks. I walked its length and met a cute little Asian kid on a bike, who riding by with a big smile on his face said “mewy chwistmas” – it made my day! Have you read/seen “On The Beach”? This is what Tamworth felt like – no human life left.

as Lennie said "dead as heaven on a Saturday night ..."

as Lennie said “dead as heaven on a Saturday night …”

I was going to barbecue a steak for Christmas dinner. Had it ready to fire up, when this huge storm blew in – blackest of clouds, torrential rain and van-rocking winds. I had peanut butter sandwiches and wine for dinner instead. 1st real good water test for TAS. She passed with flying colours – no leaks.

On the way to Melbourne, I camped at Mudgee, Lithgow and Gundagai – not much to report here – my goal was to get to Melbourne to visit Shawn, Donna and little Riley. Enjoyed my stay in Lithgow and the Blue Mountains beautiful country.

highest point in the Blue Mountains at Lithgow

highest point in the Blue Mountains at Lithgow

Wolgan Valley, NSW

Wolgan Valley, NSW

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Bali V – Good Bye

Memories of Bali:

  • the warm, friendly, people and their glowing smiles.
  • the positive outlook of the people living on $75 a month “I’m a poor man, but a happy man” – Eka.
  • the pride of the people – they literally fought to the death, to the last person, man and woman, in battles against the Dutch colonists.
  • the contrasts – from high-end resorts and designer shopping to holes in the sidewalks that could swallow you up.
  • the creative spirit and art of the people, seen everywhere in their new buildings, charming little restaurants, wood carvings, temples, art work, in the clothes they wear…
  • the poverty along the coast road from Amed to Denpasar.
  • the best 1 hour massage in the world for $10 with Emma – not a happy ending deal, but the most wonderful spa massage, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head – jelly at the end – wonderful Emma! – this alone could be a reason to live in Bali!
  • meeting Vlad in a gay bar – fun times and shared experiences. Travel with Ganesha (remover of obstacles, lord of beginnings) buddy, find your dream, travel safe.

Meet Linda below, my snorkeling guide for a day. Drove me up to Amed in her boss’ car, to a popular diving area. $50 for the day – $20 to her boss, $20 for petrol, $10 for Linda. A wonderful person with the most positive attitude. Works 2 jobs to make ends meet, earning $200 a month. She has 2 kids, the eldest is 20. She told me how she took small gifts such as colouring pencils to the kids living around Amed. She brought gifts for 6/7 the 1st time. The next time she went up, there were 12/14 kids waiting, the next time 24/28 kids. Linda soon realized she couldn’t go on – she had to stop. She told me she cried and cried.

Linda, my snorkel guide

Linda, my snorkel guide

One of many Balinese Hindu temples (can’t find its name). Notice how complex its design/construction is. Well, all 4 sides seem to be the same, although it would take years of study to confirm/prove this. There were ‘greeters’ (like the guy below)  at each of the 4 gateways. The greeters were different and each had some sort of secret hand sign. “Who wants to know this?”, you say.

the temple in Renon Square, Denpasar

the temple in Renon Square, Denpasar

“Hey mister, want a massage”?

secret hand signs

secret hand signs

Look at this building site. Do the 2 click. The men work in jandals/thongs (not that kind of thong) without hard hats! I walked by here at night and they were still working in the dark. This is earthquake territory – building standards? Vlad swore he saw workers using crazy glue on one site.

construction standards, don't think so?

construction standards, don’t think so?

Well … the contrasts.

I walked down the street on a pub crawl, just strolling, people watching and stopping here and there for a Bintang. It was early, around 8PM. At what was the last bar/restaurant along the way before I’d walk into the Indian Ocean, I heard the coolest guitar music floating out to the sidewalk. I wondered in, found a table and sat back to enjoy. The place was almost empty and these 2 guys were playing their guitars and having the best time together. I sat at an outdoor patio table, under a couple of tall palm trees, with big fluffy Bali clouds slipping across the dark sky – soaking up the music from the 2 amigos.

Across the way, there was a multi-story building under construction. Men were working up there while we sat below enjoying our drinks and dinners. You can see a welder at work – bright light centre right. The night I was there (returned to take this photo another night) a guy was smoking, squatted on the precipice at the upper right. He was silhouetted against a background spotlight with a cloud of dust blowing past him – looked like blowing snow in the night (I miss that sight, blowing snow I mean).

Later on, around the front of the building, I found the workmen waiting to be taken home. About 100 of them squatted on the roadside. Tired and dirty, some smoked, smiled and joked, while others just gazed into the open air restaurant across the street. The restaurant had its tourists enjoying the music, drinking their drinks and eating their dinners, costing more than any of these guys could earn in 2 or 3 months.

Trucks arrived to take them home. Mostly short guys, they stood shoulder to shoulder in their trucks, with only their faces showing over the sides, like match sticks on end. In the darkness, their tired faces were lit by the lights from the restaurant …  didn’t have my camera. 

men at work

men at work

Well Bali, good-bye, au revoir.

Terima kasih, terima kasih Vlad, Eka (auntie & uncle & brother), Linda, Emma, Putu, Roy, Ante, Yoyok, Sriati, Mary, Billy, beautiful Wayan, Lisa and all the rest! Aku sedih untuk meninggalkan Bali.


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