Thursday, 27 January 2011

Don't forget..

You can click on the photos to make 'em bigger and Comments fuel our journey!

Photo Hello Mum!!

Photo Real place!

Photo Kym happy to find more big things.


Inland... from Lakes entrance up the road through Buchan, past Seldom Seen, and across the river at Suggan Buggan into the Snowy Mountains and the Kosciusko National Park. Beautiful, the highest mountains in Australia and our ears didn't even pop! Bit of fishing by the river, bit off four wheel driving through the forests amongst the wild horses (brumbies), a swim in a thermal pool, and two days later we drove out of the clouds into the capital city of Australia.. no not Sydney ya doughnut, Canberra.

Photo Catching up.


Drove through Melbourne, looked alright, things are surely looking older, streets are narrower, buildings are brick and close together, roads are bumpy. It feels lived in and used. Out the other side a couple of hours and into the farmland and on to Calulu which is just across the Wuk Wuk bridge is home to Alan and Faye. Remember them? They were the couple we met in the Northern Territories (They camped adjacent to us in Darwin!) 9 months ago. Well we'd kept in touch and promised to call in so we did. They've got a beautiful farm which I'd guess you'd call a hobby farm (and a great story, ongoing, about a young bull that when having his man batteries chopped off, unbeknownst, managed to pull one up and save it. Consequently he's been rampaging through the fields impregnating anything with udders! Winner!). Being an Australian hobby farm it's roughly the size Wales, no I'm kidding, but you'd definitely get rid of the push mower. Lamb Sunday roast, cricket talk (At the top end of sixty Alan still plays and the day before we arrived almost took a hat trick with left arm china man), glass of wine and a comfy bed. Thankyou very much you two it'll be good to catch up again.

Photo Marg and Trev

Old friends

Just up the road close to Geelong and not too far South of Melbourne is a little town called Ocean Grove. We know about Ocean Grove because eight years ago we met a couple up in Queensland who have been travelling globally since the '70's and so no signs of stopping any day soon. Marg and Trev's home base is Ocean Grove where they keep the top of a three storey house for themselves while letting out the other two. We turned up unannounced (we were almost certain they were there as they maintain an e-mail news letter) and Trevor recognised us straight away. Our intention was just to pop in and have a cup of tea but Marg was having none of it. We had two great nights and were well looked after. It was great to spend a few days with fellow travellers and to talk about stuff that's not always with, dare I say it domesticated people. A two week holiday most people can get their heads around but let's face it even then they only wanna hear the highlights (actually, human nature being what it is, they more often wanna hear the lowlights and crap times). So after nearly two years on the road the majority don't even know where to start. Please don't think I'm moaning, I fully appreciate that most people have no intention of ever trying something like we've done so for them to even have a sympathetic ear to our stories is, well, hard. And Trev and Marg after doing it for 40 years still struggle to assimilate on the Summer jaunts home. I hope we don't find it so difficult.

Photo Bells, it's gonna pick up when the tide turns

Oh well.

Bells Beach, iconic site of the longest running professional surfing contest in the world. Scene of Simon Anderson's demolition of the field in massive waves on a new fangled board with three fins in 1981. Mick Fanning's rookie year win making the rest of the surfing world realise they were surfing in slow motion. Tom Curren and Mark Occhilupo head to head in one of the greatest heats ever in 1986, Mark Richards dominating on his twin fins in the late 70's winning 4x. The place means alot to any surfer so you can imagine how excited I was when we pulled into the same car park as all those famous surfers and peered from the lookout to see a.... completely flat mill pond with not even a ripple on the sand. Bugger.

Photo Wow

Photo Ooohhhh

Photo Aaahhh

Photo Ooohh

12 (once upon a time) Apostles

It's a funny old bit of road that's for sure. Every 200 metres there's another brown sign pointing to another rock formation. London bridge, the Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, The Arch, you hardly had time to put your seat belt on before indicating for the next one. Out you get, down the walkway, dodge the Koreans, take your photo, back in your car, repeat. Until the Twelve Apostles, it's gotta be one of the most photographed bit's of coastline in the world hasn't it? Every ones seen it, so we weren't getting our hopes up. Especially when you arrive at the visitors centre where the massive car park is packed, mainly with coaches. It's all pretty slick but none of it detracts from the fact that when you get to the first view point you stop in your tracks, look at your partner and both go WOW. It's cool. It's only erosion and cliffs and stuff, but it is cool. And the whole walkway thing and nice low key fencing and below eye level toilets are all really well done as well. But some crumbling old rocks steal the day.

Photo It really is that colour.

Photo Gotta love the big things, Kym does...!


Apart from an impossibly blue lake in a collapse volcanic crater Mount Gambier hasn't got a huge deal going for it. But, it was quaint, friendly, and the water tasted delicious. Almost on the border are the Piccanini ponds, limestone sink holes full of water and in excess of 100 metres deep! It's one of top cave dive spots in the world which always begs the question (from me anyway) "why the hell would you dive in cave?". They do and occasionally they don't come back up which is why you need certificates, permits etc etc to even snorkel in it. It's right next to the beach aswell and if you walk down onto the sand you can see the fresh water bubbling up from the limestone below. A cool little free campsite hidden in the bushes behind the dunes stopped us for two days before we hit the Great Ocean Road.

Photo Just hangin' out

Photo South Coast Post boxes!

Photo Victor Harbour

South Oz cont'

Did a drive through Adelaide and quite liked it. It was the first non-convict settlement in Australia and apparently they like to remind people on a regular basis. As citys go it seemed pretty cool. A massive park completely surrounds the dead centre of the city and you kinda wonder where all the people live, then you start heading back out and up into the hills and the suburbs are revealed before transforming into vineyards all the way down to the coast. Victor Harbour was about as Victorian seaside town as you can get. Even down to the wooden pier across to the granite island (where the penguins live) with a still running horse drawn tram to save your legs. We camped the night at the National park just around the corner and the following day kept on trucking Eastwards to the last town in South Australia, Mount Gambier.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Photo Flaming Galah!!!

Photo midnight?

Photo OOooohhh Aaaahhh

Photo last surf of 2010


Streaky Bay

And it goes on and on and it got hotter and we had hitchikers and the little buggers were eating our muesli and nibbling the pasta and leaving little poos everywhere. A hastily purchased trap in Penong proved no match for this mouse. Each night the cheese would be gone and the trap still armed. I even greased the pin! Someone suggested a cat, someone else suggested poison but what if it died somewhere inaccesable, the smell! By now it was a well travelled mouse. We'd got to Ceduna by way of Penong on a 46c day when the North wind brought with it not only a hairdryer hot blast but also all the flies from inland. An unpleasant night was spent fending off all manner of insects and trying to shower without getting bitten. Welcome to South Australia.

The next day was New Years eve and it was a good one! It had cooled down (too cold too hot wish it would make up it';s mind!) the wind had swung back from the South'ish and I found a perfect surf spot made even more so by the fact that parked in the car park were Jurgen and Helga. Streaky Bay seemed like as good as any a place to spend the evening plus they had a free fireworks display and a stage set up on the fore shore. As New Years eve coincides with the anniversary of us two being introduced we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out in the Pub on the beach. Now Streaky Bay is not a big place and truthfully there aren't really any big places that near by but it was packed. It seems, and understandably so, that New Years eve is an occasion for all the country folk to gather together and swap stories and possibly widen the gene pool. It was fantastic. We just sat and watched the whole social scene take place around us while eating great food.

We caught up with Jurgen and Helga outside on the lawn and laid out the picnic blanket and got stuck in to some beers. No where near as many as the young'uns had though! Great fireworks followed by a couple of bands then the countdown, we walked out on to the pier and hugged in the New year as the remainder of the fireworks were let off. And for us that was the end of peaceful evening as we made our way back to the cars to sleep. As we walked back past the stage a scuffle had broken out amongst the youths at the front and the musicians were trying to tell them to pack it in. Unfortunately as we found out a couple of days later, a young lad had been hit and never regained conciousness. A 19 year old had been arrested but you can't help think what a tragic waste of two lives.

Yet again we said our goodbyes to the Germans and decided we'd get a shimmy on and do some more miles. The country side in South Australia is known as the wheat belt and you just drive through acres and acres of fields interspersed every now and then with a small settlement dominated by massive grain silos. We did at last make it to Port Augusta, regarded as halfway across Australia!!

Photo Koonalda

Photo shearers shed

Photo Shearers kitchen


About half way across we did find something worth talking about, well, truth be told we we're told about it and made a small detour North of the highway to an abandoned homes stead/ road house called Koonalda. The old highway used to run through it and in 1976 when the hard top was put on and moved 10km South the place became redundant. The family just upped and left. What remains now is like a little bit of history available for anyone, with the word of mouth knowledge, to visit and wander around. The old petrol pump is still there as are the carcass' of cars that didn't make it. The main house, I would imagine, will be there for years as it's made out of railway sleepers taken when the rails from the transcontinental line were upgraded to concrete. The rail lies roughly a further 50kms inland. The shearers house (it was a sheep farm as well though what they lived on I have no idea) is very much as it was 35 years ago with the original kelvinator fridge and fireplace still there along with a table and a couple of chairs. People do use it to stay over night and someone has left a visitors book to sign. There are also little notes and gifts of beer and food left for the next arrivals in perpetuity one hopes (didn't really like Emu bitter anyway, and chocolate mint muesli bars!? Weren't going to miss them either).

Photo Sign

All the ones we saw seemed to be asleep by the side of the road.


Photo People get bored...


The next day we did make it to the road. It's one of those things, we love getting off the beaten track and not seeing anyone for ages but the smoothness not to mention peacefulness of tarmac always draws out a combined sigh of gratitude from the both of us. And you see people! We emerged at the Balladonia road house filled up with fuel and went around the last bend in the road we would see for 90 miles!!! Yep 146km dead straight. I don't think it would to too much taxing of your collective imaginations to realise that the landscape at this point was pretty flat and mostly devoid of trees, rivers and towns.

The Nullarbor. Not Aboriginal for "no trees" as is commonly believed, but in fact Latin. Nullus as in none, zip, nada, nowt and Arbor as in arborealist as in arboretum as in tree stuff. Got no idea what the aboriginals call it, probably something along the lines of "don't even think about playing I-spy it won't last very long". The bend when it does arrive does nothing to get you excited about 'cos once you've negotiated it it's pretty much straight again for the next two days!! They should have story signs or something, you know every 1/2 mile or so another couple of lines, maybe some kind of mystery or who-dun-it to keep you interested.

Photo Mount(?) Rugged

Photo Tagon Bay Cape Arid

Cape Arid

We've been whizzing along at a pace too fast for me to even stop and type. Well sort of. It was still cold and it was still Western Australia and we needed to keep going, so the day after Boxing day we hugged and kissed all our new friends and took what we thought was the short cut through Cape Arid to meet up with the highway at the the start of the Nullarbor plain. As is so often the case the short cut that looked like a days drive took two. Admittedly it was a track but it was only 170km long how rough could it be? Having to pull the wing mirrors in and drop the tyre pressure down to 20psi gives you an idea! We made it half way and stopped at the base of Rugged mountain (another small hill! What is it with Australia and their height of hills problem?) on a small deserted National Parks site with a small toilet largely populated by red back spiders (make sure you look under the seat).

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Photo Christmas Crew

Photo Lucky Bay

Photo Cold?


Pemberton, Walpole, Peaceful Bay, Hush Hush beach, Conspicuous cliffs, Green's pools, Elephant rocks, that looked like elephants, Denmark's alternative lifestyle feel, (read rich hippies), Albany's normal people feel and nice normal people at that, who helped me replace our two batteries and re-wire our dual battery system and recommend a welder (he was called Gary after all!) Then two nights at the lovely Cosy corner beach where who should we bump into but the Germans.

Jurgen and Helga, could you get two more German sounding names. They're both near as damn it the same age as us and decided on a whim that they would like to drive to Oz. They don't have residency here and unfortunately their time is running out and they're organising shipping back to Germany but it was fantastic to spend a bit of time with them and swap stories of border crossings and shippings etc. It was also interesting to note that they too were a bit flat on the excitement scale. Not due to it being the end of their trip either. After all the freedom of driving and camping in Asia (they drove through Laos into Thailand and Malaysia and shipped from Singapore) thay were finding Australia expensive and rigid. In the eight years since we were last here in a camper van, we too have noticed there has been a proliferation of no camping signs and don't do this and don't do that signs, which seems to be totally against the notion of Australia's identity as sticking one up to convention? And it's not like they haven't got the space is it! Having said all that there are still free camping spots they're just not signposted and most of them you learn about through word of mouth at other free sites which led us on to.

Yet another beautiful little beach called Betty's where salmon fishermen have built tin shacks to stay in during the season from Feb-April. The beach looked straight out of a brochure for the Seychelles or Mauritius. Granted the air and water temperature weren't quite Indian ocean but if you forgot about the jeans and fleece I swear you coulda been there! From here it was only a short hop to Esperance another quaint little port town where we stocked up on food, booze and laundered our wardrobes before heading out to the beach with officially the whitest sand in the whole of Australia (as voted for!). Tough to argue with I have to say. When the sun shone on Lucky bay if you weren't wearing sunglasses you were in danger of being blinded. The water was aquamarine (well it would be be wouldn't it?!) and the bay was perfectly bay shaped with the perfect knobbly bits of pinkish granite as headlands. And as if it couldn't get any better there were kangaroos on the beach seals in the water and a cute little camp site with solar showers tucked away amongst the bush in the lee of the bay. Christmas!!!!

More presents arrived in the form of new friends, our neighbours Al and Karyn (Kiwi and Aussie from Melbourne), nearby, Marielle, Jeff and their two great kids Cam and Mayanna (Bolivian and American living in Perth), across the track, Jun and Kate (Japanese and Aussie also living in Perth) and to top it off Jurgen and Helga arrived on Christmas eve! All great fun. It really was a brilliant way to spend Christmas, we all cooked and brought all the food together at Marielle and Jeff's van and had a really nice evening.

Photo I wish?

Moving on..

South west Australia, just like South West England!, well there was a Taunton farm caravan site anyway! Obligatory photo in front of the sign and a stay overnight revealed the original owners of the farm were the Pearsons from... you guessed it, Taunton. Surfed Margaret River mosied around a bit and got the feeling we needed to do some miles. We also bumped into a German couple in a bright orange Kombi (transporter) who had over landed via China, they had company at the time so we only had a quick chat with them but as they were heading East we felt sure we'd see them again.

Strange but there has definitely been a shift in our enjoyment of hobo-ing. It might be that it's certainly less challenging in Australia. All the road signs are in English everyone speaks English (sometimes debatable) and we know what all the food is. It's easy. We're struggling a bit to get enthusiastic about it. Amazing beaches and beautiful woodlands aside we just can't seem to get that spark back. It threatens every now and then, like when we drove over a sand dune hundreds of miles from anywhere onto a completely deserted beach and ran naked into the Southern Ocean, or did a tree top walk 60m up in the canopy of a Karri tree forest, but then we have a day of cold weather or a bit of rain and we're over it immediately. Giving it more thought, I really think we're soft and just can't cope with temperatures below 25c!!! I'm sat outside the truck typing this at eight thirty in the evening wearing a t shirt, two fleeces my ski jacket, gloves and woolly hat and it's 16c. What do you reckon?

From Augusta, the most South Westerly town in Australia the journey to Esperance was awesome. Massive Karri and Tingle trees towered above us and the scent of cat's piss permeated the air (it's a native shrub that lives under the Karri trees, but it really does stink of cat's piss). The tracks down to the beaches were almost all accessable only by 4x4 and as a consequence were very quiet. On the way to Jaspers beach we developed a clonking from underneath and on inspection found that a bracket welded to the chassis that the stabiliser bar sits in, had snapped off. No signal let alone any chance of anyone coming to help us meant bush mechanic time. In true A Team style we wired it back to the chassis and used a spare bolt and a bit of rubber to fashion a new bush. Job done. The next test was soon upon us when we got stuck trying to climb a sand dune. With the sand over the top of the axles and the tyres all ready deflated to 15psi digging just wasn't gonna help.. winch time! First time on the whole trip we have had to use the winch in anger. Thank goodness for hardy shrubs with deep roots to anchor to. Much groaning and creaking but we dragged ourselves up and over, yeehaa. It's times like this when you're miles from anywhere and anybody and no one really knows where you are, that all the preparation and routine maintenance really pay off, not to mention having the right equipment to start with. It feels good to have the confidence to take stuff on knowing you're ready to get yourself out of trouble if needs be.

Photo Blue tongued lizard

Photo Bettys Beach

Photo Tingle tree

Photo Tree top walk that wobbled.

Photo Black Point (bit like Giants Causeway)

Photo Taunton Farm

Photo Home?????

Photo Strange Trees.

Hello again! We're on the road!

Can't even remember where I was!!! Think we had just arrived in Perth and moved in to Ed's house? Any way 6 Months later and a whole brand new year and We're in a posh campsite in a less than posh town called Port Augusta.

I'll skim Perth 'cos no one wants to hear about the same stuff every one else does ie work, though of course I have to say massive thanks to Paul for the job (which I actually really enjoyed and learnt new stuff) and to Ed for putting up with us much longer than I'm sure he and we intended and of course the WAG's for making us feel welcome. The guy's at work need some praise for trying to teach me form work especially grumpy Bob the boss who always took time to show me how to and wasn't always grumpy.

Kym was a supermarket demonstrator.. "try some of this new product...". Hairdressing was out of the question with the West Australian government requiring a permit to cut hair in WA which costs around £300 and involves a test. (the fact that the Federal government deemed Kym's skills good enough to grant us permanent residency obviously doesn't cut it in WA (sorry about the pun)). So at Ed's place we were never short of sunscreen, chicken in sauces, ice cream, chocolate, muffins, cereals, face wash, cheese and hilarity at some of the outfits Kym was expected to wear. The Swedish Hiker was a highlight, khaki shorts, shirt, hat, boots and pigtails oh and back pack massively boosted the sales of muesli bars. In actual fact Kym turned out to be so good at the job and so respected by the company she worked for, that she ended up choosing when and where she wanted to work and what she would wear! They even gave her a farewell lunch at head office and promised her that if she wanted to do the same when we got to Queensland there would be a job waiting in Brisbane. Gold star.

Perth was definitely up and down for us, seeing old friends, putting Australian money in our Australian account and behaving relatively normally were pluss's, Kym having a miscarriage goes in the minuses. Those who know us know this was a toughie and undoubtedly without Kym's friend Kat (used to do her hair in Taunton now lives in Perth) it would have been a whole lot tougher and staying at Kat and Mikes country retreat in the hills for the last two weeks we were in Perth, was a joy. On the bright side we got pregnant and with that came a sense of wanting to stop and make a home for a while. But we're a long way from where we want to lay our hat which is why, after a fantastic send off in the form of drinks at Claire and Paul's and the added bonus of Garth and Sheila our friends from Singapore visiting followed by a Sunday session at a beautiful pub in the hills, we left on the 8th Dec and hit the road again!

Photo Thanks you lot!

Photo The Boys

Photo Garth and Sheila

Photo Kat and Mike

Photo Claire and Becs

Photo Kat and Will

Photo Colleagues