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Travel Gallery

 

Australia

2003

 

June 2003

Great Barrier Reef and Kuranda

 

July 2003

A Bloke & Shelia Travel'n in a Campervan

 

August 2003

Cairns to Uluru

 

September 2003

Alice Springs to Darwin to Broome

 

October 2003

Broome to Perth

 

November 2003

Perth to Adelaide

 

December 2003

Melbourne to Hobart

 

January 2004

Tasmania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 2003
We spent a quiet month mostly just going to the beach every day and enjoying the domestic apartment life. They took the Stinger Net down June 12 and now we can swim anywhere along the beach. Most of the Stingers “should be gone now”. Comforting. The paper indicated that there might be dead box jelly fish washed up on shore and we were hoping to see one, but we saw none.
 

If we venture further, we go to the Smithfield Library or shopping at Smithfield Center. Nice bike paths the whole route. We went to a wine tasting event at Smithfield Center one evening and took the bus. $8AU to try over 50 Australian wines from 9 vendors. A nice event. One day we bussed into Cairns to see about extending our VISA. The nice lady said that it starts over when it is renewed … so we will not get the 3 or 6 month extension we want from the end of our first 3 months .. but from the day it is renewed. So we’ll wait til closer to August 13 when our first 3 months is up.

And one day we booked a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. The really nice settled weather was gone just after the Queen’s Birthday weekend in early June, so we had to take our chances. We got a somewhat calm day that was mostly cloudy. We chose the cheapest boat and went out with only about 15 other tourists for $50AU each. Nice and friendly. It took 3 hours to get to our first stop at Michaelmas Cay, a bird nesting sanctuary. I took an Introductory SCUBA dive and Larry snorkeled. Just 2 of us did the dive and it was great. It looks just like an aquarium and we got to touch some coral and clams. Then we reboarded the boat and had a smorgasboard lunch while we headed for Hastings Reef and more sealife. Larry took the Glass Bottom Boat and saw lots of great fish and coral and such. The lady and I started our second dive, but she had mask problems and I was on hold underwater. By the time she got settled I was having panic attacks and went to the top. We wound up both chickening out and just doing some snorkeling. That was toooo bad, because this site has such beautiful creatures. The trip back was very choppy and a few people lost their lunch. The rest were all crowded onto a few benches under a shelter. Larry and I sat out in the seats and let the wind and sea spray us. It was great. A German lady congratulated us in German for being so brave. They were all freezing. Then we enjoyed a Chinese buffet dinner at the Night Markets in Cairns and bussed home and slept like babies. It rained for the next 2 days while we recuperated.

Another day we bussed to Cairns again to catch the Kuranda Scenic Railway. In June a new Tilt Train began running between Cairns and Brisbane 3 times a week. It replaces the previous train and cuts 7 hours off the travel time. The Tilt Train was just loading, so we got to take a look. Then over to the Kuranda track and aboard some 80 year old train cars for the 1 hour 45 min ride to Kuranda. The railway is another of those engineering feats where fortitude and dynamite and manual labor created 15 tunnels and 93 curves and dozens of bridges and removed 2.3 million meters of earth through dense jungle and cliffs with sheer drops up to 327 meters. It is a pretty route through some of the oldest rainforest in the world to Kuranda, which is full of shops. Larry enjoyed Devonshire tea at the Rail Station … fresh scones with cream and jam with tea, while I roamed the shops. Then we had a great German Wurst and headed for the Skyrail which took us back. It is the world’s longest gondola cableway and takes you above the rainforest, almost 5 miles long. The ride stopped about midway due to a power outage, but we got going again in about 10 minutes. That was exciting. That’s how we spent Larry’s birthday.

One day we biked to a fish shop and got fresh green prawns. We peeled and cleaned them .. yuck .. and marinated them with in and garlic and later sautéed them a few minutes. We never had such wonderful sweet tender shrimp. But we didn’t think we’d do it again because they were tooooo icky to clean. Then I checked the fish display at Woolworths where we get groceries and they have the raw prawns all nice and cleaned, so we got them twice and they are just as wonderful. I paid $21AU for the prawns we had to clean and only about $10AU for a half kilo of the cleaned ones. A bargain both ways.

So passed the month. We’re starting to look into Campervans to rent when we leave here July 19 … our 34th wedding anniversary day. We’ll head north to Port Douglas and Daintree and Cape Tribulation and west to Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands and Mareeba and back to Cairns to try to extend our VISA in early August. Heidi sent us Jaime pics now that we have a real address for awhile. And I lost my new bifocal sunglasses that I just got in Christchurch for only $10NZ … knocked off my head by a big wave … so I ordered a pair from California and got them in a week. The Internet and the Post are wonderful.

The news of the month covered a divisive vote in the Labor Party and the US ships docking for R&R in Sydney and Cairns and what kind of shenanigans they would get into. A Uni student from Illinois drowned in the Mossman Gorge north of here swimming after much rain and her foot got stuck between rocks and her friends couldn’t free her and watched her die. Toooo sad. Should they privatize Telstra, the major phone company? It is sugar cane harvesting time and lots of warnings to watch for the narrow rail cane trains. Already a big smash up between a truck and one of the trains. It seems they burn the fields before harvesting so there will be much smoke. We haven’t seen that yet.

 

July 2003


We decided on a Backpacker Campervan rental. It turns out to be a 1999 Toyota Britz Campervan with lots of kms on it. We rented it for 18 days, but hope to keep it if our visas are renewed. Rental is about $58AU/day, where a newer Britz might be about $80. There is a $2500 excess/deductible which we choose not to lessen by paying more per day. They charge the $2500 when we rent it. Unusual we think. Refunded when we return it undamaged.

So we continued to bask in the sun and enjoy our little home in Trinity Beach. It was cloudy and windy much of the month. Unusual, say our landlords Dot and Lawrie.

Our main outing for the month was to WildWorld in Palm Cove, a 5+ mile bikeride. It is a zoo with all the wild animals of Australia. We saw koalas, kangaroos, snakes, crocodiles, dingos, wombats and cassowaries. They had a feeding or demonstration going on every half hour and the time flew. There was a cane toad race and they wanted an international participation. So I volunteered as an American, since there were no US children to play. Cassowaries are an engendered bird, big like an emu but not as tall. They have beautiful black feathers on its large body, a blue head, red wattle and a bony looking crown on its head and a sharp knifelike claw on each foot. We saw one in the wild later at Cape Tribulation and today spent the day at Mission Beach looking for more. There are many many signs here warning to watch for Cassowaries, but we haven’t seen any here so far. There are even signs in the campground warning that a family of Cassowaries visits and warns not to feed them. That’s why we’re here at this campground. But no sightings yet.

We also went to the Cairns Show, a 3-day county fair-like event. We saw the sights and enjoyed entertainment by Celtic and Scottish dancers, the Italian Club, Rock & Roll Dancers and the Edelweiss Dancers. We saw sheep shearing, horse jumping, chainsaw sculpture, a dog show and an interesting produce judging.

We picked up our campervan on July 19, bought a 14” b&w TV that can be AC or 12-volt and loaded up on groceries. We’re hooked on TV. Who’d have thunk??? We spent our last night in our little apartment, cleaned it up and said good-byes to Dot and Lawrie. We headed for Port Douglas on Sunday, not realizing we should have booked a spot at a campground. Port Douglas is very touristy. Bill Clinton and Tipper and Al Gore vacation there. We toured the town and got in the last half hour of a Sunday Market. Then we had to retrace our steps and hope the Big4 campground outside of town would have room for us .. and it did. We had planned to spend a couple of nights at Port Douglas and bike around … but instead we continued on. We visited Daintree and took the ferry over to Cape Tribulation. Rainforest walks and seeing the Cassowary were the highlights. It turned cool and we had to dig out jackets for the first time since we left New Zealand. We didn’t get much TV reception in some spots, but we were able to hook our MP3 player to the TV and listen to Bill Bryson read In a Sunburned Country to us. It is very cool to listen to Bill’s Australian experiences and follow where he’s been.

Then we spent a week in the Tablelands. This is a high area inland from Cairns that is great farmland, growing sugar cane, maize, tea, coffee, fruits, etc. Some of it could have been Wisconsin, if you ignored the mountains in the background. We hiked Granite Gorge and saw rock wallabys, saw banana trees, lots of waterfalls, lots of Plumed and Wandering Whistling Ducks at a new 2-story blind near Atherton, camped at Lake Tinneroo and had Devonshire teas at Lake Barrine and near Millaa Millaa Falls. We do have fun. We saw lots of sugar cane harvesting activity and loaded train cars around Mossman north of Port Douglas and saw a steam train loading for a Sunday afternoon tourist run at Ravenshoe. We spent a night at Innot Hot Springs and enjoyed for free a series of 7 pools where water heated by a hot spring was diverted. We enjoyed Take-away fish and chips for $8 for 2, delivered to our campervan at 6pm. Later 3 young boys ages 6, 9, 10 entertained us campers with songs and instruments including a digerdoo, saxophone and tin whistles. The next morning I got a $10 haircut outside the hairdresser lady’s camper. She really clipped me. At a lookout near Lake Tinneroo we met Joan and Norman who have us lots of advice about what to see all over Australia and some just picked avocados. We saw Joan again the next day at the Yungaburra Saturday market. It was fun to know someone there. Luckily she recognized and stopped me. She is going to email us the site of a couple from Perth who are biking around the country. Maybe we can visit them in Perth. And we might be able to visit Joan at her farm in Victoria in summer. Another lady invited us to visit if we get north of Sydney.

The road south from Innot Hot Springs was a hoot. We had been told that the road towards Alice Springs is one lane. Larry and I discuss if that means just 1 lane, or 1 lane each way. Well … the road south was most of the time just 1 lane .. for everybody … with nice red packed soil berms. We had to hit the ditch everytime we met a car and reallllly get off and stop when we met a roadtrain. We saw 30+ roadkill kangaroos, 5 live roos, a roadkill feral pig and many many Brahma cattle, some in an unfenced field and free to cross the road in front of us .. and they did. A dot on the map was a sheep station, just a sign. Fuel was at a roadhouse miles from nowhere. Later we learned that the road towards Alice Springs isn’t this bad .. just a short distance with only 1 lane. I haven’t driven yet. It’s tooo scary.

Then we got back to the coast and stayed at some lovely campgrounds on the ocean. We saw pineapple fields and enjoyed fresh pineapples and avocadoes and passion fruit and citrus. We again had Devonshire Tea in this little mountain town and 4-5 varieties of birds tried to share it with us. It was a hoot. Very tame cheeky little feathered friends.

Next we return to Cairns to try to renew our visas. If we get the 6 month extension we want, we’ll renew the campervan, drive to Alice Springs and Uluru, Darwin and Perth. Then on to Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania and Sydney, maybe Canberra via train or maybe the campervan. If not, we’ll make up some other adventure.

Happy 1st birthday to our darling little granddaughter Jaime, Happy Birthday to Ken and Sooz Boldt, Lorie Gedye, Judy Casler. Hope all of our readers in Wisconsin get to Irish Fest mid-August in Milwaukee. Thanks to pharmacist friend Jane Greischer and her co-workers for rushing out an order of my meds to our Trinity Beach address.

We were very saddened by an email from Candy Green that husband Tom … daddy to Shoshanna Hill who Larry worked with in Madison … did not make it through a surgery to mend a hole in his heart. We spent a wonderful afternoon with Tom and Candy in Christchurch and Easter church service with them and daughter Hadassah. Our hearts go out to Candy and her family. They celebrated the birth of their first grandchild a few weeks before Tom died. Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ..…
 

August 2003

It’s been a busy month. We got our visas renewed for 6 more months .. no worries .. just show proof of lots of $$$ and pay $190AU each … then got the campervan until November 5 for drop off in Perth. We asked for a quote 6 months drop off in Sydney and the 3 month Perth option. The young woman looked at us like we had 3 heads. She couldn’t handle 2 things. So we went for the 3 months, thinking we might be sick of driving by the time we get to Perth. We stocked up on supplies, got a big old frying pan and electric kettle and audio tapes at an op shop, and sent little Jaime her birthday present.

We set off and retraced the route to Townsville and Charters Towers and continued west. Our first stop was at Pentland. An older woman traveling alone in her 4W drive gave us advice on traveling in the Outback. The next day we stopped at a lookout and a woman said we must go to Winton and Longreach, well out of our way towards Alice Springs, but well worth it she said. There was a rodeo going on at Mount Isa that we wanted to avoid, so we headed to Winton. A bush poet performed at the Caravan Park and the Waltzing Matilda Museum was great fun. Longreach had a woman and her guitar entertaining us 2 nights and a couple with blue heeler dogs herding ducks, to show us how they are trained. We attended a “smoko” at Banjos Outback Shearing Shed on Sunday morning. A smoko, we found out, is morning tea. So we enjoyed tea and bikkies following a fun entertainment and sheep shearing and wool pressing. The Cattleman’s Museum is new and lovely with lots to keep us learning for hours. We also enjoyed a visit to the Longreach School of the Air. Each state has several such schools that teach the children in remote sheep or cattle stations. It has long been handled by mail packets and two-way radio lessons. These continue, but computer lessons and teaching sessions are now in place in all areas that have dependable power sources. We got to see a teacher working with a group of 5 year olds. It was great. And Longreach is the home of Qantas airlines. We made lots of friends in Longreach and exchanged names with a couple from Melbourne that we’ll visit.

We had 2 routes we could take to get to Mount Isa. One was longer, maybe prettier, and went through Boulia, where people have witnessed alien type lights late in the night. We chose the shorter route that took us to Kynuna. Here Richard Magoffin runs a Waltzing Matilda Expo where you can camp for free if you attend his $12 evening entertainment. The place is pretty worn but is a bush experience. You can eat his bush tucker for $10. We didn’t plan to, but started drinking with Mark and Maria Kamper from Sydney, our camping neighbors, and soon it seemed the friendly thing to do. So we dined on Diamantina duck, corned beef pancake type tucker, and other bush delicacies. Then we adjourned to Richard’s theater and he told us the “real” story of the Waltzing Matilda song. The Winton place presents it as a love story Banjo Patterson wrote for Christina MacPherson. Richard has spent his life proving that it is a political song about the sheep shearer’s uprising of 1890. The shearers had just burned a shed full of lambs and a bloke got killed and wound up in a billabong. Richard has the original 1895 manuscript of the song that Christina wrote for Banjo. We got a glimpse of it the next morning after we enjoyed Richard’s bush breakfast. Then we paid to tour the museum and bought postcards. Larry noted that it’s amazing how much a free campsite can cost. Another couple at the evening show is retired and travel to rodeos and shows and such and run a snow cone/popcorn/lolly booth. They drive an old ambulance and pull a caravan. They have a 100 liter chest freezer in the ambulance for the snowcone ice and the stretcher has been rebuilt to serve as the table for their stand. They’re having a ball.

On to Mount Isa where we didn’t do the tourist mine tour thing. We biked to the Irish Club for a Guiness and shopped a little. Kampers were our neighbors there too and we all had a nice night time wine session with Piet and Marian from Holland. Mount Isa is pretty deserty .. dry. But it rained all day Friday and we enjoyed a rest day. On the next day to the Barkley Road House. Petrol went from $.749 at Mt. Isa (with a $30 purchase at Woolworths) to $1.259 per liter. Everything there runs on diesel, thus high prices. A brochure said no fruit and veggies could be brought from Queensland into the Northern Territory. So we ate everything and peeled remaining onions and garlic, as that might not be confiscated if peeled. But we didn’t get stopped and our fridge smelled mighty powerful for many days. And there’s no place to buy more fresh stuff until Alice Springs .. unless you’re brave enough to shop at Tennant Creek. Stops at Tennant Creek and Devil’s Marbles. Devil’s Marbles has a nice campground we’ll try on the way back up towards Darwin. No power. It’ll be fun to see the Marbles at sunset. Overnight at Barrow Creek .. a really bush pub and basic camping. It cost us $9 that night. And we made more friends .. from Melbourne. We thought the drive from Charters Towers to Alice might be boring .. just some class of desert. But it is grand. It changes every few kms and is just gorgeous .. especially thru our orange tinted sunglasses. The greens are so bright and the red sand soooo red. Same for the trip to Ayers Rock/Uluru. The Red Center is aptly named. The Ghan train goes from Adelaide to Alice Springs twice a week. They are extending it to Darwin and we saw the part that is complete and saw them working on the last few kms to Alice … fancy equipment. It will be ready for passenger service from early February.

Got to Alice Springs the next day and parked the camper and left it there for almost a week. We were putting around $40-100 worth of petrol in the tank some of the long travel days. Ouch .. but were happy to have it to purchase. We saw a road train put in $700 worth of petrol one day. So we were happy to park it and bicycle around the Alice. We visited the Alice Springs School of the Air, the Alice Springs Desert Park, the original Alice Springs Telegraph Station, watched the Ghan train arrive and biked to Simpson Gap. And we enjoyed a sumptuous date-shire tea at a date farm near the campground. The campground offers entertainment most nights. We attended a star watching talk, a didgeridoo performance and an Aussie musician performance. And .. the Kampers were there too and we shared lots of beers. Campers in all of the campgrounds are most outgoing, especially the retired Aussies, and we make great friends in them all. We had 2 couples near us who are staying at the campground for several months. They checked on us morning and night and wanted to know how we spent the day and what we were doing next. Too fun.

More supplies and the yummy free Sunday morning pancake breakfast at the campground and off the 400+ km to Yulara campground and Uluru/Ayer’s Rock. A 3-day pass to the Kata Tjuta National Park costs $16.25 per person. Day 1 we biked the flat 20km to Uluru. We spent some time in the Cultural Center, but as we always get a late start, we saved most of it until Day 3. We thought we might bike around the Rock, but wanted to do the path closer to the Rock and didn’t know if the bike would be a bother to others. So we walked the 9.4km. We could have biked. Mark Kamper and little Charlie and Robbie were at the campground playground and on their way to visit us when we got back to the campground. They parked their big new Winnebago in Alice Springs and rented a 4W drive for the Uluru/Olgas/Kings Canyon experience. After a few beers we cleaned up and joined them for a wonderful buffet at their resort complex and sampled our first barramundi, crocodile, kangaroo and emu. It was sumptuous. Later we went out to the open air pub area and listened to an Aussie singer. Little Robbie is blond curly haired and attracted a young woman whose biological clock was humming and he got lots of attention and lots of dancing. The blokes wanted to dance with Charlie too, but she was toooo bashful .. like her Mum. We met a young man from County Meath west of Dublin, Ireland. The next day we met 3 more. You could just see that they are Irish. The 3 said they don’t say “top o’ the morning to ye” in Ireland. They might say “how’s it going?” Who knew????????????? Mark and another family we talked with at the buffet all climbed the Rock that day. The family included a 5 year old girl and a 9 year old boy. Should we try to climb it??????? It’s a pretty incredible climb.

Day 2 we drove the campervan to the Olgas/Kata Tjuta, 36 domes made up of “glued together” rocks. The circuit was 7.4km and we weren’t up for it. We decided to go just to the second Lookout, and return. It was such a climb that we didn’t want to return that way .. and continued on to do the circuit. Phewww … we are working wayyyyyyyyyy too hard. We returned and stopped at the Sunset Viewing area for Uluru. Immediately a couple from Adelaide started chatting and once again we could have made friends for life. These people are soooooooooooooooo friendly. It’s great fun. Back to the campground in the dark, but no kangaroos spotted. Darn.

Day 3 we returned to the Cultural Center. It is a cold windy day and the rock is closed to climbing. Oh .. darnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. They have these nice t-shirts that say “I didn’t climb Ayer’s Rock, but my Grandma/Grandpa did”. Jaime would look soooooo cute in one of those. Then we drove 300km to King’s Canyon to get ready for another hike the next day. We did the 6km hike up the canyon and around the rim and back down. It was pretty wonderful. Our friends .. who we now know as John and Freda Kidman from Adelaide .. Nicole’s parents?? … from the Uluru Sunset viewing were just arriving and we caught up on the previous days happenings. Fun.

We’ve seen a few camels in the wild, some at a camel farm, and one fenced in with cattle. Mark Kamper says that the camel has an enzyme in their stomach that allows them to digest harsh desert plants, like spinifex. Ranchers might put a camel in with the stock. Then when the camel drinks from the water supply, some of the saliva with the enzyme goes into the water and is drunk in turn by the cattle, who can then more easily digest the desert plants. Magic!! We haven’t seen wild emus or dingos yet but we saw some at parks and such. And no roos yet … live ones … but lottts of roadkill roos.

We listen often to our copy of Bill Bryson reading “In a Sunburned Country/Down Under” which tells of his travels in Australia. He is a hoooot. Larry relates often to Bill’s reverie of selling it all and hanging around Uluru for 20 years telling visitors “it’s different every day. Yes .. reallllly.” We also love his friend Allen’s query .. “You mean they built a desert museum? In the desert? And people pay money to see it?” Right. We also often use his “It’s not what we expected” line from his book “A Walk in the Woods” about his hike along the Appalachian Trail.

News of the days includes the release of the new Aussie Bible .. written in Aussie vernacular. The Annunciation goes like the Angel Gabriel saying this: “Hey Mary. You’re a pretty special Sheila. God’s got His eye on you.”

Happy September Birthday to nephew Mark Graczykowski and Gerry Meicher.

Back to Alice Springs for a few days and then on towards Darwin for September. We may go to Gemstone and check into fossicking/gem hunting. A night at Devil’s Marbles, Daly Waters. On to Katherine Gorge, Kakadu, Darwin, Lichfield National Park, Matarenka Hot Springs. Can’t wait. We heard about more “must do” boat trips peeeple did, that we’ll be broke if we do even a couple. But we’ll have to see the saltwater crocodiles jump for a chicken in the wild. We’ve seen it at Wild World. We hear there are mozzies/mosquitoes at Kadadu. Noooooooooooooooo We have averaged $2250US for the 8 months to August, but we kind of went over our fixed income for August .. mostly on petrol. Guess September and October will be the same. Sorry kids. We’re spending a little of the inheritance.

The weather has been grand. It gets nice and warm/hot in the day, is cool in the shade, and downright cool at night. Every campground has a gorgeous pool area, but the water is too dam#ed cold to go in. We are using our own sleeping bags now with the campervan sheets and pillows and it’s good and cozy. The ones they gave us are a little small and a little light. It was windier than all get out 2 days in Alice. Flattened lots of houses in New South Wales and Canberra. We heard of a flight from Sydney to Uluru in the wind. They circled the airport a few times and the windows got covered with red dust. They landed at Alice Springs instead and bussed to Yulara late that night, but were happy to just be safely landed.

 

September 2003


We had another busy touristy month. Before we left the Alice again we visited the bimonthly Todd Mall Market. Lots of fun things for sale, but we just had a brat and some Asian food. And more supplies to see us to Katherine. And of course the $60 in petrol. We got to Gem Tree mid afternoon and signed up for fossicking the next morning. We could look for garnets or zircons. We care about neither, so chose garnets, as the zircon route had 10km unsealed road and we had to drive the campervan to the site. There were 5 cars of fossickers and a lead ute. Each party had a jug of water, 2 big pails, 4 sieves, a pick and a shovel. We spent the day loading a pail with dirt the lead guy loosened, poured it into 2 dry sieves, sieved out the big junk, picked out the useless rocks, poured the remainder into a wet sieve, washed it in a pail of water, then tried to pick out what looked like garnet and put them in a tin can. We left at 9 and had to return by 3:30. Then we turned in our equipment in and took our little can of goodies inside and a gem guy sorted the wheat from the chaff. He put our gem quality stones into little baggies by size and we wound up with several baggies ranging from 4 to 7. Some of the folks did the zircon trip the previous day, so they can design lovely jewelry with both. We had a few beers and nibblies and took a nap before dinner. Then we got up and just went to bed. That was hard work!! We wouldn’t have wanted to do it for 2 days running. One of the families fossicking was a US Air Force family from Virginia who are stationed in Alice Springs for a few years. The tour guide early on noted that we didn’t sound Ozzie and we were talking about the US and our trip and such. A couple next to us were taking in the conversation. The lady asked if we were always speaking English to each other. She couldn’t quite pick up on what we were speaking. I really chuckled. She thinks WE speak funny. After I found out about the Air Force family, I was sort of wishing I hadn’t said so loud that George Bush is an idiot. Not good for the young kids to hear maybe. Gem Tree turned the generator off at 10pm and the stars were fantastic.

Off the next day and didn’t stay at Devils Marbles because people on the gem trip said the loos were very smelly. Later the Kampers said they did stay there and it was great. Oh well. The next morning we met a couple from Darwin .. the first we’d met so far. They were headed to Cairns for their oldest granddaughters wedding. Their name was Frame and she said she thought she was Framed when she got married to Ken. He worked with computers and people sometimes called him Main Frame. Ken told Larry that Rose is an ABC .. Australian Born Chinese. Sounded naughty to us, but Ken didn’t act like it was politically incorrect to say that. They recommended Lee Point as a good campground area in Darwin.

We stopped at Daly Waters to see the much famed pub and see where Bill Bryson and Allen had such a darned good time on their way to Alice. We probably should have spent the night .. but I just couldn’t feature the bad hangover I knew we’d have if we did. It is a pretty neat place. Underwear hanging along the bar, mementos from folks everywhere .. and more tourists and traffic than we’d seen on the road outside a town. Kampers camped there also and had quite a night of it. Later we stopped at Fran’s in Larrimah for Devonshire tea. That was quite another place. She talked our arm off and we bought Barramundi wings and some little fruit pies. And got the card from her hairdresser in Katherine. Instead of Daly Waters, we wanted to get to Mataranka and soak in the hot springs. Behold .. Kampers were there and our site was just near theirs. Good to see little Charli and Robbie again. There were lots of wallabies and about 7 peacocks that visited the campers each evening looking for handouts. There were also thousands of fruit bats/flying foxes hanging in the trees near the springs all day and they all took off en masse at sunset. Funny musty smell, otherwise just interesting. We had a nice soak in the springs .. a constant 34° which sounded warmer than it was, but nice. Then we cleaned up and went over to the bistro for some barramundi and chips and joined Kampers to listen to a nice country western couple croon.

We stayed another day and took a tour of the place the next day given by the male part of the country western duo. Then we watched a showing of a film “We of the Never Never” from a book of that title written by a woman who came as a bride from Melbourne to the station that is now the campground and National Park and where the film was made. It was a good story of a woman in the outback in those days and the role of the Aboriginals on the station. We had drinks that night with a couple from the Sunshine Coast who had just visited their daughter and son-in-law who are traveling about, currently working for 3 months on a cattle station west of Kununurra. Interesting stories.

On to Katherine and hair cuts and some hot restful days .. again camped by the Kampers .. for the last time as it turns out. A beautiful pool that is just a bit chilly. More fruit bats in the area .. lots of birds. We caught up on shopping and email, finally bought new camp chairs .. and decided what to do about Katherine Gorge. Finally decided just to skip it .. too darned hot .. and headed north to Kakadu and more heat. We checked into the Cooinda campground for 2 nights because 2 were a bargain. We left in a few hours on a Yellow Waters sunset boat cruise and saw lots of salty crocs and lots of birds: darters, white bellied sea eagles, purple swamp hens, forest kingfishers. The Aboriginal guide said that the darter dives in and spears a fish, then comes up and tosses it in the air and catches it head first in its mouth so the scales don’t hurt its mouth. And we saw that scenario later. Cool stuff. And a most spectacular sunset. And beautiful water lilys with big bowl size leaves and gorgeous pink flowers. Lots of info on Aboriginal bush tucker and how they use the vegetation for food. The next day we just did laundry and swam and lazed by the pool. It was soooooooooooooooo hot. On the next day and wandered where we could in the heat … Jabiru, a great Info center and some big rocks with Aboriginal paintings. The next day we wound around inland to Bird Billabong, which sounded great, but was 1.5 hour hike to it .. return or not? didn’t say .. but too darned hot to manage it. A stop at a nice Winds on the Wetlands center where we could see and learn in air conditioning. And lots of termite mounds to admire.

On to Darwin and located Lee Point. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm .. the campground’s not on the water .. but is close and the closest of any of the many available. So we check in and set up and later take a path to the beach for sunset pics. We took another path back and wound up not knowing where we were and eventually found our way back to the road near the campground .. only to discover we were inside the fence with multiple BIG signs saying it was Commonwealth property and No Trespassing and such. Whoops. Hopped over the barbed wire fence and safe once again. Phewwwwww …. Hope the security dogs didn’t sense us. This place had 2 beautiful pools as warm as the hot springs. Lots of dips there. Darwin has the Mindl Beach Sunset Markets on Thur and Sun nights. We heard that people go down early, set up their chairs on the beach, drink wine and eat delicious Asian food from the market stalls. So we got right in step and set up early and polished off 2 bottles of wine and took turns perusing the market for goodies. An excellent sunset, great food, great music .. so we went both nights. The Sunday market was much smaller than Thursday … both number of booths and the crowd. We were surprised. We stayed a few days in Darwin and toured the Esplanade area, the Museum where Bill Bryson saw the Cyclone Tracy exhibits from the major cyclone that destroyed the area on Christmas 1974, had beers at Kitty O’Sheas and biked to the Cassauaria Shopping Mall .. the largest in Australia someone told us. And made frequent use of the pool. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm … nice.

Off to Litchfield National Park for the day. It has Magnetic termite mounds. Something about other places the termites can burrow into the ground to stay warm when it gets colder but they can’t at Litchfield so they build the mounds due North South so they can make best use of the sun .. or some such thing. And it’s not always due North South but can vary based on what else is around .. and all of this is genetically engineered into the little termite to know how to build it. Amazing. There are just all kinds of different sizes and shapes and even colors of termite mounds all over Australia. The termites grind up plant material and excrete and saliva the mounds. A great add in a tourist magazine says “Even a big pile of crap is exciting on tour”. But Litchfield mostly has several waterfalls and some have plunge pools at the base of the falls you can swim in. It is very dry, so not much water for the falls just now .. but some .. and the pools were very nice indeed. We might have just continued on after our swim day, but our new Kidman friends from the Uluru sunset experience highly recommended the boat trip from the campground, so we spent the night and took the Reynolds River cruise the next morning and it was great. It was lead by David, who escaped with his family from Zimbabwe and Mugabe’s death squad 2 years ago after his brother-in-law and his brother were murdered. He had a safari guide company there and got out with only 5% of his assets. An American bloke recently bought a big cattle station near the campground and offered David the chance to guide boat cruises on the river. So he picked us up in a bus and took us through part of the station .. stopping to open and close gates so no cattle escape .. and to the Reynolds River .. where his is the only boat operating. It was very hot, so we didn’t see lots of crocs on shore .. but did spot quite a few in the water .. both salties and freshies. And more of the same birds we saw at Yellow Waters, plus Jabiro (black storks), lots of goannas/monitors, feral pigs, wallabies and lots of Brahma cattle the owner raises. And there were only 9 of us on the tour. Very good.

We headed back to Katherine and stayed at the Springvale Homestead campground this time. The pool wasn’t as nice, but lots of wallabies came out from sunset to sunrise .. all around our campervan .. and Larry spotted a kookaburra in the tree above us the next morning. We’d seen a stuffed one in the museum in Darwin and knew what to look for. The kookaburra is a kingfisher. We tried to book a cruise of the Katherine Gorge for the next morning, but couldn’t. The next day was a lazy one, so we decided to just go out to the Gorge and try for the 3pm cruise, realizing that they may not have all the listed cruises as the crowds are thinning. And sure enough .. the last cruise was at 2:30 and was fully booked. So we just took a look around and convinced ourselves that it is just like Wisconsin Dells anyway.

Off the next morning early and lots of driving west to Kununurra. On the way we crossed the border into Western Australia and were stopped to make sure we weren’t bringing any fruits, veggies or honey products over the border. Nope .. we were clean. We buzzed the gut in Kununurra and picked out the Big 4 caravan park to stay in .. then followed a sign to the Melon Farm to stock up on Western Australia produce. We got a big rockmelon./cantaloupe, small honeydew, a piece of watermelon, some tomatoes and onions all for $7 and asked the lady what else we shouldn’t miss in Kununurra. She said the Zebra Rock place .. which we did give a miss .. and the Hoochery .. a rum distillery. That sounded like our speed so we set out to follow her directions. We missed the last tour but got samples in a quaint old barroom setting and bought a bottle of Cane Royale .. a unique blend of Kimberly Cane Spirits with chocolate and coffee. We always have beer, Southern Comfort with Vanilla Diet Coke and a cask of merlot on hand .. but Larry had just been thinking we might need an after dinner liqueur .. so this fit the bill nicely. Then we went back to the campground, checked in and had a nice swim. A lady took us around the campground on a golf cart and let us pick out the site we wanted. That was a first. Classy place. I heard a bloke in the pool and told him he didn’t sound like an Aussie. Turns out he came from Dublin many years ago and married an Aussie woman .. so we had a nice visit with them and got tips for traveling Europe. When they left an Aussie woman took over and gave us some tips on traveling the west coast. She and her husband sold all last year and have traveled the year .. soon to return to Perth and decide what to do next. We meet so many Aussies who travel around all the time .. or half the time .. or who have made a “lifestyle change” and are moving on to the next adventure .. as soon as they figure out what that is. This country seems not to have the “golden handcuffs” concept we have in the states that keeps us shackled to our jobs all our lives. This couple stayed 2+ weeks in a campground in Cape Range National Park where they could catch red snapper from shore.

The next 2 days we drove and drove .. through the Kimberleys and saw beautiful hills and lots of boab / bottle trees, each with its distinct bottle or vase shape. We gave a miss to many gorges and to the Bungle Bungles … rounded rock towers striped like tigers in alternate bands of orange (silica) and black (lichen) .. as it required 4W drive or a helicopter to see them. Fixed income and all … John Patterson from Adelaide, who found our web site and invited us to visit, highly recommended a stop in Derby and a meal at the Wharf Restaurant. So .. though it was a bit out of the way .. we took John’s advice and found our way there for lunch. The Wharf was waaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out on the wharf .. no signs or anything .. and a great little outdoor seafood restaurant. We enjoyed the day’s special .. King Prawns for $10. We each got a dozen boiled big prawns with shells and heads and all. An order of chips, house Aioli sauce and some bottled water and we had a great messy hands-on lunch for ourselves. I told the hostess how a new friend from Adelaide told us about the place, and how they drove the 200+km in hot dusty weather from Broome to enjoy the restaurant. She told us that there is now just such a Wharf Restaurant in Broome .. about 2 years new. Great news, eh John? We visited the Prison Boab Tree where prisoners were locked up en route to Derby .. 14m in girth and over 1000 years old.

Onward and to Broome. Ruth and Sid Chapman from Melbourne, our first friends just off the boat in Picton, South Island New Zealand last December, were on holiday in Broome for a few days, with Ruth’s sister Gwyneth. As we were close to the campground we had chosen, I saw that the resort they were staying at was right there too. So we stopped in at reception and the woman gave them a call. They were in!! So we swung around and had a joyous little reunion with a couple we met 9 months ago for 10 minutes. Like I say .. Aussies are VERY friendly. We agreed to go to dinner at the Broome Wharf Restaurant the next evening. Larry and I scoped it out the next morning by bike and found that it too is at the very end of nothing, way out at the Port Authority building .. no signage and we wouldn’t have discovered it at all if not for John. We saw that the Sun Pictures open-air cinema had a free showing of old clips at 3pm so we let Sid and Ruth in on the free event. They hiked on down and way after 3pm we decided it was a no-show, so we all went to the pub for a few pitchers of beer and good craic. They answered lots of Aussie questions we had and we some of theirs. Later we took a taxi to the Wharf and enjoyed oysters and Barramundi and chips and lobster and wine and garlic bread. We thought we might catch the 8:15 cinema, but that didn’t work out. The next evening they had us over at their little apartment for dinner and we brought lots of cheeses, crackers, bread, fruit, olives, wine and they served a luscious chicken roast dinner with all the veggie trimmings .. broccoli, peas, sweet potato, potatoes and such. They left the next day to drive towards Perth. The neighborhood was lonely without them. The campground closest to town is right on the ocean. We had a great view of a beautiful turquoise bay .. so we stayed 5 nights and took plenty of swims. Then we moved over to a fancy campground closer to Cable Beach, not on the beach but close enough and with a great pool. Cable Beach is the prettier beach in Broome, 21km of beautiful sand and sea. At sunset 3 companies offer camel rides along the beach. We didn’t do the ride, enjoying instead watching the camel parades and taking pics. Lots of people in 4W drives descend on the beach for sunset. We biked to Gantheaume Point to see beautiful rock cliffs and dinosaur tracks .. and a rock pool called Anastsia’s Pool built by the lighthouse keeper for his arthritic wife to soak in. Broome is big for pearling, but we didn’t do the tour. Ruth and Sid and Gwyneth enjoyed it. Our last stop in Broome was at the Saturday morning market at the Courthouse, which was fun. A great band that looked like it came from the Ozarks. We just bought some food again and some produce. We keep hoping some nice people will make some baked goods for such a market, but noooooooooooooo … just Asian, brats and fruity shakes and such.


A long drive to Port Hedland and an OK campground on the sea .. nice pool and a rest. And on to Onslow, then Exmouth and Lighthouse Caravan Park and all sorts of fun things that will wait til next month. A fun scary siting was 2 Wide Load vehicles that took up the entire road and carried a giant Tonka truck type tractor with 12’ diameter wheels and a big scoop .. for mining we presume. We drove 6200kms in September and bought $1003AU in petrol.

Next month: emus, kangaroos, snorkeling from the beach, swimming with dolphins, heaps of wild flowers .. and wine tasting in the Margaret River area with a stop in Denmark. I spent my early years in Denmark, WI with mother Margaret .. so we’re taking her memory along on a nostalgia trip. We return the Britz campervan in Perth Nov. 5 and will be back to bikes and trains.

Happy October birthdays to sister Lois and husband Dennis, nieces and nephew Jody Van Deurzen and Tom and Meg Schiesl.

News of the month: President Bush is visiting here in October. We heard it twice .. once in a letter to an editor wondering what Big Bush will ask of Little Bush this time .. and a funny satirical CNNNN program that says W is stopping off for 24 hours .. to sleep. Is this for real? They’re planning to use Simon Crean .. head of the Opposition Labor party .. to act as an anti-insomnia treatment if needed.

Check your local PBS type channel and see if there’s an Aussie program “Kath and Kim”. It’s a hoot. Sad to hear that Johnnie Cash died .. and John Ritter. Slim Dusty died here … a great balladeer and Aussie legend whose hits include “A Pub With No Beer”.

 

October 2003

We covered the entire coast of Western Australia this month and it was great. There are just so many great things to see and do. On the way to Exmouth we started to see emus in the fields and lizards crossing the road. Always something to be ready to brake for. The Lighthouse Caravan Park near Exmouth had a daddy emu with 2 chicks wandering around most of the day looking for attention and perhaps a handout. Mom emu lays the eggs and daddy hatches them and takes care of the chicks until they are on their own. The ocean and a snorkeling reef was just across the road. Turtles lay eggs in the sand for the babes to hatch and move out into the ocean to begin life. But not in October. Darn. Just down the road 17km was Ningaloo Marine Park with great snorkeling beaches. We spent a day at Turquoise Bay where you could just walk out into the water and drift toward a far shore and snorkel. Beautiful water great coral and fish. I bought a mask and snorkel .. as we’ll be finding snorkeling in lots of countries, n’est-ce pas? A couple we met in Kununurra camped in the park for 2 weeks last fall and loved it. They said you could catch all the snapper you could eat, right from shore. So we checked out the Pilgrimara campground and it was beautiful. But it was tooooo windy to stay and the sites were all taken. Schools were out for a 2 week spring break and some areas were very busy. On the way back to the campground we saw many kangaroos hopping about, getting ready for a big feed for the night.

On to Coral Bay just down the road and more snorkeling. Very windy. You could again just walk to the south, walk out into the water a few hundred meters and snorkel to the opposite shore. It was scarier here because you shared the water with tour and fishing boats. The coral near the shore was dead as there have been low water levels and it had no oxygen to keep alive, but there were still good fish. We took a glass bottom boat trip to view the coral and learned that there are 3 types of coral reefs: barrier where the reef is offshore a ways, fringe where the coral is near the shore and key atoll, formed by lava. This year we visited the Great Barrier Reef, this fringe reef at Coral and Turquoise Bays and will be seeing volcanic reef off the Big Island of Hawaii in February. Traveling is soooo educational.

We turned off for a sign for Blow Holes on the way to Carnarvon. They were spectacular better than we saw at the pancake rocks at Punakaki in New Zealand. Later we saw a video at the Tourist Bureau of a shark and whale feeding frenzy that went on for over a month in 1991 just up the road from the Blow Holes. There were thousands of sharks and a few giant whales all feeding on fish they forced in from the ocean. Carnarvon is an agricultural center and there were wonderful fields and fields of banana and citrus trees and beautiful flowers and veges. Lots of signs of places selling fruits and veges. We got some lovely tomatoes and capsicum/peppers at an honesty stand. Lonely Planet told us there would be Devonshire tea at a banana plantation. We found it and it was closed. Darn!! But luckily there was another and we had tea with lovely scones with bananas and cream. We also got some yummy Mango Port wine.

We couldn’t book into Monkey Mia until the school holidays were nearly over, so we drove the endless kilometers and stayed the night at Hamelin Pools, which is one of 3 places in the world where stromatolites .. living fossils, the first organisms that provided oxygen for the atmosphere and allowed life to survive still exist. We hoped to see kangaroos, as we were out in the bush, but saw none. But we did see way too many flies and highways of ants on a crazy mission. Big moths came around late in the evening and loved the Rum Hooch we got in Kununurra. The next night we had a wonderful campsite on the beach in Denham. On the way we stopped at Seashell Beach where the beach is all tiny seashells up to 10 meters deep. They cut blocks of them and use them for buildings. The ablution block at Hamelin Pools was made of such blocks. There were also heaps of flies at the Beach and we were afraid that they’d keep following us, but we were OK. Eagles Bluff had grand views of the ocean and we saw a shark. There were dugongs out there somewhere in the Indian Ocean. They sound much like manatees, so we gave a miss to trying to see them as we’ve seen manatees in Florida a few times.

Off to Monkey Mia for 2 nights. Female dolphins come in for a fish feed up to 3 times each day between 8am and 1pm. We saw them come in 3 times and it was great. Lots of people lined up each time to see the dolphins. The ranger had to use military tactics to keep the tourists in line and backed away from the dolphins. They keep edging forward and curving the line to take great pics. There are rules: the dolphins have their own area where you can’t swim, no touching the dolphins, no feeding them on your own. There is a swimming area for people and if the dolphins come and cavort with you, it is OK to swim with them but no touching. There are heaps of pelicans around all the time and we got great pics of them too. We invited our camper neighbors over for a drink and
nibblies. Turned out they are from Tasmania, have been partners 28 years and when driving across the Nullabor, he proposed to her, she said yes and they managed to organize all the paperwork they needed to get married in Tom Price, at Barbara’s daughter’s home. We will visit them in January when we get to Tasmania.

Kalbarri was our next stop. When we left Monkey Mia it was almost too hot and too perfect. At Kalbarri it was rainy and windy and cold. Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh … We haven’t been on the beach since and our tans are fading. We visited the Wildflower Center and Rainbow Jungle, the Australian Parrot Breeding Center with most in cages with breeding boxes but many in a free flight aviary and buzzing at our heads. Our camping neighbors Don and Cindy from Bunbury said we must have dinner at Findlay’s Fresh Fish BBQ, which is an outdoor venue in an old fish factory. They offer their guests no service, no table cloths, no corkage charge, no glasses, and a roll of toilet paper for napkins. But they have great food, bonfires, picnic tables and you just get to talking to your neighbors. We met a nice couple from Perth who immigrated from England when their kids moved here. Our only regret is that it is a BYO place and we didn’t know. We had no wine, no beer, no spirits of any kind. Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh …

We traveled towards Geraldton stopping at Lake Gregory, Horrocks and Northampton. As we approached Lake Gregory we saw this really pink lake near the coast. What is that??? The sign told us that the color is from a bacteria that is trapped in the salt granules. It is a rich source of Beta Carotene that is harvested from the pond. We had Devonshire tea at the Oakabella Homestead and Tearooms outside Geraldton. There is a beautiful new hilltop memorial in Geraldton for the HMAS Sydney which was destroyed by a German ship in 1941. We’re in wine country again and must visit a few wineries, as we missed all the New Zealand wineries. We visited Chapman Valley thinking we’d visit a few … but you can really only do justice to one a day. The first one we came upon was the Chapman Valley Winery. We sampled a few reds, bought a merlot and a shiraz and opened one to have with a lovely cheese and cracker plate. The setting was wonderful, great flowers. The vintner had just won prizes on the shiraz and he goes to the EAA in Oshkosh.

Farther south near Cervantes we visited the Pinnacles Desert Park where there are thousands of limestone pinnacles up to 5 meters tall and up to 2 meters thick at the base .. all standing around in a sand desert, thousands of years old. And it was just our sort of tour .. a scenic drive through and pics right from the campervan. Out of the park and heading east, there is a big change and it is green and pastoral and lots of cattle and fields of wheat and grains and such. It is no longer the outback. We are headed for wildflower country.

Western Australia has wonderful wildflowers in winter and spring. We’ve been hearing that for months. And it’s true though we are just a bit too late to see fields of yellow and white everlastings. We have seen some, and a field of beautiful red somethings, but not like the videos we’ve seen at two Wildflower Centers. One of the centers dries the flowers and ships them to Seattle and San Francisco. But there are many flowers all colors along the roadside and beach walks and the woods. We have pics of so many different kinds and colors. Our favorite is the green and red kangaroo paw and smaller orange cats paw. And fields and fields of lavender. We’ve been at 2 lavender farms for Devonshire tea with rosemary scones and lovely jam and cream and lavender tea. Yummmm …

The southern coast area has tingle, karri, marri and jarrah eucalypt trees that grow only here. Karri trees grow 50 meters tall and big around. Red tingle trees have shallow roots and can be burned out and hollowed out by insects, so they grow big butts at the base for support. The roots can be damaged by people walking around them, so in Walpole at the Valley of the Giants they’ve built a wonderful Tree Top Walk where you walk up an incline up to 40 meters up and walk among the tingle and karri treetops. We especially liked the Karri Oak(ie). Tee hee. There is also a bottom boardwalk among some of the older tingles. Elsewhere is the largest tingle tree where you used to be able to drive your car into it for photo ops. And Thurlbey Herb Farm was a fantastic stop. Beautiful grounds, wonderful shop and rosemary scones with marmalade and cream. Our trip to Denmark was short as it was rainy and cold. We did walk around the shops and enjoyed the Toffee Shop, 2 bakeries and the many outdoor fruit and vege stands. We again looked for a winery to visit and saw a whole mob of kangaroos. Matilda Estate was our wine of choice that day.

Northcliffe and Windy Point at Cape D’Entrecasteaux offered fantastic walks along rugged coastline with more wildflowers, a kangaroo, a snake and white tailed black cockatoos. Pemberton has a whole tour route to visit the eucalypt forests and wineries. In 3 places there are fire lookout trees you can climb. Rungs spiral up the tree to a viewing platform, 60 meters up on one and 68 meters on another. Pretty amazing. You’d never find this in the states no payment, no lines, no liability forms. Large green parrots called 28s and smaller rosella parakeets flock around the caravan park and one of the climbing trees looking for handouts. Rory had several St. Francis moments. They just land on your head, your hands, arms, shoulder, especially if you’re holding a bit of bird seed or Weetbix. We had tea again at the Lavender Berry Farm and there were heaps of 28s at the feeder and little gold eyes and blue wrens having a peck at our scones. They were very gentle and skittish, not cheeky like some we dined with in Queensland. More beautiful yards, miniature horses, alpacas, swarms of bees. We also enjoyed honey and lavender ice cream. Pemberton also has tram and steam train rides, lots of wineries, lots of cows and sheep and green green farms. I climbed half of the Bicentenial tree 65 meters tall and returned the next morning and climbed to the top of the Gloucester Tree at 60 meters. Then we went back to the Lavender and Berry Farm and enjoyed a pancake with hot berry syrup and ice cream. More pretty bird visitors. Also a family from San Diego traveling for 6 months with 3 young daughters. Himself was carrying Bill Bryson’s “Down Under”, as “In a Sunburned Country” is marketed here in the Southern Hemisphere so that was a good way to start a conversation with them. They asked where we were from, then told us that people from Wisconsin don’t travel, do they? We had to chuckle and mostly agree. The parents were very inspired with our story and they were very jealous. We assured them that there is life after children.

On to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet. It is very rugged and beautiful but windy and rainy. It reminds us some of New Foundland, which we figure is the antipodean point to this beautiful spot. Bill Bryson uses that wonderful word several times and we see it in the paper frequently. We had to look up the meaning. We found a nice caravan park in Augusta right on the water where the ocean meets the river. We were trying to figure which power point was ours when a nice English bloke came out of the adjacent Maui and soon offered us a very traditional drink, a lovely gin and tonic. Mike seemed about our age and his 20 something son Dan joined him for the week. Mike is on a 6 month tour that began with his biking across the US following the original ’76 Bike Centennial / Adventure Cycling route. He loved it. Then he toured in New Zealand and froze and saw lots of snow. We sat huddled in the wind swapping travel stories. He didn’t think he could do what we’re doing thinks he needs that home base we hear about so often. We booked in for 2 days hoping to bike around Augusta, but as is getting to be a bad habit, we picked another cold rainy windy day, so just hung out and later biked to an Internet place and killed a few hours.

I checked at the Tourist Information on which cave to see in the Margaret River area and was recommended Mammoth Cave. So we headed there and took the tour. There are over 200 caves in the area, about 12 you can go into and about 6 are tourist attractions. They vary from tour led, CD tour, self-tour with torch and headlamp and adventure tours on your own. Mammoth had the CD tour so you could travel at your own pace. Now we’ve done Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin and caves in Ireland and the Czech Republic, so our inclination was to give this a miss. But the brochures hype them so much, you’re sure you’ll miss something. This one was nice. Big, high, not the maze type or long strung out type we’ve seen. Conservatively lit, nice boardwalks and you could reach out and touch many of the decorations though you are constantly advised not to. Just less commercial than we’ve seen before and nice. You could do a 700 meter bush walk on the way out and we saw lots of fun stuff, including a swarm of bees on the cave wall.

Off to do a few wineries. We went first to Redgate which was written as the oldest in the area. Nice simple tasting, bought a wonderful Shiraz or something. We were looking for lunch at a winery, so nearby was Yolanda Estate and we went in but the place scared us it was so massive and fancy and charged for tasting and had gardeners all over the place. So next door to the Leeuwin Winery and sampled a few lovely reds and bought a Sibling Shiraz. As is customary, we missed their lunch times but could order some cheese. They have 4 cheeses offered on the menu with descriptions as long as your arm and come from Tasmania, Britain, and France. 60g was $12 which could be 2 kinds. Fancy dancy. But it was all a lovely little snack when the tiny portions of cheese came with toast points and rice crackers and a few figs. We buzzed thru Margaret River but it looked like Fish Creek times 3 so we just headed to the ocean and checked out about 6 caravan parks along the coast hoping for a nice ocean site, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The coast is magnificent and has the best surfing in the world, according to the brochures.

We stayed in Dunsborough. The next morning we drove out to Cape Naturaliste. It was a beautiful rugged walk to get to the shore and there is a whale watching station. We could see a whale watch tour boat way out and whales spouting nearby, but it was pretty much fantasy through binoculars. To the Wicked Brewery closed Tuesdays. The Bootleg Brewery down the road was open and heaps of people. A nice lunch of bean and chorizo soup with good bread and Turkish flat bread with hummus and potato/garlic/oil dips and a nice pilsner. It was finally sunny and almost warm as we sat outside on a hillside overlooking a pond, cattle and grapevines. A quick stop at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, the Margaret River Cheese Factory, and the closed on Tuesdays Olive Farm. Two nights in Busselton and some biking. It was cold and windy and gray again and we were getting grumpy. The temps in Perth sounded much better than we were having, so we just pushed on and booked in at a Fremantle Caravan Park not with ocean views, but it’s right there just a few cabins and a sand dune over.

We will hang out until we return the campervan November 5. We’ve purchased our Great Southern Rail Pass so will be on bicycle, tent and train for the next months. We booked the train for Adelaide November 12. We will tour the area, take a quick train trip to Alice Springs and back, then head towards Melbourne at the end of the month … maybe by train, maybe by car or campervan. We hate to miss Kangaroo Island and the Great Ocean Road.

News of the month included visits by President Bush and the Chinese leader and the 50,000 sheep wandering around the mid-East on the Como Express ship after Saudia Arabia rejected them. There were big fears that they’d be returned .. and no one wanted them in their back yard. Is it ironic that Eritrea took them with $1million AU, heaps of feed .. and may well sell some to Saudia Arabia? It’s all a bit of a cock-up, really. There is much consternation about live animal sales to other countries, especially when they may not be killed humanely. We hear about the California fires and we made California burgers when Arnie got elected.

Happy November birthdays to son-in-law Brian Mohs, brother Pat Scanlan, nephews Craig Scanlan and Todd Graczykowski, friends Betty Schleifer, Mary Ellen Spoerke, Chuck. I think I had a bigger list, but can’t think of more just now. Sorry if I missed you.
 

November 2003

 

After we cleaned up and returned the Britz, we spent a few days enjoying the free buses and trains of Perth and Fremantle and the Fremantle markets. We camped near the beach in both cities and enjoyed biking along some of the finest surfing beaches in the world. We enjoyed fish and chips and wine at Cicerello’s on the wharf in Fremantle, as recommended by the couple we dined with in Kalbarri. Beers at the Old Swan Brewery along the river in Perth after walking Kings Park and the Little Creatures Brewpub on the wharf in Fremantle and a tour of the Perth Mint. We talked to a woman from Arizona who has a company that makes products from Prickly Pear. She says she has helped the American Indians with diabetes problems and was asked by the Aboriginals in Alice Springs to visit them to talk to them about it too. She gave me a brochure and it says it lowers LDL, lowers insulin requirements, helps fibromyalgia, bladder, prostate, arthritis, acidosis, spider veins, etc. We’re going to give it a go.

The Attwoods in Adelaide wrote of a train derailment and we found that the train from Perth to Adelaide on Sunday was turned back due to a freight train derailment. So we were nervous, but they got everything fixed in time for us to travel the next Wednesday. They took our trailer and bag as luggage and accepted the full panniers on the bike as part of the bike charge. With a sigh of relief we climbed onboard to discover that we had aisle seats across from each other. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm … So we couldn’t lean on each other to sleep nor share the MP3 player nor discuss map ideas. We were on the train almost 2 days and 2700 km and it was pretty awful. The seats were uncomfortable and the aisle very small so people .. especially smokers as the smoking car was just behind us and the diner and lounge the cars ahead .. were always knocking against us. We stopped at Kalgoorlie from 10 pm til 1:30am so some could take a tour of the goldmines. We went into town and had a beer. We crossed the Nullarbor, no trees, the longest straight track in the world, or some such. For 6+ hours there were no trees. Also a 20 minute stop in Cooktown where it was 42°C. We were pretty excited about our train pass that lets us ride the IP, Overland and Ghan unlimited times for 6 months. We thought we’d ride up to Alice Springs and right back on the Ghan, but soon gave that idea up. We will ride the Overland to Melbourne, but will take a ferry from Tasmania right to Sydney instead of returning to Melbourne and train to Adelaide and Sydney. We prefer Amtrack.

We settled into a caravan park with a kookaburra calling and parrots darting about and went to discover Adelaide. Beautiful old stone buildings, beautiful parks and a linear park with bike path 40km along the Torrens River from the coast to the Hills. Pam and John Attwood found our website a year ago .. before we even left .. as they thought about getting the domain name. We’ve been writing all year so when we got to Adelaide they set up Sunday to pick us up and show us their town. As we waited for them, a young woman asked if she hadn’t met us in Toodyay. She said “TooJay” and we didn’t know where that is. She says that’s how you say Toodyay. Who knew? So it turns out to be Janice and Pierre from White Horse in the Yukon. We were camped next to a couple from north of Toronto, so we introduced them and went with Attwoods. They took us driving all over the Adelaide Hills .. lots of pastoral area with wineries and sheep and cows and wild flowers. Someone .. Patterson I guess ... introduced a purple heath flower from England perhaps and it makes fields of purple that is called Patterson’s Curse in the wet and Jane’s Salvation when it’s dry, as it gives the livestock something to eat but can make horses ill over the years. Sure looks pretty. We had coffee in Stirling at an Organic Market and it felt like a little California café. Great market where Pam added to her already scrumptious lunch for us. I found interesting that a table held big pails of olives in brine, open for customers to scoop some out to buy. Hmmmm …. We drove to a lovely picnic area, but it had turned cold and windy after great heat the previous day. The area was shady so we drove more to a sunny spot and spread a blanket and had the most beautiful platter of veggies and olives and onion tarts and veggie tarts and cheeses and baguettes with champagne in glass glasses. It was marvelous.

Later we visited with Attwoods friends Mary and John Scales who live on a big block of land overlooking the Adelaide Plains, the city to the coast. They have giant flower gardens and are marvelous funny fun people. We enjoyed Pam’s sponge cake roll with tea and coffee on the verandah and it was lovely. Mary says a male koala sometimes visits their gum trees … braying like a donkey lets her know there’s a koala about. Great fun.

Then we wound our way back to Adelaide passing thru little German Hahndorf that looks lovely and we’ll have to get to. Their son Andrew and son Ben and wife Sara and their dogs were waiting. We had just a marvelous, fun, gourmet evening with them and Johns friend John .. great craic, great BBQ with trimmings, finished much later with a lovely strawberry covered custard tart with grape syrup. They have a beautiful new brick home built 7 years ago on the Adelaide block that was Pam’s family home. Sara is a garden designer and has recommended wonderful plants that make full use of their compact yard. They have lemon, plum, cherry trees, veggies, shrubs and lots of privacy. We had to watch an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy from the US that they think is a hoot. DD says it’s on in Seattle about a month, same as here. Too funny.

The next day we booked a car for Kangaroo Island, the train to Melbourne and ferries to/from Tasmania. Lots of decisions. Then we took a bike ride and planned to go to Town Center for the evening .. but instead asked Janice and Pierre to join us at the Hackney Hotel near the caravan park where we enjoyed wonderful Parmies (Chicken Schnitzel Parmesan) the first night. We had a great night discussing biking, Canada, Alaska, US, life with them. We may see them in Tasmania in December. They rented a Britz campervan to drive from Perth to Adelaide, on our recommendation in Toodyay, and are now biking on their recumbants to Melbourne and on to Tasmania. We found out from them that they had to fill out a 48 page form to get an Australia visa, have physicals with an approved doctor, have proofs of $$$, letters from employees that they will have a job when they return, all sorts of stuff that we didn’t have to do. We just filled an online application for an evisa and had to put some $$$ stuff and passport #s and such. Interesting that another commonwealth country has to go through such hoops for a 3 month visit.

Off the next morning in the rental car with lots of stuff but bikes and trailers stored at the caravan park. Pam asked Larry if he missed anything from “home”. He says custard filled Bismarcks, especially those from Scott’s Pastry in Middleton. They wracked their brains and recommended the St. Peter Bakery nearby where all the waitstaff are beautiful people. Andrew especially likes to go there. So Larry had a cream Berliner and thought it pretty good. A wurst at Yankalilla, another Berliner and a winery at Normanton and ferry to Kangaroo Island at 6pm. We set up the tent and went across the street for an evening Fairy Penguin tour. We’d seen them in Oamaru in NZ but only saw 8 in March. This time we saw heaps. As it got dark 2 chicks came out of each of the little burrows waiting for the ‘rents to come home and feed them. They whined and brayed and made all kinds of noises. Soon some of the parents pop out of the water and waddle toward the chicks, stopping frequently to preen and dry out. They assemble offshore and come in in small groups. The ranger used a red torch to show us the penguins.

The next day we went to Flinders Chase National Park and found 3 koalas high in the tall gums and furry kangaroos looking for handouts and Cape Barron geese. We decided to camp there and go out on a night visit to the Platypus Waterholes walk, but didn’t see any. We visited the Remarkable Rocks .. similar composition to Uluru … and Admirals Arch that has a beautiful stone arch over the water with heaps of seals and a wonderful lighthouse above. The next day we stopped at Hanson Bay Sanctuary where for $2 in an honesty box you wander about and we saw 14 koalas and an echidna. We were very happy. Stops at a Sheep Cheese Factory, a Eucalyptus distillery, a winery and great beaches. At one of the beaches a woman from Italy found a dried leafy sea dragon, a beautiful species of sea horse found by divers there.

We planned to stay at Victor Harbor after the ferry back, but “schoolies” have taken over the town and there are some drinking and police problems. Schoolies are year 12 graduates age 17 or so and each state seems to have a place where they congregate to celebrate their freedom. Schools don’t end for the year until closer to Christmas, but year 12 must end earlier. It sounds like spring break in Florida or Mexico. It turned cold and we both got colds, so we toured the Barossa Valley and enjoyed the beautiful farms and vineyards and a lavender festival without too much tasting. We like to buy a bottle when we taste and just can’t keep up.

When we got back to Adelaide and returned the hire car, we bought all day rail passes and rode most of the 4 main arteries. Lunch at one end, beers at the other. John Attwood took us back to the Barossa and we tasted at 5-6 wineries and had a lovely lunch in a cute little village park on lovely pies Pam made for us at o’dark:00 the night before. She made a great crust, layered sautéed leeks, simmered chicken pieces, topped with creamy whipped potatoes. They were so flavorful and wonderful. Pam is a Domestic Godess. We made plans to go to lunch with John and Freda Kidman who we met at Uluru, but instead they took us to their lovely home in the foothills for lunch and later we went up to a cute hotel in the hills overlooking the Adelaide Plains for beers. We had a grand time with them and it was great John came from London at age 5 and Freda from Scotland at age 16. So we got their appreciation for both Australia and their homelands and history. We ended the week with dinner in Hahndorf with John and Pam as a thank you for their kindness to us. We got back to the St. Peter’s Bakehouse several more times, especially after we tasted their pizza slices. Yummmmm….

We’re off to Melbourne on the Overland train .. 11 hours only. Ruth and Sid Chapman who we met in Picton in New Zealand almost a year ago insist we stay the whole time with them .. so we’ll be with them about 10 days and celebrate an early Christmas before we ferry to Tasmania for a 6 week ride. It seems important to get to Hobart for Boxing Day and New Years as there are parties and markets and food tastings for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. So we’ll have some fast peddling to do.

Well .. we’ve been on the road for a year already and it still just feels like a great long holiday. We’re made for this life. We’ve been eating lots of bread and cheeses and wines, getting ready for Europe next fall. Can’t wait.

News for the month includes the war and terrorists, cricket, rugby. We’ll light a light for Michael Jackson .. then blow it right out. Happy December birthdays to Mom Rusch, Carol Hagerbaumer and niece Jill. Happy Turkey Day and Happy Christmas and New Years and all holidays to y’all.

 

December, 2003


Can you believe the year is over???? We can’t. Hope you had good holidays and rest and are now enjoying the cold and snow … or the warmth of summer, as we are.

We had a grand time in Melbourne. The Overland was a bit more comfortable than the Indian Pacific, but we only had to ride it for 10 hours or so. We spent the first night at the Friendly Backpacker, who let us leave our trailers and bags in their baggage room when we went out to Croydon to stay with Ruth and Sid. We got a train out there the next afternoon, with our bikes and panniers, and Sid met us at the station and led us to our next home. They have a lovely brick home on a quiet street with tons of trees and flowers. Ruth could just go outside and bring in beautiful bouquets of roses and holly. She was at a conference in New South Wales until late Wednesday, so Sid took grand care of us. We had a lovely big guestroom at the back of the house … very private. Sid gets up early and walks an hour each morning .. and we’d roll out of bed long after he was back and had his porridge and had the clothes on the line. He did all of our laundry and even ironed for us!!! Thanks Sid .. you are wonderful!!!

We took the train back to Melbourne several days and enjoyed the wonderful Melbourne Markets, a tour of the Victoria Parliament, the Botanic Gardens where lots of school groups were enjoying end of the year outings, dinner in Chinatown and visits to some of the burbs on the water. When Ruth came home we had a 4 day weekend and they drove us to Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula (where Prime Minister Harold Holt went missing in 1967), the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles rock formations and some wineries in the foothills of Mt. Dandenong. We had a grand early Christmas party at Ruth’s sister Gwenyth’s house, as we met her with them in Broome in September. She got out all the decorations and set a very festive table complete with “crackers” … a decorative wrapping that you pull apart and get a paper hat, a small prize and a joke. We learned later that maybe you’re supposed to have 2 people pull and try to win the prize. Thank you Gwenyth. We also met friends John and Nora Martin in Cobden. John is active in a manly setup of miniature trains and tracks and station and all. He took us over and we got a ride. Most of the engines are steam engines, but more often they use easier to get started small petrol engines. He says 12 years ago the area was a swamp and now it’s all tracks and tunnels and bridges and flowers and picnic areas. They have 2 lovely brick buildings, one for toilets and a room for the “engineers”, and another for snacks to purchase. All a volunteer labor of love and very flash. There was a small party booked when we were there and Father Christmas came in by train. High excitement!! We also had tea with friends Meta and Janet and Janet’s Mom and had another enjoyable evening. They are very involved in a Welsh choir and are making plans to tour Wales next year. We got to meet 4 of 5 grandchildren and one son and daughter-in-law. Great fun at the Chapmans. Thanks sooooo much Sid and Ruth. You made our Melbourne visit so special.

All too soon we packed up again, trained back to the Friendly Backpacker, reclaimed our gear and got it all back in place and made our way to the ferry terminal to catch the Spirit of Tasmania II. We had time for a lovely ride along the harbor to St. Kilda … and a beer. The ferry set out at 9pm and we once again chose the cheap seats … so had an airplane type seat to spend the night in. We put it off as long as possible, but had to give in about 11pm and made it through the night. It was pretty uncomfortable and cramped, but we did get some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs. The ferry lands in Devonport. To park and retrieve our bikes and trailers, we had to crawl under big truck trailers. Too strange. Larry got a fair bit of grease on his back in the crawl. There were several other bikers, including brothers from Holland and a Mom, Dad and 14 year old girl from Canada who had a month holiday. Dad and daughter rode a tandem and Mom on her own bike.

After a breakfast stop we headed to a caravan park to recuperate. A shower felt good and we spent some time in the town later, getting fuel for the stove and such. A small ferry took you back and forth over the Mersey River, bikes and all. So Ferry .. Cross the Mersey …. could be a song in there .. On the return trip the guy charged us $4 instead of the $5 the other driver took on the way over. I looked questioningly and he explained … $1.50 for pensioner rates and $.50 for the bike. “He think we’re pensioners” I whispered to Larry. “You maybe” he replied .. “but not me”. We were surprised to learn from Sid and Ruth that Australians do not automatically get a pension check when they turn 65 .. as we in America could get our Social Security check. The pension check is “means tested” and if you were a good saver and have enough money, the government doesn’t return anything to you. You don’t even get a pensioner card then to be eligible for all kinds of discounted admission prices and such.

We decided to bike toward Cradle Mountain before schools let out since we had enough time to get to Hobart for the races. We learned it was about 100km, so we thought maybe 2 days. After the first day of climbing our way to Sheffield, town of murals, we upgraded the estimate to 3 days. Day 2 found us climbing some again but mostly just a lovely ride toward Gowrie Park. Near our destination, a lady came out to the road from a park building and invited us to a BBQ, as they had “over-catered”. We were surprised to find ourselves loading our plates with salads and sausages and steak sandwiches and joining the Kentish Council Holiday party. We were very welcomed. We look pretty pathetic trudging along with our many many kilos of gear. They told us we’d have a long downhill to a dam, then a long steep 30% grade uphill. We spoke of the Cradle Mountain Lodge feeding critters at night and that we hoped to see Tasmanian Devils at the feeding. They were all pretty sure that just wallabies and possums come to the feeding. Hmmmmmmmm … So we rested up at Gowrie Park 2 nights in a $10 per person backpackers where we had the only double room, then headed back and climbed our way toward Mole Creek, who advertise Tasmania’s #1 wildlife park .. with Tasmanian Devils.

We climbed and we climbed. A guy in a Ute offered us a ride and 2 other people stopped to see if they could help us. No thanks … we’re fine. After a nasty scary long descent, we were getting close to our destination. I had a blowout that needed a new tire and tube. A few kms from the caravan park, Larry’s trailer axel broke. We limped into the park and the nice caretaker man was kind enough to sell me a few beers to make it through the night. We hadn’t the energy to make it the 3kms to the pub and we hadn’t a beer for 3 days. We gave great wonder to what to do about the trailer … order new parts from Eugene Oregon .. ship them where .. how long would it take .. how much would it cost? Larry thought that maybe someone would have a pipe to slip over the broken parts and drill the holes and it would work. Where? In Mole Creek? Or would we need to bus to Deloraine? Or Launceston? As Larry’s luck would have it, a guy at the town service station put together just what he wanted in a half hour, made him one for the other side, and charged him $18. Later he made some for my trailer for $10. We have the sturdiest Bike Friday trailers anywhere now … 3 custom fixes. But we can’t tell Bike Friday because we’re not supposed to be carrying so much gear. We’re way over the trailer limit.

A rain day, then the trip to Trowunna Wildlife Park where we saw Tasmanian Devils, Koalas, Wombats and lots of other native animals. We could pat the koala and devil and cuddle the wombat. The devils look like a cross between a small bear cub and a stocky puppy .. with a vicious mouth. Most have white stripes across the rump and along each front leg. That surprised us, as the souvenir devils never have that. We got a great tour from the ranger and learned about their reproductive parts and pouches and all. He tossed in a part of a roadkill wallaby and they played tug of war with it, tearing it to bits and crunching bone and all. They leave no remains, eating bone, skin, flesh, blood and all. Later one ran around with the wallaby tail in its mouth. The others chased for awhile, then washed themselves in their drink bowls to rid themselves of blood and remains, as the ranger says they do in the wild. Many wild Devils have a tumor growth on their cheeks and malformed mouths that will prevent them from eating as they should. They are breeding as many as possible in captivity so they do not become extinct, as the Tasmanian Tiger has.

On to Deloraine … a beautiful easy ride. There Larry found a relief map of Tasmania in the British pub and had to bring me in to see. Mountains and hills everywhere and we’d only covered such a small bit in 10 days or so. We realized that if we were to see anything of this great island, we’d need a vehicle. So a few phone calls and we were able to find a big old 1986 bright yellow Ford Fairlane stationwagon ghetto cruiser. We took the bus to Launceston to pick it up before Christmas Eve. We toured both sides of the Tamar River and a few wineries before returning to our last night in Deloraine and our stuff. Packed it all in the next morning, got some groceries to last over Christmas and headed for the East coast. We were thinking maybe Tomahawk, but the lady at a cherry farm thought it would be too windy there. So we chose St. Helens. These places all sound soooo wonderful in the brochures and we imagine a grand campsite overlooking the water, but noooooooooooo. All too often they’re some fenced in area with no views, as was everything in St. Helens. The terrain between Launceston and St. Helens was just incredible. Hills and hills and more hills. We had no regrets about not biking. The day before, we saw the Canadian family cruising down a great hill, with lots of uphills ahead of them before they’d spot a campground. We have great respect for their abilities …. and we keep wondering how they get that daughter to ride with them?

So we had a quiet Christmas at St. Helens. We spent some hours on a small beach but the wind howled and it was chilly. Christmas dinner was beef/garlic/pea pods/onions with plum sauce on the BBQ and a lovely bottle of Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir we bought the day before when we visited the winery. Hmmmmmmmmmm .. life is good. On to Frecinet National Park and 2 nights … with a climb to the Wineglass Cove lookout and more cold windy time on the beach at Friendly Beach. When the sun is out it is great, but when it is clouded over it is pretty chilly. But it is warmer than last year in New Zealand most of the time. And the water is such a beautiful turquoise where it is shallow and a deep deep blue out deeper. And of course hills everywhere you look. We learned back in Cairns that gum/eucalypt trees are called “widow makers” as they frequently drop their limbs and kill the blokes below. When we rented the car in Adelaide they guy recommended that we not park under a gum tree, as “they can decide to drop their limbs at any time”. So we were a little concerned when our whole campsite was shaded by gum trees and the wind was high at times. But happy to say we made it out intact. None of the campsites were on the water, but just a few trees separated us from the beach and the surf roared all night. It was wonderful sleeping.

We thought we’d hang out a few more days before heading to the Hobart scene, but we didn’t like the caravan parks on the way, so headed to Berriedale and a park recommended by a neighbor camper at St. Helens. We set up on a hilltop site overlooking the Derwent River and set in for a weeks stay. Happy that a bus stops just at the corner to take us into Hobart for the Summer Festival and the Taste of Tasmania. The caravan owners are packing people in everywhere and making most of the busy season.

We bussed to the wharf one day and saw the yachts that had come in, sampled a brat platter and beers at the Taste and just walked and walked. This day was hot .. 30°C/86°F.
We went back for fireworks on New Years Eve and that was glorious. We brought along our camp chairs and found a great spot right at the edge of the wharf. The fireworks were RIGHT THEREEEE. Another day we drove up to Mt. Wellington and to the Botanic Gardens. The day was windy and wreaked havoc on the tents at the caravan park. Ours survived intact, but a neighboring one was ripped up pretty badly. We didn’t take time to tour the whole garden, but made sure to visit the Japanese Garden for Fred Thinnes, a Compuware work buddy. He and Susan have an interest in gardens and he’s found us all the Japanese gardens in Australia. There was a good one in Melbourne too, but it was in the Zoo and we were too skint to pay the $17 admission fee. We used to go to Irish Rovers concerts with Fred and Susan and Fred sent an itinerary of the Rovers tour in New Zealand. Unfortunately we had left by then, but I sent it on to all of our NZ buddies and recommended they give it a go.

We like Tasmania. It is beautiful and no insects are annoying us. No sand flies, few mosquitoes, and none of the annoying tenacious Aussie flies since Devonport. No need for my fly swat. We’ve seen about 6 echidnas already toddling across the road. And people again are so friendly. Just carry a map and they’re asking if you need help and are you on holidays? How do you like Tasmania? The weather is ever changing, but perhaps it will settle in January. It shouldn’t be so windy this time of year, they say.

We’ll be touring Tasmania for all of January, heading to Sydney on the brand new Spirit of Tasmania III ferry February 2.
 

January 2004


New Years Day was rainy and cloudy and cold, so we drove north to see what kind of road we might have biked to Hobart on. Hilly and winding .. that’s what we found out. We visited Ross and a few other convict towns that have wonderful old stone buildings and bridges and churches built by convict labor. Ross also has the remains of the Female Factory where female convicts were housed. It wasn’t a pretty scene. We drove to the Great Lake, another possible bike route and were still really happy to be in a car.

We visited the Taste once more and walked around Battery Point and Arthur Circus and admired the grand old Georgian homes and the earliest cottages. More wine, more beer, oysters and more brats at the Taste and more buskers and wharf watching. Saturday was the outdoor Salamanca Market which has all sorts of wonderful goodies for sale and all sorts of interesting attendees. We just bought peas and cherries and such. Cherries and raspberries are ripe now and there are roadside stands selling them all over the south of the island. The bing cherries are so sweet and wonderful. We paid $12/kilo before Christmas and $5/kilo now. One place had 5 kilos for $10. Wow!! Tamar Ridge Wines were at the Taste so we got to have a few more bottles there and take some along. Yummy Pinot Noir. We hoped we’d run into Janice and Pierre from the Yukon again, but we never saw them. We hope they contact us again.

We’d done Hobart .. so off towards the Tasman Peninsula. Richmond is touted as having lots of convict buildings, so we spent a little time there. On toward Port Arthur and a stop for some of the sites of Tasman National Park: Tessellated Pavement and sea cave blow holes of the Devil’s Kitchen, Tasmans Arch and Remarkable Cave. We thought we’d camp at Nubeena down the road because it looked on the map like the caravan park might be on the beach. Nope. So we went back and set up at the Port Arthur Caravan Park. The next 2 days we walked to historic Port Arthur and walked around the remains of a convict colony built for repeat offenders .. convicts who committed another crime in Australia. Entry fees included a 20 minute boat tour of the harbor and around Dead Man’s Island, a 40 minute overview tour, 3 summer plays and entry to a great interactive museum area. You are given a playing card that corresponds to a convict and you follow his story through the exhibits. Weather was beautiful and the large grounds make a very pleasant tourist attraction despite its grim raison d’etre. I swapped some books with a couple at Christmas and they gave me Colleen McCullough’s Morgan’s Run, a story of one of the convicts on the first ships to set up penal colonies at Botany Bay. It is a wonderful well-researched long book based, it seems, on a real convict whose descendants include Helen Reddy and Colleen’s husband Ric. It leaves an opening for a sequel. Now I want to re-read her popular book The Thorn Birds.

We left the peninsula and spent a few hours with Barbara and Jack Brooks, the newlywed partners of 28 years we met in Monkey Mia. They live in a lovely brick home in Midway Point on the way to Hobart, a small area of land surrounded by bays off the Tasman Sea. Barbara’s daughter and family now living in Tom Price were visiting, so we just had a short visit, a salad sandwich and cup of tea and a piece of Barbara’s birthday cake.

It had been a rainy windy day, but it really took off when we left Midway Point and drove thru Hobart toward the Huon Peninsula. We’d read about a sheep cheesery, found it and purchased some lovely sheep and cows milk cheeses and a sturdy loaf of rye sourdough. We wondered, could we find a cabin somewhere so we wouldn’t have to set up the tent in the wind and rain? We drove thru several small villages, thru Middleton and on to Verona Sands toward the Applejack Cottages. The sign said Vacancy so we drove in. Susie the proprietor said she had the “Penthouse Suite” available. So we got a full apartment with 2 bedrooms, living and dining rooms, kitchen, bath and veranda overlooking the ocean and islands and mountains and and … for $105. We were delighted and stayed 2 nights. Susie had a fine assortment of food available, so we bought some chicken satays and some homemade pasta sauce to supplement our pasta, bread and cheeses and wine. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm … All night the wind HOWLLLED and blew and trees leaned over. We were sooo happy to be warm and dry in our Penthouse.

We were a few kms from Cygnet where a Folk Festival was happening that weekend. We went to the free opening session at the Commercial Pub Friday night and loved the collection of music and musicians, so we went back for the Celtic Session Saturday afternoon, World Music and Johnny Cash tribute sessions Saturday night and the Slim Dusty tribute session Sunday morning. We stayed Saturday night in the Cygnet Caravan Camp and enjoyed intimate hootenanny sessions in the morning. Tasmania is known to have lots of modern day hippies, and we saw lots of them here. Such a collection of costumes!! And lots of littlie flower children.

On and 2 nights in Dover with a drive to SouthPort and Hastings Cave and Thermal Springs, walked the new Tahune Airwalk over huge Huon Pines and Blue Gums, had Devonshire tea at the historical Franklin Hotel, more cherries and raspberries and back thru Hobart heading north, then west toward Queenstown. We spent the night at Mt. Fields National Park campground and had a lovely riverside spot near the gentle rapids that provide that wonderful gurgling water sound all night. There was a list of Platypus sightings, some near the rapids near our tent, and we’re sure they were out there … but it rained and we didn’t even look much for them.

The next morning we walked to beautiful Russel Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The rain made them even more lovely and misty. Lots of wallabies and paddy melons, smaller faster wallabies. On past hops fields, grand old Georgian buildings, winding over large hills and to Lake St. Claire. There is a popular Overland Track bushwalkers trek between Lake St. Claire and Cradle Mountain. The Information Centers had fires burning. Heavy black gloves were on sale with the usual T-shirts and fleece jackets. It was coooold here. And many hikers with heavy packs and lots of warm clothes. We took a few pics, had a cappuccino and a lovely meat pie and just kept warm. Larry almost stepped on a snake that a bloke said was the 3rd deadliest snake in Australia. The guy said it was OK, because the anti-venom for all the deadly snakes in Tasmania is the same. Some consolation!

On over many more winding hairpin turns .. up .. down .. around. It was beautiful. Finally to Queenstown with its bare hills where the rainforest was cut to feed the furnaces for the smelters for the copper mined from the hills. Spectacular hills. On to Strahan where we were told not to miss the Gordon River Cruise and perhaps the newly restored Abt Wilderness train ride between Strahan and Queenstown. But the weather was again cold and windy with rain predicted. All cabins and motels were booked, so we turned our backs on it all and carried on to Zeehan where we just enjoyed 2 days in a self-contained unit .. no water, no great views, just a nice small town bypassed by most tourists. Rain, cold, wind. Right … Tasmania winds are called the Roaring 40’s because Tasmania is along the 40th parallel and there is no land mass between South American and Tasmania. The wind just howls along and slams into this tiny island. “They say” the winds usually end before Christmas, but this year has to be different. Great. We bring rain wherever we go. But there’s so much drought all over Australia that we’ve been good for several places.

We booked a night in a cabin near Cradle Mountain, settled in and took the bus from the Tourist Center 7km in to walk the Dove Lake circuit with great views of the mountain. The weather was great, finallyyyyyyyyyy. There was a wonderful flat boardwalk walk back to the Center but it was getting late so we waited for the return bus that should come every half hour. After over an hour and more and more people collecting for the wait, one bus came and promised to send more. Soon 3 more came and we all rode back. We saw our only wombat in the wild from the bus. He was soooo cute .. dashed to hide behind a rock, then stuck his cute little face over the rock to see if we were gone.

Rain and cold the next morning, so we didn’t go back to do some of the other short walks Cradle Mountain has. We bought a National Parks pass back in December at Freycinet for $33 that lets us and our car into all the National Parks for 2 months. We’ve made good use of it. On over more hills and windy roads, beautiful farm country, to the north western coast. Still looking for that perfect campsite with water views. We’d go east later, so we checked out Boat Harbour Beach and Sisters Beach. Nope. So on to Stanley and its renowned Nut. Rain again, so we landed a nice cabin overlooking the water. Yes .. finally. We spent 2 nights and got some corned silverside/beef at the little IGA store and made boiled dinner with potatoes, carrots, onions and cabbage. Sid Chapman made it for us when we stayed with him and Ruth and it was great. We had enough for 2 nights and enjoyed using the electric fry pan and microwave the cabin had for us. We climbed the Nut and enjoyed the views around Circular Head. The Nut is a 152 meter high volcanic rock formation thought to be 12.5 million years old. A steep steep path leads to the top or you can take a chairlift.

On the next day to Arthur River, kind of the end of the road on the west coast. A rock-strewn road continues, but as one of the brochures says, “it’s not for a city car”. Not much there. Beautiful beautiful coast and a river cruise which we passed on because .. guess what … cold, wind. Back past Stanley and to Burnie for 2 nights. Finally we saw Platypus .. in the Fern Glen Reserve .. and more fairy penguins at their free boardwalk. The campground was next to a sheep field .. and flies. Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhh … A few purchases at Lactose cheese factory and a quick look at the Creative Paper Mill where there are wonderful life-size paper people, but you can’t take photos. Darn!!

OK … the perfect beachview campsite: Penguin, Taylor, Ulverstone. Nope, though we found about 6 caravan parks, there was always a high sand dune between the water and campground, if it was near the ocean. Devonport .. stopped to book a cabin for our last nights in Tasmania. Port Sorrell was a great hope. Beautiful beaches but … Nope. So back to Greens Beach north of Launceston that we visited the day we picked up the car. We knew our campground would have no views, but the beach is beautiful. So 2 days at the beach and it was pretty nice. Australia Day was coming up and it was a long holiday weekend, but we took our chances and moved on across the Tamar River past Georgetown to Low Head. We spent 2 days there in a nice quiet spot all to ourselves, next to a sheep field again .. so flies .. but warm and a nice beach.

Our last hopes for that campground were Bridport and Tomahawk. Bridport had a long strung out park with nice waterfront campsites, but they were chockers full and crowded. Tomahawk was also crowded and with the sand dune scenario. So we booked “The Lodge”, a tired old caravan with a super annex with tile floor, paneled wall, a bedroom and a fenced in yard and stone patio. Amazing that anyone would put that much money and materials next to such a slum caravan.

The next day Bridport was not as crowded, but we had already talked ourselves into getting back to Devonport and setting up the bikes and getting ready to wash our sleeping bags and pack up the camping gear to send back to Madison. We found a little cabin park and booked a nice ensuite cabin for 4 nights. It was still early and beautiful, so we washed the bedding. Soon the rains began and it rained and howled and power outages and flooding and we were again sooo happy with our cabin decision, warm and cosy under the doona. Again we bring rain to a drought area. It’s the third day as I write this and more predicted.

Sunday we return the car to Launceston, bus back to Devonport and catch the new Spirit of Tasmania III to Sydney on Monday. This new ferry is only weeks old and a boon for Tasmania tourism. Protestors abseiled down the side of the boat on the first sail into Sydney and unfurled a banner protesting all the clearing of Tasmania trees for wood chipping. Forestry is a very controversial issue here.

Two weeks in Sydney with trips to the Blue Mountains and Canberra, then we’re off to the Big Island of Hawaii for 2 months. We look forward to the warmth again. We didn’t find much in Tasmania. Sydney may be hot and humid, so of course we’ll whinge about that too.

News includes Mary Donaldson of the Hobart area soon to become Princess Mary, wife of Prince Frederik of Denmark. They were in Tasmania recently for Mary’s sister’s wedding and brought a Danish film crew to take footage for a documentary on her. They met in Sydney in 2000 during the Olympic games. Some big American conglomerate has trademarked Ugg, a sheepskin boot the Australians have been making since the 1800’s, and gave them all a cease and desist order to stop using the Ugg name. David Hookes, a former big cricket player and current coach of a Victoria team, died after a team win celebration from injuries from a bouncer outside a St. Kilda pub in Melbourne. And farewell to Captain Kangaroo. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh …. The American election primaries, Iraq, live sheep exports, the educational system …