Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Final Day: More adventures just waiting to be had!

From Rich .............. So we are finally home after 20,000 km and 2.5 months. We have had a wonderful time together, with only 2 ‘ bumps’  (or fights if you can call them that – certainly no raised voices, but just vibes – you know what I mean). Both of our ‘disagreements’ were associated with grotty mining towns and driving with no fixed agenda i.e. just ambling along the coast, so perhaps we had differing expectations – there must some lesson in that. However, the rest of the 2.5 months was blissful harmony and shared experiences. On the whole journey the car and van gave absolutely no trouble at all and purred all the way – pretty amazing that you can take a car, drive 18,000 km, then spend a day hammering through thick sand on Fraser Island, wash off the same, load the van and drive 2,000 km home. It really is a bit of a shock to come back to daytime maximums (in the sun) of 15 degrees!
 Horsham - our first stop

From Kim ................... well here are the positives of being home:
·         to sleep in a big bed;
·         to get up in the night to go to the ensuite (instead of falling out the van into wet crocs and slogging across a wet lawn to a cold toilet on the other side of the park ... won’t go into the details of the alternative option – although it is mainly to not embarrass my girls – I personally think it would make a great little story! J) 
·         to turn on the tap and get hot water instead of having to boil it on the stove;
·         to be able to tuck in the sheets of the bed without herniating;
·         not having to read a map (Kim has many strengths – just not map reading);

Canoeing in Katherine Gorge, NT
·         to wear my ‘ nice’  clothes and perfume;
·         to have the rubbish bin at the other end of the house instead of a meter away from my bed;
·         to have a shower without having to plan it like a military campaign (have I got my towel, soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer, makeup .....)  heck just to HAVE a shower!
·         To hug my girls;
·         To cuddle my animals;
·         To put on a load of washing without wondering if I have enough one dollar coins and whether I can be brave enough to leave it without getting into trouble with the old girls of the van park;
·         Catching up with my friends;
Blogging in the van at night (no TV reception on the laptop)
Here are the things I miss about being on the road:
·         The sunsets and sunrises (sundowners together most nights);
·         Being with Rich 24/7;
·         The simplicity of life;
·         Never knowing what the day will bring or where we will sleep that night;
·         The warmth of the northern part of Aussie;
·         Grey nomads to make me laugh;
·         Being able to get away with not brushing my hair or putting on makeup because no one knows me ( don’t believe this one – it just took longer);
·         Doing the blog and looking at the photos of the day;
·         Philosophising with Rich about everything from God to politics to human nature (with Kim studying I feel like I could now write her Psychology or Anthropology exams);
·         Waving at every passing caravan (yes we did that the whole way around!) (we did try many variations of waving, just to see if it could be more fun);
Sunset at Coral Bay, WA
So here we are at the end of our adventure .... we could be sad about it, but actually, we choose to rather think about it as the start of many, many more adventures – If there is one thing we have learnt from this trip ... Australia is a big place, and we might have gone right the way around it, but we hardly saw any of it – there is still so much out there to discover, to see, to learn about and to do.  More adventures just waiting to be had!  
Sundowners on a hill in the Bungle Bungles, WA
Want some advice??  You can do it too – just find a bit of time, and get in your car and go – it will be more fun than you could imagine.  So adieu, goodbye, and thanks for reading our blog.  Until next time, and there WILL BE a next time, this is RichMaxaRoundoz signing off! (Sniff...)
Sundowners on the Broome beach, WA

Sunset at Fitzroy Crossing, WA

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 69: Queensland Roads

Today we did 800 kilometers on Queensland roads – and roads are obviously not a priority for the Queensland Government.  So in addition to having the worst drivers in the country, we now think that they have the worst roads in the country!  Now I know that our South African readers will be laughing at this point, because heck, at least Australia HAS roads, and I couldn’t agree more, but that argument (and this is from my psychology) would be ‘chasing a red herring’ or ‘comparing apples’  with …….. well no apples’, so instead I will compare apples with apples and we will just stay with Aussie roads and not think about SA right now. 
 Canola fields near Moree, NSW
Anyway, as soon as we crossed the border into New South Wales the ride was so much smoother – it was stark!  We had such a gut wrenching ride along the Queensland ‘highway’ (one of the direct routes from Brisbane to Melbourne) that we actually felt like our insides had been mashed!  It was impossible to read whilst driving along this ‘highway’ and Rich spent his time physically wrestling the wheel (similar to yesterday’s four wheel driving!)   

The highlight of the day was the final campsite that we came to rest in – Narrabri Showgrounds - $7 per person per night, and this covers HOT showers, power, flushing toilets and water!  Heck we could have brought our horse and had a stable too if we wanted!  This is the perfect compromise between free camping and caravan parks! 
 Climbing through the dividing ranges inland from Gympie, QLD 
Low-light of the day – my worst nightmare come true – Cassie floating  Mitch back from Werribee (other side of Melbourne) on her own and a tyre blow out ON THE Westgate Bridge.  The blessing from this was that the blowout didn’t cause any major accident and she had wonderful Sam Bullen (a pony club mum) driving behind her and Sam stayed to make sure she was okay and then continued to follow her home.  There was also a guardian angel bloke who was passing by and who helped them change the tyre.  (** More on the tyre business at the end!)  Needless to say, on hearing the news,  I was instantly struck with a headache and strong nausea being 1500 kilometers away and unable to help!  End of the story is that she got home safely and all that is left is my headache.  Thanks to God for His protection!
 Rich standing in a stream on Fraser Island - the water is so clear that the white in the photo is the white beach sand at the bottom.  
Lastly I thought that in particular the overseas readers would enjoy some of the names of the towns that we passed today!

Gympie                                    Duong
Chinchilla                                 Gayndah
Mundubbera                            Gibinbell
Millmerran                              Kwiambal
Kurumbilla                               Wutul
Goondiwindi                            Mudindi
Wooroolin                               Yalleroi

So the bit is between the teeth so to speak – we are on our way home and plan to be there in two days – which means two long driving days – Rich will hear lots of Dr Karl and I will get some studying done. 
Planes on the 80 mile beach Fraser Island 
PS:  The tyre story:  turns out the spare tyre on the float did not fit the float ….. that tyre is the one that came with the float when we first bought it, which means that either the people who sold the float to us, or the people who owned it before them, deliberately put an incorrectly sized tyre on as a spare in order to sell it.  How is that for unethical, dangerous and frankly irresponsible behaviour! 

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Day 68: Fraser Island

For those who don’t know about Fraser Island, it is a large sand island (about 100 km long and about 40 wide) just off Hervey Bay (north of Brisbane) that is covered with rainforest and has an eighty mile long beach on the ocean side.  You need to catch a ferry to get there, and whilst it is definitely a tourist attraction, it is not overly commercialized, mainly because it caters mostly to the four wheel drivers, serious campers and the Aussie tourist trade instead of the overseas market.  We decided that this would be our last big adventure on long service leave, and it was the perfect exclamation point to a wonderful ten weeks – full of beauty, excitement and adventure (without being overwhelmed by overseas tourists).
We were up bright and early and waiting for the 8.30 am ferry over – the weather is variable – which is a nice way of saying that rain squalls come from time to time and it is on the ‘cold side’.  Not to be deterred we enjoyed the sporadic sunshine on the very calm 40 minute trip across to the island, drove off the ferry straight into the deepest sand I have seen for a very long time (Rich was in his element of course).  The idea was to drive up over the island width wise, check out some spots along the way (a fresh water lake, a place called Central Point) and then down the other side to the ocean side beach along which you can drive for the full eighty kilometers.
 Well, Rich is a fantastic driver – we only got stuck once – and some lovely people behind helped us extricate ourselves - our vehicle is a smaller type of four wheel drive and the sand tracks are very deep on either side of the middle bit, so it is easy to get ‘tummy stuck’… high and dry in the middle with wheels spinning on either side.  Our little car was valiant and there were numerous times it would be thrown around from side to side, with Rich wrestling the wheel and me squeaking with my hands over my eyes – okay, I know, another area where I am a complete woos!  To start with, we took an hour to drive about fifteen kilometers, and after we got stuck, Rich got wiser and drove with the wheels on the middle sand when it was deep, and this made all the difference! (Except to my squeaking of course!)
It was great fun – even I will admit – relatively safe really because all you are dealing with is soft and very deep sand.  At the top, Central Point Station, we went for a bit of a walk along the creek and were absolutely stunned at the clarity of the water – in fact you will see from the photos that you can be tricked into thinking it is a dry river because the water is so clear you can’t even see it.  Also it was pointed out to us that as it flows almost exclusively over sand it is silent – and indeed it was!  The trees too were absolutely stunning – huge, straight and so very impressive.  
Along this creek was a type of fern only known previously in fossils and that uses just water pressure in its tissues to hold it up (i.e. no woody fibre at all – if it has no water it falls over).
From there it was down to the beach which was an education all in itself.  Apparently the police actually speed trap on the beach – we have decided that Queensland drivers are the worst in Australia – they drive fast and dangerously and being able to drive on the beach invites the best of the worst!  The speed limit in the bush is 30 km/hr which you would struggle to exceed, but on the beach it is 80 km/hr which is quite easy to exceed. If the cars and four wheel drive busses were not enough, we came across two airplanes that took off along the beach too!  Wow!  That was unexpected.  By this time the weather had deteriorated significantly, so we picnicked in the car, took a short, wet walk down and in another beautiful little river, and finally started back for the ferry again.
The trip home was much quicker, due no doubt to Rich’s more aggressive driving and we finished up with a lovely coffee at the jetty whilst waiting for the ferry.  All in all a wonderful ‘last adventure’ to end our wonderful long service leave.

Tomorrow we start the ‘dash for home’.  Over 2,000 kilometers in three days – sounds like fun hey!

Follow us on Fraser Island with Google Maps 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 66: Gains and Losses

As we draw near the end of our Long Service Leave, we have started to document what we have learned. 
The east coast boasts many mangroves and estuary systems - too many to count.

Long service leave brings with it gains and losses – here are a few ….

Gains:              Discovering Australia is a wonderful place
Losses:            More money than we expected!

Gains:              A few kgs each
Losses:            Several thousand kilometers more on the odometer than we expected 

Gains:              A greater understanding of farmers in Australia and what they face
Losses:            Most Essendon games (only Victorians will get this one!)

Gains:              An understanding of a whole different culture in Aus – campers and grey nomads
Losses:            My favourite pair of jeans and two pairs of Rich’s undies

Gains:              Witnessing so many sunsets and sunrises                     
Losses:            One gas bottle and one camp chair

Gains:              Learning that people like to read my blog
Losses:            The impending end of a long service leave dream

Gains:              Perspective on a national context of Australia
Losses:            A couple of ‘Packed to the Rafters’ episodes due to no reception

Gains:              A greater understanding of ourselves within and without
Losses:            A Prime Minister during our trip

Gains:              Knowledge of what does and doesn’t motivate us
Losses:            That mining takes more than it gives back on balance (at what cost do we mine) 

Gains:              A better understanding of our marriage relationship
Losses:            Time with family and friends

Gains:              The knowledge that more time does not mean better efficiency
Losses:            No extra time spent with God

Gains:              Kim can free camp
Losses:            Kim can’t free camp for too many nights in a row because she must be able to wash her hair

Gains:              The discovery that Australia is a wonderful and safe place to explore
Losses:            This particular opportunity for us is nearly over but … to end well

Gains:              We know now where we want to visit and explore again!
Note we just went to the factory in Bundaberg 
I have never tasted the rum, nor have any desire to!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 64: Rockin’ on in Rockhampton

Sorry about the lack of blog last night – just wasn’t really much to report – we left the lovely and rather over-developed and over-priced Whitsundays and travelled about 500 km southwards diverting into McKay for a few hours, and ending up in a free camp site just north of Rockhampton.  It didn’t have much to recommend it – basically a carpark next to a pub – but as usual, once we were inside and all cosy, with the television on and a warm dinner in our tummies it was like home!  The highlight being a warm shower at the back of the van under a ‘try-hard’ moon!  Delightful really!  (See how far I have  come in regard to open air showers!? Rich rigged up a tarp and poles against the side of the van, then boiled water and put it into a solar shower bag – pretty rough but a warm shower - it was just the silhouette cast onto the tarp from the lamp inside that was ‘interesting’ – say no more).  Oh yes, it is now REALLY cold at night – a bit of a shock for us ‘warm weather wanderers’!  and a definite sign that we are on the homeward-bound journey.
This morning we were up bright and early and headed into Rockhampton.  I think I have said before that I often have in my mind an idea of what a town should be like – based usually on the name, and often it is nothing like that at all – and Rockhampton and surrounds was a pleasant surprise!  A possible retirement place actually (not that we are vaguely thinking about that) – especially the two little satellite towns of Emu Point (Emu caution signs all over the road) and also Yeppoon – a little seaside town that was just delightful.  Lovely water front with nice coffee shops, but not too commercialised – beautiful views out to sea and more of those lovely islands similar looking to the Whitsundays (volcanic plug) but without the price tag.  
We spent a lovely morning exploring, having coffee, checking out various beaches and walking to view points.  Lunch on the beach and then we headed on to Gladstone – and just as Rockhampton was a positive surprise, so Gladstone was a disappointment – I dunno, Gladstone makes it sound happy somehow, when actually it was just another horrible mining town with great ugly conveyor belts for coal loading, a dirty harbour, oil refineries and power stations, aluminium smelter (Rio Tinto has been busy again, and that is why they need the extra coal-fired power stations), train trucks and lines everywhere – couldn’t wait to get out of there!  Rich says I am a hypocrite because I enjoy the wealth of Aussie and this is actually where it comes from – hmmmm! (this was more a challenge to me as well)  Maybe, but nothing can change the fact that mining is ugly, seems to just take and seldom seems to give much back!
 We are now in another free campsite about thirty kms out of a Gladstone (near Beranaby not an oil refinery in sight) on the side of a lovely little river – along which we have just had a nice dusk walk. 
The Boyne River, Beranaby, QLD
Highlights of the day:
  • Rich: Catching a snake – (Common Tree Snake – not poinsonous) on one of the walking tracks we were on.
  • Kim:    Coffee on the beachfront at Yeppoon.

We will head to a real caravan park (which is always a highlight when you have been free camping for two nights) booking in for two nights and spending the day in between on Fraser Island.  We will catch a ferry over and back – should be great fun!
 Volcanic herrringbone formations in the rock
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 62: White lies and white beaches

Now you are about to discover the joy that I have in being married to a scientist – one whose mind is constantly ticking over, wondering why, asking questions, challenging the status quo – it is hardly surprising we have such bright children given the father that they have! J

On our way to the Whitsundays a few days ago, we drove over a bridge, over a river in which it appeared that huge machinery was digging up sand and loading it onto trucks and trucking that sand out.  Seemed a bit odd really – a bit like selling ice to Eskimos and I commented on it, and Rich has been thinking about it ever since. 
 A true sand beach in the Whitsundays - a little muddy!
Then, no doubt you noticed yesterday, when I commented on Airlie Beach – the gateway to the Whitsundays – the ‘post card perfect’ look that has a perfect crescent shaped beach, with sparkling white sand and lovely palm trees?  Well this morning we were at that beach at low tide – and it is a very different picture – yes the sand and the palm trees are still there, but when the tide goes out, it is mud – mangrove mud!  Rich has this theory – all these coasts are not white sand, because sand is made by wave action on rock – there are no waves in this area because of the islands and further out the barrier reef, and all the islands that we can see around us, indeed the coast itself, is mangrove in deep mud.  (See what I mean about the scientist brain!?)  His theory is that Airlie Beach and the resorts on Hamilton and other islands are all basically man made to fit the tourist industry – the mangroves are cut away and sand is trucked in – voila - beaches.  Sounds a bit far-fetched? I thought so too until we went to Schute Harbour – just past Airlie Beach and saw train trucks full of ……. you guessed it … beach sand.  And where were these train trucks going?  Onto two very large ferries destined for the likes of Hamilton Island!  Kinda messes up the ‘Whitsunday-hype’……. Mmmm!  White Sand and White Lies methinks!  (Sorry Caroline – I know you love this place!).  A lot of their advertising talks about the Great Barrier reef giving the impression that once you have paid you huge dollars and get to one of the 74 islands you are on the reef, but actually none of the Whitsunday islands are actually on the barrier reef – in fact you are taken to the ex-mangrove, now sandy beached island, and if you are willing to pay some more dollars, then you are taken a further ten or so kilometers out to sea to dive on the actual great barrier reef!  Mmmmm – it is all getting harder and harder to believe!
The perfect 'beach' when the tide goes out - shows the actual mud beneath and imported sand. 
Anyway, enough of the theories – what we did see today was real live, action pumping, living, breathing mangrove.  I have visited numerous mangrove swamps in my life with my gorgeous husband (mangroves are in the same category as big trees, long jetties, round-the-next-corners and top-of-this-hill) but never have I witnessed the energy and population of a mangrove like I saw today.  The mud was so deep that even a pebble thrown onto it sank below sight, so it was not advisable to walk in the mud – we found some solid ground and (whilst holding our noses because it really, really stank – as all good mangrove swamps do) watched the millions of crabs, great variety of mud skippers (a kind of fish/frog/tadpole thing that hops from pool to pool and isn’t afraid to be in water or on dry land), insects and fish absolutely thrive.  You probably think I am a bit wacky, but it truly was a revelation to see an ‘alive’ mangrove swamp!
 The mudskipper about 10 cm long
So today was a good one – a nice mix of coffee in town, meandering through the over- priced shops, then after lunch a walk on a completely deserted beach (…. Okay a mud flats), a visit to a waterfall and some a very pleasant drive through the hills surrounding Airlie Beach.  We even saw a dead snake which was terribly exciting for Rich – a brown snake – which apparently is VERY poisonous – why the heck did they call it brown then – brown seems so innocuous a bit like grey!! 

Tomorrow we hit the road again – McKay, Bundaberg and Gladstone with a free camp at the end!  Yay! L

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 61: Whitsundays and Airlie Beach

What a delight Townsville is – really, quite the surprise!  We stopped in at YWAM to see if we could catch up with Rachel Bridgman, who has recently arrived here to do a DTS – but she was elsewhere – so it was time for a bit of an explore of Townsville.  We found a lovely beach front area (the Strand) where we grabbed a coffee and sat on the esplanade and admired the blue sea, white sand, and Magnetic Island about eight kilometers away.  We were very impressed with the lengths that the city council had gone to make the beach front attractive to all kinds of different people – there was a marvelous fishing jetty, complete with shade covers, benches, fish cleaning spots etc.  Then there were walk ways, children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, water fountains and benches.   It was a beautiful balmy day with not a cloud in sight – which we are really appreciative of given the days of mist and rain that we had in the Daintree and Cairns (which is why they call that area the WET tropics).  We have brought out the doona at night though, which is an ominous sign that we are moving southwards towards Melbourne!
From Townsville it was about 250 kms south to Airlie Beach, which was also a big and pleasant surprise.  It is known as the gateway to the Whitsundays – The Whitsunday islands number 74 altogether – and are very different to what I expected – they continue the theme that we have seen all along the coast from the Daintree – huge mountains rearing up out of the sea, the sides of which are covered in forest and the edges of which are sand.  Rich assures me that some of the islands (Hamilton etc which he has visited for some conference or other) are very much geared for the tourist – but then there are some that are just island with no one on them.  Contrary to what I thought too - they are not coral islands, in fact there are very few coral islands along the coast at all (the barrier reef is much further out to sea).  
Given all that, the area both from the mainland and towards the islands are truly lovely – postcard perfect with palm trees, white sandy beaches, boats bobbing in the bay and beautiful blue water.  We have decided that we won’t actually be going out to any of the islands – once again the big dollars reign, but instead we will just enjoy the nearby rainforest, the beautiful beaches etc.  I need to do some study too, so Rich might head off for a bit of a fish.  We have treated ourselves to a caravan park tonight (and possibly tomorrow) and are ensconced in a nice little caravan park in the rainforest.
I did have a little chuckle at two signs I saw today.  The one I took a photo of – it was indicating ladies and gents toilets at a little roadhouse that we stopped at - it is best not to dwell on it too much, because the more you think about it, the worse the mental pictures get.  Then tonight in our Pet Friendly caravan park, I came across a notice that said …. ‘Dogs not to be bathed in toilets.’  What the!!!   I’ve heard of dogs drinking out the toilets, but not being bathed in them!  

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