ROAD TRIP

Trip Start Sep 03, 2002
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15
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Trip End Sep 27, 2003


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Sunday, June 15, 2003

The Road Trip - Part I

Directions for Queensland coast to Alice: head west out of Townsville for 1500 kms; at the first T junction turn left and continue south for another 500kms. In a van with a top speed of 120kmh and only being able to drive in daylight 'cos of roos, wallabies and cattle on the road 2000kms is a bloody long drive.

Three days across some very flat and boring country, but at least the roads were good two lane bitumen so we didn't have to launch ourselves into a ditch everytime a road train passed - apart from for some inexplicable reason a 100km stretch near the NT border where the road fizzles out to a single lane of crumbling tarmac. And there was the plus of seeing the picturesque town of Mt Isa (Errr? - Ed)

The Tourist Trip (or Trap)

Alice provided a quick wash and brush up (and the town wasn't bad either - hehehe) then we headed another 450kms south west to do: Ayers Rock and the Olgas (busy, busy busy), Kings Canyon (still busy, but much better than AR). Inevitably we also had about 4 hours rain one night - unbelievable!

The Camel Trip

On the way back to Alice we stopped off at the Camel Farm to head out on a three day safari. Having seen lots of posters of very naff looking camel trips (with everyone roped together in a bored looking line), we were most relieved to be presented with our free wheelin' ridin' camels. After loading up the saddle bags we headed out to the neighbouring cattle station which was to be our playground for the next three days.

Our guide for these adventures was the mad-man Luke. Straight out of central casting, a real fair dinkum aussie bush mad nutter - his idea of personal R and R was to take his camels across the Western Desert so he get something like the experiences of the early european explorers - and "Isn't great to start out on a trip not knowing if your going to get to the other end?"

Needless to say Luke had a host of stories - mainly along the theme of "It wasn't my fault, but my mate/camel/pet snake escaped and then....." These tales inevitably grew taller as the trip progressed.

We had a great three days out sleeping in swags, wandering around checking out old aboriginal camps and tool making sites. By the end of the trip we had all really bonded with our camels. Certainly the camels were not the smelly spitting animals we were expecting but really noble obedient animals. And camel riding is a lot more relaxing than horse riding (apart from having to stop the buggers trying to eat continuously). Mandy was gutted to leave her mount Pebbles - lots of sloppy kisses (and maybe tongues) as they said goodbye to each other (though Pebbles was more interested in the oranges in Mandy's saddlebag than a good snog). Nick not so sad to leave his mount Thumper due to some serious blistering (guess where)

A Town Like.....

A couple more days chilling in Alice and exploring the stunning mountains east and west of the town - of particular note was Ormiston Gorge. Contrary to what we had read on various sites, Alice isn't a bad town and didn't feel at all dangerous/uncomfortable - but then again it must have some of the most conspicuous policing in Australia.

The Road Trip - Part II

After dawdling on our way over to Alice, on leaving we decided to put the hammer down and managed 1070 kms in one day. As this is pretty much a straight line due north, that equates to nearly 9 degrees of latitude - not bad for a days work. This took us to Mataranka - some nice thermal springs and very near the locaton of the homestead in the famous book 'We of the never never'

The Tropical trip

Having arrived in the 'top end' we slowly pootled through the local parks (Douglas River, Lichfield, canoeing in Katherine Gorge, etc) - taking gentle strolls to check out some very pretty waterfalls, creeks, etc. Some of these you can swim in as they only have freshwater crocs, who won't do you much harm. We also stopped off on the (very muddy) Adelaide River to check out some jumping saltwater crocs - these are the beasts which will do you a lot of harm. Apparently its quite easy to distinguish between the two types of croc: if its got your leg in its jaws, its a salty!

Farewell to RYI 957

Arriving in Darwin we said a sad farewell to our trusty campervan. After 16,500kms, a lot of $$$$ to messers BP, etc and a lot of van vin, it was a moving moment. As indeed was the moment when we jumped into a spotless shower in a cool hotel room with a bed - and didn't have to fight off 400 bugs!!! This was only improved by going to an excellent Thai restaurant - and not a Mrs Mac's Pie in sight.

The last hurrah

For our final week in Australia we rented a 4WD camper and 'did' Kakadu national park (where they filmed Croc Dundee). Lots of stunning waterfalls, great views and real fun 4WD tracks. Doing the river crossings had the added spice of knowing that if you get stuck you can't get out of the vehicle 'cos all the rivers are chokka with salties. Death adders are also a big feature of the park, however we managed to escape any toothy reptiles. Unfortunately there was no escape from the most prolific and huge mossies we had ever come across - eaten alive doesn't begin to describe the itchty bitchy agony.

Australia - The wrap

Going the distances: 19,700kms driven

Transports of delight: 4WDs, campervans, taxis, buses, horses, camels, motorbikes, big motorised dive boats, (alleged) sailing boat, kayaks, canoes, small planes

The five best things: The Northern Territory; Myella farmstay; The Cod Hole dive site; Flinders Ranges; Tim Adams shiraz

Put Another Dollar In: Advanced, Rescue and First Aid diving qualifications - really impressive achievment for Mandy in particular, who originally only took up the sport 'cos she was terrified of putting her face in water.


Time to hit the beach - Hawaii here we come
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