Darwin to Melbourne
17/5/13: Last night was our last night in Darwin. We all went to the casino, and on to the Mindle night Markets, which are on twice a week. It was still really hot so it was good to be in the casino’s airconditioning for a while.
This morning we left Darwin. Having dogs means we can’t go to Kakadu National Park, but we decided we could sneak into Litchfield NP. So we headed south for a bit, and then turned west into the park. The dogs were left in the van while we had a good look around.
First stop was a nice waterfall and lookout, and then a waterfall with a swimming hole. There were a few people in. The signs said that salt water crocodiles had left the area, and that the fresh water ones were unlikely to be an issue. We didn’t chance it. We waited until after lunch and went for a swim in Bewley pools. The water was much colder than the sea, but considering the heat and humidity it was great. We sat there for a couple of hours, before heading back to the free camp we stayed at on the way up, about half way to Katherine. All in all, it was a top day.
18/5/13: This morning we left our spot, and headed back south to Katherine. We went to the supermarket, and filled up with water and fuel, and dumped the toilet. Nothing much happened today apart from that, and a fair bit of driving. We ended up at a roadside stop about 120 kms south of Katherine. It was another hot night and sleeping under the fans. The flies were pretty bad, so putting your head in a bag was required.
19 & 20/5/13: Today was a mixed day for me. First, the charger from the alternator to the ‘house’ batteries broke, so we lost the ability to recharge as we drive. I pulled it apart and checked everything, but its no good. So that had to come out ready to send back to Brisbane for repair. Hopefully the sun stays out until we get it back, or its flat batteries for us! Our van is due for a service, but there are no dealers for hundreds of kilometres, and the oil light came on, so we needed to top up with a litre or so.
We were heading to Elliot, where there is a free camp next to a lagoon. When we got into Elliot, which is a two shop town, we had a little phone reception, and I got a call from me old mate Geoff. Geoff helped us buy our Subaru back, and has been minding it for us while we’re away. He used it today to go to work , and he got hit by a taxi running a red light light. Fortunately he is fine, but the car will likely be written off. We have spent $1500 or so since buying it getting the brakes and tyres sorted, and having it serviced. So thanks to yet another incompetent taxi driver, the whole episode will cost us money. We’re just glad Geoff used the car, rather than his motorbike, or else he’d probably not be here to tell the tale.
So we made it to the camp spot, with me a little subdued. It was a nice place, and we stayed two nights. Cookie and Deb will be leaving us once we leave here, and head east across to Queensland. It was great to spend a couple of (almost) relaxing days with them before they go.
21/5/13: Today we left Elliot for the 250 km drive to the Three Ways Roadhouse, otherwise known as the Cookie and Deb turnoff. After a quick refuel it was time to say goodbye. It turns out we’ve been travelling together for the best part of a month, and its been very easy. It’ll seem weird pulling up in the evening and them not being there. It’s been really nice having company, and to be fair, if we hadn’t have bumped into them again in Broome, we’d be home by now. The weather is still too hot, and too humid, but we’ve seen some good spots with them.
So after the goodbyes, we left Three Ways and headed south. It was odd not having a slow moving caravan clogging up the road and getting in the way, but it meant we could drive at the proper speed of 130 kmh and make some headway. We passed through Tennant Creek, and after an hour we stopped for a look at the Devils Marbles. They’re round boulders, and pretty ‘Aussie’ in terms of landscape. That took ten minutes, and on we went. We have stopped tonight on the side of the road about 300 kms north of Alice Springs.
We will pretty much just drive home from here. At work, I now have to do a certain volume of work in a six month period (which expires in October) if I want to keep my job. Which I don’t, but until something else even easier and less time consuming comes along…... Plus we want to try and get to Tassie and back before Jano has a big birthday in October. So the money will be handy for the ferry crossing, and to recoup our Subaru losses.
22/5/13: Last night there were big storms and lots of rain. Luckily I put a bowl in the leaking cupboard and it half filled up. I’ll have to pull the antenna off when we get home as I think that’s where it’s coming in. There’s so much silicon up there it’s visible from space, but still it leaks. We needed the fans on for about half the night but it was a bit cooler.
We drove south to Alice Springs today. We needed to post the battery charger off to get fixed, and bought a bit of food. Alice is just a big country town in the middle of nowhere, although the surrounding scenery is great. The weather was about perfect too. Mid 20C with a cool breeze.
After an hour or two in Alice Springs we plodded on. There are lots of kilometres to do, and not much variety in what we see. About 10 kms out of Alice, we stopped at the Cannonball Memorial. For the petrol heads, in 1994, there was a Cannonball Run in the Northern Territory from Darwin to Alice Springs and back. Competitors had to comply with the road rules although there was no maximum speed limit back then, and the police did try to ‘sweep’ the road ahead to warn everyday road users. The memorial is for the drivers of a Ferrari F40 that died along with two officials when the car entered a checkpoint too fast. I just think its great the Territory government even ever thought it was a good idea, let alone do it.
We stopped about 60 kms north of the turn off to Ayers Rock for the night in another road stop. We won’t be going out to the rock as its in a National Park and the dogs can’t go. The temperature is down in the teens now, and no fans required! Satellite up, kettle on, and maybe even socks (for Jan at least).
23/5/13: Woke to thunder this morning and another day of black skies. I decided to get up early and get the dish down in case it poured down, but it didn’t. It’s ‘freezing’ today. 13.5C for most of the day, and a cold night last night. We even had the heater on in the van for the first time in ages.
We continued south, and over the South Australian Border. We hid our honey and fruit etc for the quarantine as we’re sick of handing it over every time we change states. As it happened, despite the signs, there was just a bin to put it in, which we didn’t see. We drove on to Marla, and refuelled yet again. On the way we stopped and watched a few eagles eating a dingo. They’re pretty big, and weren’t bothered when I walked right up to them.
Next stop Coober Pedy, which is an opal mining town. Thousands of small shafts have been dug by individuals looking for the elusive bit. The piles of waste rock are everywhere like little pyramids. It’s quite moonlike. We drove into town for a looksee. I spent a month there as a copper in a previous life, and not much had changed really. We refuelled again, and then stopped for the night 12 kms out of town in the wilderness. Seems like another cold night coming our way. Love it!
24/5/13: A nice cold start to the day, for our drive south. The landscape is quite desolate but quite nice in an isolated kind of way. There are occasional hills and lakes, and lots of driving. We just kept driving today, passing Woomera, and on into Port Augusta. The weather is great. 20 ish in the day, cooler at night. Port Augusta is where we turned left on the trip out to head across the Nullabor to the west. We were intending to just repeat our steps back from here, but there are some pretty good hills to the east of Port Augusta (South Flinders Ranges), so we decided to see if there was a road through them.
There was, and it was a really nice drive. We were aiming for a free camp on the side of the road, but decided to turn off to look at a lookout and discovered you can camp there. So we did. Unfortunately our camera died its final death today, so the photos are a bit limited from here on in.
25/5/13: Today was another long day of driving, but it was a really nice day for scenery. We drove through Crystal Brook, Clare and into the Barossa Valley. This is one of Australia’s main wine regions, and there are huge areas of vines growing. We drove through some other smaller towns such as Kapunda and Tanunda, and then followed the hills until they became the Adelaide Hills to the east of Adelaide. We came down out of the hills and found an Office Works close to my old house, and bought another camera.
It was almost dark by now, but we decided to keep going, and drove out of Adelaide on the freeway and headed for Strathalbyn. I think we got off the freeway too early, because we had an hour or so of very twisty roads to get there, followed by some night time driving out to Frank Potts Reserve near Langhorne. We stayed here when we started this leg of our trip.
26/5/13: We left camp this morning and drove towards Tailem Bend. We needed to cross the river on a free ferry, and then we headed towards Victoria. We have made arrangements to look at a few properties tomorrow, so we are aiming to get fairly close to Apollo Bay by tonight. It’s a fair drive, through places like Colerane, and after much driving we stopped at Wannon Falls Campground near Hamilton. It was another cold night, parked up in the forest. There were a few others in, and a few fires were lit.
27/5/13: We finished off the bulk of the driving today. We drove via Hamilton and Camperdown, and made our way into Apollo Bay by 2 ish. We saw two houses this afternoon. Both were mud brick, and up in the hills, but neither of them seemed right for us. There’s another one to see tomorrow, but Jano is adamant she wont like it. It’s a bit Bavarian lodge like, but its in the right spot. We’ll see. We spent the night out at Johanna Beach, where we normally stay when we’re down here.
28/5/13: We looked at the other house this morning. Not sure really. It needs heaps of work, looks a bit odd, and the land (5 hectares) is pretty overgrown with trees and brambles. I’m not too worried about the house; we can fix that up. But there’s so many trees the whole place is very dark, and not at all bushfire proof. Im not sure how hard it’d be to chop down 20-30 gumtrees, and level out the house plot bit some more. Maybe we’ll put in a cheeky offer. The price has recently dropped from $675,000 to $595,000.
We drove ‘home’ and settled back onto the swing of Melbourne suburban life.
Update: We made an offer of $450,000 for the ski lodge place. It wasn’t accepted (funnily) but the owners are keen to negotiate. We’re making another viewing next week and we’ll see.
So thats it for a while. We will be in Melbourne for a couple of months doing a bit of work, to recoup some of the losses from having a car written off, and to pay for the expensive ferry to Tasmania. But mainly because I have to if I want to stay 'registered'. Hopefully I can get the required shifts fairly quickly, so we can get going again. We are aiming for Autumn in Tasmania, and back before mid October.
Well. We're back travelling, currently in Tasmania. Details are here