Friday, 7 November 2014

S 12.27.45 E 130.50.23 Darwin to S 31.56.40 E 115.51.19 Perth in October

So, our Odyssey through Asia is finished and we are moving on to overlanding of a different sort.

First stop is Australia to travel a few of the paths we missed last time.  In 2009, our visit to the top end (Darwin and area) and Western Australia was a series of hop off a plane and hop back on again.  If we ever came back, we would do it differently.

The scenery was as stark and fascinating as I had hoped.  The desert environment is so different from what I know at home and from what we have been travelling through in South East Asia that I found myself smiling and cheering for the great colours and textures.  Everywhere I looked there were quilty ideas. Taking a slower route also meant that we saw so many more of the local animals.  I’ve taken over 1200 photos, but promise  to only post a few. We’ve discovered that internet is universally slow, expensive or nonexistent in Australia.

Here’s a few of the highlights:

We arrived in Darwin with a few days to see the sights and start our hostelling adventures.  It also gave us a few days to get used to being in a first world country with first world choices and prices.
What I will remember:
The very active part Darwin played in the Second World War and how this has affected the people who live in Darwin.  Growing up in a country that participated in the two major wars, but never at home, it is striking to see the war memorials to action that was happening right where you are standing.  Two weeks after Pearl Harbour, the Japanese dropped more bombs on Darwin and destroyed more ships. It was days before communications could be re-established and supplies provided from other parts of Australia.  The northern half of Australia was evacuated and basically became a military zone for the rest of the war.
Hurricane Tracey destroyed Darwin again in 1974.  It was bizarre wandering through the display in the museum – items that I was familiar from as a teenager yet not remembering hearing anything about the devastation at the time.
Deckchair cinema and watching the Jersey Boys.  It being warm enough to be outside in the evening in mid October watching a movie.
OMG is everything expensive in Australia.  Partly because there is so much to choose from.  WIFI isn’t particularly good and it is very expensive out here.
Deckchair cinema.  Cal is wearing a cool tshirt from the Elehpant Nature Park in Thailand

WW Two oil tunnels

Love those Aussie expressions

Public loos in Australia are pretty fancy.  This one talked to me.
Another one actually had music as well.

Old town hall more or less destroyed by hurricane Tracey.

Took in some modern art.  Exhibit was about East Timor's fight for independence.
This is a petit point and duplicates the writing on some of the documents.
Petit point so fine that you couldn't see the threads

Darwin to Perth Unleashed (22 days at the end of the tourist season running ahead of the start of the wet)
Spending three weeks with an international group of folks that I will sincerely miss.  Trying not to say “but Odyssey does this better”.  Working together to have a great time, especially with our second half guide, Damien, who truly believed that everybody was capable of doing the difficult with a bit of help.
As we travelled through the edges of the deserts, I was reminded how much everything is about water, either too much or not enough. We were travelling at the very end of the dry season so we were seeing dry floodways and high water lines feet above our heads. We had a lovely time in Purnululu and then heard that the campsite was closed the next day due to fires.  Broome had its first rain of the season as we approached, with the warning that the roads might be very muddy.
Gorges are really cool places on a lot of levels.  All of our hikes were into gorges rather than along the flat desert.  They have their own microclimates – cooler and moister and at times even temperate rainforest – so this is where you see all the animals and interesting plants.  You have to climb down into them and then back out again and even along the bottom you have boulders that have been deposited with the last floods.  This isn’t my natural choice of hiking and it was tempting to back out of some of the more difficult ones.  Damien, a long haired surfer dude with a wicked sense of humour, just assumed that with the right support and guidance we would all be able to do it.  He was right.  On a particularly challenging bit (imagine me gripping the rock wall with only my toes on the ledge), when I said I could see the rest of the path and would be ok, his comment was “of course you can, you’re a f---ing mountain goat” and I felt like I had earned a gold star.
I expected to see more of an aboriginal presence.  We see signs about traditional lands, but few people.  Mention was made of a few cattle stations being run by aboriginal groups and there were a few Aboriginals in Broome, but over all, it is a very white population here in Northwest Australia.
The only way to survive the heat from Darwin to the Ningaloo reef is to hop into every available waterhole for a swim.  Two or three times a day.  The desert is all about water.

Western Australia has the oddest liquor laws

Guide sleeping in Cathedral Gorge

Echidna Chasm.  Cal kept saying we had been here last time and I didn't
remember until I looked up and saw this palm tree.

Kookaburra sitting in an old gum tree
(any former girl guides, feel free to hum the tune)

even the bugs are cool

don't know if this is a joke or not, but we all filled our bottles from the tap.
Boabs are a source of water in the desert areas

Coming through one of the iconic road crossings.  In the wet, it will be feet deeper.

Aboriginal rock art everywhere

Camera taking photos of the campfire

Lizard smiling for the photo

Victoria Pass - note the head on the right

Kapok blooms.
  Used to be used as pillow stuffing before polyester was invented
Freshie in Windjana Gorge

another view from the loo

tunnel creek 


yes, bats

roadhouse decoration would fit into an Alberta bar!

Group photo as we finished the Gibb River road
one more for my treadle sewing machine collection.
This one is for sewing sails

one of the airplanes shot down by Japanese in Broome harbour

and another treadle machine

mother of pearl 

collecting shells responsibly

Cable Beach 

This is actually a tiny jelly fish

and a tiny crab 

the lifeguard stand is on wheels because it moves back and
forth with the tide

our fishing guide catching the live bait

Cal working at catching his shark

no, this isn't the shark

this is.  He was released.

Salmon.  Not big enough to keep.

Roger, our very fantastic photographer

Last time we saw sand dollars was more than 30 years ago on Long Beach
in Tofino.  This was 80 mile beach.

Luka found these little fellows.
 The shells actually had living hermit crabs in them.

Gulahs trying very hard to get water out of the tap

this is what asbestos looks like in the raw (the blue stuff).  Not mined anymore.

another spider web

paperbark tree

Damien, our guide, watching the confident fit folks scamper along the ledge

me, having survived the trip in, then begged for a photo to prove I had done it.
Thanks Damien

Gorges are rated just like white water rafting.  A six is bl---y impossible.

Ningaloo Reef (Exmouth to Coral Bay)
One of my biggest regrets last time was that we didn’t get to Ningaloo Reef.  Plane troubles landed us over night in Monkey Mia and then we had less than 24 hours in Exmouth before getting on the plane to return.  Nice experience with the hotel and lovely memories of a half day 4WD trip into the hills, but a definite feeling that we hadn’t given due honour to an area that claimed to rival the Great Barrier Reef.  So, the plan was to hop off our 22 days to Perth and spend five more days in the area.
The national park had devastating floods last March just as the tourist season was starting and all the roads and infrastructure still haven’t been rebuilt.  Late October is also the end of the season and most of the businesses that did open for the season have closed down, so we have found that our time here has been very relaxing.
I can say that I have thoroughly explored the Ningaloo Reef and Cape Range National Park and no longer feel that I have missed something.  However, nine days in the area is about six too many.
I’ve got hundreds of photos of fish and coral and can even bore you with the differences between barrier and fringing reefs.  I’ve also taken photos of interesting rocks, flowers, sunsets...  Here’s a few to give you a taste of Darwin to Perth.  It’s interesting to notice how the types of photos I take have changed over the last six months.  Mind you, I’ve taken over 9000 since arriving in Istanbul.

Swimming with the manta rays

This little joey was on his way to a rescue center.
His name was Red Safari and he was about 9 months old
For a donation to the center, I got to cuddle and get my photo.  Pretty good deal.

for my favorite OT

shark nursery on Coral Bay.  Cal took these from the shore 

sting ray, again on coral Bay.  I actually swam with one at Turquoise Bay.

The last two days to Perth were long drive days almost straight south along the coast.  We went from tropical desert heat in Exmouth to temperatures more like home.  We’ve passed farms and ranches and even the first combines since Canada.  The trees along the roads are congregating together into forests. Next up is Perth for a good long visit then along the south coast of Australia to Melbourne.

Pink lake on the way to Perth.  The pink is algae that grows in very saline places.
It is harvested and used in all natural cosmetics, particularly red lipstick.  Mmmm.

For some animals I know

Blind albino kangaroo with our guide, Tom

This little grey kangaroo, Lucy, was getting her exercise and learning how to jump.  She overjudged the thickness of a tire and did a lovely shoulder roll to recover.  In another couple of months, she'll move to the next type of recovery center where she will be with other kangaroos to learn how to be a kangaroo, not a human.

Norfolk pine

When I first saw this, I thought it was like the roof over the old Waterhole post office - protecting the rocks below.  No, it's an old dock.

Stay tuned.

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