Arrived in Sydney on Monday evening in the pouring rain, but by Tuesday things were already brightening up. We took the open top tourist bus around the city and the eastern suburbs including Bondi Beach, then a ferry to Manly, to see the beautiful views of Sydney Harbour from the sea. Today we're off to visit the Powerhouse Museum and then to the airport for the long journey home.
We've had a wonderful holiday here in Oz and will take back many fond memories.
Hope you enjoyed the blog. Feel free to leave a comment.
Nearing the end of our short stay in Darwin. With its tropical climate, modern high-rise buildings and newly developed waterfront area, it's a very interesting city and a welcome contrast to the last 3 weeks' rural sights. It's peak season and the annual festival is in full swing, so the place is packed full of Australian and international tourists. We spent the last 3 days wandering around the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the great food (being so near to Asia, lots of lovely sushi and noodle restaurants, yum). This evening we did one of Darwin's "must-do's" and went to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market along with 5,000 other people, to shop around the stalls, grab a fruit slushie and sit on the beach to watch the sun go down. Yet another memorable sunset, a theme of this holiday!
Tomorrow we pack away our sandals and shorts and head south to wintry Sydney.
At Crocosaurus Cove
$160 gets you a "meet and greet" with Chopper in the Cage of Death. No thanks.
A Fishbowl cocktail for the girls
The newly developed Waterfront Area, with croc-free swimming lagoon
Hello again, we're now in the Nothern Territory, NT or the "Top End", having crossed the border without any fruit and veg checks whatsoever. Made a note of that for next time.
Driving alongside the Victoria River, we spent the night at a roadhouse campsite and continued the next day to Katherine, where we stocked up at the supermarket, before completing the day at Edith Falls. A hot tip from some fellow travellers, it was a simple campsite set in beautiful woodland, only a stone's throw from the falls and a refreshing plunge pool below. Bearing in mind the crocodile disclaimer by the pool, we went for a very short dip huddled closely together behind Ruby.
At this point, we passed the 5,000 km mark and have Darwin in our sights. 2 nights in Litchfield National Park before the 100 km home run tomorrow. Litchfield being within easy day-tripper distance from Darwin, we suddenly found ourselves in a holiday hotspot, jostling for parking spaces and shady spots by the watering holes. But we could see why it's so popular with the locals, the park is easily accessible with a 2wd and is full of interesting viewpoints and wildlife.
And so to the final evening of our road trip, what were the highlights of this 24-day journey? The Pinnacles, the dolphin feeding and catamaran sailing in Monkey Mia, the snorkelling in Coral Bay, "Fingers" Mitchell Cullen and his didgeridoos, camel riding in Broome and especially for Hannah and Ruby, holding a baby kangaroo. But also the whole camping experience has been great. So many interesting chats around the barbie, characterful campsite wardens who clearly love their job, peaceful nights and melodic dawn choruses. The long drives were rarely dull, with the scenery being so different from what we're used to. Hannah and Ruby coped admirably, by reading, drawing or listening to music. Eating out was a bit hit-and-miss but we kept that to a minimum and mostly cooked for ourselves, which was obviously of the highest standard :)
Had a relaxed day in Kununurra today. We're camped right next to the local lake of the same name and the place is buzzing with wildlife. Trips to the "ablutions" (as they politely call toilets here) have become mini-safaris, with toads, geckos, large spiders and even a snake being spotted in and around the facilities.
We took a 2km walk into the local town to find most places either closed or closing (it was 11.30am). It's a Sunday, but up until now shops have been open just like any other day. So after finding a cafe which was open and having some delicious mango smoothies, we headed back via the Celebrity Tree Park for some bird spotting and Boab tree hugging.
Quote from Ruby on the way back to the campsite (it was very hot by now) "I'm as thirsty as a monkey carrying bananas". No idea where that came from.
Tomorrow we cross the border into the Northern Territory, where the time is 1.5 hours ahead of Western Australia. There are strict controls on fruit and vegetable movements between states, to protect crops against pests and diseases, so we've had to run down our fruit and veg supplies.
A blue winged Kookaburra (very nicely taken by Hannah)
Hugging a Boab, "the tree that God planted upside down"
Obviously, wise travellers we are not (see entry from 31/07). After the treat at Fitzroy Crossing we came back down to earth with a bump at Halls Creek. What we saw of the small town was fine, but the "grim, dusty" caravan park resembled a breakers yard. Still, it was our home for the night and we made the most of it, but left early the next morning (8am, a record for us!).
We're getting into the routine of driving here after over 2 weeks on the road. Refuelling occurs whenever you see a petrol station and not when the tank is nearly empty. Initial over-enthusiastic waves to passing camper vans has become a slightly raised 1 finger salute. Covering around 300km a day, the roads are good and there's very little traffic. What's striking is that you hardly ever pass through any kind of settlement en-route to the next destination. It's pure bush land, with the occasional homestead or farm signposted way up some dirt track. There are small herds of cattle scattered about and plenty of scavenger birds feasting on the road kill, but otherwise not much wildlife to be seen during the day. We were warned not to drive before dawn or after dusk because that's when the bush springs to life and animals can jump out onto the road. The numerous dead kangaroos and cows along the roadside are testament to that.
Shortly before Kununurra, we took a detour to Wyndham, the most northerly town in Western Australia. Lunch was at the Rusty Shed Cafe, which really was a rusty shed, with great food: barramundi burgers, spinach and hash brown wraps and croque monsieurs, followed by trifle with green jelly. Then a steep climb to the Five Rivers Lookout for a breathtaking view over the Cambridge Gulf and the 5 rivers which converge here. The scenery was used as a backdrop for the movies 'Australia', 'Mad Bastards' and 'Satellite Boy'.
An orphaned joey, rescued by staff at one of the roadhouses en-route
This morning, we visited this just outside Derby ...
It's known as the Boab Prison Tree, used in the 1890s as a lockup for Aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. It's also connected with Aboriginal traditional religious belief and is a protected site.
Continuing our journey, we stopped over in Fitzroy Crossing, at the "posh" River Lodge which has a swimming pool and air conditioned bar. That kept us all happy for the afternoon.
Next stop, Halls Creek, which is not the Rough Guide's favourite place: "Wise travellers will fuel up and move on". Let's see. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of termite mounds.
They're all over the place and collectively look like graveyards. Very spooky indeed.
We're in Derby today (pronounced 'Durby') on the edge of the Kimberley, a very remote region in the far north western corner, the size of California with a population of only 38,000.
We rented a 4wd and took a trip along the legendary Gibb River Road, a 660km dirt track through the heart of the Kimberley, running from Derby to Kununurra. We drove a small portion of that (around 120km) to Windjana Gorge to admire the views. We saw plenty of freshwater crocodiles basking in the pools along the gorge walk. They're apparently not as aggressive as their saltwater cousins, but we kept our distance all the same. This region is also known for its Boab trees, which were dotted along the route. Some Boabs are over 1500 years old and each one seems to have a character and personality of its own.
A tiring day, but a great first glimpse of the Kimberley and some white knuckle off-road driving.
400km northeast of Eighty Mile Beach and here we are in Broome, the official halfway point of our journey from Perth to Darwin. We've jumped seasons from 'winter' (warm days and chilly nights) to the tropical 'dry' season of the north end - a humid 30c during the day and not much cooler in the night. It's quite a dramatic change. Our campsite is full of Melbournian and Sydneysider pensioners escaping their cold winters. Those we spoke to have been here for months and are slowly thinking about making their way home. Yesterday there was a 'Christmas in July' party, complete with turkey and balloons. Wacky.
Broome flourished during the "pearl rush" of the 1880s and by 1910 was producing 80% of the world's pearl shell. The town is full of pearl showrooms and interesting museums and exhibitions on the subject. It's also famous for Cable Beach, 22km of white sand and turquoise sea. We did the tourist thing and took a camel ride along the beach. Well, it's not something you get to do every day.
Went out for dinner in the evening after reading in the Rough Guide: "the food (in Broome) is quite literally the best for thousands of kilometres, so make the most of it". It was indeed very good!
Spent the night in Karratha, developed in the 1960s to accommodate the growing iron mining industry and later, petroleum and natural gas operations. So it's not really the place to hang around if you're a tourist. It was however very useful for stocking up on goodies and cheap diesel before heading out into the wilderness again.
Winding our way further along the North West Highway, we passed Port Hedland, another industrial town, known for its salt works. Taking a tip from some fellow campers, we decided to stay at Eighty Mile Beach. And what a tip that was! A real gem of a place, hidden away at the end of a 10km bone-rattling dirt track. We arrived just in time for sunset.