Friday, 28 September 2007

Gift of the Gibb a.k.a how to lose a car in 10 days

Guten Tag! So to bring you up to speed. Broome was bam-fan-tastic, many an evening spent on the beach watching the sunset (it's quite an event on the West coast apparently, duh) - see traditional photo... Carried out a casting for some new travel companions with my current co-conspirator Julia, and ended up with another swiss and german combination of boys, completely mad and insane boys at that, certainly keeping things interesting! So it was a quick fill of fuel and stock up of food (pasta sauce) in Broome and up the last bit of sealed road for 600+km's from Derby to the other end of the Gibb River Road - the outback adventure is underway! Whoop woo. First stop Windjana Gorge for a lovely walk in the searing heat alongside a lovely river that alas was unswimmable owing to certain inhabitants of the crocodile variety. Everywhere. Managed to obtain our first injury at this juncture, a spider bite - possibly life threatening there was no way of knowing (actually there is because 48hrs later I'm still here, just). Day 2 led us well up the garden path in search of another gorge, although still not having learnt my lesson we decided to trust the map, only to end up walking in stonking midday sun to a point 200m up a cliff face from a wee trickling stream. Slightly underwhelmed, especially as managed to stub my toe 52 times (nB thongs/flip-flops not ideal walking equipment). You probably wont believe this but the next place we went to that actually turned out to exist was, guess again, a GORGE!! Unprecedented. Much swimming in waterfall action before the sun set and pitched up camp under the stars and the moon with a mouldy bottle of wine (damn that fridge).

Next stop Mitchell Falls, ah hem... At this point Arnie let his personality be known, he drives like a kangeroo, boing boing boing, uh oh. Rolled up the Kalumbaru Rd (a side track off the Gibb, so as you can imagine it was a high quality piece of road engineering, judder judder) and into Drysdale Station where we leapt out the car and ran to the bar for a lovely cold beer with our man Hugh, oh joyous high spirits, for now: Arnie henceforth decided he was going no further and so pushed him into the campsite having made the decision that the best way to fix him would be to consume lots of beer. Genius, in the morning he started but we still spent much hands on hip time contemplating what was wrong and sadly had to abandon the Mitchell Falls and head back to the Gibb. On which road we had the ultimate pleasure of seeing someone else broken down (yippee)!

Just about rocked up to El Questro Station (not however before stalling the car in the middle of a croc infested river - aaaaarrrggh and they like Germans too, I'm travelling with the wrong people!!!) and shock horror made a mad dash for the cold beers! A few rounds later and I had fire coming out of my ass. Think that one needs a little explanation perhaps as may give the wrong impression... Being the invisible shy kinda person I am ended up in front of whole bar helping out for a 'rodeo demonstration' that somehow involved putting burning objects in close proximity to my most precious organs (mon derriere) and then having them extinguished by my man Buddy through use of whip (not sure exactly what rodeo that's from though)! Spent the days with much gorgeous Gorge action and swimming in waterfalls and dropping valuable items in rivers and stuff (whoops), it was totally awesome dawson wonderbra (some very very bad german there).

Aargh, sooo much stuff to write here... a few more gorges and we made it back onto real roads (country lanes) and got into Kununurra (which is apparently hard to say with a german accent, ha ha) to do some on the go repairs (blue tacking holes in fuel tanks, etc, shhhhh) before getting into Purnululu NP via 2 hours of bumpy winding track in the dark (ignoring all practical advise about driving at night) only to have to utter the immortal phrase "the bikes are gone" - yep road too bumpy for the poor blighters and they fell off somewhere on the way!! (found them in a crumpled heap on way back). Spent day wondering the Bungle Bungles (i.e. getting lost in them) and blitzed it outta WA into the Northen Territories (a new state, another world) to Katherine, around 2am and Arnie had had enough and completely kaputted on us. The transmission was blown so we had to do the final 200km's to Katherine with no gear other than 4th. Nnnnnaarrrrrgh!!!!! Finally arrived in Katherine, THE single worst place in the world around 5am and spent the day tracking down the most miserable monkey like mechanic in the world, Steve "it'll be ready tomorrow definitely" the Wrecker. I HATE him. Katherine sucks. nB new gearboxes apparently not that cheap, nnnnaaararrrrrrrggghhhhhh!!!

I'll leave the story at that for now as it just seems to go on and on and on and on...

Lessons of the week include:

1. Commonly used phrases whilst camping: "where is the...?"

2. make no unnecessary stops, do not turn off the engine unless entirely essential, and who needs 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th or reverse gear when there are boys to push?

3. NOTHING will beat a cold beer and NOTHING beyond the necessary should be done prior to consuming one (fixing car, putting up tent, showering, anything)

4. no matter how little drinking water available a waterfight is NEVER a waste

5. When asked what time it is, it is sufficient to reply "September"

6. I am not a mechanic, no matter how many times I say the word 'thingamyjig'. I can now test a spark plug to see if it works, it does. Bzzzzzzz...

7. Urban myth 'Pavarotti is dead' is true, in his place we ate a LOT of pasta and sauce. Too much some might say, not enough others (Benno) would say. I wouldn't complain if I didn't see pasta and sauce for a few days (hours).

9. Mika is the best. Night at the Roxbury most definitely not.

10. There really is nothing good to say about Katherine. Not one thing. Especially as I have to go back there...

Saturday, 15 September 2007

broom Broome (bet I'm the first person to come up with that tagline...)

G'day blogfans! Here's update # 2 of le grande road trip... (and more photo's have been added to the road trip pictures album)

Things I've learnt so far:

1. It's not a good idea to count carriages of trains while allegedly in control of a moving vehicle, 1, 2, 3, 4, thud!... (in my defence it was a really REALLY big train) - don't panic Johnny, it was only a minor scratch and all concerns easily remedied by a glass of wine

2. WA is possibly the biggest place in the whole world. Why did no-one tell me this? (see picture below of the most boring bit of road ever, not even any roadkill to entertain self with)

3. The fridge will find it really hard to keep things cold when not switched on

4. The 'other right' is in fact also known as left (or "that way! that way!" accompanied by frantic pointing)

5. Tent pegs serve a valuable purpose and the tent will depart if not appropriately utilised in windy environs

6. I will never be rid of red dirt, no matter how much soap there is in the world. *I am as one with the dirt* (makes a good fake tan actually...)

7. km's of tedium can easily be alleviated by 'bush waving' and inventing innovative amendments to the traditional one handed salute acknowledgement of passing cars

8. Road trains are B.I.G.

Think I was in Exmouth when I left you last, went diving on the Ningaloo Reef for a day, which was great apart from the fact that everyone else seemed very keen to see their breakfasts again whilst I bounced around the boat trying to avoid their projections (nice), and saw a humpback whale on the way back (I'm very excited about this, though everyone else in the world seems to have seen a million of them already apparently). At Exmouth I traded in my Irish companion for some new travellers so it was 3 fearless girls venturing into the unknown for the next leg of the journey... oh dear (much handbrake and direction related problems ensued!).

650km's later we arrived in Tom Price, which is actually a place named after a person rather than a person named after a place (can't think what his name was though, ha ha) who discovered something, possibly iron ore, possibly not, I wasn't paying attention at this point. Real purpose for this detour was to go to Karijini NP, where Arnie came into his own as we took on a few 'regular car owners' (tch 2wd scum) passengers to tour the gorges and spider walk the walls (go web go), I've said it before and I don't doubt that I'll say it again, it was gorgeous! Had a brilliant camp night out of delicious dinner, cheap wine, good company (see pic, l-r: Rachel, Julia, me, Mathius and Beat - say with weird Swiss accent and apparently it is a real name...) and a fantastic starry starry night (deffo an Oz top 10 moment) in the park and spent the next morning frolicking in waterfalls (pictured above), brilliant - this is what I go to school for.

Next it was on to the delights of Port Hedland. I am fast learning that any town that has the word 'Port' in it's title is never going to win a beauty competition (ref: Port Talbot). A big industrial town the jewel in the crown of WA's resources boom and full of miners. Mmmmm, my favourite... But would you believe it all the campsites were fully booked, WHO are these people who WANT to stay there?!? So we had to suffer the indignity of going to South Hedland and enjoying the delightful aromas of the town of roads that have no logic (it's the roads, not the navigators...). Alas it was with a tear in my eye I said farewell to the place and on the longest most boring bits of road in the world up to Broome, which is fan-dang-tastic. Would put a picture of the lovely sunset up here but three guesses, I forgot to put the batteries in the camera (nnarrrrgggh).

Right well, I'm off to the beach and to recruit some new companions for the next leg, I'm going outback baby! I'll be back on the radar in a bit, if not then here's some recommended films for nervous parents: Hostel, Open Water, Wolfe Creek...

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Cruisin' the highways

I be a traveller again, in that I have actually moved! Far (protracted celebrations noises!). First up I'd like to introduce you to Arnie - the beast that is taking me where my every whim may lead me: isn't he beautiful? And boy is he packed to the rafters with everything you might possibly need to go camping (and the largest tent in the world destined to forever stay in it's bag as we can't work out how to put it up)!

So finally left my wee house on Monday (admittedly a leeeeettle late), picked up Ireland (Kildaire: big on horseracing and tractors apparently), filled up with petrol (man Arnie can drink) and true to form, got lost. Seems Perth had other ideas as we tried to leave as every road led into some winding suburb or scrubby field. Oh dear. Finally located the 'main' road (nB when reading this alter what a main road looks like in your mind to resemble a country lane) and destination north! First stop a cave in the middle of nowhere. Sure tested out Arnie's 4wd abilities on the road there, and he passed, yay! Just about made it into Cervantes in time to see the Pinnacles at sunset, lots of bizarre rocks jutting out of desert displaying the joy of erosion. First night with camping gear all seemed to go a-ok (if you ignore slight 'movement' of top layer in wind)...

Continued cruisin' up north to Kalbarri and passed first 1,000km marker at some point along here. The coast was absolutely awesome, all red rock and blue blue sea (call it the Turquoise Coast, couldn't possibly think why), and saw lots of gorges, which were, erm, gorgeous (I thought of that 'joke' about 300km away from them, but managed to hold out on it until got there - serious improvement), here's me banging my head on a rock, tch. Then further up to see the dawn of civilisation as we know it, or something resembling it anyway. *science nerd alert* These here are stromatolites which are able to survive in the unique hypersaline conditions and are tiny little bacterialites that produced the first oxygen billions of years ago (considering it takes 1 year to grow 0.4mm they had time on their side).

From the dawn of civilisation to life as we know it and up to Monkey Mia in the Shark Bay World Heritage Site (who knew) which took a 260km detour (naargh) to see DOPHLINS!!! Yay! These dudes were sooo cute (I'm currently in negotiations to have one as a pet). Next a serious day of driving (700km) lead to Exmouth, which is where I am now, will leave the update on this til I've done something here other than check my emails. There's lots and lots of stuff in between that has already managed to slip from my mind (in place of having a dream about playing the AFL Grand Final alongside my hero Ben Cousins) and there isn't enough space, but if you go here photo's of the road trip will appear as if from internet nowhere land... Ah well, I'm off to go stick on a snorkel and hopefully see some fishies (imagine I'd look a bit silly just wondering the streets wearing one...)