It is finally time for to get the travelling part of this blog finished so I can get back to random musing on life the universe and everything.
As my trip around Oz finished a few years back now I am going to wrap this with a summary of the rest of my trip round the costs of Oz then do a quick post on hostel life in Sydney followed by a summary of our trip round NZ and one more on the journey home via the states. Then one final post on returning home to now before I get back to regular blogging about stuff!
So let's get started, when I last posted (September 2008) we had just pulled into Broome, we spent the night checking out the staircase to the moon, a rather cool effect caused by the full moon rising over the sand flats, enjoyed the festival that surrounds this and chilled out in our camp site for a few days. Before hitting the road again and heading down the West Coast we also visited the the Willie Creek Pearl Farm (www.williecreekpearls.com) and enjoyed some freshly shucked oysters straight out the sea.
Now the West Coast is an under visited treasure in my opinion. What it lacks in luxury it makes up for in natural splendour, we spent a couple of weeks making our way down the coast, camping in national parks and of course, snorkelling! The best thing about the West Coast is the Ningaloo Reef. It is easily a match for it's much more famous East Coast cousin but has the advantage of being as little as 50m off shore in some places so no need for 2 day boat trips just to see it.
We went out on glass bottomed boats, drift snorkelled, dodged jellyfish and shared our dinner with a very curious wallaby and her Joey. We saw wild dolphins come right up to the shore at Monkey Mia, visited Sharks Bay and loved every minute of the back to basics tour down the coast. If I could change one thing it would be to find a way to have a fresh water shower along the way. By the time we pulled into Perth after two weeks of snorkelling, camping and washing in slat water my skin felt like it was cracking! The fresh water showers at the hostel were a welcome change!
So now we had made it to Perth and decided it was time for bit of culture in the way of wine tour. We booked an wine cruise up the Swan River followed by a tour round local wineries. The guide took an instant shine to me as I am from the Midlands and he was originally from Derby. We had a great day and our guide made sure we were kept well supplied with wine (especially at one of the wineries that had double booked us and asked him to serve for them - full glass tasting is a dangerous game). We returned to the hostel at the end of day a tad worse for wear with several cases of wine for the rest of the trip.
I was not a huge fan of Perth but did like Fremantle, which is just outside Perth, and we visited the Fremantle prison while there as well. We also went a trip over to Rotnest Island where we tried our hand at cycling and soon decided we were a little bit too out of shape for this and had a strange moment of fear while snorkelling where we were sure something was out there!
From here we headed down to Rockingham where we took a visit to Penguin Island, you can guess what we saw there! We opted for the Penguin only tour, not wanting to pay extra to see the Dolphins as well, turned out to be a good move as when we got off the boat on Penguin Island there was a dolphin playing in the water right by the jetty!
Next came Albany and the Esperance, both nice enough places but not much to report here apart from the fact that Esperance was to be the start of the scariest part of the trip so far.
When we headed off from Esperance we decided to take a short cut that would save us a lot of driving and get us to our next major stop, Adelaide, a lot quicker, cutting out a big chunk of the long flat and uneventful Nularbor Plain, which is huge limestone plain. The short cut involved a few 100 km off roading but the track was well marked out and we felt it would be worth it.
Well we got off to a good start and were making good time, then we hit the first "puddle", which was about half as deep as the car, after narrowly avoiding sinking the car and pulling free we noticed that there were tracks cut in by previous off roaders that missed out these flooded sections of track and having spotted these we were back on track and dodged the waterlogged sections.
It was while driving round one of these waterlogged sections that we came to a cross roads and after much debate turned left, we carried on for about 100km then the track seemed to just end. Having miss placed confidence in the track we assumed it had just been overgrown by the bush blocking our path so put the pedal to the metal and went straight through the bush to be greeted by wide open space and no track. Determined to keep going we drove in a straight line hoping to find the track again but after while realised we were in a strange clearing rather than on a track.
We stopped to think about our next move, noticed a large group of Kangaroos circling us and got a suspicious sinking feeling. This turned out to be the car actually sinking as the clearing was in fact a large marsh or bog and whenever we stopped we began to sink. So it was in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia, with no phone signal, nobody expecting us anywhere for a good week and a large 4x4 sinking in the marsh that I truly believed that this may be the end of it all, it had been a good run but it seemed this was it.
A minute later I mentally slapped myself round the face and heroically decided to send my better half out of the car, into the marsh with the 6ft tall Kangaroos, wearing flip flops for ultimate snake protection, to find the bush we had driven through so we could get back to the track. She found the bush, was not crushed by a Roo and was not bitten by a snake and a few hours later we were back on the right track with only 200km more to go till we reached the road again!
The last 200km were eventful as well, we found a group of people with a large camp fire in the middle of nowhere and considered stopping to stay the night with them until the thought "that's how people die in horror movies" entered our minds. We found a tree covered in shoes and underwear that we still don't really know much about and a Kangaroo jumped over the bonnet while we doing a 110k/h and just missed the windscreen but at some ridiculous time in the morning we made it to a road house, checked into a motel and crashed, thankful to have made it and thankful the worst was behind us....
The next morning, despite concerns from my partner that she was sure the strange mark on the back wheel was something we should look at and that the car looked lopsided I just topped up the air in the tyres, realised we had a flat, changed it and carried on...a few hours later the car started making a horrid noise so in typical man fashion I decided if I took over the driving it would be fine. I chucked it into 4 wheel drive and carried on, the noise got worse...
We pulled into a local town and rocked up to the mechanics, he was on holiday the local Footy team had one the cup and were on tour, he would be back in 3 weeks! So we carried on to the next town. We were about 30km away when the car made a cracking noise, we pulled over to take a look and instantly noticed that both back wheels were at a 45 degree angle to the rest of the car, we would later find out that we had snapped the rear diff and the rear axle while off roading and the rust that had been holding it all in place since it snapped had finally given out.
A local took pity on us an pulled over and arranged for us and the car to be shipped to Minnipa, a very small town with a petrol station, 3 grain silos, a motel and a mechanic. We stayed here for 3 days while the mechanic, who was great, sourced a whole new rear end for us and had it shipped to Minnipa. We became a tourist attraction for the locals, with invites for tea coming regularly as we sat around the mechanics workshop but eventually we were back on the road and raring to go.
Next stop was Adelaide were we stayed with friends from the OzBus, recharged our batteries, went on more wine tours and enjoyed staying in a house with running water and a bathroom that was not shared with 20 backpackers.
The next step on the lap of Oz was a visit to a little town called Ouyen in Victoria to visit some more OzBus friends, before carrying on to Melbourne to meet up with an old school friend of mine. We visited Ramsay Street and went to the Melbourne fair to see the fireworks (which were cancelled due to wind!)
We then got to boat over to Tasmania where it seems all the bends from the rest of Oz are hiding as long straight roads were replaced by winding tracks. We went a brewery and prison tour in and visited Tazmazia (a place with lots of mazes..it was awesome). We stayed on a haunted site where I was convinced in the middle of the night that there was someone/thing trying to steal my beer and would not let me other half move till I was sure the beer was safe, it was an interesting night to say the least!
We finished of the 13 week lap of Oz with a leisurely drive back to Sydney, did some whale watching, and got ready for our return to Sydney where we were hoping to land some work in a hostel for a couple of months to finish off our time in Oz, sell the car and plan the long journey home...
So there it is, it took me a long time but there is a whirlwind version of the 2nd half Sircling Stralia, Sydney take 2, Kiwi Krusades and American Invasion coming soon (and I actually mean it this time, honest!)