Saturday, June 11, 2011


For more photos of our trip see the Australia 2011 gallery at - I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The End of the Road

What do you do after you have driven 5000 kilometers across the hot, dusty, often rough and difficult, but also spectacular, rewarding, unique and unforgettable Outback, and you have arrived at the world famous 22km long Cable Beach on the Indian Ocean in the Western Australia tropical resort town of Broome?

The answer for me was simple - you run into the Ocean fully dressed (minus my well worn hiking boots) and luxuriate in the satisfaction of completed journey and the warm tropical water.

After a 700 km final day drive from Halls Spring to Broome, our journey is over - it was indeed a voyage of adventure and discovery, full of interesting, wonderful and in many cases unique places, great people, and also challeges - the challenges of the heat and hikes and rough roads (expertly driven by Andrew), long days on the road, and less than ideal places. There were wonders of our world, Uluru, the West McDonnell Range, Kakadu National Park, the tropical charm of Darwin and the Kimberly to name a few. Most of all, there was the vastness of the Outback, the majesty of the wide open spaces, big country and big sky.

I leave you today with the words of Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To El Questro and Beyond

 We started yesterday in Katherine, where we had slept after visiting Kakadu National Park. We had a great Australian breakfast at the Coffee Club on the main street, which seems to be the town’s premiere establishment. We then had to find a doctor for Andrew for what seems to be an ear infection, and thankfully the Australian health systems works, he saw a doctor quickly and we were on our way. We traveled the Victoria highway (notwithstanding its name, another two lane road) through Gregory National Park (full of savannah and beautiful escarpment) all the way to the border with Western Australia.

At the border, they have a quarantine of fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers, and there is a quarantine station at which we had to stop. There are apparently all sorts of insects they are trying to keep out.

We continued on to the town of Kununarra, which is known as the gateway to the Kimberley, and armed with further information from the Visitors Center, we headed north to the Gibb River Road, a rough wilderness road which cuts across the Kimberley, and we went as far as the El Questro Resort and Homestead, which is a huge tract of land (18,000 sq. kilometres) containing a resort and working ranch where we spent the night. It was absolutely spectacular, and this morning, we took a choppa (for those of you who don’t speak Australian, that’s a helicopter) ride around the El Questro lands, visiting spectacular gorges, valleys, waterfalls, and escarpments, and seeing the damage done during what they refer to here as The Wet. In certain cases, water levels had risen up to three meters, causing huge flooding. In fact, when we were driving to El Questro along the Gibb River Road (which is still closed in parts), we had to do several river crossings in our vehicle (thankfully a sturdy 4WD Land Cruiser), where the water was almost a meter deep. It was really spectacular, not to mention lots of fun.

The El Questro area is absolutely beautiful, this is really big land country, mostly savannah dotted with trees, full of mountains, escarpments and gorges.

El Questro itself was fabulous, they have various accommodations including tents, camping, bungalows – and the homestead, the latter being very high end luxury. We opted for the bungalows and had a couple of great meals to boot. At lunch, we saw a couple of beautiful of kookaburras.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Kakadu is Australia's largest reserve, covering over 19,000 square kilometers. It boasts a wide variety of different environments, including wetlands, savannahs, huge outcroppings of rocks, swamps and woodlands. We drove the 350 kilometers through the park, admiring the vistas, stopping at Nourandie to see rock art which is thousands of years old, and the caves which were home to the aborigines 20,000 years ago, we hiked to the Mirrai lookout and went for a 10 km walk through the bush at Yurmikmik to an exquisite waterfall and rock pool. It is a vast and special place. 

Kakadu is also full of crocs, both fresh water crocs, which apparently won't bother you if you leave them alone, and salt water crocs, or salties, which will. The salties have a ferocious reputation, and you hear stories like the woman who put her hand in the water of a pond to see if it was warm, was grapped by the wrist by a saltie, pulled into the water in a flash, and never seen again, except for her bloody sandal found floating several hours later. While you never know what to make of these stories, I can tell you that I didn't go near the ponds we passed - except for the rock pond near the water fall, where we took a quick dip - after seeing some earlier visitors safely return.

Tonight we are in Katherine, the gateway to the Kimberly, which is supposed to be an area of outstanding beauty, We are all looking forward to a good nights sleep after a day of exertion - and then tomorrow we visit Katherine Gorge. 
Katherine seems like a pleasant little town - like Darwin, it has a tropical feel, complete with towering palms. One thing which seems a constant in Australia, Aussies love their beer and wine - there are pubs everywhere, and even drive through bottle shops where you can buy your favorite libation without even getting out of your car. 
And now, today’s language lesson - if you order chips (that means fries) in a restaurant, and ask for ketchup, the server will not know what you are talking about, here it is called tomato sauce - even on the Heinz bottles.  Ketchup simply doesn’t exist here. So ask for tomato sauce, and your server will likely respond “yeah”.
So far we have driven 3400 kilometers - it's been a great ride so far.

Mindil Beach

Andrew and I headed over to the Mindil Beach market in Darwin around 5 pm Sunday night, where every Saturday and Sunday there is a vast assortment of booths selling clothes, trinkets, and Australian crafts, plenty of music and buskers, and every type of food imaginable, next to a popular beach facing west. The market gets into full swing in the late afternoon, with a real party atmosphere, and hundreds of people gathered on the beach for sunset, which was spectacular.

The Aussies are wonderful, friendly and gregarious, full of life, unpretentious, and always ready for a good time. I don’t know whether it a pioneering spirit, the shared adversity of what can be a tough land, or the by-product of long years of isolation, but whatever the recipe is it works.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jumpin crocs, and Hamburgaas With The Lot

G'day mates. 
We just went on a “jumpin croc” boat ride - on a small metal flat bottom boat on the murky, muddy and ominous looking Adelaide rivah (that's australian for river).   The boat guy hangs a piece of meat on a metal pole over the side of the boat, and the salties (salt water crocs - really mean looking) leap out of the water with blinding speed to snatch the meat off the hook. Its awesome - and scary. I would not have gone into the rivah for all the money in the world, not even only my little toe. 

On the way back from the jumpin crocs we stopped at the "World Famous Humpty Doo Hotel" and ate at the pub - I had an Australian delicacy - a "Hamburgah with the Lot": a beef patty in a bun with cheese, bacon, beets, pineapple, tomatoes, onion, and lettuce, topped off with a fried egg. A classic. 

A Hanburgaa With The Lot

We all had the same thing, Andrew wolfed (actually hoovered) his down, Wes took his apart. We all enjoyed it. 
As I wrote earlier, ya gotta love Australia. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ya gotta love Australia

Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory, whose residents have opted not to become an Australian State - it is frontier country - the license plate motto is "Outback Australia". The front page headline in todays Northern Territory News reads: CROC CAUGHT STALKING KIDS - big saltie snared, even bigger one still lurking. The croc they caught was 3.2 meters long, imagine the “even bigger one”. When I told a local I was writing home about the headline, she replied - "ah, we see it all the time - it ain't right if a crocs not in the paypa".

Ya gotta love Australia.