Monday, 27 July 2015

Road Trip Part 2: Uluru to Darwin

Day 5:
We aim to get to Alice Springs by lunch time and then get as close to Tennant Creek before nightfall. We don't want to push the old girl too hard. Laid in today; showered, packed up and washed up by 8.30am. Found a plug where we could hook up the kettle to get a nice brew before we left.
We drove passed a camel farm, like a kid in a candy shop I got a bit excited. However, Leigh wouldn't stop for me to take a picture.
We got to Alice Springs by lunch time, picked up some more food supplies as well as a new radiator cap for the old girl, then headed off. We wanted to get as close to Devils Marbles as we could so we could visit them in the morning. Arrived at Wauchope by 5.30pm. Made camp, more beers and food. Then bedtime.
Looking forward to seeing the Devils Marbles tomorrow and turns out they are only 8km away.

Animal count: 9 gigantic eagles eating some more large roadkill animals.

2606 + 553 = 3,159km completed.

Day 6:
Super organised this morning, we were up and ready to leave by 7.45am. We arrived at Devil's Marbles by 8am and found out they had wifi. Some clever person had put a satellite dish on the rocks in the middle of nowhere so you could tag the place where you took the pictures. We took a stroll around the site and obviously took a few snaps. These giant boulders were everywhere.

Our aim was to get to Mataranka by the end of the day so we would be able to explore the National Park there tomorrow morning, but that meant a long day of driving today. We stopped at Elliot for lunch and set the table and chairs out by the side of the road. The weather has definitely got hotter and has easily reached the high twenties. This meant the shorts came out and gave us a a good excuse to buy another ice lolly to cool down. The land is also getting a lot greener and doesn't look so much like a desert anymore.  
We arrived at Bitter Springs Caravan Park in Mataranka by 5pm. The park was very busy, it was obviously a popular place to visit. They only had one space left so we were very lucky. We set up camp and cooked dinner before nightfall. Then we got our torches out and went for a stroll to find the Bitter Springs. It was a bit tricky to see in the dark, so we walked some of the way then decided we would just come back in the morning when we could see what we were doing. These Springs were recommended to us as a must do if we were travelling past, so I hope they live up to their expectations. We will find out tomorrow!

Animal count: We saw a herd (if that is what they are called) of donkeys along the side of the Stuart Highway. Once at the caravan park, it seemed where we had set up camp was right next to where a little wallaby lived. He was bouncing around all night and at one point even hopped right into the wagon with a great thud. I tried to get a picture but just as I got out from behind the tree the little devil hopped away.

3159 + 647 = 3,806km completed.

Day 7: 
As the car windows aren't completely blocked out at night, we tend to wake up when the sun rises. So it was a 6.45am start for us today. I sat outside and caught up on some reading (I've nearly completed the Game of Thrones series) whilst Leigh lazed around for a bit. We had to be out of the site by 10am, so we decided to take the old girl down to Elsey National Park where the Bitter Springs were instead of walking. We took a warm dip into the springs at 8am where they were surprisingly quite busy. 

We both could have easily spent all day submerged in warm fresh water, but we needed to start our trip to Darwin. We had only travelled about 10km when we nearly hit a wallaby which decided to hop out in front of the car at the last minute. Luckily for the animal, we missed it!
On route we stopped at Tennant Creek as Leigh had no breakfast and to use their wifi of course. We then headed on until we reached Darwin. We arrived at Darwin at 2pm and didn't really consider where we were going to stay very well as it was peak season for them. The first place we went to was fully booked, however the 2nd place (Hidden Valley Tourist Park) made room for us but we had to be on a powered site (which meant being charged a powered site price). We didn't mind too much at this point because we really weren't in the mood to try and find somewhere else.
As we arrived quite early we decided to take Maggie and go exploring round the area. By chance we had arrived on the night of the Mindal Beach Sunset Market. So we spent the evening browsing around the vast selection of stalls. There were loads of different food stalls and lots of aboriginal art work, they even had things made from crocodile skin. Anyone who knows Leigh knows his true love for frogs (or truly his hate), so he was extremely excited that you could buy a purse made from a Cane Toad (it even had it's eyes and legs still attached). I tried to look for a boomerang as a souvenir to take home but I couldn't quite seem to find one with the print I wanted, however there is still plenty of time. We watched the Sun go down with hundreds of others, then headed back to camp and after a hot shower, we chilled on our chairs for the rest of the evening.
A day with little driving tomorrow. Time to explore Darwin.

Animal count: Only the wallaby we nearly squished!

3806 + 458 = 4,264km completed.

Day 8:
Now I am extremely talented in one thing, writing lists. I even have an app where I can write multiple lists, lists within lists and even have the chance to draw all over my lists (very sad, I know!). So prior to arriving in Australia, I had constructed a huge list of all the things I wanted to see and do whilst here. So today was a day of trying to tick off as many points of interest in Darwin as we could. It was a good day for it as it was hot, hot, hot! So the sun cream was slapped on everywhere and we set off in Maggie.
We started by taking a stroll along the Esplanade and through the Bicentennial Park. It was a nice leisurely stroll which took us right along the sea edge.

As we had skipped breakfast, we then headed to Mitchell Street where we treated ourselves to a fried breakfast. Naughty, I know!
Next stop was East Point Reserve, where we took another stroll along the waters edge. We stopped and took in the sights of the beautiful clear blue waters (it's a shame it was filled with box jellyfish so no-one was swimming).

We then drove down to Stoke Hill Wharf at Darwin Harbour. The American Navy had been completing a training exercise with Australia, so the harbour was blocked by two enormous American Navy ships. We decided it was the perfect time to sink down some coronas and eat some fish and chips. Now anyone who has ever tried Australia's fish and chips will be slightly disappointed. Yes the fish is extremely scrummy and there is a completely different variety of fish to choose from, however the chips are abysmal. They are like the chips you get from the kebab shop, not proper English chippy chips. Nevertheless, we ate them anyway and then headed to the supermarket and picked up a Boost smoothie and some more beers before headed back to the site. 
There was live music at night playing right outside our plot, so we decided to stay at the site for the evening. We cooked soup for dinner as we had eaten so much during the day.
Tomorrow is going to be a day for finding the creature Darwin is most famous for, CROCODILES!

Animal count: We saw a load of seagulls and different types of fish, but nothing truly amazing today.

4264 + 44 = 4,308km completed.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Road Trip Part 1: Barellan to Uluru

Day 1:
We said our sad goodbyes to the Booker family and left the farm at Barellan. We headed to Griffith to pick up the food supplies and then started to make some tracks. We weren't quite sure what route to take to get to Uluru, but thanks to NavMan (our trusty SatNav) we decided to head towards Mildura, passing through Hay. It wasn't long before we had a problem with Maggie (Yes we named the car!), she wouldn't go over 80km. But there is a benefit travelling with a mechanic and it wasn't long before we were up to normal speed again.
We didn't see a lot along the way and only travelled through 2 small towns until we got to Mildura. To pass the time I thought I would count how many wild emus I could see. I got to 56 and then even that game got tedious as there was so many. 
We arrived in Mildura at 4pm. We didn't realise how big Mildura was, as we were both expecting another small town, but we found a holiday camp site, parked up the wagon and set the bed up for the night. Luckily we downloaded some movies on our iPads, so we chilled out watching Hurt Locker. We cheated on dinner and bought KFC on the way through. We did also buy a kettle for $7.50 (Bargain!) from Target so we could have a proper cuppa tea in the morning.
First day of travelling wasn't too bad but we definitely need to gain some kilometres tomorrow.

465km completed.

Day 2:
We woke up at 7am, made the most of a hot shower, plugged the kettle into the plug adapter to find out it doesn't work (literally heart broken!) and then jumped back in the old girl and set off. Our aim for today was to travel 600km to Port Agusta. 
We drove through lots of small towns as well as the quarantine area for crossing the border (where they confiscated my green beans for my stirfry but I managed to keep my apples). Leigh has decided that he now only waves at other fellow caravaners and travellers, so has begun to judge people by the vehicles they drive. Now I know how tedious it can be when you get stuck behind a lorry at home and have to try and over take it, but how about being stuck behind a road train (a lorry with more than one trailer) and having to try and over take them. The further we travel into the central of Australia the more common these monsters were becoming. 

We arrived at Port Agusta earlier than expected, so we decided to keep driving until we reached Pimba where we knew there was a Roadhouse we could crash at for the night and get a few beers from.
We arrived at 4.30pm, set up camp with the other fellow travellers, raided the bar for some beers and played the traditional Mayhew holiday card games. 
Sausage pasta for dinner, cooked on the stove and obviously another beer in hand (why not, we are on holiday!).
Lots of driving today, I don't envy the Aussies having to do this all the time.

Animal count: Only 6 emus today.

465 + 735 = 1,200km completed.

Day 3:
Our aim today was to get as close to Uluru (Ayers Rock) as possible. Another Roadhouse would be nice, so we had no time to waste! We grabbed some breakfast, a cuppa tea and set off on our travels by 8.20am.
We didn't do much but drive through the barren outback today, driving through Coober Pedy and Marla. However we did encounter problems with Maggie again. The engine got too hot and boiled all the coolant. A nice Aussie man did stop to check we were ok and that we had enough drinking water in case we were stuck for a while. But after a little rest and driving a little slower, we arrived at Kulgera Roadhouse by 5.30pm. Because we were now in Central Australia the clocks had gone back 30 minutes due to time difference, but this gave us an extra 30 minutes of sunlight to drive in.
Tomato soup for dinner tonight as the Roadhouse smelt too bad but had a lush warm shower, so I could finally wash my hair. 
We only just realised we have travelled through 3 States in 3 days, as we are now in Northen Territory. Looking forward to Uluru tomorrow as it means we can spend some time not driving and sitting on our backsides all day.

Animal count: 3 wallabies, 4 emus and 1 gigantic eagle eating a dead cow.

1200 + 800 = 2,000km completed.

Day 4:
Oh my goodness it was so cold this morning. I thought the weather was meant to get warmer the further we travelled North! It was way too cold to get out of my pyjamas, let a lone get the stove out to make a cuppa. So we packed up and set off (in our pyjamas) on our travels by 7.20am. Our aim was to get to Uluru today, we decided not to do Kings Cannon this time around as we weren't sure whether Maggie would make it after yesterday. This meant we should hopefully be able to get to Alice Springs by nightfall.
On route to Uluru we drove past Mount Conner and Kata Tjuta, so had lots of photo opportunities. 

Once we arrived at Uluru, we parked up and took a walk around the rock. We didn't climb the rock as it looked way too steep in our non hiking boots and the park try to encourage people not to do it. Instead we took plenty more pictures! You can't truly appreciate the size of the rock until you see it for yourself. It was good to get out of the car and walk about for a change, especially as the weather got warmer.

We knew we weren't going to make it to Alice Springs by nightfall, so we stopped at Erldunda Caravan Park for the night. We decided to treat ourselves to a couple of ciders and a nice cooked meal at the Tavern.
Next stop (after a few more days of driving), Darwin.

Animal count: We saw another gigantic eagle today eating another roadkill animal and tons of emus but they were at an emu farm (so technically that's cheating).

2000 + 606 = 2,606km completed.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Route Ahead

Welcome to our home for the next month (at least).

She may look like an old girl, but thanks to the previous backpackers (and for Mark and Chonny for letting us borrow her) she has been fully equipped for the upcoming voyage.
After plenty of planning (more like a five minute read of a map and a quick dip into Lonely Planet), we have plotted a 14,000km round road trip through the Central, West and South of Australia.
Our trip will take us from Griffith to Alice Springs where we hope to see the famous Uluru (Ayres Rock), then we will follow the National Highway 87 up to Darwin to swim with the crocs. If we haven't been eaten live or lost any limbs, we will then take the Great Northen Highway West towards Perth, stopping at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay, North West Cape and wherever else we fancy along the way. Once we hit Perth we will travel along the South Coast until we come to Adelaide. Then finally head further South to Melbourne before heading back to where we started.
If we manage to complete this trip in one piece and within a month and a half, I feel it will be nothing short of a miracle. But there is no fun in the boring and easy, so let's bring on the adventure and the memories to come.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Tractors, Trailers and Plenty of Beer

Where do I start?? We have done so much since leaving the Gold Coast and been so busy, but had so much fun at the same time.
When we were planning where we would complete our rural work, we had no idea what would be best for us. Could we survive picking baskets and baskets of fruit in the scorching heat or would we be best at looking after animals (probably being bitten to death my bugs and maybe worse!!!). However, we must have done something right because we landed an amazing opportunity working for some amazing people. We managed to get jobs working on a small family run farm about 80km from Griffith. When they said small, we didn't realise small in their standard meant huge in ours. 3,500 acres of land and 'a few sheep' rounding to around 700! Fair enough the farm next door is over 20,000 acres, but still 3,500 acres is a fair amount of land compared to the size of my back garden at home.
Leigh was employed to help complete farm duties like tractor driving and helping maintain live stock. Whereas I was employed to help out in the household, which included caring for 2 children aged 2 and 5 and general household chores.  
I can honestly say we have had a complete blast being here and ended up staying on an extra month and a half to save up a few more cents.
Whilst looking after the children I have vastly developed my knowledge of My Little Pony and Dinosaur Train. I feel I could honestly say I could easily identify over 30 different ponies and the type of pony they are (If only this topic was covered in the National Curriculum back home, I would be winning!!).

Leigh kindly, not through choice, taught me to drive a few different types of vehicles I wouldn't have had the chance to drive at home. I can now say I have become an expert at shovelling animal poo using a loader. Now if I happen to own my own thousands of acres of land in the future, I will 100% be purchasing a quad bike to travel around it on. How I have ever survived without quad bike in my life I will never know! 

Me being obsessed with animals, we have been lucky to see a wide variety during our stay. From rounding up rogue sheep to dodging wild kangaroos which love to roam the dirt track roads, I have turned into Doctor Dolittle when it comes to attracting and searching for animals (talking to the animals could have come in handy a few times too). One afternoon we set nets out and left them over night so we could fish the damns on the farm for Yabies (which are the Australian version of crayfish). We caught a blue tongued lizard, an echidna and even a wild pig (with thanks to Ruby, an Irish Wolf hound/Stag hound puppy). Then the kids were given two guinea pigs named Bob and Rainbow Dash and a floppy eared bunny named Peter. Let's not forget the 5 chickens which have laid us lots of scrummy eggs to eat. Soon the farm will have to apply for a change of use and become a zoo!

Now our time here is drawing to an end and it actually feels quite sad to say goodbye. However, we have decided to come back and help the family out later on the year to help harvest the crop, so it's not a final goodbye but it is time to move onto the next adventure. Where to go to next... The country is our oyster!