Driving underwater.

Our off road adventure now took us to the far north of The Kimberley region of Western Australia. This is a beautiful and rugged part of the country, where access is difficult but the rewards are worth the effort. The region is dissected by The Gibb River Road, which we had chosen not to take due to the National Parks along the road still being closed after the bad wet season the region had encountered. The main highway had taken us around the edge of The Kimberley allowing is to visit The Bungle Bungle and had now brought us back to the top of “The Gibb” at a place called El Questro.

Arriving at El Questro.

El Questro calls itself a Wilderness Park. It is essentially a one million acre cattle station that has recently diversified into tourism after realising the thousands of head of cattle were wandering around some spectacular scenery. There are three different sites within the station with various types of accommodation. The Homestead, offers luxury rooms and suites, Emma Gorge offers safari style cabins and then there is a campsite which offers sites with power and sites without power. You can guess where we ended up!

Another great spot to spend the night.

This was probably the last of the major walking areas we would encounter on this section of our trip so we set about making the most of it. Steve, as ever, had come up with a plan to make the most of our time here and so we set about doing the three main walks.

It wasn’t all about the walking.
There is always time to relax in the hot springs!

By the time we got to the last one, El Questro Gorge, we were both quite tired. Although it wasn’t a particularly long walk it just happened to be one of the most technically difficult we have done this year. The majority of the trail involved scrambling over large rocks and boulders which had fallen in landslides from the steep walls of the narrow gorge. There was no clear marked path, but that didn’t matter too much as the only way was up.

“Looks like we are heading up there”

At one point we were once again swimming part of the way and luckily we were walking close to another group who helped us to get out of the water and negotiate a huge boulder at the other end. Steve also had to pull Sarah up a couple of the steeper sections and by the time we reached the rock pool and waterfall at the top it had taken well over two hours to cover about three kilometres.

She doesn’t know at this point she will have to negotiate that boulder behind her!!

After a refreshing dip in the pool and a well earned sandwich we headed back and by the time we eventually reached the van, we had been going for over five hours, taken a couple of tumbles each, Steve had snapped a strap on his shoe, and we were both feeling well and truly battered and bruised!

Steve takes a shower at the end of the track.

One of the best things about El Questro was driving the trails between the camping and the walking areas. Our confidence in off road driving had been growing all the time as we had driven through more and more testing conditions.

One of El Questros roads!

On one day, heading towards a walk, we came to a river crossing. “We must have come the wrong way”, said Steve. “We can’t be expected to drive across there, it’s at least 200 metres across and looks pretty deep to me”. We were parking up when a group of Spanish tourists turned up and said they were going to leave their vehicle and walk across, hoping to hitch a lift to the start of the walk on the other side. We hung around for a little longer and an Australian guy pulled up in a similar vehicle to ours. He looked at the crossing, scratched his head and then said he would have a go at crossing and would wave us over from the other side if it was alright. Off he went, slow but sure through the water, rocking from side to side on the loose bed rocks. He got to the other bank and beckoned us across. Off we went, and within just a few metres the water was coming over the bonnet. “Whatever you do, don’t stop”, said Sarah. The campervan rocked and rolled and slipped around as we kept a steady pace. Eventually the bonnet started to rise up, Steve increased the revs and we bumped out onto dry land!!

“Where are those insurance papers”?

We kept on going through the dirt and sand relieved at getting across and soon caught up with the Aussie who had gone across before us, only to find him with four Spaniards hanging off his truck.

That’s one way to get there.

After the walk we had the reverse crossing to do but having done it once we were pretty confident of making our return journey. Everything went OK except this time we lost a rear mud flap and our front number plate. “I wonder if we are insured for this sort of crossing”, said Sarah. “Umm, maybe we have pushed the limits on that one”, replied Steve.

After our bruising walk and river driving, we sat in the campervan and agreed it was time to find a campsite with some showers, toilets and maybe even a pool where we could do some serious relaxing. “I know just the place”, said Steve “and it’s only a couple of hundred kilometres down the road”. “Oh no, what has he got in store now?”, thought Sarah!

Lake Argyle is the largest man made freshwater lake in Australia. Basically 50 years ago, they built a dam wall between two banks of the river Ord, then they let it rain for a couple of years, and then they had this enormous lake (it rains a lot here in the wet season!). The water usage in the area is far below what the lake supplies, so a huge percentage is left to run off into the river.  This does seem crazy when parts of the country are in severe drought, but apparently the cost of transporting the water is far too expensive.

Heading out on the lake.

We were quoted all sorts of facts and figures about the lake while we were there, but probably the one that was most impactive to us was its surface area. When full it is 1000 square km, compared to lake Windermere in The Lake District which is 15 square km. The other interesting fact is that it is home to approximately 25,000 freshwater crocodiles. Luckily they are the friendly ones!

There is only one campsite at Lake Argyle, so our choice was limited. Luckily, true to Steve’s word, it had toilets, showers and a pool. Not just any pool, but an infinity pool with views of the lake. On top of that, it had yoga classes every morning for Sarah. It was the best campsite we had been on for absolutely ages, if not the best since we have been in Australia.

I said you would like it here.

We also went out on the lake on a boat tour. It was more enjoyable than expected and we saw rock wallabies which dance across the steep slopes of the lake as agile as mountain goats. We saw Archer fish in action too. They are the ones that spit water at insects in the low lying branches, knocking them off and having them for supper. We were also taken to a corner of the lake that is inhabited by hundreds of golden orb spiders. These are pretty big arachnids that weave intricate webs on the dead trees and the whole are looked like it had been seriously decked out for halloween, and with the occasional freshwater croc drifting by it made for a very eerie scene.

Spiders and crocs. I thought Lake Eerie was in Canada?

On the way back, the driver stopped the boat and said we were all invited to go in for a swim. Steve was straight up and first into the lovely warm water. As he was not immediately eaten by crocodiles most of the other passengers jumped in too.

“Watch out for the crocs”

The driver opened some beers and bubbly, and placed some floats in the water with nibbles and dips on them. We were all soon bobbing about in the water in an unbelievable setting, watching the sun go down, eating and drinking! We really have some fabulous memories and constantly remind ourselves how lucky we are.

“Look, no hands”!
“Look, both hands”!

Our planned two days at Lake Argyle had very quickly become four, but when we looked at the map we realised we had a seriously long way to get back to Cairns. We were still in Western Australia and we had to drive across The Northern Territory and all of Queensland. There were also a couple more places we wanted to visit on the way, so we packed up, buckled up, refuelled the van, and set off on another of those multi day drives that we are starting to get used to.

Just another “downward facing dog” before we leave.

The first day took us back into the Northern Territory. This is a sparsely populated area in a sparsely populated country. We drove for most of the day with very little signs of life and eventually arrived in the town of Katherine. With a population of around 6,000 people it ranks at number three in the busiest places in the State, so we made the most of civilisation and did a good restock of food, water, and fuel. Katherine also marked a significant point in our trip. Although, by now, we were approaching 50,000 kilometres of campervaning around Australia, our route had left a section of the country we had not covered. When we drove into Katherine the last section was now done, so we had joined up the dots, and completed a full circumnavigation of Australia. We had done what they call here, ‘The Lap’.

Back in The Northern Territory.

We made our way back South through the Northern Territory, stopping at a couple of places we had enjoyed when we were here last year. This included a dip in the hot springs at Mataranka and an overnighter with a beer at the historic Daly Waters pub. We also found a couple of new places to stay, the pick of which was camping at the disused Uranium Mine at Mary Kathleen.

The disused Uranium mine…………
…….and the road up there.

This was a strange place where the entire village has been demolished leaving only the foundations behind, which are now used as lovely flat camping pitches. We also drove up to the mine along yet another road, that became a rough track, that became a rocky trail, that became a cliff edge!

The camping area, along with inquisitive cows.

Our next and final significant stop on this section of our trip was at a place called Cobbold Gorge. This was somewhere we had wanted to visit previously, but the 90 kilometre drive from the highway along the unsealed road is pretty unsuitable for two wheel drive vehicles. But now we were armed with our 4WD campervan (minus mudflap and number plate), off we went.

Cobbold Gorge was almost a cross between El Questro and Lake Argyle but on a much smaller scale. It is a working cattle station, diversifying into tourism, with a very smart campsite with yet another infinity pool. “These infinity pools are like buses”, said Steve. “You don’t see one for 18 months and then two come along at once”.

A great place to pass a few hours……or maybe a few days.

It was Sarah’s birthday while we were there. It is pretty difficult in remote places to plan anything special and surprising but we did do some Stand Up Paddleboarding plus a walking and boat tour as a treat. It was pretty low key, and a lot more relaxing than it sounds, but with a couple of hours sitting in the sun by the pool thrown in, she had a pretty good day.

“Happy Birthday to you”

One thing we have noticed about the tours we have done is that they vary considerably in quality and professionalism, including the guides. Some are excellent and full of knowledge, while others are, shall we say, not as excellent and try their best. Part of the problem has been the pandemic. Due to the International borders here having been shut for well over a year there is a severe lack of immigrant workers which Australia relies on.  This includes competent guides or people capable of becoming competent guides so this has resulted in anybody passing through being able to get a job doing pretty much anything. It would have not been much of a problem, if our visas allowed and we were that way inclined, for Steve to be a paddleboard guide and Sarah to give tours explaining the various uses of native plants and berries!

“And here we have the very bigus spiderus”

So we drove the 90 kilometres back to the highway enjoying the last of our four wheel driving in Australia and continued our journey across Queensland. Six hours later, we had crossed the Atherton Tablelands, where they grow almost every tropical fruit you can think of and some you have probably never heard of, and we were descending through the rainforest back down to the East coast.

Seven months after we left Clifton Beach and said our goodbyes to our landlord John, his wife Sheree, and their dog Rosie, we were back knocking on their door again. “I don’t suppose our old apartment is available for three weeks?” was our question. “It sure is”, was the reply. So we unpacked and settled into our apartment, surrounded by a plethora of life’s luxuries including, a washing machine, oven, electricity, running water (hot), TV and a real bed with a mattress. Oh, and so much space. It was going to be a good few weeks!

It’s good to be back!

Sunsets, Spiderman and a Solar Shower.

We left Ningaloo Reef on a real high. It had, unquestionably, been one of the highlights of our time in Australia. Our journey now took us away from the coast as we travelled directly East, inland, heading towards Karijini National Park. We had never heard of Karijini until a few weeks ago when we started to look at possible places to stop on our route, but it seemed to be mentioned more and more as we met travellers heading in the opposite direction who had come from there or travellers heading back there for a second or third visit. We started to think this place must be pretty good, or is it just one of those places in which people make a big deal out of nothing, just because it is the only place for hundreds of kilometres? There are certainly a few of those in OZ!

It turned out that Karijini was the real deal. Anyone who has read parts of our blog will know that one of the things that seems to appear high on our list of favourite activities is a good walk. Some of the best we have done with varied and unusual scenery have been in Southern Utah, in The States. Karijini was reminiscent of there. It wasn’t as expansive and the walking networks were not as long but it was certainly a stunning place, and in some areas the rock formations were equally as good as some of those in Zion, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in Utah.

Steve surveys Karijini National Park from above.

The Park is basically split North and South with a campsite in each area and a series of gorge walks within a few kilometres of each site. It is possible to stay at one site, cover that side of the Park then move to the other site and see the rest. In true Aussie style there are two roads, one unsealed and direct 40 kilometres (about 25 miles) or the long way round 150 kilometres (about 100 miles) on the sealed road. Now we were driving a 4WD vehicle, we were able to take the short route through the sand, boulders and uneven dirt which was both quicker and much more fun.

It is pretty dusty when you cross another vehicle!….

We did three days of walking in Karijini and really crammed it all in. The walks were incredible. In some places it was pretty technical, with plenty of steep climbing and descending which involved hands as well as feet as we scrambled over boulders and huge fallen rocks. In one paticular place it was possible to walk with one foot on either wall of the gorge, this is known as “The Spiderman Walk”.

Sarah on The Spiderman Walk!

We were visiting these areas at the end of the wet season and we kept hearing locals talk of how it has been “A big wet”, with a significantly greater than average rainfall. This had meant some of the roads had been washed away and some of the National Parks were still inaccessible, but on the positive side those that were open had plenty of water in the waterfalls and gorges and the whole area was much greener than we expected. The added bonus was that this made the walks far more interesting and in many places we had to walk through waist high (and deeper) water to follow the routes and in a couple of places we had to swim across! The end result was always worth it as we accessed some amazing swimming holes fed by the waterfalls.

“When I said it was a walk, that was a loose description!”
“I told you it would be worth it”

It is easy to get carried away and distracted with the stunning beauty of Karijini but every so often something reminds you that it can be a dangerous place as a loose rock gives way under your foot, or you stand on a slippery rock under the water. Even though the walks were not very busy we still saw a couple of people fall. Probably the worst one was as we were climbing out of one of the gorges. We were on a part of the rock which had formed into terraces, some a few inches wide, others a couple of feet wide making a sort of uneven staircase. A young woman was coming down and slipped, causing her to fall down several terraces and onto the one above Steve, which was luckily quite wide. Steve broke her fall, but her momentum was still carrying her forward, until Steve grabbed her ankle with both hands and stopped her. She was extremely shaken up, but thankfully she had no serious injuries. Her partner joined her and we continued our climb out of the gorge. When we reached the top we stopped for a rest and a couple, who had been following us out, stopped with us and said that Steve had probably saved the woman’s life. Steve thought they were exaggerating a little but if she had kept falling it certainly wouldn’t have been a happy ending!

Don’t rip those shorts.

It is difficult to truly describe how stunning and visually impactive Karijini was, with the colours, the unusual geology and the narrowness of some of the walks, so here are a few more photos:

“No way! I draw the line at going down that one!”

Then add to that, the blue skies, the beautiful hot weather, and the welcoming cool waters in the pools and you can say we had a pretty good time in Karijini.

We were now aiming for the town of Broome which was about 1000 kilometres (600 miles) away, where we planned to restock on food, water, gas and a few other things we were running short of. We still had about three days’ supplies left, so we decided to drag the journey out and take three days to get there.

We made our way North towards the town of Port Hedland. We had decided against stopping here as it didn’t seem to have anything to entice us to stay. Australia is a relatively rich country and Western Australia provides a substantial part of the country’s wealth. If it were an independent nation it would be among the wealthiest in The World. This wealth comes predominantly from the mining of iron ore with some of the biggest companies on the planet such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto carving up the earth, producing the iron ore, and shipping it off mainly to China. Entire Chinese cities have been constructed using the iron dug out of the Western Australian outback.

Waiting for the next load.

The iron ore is moved from the mines to a huge industrial facility on the coast, where it is loaded onto container ships, in what seems a never ending process. This industrial facility is Port Hedland. Impressive to see, but we chose to view it from our campervan as we passed through.

On our way from Karijini to Port Hedland we saw the transportation operation of the iron ore in full flow. Apparently the price of the iron was at an all time high and so we presumed they were shipping as much as possible. Trains that were over one and a half miles long with four engines and well over 100 carriages shunted along specially laid tracks heading to the coast, while huge road trains raced up and down the highway supplementing the load. These road trains were four trailers long and including the cab had 106 wheels. They certainly don’t do things small in this part of the world.

They just go on forever.

After passing Port Hedland and heading North along the coast, the road trains soon became far less frequent and the giant iron ore mining machine became a thing of the past. We reached the start of Eighty Mile Beach, which isn’t really 80 miles long it actually extends for 137 miles, a seriously long beach!! We spent the next three days at a couple of locations along the beach doing not much at all as we were feeling pretty tired from our exertions at Ningaloo and Karijini.

Some of these camping locations are a bit difficult to access.
But worth the effort.

We have found that sometimes we get swept along, throwing ourselves into all the things there are to see and do here, and without realising, we get pretty exhausted and have to take some time out to recover. We just aren’t as young as we once were! A couple of days is usually enough and we are then off again. So we arrived in Broome with our supplies at rock bottom, but feeling we had made the most of the journey so far.

Broome is a popular holiday destination and is probably most famous for Cable Beach with its amazing sunsets and camel trains. We spent a couple of days getting the necessary photo shots and drank cold beer watching the sun going down.

A camel train on Cable Beach….
…and a camel trainer?

The west coast of anywhere is nearly always good for a picturesque view of the sun disappearing for the day and Western Australia is no exception. It has to be said, so far, Broome takes some beating. Pretty “Specky” as they say around here.

Definitely pretty “specky”

Next on our sunset tour of Western Australia was Cape Leveque. This was another of those places Steve read about and fancied making the 300 kilometre detour to get there and back and it turned out to be seriously worth it. It is perched at the end of a peninsula North of Broome, with nothing in between. We made our way to the very end of the road, along a dirt track, through some sand and onto our campsite, which was situated on the cliff above two beaches, one exposed to the ocean and wind, and one in a sheltered bay.

A beach for the days.
A beach for the evenings.

We spent two days laying on the sheltered beach with white sand, blue sea and virtually no people, and two evenings on the exposed beach watching the days end with sunsets to rival that of Broome. The cliffs here are a strange red colour and as the evening light hits them it throws up a fabulous scene.

Someone is trying to camouflage.
This really was a gorgeous location.

After more than enough relaxing, sunset watching and lazing on beaches it was time to get back into some activities….well Steve thought it was! Sarah was quite happy with a few more days of sand, sea and sunsets but we were on the West Coast and we had to be on the East coast 3500 kilometres away in three weeks with a lot to see on the way.

I love it here too. But we have more to see.

On leaving Broome and heading East there are essentially two routes to get to the next significant town of Kununurra. Our preferred choice was the 600 kilometre Gibb River Road. ‘The Gibb’, as it is known, is not much short of legendary in this part of the world. A dirt road all the way, with rough conditions including river crossings, corrugations, dust and potholes making it a challenging drive of around six days. It is closed during the wet season as the rivers flood and make it impassable, but when it is open it gives access to some reputedly spectacular National Parks and scenery, something which we really wanted to do. However, ‘The big wet’ which had hit the area this year had caused significant damage to the road and in some places washed it completely away. This had delayed its opening by over a month and, although it was now open to vehicles under 7 tonnes, the National Parks were all still closed. We had discussed what to do in the days before we left Broome and eventually decided we would leave ‘The Gibb’ for another time when we could drive it and access the National Parks. So instead we decided to take the highway which would allow us to visit The Bungle Bungle, which itself had only just opened following the wet season.

The Bungle Bungle (I just love saying that!) was a couple of days’ drive away so we made an overnight stop at The Mimbi Caves and took an aboriginal guided tour. The local aborigines have resisted Government Health and Safety measures and so the caves are in their original state, no walkways, no lighting, no structural support, in fact, no safety measures at all. You just follow a local woman around who tells a few stories about the local people, past and present.

Our guide for the day.
Steve looking less than impressed.

Sarah enjoyed the natural side of the tour, squeezing through the narrow passages and over the boulders, while Steve wasn’t too bothered and his highlight was the green tree frog we spotted enroute!

We then made our way to The Bungle Bungle, which involved a 50 kilometre detour off the highway on what was said to be one of the worst roads in the area. It did turn out to be pretty bad but we had driven on worse before and we were certain to find much worse further into our trip.

On our way to The Bungle Bungle.

We had heard of The Bungle Bungle before our trip here. It is famous for its orange and black beehive shaped rock formations, some of which are several hundred feet high.

Sarah admires the peculiar rocks.

It turned out that the strange shaped mounds were only found in one area of the National Park, but the rest of the Park had some interesting chasms and walks which kept us busy for three days.

One of the narrow chasms.

We did quite a long walk during our time here which followed a dry river bed for several kilometres. During the wet season the whole area is inaccessible and the river flows several metres deep. As the waters had receded, it was interesting to see how the force of the water had carved peculiar shapes along the now exposed rock.

Walking along the dry river bed.

During our few days at The Bungle Bungle the weather was seriously hot with the mercury hitting the high 30’s and with very little breeze. By the end of each day we were glad to get back to our campsite for a bit of shade, some fluid replacement and a shower. As in many of the National Parks we have visited throughout Australia, facilities are either limited or just non existent. But the fact that a camping location is provided, for just a few dollars, so close to such amazing locations leaves little cause for complaint. Besides, we have a solar shower! This is essentially a large bag with a special coating which heats up relatively quickly in direct sunlight, which is something we have in abundance here. You then hang the bag up over a tree branch or part of the campervan and then use gravity to feed the sprinkler shower head. It works reasonably well and with a bit of help from Steve, Sarah is even able to wash and condition her long hair. It’s amazing how something so basic can make you feel so refreshed after a long day of walking!

This shower is excellent after a long hot day.

The Bungle Bungle was well worth the detour. In fact, we had three thoroughly enjoyable days and considering it had originally been Plan B we felt we might have missed a real highlight if we had gone with Plan A along ‘The Gibb’.

Well worth the trip here.

So we made our way back along the 50 kilometres of rough dirt, over a couple of water crossings, back onto the main highway, reinflated our tyres and we headed North to our next stop at El Questro …..”That doesn’t sound very Australian, does it?”

We would just like to apologise for the large number of photos in this post. But it has been such a great section and we have so many more we could have used.

Here is one more for luck…

Big Fish….Little Fish.

Our house and pet sitting job turned out to be a real success. The house was in a suburb of Perth called Mullaloo on The Northern Beaches. It was owned by an English couple who moved out here 7 years ago from Warrington, UK, and in their words, “have never looked back”. They were taking their two teenage boys on an Easter Holiday trip down to Esperence and The Margaret River area from where we had just come from and we were looking after their dog, gecko, four fish, a budgie and a water worm.

Barclay, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was an absolute dream to look after. He was well behaved, affectionate and generally good company. Looking after the rest of the mini zoo was also pretty easy, especially after Sarah produced a feeding spreadsheet for the 9 days (which also included exercise time for Mango the budgie, as every couple of days he is let out of his cage to fly around). We were a little dubious the first time we did let Mango out, having visions of him disappearing, but sure enough when he was done he went back into his cage and waited to be shut in. Steve won the job of feeding Eric the Gecko his live crickets! Meanwhile, Sarah took charge of Barclays dietary requirements.

Steve adapts well to the arduous task of pet sitting.

We then settled into the exceedingly difficult task of looking after the four bedroom detached property, which included among the many rooms a huge kitchen, containing what seemed like every appliance known to man, and a living room, containing an enormous TV with an uncountable number of channels and apps. But the icing on the cake was the beautiful pool and patio area. Sarah had picked up a bit of a cough, so it was the ideal place to relax and recover from what has been a fantastic but tiring start to the year. We realised that prior to returning the last van we had only spent one night (January 1st) sleeping outside of a campervan so far this year, and with another 6 weeks straight after the house sit we were determined to make the most of our luxury.

This is going to be such a hard couple of weeks!

We didn’t spend the entire time by the pool and in front of the giant TV, we did get out and about and see some of the local area. We ventured to nearby Scarborough beach which has really improved it’s image over the last 20 years, with a whole heap of money being spent on the area. New hotels, modern cafes, outside barbeque areas, a beach amphitheatre and the unbelievably superb recently opened aquatic centre. It is an impressive open air facility which is situated right on the ocean front and it’s well used by families, recreational athletes and serious swimmers alike. It also has a cafe which serves great coffee and (according to Sarah) has muffins to die for.

Steve at the brilliant aquatics centre in Scarborough.

Our time enjoying our house sitting gig was over far too soon and we welcomed the owners back from their Easter break and said our sad goodbyes to Barclay. Hopefully, we will return to the area in a few years and pop in and say, “hello”, but for now we were off again, this time in a different type of vehicle, a four wheel drive campervan. The area we are travelling through, on our way to Cairns, has many spots which are only accessible by 4WD, so not wanting to miss out we decided to do without the relative comfort and space of the Mercedes Sprinter and opted for a converted Toyota Hilux. It’s cramped, it’s basic, it’s pretty small for a six week trip, but it’s different, it looks like it will do the job we want it to, and it’s a change. One of the things we have learned in the last two and a half years is change can be pretty good and it is something we tend to look for, rather than avoid.

Sarah gets ready to rumble in our new home.

Our plan to make some quick distance North along the coast was very quickly, well and truly blocked… literally! Cyclone Seroja was circling off the coast and had decided to turn East and head straight toward our first stop. We had been following it online and saw it alter course. We then saw the road closures and evacuation notices go on one by one and had to resign ourselves to sitting it out.

We had planned to drive as far as the town of Geraldton, a few hundred miles up the coast and restock on provisions there. However, after 50 miles we found all three roads North had been closed and so we decided to double back, almost to where we had started from to restock there and then go back to the road block and sit it out. We arrived at the road block mid afternoon and joined a queue of only 10 cars. Sarah jumped out and started to walk to the front and find out any updates. However, just as she got there the Police removed the barriers and off we went. As we reached the newly opened road we saw about 100 vehicles and caravans all lined up down a small side road, where it transpires they had been waiting for the last 24 hours. Luckily we had arrived at exactly the right time and with an open road ahead we were able to make great progress North.

What we saw over the next couple of hundred miles was the after effects of devasting Mother Nature in the guise of a cyclone. Trees were uprooted and road signage had been completely flattened. Luckily, the area is sparsely populated and so only two small towns were in the direct path of the cyclone. One was on our route but we were diverted around town and the worst of the damage but we still saw homes missing their roofs, outbuildings and stabling completely demolished, fences destroyed and general destruction everywhere. The other town in the firing line was apparently even worse but luckily no-one was killed.

Out buildings completely flattened.

We arrived in Geraldton the following day and found our decision to restock elsewhere had been a good one. The town was completely without power so the traffic lights and phones were down too. Every shop was closed with the exception of a chemist where one customer at a time was being allowed inside, who were then escorted around the store by a staff member with a torch and all purchases had to be made in cash!

Also no power meant no fuel pumps, so the petrol stations were all closed. Luckily we had filled our tank a hundred miles out of town and with our two spare jerry cans we were good for another 500 miles or so!

Once we were a couple of hours North of Geraldton things started to return to normal, with no more visual signs of the cyclone it felt like we were back on track as we headed to our next stop at Shark Bay. Shark Bay has a few interesting sights, with probably the best known being Monkey Mia, where a pod of dolphins has visited the shallows a couple of times a day for the last 40 years. Their regularity could have something to do with the local resort feeding them a few fish and making a dolphin friendly attraction out of it. But it is a nice experience and they do stress that “no dolphins are harmed” in the making of this attraction!!

The dolphins are pretty friendly at Monkey Mia.

We put our 4WD to use for the first time and made our way down a dirt track, through the sand dunes and parked up, all alone, close to the water in a great spot to spend the evening and watch the sun go down.

Just the way we like it!

Shark Bay gets its name from the abundance of sharks which inhabit the waters and there are a few places where you can look down from high on the cliffs and see them swimming around in the bay below. Apparently, most of them are completely harmless but just the shape and movement conjures up images of ‘Amityville’, a Great White Shark and one of the most recognizable pieces of music in movie history!

After Shark Bay our next stop was The Ningaloo Reef. Now we have been travelling around Australia for coming up sixteen months and we have seen some truly amazing places and sights. To pick our number one place would be a tall order, but if we had to, if we were pushed, Ningaloo Reef would be a very strong contender. We both absolutely loved it.

Ningaloo by day……
…….and by night.

The reef is much smaller than its East coast brother, The Great Barrier Reef, but you can access it straight from the beach. Imagine laying on an almost deserted white sand beach under a cloudless blue sky. You’re getting a little hot, so you walk a few steps into the warm turquoise waters to cool down. You put on your snokel and mask, sink beneath the water and you find yourself in an aquarium with literally hundreds of brightly coloured fish, all shapes and sizes and every colour of the rainbow and then some. Then a turtle swims by and pops his head up for a breath or two before slowly moving on his way to feed some more. He is followed by a ray who sees you and dives into the sandy bottom and disappears in perfect camouflage. All this is happening amidst a background of amazing, colourful coral and giant clams, as around every corner it seems something new is there to be seen. Then, in the distance, the silver colour, distinctive shape and stealth like movements of a shark can be made out coming your way and a four foot black tipped reef shark comes into view! He is more afraid of you than you are of him, and he quickly beats a retreat, but a shark is a shark and maybe you should go back to lounging around on the white sand beach for a while. This is Ningaloo Reef.

“You are one of the friendly ones? Right?”

We spent six days exploring Ningaloo, from three different locations along its length. One involved a 50 mile drive along a very rough road, and at some points Sarah said it was how she imagined driving on the moon would be. The tough drive was worth the rewards as we arrived in Gnaraloo Bay, where the days were filled with snorkelling and walking on the beach and the evenings were spent camping on the cliffs on the edge of a cattle station. “Have you got any room for our campervan”, Sarah asked the manager on our arrival. “Sure, no worries, we have almost a quarter of a million acres, we’ll squeeze you in somewhere”, came the reply!

Only 50 miles to go but it will be worth it!
I told you it would be worth it!
Just one more time PLEASE!

After the teeth chattering ride back to the main highway we moved up through the small town of Exmouth and into Cape Range National Park where we stayed on two small campsites right on the beach. We explored the various snorkelling locations, Lakeside, Oyster Stacks and The Drift were our favourites. At the latter you were able to walk a few hundred metres up the beach, walk into the water and then get carried back up the coast on the current, taking in the amazing sights as you drifted along before being dumped off at a sandbar and starting all over again.

It was a fantastic few days and at points Sarah thought Steve was never going to get out of the water. But the absolute highlight of Ningaloo Reef was still to come! Wednesday April 21st 2021 was a bucket list day! Steve first heard of Ningaloo Reef a few years ago after seeing it on a documentary. It instantly appealed to him, but it’s not a straight forward place to get to. It’s almost a thousand miles north of Perth, so getting up and back on a normal holiday to Australia eats into a lot of time. But when you have time on your side things become a whole lot easier, and when you pass through in April, May or June things get even better because there is a visitor in town by the name of Mr and Mrs Whale Shark. The biggest fish in the sea comes to feast in the Ningaloo Reef waters and a couple of licenced operators offer swimming tours with these strange fish.

We joined a tour with 20 people and we were thoroughly impressed with the whole set up. The boat was fantastic, we were fed and watered, and we were given strict instructions on the protocol of swimming with the Whale Sharks. The main points were; we were split into two groups, a spotter plane would radio in a sighting, we would then move to the area, and then a crew member would swim out and establish the direction of travel of the fish. We would then enter the water in a line and watch the fish swim by and ensure we were no closer than three metres away. We would then get out of the water, the boat would move us to a point ahead of the fish, and we would swap around so the other group would do the same. Then we would hopefully find another Whale Shark and repeat. If we got two or three passes that would be considered a good day. Sounds good we thought.

There was one flaw in the plan…… no-one told the Whale Shark! The spotter plane located a fish, a juvenile over five metres (17 feet) in length, which was probably weighing in at about 5000 pounds. Not the biggest one out there but certainly not a tiddler. Then the crew swimmer found it in the water, we jumped in and lined up and waited in eager anticipation for a glimpse of this giant creature. However, Mr (or Mrs) Whale Shark didn’t swim by. Instead, it circled right around us, not once, not twice, not twenty times. It just kept going around and around. Sometimes it was going underneath us and sometimes on its side. The three metre rule went out of the window as we struggled to get out of its way. When we did try to move aside for the other group to get in to see it, the Whale Shark just followed us! At first the crew were amazed, “We’ve never seen one behave like this”, was their initial reaction. After thirty minutes this reaction turned to laughter as we just couldn’t shake off our clingy new friend. Then, after an unbelievable 60 minutes, we all had to get out of the water to make our journey back to shore…. and still our friend hung around heading towards the boat as we turned for home!

Probably a story best told by images.

On the journey back you could really sense by the atmosphere on the boat that something unusual had happened. We all talked about our individual encounters with the Whale Shark and just to round off a perfect day, on the way back we saw a family of Dugongs, these are strange looking and quite elusive creatures. Then a pod of dolphins started to surf the bow wave of the boat and just as we were disembarking a green turtle popped up to say goodbye.

When we got up the following morning we really had to ask each other “Did that really happen yesterday”? It was that good!

Juggling with Knives!

The next leg of our Australian odyssey was to take us out of South Australia, across the Nullabor Plain, and into Western Australia. Throughout this pandemic it seems that Australia has been a front runner in keeping the number of cases and deaths low, with one of the reasons being strict international border controls. Within Australia, where individual States have been concerned, WA has been a front runner by imposing hard border closures at the mere mention of the virus. With only one community transmission in the last 12 months they have been very successful. However, this has come at a cost. There have only been a few windows of opportunity for visitors to enter and, some might say, harsh quarantine regulations for residents on their return. It has become known as an ‘Island within an island’. At the moment, the doors are open in certain circumstances, so armed with our ‘Good 2 Go’ border pass we headed west!

A small and uninteresting part of boring road!

We have driven across the lonely Nullabor once before, almost exactly a year ago, in the opposite direction. Back then it was our first long distance, remote drive in Australia so we were very much novices. Now, with over 25,000 miles and with several of the more remote sealed roads covered, we are almost veterans and found ourselves giving advice regularly to other travellers we meet. A couple of days on the Nullabor is childs play!

We made our first night stop at The Bunda Cliffs, which are part of the longest continual stretch of sea cliffs in the World which run along The Great Australian Bight. There are some great spots to get a view of the cliffs and we took advantage of the photo opportunities. We found a really unusual place to camp, however, we didn’t have the best nights sleep as it was very exposed to the wind coming off the Southern Ocean and we were quite close to the edge!

A great place to camp.

After a few hundred miles along the Nullabor we arrived at the Western Australia border, with its Police and Agriculture check point. Firstly, we were questioned by Police regarding our movements in the previous 21 days and our intended plans in WA. They wanted proof of our account and it was all very serious.  Luckily we were expecting the inquisition and have an App that tracks our route where we add date stamped photos. This coupled with receipts that Sarah had kept for such circumstances was enough for us to get our virtual passport stamped and enter the ‘country’ of Western Australia. Secondly, we were boarded by an official from the Agricultural Department who was after our forbidden food. Sarah, however, was one step ahead having researched what we could and couldn’t bring with us so we had used most of the banned food the night before. So half a pepper and an old potato already in a bag was all the official left with. We have crossed many, many international borders in our time and have had less interrogation at most of them than we had here!

Once through the border we put our foot down, cranked the music up, got the quizzes out, and before long we hit the end of the road (over a thousand miles later) and made our first turning in two days into the small town of Norseman. Located at the very end of the Nullabor, and other than a place to spend the night, Norseman has very little to offer. In fact, in our opinion, it has nothing to offer so moving on, out of town, was our first activity the following day.

No room for error when these beasts are around.

We then headed South to the coastal town of Esperance and then back East a short way to Cape Le Grand National Park. Having been travelling around Australia for over a year now, one of the questions people ask us (and we are sure when we get home people will ask the same question) is, “What is your favourite part?”. We do think about it often and compare different places, but to pick one place would be impossible. We could probably put together a top 10, most definitely Norseman would not make it, but for sure, Cape Le Grand would be one of the first to be on the list.

You might get the impression Sarah likes it here!

The place is unbelievably beautiful. Turquoise waters, crescent shaped, brilliant white sand bays, thick green vegetation as a back drop and plenty of wildlife to spot. The weather along this part of the South coast can be a bit hit and miss especially at this time of year, but we spent five days here and were generally pretty lucky. We visited four of the beaches with our favourites being Hellfire Bay and Wharton Beach and mixed our time on the sand with walks in the bush. Probably the highlight for Steve was a morning on Wharton Beach. We were up and away early from our camping area and pitched up above the bay in prime spot for breakfast. Halfway through our second coffee Sarah spotted some dolphins swimming down in the clear water. As we watched we counted about 15 of them swimming around. The beach was deserted and they swam pretty close to shore and although we were about a hundred metres away, the water was so clear we had a great view of them. Then they started to jump out of the water, then they were doing backflips, then somersaults. It was amazing, like having our own personal show. After about half an hour and with the dolphins still swimming around, Steve put on his swim trunks and goggles and ventured down to the waters edge, he slowly swam out roughly in the direction of the dolphins to see what would happen. Almost immediately a couple of them swam by him just a few metres away. Steve hung around in the area as they continued swimming around, he then dove down underwater and 4 of the dolphins swam up to within an arms length of him. With the water absolutely crystal clear he had a fabulous view of them and it was an amazing experience, one he will never forget.

Steve sort of liked it too.
A lot !!

So why wasn’t Sarah swimming with dolphins? Now there is a story!! A couple of evenings before we had been preparing dinner in the campervan, chopping vegetables, boiling pasta etc. With the chicken and vegetables almost cooked and the pasta ready, Sarah started to clear our small sink so Steve could drain the pasta. She picked up the chopping board on which the knife was still balancing! It slipped off and instinctively Steve went to catch it, grabbing at the six inch blade as it fell. Luckily, he realised and as he opened his hand he saw he only had a small cut on the end of his finger as the knife had sliced it as it fell. He looked at Sarah with a look of, “I was lucky there” on his face, only to see a mixture of horror and shock on hers! The knife had continued to fall, blade first, and landed straight into her foot and a thick, red stream of blood was running across the floor of the van. Luckily, the knife had not stuck in her foot and pinned her to the ground! The weight of the handle probably tipped it over and prevented that from happening. We wrapped the foot in a tea towel and put some pressure on it and what seemed like an age later managed to stop the bleeding and inspect the damage. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it didn’t look great. It was a quarter of an inch, clean cut, which judging by the shape of the blade was about the same deep. In the UK it would have been a trip to A&E and a stitch or two but the nearest hospital was well over an hour away, so after some discussion we settled on a few plasters and a tight shock!! Over the next few days she looked after it pretty well and Steve did his best to look after her. It is now well and truly healed and she has only a small scar as a memory. It actually matches the one in exactly the same pace on the other foot from where she was bitten by the spider back in New South Wales….. did we forget to mention that one?

Daggers drawn! The offending article.

We left Cape Le Grand a little reluctantly but feeling pleased we had seen so much and promising each other it would be a place we would return to in the future. We then had a plan to spend more time along the South coast and explore the Southern Forests but the unpredictable weather looked to be making a turn for the worst, so we decided to head to our old favourite of Busselton, a couple of hundred miles away, for a week and then return South when the weather improved.

Often you find a place in the World that you really like, but when you return it can sometimes seem different, not quite as good as you remember, the memory can be better than the reality, or it has become so popular and developed that it has little or no resemblance to the place you visited years before. Busselton is just the opposite. Everytime we come here it seems to get better and better. The changes that have been made over time seem to make it more and more our sort of place. If we lived in Australia this place would definitely be on the short list. It is not a very well known town outside of Australia and we discovered it as it hosts an international Ironman race. In fact it hosts an abundance of events, music, art, culture, food, sport and it has become known as the ‘Events Capital’ of Western Australia. On top of that it has a fabulous climate and is surrounded by endless beaches with something for everyone.

An ice cold cider at our favourite spot in “Busso”

Busselton gave us chance to restore a little bit of normallity. We were able to go to the local pool to swim, wander around the town and pick up a few bits and pieces that we have been unable to get elsewhere, stop at some great cafes, go for a walk along the seafront and enjoy a beer or two. After being there for a week we were almost feeling quite civilised, so at that point we thought we had better move on!

We always find it hard to leave Busselton

The weather had improved in the South West so we headed into The Southern Forests. Covering an area of a few hundred square miles, the forests are predominantly made up of Karri trees. These are very tall red bark trees and resemble slightly the big redwoods of California, although not quite on the same scale. Driving and cycling through the forest was pretty spectacular and the fact the sun was out and there was virtually no traffic made the experience even better.

A fabulous place to explore in the van……
…..or on foot!

On leaving Busselton Steve dragged Sarah out of bed pretty early and before arriving in the Forests he took a small detour to Hamelin Bay. He had heard that early in the morning, if you are lucky, you might see some stingrays close to shore. So we went for a look and sure enough, moving stealthfullly through the shallows, we found five huge stingrays. They were at least a metre and a half across and were quite inquisitive when Steve ventured in to take a closer look. We wandered up and down the beach for half an hour or so following these strange creatures, before hunger and the call of breakfast pulled us away.

“Don’t you get too close”!

After Hamelin bay we headed to a cave that Sarah fancied seeing. Steve wasn’t that excited but never the less was up for checking it out and was he glad he did. Jewel Cave is one of a series of caves in the area and it was utterly unbelievable and probably one of the biggest suprises of our entire trip.

This place is amazing.

It was hard to take in the number and variety of the rock formations, not just stalectites and stalecmites but a whole manner of shapes, sizes and colours. The tour took us through three caverns, all slightly different, and lasted an hour but we could have easily stayed down there much, much longer. It was only discovered about 50 or so years ago and the three men who found it kept it a secret while they explored it themselves….. for over three years!! I can understand why!

Totally amazing.

Next was a trip to “The Gloucester Tree”. Many areas of Australia are susceptible to extreme weather. This usually ends in one of two situations, either too much water or too little. The former generally brings severe flooding while the latter brings dry, drought conditions which severely raises the risk of bush fires. Since we have been here the country has experienced a devastating period of bush fires and two periods of flooding, one of which is currently ongoing and is the worst here for a century.

Up she goes!

These days technology plays a huge role in preventing and managing these situations, but not that long ago things were quite different. Spotting the start of a bushfire used to entail finding the tallest tree in the forest, climbing to the top, and posting a lookout during dangerous conditions, and for a large part of The Southern Forests that tree was The Gloucester Tree!

It’s a long way up!

If it were just a tall tree in the middle of a forest of other tall trees we probably wouldn’t have gone to see it, but you are still able to climb it. The metal rods drilled into the tree are still there, like some flimsy spiral staircase disappearing higher and out of sight and the lookout platform, precariously perched at the very top, is still in situ. There is no safety or security staff clipping you into a harness and giving some detailed safety brief. If this were in the UK, Health and Safety would take one look at it and laugh. But we are in Australia, so game on!

Steve isn’t the best with heights but he likes a challenge and Sarah fancied at least doing some of it, so off we went. Funnily enough there weren’t that many takers. A few people were stood around getting some photographs, so when we started to climb we were the only two on it, which is a good job really as how you would pass going up and down we have no idea. Anyway, up we went slowly but surely, the metal rods flexing under our weight. Up and up, round and round, always trying to keep three points of contact on the rods. At about half way things were getting serious. It looked a long way down to fall and still a very long way to the top. Sarah felt like she was happy with how high she had climbed, a decision Steve was happy with so we decided to head back down. After a few steps down Steve stopped and when Sarah reached the bottom she saw he wasn’t behind her. While she was looking up and a little confused, a man standing close by said, “He’s going back up”. Steve’s competitive side had got the better of him and he continued slowly to the top. The steps got smaller and smaller and more vertical until it was like climbing a spiral ladder.

It’s a long way down!

Eventually he reached the top, saw there were no bushfires, grabbed a quick photo and made his way back down, which he said was much easier than going up. “That was something to be done once and never again”, was his summary of the morning.

In the afternoon we spent a couple of hours on the Mundi Biddi Trail. This is a 1000 km cycle trail which winds its way around the South West mostly through the forests. Sarah took her mountain bike and Steve ran. The surface is quite rough and although Steve had a brilliant time, Sarah finished the afternoon a little saddle sore!

The next stop on our mini tour of the South West was back on the coast at a place called Elephant Rocks. It is one of the more well known places in the area and we have tried to get here a few times in the past and for one reason or another never made it. This time though we had time and weather on our side.

The small but gorgeous beach at Elephant Rocks.

Elephant Rocks and the adjacent Green Pools beach are picture perfect locations and feature in many tourism advertisements and rightly so. It is basically a fairly narrow inlet of clear blue water with granite rocks to the side, several large granite boulders in the water and a small white sand beach at the end. We thought it would be packed, with it being so well known, but when we turned up there was hardly anyone around. It is a gorgeous place both above and below the water as the granite rocks make for great snorkelling. We also put on our snorkelling gear in Green Pools which was even better.

Do we really have to leave here one day?

We decided to make our way back to Busselton and have one last week there before returning this campervan to Perth. We meandered back through the quaint towns of the forests and into the wine region of Margret River where we camped on a vineyard, the cost of the site was about £8 and included a bottle of wine!

Camping among the vines.

So after another, what can only be described as a relaxing and pretty uneventful ‘normal’ week in Busselton (did I mention we love it there?) it is time to head once more to the big city lights where Sarah has found us another house sitting job for a week or so over Easter, where we will be looking after Barclay the Staffordshire Bull Terrier!


Hanging around in The South

We drove out of Brisbane and headed due West, straight into the Outback. The first day was a reverse of a day we did back in September after heading back to the coast from the Northern Territory, so we had a place to camp in mind, a nice little place by a lagoon. This time around though we were the only ones there. Most of the times that we stop for the night there are one or two others around, but every so often you end up all alone in the middle of nowhere with only the snakes and spiders for company!

Home Alone

After a couple of days of driving we were well and truly in the outback and arrived in the small town of Charleville. For such a remote town it had a lot going on and we paid a visit to The Royal Flying Doctors museum and airstrip. On our travels around Australia we have become more and more aware of how important the service is and how it has developed over the years. It is no longer just for emergencies but it provides dentist facilities, mental health counseling, regular GP services and so much more. They even have part of the highway converted to a landing site every 100 or so kilometres.

“You always wanted to be a paramedic “

Also in Charleville they have a pretty impressive observatory. Having virtually zero light pollution it makes a great location to stargaze and we joined a tour one night to look through the big telescope at some of the nearer planets and some constellations which were an incomprehensible distance away. Neither of us are astronomy experts but we both found it very interesting. When we drove back to our camping location it was 34 degrees at 11pm!! It can get seriously hot out here.

Outside the observatory..

After Charleville we were faced with a choice. Covid restrictions here in Australia, like many things, vary from State to State and the longer we stay here the more it appears less like one country and more like independent countries, similar in many ways to the European Union. The regulations mean you need a border pass to enter each of the different States (except NSW, they let anyone in). Then each state has different rules depending upon which other States you have visited recently determining whether you have to be tested, self isolate, go into hotel quarantine or you’re just not allowed in at all. So you have to plan your route and timings carefully. Anyway, as we were heading to South Australia and then Western Australia our choice was to 1) drive from Queensland through NSW into South Australia without stopping (except for fuel) or 2) stop overnight in NSW and then have to submit for testing three times in a 14 day period. After much discussion we opted for option one, as it’s only about 650 miles with pretty much nothing to see.

Sarah relaxing on the road!

So we set off as the sun came up, we swapped drivers every hour, we listened to music, we had some quizzes, we made plans for the future and as the sun dropped low in the sky we crossed the border into South Australia, with not a Police Officer or any Official in site. “What a waste of time applying for those border passes”, was Steve’s reaction.

The first “town” in South Australia was an absolute nightmare. Half a dozen buildings all falling apart, rusted old cars lining the street and a couple of people playing banjos! “Maybe we won’t stay here”, said Sarah. We pushed on another 30 or so miles to the next “town” which made the first one seem pretty welcoming! Another 40 miles further into South Australia and we arrived in the town of Yunta, which consisted of two petrol stations, a pub and a parking area which contained two caravans, a campervan and some huge road trains. After more than 700 miles it looked like paradise. We parked up, cooked, ate and cleared up, then slept like babies! The following morning we were up and away early and within the first hour we saw activity on the road ahead. As we got closer we could see it was a road block of some sort and then eventually it became clear it was Border Control. Well over a hundred miles into the State, Steve’s efforts at obtaining the Border Pass were rewarded. In many ways it was the perfect place to have it, near a relatively large town and with no turn offs since the actual border anyone who crossed into the State had to pass through this point, unless of course you wanted to stay solely at one of the “Ghost” towns we passed through! After some fairly rigorous questioning relating to our previous travel and future intentions we were officially allowed into South Australia (SA)

Welcome to South Australia.

We now had to spend 14 days in here in SA before we were allowed into Western Australia (WA). “How are we going to pass the time?”, had been our question. We have both been to SA a couple of times before but we have just passed through. Adelaide and The Barrosa Valley had been our limit before heading off to The Great Ocean Road and Victoria. Well, 28 days later we finally made it into WA. So what took us so long?

To cut a long story short there was more to do than we thought. As we have travelled around and around Australia, our focus has changed. Initially, it was all about getting in the big, major sights which are known Worldwide such as Sydney, with its Opera House, Harbour Bridge and beaches, The Great Ocean Road with the Twelve Apostles, Ayres Rock, The Great Barrier Reef, etc. But, as time has progressed, we have come to realise that there is so much more to Australia when you go just a little bit away from the normal routes and when you really start to venture further afield it gets even better. When we have been here in the past for two or three weeks at a time, we have (like most people on holiday) wanted to get the most out of our time, however now we are in the very fortunate position to have time on our side. So spending a day or so getting to a place that looks like it might be good only to find it isn’t that great is not a big inconvenience to us and, in reality, most of the places we have made the effort to visit have been more than worth it.

So after arriving in SA we realised we knew very little about The State, other than it is very dry, heavily farmed, the main city is Adelaide, and they make good wine in The Barossa Valley. So we set sail for the good wine! We found ourselves a great campsite on the edge of a cricket oval for £2.50 a night, right in the centre of the wine region and settled in to make plans.

From this….
….to this.

After some research we found that there are three adjacent peninsulas which stick out into the Southern Ocean at varying positions South of Adelaide. One is shaped a little bit like India (Eyre Peninsula), one like Italy (Yorke Peninsula), and one like a big sploge! (Fleurieu Peninsula). So we decided to explore each one in turn. Firstly though we earmarked some extra time for the Barossa and covered it pretty thoroughly, visiting all of the quaint, manicured villages, surrounded by what seems like an endless sea of vineyards. Although we are certainly not wine connoisseurs, we did recognise many of the vineyards from labels that we have seen in the past (as we have searched the shelves of Tesco for a cheap bottle or two!).

Between The Barossa and The Fleurieu Peninsula you pass through the Adelaide Hills. We stopped here for a couple of days which was way too short. It’s a lovely area of rolling green hills, forests and small towns. Sarah went horse riding one day while Steve cycled one of the stages of The Tour Down Under. He had a great time, especially going flat out up Old Willunga Hill (not quite at the same pace as the pro’s). However, when he got back he could tell Sarah’s day had been much better. She doesn’t get to go horse riding as much as she would like, so to do it in a lovely setting, on a beautiful horse, at a stable run by an Olympic Silver Medalist was something special for her.

Someone is having a good time

Continuing with the horse theme we had another day at the races, this time in Adelaide. We were surprised at how close you could get up to the horses and Sarah was in her element as we walked right through the stables where they are saddled and then cooled down after racing. She also saved the day by picking the winner in the last race!!

“That one has got no chance Sarah”

We spent the next couple of weeks driving around the three peninsulas. It was an area different from anywhere we had seen so far which was very arid with huge areas of agricultural farmland, one or two sparsely populated coastal towns and plenty of remote, exposed beaches. To be honest, by the time we had finished the drive it was difficult to differentiate between each of the areas as they were in many ways very similar. It could easily have been a bit of a disappointment if it wasn’t for the National Parks at the very tip of each one, especially Innes and Coffin Bay. They were spectacular. The contrast as you pass from the dry, arid countryside into the thick green vegetation, dramatic cliffs and fabulous beaches was surprising to say the least. They were easily the highlights of our two weeks.

A taste of life on the three peninsulas

Sarah found us a super pitch in Coffin Bay National Park and as we parked the van an emu and four babies wandered in and hung around for about 20 minutes, when they stand up straight they are surprisingly tall and the mother was eye to eye with Sarah. Steve was more eye to middle of the neck!!

The Emu Family.

Our route around the three peninsulas had been just over 1000 miles and although it wasn’t the highlight of our trip down under it was certainly worth the trip. It was a new experience, in a new area, and further emphasizes the diversity of the Australian landscape.

“I quite like it here”

As we approached the end of the Eyre Peninsula we arrived in the town of Streaky Bay. Back in August in The Northern Territory we met a couple and their two young children who were travelling around the country, home schooling the kids. They were from Streaky Bay and described it as a laid back place with nice beaches and just enough services to get by.

Streaky Bay.

With a long drive across The Nullabor ahead of us, and both feeling pretty tired, we decided to stop for a couple of days in ‘Streaky’. It was Steve’s birthday while we were there so Sarah took him out for a ‘full on’ breakfast burger, complete with birthday candle!

“Happy Birthday to you”

Sarah also had her hair cut (well over due!). In fact, it was so relaxed we lost track of time and spent five days there on a brilliant little campsite. It was the first commercial site we had been on since Brisbane, so with a fabulous pitch overlooking the bay, electricity and amazing hot showers, we kicked back and recharged our own batteries in preperation for another long drive into WA.

Just one more day here? Please!

Climb Every Mountain!

So another year is well and truly underway, and we certainly did not expect to be still here going strong, travelling around in Australia in early 2021. But circumstances around the World, and because we do love it here, that is exactly what we are doing. After three weeks in the big city lights (and big city clouds) of Sydney our feet started to itch again.  So it was back in a campervan and back on the road. This time, however, it was back to the small style of van that we originally set off from in Perth last February. As inexpensive and fabulous bargains the big vans have been out of school holidays, they are horrifically expensive during the holidays and as it was only half way through the long summer break here, we were economically forced into the small van. Sorry Sarah, no onboard toilet for the next month!

No toilet in there Sarah.

When we packed up to leave Sydney we were instantly reminded as to how much clothing and equipment we have collected over the last year, not least two bikes, so getting everything in was a logistical challenge and patience with accessing things on a day to day basis was going to be the order of the day.

Because we had been in Greater Sydney where there had been a major Covid outbreak (minor outbreak in the context of most of the rest of the World) none of the other States wanted to know us, until we had been out of the city for 14 days. So we decided to continue South along the New South Wales coast.

We are becoming quite the experts at finding the good, free or low cost campsites and not only does it help to keep the budget down, but we much prefer them to the large commercial sites where everyone is crammed in like sardines. Also, with no Australians being able to go on foreign holidays this year, it seems everyone has decided to go camping so getting on a commercial site is often challenging.

Our first stop was in a State Forest near the pretty seaside town of Narooma, which is where we had our first incident with our new van. We were sitting in the van one morning when Sarah decided to get out for something. “Steve, I can’t open the door”, came a slightly concerned call. Steve went to help and sure enough the sliding side door to the van was stuck! So Sarah, being the more flexible of the two of us, climbed over the sink, cooker and tap, between the driver and passenger seats and into the front cab. She then opened the front door and got out of the van, where she was then able to easily open the sliding door and let the slightly less flexible Steve out. A few checks revealed the door mechanism was well and truly broken and after a couple of calls to the rental company and a local garage we managed to get an appointment to fix it a couple of days later. So Sarah spent the next 48 hours climbing over the cooker and sink, doing the front seat shimmy, in order to free us from the back of the van!

Sarah to the rescue!

Luckily Narooma was a great place to be stuck and Sarah really enjoyed it, as did Steve when Sarah chose to let him out! She was a little sad when the door was fixed.

With a fully operational van, other than a decidedly dodgy fridge, we set off inland away from the coast towards Kosciusko National Park, home to Australia’s highest mountain and apparently the location of some good walks.

What was Kosciusko like? Well if we say we made a plan to go for 4 or 5 days and we stayed for two weeks and had to drag ourselves away, that sort of explains it. The place was magnificent, and we were blessed with some amazing weather of mostly clear, blue skies.

What an amazing view.
The highest point in Australia.

We based ourselves around the town of Jindabyne which is on the edge of a huge lake only five or so miles from the entrance to the National Park. The park is the main ski area in Australia and, as in many European ski areas, the summer brings walkers and cyclists and they were here in abundance, to the point where it gave the place a great atmosphere rather than a jam packed overcrowded one. We ended up staying in three different campsites all of which were very different. One was a big commercial operation in the centre of town which had good facilities and was handy for food shopping, but it was way too busy for us. The second one was an ultra basic one in the National Park which we loved and it even had a river flowing through it where we could have a good wash off after a day in the mountains…(we weren’t the only ones!).  We would have stayed there the whole time but availability was an issue. The third was a huge site with acres of space, in a beautiful location a few miles out of town. It was owned by the Adventist Church. It was immaculate and well run and we liked it almost as much as the basic one in the Park.

Another great place to camp.

So with great camping, great weather, beautiful scenery to walk and run in, and smooth, hilly roads to cycle on, we indulged in two weeks of what felt like non stop activity. We covered almost 100 miles of walking alone. Our favourite one was the whole day, 14 mile, long route to the top of Mount Kosciusko. It was much less busy than the main route up and we were treated to some spectacular views along the way.

The Bush Fires have left a strange landscape in places.

Steve enjoyed it so much that he went back and ran it a few days later while Sarah walked up the main route. At the end of it he was pretty whacked and was reduced to a speed not much faster than walking.

Almost finished.
I think you have been doing too much again.

He wasn’t as tired, however, as Sarah was on our last day. We decided on a tough walk to finish our time in the Park which involved a steep climb to around 6500 feet. About halfway Sarah began to feel the effects of the two weeks, and a combination of tiredness and lack of food began to show her down. Her stops became longer and more frequent, and by the final section of the climb it was like Sir Edmund Hillary reaching the summit of Everest. Luckily for Sarah though, there was a fabulous cafe at the top called ‘The Eagles Nest’, the highest cafe in Australia, which suddenly became Sarah’s favourite place on the planet. With an hour’s rest, a huge bowl of salty chips washed down with a mug of hot chocolate, she set off back down the mountain more like Eddie The Eagle! Steve couldn’t believe the transformation as he was having to break into a jog to keep up.

One tired cookie!

We eventually left Kosciusko, not because we wanted to but more for the sake of our health. Steve worked out he had done almost 80 hours of exercise in our time here, so enough was enough, we packed up the van and headed out of town.

One more hill before we go….please!

We had initially planned to return the van to Sydney and catch up with Terry who we met in South America. He had offered to look after us for a couple of days but unfortunately the virus scuppered that plan, as a return to Greater Sydney would have meant complications for future border crossings and unnecessary self isolations. So we changed the drop off to Brisbane, filled out the online application for a Border Pass, and rather than head up the coast we planned a route through the New South Wales hinterland. For three days and 800 miles we meandered along back roads and through farming areas, not dissimilar to parts of Northern England and Wales (other than the weather was slightly better). After stopping in the ‘foodie’ town of Mudgee, the ‘university’ town of Armidale and descending down the amazing ‘Waterfall Way’ into Bellingen we eventually landed back on the coast in the seaside village of Yamba where we had been 10 weeks before. We were both pretty exhausted and consequently spent the best part of the next three days soaking up the sun on Yamba’s different beaches.

Time to chill in Yamba.

We could have stayed a little longer in Yamba but we had a lunch appointment to keep. Although we were unable to catch up with Terry in Sydney, our return to Brisbane meant an opportunity to catch up with Glen and Kellie for the fourth time!! This time we were going to celebrate Australia Day with them and Glen had booked a table at a pub near Mount Tamborine. So with our recently approved Border Pass we drove back into Queensland and headed for the pub.

“Stop the van”, came the shout from Steve as we turned off the motorway to head inland. “These are some of the steepest hills in Queensland, I can’t miss cycling here”. So out he jumped and off he went, while Sarah headed on to the pub. Two hours later, with Sarah, Glen and Kellie all waiting in the pub carpark, Steve hurtled down the hill towards them “I’m only a couple of minutes late and I have had a brilliant time”, was his greeting.

A few minutes later, and after Steve had freshened up and changed in the back of the van, we were all sitting around a table in a huge, packed beer garden holding on to ice, cold glasses of beer, wine and cider. It was quite the scene with families everywhere enjoying one of the country’s biggest holidays. We were laughing and joking, swapping stories of what we had been up to and reminiscing about our time in South America, as well as all our plans for the future. It was definitely an occasion for us to remind ourselves about how fortunate we have been to have had such a fabulous year, when others have been so restricted. Last year we spent Australia Day watching the fireworks in Perth. Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate the year we have had.

Catch up time again!

Probably the highlight of the day was the Cane Toad Race. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of cane toad racing! It’s huge in Queensland!! Basically, the eight cane toads (marked with numbers on their backs) are auctioned off, some of the toads went for over £60. They are then placed under a barrel in the centre of a big circle. The auctioneer becomes the commentator, the barrel is lifted, and the first toad out of the circle is the winner. The money spent on the toads is split between first, second and third, with 10% going to the local charity.

“Let the games begin”

It’s chaos, with cheering and shouting (and a bit of cheating), but everyone was having great fun. And just in case anyone was worried, no toads were harmed in the making of this fun! Sarah even had a photograph with the winning toad, but Steve didn’t think it was quite as good as the one she had with Gino D’Campo in Italy a year or so ago!

Someone is hoping for a Prince!

After a great afternoon we said goodbye to Glen and Kellie……again, and headed off for another few days on the beach at Noosa Spit, one of our favourite locations to spend a bit of down time.

“I love it here”

We want to be fully rested up before we return the van, because when we do, we are picking up another van on the same day and heading straight off into the outback and embarking on what we hope is another circumnavigation of Australia, Visas and Border Passes permitting.

So taking the words from a song I vaguely remember, “Let’s Go Round Again”!!

Oh! We nearly forgot. On our way to drop off the van we made a stop at Australia Zoo, just over a year after our last visit. It is a really lovely zoo and heavily promotes the memory of Steve Irwin and his legacy. There is plenty of interaction with animals which we both enjoyed.

Here are our favourites…

Someone’s happy.
You would think we might be kangarooed out by now.
“I can see you”

Another year over!

We were right, in many ways, New South Wales is different to Queensland. Probably the three differences with the biggest impact on ourselves are; it is far busier, the camping is slightly different and the weather is much more changeable. For several months now we have been wandering around Queensland and The Northern Territory pulling into excellent campsites of all descriptions at will, in what felt like never ending glorious sunny weather. Now we are having to plan and, especially at weekends, book our sites in advance and take into account cooler weather (plus the occasional bit of rain). There are also a substantial amount of permanent residents on some sites, sometimes over half of the occupants are ‘permo’s’. This is something that was virtually non existent before and certainly gives the sites a different feeling. The free or cheap campsites in beautiful locations with only a couple of other people around are definitely harder to come by in NSW.

So are we enjoying ourselves? You bet we are! NSW isn’t Queensland, just like France isn’t Spain or India isn’t Thailand (OK that analogy might be extreme). But they are both great in slightly different ways and we have found some real gems.

Our first stop was in Yamba. Sometimes we look back and think why did we choose to stop in a particular place? Sometimes it’s because we fancy going there, sometimes it’s because someone has recommended it, and sometimes it’s because when looking at a map it looks like a convenient location to stop. Yamba fell into the latter category and what an amazing place it was. A lovely clean little town with a selection of pristine beaches which we left far too soon. In hindsight, another couple of days there would have been well spent.

One of the beaches at Yamba

The ‘Yamba model’ became a regular sight along the NSW coastline. A coastal town where a river meets the ocean, with steep rocky headlands and a series of beaches facing in different directions, some exposed to the ocean, some sheltered by the headland and some along the river. This gives something for everyone; surfing, paddle boarding, swimming, fishing, kayaking, sun bathing, hiking, kite surfing, and the list goes on.

Another noticeable difference in NSW was the distances we were travelling between locations. Yamba to Sydney, for example, is just over 400 miles and we had a month to do it. We were driving much more than that in a single day in The Northern Territory, so we had to readjust our mind set.

Plenty of time to stop off and do a bit of cooking.

We spent the next week or so drifting slowly south along the coast, spending some time on the beach and some time walking the headlands. We soon discovered that by finding campsites about 20 miles or so inland they were more to our liking. The pick of the bunch was in someone’s back garden. It was a hundred acres of back garden though! It was a beautiful garden with all sorts of wildlife including a few kangaroos which watched us closely as we set up a campfire for the evening.

A great spot to spend the night.

We visited Red Rocks, Nambucca Heads and Crescent Head, all of which were really lovely places in their own right, all pretty much following the ‘Yamba model’, all slightly different to one another, but if we are honest, they were all starting to merge and we were needing to find something different.

Sarah enjoying the never ending beautiful views.

Then quite by accident we dropped into Booti Booti National Park. We were heading towards the seaside town of Forster for Steve to have a trip down memory lane. He came to Forster in 1999 to race The Ironman there and arguably had his best ever race, qualifying for the Hawai’i World Champs. Back then it was all about the race and he was completely unaware of the amazing place lying a few miles to the South. After driving through town, and seeing how much building had happened over the last 20 years, we continued on without stopping. The map showed a slither of land between the ocean and a lake which looked interesting and was a short cut back to the highway, so off we went. The slither of land turned out to be a couple of hundred metres wide with ocean and beach on one side, and bush and a huge lake on the other. We found a campsite on the lake side and, although it was a bit rough around the edges, it was certainly a case of the worst house on the best street!

Booti Booti was magnificent. We spent three glorious days there; paddle boarding in the lake, cycling around it, lazing on the beach, playing in the surf and walking through the bush. We were spoilt for choice with five amazing beaches on hand and with only a couple of pockets of beachside communities the beaches were all pretty much empty. It was easily our favourite place in NSW so far.

A room with a view.

A fabulous place to paddle board.
Time to relax.

We had to leave Booti Booti maybe a little bit earlier than we would have liked but we were under a little bit of time pressure as we had tickets for a rugby game in the city of Newcastle and we had another place we fancied visiting on the way.

Nelson Bay is a very popular area indeed. Three hours North of Sydney, it is a popular weekend and holiday destination for the ‘Sydneysiders’. We were there on a Friday and Saturday when the temperature on both days was over 40 degrees centigrade!! The area is visually stunning but with an audience of six million on the doorstep (three hours drive is definitely on the doorstep in Australia!). Local businesses have cashed in on the opportunity and I suppose who can blame them. Fast food outlets, bars, and restaurants are everywhere. But like in so many places we have been in the World, if you are happy to stay just a short way out of town, and visit the more inaccessible spots, you can soon limit the crowds and still see some amazing places, sometimes even better than the well known sights.

One evening while in Nelson Bay we made the 45 minute trip into Newcastle to watch the All Blacks play Argentina. What a fabulous experience it was, with great seats, a warm evening, a view of the ‘Haka’ and New Zealand were on fire putting on a dominant display to win.

Great seats for the Rugby.

After spending the last few weeks mainly on the coast it was time to head inland a short distance for a stop and a spot of walking in The Blue Mountains. We combined a couple of the classic walks around the rim and then down into the bottom of the main canyon. It was a spectacular and varied walk, giving panoramic views of the mountains, winding tracks through the forests, steep decents to the canyon bottom, twisting tight pathways along the bottom across streams, and through thick vegetation before a seemingly endless set of steps cut into the rock to exit back to the top.

Sarah takes it all in.
It’s going to be a big walk!

We have done some incredible walks during our time here in Australia and we both agreed this walk was right up there with the best of them, maybe even at the top of the pile.

Sarah cools off during the walk.
Winding through the bottom of the canyon.

We also did a shorter walk in The Blue Mountains which took in the iconic Three Sisters rock formation. On both of our walks we were blessed with beautiful clear skies and warm weather. It was really cold in the mornings but it soon warmed up, unlike the days before we arrived and the days afterwards when dark clouds, wind and rain were the dominant features.

The Three Sisters rock formation.
Steve gets up close to one of the sisters. (He is there somewhere)

So it was with a real feeling of sadness that the time came to drive into Sydney and give up our latest campervan. The last two months have been yet another great success for us, delivering everything we had hoped for and more besides. Now it was time to see what the big city lights had to offer.

Back in the big city.

In summary the big city lights gave us very little and the whole thing was a bit of a let down. It started off by us renting a large campervan on someone’s driveway. The photographs we had seen on Airbnb turned out to have been taken in a different location to where the van was situated, and also a few years ago when the van was in its prime. So our new home was a tired, old van, on a dark tree covered drive, two miles away from town, up a massively steep hill!!!

Dark, dreary…. but cheap for Sydney 😄

Adding to that, the weather was pretty miserable for a summer in Sydney, and the worst outbreak of Covid-19 in Sydney since April had started in the next suburb. So after five days we said “enough is enough” and we moved out.

Finally we join the Covid-19 world.

This was easier said than done. Because it was the week before Christmas there wasn’t a single hire car available anywhere in Sydney. We searched high and low and in the end the best Steve could come up with was a flatbed truck! We initially came to Australia with two small hand luggage sized backpacks and one holdall. But in almost a year, we have collected a lot of gear, not least two cycles. So we piled it all in the flatbed, covered it in a tarpaulin, secured it down with a washing line, and set off in the pouring rain to drive through the middle of Sydney. We laughed at ourselves and our situation all through the suburbs, past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, under the river via the tunnel and onto our new apartment in Sydney Olympic Park.

Steve loads up all of Sarah’s clothes!🤣

The new place was fantastic and so spacious. Sarah laid in the middle of the floor and pretended to make snow angels the place was so big. But the real treat, the epitomy of luxury, the new place had a flushing toilet, our first for over two months!

The weather was still quite cold and cloudy for Sydney but The Olympic Park had a cycle path of over 20 miles which wound through the woodland, down by the river, and around the various stadia that were used for the 2000 Olympics. With a couple of coffee stops along the way, we did the route most days and stayed out of the centre of Sydney as restrictions were now in force due to the major Covid outbreak (about a hundred cases) in The Northern Beaches. In fact, we even had to wear masks when we went to the supermarket. At least we felt like we were joining the world of Covid even if only in a very tiny way.

Outside the main stadium from the 2000 Olympics.

On Christmas Eve we moved again, only a few hundred metres away, into another apartment. This time though, we were house and cat sitting for a young couple who were going away for the holiday period. Sarah found us the place on an Australian house sitting website and it suited us just fine. Free accommodation in Sydney, over Christmas and New Year, we were never going to turn that one down. And, as if having a flushing toilet wasn’t blowing our minds, we now had a bath for the first time this year, “Merry Christmas Sarah”, said Steve!

Looking after Alexa!

Because we were still so close to The Olympic Park we continued our little routine as the weather continued to be poor. We also cycled the 10 miles into the centre of Sydney on Christmas morning and had a bag of chips for lunch in The Botanical Gardens, next to The Opera House. A bit different to the normal ‘full on’ Turkey roast! We then spent the rest of the day and some of the night making several video calls to family back home, over four hours in total.

Sarah has her Christmas lunch in The Botanical Gardens.

The ability to make regular video calls to family and friends has been a real positive this year, for both them and ourselves. It’s been great to sit down and have a chat with a cup of tea, and is the closest we can get to ‘visiting’ people without actually being there. We are sure that has been the same for so many people all over the world.

So that is that. Another year done. Definitely not the one we set out to do, but probably most of the planet’s population can say the same. Everyday we remind ourselves how lucky we have been to have had such an amazing year, when others have not been so fortunate. We have been in a position to remain fluid with our plans and to adapt them at short notice. We are especially fortunate to have family who appreciate the life we have chosen, and have been understanding and supportive of the decisions we have made as this Australian odysey goes on and on!

We shall return to the UK soon, but there are still a few more miles left to do and a few more sights still to be seen. Let’s see what 2021 brings. A great year for all is what we hope.

**The original title for this years blog was “Oz to home”. We have changed it to “A year down under”. We thought it was more apt.**

“Merry Christmas” from Sydney.

Unusual Creatures and Amazing Beaches.

Although we have been along the Queensland coast already this trip, and had some great experiences, there seemed from our research to be plenty more for us to discover. However, it was inevitable that we would end up at one or two locations which we had previously visited either due to timing or that we had just enjoyed a particular place first time around. It was through both of these reasons that we ended up back on the golf course at Balgal Beach. A nice, little two night stop there allowed Steve to cycle up the eleven mile climb to the town of Paluma and for us both to cycle and run around the golf course amongst the huge kangaroos. This time we also managed to fit in a drive to a waterfall and a stop at ‘The Frosty Mango’, a bit of an institution in the area. This is the only roadside stop in many miles and was just along the highway from our campsite. It was another super hot day with temperatures hitting the mid 30’s centigrade, like they have been for the last six weeks, so it was a welcome break to sit in the shade with enormous mango smoothies. Somehow, Steve managed to demolish his in no time at all, it was like he sucked it up with a vacuum, which meant Sarah had to spend the next twenty minutes fighting him off while she finished hers!

Sarah with “The Frosty Mango”

The next place on the way South for us was Bowen but before we got there we did an overnighter in a derelict caravan park with no facilities, adjacent to a pub and miles from anywhere. The landlord of the pub had taken on the caravan park and was trying to resurrect it, which was going to be no easy task. In order to spread the word he was letting people stay for free on the proviso you had a drink in the pub. So for the price of a couple of ciders we got ourselves a pitch for the night, but by the time we arrived in Bowen we were ready to freshen up and do some laundry so we booked into a lovely site with power, good showers, washing machines and a pool.

Horseshoe Bay in Bowen.

About two and a half years ago, as we were approaching our time to finish work and start our long term travelling, several people suggested we should start a blog. Although we had followed a couple of other travel blogs in order to get ideas and inspiration neither of us had any idea about how to start or write one. Then on one of the blogs called ‘Nomadasaurus’ Steve found a post with step by step instructions on how to set up and ideas on how to run a travel blog. So whilst sitting down with a cup of coffee he set about creating ‘Two Travelling Turtles’. After a dozen cups of coffee, hundreds of expletives later, and as day turned into night he had more or less succeeded. The Nomadasaurus blog was run by a couple called Jarryd and Alesha and although their blog is run as more of a business, they were effectively following a similar lifestyle to how we intended to, and are now living ours, and the blog became a regular read for us.

Anyway there we are in Bowen about to head off for a walk to the beach when Steve saw a campervan two spaces away from us with the decal ‘Nomadasaurus’ on the side. “No way”, said Steve, “That’s impossible”. The rear doors were opened so Sarah said, “Let’s see if it’s them”. So off she trotted and sure enough sitting in the back were Jarryd and Alesha. What a lovely couple they were. We chatted with them for a while before they were due to get ready to attend Alesha’s sister’s wedding (via video link!) and Sarah caught up with them the following morning while Steve was out on his bike. We found them really encouraging about the whole way of life and gave Sarah a few tips on photography as that is one of their businesses. So expect some improved photographs, probably from next year when some equipment upgrades might have to be purchased! They were heading to The Northern Beaches in Sydney in December which is where we are also heading. Who knows, we might meet up again. Sometimes the World seems so huge and other times something happens and it feels small again.

Bowen. Home to The Worlds most dangerous Magpies!!

A quick note about Steve’s bike ride in Bowen. Yet again the magpies were after him. He is getting used to it now and expects a few swoops while he is out and about, but in Bowen he met the mother of all swoopers. As he was approaching the end of his cycle a magpie swooped down and hit his helmet, then it came again and again and again. It mounted a persistent attack which in the end caused Steve to have to get off and walk. The magpie still followed him to the end of the street and watched as he walked on. Eventually, Steve got back on to cycle for the last few hundred metres to the campsite. With the entrance in sight he thought he was home and dry, when out of nowhere another magpie came in from the side and pecked at Steve’s ear. He reached up to assess the damage and saw his hand covered in blood!! The magpie had taken a chunk out of his ear! Luckily we were moving on the next day.

We had been on the coast for quite a while now so we decided to take a detour inland and we made our way to Lake Proserpine. This is a big reservoir which provides much of the water for the area. We found a great, free campsite in some trees right by the water’s edge. It was a little cooler than the heat we had been having on the coast and the whole setting made a pleasant change. A herd of cattle came grazing through in the evening and a big old bull sat down for a rest in the middle of the site.

Lake Proserpine was an amazing setting.

Next stop was a bucket list day for Sarah. A visit to The Whitsunday Islands and she had been looking forward to it for ages. We had planned to go in early September when we passed this way before but the weather was a little bit against us, so we had decided to leave it until now in the hope of better conditions. What a good call that was. We had perfect weather, with blue skies and sunshine but not ridiculously hot. It was an amazing day where we visited three locations. Hill inlet was the first port of call where we climbed up to a viewing point for probably the most amazing view of a beach we have ever seen. The deep blue sky and thick lush green forest are a back drop for the most amazing turquoise waters and brilliant white swirling sands.

Hill Inlet on The Whitsunday Islands from above….
….and from below!

Next we went on for lunch on Whitehaven beach which is one of the most famous beaches in Australia and is only accessible by boat or seaplane. The sand is super white and fine like talcum powder. We tried our hand at Stand Up Paddle boarding but, unfortunately, the boards weren’t inflated very well but that just made for some comical scenes as people gave it their best shot! The final stop was for some snorkelling on the reef where we were fortunate enough to have another close encounter with a loggerhead turtle. The Whitsunday Islands certainly lived up to their reputation and you can always tell you had a good day when you have hundreds of photos to sort out at the end. That should keep Sarah busy for a few days!

Sarah shows everyone how it’s done.
Well almost !

Australia is a land of unbelievable contrasts and one day we were relaxing on the white sands and turquoise waters of The Whitsundays, the next we found ourselves walking through the rainforest and waterfalls of Finch Hatten Gorge, dodging the monitor lizards and snakes as we went. Although we both really enjoyed Finch Hatten it wasn’t the main reason we had made the hundred mile plus detour from our route, that was hopefully to come the following morning!

Sarah Braves the cool waters at Finch Hatten.

We stayed the night in another pub car park and this time, very unusually for us, we decided to eat in the pub as it was famous for its pie menu. Pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy, Sarah had died and gone to heaven and Steve went along for the ride. It really did taste excellent.

The following morning we dragged our still full bellies out of bed as the sun came up and made our way deeper into the rainforest, to the end of an ever narrowing road. We parked up and took a short walk along the riverbank and then stood all alone and waited. We were at a place called Broken River which is apparently one of the few places in Australia where you can see the elusive Duck Billed Platypus in the wild. The river was flat calm, like glass, and we waited and watched, and watched and waited, then some small bubbles appeared and a few ripples spread out across the mirror like water and up popped a platypus. It took a breath, had a quick look around and then disappeared again. It was much smaller than both of us had imagined and such an unusual mammal to look at, it was at times difficult to distinguish which was the bill and which was the tail. We watched it surface and dive for over 30 minutes, fascinated by this strange looking creature before the pie had finally wore off and breakfast was calling. We hadn’t realised at the time how lucky we had been to see a platypus in the wild but, after speaking to a few people about our experience, it is only a very small percentage of Australians who have ever been lucky enough to glimpse one.

The everso strange and elusive Duck Billed Platypus .

We had enjoyed our trip to Lake Proserpine the previous week so much that we looked to detour inland again, and Steve found another lake a couple of hundred miles or so South. So after our longest day in the van for a while we ended up on a free campsite on the shores of Lake Awoonga. Not big by Canadian Great Lakes standards but at seven times the size of Lake Windermere, still pretty big. At weekends it is supposedly extremely busy but we were there midweek and once more we found ourselves almost all alone with just nature for company. The lake is famous for its wildlife and in particular the vast array of species of birds, 225 apparently, and we felt like we saw most of them. “Look at that”, became our most used phrase. We had a kite’s nest above our campervan with some hungry chicks in and it was a real treat to watch the parents hunt as we were sitting with the doors open. Watching a kite stalk its prey, and then swoop down and emerge with a small python, and then the family feast on it only a few yards away was pretty impressive. We had a similar experience on a walk when a white bellied sea eagle went fishing and brought its catch back to eat on a branch as we walked by. There just seemed to be something happening everywhere we looked.

A Kookabura with the Lake in the background.

The time at Lake Awoonga just drifted by and before we knew it our planned stop of one or two nights had turned into four. We had run out of food and with little chance of Steve going out and catching a python for dinner we had to move on.

Steve with The Lake in the background!

Without realising it we had steadily been moving a considerable way down the coast and one of our favourite spots from a previous trips was just around the corner and we could not resist another stop into 1770. We really like this place. It is very laid back and picturesque. Seventeen Seventy itself is pretty small, but when coupled with its close neighbour and equally lovely Agnes Water, they seem to have a bit of everything. Calm beaches, Ocean swell, a river estuary, super walks, quiet roads and enough facilities to keep you going. Sarah even had her hair cut at the local hairdresser, and not before time thought Steve!

Steve cooks up some dinner at 1770. One of our favourite spots.

Our time in Queensland was slowly coming to an end. The State has been a real lifesaver for us during this unexpected extended trip. We have spent quite a few months here, met some fabulous people, seen so many different things and had some amazing times. In a few days we will be crossing the border into New South Wales and in normal times we probably wouldn’t even notice the difference, but these are strange times and the Australian States have in some ways become separate countries, with border crossing closures, restrictions, and different rules and regulations surrounding the pandemic. We are sure we will notice the change but at the same time we are equally sure we still have some great times ahead.

Just like home!…..or maybe not!

Back On The Road…….Again!

Well, where did that month go? After what only seemed like a few days since we were unpacking the campervan into the Clifton Beach apartment we were loading up another one and leaving, for the last time, what has basically been our substitute home for a significant chunk of the year.

We had settled back in really quickly and, other than our friends Mark and Lisa not being there, things remained pretty much unchanged. The weather was a little hotter, the humidity was a little higher, and Rosie the dog was more than a little bigger, but more or less things remained the same. The permanent residents were all keen to find out how our trip had gone and were genuinely interested in our little adventures so we enjoyed sitting by the pool reliving our trip to The Northern Territory. The people here have been so friendly towards us and we are sure we will see some of them again in the future. An invitiation to New Zealand sounds very appealing but that is probably a long way down the line from here.

Our apartment block. Spot Sarah on the balcony.

Our time in the apartment was spent in a similar fashion to our time here before with lovely walks on the beach and lazing by the pool.

It was also Steve’s father’s 80th birthday and we had a virtual party which went really well. A video call allowed us to “be there” when he opened his cards and presents. We put balloons and a banner up in the apartment and we even supplied a birthday cake with candles which octogenarian Pete blew out all the way from England!

Getting ready for the virtual party.

We also used the time for Steve to continue with his cycling and running and for Sarah to catch up on some reading and dog walking. But, if we are honest, when the time came to leave we were both ready to go. We are both finding it harder and harder to stay in one place for any significant length of time and while this is not such a problem now, we can see it could be in the future so we will have to make some adjustments as the years progress. Also, this time things had felt slightly different and the situation had a different dynamic without Mark and Lisa. We were very lucky to find a couple who were so like minded as ourselves and to spend so much time together. We are still regularly in touch and are making plans to meet up again next Spring….. virus permitting!

So with a packed campervan (not quite as luxurious as the last one, but not far off) we locked up the apartment and handed back the keys. It was a sad goodbye to John and Sheree, our landlords. We had some hugs and goodbye photos on the beach and they bought us a great present which was a huge book of camping and walking all over Australia! So with Clifton Beach in the rear view mirror we set off for a new adventure.

Saying goodbye 😪

We were already fairly well North in Queensland but it is possible to go even further North before the sealed roads run out. It is possible to go all the way to the tip of Cape York on unsealed roads and tracks but our hire vehicle is only insured for sealed roads so Cooktown will be the end of the line for us. Before Cooktown though, we decided to make a stop at Cape Tribulation and are we glad we did. What a beautiful place. We drove as far as Daintree (where we had visited before) and then caught a ferry across the river. After that the road becomes narrow and twisting as it cuts through the Rainforest, and Daintree isn’t just any old Rainforest, it is the oldest one on earth.

In the thick of it!

It was a fabulous place to drive through with incredibly dense vegetation making you feel that ten steps off the road and you would be totally lost. Every so often the road snakes back to within a few metres of the ocean reminding you just where you are. In fact, this is the closest the mainland comes to The Great Barrier Reef and the Low Isles can be seen clearly from shore. It really is a remarkable part of The World. On our first day in Cape Trib, besides all the trees, lush vegetation, usual colorful birds and regular bats we saw three cassowaries, two monitor lizards, a forest dragon and a rat kangaroo!

Hello Mr Forest Dragon.

We found a small campsite with only 15 spaces, in the Rainforest only a 20 metre walk to a huge deserted beach and only two of hours after leaving the apartment we were well and truly back into ‘vanlife’.

The Rainforest meets The Ocean.

We spent the next couple of days exploring Cape Tribulation. There isn’t a town here as such, just a few isolated properties scattered around, one or two businesses running tours in the area and various types of accommodation from basic camping to high end luxury complexes. There is also an ice cream shop, not just any ice cream shop, this place was pretty unique. It was located a few miles from any other property beside a banana plantation and surrounded by an unusual orchard. Unusual in the fact the trees in the orchard were growing fruit from all corners of the world. Some of the fruits neither of us had heard of; Wattleseed, Jackfruit and Soursap were just three that spring to mind. The people who run the ice cream shop grow all this strange and tasty fruit and then use it to make the ice cream.

I’ve no idea what it is?

The whole thing is in a picturesque tropical garden….. why wouldn’t you stop for a scoop or two, or three, or in Sarah’s case four!!

Pretty special place to get a scoop or four!
Just keep that ice cream coming!

It was so good we stopped there on both our days in the area. On the day we were leaving Steve was up bright and early as he was keen to get moving, just so we passed the ice cream shop before it opened for the day!

Cape Tribulation had been a wonderful place to stop with beautifully accessible Tropical Rainforest right on the beach and we were lucky to have had amazing weather with cloudless blue skies, but now it was time to move on to our most northerly stop of Cooktown. There is an off road track through the rainforest that links Cape Trib and Cooktown, but yet again we were restricted by our vehicle which meant it was the long way round for us. The lack of four wheel drive has been at times frustrating and has meant us missing out on one or two things we would have liked to have done. We both agree that at some point in the future we would like to return to Australia for an extended period and buy a four wheel drive vehicle and do a different type of trip and then hopefully sell it at the end!!

Cooktown, population two and a bit thousand, was a real surprise to both of us, in a positive way. We thought, because of its location, it may have been a little bit forgotten about and maybe slightly run down. But it was just the opposite. There has obviously been some money invested in the town and the place looked clean and fresh while retaining many historic buildings in the main street.

The two main themes of Cooktown are the ‘Goldrush’ of the late 1800’s when tens of thousands of people decended on the town from all over the world and walked off into the outback to make their fortune by searching for gold. The other main theme is once again our old friend Captain Cook, whose ship was almost wrecked close to here and only just managed to make it safely into the river estuary before it almost sank. He spent several weeks here in 1770, repairing his vessel and trading with the indigenous people. The town was eventually named after him (they were going to name it after the year he landed but some imaginative person had already claimed that one!). There are also museums and memorials to him and his crew all over town.

Aye aye Captain!

We camped on the racecourse, on the outskirts of town, which was a free facility provided and maintained by the council and it was a great setting. We found some walks to secluded beaches, spent some time in the botanical gardens, sat and watched the world drift by on the esplanade, walked up a super, steep hill to the lighthouse and lookout and in general had a great mixture of being active and relaxing all at the same time.

Camping on the racecourse.
The walk up was worth the view.

After Cooktown it was time to turn around and head South to Sydney…. not in one or two days though! Instead, we are going to take a couple of months to do it. We have seen so much on our makeshift trip to Oz we feel that anything else now is a bonus, so we are going to take our foot off the gas take things easy and drift South with no particular plan and see what comes up.

We pulled into Port Douglas and camped on a guy’s front lawn. There were four or five others there and it was a reasonable size lawn. We thought we might stay for a few days as we really like Port Douglas, but then we realised we had seen pretty much all it has to offer in previous trips, plus the weather was getting pretty hot and the humidity was rising by the day. We needed a campsite with power so we could utilise our air conditioning unit! So we set off again.

Steve found a campsite at Cowley Beach….”Where?”, said Sarah. “I’ve never heard of it”. “Me neither”, replied Steve “but it’s got powered sites and it’s cheap”. We arrived and booked in for a night and got a pitch almost on the beach. The next day we booked in for a second night, then a third, then a fourth….. a bit like the ice cream scoops!

“We might be here for a while”

It was a really fabulous place, right in the middle of a huge 10 mile long, almost deserted, palm fringed bay, with golden sand, blue sea and tree covered islands dotted on the horizon. It was incredibly relaxing. On one occasion we spent the entire day within 30 metres of the campervan, something we never do. The most energetic thing that happened was a walk onto the beach, where Steve took his fishing rod and threw in his line and sat down to wait. Sarah joined him ten minutes later and found him fast asleep! In the afternoon we sat in the campervan, opened up the back doors, lay on the bed and looked out to the ocean with a cooling breeze blowing through. “We are going to have to move on soon, otherwise we could still be here in a month”, said Steve. “That wouldn’t be so bad”, said Sarah. In the evenings we would cook and then at dusk we would watch the colony of fruit bats make their way from their daytime home to their nightime feeding areas which took them directly over the campsite. Thousands and thousands of these huge bats made their way across the sky in the fading light. Every so often one or two would descend into the trees next to our van. When a couple of them circle close above your head you really see how big these creatures are.

After four great days at Cowley Beach we unplugged from the air con and headed once more into the heat and humidity and back up to the main highway. “Left or right?”, said Steve. “I don’t suppose we have time to pop back to that great ice cream shop in Cape Trib do we?”, replied Sarah. “No we don’t, it’s over 300 miles away”, said Steve”. Sarah replied, “OK, no harm in asking, better turn left then!”

“Get out of the freezer. The ice cream is all gone”!

Having a ‘Whale’ of a time!

We have been whale watching a couple of times in the past and had limited or zero success. Our first attempt at Kaikoura, in New Zealand, was cancelled before it even got started due to bad weather. In Monterey, California, we managed to get out into the bay and did get to see the humps of a couple of humpbacks from a distance. We had better luck that same week while cycling along Big Sur when a pod of about half a dozen whales were visible from land but they were still too far away to be clearly seen. Maybe this time would be different, we thought.

Hervey Bay is billed as one of the premier whale watching locations in Australia, maybe even The World. The annual migration of the whales from Antarctica to the warm waters off the coast of Tropical Far North Queensland has earned the route’s nickname of ‘The Humpback Highway’. We were in the middle of the season and due to low numbers of tourists it was possible to book last minute and therefore get perfect weather. Surely with everything in our favour this time we could not fail ……. and we absolutely did not fail. What a day, from start to finish.

There are numerous outfits in Hervey Bay running tours of all sizes, from a couple of dozen passengers up to the huge boats catering for well over a hundred. When doing this type of trip we always seem to use the smaller outfits as we find that although they tend to have less facilities you generally get more of a personal experience. We chose to go with The Pacific Whale Foundation, which puts profits back into whale research which seemed another good reason to choose them.The vessel was a 12 metre RIB with about 20 passengers, and a few seats were left vacant for Covid safety.

Off in search of whales.

As we left the harbour the water was like glass with clear blue skies above. The Captain turned on the power to the two huge outboard motors and we were soon flying up the coast of Fraser Island. To be honest the trip out on the boat on such a beautiful day was worth the money itself. We had only been going for about 15 minutes when the Captain spotted a couple of whales moving towards us in front of a sailboat. She navigated us a little closer and we got a great view as they swam by about 50 metres away and then disappeared under water with their tails, or flukes as they are called in the whale world, the last thing to vanish. We had never seen the classic sight of a humpback’s tail disappearing into the depths, so already we were impressed. She then said we would move on and try to find something better. “No no”, said Steve, “this is great, the best we have seen, let’s stay here”.

This is looking like a good day.

Another blast further up the coast of Fraser Island and we came across a couple of adults sleeping. This was the first time we have actually been able to appreciate the size of these huge creatures. They do seem pretty big when you start to get close up. We watched them drift around for a while, apparently with half of their brains switched off!!, before heading off again in search of more entertainment. “Looks like there is a bit of surface activity ahead”, declared the Captain, this turned out to be the second biggest understatement of the day. We had stumbled across two adults and a calf playing and the next forty five minutes were just amazing. It felt like we were in some sort of advertisement for whale watching tours. The calf just wanted to play and the adults were more than happy to join in. Up and down, tails out of the water as they were diving, noses out of the water as they came back up, laying on their backs, slapping their flippers and their tails in a non-stop performance.

Its play time!

Then as the Captain announced it was time to leave for our return journey the adults turned towards us, lined themselves up parallel to the RIB and cruised past just under the surface, no more than a couple of metres from the boat. It was definitely a goose bumps moment. They were four metres longer than our vessel and it felt like we could have reached over and touched them as they effortlessly cruised by. Even the crew were impressed stating it was the first time they had come so close all year!

Careful , they are getting closer.

We spent the return journey reflecting on everything we had seen. The sun was dropping low in the cloudless blue sky, as we raced across the flat calm deep turquoise water with the golden sand dunes and green forests of Fraser Island acting as a fitting backdrop. What a fabulous day. “This Australia place is really quite good”, said Steve, which was definitely the biggest understatement of the day!

With the Whale watching over and done with, we spent one more night camping at the local football ground who charged campers a nominal fee to stay in order to boost the club funds. We really have camped in some unusual and great places on this trip. It was then time to move on North again. We made a quick detour to the ginger beer factory in Bundaberg (we have seriously become addicted to this stuff) before arriving at our next stop of 1770.

The Bundaberg visitors centre!

Our plan on this drive up the coast was to stop at places which were a little more off the beaten track. 1770 is one of these and unusual in the fact the town is a number! In the year 1770, after Captain Cook first landed in Australia in Botany Bay, an area which has since expanded and is now known as Sydney, he continued up the coast and his next port of call was in a small bay which (probably through lack of imagination) was named after the year of the landing.

The Headland at 1770.

It is still a relatively small, but very beautiful place with amazing views from the headland. We also discovered a great walk which took us over three further headlands and across three empty beaches before lunch time and then on the way back we took time out to watch sea eagles cruising around the cliffs eyeing up their lunch. We had planned to stay a couple of nights in 1770 but ended up staying a third and could have easily stayed longer but our fear of missing out on other great places further north forced us back on the road.

Part of our walk at 1770.

Next stop, Blacks Beach. Here we stopped for a coffee and stayed two days! It would possibly  have been more but we were run out of town ……. by swooping magpies! Seriously, we are not making this up. From Central Queensland to Victoria during the early spring the magpies start to swoop! Steve has experienced it before but to a much lesser scale. Here it was chaos! Sometimes walkers are targets, sometimes joggers, but mainly cyclists feel the brunt of the attacks. Out of nowhere they swoop down and either peck at the cyclists helmet or attack it with their claws in what can sometimes be a repeated onslaught. One day, on a two hour cycle, Steve encountered nine swooping magpies with the most persistent having six swoops. “It is pretty nice here”, he said on the third morning “but enough is enough, let’s go”.

If anyone is interested there are some good clips on youtube of these dive bombing birds, even a guy on a Harley gets a beating…. serious stuff!

We then had a few days in one of our old favourites of Airlie Beach. This is where we met our Dutch friends, Mark and Lisa, back in March. Back then the place was like a ghost town, probably the most affected place we have personally seen during the pandemic. Now it was a hive of activity again, not quite back to normal because of the lack of international travellers, but with everything open, campsites almost full and trips to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands back and available. The place was buzzing. Plus, with only minimal numbers of the kamikaze magpies, Steve was able to get out for some longer rides in peace.

Steve and an audience of ducks at the campsite.

One morning in Airlie Beach we woke up and heard a strange tapping sound on the roof of the van, so we got out of bed, got dressed and went outside to investigate. The sky was dark and something strange and wet was falling on our heads. “I think this is what they call rain”, said Sarah. “Oh yes, I remember, didn’t it do that for a few days back in June?”, said Steve. “What are we going to do for the day?”. Large areas of Australia do get rain at certain times of the year, in fact severe flooding is a major problem in some places, but it is possible to plan your trip around the country avoiding ‘The Wet’, as the rainy season is referred to. This is pretty much what we have tried to do. Having lived in the UK, we feel we have had our fair share of the wet stuff and, as such, avoid it if we can. But occasionally, like the day in Airlie Beach, it just catches up with us! We did, however, have plenty to keep ourselves busy including e-mails, the blog and the dreaded shopping. We both find it quite easy to avoid and put off shopping as neither of us, especially Steve, are that keen on it. One big plus out of this particular day’s shopping, however, was that Steve managed to pick up a fishing rod. This was also a big plus for Sarah as now he might stop annoying her on the beach while she is enjoying a good book! After a brief lesson by the store assistant, a few youtube videos and armed with equipment some of which he had never heard of including hooks, sinkers, spinners, trace wire and a slab of frozen squid, he was good to go.

Maybe I should have bought that Stand Up Paddleboard instead?

Cycling however is still Steve’s number one sport so the following day when normal service was resumed and the sun came out he was off on a long bike ride. While he was out and about he stumbled across a nice looking place called Dingo Beach. He came rushing back into the campsite from his bike, jumped off and said “Sarah, pack up we are moving on”!

Dingo Beach and the adjacent beaches of Hideaway Bay and Froggies Beach make up part of the peninsula of Cape Gloucester and what a brilliant location it is. The area had a real feeling of remoteness but was still only 40 minutes drive from the hustle and bustle of Airlie Beach. We have been on so many fabulous beaches that it is easy to get complacent, but this place was something special. It was like being on The Whitsunday Islands while still on the mainland. We could go on and on about how we loved it here but instead we will just post a few photos. Steve said if he could only go to five places in Australia this would definitely be one of them!

We had stayed so long at Cape Gloucester that we only had a couple of days left to travel the 400 miles back to Cairns. We had no plans as to where to stop so Sarah did some research and spotted what looked like an interesting location at a place called Balgal Beach. It turned out to be a great beach for a walk, but this place was all about the campsite Sarah found. Since we started in the first campervan back in February we have been using an app called Wikicamps. If you ever come and camp in Australia you must use Wikicamps. It lists almost every campsite in the country, from free basic roadside locations to the big luxury every facility included sites, with fees, reviews and photos included. It also shows places of interest, dump points and a whole host of other things and it works offline. Don’t leave home without it!

Eating again!

This time Sarah found one on a golf course, with only space for about a dozen vans, so we were lucky to get in. The site also had a bowling green. It seems every town in Australia, no matter how big or small, has a swimming pool and a bowling green and they are mad for it. After parking up and having a brew we had a lovely walk on the beach and then Steve decided to go for a run around the golf course. Now we have seen a fair bit of wildlife so far on this trip and kangaroos and wallabies have featured high on the numbers count. However, never have we seen them in such large numbers or size as around the golf course. On his run Steve tried to count them but gave in and ended up estimating he saw upwards of 150 ‘roos. Some of them were massive, well over six feet tall and quite imposing as they stood upright watching him closely as he ran past. He was so impressed, the following evening he took Sarah around the course (walking not running!) and there were at least another hundred out and about.

We decided to stay another night at the site, for three reasons. Firstly, Sarah was desperate to have a game of bowls, secondly, it was cheap as chips at A$5 (£2.50) per person, and thirdly, Steve had found a hill about half an hour’s cycle away which went up for 12 miles. He was never going to be able to resist that one! After he returned from his ride, tired but happy it was time for the bowling challenge.

This is going to be easy !

We paid our green fees of A$2 (£1) each and with the temperature rising well into the 30’s we strolled onto the green. “I’ve never played this before”, “What are the rules”, ”How do I hold the bowls?”, were all questions Sarah asked as she set up for the game. “This is going to be a walk in the park”, thought Steve. However, two hours and two games later and Steve had been thoroughly beaten … twice. What made it worse was the rest of the campers had been watching and when they found out Sarah had won Steve had to endure an evening of Aussies taking the p!$$ out of him, an activity they are pretty well practiced in! After a couple of ciders at happy hour in the bar, another great day had come to an end.

Look at that style!

The following morning we made our way up the last few miles of coast to Cairns where we were returning the campervan. We have had nine amazing weeks which far, far exceeded our expectations. From the gorges, waterfalls and crocs of the Far North, along the endless, empty roads of the Outback with it’s quirky pubs, down to the Red Centre and it’s iconic monoliths and back to the amazing beaches of the Queensland coast, we have had an absolute ball.

Now it is back to the apartment where we were before. We plan to stay there for a month or so to get a little rest and make some plans for the immediate future. This pandemic thing appears to be rising again in Europe and is having an impact on our plans once more.

Steve: “You know I let you win at bowls don’t you? And I was a bit dehydrated and dizzy from my cycle”.

Sarah: “Whatever, I played with one eye shut…. loser!” 🙂