Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The last waltz Mathilda

Well here we are in Sydney having reached the destination of our UK to OZ adventure.  As you know, dear reader, I left Kuta in Bali before the rest of the Motley Crew to spend some additional time in Kakadu and Arnhem land before we trolled on through the Northern Territory to South Australia then via the Great Ocean Road to Sydney.

I arrived in Darwin early in the morning and spent much of that day catching up on sleep and sorting out some tent poles to replace those broken whilst camping in high winds on the top of Nemrut Dagit in Turkey.  The following day I left to look around Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.  This area of the Northern Territory (NT) (122,000 square kilometers) was handed back to the Aborigines some time ago and is now leased to the Australian Government as a national park which is jointly managed by the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and the park management team.

It is really beautiful and is very diverse consisting of wet lands, sandstone escarpments and lush forest.  The build up to the wet season started a little early this year and so we couldn't get to some areas such as Jim Jim falls because the roads were washed out but I visited some other water falls and so got a really good idea of what is to be found in this area.  Because the rains have started early there is plenty of food so perversely its quite hard to see some of the wildlife in the park.

 Kakadu and Arnhem Land from the air

 Uranium Mine
Rock drawing showing man with swollen joints.  They think this is a warning for 'bad' country it is found at shelters near the site of the Uranium mine

Not Jim Jim falls but still very nice!

Bloody big termite mounds!

As with much of Australia Kakadu and Arnhem Land are where the Aborigines lived and hunted and as a consequence these areas have a wealth of rock art which isn't really art per se as the purpose of these drawings tends, for the most part, to be educational in nature.  The drawings are aimed at showing the history of the people, the rules that should be followed in any polite society, where to find what food and some cases which areas should be avoided.  That said, many of the drawings are complex and detailed and are quite beautiful in an artistic sort of way (not that I'd know art if it bit me in the arse!).

Pictures of rock art

In addition to going for a walk in the bush, flying over Kakadu and Arnhem Land and simply looking around I went on a trip on the Yellow Bilabong and East Alligator river where I saw bird life and some crocodiles (no alligators as the chap who named the river thought the crocodiles were alligators - numpty!)

Large Egret (they come in small and intermediate sizes too!)
 Whistling Kite (can fly upside down to steal fish from the claws of fish eagles)
 Fish Eagles
 Lily wader or somesuch
Darta bird (skewers fish by darting would you believe)

 Jaberoo (Black necked stork)
 Crocodile (yep, not an alligator)
 Mud skippers (its a fish!)
Could be a king fisher of some sort but not sure

I returned to Darwin and spent a couple of days looking around the town.   Went to the Mindl Beach night market which was great fun there was the Australian Army big band (they were pretty good) and a jazz band called Jigsaw (never heard of them but they were pretty good too). As this was the last market of the season we had fireworks as well (oohhh!!).  Also visited Fannie Bay where there is a prison (Hmmmm) and some other stuff to see as well as a beach.

 Sunset on Mindl Beach


 Mindle Beach Market

Fannie Bay

Darwin hadn't got much but what it has was OK.  Met up with the Motley Crew at a camp site just outside of town (30KM!) and spent my last night in Darwin under canvas before leaving for.... Yes, you guessed it Kakadu!!

We only had a limited time so the Motley Crew visit to Kakadu was swift to say the least.  We managed to get to Ubirr and see the rock art there and the view across the wetlands but unfortunately couldn't get to Nouralandje as the road was closed due to a search and rescue mission to find a missing walker (he was found dead later the following day - bummer!).  That night we  rough camped in an awesome site however it absolutely hammered it down that night and it seems that most peeps got flooded out and slept on the truck.  My newly fixed tent however was made of sterner stuff and I survived the night without a problem.

 Views from Ubirr

The following day was also spent in Kakadu but again disappointment was the order of the day as the rains from the night before made it so that the road to Gudlum falls was impassable to the truck and so we couldn't get there but we did spend some quality time looking around elsewhere.  I of course was not disappointed as I had already been to the falls (Ha!).

Gudlum falls

We rough camped a second night in Kakadu and then made our way to Katherine's Gorge where we spent half a day looking around before leaving and putting some miles on the clock before, yes you guessed, rough camping in the bush near a place called the Devil's Marbles on the way to Uluru.

 Katherine's Gorge

 The Devils Marbles

Two days driving got us to about 50KM from Uluru where we rough camped (again!) for a short nap before rising really early and arriving at Uluru (Ayer's Rock for the ignorant amongst my readership) for sunrise.  We spent the day walking around Uluru and the valley of the winds before returning to Uluru for the sunset.

 Uluru Sunrise

Uluru Sunset

Left Uluru after another excellent rough camp in the desert.  The early rains has meant that the desert is actually quite green with tough grass and bushes and the flowers all in bloom, not how I imagined a desert to be.  The night sky was really clear and we got some stunning star filled skies and believe it or not we actually got cold in the evenings in fact by Adelaide I was in a fleece by sunset.

 Starry Starry nights

The desert in bloom

From Uluru we continued south on the Stuart Highway towards Adelaide passing through Coober Pedy and Port Augusta on the way.  Nothing much at Coober Pedy really but it has been an opal mining town since around 1915.  Coober Pedy's main attraction is the underground accomodation available.  In the past miners and their families lived in caverns below ground as it was cooler than above.  Also the constant extractions resulted in convenient places in which to set up home.

Opal mining is the only industry at Coober Pedy

As we travel south we see the change in the landscape from harsh desert to more fertile and  cultivated fields where wheat and barley seem to be grown in abundance.  We arrive in Charles Sturt city a little suburb outside of Adelaide in the afternoon and set up camp in a camp ground where there are showers, swimming pools, access to the beach and all sorts of luxuries we have been missing up until now.  In fact the camp site was so good that I'd recommend it to anyone camping in South Australia.

From Adelaide we follow the Great Ocean Road and rough camped all the way to Melbourne where we are spoilt with yet another camp site.  From Melbourne we take 4 days to drive via Wilson's Promonotory to arrive in Sydney bang on schedule.

  The coast line along the Great Ocean Road

 Rock formation known as London Bridge. It fell down in 2002 (really!)

Rock formation called the 12 Apostles but there only seemed to be 9!

Although I spent nearly 4 weeks in Australia the surface was barley scratched during our whistle stop tour it is a huge place and probably still has lots more that should be seen.  Maybe I'll be back but until then the London to Sydney trip is over and I now look forward to New Zealand before wending my way home and back to reality.  In the meantime here are some photos of Australian sunrises and sunsets.

Sunrise, Sunsets

Finally said goodbye to my tent which survived rain, wind and hail and saw me through to our last rough camp. Also said farewell to my trusty sleeping bag which after seven and a bit months hummed a bit and I didn't think I wanted that in a campervan with me in New Zealand and finally got rid of the Turkish crocs after 6 months continuos wear which at £2 was a bargain.  Should say these have been replaced with a $5 pair from K-Mart.

My trusty tent, sleeping bag and crocs.  Left on the truck for emergency use.

Truck News

Well here we are with the last brief update on truck news.  If there were any doubts about Rosie and Chris they were dismissed once they started sharing a tent so they are definitely a couple.  Adam is leaving NIcky briefly while he flies home but she is going to wait for him while he collects enough dosh to come back to OZ and they get back together.  Jenny clearly overcome with grief has shed many a tear on Artur's shoulder and as they have been sharing a tent for the last couple of weeks one has to ask are they now a couple too. Owen and Pauline are still together and it seems that Owen is dumping his plans of living and working in OZ for living and working in France!

Old John (that's James' dad for those who have forgotten) left the trip in Bali refusing to fly to Darwin (he says he doesn't like flying).  It seems that he managed to get to East Timor and is now in Australia and going to Sydney.  The cynical part of me thinks he must have flown from East Timor as there just hasn't been the time for him to sail across to OZ but confirmation of how he got here is still forthcoming.  Danny's brother Adam lives near Melbourne and came to visit us.  Danny is definitely a mini me when compared to his brother.  Talk about looking alike!

Nothing much else has changed regarding peeps on the truck.  Sarah is still a newbie singlet, Dell and Kim are still together.  Andy and Nancy, Geoff and Gaye and Kai and Adele are still married.  Christine and Chris never became an item and neither did Danny and Vienna.  Neil still doesn't like Pauline (the older one) and she still doesn't like him either.  James, Richard, Julie, Kat, Claire, Megan and Fran are still single and never dallied with anyone (at least not as far as I know).  Lisa is still engaged to the mysterious Drew and Adam and Lu are probably looking forward to the end of trip more than anyone.  And what about me I hear you ask. Well, I'm still a miserable old git!

Matt (in Sydney!!)
Phone still Off
Thinking of you all (NOT!)