So what can we say, what an amazing holiday. Couldn't have asked for a better way to spend our honeymoon. We are so privileged to have been able to spend time in some of the places we did, it truly is a blessing to have been able to travel our great country.
The people of outback Australia are some of the kindest, laid back and most genuine people you could ever meet. It really is a totally different world out there. You could not get any further from the hustle and bustle of Sydney if you tried.
We met some amazing people on our travels, both in the towns and our fellow like-minded campers. To think that we set up camp and then spend the whole day out exploring, leaving to tent unattended, unlocked, suitcases and belongings inside, chairs and table outside and you come back at night and everything is how you left it. There is a mutual respect and no-one would even think to touch your belongings. Yet at home we close the windows and deadlock the door before driving to the shops for 5 minutes! It really was refreshing being able to live in a world where everyone looks out for each other and respects others and their property .... even if it was unfortunately only for 7 weeks.
Everyone is amazingly friendly, you rarely pass a car without getting a wave (even from the truckies and coppers!). We even had a truck driver stop his truck and get out to warn us about a huge pot hole on one of the dirt tracks we were travelling on. The road train drivers are equally courteous of fellow drivers, a quick chat on the CB will often let you know if its safe to overtake or warn of any upcoming traffic/road issues. It really does remind you that there are still good people in this world, unfortunately in the city many people are just too busy to worry about anyone else but themselves.
Each day we would set up camp and there was always someone walking by, beer in hand, ready to have a chat! Always someone who has been where you are heading and ready to answer questions or give advice and always someone waiting to hear stories of our adventures.
We visited some wonderful places, saw some amazing things and experienced so much. We stood on the northern most point of Australia, drank beer in Australia's most northerly pub (on Thursday Island). We stayed in a refurbished train carriage and went on a tour through million year old volcanic lava tubes at Undarra Volcanic Park. We stayed in an underground motel at Coober Pedy (where 80% of the population live underground), we toured the Rio Tinto bauxite mines in Weipa, learned the history of the gold mines in Tennant Creek and explored an opal mine in Coober Pedy. We saw the sunrise over Uluru and watched the sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from on top of a camel!
We travelled in the footsteps of some of our early explorers, we followed the Old Ghan Railway line and we had the chance to drive some of the 4WD tracks on every true 4WDers 'must do' list. We drove through bushfires (and even had one surrounding our campground), we survived gale force winds at Captain Billy's Landing and we met Ron and Viv Moon in Cooktown. We ate camel burgers at Kings Canyon and Crayfish pie at Thursday Island! We felt the magic and beauty of being at the Devils Marbles and we were overwhelmed by the sheer size and presence of Uluru. We saw more wildlife than you could ever imagine, birds, eagles, crocodiles, emus, camels, dingoes, lizards, cows, snakes, goats, horses, dogs, sheep, kangaroos. We even had the awesome opportunity to hold and play with a baby orphaned wallaby at Wycliffe Well.
We swam under waterfalls, bathed in the 43 degree natural springs at Innot Hot Springs, drove through croc infested rivers and near cried as we were constantly teased by the fact that we were surrounded by all this crystal clear, bright blue water that we couldn't swim in (crocs, sharks, jellyfish, stingers, snakes .... the list goes on!!)
We were covered in red dirt, went days without a shower, toilets were few and far between at places. We encountered more flies than you could ever imagine (even one in George's beer ... nice surprise!). We got used to eating the odd bug in our dinner and having sand and dirt throughout the car, the tent, the sleeping bags and your belongings was just normal. We encountered a 2 degree night and 40 degree days, wild winds and torrential rain, had dingos stalking us for our dinner and we had spiders living on our chairs. We wore the same clothes more than one day each and washing with baby wipes was the done thing.
But we loved every single part of it, it is all part of the adventure! And at the end of the day, every single person you meet is in the same position as you so no one even comes close to caring!
So to say that we enjoyed our time away is an understatement, we loved every minute of it and cannot wait to get back out there again. The chances of us moving interstate or to a more remote location is definitely more of a possibility now than ever before.
So here is a bit of a summary of our trip.
Total KM travelled 13,367 km
Total time away 49 days (7 weeks)
Total amount of money spent on petrol $4,240.20
Average overall L/100km 18.49 (combination of weight, a batch of bad fuel, low & high range off road driving, highway driving, few days of bad headwinds)
What we missed the most while away The kids, the dogs, family and friends
Best Chips n Gravy Archer River Roadhouse, QLD
Best Coffee Cobar, NSW
Best Burgers Archer River Roadhouse, with Musgrave Roadhouse a very close second
Best Pizza Outback Pioneer Kitchen, Ayers Rock Resort & Alfrescos, Broken Hill
Best meal Loyalty Beach. Not just the food, the whole package .... Food, location, atmosphere and service
Biggest surprise How much we loved Alice Springs, could totally see us living there. Also the sheer size of Uluru.
Most Scenic Flinders Ranges, SA and Finke Gorge National Park, NT (Boggy Hole in particular)
Favourite campground (remote) Bramwell Station and Chili Beach
Favourite campground (city) Cairns Big 4 Coconut Holiday Resort - amazing service and awesome caravan park.
Most expensive petrol Jardine River and Bamaga (Cape York) - $2.55 / litre for normal 91 octane unleaded petrol
Most expensive beer $56 for XXXX Gold cans in Weipa
Most expensive place in general Ayers Rock Resort
Most expensive campsite Kings Creek Station ($19 per person).
Cheapest Campsite any of the National Park camping in Queensland ($5.45 per person)
Biggest rip-off Jardine River Ferry Crossing Ticket & Permit ($129 to cross the Jardine river - about 40 meters wide)! don't have much choice though as the crossing is too deep and dangerous to attempt, and infested with crocodiles!
Biggest Adrenalin Rush Palm Creek, Old Telegraph Track (Cape York)
Best 4WD Track Old Telegraph Track, for its diversity. With the slightly damp CREB track a close second
4WD Tracks driven Old Telegraph Track, Frenchmans Track, Battle Camp Road, CREB Track, Oodnadatta Track (in part), Ernest Giles Road, Mereenie Loop (in part).
States travelled to NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia
What exceeded our expectations Boggy Hole, Uluru
Strangest place Wycliffe Well, NT. Did enjoy our night there, but really is quite a strange little caravan park!
Where we wouldn't go again Captain Billy's Landing - the corrugations to get there were back breaking and the howling wind, crashing waves and pouring rain made for a not so fun night! Also the Pebbles (Kunjarra) outside of Tennant Creek - if you've ever been to Devils Marbles and also seen the Pebbles, you will understand!
Biggest disappointment That Stewy, Kristy and Rori couldn't complete the Cape York portion of our trip with us, due to their car problems
What we wouldn't take with us again The kitchen (our smaller table was sufficient and we never took the larger kitchen bench/table out at all!), the toilet/shower tent, so much food!
Best Purchase before the trip Our satellite phone, SPOT tracker
Best 4WD modifications that have made our lives easier for off road travels Rear ARB Air Locker, custom made shelves to replace rear seats, CB radio, Raised King Springs/Bilstein Shocks on Bridgestone tyres & new touring seats.
Scariest Moment Camping at Captain Billy's Landing - gale force winds, didn't sleep at all! The severe weather warning of 120km/h winds while camping at Port Augusta, Palm Creek crossing on the tele track!
Nicest people Alice Springs in particular, but Northern Territory as a whole. Although while travelling we had many great encounters with people everywhere!
Lastly we have a few people we need to thank that helped us out.
Firstly, thank you to all of our wonderful family and friends who bought activities or donated cash towards our honeymoon fund. We appreciated it very much and certainly enjoyed spending your money!!
Now a big thank you to Vic Widman from Great Divide Tours, who helped us plan our itinerary for this trip. Without your help, advice and friendship we wouldn't have seen half the amazing places we did. You knowledge is invaluable Vic!
A huge thank you to our mechanic, Adam Hales, for once again getting the Prado in shape for this trip and for your ongoing work on all our cars. Adam was even on call for an emergency phone call from Weipa when our 4WD gears would not engage. Adam walked us through how to fix it over the phone, who could ask for better service than that!
Big thanks to Tony Tsitsikronis for your help in arranging our tyres. Yet again the Bridgestone's didn't let us down!
Thank you to John Vahanian and Sharon Madden for looking after the dogs and house while Kylie was away for the week. We are glad that Gelly and Charli were so well behaved for you, if only they were that good all the time! Glad everything ran smoothly (except for a few cricket escapees!), and funny that the frog managed to make a game out of hearing your alarm! He's barely made a noise since we got home!
And last but not least, Kylie! Thank you for looking after everything while we were gone - the dogs, fish, birds, frogs (oh that's right, there is only 1 now after you killed Hemi!). Although you had to put up with Charli's separation anxiety and Gelly's constant need to be near or on you, we know you secretly loved it!!
A very huge thank you to all of you for your help and support.
Love always, George & Shelly
Well, what a night it was last night! There had been severe weather warnings for the Port Augusta area of storms, rain and gale force winds of up to 120km/h. They were warning everyone to stay inside, away from windows and to tie down and secure anything that could blow away! I can say that we weren't exactly looking forward to the night.
We got back to camp about 6pm and it was just starting to rain. We spoke to the new guy staying next to us and he mentioned that the winds had been pretty bad throughout the day, it had apparently been too much for the girls camped next to us and they packed up and left, they weren't waiting for a night of that wind aswell!
Luckily we had already heard about the weather heading our way so had made sure the tent was tied down and chairs and table were inside the tent before we left in the morning. The only damage we saw when we got back was that some of our floor mats we use at the front of the tent had blown around!
There was a lot of thunder and lightening around and then the rain started getting heavier so we moved into the tent, just in time for the wind to start! We had positioned the Prado right across the front of the tent to try and block the direction the wind was coming from, I'm sure it helped, but the wind seemed to be blowing from every drection. The tent and guy ropes certainly we working hard.
Anyway we survived the night, it turned out not being too bad. I think the weather must have changed direction and we only got the edge of it.
We spoke to another camper this morning and his tent had been leaking pretty bad last night, so bad that his wife and kids left in the middle of the night to go stay with relatives nearby, haha.
We were fine though, no leaks and no damage this morning. I think after Vic sending us to Captain Billy's Landing as part of our Cape York itinerary the tent already had its training for windy and rainy conditions and was prepared for anything after that!!
So it's nearly over, 7 wonderful weeks away come to an end tomorrow.
Yesterday we drove from Port Augusta to Broken Hill. The nice caravan park at Broken Hill was packed so we just found a cheap hotel to stay in for the night. Shelly wasn't feeling too well so it worked out well.
We have been to Broken Hill previously so didn't need to do any sight seeing so we just relaxed in the room and then went out to grab some dinner.
Today we drove to Dubbo, another long and boring road. Stopped in at Cobar for lunch and the continued on, arriving in Dubbo around 6pm.
We checked into the Ibis Budget Hotel (previously a Formule 1 hotel), cheap and clean, that's all we needed! We met a guy while checking in and ended up talking to him and drinking beer in the car park for about 2 hours! He used to live in Alice Springs and was telling us about that and his 4WD experiences, nice guy and we had a nice chat.
Tomorrow we head off home, can't say we are excited to be heading back home or back to work - but excited to see the pups tomorrow though!
Will update the blog again with a summary of our trip in a day or so.
So today we decided to spend another day in Port Augusta and go out and explore the Flinders Ranges. We have never been and as we were so close we thought we would take a drive out and have a look around - after what we saw today, we will definitely be back to do some more exploring.
It was about a 2 hour drive out to the National Park, but the scenery was beautiful. Many ruins scattered around, the first one we stopped at was Kanyaka Station Homestead, built in the early 1850's. The photo below shows all that remains of this once huge sheep station of about 950 square kilometres.
It's amazing though seeing these remains of properties and buildings that were built over 160 years ago. Just to be able to see these buildings and relive a little piece of history is such a priveledge. I cannot imagine any of the structures or houses built now still being around in 160 years!
A stop at the Sacred Canyon was next on our journey. A short walk through the canyon over rocks lead you to some Aborignal etchings and then out into the dry riverbed.
This is such a beautiful part of our country, there are lookouts everywhere, which is great as you cannot get enough of the views! Couldn't tell you how many photos we took today between us!
And the flowers, wow, even George was impressed - and if you know George you would know he isn't the slightest bit interested in flowers, plants or gardens in general!
I would love to come back and see this place after some good rain, have never seen so many wild flowers in our travels.
There is so such to explore around here, we only had a day and made the most of it, but we will be back.
To be honest, the Flinders Ranges was never high on my list of 4WD locations I wanted to visit, but after today, I can highly recommend it!
Despite the weather being overcast and windy, the views were still spectacular, imagine what it could look like on a clear sunny day. Even the dust/sand storm that swept through during the day and destroyed our views didn't spoil our day.
On our way back to Port Augusta we called into Quorn for an ice cream. Very old, quaint little town. We found out that Quorn has been the backdrop for alot of Aussie films, including 'Sunday too Fare Away', 'The Shiralee', 'Gallipli', 'The Last Ride' and also 'Tracks' (which is soon to be released). The guys at the camel farm at Uluru actually told us about Tracks and a few of their staff are appearing in it.
So you will probably all remember that back on our second or third day with Stewy and Kristy, they had major car issues and had to be towed (after numerous calls on the sat phone and a subsequent 4 hour wait on the side of the road).
We had stayed with them for most of the time, but then went ahead to set up camp for us at Musgrave Station. We actually passed the tow truck on our way so knew they were safe! The tow truck driver then dropped them all off at Musgrave Station to give us our sat phone back and also grab some dinner. They then continued on to Archer River Roadhouse for the night. The tow truck driver turned out to be the owner of the road house and he given them a cabin for the night.
The following day they were taken to Weipa to get the car looked at.
After making the 3 hour drive from Archer River to Weipa Stewy and Kristy made their way to the mechanics, only to be told they can't look at it until Friday!
The mechanic asked why the car had been towed there and not Cairns, their response being "this is where RACQ and the tow truck sent us!".
One of the locals then drove them all into town to arrange accommodation and argue with RACQ on the phone! Luckily they found a great girl in the RACQ call centre who helped them out and the car was then arranged to be towed back to Cairns, as should have happened in the first place!
RACQ advised that they would be covering all the towing costs and flights out of Weipa back to Cairns for the 3 of them. Really goes to show that you need the top NRMA/RACQ cover when travelling, well worth the extra cost.
Stewy and Kristy managed to hire a car to get them around while in Weipa and had arranged to stay there until we arrived so we could catch up again. We ended up arriving a day earlier than expected so we could find out what was happening and spend a bit more time with them all.
We said our goodbyes to Stewy, Kristy and Rori on Sunday morning as we headed off to start our cape adventure and they were flying down to Cairns to meet the car.
As it turns out, the car left Weipa on the Friday and didn't arrive in Cairns until the
Tuesday! Nothing happens too quickly up there!
Stewy was pretty sure it was a new motor that was required and had already sourced one from a wrecker in Cairns (the one and only motor there to suit his car, so he didn't have much choice!). As it turned out, the motor only had about 20,000km on it less than his motor, but what can you do.
They then received the call from the mechanics that yes it definitely was the motor, so the wheels were set in motion to get the car up and running again.
None of them had ever been to Cairns before so at least they still made a holiday out of it, even if it wasn't exactly how they planned it! While in Cairns they managed to see Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, the night markets, Kuranda and even the local music festival. They also travelled back down to Townsville for the weekend to visit relatives, so overall they did have a great holiday anyway.
They finally got the car back (and were then delayed another day due to another smaller problem, but the mechanic was straight onto it and they were on their way to meet up with us in Cooktown.
We met them in Cooktown at the Big 4 caravan park and we all stayed in motel rooma there due to the weather. Luckily we did because the wind and rain just got stronger as the night went on!
Went to the local pub and had a great dinner and filled each other in on our previous weeks travels (and gave Stewy his stubby cooler we bought him - "my friends went to the tip and all I got was this lousy stubby cooler", haha couldn't help ourselves!!
The next day we all explored Cooktown (in torrential rain!), they had never been before so we went to all the places of interest, as well as the shops.
Next day we drove to Lions Den Hotel and stayed in our safari cabins, Kristy was happy they didn't miss this one! The boys played with their cars, Stewy did an oil change, George fitted up the new spot lights, the girls sat around and chatted!
Next day it was on to Cape Tribulation via the CREB Track, they finally got some true 4WDing in! And what a track to do, think this made up a little for everything else they'd missed!
We were then back to Cairns (no sightseeing required as I think Stewy and Kristy had managed to cover every square inch of it! - and we have been before too), so straight to the camp ground. The Big 4 at Cairns is the best ever! Rori got to play in the water park and I got to play on the jumping pillow!
Our last day together was spent at Innot Hot Springs, which everyone loved. We had a campfire and my yummy choc-chip damper for dessert and it was a nice way to spend our last night together.
So it wasn't the Cape York adventure they anticipated, but they still got a holiday. They still got some 4WDing in and to spend a few days wih us.
The car and associated costs cost them a bit, but nothing they could do about that. You can do all the preparation in the world, but some things just can't be helped. The car is still going strong, they have actually just gone away beach camping again for the weekend, so all good!
It was sad we didn't get to spend the whole trip with them, but glad it all worked out well in the end. They are now planning their next trip to Cape York in 2015!!