September 20, 2010 GMT
Week 24 - 28

August 17th – started talking to a lady with a crash helmet who appeared at breakfast time. She was from Sydney (although originally from Bexhill years ago) and was touring round the coastal roads for 5 months. She’d come off her bike (F650GS), and it was being fixed at the same BMW dealer. So we swapped stories, realized we had a lot in common and got on really well. Lizzy was also responsible for our first trip in a police-car with Perth’s finest! She convinced us to go out to the Casino to get something to eat, and take a look at what was there – it started to pour down just after we set off, and she didn’t have a coat, so she just brazenly asked a copper where the Casino was, gave them a sob-story about all being tourists to the area, and they offered to give us a lift since it was slinging it down!

August 18th – BMW dealer has had to order a part for Bob’s bike, so we won’t be setting off just yet. We had a walk into a kangaroo enclosure (on the island in the Swan River) on the way back from the dealers, and Bob got a bit too close for comfort at one point. Fortunately we’ve seen enough funny animal videos to know what to look out for, so made a very hasty strategic withdrawal.


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Bob and Skippy


August 20th – Bob’s birthday – a very quiet affair, although we had an appearance of 2 dolphins in the river here to mark the occasion.

August 24th – Finally picked up the bikes, fully serviced, repaired and with new boots on. It’s such a relief to see them again – our round-the-world-trip was in danger of becoming a sit-in-Perth-trip, and we’ve already used a month of our visa.

August 25th – Back on the road again, on our anniversary – and what a great feeling. Enjoyed some lovely twisty A-roads through the vineyards, forests and National Parks.

August 26th – Got to Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet. There’s not much between there and Antarctica. Stopped at a campsite just before Denmark and they told us they had a bloke in yesterday that was kayaking around the coast of Oz – I thought we were doing something different, but that’s just plain stupid!

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Cape Leeuwin lighthouse


August 27th – This area (south coast of South Australia) is supposedly known for its whale-watching, so we might plan in a bit of that later. We met a couple of ‘grey nomads’ (the caravan parks are chock full of them) – adventurous pensioners who have sold up and bought a campervan or ute and caravan combination, and who spend the rest of their lives exploring their country. We’ve met some real characters already. ’adventure before dementia’ is their slogan.

August 28th – Decided to stop a couple of days at Esperance – the sand is incredibly white here and the esplanade is very pretty. We sat at a few observation points on the coast road (the whale-spotting areas). But Bob’s not the most patient of people, so we couldn’t stay long. Needless to say, we saw nothing apart from a couple of dolphins (for which we were very grateful). And there’s a seal called Sammy which hangs around the jetty and is a bit of a local celebrity.


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Whale-watching at Esperance.

August 30th – Through a town called Norseman, which is famous for its tin camels, and onto the 90-mile straight, which does just what it says on the tin. The roads in Western Australia are amazing – good tarmac with bush immediately on either side and just immense views. What I thought were villages on the map are just what they call roadhouses (i.e. service stations), and it was only after the first hundred miles or so, that I realized that’s what they were – usually a petrol station, a café (and souvenir shop) and a camping/caravan park. Foodstuff was very basic, and very expensive. But they have to make a living out in the middle of nowhere, so we don’t really begrudge paying them. If they weren’t there, then we wouldn’t be able to make a trip like this.

August 31st – When I thought of desert/bush/Australia though, I didn’t expect rain in the equation. But Sheila’s little raincloud has found us, even in the drought-ridden desert. The rain has been quite torrential in places, and today the wind has been buffeting the bikes from both sides. But we set off across the ‘Nullarbor Plain’ – which we had been told was hostile, dry, desert-like and boring. But due to the rain they’ve had in the last few weeks, it’s been green and lush. I may hire out my rain-making services – I’m sure I could make a fortune. We decided to stay in a motel, to see if we could dry out our kit – we’ve both got trenchfoot, as our boots are the weakest part of all our kit, and we just end up with no way of being able to dry out the insides or insoles. So we wacked the heater up to 31 degrees, laid everything out on all the surfaces, and went to get some tea, and a drink. Came back to a sauna, but at least it had worked, and the kit was drying out.

September 1st – First day of spring, and we’re still crossing the Nullarbor. Bad weather is hampering any view of any landscape unfortunately, but we know it’s out there. But the road-signs are interesting and possibly unique.

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Unique road-signs in Oz.


September 2nd – Had to go through a state Quarantine station today. They confiscated 2 tomatoes from the car in front! They’re a bit keen on not bringing fruit fly into the state (Southern Australia), but we got a cursory glance and they let us through. We passed through a place called Kimba, which bills itself as ‘the town halfway across Australia’. All the little towns on the main highways are desperate for you to stop and spend some money, so they try and find some spectacular reason for you to stop – so far these have included Oz’s largest galah (papier-mache parrot), largest stretch of straightest road, biggest pineapple, largest echidna and frilled dragon, the village with a secret, and first and last places within a state.


September 3rd – Starting to head north now, up through the middle of the country, into the Outback. Spectacular rain, thunder and lightning show at one point. Saw loads of wild emu, but not quick enough to stop and take a picture – they’re enormous and can really shift.


September 4th – To Coober Pedy, famous for its opal-mining and the fact that some of the hotels and dwellings are built underground, because of the ridiculously hot temperatures they get around here. Fifty degrees in summer allegedly. It’s only about 30 though at the moment.


September 5th – crossed into another state today – Northern Territory. Very hot, red and desert-like.


September 6th – took a slight 300-mile detour off the main highway, to Ayers Rock Resort. The scenery is very desert-like and ‘scrubby’. There was a fake Uluru called Mount Conner which I thought was as equally impressive as Uluru. It’s an overwhelming sight though and it truly does change colour towards sunset.


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Mount Conner


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A windswept Uluru (Ayers Rock)


September 7th – back along the detour, but the rain was so heavy you couldn’t see Mt Conner at all on the way back! Getting warmer though as we rejoined the main highway. Then we were in Alice Springs. Less desert than I expected, and more trees and grass – although they’ve had more rain this last 2 weeks, than they’ve had in the last ten years.


September 8th –Stayed another night in Alice Springs – I can understand why there’s an alcohol problem here with the locals – there’s nothing to do, and it’s 35 degrees at the beginning of spring.


September 9th – Passed through the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees South). There may well have been rain here over the last few weeks, but we’re riding over dry, dusty creeks and rivers that look as though they’ve never run, but there are floodways and flood warnings every 400 yards. It’s such an anomaly. Stopped at a place called The Devil’s Marbles, and met up with some more grey nomads who’d been on the road for 9 years. They tell us that we’re currently in the hot, dry season but that in another month, it will be the hot, wet season, and most of these creeks will be running again.


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The Devil’s Marbles


September 10th – crossed into Queensland today. Still hot and humid and the sides of the road are littered with termite mounds, like you expect to see in Africa. Our tally of wild Australian wildlife so far include wombats, kangeroos (grey and red), wild pigs, kookaburras, camels, emus, eagles, bustards, dingos, lizards and snakes. The road-trains throughout Oz have been constant – giddy-big trucks (up to 53.5 metres long) that don’t want to brake for anything and hammer along at 70mph. Wildlife doesn’t stand a chance against them (and neither probably would motorcyclists!).


September 11th – Fell into the trap of not knowing either the time, or the day today. We found a campsite relatively early in the afternoon, but realized we’d lost some more time going over date-lines. And Queensland shopping laws which ensure that everything shuts at 1pm on a Saturday also caught us out. Never mind – emergency packet of chicken-flavour rice for tea and chocolate (of course).


September 12th – Both hot and clammy all the time – even getting up with the birds and packing up quickly ends up in a sweat. But the landscapes have just been incredible – Oz seems to have everything – red deserts, savannah, rolling hills, scrub and bush-lands and palm trees.


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Scenery.


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And some more.


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And yet more.


September 13th – Finally got to the east coast, near Townsville, and into what looks like rainforest. Didn’t get any cooler though. But the insec t life increased somewhat. Mozzies and sandflies everywhere, and the flies are just so bad-mannered – British flies flap about a bit, but tend to go away when you swat them ; Oz flies land on your mouth, up your nose and in your eyes, and they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer – very disconcerting. Decided to spend a day or two at a beach campsite (it’s the South Pacific you know). Bob managed a bit of maintenance on the bikes – the tyres that we fitted at Perth three weeks ago have now done 4000 miles and we’ll be lucky to have anything left by the time we get to Sydney. The distances are just so enormous here – nothing is ‘just next door’.

Posted by Sheila Oldfield at September 20, 2010 08:52 AM GMT
 


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