Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sydney Detour - Day 24 – 27 (by Glenda)

We had received word from the US consulate in Sydney that my immigrant visa appointment was to be the 26th of February, so on the afternoon of the 24th we drove 4 hours up to Perth. As we drove out of Albany we saw my mighty West Coast Eagles getting on their bus to head down to the oval where they would whip the Collingwood Pies later that day. (Aussie Rules Football, for our American peeps). While on the subject of sport, most of you know I am not sport mad, apart from an exaggerated interest in the Eagles. We stopped for a late lunch in a little wheat farming town called Williams, taking the opportunity for a stretch and a hug. Kelly’s eyes glazed over as I put my arms around him. “Oh beauty! He’s out!” he said excitedly, looking past me to the cricket oval where the local B team just bowled out one of the visitors. It took him only ten seconds to get out of the van and fix his attention on a distant scrap of sport! He’s getting way too Aussie. Time to get him home … where he can look over my shoulder and cheer on the Caps, Bulls, Seahawks etc. There’s no hope for me.

We stayed in a van park near the airport, ready for a flight on the morning of the 25th, only because the free rest stop east of the city on the map is no longer there. We left Gypsy in long term parking and took most of the day to fly to Sydney, especially with a two hour time difference. The train then took us out to the rellies, where we enjoyed wine and coffee with cousin Glenda and her Jim, Maria and Uncle Merv. Then we trained it again to Wahroonga where my dear friend Ally picked us up. We enjoyed catching up over more wine and cheese late into the night. After and lovely day hanging with Ally and the kids (Hannah looking far too grown up and pretty), we headed off to the consulate early on the 26th. I had unwittingly become quite stressed about the process, and we prepared ourselves for complications, rescheduling flights etc. Instead we were finished in 90 minutes, most of which was spent in a waiting room. No questions, no grilling, no checking up on me in two years. Welcome to the USA. I guess being married for over 5 years and having savings/assets helped. Thank God that is sorted.

The trip back to Perth was a bad joke, but we were too relieved to care. The flight was very full and delayed for an hour because of storms in Sydney. They ran out of meals except for a dodgy mushroom pasta (Kel doesn’t eat mushrooms) AND they ran out of red wine (which Kel does have a bit of an affinity for)!!! Ground staff in Perth brought the wrong stairs so we waited some more. Apparently the highly trained airport professional didn’t realize that our craft was a Boeing 737 as opposed the Piper Cub for which he brought a foot stool. Not to put too fine of point on the matter, but our 7-year old nephew has been able to make this distinction since the age of three. We were too late for camp grounds and motels, and hotels in the city were asking an arm and a leg for a room. It was after midnight when we eventually settled on a place to sleep in the van where we didn’t feel too conspicuous, until the next morning when workers started rolling up at 6.30. Adventures!

Albany (Day 23)

We spent a lovely few days between Jo and Randall’s block, Cosy Corner beach and Albany.

Albany is such a friendly city, the same size as Alice (28,000). It really has it all. Beaches, fishing, forests close by, great farm country for pretty much anything; live stock, wheat, fruit and vegies including things hard to grow in most parts of Australia due to the climate like asparagus and berries. The people are very friendly, and we sussed out a pub to hear some local music. It was the Earl of Spencer, a well renovated, historic pub. ‘Big Men Working’ was the local cover band, and I’m guessing it was a music teacher and two of his prodigies. They played great classic rock, mostly Australian. I was happy to be a wall flower for a while and do some more people watching, but the locals jumped on the dance floor within the first few bars, and their energy was infectious. There were business men in office shirts, one of them jumping like a pogo stick, a girls group in their thirties/forties cutting lose – the one who looked like their boss was acting out the words of every song as her signature dance, a couple of older couples doing trwirly dancing, some young folks, a pretty lady dancing with her daughter and Mum … Our favourite was a bloke who looked about our age, neatly combed mullet with flecks of grey, wearing his good jeans and best t shirt, dancing on his own and just loving the music. We had him pegged as a fisherman, and both wanted to catch his eye so we could strike up a conversation but he was polite and private, just there for the music. It was a great night. We were inspired. We’re getting the band back together.

Pemberton to Denmark – Day 20 – 22 (by Glenda)

From the southern coast of WA at Augusta we drove inland 120 km to the timber town of Pemberton, with its historic mill and little main street lined with wooden cottages. As long time Territorians, the first thing you notice is the cool rainy weather … in summer … in Australia! While Alice and Adelaide are currently baking in 40 degrees Celsius, it was struggling to reach 20 degrees here. In the national park we checked out one of the lookout trees; 60 metres tall with a simple stairway of metal rio rods spiralling up the circumference, leading to a couple of platforms near the top. Back in the day they watched for forest fires from these lofty heights and sometimes still do. We camped in a beautiful site surrounded by karri trees constantly shedding their bark, ferns and more. Staying out of the soft rain, we read books through the afternoon, kept company by a very confident and friendly kookaburra. Eventually we headed down to the green-brown Warren River. Marron are the local crustaceans, dark and smaller than a crayfish. On hearing that it was the last day of the season, Kelly rigged up a device with our plastic colander, two long sticks and some electrical tape, but the little critters proved illusive. Obviously the ones who survived this long were far too clever for us and deserved to survive.

My only other comment about Pemberton is that I remembered my brother Andrew came here on school camp more than 30 years ago. We saw the school camp site down by the railway line, and I could just picture him as a gangly pre-teen goofing around and enjoying all the forest adventures.

Needing parts to fix the sink in the van, we decided to push on to bigger smoke, but felt we had to stop near Walpole as we both wanted to do the Valley of the Giants tree top walk. This was truly delightful, even for someone afraid of heights. Within the national park, they have a 600 metre gangway which is 40 metres at its highest point, taking you up into the canopy of the karri forest for a superb view. Here we also met the tingle trees, a reddish eucalypt with a thickly buttressed trunk which often becomes hollowed out due to fire or fungal attack. They old gnarled ones look like the talking tree out of HR Puffenstuff.

Next stop was the town of Denmark, which boasts John Butler (musician) as a part time resident. We camped at a little van park, enjoying the hot showers and washing machine after a couple days of bush camping. Denmark is a cool little town with a definite hippy flavour and a great bakery; lots of posters inviting you to chanting circles, yoga, massage, healing sessions etc. There are also a few more expensive spa resorts making the most of the location which has river, beach and mountains together.

We got in touch with Randall and Jo in Alice who had kindly offered to let us camp for a couple of nights on their block between Denmark and Albany, and eventually found their piece of paradise very close to a fantastic beach called Cosy Corner. In Albany (settled in the early 1800s as a whaling town) Kelly found the part needed for the sink and did another outstanding repair job. For me the first foray into Albany was more of a spiritual pilgrimage as home town of The Waifs. For those who are not familiar, they are a folk/rock group featuring two sisters, both now married to Americans and living between the Australia and the USA. I love their music!

Stay tuned for more Albany adventures!
Will Kelly catch a salmon at Cosy Corner?
Will we find some cool live music at a pub on Friday night?
Will Donna from the Waifs finally invite me to join them as the much needed third girl?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Augusta - Days 18 and 19

Since we were out of water and clean clothes we opted for a commercial campground to recharge. We picked the town of Augusta ( near the southern of the two capes) for no particular reason. We also picked Turners Caravan Park because it looked like it was relatively mass murderer free at first glance. Both decisions have turned out to be gold mines.

Augusta sits on a jut of land that has the Indian Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the south, and the Blackwood River mouth to the east. This is the most unspoiled of the coastal towns we’ve seen so far. Cervantes was also very nice, but this place has more of a genuine feel to it. There are still large tracks of farmland a few kms out of the town centre. The people are all very nice, the fishing is great and at first glance, the home prices seem like the place hasn’t been found out by real estate speculators yet. We’ve both decided we could live here…maybe a bit out of town. We might run a B&B and organic farm and go fishing on the days neither needed attending to.

The caravan park is nice as well. After Mandurah, we never book for two nights up front. After booking for the first night we opted to stay another. As our spot was reserved the second night we were forced to move over one spot and now occupy actual waterfront on the Blackwood River (not really a river at this point, but a coastal inlet.) There are dolphins in the bay that can be seen easily from the shore. As I was fishing last night I was standing on a rock that was sitting in about 8 inches of water. I noticed the water stirring nearby and watched dumbfounded as a stingray floated by within inches. I was kind of hoping he didn’t like prawns because I became a bit concerned about how I would land him if he took my bait…recollections of Steve Irwin still fresh and all.

We’re also blessed with a number of birds around here including a flock of pelicans that hang out and wait for fishermen to throw them fish scraps from cleaning, and a number of virtually tame ducks through out the park. I was happy to learn that at age 42, I’m still not too old to fart out loud and blame it on a duck.

Borinup Forest – Day 17

National Park camping has a few benefits over commercial caravan parks. First the camp areas are much nicer and much bigger. But they also are great at helping us keep our budget under control.

This in mind, we had our eyes on another national park spot a few kms down the road in Borinup Forest. Borinup Forest is home to vast stands of native karri trees that grow to over 120 feet (my guesstimate.) They looked quite majestic and when you seen them in these vast stands, and you wonder how anybody ever got the nerve to cut any of them down. I know that there was a need for timber and farmland, but with their awe-inspiring natural beauty, it would’ve been a painful decision to have to alter the setting in any way.

The campground was on the edge of the forest and we were lucky enough to be the only people there. Our water was getting low and we were stinking from three days between showers, so we also learned how to take a full body bath out of a bucket with 3 inches of water in it. During this experiment, we were again grateful to be the only people in the campground.

Margaret River & the South West – Day 14 and 15

Sad to leave the smelly caravan park with possible mass murderer running amuck, we headed south towards Western Australia’s wine growing region. Our first stop was the town of Bunbury. Bunbury is sort of the northern most town of the popular southern wino region. We stopped in at the tourist information centre to get some info and a game plan. The kindly old lady at the info booth offered us some information about a boardwalk around an amazing protected waterfowl area, but quickly resigned to the fact that we would not be staying long, allowing me the dignity of not putting on too much of a feign for her beloved shire. I, like most visitors to the region, was really looking for the most direct route to the free plonk (wine) that the vintner’s were trotting out in hopes of duping the multitudes of half cut wannabe oenophiles into paying way too much for pretty decent wine.

Armed with a sufficient intel on the many vineyards of the Margaret River region, we head off for a quick lunch and stratagery session. Our selected lunch spot became the town of Busselton a bit further down the track. We would’ve hung with the protected waterfowl in Bunbury, but fellow travellers had given us tip that the birds in Busselton flew upside down as the town wasn’t worth shitting on. As I’m still not familiar with all Australian colloquialisms, I wasn’t sure if this was a euphemism or a rare oddity, which are quite common in Australia. Turned out to be the former, as we saw no upended, yet still airworthy birds but did find a gorgeous seaside town with the longest public pier I have yet to see. This thing had to stretch at least a ½ mile out into the sea.

The wino run turned out to be a bit of a let down. The crowds were low and the people friendly at each of the wineries that we visited, which was nice. But we knew we weren’t buying and it would’ve been much more fun with more than one person drinking. Glenda thought one of us should stay sober to drive and I thought that should be her. But apparently I’m not Aussie enough yet to get shitty while me missus chauffers me around beautiful rolling hills…don’t tell immigration.

We’ve had our sights set on bush camping the whole trip and now get our first opportunity. We found Conto Springs Campground in the Leeuin-Naturaliste National Park. The park runs between two capes (big chunks of land jutting out into the ocean) and encompasses nearly130 kms of coastline.

The campground held the biggest trees we’ve yet to see and had big wide camp areas so it was easy to have your own space even though the place filled up by nightfall. This spot was nice enough that we quickly opted for a second night.

As we still have not found cool weather, we decided to find a swim beach the next day. Conto is good for fishing, but not safe to frolic in. If you’re ever in this area, Havelin Bay is your best bet for swimming. There was also a pirate looking vessel moored in the bay, but I don’t have too much more in formation on that. We saw no actual pirates. Anyway, I was itching to get a line wet, so we found a fishing kit we could do and still get under budget. I had never fished in the ocean before, but even without knowing what I was doing, I still managed to land a couple of herring (6-8 inches.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mandurah Day 12 & 13

This is a city of about 50,000 people just south of Perth, on a small peninsular where real estate developers had the vision to create canals in order to maximise the amount of expensive waterfront properties. The lucky buggers who got in at the right time are not only sitting and sailing on a gold mine, but they can throw a crab pot in the front yard so while they are off at work, they are also catching dinner.

Our little slice of Mandurah turned out to be possibly the smelliest van park in the southern hemisphere. Our site was right on the ‘estuary’ which is not the ocean side. One theory to explain the terrible smell that wafted up after the late afternoon breeze (aka the Freemantle Doctor) died down is the fairly still water and rotting seaweed on the shore. We have another theory. Not only is the van park smelly, but it is also strangely deserted. Rows of ageing vans with grubby old annexes have ‘For Sale’ signs in the windows, hastily scratched on bits of cardboard. It could be all the fiction we are reading, but we are pretty sure there is a serial killer harvesting his/her sick delights and dumping the evidence in the estuary. Kelly suspects the barrel shaped woman with the cigarette glued to the side of her bottom lip. I have my sights on the under worked, pot-bellied janitor. (Couldn’t he button up his shirt even occasionally?) I’m just saying, I won’t be surprised if a certain Mandurah van park is in the news headlines soon for all the wrong reasons. You read it here first.

There are Karri forests not far from here, one of the few tall hardwood trees to be found on this desert continent, but we will get to see forests further down the coast. It was more of a priority to get new shoes for Gypsy (tyres for the van), shop, phone and get on line. Mission accomplished.

Cervantes – Day 11 (by Glenda)

Initially disappointed to be in a caravan park again, we quickly changed our attitude when we realised that this tree lived haven was right on the beach, the peaceful little beach. From twilight people stand and fish right off the beach, or off one of the tree piers. Lobster is also abundant around Cervantes, and on the way down here Kelly bought himself one to cook up as an appetiser.

The next day was very relaxing. We both got to do some exercise on the beach, which is a treat after long drives in the van. After that there was a cup of tea break, and again after a shower, and again after a walk to the general store. The demanding schedule continued after lunch when we both sat in the shade reading great books. Kelly is into my all time favourite, ‘Cloud Street’ by Tim Winton and I am reading what I still think is still Sinead’s favourite, ‘Everything is Illuminated’ by Jonathon Safran Foer. Delicious.

Once again, Kelly proved to be a great tour guide for my country, knowing that we should go and check out the Pinnacles at sunset, some rock formation. Yeah, yeah. Australia’s big on big rocks and I’ve lived next to the biggest of them all for 24 years. However, there is no denying that the Pinnacles is way cool. Hundreds of sandstone pinnacles on dunes for as far as you can see, with a distinctive Stonehenge feel. Kelly had seen a show where Scottish comedian Billy Connelly danced naked through these Pinnacles, and I can see the attraction. Unfortunately we were restricted by the tourists around, particularly small children who don’t need that sort of thing.

Mr Percival was the big man amongst the birds at Monkey Mia

Monkey Mia – Day 10 (mainly by Kelly)

This day was magical. We left Denham for the top tourist destination Monkey Mia. I think we were both a bit apprehensive as this is a “must do” on the tourist trail. Many of these must dos turn out to be an opportunity to gouge tourists. Monkey is a pretty little resort in a national park famous for a dolphin population that is very comfortable around bi-peds. We got there a bit late but just in time for the third and final of the daily congregations. As you wade out knee deep, the parents doze and drift lazily in the surf around you while the young dolphins play rambunctiously; just like kids are supposed to do. I can write about it, but I can never do real justice to the mystical experience of sharing their world. Visit this place and do it when the tourists are not there.

I should make a mention of the goats. Goats are everywhere from Carnarvon south to the Denham turnoff. As we wandered across the expanse between the far and few irrigated oases I thought…hmmm…goats…they’ll eat this crap! Turns out I was right. Early settlers introduced goats, a few got loose, ate everything and have choked out native species. They’re a pest, but that expanse of scrub between Carnarvon and Overlander Roadhouse would be porn to an Afghan goatherd. My solution: hire a team of Morracans or other goat loving peoples to round up the feral pests and ship them to somewhere where they are the native species. Goats are happy, goat herders are happy and Australian native fauna are happy.

(Glenda) The drive south turned out to be more than we intended. We were hoping to wild camp off the road, but each suitable spot turned out to be the driveway to someone’s weekend retreat. We ended up in Thirsty Point aka Cervantes, with a lovely spot at the local van park right on the beach. I really appreciate it when there are big old trees in these parks.

Glenda checking out the little creatures at Quobba

Cool Stuff around Denham - Day 9 (by Glenda)

Kelly dazzled me with his ‘man-skills’ before leaving Carnarvon, as the gas stove needed a new regulator and the lifters for the pop top on the van were also in need of repair. Then it was an easy few hours down the coast and along the peninsular to Denham. Kelly had read in one of his favourite travel guides, ‘A Sunburnt Country’ by Bill Bryson, about the stromatalites to be found on this coast, so we turned off at the appropriate sign to Hamelin Pool. Sure enough, the very chatty Carmel and cheerful Jeff working at the historic Telegraph Station there pointed us in the direction of the aforementioned stromata-thingies, which are apparently the point in evolution where something decided to produce oxygen and be a living being. Lucky for us, these rocky little blobs in the ocean kept doing their thing for a few billion years, and hey presto, here we are in all our evolutionary glory ... driving greenhouse gas emitting, fuel guzzling vans all over the place to marvel at them. I digress. We also checked out an historic shell quarry which provided the coolest white building blocks for the first homes and church in the area.

Denham, aka Shark Bay, was undeniably beautiful. A teensy little fishing & holiday village lined with the most beautiful beach and ideal weather, pretty much all year round. We stayed at the beach from 4 till 8, swimming, walking, and then cooking our dinner on one of the beachfront public bbqs which we shared with Sven and Mrs Sven from Holland. We were a little humbled to struggle through our scotch fillet and fresh salad doused in vinaigrette while they made a perfectly satisfactory meal from a tin of potatoes and a tin of peas.

With no claim to originality, we both think that there is something deeply healing and invigorating about being right by the ocean especially in unspoilt little places. The evening at the van park was so relaxing. It’s the ions, it’s Mabo, it’s the vibe. (reference to Aussie comedy movie, ‘The Castle’)

Carnarvon – Day 7

On day seven pushing further south to find cool weather; we opted for a couple of days at the seaside town of Carnarvon. It’s a spit of a place with only 6,300 people and a few million banana trees. We’ve heard that there is a big banana here but we couldn’t find it. We did get to run our first test of social medicine while on the go. Glenda pulled up crook on the way down and we chose the hospital as our first stop. No waiting, no bill, no worries. Doc gave her some meds and we pulled into a caravan park for the night. The storm came in just as I finished putting out the awning. So with the help of my off color travel mate, we managed to fight off the driving rain and gale winds enough to stow the awning in the same manner that it had been only 20 minutes earlier. Two drowned rats now, dinner of baked beans on toast chased down with a 1998 Jenke vineyards Cab Franc was pretty damn nice ☺

Day 8 – Got to head to the Carnarvon Hospital. Again not much of a wait and this time we got free competent medical advice. Turns out that pain in the lower back was a kidney infection, which the drugs the night before had almost no odds of remedying. After an intervenous anti-biotic, we took a cruise around the town. Renowned for its fruit and seafood, we thought we should check out the local fare. Turns out both are seasonal and this isn’t the season. The best we were offered was a decent cucumber and our pick of fly blown mangoes at a $1 each. We bought the cucumber. In the afternoon we headed just north of town to a little beach called Quobba, noted for blow holes (holes worn into the sea side cliff by the surging tide which spray up like a volcano). Unfortunately the tide wasn’t high enough to ‘blow’ but we did find a little marine reserve at a lagoon beach with a colourful variety of fish happy to swim right around our ankles. The locals have created a cluster of fishing shacks, not much more elaborate than four pieces of corrugated iron leaning against each other, and lots of tables for filleting the bounty caught nearby. Interestingly, Australia’s greatest maritime combat took place here when the HMAS Sydney was attacked by a German Raider in1941. 675 Australian sailors perished, and 80 Germans. Some of the Germans made it ashore on life boats. Apparently details of the event are still shrouded in some mystery. We visited the memorial cairn there erected. On a tip we had dinner on the small boat harbour which turned out to be okay. Carnarvon was a lovely town, but maybe not best visited in February.

Port Hedland – Day 5 and 6 (by Kelly)

After 80-mile beach was full up at the inn (and hotter than seven hells) we opted to push on to Glenda’s sister’s place. Thankfully, even though we were a day earlier than we said, Cathy, Aaron and Emma still rolled out the red carpet. It took Emma a couple of days to warm up to me but I eventually broke her down. I think it might have been my red hair that bothered her at first cuz usually I’m a huge hit with girls under six.

Yeah, so I thought one of my first statements of freedom should be to alter my appearance…cuz I could. Turns out I’m Irish, because the blonding kit turned my brown hair red. Anyway…

Port Hedland would make an excellent study in the economy of a boom town. It’s the main shipping port for all of the iron ore that they are mining a bit further inland and the Chinese are buying like sailors on shore leave. As Port Hedland is also a bit isolated, they have a very hard time getting enough workers to move all of the ore…which drives up wages for any job…which drives up prices for everything. Normal family homes of 4 bedrooms with a pool (a necessity in Port Hedland) sell for over a million dollars and can be rented out easily for $1600-2000 per week. Fast food joints close early because there’s nobody to run them with starting unskilled labor jobs in the mines fetching at least $30 hour. Simply amazing to an economy geek!!!

Anyway, thanx heaps to Cath, Aaron and Emma for the hospitality. It was a great few days and easily the nicest place we’ve stayed so far ☺ …and the most reasonable. I would recommend it to anyone ;-)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Eighty Mile Beach and Chub – Day 4

I love the multi-cultural look of Broome; the Asian, Aboriginal and white families are mingled and friendly, reminding me of the Darwin of my childhood. That’s what I noticed in Woolie's as we made a few purchases before setting off down the Great Northern Highway. Getting pretty sick of sitting in the van for a whole day (much as we love you, Gypsy!) we weren’t sure whether we would get all the way to Cathy (Chub) and Aaron’s place or stop half way at the enticingly name Eighty Mile Beach.

Some people stick it out in very inhospitable environments, and the people at Sandfire surely fit into that category. Sandfire is a petrol stop and caravan park close to Eighty Mile Beach, but not close enough in my opinion. In the middle of the Great Sandy Desert, the dark orange ground bakes in the heat, although there are some big established trees. It’s just so hot (felt like 45C, 90 % humidity) and since the petrol station and shop burnt down last year the managers have been working out of a demountable. Each to their own I suppose. I’m certainly glad they were there because we would have run out of petrol otherwise.

Eighty Mile beach is very beautiful and we couldn’t resist having a swim. In the shallow waters, it felt rather like swimming in a very salty cup of tea. Kelly stepped on something, maybe a sting ray? As the last air-conditioned cabin had just been rented, we decided against waiting for what would no doubt have been a wonderful western sunset on a vast and perfect beach. Instead we pushed on a got to Port Hedland by 6pm, with Cathy, Aaron and Emma waiting for us out the front. Yipee! It was just so great to see them, their beautiful big house and especially their swimming pool where we happily risked turning into human prunes.

To The Coast - Day 3

The long, 1,000 km day was extended by assisting some fellas broken down on the side of the road half way between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. Two very respectful young Aboriginal fellas (the missing front tooth suggesting they have been through men’s business) thumbed a lift up to their community, Yiyili, to get a replacement for their flat tyre. In fact they got two spares off one of the old bombs in the yard of their humble home because they fully expected the each bald tyre to get them only part of the way before blowing out.

We were buggered by the time we got to Broome, and then annoyed to find we could not buy a drink at the pub on Cable Beach without having a meal. Broome is undeniably pretty, but so very developed, lined with resorts, with someone ready to charge a bit more than they should for every item and service. There was no way we would be able to sleep without an air-conditioner, so we bit the bullet again and got a room at the Roebuck Bay Hotel.

Into Western Australia – Day 2

No rushing required. A couple of purchases were made including new thongs for me, and then we set off on the Victoria Highway towards Kununurra. Perhaps because we stayed at the historic Springvale homestead, or maybe it was the Durack monument we passed, but I couldn’t help thinking of the pioneering white families who ventured into the north and northwest; how rugged and beautiful their experiences must have been, shaped by that country. I thought also of the traditional owners, many of whom became stockmen and have stayed with their traditional lands through big changes.

It was a relatively easy drive to Kununurra. The cabin we stayed in was right on Lake Kununurra, full of fresh water crocs with the tree tops reaching up through the water like wooden fingertips, since the man made lake was created. The steamy heat was relieved slightly by a windy afternoon thunderstorm. Kelly liked the town and could see us living there, as long as he could work in the air-conditioning until April and go fishing at every possibility. The manager of the caravan park was trying to tell us the amazing dimensions of Lake Argyle nearby, but having just come from the dentist and root canal work, he seemed rather confused.


Springvale was wonderful; luscious in the wet season with the billabong full and virtually empty being the end of school holidays. The resident roos and guinea fowl were pretty disinterested in us. We cooked our feast of snags in bread and shared a bottle of Moet thanks to Paul Van, which to me was a perfect birthday dinner. The spring water pool was perfect for a late night swim and we slept so soundly.

Leaving Alice – Day 1

After what seemed an endless time of cleaning, packing, selling, giving away stuff and did I mention cleaning? we finally left Alice on Wednesday the 30th of January, also known as Glenda’s birthday. Mum says that I was lucky to be heading north so I didn’t have to drive through the Gap for the last time. I reckon she’s right. As my kids were heading to ASHS for their first day of the school year, Kelly and I were charging up the north Stuart Highway. The lovely, long, uneventful road was soothing for the sorrows of leaving my home country after 24 years. I always love watching the changes from rocky orange desert to bush scrub, grassland, good cattle country and eventually the sub tropics. After brief petrol stops at Wycliffe Well and Elliot, we got to Katherine at 6ish and headed out to the Springvale Homestead for the evening.