The long way to Darwin
Dianne and I have decided to take a break from work and continue to fulfil our dream to circumnavigate the world. The bike is again packed and we're kitted out for our next adventure which will take us firstly into central Australia, then north towards Darwin where we will ship the bike to Singapore, then air freight it on to Nepal. The plan then is to journey through Nepal, India, Pakistan and Iran over the following months and enter Turkey around May 2008 and then make the most of the European summer touring Europe.
We should be back in Australia around November 2008 to sit out the European winter and plan to return to the bike March 2009. A huge adventure with as yet many unknown challenges and we hope you keep up with our journey and follow our progress on this Web Site. When you're on the road for a long time it's good to get emails, so use the link on the HOME page.
The Journey begins.
On August 16th we left home and traveled due west from Toowoomba through ever changing scenery. The only constant is the harsh reality of a land in severe drought where fields are bare and creeks are dry.
It is a stark reminder of the courage and character of the people who live here through the interesting history of the places we pass through - Cunnamulla, Eula, Thargominga to Innamincka. It was about 1500km from Toowoomba to Innamincka including a few diversions onto dirt tracks, into Currawinya National Park and up to Yowah.
The further west we travel the more desolate it becomes until there is not a blade of grass for as far as the eye can see. Still the terrain changes, the colours, the textures, red to pink to white sand dunes, then sand changing to a landscape of rocks. The dirt tracks we travel on change with the landscape and the sandy sections are particularly challenging especially when a monster road train forces us off the road. The condition of the road also depends on how long it had been since the graders had gone through and after a rather difficult ungraded sandy section it was quiet a relief to see the few isolated buildings of Innamincka (population 15). We've realised that when making enquires regarding the condition of the roads, we need to ask 'when did you last travel this road'? Also conditions that are easy for a 4WD can be difficult for us especially as two up we are quite a weight.(around 500kg all up) Sand and corrugations are a particularly bad combination and we need to do over 80kph to float over the corrugations but then if we hit deep sand it can be, well difficult.
Camping on the beautiful Cooper Creek at Innamincka gave us a chance to recharge and to get to meet the locals, the characters you meet at the local Pub and the amazing bird life on the Creek. Could not help thinking about the courage of Burke and Wills taking on the formidable desolate land north and south of this oasis.
Camping on the Cooper Creek
From Innamincka we headed south on the Strzelecki track to Lyndhurst where we took a day trip to the Flinders ranges and through a spectacular gorge. This was the sort of terrain and riding we enjoyed the most.
Riding into a gorge in the Flinders mountains
The next day we headed north east, up the Oodnadatta track following the old Ghan railway, past Lake Eyre and explored a huge red sand dune off the beaten track before reaching William's Creek. The next day we turned off the Oodnadatta and we were on another dirt track to Coober Pedy. Interestingly, this whole region is only a few meters above seal level and in fact Lake Eyre is below sea level.
So far we've traveled nearly 3000kms in 16 days including about 1000km on unpaved roads. So much to see and do and it's just great to be on the road again.
Coober Pedy is an Opal mining town in the middle of a desert, it is a very different place where the people have adapted to the extremely high summer temperatures by moving underground. Seems that in the old days the miners would live at their mine and living underground was a natural thing for them to do. If you needed another room, you simply 'mined' it and perhaps found more opals as well. Before you knew it, you had several bedrooms, a lounge, dinning room and kitchen. If you needed a study, then just dig it out.
From Coober Pedy we had no choice but to travel north on the Stuart Hwy. Long stretches of nothingness and a dead straight road is not our idea of fun, but here in the Northern territory there are some places that are a must see and the distances between attractions is big. Of course Ulluru and the Olgas are not just a huge rock formation, when you get close up its the geology, the rock itself and when you look around it is the surrounding desert. We spoilt ourselves with one of the Red Centre's famous events and went to the 'Silence of the night' dinner. A bus took us and our fellow diners into the desert and we were met with waiters offering champagne. A didgeridoo was being played and snacks served as we took in the atmosphere. Later we were ushered to the dining area where tables had been set with white table clothes on a red sand dune and we began our meal whilst watching the sun go down around Ulluru. Then later we have a chance to study the stars with a glass of red wine in hand as an astrologer points out various star formations. This just has to be one of those very special memorable occasions in anyone's book. It's expensive, but worth it and if you want to go, remember that it is very popular so make sure you book well ahead of time.
Whilst Ulluru (Ayres Rock) is impressive, for us Kings Canyon was our favorite and we got up early to beat the heat and did the 5 hour rim walk to really get into it and appreciate the greatness of it all. We would rate Kings Canyon right up there with the Grand Canyon in the USA. In some ways, for us it was better as we were able to climb up and down and view things from above and below.
From Kings Canyon it was onto Alice Springs for a few days and after the remoteness of the interior, we enjoyed the facilities of a modern city. Simple things like a supermarket and being able to buy and cook our own food instead of paying exorbitant prices for mediocre meals. We ended up stayed longer in Alice Springs than planned as there is so much pioneering history to find out about, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the famous School of the Air, as well as taking in the vast surrounding red desert and McDonnell ranges. The famous Desert Park attraction is a must see and it gave us a good insight into life in the desert and how the plants, animals, birds insects and people have adapted to this harsh environment. Well worth the visit and we were there the whole day.
Another must see for me was the Transport Museum and Dianne had to visit an Art Gallery. Alice Springs really is a fascinating place and we plan on returning sometime and spending several months here, probably during the winter.
The Desert Park, Alice Springs
On the road north again and the Devils Marbles and Tennant Creek break the monotony that is part of travel on the Stuart Highway. To make things a little interesting we decided to turn east onto the Barkley Highway, then north at Barkley Homestead on a narrow more interesting road heading up to Cape Crawford and Borraloola and onto the Mangroves along the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Other highlights for us on the last bit to Darwin were Katherine Gorge, a spectacular deep carved gorge that we canoed through and Edith falls and Gorge in the ancient sandstone of Nitmiluk NP. We had hoped to do some fishing in this area so a side excursion to the Daly River took us into yet another change of scenery as the wetlands of the north are such a contrast to the arid regions we had come through in the south of the Northern Territory. Sadly, it was not possible for us to fish at Daly River, but we were assured of good prospects in Darwin harbour.
The further north we go the hotter and more humid it gets and frankly since we left Alice Springs it's been too hot for us to camp. Darwin is no exception and we found a caravan park with a comfortable air conditioned cabin to spend a week while we serviced Jack and checked him over before finalising arrangements to send him on to Singapore. Perkins Shipping will again handle this for us and the big advantage of going to Singapore is that we don't need to put Jack into a crate.
With the business side of things wrapped up it was time to enjoy the Darwin markets, dinner at the Yacht Club while enjoying the sunset and yes, fishing at last on Darwin Harbour. We didn't catch the big one, he just managed to get away, but we did land a few pan sized fish that we took home for dinner.
Time now to fly back to Toowoomba to do more research for the next part of the trip and also to attend the weding of a special friend's daughter before flying out from Brisbane to Singapore on the 7/11/07.
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our journey in Singapore.