It's good to be back in the land of the living having spent nearly a week in the outback with more flies than I'd like to remember I had to give in and buy a flynet for my face as they were annoying me so much I was looking like a crazed woman flapping about!
So before I shed some light on our outback antics I'll start from the beginning in Darwin. We flew in from Singapore arriving in the early hours of the morning, it was good to see so many familiar faces on the plane (E.O.E had appeared to have chartered it as many of us had chosed the same flight to Oz following our two week break fron the truck) We arrived at the hostel at about 4am and realised the next day we were now in the tropics, it was sweltering and we had no air-con...next move was to shop around for a better hostel in the centre which I did as soon as I awoke! I found an excellent hostel in the main street called Chilli's highly recommended, unfortunately we were tied to our original one for another night as we had pre-booked so another night in the heat was had. Our first night on Friday was spent at the local 'Oktoberfest' which included a few drinking games and free beer to be won which was much needed after the shock we received at the prices in Oz. We've been extremely fortunate in the fact that we've spent the last 6 months or so in Asia and each country has been ridiculously cheap...we've now been stung and prices are more like the UK which we're quite simply not used to!! My money is now rapidly going down and I'm looking forward to the end in Sydney!
Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory (NT) and a gateway for Australias largest national Park, Kakadu. Over a quarter of Darwins inhabitants are Aboriginal and there are a higher propertion of them in the NT than anywhere else in Oz. The climate in darwin is hot and dry or very hot and wet. We arrived at a time called the 'build up' not quite wet but getting there and extremely hot and tropical with very strong sun. The tensions of the heat often push locals over the edge and it's known as going 'troppo' one more fact for you (especially Maff who I know is interested!!) is that Darwin is the most lightening prone city in the world...I didn't see a flash I may add!)
Although we saw many Aboringines in the street they were not the kind to hunt and gather from the land. The conditions in which many aboriginal people live along with their health is worse than many developing countries. We encountered the depressing spectacle of such when we saw so many of them staggering around drunk first thing in the morning shouting obscenities at one another. Since Darwin we have seen exactly the same in othe rNT towns such as Tennant Creek, Katherine and Alice Springs. Unfortunately there's still a long way to go before black and white people in Oz can exist on genuinely equal terms.
Ok back to my week in Darwin, as you'll see from the pics it was all fun and games on the first night our boys beat the Aussies hands down in the yard ale competition but sadly lost in the 'eat an apple struddle as fast as you can' game. I lost in the trumpet blowing competition I couldn't blow a note but made up for it with the holding a pitcher of beer for as long as you can test and won two pitchers for 'nearly' beating a rather large and embarassed Aussie!
The next day we moved into Chilli's and soon realised we really had left Asia. Lets just say Aussie women don't mince their words! It was bad enough getting used to everyone speaking English let alone the crass language that was being used my nieces and nephews read this so I won't repeat it but lets just say they don't speak the Queens english over here!!
So Chilli's it was great staff, great location, great rooftop spa's and great weather a perfect place to wait for our truck which was by now delayed causing us to fork out for another 6 nights accomodation and food...strewth!! Martin (Spooner), Polly and I spent Saturday doing a family shop as cooking in the hostel saved spending a fortune on restaurants so it was back to being a student and good old 'homebrands' from the local supermarket called 'Woolworths'. We then went to check out the car my friend had left for us in Darwin (in my last blog I mentioned how a guy had left a car and gave it away to me!) Anyway the car was there exactly where he said containing all sorts of camping equipment as he said but it was locked up (not as he said) so we waited for a reply by mail...
Saturday night was a mix of Martin's birthday, the rugby and the football...need I say more we had a great time met lots of locals listened to more crass language and rolled in far too late but I was beginning to love and hate ($) Darwin! The next few days were spent trying not to spend any Aussie dollars and I apologise now Mum and Dad for lack of calls! Day by day other truck folk were arriving and we wre gradually forming into our E.O.E cocoon! We came 4th in a pub quiz (exciting fact I know) won the bonus round of $50 dollars, went to the Museum, walked on the beach not nearing the sea for jellyfish, went to the deckchair cinema and watched an excellent Aussie thriller called The Jammed about sex trafficking and generally soaked up some sun until the truck arrived on the Friday. I shared a dorm room at Chilli's with Polly, Martin and Johno and I have to say cost aside we had one of the funniest weeks on the trip on a par with that spent on Langkawi Island in Malaysia. The staff at Chiili's were so funny Polly and I spent a few hours a day chatting with them at reception saving money at the same time and crying with laughter at their stories.
So Friday 19th of October and back on the truck it was for the first time as a group for over 3 weeks strange to be back but we were all in high spirits with just one more country to go until we finish, Australia. With an area of over 8 milion sq kilometres Oz is the 6th largest country in the world. It has a population of over 20 million 85% of which live on the coasts. One third of the country is desert and most of it is arid and flat. Our route will now take us completely down the middle of Oz stopping at Kakadu National Park, then heading to the red centre and Uluru (Ayres Rock), Kings canyon, Kata Tjuta, climbing Mt Connor, down through the Flandes Ranges to Southern Australia and Adelaide, it's then on the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne before we arrive in Sydney on Sunday the 18th of November...strewth!! can't believe this leg is nearly done! Obvioulsy we're stopping in several other small towns and parks on route but that's the bulk of it. I was here 5 years ago but only did the east and the centre so doing the other parts should be sound especially as we're arriving into most parts in the beginning of Summer here. Steve (driver) has said we'll be doing about 6,000km in Oz taking our total km travelled since London to just short of 40,000 not bad completely overland.
Right back to the story so far, after Darwin we headed for Kakadu National Park, 150km east. The park is on UNESCO's World Heritage List and is famous for the backdrop to the film crocodile Dundee. It covrs an area od 20,000km and includes several aborinal clan groups. The park is made up of rainforest, wetlands, mangroves and woodlands. it contains 2,000 plants, 10,000 species of insects, half the territories species of frog, one quarter of Austalia's freshwater fish and over 75,000 different reptiles more than you'll find in Europe, oh anf finally it contains one third of the birds found in Australia so as you can imagine it's bl**dy big!! The mammals include kangaroos, wallabies, 26 bat species, dingoes, and of course crocs! Two distinct crocs inhabit the park freshwater and saltwater the latter being the man eating ones! In addition to the flora and fauna the park is home to 5,000 aboriginal art sites. We had a day and a half at Kakadu so we only skimmed the surface! The first day of Kakadu was spent reuniting with the truck so a small group of us weren't able to do much sightseeing as you'll see from the pics!
After Kakadu we continued down to Katherine and took out some canoes in the Katherine gorge, a few of us were a little depleted having spent the evening before getting up at 4.30am to watcn the rugby...nevermind. It was an interesting stay in the town itself, we paid extra and lef the bushcamp to get a motel room with a TV as the pubs or pub should I say wasn't showing the match live, the motel was called 'Last Chance Saloon' and lets just say that said it all! The customers in the adjoining pub below our motel were aboriginal and we were by far in the sober minority! In the morning while we waited for the truck to pick us up we met brian a local alcoholic/aboriginal who was interested in Stonehenge, we asked him a good place for breakfast and he replied "follow us round the corner" Brian was on his own at the time and I say no more!
So Katherine Gorge a spectacular gorge made up of 13 of them in total, we only managed to canoe down through 2 of them as time cut us short but it was stunning (maybe a good works trip next year LG!) And alas we saw no crocs just croc traps! After another hot fly ridden bushcamp (I hate them at the mo they're so not glamorous without any runing water!!) we then went onto Mataranka and it's thermal pools a joy as they came complete with showers so plenty of handwashing and scrubbing was had by all. The pools themselves were amidst a forest full of flying foxes which are just like bats I swear I have never seen as many in one place in my life it was swarming with them hung high up in the trees and it was strange to bathe below then in the pools!
After Mataranka yet more bushcamping (we're camping all the way to Sydney now) and more stops at The daly Waters pub a strange outback pub full of souvenirs left by drunken tourists we had a lunch stop and left our truck t-shirt for them to pin to the walls. Other than a few billabong/watering hole stops for showers and swims it's now the Stuart Highway all the way to Ayres Rock now. We're in Alice for a day today and will reach the great rock on Saturday via more bushcamps and Kings Canyon. The roads as you can imagine are bleak out here hardly any traffic aside from the world Solar Challenge basically teams from around the globe driving solar cars from Darwin to Adelaide (going not much slower than us may I add!) Other than them it's the barren outback and the searing heat, things should cool up soon as we head south then heat up again as we head up the east coast.
I opted out of a chance for a roadtrip in a camper van half an hour ago after checking my online balance!! Polly, Stu and Punchy are sick of bushcamping and have hired a van to drive onto Adelaide to meet us there. it's a relocation vehicle so they're only paying 5 dollars betwen them a day to get the vehicle back to it's home in Adelaide. Cheap but it means arriving in Adelaide 10 days ahead of the truck and with 2 more overland trips ahead of me I'm playing it safe and sleeping and eating of the truck with everyone else after all we've already paid for it! 10 days accomoadation and food/trips in Adelaide would bleed me dry!
Ok so I'm off to explore Alice Springs all that there is of it as as I've been here before I know there's not alot! Thanks for all the messages and texts my mobile has little network in the outback other than in the towns we stop in and I think this will be the last chance I get online for well over a week but please keep in touch it's good to pick up post as it were everytime I log on. Kim I hope you have a great birthday, Maff what surprises were in stall for you? Happy Halloween to the usual crew I want photographic evidence that it's better than Denmark Road! Ming thanks for sorting out STA for me and I'm so pleased I'll see you in South Africa!!!, Mum/Dad sorry not called will keep in touch via text when I can until I can call you properly but all is well and good! Mum thanks for sorting the S.America stuff I've received the e-mail and all is well. To everyone else, big and little bro's, half bro, nieces and nephews, uncles, aunts, my great Nan, dogs and cats I hope you're all fit and well and the weather isn't too bleak I can't quite imagine it having had nearly 7 months of Summer, it's weird seeing the Christmas stuff in the shops though makes me a little sad I will not be around. And finally to all my favourite Officers keep up the good work.
Keep in touch people, I miss you all everyday..