The tent!

The tent!
Two men!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mission accomplished! (apologies to George W!)

Good afternoon blogees and other readers.

Having arrived home yesterday pm, I now need somehow to find the words to try to draw a close to what has been an absolutely superb experience. I can certainly echo and endorse everything that John has said in his final post. Like John, I am enormously grateful to all the people he mentioned with whom we stayed and, in some cases, worked. Thanks so much to all of you.

I will, probably true to form, be somewhat reflective..........

Today, I put a watch back on my wrist for the first time in over 4 months. I know both John and Pete will be overjoyed to hear this! That act, however, said a lot to me; a reminder that I was back in the real world where trifles such as the time of day matter. It said also that these days we need something material with which to tell the time rather than just relying on the position of the sun. It said that an experience of a lifetime had come to an end and that I had better get on with the next phase and make it as good as the last. It also reminded me how much I enjoyed seeing Ged and the family on my return and how important they are to me. After all, each of us individually is less than a fraction of a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things, but we all have our dreams and aspirations to pursue. Our families and friends are what makes the difference. We all want to leave our mark in some way and this country is by far and away the best place in the world to do just that.

I know that many people have read, and some even enjoyed, our blog. It has been a labour of love for John and me and I am really glad we were able to chronicle what we were doing in such an informative way. For those who have enjoyed reading it, and even those who are relieved it is now at an end (!), I would like to make one last request to think about donating something, however small, to either or both of our charities. It is through them that we might eventually crack the cure that we so desperately need for the disgusting disease that is cancer, as well as make real gains in health in general. Thank you again to those people who have already donated and many thanks to those now inclined to do so.

If you would like to donate to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation, please go to Dear.

If you would like to donate to Hunter Medical Research Institute, please go to

My sincere thanks to John for his outstanding efforts in preparing for our trip, for his great sense of humour and conversational ability, his friendship and his commitment to ensuring that we both got as much as we did from the experience. We have shared something unique and I won't let him forget it!

My great thanks also to Pete for helping me pilot Morrie home from Perth. We had a lot of fun and experiences in an all too short space of time. Let's do it all again when we feel up to it!

Finally finally, my thanks to Ged and the family for allowing all of this to happen. I was glad she was able to share at least a little of it in Darwin and Perth and I know that she managed extraordinarily, perhaps even scarily, well in my absence!

My very best regards to all of you. A final word or three? Don't wait for things to happen. Make them happen.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Three photos from the Temora Aviation Museum. Well worth a look.

The Finale

It's me, Pappa Smurf back ( minus the beard ) to post my final blog.

A poignant moment in my life.


My heartfelt thanks go to :

   *   Uncle and Jenny Merrick for lending us many things including the best tent in the world
   *   Ellen and Rob Wade for lending us sundry items and giving very useful advice
   *   Granville and Yvonne Taylor for lending us snatch straps, compressor etc etc.....
   *   Roger Perkins for the use of a most necessary fridge that worked like a charm
   *   Geoff Green for hosting us on his wonderful farm at Tamworth
   *   Melanie and Narelle for their wonderful hospitality on their farm at Taroom Q.
   *   The Gatkowski clan at Bowen for their generous and warm hospitality
   *   Chris & Val Miesch for their hospitality at Lake Tinaroo ( great set up they have there )
   *   The whole Paspayley team - Nick, Richard, Cap'n Cook, Dace and his entire crew on board the MV
        Christine ( we had a ball ) - we were quite reasonable honorary deckies.
   *   Malu and Mari Barrios in Darwin - your hospitality and hosting abilities were world class.
   *   Rod and Wendy Carter ( Rod is my cousin ) for their hospitality on their wonderful sheep and wheat
        wheat property in Cunderdin W.A.... I am surprised that they can run that farm without us........
   *   Vern and Liz in Fremantle - your hospitality was fantastic as was the dinner party.... you can see that Mr Dear and I were quite successful spongers and , on reflection were adept at identifying unsuspecting targets; although, to be fair, we did, in many instances earn our keep.


The trip, for both of us was a once in a lifetime blast from start to finish. Everything went right, nothing went wrong, we met some extraordinary people ( Pete the tyre bloke at Weipa probably gets the man of the match ), saw some extraordinary places and were blessed with the weather. The highlihght?....working on the MV Christine, a Paspayley supply boat for 19 days.


 We are blessed to live in Australia - it is 10 countries in 1 and I reckon we saw most of the 10. The people are interesting, funny and really a likeable bunch. The scenery is world class.

I love this country.


For a 10 year old Prado with 200k on the clock our little buddy did us proud. By the time Ian rumbled into Sydney it had done the 15k without missing a beat. Diesel and manual helped the 11 litres per 100k average fuel consumption. If anyone is interested in making an offer, it is a very reliable and sound vehicle.


Thank you for stepping into the breach for me for the last few weeks of the trip; it was appreciated by both me and Ian. He has difficulty eating tangellos alone.


To those of you who have donated go our sincere thanks; many of you have been very generous, thank you.
We do not have a final total figure yet but it is the thousands not hundreds - a wonderful effort.
If any of you would still like to make a donation, simply go to ' or '. We will be forwarding receipts to those who have made donations.


To Ged and Christine go our profound thanks.

To get a leave pass for 3-4 months is a rare but wonderful privilege which we both have appreciated and we have both agreed that you are a couple of top sheilas. Thanks.


..........and they said it wouldn't work.

Spending 24/7 in a car or a tent with someone is a big ask. Spending 24/7 in a car or a tent with me is an extraordinary ask. Ian's intelligence and stoicism allowed him to be impervious to my idiosyncratic whims and all too rare companionable silences.

A good driver, a great travelling buddy and, someone who, whether he likes it or not will be a lifelong friend.

Thanks Ian - it was an unforgettable experience.

John from Singleton

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cowell to Young

Well all I can say Richie is well done but you were veerrrrrry lucky!

With the noise of the Kiwi all-night revellers (all 2 of them) ringing in our ears and a surprisingly dry tent, we left Cowell bound for Whyalla and Port Augusta at 7.30 to be met by heavy rain, the heaviest in almost 4 months! We had our first sighting of the Flinders Ranges out of Port Augusta and crossed the mighty (again) River Murray at Blanchetown (photo) after lunch in the pretty and prosperous wine town of Clare. Our decision as to where to camp for the night was decided by someone other than us as we pulled in to Renmark and the heavens opened. We therefore sought shelter, somewhat guiltily I might say, in a cabin at the Riverland Caravan Park alongside the Murray. The non-drinkable water from the taps smelled to me suspiciously like the fragrance of Rotorua so Pete and I tended to limit our use of it.

The next morning, having quickly managed to get over our guilt in the very comfortable accommodation, we left for Mildura and Oxley (80 ks west of Hay - see photo of road thereto) to stay with my sister-in-law Andrea and her husband Graham on their property Geramy. We spent the afternoon treading the bounds with Graham and shared the experience with lots of emus, roos, a few bunnies and lots of lizards. After dinner Pete and I then had to do without the tent in the very comfortable rooms provided. I can honestly say that neither of us missed the amenties block that night. (Memo to me: you do go on a bit about amenties blocks!). Many thanks to Andrea and Gra for your hospitality. Both of us admire how you have managed in what must be one of the remotest places I certainly have encountered.

This morning we left Geramy and travelled through Hay and Narrandera and stopped at the Temora Aviation Museum. The museum has some wonderful old aircraft including a Spitfire and a Canberra Bomber and is really worth a look, especially if an airshow is on there.

We also attended a sheep auction in Temora (photo). I thought I was the successful bidder at $136 for one sheep but to my horror it turned out I had purchased the whole pen of 100 of the critters! After some very fast talking I managed to reverse the situation and on-sold the lot to the Woollies buyer. I didn't make any money on the transaction but I'll certainly be watching the meat dept of my local supermarket very carefully to see if there is any significant price change in that area!

We have just set up the tent at what will be our last site on this amazing odyssey. Young, in centralish west NSW, is the town privileged enough to be hosting us tonight. Did someone mention a civic reception or keys to the city?

Tomorrow we head home to kith and kin in Sydney. I thought I would delay my final post until I stop weeping once there. It has been an absolute blast and I want a little bit of time to collect my thoughts before putting finger to keypad. I'll be back one more time to bring all this to a conclusion in which John will participate.

Back soon.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Eyre Peninsula

The moving vehicle moves on to crow-eating territory......

We left Ceduna on Sat am bound for Coffin Bay and saw spectacular sights of the Bight all along the way down the western side of the Eyre Peninsula. South of Streaky Bay was a sculptures by the sea type of thingo high on the cliffs. Pete insisted, with absolutely no prompting from me, that I take his photo astride Malcolm Fraser's head. Please see photo as that I know will sound a little awkward. The trip to Coffin Bay was all white sand, cliffs, brilliant blue water and huuuuuge wheat properties.

Coffin Bay is a very pretty town, seemingly populated by very well-to-do farmer refugees from the GFC. The houses are very modern and extremely well built and designed. Pru ande Trude would be ecstatic to live there. (An aside: How did Coffin Bay get its name? Neatest correct entry will be treated to a personalised powerpoint presentation by yours truly of the entire 4-month trip. Some prize eh! For those not interested in the prize, the answer is it was named by Matthew Flinders after his good mate from the British Navy, Sir Isaac Coffin.)

This morning we chanced our fishing arm after another tent night in Coffin Bay surrounded by Skippy and friends. With skipper Gary at the helm we managed to haul in a goodly stock of whiting and trevally, as well as some rubbish. Gary was an intriguing guy who had some fairly radical ideas as to how we should treat our indigenous cousins. I did suggest that his ideas might be a tad extreme but he didn't seem to be listening. I therefore felt no compunction at the end of the trip in extracting a donation to CCAF from Gaz. Thanks Gaz and good luck with your reconciliation ideas!

We have now breezed in to Cowell on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula, eagerly awaiting the RWC Final. Reluctantly, I have to say go the All Blacks, but my heart is heavy at what could or should have been.

I'll let you have more soonish.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Talk about no trees!

So anyhow, we were last in Esperance when I updated this marvellous blog.

We left that neat little town after another very early start. (Memo Colin: would you please switch your State to daylight-saving. Thank you.) We headed trepidatiously to the Coodingup Tavern 60 ks out of Esperance where we were reliably informed that we could obtain the latest accurate info re the state of the 4WD-only Parmango Road. Colleen assured us that we would make it ok so on we went. As we penetrated deeper and deeper into Parmango Road our fondness for Morrie escalated dramatically. By the time we were past the point of no return and had well and truly crossed the Rubicon, the signs along the road were shrieking at potential 2-wheel drivers and especially caravan haulers to turn back. We pressed on amidst wash-outs, clay pans and lots of corrugations to finally rejoin the Eyre Highway at Balladonia. Mission accomplished and job well done even though, again, a few geriatric butterflies managed to outpace us at times.

We then treated ourselves to a "free" (read no amenities, no water, no toilets, no nuttin) camp site with sweeping views of the Eyre Highway and the gentle rumbling of road trains during the extremely cold night. The flatness of the gravel patch on which we pitched the tent made up for everything! A photo will complete the picture.

This morning, after having adjusted our watches forward 45 minutes, we set off early for Ceduna and crossed the WA/SA border 3 hours later. Absolutely spectacular coastline views of the Great Australian Bight greeted us as a photo or 2 will show. On the other side of the highway was something completely different. Now I don't know what Nullabor means but my goodness gracious there is not a single tree to be seen there for miles and miles! I tried to do my bit to remedy this by looking something like a tree out at the Whale Observatory at the head of the Bight (see photo) but I doubt it made any difference.

We breezed in to Ceduna late this pm and were able to catch the second half of Oz v Wales. (Memo Robbie: See. If you pick the right team with Barnesie and Sharpie, all is well!) Onya Wallabies! A really good game and a result you deserved. Far be it from me to be dog-in-mangerish, but we would have thrashed France on Sunday! Sigh.

Tomorrow Pete and I are off to explore the coastline of SA and really looking forward to it. I will report back again when I have something to report back. Until then.....



PS Sorry about the multiple photos. The internet link has dropped out here 5 times during this post. I will try to edit the surplus photos out later.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perth to Esperance

Blogees et al

Yes, I know the title is a bit boring but it really sums up what Pete and I have done since last inflicting our news on you.

Somehow I knew, I just knew, after Quade's kick-off last Sunday, that the night was going to end in tears. I'm pretty instinctive that way. Enough said. See photo of Pete and me outside the Reid residence in Freo trying to look like good sports.  Note Vern's subtle positioning of the flag!

Anyhow, on Monday we left our very warm and comfortable beds and everything else at Liz and Vern Reid's (ta again Reids) and hot-footed it out to Kalgoorlie. Now those of you who have got to know and understand our love of caravan parks will probably relate to the following discussion between Pete and me on arriving at our designated tent site for the night..... " We can't camp on gravel!" " No, but we can squeeze the tent along one side on the dirt and the other side on the gravel." Guess what the name of our location was. "The Overflow". Enough said again.

We then had a look at Kalgoorlie's Super Pit which is an area the size of America where little Tonka toy trucks and ants (that"s what they looked like) gouge lots of stuff out of the ground in a consolidation of lots of adjoining leases combined in the late 1980s by none other than Alan Bond. And all this in the search of gold. The next day we cased the rest of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and were extremely impressed by the Mining Hall of Fame, Kalgoorlie Town Hall (where Winnie Atwill once tinkled the ivories) and the Mining Museum. A photo or two will demonstrate the size of some of the mining gear.

Now some of you will have read this far and wondered when I was going to get to the brothel tour in Hay Street. Well, I have got to it but only in a way because the tour didn't happen! It was booked out that day by a bus-load of voyeuristic old age stickybeaks who had nothing better to do than..... Pete and I are not that way at all! So, we had to give the brothel and tour a wide berth, probably much to the relief of all related to or associated with our families. We made up fpr it with a wonderful meal of lamb chops and salad, followed by yoghurt and Rocky Road amidst a very windy and cold night at our site.

The next day (today Wednesday), we headed straight for Esperance (named after the ship that visited here in 1792). Fantastic beaches and jetty and museum but most famous, of course, for having had parts of Skylab fall on it in 1979. See photo.

We made enquiries for tomorrow re the state of Parmango Road which joins Esperance to the Eyre Highway. We of course received a variety of responses ranging from " Shocking, rough as guts" to "Should be ok" to a wry smile followed by " Good luck!". We will therefore approach the said road tomorrow with a deal of apprehension and a well-defined plan B. Off-roading is fun but let's not get too carried away!

I hope to report to you again having safely arrived back on the Eyre Highway. Until then, I trust you are all well and eagerly awaiting the next post. If so, so am I!



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breaking news

Blogees and others

I have to warn you right from the outset that this latest post will be a massive disappointment to all of you, not least because of its highly misleading title, but also because of the lack of any content of a rip-snorting nature. You are reading it because of a flood (well, one) of  requests (it was repeated and increasingly strident) for an update on your correspondent's whereabouts and movements. Thanks Geoff!

But first, to the good news...... some of you will remember my good friend Peter Howell, recently retired Qantas jumbo captain. He was one half of the winning combination who won the inaugural Race Across Asia last November. Modesty prevents my mentioning the name of his partner in the event which ended up raising almost $110,000 for Cure Cancer Australia Foundation. Peter has graciously agreed to step into the breach (Qantas, baggage-handlers, unions, etc permitting) left by my 4WD buddy, John, and help me pilot Morrie home to Sydney, leaving for Kalgoorlie on 17 October. Thanks Pete.

For those of you who are still reading, thanks for your forbearance, and now to an update.......

Since the last post, I have managed to catch up with old school mates Geoff Towner, Tom Cottee and Dave Leith as well as their wives, respectively Jen, Mirella and Liz. (Why is it with reunions that everyone else has grown so grey bald and fat that they don't recognize you?!) In addition, I have been treated to the extraordinary hospitality of our great friends Liz and Vern Reid, residents of the People's Republic of Fremantle. And on top of all that, I have been reunited with my good wife Geraldene. Together we have seen the sights of Perth and Freo and spent 4 magic days down around Margaret River golfing, sight-seeing and visiting immaculate wineries in superb settings. And, to cap it all off, in Bunbury we were able to watch the Wallabies beat the Boks. And then to cap the cap off, we have enjoyed dinners with the Towners,the Reids and the Leiths and been treated right sandgroperly by all. Our sincere thanks to all of you and particularly Liz and Vern Reid whom I owe big time!!! It has been absolutely wonderful seeing you all again after far too many years. Perth is a fantastic city.

And now some rather distressing news..... all this fairy tale stuff ends in 3 days' time when Pete and I head to Kalgoorlie, with only the promise of camp sites and amenties blocks to keep us going! Our route after Kalgoorlie will probably take in Norseman and Esperance, with some fairly heavy-duty 4WDing east to rejoin the Nullarbor and onwards in an easterly direction from there. With any luck, I will be able to update you as we go. Fingers crossed! If we happen to reach Sydnery and just keep heading north, I imagine you will understand!

So, that's all for now. I can only hope that, come Monday morning, the All Blacks and the New Zealand people will be undergoing counselling after you know what on Sunday. Fingers doubly crossed!



Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I thought long and hard about this post's title, so I hope you are all as pleased with it as I am. Creativity is quite a strong suit in my formidable armory!

Needless to say, but I will say it anyhow, John and I arrived in Perth at Liz and Vern Reid's in Freo late Monday pm after a final morning's mustering a few mobs of sheep at Cunderdin, at times in the rain (very welcome of course to Cunderdinites but not so much to yours truly on his motor bike). John really appreciated my plight and was awfully considerate in offering me a hat from the warmth and dryth of his Land Cruiser! We work together so well!

So it was with very mixed emotions that we left for the airport at 4.30am on Tuesday for John's flight home at 5.45am with Virgin. These are awkward moments. Do we hug each other to say good bye, burst into tears, fall down in a swoon or what? No, it was a firm handshake, stiff upper lip and then tata. Unfortunately for John, that was the easy part. As it turned out, he was not to be on his way for another 5 hours or so as Virgin decided to cancel the flight. And as he said, he is still pretty embarrassed about running down a competitor in a wheelchair sprinting for the last seat on the next flight! He left a stream of pensioners and others in his wake in his quest to ensure he would reach Sydney some time that day. As he would say: "Well done that man!"

So for now, this blog will have a well-earned rest for a little while until the trip proper recommences in about 2 weeks. If anything newsworthy, funny or rip-snorting occurs in the interim, you readers will be the first to know, I promise. Until then...........



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cunderdin here we come!

So anyhow, we left Geraldton after an early morning conference over a steaming cappucin, capucin, cappo, cup of coffee and headed south then east bound for John's cousin's sheep and wheat property at Cunderdin, about 2 hours east of Perth. Rod and Wendy Carter made us very welcome on arrival 8 hours later after we had travelled through some spectacularly green and prosperous country of wheat and canola and wild flowers (see photos). Rod is a man of many talents, one of which includes being more than a dab hand on the keyboard, so it was with great interest and curiosity that we departed 2 hours later for Quairading, 60 ks away, to attend a rehearsal of the forthcoming blockbuster production of Rome Sweet Rome. This production is to have its world premiere in about 5 weeks and the repertory got stuck into rehearsal with a vengeance. For those who are able to come on out to Quairading to see the show, we can recommend the trip as being extremely worthwhile. On our return to Cunderdin, we were treated to a real bed (each that is) as well as a bathroom and toilet! Back in heaven! Camp sites can tend to be rather communal.

During the next 2 days we made ourselves invaluable additions to the Carter team by performing a multitude of tasks, including readying the shearing shed for shearing tomorrow, shifting mobs of sheep from paddock to paddock, collecting a stray ewe that had done a runner 20 ks away and had been reported and collected by Rod's cousin Alan, 2 crutchings with Rod, swinging a front-end loader into action to remove an ugly container eyesore, mowing, gardening, and finally, helping Rod, a W.A. gliding champion, assemble his 15 metre wingspan glider in readiness for the gliding season. (For those interested in securing our services, please send us an email and we'll see if we can fit you in!).

This pm and tomorrow, we will be mustering and drafting sheep to be shorn, then heading to Perth to stay with Liz and Vern Reid prior to John's departure on Tuesday. Many many thanks to Rod and Wendy for their great hospitality and good luck for the upcoming wedding of their first daughter, Dee, in Freo in 2 weeks. (Wendy is an avid and passionate scrapbooker and has been busily scrapbooking and fascinatoring for the wedding since we arrived. Kate and William, watch out!)

More later and TTFN.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Exmouth to Geraldton

It is Chinese Dentist on Wednesday afternoon and I am writing this blog update from a poorly enclosed BBQ area at the beautiful two star Bel Air Gardens caravan park in Geraldton.

The cobber that runs this joint is nick named the Fresh Prince.

For the first time on our trip we have experienced a cathartic epiphany; it's raining.

We left Exmouth on Monday morning heading towards Carnarvon where we walked the one mile jetty ( see photo ), had a look at the old Carnarvon museum and held the finals of our snooker competition at the Gascoyne pub which was built in 1898. Rump steak and vegies on the BBQ plate at our caravan park and then to bed. Normal bed time is between 8 and 9pm.....hmmm.

Tuesday saw us arriving at Kalbarri just in time to play a round of golf at Royal and Ancient Kalbarri.

Kalbarri is a pretty, unspoiled quaint holiday town with intrinsic natural beauty and a laid back approach to life. If HMRI wanted to do some research into blood pressure, this would be the starting point.

Today saw us drive, via the pink lake ( see photo ) to arrive in Geraldton in time to do our 11am interview with the ABC here in Geraldton. Glenn interviewed us for 13 minutes, we were entertaining and fascinating in what we had to say, so much so that we may have to do another interview in Perth.
Glenn was fortunate to have us there to help him out of his ratings slump.

The rain has stopped but another extraordinary thing has happened for the first time on our trip - it's cool to almost cold.

Tomorrow we head to Cunderdin to spend a few days with my cousin and his wife, Rod and Wendy Carter. They have a 10,000 acre wheat and sheep farm; our timing is impeccable; sheep crutching.

Now comes an important part of this blog; perhaps a little poignant.

Ian and I have have spent, thus far 82 days on the road; 82 fantastic days that neither of us will ever forget.

When we set out originally our trip was going to be for four months ( approximately ) but in recent discussions with the perfectly formed Mrs Henderson, it is clear that my services are needed back at the Pelerin precinct which Christine has been looking after for the last 3 months single handedly.
A stirling effort.

As a consequence I have decided to fly back to Sydney next Tuesday, 27 September and Ian will drive Morrie back after looking futher around WA and possibly SA.

So I say to Mr Dear, thanks for putting up with me for three months, a tremendously successful and enjoyable 3 months and an experience I will always cherish.

To our followers, please continue to read the blog as Ian will be continue with it until he actually finishes the trip.

To all the supporters of HMRI and Cure Cancer goes our heartfelt thanks - you have been marvellous.

I will hand the keyboard over to Ian......

Well, another emotional moment as we finish our odyssey. What we originally set out to do (Sydney to Sydney) will now not happen but the trip has been an absolutely wonderful experience for John and me alike. Once in a lifetime you get an opportunity like this one and we really carpe diemed. My thanks to John especially and our wives for making/allowing all this to happen. It has been a blast of the first order. I will really miss sharing the following sort of camping area notice with John: "Do not wash your pets here. There is a pet-washing facility behind this amenties block. Feel free to wash yourself there." Or: "Please do not take the hot or cold water handles. They are expensive to replace."

Back soon.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Broome to Exmouth via Dampier

When we last said tata we were about to go ashore to Broome from the MV Christine after a wonderful 19 days aboard. What an experience! Well, we did go ashore along the somewhat lofty wharf as seen in the above photo. That's what 10 metre tides do apparently!

Anyhow, after refinding our land legs in Broome we departed south having been awoken somewhat early (3.45am I think it was) by a rather happy indigenous group who seemed to be celebrating something significant. Needless to say we were unable to share their pleasure or enquire as to who was getting married, had just won Lotto, etc. We travelled past Sandfire Roadhouse (aptly named!) along a strip of licorice splitting the vast floodplains, thru Port Hedland and South Hedland (excuse me, could you tell us the way to Dampier? Yeah mate follow the signs to Roebourne. Yep!) and arrived 750ks later in Dampier. Here we erected the tent (we are pretty good at it now!) in a site just across the way from a monstrous port facility that services the iron ore and natural gas operations. It is here we learnt a lot about the NW Shelf Gas Project and what a truly impressive thing it is.

The next day, after an obligatory photo with Dampier's red dog (see photo), we pressed on to Exmouth and immediately booked a snorkelling trip for the next day. We were, probably fortunately, unable to watch the Oz v Ireland rugby as the tv screens were all tuned to the WC Eagles. What don't these Westralians understand?!

So today we did the snorkelling thing on Ningaloo Reef viewing coral and all sorts of marine life including turtles, colourful fish and a sneaky stingray.

I had earlier sensed a strong collective intake of breath amongst our fellow snorkellers when I  suggested that Humpback whale calves made good eating but they seemed to relax when they realised I was only kidding! We also saw a huge communications station with 13 towers which is the largest VLF station in the world for transmissions to and from mainly submarines. It was originally US-run and manned, so much so that it used only US$, drove on the right and had its own baseball diamond.....and US food on site.

In the distance we could see 2 oil platforms on the horizon reminding us of the huge envirnomental issues when nature clashes with commercialism.

Tomorrow we crank up Morrie once again heading for Carnarvon.

Thanks for listening............

I & J

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back to Broome we went

Now where were we before last leaving you? Ah yes, Darwin. That's it. Well, we left Darwin on 3 September bound for Broome in a voyage that ended 10 days later. In that time, we became seasoned mariners (or marinated seamen) and experienced the extraordinary beauty of the Kimberley coast. It is an absolutely unique experience to be in the ship's wheelhouse on watch from 0200 - 0500 sliding through a silvery sea under a full moon with speckles of silver cascading over the surface in a light you could read a book by. By contrast, every hour you descend into a marine hell that is the engine room as part of your watch to check on the bilge, gauges, pumps etc amid noise, heat and a generally hostile mechanical interface so as to be able to report back on the ship's log "Engine room check ok". In between these experiences, we were able to have a go at some fishing (no luck), play poker with some of the crew (limited success), win a few rounds of Smart Ass (a board game!), manage to catch a bbq and the Argentina v England world cup rugby match (curse you J Wilkinson!) on board one of the Paspaley accommodation vessels, see lots of wonderful sea life including whales, dolphins, turtles, sea snakes (yellowy orange with a toxin far worse than their terrestrial cousins), sharks, you name it. We also managed to check out Kuri Bay which is one of the last land-based (accommodation that is!) pearl farms and hear of the plans to turn it into an up-market fishing/eco resort. And finally, marvelling at the most spectacular scenery along the way as we hope the photos will show. We are now preparing to leave the MV Christine tomorrow to resume our southward trek down the west coast to Perth and will be in touch again along the way. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Good Ship MV Christine about an adventure for two old cobbers.

We stayed in Broome on the Thursday early night as we were at Broome airport at 6.45am the next morning. We were in the air by 7.05am in an aircraft called a mallard; a 1945 jobbie that could take off and land on sea or land; it had been maticulously restored and was a credit to the Papsayley group. A sixteen seater which was simply called Paspayley Pearls.

After a one hour flight which passed over some of the most stunning Kimberley scenery you will never see from the road, we landed at Kouri Bay where we were met by John the Legend who whisked us safely and swiftly for 30 minutes across the bay where we were greeted by a beautifully well kept MV Christine and her skipper the world renown Dace. Dace has been with the Papsayley group for well over 1000 years and knows more about pearling, the ocean and ships than anyone.

For the next four and half days we visited pearl farms, pearling vessels, many people involved in this fascinating industry, lifted, shifted and broke things on the Christine and if we had had our way during our watch we would have finished up in New Guinea. Thankfully Dace and his crew controlled our zeal with the wheel.

We have to say that the voyage from Kouri Bay to Darwin revealed some of the most beautiful coastline Australia has to offer: another day another bay.

We now better understand the pearling industry and its fascinating idiosyncrasies far better than a week ago.

We now have 3 days in Darwin unloading and re-loading.

Naturally Dace and his crew have asked us to help them on the return journey from Darwin to Broome. Dace clealry has the perspicacity to recognise our knowledge and experience in this industry, in fact he is quite fortunate to have us on board.

More pics and stories after we complete our return journey.

Life's not a rehearsal - just do it.

J & I

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Doing it the Savannah Way

Back again! After an emotional farewell to the ladies from Darwin airport around midnight, we headed back to our lodgings to complete the final reloading of Morrie for 7.30 departure the same morning. Having then departed at the appointed time we travelled south thru Katherine and then west back on the Savannah Way headed for Broome to join the Paspaley boat MV Christine sailing to Darwin and then returning to Broome (where Morrie was to be left) along some of the most extraordinary coastline in the world.

We pulled in early to the Victoria River Roadhouse where we erected a piece of heavy duty plastic on top of which we placed our sleeping bags and that was literally our digs for the night (see photo). Watch the heavens as you drift off to sleep! That is one sucker of a celestial canopy!

Next day we ended up in Halls Creek after a long day's travel taking in Lake Argyle and Durack Museum. Unfortunate incident at NT/WA border where we had to hand over our apples and tangellos due to quarantine restrictions. We were able however before doing so to stuff our faces with a few kilos of the fruit as long as we handed over the peel and cores before continuing along the Savannah Way. Halls Creek was stuffed to the gunwhales with pre-booked bus tours but somehow we managed to secure the only remaining 2 beds within a radius of two continents as the caravan park was a tad ordinary so to speak. It was probably the dust and the barbed wire that gave it away but I'm only guessing.

John will now take you in to Broome.......

There is something mesmerising about barrelling west at 100 cliks in Morrie, with Lonnie Donegan blasting out, the constant hum of the old 3 litre diesel and the odd shapes of the boab trees yelling at you; it is actually an uplifting for John's constant hypotheticals and oftentimes feckless philosophy.....we think the old pappa smerf beard has affected his stability a little.

On our journey it is normal to honk the horn at birds eating wallabies etc on the road lest you kill the birds too but I noticed mid afternoon John was honking at skid marks and not many of them flew away.

The continuous stunning vistas of blues, purples and intermittent ocres, Utah type shortened mountain ranges and Savannah Way grass reminds me of the beauty of the Bayeux tapestry; visually attractive and cleverly strung together.

After travelling on the Savannah Way for 4500 cliks we rumbled into Broome about 3.21pm this arvo...Thursday..25 August... to rendevous with Tony Cooke from Paspayley Pearls - John nick named him Captain Cook - he thought it was Tony.

Captain instructed us to be back at the Paspayley operation at 6.30am tom. morn.........we then jump on a circa 1945 sea plane, called a mallard with no outriggers.......just a belly fuselage which will whisk us to the MV Christine by morning two old corporate wallahs..........we're excited.....

Thanks for listening...........

Watch this space for a ripping account of the next 4 days aboardthe good ship Christine coming to a blog near you soon

Good night

J & I

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gorgeous Katherine, Darwin and Kakadu

Look, I am sorry to have left you without anything decent to read over the last week, but the ladies arrived and one thing led to another and you know how it is! So let me give all you avid blog-readers a quick update on our toings and froings since the last post (or reveille).

We checked out Katherine Gorge on 11 August. It was as spectacular as we had expected and as a photo or two will show. We did this while Morrie was having his fingernails trimmed in Katherine and loved it. The previous day we had learned that John McDouall Stuart was a poor speller and that it should have been Catherine! Who cairs?!

On 13 August we said tata to Katherine and thanked Keith for having put us up or put up with us and headed to Darwin to stay with Malu and Mari Barrios. Next morning off to the Rapid Creek markets for a real knee-trembler of a mango smoothie, followed by yum cha Darwin-style with Malu Mari and friends.

Monday required a bit of house-keeping with a quick haircut and a blood donation at Casuarina following which we moved into the Medina Apartments right on the waterfront. This was really ridiculous (tenting) to sublime (Medina) material! We each had at last a real bed, a washing machine and dryer, and even a separate room called the bathroom. At this point we almost decided to call the rest of the trip off and just linger longer in Darwin but common sense soon took over.

Then Tuesday (16 Aug) arrived and we met Ged and Christine at Darwin airport in the wee small hours for an emotional and tear-filled reunion. And you should have seen how Ged and Christine handled it! After staggering out of bed later that morning we had a great lunch at the Mandorah pub.

Wed 17 August was a day spent separately by the 2 couples, checking out Fannie Bay Prison and the East Point Military Museum, etc. Now here's an interesting point for all of you who are interested in interesting points: if you were a Catholic and hanged at Fannie Bay, you had the noose put on first followed by the hood. I'll explain to anyone who is still reading this rubbish.Then followed a tour of the Paspaley showroom by Richard McLean and Amber, culminating in Ian's wallet being emptied for some extremely attractive bling to adorn Ged's neck.

Wed night we dined with Rachel Gough and fiance Mick. We concluded that Mick was eminently suitable to take Rachel's hand and her other bits in marriage and will be able to reassure Don and Lynn in this regard if we ever in fact return to Sydney. Life is very good up here and Rachel and Mick have a great future together.

Now on to Thursday when we (ie the 4 of us) began our 2-day stay in Kakadu. What a corker that national park is (shipping container accommodation notwithdstanding!). Now over to John....... before we set off to pick up the ladies at Darwin airport we unloaded all the garbage out of Morrie so we could fit them and more garbage into Morrie, especially for his trip to Kakadu.

Now, Kakadu, there's one of Australia's iconic destinations that you really should see before to bundy off.

Kakadu national park is essentially jointly owned and operated by several aboriginal tribes and the Commonwealth Government. It covers 20,000 square kilometres, has seven distinct regions and is abundant in flora, fauna and spectacular views. After the three hour road trip from Darwin we hit the East Alligator region hard and quickly - Cahill's Crossing where we saw two crocodiles trying to mate - I won't go there, then on to a place called Ubirr - aboriginal paintings and a stuning view from quite a high peak - Crocodile Dundee stuff.

Stayed at Jabiru that night - Jabiru is essentially a mining town built by Ranger - the second largest uranium mine in the world: the town cost $95M to build. It just happens to be in the middle of a large national park.

The Jabiru Sports and Social club does a mean steak sandwich. Mention my name.

Early next morning John and Christine went on a quick flight over Kakadu, into Arnhem land, over the Ranger mine you a wonderful perspective of the size and diversity of the park.
Walks around billabongs, up to lookouts and then late in the day the Yellow Water cruise where Meg the Kiwi showed us 2000 different bird types, 3000 different plant types and one crocodile type - they're silent and sly - I wouldn't like to offend one.

Jol that night complimented the croc burgers with a little off key Jimmy Hendriks.

Now back in Darwin where we will spend the next few days and then farwell the ladies late Monday night.

Just about to hit the wave pool, have a quick Satadee arvo snooze and then off to dinner uptown somewhere and then listen to some music courtesy of the Darwin Festival, which incidentally is done very well.

Catch Joel Ozborn if you can.

Hang on...hang on ....somebody is calling me........yep, it's my good friend James Boag.

I love this country.

I & J

Monday, August 8, 2011

Photos of the two men

Borroloola to Katherine.

We left Borroloola early en route to Daly Waters and its iconic eponymous (look it up Marcus!) pub but were waylaid/seduced by the sight of a shiny blue helicopter at Cape Crawford offering  a 20 min seeing of the sights of the Lost City (huge sandstony sort of Easter Island stuff meets moonscape vibe - get the picture?). That was ossome! Then on to the DW Pub, as I said, an iconic tongue very much in cheek watering hole for 250 adjoining camp ground dwellers. Now try the maths on this one: 250 people with toileting needs and 7 (SEVEN!) (am I starting to shout?) combined showers and dunnies. Let me be totally open with our readers..... if a shower or toilet is in use, that knocks out the combination other shower or toilet. Am I starting to sound a bit manic? Anyhow, we managed and had a really good night at the pub listening to a middle-aged (sigh!) dude singing 60s stuff and Chilli doing his stand-up, singing and bush poetry. Beef and barra was the evening repast and very delicious at that.

Next day put us into Katherine to stay with John's bro in law, Keith. Strange coincidence: Keith is also Christine's brother! Keith is with the NT Police and has been doing an outstanding job there for over 30 years. His wife Heather is similarly employed but she is away in Bangkok enjoying a well-earned break (but probably escaping from John!).

We are very lucky to be spending a few days with Keith to reacquaint ourselves with things called beds, showers and washing machines. Aren't they fantastic!

Keith gave us a guided tour of Katherine cop shop (100 employees!) and showed us some of the tricks of being a Scene of Crime Officer, the cells, and generally how best to keep on the straight and narrow.

Last night John and I were lucky enough to attend a Rotary meeting in Katherine where we met lots of the locals and enjoyed pizzas and bread and butter pudding. Something completely different!

We went out today for a swim at Edith Falls, 60 ks north east of Katherine. Magnificent water and scenery as I hope the photos will show.

Now busily working on Morrie for the next leg of the trip and looking forward to the arrival in Darwin next Tuesday of Our Fair Ladies. Gawd it's been a long time!

Server probs. - will send photos later.

I & J

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

KFC by any other name

Having recovered the signs from Ruth we motored on through Croydon and Normanton finishing up at Karumba, the prawn capital of Oz.
Nearby there was a massive live cattle export facility which offered restful dulcet ventilation tones throughout the problem for John...he simply snored louder.

Checked out Normanton the following morning, typical of a town in the aftermath of a gold rush = a huge Burns Philp building, the largest captured crocodile in the world ever....ever.

That afternoon we ended up in Burketown at an OK camping area.

Next day left for Adel's Grove ( editor's note: get your atlases out people ) on 200k's of dirt and a little bitumen....arrived at 1.12pm and we were in the two man canoe by 2.13pm - spectacular scenery, freshwater waterfall and the odd lazy freshwater croc here and there. Our friendly canoe hirer, Warwick confessed in an unguarded moment that he did not like Prados ( Morrie's ilk ) as " they're like bums. Eveyone has one "............Geez Warwick.

Went on several walks the next day through spectacular Constance Range and Harry's Hill.

Roast pork dinner - the female flautist, Mary hit on Ian but he just didn't get it.............but that's another story.

.....and now to the title of this blog..........left Adel's Grove with minor trepidation about two of the upcoming river crossings ahead on the way to KINGFISHER CAMP ( get it?.....KFC ). Travelled through Lawn Hill station on the Savannah Way on a prety good road apart from the last 40ks of heavy and deep bull dust ( editor's note: for you golfing readers similar to bunkers at Royal Sydney Golf Club ).

Basic camp at Kingfisher but at least we got to see a Kingfisher bird...just like a kookaburra only blue.

Today ( Wednesday ) saw us get 480ks under our belt; Hell's Gate Roadhouse, many river crossings, some good road surfaces, some bad road surfaces but now we are comfortably tucked up in our tent in Borroloola.

 J & I

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pics from Grate Expectations, take 2

Morrie getting his signs ripped off and Ruth scmoozing to John

Grate Expectations

Set off from Cairns and travelled thru Mareeba and Dimbulah where  we chased down the baker whom we had helped at Cardwell after Cyclone Yasi. Then took alt. Savannah Way on dirt road for 120 odd ks thru Bullock Creek and into Mt Surprise which was back on the Savannah Way. And what a surprise it turned out to be! It seemed like a very good idea at the time for us to take Morrie not once but twice thru the high pressure vehicle washdown facility on the side of the road. Off we went feeling pretty chuffed that we'd managed to restore Morrie to his former glory and arrived in Georgetown for the night. "John, where are the 2 magnetic signs on your side of Morrie?" Oops, I wonder if they came off during Morrie's jacuzzi at Mount Surprise? Call to local police at Mount Surprise had him go down to the facility to check for missing signs but no luck. Next morning, straight into council chambers in Georgetown for further help. We needed someone to have a look under the grid/grate at the washdown. Enter Ruth. Job done. I have found your signs and have them here for collection. Return trip of 180ks to Mount Surprise and photo of Ruth after presentation of bottle of red for her trouble. You're a champion Ruth! Then on to Croydon, thru Normanton and now in Karumba at bottom of the Gulf and Oz's prawn capital. Before handing over to John, some free verse: Dead of night, far distant barking of dog, answered in the stillness by his mate. Gusts of early morning wind puff the tent sides like the cheeks of a chubby smiling kid whose eyes are bigger than his stomach.Warm. Still, yet mind racing........"To sleep, perchance to dream" Silence. Peace. Zzzzzzzz

Here's John now for the serious bit.

As we rumbled into the Georgetown caravan park we were greeted by Les.

Now, let me tell you a little about Les - normal looking cobber but the first thing that struck you was that he bought the shirt after he already had the shorts; the two different coloured thongs kind of went with paisley........" 'Ow yer goin? "...." Um good thanks......just two men and a tent thanks"

The laughter wouln't have been so disconcerting if it wasn't so derisive " Fifteen bucks will see youse both right " .a snap I thought, which of course was a temporary high as the amenities block renovations done in 1962 were in need of a little updating.

I asked Les about his career path from here and was he happy with the way Julia was spending the taxpayers coffers - he was at something of a loss to construct a thoughtful response to either but he did mention the barramudi fishing down in Johnson's creek.

Les also mentioned his cholesterol was 1 and his heart rate was 15 bpm....." No stress here yer see mate - I've got 2 pairs of shorts and my biggest decision, week in week out is whether to change from the lilac to the beige on Wensdee or Thursdee.....see that's how ya keep yer heart beat steady as "

I think that there's something in that for all of us.

The sun has now set, the crickets are chirping and the ocre township lights of Karumba are politely flickering in the distance.

I love this country.

PS Sign in amenities block: "Please put toilet lids down to keep the frogs out."

J & I...............

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adventure on the high seas (cont)

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yes, we were bound for Cairns but suddenly a dramatic turn of events..... We (that's the royal "We", ie the boat's captain) were asked to detour via Flinders Island Princess Charlotte Bay to pick up a disabled catamaran for carting (that's the right nautical word I reckon) to Cairns. Much excitement amongst the ship's passengers when we heeled to (that's again the right nautical term I reckon) 100 metres from the catamaran. Guess what its name was. San e t! Good eh! The skipper of the craft was highly agitated when hoisted aboard with his vessel, talking about the $15000 he or his insurance co would be forking out. His problem was he'd been living on the boat for 10 years and really didn't need this sort of stuff! Anyhow, after a precise and very professional rescue and crane hoist of the craft aboard our vessel we set off back on our voyage to Cairns arriving around 1pm. An emotional time for all as we farewelled Nola 1, Nola 2, Anne, John, Bert, Pere, Will, Gail, Elaine and all the other co-passengers, swearing undying love for all and promising never to forget our memorable time aboard. Sigh! The stuff dreams are made of! Washed Morrie, pumped up his tyres, bought groceries and returned to the camping ground we previously plonked down in to be greeted by mein hostess and welcomed back. How could she ever forget us! Tomorrow, after a bit of remedial attention to Morrie's dashboard, we leave for Normanton on our further circumnavigation of our wonderful continent. We have had a ball and are still talking!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adventure on the High Seas

After an anxious few moments watching our mate Morrie being loaded aboard the good ship MV Trinity Bay at Seisia we cast off ((4 hours later when the tide was most favourable) and set course for Cairns. A comfortable cabin complete with 3 bunks (John just had to try the top one sporting the porthole) and a wash basin, with an en-suite (sort of) out the door and adjacent. The ship's passengers were a reasonably homogeneous (a bit like milk) lot of SADs (editor's note: See Australia and Dies courtesy of Tim Winton) so John and I were able to keep the masses entertained with games of Trivial Pursuit, etc. John did a stint as a stand-up comedian afetr dinner and his jokes were incredibly funny or at least that's what he told us. A lovely lady Nola (1, there were 2 of them) took a shine to one or other of us and arranged a sweep to guess the time of rescue of a stranded catamaran we had been called upon to assist (more later) with proceeds to go to our charities. To be continued.....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cape York - Start to Finish

After 3 very relaxing days at Weipa with Darcy Hallam, the captain of the pilot boat at Weipa we set off for for the Cape proper.

Thunderbirds are go.

Wednesday took us from Weipa , East to Batavia Downs turning left to travel North up the Developmental Road. About 240 k's from Weipa saw us rumbling into Bramwell Homestead, adjacent to Bramwell station - 300,000 acres with 1700 head of cattle - an early and welcome stop after 264,000 corrugations which, at any speed are uncomfortable at best.

I had the meatballs and Ian had the steak - both tasted the same.

The next morning saw us onto the Old Telegraph Track ( TOTT  for us 4WD zealots ) - Palm Creek was strictly for people with not an ounce of fear in their veins as the photo wil attest:then had a look at Gunshot........ummm.......  same deal - see photos.

Cockatoo Creek crossing saw both John and Ian clench their buttocks, Ian more so as John was at the wheel ( Mother of Pearl ! )....but with the help of some people who had just done the crossing and some sage advice from the ever calm Ian, Morrie did us both proud - bonnet height but no dramas.

The ensuing corrugations saw our average speed at walking pace, in fact we were overtaken by an octogenerian butterfly called Cyril.

Fruit Bat Falls - very pretty and then onto Eliot/Twin Fals where we set up camp for the night - dashboard clips have been shaken from their mountings but all is OK. Already very happy to be thinking about not having to tackle the return journey to Cairns by road .

John's pasta Mondiale ( pasta, two types of tuna and you know that sauce that tastes like glue ) sat on our tummies for 3 days - all better now though.

After 3 more tricky creeks crossings - well done Ian - we rattled into Seisia ( near Bamaga ) at 3.34pm on Friday arvo immediately starting to swap war stories about the track. My word some people's vehicles are clearly indestructible or perhaps some exaggeration may have crept in.

Here's Ian.................

We awoke to the news on Saturday that a crocodile during the night hade munched a crab pot on the beach. Now this would not appear to be of the greatly startling variety of news except that our heads were less than 70 metres away safely (or were we?) tucked up in our trusty tent.

Then, at last, we headed for the "tip"(not rubbish, but the realiest northernmost part of mainland Oz) across another 40 ks of merciless corrugations. However, the reward was much much more than we could ever have expected....magic blue and green water, sandy beaches for miles, wonderful views and 3 motoX bikers hooning around on the beach. That last bit jarred somewhat! See photos.

Also checked out ruins of old WW2 bomber and plane debris and multiple fuel dumps outside Seisia.

Really pleased we were able to do 80% of TOTT with some reasonably challenging sections and crossings. Warning for novices: TOTT is well-named. It is OLD, it is a TRACK, but you can forget about the TELEGRAPH bit as that is almost non-existent. It is sometimes no wider than your truck and has been eroded/gouged out over the years.

Tomorrow we embark on a trip to Cairns, corrugation-free, on the good ship MV Trinity Bay. PTL and pass the wafers!

Talk soon!

J & I