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!