Thursday, 24 December 2009

Hot water is hot, and cold water is cold

Excepting for two short stints in Tas, Jude and Len have had to add hot water to the showers for the first time in two years.
The cold water here is actually cold. How bizarre.

Traveling south from Coral Bay we swept past the Tropic of Capricorn, where we did not have to change our money or anything. Quite a disappointment, not even a security check. Nothing!

Carnarvon is, well, nice. More nice than Coral Bay we think. Perhaps.
MUCH more nice than Sandfire, which unfortunately did not get wiped off the map by cyclone Lawrence, who was vindictive enough to just miss the roadhouse.
Lawrence has now dumped all its rain on central W.A. and fizzled out, serves him right.

Another two noticeable things that have occurred by being south-ish are;
1. You can brush past palms/bushes/trees and not worry that a whole bunch of miffed green ants will swarm over you and make their bad tempers and displeasure known.
2. Little unexplained sores (probably from bites from nasty insects) heal. Len has had three that refused to get on with the healing process, and now they are healing. Hah!!!

Carnarvon is VERY windy. It has a mile long jetty (1.6k for those imperially challenged).
We walked nearly all of it yesterday. 'Nearly all' because they have a gate across the last little bit and you have to turn back. We enjoyed the walk nether the less. It was so incredibly windy it is a wonder that we did not get blown away.

It also has a pretty big radar dish, which has 85 steps to the top which you can climb and have a look around from. We will do so today, before we head off to Denham, where we will stay for Christmas and Boxing Day.
The dish was (you guessed it) a joint effort by the USA and Oz, they used it to communicate with satellites and it was where the first signals were received from the moon landing in 19 something-or-other.
It is a tourist landmark now, unused and lonely.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Stingrays don't like me

Coral Bay is a nice town.
Expensive, but nice.
Nice people, nice caravan park, nice temperature, nice beaches.

The shallow waters just before dusk had a few small stingrays feeding there.
Len decided to try and step on a tail, just to let them know he wasn't all that happy with the Steve Irwin incident.
It turns out that they can sense when a foot is near their tail, and they can also swim very quickly.
On this occasion it did an U-Turn ('a U-Turn'?) and went straight at Jessie. Although it stopped short of Jessie and resumed feeding she seemed nonplussed at the event and decided the ray was actually chasing her. Len believes that rays actually don't have a malevolent cartilage in their bodies, and that it was a chance direction away from a tail-flattening idiot.

Judith and Len continue the slow recovery from sun burn.
Jude complains when she bends her legs, but is stoic and managing very well, and Len is looking for a bandanna ($9:00 here!!) to wear on the head when next the snorkeling bug hits, which will be early tomorrow morning in fact.

So, the kids are complaining already that it is cold here. It is, must be 28-ish, and a cool sea breeze to boot.
Hope we toughen up to the post-tropical weather sooner than later,
Until next time,

The Windswept Water People

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Exmouth, sunburn, Nemo and 'What's-her-name?'

Exmouth is better than Port Hedland.

It is a small place with not much going for it excepting that it has fab beaches and great snorkelling... oh, and a bloomin' great VLF radio transmitter array.
The Yanks and the Ozzies (surprised?) use it for war purposes, you know, contacting subs and ships to tell them who to blow up etc.
The central tower is the 2nd tallest in the southern hemisphere, it says. It is supposed to be 387m high, and surrounded by 12 other towers as well. It is a bit 'Dr. Who'-ish to look at.
It looks 100m tall when you are close to it, but to be honest, you CAN see it from a very long way away, so I guess 387 is correct. The central tower weighs 800 tonnes alone. I would have guessed 80 at the most.

We taught the kids to snorkel and returned with the same number of children as we set out with, which I guess is a good thing, right.

Nemo and 1000 of his cousins made an appearance at The Oyster Stacks, as did Dory and a whole menagerie of colourful aquatic creatures, a bit like swimming in a very big Melbourne aquarium, but the plants and corals are real not fake as I am told they are in Melb!!
Apart from the astounding beauty of the underwater world I was also taken by the critters nibbling the coral. I thought some of them did it, but everyone was feasting in it today (Well, not me, obviously). They are just water-cows I have decided.

Judith has discovered that snorkeling involves lying face down in the water.
This leaves the back of the legs exposed for some time to the sun.
Now, the sun here is not the same sun we had in Darwin. No, really.
The Darwin sun, let's call it 'Dun', is generally hot but kind enough to not burn you.
The Exmouth sun, let's call this one 'Xun', is not so benelovent.
Jude's legs will need a few coats of Aloe Vera spray tonight and tomorrow and are developing a nice, but unhealthy, glow.
Sam is so tired all he can do is play PS, Jessie is sitting drying her head by letting a towel impersonate an Arabic person on her head, and Len has again realised that the smart thing to do was sunscreen the back of the legs before you burn, but forgot that he has little hair to protect his only functioning area, his head. Aloe Vera has been applied to the slightly hairy scalp.

Tomorrow we head to Coral Bay, which is supposed to be even better snorkeling than Exmouth.

Now... how do we snorkel in long pants and tops?
Until next time,

The Lobster Bake Clan.

Another day (again).... another 784ks

How many Ks can you do in this place and not go too far??

Answer: A blinkin' lot!

We went to Karratha today and decided that 2 days in Exmouth would be better than one, so we traveled on... all day actually.

It was so hot that the air-con heated up again and we had to turn it off.
Sam displayed a nice collection of sweat in his belly button, Jessie had sore eyes from sweat and Jude and I looked like salamis curing in the mid-day sun.
We opened the windows and were very cool as the sweat began to chill and evaporate.
Then we were VERY hot once that finished.
Driving into Exmouth was great, nice little place from what limited sunlight we have used to see it with so far. It is actually cool (well, probably high 20s, but that is cool, right?).

Tomorrow we sleep in, and then we teach the others to snorkel and have a look at one of the famous reefs, Ningaloo. It should be great tomorrow providing no-one drowns.

So, we are all very tired but we traveled well.
I hate to think how much diesel we used today, it was so hot the car ran right to the top of acceptable range and we had head winds as well, I am sure we did 100k less than usual for the same amount of fuel. Will check tomorrow.
We did not have anything stolen last night, except that the cover for the rear wheel is missing, either 'borrowed' or flew off during the drive today, unsure.
I did not take a pic of the disabled toilet, as I went in the monster that lurks under the leaf litter (real leaf litter) tried to swallow the camera and I could hear murmurings that were a tad unsettling from the brown stained hand-basin, so I retreated. Sorry Dear Reader.

Now, to try out the showers in Exmouth!
Happy Holidays.

The traveling Wilbury-Clarks

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Another Day, another... well 640kms

This is such a big place.

I mean, if you need a bit of flat land that no-one seems to want to do anything on, then have I got a deal for you.

500 kms today was all flat country. Nothing there except a few cows that didn't have the sense to go on walkabout until they found either water or something to eat, or both.

Then there's the heat.
Mind you, I guess 40 plus in the shade is ok, for some.
I love our air con, did I mention that before??

We were chased out of the tropics by the cyclone, it stayed just north of us.
Sam had his last Water Boy engagement with the Tiwi Bombers, who look set to be in the finals.

We went to Looma and spent a night there with the Shorts, that was great. There is 20k of gravel road into Looma, it was excellent, just graded for us, how kind.
The next day we went to Broome, and it hasn't stop raining at Looma since. Hee heee.

Two nights in Broome, even though they said they would have to evacuate us for the cyclone. It slowed down so we stayed and had a rest.

Today we drove the 600++ ks from Broome to Port Hedland. Very long day and Len's posterior is getting tired of the seat. He lays on the couch a bit now, to relieve the pain.

Port Hedland is forgettable.
Sandfire is even more so.
We stopped there (200k before Port Hedland) and took a look and got into the car and drove on, even though we wanted to have a break. Driving all your life was better than spending some/any time in Sandfire.
We are going to start a list, like Top Gear's fastest track time board.
We will put our least favorite places on the bottom, and the best on the top.
Sandfire will be on the bottom.

Mind you, we are in a caravan park that is cheap in South Port Hedland.
We have progressively found out why it is cheap.

Things get stolen in the night here and cars get broken into.
The showers have panels hanging off the walls, and the disabled toilet is well..... disabled. Not to mention that it is VERY unclean and covered in litter and filth.
I should take a pic tomorrow and publish it. I am sure you will enjoy.
Len has covered all the car windows to stop people seeing in, and parked it nose first under our outside light so one can see down both sides of the car. That should help, as well as the fact that it was pension day today, so the local indig mob should have grog and money of their own at the moment. How sad. They bring such shame to themselves.

We will try to sleep tonight with one ear alert (Australia needs more Lerts, you should become a Lert).

Tomorrow we travel only 265k to Karratha, one night and then on to Exmouth and Coral Bay. They are both at Ningaloo reef, which they say is better than the Great Barrie Reef and you can snorkel in waist deep water and be staggered.
They should be excellent and we will do some snorkeling/drowning there. We have bought a cheap disposable waterproof camera to get some wet pics. It is a film camera so we can't publish them as until we settle in Leongatha.
So, until the next time, happy trails (or is that 'happy trials'??).

The Clark Mob - Leighland Brothers

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Fitzroy and Looma

Yesterday we got to Fitzroy crossing. Took 7 hours and LOTS of diesel, which is rather expensive here!

It is very hot, but thankfully it is also dry.

I am amazed at the Indig communities that you come across in the bush. Lots of them.
It is so hot and I wonder how they can just be there all the time.... amazing.

We are off to Geikie Gourge, near Fitzroy, then to Looma for one night where we will visit with our friends Jamie and Natasha Short whom Len visited a few years back for a mission trip.

So, a hot day today.
Very thankful for the air con in the caravan I can tell you.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


we did it, took all day from 8 am 'til 6:30 pm, but we are in Kunnunurra, will be off to Ftzroy Crossing tomorow, another 8 hours and then we can step it back a bit, thankfully.

Our caravan is leaking, the door is sagging and I have broken other stuff, great start!!

Huge rains in Darwin, 100ks of wet then it was dry, which was great as I wanted to temporarily fix one of the leaks (we have 3), but ran into major rain again 40 Ks from the caravan park :-(

Will try to dry the area and tape it for now.

Didn't kill anyone or any animals (apart from a very nice but slow moving butterfly).
Saw a feral donkey again, just like last trip, and lots of roaming cattle that we always hope will not suddenly run across the road. Had to nearly stop for a mentally challenged calf though. I think he will not be long for this world, road trains take several hundreds of kilometers to stop, being 20 kilometers long themselves. I think those measurements are close, perhaps a little large.

So here I go, fixing the world with one strip of tape at a time.


Au Revouir N.T.

We head off tomorrow early, it has been amazing here, and the farewells from schools were just unbelievable. So much support and kindness it is astounding. My Tiwi brother, Bernard rang to say goodbye today, breaks my heart.

We have had the experience of a lifetime but it has come to an end, and the new chapter begins.

It has been quite wet here, heaps of tropical rain for 24 hours and a very low pressure system just off the coast tryimg to become a cyclone.
The caravan has sprung leaks for no reason, and the door is drooping, so I am a little concerned.

I hope the van lasts until we get back home at least, I will need to remove a whole side section and rebuild the collapsing door section some time.
Water was coming through a light fitting, and we have just discovered a new leak into a power point. Might be interesting in the next few days!!

We will do 8-10 hours tomorrow, and the same the next day. Meet some friends in Looma and then on to Broome, where we will have a rest day and then off to Pt Headland, a long and boring drive we believe.
We will keep this updated so you know where we are.
Bless you all,
Bye NT (sob, sob, sob).

Monday, 30 November 2009

So this is it

So, we have made a decision.

It has been long and difficult to get to.

It should have been easier.

We are off to Leongatha.

Today (01/12/09) the school in Tas was notified and the Ed department was as well that we would be not taking a position there.
South Coast Christian College were notified that we have accepted their position offered to us. Judith and Len both have positions there.
We will continue to rent out our Burnie house, and get our gear over asap (when we get some money I guess).
Jesie wil attend that school and Sam will probably go to Leongatha Secondary College.
We will rent in Leongatha.

There are family pains to deal with, which is why it has been so difficult to get to this place, but we are pretty sure that it is the right choice, for many reasons.

To any whom may find this out first on the blog and feel we should have contacted you before this I apologize, we will talk to others as soon as we are able, just thought you might like to know sooner than later.

Love to you all.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

2 2go

Well, only two weeks to go.
We packed the xtrail as a trial run yesterday, we are sending it down on the Ghan (pronounced 'Gan', as it was named after the AfGHANistan camel drivers that used to be here), they allow you to fill the car up to window height.
What does not fit into the car and the caravan will stay here. We have little here anyway.
We leave on Saturday the 12th or Sunday the 13th (Sam wants to do a waterboy job for the Tiwi Bombers and Jessie has been invited to a birthday party for Saturday).
We plan to drive down W.A., trying to get to the Broome area in two days (8 hours driving a day for two days!). We want to see Jamie and Natasha Short at Looma (near Fitzroy Crossing) if it is dry enough to get in there. We would only stay for a day and then head off. Broome by 14th or 15th.
Then racing down the west and back to Melbourne.

On the job front....

Leongatha (South Coast Christian College) unexpectedly rang back with a job offer for Len (Woodwork, Music, Art and Business studies) and 2 days a week for Judith (on class).
The next morning there was also an offer from Somerset Primary school for Len (On a grade 2 class (HAAA HAAAAA) and 2 days of music.

There may also be an offer from Penguin High for Len (3 days lower High school Art and 2 days Music). We find out on Monday or Tuesday about that we hope.

We need to decide by Wednesday, as the one/s Len does not take will need to be filled by the schools and we want to give them the best time frame possible.

At the moment we are pretty uncomfortable with the Somerset option. There are several issues there which may make it an unpleasant place to be.
Firstly being on a grade 2 class would be a stretch possibly, and a big unknown for Len.
Secondly there are some there that are not Christian friendly. Judith worked with one there some time ago and would not do so again, and other friends have had poor experiences (very poor!) for the same reasons. It is not a matter of differences of opinions, which we can live with. It was issues of active aggression that made working with a person there actually very bleak and impossible in the end. We have done some checking if this may have changed and have been warned off by several who know. However the Principal has gone out of her way to make the position available, so that is really good and we are thankful for her efforts, but there are serious questions we are unable to resolve as yet. Whilst it is still an option, it is unlikely that Len will take this position.


Leongatha (SCCC) would enable us to speak freely there, and teach freely as well. Also there is a job for Judith immediately, so that is a plus. There is an awesome music programme, Nationally recognised, a huge sports programme and a community that even shuts the shops (smaller ones) at midday on Saturdays so families can go to the sports together. It is impressively clean, and friendly. Sam would go to a different school than where we taught if we go there, and if you want an idea of what others schools are like have a look at the Leongatha Secondary College website

There would be a substantial amount of pain for one member of our family in particular if we choose there, and we are not sure how to manage that. We feel this pain strongly. We love them deeply.

Returning to Burnie has issues for us as well, church and schooling for Jessie being the main two obstacles.

So, many sleepless nights, endless debates, upset stomachs and the inability to do the best for everyone in one place all need to be resolved by Wednesday.

Sam flew off to Nguiu, Tiwi yesterday and did his water boy job. He had a chance to say goodbye to some boys he knows, and he said one boy had to walk away as he had tears in his eyes. The Tiwi take friendships very seriously as do all Indigenous. He has had a ball doing this job and the team love him. He has a Tiwi Bombers shirt that he is proud of as well, only team members and support staff get them.
Jessie is at yet another sleep-over and returns at 10am today, Sunday 29th.
Judith is sleeping in!
Len is enjoying a cup of tea.
Now you know what we are all up to!

Your comments and prayers are welcomed.
Thanks to you all for your kindness shown to us.
Our two year adventure draws in, the Mist of God is a little clearer but no less painful.
Until next post,

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Hi Y'all.
Nearly three left.
What has happened.
Well, still no job.
Len has applied for one at Penguin High School that would be good, we think.
We have booked the Spirit to return to Tas.
We still don't want to leave the great jobs here, so it is getting tougher each day.
your support is appreciated.
Where will we end up?
Who knows
Post again soon.

Saturday, 14 November 2009


4 to go...
Cor how time flies.

So, Len didn't get the job at Leongatha.

or the one at Kingston.

(no one love me :-)

Actually, they needed other curriculum area specialist in both cases, so its understandable.

The builders have arrived. From 7:00 am 'till 5:00 pm they concrete cut and removed.
We now have a great pile of mud to traverse as we get to the door, so it is fun.....not.

It was great to see the builders again, we knew most of them from Tiwi.

This weekend we will sort out the remainder of our stuff, ready for the caravan trip and remove all other. Basically anything that won't fit into the caravan for the trip, and what we can send back in the xTrail is all we will take.

The day looms large, and it will be a wrench to leave the schools we are at, especially Len and working with the indigenous mob, as there is amazing connection and progress there. That will be very sad indeed.

So, for those in Tasmania, we will see you soon!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

THE MISTS OF GOD - next step

Hi all.
We are counting down in earnest now. Only 6 weeks to go.

To update you all....

This Thursday night Len flies down to Leongatha to have a look at the school there, where there is a job comprising music, woodwork and sundry tasks. Leongatha is 2 hours SE of Melbourne in the Gippsland area. It is small-ish school that wants to grow and seems like a good place to be.

There is also a position in Kingston, below Hobart.
This one closes next Friday and we have asked them if we might get some idea if Len is in the running or not, as Leongatha need an answer as soon as we are able to.

Apart from that, there are no other jobs in the pipeline at this stage. this means that we are not really able to pack successfully, as we don't now where to send the car and a car full of gear (which we are down to now).

On the living front, we are still squatting at Driver Avenue. We were just told that some builders will arrive in the next two weeks to start cutting concrete etc. Someone will live on site in a caravan, and will need to use the toilets etc. This might be too much for us and we will move out earlier than anticipated and return to our 'home', the Free Spirit Resort and live in the caravan for the last few weeks.

Both our jobs up here are fantastic and we both will miss them. Len is having an excellent time at Marrara and the end of the year will be quite painful actually. Comments from staff are so amazingly encouraging that it is making it even more difficult to leave that it was earlier in the year.
Jude loves Litchfield Christian School and this too will be difficult to leave.

A simple (for us) solution is for immediate family move up here!

We have Terry and Cheryl Young visiting, they are here for two weeks and leave on Wednesday. They have just left (Saturday) for Kakadu, for two days. It has been great to have them here.
Bevan French is here today from Tiwi, and we also have Ryan Warlapinni staying, a student from Tiwi College. Sam is very excited to see him again. He will move about with us this weekend and catch the ferry home Monday morning.
So, it is very busy, eight in the house and all. But it is also very nice having them as well.

So, as we work towards our next move, please keep us in your thoughts, and feel free to comment below.
Until next time.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

What next??

Here we are, 8 weeks today from when we plan to drive away from Darwin and begin our journey south. As we say that is the plan at this stage. The school year finishes then, it will be the beginning of the wet, hot, sticky weather. Our "plan" is to move out of the house we are in at present about a week before that and live in our van, back at the Free Spirit Resort for the final week. Seems fitting that we began our time up here, in a cabin at the FS for about 8 weeks. We also hope to meet up with the French family (friends of ours who came up with us and were also at FS and over on Tiwi with us) on the Friday night. We will have a final meal together there, a swim in the pool and chat about where we will all be heading from there. Seems all so strange but nice too that it is wrapping up in this way.

As we said, we "plan" to drive to the southern states via Western Australia, to be in Tassie by 23rd of January for my niece Jayne's wedding, then to celebrate a late Christmas with family and friends. Christmas for us will be in the van, somewhere down Western Australia. Of course this all counts on the rain not being too heavy by this stage, the road to WA may be impassable and we may have to head through the centre or via the East Coast.

If we have jobs in Tassie ready for us, we will head over on the Spirit of Tas and after the wedding be ready to settle back in for the new school year. If we don't have jobs, we may need to consider Victoria. We do feel that where ever we end up next year though, we will need to stay put for a few years, to allow Jess and Sam to settle in school, and particularly Sam to move through years 9 - 12.

At present Len is applying for jobs in both Tassie and Victoria, hoping for some nibbles, but still waiting. There definitely aren't many in his teaching field in Tassie at the moment. It is all a great time for patience, seeking, hoping and praying. In the words of Sam, "Something will turn up, it has before".

In the meantime, we continue working, both Len and Jude thoroughly enjoying their schools, probably the happiest we have been in our work for a long time - a bit of a shame we will be leaving really. Sam is enjoying playing in an indoor cricket team now that outdoor is finished for the year. Both he and Jess are reasonably happy at school and have made a few friends.

We are all very thankful for all we have done over the last 2 years and wait in bated breath for what exciting adventures await. As someone said to Len, it is like walking into the mists of God.
At church last week, a new song (for us), had a great section in it,

"You took me out of the deepest sea
You gave my soul a song to sing
You took me up on a mountain top
I see my life in a different light."

This was a great song for us at this point in our lives and for the time we have been up here. I hope and pray we can go back to a more "normal" life but hang on to all we have learnt from being away. Now that we have seen our life in a different light, it would be good to use what we have and go for it, for God.

Your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.

Back from the West, still in one piece (Episode 3)

After our great experience at Marglu Lagoon, we headed back in to Kununurra for one more night, stocked up on supplies, had an interesting experience at the local chicken take away shop. Len and the children were getting our tea while I finished off the groceries. They found themselves sitting amidst a fight breaking out, police arriving, people massing around. Meanwhile, they sat reasonably calmly waiting for their meal to be ready. If we hadn't had all our experiences the last 2 years this probably would have been a pretty scary experience for them, but they were all quite calm and safe as well. Praise God! As I came out with the trolley and heard/saw all the action over there I was naturally worried for them all and wondered what on earth was going on.

The next day we set off for Lake Argyle, lovely drive in, good roads and quite picturesque. The caravan park at Lake Argyle Village was a pleasant spot, clean and casual. We explored the area, were amazed by the small dam wall which had created such as massive lake. Below right is the dam wall, taken from the Ord River side. The left shot is looking back down the river. Below is the Lake Argyle side of the dam wall and looking out over the Lake. It is something like 35 km by 75 km.

We were all pretty amazed by the sheer size of this project, and to us as complete amateurs, it seemed to be such a positive thing not only for the communities of this area but also for the environment. It would be great if other places in Aus could tap in to the natural supply of rain water each year. Even if this Lake had no rain for 25 years they would still have plenty of water for all the irrigation etc for the region. But of course they get the wet season every year so the water quantity is huge. They even have to let some of it go, enough that would provide water for other parts of Australia. What a pity they can't come up with a cost effective way to move it south. The water capacity of the lake is nearly 20 times that of Sydney Harbour.

On our second day there we decided to treat ourselves to a Sunset cruise on the Lake, and a treat it was. First we watched a dvd about the construction of the Lake, most of the resources used were found in the immediate area too. The cruise just showed us again how awesome the size of this place was. We were on the boat for about 4 hours, and only saw about 1/4 of the Lake. We saw various birds, a few rock wallaby, some fish (the Archer fish were cool, they spat water at you when you were feeding them). We had one swim half way through the cruise in water around 26 degrees - beautiful. A little daunting that the solid ground was up to 19 metres below you - we stayed close to the boat. The kids loved it. Later, at sunset, the boat was stopped again for a second swim, complimentary drinks, dip and crackers, all while floating around in the water again watching the sun go down. Wow, what a great moment. This time they gave us noodles to bob around on so we could relax a bit more.

What a wonderful day and experience. One of those again that we will never forget. We seem to have so many of those from the last couple of years, we better get some extra long term memory storage for all these great moments.

After our 2 nights at Lake Argyle, we set off back to NT, the border only about 1/2 hours drive from Lake Argyle. We stopped at Timber Creek for lunch, met a guy from Wynyard who is travelling round Aus on his own after his wife died. Then on we went to Katherine. Decided to stay there for a couple of nights and relax a bit before heading home. The caravan park was one of the best we had. Well laid out and concrete slabs for all sites. Incredibly noisy bats as the sunset though, quite an amazing sight and sounds. We also had a meal with Colin & Merran Smith. They are the couple who let us use their house in Gunn when we first came over from Tiwi. Judith is now working at Litchfield Christian School, sharing the class with Merran and Colin is the principal. They also went to the Kunurra area for the holidays. Enjoyed relaxing for the 2 days, went to the Katherine hot springs and on our journey back we went in to Edith Falls, another very pretty spot which we had never seen, just north of Katherine. Had a swim and on we went back for home. A great 10 days, and the van and Prado had served us well. A few things to fix or improve on, but now we feel ready for the journey at the end of the year.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Back from the West and still in one piece (Episode 2)

After leaving Turkey Creek we travelled north ready to drive in the Gibb River Road to the El Questro area - looking forward to seeing various gorges, waterholes etc. All was supposed to be very beautiful. We got to the turn off, knew it would be dirt road but the map indicated major unsealed which usually meant reasonable condition. In we went, hoping it would be fine for our poor old van. After the first km we were worried, the corrogations were terrible!!! What should we do, maybe it gets better. We continued for almost 10 km, some bits were better but mostly just the same. Len was even worried for the Prado and it is 4 WD. We stopped again and made the decision, we would turn back. If we went in it was 50 km, 100 km round trip (OF THIS!!!) It wasn't worth damaging everything so back we went. We stopped at the turn off and looked in the van and things were being thrown about, a door broken, oven door off etc. We were glad we didn't continue. (Left is a picture of our trusty van and Prado - before Gibb River Road)

We then decided to drive up to Wyndham, the most northerly town in WA although apparently not much to see or do there. People were right, very small, quiet, but it does have a port and the meeting of 5 rivers. There is a good lookout to go up and see the whole area, but unfortunately on this day it was very hazy, think it might have been some of the dust from east drifting across. (Right is Wyndham)

We spoke to the local tourist lady and she was gobsmacked when we told her we went in the Gibb River Road with our van, she reckons she wouldn't take her 4 WD in there. Apparently it gets graded and is often quite good, but it is now the wrong end of the tourist season, we copped the worst. She suggested staying at Parry Creek farm so we drove a few km south of Wyndham and drove in to there. A beautiful little oasis, lovely pool, its own lagoon and good ammenities. We stayed overnight and also checked out the dreamtime statues, giant croc, big boab and look out in Wyndham.

On the second day before we left we drove in to Marglu Lagoon, near Parry Creek. If we had gone to El Questro we probably wouldn't have seen this and we are so pleased we did. We have never seen such a huge number of birds in one place. There were nearly 50 brolgas, pelicans, magpie geese, egrets, whistling ducks, and numerous others. We also spotted a couple of decent sized saltwater crocs. One which had a very foolish bird walking close to the sharp end. We sat for
about an hour, enjoying the sights and sounds. It was like we were in their world but they didn't notice or at least didn't care. A great experience.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Back from the West and still in one piece!! (Episode 1)

We did it. The Prado, the van, 4 people, 12 days, another amazing adventure. It was a great time to sort out anything else we need to do with the van before our 6 week trip down through WA heading south at the end of the year. We all had our allocated jobs, so by the time we got back home we had the time for packing up and setting up running quite smoothly - Fantastic! We are so pleased with the van, its size and layout. It really was a good buy and will be a great family van for many holidays to come.

We drove from Palmerston to Victoria River on the first day, a small caravan park and roadhouse. Beautiful setting amongst the trees and watching the sun set.(Above - Victoria River)

Second day we drove across the border into WA and stayed in Ivanhoe Caravan Park at Kununurra for. We loved seeing the changing countryside, WA is much more hilly than NT. Also enjoyed the arrival of the Boabs, we all really like these trees, they have so much character. The border crossing is reasonably strict, no fruit, veg, nuts etc. Turned the clocks back 1 1/2 hours. Explored the township, went to Kelly's Knob lookout and watched the sunset, checked out the agriculture - good soil, and an over abundance of water in the area, also drove across Ivanhoe crossing, part of the original road through from Kununurra to Wyndham.

Placing the photos in the right place on a blog is obviously a bit tricky. These photos are boab trees, us driving over Ivanhoe crossing and the sunset over Kununurra.

After 2 nights at Kununurra, we decided to tackle the Bungle Bungles. We made the journey south to the Turkey Creek Roadhouse (Warmun community) We camped there overnight, ready to head off early the next morning into Purnululu National Park (The Bungle Bungles) A 4WD track only, through Mable Downs station and then the national park, only about 50 km but the time was about 1 1/2 hours of bouncing over corrugations, round bends and a few water crossings (not deep though) Finally we made it and were so pleased we did. Went to Cathedral Gorge, saw the domes typical of the Bungles, and into Echidna Chasm. It was very hot, so we were pleased to leave by early afternoon, but glad we made the trek, Len's life long dream now a reality!! We stayed another night at Turkey Creek, and realised you needed to watch out for the locals when heading to the toilet block.

Friday, 18 September 2009


The air con went in..... whooo hooooo

It would have been like being in a tin can in the desert without it.

Actually, it is a tin can in the desert.

So, that's why it was hot!

Very cool.
And hot, if we want.

Kunnunara here we come.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The mists of God

Hi all.
We are about to have two weeks holidays, perhaps our last here in the Darwin end of N.T.

For the first week we will head to Kunnunura, which is just into W.A. at the top end.
It will take two days to get there.
They say it is very pretty (but they also may not have been to Tasmania!), and it is a couple of hours away from the Bungle Bungles. It take two hours from Kunnunura to the Bungle turn off, and another two hours to do the 40 kilometers into the park. It is obviously not a highway for that section. We will test out the Prado.
We are installing a domestic air-con onto the caravan (tonight, all being well) so we can survive the temp during the day. Electric brakes are wired in now, and we are ready to roll on Saturday 19th.
We will post some pics when we return.

Family are all well, with some bites from the Midgies for us all. Jess in particular has bite marks everywhere on her legs, then Len is next worst, with Jude and Sam doing pretty well.
The bugs are so small you can't usually see them, but they pack a punch.
Sam was entered into an orienteering competition. He has never done it before and we hoped he would be paired with a boy who had done it before. Some got lost last year, they tell us.
He went and there was the only boy without a partner.
He came second, much to his amusement and delight.
He also just won a tennis racket for being the best tennis player in the school's competition.
Now he isn't sure if he wants to be a famous tennis or cricket player!
He got four wickets in ten overs for 23 runs last game of cricket. He assisted a run-out and had a couple of other catches dropped from his bowling. This was in a game where the opposition were flogging his team, so he does very well indeed.

As for us moving back to Tas.
Well, we need jobs for that to happen. At the moment we have no idea of the future or the location we will be in.
A man up here who is in the same position said it was like walking into the mists of God.
That is certainly how it feels.

Both Jude and Len could have great jobs here if we stayed, and they ask us all the time to remain, but family calls us home.
Mind you, housing up here is hugely expensive, rents for a average home is around $500 per week.
So, we work and we wait. The mist rolls in and we will see what happens.
Until next time.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The end is nigh

Well, we have been in the house for some weeks now, sleeping on mattresses on the floor etc. It has been good to have more space and a yard. We even have a plunge pool that is crystal clear now. It was a green that you could walk on.
Some grass has braved its way up since we have put some water on it, but not the front yard, which remains brown and littered.

There are huge trees and palms all around the place, fruit bats love them.
They pooped on the new (to us) Prado and I didn't see it, and it was before I polished the car. I now have places where it is down to metal! They have very acidic poo. Swines!
We have put a cover over the caravan roof for the same reason.

One of my (Len) brothers lives in Qld with Mum, he called a couple of weeks ago, and he was at Coolalinga. Coolalinga is 10 minutes south of where we are!
He 'wanted to go for a drive'. 3500ks is a 'drive' I guess!

He and his latest partner (Chrissy) are in the caravan for a while.
They will return to Qld next week, I am told.

The Dry is over. It hasn't rained here yet since the Wet, but the temp is rising (34 instead of 32) and so is the humidity, but not too bad so far.

School for me has been excellent. Lots of good stuff happening with students and especially indigenous kids.
Jude is now working 2 days a week at Litchfield Christian School, she says it is the best school she has worked at, and she loves the class, the kids are genuine country folk, horses and all.

Having to find work in Tas. and getting all cold again is not a pleasant thought, but it will be nice to see everyone again of course.

Sam is at his last cricket game of the season. His team has not won a game all year, so today is the last chance. He is already talking about indoor cricket!! Can't stop him. His bowling is excellent and much improved on last year, which was pretty good already. He is dissapointed that some members of the team don't take it as seriously as he does, hence the losses. The coaches have done a great job, in the face of low enthusiasm.

Jess is doing fine, school is ok and all seems smooth enough for her.
(Pretty quiet life she leads).

So, that's where we are at.
Starting to inquire about jobs, fares etc.
Money may be an issue, but we seem to survive somehow, so we should be back in Tas in late January.

Until next post.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Big Brother Returns

Hi all.
I have just had an email from a bloke who found the Blog and asked a few questions.
I made this public again so all could see it, not expecting a search for 'Tiwi' would bring it up.
As there is private opinions on it, I have again made it Private.

We moved into a house last night!
Whooo hoooooo

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Post Vietnam

Today is a long weekend here in Darwin. It’s show weekend.
I sit in the rapidly warming caravan listening to warplanes roar just above our heads. It’s war game season in the Top End. They go night and day.
And they are loud!

What have we been up to?
Cor, where to begin.

We worked away until the mid year holidays and then flew to Vietnam.
Vietnam will take the focus of most of this blog, OK.

We flew into Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) and went to a luxurious hotel, The Metropole. It was actually quite good.
We went to theme parks, markets and jostled along with the traffic. Pictures speak a thousand words, so I will upload plenty for this blog.
We then went south to the Mekong Delta area. Expecting it to be ‘in the bush’ we were surprised to have it built up all the way, and then some.
We saw a bloke whose foot had just been crushed by some vehicle, blood everywhere and people running with bandages from who-knows-where.
We saw a couple of more accidents in our two weeks there. They manage to dispatch 14,000 a year on the roads. That does not seem to have dented the traffic though, and it is amazing it is not more.
We went across on a quaint boat to an island, then a canoe up a stream, then a donkey and cart, more boats and back. Too much food, but a great time anyway.
It was very surreal to be the only tourists in a shop/eatery place and the waitresses stopped cleaning up, stood in front of us and sang some traditional music, standing only a meter or so away. A bit daunting, but not quite as daunting as the ‘offering bowl’ quietly placed in front of us when they finished. We gave them a tip, surprise, surprise.
On the way down I mentioned to the guide that we wanted to try Durian. A fruit banned from many hotels because it stinks like off meat/milk/sick stuff.
He immediately got the driver to pull over and purchased one for us. The seller lady opened it up as I prepared to ignore the smell because ‘it is very nice if you can get past the smell’.
The first thing I noticed was that the large fruit opens in three segments, and each has a nut in the middle of the fruit. (Bananas also are in three sections, try it!)
The second thing I noticed was that it had a squishy slimy, pale beige thing happening. Highly unattractive and lessened my resolve a little.
Anyway, we all tried a piece. The guide wolfed it down happy as a pig in Durian.
Sam said he was going to vomit and quickly turned for the grass behind him. Jude and Jess said it was ‘OK’, but it lacked any conviction. I said it was a mistake.
Needing fairly urgently to rescue our taste buds from the assault we raced across the road to buy cold drinks. We all selected one except Jude, who was being spoken to about the various drinks that were not known to us. She selected one called ‘Winter Melon’. Quite a favourite in Vietnam, we were told.
After a sip, Jude offered us all a taste.
There IS one thing worse than Durian.
It is Winter Melon drink.
Not trying to overstate it, it tasted like cigarette buts taken from a urinal and soaked for a while to release the full flavour.
My whole can of Pepsi did not dent the taste, sadly. I resorted to munching more of the sure fire remedy for motion sickness, Ginger. That helped both by removing the taste over time, and stopped me being sick.
Jude persevered for a while (amazing woman) until we got to the Mekong Delta boat place, where the guide said he had to go to the ‘Happy Room’. We waited until he returned and then asked if we could find a toilet.
‘I already told you I was going to the Happy Room’ he replied.
OK, ‘Happy Room’ = toilet.
Jude went and decided to discard the remainder of the drink down the Happy Room facility only to discover that it is actually the same colour as cigarettes-taken-from-a-urinal juice. None of us tried it again.

We flew to Hanoi from Saigon and stayed at the Hotel Luxor, in the Old Quarter. They were great, and ended up like family. Mind you, I think that is where we got Salmonella, which I still have (27/7/9). But they were great, and I would stay there again.
More shops, Pagodas, Museums, Parks, Cyclos, and bikes.
From there we went to Sapa, in North West Vietnam. It is a 5 hour train ride, then a couple more hours in a taxi up and up and up.
Much cooler, and very beautiful. The ability to farm rice on 45 degree slopes is amazing. Mind you they have been at it for a few thousand years, so I guess it all took some time to get to where they are today.
We visited three villages, and the Black Mongh are the most ‘active’ of all the sellers. We finally worked out how to get rid of them, bit it takes some convincing them that we WILL NOT BUY FROM YOU TODAY AND IF YOU FOLLOW US FOR THE NEXT FEW HOURS YOU WILL BE WASTING YOUR TIME SO WHY NOT STAY HER AND GETTHENEXTTOURISTLOTASTHEYARRIVEOKOKOK!!!!!!!
They got the message and we had a fantastic walk into the last village.
One of the amazing things is the farming of hemp, which the strip, dye and colour to make their own clothing. We should farm hemp here.
We went into the home of a villager, who are accustomed to having strangers poke around their homes, they have spare beds for guests available all the time and are very hospitable.
They are in an area that snows in Winter, yet they have no windows, the walls are not sealed and are on dirt floors with a pot for cooking and a pot for bathing. The young people go somewhere outside to toilet, the elderly have a little square section inside, against a wall and they put some ashes over when they are finished. Amazingly it did not smell at all. Their way of life has not changed for centuries, but it is only 10 years since tourism hit them. Some say that it will all end in the next ten years, sadly. They are extremely happy people.
It seems that you don’t need Maccas, DS’s or Xbox-iPod-Phone-computer-cars-and-planes to be genuinely happy.
Who would have guessed?
The scenery was amazing and we sadly farewelled Sapa to go back to the train and Hanoi.
The next adventure was a trip to Halong Bay, two hours car ride from Hanoi.
We stayed on a ship that was amazing. The whole thing was amazing.
Did I mention it was amazing?
I kinda had to hide the camera a bit as that’s all I wanted to do, it is so photogenic.
I loved all the seafood, then loved all the seafood again, then liked ALL the seafood again, then was a bit over the seafood and then…… well, I was so stuffed with food that I thought I could never possibly be hungry again.
Each meal was in 8 or so courses. It just kept coming. We sent most of it back in the end, we were told they gave the excess to poor people, so I felt better about it then.
Jude and I had a massage, whilst we watched the bay slip along.
My masseur wanted to put her thumbs through my calf muscles and I valiantly tried not to whimper or cry. I almost succeeded. Judith’s lady, on the other hand had a voice that was the closest to singing in angelic voices I have ever heard. She was amazing (did I mention amazing yet?). I would have paid to have her just speak quietly whilst I lay there.
We visited a floating village, caves, and went through a hole into an internal lake thing. Fantastic and a real highlight of our time there.

We returned to Hanoi, then Saigon and home again.

We are now in a too-hot caravan in Darwin, the same place we started the adventure in 18 months ago. We will hopefully move for a time to a house that needs work that Marrara Christian School is buying, and then… well, I don’t know.
We intend to return to Tas next year, but I must get a job first.
We will travel for 5 weeks down W.A. and back. If there is no job then we will have to return here, as I am asked to stay every day. Flattering but also sad that I can’t.

I am presently on sick leave. Rare for me, but the effects of Vietnam linger on, and the local Pathology Dept knows us well now!

Well, hope that fills in the gaps a bit. Let us know if you would like to know anything else.