Aussie Driving Tour
Aussie Driving Tour
We have officially finished our road trip around Australia!
The last leg of the journey, all along the southern coast took 51 days and covered 11,777 km.
In total, we drove 22,500 km in 5 months.
The Great Ocean Road
After leaving Tasmania, we had one final drive to complete the trip, the famous Great Ocean Road. Just west of Melbourne, the Victorian coastline has some beautiful cliffs, all in various states of erosion, falling into the ocean. There are many distinct features to stop and see.
The most well-known (and most-visited) are the 12 Apostles, twelve limestone towers scattered along a stretch of beach.
Did I mention it was crowded? We had to actively dodge selfie sticks for 1 km.
The best part of the trip for me, was, of course, a chance to see wild koalas. There were several places to easily spot them sleeping in the trees in various towns along the highway. We lucked out at the first one with this beauty, hanging out with a flock of king parrots.
Next stop on the way back to Sydney was a fantastic microbrewery, Prickly Moses Brewery at Otway Estate. Paul got to taste 10 beers, and I had a nice refreshing cider. A rain squall came through while we were there so we happily stayed indoors drinking.
We stopped briefly in Canberra, the capital of Australia, to see the unusual government center, check off the last Australian state ACT (Australian Capital Territory, like Washington DC)– and see Star Wars 🙂
We finally arrived in Sydney on December 23, just in time for the holidays. We spent Christmas with Linda, Fergus and the rest of the family in the Blue Mountains (where we visited when we first arrived in Australia). It was wonderful to be welcomed into their family celebrations for our first Christmas away from home. Needless to say, we were well fed. A great Christmas Eve spaghetti dinner, and a Christmas lunch of salads, cheese, dips, ham, crisps and more.
After that huge lunch, Paul, Fergus and Linda managed to go out on a Christmas hike along Darwin’s Track (again, the same one we did back in June). I managed to get on the couch to watch a documentary instead.
Christmas Dinner was spectacular, roasted chickens, potatoes, vegetables followed by a smorgasbord of dessert: Christmas plum pudding (steamed and covered in brandy sauce), minced fruit pies, fresh fruit, whipped cream, lemon & mango sorbet, chocolates and ice cream. We can’t thank them enough for including us in all the delicious meals and the sharing of gifts.
A few days later, Paul celebrated his 29th birthday at a great little Sydney microbrewery.
We also re-visited Bondi Beach, now in its summer-glory, full of holiday crowds.
And we finished up 2015 by going out New Year’s Eve to Darling Harbour, enjoying the beautiful light displays and a magnificent fireworks show!
It’s been a fantastic 2015, full of crazy adventures and unforgettable experiences, we can only hope to accomplish as much in 2016. Happy New Year and thanks for reading!
Christina & Paul
We have successfully finished the journey along the West Coast of Australia! From Broome to the Cape took us 50 days and we travelled 13,175 km!
As a grand hurrah (and a break from all the driving), we decided to go on a 4 day backpacking trip along the Cape to Cape track in the Margaret River area. It’s one of the most well-travelled trails, and we had plenty of company. Since there are a few towns along the way, many people opt for a more luxurious walk staying at hotels, eating out and even getting picked up/dropped-off each day, but we wanted to be true to form and pack-in pack-out everything we needed. We only did the first half of the trail which was 65km of gorgeous rugged coast and long sandy beaches, starting at Cape Naturaliste in the north and ending in Prevally–which includes crossing the Margaret River. [The full hike is 135km, and takes 5-8 days].
Here we are at the start of the trip, looking like normal people…
Not even 2km into the hike, we saw a snake! Not just any snake, a brown snake…the first venomous snake we’ve seen the entire time in Australia (geez, only took us 4 months)!
The beach walking was grueling!
One morning, we ran across this little bunny on the trail. We approached quietly so I could get a good photo, and slowly we realized she wasn’t doing too well. I got even closer and nudged her with my boot, and she barely noticed, and then almost fell over…poor little dying bunny…
Turns out A LOT of the trail was sandy, even inland. Sometimes we were on 4WD tracks, as a lot of good surfing beaches were tucked away along this coastline.
Days 3 and 4 we saw lots of goannas! We’d been missing them most of the trip, but here they enjoyed basking in the sun along the trail, so we were thrilled!
Finally, we made it!
The next day (after a nice shower, pizza and cocktails) we drove down to the southern tip to officially finish our route along the West Coast!
Now, time to head east for the last leg of the trip!
Upon our arrival in Broome, we officially completed the Savannah Way across the north of Australia! From Cape Tribulation on the northeast coast, we drove 6,908 km in 32 days, and were thrilled to see the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean!
Broome is famous for Cable Beach, a huge pristine white sand beach, voted the #1 beach in all of Australia! It certainly was wonderful to jump in the ocean after spending endless days in the red dusty outback. After all the waterholes, rivers and lakes, the saltwater was so strange!
Not as strange as the camel caravans that appeared silently behind us…
Broome (and the Dampier Peninsula to the north) is also revered by paleontologists for its dazzling collection of dinosaur footprints—a rare treat anywhere in the world—but here they have the prints of over 20 different species, from 120 million years ago. There’s even one right in town you can see at low tide.
Just behind the footprint is the best place to watch the sunset, with fabulous rocks to catch the light.
The main event, however, was Indian curry and beer tastings at Matso’s. They are especially famous for their tasty ginger beer, so Christina was happy too. A delicious dinner to celebrate our trip across the north!
From here we travel south along the Coral Coast, eager to see the western reefs!
The route from Cairns, Queensland through the Northern Territory to Broome, Western Australia is called the Savannah Way, and it basically cuts across all of northern Australia.
As we leave the East Coast, we quickly enter the outback, red roads and all. Our first stop on the journey west is Undara, home of some spectacular lava tubes. On the first night we took a sunset wildlife tour, complete with champagne and appetizers:
The main event was sitting at the opening of one of the lava tubes while bats whizzed past us right above our heads, heading out into the night for their evening feed. Roughly 2,000 little micro bats came streaming out (in the wet season almost 20,000 bats flood out at once!)
The next morning we got to see the lava tubes in their full glory. The tubes we walked through were created about 190,000 years ago by the Undara Volcano, which boasts the longest flow of lava the world (the name Undara is aboriginal for “a long way”). They were gorgeous:
Gulf of Carpentaria
As we continued our drive west, we went through some of the smallest, most remote towns of the entire trip. Many of the them just have a single roadhouse (gas station with some groceries), but others have some visitor centers with historical information. Croydon was one such stop, which had its very own little movie theater/screening room showing a film about the Australian gold rush in 1885. Next up was Normanton, which we thought would be a bustling town by comparison, but alas, it was still only a single street with a couple stores. As we loaded up on supplies, we were struck by certain items being kept in the refrigerator, like rice, pasta, flour, etc, (a hint to the temperatures they endure out here) and the very obvious lack of fresh produce. The most notable feature in town was the 30 foot crocodile statue, an exact replica of the beast caught in the river nearby. Yikes.
Since we had driven all the way out here, we couldn’t skip the detour north to the actual coast, a little place called Karumba. We hopped out of the car and walked eagerly toward the water, hoping to be able to dip our toes into the Gulf of Carpentaria, but we were thwarted again by crocs hazard.
The beach itself, however, was pretty remarkable. The giant slabs of rock, upon closer inspection, were actually compressed sea shells—billions of shells. It was quite beautiful.
And then Paul found a dead pufferfish which was pretty awesome.
We heard wonderful things about this national park called Lawn Hill Gorge (whose original name is Boodjamulla), so we decided to check it out, even though it called for some off-roading. By off-roading I mean the sealed (paved) road ended half way and we got to endure 40km of rough, corrugated dirt:
After a long, slow drive in, we finally made it. This gorge has been continuously inhabited for over 35,000 years. Let me just say that again: continuously inhabited for over 35,000 years. With year-round water in a near-desert, it’s easy to see why. It’s a true oasis.
As we travel around the country, we meet some great folks: European backpackers, young aussie families (some with too many kids for our taste), lots of former teachers turned grey nomad, and they’ve all been incredibly friendly and helpful, ready to give advice and tips. However, we’ve also realized there are some people on the road who we’d prefer not to encounter again. One of them was Max. Paul and I were sitting at our campsite on our last evening in the park, about to start preparing dinner. As many grey nomads do, Max was walking around the campground, checking out other people’s setups and drinking a glass of wine (with a koozie). We waved hello and smiled, happy to have a chat with another human being, so he came over. Immediately I could tell something was different. He wouldn’t look me (Christina) in the eyes. It took a good 5 minutes of chitchat before he even glanced at me. Seemed strange, but whatever, I’ll give it a pass. But as the conversation continues, a few things start to stand out: he enjoys boasting about his successful career in agriculture (he apparently designed and built half the food factories in Oz, and has travelled internationally extensively meeting many agro hotshots and stealing trade secrets), he’s racist (he boasted about laying-off 999 asian workers –keeping one to drive the new labor-reducing tractor he designed…he laughed a good bit at this one hahaha, he’s vehemently against immigrants coming to Oz on those boats, he thinks the brahman cows from India are OK, but not the people), he loves to kill animals (on his last trip to Kakadu he shot over 50 donkeys (feral)—they’re so stupid he says because when you shoot one the rest just walk over to see what happened, he once shot 2000 kangaroos, supposedly for a meat cull, he even has a gun in his truck right now, “just in case” even though it’s illegal here), and he’s sexist too (the damned wife shouldn’t be in charge of navigation, and of course, the whole eye contact thing). So all in all, it was a very enlightening talk. We learned that Australia is a lot more like home than we imagined. Gulp.
At our most northern point we have driven 5102 km (3,170 miles) in 33 days. We’ve been to the Great Barrier Reef, a handful of national parks, and taken a car ferry ride. We’ve couchsurfed twice, survived more than a few rainy days, and enjoyed the warmth of the tropics. It’s only been a little over four weeks but it has definitely felt longer. Fortunately, we’ve got a system going now and we’re excited about the next part of our adventure.
As we drive, camp, and talk to the grey nomads it’s easy to get swept up in the beauty that Australia has to offer, but it is equally hard to ignore the some of the more troubling things that have come across our path. The first time that I noticed something was amiss was after a conversation with our couchsurfing host in Townsville. Katie, our host, informed us that Cairns had had one of the wettest winters on record (winter in the north is supposed to be their dry season) and that inland they were experiencing an extremely harsh drought. This brought to mind the signs I had seen earlier in the drive for cattle for sale. Those signs didn’t mean much to me at the time, but in this context it meant that people and animals were both struggling. Not to mention the local wildlife, suffering from both drought and human traffic.
The next thing I was a little surprised by, although in hindsight I shouldn’t have been, was the extent to which the coral in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) seemed to be have been damaged. The damage that I had seen was bleached coral, dislodged coral from the pervious storm season, and coral that had been kicked and dislodged by the distracted scuba diver (myself guilty as charged). I, like many of you, know or have heard that global climate change has had a great impact on the GBR, but to see the effects of climate change first hand was very profound. I was stuck by the sense that this world wonder could potentially be gone within a couple generations. I felt guilty for enjoying myself while diving and snorkeling, as well as for being there on a boat contributing to the degradation that I was seeing first hand. This guilt left me with the question: what can I do?
The answer to that question is not an easy one for me to answer while on this road trip. I know that with each kilometer that we drive, each plastic container we through away, and every boat ride we take we are contributing in some small way to a larger negative global force. Yet, here we are continuing on our way around Australia. I suppose that answer is: do the little things. Try to avoid buying plastic containers when possible, buy locally sourced fruits, veggies, and meats, and recycle when we can. More importantly, we re-use and repair everything we own and try to avoid buying things new—always check your local thrift store first! I know we are probably being hypocritical blaming climate change for all the terrible things we’ve seen while directly contributing to it, but at least we’re thinking about our impact and that’s the first step. And that is what I’m, we’re, asking. Just take a moment and think about how our your actions are contributing to a larger global system and like us, start making small steps to stem the effects of climate change that so greatly impact places like the GBR and all the other beautiful places we’ve visited.
Thanks for reading my rant. Hope you enjoyed it.