Australia – Unplugged

After driving 1,500 kilometers during the first week in Australia I am well used to the left hand traffic. As a matter of fact it really only took 2 days to get used to it, but I do need to stay very alert when we get to intersections and drive through cities. Fortunately the Australian driver is very polite, even more so than the north american driver. I have not encountered any ‘jerks’ on the road, something I rarely can say after driving 1,500 km in north America.

Finding our way around appears to be easy because I let Margriet do it all :-). I do the driving, she has the GPS, the map and her Ipad to find us the best routes and this way we have a perfect division of ‘duties’.

The Australian governments are actively developing a terrific national highway system. Along the section of east coast we have so far traveled there are large sections with a 4 lane divided highway, while at other sections you slow down to a crawl because extensive road construction is being undertaken. They are obviously spending billions of dollars upgrading the main highway up and down the east coast. ‘Good on them’.

The camper we are driving is a Mercedes diesel, known in North America as a Sprinter. It is the long version of that model and I did have to get used to the width more than the length. Years ago we travelled around North America for an entire year with a RV unit that was 55-60’ long, so the 23-24’ long Sprinter is no problem.

Early September is not an especially busy time on the road, although we are seeing numerous ‘snow birds’ heading south, back after having spent the winter up north (don’t forget it is the southern half of the world down here and the seasons are reversed).

Since we are travelling outside the busy holiday season we are not having any problems finding places to camp. We are sticking to ‘caravan parks’, nice, well appointed campgrounds with power hookups, water and sewer at your site. At the end of next week a 2 week school holiday will start and we would have more problems finding a spot on the coast, but that is when we are planning to turn west – inland. We expect that further inland we won’t have problems finding camping sites.
The caravan parks here are providing any and all amenities you would want. Beside well maintained restroom buildings with showers, there are kitchens, with cooking areas, dishwashing facilities, and laundry facilities. Everything is spotless: the kitchen sinks have cloths, the toilets have brushes by them.
The big difference with north american camp sites is that these are close together, providing little or no privacy and there are no places to have a campfire. That might change when we move into the backcountry, but we’ll find out later.

It takes all of 5 minutes to set up the camper when we arrive at a site. An app on the Ipad functions as a level and in no time we know how to park to not roll out of bed at night. Plug in the power cord, open the propane bottle and we are ready to go for a walk on the beach or sit and relax.

The camper has all the modern conveniences we are used to having at home.  Not only a fridge but also a 3 burner stove, sink with hot and cold running water, airco, 240 electical outlets to charge cell phone, ipad, ipod, in Reach (a satelite emergency assist unit the boys gave me for my retirement) the computer, and last but not least a shower/toilet, although it is barely big enough to change your mind in it.
The fridge automatically switches over from 240 to 12 volt when you unplug the shore power. I remember the older fridges in our camper that ran on 110v, 12v or propane, it rarely kept the contents cold. Best of all the dinette set converts into a  KING size bed. (as if we never left home:-))

I am sure we can handle this for a few more months!!!!
This is retirement PLUS.

From Great Barrier Reef to Outback!

Fri/Sat Sept 13/14: Surfers Paradise, NSW to Hervey Bay, Qld.

Hervey Bay was wonderful. A smaller town, right on the beach. It seemed like city council here had the foresight to preserve the entire water front as park and green space. A long walk/bike trail led from one end of town to the other, stringing together parks, playgrounds, even a free water park. The three campgrounds, right on the water, were council parks. We had a spot on the beach but it WAS windy! Beautiful warm swimming along with the pelicans. Spent 2 nights here.

Sunday/Monday Sept 15/16
243 years ago. At this very spot. A large sail ship approached the north east coast of Australia. Captain James Cook and his botanist, Mr. Banks, came ashore here as the very first Europeans.
No GPS. No mobile phone. There’s still no internet so that part still feels primitive. But otherwise Cook would probably not recognize this very spot, the Town of 1770. We arrived here by road, not ocean. We navigated north along smaller backroads from Hervey Bay. We were surprised how quickly green and relatively populated areas made way for dry and isolated range land. Sometimes it felt like ‘outback’ already. Town of 1770 has not much besides a crowded campground at the end of the road. Good thing we phoned ahead and booked a site for 2 nights. As soon as we stepped out of the car, a lady said “Hello again! We met at the Horseshoe Bay ferry on our way to Bowen Island!” We racked our brains… until we discovered that she mistook us for other Canadians and that she meant HERE, not in BC! Amazing.
The campground is fairly run down and feels more like a parking lot. Our neighbors are less than 2 mtr away. But we spent all day Monday away on the Great Barrier Reef! Since we came all this way we decided to follow our heart and see for ourselves what we were taught about even in grade school in Holland. The catamaran took us out into the open ocean for over an hour before we spotted what looked like sandbars. But they were corral reefs, exposed at low tide. The high ocean waves came to an abrupt end into a shallow, peaceful and turquoise lagoon. We navigated through a channel into the lagoon, spotting mating turtles and an amazing aray of fish. The boat moored at a floating dock and we were taken, in small groups, onto Lady Musgrave Island, the most southern of the Great Barrier Reef islands.
Wading thr0ugh the water, we reached a bleached corral beach where two huge loggerhead turtles had stranded themselves on too hot a day. The guide was worried about them dying and so Kees, along with six other strong guys found themselves a loggerhead turtle rescue squad. 

They hoisted the 300 some pound turtle toward the cool water. Until she frantically flapped her flippers. But, in the end, they both made it back into the water. Likely after having deposited their eggs on the island, which will hatch in just eight weeks.  The rest of the island was bird paradise. Black Noddy Terns make their nests among the tangle of tropical trees. Their nests are all over and their guana covers everything. The birds themselves are so at ease in this paradise that you can practically pet them. You can be within a foot of them and they still don’t fly away.  I snorkeled in the blue waters, seeing hundreds of different colored tropical fish, ranging from bright blue, to yellow striped to skinny barracuda’s. We also took trips in a glass bottom boat and in a boat with a deep underwater keel and glass windows. We had tea and a lovely luncheon on the boat. All together well worth the cost. It made for one of those fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime days! 

Tuesday Sept 17
Drove 500 km from 1770 to Emerald, Queensland. Landscape changed from lush green to dry green. Cacti along the roads. Towns further apart and temps higher. Nice green corner of a campground though. And from now on.. 500 km per day will get us to Uluru!


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