Travel / August 26, 2004

Gone Farming

Hello everybody (again),
We managed to get a job on a farm picking fruit – the place is about 210 Kms south of Broome. So if all goes well, none of you will hear from me for another four weeks!! Please leave comments and what not – keep me upto date on what is happening!

All the best,
Denis

Travel / August 25, 2004

Broome

Broome is a really nice place, strangely it feels a little more Asian than Australian – I like it. One thing I don’t like about it though – the noise. I’ve never heard so many fights and arguments in my life. It sounds like everybody here is shouting (maybe it is just the area I’m staying in)!!

Yesterday we did a few jobs on the car, then we headed to the beautiful Cable Beach for an afternoon of surfing! I showed Mike how to body board (Mark, the board is still going strong) – more like he laughed at my attempts at body boarding. Dave & I rented out an 8 foot board each – it was so much fun. The boards are so damn big, it was like standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

I got up early this morning and went job hunting – no joy yet.

Click here to see:


Me doing a Tony pose


A Seagull looking thoughtful

Travel / August 25, 2004

The Kimberley Expedition

I had been looking forward to this part of the trip for the longest time – after the Bungle Bungles, we were heading for the Gibb River Road, at last. I must say that I was a bit nervous – I’ve heard that the Kimberley region is rather tough and unforgiving. I’m glad to say it’s not that bad at all!

Emma Gorge & El Questro

Our first stop on the Gibb River Road was Emma Gorge – after a short walk (about 2Kms I think) you arrive at an icy cold plunge pool at the bottom of a waterfall. Off to the right hand side of the plunge pool there are hot springs coming out of the cliff face. It was absolutely amazing – I didn’t want to leave.

After Emma Gorge, we travelled onto El Questro Gorge – it is a reasonably tough hike up to the half way mark where there is a nice rock pool. Mike and I stayed only went half way up the gorge – Dave disappeared for a few hours. When he eventually came back, he was raving about the climb up to the top of the gorge. So we decided to that we would come back and run up the gorge (yes, I said run).

The following day, we had a nice start to the day. We made our way to Zebedee springs – a hot spring that flows down a creek. The creek has loads of pools along the way. We stayed in the pools for a few hours. It was the perfect way to relax after another uncomfortable nights camping – lying in a hot pool in the shade of some palm trees – amazing!

After a lazy morning, we followed through on our plan to run up El Questro Gorge. I was pretty wrecked – it was a 40 minute run/climb each way.

Click here to see:


The Pentecost river crossing on the way into the homestead.


Mike & myself at Emma Gorge plunge pool


Most of the group at Zebedee Springs

Home Valley Homestead
We only camped here, but it is worth a mention because it is a really nice place and it has minimalist “Out houses” – or “a tin shit house” as another guest said to me… also a Hogan as it happens (long story, but that’s how Mike got me talking to this guy). We took it easy, cooked dinner, played cards – nice!

Kalumburu Road
We left Home Valley at 8am and made our way up the Kalumburu road to Drysdale River Homestead. At this point I was thinking that both the Gibb River Road and Kalumburu Road were better than most Irish roads (even though they are unsealed).

At lunch we met a few Australians who thought it was hilarious to see three Irish lads all the way out in the Kimberley (especially so far north). After been given the “Fuckin’ Crazy Irish” treatment (again), we were given loads of advice and tips. Then we got all of the horror stories about the road ahead. But the general concensus was that if we took it easy, we would be fine.

About 1Km north of Drysdale , the road became so corrugated that it was sore to drive on. I tried going a little faster, a little slower, but the road was just brutal. By the time we made it to our campsite, it was nearly dark & I could hear a few new rattles from under the Pajero.

The following morning I got up pretty early, got out the tools and got in under the car to try and cure a few of the new rattles. At home, when I go looking for a problem in a car, I usually spend ages trying to find it (if it presents itself at all). I have never looked at a car and found so many problems so quickly as that morning.

The Rattles were:
-Broken Rear Drivers Side Shock & Mount
-Broken Rear Anti-roll bar Mounts
-Broken Front Drivers Side Shock
-Loose Front Anti-roll bar
-Broken Exhaust hanger
-Loose Everything!

I couldn’t believe it – we took it very easy, but the road was just too rough.
We were only about 50 Kms from Mitchel Falls, so we decided to head on slowly and then start the limp back to civilization. About 10 Kms up the road, it was clear to see that the Pajero was not drivable on this road. So I turned back towards the Gibb River Road – I was so disapointed. : (

Later that day, we came across a crashed Pajero the owner agreed to sell us some parts. With this stop we ended up on driving on into the night looking for a place to stay.

Wallabies are stupid!
Wallabies will stand at the side of the road and watch a car coming towards them. They wait for the car to get close and then leap out in front of it. Unfortunately this is a story about the one that didn’t get away. The poor wallaby met with the sump guard of the Pajero. The outcome? Ireland 1 – Wallabies Nil.

Later that same night the car cut out after a shallow creek crossing – bugger! Thirty minutes later (after everything had dried) we were off again. Later again, the car cut out again – this time for good. We slept on the side of the road in the car, waiting for first light to have a look under the bonnet.

The luck of the Oirish
I was up by 5 a.m., after looking for the possible cause of our troubles for a few hours, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

A couple from Queensland stopped to see if we were alright. I couldn’t believe our luck – he was a mechanic! It turns our that a previous owner had put in an electric fuel pump (which was hidden out of sight under a mess of pipes and wires. It looks like the vibrations from the road didn’t agree with a relay that was powering the pump. It also explains all of the troubles with the river crossings – the fan was spraying the relay with water!

Why the relay was there, nobody knows (Mike even got an auto electrician to look at it – he too was baffled). About two minutes later, we were on our way again. Once we got to Derby, we found a few more parts for the car. The scrappie (the guy in the scrap yard!) told me that the Kalumburu Road hasn’t been maintained for years.

So with our Kimberly adventure cut short, we headed to Broome to find work and carry out repairs!

We will have to go back to the Kimberley – it was so amazing and we didn’t even see half of the area!

Click here to see:


A range running along the Gibb River Road


Another range running along the Gibb River Road


The Pentecost River crossing just before sunset – it was pretty difficult to see where I was going.


The Gibb River Road

Travel / August 17, 2004

A Bridge Too Far?

After Lake Argyle we headed to Kununurra – we bought loads of fruit and veg here (you aren’t allowed to carry veg into Western Australia for Quarantine reasons). Dave & Mike decided that they wanted to do the Ivanhoe river crossing outside Kununurra. I sat beside the river and watched. I couldn’t believe it, they stalled twice – right in the middle of the river. I was kind of nervous, but not as bad as the boys who thought I was going to kill them. Luckily after a lot of sweating they got the car started and brought it back in one piece. It looks like the Pajero could be allergic to water!!!

We made it to Purnululu National Park (home of the Bungle Bungles) after two hours of driving of driving over some rough stuff and a few creek crossings – Heart and Car stopping!
We stayed in the Echinda Chasm Campsite, which I can honestly say is Shite!! $9 for absolutely no facilities and a hole to crap in! We all slept under the stars, I was on the roof of the Pajero. Wow, all I can say is that I have never seen so many stars in my life before. They are completely different to home and when you are in such a remote area, you don’t have any light pollution. I don’t know what time I fell asleep, I just passed out after an hour of staring at the stars – Frayed nerves forgotten (I was feeling a little worse for wear after the drive in). I also discovered that out of the ten of us – at least five snore!!! All you could hear were insects and us snoring!

The following day, we walked Echinda Chasm. It was, as usual, amazing – you walk along at the botom of two cliffs about three feet apart from each other. Later in the day we made our way to Cathedral Gorge – also spectacular.

Click here to see:


The two boys attempting the Ivanhoe crossing


A curious spectator I nearly knocked down


The Bungle Bungles – Cathedral Gorge


Mike, Dave & I doing another Tony pose in Cathedral Gorge

Travel / August 15, 2004

Rest and War in Katherine!

In Katherine we did a big shop-up. We got ten days worth of supplies, a fuel can, a Shovel, an Axe and a Tarpaulin.

Tony left us in Katherine – he is off to go Diving on the west coast. Fair play to him for putting up with us for this long!!!

We left Katherine via Tindal RAAF Airbase for an open day. It was pretty small, but we saw a few fighter planes (FA 18, FA 111 and a US F18 ) and two Hercules transport planes. We also got to Handle a Steyr (with Grenade Launcher and Laser Sight), a Minimi (with a huge battery powered sight) and a Mark III Glock. The Glock was interesting – it had a plastic Stock and Barrel case – light weight for use by fighter pilots. The weight is important so the gun doesn’t break the pilots ribs during high G maneuvers!

After the open day, we made our way to the awful Big Horse Creek Campsite to meet up with Marcus and Co. From here we would travel, almost in convoy through the Kimberley.

Our first stop in convoy was Lake Argyle – a beautiful place, but not a lot to do there!

Travel / August 14, 2004

Heading for the Kimberleys

Hello all,
We arrived in Katherine last night after two days in Kakadu – it was amazing!
But we are not waisting money here, so we are heading straight over to the Kimberleys.
I’ll be out of contact for about ten days – so don’t panic unless you hear about us on the news!!!

Take care & talk soon,
Denis

Travel / August 13, 2004

Adventure in Kakadu

From Darwin, we took a short trip to Kakadu National Park. On our first day we saw some Aboriginal rock paintings. That night, we camped about 10 Kms away from Jim Jim Falls. We left the campsite the following morning, heading for Jim Jim and Twin Falls. The road (or lack thereof) went from unsealed to non existant – pretty exciting stuff. We got about 4 Kms down the track to Jim Jim Falls when we got bogged down in some soft sand. The boys pushed the car out, we tried again, got bogged down again. This time we were stuck! A nice couple from Perth stopped and pulled us out with their Landcriuser. They gave us a few tips and advice – with that we were sorted! We were able to carry on.

We went to Jim Jim Falls, which was amazing. We decided not to go to Twin falls as it involved a pretty big river crossing & we felt we weren’t prepared enough (and we were getting low on fuel). So we headed to Maguk, another waterfall. This was a good call. After a bit of a trek we got to the top of the waterfall – there we found a few rock pools that the river flows through before it goes over the falls. Time for a swim! There was a few nice jumps – one was into a deep rock pool that you have to dive into, go through an opening under water and then swim out to a bigger pool. There were a few 4 and 7 metre high jumps – where you couldn’t touch the bottom even if you tried (and we did)! The water was a good 20 degrees – absolutely amazing.

From Kakadu we headed to Katherine to get ready for the trip into the Kimberley!

Travel / August 12, 2004

Uluru to Darwin

After catching the sunrise at Uluru, we legged it to Kings Canyon on our way back to Alice Springs. We were only going to stop to do a short walk, but luckily we decided to do a 6Km walk around the Canyon rim. It was so amazing that I managed to take about 140 photos!

After a late arrival in Alice, we checked into Annie’s Place, a nice hostel. It was a nice change from the cold camping of the previous nights. I managed to pick up a second spare wheel for the Pajero from an odd guy in a scrap yard. He seemed harmless enough, but some of his stories were very disturbing.

After our day off in Alice, we were back on the road again – destination Darwin. The drive was pretty uneventful (which is good). We stayed in a place called Daly Waters. Daly Waters could be best described as an oasis in the desert. Basically it is a pub with a campsite attached. For a place that is out in the middle of nowhere (about half way between Alice and Darwin), it was busy – very busy. They had everything you need after a long day in the car:- Music, a Pool table & cold beer… like I said, an oasis in the desert. Daly Waters is also home to Australia’s most remote traffic light – which is permanently stuck on red! I couldn’t believe my luck, I was stuck at a red light for ten minutes in the middle of nowhere!

The remainder of the drive to Darwin was also uneventful – no complaints here though.

Travel / August 08, 2004

Cairns to Uluru

We left a very wet Cairns on Saturday the 31st of July and headed straight for Atherton. The road to Atherton was amazing. It has the potential to be the longest, greatest hillclimb in the world – I would love to take the blue Avenger up there. The road pretty much starts at sea level and winds it’s way up through the clouds to the Atherton tableland. The road snakes through the rain forest, changing direction to meet the contours of the mountain side. When you get to the top, the rainforest disappears and turns into open green fields. It made for a rather spectacular start to the trip.

As we approached Georgetown, the roads came as a bit of a shock. On the map, Route 1 looks as if it is a six lane highway. In reality, you get a single narrow lane (of bitumen) with half a lane of solid dirt on either side. You drive on the bitumen until you see a car coming towards you. Then you put two wheels on the dirt and drive on. Of course, when you are out in the middle of nowhere, you salute the person coming towards you (you mightn’t see anyone for an hour). This involves raising the index finger of the more visible hand on the steering wheel (apparently).

At one stage we stopped for a short break, we stood out in the middle of the road for half an hour and not one car passed by – that was a little wierd at first.

We encountered quite a bit of wildlife on this leg of the trip; a large black snake (I didn’t want to get close enough to find out what it was), huge Ant hills some over two metres tall and a few hundred Wallabies (at last, a living one).

As we left Normanton (heading south), the land flattened out. All you could see was yellow grass in every direction as far as the eye could see. I’ve never felt so small in my life!

After a short stop in “Burke and Wills” road house, I was driving when I noticed the temperature gauge rise, which was funny because it doesn’t work! Then the battery light came on. The fan belt was broken and the radiator was boiling. Luckily there was no major damage. I put on a new fan belt and we were back on the road within ten minutes.

We were greeted on the border of the Northern Territory by a small “Speed limit no longer applies” sign ; ). Normally this would make me grin from ear to ear, but the Pajero isn’t a sports car! : (

After a great nights sleep on the roof of the Pajero in Tennant Creek (I only have a three man tent, so we take turns in the car… but it was too warm that night), we headed off down the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs. We made Alice by lunch on Tuesday the 3rd… ahead of schedule. After a quick commitee meeting, we decided to bomb on. At the current rate, we could make Uluru (Ayers Rock) by sunset.

As it happens, we couldn’t have timed it better. We arrived at the rock with five minutes to spare. I’ve never taken so many photos of one rock before! It is amazing how it’s colour changes so much.

Tired after the 1020Km trip, we made our way to the campsite via a service station. I mention the servo because it seems utterly daft that we would go there when there was a bush fire just a few feet away – never mind hanging around for photos!

Travel / August 08, 2004

Cairns Fishing Trip!

On the morning after Daves birthday, I found myself running across the city helping a friend with her bags to try and catch a bus to Airlie Beach (Hi Nadine, hope your trip is going well). Unfortunately she missed the bus, but on the other hand she was early for the next bus.

I was feeling rather stale (best description) as I left the bus station – one eye half open (the other still closed completely), tired, a little hung over, I had no voice and I was out of breath after the sprint across the city center. I decided, in all my wisdom, that it would be a good idea to get a bottle of Orange Juice and sit on the esplanade to watch the sun rise over the mountains.

All was going well for about an hour, I was sitting on a bench right at the edge of the wooden boardwalk over the edge of a large mud flat, when my phone rings. I was wearing a hoodie at the time, I leaned back to reach into the pocket, stretching out my right leg at the same time (to allow easy access to my phone).

I got my phone out, wondering who would call me at such a strange hour of the morning. I answered the phone – it was Denis Snr. (Katie, Anne and Mar – you know him as dad!). That’s when it happened… I went to put my right foot back on the esplanade, but I hit my heel off the edge of the boardwalk. This in itself is nothing worth giving thought to, however, the fact that my flip flop took flight during the collision meant that dad was greeted with a very stressed (and not so polite) “Ah F@#k it!” – Sorry about that by the way dad!!

There it was, gone. My flip flop came to rest (half buried) in the mud about six feet below me. I was faced with a problem – The tide was coming in, I couldn’t afford to buy a new pair of flip flops and there was no way down to the mud to retrieve it. I had to work fast!

So, with the other flip flop in one hand and my phone in the other, I made my way to the car. I got my fishing rod out, tied on a large hook (didn’t bother with bait or a float on this occasion) and made my way back to the scene of the accident.

After a few minutes, being the fishing expert I am, I had the flip flop back on dry land – just before the incoming tide claimed it!

See parents… I’m well able to look after myself!!!!

Travel / August 08, 2004

Fame & No fortune

When we got to Cairns, Dave and I spent ages looking for work (too long in fact). For a finish we found work, thanks to Dave, promoting and running pub crawls.

Basically, all we had to do was promote the pub crawls i.e. Talk to cute girls all day and try to convince them to come along. Then on Wednesday and Friday nights, we helped guide the customers from bar to bar while having a few drinks ourselves.

We got to know the managers and security guys of a few of the bars. We were sorted – Free entry to niteclubs, free food, free beer… it was hard living like a rock star (yes, I know I’m dressing it up a little)! Unfortunately we couldn’t save any money at this job, all it did was help cut down our spending and give us two free hangovers each week.

Cairns is a nice place but there is nothing there! It is a hub from which you do activities. From Carins we went to Crystal Cascades, Trinity Beach, Port Douglas (for ice cream) and Cape Tribulation.

I must say that overall I liked Cairns. We stayed in a nice hostel (Caravella 149), generally had a great laugh and met loads of great people (including some people from Airlie Beach – The boys from Jersey, So long and Thanks for the fish – Canadian Dave nutter with a beautiful bike, hope you got the knee down at last – Leanne, hope Bali is going well – Josie and Chloe, hope ye got home alright girls).

We also picked up two new traveling companions – Mike and Tony.

Travel / July 30, 2004

Leaving Cairns!

Hi,
I’m leaving Carins tomorrow morning. We decided to make a slight change to our plan over breakfast this morning… we are still heading for Darwin, but now we are taking a shortcut via Ayers Rock! We figured that it is quicker to get there from the north than the south (i.e. it is just a day off our route across the north!). It should add another three days in total onto our trip to Darwin. Can’t wait to get going again!

Dave and I have two new passengers (we haven’t told them that they will have to do some driving yet)… Tony from London (Ilford to be precise) and Mike from Galway. We are getting ready to go, should be great craic!

I’ll be putting up a post on our time in Cairns soon… watch this space!

Den

P.S. Family this means you won’t be able to contact me for upto eight or nine days… don’t panic!