Tuesday, February 29, 2000

Greetings From the Back of Bourke!

Hello Everyone,
When we last left you, Daisy was in hospital and we were stranded in Broome, WA. Those of you that know Daisy will be glad to know that we didn't take the drastic step of having her put to sleep, we opted for the engine transplant instead. The engine had to be shipped all the way from Perth, we had a week to kill in the gateway to the Kimberly (it turns out that this gateway was locked, barred, and shackled!).
We had high hopes for Broome - it's the kick off place for Australia's Kimberly region - a wilderness of fantastic scenery and even more fantastic tides - some times the change in tide is over 20 meters! But due to it being Monsoon season with a cyclone hovering just offshore we were confined to the tiny town of Broome. Broome itself is an extremely boring place - there's nothing to do but visit the pearling exhibits (Broome produces most of Australia's pearls) and "China Town" - not named for it's inhabitants (We did not see a non-tourist oriental person) but because of the Asian influences that founded the town then were promptly shipped back home when the Pearling industry hit one of it's many busts (Australia's all-white policy of he time did not grant these Asians residency visas - only temporary working visa's)
After the week of boredom in Broome we left with a 3 month warranty on Daisy and headed for the Bungle-Bungles. 2 LONG days of driving later, we came to the Ord river crossing. The Ord river is a "Dry" river in WA that crosses the only west-east highway in Australia north of the Nullarbor (2000 miles further south) and it was ANYTHING but dry - it was flooded 1.8 meters above the roadbed. We settled in for the water to subside and comenced to party with the 100 or so other stranded travelers - including Andrew and Hazel that we met in Coral bay. We were there for 3 days and 2 nights before we paid a truck driver to put Daisy up on his flatbed to cross the river. We didn't mind at all - you couldn't ask for a more beautiful spot (those of you who have been to the Kimberly will agree).
After the river crossing we made a beeline through the lightning storm for Katherine in The Northern Territory - spending the night on the side of the road near the border crossing. Katherine was also flooded out - the spot we had picked for the night was under water, so after a brief tour of the School of the Air we headed up to Darwin. The School of the air is a grammar school for outback children - they are taught their lessons via radio. Neat. The only thing that marred it was the blatant racism of the school - even though the students never see each other, it's a segregated school - the Aboriginal students (with few exceptions) do not participate in the same lessons as the white kids.
The drive to Darwin was harrowing - you haven't lived until you've driven in driving rain down a narrow road whilst being passed by a road train with over 100 wheels moving in excess of 100 miles an hour!
Darwin was a lovely town - it had a cosmopolitan atmosphere even though it only has 50,000 or so inhabitants and is thousands of miles from nowhere. The military action in Timor was apparent as soldiers from around the world (including Chile of all places!) were wandering the streets. After a few days of relaxation, we decided to head out to the Kakadu's - yet another World Heritage site but not before first running into Andrew and Hazel again!
The Kakadu's were another disappointment - a big swamp with most of the cool places inaccessible due to the rain. We did see some really cool rock art though
At this point, we were running low on time - we due were to meet SGK's parents in Cairns in a weeks time and had to sell Daisy first, so we decided to make a mad dash over to Queensland. After driving all day and night, we came to Tennant Creek, a miserable backwater that marks the turnoff to the east to proceed to Queensland. Whilst we searched Tennant Creek for some tyres for Daisy (we had 2! blowouts that morning) we learned that the road to Queensland was closed due to flooding. Rather than spend 3 more days at the side of a river waiting for it to subside, we decided to Drive down to Alice Springs (where it was more likely to find tyres for Daisy) before returning to Queensland.
When we got to Alice, we found 1 tyre (apparently 13 inch tyres are not common in the middle of nowhere) and found out that the road back to Tennant Creek was impassible - (the Todd river was actually flowing - something it hasn't done in 100 years) so we headed down to Ayers rock instead.
Ayers rock was SPECTACULAR! due to the rain of course. It was covered in blood-red waterfalls! Way cool.
The next day we left Ayers rock, again intending on going to Queensland, but once again mother nature was to thwart us - the road back to Alice was now flooded out, so we decided to cut our losses and surprise the Keenans in Sydney instead. Our first stop on the way was Coober Pedy - famous for being the main supplier of Opals in Australia. Coober Pedy is a surreal place - easy to see why most of Mad Max was filmed here - it gets to be 50°c most days, so the town is all underground. Some of the locals charge admission to view their houses - We paid the former Prince of Latvia $2.00AU each to see his strange new palace - and believe me they are all weird. Female mannequins with teddy bears stuffed in their wombs, large phallic objects, stuffed "scarecrows" of dubious origins - you name it.
From Coober Pedy we headed south, then east to Broken Hill, then Bourke and finally Sydney through the Blue Mountains. The only 2 stops we made on the way were one to sleep on the side of the road at the SA-NSW border and a 1 hour tour of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The RFDS is sort of the brother to the School of the Air - They provide medical services to the residents of the outback - all by plane. There is nowhere in Australia that they cannot get to in a 2 hour timeframe.
Where do we go from here? Well, Diving the Great Barrier reef is DEFINATLY on the schedule - as well as the Daintree jungle in Far North Queensland, Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. After that we are off to New Zealand where we hope to see all of our Kiwi friends including Greg and a VERY pregnant Nicole, Peter, Ava and their new son Miguel, and my old friend Jo.

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