Anke and Jan were traveling the same direction as we were,
and we ended up traveling together for almost 4 weeks until yesterday when we parted. Anke
and Jan went on to Perth to catch a plane home to Germany for a month or two to be with
family. When we left the city of Katherine on November 26th our first
destination was a town called Kununurra, just over the border into Western Australia,
512kms to the west. WA is the only state in Australia that actually has a checkpoint at
its border crossings. They have strict regulations about transporting fruit, vegetables
and honey into their state. In fact, Anke had a new, sealed jar of honey confiscated. The
friendly border guards then sent us on our way. Kununurra was pleasant enough but we only
stayed one night.
The next day, November 27th, we made it as far as Halls Creek, only 360
away. It was a long, hot day of driving with temperatures ranging from 40-45C/105-113F.
Several people along the way had told us that Halls Creek was a rough place with a
bad reputation for damaging visitors cars and property. So we took the advice of the
owners of the previous roadhouse pitstop before Halls Creek, and took a corrugated dirt
track about 16 kilometers to Old Halls Creek. This is basically a ghost town now with a
small caravan park. When we pulled up to the caravan park Ron, the manager, greeted us.
Ron is a rugged kind of guy, missing two fingers on one hand and was about to lose the
thumb on the other due to a very recent accident. Ron filled us in on the local history
and entertained us that evening before we went to bed. A generator at this place runs all
electricity and water pressure. At 9:00 p.m. the generator is shut down and besides no
light you cant use/flush the toilets until 8:00 a.m. the next morning!
We were off the next day, eager to make our way to Broome on the far
northwest coast. On the way out of Old Halls Creek we stopped off to see the Aussie
version of the Great Wall of China. Actually it is an exposed vein of quartz that is
exposed since the softer rock surrounding it has been eroded away by weather. The result
is an interesting white wall running over and down one side of a hill.
Our final destination that day was a town called Derby, about 200 kilometers north of
Broome, and 515 kms west of Old Halls Creek. We decided to stop here because we heard it
was a nice little seaside town and it had an interesting Boab tree. Well, Derby
wasnt much to speak of (the campgrounds were bordered by huge mud
flats----attractive!), but the big local Boab tree was interesting. They actually have
lots of these trees in town but this one was used in the early days as a temporary prison!
Its hollowed out on the inside and could definitely hold a person or two. Boab trees
are a unique feature of the landscape around this area. They stand out among the other
flora because their trunks look like huge bottles.
Honey, I'll save you
After the disappointment of Derby we were happy to arrive in Broome the
next day. People say Broome is like an oasis and I guess it sort of is. There are lots of
palm trees around town and it has a pleasant, laid-back feeling to it. Broome was known in
the late 1800s for its pearling industry. Today theres little left of
the original industry, but plenty of jewelers specializing in pearls. The town used to
have a very large Asian population but its hard to see now.
We stayed in Broome for three days. The campground where we stayed is
near Cable Beach, a favorite among both locals and tourists. We caught some brilliant
sunsets and the white sand beach seemed to go on forever. There is also a great lookout
point at Gantheaume Point where the lighthouse it. The cliffs are bright red and the
green/blue sea contrasts wonderfully with them. We met some interesting bikers in Broome.
One is Dave Rawlings, an Aussie using his holiday time to travel around his own country on
his 97 F650 (white by the way, and looking far better than mine right now!!) The
second is a Yank named Nick Palmer, a retired military man who hails from the state of
North Carolina complete with that southern charm. Nick is riding an R80G/S with
silver Jesse Bags and top case. Nick is on an extended holiday as well but is now
contemplating extending it further to be a round-the-world trip. You go Nick!!! In Broome
we also decided to bite the bullet and buy a fan for our tent. We figured it was worth the
A$2 extra each night for a powered campsite to get a little fresh air! Oh, and because we
now pay for electricity while camping, we also have a 60 watt yellow light bulb and a long
extension cord with a splitter so we can recharge our batteries and the computer. No
Ahhh, now it will feel like it dropped down to 38C/100F degrees!
Alas, Broome was almost as hot as its cousins to the east, so we decided
to press south along the coast from here on December 2nd. We heard about a
beach called 80-mile Beach not far south that had a nice campground and a beach full of
shells. We werent let down here as the beach lived up to its reputation. Anke and
Jan shot a roll of film on the beach to use for Christmas cards. We were all clad in our
swimsuits, and Anke and Jan brought their big camp chairs out on the beach and donned
their red Santa Clause hats. Our friend Dave, who also decided to stop here for a night,
happened to have a small inflatable Christmas tree and loaned it for use in the pictures
Can you feel the holiday spirit?
To our surprise we met a very interesting German couple at 80-mile
Beach. They are a real pair of explorers (not just travelers like ourselves). Denis Katzer
and his partner Tania are traveling across Australias outback by camel caravan. When
we met them they had just finished 4,000 kms with their 5 camels. They were now relaxing
and making arrangements for their summer retreat on a nearby cattle station. This is not
the first expedition with animals for these two intrepid travelers. Denis and Tania have
done other journeys with camels in Egypt, horses in Tibet, and elephants in Mongolia. At
the time that I write this though I fear they may have run into trouble. Since we left
80-mile Beach 2 weeks ago, cyclone Sam came ashore directly on top of them, with winds of
over 280 km/hr. It is one of the worst storms ever to hit Western Australia. I read an
article in the local newspaper yesterday that said some camel trekkers tried to find
shelter and refuge at a local cattle station nearby but were refused. They had to abandon
their camels in the wild for their own safety and they both headed to the nearest town. If
you would like to know more about them and their various journeys, check out their website
at www.denis-katzer.com We hope they and
their camels came through the ordeal in good condition. Shame on the cattle station
Heading south again we were hotfooting it, literally!, to get to cooler weather. The
temperature soared one day to more than 47C/117F! Chris caught a picture of it on his
digital thermometer on his gas cap. In these conditions we had to stop every 100
kilometers to get some shade and drink loads of water. Speaking with a barmaid at one of
the roadhouses along the way (one with no air conditioning!), she said that the hottest
she had see it get was 51C/125F INSIDE the roadhouse! Now thats hot.
THAT'S 117 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT !
On December 3rd and 4th we were just driving
south, stopping only to rest for the night in the towns of Port Hedland and Karratha. Wish
I could say that there was something to see here but there isnt----unless you are
into fishing of course. We are not. Oh yeah, sea turtles come ashore here to lay their
eggs during this season. But, they only come ashore at high tide, which happened to be at
1:00a.m. We passed on this opportunity to see them in the hopes wed see them again
Finally on December 5th we arrived in the very pleasant, beautiful and COOL
Coral Bay. This place was like a real paradise for us. Here we met up with Dave (F650) and
Cindy and Dan (Canadians) again. We also met a Swiss (not young) couple riding a XT600
two-up and trying to ride every off-road track they could find. Coral Bay has some of the
best snorkeling weve ever seen and definitely rivals the Great Barrier Reef for its
variety and density of fish. The beaches are white sand and clean, The water is crystal
clear and you can just swim 20 meters off shore to find the best coral and fish. We spent
2 days snorkeling and spotted, among other things, sting rays, sea turtles,
rainbow-colored cuttle fish, huge snapper, etc. Best of all, there was a constant strong
sea breeze that blew all night long. Finally, a good nights sleep without the fan!
After lingering here for 2 days we decided to risk going further south to a place
called Monkey Mia. We arrived there on December 9th. The attraction here is the
Shark Bay World Heritage Park. This is a very interesting place indeed. At Monkey Mia
about halfway out on the peninsula the local population of dolphins comes in to the beach
each morning to interact with the visitors and have a small feed by the park rangers. We
were promptly there on the beach at 8:00a.m. the next morning and sure enough the dolphins
were already there. I was lucky enough to be selected out of the crowd to feed a fish to
Nicky, the oldest of the dolphins (shes been coming in for 25 years!) There are also
funny pelicans on the beach that are not afraid of human at all, and sea turtles who swim
in the surf just a few meters off the beach. Another reason this peninsula is listed as
World Heritage is because of its population of Stramatolites. These are the oldest living
things on earth. They were the first things to "grow" after the Big Bang. They
are still alive today in the salty tidal pools near the shore and look like little black
mushroom growths. Fascinating stuff.
Feed me, I'm cute!
Finally it seems we have reached more reasonable temperatures. Now we
are in Geraldton, about 400 kilometers south of Monkey Mia and 400 kilometers north of
Perth. Geraldton is a very nice town of about 32,000 people, with a rugged shoreline and
long beaches. Weve stalled here for a few days because the weather is lovely, the
campground is right across from the beach, and Chris rotor died again. Good news
though, we were able to get a new rewound rotor sent up from Perth in 24 hours and it now
seems fixed again. Were convinced it was the heat that killed it.
The ride west from Cairns to Perth will have taken 5.5 weeks, we will have traveled
over 4,700 miles (7,500kms), experienced heat like we've never had before, and solidified
some great friendships.
Well now I think weve caught up on our story telling covering the last 2 months
since we left Byron Bay on the east coast. Were looking forward to Perth but not
sure if well be able to handle the mass of people (almost 2 million!) and the