Margaret River
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We have been in Margaret River for the past week, and we both agree this is a really cool part of the country. First off, the weather has been awesome, warm during the day and cool during the night. One of the first things we checked out was the Busselton Jetty. It is the longest jetty in the Southern hemisphere and extends out into the ocean 2km.

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Heading out on to the jetty

From Busselton we headed up into the little corner on the edge of South Western Australia to Cape Naturaliste. From the hikes on the coast line the scenery is impressive.

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Part of the hike of Cape Naturaliste

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Another view of Cape Naturaliste

From there we really settled into the Margaret River region. We spent one day doing some reconnaissance on the climbing in the area. While trying to find a particular area we stumbled upon the Contos boulders right on the coast. They were huge and the waves were pounding them.

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Waves pounding the Contos Boulders

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This one almost got me!

One of the biggest things that makes Margaret River so famous here in Australia is their wines, so the next day we drove around checking out some of the wineries. Now, most of you know that between the two of us Cathy is the wine connoisseurr……me, not so much….maybe if you mix it with rum……nahhh just kidding! ;-) Anyway…..Cathy being the best fiance in the world ;-) , and knowing that I don’t drink much wine, also came up with some other stops on our tour. After a couple of wineries, we stopped off at the liqueur factory for some tasting, followed by the chocolate factory, and finishing up at the local ice cream shop……yummy…best day of wine tasting ever!

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Cathy out front of the Dunkstein Brewery at Saracain Estate

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Just after our liqueur tasting with our newly purchased bottle of butterscotch liqueur.....can you say a 'little slice of heaven!'

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and they had free samples as well!!

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Last stop of the day....family owned and run! ;-)

The next day we drove about 20 minutes North to get some climbing in at a small crag called Willyabrup. This is a great place to climb, not a ton of routes, but the cliffs are right on the coast, with great scenery, and some of the climbs were really good lines. We spent two days there ticking off a bunch of the classic lines.

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Hiking into the crag

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Looking down from one of the climbs

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Cathy nearing the roof on the climb 'One for the Road'

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Enjoying a beautiful day of climbing on the coastline

Today was to be a down day, and it was pretty easy since we got a taste of our first bad weather day. As we were getting gas this morning a woman told us a bad storm was coming in. She said 125km winds were possible…….hmmm, it is blowing pretty good, but not that bad. We decided to check out the coast and place called Canal Rocks. It was pretty neat to see mother nature ticked off!

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Canal Rocks with the wind starting to kick in

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Cathy trying not to get blown off the rocks at Canal Rocks

With the weather being the way it was we decided to check out one of the local caves here. We decided on Mammoth Cave. It was impressive and cool to learn about.

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Cathy about to enter Mammoth Cave with her cool 80's style self guided tour radio

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Oh no...you just caught me listing to my favorite Duran Duran album ;-)

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Inside Mammoth Cave

Tomorrow we are going to make our way a little further South and check out the area around Augusta.

 

Perth
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I subscribed to Budget Travel magazine for years before doing this trip with Jamie. I accumulated a wealth of information about where to travel on a dime and what to see and do all over the world. One issue featured the town of Fremantle in Western Australia which is a port town just west of the city of Perth. It’s actually a suburb of Perth. The article mentioned a lot of cool reasons to visit the town and also mentioned its “Cappuccino Strip”, this is where I became hooked and prior to ever leaving for Australia I told Jamie that at some point along the way I wanted to visit Fremantle.  After being in Australia for some time already I also learned that despite the drop in tourism all over the country due to things becoming more and more expensive here, Fremantle was a cheap place to visit.  We spent a couple days there to really take it all in. Fremantle was quickly added to my short list of places I could live in Australia. It was a small city in a big town, right on the water with so much to see and do. We visited the historic Fremantle Prison, walked everywhere and spent time on the strip.  It turned out to be true that the prices for food and drinks was quite a bit lower than every where else we had been so far.  I had my cup of cappuccino too and it was pretty good.

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Front gates of Fremantle Prison

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Fisherman's Harbor, Fremantle

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Cathy at the Rounde House

We skipped Perth all together, too big of a city and you know how we spend too much money in big cities so we drove right past but not before making a quick detour into a climbing gym to buy some guidebooks and get beta on the local Perth climbing scene. We knew there was plenty of climbing around the city but did not have enough info to venture out. We bought a couple guidebooks for Perth and Western Australia Climbing and chose a couple crags to visit over the next 2 days.

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Attempting a tough reach at Churchman's Brook

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Getting ready to head up a climb just outside Perth

Quite a number of closed quarries have been turned into climbing areas. They were not the best but we got in a few routes anyway. The cliffs were small and they were exposed to the sun most of the day so it was too hot to hang out for a whole day.

We are now settling into the southwest in the Margaret River Region. We plan to visit some friends of Jamie’s but not until after the first week of December so we have some time to kill in this region which is nice. It means we can settle down for a bit and take our time exploring this part of the coast. We will probably be exploring the Margaret River for the next 10 days. Our first day here was Thanksgiving and Jamie was set on having turkey. Unfortunately, no Thanksgiving type of turkey to be found here in Australia so we went for a grocery run and settled on a roasted chicken which was already made and hot! To accompany this lovely chicken we bought some cold pasta salad, instant mash potatoes (just add water!), and gravy in a bag. We also picked up some mini pastries from the bakery, apple pie and tiramisu. It was a lovely Thanksgiving, Aussie style!

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Thanksgiving Feast, Aussie Style. Before.....

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....After. We missed Mom's turkey but this was pretty good!

 

Geraldton and Cervantes
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We left Kalbarri two days ago, and made our way further down the coast. First stop was the town of Geraldton. A really cool town right on the coast with a lot of history. We took the time to visit the museum and learn a little more about the local history. One of the pieces of history we really enjoyed learning about was the story of the HMAS Sydney. This was one of Australia’s great battleships used during WWII, and was sunk 1941. I won’t give the full history here, because anyone can google it to read the full story, but we really enjoyed learning about it’s history and even visited the memorial site for it in Geraldton.

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The 645 seagulls that make up the dome represent the crew that was lost on the HMAS Sydney

As we left Geraldton we discovered the giant sand dunes at the Southern end of town. They are pretty impressive, and people ride their dirt bikes, quads, and even sandboard down them. We got a few cool pictures while we stopped off to check them out.

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Sand dunes just South of Geraldton

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About to start climbing up the dunes

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Cathy at the top of the one of the dunes

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A cool angle looking up one of the dunes

As you are driving down the coast, you also notice a theme with all the bushes and trees. There is such a prevailing wind that comes off the ocean here, a lot of the bushes and trees lean away from the coast. About an hour South of Geraldton, there is one famous tree which has been forced to grow horizontal due to the prevailing winds. Check it out.

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Leaning tree

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I thought this was a cool picture to make B/W

That night we ended up setting up camp in Jurien Bay, another small town right on the coast. After getting our camp site we ended up having enough daylight for a little walk around and checked out the local pier and beach.

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Pier at Jurien Bay

The next morning we didn’t have to drive far for our next destination…..Cervantes. Home to Namburg National Park, and The Pinnacles Desert. There is a 4KM drive through The Pinnacle, which are these small limestone pinnacles that are just there in the sand. Scientists have a few theories on why they are there, but they aren’t 100% sure, and are still studying. Either way, it was pretty cool to see, and makes for some great photography!

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A view form the main lookout

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Another view of the pinnacles

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Some of the larger pinnacles

The other highlight of Cervantes is the Western Rock Lobster industry and factory….and yes, they give tours! The rock lobster season just started here, so the place was buzzing. It was cool to learn about how it all works, and they have a few meals you can purchase after the tour……there still not cheap, so Cathy and I split a small one…….it was yummy! ;-)

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We wish we could have afforded to eat this guy!

But…

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This is all we could afford......and it was good!

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It just says it all! ;-)

Yeah baby!

 

Australia’a Coral Coast
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After too many days of consistent driving, with Jamie doing most of it, it was time to settle down.  Turns out Kalbarri was just the place to do it.  Kalbarri is a major fishing port set on the Murchison River which meets the Indian Ocean and is home to Kalbarri National Park.  We booked in for 3 nights to take some time away from the road!  Since arriving in Australia, we’ve picked out some of our favorite places where we could live if we were to ever move here.  Kalbarri has been added to that list.  The town has a real cool local vibe, the people are super friendly and they welcomed us immediately.  We spent one night out on the town (2 restaurants, one bar!) and we were placed as tourists instantly, but welcomed just as quick.  It’s a small town so everyone knows each other.  We hung with the locals that night and had a blast.  The town is surrounded by the national park so we spent the first day taking in the coastal vistas and walks, it very much reminded us of the Great Ocean Road.  The views and rock formations were once again incredible.  Here are pics from Kalbarri National Park……

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Island Rock

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Natural Bridge

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Jamie on the Cliffs at Mushroom Rock

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Mushroom Rock

The next day we headed deeper into the park to check out the climbing at ‘Z Bend’.  Problem is the access road is 25km of a gravel corrugated road and the groovy mobile does not do too well on these roads.  She held up well and we made it to the climb.

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Kalbarri National Park, Z Bend Lookout

Above is the lookout into the Z Bend, we hiked down into the gorge and this is the route we climbed….

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Z Bend Climb, 'Keith Goes Blank'

Unfortunately, there was no way to rapel down after finishing the route, we had to scramble out and since it was blazing hot we had had enough.  We made one more stop at Natures Window, another tourist attraction and incredible sight….

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Natures Window

Jamie always looking for the next climb…

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Jamie Climbing on Natures Window

On our 3rd day we were planning to head out but not before stopping in town to view the daily pelican feedings, these are some big birds!

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Daily Pelican Feeding in Kalbarri

Kalbarri was awesome but its time to move on.  The rest of the Coral Coast, the city of Perth, Freemantle and some more climbing are our next stops.

Start of the West Coast
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It is a long way across the top of Australia, so as we made our way from the Norther Territory to Western Australia we decided to stop off in a town called Kununurra. This was a small town out in the middle of no where, but after a long day of driving, it was right off the road……and it had a pool! Kununurra is also a great place to see the sunset over the mountain ranges.

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Sunset over the town of Kununurra

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The other side of the sunset

The next day was a long driving day….about a 10 hour push from Kununurra to Broome. We did this because there just isn’t a whole hell of lot to see.

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As you can see........once again......the traffic is out of control!

We were rewarded though when we pulled into the coastal town of Broome.  First,  because it was around 5pm, and immediately you could tell it was going to be our coolest evening in a while, and second, the great campsite location we got was right on the beach.

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Campsite in Broome, right on the beach!

The next morning we woke up early, after 10 hours in the groovy mobile the day before, we were both itching for some exercise. We headed down to Cable Beach, one of the best beaches in Broome for a run. As you can see……….it was pretty cool. A lot of people walking their dogs, others riding horses, people surf fishing, and then people like us getting in a run ;-)

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Cable Beach...not a bad place for a run ;-)

After getting cleaned up and checking out Broome a little more, we started making our way further down the West coast. After a few hours we decided to pull in and stay the night at the 80 mile beach campground, which is located on……you guessed it! 80 Mile Beach.

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One view of 80 Mile beach

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Enjoying the sunset at 80 Mile Beach

The two things 80 mile beach is known for is, one, the surf fishing…..we didn’t do any, but supposedly really good. Two, and we found this out the night we stayed there, turtle nesting. This is the time of year that the big sea turtles come out of the ocean at night onto the beach. They make their way up to the sand dunes, dig a big hole with their flippers, lay their eggs, cover them up, then make the journey back to the ocean. We ventured out to check it out and sure enough we came across five of them all in different stages of the process. It was really cool to witness, and definitely the highlight of staying there. Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures, it is frowned upon to take pictures, since the flash of the camera would startle them and disrupt their cycle…….and we didn’t want to mess with any Momma turtles!

The next day we headed further down the coast. There wasn’t a whole lot to see this day, except to add a couple other animals to our list of things we are trying to avoid on the highway!

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Let's add sheep and goats to the list!

We ended up staying the night at a Roadhouse on the side of the road. Sometimes, you just end up timing it right ;-)

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Sunset on the side of the road

We woke early the next day to head off to Exmouth, and the start of Ningaloo Reef. I have always wanted to visit this area of Australia just to see and dive Ningaloo. Unfortunately, we visited at the wrong time of the year :-( The best time is March to June, this is when you can snorkel with the whale sharks.  We weren’t able to dive.  The good news is, the reef is right off the beach, so the snorkling is really easy to do. Cathy and I headed into the park to check it out, and hit up a couple of the coves to access the reef.

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Getting geared up for a snorkel in Turqoise Bay

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Turquoise Bay

Luckily the next day was a short driving day, as we ended up setting up house a few hours South of Exmouth at a place called Coral Bay. This place is spectacular, and I don’t think our pictures do it justice. It is a small seaside community with two campgrounds pretty much right on the sea. Where you can also snorkel part of Ningaloo reef. Some pictures of our time there.

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Coral Bay

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From the lookout over Coral Bay

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About to head out for a snorkel in Coral Bay

We drove yesterday to Shark Bay, which is a World Heritage Site. As you are driving around the bay there are these beautiful places to stop. One was Shell beach.

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Shell Beach

We ended up spending the night in the small sea side town of Denham. The views coming into the town are awesome.

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Views of the sea from just outside Denham

This morning we made our way further out onto the peninsula to a place called Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is famous for it’s year round dolphin population. There is a research facility on site, and they study the wild dolphins who on their terms come into the bay each morning for feedings.

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The dolphins coming in for a closer look at the humans

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As the dolphins were taking off I was able to get this pic

We left Shark Bay and we made our way further down the coast. We pulled into the town of Kalbarri. We will probably spend a few days here checking out the national park…..and, if the information we have is good….hopefully get some climbing in! ;-)

We hope everyone is good back home.

The Northern Territory
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The Australia Outback is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, it is so barren and vast, there are amazing things to see such as Uluru, the Olgas, and Kings Canyon, just to name a few, but oh my sweet Jesus, it is so damn hot. It is close to unbearable so I was happy we moved north as quickly as we did. We left the Red Center to explore the rest of the Northern Territory. One stop we were looking forward to seeing was Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles). This is an impressive and peculiar arrangement of red rock boulders balanced on top of one another. As we approached, we found it in flames!

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About 20 km out from approaching Devil's Marbles

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A little bit closer....

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Marbles on Fire!

Most interesting was that there was not a soul in sight, nobody was there from the fire brigade! Maybe it was a controlled burn, which is very common in the NT to manage re-vegetation of the land. But on this day, it was so hot, dry and windy it could have also been a bush fire.  Anyway, it was an unexpected sight!  We managed to get a good shot away from the flames…

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Devil's Marbles

The further we drove North the quicker the landscape changed from red, dusty, and vast open spaces to lush green tropics. As you can see the traffic has gotten worse, but some how we have managed ;-)

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We do NOT miss the Beltway!!

With a tropical region comes lots of water and we indulged the whole way up to Darwin. Hot springs, thermal pools and swimming holes were everywhere. First stop was Mataranka, which is famous for its thermal pool and constant water temp of 93 degrees! On a smokin’ hot day this may not seem like the place to cool off but it was exactly what we needed.

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Mataranka Thermal Pool

We spent the night in Katherine, the 4th largest town in the NT and the ‘Crossroads of the North’ as it is the access point to head north, south, east and west. We explored Katherine Gorge and chose one of many hiking options called Butterfly Gorge. A 1.5 hour, 4km tropical walk brought us to an open gorge along the Katherine River. We woke up early, 6am, to do it before the heat set in but by 8am we were baking in the sun so it was a nice reward to finally arrive at the gorge and go for a swim.

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Katherine Gorge

We arrived in Darwin the same day and were impressed. The city was much bigger than expected and very modern. It was wiped out by a cyclone in the 70′s so the whole city was rebuilt. We camped in Darwin then had a great workout the next morning along the beach of the Timor Sea. We left soon after as we tend to spend too much money when we’re in the cities. So we headed back down south for Litchfield National Park. Unfortunately, we had to skip Kakadu National park as most of the sites we wanted to see require 4WD. Our Britz van wasn’t going to cut it.

Litchfield National Park is about 90 minutes south of Darwin and featured a diverse number of environments; monsoon forests, waterfalls, spring fed streams, ruins, and termite mounds! We summarized it as one big water park. There is a main road into the park with about a dozen park features to visit. We stopped at about half of them, the others required 4WD. Those few hours were spent in bathing suits hopping in and out of the van to visit each stop to swim and each one was a unique experience.

The first stop would be the Magnetic Termite Mounds, no swimming here. These mounds have been amazing us since we entered the NT. They are only native to Africa, Australia and South America. The termites build these mounds for their colonies and some of them are as high as 6 meters and have been around for decades.

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1st stop, magnetic termite mounds. This one is 5 meters high and estimated to be 50 yrs old!

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Buley Rockhole, Our 2nd Stop in Litchfield NP

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Florence Falls, 3rd Stop

Our last stop was Wangi Falls, the most popular stop in the park for visitors. It wasn’t until we were done swimming in the plunge pool that an Aussie tour guide came around to tell us that freshwater crocodiles were also in the pool. The “Freshies” don’t care too much for people so they hang out out along the outskirts of the pool. It’s the salt water crocs we need to worry about. Either way, we swam with crocs in the water!

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Wangi Falls

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Jamie swam out to the falls, to later find out he was surrounded by crocs

After Litchfield, we came back south to Katherine as this is the access point to the west coast. We camped in a tourist park near town and prepared to head west the next morning. 

We crossed the border today into Western Australia, the last state for us to cover. We look forward to experiencing WA and getting back to the coastal temperatures and cooling off.

Finally, to all of our family and friends on the east coast who suffered terribly from Storm Sandy and are now dealing with all the snow, we have you in our thoughts and prayers during the clean up and recovery of your homes.

 


 

 

The Red Center
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We took off from Adelaide this past Monday to head into the red center of Australia. Once you get up past Port Augusta (about 3 hours North of Adelaide) the scenery and the amount of cars on the road changes drastically.

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Rush hour in the outback

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On the road........not much around....maybe we are getting a bit loopy!

We drove for about six hours that first day and made camp at a rest stop about two hours South of Coober Pedy. It was a great stop just off the Stuart Highway, and we ended up sharing it with some nice people also traveling around Australia.

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Camping on the side of the road

The next morning we headed off to Coober Pedy. An old opal mining town right off the Stuart Highway. It gets so hot there during the summer months that most of the town is built underground.

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Coober Pedy.....it is a bit dusty there! ;-)

One of the couples we met the night before suggested we check out the Old Timers Mine, so we did. It gave us a good look into what life was like back in the day, when the opal mining boom was going on. Here are some pics from the mine.

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Heading into the mine

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Digging for some opals

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Life under ground

We left Coober Pedy and we were able to make it all the way to Curtin Springs for the night…..free camping (woohoo!)

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Sunset at our campground at Curtin Springs

The next morning we only had about 100km to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the largest monolith in the world. Basically the biggest rock in the world, and only a third of it is above ground. The temperature that day hit 39C (102F) and when you were in the sun….it felt like it! We ended up just doing an easy hike up to check out Kata Tjuta (back when I was a kid it was called the Olgas) These are some huge rock formations about 45 minutes from Uluru (Ayers Rock). They are part of the same rock plateau, and are very cool to see. Cathy was starting to get an idea why they call it the red center.

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           Kata Tjuta from a distance

Afterwards we checked into the Ayers Rock Campground, and because it was so hot, we ended up spending the afternoon at the pool.

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Life in the outback ;-)

Some of the highlights of this area are the sunrises and sunsets, and color changes the sand and rocks go through. We headed off around sunset to catch the changes of colors on Uluru. Luckily we were able to get some really good pics.

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Uluru at sunset

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Enjoying the sunset at the Uluru, and watching it change colors

The following morning we woke early to beat the heat and headed off to Uluru to do the base hike. To give you an idea of how big this rock is, it usually takes people 3 hours to hike around it. We lucked out with the weather being really nice in the morning (minus the flies!) and we got some good shots of the unique formation on the rock. You have to be careful though, because some of the areas are considered sacred and shouldn’t be photographed. We made sure to pay attention to this, and got some good shots of the public areas.

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Some unique formations on the rock.....is that me or is that the Darth Vaders helmet on the rock?

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Having some fun at Uluru

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More of the unique formations on Uluru

On a side note, Cathy and I calculated our mileage so far in Australia, and we just went over 10,000km in our groovy mobile, woohoo! Out of those 10,000km only a week of that has been here in the outback, mostly on the Stuart Highway. Some people reading this already know this, but for those who don’t……..man, do you have to be alert driving up here. Back home, the worst thing you could probably hit is a deer. Well, lets run through the list Cathy and I have come across so far here in the outback…..of course there are kangaroos……..then you have dingos, followed by emu’s (one big damn bird!), then you take it up a notch, cows walk un-fenced out here in the outback….imagine hitting a cow at 70!!! Then one step bigger….wild horses! Came upon a heard of them the other day. Last but not least, and thankfully haven’t come across a heard of these yet…..camels! You got to stay alert out here in the outback!

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Horses on the road......horses!!!

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COWS!!!......COWS on the road!!

Back to our fun! ;-) We left Uluru and headed for Kings Canyon. Unforutnately, the temperature was around 100 again that day. We arrived in the canyon and decided to just do a portion of the canyon, so that Cathy could check it out. It really is a cool place, and here are some pics of the canyon.

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Kings Canyon

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Enjoying Kings Canyon

We left the canyon a little later than we anticipated, but we were able to stretch our drive that day and make it all the way to Alice Springs. For those who don’t know, this is were I was born……always good to visit where you are from! :-) We are also lucky enough to have some close family friends let us stay at their house while they are out of town. Thanks so much Bob and Sue…..your house was a perfect oasis for us. Our van is very comfortable, but lets face it, when you get a chance to sleep in a regular bed and have a regular shower a day…..you learn it is the simple things in life that can make you happy! ;-) Alice Springs is the largest town in the Northern Territory, and we spent our first morning having a look around the town center. In the afternoon we headed over to the old telegraph station. This was a sentimental visit for me, because I can remember playing there when I was kid.

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My old stomping playground

This morning we woke early to beat the heat, and headed to Flynn’s Grave (the man who invented the Royal Flying Doctors Service here in the outback). At the grave sight is the start of a hike to the summit of Mt. Gillen. It was a great hike with some great views at the summit of the Macdonnell Ranges as well as Alice Springs. Here are some pics from the hike.

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Cathy on the hike on Mt. Gillen

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Summit of Mt. Gillen with Alice Springs in the background

After the hike we headed down the highway and checked out Simpson’s Gap and Standley Chasm, both short hikes, but well worth the visit. Some pics from those hikes.

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Simpson's Gap

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Cathy enjoying a break on the hike in Standley Chasm

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Standley Chasm

Tomorrow we are going to head out and continue making our way North toward Darwin. First stop Tennant Creek.

p.s. We also posted posted a bunch of pictures on the gallery page. :-)