Brooke’s text, plus daily slideshows of her photos
In Qatar – June 26, 2013
This will be our last blog from Qatar as we leave in one week; however, we should post our Iceland trip once we get back to Calgary. This last week has been one horror story after another from Calgary and other communities along the rivers in Alberta. Our housesitter sent us the welcome news that our house was OK; some of our friends with homes in Calgary have not been so fortunate. We wish ALL our friends in Calgary best wishes and hope the clean-up goes quickly.
July 14, 2012 – to Perth
Well here we are in Perth, waiting for the hotel shuttle. It’s fully dark even though it’s only 7pm – I had forgotten that it would be winter here and the days will be short. But the air is beautiful, about 70 F. The flight was okay though I really dislike flights that leave in the middle of the night. The plane was jam packed so Eric couldn’t get a seat with leg room — it’s no fun being that tall.
We booked for this night into a Comfort Inn close to the airport as we need to catch the Darwin flight early. Oz is going to be expensive this trip — the Oz dollar is about on par with the Cdn dollar and our hotel (not the most expensive by far) is $170 for the night. We get a small room, but adequate & clean — we would pay about $80 at home, I think. However, they do have a free airport shuttle which saves $15 to $50 each way, depending on the distance from the airport. We will have dinner at the hotel restaurant and then get as much sleep as we can.
In 2007 we spent four months in Australia. We started in Darwin, on the north coast and went clockwise around Australia, with many zigzags, all the way to Perth on the west coast, covering more or less three-quarters of the way around Australia. You can follow our earlier adventures on Brooke’s blog from that trip (which is just text – no pictures). This trip we are going to cover the other one-quarter of Australia, again from Darwin to Perth, but this time counter-clockwise.
July 15 – Fly to Darwin (N0rthern Territory)
Extremely comfortable mattress but couldn’t get to sleep until 2:30am. Don’t know why unless it’s the closeness in a queen bed – we’re used to a king where turning over doesn’t mean bumping into each other.
Sitting in the Perth airport with a coffee. I’m now making a shopping list for when we pick up our camper. We will have a few days to organize and will bird with Denise Goodfellow in the Darwin area before we set off. We are staying with Denise and Michael tonight.
It was hot and muggy in Darwin with not much bird evidence in the early afternoon, so we got caught up with Denise. Then Eric and I went for a walk in a park area near their home. Started to get familiar again with some of the common birds – Figbird, Striated Pardalote, and a brilliant Blue-faced Honeyeater, to name a few. Around dusk we all went out for a walk along the Channel Island road but didn’t see too much before it started raining – unusual at this time of year. Picked up pizza on our way back to Denise’s, had supper and crashed.
July 16 – Darwin
Today is van organization day. Traveller’s Autobarn rents older campervans for a quite reasonable price, all kitted out and in good mechanical repair. We rented from them when we were here 5 years ago and were very happy. Denise and Michael drove us into town, as they had stuff to do in Darwin and Denise was interested to see Traveller’s Autobarn in order to recommend them to any clients.
Well, it took 4 hours before we got away — in the meanwhile, we went for a walk to the ocean and had a rather indifferent lunch at a nearby noodle house. Traveller’s Autobarn in Darwin is generally disorganized and understaffed, but provides very good quality for the money.
Later, we bought a large piece of foam to provide a decent sleep (Traveller’s provides separate cushions so you can set up a table during the day, but we just make the the bed up and leave it that way — we use a layer of foam because when you try to sleep on the cushions, you end up sleeping in between them on the wood platform. We also bought a porta-potty. It was getting near dark when we went to our campsite at Free Spirit and started organizing the camper — stowing stuff away, opening up our duffle bags and emptying them, getting in each other’s way as we were reaching for areas to put things in a small space and generally getting hot, tired and cranky. The camp has a bar/restaurant so that’s where we get supper tonight — truly awful food!
Free Spirit is a huge campground with lots of activities and attractions, and cheek-by-jowl campsites with lots of kids. It’s holiday time so it’s full. And not cheap at $40 per night, but it’s convenient and the only campsite we could get so near to Darwin.
July 17 – Darwin
Up early to go birding with Denise – not very much to see but I got a life bird – Arafura Fantail – very pretty bird. Eric’s brand-new Swarovski binoculars have lost their focus and we cannot fix them, so we had to go into Darwin to buy a spare pair.
As it had got hot we went back to camp for a while to do more organizing and shopping. The van has pads to sleep on that we don’t need, so we managed to stow them away along with all the other stuff we won’t use. Sorting out the stuff we do use so that we can find it again is also a challenge. While this camper is essentially the same as the one we had 5 years ago, there doesn’t seem quite as much space as before.
By 3pm we were exhausted and overheated, but we had done almost as much as we could. Back to Denise’s for a few more hours of birding. Eric was hoping she could find us a few birds we had missed the last time but no luck. Eric had to drive Denise and Michael’s 30-year-old truck (her feet can’t reach the pedals). The truck is a real rattler if I ever saw one! By the end of the day Eric was having trouble staying awake.
Out for a quick supper and then to bed with no alarm clock turned on. By the way, restaurants are really expensive by our standards — 35$ to 50$ for two for rather indifferent food and no booze. But generally no tax or tipping unless you want to.
July 18 – to Territorial Wildlife Park
Slept until 8, and still had some organizing chores – get a sim card set up for our cell phone, some groceries, look for a camping table and chairs, dumping the porta-potty [always a fun task :( ]. Then off to Berri Springs Territorial Wildlife Park for the rest of the day.
The park is dedicated to displaying the flora and fauna of the “Top End” of Oz and does a good job. You can take an open air bus/train from place to place or you can walk the various trails — the latter is better for seeing birds. We found a number of new birds for the trip, but not new for life – Rufous Whistler, Varied Triller, Leaden Flycatcher, etc. At one point while I was trying to get a photo of some ibises fairly close to the path, one caught a snake about as long as itself and proceeded to eat it. It was very wriggly but eventually down it went.
Unfortunately, the walk-through aviary was closed for repairs. This was really disappointing as you can usually get good looks at birds which are otherwise exceedingly hard to see in the wild.
Starting walking at mid-day was probably not a great idea — it got hotter as we went along and I was glad to sit for a bit while watching a raptor show. The park people have trained a number of birds of prey and use them to demonstrate natural behaviours — Osprey diving for fish, Brahminy Kite catching food in the air and eating it on the wing, etc. Very nice but too short.
There was a nocturnal house, since many animals in Oz are mainly awake during the cooler night hours. I have often thought that you could have a nocturnal house with nothing in it, just labels over the exhibits, since you often cannot see what’s supposed to be there anyway. We also went to the aquarium, but freshwater fish are generally not exciting in North America and they are much the same in Oz. But there were some spectacular coral reef displays and also a walkthrough tunnel where big ocean fish were swimming all around you, including a huge sawfish.
Cooked supper in the camp kitchen as we still don’t have a decent table and chairs, and then off to much needed showers and then bed.
July 19 – to Fogg Dam
Up a little earlier today and off to Fogg Dam. Took a magical walk (3.2km return) on the Monsoon Forest Trail — a number of birds singing, butterflies flitting around, leaves falling, all catching your eye when looking for birds. Lots of green leafy overhead for shade. Found good looks at Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Arafura Fantail (life bird a few days ago, dirt bird now), a lot of Gray Whistlers, and many Whistling Kites calling overhead, as well as hearing a Rainbow Pitta which we could not see. The loop at the far end of the trail ended at an open wetland with egrets, Nankeen Night Heron and a Black-necked Stork.
Then off to Fogg Dam itself. Not as much water as 5 years ago but lots of birds – Black-necked Storks, Magpie Geese, Whistling Ducks, a few Black-winged Stilts, and Comb-crested Jacanas, among all sorts of egrets, ibises, and others. This area was dammed a while back in order to turn the land into rice paddies, however the project failed.
5 years ago, most of the camping vans/trailers we saw were quite old, many of which were pop-ups. This year, the preponderance of trailers are large, new and expensive. It must be a mark of how well off Aussies have become. Or, perhaps, with the stronger Aussie dollar, the newer vans are more affordable.
Finally cooked supper in the camper, but first was considerably frustrated when the gas wouldn’t stay lit — they had neglected to tell us of a second valve that we had to open.
July 20 – to Litchfield National Park
The Top End of Oz is really dry at this time of year — vegetation is sparse, mostly some variant of Eucalypt trees and a short palm-type tree. The grass is dry golden-brown in between the trees. The rainy season starts in November and then they get torrents, so much that cars can be equipped with snorkels so they can drive through water covering the engine! On roads which are subject to flooding, there are tall white posts with 2-3 metres measured on them so you can see how deep the water is. The soil is rich red, and mining iron ore is a major industry.
Along the Stuart Highway running north to Darwin are a number of World War II airstrips, used to leapfrog planes supplying the allied troops fighting in the jungles of New Guinea. Nowadays, some are used as rest areas for the “road trains” — trucks pulling up to 4 large trailers which often do 130km/hr on the 2-lane roads — quite a fearsome sight when you are facing them. It can take 1.5 km to pass them on the open road.
Got caught up on our e-mail at a MacDonalds, which provides free WiFi with your purchase. Otherwise the access charges at the camps have been very high — $10-$20 — and you don’t get coffee with it.
Got our campsite at Litchfield — huge sites with lots of room between sites — then off to explore the park. Florence Falls is very pretty and popular because it has a plunge pool at the foot of the falls where you can swim with the waterfall on top of you. The walk to the lookout had many Flying Foxes (large fruit bats) hanging from the branches overhead, starting to wake up in the late afternoon sun and, boy, do they wake up grouchy — squawking at each other, flapping and stretching their wings and generally quarreling with their neighbours. On our way back from the lookout, we spotted 4-5 small black wild pigs.
Saw a few Sulphur-crested Cockatoos on our drive back, and found a friendly Dutch couple also in our campsite — no problem as the site was huge. I think we are meant to share sites here, as the charge was per person not per vehicle.
July 21 – to Mary River
Up really early to walk a trail along Shady Creek. The sun was just hitting the tops of the trees as we started. The air is lovely and cool and the walk takes us through a drier uplands area and then down into the dense monsoon forest to the level of the plunge pool under Florence Falls. Lots of honeyeaters on the way, one Mistletoebird, and some Gray Shrike-Thrushes. Lovely walk of 2.6km return, then stopped at a picnic site for breakfast.
On to Fogg Dam again and then to Mary River Park Campground for the night — very pleasant place, we stayed here the last time we were in Oz — large grounds along the river, swimming pool, and a deck with free WiFi, plus lots of Agile Wallabies hopping around the grounds. We also had Red-winged Parrots in the trees and 2 White-bellied Sea Eagles doing a courtship flight, and Eric heard a Barking Owl at night. We had hoped to go on a river cruise, but they have lost their boatman/guide to Kakadu NP and haven’t yet got a replacement.
July 22 – to Kakadu National Park
Cold last night. We have packed away the sleeping bags under the bed and will have to get them out. It’s quite warm at midday but there is a big variance in temperature by midnight. It was so hot in Darwin that we bought a fan — don’t know if we will need it again.
Camped by noon in the Kakadu Lodge Caravan Park — very nice with a lovely pool where we had a swim as it was quite hot. Needed groceries as all we had left was 2 oranges, a banana and a tomato, but we forgot it was Sunday. The one grocery store closed at 1pm, just before we got there. Luckily the bakery stayed open a bit longer and they had Salade Nicoise ready-made, so that was supper — good too, with a substantial roll.
Last night at Mary River I downloaded an Oz bird app for my iPod — Morecombe’s Birds of Australia. It’s great — now I have a field guide in my pocket and it has sound too, which I hadn’t realized. Eric has a ton of bird song on his iPod but I like seeing the bird and listening to the song at the same time in order to make sure I have the right bird in sight.
So we just relaxed this afternoon — swimming, reading, doing the laundry, and taking much needed showers and early to bed.
July 23 – exploring Kakadu National Park
First thing on the list is groceries – so we stocked up for 3 days – then off for a walk at Ubirr. On the way to Ubirr, the scenery changes from flat plains to sandstone cliffs. It’s a good place to look for Rock Wallabies, but we found instead a Black Walleroo by the side of the road — dark chocolate brown. We stopped to look back at it until a car drove by fast and honked, at which point it hopped back into the woods.
We went for a nice walk, then had a chat with a pleasant couple from Melbourne who were here on holidays — Rob and Bernice. We exchanged travel experiences. They had visited Canada — Montreal, Ste. Agathe, Ottawa, and had a hard time understanding tipping. Evidently they had a $15 meal in Ste. Agathe and didn’t leave a tip, whereupon they were chased down the street by the waitress. Actually, I find that hard to believe — maybe they didn’t pay the tax — who knows?
We had lunch at a long, shared picnic table with a busload of elderly people on one side and a van-load of neckless noisy wonders on the other. Only got part way around the rock art walk — it was just too hot, so came back to the AC in the van. We saw the rock art last time we were here and simply aren’t enthusiastic enough to force ourselves in the heat — the thought of the swimming pool is calling us. We don’t remember it being this hot last time — perhaps Oz is having a heat wave — after all, this is supposed to be winter here.
Had a lovely cold beer by the pool, supper, a Barking Owl overhead, then bed.
July 24 – to Cooinda, Kakadu National Park
The mornings are lovely — cool and wonderful light, blue sky and lots of bird song. Off after breakfast , headed for the next camp by Yellow Waters. Stopped at a billabong and found Plumed Whistling Ducks and White-necked Heron, and also found 4 or 5 Partridge Pigeons on the road in.
Then to Nourlangie to see more rock art. The art looks very fresh. I think I read that certain clans have the responsibility to repaint them. Saw another Black Walleroo — a small one.
Lots of warnings about crocodiles — there are a number of natural pools in which people are warned not to swim. “The only safe place to swim is the swimming pool in Jabiru.” There are both freshwater and estaurine crocs, and while the freshwater ones are shy, they can be dangerous, while the estaurine ones are man (and women) eaters. So you have to be careful walking near water as they will hide submerged and then lunge at anyone getting too close.
Big and busy campsite at Cooinda — we are here to go on the early morning cruise on the South Alligator River.
This, so far, has been a very leisurely holiday, probably due to the midday heat when the birds are all napping, and to the fact that we have seen most of the birds here that we are likely to see. So after lunch we spent several hours in and by swimming pool, reading.
Late afternoon (4:30-5) we went for a 1-km walk to a billabong but didn’t see or hear much. I had some work to do for a web client, so spent an hour at that with a cold beer, then supper and bed, with the Oz stars shining brilliantly against the black night sky.
July 25 – to Katherine
Up at 5:45 for the cruise. A bus picks us up (although we could have driven) and we are on the boat before the sun rises. A light mist was rising over the reed beds as the sun rose. A long stream of pelicans flew over the boat and into the marsh. Egrets, whistling ducks, kites flying over, and crocodiles floating just at the surface.
The boat is very quiet and the guide is very good at pointing out birds. It’s a magical morning. Kingfishers — Azure and Forest — flash across the river in a shine of brilliant blue, a Sacred Kingfisher does a loop right by the boat and a Blue-winged Kookaburra sits calmly looking down at us. When something interesting is spotted, the engine is cut and the boat drifts silently over, often right next to the unmoving target.
And after the cruise we are treated to a huge breakfast — I thought we would just get a bun and some juice, but there was everything you could want — eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, yoghurt, fruit salad, etc. plus good coffee.
After we packed up, we went back to the boat launch and walked the boardwalk — lots of flycatchers and 2 Whistling Kites at a nest.
On to Edith Falls, only to find the campsite is full, so after 3 times around the camp futilely searching for an empty site, we go back out to the highway and on to Katherine. We try to contact the next national park office, but all we get is a recording, so we settle for a local caravan park which has the advantage of being in the country and quite birdy.
July 26 – to Nitmiluk National Park
Did a major grocery shop in Katherine and got internet access at the very comprehensive info centre, then on to the park. It turned out there were quite a few vacant sites so we could have come in last night, but it’s 26 km off the highway and if the camp had been full we would have ended up driving back in the dark — not a good thing to do considering all the wallabies on the road (we saw quite a few roadkills today).
Once again into the pool to cool off, and our site is right beside the pool — really convenient — plus there are lots of Great Bowerbirds all over. This is the park where I spent 1/2 hour filming a Great Bowerbird building his bower and strutting around trying to lure females to it. (I still haven’t got around to editing the 25 hours of video from our ’07 Oz trip.) Unfortunately, the park is now too busy and there aren’t the same number of birds as last time, except for Great Bowerbirds.
We have been traveling in sync for a few days with a trio of women from Victoria (Oz), one of whom is a birder. Every few days we run into them and exchange sighting info. Most of the Aussies we meet in the campsites are from southern Australia. As it’s still cold there, they come north for a warm holiday, just the opposite direction of Canadians in the winter.
Sorry, no slideshow today.
July 27 – to Victoria River
Before we left the park, we went to see a Great Bowerbird bower. Quite a big one with 2 older disused bowers on either side. The bowers are an open arch of dense twigs that have been woven into that shape by the male bowerbird. The bird had collected a lot of white plastic plus shiny foil and stones with flecks of shiny stuff and had it displayed at either end of the bower. To attract females, he stands outside the bower and gives a series of harsh squeaks, then hops through the bower tunnel to the other side, squawks again, fusses with his display, hops around, does it all again, etc. If he attracts a female he mates with her, then plays no further role in the nesting and raising of the young. Instead he stays at the bower and tries to attract another female.
After leaving Katherine we are now in virgin territory, not having been on this road before. We are now headed west to Western Australia in a few days. So far, it still looks much the same. Flat grasslands with sparse trees, and lots of 2-4 ft high red termite mounds.
There have been a lot of very sneaky mosquitoes and I am covered with itchy bites which I scratch as we drive along or while trying to get to sleep at night. I finally found a tube of Bushman’s which is 80% DEET which I hope will forestall many more bites. Why is it that the mozzies aim for the knuckles while you are looking at a bird?
Stopped at a few places on the way and found several new birds for the trip, two of which were life birds — Star Finch and Yellow-tinted Honeyeater. Pleasant old-fashioned camp at Victoria River Roadhouse with flocks of Little Corellas (a large all-white parrot) wheeling in the blue sky, looking for a roost for the night and calling back and forth as we eat supper.
July 28 – to Timber Creek
Took a walk after breakfast along the river looking for Purple-crowned Fairywren with no luck. Later walks proved no better. However life without lifers is not exactly bleak — we are driving along with essentially no traffic, eating Washington (US) cherries and spitting the pits out the windows. There’s an interesting tree here (kapok?) with bright yellow flowers, no leaves, and fruit ripening. I don’t know any other tree that both blossoms and bears fruit at the same time.
Camped at Timber Creek and went on a late afternoon cruise on the Victoria River. Lots of big crocodiles lying on the bank that slid down the mud and into the water as we approached. Also many wallabies, wanting to get a drink but very cautious while drinking; they are very vulnerable to crocodiles. The boat took us 35 km downriver to a pontoon boat where hot & cold food was served — snack-type but plenty of it so no need to cook supper. As the sun was setting we went back upriver, with flocks of Little Corellas wheeling overhead, trying to decide on a roost for the night.
July 29 – to Kununurra (Western Australia)
When we did groceries in Katherine, we forgot the quarantine regulations about crossing states, so bought too much fruit and veggies. Gave a bag of fresh new potatoes to the woman camped across from us and will try to eat some of the rest for lunch — otherwise it all goes in the garbage bin.
Another lovely day — not a cloud in the sky and it’s cooler. But still not much in the way of birds — curious.
Quite a few Baob trees — one of the Baobob family. These are shorter and more bulbous than the African tree and are not yet in leaf. In Africa the trunks are all damaged from elephants rubbing against them, but the ones here have lovely smooth trunks, unless people have carved stuff into them, like the one that acts as a grave marker for a poor fellow who committed suicide by cutting his throat with a tincan lid (or so we were told) when he ran out of rum.
There are lots of creeks which cross the road, almost all of which are dry at the moment but which must run rampant in the Wet, as all along the road are the metre sticks to show you how deep the water is. The creeks have interesting names, like Quart Pot, then PintPot, Scorpion, Spider, Chinaman Creek followed by Chainman Creek.
Staying tonight in a fancy camp/caravan park — pool, playground, near the lake — in Kununurra. This is a very popular area for vacationers — 6 big caravan parks right in town — it’s the Gateway to the Kimberleys and the scenery is getting better — high red rock escarpments, rising from the plains, and a huge lake (which is probably a dammed up river) so lots of boating and fishing.
It’s also a very attractive town with lots of big trees around homes. There are quite a few birds around our campsite, from a number of Great Bowerbirds (one building a bower quite close), Double-barred Finches (so tiny), Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters, and Gray-crowned Babblers. They are all attracted to water dripping from the spout next to us.
July 30 – Kununurra
Just a lazy day today — checked out some local walks but my polymalgia rheumatica is acting up again. I had cut my dose of prednisone just before we left and that was a mistake. As this trip has progressed, I have been gradually getting more muscle aches, to the extent that I really don’t want to walk very far. Finally today I have had it. I had packed extra prednisone so I have gone back to my old dose. It isn’t that much (2.5 mg) but I just can’t seem to get comfortably below that. At any rate, it’s now late afternoon and the extra dose has kicked in and I’m feeling much better.
Got connected to the internet to pick up e-mail, but nothing important is happening, and I mailed some birthday cards. Tomorrow we go on a big adventure — flying over the Bungle Bungles. More after we are back.
Last night we were both awake in the middle of the night and were hearing weird noises. Eric finally figured that it was Flying Foxes feeding on the fruit in the trees above us.
July 31 – to the Bungle Bungles
What a day! We flew over Lake Argylle, a dammed up lake which is the biggest freshwater-body in Australia. There are two huge cattle ranches that we flew over — one is 1/2 million acres and each cow takes 20 acres. The Durack family, which founded the first and largest ranch, moved 7000 head of cattle from Queensland to here, taking 30 months to do so and losing half the herd on the way. The shorthorn cattle just wander all over, and cowhands only come for a few weeks or months in the year to brand and harvest them. Only recently has there been road access (4WD) into the area.
Then, over the Bungle Bungles — a series of rounded, weathered cones, all striped horizontally red and black, made of sandstone but coloured by rust (the red stripes) and by bacteria (the black stripes). Just gorgeous from the air. We flew in a 6-person Cessna single-engine, and the young pilot, Dion, gave good commentary as we flew along.
Once on the ground in the middle of the nearby bush, we walked (3-4 km return) through the Bungle Bungles to Cathedral Gorge where we had a picnic lunch. Only new birds were 2 White-quilled Rock Pigeons (a life bird). Close up, the rock colours were beautiful and the termite columns really interesting. The queen termite on her mating flight lands on the side of the domes and then worker termites have to create a column hive from the ground up to where the queen is. Some of these termite nests are 150 ft. or more up the side of the rock faces.
There was a short break after the hike, and then back in the plane for another hour flight over the terrain back to Kununurra. On the flight back we flew over and around the largest diamond mine in the world. It mines mostly industrial grade diamonds, but is most famous for pink diamonds. It’s open pit mining in an old volcano, and was slated to close this year. But they found another pocket which they will mine underground for the next few years before they close.
Too tired to cook so we went out for souvlaki/fish and chips.
August 1 – to Lake Argylle
We have been camped under a big Baob tree which is in leaf — probably due to the water it gets when they water the lawn. Stopped at Coles (grocery store) for some more cherries — they have just put out a whole lot and dropped the price to $6 per kilo. There must be a glut in Washington, US, since I don’t remember them being that cheap in Canada. I got 2.5 kg which should last us until tomorrow when we will be back for more supplies.
Signed on for a cruise on the lake as soon as we got to the camp, had a quick lunch and were off. Not a bird cruise (they don’t run the bird cruise very often) but at the far end of the lake there were quite a few waterbirds to look at and some raptors that dove for fish that were thrown out. We stopped to feed archerfish — they can spit water several feet in the air and have really good aim. You hold out a small piece of bread and in no time it will be hit by a stream of water. Saw two kinds of macropods from the boat — a Short-eared Rock Wallaby and a Euro — a larger Walleroo about the size of a kangaroo but stockier and adapted to hillsides.
The lake is virtually empty of boats — surprisingly so as it would be good fishing and great for sailing. The relatively small dam holds back a tremendous amount of water — the only use made of it is for agriculture in the local area. A full moon lit our way home.
We managed to get our laundry washed and dried before they shut the building — and a good thing too or we would have had to dive into the dirty laundry bag for clothes for the next day.
August 2 – to Wyndham
Took a look at the camp swimming pool before we left — an “infinity” pool where the one side is level with the water surface so it looks as if there is no side at all. A bit too cold in the morning for a swim, however. Will do a big (4 day) shop in Kununurra before going on as we don’t know where the next good-sized grocery store will be. You can always get bread, milk, eggs, etc. but fresh veggies and meat can be harder to locate outside of a Coles or Woolworths (not a 5 & 10 store but groceries).
A tremendous amount of Oz is burnt over, whether due to deliberate action on the part of government, arson or just carelessness is hard to tell. However, since the vegetation is so sparse, it mostly just burns the grasses and never gets that hot so the trees here don’t seem much affected. The new growth comes up bright green, but the whole process must be having an effect on the smaller mammals and reptiles. We have heard that a number of species are no longer found in some parts of the country.
Northern Australians don’t have seasons as we do – summer, winter, spring, fall — they only have two — the Wet and the Dry. We have only been here in the Dry, but have seen pictures of what can happen in the extremes of the Wet — towns with water half-way up the sides of stores, cars floating in the streets, etc. And these disastrous extremes are occurring more frequently — more floods more often and prolonged drought with more extensive wild fires.
White-breasted Wood Swallows are really cute. When perched they like to sit very cozily right next to each other on a branch or wire. One will fly in, then another settles in touching against the first, and so on. They chitter to each other for a while and then all of a sudden they are off, swooping around catching their next meal.
We’re staying in a family-type camp — family in the meaning of people living here for a long time. One couple has been parked here for 30 years. Wyndham is a small town and rather tired. It’s at the end of the paved road with a port at the far end. As usual, when we pull into a camp there is all sorts of bird noise, but once we are settled, it’s very quiet.
We drove out to Parry’s Lagoon –5 km of dirt road — which is technically in breach of our contract, but the road was solid and dry. The lagoon/billabong/slough was packed full of birds, including Pink-eared Ducks, Brolgas (cranes), Pacific Black Duck, Whistling Ducks, Hardheads, Coot, Grebe, etc. At one point a Brown Goshawk landed on the railing no more than 4 ft in front of me, stared, startled, with his huge yellow eyes, and took off in a hurry. We stayed until just before dusk and hit the paved road again just as the sun set (5:15pm).
We drove out to the harbour to check the tidal flats but saw only a few Masked Lapwings. Picked up 2 bottles of wine before going back to camp. The rules for purchase of alcohol here (Kununurra and Wyndham) are extremely complicated. Very low percentage alcohol drinks can be purchased during the day, but as the % increases, the time at which you can buy it gets later and later. If you want wine, you can only buy it between 5pm and 8pm. We think the rules have been set in cooperation with the local aboriginal communities.
Made butter chicken for supper — a really nice feature of a supermarket in Oz is that you can buy chicken thighs that have been skinned and deboned for about the same price as whole chicken, which makes for a much easier preparation when you are cooking in a campervan.
August 3 – Wyndham
Throughout the night I could smell the fires burning in the bush — a little disconcerting. There’s a huge Baob tree in the camp , reputed to be 2000 years old.
Eric got up early, hoping to find Gouldian Finches at the camp waterhole, but no luck — they haven’t been seen here for several weeks. As I got out of the van, I was greeted by an old donkey that wanders around the campground. What a noise they make! A deep wheeze and then a roar like a freight train. After breakfast, while Eric was dumping the porta-potty (he’s so nice to do that) I had some time to take pictures of a Tawny Frogmouth that was quietly sitting in a tree.
Then back to the harbour, as the tide was in, to look for mangrove birds — Eric found Mangrove Gerygone but not much else. Then we drove up to the lookout above the town and got a terrific view of the tidal flats — very extensive as the tides here are the highest in the Southern Hemisphere — 8 metres. Iron ore is shipped from here. The road trains bring the ore, then dump it in big piles! Bulldozers make even bigger piles, and small steam shovels carry shovels-full to a conveyer belt which carries the ore to a barge. The barge then takes the ore to a ship anchored in deeper water, and small bulldozers on the barge scoop the ore into a big bucket which is then dumped into the ship’s hold. A very complicated process.
We spent the afternoon at the same billabong (Parry’s Lagoon), just watching the birds and their interactions. Very peaceful, then a quick look for Gouldian Finches at the football field but with no luck.
August 4 – to Hall’s Creek
Up early as we have a long drive today — 360 km on the Great Northern Highway. While it would be more interesting to go across the Kimberleys, the only road is 4WD with no services, and there are no roads that lead to the coast.
We have finished the cherries, so we have to fall back on our other two vices — macadamias and Arnott’s Ginger Nuts. These last are a type of gingersnap, but are full of flavour and hard as rocks. When you finally break a corner off, you just let it soften in your mouth — that increases the ginger flavour. I’ve never been able to find them in North America. We were introduced to them in New Zealand as a remedy for seasickness.
And that was about it for the day — 360 km of more or less flat scrubby bush, some dead wallabies/walleroos on the road killed by road trains at night and attracting kites, crows and 1 Wedge-tailed Eagle, and not much else. The road trains don’t (or can’t) stop if an animal is in the road. They have so much momentum from the heavy weight they are pulling and their speed (130 kmph in NT, 110 kmph in WA). So on roads with lots of road trains, you find dead cows, horses, kangaroos, etc. littering the lanes, usually with the attendant carrion eaters. You are advised not to drive at night because so many animals are nocturnal, and the roads are not fenced.
The campsite at Hall’s Creek is scraped ground with a few trees, and jam full of North America-type trailers, some looking so new they have no dust on them. Obviously built for smaller campervans and tents, the huge campers take two sites where four would have been before. But — a new lifebird — Gray-fronted Honeyeater — lots of them flitting around the park, and two at one point perching right above me too close to use binoculars.
August 5 – to Fitzroy Crossing
I’ve been reading the Lonely Planet guide to find out why Oz is so flat. It says that while the rest of the world was building up soil with glaciation, volcanoes, etc., Oz has been essentially still, with only rain to leach the soil and wind to blow it away. So former mountains have been eroded to piles of rubble covered with a thin skin of poor soil.
Along the way there are a number of free 24-hour campsites which are often much nicer than campsites you pay for. If you don’t need power (use ice for refrigeration or have a generator) and carry sufficient water, you hardly need to pay to camp in Northern Australia. These sites often have clean toilets and even water (non-potable). Farther south there are not so many or so clean. There’s a published guide to all the rest areas and cheap campsites across Oz and a separate one for the caravan parks.
We stop to check out a flock of finches by the side of the road and a huge flock of budgies are flying around – maybe 250. It seems strange to see them in the wild, they are so common as a caged bird. Final count — Zebra Finches and Crimson Finches (maybe 50 each), several White-winged Trillers, Black-faced Woodswallow, Fairy Martins, the Budgies and some unidentified honeyeaters — not bad!
We opt for the 4.5 star campground in Fitzroy Crossing and what a difference from Hall’s Creek for one whole extra dollar! Grassed and shady sites, no crowding, huge grounds, a restaurant, pool, tennis court, resort rooms, etc. They have WiFi throughout the park, and I booked us for the Sunday roast dinner as a change from cooking.
There was a monster caravan/bus ahead of us — it must have been two storeys inside. I don’t remember ever seeing a camper that big before. There only seemed to be 4-6 adults in it. The driver has a microphone to announce stuff to people inside.
There’s a national park close to here which has a gorge and is accessible by paved road, so we had our lunch there and went on a boat trip through the gorge. On our way out of the park, we came across a covey of Brown Quail, busily foraging right beside the road. We had stopped to check out some finches but quickly lost interest in them while we tried to determine which quail we were seeing.
Then back to camp for a quick internet check and out to dinner — lots of food, but surprisingly, no salad, which buffets at home try to stuff you with instead of the expensive meat. Here, salad stuff must be the most costly ingredient. Best part of the meal was the ginger-carrot soup — thick and creamy. Eric had 2 bowls. I can’t do justice to a buffet anymore. I get full by the time I finish the soup/salad appetizers.
August 6 – to Derby
There was a large flock of honeyeaters feeding on a Banksia tree just by our van in the morning, including Banded (new for the trip), Brown and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters. Banksia have a fuzzy sort of flower that generates a lot of nectar early in the morning, so it’s a good tree to check when it’s in flower.
Derby is a small coastal town (5000 people) with 2 supermarkets, 2 caravan parks, a sewage lagoon that birders are encouraged to visit, and a new jetty bordered by mangroves. The aborigines seem better off here, more integrated into town life.
This is the height of the tourist season in Northern Australia. The first campsite we tried was full, but we got quite a nice site in the second, bigger park. We have made a reservation for tomorrow night in the Broome Bird Observatory. We would have booked for two nights, but the sites aren’t powered. Hooray! Eric just phoned back and found they have fridges in camp kitchens where we can put our perishables, so we have booked in for 3 nights!
Derby protects its Baob trees and there are a number of big old ones scattered through the town as well as an ordered row of them down the centre strip of the main street. The “Jail Tree” is on the outskirts and is possibly the oldest. It is hollow at the base and was used to hold kidnapped aborigines who were to be forced to dive for pearls. Unlike its stately relatives, the Jail Tree looks evil — all bulbous with scraggly branches, as if its shape reflects the ill purpose it was put to.
So first thing is to grocery-up for 3-4 days, then explore the area. The sewage lagoon was not productive although it had a lot of birds, but all stuff we’ve had before. Then Eric walked a lot of mangroves while I sat by the water and read. Around sunset we walked out the jetty, having bought a snack of salt and pepper squid (delicious), and watched people. Some were just walking, some talking with friends while sipping wine, and some were fishing for crabs. The info at the jetty said that the tides were the highest in Oz — 11.8 m, so the info about the tides at Wyndham must be wrong. The sun set as we drove home.
August 7 – to Broome Bird Observatory
Spent some time after breakfast searching the mangroves at Derby, and finally found the Mangrove Golden Whistler, a life bird, but female or non-breeding, so not very colourful, plus a Singing Honeyeater feeding with a ton of Yellow White-eyes and a Red-throated Honeyeater.
Last minute food, gas and money stock-up (Woolworth’s just brought in a new batch of cherries), then we’re off. What we can’t figure out is why we are getting perfect Washington cherries in August? As we remember, June is cherry month and Washington cherries come in before BC cherries. How are they shipping the cherries to Oz and retaining their perfect freshness over 2 months? The stems are still green and the fruit is plump and sweet.
35 km of dirt/sand road into the Broome Bird Observatory (BBO) — so we’re not going to go into Broome, or anywhere, until we leave. It’s very peaceful here — only about ten vehicles or campers, no power for our fridge which died sometime after we got here. However, any perishables have gone into the communal fridge. There isn’t a lot of info about where to go to find birds, and very few people actually connected to the BBO who actually know much — all are volunteers. So we just have asked various people who give us advice. We wandered down some trails which didn’t lead to much of interest, then went to a viewing platform that overlooks the Indian Ocean. A few peeps feeding on the flats, but two Tawny Frogmouths (a pair) perched at eye level right beside the platform! Wonderful views. We watched them until after sunset when one finally took off.
Then cooked supper in the communal kitchen — lots of chatter and light to see by, a pleasant change from eating in the dark.
August 8 – Broome Bird Observatory
We learned this morning that although we had booked a bird tour 2 days ago, it never got into their computer, so we were not able to go. Eric was really pissed, although we have been promised a place on tomorrow’s trip. The BBO lists a number of tours but actually only gives a few, probably because they don’t have enough staff or vehicles to lead them. Also we were told that their real interest is the research projects they are doing here, and the birders are looked on as a bit of a nuisance (although paying ones since tours start at $70 each).
The day turned out OK anyway. We found out where concentrations of shorebirds could be found and parked ourselves there in our chairs with binocs, telescope, camera, field guide and lunch, and just watched birds the whole afternoon. It was a beautiful spot, on a cliff overlooking the beach, and in the shade. On the beach were : Eastern Curlews, Great Knots (life bird), Black- and Bar-tailed Godwits, Red-necked Avocets, Great and Lesser Crested Terns, Silver Gulls, Caspian Terns, Sand Plovers, Terek Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Pelicans, Grey (Black-bellied) Plovers, etc. On a regular schedule either a White-bellied Sea Eagle or a Brahiminy Kite would glide over the closely packed shorebirds and put them all up. They would wheel about in dense groups and then settle back down in about the same place. I’m sure the raptors knew exactly what they were doing and enjoyed the show, as did we.
Coming back we ran into Jackie Hartnell, whom we first met in the Bungle Bungles, and later on the jetty at Derby. She thought she was lost, so we had her follow us to camp. She’s booked in for 7 days, mostly just for R & R. It was very nice eating in the communal kitchen, with lots of pots and pans, space and light.
August 9 – Broome Bird Observatory
Found out this morning that BBO is laying on a second tour for us to see the Yellow Chat, as well as the shorebird tour so today will be a busy day. We start off by taking breakfast to the viewing platform and just looking at the ocean and mud flats — very low tide — and checking on the Tawny Frogmouths.
Had an early lunch and then off with Teresa and 4 others. Teresa is excellent with shorebirds — in the large group of dull grey birds she found us exactly what we were looking for — Asian Dowitcher, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Grey-tailed Tattler. Eric had earlier found a Mangrove Grey Fantail so he was pleased with the birds seen so far.
The shorebirds are what BBO is here for. The tides are high, so in the low tide, huge stretches of mud flats are exposed for shorebirds to feed on. It’s like the Bay of Fundy — same phenomenon and same density of shorebirds. At high tide the shorebirds pack into dense groups at selected places along the beach to sleep, albeit fitfully, and to wait for the tide to go back down.
As soon as we got back, the Yellow Chat trip started with Simon, a rather taciturn Brit who is working as Assistant Warden. He warmed up as we went along. We drove out to a plains area — a sea of grass, just as if we were driving through a wheat field on the prairie. Eventually we came to a wet spot with samphire where we got quite good views of the Yellow Chat, a life bird.
One problem with the birds this visit is that we are seeing a lot of non-breeding or juvenile birds, making identification more difficult, if not impossible. This is especially disappointing in regards to the Fairywrens, since they are such pretty little birds in breeding plumage. So we were happy to see an almost full plumaged Red-backed Fairywren on our chat trip. We also got brief looks at Stubble Quail which flew up from the dirt track as we headed home.
August 10 – to Sandfire Roadhouse
Not sure where we will stop tonight. We have to get a plug-in as the battery that runs the inside stuff — fridge, etc.) seems to have died. We stopped in Broome to get groceries, money, gas, e-mail and lunch, so a late start on the road and there aren’t many places to stay on the road to Port Hedland. The Great Northern Highway has now turned south and is passing through the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. While it parallels the coast, we are at least 10 km from the ocean all the way.
Broome was hot, busy — a total tourist town — and I’m glad we’re not staying there. From 15,000 it swells to 60,000 during the winter (July/Aug.) — people from the south of Oz come north for the beaches. Sometime soon they will be heading home, but so will we. Our lunch was “Asian Fusion”, which we take it to mean the worst of various parts of Asian food.
By the time we left Broome it was at least 12:30 so we are unlikely to get past the Sandfire Roadhouse, as we don’t want to be driving in the dark trying to reach the next site. The road, as usual, passed through flat, grassy scrubland, much the same as we have been seeing since leaving Darwin. Scenery, for the most part, is not Australia’s forte. And the Kimberleys, which in all the photos look stunning, are all but inaccessible without a 4WD and a lot of extra supplies.
Sorry, no slideshow today.
August 11 – to South Hedland
Leaving camp, we spend an hour or so detouring to 80-mile Beach where we would like to have stayed last night but could not chance that no powered sites would be open. The caravan park is lovely — lots of trees and grassy sites — right on one of the most beautiful stretches of white sand beach I have ever seen. The air temperature was perfect and the beach sand was firm-packed and easy to walk on. There were shells everywhere, all different shapes, kinds and colours. I think Eric regrets limiting his collecting to North American waters — tropical shells are much more interesting. We just ambled along, me taking pictures and Eric picking up interesting shells to show me. Only a few birds on the beach although this is supposed to be a good shorebird site — probably at a different tide. A very refreshing stop.
We decided to skip sandwiches and actually stop for lunch at Pardoo Roadhouse where we gassed up. Busy place, while food seems expensive, portions are generous so we split an order of fish and chips.
Going on, we were looking forward to a really nice camp (a Big 4 — good chain) at Port Hedland where we would catch up on laundry and have a swim, only to find they were full. The only other park was closed for construction. There was no choice but to go to South Hedland, not a tourist destination by any means, but a caravan park for construction workers in the area — what a dump! And we ended up paying more than for any other caravan park. The only good thing was they had lots of washing machines and driers. Port Hedland/South Hedland is a huge port and industrial area for shipping out iron ore, possibly Australia’s busiest port.
August 12 – to Karratha
Got a quick look at Summer Olympics results in a paper to see that Canada got a gold, but have no idea in what sport. I gather that we are not doing too well compared to the rest of the world.
Rather dull driving day. We did stop early on for Eric to check some mangroves where he found the last of the mangrove species he has been looking for — Dusky Gerygone.
Got to Dampier only to find the camp was full. Back to Karratha where we got a place, luckily. Most of the camps/caravan parks on this coast seem to be packed full. If we had known how difficult it was going to be to get places to stay, we could have phoned ahead. As it is, we had planned to stay in Exmouth for the next 3 nights, but can only get one night (tomorrow) reserved. And it’s a long drive — 600 km from Karratha to Exmouth — so we won’t be there until almost dark.
August 13 – to Exmouth
Up before dawn, and picked up breakfast at a McDonalds in order to be on the road as soon as possible. The scenery is somewhat different here, obviously affected by the nearness to the coast. It’s still mostly flat, of course, but mostly grassy with low sloping hills like old grassed sand dunes – quite pretty in the early morning light.
The grass is deceptive – it looks soft and supple but is actually quite deadly to walk through. It grows in round clumps that gradually merge, and each blade has a tip like that of a sharp sword. it’s called spinifex and in this unfriendly habitat lives the elusive Spinifex Pigeon for which we have looked in vain. I keep hoping we’ll spot one on the side of the road so we don’t have to go in to look for one.
Well, this is the first day I have actually driven the van, in order to spell Eric. As a result, we have only now found out that he doesn’t fit in the passenger seat (which does not move back) unless he sits sideways — the joys of being too tall. However, he gritted his teeth for a bunch of miles. It was also a first for some birds (for the trip) — 2 Emus, a lot of Little Crows, Welcome Swallow — these last were on a wire above the swimming pool when I went for a dip.
It’s a good thing we reserved a campsite since they were putting up the Full sign as we were registering. We were told that we had a good chance of extending if we came to the office in the morning. So parked the van and went for a swim, as it was too late to do much else, and too hot. Eric booked us for a glass bottom boat trip for the morning.
August 14 – Exmouth
Our stay is extended for 3 more nights, so we can relax for a bit.
The glass bottom boat trip was a blast! Half the boat went snorkeling, but we stayed on board and had all the fishes identified for us. This reef is supposed to be one of the most pristine left in the world, as it’s so far away from any polluting sources. There were all shapes, sizes and colours of coral, although they mostly look dull green through the glass and the water. However, the fish were brightly coloured and lots of different kinds.
The trip also included a bus ride to some of the scenic areas, including a drive up to a lighthouse from where we could see humpback whales sporting about. Eric especially wanted to see whale sharks, but they aren’t here at this time. Didn’t get back for lunch until around 2-2:30, then groceries.
Right now we are sitting in the van on the bay side, watching families play in the water and on the beach and enjoying a cool breeze.
August 15 – Exmouth
Today we are spending exploring Cape Range National Park — like Cape Cod National Seashore — a long protected stretch of coast with beautiful beaches, bays, sandy flats, good swimming and snorkeling (there’s a reef), plus emus and roos, and little birds too but not as evident.
We started off at a blind overlooking a lagoon set in mangroves and before we even got in the blind, I had 2 life birds — Dusky Gerygone and Mangrove Fantail. After leaving the blind, we gradually worked our way to the end of the park, stopping at the visitor’s centre for a picnic, and at some of the beaches to look at shells and the azure blue water between the reef and the shore. Didn’t see much more in the bird line — lots of Singing Honeyeaters and a few Western Bowerbirds, and thousands upon thousands of fluorescent green and yellow budgies, plus one Australian Bustard.
August 16 – Exmouth
What a day! Whales, whales and more whales! We went on a day-long whale/snorkeling cruise (every cruise has a snorkeling component, whether you want it or not). While waiting on the boat to get started, we could see whale blows on the other side of the reef. We were told that the population of humpback whales in this area had increased from a low of 1800 to 40,000 since whaling was stopped. The females come here to calve and mate. Gestation is 12 months, so as soon as the calf is born, they can get pregnant again.
We saw young calves and lots of adults cavorting — fin waving, tail slapping, breaching, and a “heat” run (female in the lead with several males trying to catch her). It was a real spectacle.
We also got good looks at Coastal Manta Rays, cruising just at the surface with their white mouths wide open and their wing tips breaking the surface. There were big sea turtles, flying fish, groups of tuna breaking the surface, and Spinner Dolphins which swam with the boat for quite a while. We also saw a few new birds for the trip — Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, and Hutton’s Shearwater.
And all through this excitement, the crew was passing around tasty bits of food and drink. We were also served a delicious lunch and then went to the reef for the snorkelers. Only a few people on the boat had any experience, and they went off with one of the crew. The rest put on all the gear but mostly milled around, afraid to fully commit. It was like herding cats. One woman actually could not swim — I’m not sure if she ever got into the water. A few people just went in for a swim and I wished I had brought my suit as it was hot with the boat standing still.
Finally they corralled all the snorkelers back on the boat and we motored shoreward. Back at camp we went for a swim and then out for supper. Not a great meal, once again, but it was a change from cooking.
August 17 – to Carnarvon
Before leaving the Exmouth Peninsula, we drove a road that took us up into the interior of the Cape Range — deep eroded canyons on either side — quite beautiful but hairy driving on a rough road that was just scraped rock.
Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and took pictures for a group of four young people with the sign. Their car/jeep was jam-packed with stuff — I don’t know how they fitted inside. It was packed solid to the roof and then the roof was piled with more stuff.
Just drove until Carnarvon, re-supplied with groceries, gas and did laundry — probably the last laundry we’ll do on this trip.
Sorry, no slideshow today.
August 18 – to Horrocks
Again a driving day — not much to explore here — in between towns the country is essentially uninhabited. However, around the turnoff for Monkey Mia, the bush on both sides of the road turned into a carpet of wildflowers — solid swaths of yellow, pink and white, with interruptions of purple. The southern part of Western Australia is famous for its wildflowers in September — we were at the end last time we came and are at the start this year. Well south of the turnoff, the bush gave way to agricultural cropland.
Camped at Horrocks on the ocean — a sleepy little vacation town — quite nice.
August 19 – to New Norcia
Driving day – we are driving east and around Perth to get to the Dryandra forest to the southeast of Perth. The Noora campsite was full so we had to go on to New Norcia. That campsite was closed, as far as we could tell, and we really didn’t want to drive another 120 km in the dark, so we booked into the only place in town — the New Norcia Hotel. If you are in similar circumstances, drive on. New Norcia is an old, old town which consists of a monastery, a boys school (now closed?) and the hotel, which was used to house families visiting their boys at school — big old buildings but dilapidated. The beds sagged, the toilet was down the hall, and the food was abysmal. And all in all, we ended up paying $140 Aus for the dubious privilege of staying and eating there.
August 20 – to Narrogin
Driving day. A lot of Corellas and Galahs, large white or pink parrots, en route. Not much to say except that the camp at Narrogin is not much to write home about. We looked at a very nice looking motel with the idea of moving there but it was full up for the two days we will be staying, so we just booked dinner there. Frankly, I’m getting tired of cooking, eating and sleeping in the van. Maybe I’m spoiled but I like to have light after the sun goes down, to read or just think about stuff or reorganize. And it’s not as if we can’t afford it — it’s just that I have a problem with paying twice for something. We have accommodation in the van even though it’s not the most comfortable, so paying for a motel and a restaurant on top seems wasteful. All a product of my parents’ experience during the depression, I expect. So we stayed in the grotty trailer park, and ate supper in the motel — the best meal we have had dining out on the entire trip! We will go back again tomorrow night!
Sorry, no slideshow today.
August 21 – Narrogin
Birded the Dryandra forest with Peter Taylor, our guide in Western Australia from our last trip to Oz. It was great catching up with him; his birding business is going well and he is still enjoying it. Dryandra is an extensive dry forest, which is famous for having numbats – a small diurnal ant-eating marsupial. It is the only southern forest we have a chance to visit on this trip. It rained off and on all day, but despite the weather, we found 23 new birds for the trip and a lifer — Western Thornbill — not the most exciting life bird, but one more tick. Despite looking carefully, we did not find a numbat. One fascinating feature of Dryandra was the abundance of flowering bushes and shrubs of many different species, most with large showy flowers.
Supper again at the motel — another excellent meal.
August 22 – to Perth (my birthday!)
On the road early and got a cabin in the campground in Perth near the airport (same campground as last time). Unpacked everything from the camper in order to repack for the trip home, and started cleaning the van. Much easier this time; we were only in the camper for 6-7 weeks instead of 4 months, so the grime hadn’t had a chance to really settle in. Eric is amazing — he found the same obscure car wash tucked behind a shopping centre that we went to 5 years ago. I didn’t even remember the campground, let alone where the car wash was! We both got liberally soaked getting the van clean on the outside, but now all is ready to turn it in.
Didn’t bother going out for supper; we simply ate what was left in the fridge.
August 23 — to Doha
As before, we spent the morning in the Perth Aquarium since our plane doesn’t leave until the evening. We ate lunch in their cafeteria and then went to turn in the van to Traveller’s Autobarn. No fuss, no extra charges, and we left them with a list of things which need to be looked at before they rent it out again. Very efficient operation in Perth, in contrast to the sleepy organization in Darwin.
Took a cab to the airport; the driver was originally from Bulgaria but had been in Oz for 8 years and wouldn’t go back. Sat around the airport, reading, checking out the shops and snacking, and then we were off home.