Monday, November 26, 2007

The pretty desert

More spiders

I seem to be a magnet for these things and the mother of all desert spiders was IN THE VAN. I was snuggling up in my sleeping bag for the night when I looked up and saw it, on the inside wall of the Chubby! This thing was like 5 inches end to end, and just plain nasty! We had to make a game plan, because he was close to a big opening in the frame of the car so if he went in there it would be impossible to get out, and we would be sleeping in the tent… for the rest of the trip as far as I was concerned. Blaine grabbed a bucket and put it beneath it and then took a rag and smashed it to oblivion, or so he thought... Next, it falls into the bucket, and then started climbing out super fast. Blaine quickly grabbed the bucket and threw it outside to find that thing alive and well. Needless to say he finished it off and I took clothes, TP and anything else I could find to plug up ALL the wholes in the van.

Four by four - shmour by four

So, Blaine and I were looking at the map, and from the direction were going the only way to get to Kings Canyon (on a sealed road) was to travel about 250K out of the way, with a lot of backtracking. There is however a road that goes straight there… but it was closed 2 weeks ago due to rain and is 4x4 only. Well we decided to at least check it out. We talked to a girl at the info desk and she said it's 4x4, but other people had said we'd make it... so when we came up to the 4x4 road, we turned on just to see how bad it was. It didn’t look too bad, so we told ourselves if its gets too rough we’ll turn around. The road was 99K long and would cut off several hundred kilometers, therefore saving time and money. So we went for it. There were spots that were washed out by the rain and full of deep sand, but to avoid them, sometimes we could get off the road and drive through the bushes to avoid the super deep sand. Blaine walked one of the side-routes several times to make sure it would be ok. Then we gunned it... As we were bobbing up and down, a 4x4 full of Aborigines passed us, just shaking their heads. (one of only two cars we saw the whole time... besides the stuck and abandoned ones!) Anyway, after a long time and a few more obstacles, we came to the big one, the mother of all washouts! After 98K's on the dirt/sand, we were literally 1K from the asphalt. You could almost taste it. We couldn’t turn back now! There was no alternate route and no way around the sand at all, so our only option was to go for it (or turn around and drive the 98K's back to the pavement, then drive another 250K's to get to where we were only 1K away from at that point). I wasn’t too worried because if we did get stuck, we were close to the road, so someone could pull us out. And if there is a person who could get a low clearance campervan through about 50 yards of deep sand and ruts, it would be Blaine! I got out of the van to watch. It was pretty funny watching that thing bob up and down like a teeter totter. We made it! The asphalt was very welcomed at that point, and we both felt very achieved for cutting 2 hours off the drive in scorching heat. Score one for the Chubby!

Later we had talked to several people who said that when an Australian says the road is not passable except by 4x4 then you better heed it.

This is not where the story ends. The following day we were simply turning around and we got stuck! How random is that, I mean right next to the pavement.

The road we took was the "Ernest Giles" road with the dotted line-

Travel tip of the day

Don't under budget. Fuel here is really expensive! On average it's about $5 a gallon ($1.30 per litre), but we've seen it high as $1.90/litre which is like $7/gallon. All the random things are really expensive too, like food, chapstick, etc. (feels like theme park prices) So… I under budgeted well over twice what I had budgeted for both Australia and New Zealand. Oops

o my hot

I can honestly say that I have NEVER been more hot in my entire life! You can see the radiation burning off the road right in front of you and at times a mirage that stretches the whole length of the horizon. One minute we are surrounded by bright red earth and rich green brush and the next, it is barren all as far as you can see.
So, back to the hotness. Sometimes inside our van is like 115 F and in the sun… see for yourself!

The Outback

The sides of the highway are littered with Kangaroo carcasses. When you pass a somewhat “fresh one”, the stench lingers until you’re quite a ways beyond it. The kangaroos are way dumber then deer, because at least deer run away from your car. Kangaroos actually seem to run into your headlights when you beep!
But by far the worst smell is a cow carcass cooking on the hot asphalt... There are loose cattle wandering the outback, so they get hit too. So nasty!

Happy Snaps

Just a few to catch you up on the past few days.

Friday, November 23, 2007

On the road again…

We now have to book it from the countryside and coast into the Outback, to make it back in time to leave for New Zealand. Here are a few shots from our drive so far. The landscape changes so much within an hour or two.

Jungle noises?

It was nearly dark, Blaine and I were taking some pictures of this waterfall, when all of sudden the jungle bugs essentially woke up for the night and started talking all at once. It was soooo loud I had to cover my ears. We big time panicked and were frantically looking around for a million “bats out of hell” so to speak. I wanted to run for cover but didn’t know what direction to run! My ears kept ringing for quite some time after we had left. I have NEVER heard anything like it, I mean… it was like “end of the world” loud!

Tropical Queensland

We have spent the last few days in Cairns (they say it “Cans”) enjoying the local Aussie company, just hanging out in the city and the surrounding rainforest. This rainforest in particular is the oldest known tropical forest in the world. It really looks like a scene out of the Jungle Book. The bugs here are crazy! I found this spider that had tarantula front legs and then was bright green and jumped from tree to tree (I tried to get a photo but he was too fast) Then, I found this little ball of fuzz that was moving. It was so funny watching this thing! It looked like some tiny afro in a claymation movie. Blaine picked it up and an itty-bitty termite thing was under it. (I will post a video when we get a real better internet connection). Later, Blaine found some mushrooms that glowed in the dark! God makes some crazy creative creatures!

Great Barrier Reef

Blaine and I took an amazing dive trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was sooooo awesome! We saw tons of fish and really cool plant life I have never seen before. Unfortunately, the water visibility wasn’t the 100+ feet it often is, but we did have a good 50 or so. We saw 3 GIGANTIC fish that were very colorful and about 5 feet in length, and a 100 year old clam that weighed about 150 pounds. Blaine got much better photos then me because when he handed me the camera underwater it would make me shoot up toward the surface and float, because I didn’t have enough weight on. Next time I will add a few extra lb’s to my weight belt. Diving is far more enjoyable in warm water when you don’t need a wetsuit. The water was about 85 degrees and the air was the same with a high humidity, so it felt good to hop in the water.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Travel tip of the day

To book a good day trip at a cheap price the best thing to do is stroll into town before the booking places open that day and check prices and availability. Chances are they still have spots going out that day and you will get a discounted price for being last minute. The only problem is, its last minute, and leaves you only about 30 minutes to get to whatever harbor, get ready to go and get on the boat! So if you can take the stress of being in a gigantic rush then this tip applies to you.

Whitsunday Islands

Yesterday we went on an all day boat trip, complete with snorkeling, lunch, a hike, and a few hours at Whitehaven beach. Blaine and I almost didn’t go out today because of a category 3 cyclone (hurricane) hovering above Cairns and generating bad water visibility, wind and rain. But when we woke up at a bright 5:30 am it was partly sunny so I thought we should go for it. We still have 14 days left here but almost twice the distance to drive (we doddled a bit too much). Anyway, I am so glad that we did because it only rained when we were snorkeling and I think the clouds made for some nice pictures.

Snorkeling…. Holy cow! This was the most amazing reef I have ever seen! The only downer is we had to wear a “stinger suit” to protect us against all the various types of killer jellyfish, one being an Irukandji only 2 centimeters in size and almost transparent (barley noticeable in the water). If they sting you, you’ll probably die, sometimes in as little as 25 minutes. The suit covers every square inch of your body except the tip of your big toe, if your fins don’t cover it, and the small space between your mask and snorkel around your mouth. This lycra suite is basically a bright blue, funny looking uni-tard thing that made us all look like space men. Good times. Doesn’t Blaine look hot! haha

People come to these amazing beaches in the summer when the water is warm and they can’t even enjoy the ocean. In each city we have gone to they have big pool “lagoons” and have a small section of beach that is netted off. Not so fun and inviting. However, you can always wear a stinger suite, but you won’t get a tan.

Hiking… The shots I took from up here barely do it justice. I didn’t have enough time to photoshop the panorama, but I thought it would give you a good idea of where we were.

Whitehaven beach… In all the amazing places I have been in my life Whitehaven beach was by far the most beautiful beach with the most tranquil water I have ever experienced.

Hopefully we will be able to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkeling just isn’t enough! We have to wait on the weather though because of the storm, but maybe it will have died down a bit in a day or two.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Fun little story… We had just eaten dinner, at our beach campsite and Blaine started taking some night pictures. It was totally dark by this point and I was starting to clean up. I had a question about where something went, when into my headlamp view and the corner of my eye something moved into a hole. Ok, a little background, since my husband is into everything dangerous, I have to know whether or not it can kill him so I know a lot about what to expect from Austrailan wild life. Anyway, I know that funnel web spiders (VERY poisonous) are known to live in holes and are quite large so of course I jump to the worst possible conclusion being that we practally standing in a minefield of funnel web spiders.
I go up to have a closer view and to my horror I see really big legs clenching the side of the hole. I ran and locked myself in the tent and Blaine goes to investigate, and lots of the holes have these legs hanging out. After another 20 minites or so (Blaine cleaning up the camsite so we don’t get dingos digging through our leftovers, and me talking to him through the tent) Blaine came to the conclusion that they were just really big (the biggest he had ever seen) sand spiders. But later in the night he did more investigating and realized that they were actually adorable sand crabs with spider looking legs. I slept better knowing that!
I did get my very large spider experience later though when I was washing some dishes in the sink at a campground and one big guy climed out of the sink and scared the crap out of me. Blaine wasn’t around and some guys saw me freak out and came over to see what the commotion was all about. They told me those ones get to be 3 times that size and flicked it out of the sink onto the grass. I do not want to see that thing full grown. This thing was like, "live at the zoo" big.
That’s the funny thing about Austraila. The further north you get toward the equator, the larger and more crazy the wildlife gets. Tomorrow… the Whitsundays!

You can see all the holes in the sand, now you can see why I was a bit panicked.

Travel tip of the day

Cook good food if you can it makes camping more fun.

Lake Mackenzie

Lake Mackenzie was our first stop. The pictures are self explanatory-it was beautiful.

Fraser Island

Sorry for the delay, Blaine and I spent a few days out on Fraser Island camping and off roading. Fraser Island was one of the main highlights to see in Australia, with its 75 miles of beach driving, camping, off roading to the max and of course wild life, a beached ship wreck and all the sun and sand we could take. This is the largest sand island in the world. It did live up to our expectations, it was sooo beautiful and relaxing. I enjoyed the off roading part a lot more then I thought I would. There actually are no roads on the Island except in one little resort on the back side of it. All the trails are sandy and some are more deep than others. Blaine knows how to drive in that stuff so it wasn’t bad, a bit bumpy, but super fun! There are only two downers, you cannot swim in the ocean because of sharks and jellyfish, and can I say holy horse flies! Those suckers were after me and they were big and bit too.

Anyway, so we dumped the chubby (our van) and got ourselves an expensive piece of junk. Gutless, shockless, and over 173,000 miles! Our Suzuki Jimny was a rough ride but totally worth it. I thought that the transmission was going fall out at some point for sure. Blaine ran that thing into the ground, literally.

These flies are NOT the big ones that bite, but you get the idea.