Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Bye Bye

Happy New Year to everyone!
As many of you might have done on the 31st December, looking back to the 2015, we did likewise and realised once more how wonderful it had been for us and what a great time we have had. Our trip around Australia was just fantastic. A lot happened and it might be of interest for the readers to look into some figures and numbers of our trip: 

We were away from Switzerland for a total of 354 days. Of these were 297 nights of sleep, mostly deep and sound, in our home Kasbah. 37 nights  – some 10%! –  we were offered the master bedroom with ensuite at the „Taylor’s Inn“. The company was fabulous and what came out of Robyn’s kitchen is best described as a 5-star dinner —every single night.
We started our trip in November 2014 and went to New Zealand first, where we spent 13 nights in the cozy sleep-out of our friend Nicole’s place on the Coromandel Peninsula. We arrived both very excited about the upcoming journey and completely knackered after the exhausting finish in Switzerland. We enjoyed very much being part of Nicole’s life and after two weeks our batteries were recharged.
Over New Year’s we spent 5 nights in the capital Sydney where we booked a room through Airbnb, which was a first-time experience for us and worked out so well, that we did it again a few months later.

 Living room of the luxurious Taylor's Inn

Our fabulous hosts – the Taylors

 Nicole's lovely house in Kuaotunu

Our friend Nicole and her dog Max

In total we drove 40’140 km on Australian roads of which probably around 20% (or 8’000 km) on gravel roads. The worst road conditions we encountered in the Kimberley region: the 78km drive from Kalumburu Road to the Mitchell Falls and back again. Nowhere else was the corrugation as bad as there. Some parts of the Tanami Road, and the drive up to Cape York (and back …) could keep up with this but were shorter.
We varied the pressure in our tyres quite often and the range was between 12psi (0.8 bar, Big Red in the Simpson Desert) and 45psi (3.2 bar, sealed roads). 
The old Telegraph Track and the Old Coach Road (both on the Cape York peninsula) as well as the Deddick Track in the Alpine NP called for driving in low range for hours at a time. Other than that we used low range daily to drive up the levellers in order to have a level bed ;-)

Kasbah on the Big Red – the highest sand dune in the Simpson Desert

The average diesel consumption we calculated as 13.2 litres per 100km and in total Kasbah took 5182 litres of Diesel. In our camp kitchen we burnt 26 litres of Shellite and 16 litres of Methylated Spirits. Furthermore we pushed 2640 litres of water through our ceramic filter and had perfectly safe and utterly tasteless drinking water all the way. 
Our truck used13 litres of motor oil (of which only 1 litre for topping up), 6 litres of coolant (because of our problems with the radiator), 1.5 litres of breaking fluid, 1 new radiator, 0.6 sets of tyres, 1 spare tube and tyre. And we used at least 2 cartridges of Sikaflex 252 to fix and glue things which came loose or to implement new ideas. 

Oliver did the last service of Kasbah himself together with Adrian in his workshop 

The two of us went through 500ml of Daylong sunscreen, had to replace 3 T-Shirts and one pair of trousers which were worn out, 1 pair of runners, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of hiking boots and 4 pairs of socks.

As mentioned in several posts we really liked the Australian NPs where the views and the camping were often nothing short of spectacular (see pictures below). In total these were 63 nights (plus some more in nature reserves and the like not included in this number). 
In our opinion most of the parks and states do an outstanding job, however, the booking system in Queensland is a nightmare for travellers. As are the pricing politics in Victoria (where some of the campgrounds cost $42 per night, most of which were free 5 years ago). Nevertheless we spent 15 nights in Queensland NPs, 3 in Victoria, 4 in South Australia, 16 in Western Australia, 17 in New South Wales and 18 in the Northern Territory.
During our journey we crossed state borders 11 times with no problems at all, we just had to accept the restrictions for some food items. We could either precook our fruits and vegetables or even better eat them before the border crossing.
Weatherwise we had a lot of variety. 42°C being the maximum temperature at the Murray River in Purnong on February 22nd. The lowest temperature with 1°C we experienced in the Red Centre close to the Uluru at the end of June. We had a fabulous longest period of no rain for 147 days but also 9 days with rain in a row (but only once).

Our list of the most-frequently-used equipment includes our two cookers, the billy, the Hema maps and road atlases (App and hardcopies) and the highly useful Wikicamps App on the iPad.
Must-have equipment were the fly screens (for pop-up roof and door) and the headnets, plus the fly swat, the breaker bar for the wheel nuts, the Staun deflators and our ARB compressor (which was gifted to us by Peter Bladin, thank you very much!), the Cobb oven to bake bread and pizza and prepare steaks. And, last but not least, Jeannine’s EasiYo yoghurt maker that saved us from the prevalent thickened, sweetened and artificially flavoured low-fat Australian yoghurt.

 Surviving without a headnet was very unpleasant at times

Our fly swat with a victim

 The Cobb oven....

... and what came out of it

Unfortunately this final blog post took much longer to publish than anticipated. There was just too much to do and to prepare because we needed to get into our nomad’s life on another continent. It’s South America where we arrived mid November. Kasbah arrived in Chile in the second week of December and we are very glad to have our loved home back!
With this post we conclude the She’ll be apples blog but continue with a new travel blog about South America. We do publish this in German only but for the ones interested Google translator might be handy and the pictures don’t need words anyway.

So long and she was all apples

In the Termas de Colina, Valle de Maipo, Chile

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Gold Coast to Melbourne

Yellow route: Gold Coast to Melbourne - 2815 km
Total on this trip around Australia - 40'140 km

Very satisfied with the achievements in Adrian’s workshop at Gold Coast (see previous post) and after a nice lunch with Anna and Adrian at Sanctuary Cove, we took off through the spectacular temperate rainforest of the Eagle Heights area.
All the camps in the Springbrook national park were fully booked — not too much of a surprise, it being a weekend during school holidays. Nevertheless we were glad to escape the hopeless booking system of Queensland National Parks for the last time.

The drive into New South Wales and the Border Ranges national park was equally pleasant as the drive through the Tamborine region the day before. We attacked a longer walk in an incomparably beautiful rainforest with abundant fauna. Luckily we made it back to the camp just before a thunderstorm set in. A rather exciting happening given that we hadn’t had rain for the last 5 months, except for the hail storm in Alice – which was, strictly speaking, not rain! We perceived the humid air as bitterly cold (although still about 7°C) and had to dig up our sleeping bags…

We added some other walks in the Border Ranges with the Pinnacles lookout being our favourite. A senior ranger told us flora and fauna in this region show greater variety than tropical rainforests. Even if we don’t have the knowledge and experience to judge this ourselves, we enjoyed an incredible amount of plants, very dense forest, heaps of birds and other animals. 

 Lush rainforest in the Border Ranges national park

 The high humidity lets fungi and lichen grow

View from the Pinnacles lookout. Mount Warning is the peak at the far end

The Richmond Range national park to the South West is less travelled and less developed, but offered fabulous camping in a clearing on a grassy area with a birds' concert that was unparalleled. The walk around Bar Mountain made for some nice views and led through two different kinds of forest.

Through Kyogle, Tenterfield and Glen Innes we travelled to Moree: Yes we dared to go there, even though we were advised in the tourist information in Tenterfield, to avoid this town, as „they have an aboriginal problem there“. This was not the first time we were warned of indigenous being dangerous! In Moree we were very kindly received at the tourist information and did a pleasant architectural walk through town. In total we saw five indigenous people in 2.5 hours and there was not a glimpse of violence in their faces or behaviour. We sometimes wonder where this fear against the indigenous comes from – mostly pure ignorance mixed with rumours we think, hardly personal experiences.

 Glen Innes' attractive CBD

Another wonderful camping spot we had to ourselves

Our next stop was in Lightning Ridge. A legendary, quirky place, inhabited by weird characters who have chosen a simple life, earn some (or big) money by digging for opals. It’s a matter of fact that the ones who made money might stop digging, but still live in „the Ridge“, as the locals call their town, because the place is their life. Very polarising we found; either you love or hate it. We had a fabulous time there, enjoying the public artesian spa under the stars and cycling along the signposted car-door tours which allow tourists to get an insight into the miners' lives.

 Signpost on the red-car-door tour

 A lot of old equipment acts as exhibits

 Former opal mine opened to tourists to visit

John Murray's art is famous in the whole Australian Outback

"Bottle houses" are quite popular and give the buildings a "churchy" look

 Wall of a bottle house

We continued South towards Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve. Not too much of this reserve is open to the public except on Labour Day long weekend. For once this was the perfect timing: we happened to be there exactly on that weekend. Rangers lead people right through the marshes. I mean; we walked in mirky water reaching well up to our tighs. Along the way the ranger explained the life cycles in the marshes of algae, amphibians and several plants. It was highly interesting and a very special experience as we would never have dared to walk into these waters without a guide. 

 Extraordinary flowers in the Macquarie Marshes

 Wading through the water or swamp

Also dead looking plants sometimes have a function

Our next stop was the Warrumbungles national park which was hit by a terrible fire in early 2013 that affected 80% of the park. Even the visitor-information building burnt down. A lot of effort and money was put in to rebuild facilities, walking tracks and the most helpful visitor information currently housed in a temporary container. Nevertheless it was very peaceful in the Blackman Campground and the walks were magnificent — we stayed for three nights. One day we cycled through the park to get to the Siding Spring Observatory where Australia's biggest telescope is situated.

 Approaching Warrumbungle national park

 The Breadknife is the dominant mountain in the middle of the picture

Home of the biggest optical telescope in Australia (3.9m)

 The Anglo-Australian telescope

After a decent climb there is always a speedy downhill…

The next day we stopped in Dubbo for a coffee and a photo: we had been in Dubbo this January which meant our loop around Australia was complete! What a great feeling and countless memories of lovely people we met and fabulous landscapes we explored. 

The big moment - journey around Australia completed on October 9, 2015

After this memorable moment we went to see the big radio telescope in Parkes and walked along the picturesque streets of Forbes before reaching Griffith. An agricultural hub with heaps of Italian heritage. We were amazed by the shear size of the vineyards, cotton and rice fields, orange plantations and grain fields. Apart from going out for a typical Italian dinner we had to visit a few wineries while we were there and discovered the fabulous Durif grapes. Being already quite close to Melbourne we allowed ourselves to buy a few bottles. 

 The 64m radio telescope in Parkes

 Beautiful Town Hall in Forbes

Picturesque Postoffice in Forbes

 Vineyards and part of the Murrumbidgee irrigation system fed from the Snowy hydro-electric scheme

 Cellar door of Mc Williams Wines

They have a storing capacity of 60 million litres of wine – wow!

Idyllic and free camping at Lake Wyangan near Griffith

As we were back into wine-tasting mood, we visited the Heathcote Wine & Food Festival to taste some of the nicest Shirazes we have come across in Australia. There were about 40 different winegrowers, and some food stalls let you taste olives, jams, pickles and jams. The food part was a bit disappointing and we were quite surprised that Australians would pay an entrance fee of $45 a person for a wine glass, small sips of wine at the stalls, some music, little shade and even fewer seating possibilities. For us it was still worth the visit as you normally don’t get all the vineries so conveniently close together. 

 Showgrounds in Heathcote during the Wine & Food Festival

The siege of the shady places…

The breathometer showed 0.033% after all this tasting – ok to drive to a nice overnight camp

The next day we drove into Melbourne where we are spending our last days Down under.
A final blog post will follow shortly.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Boulia to Gold Coast

Yellow route: Boulia to Gold Coast - 2490 km
White route: Total so far - 37'180 km

The third weekend of the Simpson Desert Carnival, held in Bedourie, was our place of interest two weeks ago. We travelled roughly 1500 km to attend this event and made it on time to the Rodeo on Friday night. For both of us it was the first time we watched these courageous cowboys fighting and falling off the bullocks or broncos. Many of the participants, most of which locals, didn’t score as the animal bucked them off in less than the required eight seconds. As an outsider it is hard to understand why someone would put himself in such a risky situation.

 Tension is high, everything ready to go

 Very brave cowboys. No matter whether riding a bullock....

 ... or a horse

Ouch – the landing is hard

We were very pleased that Kate and Lindsay (the two Sydnesiders we met several times on this trip, last time in Cairns) joined us on time for this special weekend (they had driven 750km that day!). As always we really enjoyed their company, we loved the chats around the campfire and they got us into playing cards the Australian way….

Exchange travel highlights at the campfire with Kate and Lindsay

While the Friday evening event was rather small, short and with fewer spectators, the horse races on Saturday attracted a much bigger crowd. The women were dressed up in fancy clothing, broad-brimmed hats and high heels. Wearing pink was a must, not only for women, in order to support the breast-cancer organisation. 
There are different motives to attend this event: social gathering, see and be seen, betting and winning money or having fun and drink lots of beer. We tried to make money too, but were unsuccessful with our bets although we took Lindsay’s advices to heart. We could have won the „furthest from home“-category in the Ute-Master, had we only participated. The whole weekend was a real true-blue event and we absolutely enjoyed being there, arguably the only overseas visitors.

Competition everywhere – also for the nicest dress, but we didn't see men line up for a dress competition

Good luck with the bet...

On Sunday we had a dip in the artesian spa in town (still Bedourie) where we met Anne and Juerg, two travellers from Melbourne who met another Bremach with Swiss number plates (friends of ours) just over 2 years ago in Birdsville, 170km away. We got along really well and they spontaneously decided to join us on our short Simpson Desert trip. We drove 70 kms into the QAA line, which, according to our guide book, offers the most challenging sand-dune crossings of the whole iconic Simpson Desert track. We had a lot of fun, great camping and excellent company in the two days. Even though we always chose the most challenging option – if there was a choice at all – we only needed a second attempt once- Except for the Big Red, where we pushed Kasbah to its limit. He did well and managed the second most difficult ascent. After another curried camel pie from the famous Birdsville Bakery and a drink in the pub, we went East whereas Anne and Juerg went South. Hopefully we will meet them again in Melbourne.

 On the way to the Simpson Desert

 Legendary Birdsville pub

Camping in the desert is particularly nice....

...not to mention sunrise and sunset

 Kasbah on the "Big Red"

Last drink at the pub with Anne and Juerg

The next outback event was about to follow shortly in Roma. Driving the 1100km took us only two days but we still got to see a few outback towns like Betoota (population zero!), laid-back Windorah, friendly Quilpie, charming Charleville and sleepy Mitchell. We were warned that Campdraft is not a spectator sport but still wanted to attend this unique Australian sport in Roma. For the readers which might not know what it is all about, here is an explanation. 
A rider on horseback must „cut-out“ one beast from a mob of cattle in the yard (= the camp) and block and turn the beast at least two or three times, to prove to the judge that he or she have the beast under control. They then drive the beast out of the camp and through a course around pegs involving right-hand and left-hand turns in a figure of eight, before guiding it through two pegs known as „the gate“. The outside course must be completed in less than 40 seconds. The judges give scores for the cut-out, the horse work and the completion of the course. Disqualification (time up or lost control of beast) is signalled by a crack of the judge’s stockwhip. We were lucky enough that an elderly gentleman, who was competing in campdrafting most of his life, explained everything to us and made this another unforgettable experience for us. But it is true, that it gets boring after a few hours if one doesn’t know neither horses nor riders, which are mostly young Jackeroos and Jilaroos (i.e. station workers). 

 The cut-out

Course around the pegs

We found the very pleasant farmstay „Ups n Downs“ a few kilometres out of Roma, where we enjoyed our time until the „show“ in the Roma saleyards was on on Tuesday morning. During our stay we also cycled around the area and visited the most impressive, modern displays of the Santos office, where they allow visitors to find out more about their operations on gas exploitation on a very, very big touch screen. They are currently running the Santos GLNG project, which is a pioneering venture that will produce natural gas from Queensland’s coal seams and convert it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for sale to world markets. This is economically important for the region but environmentally critical as they use the frakking method to extract the gas. The readers with more interest can check their website.
Attending the auctions on the saleyards in Roma (the largest cattle-selling centre in Australia) was an absolute highlight. The two knowledgable guides (retired cattle farmers) were good as gold with their explanations about the process and the history. Everyone could feel their passion about this industry. Through these saleyards an annual head of cattle of 300’000 - 400’000 are sold. Cattle are usually sold by cents per kilogram of their live weight. The auctions are conducted twice weekly with store sales on Tuesday and prime sales on Thursday. The store sale is comprised of cattle purchased for fattening or to breed from. It attracts usually around 7000 head of cattle. The prime sale is comprised of cattle fattened on grass, fodder crops or grain and are ready to be sold for meat production.

 Cattle in one yard is auctioned in one go

 The head auctioner is also an incredibly fast speaker. Counting up is like the rattling of a machine-gun

 Brahmen cattle is easy going and has a soft nature

The buyers

We left the outback for the Gold Coast to meet Adrian an Anna (two Swiss who came to Australia in 1969 by boat for a two-year working commitment, but never felt like going back. We met this lovely couple in 2010 on the Great Ocean Road and kept in loose contact. By coincidence we were in Alice at the same time in June this year, and not surprisingly they spotted us.) For three days, Adrian lent us not only his fully equipped workshop but also his expertise, he drove us around and together with Oliver did a full service on Kasbah. Apart from that we were able to fix many bits and pieces which needed to be sorted. Our fridge, which refused cooling since Bedourie, was repaired at the Waeco headquarters and we are all set now for the final countdown. 

 Adrian's workshop was our home for three days

 Kasbah got his well deserved service

Adrian's well equipped workshop – heaven for Oliver

Being so close we had a look at Surfers Paradise which was packed with people because of the school holidays. We don’t envy those holiday makers. Definitely not our cup of tea but Burleigh Heads, only 10km South is a gem. It not only offers an excellent surfing beach with a perfectly set up lawn to sit and watch the surfing cracks, but also a national park with pleasant walks in a small rainforest. 

We are already in the second to last week on the road and the title of the next post will not be a surprise. Gold Coast to Melbourne!