06-05-2008 Australia by Campervan English

Australia

Dear family, friends, girlfriends and landlubbers,

It has been a while but we are still there. Since our PNG-adventure we have been in the marina in Townsville and have done what boaties do. We lie at the most sociable pontoon and parties started spontaneously or something unimportant was considered as a perfect excuse for an extra beer or wine. We had a Brazilian evening playing “Trivial pursuit” and we’ve had a warm Christmas with other cruisers. Old- and new-year was also well celebrated with, as always, a wooden head at the 1st of January. Jacqueline finds often some cool air in one of the shopping malls.  We are frequently found on the sociable boulevard The Strand or we are trying to find one or another gadget in the city.  Every Monday at the end of the afternoon we climb Castle Hill. Despite the heat we just do it. It is a tough 2 hours walk, but we feel great when we have accomplished it. We like it here and thanks to my trumpet we meet a lot of muzo’s and other people. We can visit the Dutch club I play Sinterklaas-songs and we meet Ab and Susan with whom we have sociable evenings. I play a little jazz here and there and the time flies. From the 15th of January on we have rented a campervan. First we fly the  1800 km to Brisbane and then we get a car that has already 400,000 on the counter. The campervan cracks a little and every now and then it makes terrible sounds but in Melbourne all V-belts were replaced it improved a lot. We drove close along the coast to the south and come in all kind of picturesque villages. We slept between kangaroos, bilbies and a solitary koala. Because parking in Sydney is a problem we decide to park the campervan in Manly to take the ferry which moors directly beside the Opera House. Really a splendid way to come in. We enjoyed this beautiful city, walked a 100 miles and in the evening we returned as tired as a dog. Our personal HRM, Bas is his name, gave us TOMTOM and the map of Australia to navigate. Because we have plenty of time we skip the toll roads. After about 75 kilometre driving we are only just 10 km south in the CBD of Sydney. At that time our TOMTOM went completely nuts and sends us back on the (toll)bridge to return to Manly. Fortunately I was able, with use of all my kamikaze skills, to manoeuvre between concrete blocks to slip in between the  approaching traffic and go back, piece of cake.

This year is more rainy than ever in Australia and that means that we found an overwhelming nature. It is greener than ever and that makes it also more beautiful than ever. Until now we are lucky with the weather but it’s never hot. We drive further south and sometimes we spend the night in a nature resort, then on a camp-site or just somewhere. Here and there we stay a bit longer to hike and look around. We come in Melbourne and park our campervan simply somewhere next to the botanic garden in St. Kilda and stay there a couple days. We walked the long distance to the CBD, to find out that you can buy a very cheap tram ticket for a day, and, yes, there is a boat show. We return with the tram and we see that there is a festival in St. Kilda. A band is playing and there are many people who were comfortably seated on a large field. We hurry to the camper, buy some takeaway food, put a bottle of wine in the case and go to the festival. Unfortunately every time when someone appears with a beer or so at least six security man rush down because alcohol is prohibited. We are this time smart and leave the bottle where it is. We were already stunned by the rules and regulations which dominate Australia. In principle you can do nothing. In particular with alcohol. Everywhere are signs pointing what to do or what you cannot do. At every fence is a sign that you may not climb over it, and at every camp-site you’ll get a long list with prohibitions. Irritating! We understand that large groups Australians cannot deal with spirits and love binch drinking. That is the reason why alcohol is  nowhere tolerated. In general people agree that the country is heavily overregulated and that it is more and more terrible. At least, we have a reason to grumble, that makes me happy. We go further to the south and west and via  Geelong we come to the Great Ocean Road. This road goes about 400 km close along the coast and there is a chain of spots with impressive panorama of the rough coast line. It continues to be beautiful but the weather gets worse. Everyone knows it can be hot in OZ but when we were in Portland it was grey and an Antarctic wind brought a mercury that day not higher than 12°C. That was a good reason to go up North through the Grampions nature park and eventually to end up in Mildura at the Murray river. Here we are in what they call the “Outback” and it can be terribly hot here. Next to the Murray you find much orange farming and wine fields which are irrigated with the water from this river. This happens however on such a large scale that there is a lot of trouble between farmers, cooperation’s and the different states and that a lot laws and legislation are considered. Only a few extra regulations! We move on in the outback over hundreds of kilometres with nothing. No traffic, no trees, much sand and some low bushes. Here and there you see a farm and you wonder what they do there. Gradually it becomes greener and in villages such as Grenfell where you expect horses tied up before the saloon you’ll find large Toyota Landcruisers which everyone seems to drive here. We come in the Blue Mountains and, as a tourist should do, we  go to Katoomba. It has rained weeks but as we are there it is the first beautiful day. We walk a lot and enjoy the splendid surroundings. It is full of tourists but that is a nice change after the outback. Further it goes and we are at the coast again. Everywhere we meet interesting people but the meeting with Terry and his wife Elane was very special. Sociable chattering and we really had to visit them later when we would travel through Tweed Heads. The lord of the house was working on his handicap at the golf course, unfortunately. The next day however they simply took the car, caught up with us to drink coffee somewhere and exchanged the last news with a lot of laughter. A nice experience with a warm and inspiring couple. We go to Lismore and the highly alternative Nimbin where the marihuana tickles your nostrils when you arrive. We finish our travels with a couple of days in Surfers Paradise. We hand in the campervan and fly to Townsville. It is a splendid flight and we can see exactly how we have sailed previous year from Bundaberg and we see all islands and anchorages where we were. Our good friend Lars is waiting at the airport and we can proceed now  with preparing the boat for the following stages. At present we are sailing again and lie in Cairns. But more about that, the farewell in Townsville and the trip to Darwin a next time.

 

Greetings Rob and Jacqueline

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