Venturing onto Outback Queensland

We drive west. Past mountains, round valleys, we find windmills and cows and funny looking fruit trees. From green to brown to dust to outback Queensland, it’s a really weird feeling to describe how the outback makes you feel… I like it. A lot. Free and expansive, away from the hustle and bustle, the noise of the city empties out of your head… The thought of ‘possibilities’ fills the air… The memories of previous outback experiences become forefront in your mind… Making us both smile, the drive definitely inspired some thinking of our time in Australia and of the variety of previous jobs we’ve held.. For me, thoughts of Renner and of the camels, Ben of his his time spent on cattle stations, fixing swimming pools and working in a roadhouse in NT. Sparking a discussion of our favourites :-).

We reach our destination. A town called Georgetown on the Savannah Way. The biggest town between Cairns and Kurumba (a town in the Gulf of Carpentaria on the other side of the Queensland Coast). Georgetown bigger than Ben expected, but just the size I thought it would be, I did have help google mapping it before leaving Cairns ;-). Back to a familiar view similar to that of Renner, there is a bit more around this time.. A public swimming pool for one! Enjoyed quite a few times, twice it was at 9am to cool down from the heat! Quite warm here (28 degrees at midnight yesterday), it is a thank god for air con situation!! Though it is not so good for my persistent morning cough…

Working a variety of shifts, work split between shop and kitchen, I have tried to be open minded and as willing to learn as possible. It is good to be busy and I am learning new things. A pretty cool way to cook eggs for one! A fried/poached combination…. The process of speed making toasties and how to make the delicious iced coffees on offer here :-). Asked for a ‘shifter’ (wrench to you and me), chat about silkaflex (branded sealant), serving interesting customers as always, selling both a sledgehammer and children’s candy to the same customer made me smile and kids as always melting my heart, I’ve had a nice chat with three kids who had been road tripping for ten months and wanted to know where they were on a map of Australia…

In non working hours, the roadhouse shutting at seven, this is a whole new world to me. The joy of free evenings… Trying to make a dent in the optimistic four book pile I brought with me (now standing at six with some additional book swap titles), finally finishing Mary Poppins (Saving Mr Banks inspired) I am now onto Charlotte Rogan’s ‘The Lifeboat’ (so far yet to like it 122 pages down). Lots of movies and a telly available in the staff accommodation, I’m also slowly working through some items on my watch list… I’ve really enjoyed ‘Hitchcock‘ (note to self: must read Psycho), liked ‘The Family‘, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ has made me really want to go to Iceland, I’ve finally managed to catch ‘Frozen‘ and I was left a little perplexed by ‘The Butler.’ I would have loved to have known more about the separate administrations…

Banter as always, buying the ingredients before looking first, I had to make pasta bake in a cake tin, I’ve tried my first corn dog (surprisingly quite liked it!), tried pasito (passion fruit soda), found the amazingness of sweet chilli philly cream cheese, learnt how tasty jam donught shots are (chambord, baileys and sugar mmmmmm), ventured out to meet the locals at their annual ball and in the the same night, one of us burnt popcorn, I burnt pizza and Dama set the oven on fire! Oh dear… All safely put out!!

Bonding daily with animal life, kangaroos and crickets are around the most. They frequently take me by surprise jumping around everywhere! Crickets more so than the kangaroos! The geckos as always very friendly, they are a handy insect repellent to have around! I am now used to sharing the external shower with a plethora of insect life. Of course giving my towel a quick check to ensure none of them are attached first! My bug bear though is not with insect life but the many sharp ‘burs’ around… Sharp seeds that lie on the ground. You have to be very careful where you are stepping without any shoes or thongs on!! Not cool!!

Working away and enjoying chilling out together, with so far no work in town for Ben, for sure it is a difficult head/heart pull going on in my head if he’ll have to find it more than 300km away… Hopefully something will swing his way soon… 🙂

Sunset, Sand and Camels

What a week!! The day I left Exmouth I was offered a job near Darwin, working in Kakadu National Park. Somewhere I've not been yet and very much want to go… The first job offer in two weeks of looking, it was hard to know whether this was a helping hand reaching out… A hand, however, that would require credit card finances to reach with repayment from my first week's wages… Not starting for ten days, it was a bit of a tricky decision… A friend pointed out that I may as well say yes then pursue other options… Excellent point! Guided by a rainbow, I decided it was worth giving Broome a try. Not wanting to get to Darwin just yet, wanting to take my time driving and to just 'be' for a while, a friend made working in the roadhouse last year very gratefully gave me her sofa :-). Taking very good care of me including a roast dinner, pancakes and the loan of an ear, I am most enjoying her company :-).

Me and the amazing Sam

The obligatory CV walk carried out, I happened to get lucky…! I walked into a place just as someone was leaving… Obtaining a trial, I found myself a job!! I'm now working for a company that operates camel rides along Cable Beach. One of the things Broome is famous for. I love my new place of work :-). My first day involved a free camel ride and a free picture!

A.m.a.z.i.n.g. Undoubtedly the best first day of a job ever!!! A policy of trying to do things I can't do in the UK, I think this might top the list ;-). I love feeling the sand beneath my feet every day… There’s something very grounding about working in bare feet. Seeing the sunset as we pack away… Feeling that hopefully, just maybe, I helped someone make some new memories that day :-). Brace yourselves for the camel related banter to come ;-).

Travelling a Little Less Likely With Integrity

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There is something quite nice about being alone on a bus, no phone reception, your thoughts organising themselves into various orders, being given that time all to yourself and thinking ‘right, I must catch up and reply to that long email…’ I like these moments of travel. I actually quite like being between places… The time it offers for reflection and consideration. The right time of day chosen, you can see the sun fall on different parts of the land. Onto sunset then the change to a star lit sky. If travelling long enough, being woken by the warming colours of sunrise… It is often on these journeys that inspiration surprises me… 🙂 It found me when I left Perth and also when I left Katherine.

Back on integrity coach lines, travelling onto Broome (I did leave a note in the kitchen looking for a liftshare, but unfortunately it was not to be), I was more prepared for this journey than the last. Fashioning a pillow using the handy pillowcase I carry and some of my clothes (incidentally a handy store of clothes if it is cold), I made sure to have extra clothes and a jumper in my bag. Meeting my drivers, one wearing some impressive knee high socks and the other as camp as anything, I knew it was going to be an interesting journey ;-). Of course read the rules, I found this reading a little more entertaining! 😉 Additional information, this one talked about wildlife. Warned we might hit a kangaroo or a sheep, an emergency stop would be bestowed for a cow ;-). Told to stay in our seat at all times, for health and safety reasons he recommended we sit down on the toilet. Ahaha.

I spend time writing; and reading my journal back from Katherine last year, a time I was in a similar situation. It was most interesting to read my thoughts, and all the memories with the girls made me smile, even laugh out loud :-). Thank you girls for being there :-). My eyes sore from the screen, putting my unplayed list on (become a mission now), I curled up on my two seats, lay back and looked up at the stars… I heard a clunk… A kangaroo I thought… We pulled in along the road. I heard talk of ‘air pressure’, ‘8 to 9′, ‘raised position with a leak’ and ‘suspension’… Not words you usually want to hear in the same sentence when you’ve been pulled up on the side of the road for an hour and ten minutes… Asking the driver the go, he informed that the kangaroo that they hit had taken out the air line and that we currently had no front suspension… Excellent. Now I’ve been here long enough to know how much of a pest kangaroos are and how much damage they can cause, but I was surprised they were a bigger match for a bus. Maybe it just got the wrong spot…

Not quite sure what they did, we eventually pulled away with no suspension… A bumpy ride, we bounced our way along to South Hedland where we scraped our way into the fuel stop. Given 10 mins for refreshments, we played our part then got back on the bus… We didn’t get far… The bus too low, we scraped ourselves along but couldn’t get out… A mechanic came to help us. He had to go for parts… We had been told this was a 10/15 minute job. It took 2 hours and 5 mins… Making us at least 4 hours late into Broome… Treated to eye of the tiger blasting out the stereo system at 4am, with a dead phone, the opportunity to charge it was capitalised on ;-). It was STILL not fully charged by the time we left…! Madness.

Seeing the sunrise over Port Hedland (been a long time since I was still awake to see the sunset and sunrise in a 24 hour period), I was too tired to watch out my window in the light. Slightly disappointed I didn’t get to drive it myself, maybe I’ll manage it another time when I come back… Arriving into Broome five hours late, the Broome visitor centre not making the best first impression, we’ll see what happens when I explore… 🙂

Ps if this is starting to get confusing my travel map shows you where everywhere is ;-).

The Last Leg of the Road Trip

It has been a most interesting couple of weeks since leaving Canberra… Busy, seeing a lot, much banter has of course occurred. To share some of the madness, here is a snapshot of what we’ve been up to…

  • I’ve broken one of Ben’s records… The number of days he has spent in a city whilst he’s been in Australia… What did I break it with?! Four days! A country boy at heart telling him that I was just starting to like Canberra he said that he was feeling like he needed to leave… I am most proud of this record break :-).
  • We spent two nights in Deua National Park. Arriving by sunset then darkness, moon and stars, the familiar shape of a wombat walking along the side of the road got me out of the car to admire its cuteness! A campground all to ourselves and with another wombat to keep us company, resourcefully cooling our alcohol in the river, we had some lovely chilled out days here :-).
  • On the morning of day three we tried to start the car…. Found ourselves a flat battery… I walked to the top of the road and anticipating a long wait took Dracula with me (I know, I still haven’t managed to finish it…!) No cars were to be seen or heard… Knowing the ranger was the last person we saw four hours ago who may not have been a ranger at all for all we knew, the beginnings of a plot of a horror movie rang panic in my head… The wait began at 12.32… At 13.24 the rumblings of a car were heard in the east. They rumbled closer. A man in a very nice jeep appeared. He gave us a jump. Quicker than anticipated, I was only just starting to get back into my book… Much gratitude :-).
  • A group message from Scotland pertaining to wombats and thongs in the outback has kept me in a good mood and made me laugh a lot 🙂
  • We spent a couple of nights in a nice little town called Moruya. Met by a woman called Jane (a good start in most cases 😉 ), she is one of the friendliest receptionists we have encountered :-). Settling our little tent down for the night, we were most definitely usurped by a king of the road pulled by a truck! Thought we’d seen it all, a couple of hours later I found another one just reversing beside our tent! Em, keep to the caravan sites if you please ;-). Swanky swanky. A sure case of TV Burp's 'fight' if ever I saw it…! Finding the driver’s wallet the next morning beside our tent filled with approximately $500 I played the good citizen card and returned to him. Me and Ben both agreed that the man in our neighbouring tent who watched the reversing RV shouting ‘are you serious’ and who kept uttering 'kill it' referring to a barking dog from one of the other sites perhaps might not have been quite as helpful…
  • We went veggie oil hunting in Moruya. Obtaining two drums from the cafe we had lunch in, the third place we tried – cafe on Vulcan told us he uses animal fat… Perhaps not to consider if you are a vegetarian or vegan and they tell you the chips are vegetarian/vegan friendly…!
  • We enjoyed a very nice beach and some very friendly animals in Mimosa Rocks National Park. I also enjoyed my first hammock experience :-).
  • Can all mammals swim? This is a debate that has been had as well as money nearly being placed on the right answer… Madness.
  • We spent a rainy afternoon watching the TV series ‘Black Books‘. Gifting it to my sister but never watching it myself I really enjoyed it! :-). Though Ben did try to get me to watch it by telling me there was a Scottish person in it… Telling him I was pretty sure Dylan Moran was Irish it took until it started playing for him to believe me…! That old scotland vs Ireland debate again…! 😉
  • We spent a terrible night in Wonboyne caravan park… Offered a piece of concrete (how do you pitch a tent on concrete?!), at the end of a road, no privacy at all, asking to move to a different spot the response we encountered was just ‘no’… That’s customer service for you… It is one of the worst night’s sleeps I’ve had on the road trip…
  • Making spaghetti bolognese in a caravan park that has apparently gained some overly friendly animals we can only assume through many people feeding them I came face to face with a big kangaroo buck. Finding most kangaroos encountered in the wild pretty friendly when a big buck is face to face with you this is a pretty scary moment. I looked at it. In confused exasperation I reminded it it was a herbivore, said it wouldn’t like turkey mince and with Ben’s third attempt of a tap on its nose it finally bounded to the other side of the road… Little bit scary!!!
  • Reaching the New South Wales/Victoria border we decided to return to Sydney through the snowy mountains. Comprised of the Snowy river, Koscuiszko and the Alpine national parks it is pretty spectacular scenery. Reminding of Scotland (could easily have been sitting in the Cairngorms or Boat of Garten), finding the highest point of Australia (Mt Koscuiszko) we also found frying pan road (I wonder how many tourists have a frying pan to hand ;-)) and a big trout. Admittedly not a lot of snow to be seen, both Ben and I would like to go back in the winter.
  • Whilst in the snowy mountains we pitched up at yachtsman’s point. Lots of space, a beautiful lake with kangaroos bounding about, we sat and enjoyed the scenery. I may or may not have finished the bottle of Tia Maria I bought in Moruya… It was the latest we have ever assembled the tent… Waking in the morning, watching two emu’s walk past the lake our view went from beautifully scenic to caught in the middle of a storm… This picture does not capture the ferocity of the weather. Very very heavy rain and a pretty intense wind, we were both sure the tent was going to crumble under the pressure… Ben bracing from outside and me from inside it withstood the worst of it and emerged unscathed. C’mon the aldi tents!
  • We stopped in at Yarrangobilly caves and made use of their thermal pool. A steep half a kilometre track down and back up and not quite as warm as either of us was expecting, it was still a very scenic spot for a pool 🙂
  • I attempted to make scrambled eggs in a pan that was definitely not non stick. Stuck to the pan and the plastic tool of choice starting to melt, it smelt so much like what we gave the chickens on the chicken farm that I couldn’t eat it… Ben ate all 7 eggs then I fried another two which was much better :-). How to get rid of 9 eggs in half a hour…!! Madness!!
  • Being sure to cover all mainland states and territories no matter how anomalous they are, we enjoyed some time in Jervis Bay on the east Coast. The bearer of the whitest sand in the world apparently! I managed to read 200 pages of my book (a small miracle) and got scared out of my skin when a man walked behind me on the beach and said good evening…!!! Why walk behind?! Wide berth in front please. Too engrossed in my book, in my surprise the only reply I could manage was ‘fucking hell’. Apologies…
  • Owing to Dracula, I’ve learnt of ‘don’t buy a pig in a poke’ and thanks to Wikipedia also of its European equivalents… Attributed to the Scottish in the book, aware of the metaphor, I had never heard that turn of phrase before. Have you?
  • Swinging back through Gosford to gratefully return the car I learnt that wild turkey, wine and cider does not go so well together… Telling Ben that I needed irn bru to fix my head the next morning it wasn’t until a day and half later in Sydney that I was able to source some. It was actually amazing! Better than I remember it ;-). Loving the import aisle in Coles :-).
  • Spending a couple of days in Sydney before Ben unfortunately has to go home we made it to Bondi Beach (a little underwhelmed. Much smaller than I imagined and have seen much prettier beaches), enjoyed Tracks at the cinema and tried some new Mexican food of gorditas and chickpea patatas – they were most tasty :-).


Not done a lot eh? 😉 Eight weeks after it began, 7114km later, spending only $100 on diesel the road trip has unfortunately come to an end… Throwing a message in a bottle into the water just cos we can and after a sad goodbye at the airport, I have sent Ben on a new adventure asking him to say hello to the UK for me when he travels through Heathrow. I’m going to really miss his company. It has been most fun. I hope we can have mark 2 in Europe one day…