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Monthly Archive for September, 2012

Day 15

Day 15

Another special trip, this time to the Horizontal Falls, a fast-moving tidal flow through two narrow, closely aligned gorges near Derby.

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The 2 gorges, with water rushing back, as the tide drops

Difficult to explain (so I looked it up on Wikipaedia!): The direction of the flow reverses with each change of tide. As tides in this area can reach 10 metres, a peak tide gives rise to a significant difference in the sea level on either side of each gorge.

We went through the gorges by powerful speed boat in the most exciting ride we ever had, a bit like going through rapids, dropping about 3 metres from one side to the other.

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Racing through the gorges, like going through rapids, with a 3 metre drop!

Two other exciting things that day:

We had to get there by seaplane (no other access possible)

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First time for us all on a sea plane

and when we landed near the gorges, we clambered off the plane onto the small floating platform ‘airport’

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Landing on water, and disembarking onto a 'floating' airport platform

Landing in and taking off from the sea for the first time is an awesome experience.

We swam in huge cages as the guide fed morsels to sharks swimming all around us. Frightening, exhilarating, and unforgettable.

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Swimming in 'safe' cages

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Our skipper took us through mangroves and showed us amazing cliffs and rock features in this pristine area.

 

Whilst flying over the mudflats we saw wonderful designs in the sand.

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Natural designs at low tide

 

We drove west (and into an amazing sunset) to Broome that evening.

 

Jour 15

Une autre expérience, un peu particulière , cette fois à l’horizontale Falls:”une chute horizontale”! un débit extrêmement rapide d’eau,du à l’ évolution des marées à travers deux gorges étroites, près de Derby.

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(The shorter) round trip flight from Derby

 

Difficile à expliquer (je l’ai donc regardé sur Wikipaedia!): Le sens de l’écoulement s’inverse à chaque changement de marée. Comme les marées dans cette région, peuvent atteindre 10 mètres de “haut”, une marée de pointe donne lieu à une différence significative dans le niveau de la mer de chaque côté de chaque gorge, avec un courant incroyable, c’est un phénomène unique au monde …

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Natural designs at low tide

 

Nous avons traversé ces gorges avec un puissant  bateau à moteur dans une course, à couper le souffle ! la plus excitante que nous ayons jamais eu,la sensation doit être la méme que lorsque l’on traverse des rapides, “sautant” d’environ 3 mètres d’un côté à l’autre, de la gorge, large de 20 metres seulement !!!

 

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Looking for lunch...

Deux autres choses passionnantes ce jour-là:

Nous devions y aller en hydravion, aucun autre accès n’étant possible, impressionnant pour chacun de nous , nous avons atterri, sur l’eau également, près des gorges,puis nous avons rejoins une petite plate-forme flottante autour de laquelle, nageaient des requins énormes ! des cages “bassins” étaient installées, dans lesquelles nous sommes descendues pour assister au repas de ces monstres qui étaient nourris, par un jeune guide, qui leur jetait du …..poulet ….. Effrayant, exaltant et inoubliable.Les filles , étaient très très excitées par cette journée, “c’était la meilleure journée maman, et Daddy, on a tout aimé !!!” ouf !!!!

 

Atterrir et décoller depuis la mer pour la première fois est une expérience extraordinaire.

 

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Louise grabs a shark by it's tail! Watched over by a specialist!

Notre skipper nous aussi montrer  les mangroves, ou se cachent les crocodiles … et nous a montré d’impressionnantes falaises rocheuses, caractéristiques de cette zone vierge.

Au retour, en survolant les vasières, nous avons vu de merveilleux dessins dans le sable,faient par les mouvement des marées.

De retour sur la terre ferme,nous avons roulé vers l’ouest ,accompagné d’ un magnifique coucher de soleil, direction Broome.

Day 14

Day 14

Fitzroy to Derby

We discovered a sad story about ‘Blackbirding’ (forcing) natives to work in the pearl industry developed by Chinese business men and explorers in Broome in the 1860′s. That made a change from the previous ‘game’ of chasing the natives simply for a pastime.

Once caught, often they were imprisoned in the ‘Boab Prison Tree’ outside Derby on route to Broome, now a famous beach resort. A tree so big that 20 men were squeezed inside for the night, so the  ‘Blackbirders’ and their horses could rest.

 

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The Boab Prison Tree

Derby itself has a population of 50% native Australians, and is high on the government priority list of towns to ‘improve’. So plenty of social programs are tested and developed there, as well as huge sums set aside for social infrastructure.

Further to a delicious lunch on the jetty we visited the Aboriginie Art Centre, where the curator (who sets up these centers in many towns all over Australia) gave us a tour, explaining all about native religious and cultural beliefs transmitted through art. Louise and Rose were thrilled to get a packet of ‘ochre’ pigments (made from special colored rock) and she explained exactly how to mix them with special sap and how to apply them. The girls couldn’t wait to use them.

Day 12 and 13

Day 12

Kununurra to Halls Creek

Along the road we stop off for a dip in a pool, followed by a bite to eat. Later this afternoon we swam in the pool of the caravan park at Warmun, some post cards, Skype to family and friends to wish them a Shana Tova, (Happy New Year), and our special dinner started with traditional apples and honey, for a lovely and sweet year ahead. Some discussion about ‘our’ New Year before bed time. We felt that this was a great way to start the year!

Spoke to Martin too, who is getting along nicely with newly found friends in Cairns. His ‘new year’ in Australia seems to be going well.

Some odd but regular sights on the highways of Australia: Lollypop ladies, and termite mounds!

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One of thousands of huge termite mounds along the route

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Another nice lollypop man. But lots of road works slowed down the driving.

 

on quitte Kununurra pour Halls Creek

Petit stop à midi à Warmun, pour un ” plouf ” salutaire dans la piscine du camping-station service-bar-poste ….

Arrivée à Warmun, vers 16h, baignade dans la piscine à peine installés dans le camping…un peu de skype, quelque cartes postales et dessins.

Shana tova tout le monde ! pommes et miel, que cette année soit douce et belle pour tous ! pour nous elle n’a pas trop mal commencée …

 

Day 13

Halls Creek – Fitzroy crossing

We went off the beaten track to climb the extraordinary  ’Wall of China’, which is a natural vein of sub-vertical white quartz rising up to 6 metres in some place, and it’s located in the middle of a privately owned cattle station. Millions of years old, sandwiched between sedimentary rock, more recently ‘moved’ or ‘pushed’ vertically as a fault line, and with either side being eroded with southerly wind, and massive annual flooding, exposing a wall of quartz!

 

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Wall of quartz aka 'Wall of China'

 

We passed back through halls Creek to fill up again, and saw a sad scene of natives wandering around again. Difficult for our kids to see, and as they explained their fears we tried to explain, once again, in as fair a way as possible the situation, and ‘phenomenan’  of explorers, industrial ‘powers’, colonies, eduction, as well as the native art, way of living, and fitting in to each others societies.

We saw some huge boulders with kids paintings. They brightened up the route!

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Boulders along the route...

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Boulders, painted by Aboriginie kids, along the route...

Later on the long route we explained ‘km  per hour’ to Rose, and she started to equate distances to speed , and encouraged us to speed up to the next pool, and lunch!

We also saw more fields of termite mounds, and spoke about them eating wood, and wooden beams, treatment of wood for building, and the value of ‘Termite certificates’ (EPC’s) when buying a property!

Lessons of maths, geography, biology, property values all in an hour, and Rose was still asking questions!

That evening we stayed in a very nice  but remote camp ground, with well groomed lawns and a nice pool, and a bar stocked with great beer.

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Refreshing swims are a great way to break up the long journeys...

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Washing off the dust...and boredom, of long drives...

Day 11

El Questo

We found the 6 star! (for M.R.and the skiing boys) El Questo is one of Australia’s top resorts where people can experience the best of the best of the ‘outback’ in a certain style… Well, we took a day out of  usual ‘caravan life’ and were collected by a comfortable (but serious!) 4WD and with our walking boots and swimming things we headed off into real ‘bush’. Part of the route to El Questo is on the legendary Gibb River Road, rocky and prone to flooding:

 

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The famous (4WD) Gibb River Road open during the 'dry' season, but not so for the 'wet'...

 

Our own (morning) guide was Gavin Scott, who took us to a waterfall where we swam in clear (transparent) water pools, and discovered all sorts of interesting things on the hike through Emma Gorge: sticky sap from the Swamp Bloodwood trees is not only an antiseptic, but instant healer of open wounds,

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Swamp Blood Tree

we ate certain berries,saw Crab Eye beans which are highly poisonous, and are used on Aboriginie arrow heads, (and apparently swallowed by natives as a way to induce an abortion, with mixed double-fatal results) saw blue, black and red dragonflies dancing over water lilly flowers,

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Red Dragonfly (can fly between 30 and 60 mph!)

and bees that don’t sting, we discovered the ‘Wooly Butt Tree’ with has a sort of fur bark covering it on the lower trunk, and smooth further up, and plenty more, all explained to the girls with extraordinary passion and clarity. We saw extraordinary ‘contemporary’ nests made by male Bower birds, on the ground, that are ‘precision’ designed and made by the birds, to entice the females…

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Bower Birds nest, with carefully placed stones, as an entrance mat...

 

Nous avons trouvé la 6 ieme étoile ! (Pour le ski MRand garçons) El Questo est l’un des meilleurs hôtels d’Australie,d’ où l’on peut explorer le meilleur du meilleur de l’«outback» dans un certain style … Eh bien, nous avons brisé notre routine de “camping car “nous avons pris un 4x 4, nos chaussures de marche nos maillots de bain,et nous sommes partis en «brousse».

 

 

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Emma Gorge

Notre guide du matin,était Gavin Scott,en le suivant pendant une petite heure de marche, il nous a conduit à une cascade inimaginable, dans laquelle nous avons nagé l’eau était très fraiche, mais si claire et transparente !, nous avons découvert toutes sortes de choses intéressantes pendant cette randonnée à travers Emma Gorge: la sève collante des arbres Bloodwood , de couleur effectivement rouge-sang, n’est pas seulement un antiseptique, mais guéri instantanément les plaies ouvertes, nous avons aussi mangé  certaines baies, qui avaient l’apparence de petits haricots,ou de” yeux de crabe”,  très toxiques, elles sont utilisées sur les pointes de flèches.Les Aborigenes les utilisent aussi parfois, afin de provoquer un avortement, avec un double risque mortel !! nous avons vu des libellules bleues, rouges et noires danser sur les nénuphars, et les abeilles. Nous avons découvert l’Arbre Butt Wooly ‘avec une écorce comme de la fourrure qui recouvre la partie inférieure de son tronc,alors que sa partie supérieure est complètement lisse, cette “fourrure”, le protège du feu !! toutes ces explications, ont été données, aux filles avec  passion,et claireté.,par Gavin, notre jeune et passionnant guide. Nous avons également  vu d’extraordinaires nids ,fait par les oiseaux mâles Bower,posés sur le sol ,ils sont conçus et réalisés avec une précision incroyable par ces oiseaux, dans l’unique but d’ attirer les femelles …

 

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Ranger gavin Scott sharing the secrets of his jungle

Then after a sumptuous ‘jungle’ breakfast (sliced fruits, and cheesecake!) laid out for us in the camp grounds , we went off to Zebedee Hot Spring pools, right in the middle of a palm jungle, and again, alone, we bathed and imagined the garden of Eden! An experience we shall never forget.

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Ensuite,  le petit déjeuner «jungle», sur la terrasse du restaurant du site: somptueux (jus de fruit, fruits, cheese-cake,thé,café ….) entouré de Baobabs, on se serait vraiment cru en Afrique!!

Apres cette “collation”… nous sommes partis pour la rivière Zebedee,et ses piscines thermales.En plein milieu d’une jungle de palmiers,  encore une fois,nous nous retrouvions dans le jardin d’Eden,tel que l’on se l’imagine ! Une expérience que nous n’oublierons jamais!

 

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Real jungle forest

Delicious lunch served by Ophelie, la Brettonne! was followed by a cruise through a gorge with towering rock faces in reddened  sandstone rocks, with wallabies hopping about, and crocodiles lounging on the sandbanks…Another spectacular (but rather rapid) sunset with a huge fruit platter and drinks was served…

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Retour, à la réalité, il nous faut partir, et rejoindre le campement principal, ou un délicieux repas par Ophelie, la Bretonne! ensuite ,une croisière à travers les gorges Chamberlain, aux faces de grès rouges, avec pour mission de découvrir les petits wallabies bien cachés entre les failles de la roche, et les crocodiles qui se prélassent sur les bancs de sable … ou entre les palétuviers.Un autre spectaculaire coucher de soleil,accompagné d’un énorme plateau de fruits et de boissons, nous a été servi , avant que l’on reparte et que l’on retrouve notre camping-car…..P91508821-300x225

 

 

Day 10

Stayed in Kununurra, a small town that has grown rapidly in the last 15 years, due to tourism.

We saw an extraordinary range of mountains (The Bungle Bungles) from the air.

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Brand new Airbus

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The Bungle Bungle mountains, about 350 million years old!

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We also flew over Australias largest dimaond mine, currently the largest producers of fashionable pink and blue hued stones, and although they only have a yield of 5% of diamonds (for what they mine) as opposed to 15%, the yield rate for South African mines, the quantity mined is enormous, due to huge mining equipment and modern extraction techniques,  so  that makes it all worthwhile, I heard the guide say.

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Half a mountain, gone!

Séjour à Kununurra, une petite ville qui a connu une croissance rapide au cours des 15 dernières années, en raison du tourisme.

Nous avons vu une variété extraordinaire de montagne (Les Bungle Bungle) depuis les airs.

Nous avons survolé également la plus grande mine de diamond  Australien.  Actuellement,c’est la plus grande production de pierres de teinte rose et bleu, très à la mode aujourd’hui, et même si le taux de rendement n’est que de 5% du marché du diamant au lieu de 15%, par rapport aux mines sud-africaines , la quantité extraite est si énorme, (en raison de l’équipement minier gigantesque et des techniques d’extraction modernes,  que cette exploitation vaut la peine pour les investisseurs, d’apres ce que nous a dit le guide- pilote…

 

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Extraction moderne? Super! Tres intéressante!

Day 9

Victoria River to Kununurra

We woke up very early, with the sun beginning to light up the banks of the Victoria River to see the sun paint ‘fire’ on the red sandstone cliffs. The girls were reluctant, to say the least,  it was, after all,  6.30 in the morning!

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We drove through forests of Baobab trees, (odd as really they are native trees of Africa).

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Afternoon spent canoeing (Louise helped by Rose, in their own canoe) across a lake. We couldn’t find any crocs though.

Nous nous sommes réveillés très tôt, avec le soleil qui commençait à se lever sur les rives de la rivière Victoria

voir le «feu» du soleil sur les falaises de grès rouge, était comme un tableau . Les filles étaient très réticentes, a notre promenade matinale, il est vrai qu’il était 6h30 du matin!

Nous avons roulé en longeant des baobabs, (étrange de voir là, soudainement ces arbres indigènes de l’Afrique).

Après-midi consacré à faire du canoë (Louise aidée de Rose, dans leur propre canot) sur le lac de Kununurra . Nous n’avons vu de crocos ….mais il parait qu’il y en a plein …

Day 8

Mataranka to Victoria River

After leaving the camping ground at 7am, for the long drive to our next stop, we all voted to go bathing again, not in the same pools (as the previous evening) but 1km up the road to another amazing part of the same river, it was even better: A real river at about 32°, clear, pure and wonderfully refreshing, especially at 7.30am!Day 8 P9120505-300x225

 

Après avoir quitté le camping à 7h du matin, pour la longue route vers notre prochaine étape, nous avons tous voté pour aller se baigner à nouveau, non pas dans les mêmes bassins (comme la veille), mais a un kilomètre de la route dans une autre partie de la même rivière,et c’était encore mieux: une vraie rivière !! à 32 °, claire, pure et merveilleusement rafraîchissante, surtout à 7h30 du matin!

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Day 7

Daly Waters to Mataranka

Paradise found!

Le Paradis retrouvé!

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The hot thermal pool set amongst the palm trees really is heaven on earth. If the Garden of Eden was like this, they should have stayed…

La piscine d’eau chaude thermale située dans une palmeraie est vraiment le paradis sur terre. Si le jardin d’Eden était comme ça,” ils auraient dû rester “…

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Mataranka hot spring pools

We basked in the main pool for hours on end, as the warm current did wonders to our dust filled pores.

Set within the Elsey National Park, the hot spring was considered somewhere special by the local Aborigines, and was ‘rediscovered’ by world war 2 soldiers, whilst trying to defend Darwin from Japanese attacks. The soldiers knew a good thing and dammed up the stream, enabling us non- soldiers to enjoy their ingenuity.

The walk to the pools was through the 15 metre tall palm tree forest, with sunlight streaming through, and on closer inspection, the trees were covered in the worlds largest bats called fruit (or flying) foxes.

Nous nous sommes baignés dans la piscine principale pendant des heures, le courant chaud a fait des merveilles pour nos peaux recouvertes de poussière….

Située dans le Parc National Elsey, la source chaude était considérée, comme quelque chose de spécial par les aborigènes locaux, elle a été «redécouverte» pendant la 2ieme guerre mondiale,par les soldats en poste, qui défendaient Darwin contre les éventuelles attaques japonaises. Les soldats avaient endigué le flux, ce qui nous a permit de jouir de leur ingéniosité !

La promenade pour se rendre aux piscines était à travers une foret de palmiers de 15 mètres de haut, avec la lumière du soleil à travers, et en  regardant de plus près, les arbres étaient couverts des plus grandes chauves-souris au monde appelées fruits,ou renards (volants)

 

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Louise was brave enough to swim at night in these pools…her Dad went with…

Louise a eu le courage de se baigner de nuit dans ces piscines …avec son papa  …ils y sont allés à la lampe frontale et ne voyaient rien …..

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Night swim

The park had wallabies and peacocks wandering around. They all loved our Rose

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Day 6

Day 6

Wauchope to Daly Waters

Long (6 hr) drive north, up the Stuart Highway passing through Aboriginal lands, and some of their villages.

Day 6 P9100241-300x225Rather desperate sight, seeing badly nourished, badly clothed, unshod  listless Aboriginies  seemingly wandering around aimlessly. The local ‘white folk’ are clearly fed up with ‘them’. They are given huge government subsidies, their communities or tribes are paid fortunes in mining rights, since they were given back their lands, and leasing rights in 1972. But they don’t seem to have developed anything even self respect, the white folks say. Whilst the other view might be to look at a different culture, another way of seeing life, it seems to me that they are seen as the underdog, and drink themselves out of their misery.

Of course we only see those that venture into the villages we stop in. There is of course the great Aboriginie art culture, with wonderful ‘dot’ paintings that blend vivid colours on dark canvases, (the pictures are recounting their history) but it seems to my inexperienced eye a market controlled by the white population… Another facet of Aboriginal life is ‘natural living’ and  their  use of homeopathic / natural medicine. But as yet, I haven’t found this area exploited b y them. Ti (or Tee) Tree  extracts used in oils, creams, soaps, balms  etc, for example, is one of the better known natural remedies for many skin complaints  from Australia.

The national paper ‘The Australian’ just published a report showing the huge disparity of subsidies favoring the native population, the Aborigines. The gap is clear, and the working (white) folk we met are, to say the least – astounded, or more likely fed up.

Such is what we found so far, and in a way, it may be  a similar story of white/european  invasion of Africa, America, and anywhere else for that matter.

But we keep hurtling up Stuart Highway at 100 kilometers per hour, surrounded by this great expanse of nothing as far as we can see.

Huge areas of blackend scrubland, as result of ‘controlled’ fires look ominous, reminding us of fires in Provence, or Spain or further away, but intelligently , the Australia Forestry and Land Commission clear the ‘under – bush’ so avoiding a huge spread of fire. in the heat of the summer.

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A controlled forest fire

Finally landed up at the legendary Daly Waters Pub and Caravan Park.

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Daly Waters pub

Named after a governor of Australia by scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart (buried in Kensal Green cemetery, London)  who cut through the north / south route in the 1860′s. (serving the gold diggers) The pub is a travelers favorite, and there are hundreds of cards and foreign bank notes stapled to the walls, as well as bras and knickers all signed and dated !

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Knickers, bras, bank notes and ID cards all stapled to the wall by passing backpackers...

A cold XXXX beer on the terrace, watching the sun setting with crackly country and western belting out of the juke box and dusty road trains filling up at the single pump ,make a fine end of a long journey.

Day 5

Day 5

Barkly to Wauchope (Wack-hope)

Great climbing for the girls at the Devils Marbles, amazing granite rocks

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The Devils Marbles

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followed by a short trip in a three wagon road train:

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The Road Train

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Stopped in small road house, near an aborigine settlement. Heard the sad story of their integration problems, and alcohol abuse…

Found out that all the staff at these homesteads (motorway service stations) are european backpackers, that find the jobs on the internet. They stay out here for 2 or 3 months, saving money, as there’s nothing to spend it on!

Day 4

Day 4

Cloncurry to Barkly (via Coomanweal)

We passed through a small mining town called Mt Isa, and apart from the usual wide avenues and single story homes, the only notable thing was a 24/7 adult supermarket for all those lonesome stockmen!

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The road into mining industry town - Mount Isa

The Barkly homestead is a legendary refueling stop miles from anywhere. The route here was probably the bleakest so far, and the size of the country really is brought home. The vast emptiness wherever one looks is simply awesome. I was racking my brains for uses for this flat land with so much sunshine, huge underground water reservoirs,  other than millions of acres of (seemingly) absolutely nothing.

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A petrol station in the outback !

 

Day 2 and day 3

Day 2 to Croydon Normanton wwas long and uneventful

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The long long road...

 

Day 3

Normanton to Cloncurry

On the road there are signs to cattle stations, where huge herds of cows and bulls are tended by teams of stockmen using horses, motorbikes, quad bikes, helicopters and small planes. It must be a tough life, as well as living hours from anywhere.

Hamburger at Burke and Wills Road House, (Burke and Wills were two famous explorers from 150 years ago) we saw huge road trains transporting cattle to ports for export, or fattening up in the south, or simply abattoirs for McDonalds.

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Road train with cattle

The camping ground we chose for the night was a recent acquisition by a firm that owns 36 camping grounds around Australia. The manager explained their interesting business model with low yields, but  low overheads…

 

 

Crossing Australia/ La grand traverse

Day 1

After collecting our campervan and packing it up with clothes, food and maps, we set off at 11am into the Australian wilderness, although in fact the first road out of town climbed high into the rainforest hills, unique to this part of Australia. Trees of over 1000 years old, swinging vines, lush and green vegetation. We were leaving behind the tropical palms that we were getting used to on our eastern coast.

David started the driving and (only) an hour later into todays  planned 4 hour drive, stopped for the  first coffee at the Nut House.

Here, in a tiny village called  Tongo, is the co operative processing centre of the Australian peanut industry  and we were able to sample some of the 30 varities of prepared peanuts, the more unusual were: pink sugar coated, butterscotch, curry, garlic, and they were toasted, roasted boiled or  grilled.

Interestingly they export 99% of their peanuts to Japan, and 99% of Australian peanut consumption is imported from China or Venezuala. Doesn’t sound very organic to me…

Armelle took over the driving, and we headed west towards Undara, our first overnight stop. On the road we saw loads of enormous Termite mounds.

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Undara

After settling in our first caravan park, we headed off with an experienced Savannah Guide, who took us through the wild country where we saw plenty of kangaroos in family groups, and young ‘Joeys’ courting.

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We enjoyed the sunset from the peak of a rocky crag.

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Preparations pour l’ecole

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So proud of their new uniforms...

Today Louise and Rose got their new uniforms for their new school, starting in October. They had a tour of the school classrooms and facilities and were surprised by the friendly  attitude of the teachers, pupils and even the headmaster, whose office door is always open for the kids. They were told that the’ll be given 2 or 3 class ‘buddies’ to show them round when they arrive.

They were so proud to show their new uniforms, and even suggested this photo for our blog. They can’t wait to start school!

We saw Martin this afternoon for our final farewells and to wish him luck with new friends and studies. Whilst the changes are great for him,  he’s aware that its a great country with plenty of opportunities…

Meanwhile back at the HQ we are refining our plans, and getting the last provisions ready. The food is now packed up, and the caravan will be collected first thing in the morning, we should set off for our 25 day adventure by 11 am latest. We have a 4 hour drive to stop number 1, hopefully to arrive in time for a walking tour of 2 hours then our first dinner. The weather is looking good too, despite the fact it’s winter here.

 

 

 

A new start, a new life!

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Ready to go!

With his bags packed, Martin prepares his departure  to college campus in Cairns. Here he is with a brave smile on his way to a new life.

Australia, here I come!

valise prête, Martin sur son départ pour le campus de Cairns. 
c' est avec un sourire courageux qu'il commence 
son chemin vers une nouvelle vie.

Australie, here I come!

 

 

 




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