Sonntag, 12. Juli 2009
For our English-speaking friends - Australia in a nutshell
Completely exhausted from organising the shipping of the bikes we enter the fifth continent on 30th May.
Since we have been here in 1995, Darwin has changed a lot. And not only for the good! It´s high season and we can hardly find rooms, let alone reasonable prices! We are shocked! Today´s hostels offer hotel-like-services in exchange to a lot of house rules. And in today´s restaurants you have to order your food at the counter, pay, wait for your buzzer to buzz, then go and get your meal yourself.
The Young all travel with a lot of IT-gear, such as laptpos and hardly communicate with fellow travellers any more but chat with their friends at home most of the day.
Are we getting old....?
After a few sleepless nights (youngsters at the pool all night), we move to a friend of Tracey´s outside town. During the next days we organise the clearing of the bikes, wash and check the gear, work at the blog and enjoy Victoria´s stories about her time as member of the UN bodies in Indonesia and East Timor.
Clearing the bikes and MOT
We say good-bye to Björn, who has plans for an alternative route, and leave Darwin on the Stuart Highway.
It´s sealed now, no wonder that there´s such a lot of traffic! Mostly senior campers (so called SKIs: Spending kids´ inheritance) on their escape from the winter down south. Like Graham and Jan whom we´ll meet at the "Breakaways" later.
Just 30 km off "Katherine" on the "Victoria Hwy" we stop for the night at a 24h picnic area. There´s roast chicken for dinner. Yummy!
Via "Kalkarindji" and "Top Springs" we get to the Aboriginal Community of "Lajamanu". Once there, we learn that we wouldn´t have had to worry about a permit, as it is not necessary any more. If you like to stay, all you have to do is to ask the elder for permission. But nobody really seems to be keen on us staying so we don´t even ask and travel on.
Communities like "Lajamanu" are sort of sponsored by the gouvernment. The indigenous people get fully equiped houses, cars and money to live from. There´s no need for them to work, so many don´t. Parents don´t even take care about wether their kids go to school regularly or not.
In their culture people only used to hunt for today´s food. They lived with and from nature and were nomades. Taking something from somebody elses territory meant giving something back in exchange. No matter wether that somebody was nature or a neighbour. The white man came and took but never gave anything back. Indigenous people were treated as minor class people and for decades they didn´t even have civic rights.
Today´s gouvernment tries to pay back the country´s depts, but again that means forcing people into a white life. Only very few successfully adapt to the white world.
The idea was to travel as far as the "Rabbit Flat Roadhouse" and then follow the "Tanami Road" to "Alice Springs". But the road is far too sandy for our heavy bikes. We only make 20 km an hour!
With another 200 km to go we would possibly run out of water. That´s too dangerous we decide. So after a beautiful starry night in the outback we head back, stay the night at "Top Springs", where we meet pedalling Dutch girl Mirjam, and then take the "Buchanan Hwy" instead. At "Dunmarra" we hit the "Stuart Hwy" again.
Travelling south we either put up the tent at the roadside or stay at roadhouses. The former is a bit complicated, as it´s very dry and the grass is standing high. Danger of bush fires all around us and the sound of passing road trains leading you into our dreams... The roadhouses offer hot showers (it´s really cold at night), warm meals and most important: cold beer!
Between "Renner Springs" and "Ti Tree" we visit the famous rocks called "Devils Marbles". Just as amazing as in 1995!
Ready to leave "Ti Tree" Jörg can´t start the bike. Neighbour Jim, a former BMW mechanist, explains how to bypass the broken starter. Thank god for him!
Once in "Alice" we buy the necessary parts and luckily it really works! For the rest of the whole trip! Also in "Alice" we get the broken pannier frame welded, sort out troubles we have with our home bank and enjoy beautiful walks in the "Mc Donnell Ranges", such as the one through "Ormiston Gorge".
Elmar visits the "School of the Air" and the "Royal Flying Doctor Service" Center. He comes back with a funny story: All the outback farms have special first aid cases. To make communication easier, every drug has a certain number. Once a farmer called the RDFS for help, because his wife was ill. The doctor told him to give her drug number 9. When the doctor later asked, how the lady was going, the farmer answered: "We have run out off number 9 but I gave her number 4 and 5. She´s fine now!"
"Rainbow Valley" is just as beautiful as it was in 1995. What a magic place! We share the site with fellow travellers from Tasmania. A lot of laughing at the fire.
The weather changes to a cloudy sky and we freeze like hell! Every now and again we stop for a hot drink. Then - luckily - the sun is back and we stop swearing at the idea of travelling by bike.
"Lasseter Hwy" and "Luritja Rd" take us to "King´s Canyon". The walk is still amazing!
We stay at "Curtin Springs" roadhouse. Annette causes blank astonishment when ordering tea with a shot of rum (into the tea...) and finds herself attacked by an Emu. The Nepalese cook creates a perfect "Schnitzel" and the next morning we have ice on the saddles of the bikes.
And then we´re finally there - the center of the center welcomes us with a fantastic sunset at "Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park".
Indigenous people ask everybody not to climb the rock, as it is a sacred place. "So why do they not close the climb?", you ask. Because of economic reasons. The famous "Ayers Rock" (Uluru) attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Now rangers and tour guides get special trainings to teach visitors Aboriginal culture. This way they hope to make people respect religious places by insight instead of interdiction. It remains to be seen ...
We also visit "Kata Tjuta"(many heads) and walk through the "Valley of the Winds".
At "Marla" we leave the tarmac and follow the "Oodnadatta Track". We meet some bikers who are spending their second day drinking beer in front of the famous "Oodnadatta Pink Roadhouse" waiting for new tyres to arrive.
We decide to put up camp together that night and find a nice spot just outside "town". We have a lot of fun around the fire, Annette gets a delicious damper, and the next morning we suffer from a bad hangover. Coke and salty crisps for breakfast...
Today´s ride takes us as far as "Coober Pedy". On the way we stop at the "Painted desert". Picturesque spot!
The "Dingo fence", which seperates dingo country in the north from sheep country in the south on a length of 5600 km!
The countryside around us is so beautiful in its vastness. It´s like one of those snow globes that you can buy in souvenir shops all around the world: a figure standing on a flat disc, the sky above like a dome and the clouds being drawn along it on sheer strings.
In the late afternoon we reach "Coober Pedy". It´s not easy to find suitable and reasonable priced accomodation. Finally we discover the place where Elmar and Jörg stayed in 1995: "Riba´s Underground Camping", an old mine. No more showers in caves, but camping underground. At least we won´t freeze tonight!
"Coober Pedy" is a small town with only 3500 inhabitans from 40 different countries.
Most of them got caught by the opal fever when travelling through and stayed for ever. Today not many can still live of mining. You need about 10 000 AUD to work a mine for two month.
It´s a desolate hicktown, no flowers, no grass, only wind, rocks and sand. We visit the sanctuary with it´s comical tombstones, an underground church, and the dig holes around town.
Just outside "Coober Pedy" we visit the "Breakaways", a beautiful rock formation. Art made by nature!
Our next destination is "Williams Creek". We travel along the "Old Ghan", one of the first railways down under, built by mostly Afghan workers. The wild camels you can see in the region are the descendants of the ones used for transport at the time.
Today "Williams Creek" is famous for its pub. Tourists have left business cards, passports, slips, brassiers and more which now decorate the walls. Only 12 people live here permanently, but "WC" is always busy.
We are not the only ones on big bikes: there´s also Larry, Peter and Anne. The latter we can nearly persuade to start on a round the world trip ...
Jörg and Elmar book a flight over the famous "Lake Eyre", which only fills up every 20 -30 years. A lot of birdlife and other animals can be seen then along its shores. The water is leaving already but the scenery is breathtaking.
On the way to "Marree" we stay the night at "Coward Springs", a former telegraph station, now an ecologically managed campground with a natural warm water spa created by a bore sunk in 1886.
Another beautiful place to camp is at "Muloorinna". Here we meet Graham and Jan again. We had met them several times during the last few days but never had arranged to camp together. That day Jan had bought jelly bears - just in case ...
Then we hit the "Birdsville Track" and travel north again. We put up camp at "Mungerannie" and enjoy a boozy night at the pub.
The next day we encounter the offshoots of a sandstorm over the "Sturt Stony" and the "Simpson Desert". It´s hard work driving with strong winds from the left but finally we reach the town of "Birdsville".
Another night at the pub...
Breakfast with Max, Barb, Paul and Alex
For the next 3 days the only thing we do is driving. It´s another 1600 km to "Brisbane" and we want to get there as soon as possible...
Jörg´s birthday cake
Just before "Brisbane" Elmar turn off to visit cousin Kate and family while Jörg and Annette search for a campground close to the city centre. We´ll meet again at the Junger family a couple of days later.
There we clean the gear and ourselves, enjoy the pleasures of civilisation, start organising the shipping of the bikes back to Germany and r e l a x!
This is the end of our trip together. From here Elmar visits more relatives and Annette and Jörg start to their trip along the east-coast to "Cape York".
All countries flags we have visited are on one of our panniers. No more space left?
... not at this side ...