Saturday, October 31, 2009

There and back again

We've been back from our trip for a month now.

I wanted to close my contribution to our blog with an entry after I'd had some time to reflect on what the trip had meant to us, what it was like to be back and how we were settling back into our non mobile home on Dangar Island.

The past twelve months have been without any doubt the most amazing period of my life so far.

To get out of the city and to see so much of our great country was an incredible opportunity.

To have made it all the way around Australia with only one puncture and no mechanical problems at all is almost a miracle. The Troopy was amazing. To have traveled 48,000kms without hitting anyone else, any wildlife (excluding a couple of birds), or even getting a speeding ticket also surprises me. The laptop made it round without dying, my iphone lasted long enough to get replaced for free when I took it to the apple store and complained about a crack in the back, and the camera gear survived the vibrations.

We made a pact well before the end of the trip that we should not let the trip be defined or soured by how difficult it was going to be to transition back into 'normal' life back in Sydney.

This has worked pretty well up to a point, but I think a huge factor in that has been coming back to the peace of Dangar Island rather than bustling Newtown.

Dangar Island is in the Hawkesbury River around 55kms north of Sydney CBD.

The Island is surrounded by three National Parks and the river system is just stunning.

We share the island with around 250 other people. There are no cars on the island, just a fire truck and a ute for collecting the rubbish. Locals transport their goods from the ferry wharf to their houses in wheelbarrows. The place feels a little like Hobbiton without the hairy feet.

Candi & Steffen had been house sitting for us for the last six months of our trip and largely undid five years of complete neglect of the garden.

Dangar is an incredibly fertile island, things just grow and quickly get out of hand. Our place (880 square meters) was almost entirely covered by wandering jew.

When we were all here at Christmas time you could barely get up the front path.

Candice & Steffen (with help from Ken & Jean) ripped out all of the wandering jew and cleared a lot of the undergrowth and removed a lot of fuel in good time for fire season.

Ness is now keeping herself busy in the garden and the place is looking better than it has in years. Next step is to get some chickens!

The addition of a bird feeder at Christmas has attracted even more of the local birdlife up to the house.

The carrots went in today and will hopefully be ready around new years.

The cabin up at the back of our place. Now painted inside and very acceptable additional accommodation for guests.

Our next door neighbour was good enough to chainsaw his way through one of the trees we had cut down a couple of years ago. This will provide enough winter heating fuel for a couple of years at least!

Green waste is collected every two weeks but we have found out that there is an approximate two bag limit. We still have around twenty bags to go so this could take a while yet to get rid of (we're now well and truly in fire season so we can't just burn it).

Now we are on the island full time it gives us much more opportunity to get involved with the community. I have come back on to the board of the bowling club, and am now on the committee for the Dangar Island League.

Ness made her first contribution to the local island newspaper (The Mullet Mail) by writing a piece reminding people about responsible dog ownership.

We have also signed up to join the Dangar Island Bush Fire Brigade.

There's also been a wedding to plan. Busy, busy, busy.

It's been fantastic to be able to get back into lawn bowling after such a long break. There are very few better ways I can think of for spending a sunny sunday afternoon with good mates and few too many beers.

Our wedding is now only six weeks away and we are really excited that so many of our friends and family are able to come along. Being away from Sydney has meant we've been a bit slack in catching up with people.

The commute to work is quite a different proposition compared to the ten minute each way from Newtown.

The alarm now goes off at 5.30 and I'm on the 6.10 ferry off the island and then the train has me into work at around 7.40.

As far as commutes go though I can't really complain. The ferry trip still hasn't lost its novelty for people who've been commuting for years and years.

There's normally someone with a six pack on the ferry coming back on a Friday night to turn it in to a booze cruise.

The view from Hawkesbury River Railway Station isn't too shabby either. A very peaceful way to start the day, although I'm sure things will seem a little harder once we get into winter.

It's not been nearly as bad as you might have imagined for me getting back into working full time. Things would have been quite different I think had I not done any work on our way around. As it was I've largely been able to keep up with developments and what I need to be focusing on.

I'm also lucky to work in a dynamic team and in a job where this never a dull moment. No time to get bored here and the days just fly by. As much as I love my job though, it is always great to leave the city behind and head back to the island.

Candice & Steffen are moving out in a couple of weeks and the great news is they will be living right next door. Even more exciting than that, Candi picked up a wicked little boat on ebay last week. Despite dramas last week (motor not starting, rowing it across instead, falling in the river etc) the motor is apparently in good shape and she should be getting it back next week.

So that I think brings everything up to date. While it is very different being home now, we have come back to an awesome life in a beautiful spot. And you can't really ask for more than that.

Thanks to everyone who gave us advice and support before and during our big adventure. We hope we can provide inspiration to others to take the trip on and we're both happy to talk for hours about the practicalities if anyone wants to listen!

We are of course now saving for our next adventure - a crossing of the Simpson Desert for our honeymoon. We have to wait until the end of summer for things to cool down enough for us to make the attempt. We're both looking forward to being back on the road again ...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fraser Finale....Finally

You'd think that after 12 months of blogging on the road we should be able to do this kind of stuff indoors in a heartbeat. Not so! We've had some small dramas uploading the photos but we've worked it out now.

We've been home on Dangar for just on 2 weeks now so and Fraser Island seems so long ago. Luckily Payniac took a squillion pictures to prompt the memory.

*The Zipple Bar on 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island. Some very industrious boys had brought the makings and constructed this bar at their camp. As more people arrived the bar got ever more decorated - the last time we went past it it had flashing lights!

Fraser Island was a real highlight and surprised us both with its beauty and diversity. A great thing when a 12 month trip is coming to an end and you think you've seen all the "good stuff". We had initially booked ourselves on for 7 nights
but got there a day late due to some unexpected
delays and especially long days in the car. We had a lovely, and much needed, stop in Rainbow Beach before heading over on a morning barge. We were booked in for a weeks beach camping which equalled no water supply for drinking OR washing. Washing (clothes and bodies) and obtaining enough drinking water for the week were a priority!

*The main drag on Fraser Island is 75 mile beach. At low tide it's like the F3, a couple of hours after low tide the driving becomes quite interesting and at high tide there is risk of becoming bogged. This didn't stop the infamous Fraser Island backpackers! It certainly made for some great entertainment.

*The beach is also the airstrip for tourist flights. It's quite unnerving to be hooning along the beach and to be swooped by a little plane - their way of letting you know they intend to land. Of course you can't hear these little buggers over the sound of the surf.

The day we arrived it was glorious and the forecast was just looking bettter and better for each day. Warm, sunny days with very little wind - this is the perfect Queensland weather we expected.
We timed our arrival (unknowingly) with an incoming tide making the southern beach inaccessible. This was ascertained AFTER driving off the barge, onto the beach and directly north until the beach narrowed to such a point that the options were surf or dune vegetation. After a quick perusal of our tide chart (I know, I know, cleverer people would've checked this first) we made a nerve wracking 3 point turn and took the crappy "high tide bypass road".

I must confess I was terrified for the first 2 days we were on Fraser. With just 3 weeks of this huge adventure to go I had terrible visions of the troopy being engulfed by the ocean or tipping over on a dune. The sound of the sand as we squeaked along the beach was not helping. In hindsight this fear was irrational after all we've seen and done - we've done the Old Telegraph Track. The troopy just loved every second of Fraser Island and at no time did it look like we were going to get stuck. The same could not be said for many others however.

*Fraser is a fishing mecca. A shame that Payniac's little telescopic rod wouldn't have held the bait in the surf let alone a big fish. We know for next time. I would say the majority of visitors to Fraser Island are Aussie guys on fishing trips with big 4WDs and big fishing rods.

*The wildlife was pretty interesting too. While Andy was off fishing this snake gave me a surprise! It was pretty big and I preferred it when I could see it to when I couldn't. I saw a snake, the same one or no I'm not sure, in our camp 3 days in a row.

*The pink troopy! I couldn't resist including this one.

*Sunrise on 75 mile beach

After a few days on Fraser and the weather forecast looking sweet we decided to extend our stay by another 3 nights. It's that good! These 3 days would eat into our home run making it more of a dash than either of us envisaged but we felt extremely relaxed and were just loving that holiday feeling. We learned early on that if we were loving a spot and could stay then, why not? I'm so pleased we did.

*Star jumps on the beach. This became a bit of fad for us on Fraser - I wish we'd discovered it earlier as it's heaps of fun.

*Yay - we're going to Fraser Island!

*Driving along Fraser Islands main drag

*The Maheno wreck - we spent 5 nights camped in a section of the beach about 500m from this wreck and so were able to walk down and take photos without a thousand other people around.
One downside to the beach camping was there were no facilities and it was a 6km round trip to the closest loos.

*Treachorous, and very entertaining, Indian Head Bypass Road.
This is what happens when you have too much puff in your tyres, or you're too heavy, or not going fast enough, or you're in the wrong gear. This particular stretch of "road" provided great entertainment with a large group of guys sitting on top of a dune with chairs and beers cheering on the motorists. We joined them for a while and got some funny video footage of various attempts to get through the wheel deep sand.

*Having a dip in the crystal clear waters of Lake Mackenzie. The water was a bit chilly but it was good to get the sand off.

*What not to do when the barge arrives - get stuck. Nuts!

*Sand formations known as The Cathedral on 75 mile beach.

*Amazing views from Indian Head - I wanted to go here every day! Turtles, sharks, a manta ray, pods of dolphins and the migrating humpbacks.

*Another choice beach camp.

*Andy having fun!

*More star jumps.

*A very healthy Fraser Island dingo. There were a lot of warning about dingoes around the island as it was pupping season and the mother dingoes were teaching the pups how to hunt. At this stage of a dingo pups life it's very important that they don't associate people with food as this leads to potentially aggressive and dangerous animals that might ultimately need to be destroyed. We didn't see a lot of dingoes on the beach and we tried to keep a tidier than normal camp to prevent attracting them. The more popular, inland camp grounds have been dingo proofed with grids, high fences and gates to stop them getting into mischief, or worse.

*Troopy park.

*Mother and calf humpback breaching and tail slapping out the front of our camping area.

*Champagne Pools lookout with Indian Head in the background. Another gorgeous day!

*A pair of pied oyster catchers make a nice portrait.

*Andy in the office

*At a lookout. A friendly tour guide took this snap for us. We'll file it in the very small file of non-selfies.

*The view from the tent - not too dusty, eh?

*Sunrise on the Maheno

What did we do for 9 days on Fraser Island? We explored the inland tracks, went for swims in beautiful lakes, walked along the beach, walked in the forest, fished, read, watched some entertaining driving, played
silly buggers, and did a whole lot of nature watching! It was a wonderful finale to such and incredible adventure.

*Beautiful Lake Mackenzie. Can you believe those blues?

As I said earlier Fraser really surprised us. Away from the beautiful beach there were lowland melaleuca forests, pristine creeks, perched lakes, and rainforest pockets - a real naturalists paradise. The bird life was also super with daily sightings of my new favourite bird, Brahminy Kites as well as Ospreys, whistling kites and white bellied sea eagles.

*Making tracks for the barge at almost-high-tide...yikes!

*Our beautiful home in "Pandanus Grove" in the Maheno section of 75 mile beach. It was a little off the beach and our driveway was a bit steep and sandy but we had all day shade and every day whales!!Almost every time I looked at the ocean for a couple of minutes I saw humpback whales so as you can imagine I had a busy few days watching them play and frolic.


Most expensive diesel : Mt Dare $2.22/L
Average diesel price: $1.495/L
Total kilometres travelled: 47,900km
Average daily camping costs: $16.91
Cakes of soap: 12!
Longest number of days without a shower(cat washes not counted): 8 days. In the summer time.
Days spent in each state: NSW 66, Qld 101, SA 22, NT 46, Vic 31 and WA 96
Total nights away: 362
Number of nights spent in National Parks, Reserves or other non-privately run camp grounds: 194
Most paid for a case of beer (XXXX Gold 30 pack): about $65 somewhere in Central Australia - this was Payniac's department hence the vagueness
Number of inedible dampers: 2 (when Candi visited)
Ham sandwiches: too many to count

In preparation for this most amazing all Aussie adventure we found this kind of info useful, thanks to Si and Charl for answering endless questions about life on the road. If anyone gets it into their head that they might like to hit the bitumen Andy and I would just love a chance to talk about our experiences (all family and friends get vacant looks when we reminisce about the...Pascoe River crossing, swimming with the wahalesharks, diving the Great Barrier Reef, camping on deserted beaches, the stars in the desert, driving on the beach on Fraser...I could go on forever), and we would love to help.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of our adventures; life in the Hawkesbury and our honeymoon ambitions to cross the Simpson Desert.