Tuesday 22 April 2014

The wet season is not over jet!

Before leaving Broome, we visited the northern peninsula with Cape Leveque at it's top. To get there, a 4WD is needed due to the unsealed roads you have to pass, especially once it had rained before. But driving through deep water ponds on the street is good fun. We stayed 2 nights on the cape for swimming, relaxing and enjoying the sunsets with the red cliffs (and the got us with the fresh and yummy pizza they made on Friday evening!). And once we came back to Broome, the low tide was just about right to see some dinosaurs foot prints!
Coastline @ Cape Leveque

Full cliff @ Cape Leveque
Dino's have left their prints
Since the Gibb River road was still closed, we decided to drive to Purnululu National Park first before hitting the unsealed Tanami road that cuts through the Great Sandy Desert and ends in Alice Springs. Between Broome and the Purnululu National Park, we had to drive 700 km on the highway which is a loooong drive and the scenery is not really amazing (bushland all over the place). Once we got into the national park (there is some river crossings to do to get in) the scenery becomes much more interesting due to the mountains and the water in the park. Some of the tracks were still closed, but the most amazing walks were open (especially the Bungle Bungle range). So we decided to stay the night on a small camp-ground in the park where we firstly encountered the cane toads. This is a toad that was imported to hut a bug in the cane fields but since it has no natural predators in Australia, it spreads all over in the north and it's like a pest here. Furthermore, the toad can release a poison so that even crocodiles (freshwater crocs) can die once they eat them. They try to minimize the impact of the cane toad here by collecting them (they don't move away quickly) but there is thousands of them in the park. In the evening, we collected about 15 toads, but once we came back, 4 other were already sitting next to our car... a real Sisyphus operation. And well, the other operation we had to do was to replace a flat tire once we arrived on the camp ground (bad luck with it).
With our new tire attached, we headed back south to Halls Creek where we fixed the tire (to have 2 spare ones) and we started the trip through the desert.

Bungle Bungle Range @ Purnululu
Bungle Bungle Range @ Purnululu
We wanted to get within 2 days to Alice Springs (which is about 1'000 km away) and the first day was good. We stopped at the probably only sight worth visiting (Wolfe-Creek-Crater; a crater formed by an meteorite some 10 thousands of years ago) and we could drive a good speed on the unsealed road so we managed to complete about 400 km the first day. Since we were crossing a desert, there was no camp-ground or similar, so we pulled aside for the night. Next morning, we started once the sun was up again to finish the track as soon as possible. But suddenly, we saw some special animals in the desert: Camels (well, actually they were dromedars but never mind! Still funny to see in the remote land here) and the other special thing we saw was an airport in the middle of nowhere (well, there is a mine; therefore they built this airport there).
Ships of the desert

Setting up our tent
The sandy desert
It seemed that we would make it easily to Alice Springs this day until our car stopped working, some 300 km away. Apparently, the clutch (Kupplung) was broken and it was not possible to drive anymore.... Shit! And since it was still a remote area, there was no cell phone reception so we could not call anyone.... so we had to wait until a nice mine worker passed by. He was on his way back home (some 2'000 km away) and he pulled our car for the next 150 km to the next road house and we could call the car company to organize the pick up. Once the pick up truck had loaded the broken car, we drove the last 200 km to Alice Springs with the truck guy (who was working since 3 in the morning) where we parked the car in one of the caravan parks. So, with the broken car our plans were mixed up and since it was week end, we knew that it's going to take some days until they will have fixed the car. Fortunately, we could hire a small campervan form a different company so we were able to drive south direction of Uluru... well, we might should have checked the weather forecast before (but hey, the last thing you expect in a desert is rain!)... We wanted to visit the Kings Canyon first, and we arrived there in the early morning, but the weather was not good, slight rain. We thought: this will just last for a few minutes ... but it did not. After waiting about 2-3 hours, we drove to a cafe close and checked the weather situation... Rain for the next few days! This was really the last thing we expected in the Red Centre area that it rains for several days there, but it is actually possible! So we skipped Kings Canyon and drove to Uluru (Ayers Rock) to have a look at this impressive monolith... and it was different from what we knew from pictures. Due to the rain and clouds, the colors were very different (and there was no sunset red unfortunately) but impressive still. Especially the second day when we visited the "Olga's" , covered in clouds was pretty special and seeing Uluru with waterfalls is different too. But since the forecast was rain for the next few days, we decided to go back to Alice Springs the next day. We drove through some impressive thunder storms and flooding back but it also rained in Alice Springs. Picking up our original car again, we checked in the tourist info the situation and decided to go back north due to the weather: Stil rain for the next few days and the main roads in the south to Uluru and the Tanami road were actually closed by now because of flooding.
Uluru (dry)
Uluru (wet)
Sunset @ Uluru
The Olgas
Weather forcast...

So, we hit the road again and continued our journey with direction north. From Alice Springs to Darwin it's about 1'500 km drive but there is some sights in between. Firstly, we stopped the night at the devils Marbles, some round stones formed by wind and ... rain (but luckily the rain had stopped once we arrived :-) . Impressive sight!

Devil's Marbles
A cracked marble
Further in the north we also stopped at some natural hot springs (34 degree warm water) before we visited the Nitmuluk park close to Kathrine. There is two parts of the park you can visit, the first one was not worth the stop since we could not explore the river since there might be salt water crocodiles inside but the second part, the close by Cutta Cutta caves the waterfall were definitely worth a stop.
Edith-Falls @ Nitmuluk Park
Wallabie with baby

Wallabie with baby
Cutta Cutta Caves

From the waterfall, we started our last two exploring trips with the Kakadu National Park and the Litchfield park. Well the Kakadu is well known, but due to the wet season, almost all the interesting things were still closes (4WD tracks) so we just spent 2 nights in the park. The most interesting thing we could do were a bout ride on the river and visiting the rock art galleries (Aboriginal Rock paintings).
Litchfield park was much more interesting, not only because of the sights that were open (the 4WD tracks were closed as well) but in Litchfield you can go swimming in most of the rock pools they have. Just some of the areas are closed because of the danger of salt water crocs may be present there :-) and you don't want to swim with them!
Termit's nest @ Litchfield Park
Waterfalls in Litchfield park
Sometimes you can swim there
Kakadu Yellow River Cruise
Waterfall in Litchfield
RockArt in Kakadu
After the 2 refreshing days in Litchfield, we drove the remaining distance up to Darwin, where we handed in our car on Easter Saturday and where we enjoy our last few days in Australia. Darwin is nice but there is not much to see and do in town and due to Easter it's even less; most of the shops and stores are closed but e.g. the botanical garden is worth a visit and the waterfront is nice to see as well.
We'll catch the early flight next Tuesday to Kuala Lumpur (05.40 take off) before we go back to the mountains after Australia. Nepal is calling (and we'll fly with the airline the most known at the moment: Malaysia Airlines :-) If everything going as planned, we should be able to update the blog from somewhere in Nepal.

And last but not least: here some statistics about our road trip through Australia:
- about 12'000 km travelled by car
- 11 l diesel consumption on average per 100 km and 1.75 AUD average price
- one flat tire and one broken clutch
- max. temperature endured: 42 degrees
- no speeding ticket ;-)