Sydney Here We Come!

We bid a sad farewell to our very cool Cassowary friend.  Okay, not really a friend since he’d happily gut you if you made him angry, but he was cool addition to our camping experience.  Etty Bay was a small but beautiful little camp spot, but there really wasn’t a lot to do close by (and swimming was not an option), so it was time to hit the road.

Once last cassowary encounter before heading out. The four inch razor sharp claws were crazy.

Our next stop was the beachside town of Townsville (clever name, I know) on the Coral Sea.  Since we were now rolling into Easter weekend, the campgrounds on the water were quite filled with large groups and families.  We managed to score a nice spot across the street from the beach with a really nice boardwalk for strolling.  Our plan was to take the ferry across the sea to Magnetic Island where we had a 4 x 4 rented (the last vehicle available on the whole island) to go explore the sights.

Headed out on a ferry ride for an island adventure
Most of Magnetic Island is preserved as park. It got it’s name because Captain Cook’s compass stopped working when sailing by. It never happened again.

After a quick 20 minute ferry ride, we headed out on foot to go get the car.  Before long, we were off and running before 9:00 a.m.  Our first point of interest was Geoffrey Bay which is home to numerous rock wallabies.  We had stopped and purchased a carrot in order to feed them an “approved” treat.  Since we were there early, there were hardly any people around, so we had the experience all to ourselves.  We saw momma’s with joeys in their pouch (and miscellaneous body parts hanging out at an given time) along with some youngsters.  The youngsters were the most brazen of the bunch (kind of like human teenagers).  They had no qualms about coming up and grabbing the carrot pieces out of our hands.  At one point, I pulled my hand back to draw one closer, and he grabbed my finger with his tiny little clawed fingers and pulled my hand back towards him.  They were so unbelievably cute!  Oh how I wish I could bring one home!

Wild rock wallabies that have gotten used to handouts
The younger ones were bolder
What fun!

As more and more cars flooded in, we took that as our cue to leave.  We were then headed to a hike that took you through the eucalyptus forest (with wild koalas) and up to a fort used during WWII.  As we drove through, both the parking lot and the overflow lot were packed full.  There was nowhere to park.  We decided to move along and come back for a try later.

We headed to one end of the island and a beach called Horseshoe Beach.  Despite having to swim within the netted areas to avoid box jellyfish stings, the beach was packed with visitors.  We wandered around a bit taking in the sights and trying to figure out our next move.  We had specifically rented a 4 x 4 to check out some amazing views in hard to reach places.  Unfortunately, the one road with all the best views had been closed because no one wanted to bother fixing the 3 foot deep potholes that riddled it.  Such a bummer.

From there, we decided to check out the fort hike one more time.  This time we lucked out and scored a spot as someone was leaving.  The downside is it was later in the day and quite toasty out.  The hike was only a couple of miles, but getting up to the sights of the fort was a lot of ascent on rocks and steps.  We were definitely a little worn out and sweaty by the time we got to the top, but the views were amazing.  From the very top, you could look out the gun slot for a full view of the Coral Sea and any approaching enemies.  Along the way, we were able to spot a few koalas up napping in the trees.

View from the shore artillery emplacement. Probably unchanged since WW2
Remnants of artillery installed to protect against a Japanese invasion that never materialized.
Artillery storage magazine
Wild Koalas surround the fort
Koala watching us from his nap spot
So adorable!
Koala fast asleep on his gumtree perch

We finished our exploration of the island by driving to the west end, down a 4 x 4 road to some very remote beaches.  Here, there were no lifeguards or nets.  We were told by the rental car agent NOT to swim here due to sharks.  Yep, no problem there!  Sorry, I will not be treating you to any up close and personal pictures of Great White Sharks….I know, disappointing.  We quickly discovered it didn’t take long to explore the charms of this island, and after about 5 hours, we headed back to the ferry and camp.

Beers on the beach to celebrate a fun day on the island
We went to seven of the eleven points on this sign this trip!

We still had Easter Sunday booked at this campground, but we were finding that it was too far to walk to any sort of restaurants or entertainment.  Other than walking the beach or sitting in the campground, that was about it.  We were booked for a beach spot about 4 1/2 hours away on Monday but started discussing pulling up camp a little early.  Dan made some phone calls and we lucked into a real campground (not a spot on the beach with no amenities or power) on Easter Sunday and Monday.  Since we have been winging this entire trip, we have been very fortunate!  Unfortunately, the campgrounds are very good about getting their money up front, so we did eat two nights in two different places by changing our plan, but it was sooooo worth it.

On Easter Sunday, we arrived in Cape Hillsborough and our spot right off the beach.  This was on our list because the wallabies and kangaroos come up on the beach before sunrise to eat.  They have also been known to wander the camp foraging.  Here, the tidal shifts are quite dramatic, and we were warned to make sure we were attentive to the tides on our beach hikes.  It was low tide when we arrived so we took a nice long stroll down the beach.  The campground was packed to the gills with large groups and families yet again.

Walking the tidal flats of the beach. All of this is covered by sea water at high tide. Hikers sometimes get stranded if they haven’t paid attention.
Kangaroo visitor to our campsite
Kangaroo and kookaburra bird that stopped by.

Monday morning, we were up by 5:30 a.m. and headed to the beach.  The wallabies and kangaroos were already there chowing down.  It was such a cool treat to watch them along with the sun coming up over the rock formations.  Since the holiday weekend was over, most of the campsite had emptied out so we jumped on the chance to move to a prime spot with no one around us.  The next morning, Dan decided to head to the beach once again to see the kangaroos.  I opted to stay in my less than cozy bed.  It worked out in my favor anyway since two kangaroos decided to hang out and graze near the edge of our camp spot!

Wild kangaroos and wallabies the come to feed on the beach at sunrise.
What was that sound?
Enjoying the sunrise views
This kangaroo came to play in the water at the beach
Had the good luck to take a picture of one with a rainbow!

The next day we had an extremely long drive to Hervey Bay (8 hours) which meant I had to do some of the driving too 🙁  Once we got settled in, we took a long walk on a very long pier and took in the sights.  We then headed to the only restaurant open (as you can imagine, that did not turn out well). We really didn’t see much to hold our interest here, so we left the following morning and headed to Noosa Heads. This was my nightmare in living color.  It was very clearly School Break.  The streets became parking lots and every sidewalk was wall to wall people.  We hopped out in the nature park (Dan made me….I just wanted to get as far away from the chaos as possible) and did another hillside boardwalk through the eucalyptus trees and overlooking the ocean.  We covered a few miles, enjoyed the sights, and then quickly made our way out of town.  In a quieter time of the year, this place looked like it could be a lot of fun.

Urangan pier at sunset. It’s over a half mile long (868 meters) and makes a great sunset stroll
Noosa heads national park
Beautiful beaches of Eastern Australia

After leaving Noosa Heads, we arrived in Alex Beach and our next campground.  It was a very pretty campground with a great boardwalk that went on for miles.  We took in some of the memorial sites from various wars that we found along the boardwalk.  Once again, we did not find a big draw here (we had begun to find that the remainder of our journey was highlighted by very popular beach towns which really wasn’t on our “A” list of things to do and see).  As I am sure you guessed, we headed out bright and early the very next morning.

Alex Beach campground
Views from the highway to Brisbane

The next leg of our journey would bring us to Brisbane and the chance to catch up with some very special friends.  We met up with a couple that we got to know in Greece (our boats are in the same boatyard) and spent a few hours catching up over lunch.  This was definitely a highlight on our journey since they had been locked down and away from their boat for the last two years.  It was really great getting to catch up.  Since we still had a two hour drive to our next campsite, we were forced to say goodbye sooner than we would have liked.  Between road construction and traffic, our two hour drive took us 3 hours!  We were now in Byron Bay.

At this point, we have come to the conclusion that we have hit all of our bucket list points of interest.  We were both feeling quite worn out, very homesick (me), and not looking forward to the upcoming week of rain in our little camper van.  We decided to make our way to Sydney as quickly as possible and head home several days earlier than originally planned.  Before we left Byron Bay, we decided to hike to the lighthouse on the point.  Now that was a rough one!  No one mentioned the relentless hills and stairs that went on for miles to get to the lighthouse!  Once our hike was complete, we hit the road once again.  

Easternmost point of Australia at Byron Bay
Hiking to the lighthouse
Cape Byron lighthouse. Australia’s most powerful lighthouse and protecting the coast since 1901

We headed to the town of Port Macquarie for our last night of camping.  This was a very nice, quiet camp area with very few visitors.  The highlight of this visit was a visit to the koala hospital where orphaned and injured koalas are taken in to be rehabilitated before going back to the wild (if they can).  These are koalas that were injured in the big fires or hit by cars, etc. Some of the joeys (baby koalas) go to foster homes for more intensive care.  I so wanted to be a joey foster mom!

Koala that had been struck by a car and being tended to by volunteers at the Koala hospital
This koala was blind and is a permanent guest of the hospital

We were now on the last leg of our adventure (I bet you thought this post was never going to end)!  We spent most of this drive in relentless, pouring rain…..not fun!  After 4 hours, we finally arrived in the town of Clovelly.  We were very excited for this part of our journey as well because we would be meeting up with a distant cousin of Dan’s whose family was from the same island in Croatia as Dan’s dad.  We had never met him before, but he generously opened up his home to us and shuttled us around to some amazing areas.  We started across the river from the Sydney Opera House at sunset where we were treated to a fireworks show.  The next day we visited some of the very popular and famous surf beaches in the area.  Once again, our visit was far shorter than we would’ve liked, but it was time to get home.

Famous Sydney harbor with the opera house and harbor bridge at sunset
Reunion of Muzich’s from the Croatia island of Cres in Australia

We left at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and arrived in Phoenix at 10:00 a.m. on……Tuesday!  Gotta love the international date line, now my days of the week are ALL screwed up!  All I can say is that it was a magical trip, but I am happy to be home once again (even if it is for only a month).  In the end, we drove over 4500 miles in a little less than 5 weeks.  For those of you in the U.S., that is the equivalent of driving from  Boston to Anchorage, Alaska!  

For now, we will say good-bye until the end of May when we return to our boat in Greece.  We hope you will join us on this year’s sailing adventures which will hopefully take us to Sicily and the surrounding islands.

Bound for the Australian Rainforests

After turning in our very comfy motorhome in Alice Springs, we hopped on two flights (Alice Springs to Brisbane, then Brisbane to Cairns) totaling about 5 hours in the air.  We were very excited for this next phase of our adventure down under.  I was treated to 2 nights in a motel when we arrived in Cairns.  Yes, I said treated.  After 16 days sleeping on a dinette turned bed, I was thrilled to sleep in a regular bed.  Since we arrived somewhat late on Saturday, and were scheduled to pick up our next camper van on Monday morning, we really only had 1 full day to explore Cairns (which we did in full)!

The beautiful city of Cairns in the northeast of Australia
The city has a lush tropical feel
Cairns by night. This tree had dozens of parrots roosted for the evening

We started our day early with a visit to Rusty’s Market which only takes place on Saturdays and Sundays.  Here there were a variety of food carts, craft stalls, and a huge assortment of farm fresh fruits and veggies (the whole reason we went).  We made it a mission to stock up on a variety of fruits we either couldn’t get at home or had never even heard of.  We had rambutans, passion fruit, dragon fruit, mangosteens, and custard apples.  Needless to say, we had to be taught how to eat several of these treats.  The custard apples were by far the ugliest fruit we had ever seen (and totally clueless as to how you would eat one), but they turned out to be one of our favorites.  It was quite a fun fruit adventure!  

All kinds of tropical delectables to try
Which one first? Hmm…

After taking our haul back to the hotel, we headed out on foot to the boardwalk down along the ocean.  Cairns is a beautiful little beachside town with great walking/biking paths and an awesome children’s water park that goes on and on.  Later that evening, we had an amazing dinner overlooking the ocean.  Our first real meal out….and a fancy one at that!  The next morning was going to be a big day.

Dinner views of the marina

We decided to try and pick up our camper van a little early, so we headed out on foot in the morning.  We didn’t even get a block before it started pouring rain….time to call an Uber.  We arrived at the rental place the same time as several other groups, and wouldn’t you know, we could not check out early.  On top of that, we couldn’t stay inside because there were too many people per the Covid rules.  So, several of us stood outside, under a small awning to shield us from the rain, for close to an hour.  Finally, it was our turn to check out our camper van.  This was not going to be easy after getting super comfy with our big RV.  We were back to living in a van 🙁  This time, for 3 weeks!!!  Ugh….just shoot me now.  As we were telling the woman at the rental place where we were headed, she asked if we planned to swim or snorkel.  We told her probably not.  She then replied, “Good. Don’t.”  We were headed to the home of Box Jellyfish, Great White Sharks, and Saltwater Crocodiles!  She basically told us that if no one was on the beach or in the water, then we should not be either.  Gulp! I just found even more ways to die in Australia!

Guess how many empty beaches we saw?  ALL OF THEM!!!

From Cairns, we headed north to the Daintree Rainforest.  To get here, you have to take your vehicle onto a river barge to get to the other side of the Daintree River (did I mention the river is infested with Saltwater Crocodiles?).  We weren’t entirely prepared for the heat and humidity that greeted us (shocking, I know).  It was also pouring rain, and we no longer had a rig equipped with air conditioning or space to hang out when the weather was bad.  This was not going to be fun!  Luckily, Dan found us a campground that had beautiful grassy grounds and a few covered campsites.  We opted for the covered spot so that we could at least sit outside despite the rain.  Unfortunately, the cover did nothing for the wicked heat and humidity (it actually made it worse).  We had originally planned to spend several days up in this area, but it was not looking like that was going to be a possibility given my lack of heat tolerance.

Ferry across the salt water croc infested Daintree river
We followed this road to it’s end in Cape Tribulation
Surreal drive through a tropical rainforest
Views of the Coral Sea
Campground number one for this part of the trip
We found a campground with rain protection which came in handy!

We left our site in the morning and headed out to do several different walks and skywalks through the rainforest.  On one skywalk in particular, we were in search of the famous Cassowary.  This is a giant, prehistoric bird that looks somewhat like an ostrich, except it is far more colorful.  It also has this odd, solid structure on the top of it’s head and a razor, sharp claw on it’s feet.  The Cassowary has been labeled the world’s most dangerous bird (go figure) and is capable of eviscerating you with those claws.  Unfortunately, we did not find any Cassowaries (but I did see way more spiders than I ever wanted to).  

Orb Weaver and it’s spider web. These things are huge.
Every where you look, there is a spider not far away
Wandering the Daintree rainforest
Climbing an observation tower to get a rainforest canopy view
Incredibly lush
There are cassowary birds in this forest but this is the only one we “found”

From there, we headed to Cape Tribulation, the furthest point north that you can drive following the coast.  We headed down to the water for a quick peek (also watching for crocodiles), then did another rainforest canopy walk.  As we made our way back to the van, Dan decided to take a short cut between two trees.  I almost followed, but then decided my good sense dictated I stay on the path to the correct walkway to the car (only another 20 feet or so).  When I got to  the car, Dan was dancing around frantically like his head was on fire.  He had managed to walk through THE BIGGEST spider web ever and was terrified that the spider had come with it.  Luckily the spider was still up in his web (and by far the biggest spider we have seen so far!  He was like the size of an adult hand)!  The web was nearly impossible to get off of Dan because it was so sticky and filled with yellow goo!  ACK!  So glad I didn’t follow him (insert big shiver here).

Tarzan made this look easy
Empty beach deep in saltwater crocodile territory
This spider and it’s huge web ensnared Dan much to both of our chagrin!

We headed back across the river barge down to a riverboat tour on the Daintree River.  Here we would be searching for the Saltwater Crocodile.  The Daintree River is a 120 kilometer river that is freshwater at low tide and salt water at high tide.  When the tide comes in from the ocean, the water level goes up by 2.5 meters (8.3 feet)!  It is very brackish which makes it the perfect hangout for the Saltwater Croc.  We motored around the river and came across 1 large male croc and a few babies, but that was about it.  It definitely wasn’t the most impressive crocodile tour we’ve done.

Daintree river salt water croc tour
Fifteen foot long salt water crocodile
Baby salt water croc

Next, we drove to the Kuranda Rainforest.  At this point, all of our campgrounds have been quite nice….until now.  This one was tucked deep into the rainforest (nice) but the facilities were not so great, and the permanent residents far outnumbered those of us camping.  After my cold shower in the dark (no, not my choice), this was a one and done.  We headed off bright and early for Kuranda Village.  This was a great little town with all kinds of cute little shops and touristy things.  We decided to do the Koala Gardens.  This was basically a glorified, miniature zoo.  However, we did get to see the koalas up close as well as a number of other animals.

Barron gorge near Kuranda
Our campsite in the Kuranda rainforest
Feeding some wallabies in the local nature park
It’s the kangaroos turn!
This one gave Robyn the cold shoulder
Koala bear!

At this point, we decided it was time to come down out of the rainforest and head to the Atherton Tablelands.  We found this awesome camp area that catered to “gray nomads”.  Yep, that is literally what they call themselves (not sure I care to be called that).  It was a beautiful spot and meticulously clean and well kept.  The camp kitchen had everything you could imagine and was a unique experience in and of itself.  

Fanciest camp kitchen of the trip so far

After leaving the camp early the next morning, we headed out in search of a platypus.  There were 3 specific areas where they were known to be found.  Unfortunately, it was raining again.  We walked the banks of the first river….no platypus.  We walked the banks for another river….no platypus.  We finally went to a pond area and paid to go in.  After standing in the pouring rain, we finally got to see this elusive little guy.  They are quite odd looking.  If you have never seen one, they are a mash up of a venomous, egg laying, duck billed, beaver tailed, otter footed mammal.

Searching for platypus in the river
If you say so!
Found one!

The Tablelands are also known for their abundance of mango plantations, banana plantations, creameries, tea plantations, coffee plantations, and wineries specializing in exotic fruit wines and liqueurs.  So, that adventure was next on our list for the day.  Since there weren’t enough hours in our day, we chose to visit a coffee roaster/chocolatier, 2 creameries for cheeses, and a tea plantation.  I know….you’re speechless that we skipped the wineries!  We propped up the Aussie economy by buying treasures from each and every place.

Tasting a variety of hand cut teas
Tea plants as far as they eye can see
Millaa Millaa waterfall

We made our way out of the Tablelands by early afternoon and drove down the coast to a place called Etty Bay.  We were extremely lucky to be able to score a camp spot at this tiny beach area on Thursday because they were completely booked up for the entire Easter weekend.  This spot was a very important score for Dan since he read that you were sure to see Cassowaries roaming the beach at dusk and dawn.  No sooner had we parked our van and opened the door, and a Cassowary wandered by our van.  Holy crap!!  He was right there!  He was obviously very use to people as he freely roamed all over the campground trying to steal food.  At one point, a large group of people were sitting under their awning, and he strolled right in.  That sent the entire group scattering and squealing (he may be comfortable with people, but he is still dangerous).  We were beyond excited to finally get to see one up close and personal.  I came really close to walking into him the next morning as I distractedly talked on the phone.  I looked up just in time to stop dead in my tracks.

Giant cassowary bird in the campground!
The prehistoric looking bird came right by our beachside camp!
They have razor sharp claws and a few Aussies get injured every year.
Rain soaked laughing Kookaburra bird. Neither of us were laughing at all of the rain we had!

Down on the beach, there was a big net out in the water.  We quickly learned that this was a jellyfish net, designed to offer a protected area for people to swim and play in the water.  This was a big no thanks!  There was a crocodile warning sign here too.  We spoke with the lifeguard who informed us that a croc had been caught in the net the day before.  She proceeded to tell us it was a small one….only 2 meters!  Ummmm, 2 meters is way bigger than I want to encounter!  We asked about walking on the beach and whether or not it was safe.  She basically told us it was okay to walk on the beach but stay away during dusk and dawn.  She said that was like feeding time at the zoo.  Ooookay, note to self…..STAY OFF THE BEACH!!

A salt water crocodile got entangled in the beach safety net the day before.
Warning signs at the beach. Umm yeah no need to go in the water for us!

So, that brings us to the end our rainforest and tablelands excursion.  We have seen and experienced some amazing things in this incredible country.  We have 2 more weeks in our camper van to make our way along the east coast back to Sydney, so stayed tuned for more adventures in Australia.

Adventures in the Outback….Australia Part 2

Welcome back!  After 8 days with our tiny home, we pulled into Melbourne to drop off our little caravan and pick up our next “home.”  This was truly a luxury vehicle!  A class C RV motorhome that sleeps 6 (mind you, not overly comfortable if you are 6….but plenty spacious for 2).  Here is the crazy part….we signed up for a relocation deal which has some definite perks, as well as at least one big downside.  So what this boiled down to was we got this amazing “home” for 8 days, for the whopping sum of $1 dollar a day.  Yep, you read that right….$1 dollar per day to rent this baby!  But, let’s not forget the aforementioned downside 🙁  The downside was that we had to move the vehicle 1700 miles over 8 days….yikes!

Moving day! From small to much larger!

At this point, I have not driven here in Australia.  For those who know me well, you know how much I hate to drive in my own country where I have a firm grasp on what I am doing!  Since this leg of our journey required many long hours behind the wheel, we agreed that I would share in some of the driving….gulp.  Dan and I decided to log as many miles as we could up front, so that we could have some down days to enjoy this beautiful country.  Since it was somewhat late in the day by the time we did all the vehicle switching, we decided to drive 2 hours and grab a camp spot for the night.

Robyn’s turn at the wheel. “Look right and drive right” was our mantra!

The next day we got an early start from our spot in Nhill and drove 8 hours straight into the outback via the Barossa wine country.  I took the first shift which worked out well since we were one of the very few cars on the road.  After “backseat” driving Dan for the last week, I felt pretty skilled driving my big rig from the right seat on the left side of the road!  One of the freakiest things we’ve encountered on our drives are these rigs called Road Trains.  They are basically a semi with 3 attached cargo trailers.  They are scary to pass since they are so long, and when they blow by you, you feel like you are going to be blown off the road.  Needless to say, we tend to hug the shoulder when we see one approaching and hang on tight!  The terrain in the outback is quite spectacular with it’s wide array of colors and features.  We expected to encounter a lot of wildlife, but unfortunately everything we saw on this day was road kill 🙁  At this point, the only wombat and kangaroo I’d seen were deceased… heartbreaking.  After our long drive, we opted for a “wild” camping spot which was down a red dirt road, in the middle of nowhere.  Knowing all the deadly things that lurk in the outback waiting for me, I wasn’t overly keen to go exploring on foot or hang out outside.  I know….what a wimp!

Welcome to the Outback!
Wish you could tie off the wheel and set the cruise control.
Our first wilderness camp spot in the Outback. Kangaroo and snake tracks were everywhere but we didn’t see a Roo until with we left the next morning.
Can’t complain about the locale!
Sunset from our camp spot

We were up with the sun the following morning and on the road again.  Once again, I took first shift.  I kind of liked having the road all to myself.  Since we were out and about at sunrise, we were treated to some kangaroos and a number of emu.  The kangaroos were messing around in the roadway, so by the time we got close enough (very slowly), they had disappeared into the brush.  It was very cool to finally get to see some alive and well.  On this day, we planned to cover 5 hours to the town of Coober Pedy.  Along the way, we stopped at a salt lake (we’ve seen quite few of these here) and walked out onto if for some pictures.  They are really an unusual landform out here in the middle of nowhere.

“Lake” Hart – a salt lake used in movies like Mad Max
An Emu couple in front of the secretive Woomera missile test facility.

Before long, we were approaching the town of Coober Pedy.  Before you even arrive, you are surrounded by very odd piles of dirt that cover the landscape as far as the eye can see.  There are also a multitude of signs warning you of the dangers surrounding these big dirt hills.  We have now entered Coober Pedy which claims to be the Opal mining capital of the world and home to over 70 fields.  The name Coober Pedy means White Man in a Hole.  Seems rather appropriate!  In addition to all the mines, much of the town is built underground and tunneled into hillsides.  We took some time to go explore an old mine turned tourist attraction which housed many artifacts and recreated the life and times of a miner and his family.  We then hiked to the top of Big Winch 360 where we were treated to 360 degree views of the countryside.

Coober Pedy – started as “Kupa Piti”, which is aborigine for “White Man Holes”
There are thousands of mineshafts in the area- and they are not marked!
Felt a bit like Mos Eisley from Star wars to us.
Some old mining equipment rusting away
A former Opal mine turned tourist exhibit.
Exploring the mine shafts that miners looked for Opal treasure.
The area is scorching hot in summer so miners lived underground with their familes. Here Robyn is in a kid’s bedroom in use until the 1960s
The underground homes had multiple bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms.
Miners had to exit the mines via vertical shafts with footholds chopped in the sandstone
There are miles and miles of mine shafts under the ground. All dug to look for Opal.
Waffles and Opals. Why not?

The other draw to this small town is the landscapes which are certainly out of this world.  Many movies have used this unusual landscape for their shoots, including Mad Max, The Red Planet, and Ground Zero just to name a few.  A short drive out of town had us clanging down a washboard, red dirt road to some of the craziest landforms imaginable.  This was an Aboriginal heritage site known as the Breakaways which boasts unusual land formations and a wide range of colors that change with the light of the sun.  Along one part of the site is the world’s longest fence.  Here you will find part of a 5300km dog fence that was built to keep the Dingos out of the south where the cattle and sheep roam free (unfortunately, it didn’t stop a few cows from encounters with high speed trucks).  After thoroughly exploring the Breakaways, we followed the bone jarring dirt road back to the highway to continue our trek.  Our next stop was the town of Kulgera in the Northern Territory.  Here we spent another creepy night out in the bush (it was a beautiful site despite the thousand ways I conjured up to die painfully in Australia….haha!)  At one point, I even yelled at Dan who was busy wandering around in the brush at dusk.  Crazy man!

The desert landscape was used for many movies, for which some props were left behind.
Piles of rubble from the thousands of Opal mine shaft in the area
We took the motorhome down a long stretch of teeth rattling washboard dirt roads
Looking out over the “Breakaways’, a surreal landscape.
Longest fence in the world. Built to keep the dingoes (wild dogs) away from the sheep
After hours and hours of driving finally made it the Northern Territory border
Camping in the wilderness near Kulgera, Northern Territories.

Once again, we hit the road at sun up.  Our next destination was the famous world heritage site of Uluru.  As we drove there, we were treated to  hills and soil that ranged in color from grays, to deep purples, to fiery reds which changed as the sun moved in the sky.  We arrived at our campsite nestled in amongst some very nice hotels and one lowly gas station.  As you can imagine, filling up this big RV at that particular gas station was quite painful!  It was $2.90/liter or $9.00/gallon!  OUCH!!!

Ouch – over $9 US dollars a gallon to fill up!
The first rock feature on the road to Uluru – “Fool-uru” Fool’s Uluru. Just a mesa.
Camping near Uluru at the Yulara campground
First view of Uluru. Quite the beauty!

Our first full day in Uluru/Ayer’s Rock, we headed out to the monolith itself.  This is known as the world’s largest monolith and is sacred to the Aborigines.  We decided to do the almost 7 mile walk around the circumference of this giant rock.  The colors changed with the movement of the sun and clouds, and we were treated to a variety of unique features.  Luckily we had bought some head nets the day before because the flys were horrendous.  They hover around your head trying to get into your ears, nose, eyes, and mouth.  They are so relentless it nearly drives you insane.  There were numerous areas where photos were forbidden because the rocks tell the stories of the aboriginal people to be handed down in person to their future generations and not shared through photographs.  In addition, there are sections strictly for the men and others for the women.  We were not able to get up close to any of these areas.  Later that evening, we headed to a spot dedicated to watching the sunset over Ayer’s Rock.  Once again, we were treated to the changing colors of this giant monolith as the sun set over the horizon.

View on the drive to the trailhead
Part of the magic of Uluru is how it changes color throughout the day.
Mutijuju Walterhole nestled against the rock
The “Kitchen” where aborigine woman prepared meals
The rock changes form and look as you hike around it.
Aborigine rock art
The flies can be pesky so a net can help.
It was magical to hike around the base.
The walk around Uluru was surprisingly lush at times
Banksia flowers
Before and after sunset pictures
A great finish to a special day

The next morning, we were up super early in order to drive a 1/2 hour to a sunrise viewing spot to witness sunrise over Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) another rock formation.  Coincidentally, we could also see sunrise over Uluru as well.  Once the sun was up, we headed up close to Kata Tjuta to do a little bit of hiking.  We didn’t last very long as the wind was just howling (ironically named Valley of the Winds), and the terrain was a little bit treacherous.  Thanks to the wind, the flys were not near as bad.  After the our short exploration of Kata Tjuta, we decided to end our stay in the outback and head to Alice Springs since our time in the RV was coming to an end.

Sunrise over the Olgas – Kata Tjuta
Sunrise next to Uluru in the distance
Starting the “Valley of the Winds” hike

After 5 hours of driving, we found a lovely little campground outside Alice Springs.  A super friendly campground host guided us to our spot, and I jumped out to guide   Dan into the spot since there were many trees.  As I directed him as close to the tree as possible, making sure he didn’t hit the top on the low branches, I looked up and saw the biggest spider I’ve ever seen right above my head.  Needless to say, I squealed and did my “eww, creepy spider” dance out from under him only to find myself under and even bigger one!  The camp host and all our neighbors busted up laughing at the goofy American girl terrified of spiders.  The camp host repeatedly assured me that these Orb spiders were not dangerous.  Ummm…..don’t care!  Ewwww!  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more spiders in this campground than anywhere else on our journey so far.  Once settled and chores completed, we walked next door to this really fun brewery for some dinner and local beers.  It was a great way to end the day.

Made it! 3094 kms (1922 miles) from Melbourne.
Our last camp spot with this motorhome. Alice Springs and lots of spiders!
The Australian Giant Orb weaver spider – and source of Robyn’s Giant nightmares!
Our campground was next door to a nice craft brewery with local Barrmundi fish and chips.

We had now arrived at the end of this leg of our journey.  We needed to prep the RV for turn in and check into our hotel room for the night.  The following day we would be flying to Brisbane and then Cairns for the final 3 weeks of our journey.  We arrived at our hotel around 12:30 but were told we could not check in until 2:00, so we dropped our bags and headed out to turn in the RV.  We walked back to the hotel around 1:30 and asked once again.  Still no rooms were ready, so the girl handed us 2 free drink coupons for the bar onsite.  We headed over and grabbed a beer and burger.  Long story short, our room was not ready until nearly 4:30 and we were given 6 drink coupons to keep us occupied….lol.  Not a bad way to while away the afternoon!

Free beers (courtesy of hotel) and Australian Rules Football.

That night was opening night of Parrtjima Festival which is an annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival.  We hopped on a very crowded shuttle bus (standing room only and my most favorite thing in the world to do) and headed to the festival as darkness set in.  As we entered the outdoor venue, we were treated to some beautiful light displays throughout the desert.  The centerpiece of the festival was a light and sound show that took place on the McDowell Mountain Range displaying aboriginal art, music and story canvased on the mountain.  After exploring the festival, we stood in a long line to once again crowd on to an overstuffed shuttle bus home.  Tomorrow would be an early start and a long day of standby flying….2 flights totaling over 5 hours 🙁

Alice Springs desert park kangaroo
Wedge tailed eagle
Same eagle showing us how it breaks open hard Emu eggs with rocks
Australian Emu
Joining the hordes for a nighttime light show in Alice Springs
They did a great job translating Aboriginal legends into light
Very impressed!
Bamboo turned into a tunnel of light
The McDonnell mountain range ringing Alice Springs was lit up as well!
Met a local Aborigine woman and enjoyed leaning her culture first hand.

When we meet again, we will take you back to the sea and through the rainforests of Australia!

Adventures in Australia: Part 1 (with Hawaii bonus)

It’s been some time since we’ve had a true adventure to write about. Since leaving Greece last October, we’ve spent time reconnecting with family before heading off to Maui for the months of December and January. The house that we are having built has fallen very far behind schedule which has left us scrambling to find alternate living accommodations so as not to be too big of a burden living with very generous family members and friends. I chose not to blog about our time in Maui, since we basically lived like residents….cooking meals at home, going to the gym, going for walks, and sitting by the water reading. We did have a great time there doing lots of hiking and enjoying daily visits from the Humpback whales and sea turtles. Here are a few pictures of some of our favorite moments.

Hiking the martian landscape of Haleakala volcano
Aptly named Sliding Sands trail.
Makawao Rainforest Reserve
Primordial views
Humpback whale breaching off Maui.
Dan took a free diving class and learned how to dive down past 30 feet in depth

That brings us to now, the last week of March, and Dan’s clever crafting of another wild adventure.  After many, many hours of research, Dan devised a plan in which we pick up 3 different one-way camper vans throughout Australia and drive/explore a circumnavigation of the Southern and Eastern part of Australia over a 5 week period of time.  When it is all said and done, we will have driven 3600 miles not including the side diversions to explore the surrounding areas.

Long day to get from Phoenix to Los Angeles to Sydney….luckily we got upgraded (as standbys) to Premium Economy

So, let’s get started!  It took us 16 1/2 hours on airplanes (and the complete loss of one day due to the international date line) to arrive in Sydney.  Since we ended up leaving 4 days earlier than our original plan, we did not have anything booked.  As soon as we were on the ground, Dan began making phone calls to secure us a camper van.  By late morning, we were tucked into our tiny home and on our way to our first stop in the Blue Mountains.  It was pouring rain and very foggy.  We spent two hours driving with me regularly chanting, “look to the right, drive to the left.” You may be asking yourself why I was doing such a strange thing?  Well, not only was Dan having to drive from the opposite side of the car, but you also drive on the opposite side of road here, something with which we have very little experience.  Kudos to me for not saying “the wrong side of the road.”  Before long, we were at our camp spot surrounded by lush, green forests, low hanging clouds, and a very odd cacophony of wild bird sounds (very Jurassic Park sounding).

Our little campervan for the next eight days

We headed out on foot to explore a variety of lookout points at a place called Katoomba Falls.  The views were amazing and quite eerie.  The cliff walls plummeted deep beyond the ability to see bottom, and the clouds whooshed up from below on the wind.  The waterfalls were spectacular to say the least, and unfortunately the pictures just don’t even come close to demonstrating the beauty we observed.

The beautiful Blue Mountains outside Sydney
Waterfalls everywhere
Making the most of the rain and fog!
The views were stupendous once the clouds cleared

The next morning, we were awake at 4:45 a.m. (thanks jet lag), so we decided to head to the Three Sisters rock formation for sunrise.  According to Aboriginal legend, 3 sisters were turned to stone because the 3 girls fell in love with 3 brothers from a rival tribe.  When the 2 tribes went to war, a witch doctor turned them to stone in order to protect them, but the witch doctor was killed in battle thereby leaving the 3 sisters forever in stone and creating this very unique rock formation.  The view is suppose to be spectacular.  Why did I say “suppose to be?”  Did I forget to mention that since we have arrived, we have had non-stop, pouring rain?  Needless to say, the entire area was so clouded in that we could barely see our hand in front of our face.  We were quite disappointed.

From the Blue Mountains, we headed south to the coastal town of Shell Harbour where we managed to score a camp spot right on the ocean.  Again, we had lots and lots of pouring rain but were treated to about 8 waterspouts of varying size out on the ocean.  It was fascinating and a little terrifying watching them grow bigger and more powerful (very glad we weren’t out on a boat!)

Some serious waterspouts!
There are four active waterspouts in this picture!
The birds are gorgeous down under
Oceanside dinner for two!
Rain, rain go away come back some other day!

After 2 days in Shell Harbour, we drove 4 1/2 hours to the town of Merimbula and our cliff side camp spot.  This was another quaint little beachside town.  Unfortunately, this was a quick one night stop before another 4 1/2 hour drive further south.  We made a quick stop at a town called Lakes Entrance where we bought fresh prawns right off the boat.  We literally walked up to the fishing vessel and purchased a kilo of prawns.  We had the choice of raw or freshly cooked, so we chose the cooked ones.  They were delicious.  After walking the boardwalk, we headed to our next camp spot in the town of Paynesville.  We planned for a two night stay here (thankfully….I’m getting a little tired of all the driving….or more accurately, passengering).

Friendly fellow who sold us a kilo of fresh caught prawns

This was a 2 day stop so that we had time to go across the river to Raymond Island.  There is a free ferry ride that takes you across the river (a whooping 2 minute ride) where there is an abundance of amazing wildlife.  Raymond Island draws a lot of nature lovers because it is one of the best places to spot koalas in the wild.  So, a koala spotting we did go.  We walked 6 1/2 miles all over the island looking for koalas.  They are a lot tougher to find than you might think!  In the end, we did end up spotting 8.  Most were sleeping since they are nocturnal, but we did encounter 3 that were alert and 1 was busy eating eucalyptus leaves.  Our necks were definitely tired by the time we were done.  We also spotted a kookaburra, pelicans, and an endless array of wild parrots.  Sadly, we did not see any kangaroos this time.  After that adventure, we treated ourselves to a local fish and chips place for a late lunch.  Unfamiliar with the local fish by name, the cook suggested we get one whiting and one gummy shark.  They were both pretty good, but I much preferred the whiting.  The shark was much thicker and denser than the delicate flake of the whiting.

Ferry to Raymond Island
Start of the Koala walk. They are wild but plentiful enough that if you look around hard enough you will find some
Hello there! Hope we didn’t wake you up from your nap!
They are surprisingly hard to find high up in the gum trees.
Kookaburra bird
Snug as a bug
So. Many. Parrots!
Can you spot the Koala?

Our next stop was this awesome beach town of Phillips Island.  Unfortunately this was only going to be an overnight stop, so our day was cram packed with activities after a very long drive.  After pulling into our beach front camping spot, we walked the beach to town and explored for a few hours.  Not long after, we headed up to a place called Nobbies.  This is a spectacular cliff top view of the Bass Strait.  The wind was absolutely wicked, and I have never seen seas as violent and churned up as I saw here.  As the sailors once said (back during the age of the clipper ships), below 40 degrees latitude there are no rules and below 50 degree, there is no god.  We stood at 39 degrees south, so you get the picture.

The beautiful Nobbies
Nobbies blowhole
The winds were a bit rough on the point!

After enduring the high winds on the cliff side boardwalk, we took a back dirt road to our next adventure, the penguin parade.  Along the way, we were treated to tons of wallabys and one very shy echidna (also known as a spiny anteater).  We then made our way to the penguin parade.  This is a nightly event in which thousands of Little Blue Penguins (the world’s smallest penguin) come ashore after feeding from before sunrise to just after sunset.  These adorable little guys come into shore in droves (for self protection) and waddle their way up and across the beach where they head to their “bungalows.”  They are the cutest things you will ever see as they waddle their way past your viewing spot, stopping to check you out.  Unfortunately, taking photos was strictly forbidden so as not to disrupt their natural behavior, so you will have to settle for a photo of them from inside the visitor center.

An echidna (a spiny anteater – one of the few mammals that lats eggs). Poor guy saw us coming with the camera and tried to hide
Cute wallaby by the side of the road
Found this little guy on the way to the Penguin Parade
The above ground viewing area overlooking the beach. People have started to arrive to be ready for the penguin parade at sunset
We went with the underground viewing experience to make the most of our time there. Given the really high winds we were happy with the decision!
That’s a lot of Penguins!
Stock picture showing the viewing area (as photos were strictly prohibited lest some one let a flash go) (Credit:
Penguin Parade stock photo (credit:

So, this brings us to the end of the first part of our journey.  We picked up our tiny home on Friday, March 25th in Sydney and drove 1023 miles to Melbourne to drop our tiny home on Friday, April 1.  We then picked up our much bigger tiny home to start the second leg of our journey.  Stay tuned to see what kind of mischief we get into next!