Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another change of plans!

On the trip to Cairns I had alot of time to think about what I was doing with the rest of the trip. I am ok-ish for money although I am just going into my overdraft. I would have enough of that left I rekon to finish off SE-Asia.

I was thinking though, I probably don't want to head back to England in maximum debt, I will still need some money to get sorted for work etc. And backpacking is never as much fun if you are stressing about money every day.

So...I've decided that now I have done everything in Aus I want to do, this seems like a good point to call an end to this leg of the travelling, for now. I have travelled USA, Fiji, NZ and Oz over 8 months and done so much of the stuff I've really wanted to do. I have had a great time and I now have an excuse for another trip to come back and travel through SE Asia in the future... and do it properly! I would hate to miss some stuff just because I have to budget too hard. Plus a break from hostels now would be great! Haha.

Which means.....I'm coming back to England, WAHEY! Can't wait to catch up with family and friends!

I will plan my future trip another time and will definitely carry on the blogging when I am travelling next time.

So I guess that's it for now. This is probably my last blog.

Bye for now.

Arrived in Cairns!

Finally arrived in Cairns!!

We set off on Tuesday morning and I got into Cairns on Saturday evening. It turned out to be a great trip. Liam and Kevin are both really nice guys.

Before we set off I met the group of people Liam had travelled up to Darwin with and they were all very sad to see Sue or Sue-B (Subaru...?) leave. They had grown seriously attached to this car and made me promise to take care of her. I think they were only partly joking. We got some food supplies and water, said goodbye and left, laughing about how we had only to take one major turn off the highway in around 3 days. We were all looking forward to the turning, it was going to be a momentous occassion in the road trip.

So with the i-pod blasting we drove through the desert heat. It sounds obvious but travelling through the outback is bloody hot! Every now and again you have to try and seperate yourself from the seat you've melted into. We drove through pine creek to Katherine where I took my first turn at driving. She was a beast! And felt like a tank to drive. We had decided to keep an average speed of around 80-90kp/h to keep the fuel consumption low (Liam is seriously broke!).

We drove through a series of 'towns' which are pretty much just a few houses/caravans and maybe a shop if you're lucky. I drove through Larrimma first, and almost hit a peacock, of all things.... There were two of them just walking around. Around 6.30 the sun went down and it may as well have been 4am for all the light there was. As soon as the sun went down it was absolutely pitch black, no lights/towns in sight. That made for an awesome view of the stars tho! By this point we were only a small way into the drive and decided we would drive through the night, with one person sleeping in the back (a very comfortable make shift bed!) and would rotate drivers. If we got too tired we would stop.

We stopped at a place called the highway inn the first night for dinner. Set up the gas cooker and had some rice and beans (the food of kings). Kevin took his first turn at driving first....that's when things started going a little bit tits up, as they say. Now Kevin is a sound driver, although I later found out he doesn't have a drivers licence....but what he lacks in licences and government papers, he makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. He's a good driver and king of the ipod. We got to a place called Dunmarra where the car started to knock and jerk a bit. At first we thought it was a blip but it happened some more so we pulled over. We were worried we had abused Sue a bit too much with the non-stop driving so wanted to give her a break. So here we were.....pitch black in the middle of no-where, standing on the highway with the hazards giving a nice stobe effect on us all. We joked about how this was the typical start to a horror movie and we should expect to see someone stood in the middle of the road flashing in the light of the hazards.

After a short break we got back in and carried on, around 1.30am the problem got very bad and limited us to around 30km/hr so we chugged our way into a camp-site we were passing and drove to a discrete spot in the hope of steathily avoiding the fee. Kevin and I slept in the car, and Liam slept in his sleeping bag outside. At 7.30am we got busted and had to pay the $24 camping fee. Several people came over to have a look at the car, there was alot of speculation about what it could be but we decided it was probably the fuel filter or a dodgy batch of fuel, which apparently can be quite common in the outback. So we decided to head for the big town Tennant's creek, which is the main town between Darwin and Cairns. So we were back on the road, driving now at 20km/h towards Tennant's creek, 90km away. That's 4.5 hours....... haha. As we were leaving there were 3 vultures overhead and shortly after we passed 'attack creek'. You can't make this stuff up!

25 km away from TC we completely break down. It's now around 10am, bloody hot, and we are broken down in the outback, without cover, and with very little money in our budget. We are screwed! Some guy pulls over to offer a hand and before we know it has called someone to come pick us up. There was a petrol station 5km away so a guy tow's us to there. He then charged Liam $100 for the tow. Yep, $100! Bastard! He works at the station and I assume the guy that stopped knew him and spotted a trick. I think it only dawned on Liam he was being ripped after he paid. By then too late. So now we were about 20km from TC, in a petrol station. So we call a mechanic. He has never heard of an L-Series Subaru station wagon. That's not a good sign. Apparently he is the only mechanic in TC. We had already worked out which fuel filter we need (FF-52), and just need the part. The mechanic wont come out to get us.... We were really buggered! So....we decided to take a break and play you do!

We decided to take out the filter and have a look at it to see if that really was the problem. We made the mistake of not having any thing to block the fuel line with (doh!!) so when Liam took it out the fuel start's pouring out. Kevin and I jumped under the car to plug it whilst liam attached the fuel can to drain the fuel. Kevin got covered in petrol and Liam got some in his eye. Fantastic! Despite all this everyone kept pretty up-beat, although Liam was contemplating trying to flog the car and then we would work out how to get out of here. Kevin sat down to light up a cigarette, and I quickly remind him he's covered in petrol. The last thing we need is a crispy frenchman. I spent some time in the petrol station reading the info card about the place whilst the girls at the checkout made us some free coffee (they realised we got ripped off). I found out the guy/owner's name was Tim. Tim is now on my list.

Outside Liam got chatting to Bob. A really sound guy who offered to give us a tow into Tennant's creek to find the mechanic. Tow number 2. This time the tow lead was really short and we were convinced if Bob broke a bit too hard we would go into the back of him. You can't help but laugh at this point.

In TC we spoke to the mechanic who tells us he can't be sure what the problem is without getting the car into the garage, and he cant do that for a week as he is really busy. Crap! Bob was a legend, driving us around to try to find another mechanic. We found some guys who also took a look and decided it probably was the fuel filter. We found a parts store and picked up a filter for $15, and changed it ourselves. That did the trick, and we stopped for some drinks/internet time in the town before we left. As we were fuelling up Liam realised he had left his watch on the road when he changed the filter. I was feeling really bad for the guy, he was down to around $100 and was really not having any luck. I think he's been sleeping in this car for a few weeks now!

So we left TC around 4pm and got back on the highway. Liam tricked me into thinking the car was breaking down again. He found it hilarious, haha. I was VERY glad it was only a joke. We drove into the night and again pitched up for some pasta and sauce. We stopped for more fuel and got to a place called Cloncurry. Here we stopped at the side of the road and slept there again, in sleeping bags under the stars. Apart from mozzies it was a good sleep.

By now (day 3) I was pretty desperate for a shower. We all were. We hammered on towards Townsville and eventually got there around 7.30pm. About 2 hours from Townsville the front tyre burst as I was driving, so we had a night time change at the side of the road. We have had some really bad luck here! Haha. I hadn't had a chance to book a hostel (no signal for the trip) before we got to Townsville but we parked up and I spoke to the local backpackers reception. As it turns out, everywhere was booked up as there's a big festival in town this week. Brilliant. So, I decided to carry on with the guys south a bit further as they were heading to Ayr. I would just sort stuff out when I get there.

We arrived in Ayr quite late and drove to the beach. Liam knows the place well as he used to work here for a while so we found a quiet spot to sleep. Sat on the beach for a bit and then got some sleep under a tree. I woke up at around 7am to find Liam leaning over me looking sinister. He swatted a mosquito which was sucking on my arm. Good morning! I have a few bits now, one in the middle of my forehead, which looks especially good. We found a camp ground nearby and snuck in for some stealth showers. Afterwards we headed to the train station, which was closed at weekend. Haha. I managed to book myself onto a bus up the coast to Cairns and arrived here last night. The hostel im staying at is quite far out the city but is actually one of the best I've stayed in so far. Liam and Kevin are sticking around in Ayr with the prospect of work there looking quite good. They are still planning on sleeping in the car to keep costs down. A backpackers life eh!

So Cairns is good. It's a bit overcast today. I'm going to book my dive on the Barrier reef for sometime over the next day or two. That's the last thing I have on my list to do in Australia! Wahey. Well looking forward to that.

The road trip was so much fun, despite the car trouble. If anything that made it a bit more of an adventure. I'm glad now that I said yes. As it turns out I made some good mates out of it as well, and it probably still only cost the same as a flight, even with the extra cost of repairs. Hopefully I will catch up with those guys again at some point in the future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Damn, I lost my SD memory card!

Damn, damn, damn. Today hasn't been the best so far.... I was in the internet cafe this morning and tried to upload my photos from Litchfield and I left my SD memory card in the computer. After breakfast I remembered and went back to look and I guess someone took it, damn!

Fortunately, I had backed up all my pictures (around 1000), and sent them back home, so all I had on that card was the last 2 days, pretty lucky! I would have been gutted if I lost a whole load of photos. As it is, I got a replacement for $30, which is pretty good! I'm amazed I have lasted this long without losing something, as it's always been a running joke with me losing stuff at home. So one loss in 8 months is pretty good going. Oh, I did lose some shoes in New Zealand, but I'm not going to count that...

Met up with Liam this morning, got chatting about his 'story'. The obligatory questions every traveller asks new people they meet. Where have you been? How long has you been travelling? Where are you heading to next?. Turns out he has been in OZ for 14 months, run out of money, and needs to get to Townsville in the hope of finding work. He has enough money to get there and then is going to sell his car, which is a bit of a beast (if you like bangers). We are also going to travel with his mate, a french guy called Kevin who has a big curly afro. That's pretty cool. At the moment, Kevin cant leave until tomorrow so we are setting off in the morning. I guess its not like im in a major rush or anything. So just killing time in Darwin until the morning...

Oh, and I just found a hole in one of my shoes, so I think I will have to buy some new ones. I thought converse were supposed to be good quality??! Think they've only lasted a few months...

Ah well, as they say you need the bad bits to make the good bits better. Or something profound like that.

I think I will go and buy some new shoes.....

Back from Litchfield NP


Just got back from camping about half an hour ago! The trip was great. We rented a car from some company in Darwin city. All the rental companies look a bit shady around here but we managed to get a reasonable deal on a small car which was a yaris.

Drove to Litchfield national park which is not too far away. The first site we pitched up at was really crappy. Big rocks in the floor, and a tap. That was about it. Oh and a toilet. But if you wanted to get to the toilet you had to get past the webs.

It was extremely hot the first night and was pretty manky sleeping in the tent, but there were lots of mozzies outside so it was a tough decision as to which was better.

The next day we headed to a different campsite and this one was brilliant. A couple of dollars more but it had flat ground, decent showers, toilets etc and laundry so I could wash my stuff.

I was a bit concerned about renting a car, I always hate the idea of it being rented in my name because I always assume the rental companies will try and scam you. So we haggled a good deal, by lying outright about what the quote lady had told us the price would be. My memory failed me for those few minutes, so the guy matched the 'quote' we had been given. I think you are allowed to do stuff like that when youre travelling. They kind of expect it. Anyway, we took the Yaris a bit more offroad than I would have liked but to get to the camp sites we had to go down some pretty bad roads. We were pretty much doing jumps at some points. I had kissed my savings goodbye by this point! Then on the second day we were driving and the inside mirror just bloody fell off!!! So we kept it in the glove compartment mostly, and held it up as and when necessary.

The weekend was a nice mix of hopping from hiking trail to waterfall and checking out all the good places to swim. Lots of the water holes were closed as its the end of the wet season and crocs sometimes still hang around. The worst we came into contact with was a pretty big lizard. I wonder if that's what a goanna is??

So on returning the car today the rental guy said we had gone over out allowed km limit. I assured him we hadn't and that he had agreed to give us 200km a day. I also said that in view of the fact the car was falling apart, theres no way I was gonna pay any extra km. His reply was 'shit happens'. Brilliant! So we agreed to disagree. But its not a problem because I managed to convince him my debit card was a credit card so as to cover any damage which occured. As it happens he can't take any more of my money anyway! You have to try and stay one step ahead you know!

So I'm just killing some time here at the internet cafe. I have all my bags and am technically homeless while I wait to meet Liam about the trip to Cairns. I am heading to his hostel around 10 as he overslept. All good. Means I can update the blog.

So anyway, I think my phone signal will be pretty hit and miss for the next few days. Should be in Cairns in around 3-4 days I think. I'll try and get back online then.

Talk to you then...

Oh and for some reason pictures aren't working again, but I will add some more when I am online next.


My first follower...

I have my first follower. I have no idea who 'Isla' is, or in fact what a follower actually is, but I have one now. Wicked!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Happy Anzac day!

Hi, hope everyone is well.

Today is a national holiday in Oz, to remember people who died in WWI. Although, it seems like an excuse for a big piss-up for most people as the pubs are full and everyone seems pretty merry.

Today has been a good day so far! Just when you start thinking things are getting a bit dull loads of offers come your way!

A girl I was chatting to on the Ghan train from Alice Springs, Eleana, is here in Darwin. She is from Holland. I saw her yesterday and she wanted to know if I like camping. I do. Her and her dorm-mate Andy, from Germany, were thinking of going to Kakadu national park for a couple of days and finding someplace to camp there for a couple of nights. Sounds good! We looked into renting a car but had some difficulty as it was already 8pm Friday night, the day before a public holiday. We didn't really get far. The 3 of us had a chat about it and Andy has to be back for work on monday and doesn't really want to pull a sicky. Even so, since the offer is still good me and Eleana are picking up a rental car tomorrow morning and heading to the park. She has the tent, so all I have to bring is some food and drink. Pretty good deal!

Also, I got a reply from the guy who posted the lift offer to Cairns! I was getting a little put-off cos I had applied to a couple of other posts since then from other people and nobody was really replying. Two Swiss guys (with hard to pronounce names) offered me a space in there car but they are leaving tomorrow morning and I've already agreed to the camping! Damn. But shortly after the English guy, Liam, called me to ask if I still needed a ride. He is pretty flexible on times so we agreed to leave Tuesday morning. I think we arrive back from camping to drop off the rental car at around 8.30am Tues, and I'm meeting Liam around 9am I think. So no shower for a LOOOONNNG time. I'm sure I will make a great impression. Going to have to try and hunt down some showers in the park.

So, had a quick chat with Liam this morning and all sounds pretty promising. He has a Subaru 4x4 and is heading to Townsville (not too far from Cairns). That's good enough, I can make my way from there on the train. It's a fair old drive at 2500km, so between the two of us (unless there are others?) it will probably take 3-5 days I suppose. Depends how much we drive. He has a tent and camping stuff so we will find some places to sleep. Sounds like fun!

I think being more spontaneous is working out well!
Just off to an outdoor cinema this evening and then going to pack and stuff ready for an early start tomorrow to the park!

Will keep you posted on the roadtrip the next time I can get online. That may be in Townsville at the weekend.

Bye for now!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plan to get to Cairns

Good news! Just picked up a message about a car-share ride to a place called Townsville, close to Cairns. They are planning to leave in the next day or two. Just gotta wait to hear back.

Fingers crossed!