Helvetia has us back! After nearly one year on the move, we finally touched Swiss soil again on January 2014 at 6:37. My dad was so kind to pick us up at the airport and to show our gratitude we moved in with my parents right away (we are sure they are happy to host two penniless, long haired backpackers). Right after touch-down we got busy, firstly we have to find an apartment and secondly, at least for Michi, starting February he will have to completely assimilate and follow a regular occupation again.
To us, the last year passed in lightning-speed and was filled with new impressions and wonderful experiences. To list them all here would take too long, but we would be happy to report in detail during a dinner or two, we can even include a sideshow for the very patient 😉
Many thanks to you for taking the time to check in with our blog every now and then and for accompanying us on our adventures.
Mai Thai, Pinacolada and great Currys. Thailand welcomed us and many other sunseekers with warm temperatures and allegedly beautiful beaches. But regarding beaches, it appers that Tahiti and Australia had us spoiled and so this was put into persepctive after a few days. But the quality of food and drinks remained constantly high and so we dug in! Since this was the last destination on our trip, the focus was on relaxing and reilishing our last days as globetrotters. Still we found time for some sightseeing and one or two excursions on not so comfortable but in return quite adventurous „Longtail“-boats.
After we’ve left Perth it definitely was time to dig out the thermal clothes again. As expected the weather got colder and rainier the further south we went. As a result, Michi decided that it was time to put his right foot down and fast forward to Sydney. Whenever the sun was out, we stopped briefly to marvel at the huge gum trees or to take a quick, though quite refreshing, bath in the southern ocean. Between Perth and Sydney, not only lies the Nullarbor which with 145.6 km (90.4 miles) is the longest straight road in Australia but also the cities Adelaide and Melbourne. Of course we visited both of them but with our minds already away on some beach bar in Thailand, we probably left out quite a view places of interest. Back in Sydney it’s now time to say goodbye to Ron Burgundy, he was a remarkably reliable and sturdy companion, but even he shows some wear from our 35’000 km (21747 miles) journey around Australia.
Since we have not seen a city since Darwin, it became about time to change that and so we drove via Monkey Mia, where Carmen had to feed a Dolphin and Michi had his second job interview (they actually did hire him despite, or maybe because, of his hairdo), to Perth.
We enjoyed the big city life a lot with window-shopping, eating delicious bread from the Swiss bakery, a cinema visit and touching the new iPhone. And although the weather was a lot cooler and more rainy than what we have gotten accustomed to, it was hard for us to leave the relaxed pace and European feel of Perth and Fremantle behind and move on.
Regarding the weather there seem to be some uncomfortable days laying ahead of us, the more south we will be heading the cooler it will get, maybe it’s time to get out the thermal underwear from the bottom of the backpack.
A short time after we started our journey with Ron, he met a lady of the same age on a campground. Her name is Helga and she is also manufactured in Japan, and while she is a little more corpulent around the back she wears mostly white which is definitely more flattering than Burgundy. Helga is being piloted by Franzi and Christoph, two fellow Backpackers which at that time where already traveling for over a year. Sadly our ways had parted already the next morning since Helga had different plans than Ron.
After 3800km (2361 miles) coincidence now lead to a reunion since Franzi and Christoph where camping on Cape Leveque at the same time as us, one always meets twice in life…
The following weeks we met up several times and jointly explored the most stunning and lonely beaches along the Ningaloo Reef where we spent our time swimming, snorkeling, reading and practicing sweet idleness before they headed on towards Perth while we went to spend a couple of days at Red Bluff visiting old friends of Carmen.
With Western Australia we have now reached the forth state within Australia and soon we are approaching halftime at least in regards to distance traveled, but if we are going to make it back to Sydney within the time we have left remains to be seen. Right across the border from Northern Territory start the enchanting Kimberley and one catches himself wondering why we have spent so much time at the east coast when it’s so pretty here. Right a cross the heart of the Kimberley runs a remote gravel road called the Gibb River Road which is very popular with backpackers from across the world. So it happens regularly that exactly these backpackers and their cars, which are not up to the job, are stranded along this 600km road, usually with flat tires. We too did run into two of this sort. The first two guys appeared to be quite stoned and did not even have any tools to change a tyre. At the same time with us another Australian couple pulled over to help and together with them we got to stand there watching a slow motion tire change. Just a short time later, in the meantime we had gotten back on the road, we stopped for two German high-school graduates in a Jeep Cherokee also with flat tires. (Who buys a car that was built for helicopter-parents to drive their kids to Kindergarden 300m down the road?) They seemed to have already had two rough days and where a little desperate about the fact that they first took a wrong turn and made a 600 km detour and now did not have one sip of water nor a spare tire left. This because their spare was already on the car where, after only a couple of kilometers, it blew up at the same time as the front tire so that now they where sitting there with two flat tires. At my wonder how such stupidity was possible, Michi explained to me how men in the age of 18 to 25 are capable of following stupid ideas trough with determination, always convinced of their own capabilities. This sympathy and the thought that non-assistance of a person in danger is a crime, we gave them some drinking water so that they can survive the rest of the day and the night, before we headed back there the next morning to drive one of these geniuses and the two broken tires to the only tire shop on the track and then back to their car again. After leaving them again to their own destiny, we treated ourselves to a relaxing bath in the beautiful Bell Gorge and enjoyed the landscape around us.
I was in some parts of Australia before and from these past trips I remember places I wanted to go back to. This was also the case for Litchfield National Park on our way to Darwin. Arriving at the southern entrance we tackled the 4WD track including a exiting slalom creek crossing accompanied with the usual slight water entry. This drive was lonely (in a positive way) and relaxing but the northern part of the park is also accessible to tour buses and day trippers and so it soon was over with the quietness. During my last visit over then years ago one could take quiet dips in the many amazing waterfalls and swimming holes but this time it felt more like a visit in Switzerland’s famous water park the Alpamare.
In Darwin it was time for a camping time-out. After parking Ron in front of the Hilton and approaching the reception desk with our backpacks we got a suspicious look from the lady behind the desk. We can understand her a little, by now or clothes are all quite dusty and our hairstyle (at least Michi’s) does not necessarily shout “business meeting” but maybe more “soup kitchen”. Darwin is probably nice but we can’t say for sure since we spent most of the two days in our air-conditioned room with a nice big bathroom, laying in a king size bed watching TV… it felt like haven.
One of Australia’s famous landmarks is Uluru also called Ayers Rock and since we just happened to be close-by we drove the approximately 1100 km (683 miles) to view it. Shortly after we went on our way we had a flat tire, a screw had drilled into the rubber and the tire was slowly but steadily loosing air. Made aware of this by other travelers we finally got to use our awesome repair kit and it appears that the patch is still holding. The landscapes around Alice Springs are beautiful and to see Uluru by sunset is impressive. But since we are here at the end of the dry season there is no water left in the rivers and billabongs (water holes) but a lot more dust in exchange. This dryness as well as the constantly increasing temperatures and flies are starting to get to us and we hope that this will soon change when we are heading back north towards tropical Darwin.
Driving back from Cape York we established a new personal record and drove 420 km (261 miles) in one day. This might not sound like much but on washboard like dirt roads that’s not too bad and so we congratulate ourselves. As of late Ron now carries a fancy steel basket on his roof with room for all sorts of stuff. To get to this upgrade, Michi had to sweat a lot because the roof basket came from an old Mitsubishi Pajero which was sitting in the back corner of the Mount Isa junk yard surrounded by other wrecked car. Once Michi had unscrewed and hammered this bulky thing off the Pajero he got help from „the boss“ (no, not Bruce Springsteen but apparently the owner of the yard) to cut off the old clamps, the boss even found some black paint to spray over the rusty parts. By coincidence there was also an old Hilux standing around of which we snatched an additional spare wheel. Now we are heading on through sparse landscapes from Outback Queensland to Alice Springs.
With Ron back in shape and us knowing the code word for „club soda“ we are now on our way to Cape York and the most northern point of the Australian continent called „the tip“. After we left Cooktown we had to leave the sealed roads behind us and have since been traveling entirely on gravel roads. While at the beginning in Lakefield National park there was not much of a difference to be noticed, but the closer we are getting to the Cape, the more we get shaken trough by corrugations. These happen when a gravel road is traveled by a lot of traffic and heavy vehicles. First these are just small ripples which turn into bigger and bigger gaps running on a right angle to the road. And once you have traveled over such corrugations for several hours you start to wish you had never started your trip and that it please might end soon. But the nearly 1000 km (621 miles) to the tip have their price and it’s payed for by a stiff neck and lots and lots of patience and nerves, as well as some loose screws on Ron.
Of course these hardships aren’t in vain, along the way there are lots of beautiful camp spots directly on the many rivers. One of them is Elliot Falls where there are three refreshing (and most importantly crocodile free) swimming opportunities. To get there though, we first had to hold our breath and drive trough a deep creek including bow wave and slight water entry. But as usual, Ron did not let us down and mastered this task perfectly, but we are anyway starting to realize that the limiting factor on this this trip will not be the car but it’s passengers.