15 August 2018 | Tom Price Mine
As we pulled into another looxurious roadside overnight rest area, complete with long drop loos, we spotted a sign for Cheela Plains Station and its bi-weekly campfire sausage sizzle and sing-a-long. Now, me, always one for a bit of live music and Anne, always one for loos that flush, decided that would be a good choice for that night.
Along with many of the other cattle stations we've passed, Cheela Plains has seen a business opportunity to augment their beef income by opening up their front yards and empty buildings in order to relieve passing nomads of some ready cash. Cheela Plains is in fact a bit ahead of the curve with their live music and sausage sizzles and the clincher, offering "Coffee and a Cake".
And so, quite a few years on from my last sausage sizzle with the Boy Scouts, I found myself sitting around the campfire listening to Waltzing Matilda under a canopy of stars. It would have been romantic but for the after effects of too much cake or perhaps a banger that hadn't quite sizzled enough. (Sorry, a bit of an over- share there).
Our route has taken us to Tom Price where we stumbled on their annual Nameless Festival. Tom price is a bit like Cumbernauld or Milton Keynes. A purpose built town from the sixties. Built after the discovery of what is said to have been and maybe still is, the world's richest iron ore deposits. It's purely a mining town in the outback, once said to be a drinking town with a mining problem. These days, it's all very civilised and the local population is well under the age demographic of the Grey Nomads that considerably swelled the visitors to the festivities, both in girth and numbers.
Great music, BBQ's and sunshine all courtesy of Rio Tinto, the mining company.
Now, here is Australia you'll read in the papers an undercurrent of concern about the rapidly emerging dominance of the Chinese both worldwide and locally to Oz. We've seen TV documentaries about how Chinese immigration might be an undercover strategy to take over the country by stealth. I think they've got that all wrong. Rio Tinto process ore from fourteen different nearby mines, one point six billion dollars worth of conveyor belts transporting it across the plains to Tom Price for processing and finally shipping three hundred and fifty million tons per annum.
Unsuspectingly, Australia seems to be slowly digging up and shipping the whole continent to China.
Flying Around Australia
08 August 2018 | Cheela Station
Standing around campfire and to paraphrase the Eagles, a million stars are all around. And during the day, a million flies.
These flies aren't like any others we've experienced. These are the ones you see on tele, usually when some BBC reporter is showing film of the latest refugee crisis in the Sudan. The flies that crawl undisturbed around the open sores, eyes and orifices of the poor inhabitants of these God forsaken places. At home, flies are a pest and the buzzing would drive you nuts but these Australian jobs, they have no sense of personal space. They will land on any bit of exposed flesh and poke around up your nose, in your ears and around your mouth. Inhaling through anything other than clenched teeth is s high risk business. You can get a good workout just flicking the little buggers away for hours on end.
When my mum used to lie out in the garden to top up her summer tan she would put a nearly empty jam jar with water in it nearby to give the wasps somewhere better to visit than her. I'm thinking of doing something similar here for the flies but can you find a dog turd when you need one?
Meanwhile, much to Anne's embarrassment and the amusement of other campers I'm walking around wearing a Scottish midgie net hood looking something like a cross between a bank robber and a bee keeper. The only problem is, if this fine weather keeps up going to look like I've been sunbathing with my face in a sieve.
The caricature of an Aussie wearing a cowboy hat with corks all around suddenly seems pretty darn clever.
31 July 2018
We've been on the road a few days now. The road being the Indian Pacific Highway. It goes from Perth, Western Australia to....well, oop north. Way oop north and much of it straight as an arrow. And no sign of the Romans anywhere. It's certainly not the place for a BMW 1200. More a Harley kind of road but I wasn't allowed either. A comfy campervan was on the agenda right up until a chance meeting on a beach in Tasmania. "Hi (complete strangers). We're Stuart and Anne off that boat over there. Wanna come for a drink later" and on such introductions are cruising buddies acquired.
Adam and Cindy had spent nearly twelve months in 2017 travelling the outback in and on a 4WD. In, because that's where they spent their days. On, because that's where they spent their nights, their rooftop tent keeping them away from killer spiders, snakes and other Aussie ground level nasties. We did the rooftop tent thing last October and while it was surprisingly airy and comfortable, climbing down the ladder for a pee in the dark, in your Y's at three in the morning was only slightly less dangerous than taking on the snakes.
And so, as we planned our Outback Adventure one thing we absolutely had to have was an onboard bog. We also (who's "we" goes the cry) wanted 4WD so we could really get away from it all. Get out into "The Red". The great Australian outback.
The difficulty is, unless you get one of these giant Izuzu trucks, the kind you might have seen on the Paris Dakar rally, an internal bog and 4WD are mutually exclusive. And so, it's 4WD and a midnight moon just praying the spiders and snakes don't get too angry if pee'd upon.
We picked up the Land Cruiser in Perth a week ago and set off for the northern horizon. Not that we've covered that much ground, only seven hundred kilometres or so but enough to get a feel for how Count Dracula felt, sleeping twelve hours a day in a coffin. Now, you know I'm not one to complain but when I say the sleeping arrangements are tight, if we don't turn over in unison we risk fractures and bloody noses. But it is cosy.
In Australia, the collective slur given to folks like us is, "grey nomads". And there's hundreds of us, all thrashing along in our four or five litre trucks leaving the outback in a cloud of diesel fumes. Land cruising has one thing in common with sailboat cruising. Boys toys. Pretty much everyone is driving around in full size four wheel drive trucks personalised with with giant "Grabber" tyres, snorkels, Jerrycans on the roof, sand tracks, winches and UHF aerials like Special Forces on manoeuvre. An image dashed when we pull our fat or skinny selves out the door, pasty stick like legs poking out from over-sized shorts. Some are towing off-road caravans. Fifteen to thirty foot plus long vans with, much like my waistline, the ability to significantly expand their girth. Bruce, we'll call him Bruce 'cause we're in the outback, stands at the back of the supervan, presses a button and said van goes from looking quite slim and roadworthy to twelve months pregnant.
We are apparently missing a few toys essential to a safe transit of the outback. These sand tracks for when you get bogged down and the ability to deflate, and, more importantly re-inflate one's tyres. Apparently on soft going one deflates the tyres such that, again, like my waist line, they bulge out at the sides thus increasing the footprint and grip of the tyres.
And so dear reader, if you don't see a follow up post on the Blog over the coming week, do please send help.
29 July 2018
Did I mention we're back in Australia. Land of the long flat white or so the barista's shirt declared. Basically, we are killing time between boats. Can you tell?
And killing time is exactly what I was tempted to do the nights we stayed at Paddy and Carolyn's, just north of Sydney. You see, Paddy has this ancient chiming clock which, during the evening, gives a rather homely, rounded soft "ding, dong, ding dong etc....." on the hour. It also does the whole ding, dong thing in the morning - just as you've finally sunk into a deep sleep, having spent the night wide awake with the jet lag, "DONGGGG!! DONGGGGG" it signalled seven o'clock. At least I think it was seven. It might have been eight but the clock crashed to the street shortly after the seventh chime. At least, in my head it did.
We were up bright and early to catch a flight to Perth to pick up our ride for the next few weeks, a high top 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser. Comfy.
Forty years ago today we said, "I do", packed up our car, boat and tent and headed off for the Nationals with, we're delighted to say, a goodly number of present day Blog followers although perhaps not the most romantic or indeed successful of honeymoons. Sixteenth as I recall. Arthur and Robbie, Stuart and Graham did better.
We treated ourselves to the week of the Nationals in an hotel in Torquay. The Gas Light I think it was called. The second week was spent on our knees crawling around in our tiny orange Vango tent.
I know how to treat a gal.
+*****pic from honeymoon*****
Fast forward forty years and as we sat outside Chez Land Cruiser, having lunch by the roadside, we reflected on how far we'd come.
- In our teens, buying and campaigning our first boat.
- In our twenties, married with three weans.
- In two days we'd come 300k north of Perth.
- In sixty days we'd flown around the world to see these same weans and, their weans.
- In six years we'd sailed half way round the world.
- In forty years.........back crawling around the inside of a camping truck.
Well, as Anne said, at least we're inside. That's progress. Not to mention tolerance.
The Joys Of Travel
23 July 2018
When did it all go so wrong?When did travelling get so grim? How, with almost unlimited resources, both financial and technological, can airports and airlines have taken a mode of transport that was once a joyful experience, or so I've heard, where city gents in pin striped suits with lapels half the size of the main wing and ladies who wore long white gloves, smiled up at the seriously coiffed stewardesses from their armchair sized BOAC jetliner seats and turn it into a tedious, stressful and painfully slow means of transporting hordes of humanity across the globe?
In the old days when I was working class, courtesy of my lovely employers, I got quite used to turning left at the top of the stairs, leaving the rabble to fill up the cheap seats at the back. Even better, if we were in contingency mode or the CEO was on the warpath issuing edicts to cut costs, all from the back of his Gulfstream, we'd occasionally get an economy ticket, and hear the magic words at check-in, "we've got you an upgrade Mr Letton". Them were the days.
Back then, one's secretary phoned the agency, told them where you wanted to go and when and they'd do all the grunt work. A couple of days later they'd kindly send you a little folder containing a white and red carbon booklet of multi part tickets or indeed, several little booklets if you had connecting flights. It was all rather exciting.
These days, you can now waste away these same few days hunting around search engines looking for the ultimate deal to fly your little self from here to there and all you get is an email confirmation and the promise of two years of spam marketing to your already cluttered Inbox.
And so, it was one of these super online deals that got us here. Thirty five thousand feet up, somewhere over the Tasman Sea en route Australia sat in cattle class in these fab airline seats which can only have been designed by Quasimodo. Seats that have been getting smaller at the same rate people have been getting larger. A situation not at all helped by there not being a vegetable in sight in any of the three hundred or so eateries one has to pass on the seven mile walk to the gate.
This is our fifth of six flights in the last five days, one of which magically disappeared into the ether somewhere between Tahiti and New Zealand. A day that is, not the flight.
It's not all bad news though. There is one thing you get in this brave new world of travel that you never got in the good old days. Deep vein thrombosis.
Dentistry at 30,000ft
17 July 2018
Doesn't time fly. It's hard to imagine it's been fifty seven days, eight hours and eleven minutes since we left Sydney.
Now, after a crash course refresher in how to look after and amuse small children, (everything except Number Twos) we're back on the road, rucksacks stuffed, muesli bars poking out of every straining zip and all the electronic gizmos fully charged.
I'm wearing my new Canadian made Tilley hat and Bangladeshi made cargo pants. The pants looked fine at the time but now, stood in the check-in queue I'm buggered if I can find anything in amongst the twenty odd trendy pockets.
The pants didn't cost much. Walmart specials and perhaps the only pair in the whole aircraft hanger-like store that fit me. Now, I'm not saying Canadians are heavy set, as its proper to say these days, but it seems the stores that were once known as "High and Mighty" or "Big and Tall" have been absorbed into everyday clothing sizes. If my pants were readily available, or in any kind of demand at all there'd be a store called "Short and Skinny". But they do keep me warm. While, it's 30c outside, every shop, restaurant and house is chilled to the point fresh meat, prawns and the newly deceased could safely be left on the kitchen worktop overnight.
As for the Tilley hat, I've a suspicion local Canadians look at me the same way a Spaniard would look at a British tourist in Barcelona wearing one of these six foot diameter, straw sombreros.
Anyway, here we are. Underway again. Only twenty odd hours to Tahiti to meet with "Tall, Slim and Drop Dead Gorgeous" no doubt with some idjit's seat reclined in my lap most of the night. If I can find my Leatherman I might pull a few teeth just for fun.
12 July 2018
Well, here I am, sat on my lonesome, in the pub, in the afternoon, watching the World Cup football and drinking......tea for goodness sake. And I don't even like football let alone people drinking tea in a pub.
What's happening to me? I Googled the symptoms and I believe it's called SBS; Sans Boat Syndrome aka Boatless Buffoon or Lost Landlubber.
All my pals are out playing.
- "Look at my fab kayak roll".
- "Wow! Look at the views from way up here".
- "Hey, we're having a fab time in Fiji". "
- "It's great to be sailing again."
- "Look at me! All bevvied up on designer Gin" (you know who you are, although to be honest, quite a number qualify for this one).
Meanwhile, I'm doing a good cover of Clive Dunn's "Grandad" becoming quite the expert at PlayDoh, bath time, Netflix binges and my latest SBS symptom, Football Enthusiast.
One of the mysteries of goofball is how, when one of the opposing team come within arms length of a player in possession of the ball, with nary a touch or even just the suggestion of a tackle, said player's legs simply stop working and they plummet to earth as if felled by a shot from an elephant gun. As there's seldom an obvious reason for this I can only assume they have tripped over an invisible brick.
These invisible bricks seem to be lying randomly all over the pitch as, at any time, these £100,000 per week goofballers can suddenly come to grief and pitch to the ground, face contorted in agony from hitting an invisible brick. Even more strangely, having pitched to the ground they can then roll and roll for five or ten metres unimpeded by further invisible bricks. Clutching a lower leg, either will do, they make sad eyes at the referee and it takes many long minutes for the excruciating pain to subside. Heaven forbid they ever play rugby.
Strangely, despite their exceedingly low pain thresholds these goofballers can apparently cope with several days of full body tattooing with a blunt needle.
The world goofball final is on Saturday. Think I might watch the tennis.
Anybody need crew?
27 June 2018 | The Temptress
As many of you know, we've been together a long time, been through thick and thin together but sadly we're now going our separate ways.
I have to confess the fault lies with me. My impetuosity, impatience and I guess a seven year itch that took quite long to scratch.
We got on really well for all these years. We went everywhere together and even with all our ups and downs, we kept going when many others just didn't or couldn't.
But then, "she" came into my life. Tall, slim and drop dead gorgeous. We were simply meant for each other.
And so, after many agonising months, anguish and tears we've finally parted.
Time Bandit has gone to new owners to continue her travels and we're delighted they are going to continue letting her do what she does best; taking care of the crew out on the open ocean.
Us? Tall, slim and drop dead gorgeous will be Time Bandit ll......... but from "The Dark Side".
I have to exorcise my need for speed demons and so, I'm going back to my catamaran roots dragging Anne, screaming, behind me.