The Ups and Downs of the road less Travelled

Jakkie writes…..

Well have finally hit the North coast of Australia! We arrived in Darwin a few weeks ago after being off grid for quite a while as we trekked the long stretch across the outback from Cairns to Darwin.

The trek across the desert was something I was NOT looking forward to, days and days of nothingness, but it must be one of the best experiences so far (apart from another blown tyre, which this time Glen expertly changed all by himself!) We have been on the road for over 4 and a half months now and it is up there with one of the most challenging times of my life.

The roads in the outback are scary as there are these HUGE road trains hurtling towards you at 130 Kmph and sometimes there is only one lane for both of us, so one of us has to get off the road, and it is never the road trains! So many of these HUGE road trains carry crates upon crates of cattle being shipped to their death, poor loves, I can hear their distress whenever we pass one, so sad. Also the large amount of dead Kangaroos on the road is quite distressing, especially when I can see them still twitching.

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Also another stress about the roads is the road itself. The nice tarmac road we have been driving along for hours, would suddenly without warning, turn into a dirt road which is totally unsuitable for our sort of vehicle. Then a few hours of crawling along it, dust flying everywhere, dips and bumps to negotiate, the road would suddenly turn back into a perfectly reasonable tarmac road again, as nothing unusual had happened!  The heat of the desert is so intense, the soil so dry and red, the termite hills as tall as tree’s, so the landscape is quite a spectacle sometimes.

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Our Dreamtime van has had so many mechanical issues and every time we set off on the next stretch of our journey, I wonder whether we’ll make it to our next destination. And because of all the van repairs, we have run out of money so many times and so many times we have made the decision to give up, yet when we do, things just seem to suddenly turn around for us. Now that is magic!

We found some amazing free camps along the way, by creeks, billabongs and waterfalls. We’d collect wood and build a fire in preparation for the chilly evenings, then settle down to watch the most spectacular sunsets.

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I have watched the wallabies at dusk, the colourful birds migrating, the haunting sound of the Brolgas and Curlews at night (night birds) I found a frog in our motorhome sink one morning and have no idea how it got there. We have met some beautiful people, although most of them are from the ‘Grey Nomad’ community!! (Travelling retiree’s in caravans).

I have become a bit of a twitcher nerd as there are so many variety of birds in the Northern Territory, lots of them migratory, so whenever we stop I get my binoculars out and stand for hours watching, so many varieties of colours, shapes and sizes. However, crocs are ripe in this part of Australia, so I am never truly relaxed on my walkabouts.20160717_093852We had an amazing 5 days in Litchfield National park. It is full of water holes you can swim in and spectacular waterfalls you can climb to. It is the dry season at the moment but still there is so much water because the sandstone holds the water from the wet season and slowly, sometimes taking years, water seeps out of the rocks and down to the ground level.

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I rescued a distressed dog last week while we were staying in a campground near Litchfield NP. The poor dog was chained to a peg in the ground in the heat of the sun, with no water and on a chain only a few feet long. The owners had left her for the day while they went to the National park as pets are not allowed in the National Parks here. The poor dog was so distressed, howling and yanking at its neck trying to get free. I was having none of that, so I took it. I left a note for the owners saying that I had taken their dog and where they could find me when they returned. The dog was so relieved to be unpegged from the ground, she then promptly pissed and pooed everywhere, (where are those poo bags when you need one??) I gave her some water and she drank for 10 whole minutes. The dog stayed with me all day as the owners didn’t get back until 8pm. Twelve hours they would have left her if I hadn’t come along. They sent their 5 kids to pick her up from me, the parents inevitably didn’t show themselves. I gave the kids (ranging from 2 to 16) a piece of my mind and all they could say was, ‘She has separation issues, but its OK cos we give her valium when we leave her!!’ As if that was the answer! But I forget that dogs here in Australia are not as pampered as their poochy cousins in the UK. They are usually only kept as guard dogs and not as pets. This breaks my heart. I have to really control myself not to kidnap every dog I hear howling in back yards that have obviously been left all day and never walked.

I later found out her name was Ginger

IMG_8250We are now in the Kakadu. It’s dry season here so the wetlands are very low and because of that, the birdlife is more condensed and they squabble for a patch of water to feed from. There is a big Aborigine population here in and around the Kakadu, living as they have traditionally lived before us westerners came along and ruined everything for them. I have a much bigger sense of their spirit in this part of the country than anywhere else. The rocks stand majestically proud, with their powerful spirit dominating the space. And rightly so, they have been around for tens of thousands of years and they will for tens of thousands more.

Living the life of a nomad on the road, I never thought I’d get so excited when we get clean water (that isn’t brown) and proper toilets that aren’t holes in the ground, or hot showers, or a washing machine to wash our disgustingly dirty cloths in, or when my phone is in range, or when we earn another $10 for the kitty, or when we drive into a town and see MacDonalds and a Library (free WiFi) or when we treat ourselves to a powered site and can use our toaster, our kettle, air conditioning and we can watch our TV!!

I feel so lucky and grateful that I am able to do this trip, with all its ups and downs and waking up every morning knowing a new adventure awaits. Every day a new lesson is learnt. Every moment a new experience gained. With all its challenges and ups and downs, I wouldn’t swap this experience for the world.

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