Sunday, 31 July 2011
Up early dropped the car at the Rapid Creek Market and then took a long power walk along the foreshore bicycle path. The sun was only just up and the air is still cool from the night before. But the sun soon dispels the coolness and the day warms up. On the return I picked up some salads at the market. The above mentioned Gado Gado for breakfast and some Green Papaya Salad that will last probably 2 days.
I returned home to my new unit. I have been here now since Friday. It's a nice place, brand new, I am the first tenant. It didn't take long to unpack the car, but I am still waiting on my furniture to arrive until then the living conditions will be a fairly Spartan. Blow up air mattress for a bed, a camping chair which I carried in the car the only thing to sit on apart from the floor.The ability to prepare food is a plastic plate and a Leatherman knife. Having said that I do have a working oven and microwave so that I can heat things.
With all of the local markets and eating out options and take away, food preparation has not been a major problem.
Back to the paper and maybe nip over the road to grab a coffee.
The Bludger has a place to lay his hat.
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Darwin has a number of markets, I will cover them over the next few weeks. Rapid Creek is a food market held on Sunday mornings at the Rapid Creek Business Centre. It is actually a really odd experience. Far different from a "normal" Australian Market. Think Melbourne Markets, Adelaide Central Market, Brisbane Powerhouse (Jan Powers), Eumundi or many others and you will be wrong. This is more like an Asian market transported to Australia.
The stalls are temporary affairs on trestle tables. The stall operators are largely Asian, I recognised Thai and Vietnamese, I suspect other nationalities too. The lady in the picture has a very traditional Vietnamese sun hat.
Produce is just placed on the trestles and sold in bunches. Very Asian.
On the tables I could see many of the Asian fruits and vegetables that I would expect to find in Asia such as Rambutan, Jack fruit, Bitter Melon, and produce that I have only seen in Asia such as Black Rice pudding.
The market covers the front and arcade area. I purchased a Green papaya salad. For those who know me that is a defining foodie experience for me. It is one of the things that I miss from Thailand and have spent much time at home trying to perfect a home made version. I no longer need to. The salad was prepared in front of me, the papaya shredded and the ingredients pounded and mixed into a mortar. It was a generous serve. I will be back.
Outside there is a hot food area and seating. The hot food is pretty much what you may expect i.e. deep fried things, chips, spring rolls and satay, curries etcetera. Also lots of very healthy options, such as fruit and vegetable juices. Also a range of Malaysian Laksa and Asian noodle soups. What I did see here that I have never encountered before were super sized spring rolls. These were huge. Bigger than a Chicko roll. Almost big enough to be a meal on it's own. I have no idea how these developed from the standard spring roll, but I have now encountered them several times in the course of the day.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
After all I have been here in Darwin for a whole 3 days now.
First impressions. It is hot here, like summer, tomorrows forecast top is 30 degrees. Shorts and no shirt weather unless you have to look respectable in public. Mornings are lovely they are cool, it is the right time to exercise. Aircon and fans are essential also. But given the heat I am surprised at a number of things. Not a lot of people wear hats. Certainly people do, but generally caps not wide brimmed keep the sun off the face, ears and neck type hats. And also not the large numbers that I would expect.
Racial mix. I was expecting a lot of Asians, as I see in Brisbane and Sydney. Quite a lot less than I expected. Naturally a lot of indigenous people. I am surprised at how thin their arms and legs are. I spent some time talking with a couple of youths who are staying at the same hotel as I. Based on this encounter the level of english literacy is low. Still I had a better conversation with those two than many white australians of the same age.
I see a lot of water sprinklers, operated by the council, which are doing a good job of watering the roads. Maybe there is no water shortage here.
Darwin is small. Distances seem small. Population is estimated at about 130,000. It is an odd mix of old and new, decay and rejuvenated. I looked at a flat on Saturday, I know the building can only be at most 5-10 years old, but it looked like 20. I put this down to humidity and the growth of mould, mildew and fungus.
The territory is tough on alcohol consumption. You cannot buy take away alcohol without an ID. Your ID is scanned and checked on a database to see if you are not banned from buying alcohol. There are laws about taking alcohol onto aboriginal land. There are laws about drinking in public - no consumption in a public place within 2 km of a licensed premises. You cannot for example just grab an esky and a 6 pack and have a beer on the beach - unless the council has specifically given permission.
There are laws against selling wine casks, maximum size 2 litres. The old 4 litre Coolibah is not allowed.
Speed limits. The unlimited speed limit is a myth. Maximum speed is 130 KMh. Oddly enough only a small percentage travel at that speed on the open road. There may be a message here for the rest of the country.
People are friendly, they say hello when you pass them while exercising, they talk with you in shops.
Well that is a start
The Bludger is absorbing a new culture.
Friday, 22 July 2011
The pool is fed from an underground reservoir. A fault allows some of the water to escape on it's thousands of years journey to the sea. It is warmed to about 38 Degrees C and is very pure. There is a small current flow, to maintain position one needs to swim against the current or find an anchor point. I lay in the clear waters, a foot on a rock, my body warm and head cool from the cold air. Even in the half light I could see clearly to the bottom. An Egret flew overhead and landed on the bank a short distance from me. Pure white it patrolled the banks looking for small insects, frogs or fish. Unaware of my presence it showed no fear. Later in the day the pools will be full of people and the wildlife know to stay away until quietness settles again. An Ibis landed and after a brief territorial display the smaller Egret flew off. The Ibis presented an awesome up close display. Pity that I had no camera with me.
Eventually other people arrived and the peace and quiet of the pools was destroyed.
This is how I spent my morning, rather than driving to Darwin I was persuaded by Heather to delay and experience the hot pools. The description above is the Bitter Springs, which are a short drive from Mataranka. We then moved to the pools at the Mataranka Resort. These are smaller and have been formed with cement to provide a nicer bath type environment for people. We also took the opportunity to enjoy a coffee and breakfast at the resort.
Eventually however I had to get into the car and depart. Darwin was 4 hours away and I arrived shortly after 3pm. I have a need to find accommodation both for the night and the long term.
My road trip had ended, as did one series of adventures. A new series of adventures begins.
The Bludger has arrived at his new home.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
The sun came up and I was well on the way by that time.
Another day of setting the cruise control and just keeping the car pointed in the right direction. I drove for a long time with no music or radio, appreciating the calm, the peace the quiet the solitude. Alone with my thoughts I passed very little traffic along this stretch of road.
Eventually 450 Km became turn left and I drove the last few K’s into Tennant Creek. One may as well waste time there as anywhere, but I have no need to go back.
The only question here was how far I would travel North towards Darwin. I had an appointment in Mataranka, another 550K’s away, but not until tomorrow (Wednesday) and I simply did not want to travel that far in a day.
I cruised northwards, the speed signs indicated that I could do 130 Km/h I sat on just over a hundred and very few people passed me indicating that they weren’t speeding either. Fatigue set in and I started looking for places to stop for the night. I passed through Elliot, was stopped briefly for an RBT. Then continued on and eventually ran out of energy at Daly Waters. I could not face a further 180 Km to Mataranka. Overall I had covered about 900 Kms today I had had enough driving.
I only had a few k's to travel today so I took it easy. A short early morning walk, an orange for breakfast, the last one, and then into the car. I paused at the local WWII aerodrome, but found little fascination in an old hangar and the static displays.
With only a short drive I dawdled and had a late breakfast in Larimah at "Frans". This was a hilarious interlude. Fran is an elderly woman, later claiming to be 68, and her sign said home cooked pies and scones and other simple fare. I stopped for an egg and bacon pie and a coffee. The coffee was surprisingly good and the pie was served on a plate with some bubble and squeak on top. Fran is also a shrewd operator and does not display any prices, that lot cost me $15 all up when it came time to pay.
Her little pull in area is covered with signs. "don't park here - there is no room", "don't come into my office - I will invite you in" and similar.
After I had been served a number of other people stopped and it became quite busy. Fran is a little bit dotty and became flustered at the rush. She fussed around saying she could only serve one at a time, she was 68 years old, she had been away yesterday and didn't have a lot to offer people. She kept dissapearing to her kitchen and then coming back to check orders and then bringing the wrong items out. It was like a comedy sketch and the people waiting were almost all in stitches.
The food that I had was very well made and the scones that she produced also looked excellent, so it was worth the wait and the laugh. At payment time you were then invited into the office for the financial transaction.
I was offered a sweet also. I took 2.
After this interlude I ended up at Mataranka and met up with long time family friend Heather. Heather was staying with a friend while waiting for her husband to join her. She was also a little bit bored as Mataranka does not have a lot to offer in the way of entertainment. We whiled away the afternoon with catch up chats and G&T's. That evening we have a very nice meal at the nearby Taroona Manor. Barramundi with freshly made salads. The food was well prepared and the chef joined us later as she new Sue, the lady with whom Heather was staying. It was a pleasant evening.
The Bludger was well fed.
Monday, 18 July 2011
I started early out of Winton. Up before first light. I was on the road as dawn broke. I witnessed the dawn as the sky started dark then became pink followed by red and gold and then daylight. I was almost 80 Km down the road when the sun burst bright red over the horizon.
Despite the history of Cloncurry I stopped only long enough to fill up with petrol and proceed to Mt Isa. Once again I had no interest in staying there and after a meal break I continued on. I made it to Camooweal, just a scant 12 Km short of the Qld/NT border. I stopped here for the day as after this it is about 450 Km to Threeways and Tennant Creek with very little in between.
No sightseeing not much of a story. The Bludger is adjusting to daylight changes.
Sunday, 17 July 2011
I made an earlyish start and headed west. This is flat country, beef grazing, sheep and not much else. The road is called the Landsborough Highway. As with all of the roads that I have travelled on there is a fair amount of carnage, lots of dead kangaroos and the occasional wild pig. Crows, Hawks and other carrion birds feed on the dead carcasses and cause a hazard as you drive by. They leave it until the last minute to fly off and potentially can hit the car and windscreen. Some of the carcasses stink and the smell gets into the car.
At one stage a huge bird, I have no idea what it is/was, took off and then wheeled back over my car. It flew so low that I ducked as it went over the roof, hitting that would have been quite a show stopper.
On the outskirts of Winton there is the “Age of Dinosaurs” exhibition. Fossilized remains of dinosaurs have been found in this area for many years, however it is fairly recently that this has reached the attention of the general public and scientific world. Most people have heard about the extinct Diprotodon but not many have heard that around the Winton area fossilised remains have been found of previously unknown species of dinosaur.
I turned down the road but a huge sign said 4 wheel drive only. This was a blow, so I turned around and headed to the Tourist Information Office. There I was told that the road was actually open for 2 wd. Technically I have an all-wheel drive, but not sure how the authorities view that. The Subaru Forester can certainly go places that 2 wd would struggle.
And this is when a trip to the Age of Dinosaurs and a regular reading on New Scientist comes in. Because it is shortly to be announced that it was not a Tyrannosaurus but a new species called (something like) Australoventurus Wintonius that was doing the chasing. Stay Tuned.
By the time I had done this it was too late to continue driving so I returned to Winton and overnighted there. I stayed at the Northern George Hotel. This was really sad. It is a grand old hotel falling into disrepair. Only a handful of customers were in the bar. I had to go elsewhere for a meal.
Saturday, 16 July 2011
I started my day at the QFM. I had booked the full Tour Package at $125. This started with the "Secrets of the 747 Tour". Well maybe no secrets that you cannot easily discover on the Internet, but it is not often that you can get up close and personal with a Boeing 747, except sitting in cattle class on an international flight.
Folowing that we moved straight on to the "Restoration Tour of a 707". The claim to fame of this plane is that it is the first 707 bought by Qantas. It was the first production 707 that rolled off the assembly line at Boeing. And also the Qantas 707's were all modified (slightly shorter) from standard so that they could land at Nadi airport.
This jet had a varied history after being sold by Qantas, it was tarted up and at various times leased to Madonna, and an Arab Sheikh. It ended up in an aircraft graveyard in the UK and was purchased, restored and flown to it's current home. It is still maintained in flight mode, although I suspect that it would need many months work before it could actually get off the ground.
After that it was the "Wing Walk of the 747". This tour included getting into the secret parts of the aircraft seen only by engineers and maintenance crew. The avionics bay under the floors that you walk on, and the walk on the wing. Once again not something that the average man in the street gets to do, and you get a different view of the aircraft than normal. As it happened my camera batteries ran out at that stage so I got no photos other than the ones that I have had to buy.
That took all morning so I had a lunch break and then returned to the Museum for the tour of the Hanger and the fixed displays. Suddenly it was the end of the day
That basically concludes my time at Longreach, an early night tonight and then hit the road tomorrow at first light. Destination Winton and dinosaur relics.
So far I have travelled 1400 Kms, I have about another 2100 to go.
The Bludger has the following conclusions, Qantas Founders Museum - well worth it, Stockmans Hall of Fame - ok, but not worth a specific trip out this way.
Friday, 15 July 2011
My accomodation included a Continental breakfast, so I had a bowl of Coco Pops and left. Coco Pops, I love em!
My plan was to pop into the local Golden Arches and use their free WiFi to catch up on mail and other Internet info. Sadly their WiFi was broken and I wasted my time. On the plus side I was able to see a lovely sunrise, here it is looking over Emerald Racecourse.
In the afternoon I spent a few hours in the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame. Interesting but possibly not the most exciting afternoon of my life. I think that if you have not lived in Australia and absorbed much of the history then this would be a great exhibition, however I covered most of this in history and geography at school and picked up later by experience. I did see a number of people reading the stories of the unsung heroes with obvious emotion, obviously some of these pioneers are still well remembered.
The Bludger is on holiday.
Amazing what a difference country driving does to the fuel economy. Around the city I get around 11 or 12 litres per 100 KM, out on the open road I am getting more like 10 litres per 100 KM. This gives me a theoretical 600 KM between fills. The reality is that I am keeping topped up when I reach major towns to ensure that I do not get caught short.
Today’s drive was through a variety of countryside. Lots of flat and straight, a few hills and curvy bits. At times I drove through open farmland, wheat fields, Cotton fields, or grazing for beef cattle. Sometimes it was open woodland or scrub. The temperatures were mild, cool in the morning and warm later in the day. An easy day for traveling.
When I arrived in Brisbane my car was loaded to the gunnels (gunwales), with goods and chattels stacked so high in the back that I could not see out of the rear window. I had learned from that trip and made a huge effort to pack absolutely everything and send it with the removalists. Consequently when I had finished packing the car to leave Brisbane for Darwin it was loaded so high that I could not see out of the rear window. What hadn’t got onto the truck seemed to be massive and I kept finding things that I had overlooked such as the ironing board hidden behind the bathroom door. I also still had rubbish that could not fit in the council bin.
It was a late start. I was hung over and moving at glacial pace. There was also a fair bit to do. It was not until almost 1:30pm that I left the house for the last time.
Since I had so much rubbish in the car I chose a path that took me past the Council rubbish tip. I unloaded a load of rubbish and unwanted goods and was now ready for the drive ahead. I could see out of the rear window.
I programmed the GPS for Kingaroy and selected the shortest option. Shortest was not necessarily the most efficient nor fastest nor restricted to major roads.
It was a lovely sunny winter afternoon. The air was cool but with the sun on the windshield I was warm in the car. With some relaxing music on the radio it was a pleasure to amble along. The first part of my trip led me through the Samford Valley via Dayboro along Mt Mee road to Kilcoy. The roads in this area were windy and at times steep as they went up and down the hills and ranges. At one stage there was a lovely view back to Brisbane looking along the length of the Samford Valley.
The shortest route proved to be entertaining as on occasion we diverted off the main roads to cut off corners. I was led down back roads and at one stage dirt roads with causeway style creek crossings. I burst out laughing at that stage, it was such an odd contrast to the roads ahead. Many of the roads, even if surfaced, were too narrow for 2 cars to pass on the bitumen. When meeting an oncoming vehicle, the idea in this situation is for both drivers to put their left hand wheels on the dirt shoulder and leave the right hand ones on the bitumen to retain control.
All in all it was like embarking on a rather pleasant Sunday drive through the countryside.
After Kilcoy my next destination was Yarraman. The roads became wider, flatter and less twisty. I was able to speed up and I rolled into Kingaroy after dark which is about 5:30pm at the moment. The temperature had dropped considerably from the balmy afternoon and wearing only shorts and t-shirt I was already underdressed and the promise of a cold night ahead.
Accommodation a cheap cabin in a caravan park, dinner Mongolian Lamb from a Chinese Restaurant.
Every journey begins with a first step. I have taken that first step.
The bludger is in transit.