At the time of writing we're camping at Balok Beach in Pahang, Malaysia. Its now the seventh month of the year and I have only posted two blogs. Pathetic. So I'm going to use this quiet beach time to catch up.

Our third month in Australia was awesome and frustrating at the same time. We started out in Perth and worked our way North along the coast. We had a longer than expected stay in Gerladton, entering with NSW rego plates and departing with WA rego plates (not a simple or cheap process). Following this were long sweaty drives through rarely changing scenery, which were rewarded with some of the most fantastic beaches I have ever seen. Finally we made it to Broome only to find that we couldn't get through to Darwin due to floods and had to turn around and drive back to Perth!

Some facts from month 3:

  • Total distance driven: 6,447 Km
  • Average distance per day: 215 Km
  • Camping: 25 nights
  • Stay with friends: 4 nights
  • Time spent in Gerlaton: Far too long

Totals for Australia:

  • Total distance driven: 20,090 Km
  • Average distance per day: 226 Km
  • Camping: 69 nights
  • Hotel: 5 nights
  • Stay with friends: 15 nights

Highlights from month 3:
 

    • Snorkelling Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay. The reef is super accessible – I think the popular saying is that its like The great Barrier Reef without the barriers. Which is a fair enough summary. We took a boat trip out but you can easily swim. The boat trip was great as it took you to known locations of turtles, reef sharks and some crazy coral formations. At one particular formation known as 'the cleaning station' we watched as sharks open their mouths whilst smaller fish picked bits from their teeth and within their mouths. I couldn't help think that the smaller fish were playing a dangerous game and at some point the shark will clamp his mouth shut for an easy meal...



      Making new friends underwater                                              Awseome Kiting at Gnaraloo 

  • Gnaraloo. This place is a surfing and kiting mecca. Its out on a huge sheep station accessed by a fun drive on a sand track to get there (took about 2 hours!). The surf wasn't really working when we were there but kiting in the Gnaraloo bay was gold!

  • We saw our first movie in over two months at the fantastic open air cinema in Broome – apparently the oldest of its kind in Australia. As you settle into the deck chairs you almost forget its outside...until a light aircraft flies over head (the cinema is close to the airport) and a lizard scuttles across the screen. The movie, in case your wondering, was awful. I've wiped the name from my memory but Penny seems to think it was called 'I am no. 8' or something like that...(which if its true is an awful name too. I'm questioning why we chose it in the first place now)

  • Karijini National Park. The big benefit of the floods blocking our path to Darwin was that we got to visit Karijini on the way back down to Perth. The gorges here are great fun and it was particularly amusing watching Pen swim down the section known as 'spiders way'. The only way through was to swim down the channel (about 2 metres wide) and there were some big daddy spiders sat on the side of the wall watching our every move!

     A brief smile before Pen notices the army of spiders on the walls surrounding her. "Can they swim?" she asks...

    The not so good bits:

    • As we progressed further north in WA at times the flies became almost unbearable. Apparently not helped at all by the heavy rains experienced through the summer which also explained the huge amount of grasshopers that we had to scrape off the front of BOB most mornings. We camped in one particular spot near Hamelins Pool which was beyond belief. As soon as you got out of the car we were covered in buzzing flies! Almost enough to lift you from the ground. We didnt have time to drive anywhere else so our only solution was to sit in the car and wait for darkness (when the flies all give up or die or something). We swore that the next morning we would get up in darkness and pack the tent before they reappeared. We slept in. And upon waking you could see the little buggers collecting on the tent...waiting for us. What followed was nothing worse than a nightmare. I told Pen to stay in the car as it wasnt worth both of us having to suffer. I then covered my head with a length, locked it in place with my hat and set about packing our gear. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. Sweat was dripping from my face because of the fly net which covered by hundreds of flies buzzing an ince from my face. The constant feeling of them landing on my arms and legs drove me crazy. Anyone watching from a distance would have thought I had a terrible case of torrets!



      Makka Pakka looks on as the swarm of flies grows larger

    • In Port Hedland I was threatened by a huge bearded fellow for 'driving around his campsite'. “What gives you the f*#kin right!?” he kept bellowing. A question I was somewhat baffled by.

    • Not making it to Darwin and missing out on a few days in Kakadu National Park with our good friend Leo. We got to Broome to find out that the road heading North was closed. We had been listening to this information as we headed north on ABC local radio (great radio station) so this was no suprise to us. However the radio had been informing that the road may open for 4wd's soon after we arrived. So we had hope. Until we spoke to the tourist information people in Broome who told us it woould be at least a month until the road opens! They gave us the following options:

      1. Wait for a month. Hmmm, sorry love, we need to be in Malaysia by then.

      2. Sell your car and fly to Darwin. I had to hold Penny's fists back at the suggestion of selling BOB.

      3. Drive south, across the Nullabor and up via Uluru. Roughly an 8,000Km detour...

    We chose option 4 – cancel the shipping from Darwin, arrange shipping from Fremantle, turn around and drive back to Perth (a mere 2,000Km detour).

    1. Do not expect the shipping company or agent to volunteer any information without you asking for it. Forget the fact that you have never shipped a car before, this is not important. You should know what questions to ask.

    2. Do not let the lack of urgency of the shipping company or agent lull you into believing that everything is on course. If you have not obtained a customs export stamp by the day the car is supposed to go into the container, you're in trouble. Again you need to work this out for yourself (see point 1).

    3. When you do rush to customs to obtain your export stamp, accept the ear bashing from the overly aggressive customs woman without complaint.

    4. When discussing the details of the container with the 'loading agent' (so many people in the chain, we have to make up job titles for them) don't ask stupid questions. You should kknow the difference (in price and functionality) between 'ropes or straps' without needing to ask.

    5. Seriously – get them to disconnect the battery. Even if it is supposed to be only ten days and the guy is ridiculing you for this suggestion, stick top your guns. You never know when you may be bitten by a shark on route to meeting your car and arrive ten weeks late to find that the guys in Singapore changed your battery because it was flat at a cost of $140! (Actually to be fair I think the battery was pretty much dead as we had a few problems with it in WA. Plus $140 was a great price for a good battery compared to $200 - $250 in Australia!).

    6. To survive surround yourself with a team of people to help and advise you . At this point I would like to say a massive thank you to Katrin & Tilo (experience and advice), Kevin & your next door neighbour Matt (asking and answering the questions we didnt know), the random chap in the park (helping remove roof tent from car), Alison & Joanne (Singapore logistics, maintenance, security and general excellence) and Lynne & Doug & Singaporean Guard (helping re-attach roof tent).