The run home (9 - 11 June)

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June 19th 2009
Published: June 19th 2009
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From Adels Grove we drove north through station country to re-connect with the Savannah Way. It was nice country and the track was in good condition with only a couple of shallow creek crossings. We rejoined the Savannah Way just east of Doomadgee and continued heading west to Hells Gate, where we stopped for lunch. The road house at Hells Gate only sells emergency fuel, but we had enough to get through to Borroloola. They still allow camping here and the friendly lady let us use their facilities to have our lunch and just asked us not to feed the cattle!. Afterwards, we drove the 60 kilometres to the Qld/NT border and stopped to take photos. It was good to be back in the Territory after almost 12 months on the road. We passed by the closed road house at Wollogorang and continued heading west. Not long afterwards we experienced our first real tyre 'blow out' of the trip. There was a loud bang and the 4WD started veering to one side, but the anti-lock braking system and perhaps the automatic vehicle stability control system quickly did their thing and we managed to stop without any drama. The tyre was completely
Caranbirini Conservation ReserveCaranbirini Conservation ReserveCaranbirini Conservation Reserve

Barrawulla Walk, organ pipes
shredded though, so now we no longer had a spare for the 200 kilometre or so trip to Borroloola! The tyre that blew out happened to be the tyre that we staked back in Errinundra National Park in SE Victoria which was repaired at Orbost. Back then the repairer mentioned that he had to use a large patch on the puncture. It looked like this patch might have lifted, thus causing the blow out. This tyre had been our spare since the beginning of February, but didn't last one day on the corrugated gravel road between Wollogorang and Borroloola!

As we continued on, driving extra carefully and slowly, we passed a bloke who had been stuck at the Robinson River crossing since Saturday. He was from one of the stations back in Queensland and had done his vehicle's transmission after crossing the river. I think it was a Triton Ute. Fortunately there was a station nearby and he was able to get meat for himself and his dog, and was just waiting for a truck to come out and get his vehicle back to town. We offered him some food supplies and to convey any information to someone in
50 km to go50 km to go50 km to go

Getting closer to home
Borroloola, but he said he had it all under control and just asked if we had a few spare tea-bags. He also recommended a place in Borroloola to seek out a new tyre. From here the road improved significantly and we made it to Borroloola without further dramas, but had to set up camp just after dark.

We stayed at the Borroloola Caravan Park in a 'drive-through' site, so were able to pack up early and try to find a tyre to replace the one we had shredded the previous day. We drove to TJS One Stop, but as I expected, the mechanic there couldn't find any tyre that would match our vehicle's original tyres. There are very few tyres on the market with the same specifications as those that came with our 200 series cruiser, so I was prepared to settle for one with the same dimensions as the tyre we had picked up in Adels Grove. Although TJS had a large range of tyres, we couldn't find one of these - unfortunately the boss, who knew more about where the tyres were located and which ones they had, was in Darwin and out of mobile range. So
NT border signNT border signNT border sign

It's good to be back but it's a shame that wazza was here!
we thought we'd try the other tyre dealer in town, but on the way there we stopped off at the supermarket for some supplies. Here we were met by the mechanic from TJS who had driven in his truck to inform us that he had located a tyre for us after getting a call from his boss. It was the same size as the tyre from Adels Grove and I don't know how we missed it when we went in search of it, but we now had a matching pair on the rear of the vehicle, so could continue on our trip and not have to wait for a tyre to be sent from Katherine or Darwin. The original tyres on the vehicle will need replacing shortly in any case after nearly 50,000 kilometres of wear, and I'm now wondering whether I should stick with the much more common tyre size of our new tyre purchased in Borroloola rather than try and match the original set. This new tyre, by the way, cost over 400 bucks! Unfortunately we have since learnt that the the two tyres picked up during the past few days, including the brand new one at Borroloola,
On the Wollogorang roadOn the Wollogorang roadOn the Wollogorang road

Phones grow on trees out here!
do not quite meet the load rating for the vehicle (115 but they need to be rated at least 116) and so have to be replaced as soon as possible or they will void the vehicle warranty. It's also a bad idea to run different size tyres on the front and rear given that it is a constant 4WD vehicle (it can cause very expensive transmission problems), so we are up for a brand new set of rubber back in Darwin.

We had originally planned to head on the dirt road to Ngukurr and Roper Bar, but according to the mechanic the gravel road on that route was not in the best of conditions and he had done four tyres on a recent trip on that road, so we decided it prudent to stick to the sealed highway for the run home to Darwin. Next time we travel this way, we'll be sure to travel with two good spares.

About 40 kilometres out of Borroloola on the Carpentaria Highway, we stopped at Caranbirini Conservation Reserve and did the 2 km Barrawulla Loop Walk, which took us by some impressive sandstone spires. We also had a look at the
Caranbirini Conservation ReserveCaranbirini Conservation ReserveCaranbirini Conservation Reserve

Barrawulla Walk, sandstone rock
waterhole which was covered with lilies and had plenty of birds. We stopped for lunch at the Goanna Creek rest area, which was also teaming with birds, mainly Long-Tailed Finches and Grey-Fronted Honeyeaters (I think) drinking from a container someone had thoughtfully left for them near the water tank. We continued to the Stuart Highway and headed north to Mataranka. We had hoped to stop at Fran's Pies in Larrimah for afternoon tea, but passed by too late and it was closed. We also hoped to stay at the caravan park next to Bitter Springs Thermal Pools as we had stayed here a couple of years ago and found them much nicer than the very touristy Mataranka Thermal Pools. Yet it seems the word has gotten out as they had no vacancies, so we ended up staying at the nearby Territory Manor Caravan Park. Even here all the powered sites were booked out, but we enjoyed camping on the open grassy area.

On Thursday we headed up to Katherine and stayed at the Riverview Caravan Park next to the Katherine Hot Springs (although they're not really very hot). We stayed here for a night so that we could visit Katherine School of the Air (KSA) on Friday morning. Annelies and Thomas have been 'attending' KSA (by correspondence) for school during our travels and we thought it would be nice to drop in and say thanks and also so that they could meets their teachers in person.

On Friday, we packed up early so that we could get to KSA in time for their weekly 8 am IDL (Interactive Distance Learning) assembly, all done via video link. We had been invited to attend the assembly and it turned out that Annelies and Thomas took part and sat next to the assembly 'host', a Ms Clara. The theme for the assembly was dance and Ms Clara put on a wonderful Russian accent. Annelies accepted an award she had been given a few weeks before for her journal entry about the Byron Bay Bluesfest. We all got up and had to dance the 'Butcher Song', which turned out to really be the Hokey-Pokey - ie. with a Russian accent, 'put your' sounds like 'butcher'. Anyway, the assembly was great fun.

We left Katherine by 10 am and briefly stopped in Pine Creek and then drove up to the Enterprise Pit Mine Lookout with a view
Goanna Creek rest areaGoanna Creek rest areaGoanna Creek rest area

Grey-Fronted Honeyeater
of the open cut pit left when Pine Creek Goldfields ceased operation in 1994. We have been through Pine Creek many times but had never driven to this lookout, so since it was still quite early, we decided to have a look at it now. We had lunch in Adelaide River and then drove on to Darwin. The highway was very busy with tourists and also with lots of participants in the The Flying Doctor Outback Trek for 2009, which goes from Grafton to Darwin via the Gulf of Carpentaria and raises money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The participating cars have to be pre July 1971 vintage, but most of them were making use of the 130 kilometre per hour speed limit allowed on some Territory highways.

Our first stop in Darwin was to visit Alex's mum and dad, Anne and Obbie, with Annelies and Thomas squealing in excitement at the thought of seeing them. After 12 months on the road, it was fantastic to see them once again with hugs, kisses and just a few tears. Anne and Obbie have been looking after our mail and letting us know of anything that needed attention. It has really been appreciated. After a nice and relaxing catch-up, we drove the final 6 kilometres to our home. Here we were greeted by Pradeep and Karuna who have been looking after our house, and Banjo, our very energetic Red Heeler. After a catch-up and handover with them, we started the unenviable task of unpacking and cleaning up!

We had a fantastic 12 months on the road, saw so many beautiful places and met and stayed with lots of lovely people. A special thanks to all our old and new friends who opened their homes and hearts to us and made us welcome when we stayed with them. We hope you all know just how lovely it was to stay with you, catch-up and enjoy home comforts. One day we would really like to be able to repay the warm hospitality given to us. Thanks also to all those friends who took the time to meet up with us as we passed through your neck of the woods. It was great seeing you all again and we hope that our paths will cross again one day.

People often ask us what has been our favourite place, but there are

Where's my ball?
so many it's impossible for any of us to narrow it down to less than about 10. And even that is near impossible, so we won't even try! We set off with just a few definite destinations in mind and the rest of the adventure we 'made up' as we went along. Australia, we have realised, has so many scenic spots to explore and in our twelve months on the road we have only skimmed the surface of what is on offer. We have come across areas that we want to revisit and hope to see some places we couldn't get to on this trip. There's always next time...

Annelies: “The trip was awesome and the Christmas in St Helens was the first one we've had where we were wearing jeans! We met so many amazing people and became good friends with lots of other children. The couple in Kangaroo Valley who let us ride on their horses (for free) were so nice. I couldn't pick my favourite places because there are too many.”

Thomas: “I liked everything, especially the waterfalls. My favourite state was Tasmania because it had Cradle Mountain and lots of other good places. We
Home at last!Home at last!Home at last!

The big clean-up begins
ate lots of yummy food and my favourite ten places were: The Lookout Trees (SW WA), Naracoorte Caves (SA), Cradle Mountain (Tas), the Waterfall Way (NSW), Girraween National Park (Qld), Atherton Tablelands and waterfalls (Qld), Bungle Bungles (WA), Byron Bay Bluesfest (NSW), The Grampians (Vic), The Otways (Vic).”

Some interesting statistics for anyone interested (yes, Alex likes lists and likes keeping records!):

Firstly, we didn't count the arguments and navigation 'discussions' so we can't include them in our summary!

350 nights spent travelling
$6,847 was spent on camping (excluding Byron Bay over Easter - you don't want to know how much we had to pay to stay in an unpowered caravan park site that we had booked 6 months previous!)
Most expensive camping (per night), excluding Byron Bay over Easter, was at the Merimbula Big 4 = $55, mainly because they charged $12 per child!

We set up and broke camp (tent and then camper trailer) 101 times, not including the times we stayed at people's places.

39,915 = total number of kilometres travelled

$8,676.07 spent on fuel
5,870 litres of diesel purchased

Our average fuel consumption for the whole trip was 6.79 kms per litre, (or 14.71 litres per 100 kms) for the 200 series Toyota Landcruiser 4.5L V8 Twin Turbo Diesel (which goes like a rocket)!

Massive amounts of food consumed - think two growing children and lots of fresh produce on the road, not to mention all the cheese, dairy and berry farms we visited.

Our biggest outlay after having purchased the near new Landcruiser (we needed a new car anyway!), was the new marriage-saving device, I mean Outback Camper Trailer (Heavy Duty Deluxe Offroad version) in Perth (and worth every cent).

We had five tyre problems: a minor puncture due to a slow leak, a staked tyre repair, a nail in a camper trailer tyre, another staked tyre that couldn't be repaired, and one massive blow out (the staked tyre previously repaired). The last two happened in the final week of the trip!

Apart from the tyres, we buckled our two side steps and made a small ding in the front wheel arch.

We listened to lots of great music as we had about 200 CDs in mp3 format, and also listened to 35 audio books, including the last Harry Potter book which had 20 CDs! We've heard some super stories.

Memories gained = countless


21st June 2009

welcome home
Hi there, I enjoyed reading your travel memories during the last few months! Now you have to re-read the stories yourself and remember the great things you've done during the last year travelling your wonderful country. For now enjoy the nice surroundings of your own home. Sincerely, Suzanne (Haarlem, the Netherlands)
21st June 2009

great trip and some great photos - I enjoyed following your exploits around Australia, and it's good to see you safely home.

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