Sunday, May 27, 2007


Since we were the last group, they had to deflate and pack the balloon and the basket was laid on its side; we had to stay there for several minutes to make sure that it would not take off again-every kilo counts!

Early Sunday morning launch!

The order of these pictures is mixed up.

Here is the second quiz. What does the word on the motorhome mean? Only real Aussies will get it. Hint: we are in the midst of "grey nomads". Please supply your answer in the comments at the bottom of this section. SHOKO??

This shot was taken a few hours ago from a hot air balloon! Yes, we got up at 4 am and were taken by bus to a place called Mareeba, about an hour west of Cairns. There they were filling the world's largest commercial balloon, the "400". It is 37 m. high, 28.7 m wide and can lift 20 people plus the pilot.
The envelope weighs about 400 kg, holds 400.000 cubic feet (oi, metric please) of air, which is heated to around 90 degrees C with 4 LPG burners. The pilot has a compass, a GPS, an altimeter and a two-way radio and before he takes off, they let up small helium balloons to check the wind directions at different levels. By opening side vents, the pilot can rotate the balloon but for the rest he depends on the wind direction, which can be very different at higher or lower levels. Before landing, the pilot spits overboard and watches where it goes, then he can work out if landing is safe, so that we do not end up in the trees or the power lines.
We were very lucky with the second flight of the day: so much rain around for the last days, so there were several clouds about. Just before landing, the pilot decided to go up from the usual 4.500 ft to about 6.500 ft, which shot us through the clouds into the sun! ABSOLUTELY MAGIC!!

Planes; Reef; Bowen ("Australia") movie in the making

Another shot of the reef.
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman had altered the town of Bowen beyond recognition. Bowen was the most suitable place in Australia to make it look like Darwin in the war, due to the jetty still being like some 63 years ago; all they had to do was change names of buildings, fit different street lights,
throw heaps of mud on the bitumen, build a new hotel and gather about 800 head of cattle from around Australia to put in newly built enclosures. The movie will show the bombing of the town by the Japanese and we were told that the hotel will go up in flames.

While staying at a caravan park near Airlie Beach, I discovered the airstrip next-door (could hardly miss it with all the noise). The red ultralight was for sale ($15.000 o.n.o.), heaps of water planes and then a 1931? Tigermoth, painted in dark colours, also for tourist flights. Hmmmmmm.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Queensland: Carnarvon Gorge, Whitsundays.

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays: beautiful in the extreme but overloaded with tourists (like us). We went on a boat tour and snorkeled the reef.

On the right: Cape Palmerston Beach, no water, no toilet, no power, no people and no charges-just NOTHING! (only midges, mossies, sharks, crocs, stingers and other life threatening hazards like falling coconuts).

Fruit stalls along the road rely on the honesty of travelers; this one even offers change!

OK, who can work out this text? Reply in "comments" lower down. There is another one coming, a bit harder. Shoko??

Cape Palmerston south of Airlie Beach was only accessible by driving on the beach at low tide. We tried very hard not to get bogged (the difference in high and low water was around 4 meters!) We were just the two of us, apart from mossies and sand fleas...... Fortunately they mostly like Tanneke -:)

Nature can filter the rain water as seen here in a side gorge, called Moss Garden.

The view from the top is stunning. Carnarvon National Park is more than 100 km long. The gorge is formed by a combination of volcanic action, a huge inland sea, depressions and water erosion.
Dinosaur foot prints have been found in the different layers of rock and sandstone.

An amazing palm that can grow for more than 1000 years is pictured here.
It is a macrozamia, a type of cycad (palm) with woody nuts that are extremely poisonous with cyanide in their natural state. The local Aboriginals know how to deal with it: they cook them and then ask for a volunteer elder to taste them first....

Some joker put up this sign on the way out of the gorge, note the punt about soul.

The Carnarvon Creek early in the morning, we were the first!!

Carnarvon Gorge is famous, but we had not seen it on our trip in 1990. Heavy rains a few months ago had washed away lots of trees and bushes. Here two beautiful "pretty face or whip tail" wallabies, drinking in the early morning.

I have tried to make the pictures smaller so there can be more. Please click on the photos to see a lot more details.
We are off on a special adventure tomorrow (Sunday) morning at 4 am........... if the weather is good. More later.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Queensland, Brisbane

Just arrived in Brisbane, staying with Kate Walpole, behind the camper is the house she shares with a friend (no, we did not camp on the street..).
After visiting two more national parks on the Queensland side of the border with NSW, we stayed with Kate Walpole for the Labour Day long weekend. One afternoon we drove south and visited Peter Schuiringa, his wife Cathy and daughter Sarah (their son Patrick was diving in W.Australia). 17 years had passed since we last met and we had a great time. Peter used to live on the farm "next-door" in Kommerzijl where we went to primary school.

These parasitic vines have surrounded a large tree and will eventually kill it and then survive on their own. The picture is taken near Natural Bridge, which is a waterfall through a hole in a huge rock. We visited Springbrook National Park and later we drove to Binna Burra in the Lamington National Park, before driving further north- west to Beaudesert.

Kate and Tanneke go for a walk near the Story Bridge in Brisbane, early Saturday morning.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Leaving NSW, entering Queensland

If you click on the map, you may see more detail. We have drawn in the first half of our trip.

Just north of Ballina, on the NSW coast, we visited the first commercial tea tree farm in Australia, called the Thursday Plantation (the licence was issued on a Thursday). If you have never used any of the many different tea tree products, you are certainly doing yourself short. The gardens around the factory include a permanent art exhibition with some beautiful designs. In Ballina we visited the factory where our trailer was made. A team of 25 people complete 3 trailers in two days. Two minor repairs were done under warranty and all is well again. We are very impressed with their quality of work!

On the right the view of Boonoo Boonoo National Park, west of Lismore. On the left the remains of "tank traps" (cut-off tree stumps) built during WWII as a secondary obstacle for invading Japanese armies from the north. The first obstacle was the "burn and poison" tactic, meaning withdrawing all people and leaving nothing for the invading armies. Hostile terrain, the incredible distances and poisoned water wells would have created a logistic nightmare for the invaders.

At Bald Rock National Park on the Queensland border, we did some bouldering. Bas and Daan check out how we have mastered the bouldering technics, clinging to smooth rock ......

The views were amazing.

Moree, NSW, in the middle of the drought, had a special surprise for us in store in the form of artesian springs. Actually they were allowed to drill down to 750 m into the artesian basin, which covers most parts of Australia. There were 4 different pools, 35, 37, 39 and 41 degrees and yes, it was wonderful. Lots of "Grey Nomads" make a detour to soak the old bones.

Before we got to Nimbin, we took a western detour and visited Moree, a thriving country town where they cultivate cotton, pecan nuts and sorghum. On the right you see the leave, the bulb, the bloom and the cotton with a multitude of seeds inside. On the left we see a huge machine which surrounds a semi trailer and picks up a compressed block of cotton which is covered with a tarp and which is then stored in a paddock for a while before being picked up again and transported to the mill where the seeds are removed from the cotton. The cotton is then compressed and wrapped, ready for transport (95% to China, 5% to Bonds in Australia).
The drought has reduced the crops to 50% this year and they will not be able to plant any new crops until rain falls.

Next to the house near Nimbin where we stayed in 1990 the new owners showed us their "pets", two huge carpet snakes. They are happy to keep them around the house because they keep the rat population in check.

Thanks to Kate's computer, we can upload pictures again. The sequence is not quite right, but here is a shot of Nimbin, NSW, which we also visited in 1990. There was a huge music festival (Aquarius) in 1973, ala Woodstock, and a group of hippies bought one of the last remaining bits of rain forest, complete with waterfalls and including a sawmill. Originally it was a purely agricultural community, but now the "alternatives" moved in and

cannabis became part of the local scene which later attracted a lot of "socially disadvantaged" people. Today Nimbin is a tourist attraction and art in various ways is demonstrated through out. The Tuntable Falls area is still the same separate community with most of their original principles in place. We find it a fascinating community because the mixture of cultures and ideas seem to co-exist fairly well. The garage where I worked in 1990 was thriving and they offered me a job on the spot!

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