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South West Rocks and the cave dive

by on Aug.26, 2011, under The East Coast

Wednesday evening, 24 August – Saturday 27 August 2011

Due to bad weather (the swell was too high) our dive had to be postponed for quite a couple of days and instead of Monday we went diving on Friday. The advantage of the season and the weather was that we were the only ones who went diving that means a lot of space on the boat, a very personal dive since the dive master is only there for you and no rushing since there is nobody behind you. So we went down to do our first dive (the shark dive) and saw – nothing! : ( The downside of the weather was that the visibility was pretty bad and we could see sharks around but just the shapes of them. What a pity to have missed such a great dive! Our second dive was the actual cave dive and was awesome!
See for yourself:
First our trip to the Fish Rock Cave:

Then the shark dive:

And finally the Fish Rock cave dive:

I can’t describe what it feels like to enter an under water cave, swim through the narrow entrance only to be greated by hundreds of medium sized fish that are really really close and glitter in the remaining sunlight.

Right behind the entrance was a huge ray just lying in the sand.

Next we had to swim upwards a narrow chimney surrounded by rockwalls and even though there is enough space it feels extremely small.
Further up you reach the bubble cave where you can breath in normal air

and on we went trough the rest of the cave with another smaller ray, Frank almost stepped on a wobbegong, a comouflaged shark,

we saw lots and lots of colourful fish, lobsters and shrimps

and Ernie and Bert, two anemonefish (Nemo / clownfish).

Another shark swam our way when we left the cave but again outside the visibility was nonexistent.

Back on the boat we were told that the octopus that we had seen right in front of the cave entrance

and that our dive master had taken a picture of was actually a blue-ringed octopus, on of the most dangerous marine species that ranks around top four of the most dangerous Australian animals. Its venom is not lethal but triggers a respiratory paralysis so in order to survive you need artificial respiration. Well, we got taught well by Pro Dive in Cairns not to touch anything we don’t know and therefore were quite safe.
John (the dive shop owner) went down there too and what his super-duper camera got was more than our eyes had seen – simple astonishing:

So if you haven’t been into diving after all we have written about diving I hope this is gonna convince you to try it. For me it was the most awesome dive ever!

Apart from the dive we spend time with Patsy and her dog Jasper which was the most enthusiastic throw-the-stick-dog we have ever met and ranks on place 1 on Frank’s best dogs ever list. He therefore pushed Eric, Inga’s small dog to place 2. I still think Eric is on place 1 though, he is just too cute.

Going for a run with Jasper:

Sightseeing around South West Rocks:

And my favourite quadrichon:

We had couchsurfed with Patsy (and Dave) who had impressed us with her travelling 9 years on a boat with her husband, having had two children in between and having lived and worked in Saudi-Arabia. What a story! : )

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Coffs Harbour and the Waterfall Way

by on Aug.24, 2011, under Traveling Australia

Sunday evening, 21 August – Wednesday afternoon, 24 August 2011

Our way down the Eastcoast to Sydney led us across the nicely situated and contemplative Coffs Harbour – a small town at the Pacific Ocean like many others we had seen.

What was different was first of all the bad weather, grey sky and lots of rain which wasn’t too bad at first since we had some relaxing days but with things on our list we wanted to do we got a bit restless and decided to have a look at the first part of the waterfall way anyway despite heavy rain. We should have waited another day since the next day was quite sunny but then again you never know in advance (the weather forecast is about as accurate as in Germany and had been wrong the days before too) and the weather had been totally unpredictable. Anyway, even though we had seen so many waterfalls before and the weather spoiled a lot the waterfalls were still very impressive and special.

Crystal Falls and Tristania Falls:

Dangar Falls:

Ebor Falls:

Wollamombi Falls:

Dangarsleigh Falls:

And there are more waterfalls along the waterfall way, we just did the first part. So which is your favourite waterfall? We liked best the Crystal Falls because it was the first waterfall we had seen where you could walk behind the water.

Despite the bad weather we had a great house we could stay in, nice company, entertaining evenings and good food! And Frank might take up a different career as a food fotographer : )

And of course some big things on the way to South West Rocks at Urunga:

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by on Jul.16, 2011, under Traveling Australia

Jun 10 – Jul 16, 2011

Darwin started off with a row of disillusionments: No luck in getting a place to stay with couchsurfing hosts followed by the city we have counted on having everything actually being pretty small and unfortunately, mighty expensive. After another night at the caravan park we were rescued by Greg with whom we could couchsurf for a while and then rent his spare room for the time he was travelling the Gibb River Road. Lucky us to have a good bed and a real home, it was much needed after weeks of camping and travelling. We had company since Jess also stayed at Greg’s and we had many nice cooking evenings and to Franks dismay I also enjoyed watching Masterchef Australia with her (although I have to admit it is not the best show to learn too many new recipes). In the meantime we looked for another room, handed out a lot of resumes to find a job, wrote blog articles, Frank worked on the car and we basically just led the opposite life to travelling.

Unfortunately, Frank`s birthday wasn’t celebrated on Bali, as planned, but rather with a luxurious birthday breakfast and a visit to the Botanic Garden and Darwin museum in the afternoon. The evening was finished off with dinner at the Fiddler’s Green Pub at the waterfront.

Furthermore, we met our former couchsurfing host Sam from Adelaide which was nice too.

One week was busy with a stocktaking job at an aviation company, counting nuts and bolts all day long – not very entertaining.
Experiments with German dishes (Spätzle, Kartoffelpuffer, Kohlrouladen Herrencreme) contributed to cultural exchange between Germany (us), Canada (Jess) and Greg (Australia) and we were introduced to mud crabs. Frank was brave enough to try them, respect!!

Later on we rented a room and stayed two weeks with Tammi and her superb blender that could make hot soup, mix bread, make icecream, the most delicious smoothies and of course an incredible ice coffee. The downside to it was the price – about 1000 Aus$!! I hope there is a good alternative! Any ideas anybody? : )

And of course general sightseeing in the city:

Aviation Centre

Crocodylus Park

Here’s a crocodile feeding – fierce creatures:

This short clip demonstrates how hard it is to locate crocodiles under water and how quick they actually are:

Beer can rigatta XXXX Gold

Fish feeding

Mindil Beach

Darwin CBD

Fanny Bay Gaol

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Gibb River Road – the other end II

by on Jun.01, 2011, under The Kimberleys

Monday, 30 May 2011

The next day we decided to master another long walk, 9,6 km return to the Champagne Springs. It started off along the banks of the Pentecoste River Crossing that was the entrance to the Station and led over the stony river bank, 3 small creek crossings and a long hot walk over a stony hill. All in all it was not particularly difficult in terms of climbing but with the sun beating down and given the total length of it, it was quite exhausting. At the end of the walk awaited us a beautiful waterfall and a refreshing waterhole surrounded by cliffs but the springs themselves were neither warm (which was my hope after the amazing Zebedee Springs) nor well visible. But still it was good exercise. El Questro Park says about the walk: „Moderate to difficult trail, only physically fit and able individuals should attempt this walk. The longer walk is difficult and exposed and must not attempted after 11!“ The cliffs you can see on the pictures rise up to 375m and are mostly made up of ancient sandstone.

After such a physical morning the afternoon was reserved for some serious 4WDing when we had a look at El Questro’s Lookouts.
First was Chamberlain Gorge Jetty where you could take a boat cruise into the Gorge but we only had a look at the river hoping to spot some crocodiles:

Next was Pidgeon Hole with some steep hills to tackle:

Followed by Saddleback Ridge Lookout that had it all, river crossing, sand and steep hills:

The 7km round trip is supposed to take 40 min and only for experienced 4×4 drivers only! Yeeha!!

And finally up to Branco’s Lookout that had the worse river crossing ever and I think our flat tyre later was caused here. Nevertheless, a true 4WD adventure!

Enough of adventure for the day, after some nice dinner and two presentations from the Wilderness Park ranger and Australian Geographics and a chat with the Dutch couple we had met several times before we spent a last night at El Questro Wilderness Park.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

On our way out we saw the Caravan again that got stuck when we first arrived at the Station. It seemed that somebody from El Questro’s staff had told him he would be able to make the crossing (bad advise) although it is quite obvious that most of the tracks are only suited for 4WDs and his radiator was damaged. He got pulled out but since he couldn’t move his car he couldn’t return and kind of camped in front of the crossing waiting for his new radiator to arrive. He got stuck on a Sunday and when we left on Tuesday we was still there. Poor bugger!
Happy to have our LandCruiser (as we usually are) we made our way to the last gorge on our list, Amalia Gorge, a 3.4 km return walk with moderate difficulty, that had one exciting (caution) point where one had to squeeze along a rock with a 4m drop but the rest was quite easy:

And a quick look to the Pentecoste Crossing along the Gibb River Road, one of the two rivers that were quite high the last couple of weeks and made the Gibb impassable.

Now it was time to leave the Gibb River Road and El Questro Wilderness Park and head towards the next bigger city which was Kununnura to fill up petrol and groceries and look for spare parts which were again not to be found.

When we were about to drive to our campsite only to fill up petrol before it happened – a flat tyre! Not a happy sight especially since it seemed to be difficult to lift the car high enough to be able to change the tyre. Luckily enough two Australian with racing car equipment had stopped behind us at the petrol station and were able to help us out.

Thanks again guys, that was awesome! But what disaster because although we had our spare tyre on we wouldn’t be able to continue our travels without buying another spare tyre. This area being remote and having lots of gravel roads it is actually recommended to have two spare tyres on board just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, 01 June 2011

First thing the next morning was to repair the intermediate exhaust again (since we couldn’t find any used part) and to organize a new tyre without spending a fortune (which you can on tyres) and fortunately we were lucky and could buy a used tyre.

One famous and often seen picture in Western Australia’s brochures is the Ivanhoe Crossing. Well, usually the pictures show less water and the road is passable. Not today, have a look yourself:

From these few pictures you get a picture of what we encountered throughout Western Australia: In contrast to normal years a very very long wet season and therefore many things were flooded and not passable. Roads damaged or waters infested with crocodiles that normally would have long been gone…

Nevertheless, we continued our trip and had lunch at Lake Argyle, a man made reservoir for the Ord River irrigation scheme.

This is what it’s like driving along there:

And finally with one sad and one smiling eye we left Western Australia that had so many great places to offer. Interesting enough, there was no border control from WA to Northern Territory, from what we heard they have all the Australian pests (e.g. cane toads) already so not need for checking ; )

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Gibb River Road – the other end

by on Mai.31, 2011, under The Kimberleys

Saturday, 28th May – Tuesday, 31st May 2011

After several hundred kilometers of driving and the highest LPG price we have ever seen in all of Australia we arrived in Wyndham where we expected to be able to fuel up and get some nice groceries. Far from it, we shopped at a very small and expensive supermarket and could only get normal fuel being much more expensive for us than LPG. After a quick look at one of the big things (remember the big lobster in Kingston?), a crocodile, and the Five-Rivers-Lookout we were only too happy to leave the area again.

On the way to the Gibb River Road we stopped at the Grotto where we almost couldn’t find the entrance. Have a look at the pictures, can you find it?

And finally we arrived at the entrance of the Gibb River Road and headed towards a yet unknown mekka of 4WDing! But first things first:

Our first stop was Emma Gorge which was part of the El Questro Wilderness Park as we learned later. The first excitement of the day was an encounter with a quite large and quite deadly King Brown snake though on which we almost stepped on…

Here’s a short clip of Emma Gorge:

We learned that the El Questro Wilderness Park had several more gorges, hikes and lookouts as well as camping spots and we decided to have a look and bought a 7 day pass.

We quickly left Emma Gorge in order to take a bath at the hot Zebedee Springs that closed after 12 pm. And what an oasis it was, the water nice and warm and the surroundings amazing:

Since it was still early in the day we decided to do the next walk on the list – the El Questro Gorge! To get there was already a challenge but very exemplary we walked through first to see how deep it was.

See how it went:

No problem at all for SuperLandCruiser!

Should we go 2.6 or 6.8 km return is what we asked ourselves at the beginning of the walk? Being ambitious we decided on the whole walk. The first part was fairly easy walking:

Then we got to half-way point and a huge rock. Two possibilities ahead of us, either through rather shallow water (to your thighs) and trying to climb up the rather steep middle of the rock or follow the markers to the left, swim through the water and climb up there…
Clever us remembered the disastrous shoe crossing at Manning Gorge and just threw our shoes on the rock which was the best thing to do and then into the water and up the rock!

The second part of the walk was very rocky, up and down, over small creeks and up a waterfall until we arrived at the Mac Micking Pool and waterfall:

The only downside to these kinds of walks is that you have to go back the same way you have come and that can be a bit boring.

We headed back and decided to have a look at the El Questro Wilderness Park Station to check out the camping conditions. In order to get there we had to cross another river. There we found a few cars waiting for a motorhome to be pulled out of the creek after unsuccessfully trying to cross it. It got almost up to the end with its 2WD, but still got bogged down, damaged its radiator and was stuck at the crossing for a few days waiting for spare parts!

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