[Brisbane] [East Coast] [South Australia] [Outback] [Top End] [ West Coast] [Great Barrier Reef]Dec 98 - Oct 00
We arrived at Scarborough, the yacht entry port for the Brisbane area and had our vegetables confiscated - again! After a few weeks we moved to Dockside Marina on the Brisbane River in downtown Brisbane - a great place to be for Christmas shopping and partying. They have restored their waterfront over the last 10 years, and it is lined with restaurants, walking paths, and artwork - a delight! With a plan to drive around Oz, we scoured the area for suitable vehicles and settled on 'Winnie the Whale', a 23' Winnebago motor-home (RV in the US). By mid February Long Passages was snug on a hardstand in Scarborough Marina, 'Winnie' was fueled up, and we set out to see a big country.
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We headed south from Brisbane, through the glitzy Gold Coast, with its Warner Bros fantasy land and a plethora of amusement parks full of foreign tourists. Inland and over the mountains to Lightning Ridge, black opal center of the country where we met miners, some who had worked the mines for 30 years! Then on to the Blue Mountains with high plateaus and waterfalls and trees believed to be unchanged for 60,000,000 years and down the escarpment to Sydney, home of the Sydney Opera House and 4 million people. In Canberra the streets were wide and un-crowded and the Parliament building was an architectural marvel. Our last stop along the coast was Eden, a whaling center in its earlier life, and recently the harbor of refuge for yachts in the disastrous 1998 Sydney-Hobart race
Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania make up this part of Australia, and we drove along the coast and through Melbourne and Adelaide. The "Great Ocean Road" provides stunning views of offshore islands and high cliffs - we took a helicopter ride to see it from the best vantage point! Victoria is largely agricultural with large irrigation works that draw water from the Snowy Mountains.
In the parks the wildlife is prolific, with emus, kangaroos, foxes, wallabies, and koalas wandering wild. In Melbourne we were lucky enough to watch the cream of the crop in the Australia Open Tennis tournament - Anna Kournikova attracted much of the attention this time. Autumn was setting in, we gave Tasmania a miss, and headed north to the Outback. But not before a stop in Geelong, a quaint coastal town where an enterprising woman has carved over 120 pilings (or bollards) in shapes ranging from 18th century women to lifesaving teams for the renovated waterfront.
The Outback is an ill-defined term - it sort of means "...away from the cities and any worthwhile agricultural land...", but mostly means thousands of miles of red sand and hills and billions of bush flies! On the southern edge of the Outback lies Broken Hill, a mining town being re-invented as an artist colony. Overlooking the valley is a collection of sculptures rising proud under the blue skies. We drove north from Adelaide, through the Flinders Ranges, and up the Oodnadatta Track, a 400 km trek over dusty roads past the Ghan railway and telegraph, remnants of the 1800's. The Outback, though dry and sparse, is full of kangaroos, flocks of galahs and cockatoos, and wallabies. We saw many as we made our way towards the Australian icon, Uluru, commonly known as Ayer's Rock. Bob climbed to the top while Judi hiked around the base. Alice Springs with its nearby US intelligence outpost, the only town of any size in the middle of the country is home to only 25,000 hardy folks.
Emerging from the Outback into the Northern Territory the terrain changes - a few streams appear, and lakes actually have water. In Katherine we see evidence of a recent flood - 40' above the riverbed! Ancient Boab trees dot the landscape - seen only in the North End and Africa. A week in the Kakadu National Park provide views of thousands of beautiful birds and not so beautiful crocodiles (see jumping Crocodile to right). The main city, Darwin, a town of 80,000 is the supply center for an area 5 times the size of Texas and the point of departure for most cruisers sailing on to the Mediterranean or South Africa.
We arrived in Western Australia in the midst of the wildflower season and were dazzled by mile after mile of gorgeous, indigenous flowers such as Kangaroo Paws, Cat's Paws, Sturt Peas, Dampier flowers, Wreath flowers and Everlastings. While traveling the coastal road around Western Australia, we found very little civilization between fuel stops but some places stand out in our memories:
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