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Wednesday 24 September to Tuesday 4 October 2014, Darwin

The plane trip from Amsterdam to Darwin via Singapore was uneventful. I slept most of the way. Changi airport has some spectacular features to walk through which helped to while away the time. The hostel in Darwin was as expected. I was in a dorm with 4 beds and the other 3 girls were reasonably quiet when they came in after their night out. They were also reasonably tidy! I was in bed by 20:00 and slept late on Thursday.

A bus and taxi took me out to Oasis Tourist Park near where the car was stored. After obtaining the key to the storage property it was time to inspect the car. The batteries were as expected – totally dead. There wasn’t even a click when I turned the key. I returned to the camp ground where Andrew, the manager, had jump leads. We tried to resuscitate the batteries with his car but it wouldn’t budge. The only alternative was to phone a battery company and have a battery delivered. Once the new battery was in the car started perfectly. The auxiliary battery also started charging thank heavens.

Friday I first went shopping for supplies especially cool drinks as it is hot and humid. The car wash got a lot of the accumulated dirt off but the rest of the day was spent re-polishing the car. This was much easier than last time. I managed to finish the car in the afternoon even though I took plenty of breaks. So my previous work of polishing the car paid off.

Saturday and Sunday I sat with all the other cars hoping for some interest. No-one was interested in our type of car though. All the windows were open and there was a nice breeze to keep me cool. It also gave me time to start cleaning out the car and separate the personal items from the gear which will stay behind.

On Monday I purchased a cheap cell phone so I would have a contact number and put adverts on the notice boards at Palmerston and Coolalinga. I have also had some tentative offers from 3 people. This is encouraging.

Wednesday was THE day. Allan had answered one of the adverts and arrived unexpectedly as I arrived at the selling point. He looked very carefully underneath for rust and any under-carriage damage done by the rear-ender. He did find some rust and assumed some-one had driven into the sea and not washed the undercarriage afterwards. Getting bogged in Cape Arid would have done the trick! He is not worried about the rust as it is very little. We went for a drive and he checked out the 4x4 etc. He took engine details etc and said he will get back to me after he has done some checking. Later he phoned and made an offer which I accepted.

It took a few days for the money to be transferred to my account. The usual daily limits apply everywhere in the world. By Monday the transaction was complete and I moved into hostel in Darwin City Centre and planned my visit to the Centre.

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The Devil’s Marbles consists of granite that has been worn into rounded blocks over the millennia. It is quite spectacular. There is a legend that people live in the rocks and take visitors in to live with them. Unfortunately  the local tribes have forgotten the songs which will release those taken

Apart from the Devil’s Marbles the scenery is similar to WA, dry grass and quite a lot of Eucalyptus trees. The road doesn’t go through any of the 7 deserts but it is semi arid.

Wednesday 5 to Thursday 16 October 2014, The Red Centre

The first stage was a 2 day bus trip to Alice Springs 1,500 K south. I chose this rather than flying so I could see the Devil’s Marbles. It also included several water holes. The first day we only drove for about 500 K with 2 quite long stops at Bitter Springs, a warm water hole and another water hole for swimming and relaxing. Overnight was spent in air-conditioned rooms at Daly Waters, permanent population 7. Thursday was a much longer drive. Breakfast was taken at Longreach Waterhole on the Newcastle Waters Station. This is the largest and most productive cattle station in NT. It covers an area which includes a large long depression. During the rainy season so much water drains into this depression that there is always water.

Bower Bird building a nest under a seat Relaxing at Bitter Springs Breakfast at Longreach

Alice Springs is like any other town. The best was treating myself to a balloon ride. Something I have always wanted to do.

It was another early morning and quite chilly. There were 12 passengers and 3 crew. The basket is woven cane, this is the lightest strongest method currently available, better than plastic, wood or metal for the purpose. It was divided into 5 sections, 2 on each side and the 5th right across the middle. The pilot shared the middle section with all the gas bottles, the rest of us divided ourselves between the other 4 baskets. The balloon rose and headed off back towards Alice. We went up quite some way and could see the McDonald ranges in the distance. Unfortunately we didn’t get as close as I would have liked. The basket rose and fell according to the dictates of the wind. The pilot kept on turning the basket so everyone could have a view on all sides. We sometimes came quite close to the tree tops. Eventually we started to land. This time the pilot actually scraped the top of the tree. One passenger managed to grab some leaves and won a bottle of sparkling wine.

Every one mucked in to help refold the balloon and pack it away except one couple who were obviously wealthy and perhaps felt it was beneath them. The Aussies muttered and made some unkind remarks about them and when it came time to load the balloon on to the trailer the guy was asked in no uncertain terms to help lift it onto the trailer. In general Australia is an egalitarian country where status and wealth doesn’t count all that much - unless some-one is being paid to do a job. There was a champagne breakfast eaten standing around the van.

Later I heard that the balloon had landed badly and a woman died. I’m glad I went when I did.

The most photographed group A typical rock I tempted fate but did not get taken A rock starting to split in two

Thursday 16 October to Saturday 8 November 2014, Sydney

I arrived in Sydney to the news that my brother-in-law Bruce had died early that morning. This had been expected for the last week. He has lived with cancer for 20 years and eventually his body could no longer tolerate the chemo and radio therapy he went through regularly. I was glad to be there to support my sister Carol. Besides being a husband, father, son (his mother is still alive), brother and life-long friend he has also been involved with Hunters Hill Rugby Club since he was a teenager. He has been everything at the club, player, coach, manager and every position on the committee. He was the first person to greet newcomers to the club. Testament to the regard with which he was held is the 200 odd Hunters Hill Club Members who attended his funeral.

Didgeridoo demostration Setting off just before dawn The MacDonald Ranges from the balloon Deflating the balloon prior to pcking it up.

The flight to Uluru was uneventful. I was surprised that there seemed to be quite a lot of hills in that area. Lunch was included in the price of the flight which left at 13:35. Lunch turned out to be a small bottle of water! I had already eaten anyway. I met Laura, a Canadian, on the flight and we cooked dinner together, Kangaroo patties and quinoa salad, neither of which I had eaten before. It was very nice but next morning it came straight through. I intend to avoid both for a while.

The sunrise at Uluru was great. There were around a dozen mostly large busloads of people but still there was enough room for everyone. Then there was a walk along part of the base with creation stories from the Anangu, the local tribe, along with their recent history and culture. Apparently there are many caves around the rock which the Anangu will not allow tourists to visit. The reason is the lack of care of earlier tourists. During the era of black and white photography the guide would throw water on the drawings to make them stand out with the result that over time the drawings were washed away. They also still use the caves for ceremonies. What happens at the ceremonies is not shared with people who are not Anangu. They say that this is something that can not be understood without understanding the basis of their beliefs. The basis is taught to the children as they grow. Non Anangu do not have the background to understand.

You can still climb to the top of the rock but it is discouraged by the Anangu as Uluru is sacred. The climb can also be closed due to high winds or excess heat making it dangerous. Climbers have also made all the water holes around the base unusable because of litter washed down from the top during rains. Litter includes leaking used batteries (acid), paper, water bottles, urine and used nappies. Water holes are specific to humans and animals. If a human puts any part of their body in the water oils from the skin will get into the water, animals will smell this and stay away.

Sunrise on the rock A darker redder colour A small waterhole at the base A different view Aborigine dancing by non-aborigines

On Tuesday something went wrong with the setting of the alarm and I missed the bus to Kings Canyon. Luckily I had the time to switch the sunset tour to Kata Tjuta (Olgas) with the Kings Canyon Tour. I spent the day wandering around the town square, buying provisions at the IGA and watching some aboriginal dancers, none of which had any aboriginal blood in them! Still it was fun and the audience was encouraged to join in.

The businesses, some of which are owned by Aborigines, have sufficient non-Aboriginal staff to keep the enterprise going. The Aborigine culture requires them to attend ceremonies when called upon to do so by the elders. Therefore they may go away for days without warning. The one enterprise run and staffed exclusively with Aborigines failed because it was often closed or understaffed.

The sunset tour  of The Olgas was lovely. There are 36 domes and we viewed the sunset over the 4 dominant ones. The domes are named, from left to right, Mt Olga (the tallest), Mt Walpa (meaning windy), Mt Gee and Mt Liru. First there was a choice of walks, the short or the long. I chose the short walk as the long walk seemed like hard work. Afterwards we went to the viewing area for wine or orange juice, nibbles and stools to sit on. The nibbles consisted of strips of capsicum, carrot and cucumber with cheese, biscuits, crisps and dips, right up my alley.

Bird life A small izard The colours change gradually The colours change gradually The colours change gradually

I made sure I was on time next morning for Kings Canyon. Its 300k one way, so we left around 4:00am with a full cooked breakfast almost 3 hours later. Again there were 2 different walks, one along the summit and a shorter one up the canyon. Again the longer one was considered difficult but I wanted to see the canyon from the top. There was an alternative though, do the shorter walk followed by a helicopter ride. The helicopter ride was fabulous, definitely the highlight of my trip.

George Gill Range from afar The end of Kings Canyon from the ground Kings Canyon from the air Part of the George Gill Range

The main reason for the choice of date for coming to Australia was the 50th Reunion of the girls who left Canterbury Girls High School in 1964. These reunions are held every year but this was the first one I had any hope of attending. It was fantastic to meet some of my old school pals. That is after I recognised them! Initially I had trouble putting names to faces. There was a slide show of photos from our school days showing continuously. I was even in some of them. The reunion was lovely.

Jim,Jay and myself traveled through North West India together in April 2008 and have kept in touch since. Jim lives with his partner Vicki up near Byron Bay. I took this opportunity to visit them. The 12 hour train trip was as expected. The train only goes to Casino, then the last bit to Clunes is on a coach. Since Clunes was specifically named as a destination I didn't worry about making sure the driver knew I wanted to get off at Clunes. He had a list anyway. Unfortunately the clock in the bus showed Queensland time which is an hour earlier than NSW due to daylight savings. I thought I had another hour to go when the bus arrived at Byron Bay. The driver knew something had gone wrong though. He had to turn around and drive back 20 minutes to Clunes to drop me off. Oh well I made it eventually.

Jim has about 7 acres which he is rehabilitating back into the original rain forest. The whole area had been logged in the previous century. The rain forest had very few Eucalyptus trees but many other Oz trees. The rehabilitation is coming along slowly. Some of the trees have reseeded already.

Myself, Jim and Vicki

The next morning Jim took me on a trip around the area. We went through Dunoon the macadamia capital of Australia, stopped off at Minyon Falls and then onto Nimbin, the hippie town. The scenery is lovely, green hills and valleys with pastures and cows. There are quite a few trees other than eucalyptus. Marihuana is illegal in Oz but is sold openly in Numbin. The shops all promote the hippie image. Interesting place. Minyon Falls was dry so there was no water falling but it was peaceful with birds calling. Great atmosphere. A visit to the most easterly point of mainland Australia was mandatory.

It was time to leave. Carol was back into her normal activities and I could not help with the sorting out that still needed to be done. Besides Pieter was missing me in SA.

Celebrating a life well lived, my sister Carol Celebrating a life well lived, Bruce's brothers, Ken and Malcolm Celebrating a life well lived, Bruce's mother and sister, Rosiland Celebrating a life well lived, Craig, Carol and Bruce's son

Sunday 9 November to Wednesday 10 December 2014, Johannesburg

Another uneMy familyventful flight where I slept as much as possible. Pieter, Pieter Frank and David all came to the airport to fetch me. Hugs all round. I do love my family.

The month was spent sorting out a tooth that was giving trouble. Unfortunately I have so many fillings that decay does not show up on the x-rays. Also unfortunately when the crown was being put it I discovered in an extremely painful way that it was the wrong tooth! The next tooth back was the problem. This is loose but I can live with it for a while. It will have to be removed eventually and either replaced with an implant or left alone which will leave very little chewing ability on that side. Next time.

I bought a new PC one which can also be used as a tablet. This was followed by the usual hassle of reloading all my software. Pieter had just bought a new Apple as well. All in all it was an expensive stay.

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