September 24 - September 30, 2001
(and we even lose a day thanks to the international dateline!)
Well, here we go! The first trick was to get all my gear to be checked in two bags, plus one carry on. (I can't do it, so pay to ship a third bag all the way through to Perth!) Just didn't have room for a tie! The flights, which had all been sold out 6 weeks before, are medium to light in passenger count. Medium going out to the west coast, and the Qantas flight from LAX to Melbourne was very light, due to the concerns brought about by the recent terrorist activity. In fact the Business Class section, which normally seats 79, had less than 40.
Australia never looked better!
Brett's Mum, Gwen, meets me at the Perth airport, really rolls her eyes when she sees all the baggage, and about does herself in trying to help by grabbing my 4000 pound carry-on!! We manage to get the gear in her car, and head for the Britz agency where I'm to pick up my "BushCamper". I do. Next I follow Gwen back to their home in Peppermint Grove, a beautiful part of Perth, and there begins a couple of the most pleasant days a guy could be given. What warmth, and hospitality. The entire family go way out of their way to make me comfortable and at home, and I really am! Brett didn't fall far from the tree! Both his Mum, and his Dad (who is waging a battle against cancer) are just great people, and Brett's two older brothers, Tony and Kent are of the same mold. Great guys, with great wives, and great kids! The food was outstanding, and Gwen got me back on a porridge kick, except hers was the best I've EVER had! (My apologies to Grandma Ulmer!) I threatened at one point to leave the BushCamper in the lane behind the house, and just spend the 8 weeks at Peppermint Grove! (I think I detected a slight shudder from the whole family!) I sure was tempted to stay a couple more days and participate in their BBQ held in conjunction with the Aussie Rules Championship game held today (Saturday), but decided I really needed to move on and try to get this show on the road. (Brisbane came back in a blaze to win it all, in a really exciting game. I listened to it while dodging emus, and for a guy who's just starting to understand Aussie Rules when I watch it, even good radio coverage is tough!) It was a wonderful experience with a wonderful family!
Peter (with "Elk" hat!)
Welcome to "The Birches", and my hosts, Mum & Tony!
Finally I'm off! I'm still organizing the Command Center. The cockpit of the Toyota Land Cruiser I call home (AKA "Tony" Toyota) has more electronics stuff than Dick Smith's! (Not the Dick Smith from Gibson Island who may be reading this, but the Australian electronics chain!)
Not much -- but it's home!
So we're off and Friday morning I head north. I'll just say that the drive already has been spectacular and interesting. It started with a baptism of fire as I hit heavy rains, and 50-60 mph winds north of Perth, just about the time I was introduced to road trains for the first time this trip. (and the further north you go, the larger the limit! It's gone from 33.5 meters to 53.3 meters -- no matter how you slice it, that's about 175 feet!!) Exciting! The country is spectacular. Kind of makes West Texas look like a small, tame spread! We're talking desert and brush and wildflowers for as far as the eye can see, and then some. Animals moving on the shoulder continually, including wild goats, sheep, emu, and of course kangaroos. This is during daylight when it's supposed to be a little quiet, but no one told the emus today -- they were all over the place. One ran across in front of the truck today (not close!), and it was clear that with those long legs, he's a guy who could easily take out a windshield. Some of those guys are big! Because of the storms, when I finally get to Kalbarri National Park, where I spend the first night, we get a pretty "storm sunset".
In the morning, though, the Kalbarri desert and wildflowers come alive!
Continuing north takes Tony (the Truck, remember?) and me past Steep Point, the most westerly point of mainland Australia, on my way to Carnarvon. I have a feeling that this trip will be a series of trade offs, and my first comes with a decision to pass on Monkey Mia in order to get to Carnarvon before dusk. An interesting town, but really more an attempt to get north a little closer to my schedule. It is becoming increasingly clear already that my timetable is way too ambitious, and particularly if I'm going to get a chance to partake of all there is to see and do in this great country. I have already passed on many spots I'd ordinarily want to see, as well as pictures I'd ordinarily want to take. Here's a shot of Carnarvon -
It's also here where I encounter my first Cockatoos (Corellas)