After the three of us hose down, it's off for dinner, this time at The Happy Garden, joined by brother Rob, and Trix, Joe & Eleanor, our Bushman's bride, Jenny, and their daughter Petrina (or Trina!) -- and once again a reprieve on pictures, and total focus on food and beverages! John has helped us work up an appetite -- for a change. Once again - - a great day!! Bring on Kakadu!!!!!
Wednesday brings us to Hardy Aviation - Darwin. I met briefly with the owner, John Hardy, in 2001 when he encouraged me to come back to fly in to Kakadu National Park during the wet. I didn't realize then that the Hardys (John & Mary, and sons Greg and Andrew) are friends of the Fishers. Guess I should have figured that out -- everyone knows Joe!!. Our pilot is a great young man, and an exceptional pilot by the name of Rob Bryant. Meet the players! (Andrew/Rob/John, Andrew & Mary, Captain Rob)
Now you need to understand that this is Patty's first flight EVER in a small fixed wing aircraft (I got her into a helicopter once in Hawaii), Think she has confidence in Captain Rob, and in Hardy Aviation?
Wish my photography skills were as good as Rob's flying skills, and possibly when I get back my APS shots, I'll scan in some better ones. The water falls were really flowing, though, and the views were fantastic. This area, comprising escarpment, river systems and flood plains covers an area of about 12,000 square miles, and is without doubt one of Australia's most prized cultural and ecological treasures.
One other note of interest from the Kakadu flight was the flyover of Jabiru, originally built to accommodate uranium mine workers in, what is today, aboriginal lands. Note the shape of the motel, appropriately named The Crocodile Motel. Then Darwin from the air, and finally, a VERY satisfied customer with Captain Rob Bryant!
One last note of interest about Darwin. Look for real changes in the years ahead in commerce for The Top End. Joe tells me that politicians have been promising a rail line from Adelaide to Darwin since the 1920's. This week, the maiden run for freight took place, and on Sunday, Feb 1, a special commemorative passenger run will be made to launch this great effort! The plan is for 43 well appointed coaches to carry 330 dignitaries on this, the first trip of the new "GHAN". Some will have paid as much as $12,000 AUS ($9,500 US) to take this two day inaugural trip. We know at least two friends who will be making the trip, so possibly we provide some "fair dinkum data" later on!
Back we go to Perth after a really special visit in Darwin. (It's interesting that so many Aussies warned us that we'd find Darwin a bit oppressive with heat and humidity during the wet. Well, Darwin folks will feel right at home in Savannah during our summer months!) The Darwin Fisher gang just made the whole thing such a super experience, and we couldn't have been made more totally comfortable, or surrounded by more warm and welcoming folks! Great Blokes!!
Arriving back in Perth, we head for Britz where we pick up our Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD Prado, which will be our rig throughout most of the rest of our trip, including taking us to Tasmania and back (thanks to the Spirit of Tasmania ferry!). In characteristic fashion (and with much respect and thanks to our previous rigs, Max and Tony) -- we name him!
Meet Pete Prado!
as we once again descend on the Barton's, provision and gear up for our next adventure. Still, it's hard to leave, given the bond that's developed between the two gorgeous girls (eat your heart out, Betty!)
But leave we must, and after a spectacular dinner at the home of our new friends, the Reyhani's (Remember them? If not, you'd better go back and review Week 1!) on Thursday evening, we head south along the Indian Ocean coast of beautiful WA on Friday morning!
Our route takes us along the coast, through Mandura and Bunbury, to Busselton, where we'll spend the night before arriving at our next destination - the Dunsborough, Yallingup, Margaret River area. Few who have visited this protrusion into the Indian Ocean would argue about this being one of the most beautiful areas, not just in WA, but in all of Australia.
(Beach at Bunbury, the Busselton Pier* and Beach, and "Dog Paddle!") *Said to be the longest timber jetty structure in the Southern Hemisphere - nearly 2K or approximately 1.25 miles - a good hike!
John has taken this opportunity to catch up on an overdue back operation! Now do you suppose there's a message here? Anyway, we're relieved to report that he's doing fine, and he'll not escape us next trip!
Julie advises that the three of us are to join John & Eleanor Slee** for a BBQ at their home in the bush!
**Some of you will recall the story of my meeting John in 2001, and the fascinating story of his attending a special recognition ceremony in a small village in Belgium a few years ago. They were honoring those who participated in freeing their village during WW I. John's father, an Aussie flying with the RAF, was shot down in a dogfight over this village in June of 1917, and captured by the Germans after he destroyed what was left of his plane after his crash landing. Of particular interest is that he was interviewed by the German ace who shot him down -- an officer by the name of Hermann Goering!
John also does a great job of grilling steaks and sausage, and Eleanor really finished us off with a great baked peach treat!! A pretty fancy Aussie BBQ, and a wonderful evening! John is a retired journalist, and Eleanor, Julie and John are all well read, so it made for a great evening of lively discussions. We nearly solved most of the world's most pressing problems. Given more time (and possibly if I'd brought along Jake), we would have solved 'em all! A great way to wrap up Week 2 !