Down Under

This is going to be a loooong article!

Sydney from the air

Our point of entry in Australia is Sydney airport, where (after some flight delay) we are met by my good friend Andy.

We spend a week in this city, visiting attractions like Bondi Beach, Manly (very), the Maritime Museum, Sydney Harbour and other such.

Maritime Museum, Sydney Harbour

It’s a city like any other in many respects, but there’s definitely a strong hint of London in the flavour, minus a good measure of hecticness, plus a healthy dose of beach-bum-sportiness.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Bridge

People are indeed very sporty: everywhere people are jogging and cycling, but most predominantly, SURFING. Everybody’s surfing here! Kids line up for surf school in their blue wetsuits while teenagers and grown ups paddle their boards into the waves.

Bondi Beach Sydney

This seems to be the lifestyle here and I must admit I could get used to it. People are very friendly too. Everywhere we go people greet and are helpful. (But I have to say that for people that spend so much time in this beautiful outdoors there’s indeed worryingly little tan going around.)

Also, this place is expensive! Brace yourselves, even London can seem reasonable compared to here at times.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

From Sydney we take a train trip up to the Blue Mountains, a beautiful nature reserve.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

We spend the day trekking through the jungle and visiting impressive waterfalls.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

We spend a lovely week with Andy and Tash in Paddington – no he does not live at the train station. We’re out during the day taking lots of photos, and back at their home for dinner in the evenings. I’m so glad to get to spend some time with my old buddy again.

Bondi Beach

Many thanks to both of you for putting us up so hospitably! About darned time we met again Andy and we cannot wait to greet you two at our place some day. I hope everything is working out and going well!

Australia: what a beautiful countrynent!


After Sydney we spend two weeks month in this place travelling around in a camper van, which I would recommend without doubt as the best way to travel here. The folks at Travellers Autobarn have very competitive rates and have a really good attitude.

Travellers Autobarn

There’s a few bits of good advice for this kind of trip:
1. Get your camper from a decent company like Travellers Autobarn
2. Avoid driving at night because you’re likely to collide with the abundant wildlife that heads for the streets after sunset
3. Take the CAMPER map book with you (they might have one at the camper hire to lend you): it locates most camp- and rest-sites in the country with all relevant info like charges, facilities, etc.

Travellers Autobarn

We cover 4000Km of road in this country and we hardly even see a fraction of it! It is MASSIVE!

Travellers Autobarn

We leave Sydney and travel North along the coast line.


Up here there’s many beautiful beaches, but without doubt, the most beautiful one for us must be the one at Seals Rock. Pure natural beauty!

The sand on this coastline is so fine it squeaks under your feet as you step.

My All Lakes National Park

The roads here seem to be leading us in constant circles: by now we’ve passed by Refuge Island a hundred times at least!

outback australia

A few hundred Km further North I get tired of inching along the coast line and decide it’s time to see the desert! I remember seeing a map of Australia in the past – a big lump of brown with a few hints of green on the coastal fringes. On the map I see the Great Dividing Range extending straight up North, just a couple of hundred kilometres inland, and I know what we have to do: cross over these mountains which clearly divide the wet from the dry and meet the desert beyond!

The drive across the range is interesting. Lots of fog and S-bends and regular oncoming sections of the Moscow State Circus.

outback australia

On the other side we’re greeted by flat bushland as far as the eye can see. No desert?? Clearly I must have miscalculated…

outback australia

I must say that I feel at home here. The terrain reminds me a lot of the bushland in South Africa. And what’s more, it’s miles and miles of straight roads and hardly any traffic.

outback australia

But of course that can be a bit dangerous as well. We pull over in the middle of nowhere, where some guy has run his car up the roadside-barrier – he fell asleep. Lucky bugger was alright, but his car was neatly teetering across the top of the barrier, not a soul in sight, the last house we saw about 10Km behind and it’s started to rain…


We spend one night at a lovely camp site at Tia Falls. It’s out of the way, right in the bush and just a short walk from a spectacular waterfall. Sadly no steak on the braai due to rain. But we’re well stocked with alternatives. It’s beautiful!


We do most of our camping at rest stops and free camp sites, except when we need an electric hookup to charge the laptop or phone.

Australia is awesome for this kind of travelling because most of these stops have fire places and out here the steak is some of the best that money can buy! Believe me!

By the way, here I have to say a big THANK YOU to my good buddy Graeme in England for giving me the ingenious gift of a portable BBQ!

It weighs about 2 kilos and I have been dragging it around the world in my backpack for six months waiting for an occasion to use it, and Australia has provided plentiful occasions! To  be honest I didn’t think it would last very long but his little device is genius! Easy to use, easy to clean, and always ready to perform whenever you need a braai out on the road somewhere.

Graeme you’re a legend!

We meet a guy named Chris and his dog Tess at one of the stops near a small river. He’s a retired construction engineer and spends several months a year travelling the country with his dog and his camper van. We sit at the fire and dine together one night and exchange some stories – a really nice night. He laughs when I tell him my surprise at not finding the desert here. Apparently we’d need to go another 7 hours West just to reach it!

We return to the coast and head to Brisbane to meet Karl and Yvonne, some old friends from back in Africa – and Austria.

gold coast brisbane

It’s been more than 15 years since they left SA and it’s really nice to catch up with them. They kindly put us up in their home and we almost get used to having a nice bed, shower, a kitchen and a swimming pool at your disposal.


But we have much distance to cover, so after a couple of days we must move on.

We head North along the coast to Noosa Heads, where Ebru’s friend Kimberly lives. We haven’t got her number nor is she responding to emails. Also we know that around about now she should have given birth to a baby. Ebru did get her address but we’re not sure what to do – we don’t want to just rock up and intrude at this time.

glass mountains

In the end we decide to bite the bullet – we’ve come all this way to visit and we’re in the area now and might not be again, so we have to go and say hello. With a box of Pampers in hand Ebru rings the door bell and makes a nappy delivery. 🙂 The proud new parents are at home and Kim recognizes Ebru immediately. We end up spending the night in their spare room and Ebru and Kim have a few hours to catch up, which we’re really happy about. Another bonus is that after 4 months, I am finally reunited with my Amazon Kindle, which I had to send back because it broke in Thailand and I had the replacement sent to this address.

noosa heads

Our gratitude to Kimberly and Tim for having us over at your place. We know it was a busy time for you. And lovely to meet you again!

Sadly the Kindle doesn’t last longer than 2 weeks before the screen breaks again and is now consigned to an address in New Zealand for replacement.

Some new friends we made along the way…

As you may have heard, Ozies love to party, but when they drink too much they tend to go overboard…

The plan is originally to head North along the coast and all the way to Cairns if possible, to meet another old friend of Ebru’s but it is far and we’re not sure that goal is realistic. As we leave Noosa there’s a lot of flooding ahead and all the coastal roads to the North are closed. I’m quite happy about it as this gives us a good reason to head inland again and experience more of the fantastic isolation this continent has to offer.

The rest of the way from here is marked by hour-long stretches of straight roads, yellow-brown bushland and huge trucks transporting massive loads around the country. We stop at a lot of road works and while we wait we chat to some of the workers. They’re earning good money alright! And word is that they cannot find enough people to do the job in Oz.

Oh yes, another thing I remember: Australia definitely seems to have a beard thing going on. Everywhere we go men have long ragged mats of facial hair hanging on or sticking out. At the road works it looks like the Hell’s Angels driving steam rollers and operating STOP/GO lollipops.

We meet an interesting guy at a camp site in the middle of nowhere. He’s fishing in the lagoon. He’s got a big tough caravan, an even tougher 4×4 with a boat on the roof rack. We get chatting. Turns out he was a postman and his wife an interior decorator, no kids. They decided that they were “just consumers” and would like to have more to their lives than working the same job so they can stay in the same place and buy stuff. So they resigned, sold up, bought the caravan and set off across Australia, working wherever they find work available and staying until they’ve saved up enough to continue their journey for a few months. Awesome! And you’ll find quite a few people out here that are doing a similar thing.

Many fires and delicious rump steaks later we eventually reach a town called Emerald. It’s about 4-500Km inland and about the same North of Brisbane. There’s nothing much around here except some mines. But that’s the point. From here you can head out to places called Ruby Vale and Sapphire to dig and fossick for gem stones – how cool!

fossicking Ruby Vale and Sapphire  for gem stones

We enroll in a short introduction and learn how to use a sieve and water to separate out gems from soil. The soil they have there is from a Sapphire mine and we find a few fragments. It’s all very exciting!

fossicking Ruby Vale and Sapphire  for gem stones

Then we rent a pick and shovel, a large water container and a couple of sieves and off we go to the gem fields, where we camp for a couple of nights and spend our days digging and sieving at the riverside.

fossicking Ruby Vale and Sapphire  for gem stones

fossicking Ruby Vale and Sapphire  for gem stones

We don’t find a thing of course. I actually think we threw whatever gems we may have had overboard because we didn’t recognise what they were. But nevertheless, it’s good fun and I recommend anyone to give this a try.

Our last few days in Australia are spent back at Karl and Yvonne’s, which is wonderful. We see a bit of Brisbane and spend some more time enjoying the company of our hosts. We take the time here to plant two trees for our Planting Around the World mission.

Hey Ritti’s we thank you again for having us! It was lovely to see you again. We hope to see you again when the time comes, either in Oz or maybe you’ll pay us a visit wherever we are! Keep well and take care of yourselves.

To conclude this chapter I thought it would be interesting to give you an idea of the things you find crawling around on Australia’s highways. Enjoy….

outback australia

outback australia

outback australia

outback australia

outback australia

outback australia