Monthly Archives: November 2015

From Cairns to Alice Springs; the outback in numbers

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Gidday!

Red sand, the roo’s, A big hot sun and endless roads. Ever felt the outback call? We certainly did. Time to start driving out, out of cairns, back from the East coast, outback.
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Driving through the outback was a completely new experience for us. It was exciting, but a bit scary too. The endless nothingness, the heat, the flies… at times it was tiresome. The eagles, the parrots, the red sand and rocks, the peace, the pools… at times it was wonderful.
We went where nearly no other backpackers go and often we would see hardly any other cars for hours except from a few ‘road trains’. For hours and hours the landscape would be exactly the same and our minds would need something to do to prevent from falling asleep. That’s when you turn to statistics. That’s when you start counting stuff. And counting stuff is what we did!
There is no better way to describe our trip to Alice Springs than as we did below.
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(* = Dutch translation)
(1 aud = 0.65 euro = 0.46 pounds)
(We have not measured the temperature, but those numbers are based on what it felt like (realfeal). Actually the temperature around Alice Springs does seldom rise above 40 degrees celcius. But 35 degrees in The Netherlands / United Kingdom and 35 degrees in the Australian desert feel totally different, so those numbers are a mere indication of how we experienced the outback heat.)

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Road Train

Wednesday 21-10-2015
Cairns –> Innot Hot Springs

Departure time: 10.30 am
Distance covered: 166 km
Interesting sites: Kuranda Local Market (50% “made in China”)
Pool: Yes; hot springs!
temperature Realfeal: 25’c; very cold at night.

It was a nice drive with some great views of the Tablelands.

Thursday 22-10-2015
Innot Hot Springs –> Georgetown (via Conjuboy)

Departure time: 8.40 am
Distance covered: 498 km (total: 664)
Involuntary d-tour: 220 km
Oncoming traffic (*tegenliggers): 30-40
Fuel used: 58.12 liters
Fuel prices (aud): 1.34; 1.41; 1.48
Engine Overheating Danger Rate: Low
Bustards Busted: 1
Pool: Yes
Flies: hardly any
Temperature realfeel: 32’c

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The inspiration for our Engine Overheating Danger Rate

We had to choose between two different routes. The first one was called the “Savannah Way” and the second one the “alternate Savannah Way”. The latter, being a bit shorter was supposed to get us onto the only highway into central Australia quicker. What could possibly go wrong? After driving more than an hour, seeing almost no other traffic, the asfalt suddenly disappeared. The road became unsealed, a dirt track. No way! Until this moment we were solely relying on ‘Google maps’, now we decided to get our road book out. If we’d done that before, we would have quickly discovered that this was indeed a 150 km unsealed track. Corregated road for the next 3 hours? No option for Brenda. So we had to drive all the way back to the Savannah Way. How could we have been so naive? This is Australia! Asfalt is as rare as dead kangaroos are common. Not a great start of our outback journey. But quite an adventure, albeit a bit of a boring one. We had one consolation though: on this road we had spotted an Australian Bustard. A big flightless bird, that is quite uncommon according to our bird guide. As we are becoming more and more fanatic bird watchers, this surprising encounter did save the day!

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The Australian Bustard


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Parts of the Savannah Highway have only one sealed lane.

Friday 23-10-2015
Georgetown –> Four Ways

Departure time: 7.37 am
Distance covered: 519 km (1183)
Fuel used: 63.16 liters
Fuel prices (aud): 1.49; 1.58; 1.70
Oncoming traffic: 54
Overtakers (*inhalers): 3
Overtakes by us: 1
Engine Overheating Danger Rate: moderate
Pool: no
Flies: 15 for the two of us
Temperature realfeel: 36’c
Quote of the day: “I love the smell of road kill in the morning.”
Bustards Busted: 1
Road kill (our contribution): 1 quail (*kwartel)

We spotted another Australian Bustard today and we are wondering whether we are just extremely lucky or if they aren’t that uncommon as the bird bookbible indicates.
Earlier that morning, while Lisa was driving, there was a bigger surprise. Two quails crossed the road in front of our car. We were still quite far off and they reached the other side safely. We were very excited having seen another bird high on our wish list. When we passed them Sander was still cheering, but Lisa suddenly went pale. What Sander didn’t know was that she had seen the third quail getting onto the road, trying to cross after his family, but being too late. Lisa was unable to do anything about it and when she heard the little bump, she knew what had happened. We’d probably hit a quaill cheering and all. Quite in shock we drove on, realising how easily you hit something here in Australia.

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Wedge Tailed Eagle


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The view from our van.

Saturday 24-10-2015
Four Ways –> Camooweal

Departure time: 7.10 am
Distance covered: 517 km (1700)
Fuel used: 50.4 liters
Fuel prices (aud): 1.40; 1.39; 1.63
Oncoming traffic: 205
Overtakers: 9
Overtakes by us: 0
Engine Overheating Danger Rate: High
Pool: Yes
Flies: just a couple
Temperature realfeel: it was nice in the early morning, but from 10 o’clock it started to get really hot; 40’c. Getting into the pool was the best part of the day.
Bustards Busted: 1
Road kill (our contribution): 4 or 5 budgeries (*kanaries)
Song of the day: “Big Hard Sun” by Eddie Vedder

Apparently the bustards are not as uncommon as we thought. Something that is quite uncommon but highly spectacular, is the sight of a flock of budgeries. They move together in big flocks flying extremely close to each other. Their movements are so well adjusted to each other that they almost seem to operate as one big organism. We had gotten used to birds flying very close to the van. They always seem to have narrow escapes, but they have got so much control in their flight they never seem to be in real danger of getting hit. This time Sander was driving and he was hardly alarmed by the flock of budgeries flying up in front of the van. Like yesterday, with the quails, we were highly excited seeing these beautiful birds in their beautiful flight and, of course, they got away in time. When the second group flew up, we still expected them to manoeuvre around the car like all the birds do. But like we explained before, these birds don’t fly individually, they fly as a whole. And this big flying organism was on a collision course with our fast approaching van. We were quite shocked when at least four (Lisa thinks that she might have heard five knocks) budgeries hit our windscreen. Of course we immediately looked out of the back window saw several green bird bodies sprawled over the road. It took some time before we realised what had happened. Did we just kill a family of budgies? We feel extremely bad for having this on our conscious.
If you want to drive through the outback, be prepared to kill something! (Sanders words) Collateral damage; unintended bird deaths, caused by our actions (Lisas words)

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Mini tornados are quite common.


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As are 'ant hills' wearing a shirt.

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Not gonna happen mate. All the rivers were totally dried up.

Sunday 25-10-2015
Camooweal –> Tennant Creek

Departure time: 7.35 am
Distance covered: 494 km (2194)
Fuel used: 46.38 liters
Fuel prices (aud): 1.85; 1.52
Oncoming traffic: 74
Overtakers: 14
Overtakes by us: 0
Abandoned strollers (*buggy’s) alongside the road: 3
Engine Overheating Danger Rate: Very High
Pool: Yes (but with smelly rubbish bins next to it)
Flies: not too many, only if you stop along the road.
Temperature realfeel: quite hot already from early in the morning; 44’c.
State borders crossed: 1
Road sign of the day: “No belt, no brains!”
Road kill (our contribution): possibly 1 lizard. Sander tried to dodge it, but the stupid animal started to move towards the wheels. We didn’t feel anything, so hopefully it got a narrow escape.

After only a couple of miles we left Queensland behind us and crossed into Northern Territory. It feels weird leaving Queensland, a bit like it felt when we left actual countries back in South America. I suppose the Australian states do feel a bit like countries. They have different timezones for instance. We had won half an hour by crossing that border, our phones changed automatically and we actually did not notice until the following day.
Immediately after crossing into Northern Territory the landscape started to look even dryer. We were now really driving through the desert (although technically it is still some kind of savannah (“steppe” as we call it in Dutch) with thick, dry grass and an occasional tree).
Looking back this was the weirdest day of the trip; we drove solely in one direction for almost 500 kilometres on an almost completely straight road that hardly bends at all and with a view that did not seem to change for one bit. But at the end of the day we finally reached a junction. We were now able to ‘see’ Alice Springs!

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Imagine driving through this landscape the entire day.

Monday 26-10-2015
Tennant Creek –> Alice Springs

Departure time: 7.23 am
Distance covered: 539 km (2733)
Fuel used: 45.12 liters
Fuel prices (aud): 1.93; 1.35
Oncoming traffic: 106
Overtakers: 18
Overtakes by us: 0
Engine Overheating Danger Rate: Very High
Interesting sites: Devils Marbles
Pool: Yes, but we only had a cool shower.
Flies: there were a lot of flies at the Devils Marbles, enough to drive you crazy when you stay too long. In Alice Springs they are not too bad.
Temperature realfeel: very hot from early on; 45’c.
Tropics (*keerkringen) crossed: 1; the Tropic of Capricorn (*Steenbokskeerkring).
Passed: many memorials for people we don’t know. And a big statue of an indigenous hunter.

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The Devils Marbles


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Except for the flies, the stop at the Devils Marbles early in the morning was quite good. After that, apart from a few nice mountain ranges, there was nothing to see on the way down to Alice. There were a lot of signs with “photo suggestions” along the road though, but they disappointed time and time again. There would not be more to see than a stone with some inscription. Not worth much of a picture.
We were very relieved to finally arrive in Alice Springs. We were so hot and tired of being on the road for the best part of six days. Brenda was as well. We had to drive with the blowers at full heat and still we could not go faster than 80 km/h, otherwise the engine would overheat. She did great anyway. We took a bit of a risk taking this old van to drive all the way to the centre of Australia, but so far it’s turning out really well!

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