A Travellerspoint blog

TRAVEL ALERT!!!!! We're on the Road Again!

sunny 100 °F

29 June 2014

One lesson I've learned about traveling is to "never say never". When we returned this past October, we said that we probably would not go back to China in 2014. When the email came, this past February, from last year's group leader we decided we had to reconsider, and yes, we're heading back to China on July 1st.

This year we'll be on very familiar ground. Both Jim and I contacted our teaching partners from 2013 and with a little persuasion, they too, decided to return. We also talked with an old friend of Jim's (Linda L'ai from Peace Corp days) who luckily had just retired from teaching and will be along for the ride.

If you've read my previous blogs, you'll recognize my teaching partner, Brenda, as "one of the usual suspects". The three of us traveled together after class last summer and will do the same this year. Our tentative travel schedule after classes end on July 23rd is: Vietnam, possibly Borneo (to see Orangutans in the jungle), Bali and then "who knows where" are on the menu. Brenda heads home the end of August and Jim and I will make it back to the US early September. The final leg of that trip is still up for discussion - we've got to have some surprises :-).

Life takes us on many different journeys. Some we plan, so we don't. This year has been a journey of the later. I started writing this blog posting on May 5th. On May 6th, my Mom's husband, Bob Huttlinger, passed away, after a long illness. Jim always called him the Timex, which made him smile. We would leave on a trip not knowing what the future would hold. He would decline and then bounce back again and again. This trip leaves Bob in the hands of a higher power enjoying a heavenly round of golf and a glass of really good Scotch. God speed Bob!!

With Bob's passing, life changed, as life has a way of doing. Knowing that we would be traveling again this summer, we wanted to get my Mom settled and comfortable here in Arizona before we left. This was a decision that was not made lightly and had been discussed in length over the past year or so. On May 18th , Jim and I headed south from Redwood City with a small truck carrying most of Mom's possessions which had made the trip from Rochester a short thirteen years earlier. She followed the next week and is currently settling in nicely at an assisted living facility here in Tucson. Though she misses Bob very much, she has made some very nice friends and has rediscovered her love of Bingo.

As we head out in a few days, our first stop will be Shanghai. Hopefully we'll make it to Suzhou on a day trip. Back in 2012, after making it to the train station, I discovered that ID was needed to buy a train ticket - even if it was just a short, one hour, trip - my bad. This year, I won't make the same mistake. On Saturday the 5th, we're taking a train to Wuhan. Weather in Shanghai in July is measured in varying inches of rain. After a five hour delay last year, with rain so hard you could barely see past the glass doors at the airport, we decided to try the train - another adventure.

Thanks to all who have encouraged me to continue with blogging for this trip - hope you enjoy the ride wherever it takes us all!!!

Posted by pjburke 06.29.2014 10:14 Archived in USA Comments (6)

Bali

The final leg of our trip

The view from our balcony at Permana Cottages

The view from our balcony at Permana Cottages

02 – 09 October 2013

Flight out of Darwin was late coming in, so it was late arriving. As planned Mr. Blue or rather Mr. Blue’s beautiful daughter was waiting for us …right up front with Mr. Blue close behind. We were surprised to arrive at the new airport terminal. When we left three weeks prior it really didn’t look anywhere near ready to be open. But…there is always a “but”; Bali was holding the APEC Conference this week. There were signs all over the arrival hall for VIP’s and Diplomats!!! I’m sure they wanted to show off their beautiful new facility even if it was only half ready.

On the one and a half hour ride up to Ubud, we caught up with Blue and talked about our schedule with him for the coming week.

Arriving in Ubud around midnight – it seemed like a sleepy little town which would be very deceiving. We knew that our guesthouse was off Jl. Bisma but were not really sure how to get there. Blue directed us down a gang (alley), around a corner, up some stairs and then down a bricked walk along the rice fields to arrive at Permana Cottages. As tired as I was, I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning to see what our view would be.

I was not disappointed……Soooooooooo beautiful. Coffee waited for us at the table on our balcony and I couldn’t take my eyes off our view.
Path leading to Permana Cottages

Path leading to Permana Cottages

Permana Cottages - from the rice field

Permana Cottages - from the rice field

Rice field view from our balcony

Rice field view from our balcony

View from bed - doesn't get much better!!!

View from bed - doesn't get much better!!!

Our week in Ubud was a quiet one. We checked out some new (to us) restaurants, some on Bisma, some off. We also made our way back to one of two of our favorites: Bubu’s (in Penestanan where we stayed in 2012) and Ibu Oka (which has relocated due to construction) for little trips down memory lane. The food was a good as ever.
Ayam Pangdang BuBu....

Ayam Pangdang BuBu....


Ibu Oka.....ask for the Special

Ibu Oka.....ask for the Special

We definitely indulged (in an economical way) this trip on one of our favorite pleasures….spa treatments. Massages, facial, etc. in Bali are really inexpensive. Really inexpensive!!! The most expensive treatment I had was a 90 minute hot stone massage for 190K Rp ($17USD). It’s hard (for me) not to have something done every day – I settle for every other day. Our “go to” place in Ubud is Putri Bali. Nela and her staff do a wonderful job. I was also able to get a recommendation for a haircut (which was way overdue) after one of our visits. She sent me down the street to Nelly’s – good cut and pretty short but that’s what I wanted. 90K for a cut!!!

Saturday - When we are visiting other countries, one of our goals is to learn more about the culture of the country we are in. The lady at the corner market told us that there would be a cremation ceremony that weekend and that we should see it. The cremation would be on Saturday. We thought that it was being held early afternoon. When we walked the street and saw nothing we thought we had missed it but, back in our room, later that afternoon; we heard some commotion behind our guest house. Unbeknownst to us, the cemetery was just past the rice fields behind Permana.

We walked through the rice fields to observe this interesting ceremony. We found out that the deceased was a young man from the community who had died in an accident in Java. His body was returned for his cremation. The atmosphere was both sad and festive. There were small children with balloons and gamelan players and a large crowd of both locals and tourists.
Family and friends gathers to pay their respects

Family and friends gathers to pay their respects

Community staging the cremation

Community staging the cremation

Festival atmosphere of the cremation ceremony

Festival atmosphere of the cremation ceremony

Cremation Vessel

Cremation Vessel

Sunday – One of the things we really wanted to do that we didn’t (for some reason) when we were Ubud last year, was to take a walk up into the rice fields north of the city. It’s a simple walk along a foot path from Jl Raya, following the signs towards Sari Organic (a local café). Along the path and just past the houses that squeeze along the main road way, the rice fields rise like a velvet green patchwork blanket. As you walk the path, which is paved and then not and then paved again, you pass small cottages, large homes, rice field huts (ponduks) with the sound of rushing water that irrigates the rice fields and squawking ducks splashing in the fields.

There are a number of paths in this area and it was our loss that we had not done this walk before.
Rice fields north of Ubud

Rice fields north of Ubud

Local boys joke with passing tourists

Local boys joke with passing tourists

The rice fields are a sea of butterflies

The rice fields are a sea of butterflies

On Monday, we were off early for a day trip with Mr. Blue. We’re always looking for new places, so we asked him to take us to the north part of Bali. We headed out early and the sky clouded up but the air got significantly cooler. We visited a waterfall, the temple in the lake, the hot springs baths and stopped for some beautiful views along the way. Lunch was along the dark sand beach in Lovina. We especially enjoyed just spending the day with Mr. Blue. We love his sense of humor and always come away with more insight into the Balinese culture.
Near the 200 year old banyan tree a village prepares for Gulungan

Near the 200 year old banyan tree a village prepares for Gulungan

Beautiful rice field in Northern Bali

Beautiful rice field in Northern Bali

View of the mountians in Northern Bali

View of the mountians in Northern Bali

Twin lakes in Northern Bali

Twin lakes in Northern Bali

That night, for dinner, being a little tired, we decided not to venture far for dinner and tried Umah Pizza (on the recommendation of Trip Advisor) which was just across Bisma from our gang. It turned out to be a great choice. We were up for a little western or rather Italian and decided on a garden salad (more than enough for two) and pasta – both our choices hit the spot.

Tuesday – Our last day in Ubud. A bit sad for us. We really like Ubud and our one week seemed to go so quickly.
We started the day back at Putri Bali for massages and ended it with dinner at Ibu Rai.

Regarding Ibu Rai, when we were in Ubud before we thought that it was a bit too expensive but it really isn’t. It’s not the least expensive but definitely not the most and after lunch there earlier in the week – we found the food much to our liking.
App at Ibu Rai - Yummy mini samosas with a tamarind ginger sauce

App at Ibu Rai - Yummy mini samosas with a tamarind ginger sauce

Black Cod with a soy sauce at Ibu Rai

Black Cod with a soy sauce at Ibu Rai

Pandamus dessert with toasted coconut at Ibu Rai - heavenly!!!

Pandamus dessert with toasted coconut at Ibu Rai - heavenly!!!

Enjoying our last night in Ubud

Enjoying our last night in Ubud

My handsome hub!!

My handsome hub!!

Wednesday – our last morning. I spent extra time over breakfast, (I think I forgot to mention- breakfast is included with our 400K per night at Permana. Each morning with our coffee, we were served, on our balcony, fresh fruit, fresh fruit drink, and either a veggie omelet or banana pancake.) I lingered more than usual to take in the beautiful view wishing we had more time to spend in this lovely area.

Posted by pjburke 10.08.2013 19:04 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Kakadu to Darwin

Wrapping up our trip to OZ

sunny 90 °F

29 September 2013

Kakadu

Our last National Park stop in OZ will be Kakadu as we headed north. Compared to our previous drives, this one, at three hours, seemed so short. We arrived at the Cooinda Caravan Park (private but in the park and seemed to be associated with the park) early afternoon. This park was recommended to us but at $49 per night it was ok but not great but the location to Yellow Waters (for billabong tours) is excellent.

We had already booked a morning sunrise tour and when checking in we found that for an additional $25 (a good discount) we could do the sunset tour. Ok…let’s do it. And, we were so glad that we did. Our tour guide, Lionel, a local with 16 years in the business, led us up and down the billabong pointing out crocs and birds and more crocs and more birds. His knowledge of the area and wildlife was extensive and he peppered his info with personal experiences that really brought the area home to us. These tours are really all about the views....I'll let our photos speak for themselves.
Kakadu Billabong

Kakadu Billabong

Female Jabiru with a serpent lunch...notice the yellow eyes

Female Jabiru with a serpent lunch...notice the yellow eyes

Male Jabiru - notice the red eyes

Male Jabiru - notice the red eyes

hmm.. shoes for me or a purse for Patty????

hmm.. shoes for me or a purse for Patty????

Majestic sea eagle

Majestic sea eagle

Billabong sunset

Billabong sunset

30 September 2013

Back to the water for a 0645 sunrise boat tour!! Arriving out on the dock, the mist was settled over the water like a smoky blanket. Our tour this morning again brought to us, the wildlife, as they were starting the day. So many birds: two sea eagles that seemed to be around every turn, a male and female Jabiru and crocs, either on the shore or floating in the water like prehistoric creatures. Again...enjoy the photos!!
Misty reflection

Misty reflection

Mist over the billabong

Mist over the billabong

Lotus Sea

Lotus Sea

Breakfast ready????

Breakfast ready????

Mr and Mrs Sea Eagle

Mr and Mrs Sea Eagle

Peaceful waters

Peaceful waters

Check out the photo gallery for more photos of both sunset and sunrise cruises.

This tour ended with a substantial buffet breakfast. Breakfast was included in our tour but if you had added the tour for $25, the breakfast was an additional $11 (well worth it), otherwise the buffet is normally $25. Remember, it’s Australia!!!

As our trip winded down, it seemed, so did we. The rest of our day consisted of a trip to the other visitor center and into the small town of Jabiru and then home (campervan) for our final campervan dinner of lamb, potatoes and salad…oh and a nice bottle of red wine. Remember...it's Australia.

01 October 2013

We decided that we would head to Darwin for our last night. We really do like this city, it’s comfortable and friendly.

We had lunch at the Victoria Pub – good food – great value ($12 for all lunch meals) and then for dinner, Jim found a sushi place (Go Sushi Train) in the Lonely Planet book that he thought sounded fun and it was. The sushi bar is huge with a conveyer belt of plated sushi running along with each dish being color coded to a specific price. After dinner, we walked along Mitchell Street and found out where everyone hangs out. This is the area of hostels, bars and cafes – wish we had more time in Darwin to check out a few.

2 October 2013

Our last, last day in OZ!! We cleaned up the van, getting it ready to turn in and headed downtown. We had to be out of the park by 10am and the van didn’t need to be back until 3pm and our flight is scheduled for 740pm – so we had some time to kill. A few people told us that the WWII Oil Tunnels was worth taking a look and we did just that. Interesting and a time killer but not something I would go out of my way to do.

For lunch, we decided to try and find the Darwin Sailing Club. We tried, unsuccessfully once before, but this time, maybe being more familiar with the area, were able to locate it. A simple lunch but an awesome view for our farewells to OZ!!!!

From there, it was, drop off campervan, wait for airplane, fly to Bali and a farewell to a country where we saw so much and made a couple of good friends. Can’t ask for more than that!!!!

Our last day in OZ!!!

Our last day in OZ!!!

Posted by pjburke 10.08.2013 18:52 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

OZ....Up and down the NT

The adventure continues...............

sunny 94 °F

17 September 2013

Our last day in Litchfield and the morning was a “housekeeping” morning: breakfast, laundry and website updating. Unfortunately, as you already know, the internet was too slow to download photos. With our chores done, we decided to drive into Bachelor (the small town close by) to get some mozzie (mosquito) coils and gas up for our trip to Tennant Creek. Really not much to Batchelor but it was very neat (not as in “cool” but as in tidy) town.

After lunch, we were off to Florence Falls, reported to be a nice swimming spot. While driving over we noticed two animals crossing the road. OMG!!!!! Kangaroos!!! One crossed and then the other followed leaving us awestruck. We didn’t think there were roos in this part of OZ but these guys were way too big to be wallabies. Now, that was neat!!!
Florence Falls

Florence Falls

Florence Falls and an unknown swimmer...ok ...it's Jim!

Florence Falls and an unknown swimmer...ok ...it's Jim!

18 September 2013

Road Trip… 1st stop Tennant Creek

The route to Alice Springs and then on to Uluru is pretty much a straight shot south from Darwin, on the Stuart Highway. Not to be confused with a highway anywhere else we’ve been, this is a two lane road: one lane going north and the other going south….for miles and miles and miles, with not much in between gasoline stops. There really were not many other cars to speak of, expect for the occasional “Road Train”. The current version of a “Road Train”, I have come to learn is actually a tamed down version from years ago – before regulations. Imagine attaching three (and sometimes four) trailers behind the tractor portion and off you go…down a two lane road that reminded me of Peck Road (for my Rochester readers) or maybe the road from Saddlebrooke to Florence (for my AZ readers) with the occasional “overtake” lane. Over take lanes are two lanes in one direction (slower vehicles stay to the left and if you want – this is the time to pass). Just north of Katherine, it got to a point where even those ceased to exist. I found the first time I passed a Road Train, a bit scary. You have to make sure you have at least 1 km clear in the other direction and then it’s “pedal to the metal”. After our first day on the road, I felt like a pro. The other interesting fact about the Stuart Highway is that it’s “the” main road from Adelaide to Darwin, yes, with two lanes and virtually no traffic. For miles and miles, we would see no other cars, only the occasional dead cow along the side of the road and also an assortment of vultures lunching of dead critters which scatter for approaching vehicles. All and all, a unique OZ experience!!

19 September 2013

Alice Springs

After the long drive from Litchfield, the ride into “the Alice” was a breeze. We stopped at the Britz Campervan Shop to have an interior light repaired and got a line on a good campground from the mechanic (he lives there). Off to G’day Mate Caravan Park - small but very clean and friendly.
Once again we took advantage of the Tourist Information Center and got info on Alice for our return visit. (I can’t stress enough: use the local Tourist Info Center, especially in Australia and New Zealand. They are so friendly and provide great info.)

20 September 2013

Uluru

Up early and off to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). I was always under the impression that Ayers Rock was in Alice but that is not the case; it’s a 5-6 hour drive into the National Park- straight south on the Stuart Highway for about 2 ½ hours – take a right and drive another 2 ½ hours – can’t miss it.
The only place to stay is Ayers Rock Resort. There are hotels, a campground, gas station, small grocery store, some restaurants….and that’s about it. At $41 per night – per campsite for two people – it was a little more than we usually pay but it’s the only game in town. Initially, we were assigned to a site with not much (ok, no) shade but we were able to switch to the site next to ours with a small but useful tree.
Ayers Rock Campgrounds - trying to find a little shade

Ayers Rock Campgrounds - trying to find a little shade

The resort is about 5km outside the actual park. We made our first visit in for sunset but not before paying the $25 per person (for three days) park fee. We drove to Talinguru Nyakunytjakuon the suggestion of a woman at the Cultural Center. It was a nice view with very few people. More people go to this location for sunrise, but since we had a few days we knew we would be able to check out a few different sites.
Kata Tjuta Sunset

Kata Tjuta Sunset

When we bought out passes, we were advised that there is an extreme weather advisory for the next three to four days with the heat to exceed 36 degrees – just like home but with no A/C.

21 September 2013

Up early (about 0515), for sunrise, to hike the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta. There are two main areas in the National Park – the most famous being Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the second, which is quite well known in OZ, Kata Tjuta and the Ochres. The Valley of the Winds hike is a 7.5km hike with a fair amount of climbing and rocky paths. We arrived just about 0645 to see the sun peeking through the rocks. For most of the hike, we only saw one other couple. Arriving back at the first view point, we were greeted by people who were arriving by the bus loads. Some, it seemed, would do just a short hike in to that viewing point while others were venturing on. With the searing sun beating down from the cloudless sky, we were glad that we’d made the effort for an early start.
Kata Tjuta - Valley of the Winds

Kata Tjuta - Valley of the Winds

Sunrise hike at Kata Tjuta - fly net is such a fashion statement

Sunrise hike at Kata Tjuta - fly net is such a fashion statement

Valley of the Winds hike at sunrise

Valley of the Winds hike at sunrise

We had a lazy afternoon trying to stay out of the sun and catch the breezes to keep cool.

One other thing about the area which we were not aware: FLYS!!!! During the day – they are ever present. So much so that we bought fly screens to cover our heads. Though not fashion statements, they made hiking much more fun, not having to constantly swat the flies which seemed to head towards our eyes and ears like little dive bombers.

We decided to splurge for dinner that night at the park sponsored Sounds of Silence dinner. We were picked up just outside the campground and taken to a viewing platform for sunset, canapés and champagne (or beer, soda or wine) all accompanied by a fabulous didgeridoo player. After sunset, we were led to our private dining area for buffet dinner (wine and beer included), aboriginal dance demonstration, dessert and a talk about the stars and the night sky. This was all by candlelight and the food was very good. I tried roo (yes, kanga..roo) for the first time and quite liked it.
At the beginning of the night, on our way to meet that bus, there was another couple walking out and we introduced ourselves to Gail and Bob. What a lucky chance meeting. We ended up spending the whole night chatting and laughing along with Helen (a single young lady who we adopted into our group). We had a wonderful night – come to find out there caravan was just across the road from our site.
Jim and Bob

Jim and Bob

Sounds of Silence dinner - Helen, Bob, Gail and Patty

Sounds of Silence dinner - Helen, Bob, Gail and Patty


As we all stumbled back at the end of the night, we talked about meeting up again the next day. Gail and Bob were a go but unfortunately Helen was going to be on her way to new adventures in the am.

22 September 2013

Uluru - Base Hike

No sunset this morning just some good, well needed sleep but we did make it over to Uluru mid-morning to do the base walk. It a 10.6km walk/hike around the base of the rock which took us about 2 ½ hours. Not much shade while doing the walk but just enough breeze to make it bearable. Towards the end of the walk, the wind really kicked up and by the time we got back to the campground our chairs were in a bit of a disarray. (Note: as you might see in the photos- Uluru is not just a round rock - it has many dips, crevices and curves which adds to it's incredible beauty)
Ulura - along the base hike

Ulura - along the base hike

Jim along the Ulura base hike

Jim along the Ulura base hike

While we were enjoying our afternoon siesta, Gail and Bob stopped over and invited us over for wine and cheese. Again we talked and talked getting to know our new found friends.

We invited them to the US but Bob doesn’t fly but who knows maybe we will make it to OZ again. It was hugs and more hugs before having to say goodbye….
Sunrise at Uluru

Sunrise at Uluru

A little different view

A little different view

23 September 2013

Alice

Up early – again for sunrise, back to Talinguru Nyakunytjakuon and this time there were many people enjoying the views. With the sun up and almost everyone gone, Jim and I enjoyed our breakfast in the parking lot in full view of Uluru. It was a nice way to end this portion of our trip before heading back to Alice.
Sunrise Uluru

Sunrise Uluru

Back to G’day Mate, where we’ve decided to stay for the next two days, before again, heading north.

First things first, when we got to G’day Mate, everything came out of the van for a dust off. It so needed it!!!

We chilled out for the evening – lovely dinner in of lamb, pasta, and salad. We also talked with the family that was parked next to us: David, Jane, Zilcomo and Rose. They are Aussies who rented out their home for a year and are traveling around OZ. With the children just being 5yoa and 4 yoa – it was their decision to embark on this adventure before school became an issue.
Rose

Rose


Zilcomo

Zilcomo

24 September 2013

Though it isn’t too big, we spent some time walking around Alice. Upon a recommendation from the Tourist Office, we visited the National Pioneer Women’s Museum. I can’t imagine what it was like in the late 1800, early 1900’s in this area. The weather is similar to AZ but the environment is very harsh – these were very courageous women.

After dinner, we said our good byes to our neighbors and wished them luck!!!

25 September 2013

Daly Waters

Long, long drive today!! Up at 0530 and on the road by 0630 with Daly Waters as our projected destination. We had stopped on our way down and it seemed like a funky little place to be able to spend the night, so we set out to make it there from Alice.
Daly Waters Pub

Daly Waters Pub

Daly Waters

Daly Waters

We arrived earlier that we thought we would and got a nice little site under a large tree.

The Daly Waters Caravan Park also has a small pool to cool off. I was in the pool when Jim came over informing me that a bus had just pulled in and they were parked right beside us. Oh my! It seems that we decided to travel during school holidays. Each state’s school holidays differ just a bit and it’s also not unusual for high school or college (which is a private high school) to offer school trips during these holidays. This group was on a 13 day holiday from Melbourne but we’d also run into other groups from different area, one in Alice Springs (really well behaved) and three groups (different schools) in Ayers Rocks – they were a little on the rowdy side. This group in Daly Waters, thankfully, was a nice group of kids.

The Daly Waters Pub / Caravan Park is a bit gritty but very friendly. Each night at the Pub along with their regular menu they do a Barra (barramundi) and Beef BBQ. For $28, gets you, all Barra or all Beef or ½ and ½ - plus a salad bar with different types of salads and bread. It was excellent and more food than I could eat – Jim got a little extra of my Barra and Beef.
Beef and Barra from Daly Waters Pub

Beef and Barra from Daly Waters Pub

26 September 2013

Katherine

Off again and it was about 3 hours into Katherine from Daly Waters where we landed at the Sandy Lane Tourist Park. This is a really nice place, just outside of town, on the road to Katherine Gorge with friendly owners and really clean facilities. We decided to have dinner in the camp kitchen and chatted with two older Aussie couples and Germans traveling together. We had a nice evening.

27 and 28 September 2013

Quiet, HOT day!! Off to check out the Katherine History Museum and then into Nitmiluk National Park for a sunset dinner cruise in Katherine Gorge.
The gorge is small (when you compare it to the Grand Canyon) but very beautiful and a sacred place to the local people. For dinner we had a choice of Barramundi topped with a prawn or steak – we both chose the Barra.

The cruise started on one boat where we went upstream, off loaded and walked a short ways to another boat for the next upper gorge. It’s the end of the dry season right now and the rivers (everywhere) are very low. When we finished the second gorge tour, we were brought back and our dinner boat had arrived to pick us up. We were greeted with lovely rose sparkling wine with a deep pink edible flower floating inside and a yummy starter of cheeses, salmon, olives etc. The cruise back was leisurely with the back drop of the rocks reflecting the orange and pink sunset.
Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

Croc trails along Katherine Gorge

Croc trails along Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge

Sunset over Katherine Gorge

Sunset over Katherine Gorge

29 September 2013

Kakadu

Our last National Park stop in OZ will be Kakadu and we headed north. Compared to our previous drives, this one, at three hours, seemed so short. We arrived at the Cooinda Caravan Park (private but in the park and seemed to be associated with the park). This park was recommended to us but at $49 per night it was ok but not great but the location to Yellow Waters (for billabong tours) is excellent.

We had already booked a morning sunrise tour and when checking in we found that for an additional $25 (a good discount) we could do the sunset tour. Ok…let’s do it. And, we were so glad that we did. Our tour guide, Lionel, a local with 16 years in the business, led us up and down the billabong pointing out crocs and birds and more crocs and more birds. His knowledge of the area and wildlife was extensive and he peppered his info with personal experiences that really brought the area home to us.

30 September 2013

Back to the water for a 0645 sunrise boat tour!! Arriving out on the dock, the mist was settled over the water like a smoky blanket. Our tour this morning again brought to us, the wildlife, as they were also starting the day. So many birds: two sea eagles that seemed to be around every turn, a male and female Jabiru and crocs, either on the shore or floating in the water like prehistoric creatures.

This tour ended with a substantial buffet breakfast. Breakfast was included in our tour but if you had added the tour for $25, the breakfast as an additional $11 (well worth it), otherwise the buffet is normally $25. Remember, it’s Australia!!!

As our trip winds down, it seems, so do we. The rest of our day consisted of a trip to the other visitor center and into the small town of Jabiru and then home (campervan) for our final campervan dinner of lamb, potatoes and salad…oh and a nice bottle of red wine.

01 October 2013

We decided that we would head to Darwin for our last night. We really do like this city, it’s comfortable and friendly.

We had lunch at the Victoria Pub – good food – great value ($12 for all lunch meals) and then for dinner, Jim found a sushi place (Go Sushi Train) in the Lonely Planet book that he thought sounded fun and it was. The sushi bar is huge with a conveyer of plated sushi running along with each dish being color coded to a specific price. After dinner, we walked along Mitchell Street and found out where everyone hangs out. This is the area of hostels, bars and cafes – wish we had more time in Darwin to check out a few.

2 October 2013

Our last, last day in OZ!! We cleaned up the van, getting it ready to turn in and headed downtown. We had to be out of the park by 10am and the van didn’t need to be back until 3pm and our flight is scheduled for 740pm – so we had some time to kill. A few people told us that the WWII Oil Tunnels was worth taking a look and we did just that. Interesting and a time killer but not something I would go out of my way to do.

For lunch, we decided to try and find the Darwin Sailing Club. We tried, unsuccessfully, once before but this time, maybe being more familiar with the area, were able to locate it. A simple lunch but an awesome view for our farewells to OZ!!!!

From there, it was, drop off campervan, wait for airplane, fly to Bali and a farewell to a country where we saw so much and made a couple of good friends. Can’t ask for more than that!!!!

Posted by pjburke 10.08.2013 02:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia

Northern Territory

sunny 89 °F

Photos added 06 Oct 2013

11 September 2013 – continued

We’re off again!! The five minute complimentary transport to the airport got us there in plenty of time. Check in with Air Asia was easy,$15 departure fee, immigration and then a quick stop at Duty Free- we’re headed to Australia.

We were told that alcohol in AU is very expensive. Ok, we’ve been told that EVERYTHING in AU is expensive but there were great deals at the Duty Free in Bali. From our experience this trip, the best DF in Bali airport is the first shop, on the left, after you leave immigration. The prices were really good to begin with and there was a sale of 40% off if you bought two of selected items.

Off to our gate… At the Bali airport, your bags are scanned once, going in and then a 2nd time going into the waiting area which means once you’re inside and you want to buy a bottle of water for the plane, you cannot. Duty Free is different- they deliver it to you once you’re inside the gate.

Note: Bali’s Denpasar Airport is under construction – it should be stunning once it’s completed.

Our plane was about 30 minutes late coming in and then again leaving but the flight was a smooth 2 ½ hour ride.

Darwin has a fairly small airport and Immigration had a long line but the process was a breeze. I had applied on line for our E-Visas and we got in…so I guess it worked.

As usual, pick up bags and then customs: AU is very strict about what you can and cannot bring into the country. Jim was afraid that some of the tea he had been carrying since China and Thailand was going to be confiscated but luck was with us and those items passed. The only thing that was confiscated was some Kaffir lime leaves. The customs agent apologized up and down for having to take them. No Worries!!

Out to get a cab…not so easy in Darwin. Any other country we’ve been in, people are fighting (figuratively, maybe) for your business. Outside the airport in Darwin, there is a cab stand and about every 5 minutes or so, a cab pulls up. We had to wait about 20 minutes for our turn and fortunately the driver knew right where to go. Another 15 minutes and $30 later (Dorothy – we’re not in Kansas or Asia any more) we arrived at Discovery Travel Caravan Park. It was after hours, but thanks to the direct phone line outside the registration office, we were directed to the locked box with our keys and directions to our Studio Cabin – our accommodations for our first night. I had no idea what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised. The building was a beige metal box with a small outside patio. Inside there are two single beds, a small couch, small table for two and a basic kitchen. Just off the kitchen is a good sized bathroom and a shower with great water pressure. The cabin is very clean and compact with all the basic essential tools.

Our first night in OZ - little cabin at Discovery Caravan Park

Our first night in OZ - little cabin at Discovery Caravan Park

Another photo of cabin

Another photo of cabin


12 September 2013

The campervan rental site was a few miles away from Discovery and our plan was to grab a bus. Kim (a guy Jim met in the camp office) offered to drive us over to pick up our van and Vicki (one of the owners) – let us leave our bags at the registration desk. Since we really weren’t checking out – just moving – we didn’t have to wait until 2pm to check back in.

For the campervan, we had done the on line check in, so picking up the van was easy peasy. As I finished up the paper work, Jim foraged through left over items from other campers, for our kitchen and picked up a fair amount of goodies, I.e.: olive oil, olives, anchovies, clothes detergent, spices, etc.

This van is a little different from the one we had in NZ. First of all, it’s much newer and it has a pop-up top. The jury is out as to how that is going to work for us. There is not as much storage space and the frig is smaller but this model has a microwave and much more counter space. I think, maybe, we got an upgrade. Mentally, I had prepared myself to drive on the left side with a manual transmission and much to my surprise our van is an automatic – I hope you can see the HUGE smile on my face.

Off to the grocery store (there are two major grocery stores in Darwin: Woolworths and Coles). In many ways, Australia is definitely more expensive than the US but most grocery items were similar in price. We actually found some really good specials, picked up a SIM for our cell (we were told that Telstra has the best coverage for this area) and by 11ish we were back to the campground to find our spot and get the van sorted out, which left us with a free afternoon to explore Darwin.

Our campground is in Winnellie, which is a small suburb not far from Darwin proper. A ten minute drive brought us to the Esplanade where we parted and walked along the beautiful water front park area. Darwin’s Info center is right downtown and a lovely Aussie lady gave up heaps of info about things to do, not only in Darwin, but also for our whole trip. From there, we walked to the Waterfront and enjoyed a cold beer at Finnegan’s Green before heading to Mindil Beach for their Thursday Night Market. The market, which is held every Thursday and Sunday, had been recommended for its vast variety of different foods and its splendid sunsets.

Mindil Beach Market ....before the crowds

Mindil Beach Market ....before the crowds

The Market opens at 5pm and runs to 10pm. We arrived a bit early: some food stands were already set up and we watched as others brought out their luscious delicacies. One man was making the largest paella I’d ever seen. It wasn’t ready when we walked by and I totally forgot to go back …..booo!

Paella King

Paella King

Jim couldn’t resist the fresh oysters and there was some salt and pepper squid that I couldn’t walk by twice. We had our choice of just about any food you could wish for: Indonesian, Chinese, Italian, paella, Vietnamese, fresh fruit smoothies, seafood (raw and cooked), Sri Lankan, to name those that I can remember. Also, there are merchants selling their wares: clothing, croc stuff, soaps, jewelry, art work, massage and my favorite, Slappas – aka flip flops, which I currently own a new coral red pair.

Salt and Pepper Squid...yummmm

Salt and Pepper Squid...yummmm

Jim's Favorites

Jim's Favorites

Jim Slurpin' Oysters

Jim Slurpin' Oysters


The splendid sunset was just perfect for our first full day in Darwin.

Sunset at Mindil Beach

Sunset at Mindil Beach

13 September 2013

We spent the day touring cultural highlights of Darwin. Prior to arriving here, I had no idea about Darwin’s history but their War Museum enlightened me. During WWII, Darwin became a positioning point for some of US Troops, specifically the USS Peary. On Feb 19th, 1942, Japanese planes bombed Darwin, destroying a good portion of it and also sinking many ships that were positioned just off land, including the USS Peary. Approximately 250 died that day, with 91 being Americans. That day was essentially Australia’s version of our Pearl Harbor and was the only place to be bombed during WWII. Australian troops were deployed in the Korean War and Vietnam and there was information regarding both.

Our next stop would be the Darwin Art Museum but not before lunch at Darwin Ski Club which is right across the street.

The Ski (waterski) Club is a private club but is very welcoming to visitors. Lunch, a Beef Pie for me and Fish and Chips for Jim were tasty as we stay waterfront and enjoyed the view of Fannie Bay. We were confused though how they ski with salt water crocs and box jelly fish in the water..we were told...just don't fall!!! (Thinking of the Maitlands while we were there)

Darwin Ski Club

Darwin Ski Club

The Darwin Museum is fairly new and gave a compact view of the NT (Northern Territory). There are art exhibitions, some wild life/sea life displays and one of the largest displays is information regarding Cyclone Tracy, which in 1974, tried to do what the bombings in WWII had started. After WWII, Darwin rebuilt but on Christmas Eve 1974, Tracy blew into town and by the time she was done over 70% of the buildings in Darwin were damaged…..300 people died.

Being the ever resilient Aussies, Darwin rebuilt.again. Yes, like many places in the world, when natural disasters strike, new guidelines for building are then put into place. Today, Darwin is a “new” city. It’s very modern but with that “Aussie” twist. Frankly, we quite like Darwin!!

Darwin Waterfront

Darwin Waterfront


14 September 2013

Up early and it’s off to Parap Market. Similar in some aspects to Mindil Beach Market (some of the same food venders and merchants) but more fresh produce. Yes, if I lived here, Parap would be on my list of “to dos” every Saturday am.

Back to the campground to sort out our purchases and get ready to take off on Sunday.

A sunset cruise on Darwin harbor would complete our time here but with evenings being pretty warm (and humid) we decided to stop by the Might/Britz Campervan office to see if they might have a fan. Yes, they did and we also picked up a small eskie (cooler) from the left over table.
This day had been one of mishaps for me: I pour ice cold water all down the front of me – being the highlight...until we got to the boat. I grabbed a bag that I thought had water and wine in it….no, it had the vegetables from the am market. We got on the boat, Jim went to get the wine out to put it in the eskie (new word for us) and all he came up with was eggplant. No questions, I picked up the bag and walked back to the van to retrieve the wine – my thoughts being, maybe a boat was not where I was supposed to be that evening.

We did have a lovely time on the cruise though. We chatted with Vanessa and Owen from Darwin and Anna and Robb from Perth. The weather was lovely and the sunset beautiful.

Sunset cruise off Darwin

Sunset cruise off Darwin

15 September 2013

Good bye Darwin and we headed to Litchfield National Park, about a 115km drive from Darwin. It was easy to find our campground (Litchfield Tourist Park), decided which site we wanted and made our way to the Termite Mounds site. I can’t say that I was too excited about termite mounds but they are a bit interesting, in a weird sort of way. There are two types of termites: magnetic and cathedral and they build their mounds – which can reach about 12 feet tall. Viewing them in their environment, they look like headstones and the one area where there are many – looks like a cemetery.

Termite Mount in Litchfield National Park

Termite Mount in Litchfield National Park

After that exciting outing…it was back for a swim, where we talked with a couple from Darwin for a bit. You never know when a short conversation might just alter your course.

Our original plans didn’t include a trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock) but I guess (again) our plans have changed. When we leave Litchfield that is where we’re headed. The woman we spoke to in the pool told us if we didn’t go it would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Her boyfriend just rolled his eyes but… Makes sense to us!!! Time to get the maps out again.

16 September 2013

Today is a touring day. We’re out early and make our way to Walker Creek for a hike (about 4k).There are swimming areas along the trail but we opted to wait a bit. Our next stop was going to be at Cascades but it was approaching mid-day and seemed a little too hot so we went to Wangi Falls for a swim . All the brochures put Wangi as a highlight for swimming and they were right. Two waterfalls there flow (in varying degrees) all year round. The water is very refreshing and a swim to the waterfalls was our “little” workout for the am. On nice thing about the campervan is having everything with you. We opted to stay for a picnic lunch and then a quick stop at Tolmer Falls (no swimming there).
It was then back to LTP where we had the pool to ourselves.

On Sunday, we pretty much had the whole campground to ourselves but today cars and campers arrive at a steady rate but still nowhere near full. September seems to be a nice time to travel in the NT.

Over dinner, we again readjust our plans for the next two weeks. As it stands right now, which is always subject to change, we’ll do “housework” tomorrow (internet which is not free, laundry) and see what the lovely town of Batchelor has to offer and then on Wednesday take off for Tennant Creek which is a little more than half way to Alice Springs.

Posted by pjburke 09.16.2013 18:45 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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