Stunning Pilbara, Western Australia, welding and a snake!

… Meeting one of the most venomous snakes of Australia: King Brown/Mulga and Sascha became finally a welder himself

Heading direction Port Hedland we turned after about 450km into a gravel road to cape Keraudren at the sea side. Already on the way we saw several kangaroos and when we reached the coast with a fresh breeze we saw them all around in the dawn. We had a walk along the wonderful beach cliffs at low tide and after tea (this is how they call dinner over here) we were watching the amazing stars while listening to the waves. With the sunrise we explored the cape, observing the kangaroos and birds and as well a sea turtle. It was already noon when we left…

Port Hedland is an industrial city and we only went shopping and taking fuel to continue the road inland direction Karijini National Park. With the dawn we were looking for a place to stay and we found a nice place in the bush close to the highway where we settled for the night. Early next morning we reached the roadhouse to fill up the last time fuel and water before entering the park. We stayed at the Dale Camping from where we could hike the whole day long. The Dale Gorge is just spectacular! We had several swim; at the waterfall, at the fern pool and after a hike through the gorge at the circular pool once again. While hiking through the gorge we met one of the most venomous snakes of Australia: The King Brown/Mulga (The mulga is the heaviest venomous snake in Australia and has the largest-recorded venom output of any in the world – delivering 150mg in one bite;) which was just half a meter in front of us. Of course we did not know that at this time but we showed respect anyhow, stepped back and let her go her way. Nevertheless we were a little bit shocked when we showed the photo to the ranger and got known what we met. “Death within 2 hours if not treated immediately”. So once again a lucky day…

When we were packing the bike to explore more of these beautiful gorges… guess what we saw! Yep, once more a broken part of the pannier holder!!! Luckily a ranger just passed by and he said we could come to their workshop which is close by. We went there and another ranger, Brandon, was already waiting for us. He gave a short lesson on welding to Sascha and after a few samples Sascha did his first “master piece” on his own ;-) We filled up all our water bottles and left direction Hancock Gorges. This dirt road was full of corrugations and therefor the best check for Sascha’s first welding part… and it exceeded expectations! When we arrived we changed clothes and started climbing down the gorges… and this one was just striking, breathtaking!!! We would say it is the most impressing place we have seen so far in Australia!

After climbing back up we met Phil and Sue on their Suzuki V-Strom. Phil could tell us a nice place around the corner for the next night stay and probably we will meet them again when we are around Perth. Putting up the tent up on a hill with a great view we recognized dark clouds at the horizon but we were not really worried about them. The next morning we woke up with raindrops and a real strong and chilly wind. We packed everything fast together; Kerstin had even to abstain from her morning coffee and we drove direction Tom Price fighting against the strong side wind. At the fuel station in Tom Price we called Annie and Wayne. We got their number from Max and Fleur in Broome, they are cousins. When we reached Annie she immediately said of course we can stay with them and explained the way to their house. We were warmly welcomed by them and their son Mitchel and got served a hot coffee to warm up our selves. We put up the tent in the garden and Wayne did a nice tour with us up to the view point of Mt Nameless. From there we had a stunning view all around and as well to the mine site of Rio Tinto and we got all the interesting details from Wayne as he is working for them. Wayne is catching snakes if they come close to anybody’s house and we could have a real close look at some pythons at their neighbors’ house and we got an interesting lesson about all the different snake species and what to do in case of…. In the evening we had a “Barbie” together and a few glasses of wine. The next day we could do our laundry, having a bike check, giving a major cleaning to our kitchen equipment and Wayne helped us to strengthen the pannier holder with welding additional bars to it. It is already now at least one kg more than we started the trip ;)

Today is our last day in Tom Price with Annie, Wayne and Mitchel and we really enjoyed staying with these lovely family! Thank you so much again for everything!!!

And finally we took the chance to work on an update for you… Enjoy ;-)

Australia is giving us a challenging start

We thought we will have no real challenges entering a “civilized country” where everything is available again… IT ALWAYS COMES DIFFERENT THAN YOU EXPECT! One thing which is rarely accessible is internet – and if so it is very slow and/or expensive… We hope nobody worried too much in between; we are doing well even though we have to get used to this looooong distances and straight streets over here. This means carrying a lot of water and food, so sometimes we are really heavy and this is challenging on the dirt roads with corrosions and deep sand. We always met people on the road supporting us with water, fire wood, and a place to stay or even with a cold beer or food… We are very thankful for that every time!

I. Two weeks in Darwin before we got our “big lady” – First destination: Kakadu National Park

Incredible two weeks we had to wait until we got our bike out of the shipping yard! The container got lost in the system… Perkins/Toll was not really interested to solve “our” problem and did not communicate anything except when we were chasing them. We spent heaps of money to find out where the problem is, troubleshooting between Toll and Customs and postponing again and again the appointment with the Quarantine Inspection Department. We were just lucky that we could stay all the time in Chris`s place in Palmerston!!! It is a “crazy house” ;-) but lovely and we enjoyed meeting all this different characters and had some amusing days together – cooking, fishing, sightseeing, chatting… Thank you all again for this good time!

Exactly two weeks after our arrival in Australia we finally got out our “Big Lady”! Hurray!!! Unfortunately the Toll guys told us the bike was dropped in the container… One of the panniers was deformed pretty much but except from that it looked ok. What to do? It is hard to say who dropped it in the end… and we were happy to have it back finally.

On the way back to Palmerston we had a stop at the shop where we bought our new rear tire, to change the oil filter and the oil. That was done fast and we were happy to go back and pack our things… Suddenly something was feeling wrong driving on the highway: A flat rear tire!!! On the first meters in Australia and after 36000 km our first flat tire! Australia was not really welcoming us in the nicest way… A motorcycle driver, Bones, stopped next to us on the highway offering his help. We took out our tire pilot which we were carrying the last 11 month. It was not working anymore… probably too old. Kerstin walked over to the next petrol station to get a new one. Meanwhile Sascha and Bones came over to the gas station with the bike but the new pilot was not working as well… grrrr! What to do? We had the new tire home and even a spare tube with us inside the panniers. Bones offered immediately to take Kerstin to Chris` place to pick up the new tire. Said and done – Perfect! Another helping hand named Tony from Humpty Doo joined and in the end we changed the tube and fitted the new tire within a matter of minutes. Now it was time to get some vine and celebrate!

The next day we started to sort and repack all our gears… Remember they dropped our bike: the pannier holder was broken. Luckily a friend of Chris, Trevor, had a welder. In the late afternoon we went there and he was able to fix it. After that we were invited for a vine and we could listen to the exciting experiences Trevor and his wife had travelling and working in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Now it was really time to leave! Our first destination we chose was Kakadu National Park. Late afternoon we arrived at a little nature campsite north of Jabiru, called Merl. We had the opportunity to listen to a slight show presentation by the ranger about the crocodiles which live close by; they differ between “freshi” and the “salti” but anyhow we are not so keen to meet one of them. The next morning we got fresh food supply from our leaving neighbors: A melon, veggies, eggs, ham, etc. which upgraded our meals enormously. We explored the walking trails, were heading for the sunset to the lookout at Ubirr and after dinner at our fireplace we could watch a 3 meter Tree Python in front of the toilets – wow! We got a first taste of the wilderness of Australia.  On the way we were passing thousands of termite hills along the road. To reach the Gunlom National Park we turned into a gravel road when we suddenly recognized that the right pannier is loose – the pannier holder was broken once again (must be the 15th time…)! We fixed it as usually with our transport stripes which we usually use in this situation. Later we reached a beautiful place at the bottom of a waterfall where we went immediately for a swim. And the next morning we climbed the top of it with the sunrise to swim in one of the cool pools up on the mountain where we had a gorgeous view over the plains.

II. Welding service in Kathrine, Kerstin`s Birthday and two different reunions with old friends!

On the way direction south we asked in a little town on the way for somebody who could weld our pannier holder… Next possibility for that was Kathrine they told us, some 100KMs down the road. Finally reaching Kathrine we found the “Cannings Welding” shop owned by Brian. We agreed to come back after setting our tent at the campsite and taking of the gears. When we arrived back at Brians place and took off the panniers we recognized that the pannier holder is broken as well. Brian fixed both within minutes and instead of paying him we got invited to a couple of cold beers while we had a nice chat together with his son and his brother. He offered us to stay in the back of his yard and we could use the toilet and shower of the workshop. WOW how cool was that! Next morning we moved in. Additional Brian welded a big plate under the side stand. A great improvement which makes it so much easier to park the bike even in loose or deep sand – and Kerstin does not need running around anymore to find a stone or anything to put under the stand.

We still need to get used to this big endless roads over here. It makes you easily tired. Along the highway there are everywhere rest areas where you can stay for free. Usually they have toilets and barbecue areas and sometimes well water. In one of these places we met Philippe and Ana with their four small kids; a French family having a “”. We exchanged our experiences at the fireplace while we got served with ice cold beer. To us it was really impressive that they are travelling for two years with 4 little kids – and everybody seemed to enjoy the trip a lot!

The next day was Kerstin`s Birthday… Without knowing it the French kids served us with a tablet with coffee and A CHOCOLAT in the morning!!! How great was that: Happy Birthday!!!

Our last stop in the Northern Territory was a little nature park just at the border to Western Australia, Keep River. On the way we tried to get wine for the birthday evening but in this region they were not selling any alcohol. Hmmm… what to do! It is a lovely place with a beautiful walking track through the rocks which we enjoyed for the sunset. Our lovely camp neighbors, Phil and Sonja from Tasmania, supplied us with water and invited us for a beer and when they got known that it is Kerstin`s Birthday they handed us over a big piece of cake – YUMMY! Now the day felt really like a BIRTHDAY ;-)

We crossed over to WA and as we heard from many people we should not miss our next destination: El Questro, on the Gibb River Road. To get there we had some river crossings which were quite challenging – they were long and full of big slippery stones but Sascha drove through all of them without much of a problem.  From our point of view El Questro is a bit overrated and overprized. But nevertheless we enjoyed the beautiful Emma Gorge and the drive into the sunset. And again we had been very lucky with our camp neighbors, Jim and Barbara, with whom we spend the first evening accompanied by red wine, the second evening our other neighbors dropped us a bottle of red vine. When you are travelling with a car or a camper van it is much easier to carry “additional” drinks. ;)

The Great Northern Highway towards Broome is very loooooooong, mostly straight and sometimes endless… We passed several Boa trees, dead kangaroos and bulls getting eaten by huge eagles, burned landscapes and sandstone formations. At petrol stations and roadhouses we refilled our water bottles and we stayed the nights together with helpful camp neighbors, like Julie and Gary. And as well thank you for all the beer it was a great night!

In Broome we checked in at the cheapest camping. We hoped to get somewhere internet connection and to get information where our old friends, Chantal and Patrick, who we met before in Cambodia and Thailand are at the moment. We managed our laundry, took some hot showers and gave up with the incredible slow internet at McDo. When Sascha was waiting in the front of the supermarket he recognized two people on their pushbikes, one with long red hair, about 300 meter far away: He jumped on the bike and truly: Chantal and Patrick!!! We met the next morning for breakfast at the beach, spend dinner together at their couch surfing or WarmShower host, Max and family, and were chatting chatting chatting ;-) So lovely to meet them again!!!

For us it was time to relax a couple of days at the sea site. We left to the northern part of the Broome peninsula, Quondong Beach. The last 20 km were horrible red loose sand. As we were carrying food and as much water as possible we were really heavy and swimming along the sand road. When we finally reached the beach we jumped of the bike to look for a place to stay suddenly Philippe, from the French family came running towards us. He was staying here already some days together with their friends, Bez, Steve and their daughter Nina. As a welcome we got an ice cold beer and we spend a lovely night all together at the fireplace on the beach. They left the next morning, we felt a bit lonely suddenly… we spend the day fishing (again without success), writing the update in the shade, swimming, walking along the beach… and we are sure we will meet them again one day. And when we meet them again they do not have to worry about beer, food or anything else because than it is our time to give a revenge ;)

Yes, the next day ;-) When we came back to Broome we saw the campervan of Philippe`s family on the street again. They were just going to meet with Steve and Bez before leaving for brunch at the beach front… here we all go again! As well we met again Chantal and Patrick and we arranged to meet for a full moon-dinner at the beach. We love our “travel family”. Still we are struggling to finish our update especially it is not easy to find a place with internet connection even though we are in a city… But we are hoping to finish it today and continuing tomorrow direction south… if the road is open again. Yesterday we heard that the road is closed because of a giant bush fire which went out of control… so we have to find out about that as well today.

So that’s it… going off to an internet café to update the blog and upload all the pictures… We hope you are all fine out there and enjoy your time just like we do!

Cheers Mate ;)