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Down UnderFlashpacker

On 30 June 2004 from Perth, WA | comments closed

Flashpacker, that is the term I have been dubbed by Lisan, a Dutch girl in my home away from home: 12.01 East. After this week I have stayed more than 4 weeks in total at this one hostel/backpackers. For good reasons though: the owners are very social, and you get to know everyone who is staying there, since most people stay for at least a few weeks. Also, getting a triple room for A$90 (= 56 euro) a week cannot be beaten.

But I was dubbed a flashpacker because I temporarily had a laptop and really fancy office in East Perth to do some things. But even though I was spending most of my day on ticking things into a laptop, I still had time to enjoy Perth’s nightlife. I went out on Wednesday (free beer all night), Friday (spent too much on beer that night), Saturday (just briefly, the Big Apple wasn’t my scene) and Monday (not a good idea, since I had to get up early on Tuesday).

Besides doing things during the day, and going out at night, I also made a visit to the emergency dentist here. Tuesday morning one of my teeth broke, so I got it fixed straight away, but it costs A$275 (= 165 euro). Expensive little joke, and the dentist wasn’t even sure if it was going to last, since the filling apparently touched the nerve. So far it seems okay though, and doesn’t hurt (even after all the anaesthetics worked out). Let’s just hope it stays that way.

I am starting to feel pretty anxious to start travelling again though. I have been in and around Perth for 3 months now, so it is time to move on. Also, the weather has gotten pretty bad, rainy and around 20 degrees during the day. On the other hand, The West Australian newspaper tells me that the weather back home is even worse. Hard to imagine it is summer back home and winter here, while the weather here is even slightly better. In any case, time to travel up north, where daily temperatures are still over 30 degrees.

Down UnderLost & Not Found

On 17 June 2004 from Mandurah, WA | comments closed

I have not posted any news on my site for the last month, and today I am posting twice, but that is because I went on a bit of a shopping spree today that I wanted to tell you about. The thing is this: after almost 7 months away from home I have a small list of items that I have lost somewhere along the way, most fairly minor, but one pretty major.

List of things I have lost during my trip:
– Maglite Solitaire (small flashlight);
– 2 (!) hats;
– One pair of jocks (Ozzie slang for underwear);
– Portable MP3 CD-player (got lost in the mail between Australia and the Netherlands).

Obviously, the last thing was the major item and I am wondering now why I sent it back to repair by regular mail. I know why, it was broken and I figured it would be no good to anyone in that state; also all my other packages arrived without problems. Not much to do about that now though, and I really need some music when I am on the road (and there is a lot of road out here, trust me, I have surveyed some of it). So today I bought a new portable MP3 CD-player (AIWA, one of the cheapest, but still 100 euro), and got it installed in my car. I also got some new zip-off pants. Last week I already bought a new sweater, because getting back from 30+ degree Port Hedland 20 degree Mandurah felt cold.

Down UnderPhotos of Western Australia

On from Mandurah, WA | comments closed

Word reached me that folks back home were actually looking at my website and wondering why I have not updated it recently. Well, I have not been travelling much lately, so there was basically not much to tell. I have been setting up some websites here, and surveying the road up north in Port Hedland. At least it was warm there, since here in Mandurah it is becoming winter, meaning temperatures of slightly less than 20 degrees during the day. People actually move up north for the summer because they think that this is cold.

Well, I have some more stuff to do the next couple of weeks, but I plan to hit the road in the beginning of July. The idea is to find someone to travel with in Perth and then travel north: Pinnacles, Kalbarri, Monkey Mia, Coral Bay, Exmouth, Karijini NP, Broome and through the Kimberley to Darwin. I hope to take Gibb River Road through the Kimberley, but that is almost 700km of unsealed road, so I might have to get some extra stuff for my car. I learned a bit of 4WDing the hard way by getting bogged on the beach in Mandurah (a LandCruiser had to pull me out), so I know I need stuff like a compressor to inflate/deflate the tyres and some more survival gear.

I also put the most interesting photos of Western Australia on my website. The number is fairly low, but that is because I have not really been travelling much yet in this huge state. I have upgraded my photo gallery software as well, adding the feature to view my images full screen, straight from your browser.

Down UnderObservations: 4WDs

On 6 June 2004 from Port Hedland, WA | comments closed

Australians love their cars, I think I have mentioned that before [Observations: Distance & Size], but I have not yet mentioned how many cars are 4 Wheel Drive. From a newspaper article I recollect that the percentage of 4WDs sold in Western Australia is about 20%. However, the majority of the population lives in metropolitan Perth and has less need for a 4WD, so that is why 2WD vehicles are still sold most. But as soon as I travelled north of Geraldton, it seemed that at least 50% of the cars was 4WD.

Australians use their 4WDs mainly on sealed roads, but there are quite a few 4WD-only roads in National Parks, and a 4WD is virtually necessary to launch a boat from the beach (very popular) or tow a caravan (less than 10% of caravans seemed to be towed by 2WD, as if you are not supposed to do that). It would also be necessary to have a 4WD when driving in the north during the Wet, since you would have cross many rivers and streams, even on the sealed roads and highways. For that purpose some 4WDs are equiped with a snorkel (‘elephant cars’ as I prefer to call them), so they can drive through deeper water.

Nevertheless, most roads can be driven in a 2WD, although it takes some getting used to for Europeans like me (I mean, even roads on campsites are sealed in Europe, a fairly unknown concept here). And you can stay on sealed roads for a very long time in Australia, but all the off-the-beaten-track destinations are only reachable on an unsealed road. Not that strange, considering a lot of the Shires outside metropolitan Perth have up to 3 times more unsealed roads than they have sealed roads.

In any case, I will probably not drive much on 4WD-only roads in my own 4WD, but it is good to have the extra security of 4WD on unsealed roads, especially when the road or the weather is bad. And I do plan to take the Gibb River Road throught the Kimberley, which is a 700km unsealed road through the heart of the Kimberley. But even on that road the plan is to keep my car in 2WD, following Western Australian wisdom: “if you get bogged in 2WD, you can get out in 4WD, but if you get bogged in 4WD, you’re f**ked”.