Thursday, 5 May 2016

Episode 48 - Darwin and The Outback Road Trip Part 1

Lorelei’s Sailing Outback Adventures

Welcome to Episode 48


At the end of Episode 47, we had sailed from Indonesia to Darwin, Australia and had cleared in, spent a week in a creek grinding rust off Lorelei’s deck area and had successfully made it through a lock and into the Tipperary Waters Marina.

Our location and route for this Episode of the Blog.

Once in the Marina, we got stuck into some much needed maintenance on board Lorelei.
The issue was it was hot – DAMN HOT!!!!
The locals were calling it the hottest wet season they could ever remember and the temperature never dropped below 30 degrees – even at night.
During the day it was a blistering 35-38 degrees and most of the time the decks were too hot to even stand on.
It was silly but we had a time frame in which the work had to be completed so we just got stuck into it.
We had to stop every hour and drink a 1 litre bottle of cold water each.

It was a tedious job as we had to sand the rust back, treat it, prime, sand, prime again, another sand, bog, sand, bog again, re-sand, another primer, sand, mask, white top coat, sand, white top coat, sand and finally a carefully applied third white top coat before removing the masking tape and repeating the entire process for the yellow coloured paint.

It took 17 days to complete the job.
By the time we were finished we were completely exhausted.
We had sanded the finger prints off our fingers and were sunburnt, and covered in 2 pack paint splashes.

Sometimes in the afternoons we would have storms come in over the marina.

The early morning glass outs also made for some good photos within the marina.

We treated it like a Monday to Friday job and on the weekends we would sometimes rest, shop for supplies or go and have some fun with friends.

For Easter we took time out and joined our friends the Walker family for a fun time on their property, Marrakai Station.

The Station is 590 000 acres and has the largest wetland area of any property in the Northern Territory.

The outer areas of the property are popular as a weekend getaway for Jackson and his dad Clint who run the property, but also for their friends, many of whom have some serious off-road vehicles for use at the Station.
Chris and Cynthia (whom are good friends and who we met the Walkers through) brought their Polaris Buggy and so did other friends Belinda (who had a similar Polaris Buggy) and Scott & Michelle who brought a quad bike.

The entrance to the property is just next to the Corroboree Billabong.

Once there, the vehicles were unloaded off the trailers, loaded up with eskies, people, food and cameras.

Jackson and Clint have an awesome old-school HJ Toyota Landcruiser that they use. It has a boat canopy on the back and was certainly Lisa’s favourite vehicle.

Once underway we drove through a lot of varied terrain from along the fence lines, through tall grass, dusty dirt plains and mud & wetland areas.

Down on the wetlands, the wildlife was amazing with lots of bird life and beautiful trees and flora.

We saw a beautiful pair of Brolga birds in the tall grass.

Chris and Cyn watching the wildlife on the waters edge.

Further along we saw a group of wild horses. Some were a little timid but the Stallions were not so scared of the vehicles.

Being such a large wetland area, we had to be careful along the waters edges as there are many crocodiles.

For many generations the property has raised Water Buffalo. At the end of the last century, there was a huge amount of Buffalo and well in excess of 100 000 but now the population is a lot smaller.

We saw many in different locations and even chased a few with the cameras in the cars but had to be careful when they stopped and played chicken with us.

We chased one large one along the fence line but when cornered, in turned and backtracked around our vehicle.
As it ran back along the fence line behind us, it came upon the second Polaris buggy closing in and it panicked and ran right through a barbed wire fence to get away.
Much to our amazement it destroyed the fence and the 4 rungs of barbed wire.
It didn’t even seemed phased by what it had done as it stopped and turned to look back at us.
Paul was luckily enough to get a shot just as it busted through the fence.

The saw entire fields full of termite mounds. Some of them were huge.

One big advantage of it being private property is that the kids can have a fun time driving around as well.

There is a small grave site that is the resting place of a previous owner of the property.
Each time the group visits, they stop and have a drink with him as he overlooks a beautiful area of the wetlands.

In the afternoon the storm clouds rolled in and the combined with the setting sun created some stunning photo opportunities along the wetland foreshore.

And there were some fun moments as well….

Overall we had the best time as for us it was something truly unique.
And yet for the Walker family and their friends, it was just another typical weekend away at one of the most stunning properties in the NT.
People travel half away around the world to see Australia’s Top End like this.
We were very thankful for the invite and are hoping it won’t be a one off experience…..
Paul took 1250 photos on the property and it was really hard to get it down to 20 or 30 for the blog.

Meanwhile back on the boat…..
It was back to the painting for a week.

One arvo we received a call from Chris & Cyn saying they were having an impromptu picnic along the Nightcliff foreshore with friends and we were welcome to join them.

We met lots of very nice people and enjoyed a fantastic sunset as a great electrical storm passed over right as the sun was setting.
No rain but an awesome photo taking experience.

These 2 photos above and below were taken only 20 minutes apart.
The difference in the colours is amazing.

These 2 photos were taken using 2 cameras
They are both taken using a 20 second exposure from the main camera on a tripod. Paul then ran around with a second camera using its flash only to illuminate the foreground areas.
It took 6 flashes on each photo to complete the picture.

 After another week of work, we were literally pulling off the masking tape as we reversed out of our berth, went through the lock and out towards the Slipway so we could haul Lorelei out.

Just prior to leaving we noted in the paper that Darwin was about to experience a heatwave with temperatures up around 40 degrees for the next week.
Talk about bad timing!!!

We had get to the slipway in two stages to take advantage of the high tide.
We went out through the lock at the 4pm high tide on the first day and anchored overnight in front of the Stokes Hill Wharf.

That night we had an awesome storm come over and Paul got some lightning photos from on board Lorelei.

The next day we left at 2pm to arrive at the slipway at 4:30pm right on the high tide.
It is a wild experience to get to the slipway which is up a small creek.
The creek completely dries out by at least 2 meters at low tide and a few days prior we were able to walk along it to plot a path for Lorelei safely into the creek.

At a spring high tide we were able to motor in slowly over the sand bars with barely 1 meter (and sometimes less) under the keel.

It wasn’t fun!!!

It went from better to worse as we entered the travel lift area.
The staff were already drinking and whilst lifting Lorelei, the travel lift driver slammed Lorelei’s bow into the concrete wall causing a big dent.
Then once Lorelei was out the same guy ignored the other guy guiding him and drove over the high pressure washing equipment before slamming the travi-lift into a huge concrete block. Lorelei was barely inches off the ground and swinging around in the cradle.
30 tonnes of oversized boat swinging in a rundown travel lift with bald & shredded tyres and old slings was a little un-nerving to say the least.
The 2 blokes were screaming the worst 4 letter words imaginable to each other about who was to blame.

Then the staff just left and continued drinking.
No indication of what was happening, no orientation to the place, no keys, and no showing us where the toilets and showers were, etc… Nothing!!!

What a first impression….

Day 2 we woke to some 19 year old in bare feet and no shirt pressure washing Lorelei’s hull.
Well that was whenever the power worked….
We had about 60 power outages that day and each time the pressure guy would have a dummy spit with four letter words heard right across the shipyard.
He had no idea what he was doing and proceeded to strip not only the old antifoul but the white the paint off the hull in big bare patches and sprayed the old antifoul all over everything including the entire top deck.

When we got the bill they wanted to charge us over $450 for the pressure wash experience.

After they blocked us up, we spent the remainder of the day in damage control mode and trying to wash all the old pink antifoul off everything.
Additionally the dirty old slings on the travel lift had put huge marks on our hull.
The owner came over and had a go at us because we were using too much water!!!

For the following 5 days we hid in the corner and just went at 110% from dawn till dusk to get the work on Lorelei done that we needed.

We noticed that the place was packed but more than half the boats are derelict.

Everybody calls it the boulevard of broken dreams.
There are boats that have sat for over 6 years while the owner’s potter away fighting a losing battle to get their dream project fixed up.
And all for a long term storage rate of $3 per meter per day.
(You do the math…)

By day 6 we had cleaned Lorelei, painted a new boot-top line, primed the hull and applied 3 coats of antifoul (a total of 50 litres of paint @ $42 per litre).

We also put in a new transducer, 3 new seacocks, overhauled the engine cooling system, replaced the toilet plumbing and put in a new alternator with new wiring.

It was also great to get some prop speed to re-do the propeller.
We could not source it in the Philippines 2 years ago so we had to strip back all the old antifoul off the prop and start again.

It was a huge amount of work for just 6 days.

Day 7 a surveyor named Tom came to inspect Lorelei.
We was fantastic and gave us a great and detailed report.

The yard owner refused to move the supports on Lorelei so we could antifoul in the places where the supports were so we were not happy.
What rubbed salt into the wound was to walk back from the office to find all the staff drinking and working on hotting up their own cars in the workshop.

After some tiding up, we were ready for going back in on day 8.
We couldn’t wait!!

Thankfully we were booked in for a 9am tide return which meant they hadn’t started drinking yet.

We asked for some cardboard to be put between the slings and the hull after the disgusting marks on our hull on hauling out.
So they used beer cases – not that there was any shortage of them…..

Fortunately the return to the water went ok and by 10am we were motoring back to the marina.
Thank goodness that experience was over.

The lock entry was fine and by midday we were safely back in the marina.

Funnily enough, upon our return everyone wanted to know how our slipping experience was.
Sadly it is currently the only slipway in Darwin which is terrible for the city.
They charge like a wounded bull, the service – well there isn’t any service and the facility is a rundown, swampland infested with sand flies and it’s just awful.

Even worse is anybody who has a large boat in Darwin has been there and everyone has a shocking wild story or two to tell.
They all just shake their heads, laugh and say welcome to Darwin.
There is news of a new slipway facility being built in town. When it is finished they will automatically get our business if we ever slip again in Darwin, and virtually everybody else here we talk to.

Once back at the marina it was onto the final stage of our work.
We picked up the tinny from the alloy fabricators.

Chris helped us pick it up and take it to Lorelei and then the same fabricators came down to make some new brackets up to suit the davits so the tinny would sit securely in them.

From there Paul went to work with the electrics, upholstery, canopy and auxiliary motor bracket, etc…

Overall we are very happy with the final result although it’s not quite finished yet as we still have to add the fishing rod holders, the esky, anchoring system, etc…

One weekend Paul ran a one day photography workshop for Cyn and Belinda.
They all had a fun day and after dark had Lisa, Chris & Grace running around Chris and Cyn’s house with lights illuminating it so they could take 20-25 second time exposures.
The results turned out great.


For a week it was back to the grind with more work on Lorelei but were very excited when we received a text on the Thursday from Cynthia saying Belinda and herself had arranged for a Helicopter flight over Litchfield National Park to say thanks for the photo course.

The flight was with Paul from Outback Helicopters who is good friends with the group. For the sake of the blog let’s call him PP (Pilot Paul) to save any confusion…..
He lives and operates his business in Batchelor which is 1 hours’ drive south of Darwin and at the gateway to Litchfield.

The weekend also coincided with the Rum Jungle Batchelor Rodeo which is the first rodeo in the Darwin region for the season and was on the Saturday night.
PP and Outback Helicopters was sponsoring the Rodeo so we all decided to head to the Rodeo. We headed down with Chris, Cyn and Grace a few hours earlier, do the flight, go to the Rodeo and stay overnight at PP’s house.

PP has a range of Helicopters and most are set up for commercial/agricultural/mustering work but he can also cater for tourist flights.
He sure can fly the things well!!!

We flew the R44 firstly over the flat forested areas before going over the ranges.

The area has loads of waterfalls ranging from small ones with many in a series right up to massive vertical drops into small deep waterholes.

The Lost City was very interesting with lots of unusual rock formations.

As we headed towards the flood plain area, we saw lots of Water Buffalo cooling off in a series of small watering holes.

We also saw small herds crossing the water courses.

The floodplain was fantastic with loads of bird life.
It was great to fly above the birds and behind them as they took flight in front of the helicopter.

Paul even dropped down to ground level to show us some Crocodile Egg Nests.

On the way back we landed and had a break as it was getting windy and was a little bumpy and Paul was feeling a little sick.

There were some huge termite mounds near where we landed.

 We also went over fields of Magnetic Termite nests that looked like tombstones in a cemetery.
The mounds run north/south hence the name but it’s actually so the faces of the mound face east/west to get the maximum exposure to the sun.

Once back on terrafirma Paul went into the shed to have a look at one of the smaller R22 helicopters being rebuilt. It was very interesting to learn about how it is all done – and the cost!!!

The Rodeo started at 4pm. It was the first time Batchelor had held the rodeo in 16 years.
It was well advertised but everyone was a little unsure how many people would attend.
After talking to PP we realised there was no professional photographer covering the event. So Paul volunteered and within 10 minutes of being there, had a VIP pass and was free to go wherever to get the shots.
It was an awesome experience to get in behind the scenes of the Bull Riding arena.

As the Bull riding stated, Paul got up into the stalls and was able to get some great up close shots of the riders roping the Bulls and getting onto them.

There were some crazy rides as many of the riders tried to hold on for the 8 seconds needed to post a score.

The bulls were only new to the Bull Riding arena and were bucking wildly.
So much so that at the end of the contest, only 2 riders had successfully managed to complete an 8 second ride.
And these were not novice riders….
Some had only just returned from the PBR Pro Tour in Canada and others were Australian and State Champions.

Some of the falls were downright frightening with bulls stomping on the riders after they fell and other getting slammed into the metal fence.


The Ambulance Crew were on hand and had to tend to a few accidents.

Aside from the young up-&-coming and pro riders, there were a series of older guys riding too.
There were 8 guys over 50 years of age that competed and one local rider that was doing his last ride at 72!
He was very happy after to ride to learn that Paul had taken some good shorts of him.

The kids also got into the arena for some fun with the Rodeo Clowns.

Of course no Rodeo is complete without Miss Rodeo and Paul managed to pry her away from the crowds for a quick photo shoot – and a one-on-one pic as well….

After the Arena events were finished the placed continued to party hard and well into the night.
The bar area was packed and the DJ and live music was very popular.

Overall it was a raging success with the final numbers of people being over 3 times what was originally expected.
The owners of the Rum Jungle Tavern and sponsors were stoked.

On the Sunday night we linked up with the group again for a Curry Night at East Point in Darwin.
The location was great for sunsets in one direction and looking back over the city in the other direction.

Everyone brought a curry to share and there was heaps to go round for dinner.

After the weekend we had just 48 hours left in Darwin to get Lorelei finished.

It was frantic!!!
Our marine chandlery order had only just arrived from Sydney, so had the new toilet and also the desalinator pump & parts from New Zealand.
Our fishing rods had all been rebuilt and our reels fully serviced.
The 2 outboard motors had only just arrived back too.
In all 3 cases (rods, reels and outboards) we chose to use independent guys who have gone out on their own with 1 man businesses.
They were all extremely helpful, did fantastic jobs and were reasonably priced.

And the reason for all the rush?
 We were going on a road trip as a break from sailing and before we starting cruising again for the dry/cruising season.

The road trip had been in the pipeline since before Christmas.
At Christmas when back at home to the Central Coast of NSW, we had organised a rough plan to do the trip with Paul’s parents George & Chez.

Originally they were coming to visit us in Darwin with their 4WD/Caravan rig and do a sailing trip on Lorelei from Darwin to Broome through an area known as The Kimberly.
Then the idea was hatched to do a small camping/caravan trip with them starting and finishing in Darwin prior to the sailing adventure.
That’s where it stayed for a long time until Paul asked one day the route which they were taking to get to Darwin.
They were going through Alice Springs and Uluru which is a place we have always wanted to visit.
So we invited ourselves to that leg too and the trip went from 3 to 5 weeks with us flying into and starting at Alice Springs.

And for months that was the plan…. We were all so excited. But sadly it wasn’t going to be a smooth run between the plan and the trip going ahead.

Some major health issues within the immediate family put the plan on hold as the priority went towards family health and recovery.
With only a few weeks before the departure date, the trip was still in jeopardy.
Eventually we came to the decision that the trip was going ahead but Lisa would fly to Sydney to help George take the rig from Sydney to Alice Springs and Paul & Chez would fly in at a later date. The extra time would give Chez more time with the family and Paul more time to finish Lorelei.

However at the 11th hour, Paul had Lorelei to a point where he could leave, our sick family member was out of Intensive Care and recovering faster than expected and it looked like we could all leave together from Sydney which would than make it a 7 week trip covering the 3 states of NSW, SA and the NT.

 So on Wednesday 27th April we flew from Darwin to Sydney.

George and Chez kindly picked us up from the Airport but by the time we stopped for dinner in Sydney and got back home to the Central Coast, it was after 11pm and we were all so tired.

The next day Lisa went and spent the day with her family while Paul helped George pack the car and hook up the van.

Whilst we have done a lot of towing, it was all many years ago and only for dive or fishing boats.
It was Paul’s first experience with a caravan and the set-up was a little daunting.

We had a great final sunset both over the water in the backyard and out the front yard with the red sky over the rig all ready to go.

Pauls brother Rod came over and we had a farewell family dinner.

The first days travel was to be a long one of nearly 500klm with the destination being Dubbo.
We did have a few rest stops to break up the trip.

Like Indonesia & Darwin (and most of Australia), Western NSW had a scorching summer with very little rain which resulted in near drought conditions.
It was very evident in the landscape which was dry and brown rather than a lush green colour.

There were green patches where the area had received a little rain or the fields were irrigated from bore water.

By 4pm we had safely arrived in Dubbo.

The setup at the caravan park took a little while as it was the first time.
As we set up, some beautiful birds sat on the fenced and watched us.

 Our first night was beautiful & still and we were able to cook and eat outside.

That night Lisa went to bed feeling cold and sick. Paul was not much better.
By midnight Lisa had a roaring fever, it was less than 10 degrees and raining.

We woke on Saturday to a cold, wet day and we both were sick but Lisa was worse.
So our day to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo was cancelled.

We were so worried about Lisa not only for her health but the zoo visit was the number 1 thing on her list of things to do on the trip.

However the locals were happy with the rain as the area was so dry and it was very welcome.
The timing could have been better as it was also the weekend for the annual Dubbo show.

The next day Lisa was a little better but Paul was getting worse.
It was a fine day so we braved it and tried our luck at the zoo.

Rather than riding bikes or walking, we drove around to make it easier and surprisingly we managed to spend a full day there and saw virtually everything.

However the trip to the zoo did take its toll and that night we both were exhausted.

When we pushed onto Cobar the next day, we decided first stop there was to the doctors to get us some much needed antibiotics.

Cobar is a small mining town but has a huge open cut mine.
We were able to stand on the edge and view down into the cut.

There is a park in town that is full of the mining history from the area.

One of Cobar’s claims to fame is it has the pub with the longest verandah in Australia.
Sadly the verandah is being destroyed by termites & white ants, looks like it is about to fall down and is in need of some serious maintenance.

Sleeping in the tent that night it was sooo cold and we had about 4 layers of clothes and 2 doonas and still couldn’t keep warm.

We woke to an amazing foggy but bitterly cold morning with dew everywhere – even inside the tent…!!!

The road to Wilcannia was vastly different as we had now hit the area with red earth.
For miles and miles it was red earth and salt bush.

Are we there yet……????

We started to see some fantastic Australian wildlife.
There were loads of Emus, Goats, Kangaroos and Sheep.

We passed one low lying area that had some water pockets on the side of the road.
Paul and George went and explored the area and were rewarded by some fantastic reflection images.

In the town centre we stopped for lunch at a park and were surprised to have 2 wild Emus come and wander around us.

The town has some beautiful old buildings.

After a long days driving of 480km, we arrived at Broken Hill.
It was a beautiful day but by 4pm it was cold and windy so we all made the decision to get an on-site cabin for 3 nights for us instead of the tent in an effort to get over our sickness and have a little more comfort.

It worked and even after the first night we were on the improve.

Broken Hill is a very interesting town with a huge mining influence and chequered history. At one stage in the late 1800’s, it was the second largest city in NSW after Sydney.

We went up to a huge mullock heap which was right next to the town.
(Mullock is the discarded rock from the mine after it has been processed)

On top of the heap is an info centre and memorial to the miners who have died working the area.

A panoramic looking over the town from the mullock heap

On top of the heap is an oversized chair that is popular for tourist photos.

For morning tea we visited an old school milk bar/ice cream parlour that served traditional milkshakes in the alloy cups. The décor was fantastic and we could read old 1950’s magazines which brought lots of laughs from us all.

Paul found a 1960’s camera magazine which had him enthralled.

It was interesting to walk through the town and see the huge amount of hotels on every corner. Most still have the hotel facades but many have been converted to shops, etc…

Note the mullock heap in the background to the left

One night we visited the Broken Hill Sculpture Park which is about 10km out of town.

It is a very popular place to view the sunset and one of the sculptures has an eye/hole in it that you can line the sun up through right on sunset.

Like nearly every sunset location we have visited, as soon as the sun went, so did all the tourists and we had to place all to ourselves with the awesome colours after sunset starting to come out.
Paul had a great time alone with his flash and tripod combination.

Broken Hill has many Art Galleries around town, some of which are founded by very well-known Artists.
The most popular is by local born Artist Peter “Ando” Anderson who is only in his mid 40’s.
He has done something truly unique and painted a massive 100m long by 12m high outback scene that is round. It is the world’s largest canvas painting and took 9 tonnes of paint and 2 years to complete.
What makes it truly unique is from the central viewing platform, the floor space is covered with 100’s of tonnes of red earth, vegetation and fake wildlife that go right up to and blend in with the painting.
The result is an incredible 360 degree 3D outback scene.
Photography is not allowed inside but Paul found some pics on the net.

For our last stop in NSW we headed out to Silverton.
Silverton boomed in the late 1800’s when Silver was found and mining began.
Now it has a population of just 30.
However its modern claim to fame is its popularity as an area to film movies and commercials. It’s most famous for the original Mad Max series starring Aussie actor Mel Gibson.
Its streets are almost bare with the occasional old stone cottage, many of which are Art Galleries.

Paul fell in love with the place as it was a photographer’s playground.

We went to well known artists John Tynan’s studio and found him inside finishing a painting.
John is most famous for his caricature paintings of 2 Emu’s.
We had a great chat with him and it was funny to watch him go outside and clean his palette knifes and brushes on an old and rather colourful VW car.

We walked along the Silverton Creek bed that was completely dry.
It had some beautiful looking Gum Trees on the banks.

We had seen 4 Donkeys roaming the streets of Silverton.
They looked very well cared for but Paul couldn’t get to close for a photo – initially.
Whilst driving along we saw them and when stopped, Paul wound down his window. The biggest Donkey walked straight over and stuck his whole head inside Paul’s window which we all thought was so funny. Soon the other 3 Donkeys all wanted their heads in there too.

For sunset we drove up onto the Mundi Mundi plains lookout to view the sunset over a spectacular red plain stretching for miles in every direction.

Before the colour had left the sky, we went back to Silverton.
Lisa, George and Chez went to the famous Silverton Hotel while Paul went around to the older buildings to do some time exposure shots using a powerful torch to illuminate the buildings and foregrounds.
He was very happy with the results from the new Nikon Camera.

Back at the Silverton Hotel, he also took some shots inside and out.

So that’s the NSW leg of our Road Trip completed.
From here it’s onto South Australia and then the Northern Territory.

A huge thankyou goes out to our friends the Cuthbertson’s and Walker’s who have made our refit time in Darwin so much easier with assistance in so many ways and the biggest tool of all – local knowledge!

They, along with their friends have made us felt so welcome and included us in many of their great weekend outings. It certainly made for a fun distraction to the Monday to Friday yacht refit.

Since arriving back in Australia we have been inundated by emails.
Some are from family and friends to say hello, some from other yachties requesting dive and surf info overseas and others from well-wishers we have never even met.
It’s fantastic but it has been difficult to return detailed emails to all with so much on in the last 8 weeks.
Paul is even running late with a series of dive articles to the publishers in America.
It’s literally been go-go-go from before dawn till after dusk every single day since arriving back in Australia.
Apologies to those we haven’t returned adequate responses too.

So Cheers, Jeans, Jumpers and Beanies.
Somewhere in the cold outback with the oldies…….
Paul and Lisa Hogger.

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