February 26, 2004
[Leo's Retreat is the best budget hostel in Cairns, boasting tropical air-conditioned accommodation in the heart of the city. It has a swimming pool, pool table, internet, café, and a games/video/TV room. The original historical Queenslander building captures a friendly atmosphere almost like home, and the staff calls your by name!]
I was able to sleep until about eight this morning, which was a welcome improvement over yesterday’s 4:00 a.m.!
I put my bike together last night, so it was ready for sorting today. I went to the Laundromat and tried calling USAA (my insurance company) and Qantas this morning. Good luck with the laundry, but no luck with the bike problem.
Later, I ended up biking to a nearby shop, whereupon I discovered damage to my front brake pads and shoes. I was directed to Edge Bicycles, where Vince set about fixing the brake. He is the Santa Cruz dealer for Cairns.
I left the brake with him and went to my favorite Internet café, Global Gossip. There, a cool employee named Hayden admired my sweet Santa Cruz bike and invited me for a ride on some local trails. After my snorkelling excursion tomorrow, I’ll stop by to meet him at 4:30 for some trail riding.
I also finally reached USAA, and they said they’ll contact me about my claim. I have my fingers crossed.
Business settled, I went to the mall to waste time in the A/C.
Later, I showered, had a free dinner at Leo’s, and then went back to the mall for a movie, “Stuck on You”, with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. Not a bad flick!
I went to bed early after watching a little tv. The gang from Leo’s is meeting tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. for a snorkelling excursion to the Great Barrier Reef!
March 18, 2004
[Bill Duguid (pronounced "do-good") stands in front of his Rockhampton pub, the Fitzroy. Bill provided me with several free nights accommodation and lots of wonderful new friends and memories.]
I awoke in my lovely new surroundings at around 0800, did my laundry, did some quick window shopping, and hit the library to try out the Internet. Wouldn't you know it, my e-mail was down. That was a bummer, because I had big plans to get some much-needed work done!
I called Bill over at the Fitzroy pub and went over there to try my luck on the net again. Still no luck, so I went downstairs to hang out with the people in the pub. Bill bought me snacks and refreshments all day until he decided to show me Yeppoon. Yeppoon is a beautiful city on the ocean, not far from Rockhampton. I drove, and we had a nice tour of the area. It was really strange being behind the wheel after riding my bike for so long, and it was stranger still driving on the wrong side of the road! In a right-hand-drive car, everything is reversed. Even the lights and windshield wipers are on the opposite side. Every time I went to activate the turn signals, I ended up turning on the windshield wipers instead. It was a big mess, and I just couldn't get it right. Without fail, I turned on the wipers every time I went to make a turn. Ugh!
I was getting tired, so we finally headed back to Rockhampton. Bill dropped me at O'Dowd's by nine. It was then that I had my first Australian beef. I ordered a steak, and it was the size of my plate. It was accompanied by delicious mashed potatoes and vegetables, and it was more than any human should consume in one sitting. Delicious!
Tomorrow, I will move into the Fitzroy and, hopefully, work all day.
End Location: O'Dowd's Irish Pub, Rockhampton
April 12, 2004
[While in Byron Bay, Neil, Justin, and Colin hiked to this awesome waterfall.]
Back in OZ mate!! Tooooo eeasssy!
In fact, Australia is too easy!! After speaking Spanish and Portuguese, and dealing with customs officials, and looking forward to all the times ahead after going through countries where we can't understand the language, Australia is definitely too easy, Mate!
Justin, Collin and I met in the Santiago airport in Chile and flew for 13 hours-or-so to our first stop in Auckland, New Zealand for a layover, then to Sydney for another layover, and then on to Brisbane. We left at 11PM on the day before Easter and arrived in Australia on the day AFTER Easter!! What!! We missed Easter. Oh well, maybe on the drive back across the dateline, we will celebrate July 4th twice! The flight was long, but enjoyable nonetheless. I haven't watched many movies on our journey, and to see FIVE in one sitting was quite nice.
Once we hit Brisbane, we rented a car and headed towards Byron Bay, which is a super fun, chilled-out town on the East Coast of Australia. We still had a few days to kill before our team was to arrive to all meet in Brisbane. So we ate Mediterranean kebabs, which are all over Austalia, and of course, some tasty meat pies, mmmn.
We have been having a good time in Byron; it is hard not to when you are staying in a hostel, each room having 16 people, and everyone is very sociable and from all over the world. We had a blast. I didn't surf at all, as the waves were small, and I am still letting my foot heal, which is making great progress now! We also went on a two-hour drive inland from Byron to Nimbin, a small town, and listened to a guy play guitar for a little while, then we went into the forest a bit and hiked to a waterfall. The countryside is spectacular around Byron.
Other than the fun of Byron, there are also a few shocks we are experiencing. One is the COST!!!!! Yikes!!!!!! Australia is the most expensive place I have been. This is my third time to Australia, and the first two times, the cost here in Australia was a bit lower, and our dollar was much stronger then, giving us a 2-to-1 rate back then. But now, it is extremely expensive. For example, a burrito is $7, or to stay a night in a hostel, sharing with 16 people in a room, is $25 a head. Having a full breakfast costs about $13, or even buying a candy bar costs $1.60. It is a tough shock to handle.
And of course, the fact that everywhere I look there are Caucasian and Asian people all around and speaking English, is quite different. I am used to seeing brown people everywhere speaking Spanish or Portuguese. Not to mention, when you go out at night, no one knows how to dance either. Oh, the differences between Latin America and Australia. Although, I guess if our team is camping in the middle of nowhere anywhere in the world, and I look around, they are all Caucasian, speak English and can't dance either, HA HA HA(excluding Adam of course, the dance master)
Well, we are in Australia and will enjoy being able to communicate with everyone around us for a while, with no translation necessary. I know we are all looking forward to getting our vehicles and heading up north along the beautiful coast and into the outback.
April 14, 2004
[On location: Film: Lord of the Rings. Nick and Todd under the Hobbit party tree in the shire.]
Did we take a wrong turn? Is this Hawaii?
New Zealand is great! We arrived last week and have been driving around the whole north Island. We arrived last Friday (because of the international date line, we lost last Thursday), and have been driving ever since. We rented a car as soon as we got in at 5:00 a.m. and began our drive. It was the start of the Easter holiday, so, apparently, everyone is traveling. In New Zealand both Good Friday and the Monday after Easter are national holidays, so a lot of people, especially students, are traveling.
New Zealand is full of natural beauty. It seems like everywhere I go the place just makes me happy. Whether it is a seaside stroll, a country drive, or a cruise through the winding mountains, the scenery is striking.
This island has come about as a result of volcanic and seismic activity. I felt like we were back in California with the number of earthquakes we felt while staying there. At first when they would rumble through, I would question my judgment, “That can’t be an earthquake, it must just be a big truck,” I would think. But there were no big trucks, just small earthquakes.
We also had a chance to bathe in the thermal mud baths. We felt like we were six years old again, covered in warm mud. As I mentioned, there is volcanic activity around here, and as a result, there are a lot of hot springs, and in many places the air smells like sulfer.
While driving through this country, we just managed to visit the North Island. It’s obvious why they would film the Lord of the Rings trilogy here. I guess to compare it to a place in the U.S., I would have to say this place looks the most like Hawaii, Polynesian influence and all (the New Zealand natives, the Maori, are Polynesian in origin). The native carvings and artwork all make it seem like we are in Hawaii. The only difference is the size. In the course of a week, we drove more than 2000 km, encircling the North Island (most people say we haven’t seen New Zealand unless we have been to the south island, but we will save that for another day). Since we were able to drive 2000 km-encircling part of the North Island, you can see that New Zealand is considerably larger than Hawaii. The reason it looks similar to me is the fact that the mountains are rough and jagged as opposed to the smooth hills of the Midwest. These hills and mountains reminded me more of the type you would see on the US West Coast; however, unlike the mountains of the West Coast, these mountainous hills were covered in lush-green grass, and many areas did not have any trees.
New Zealand has sort of a Midwest feeling to it. Life seems slower, lots of farming, and the sheep and wool industry here are huge. New Zealand is one of the largest exporters of wool in the world.
While cruising around New Zealand it struck me that I didn’t know where Zealand was. For every new place, there is generally an old place: New Mexico – Mexico; New York – York; New Jersey – Jersey, was there a Zealand? One of the Kiwis (slang for New Zealander, named for a unique bird there) told me there was an island in Europe called Zealand. Sure enough, there is an island in Denmark that is called Zealand. In fact, this island is where Copenhagen is situated.
It was great being in New Zealand because Nick, Chanda and I officially took time off, for the most part, from Drive Around the World stuff. On most days we were carefree and never had any specific place to be. I don’t think any of us expected to drive around so much; we were just captivated by the scenery. We had a lot of fun, especially Nick, looking at all the different Lord of the Rings stuff; in fact, he was able to connect with people from Weta Studies (the studios that did most of the work on Lord of the Rings), and they are allowing us to conduct an interview with someone at the studios. That will be soon to come.
I will definitely be back to New Zealand; after all, I have to make it to the more scenic South Island. Until then, New Zealand will have a fond place in my memory.
April 15, 2004
[Nancy and Adam are reunited in Brisbane.]
Tomorrow is team arrival day. Today is prep day. I went for a run in the morning and then hit the Internet to let the team know where to meet. I'd decided the Palace Backpacker's, although a couple dollars more per night, would be a better bet than the hotel on the other side of the river, because this place is convenient to everything. There're four Internet cafes on this block, there's a kitchen, and there's refrigerators. I think those things are key, so I sent a message to everybody to come here.
I spent much of the day updating journals, and then I grabbed Adam and we headed to the gym. There's a "rewards card" inside of Special K cereal that gives the bearer a free week at a gym down the street from the hostel. I joined a couple of days ago, and Adam joined tonight. He lifted while I did a cycling class, and then we got cleaned up and went to dinner. Falafels!
Since we'd stayed up late yacking last night, we called it an early night tonight. We have to be well-rested for the arrival of our teammies tomorrow!
April 16, 2004
[The team celebrated their reunion at the Palace Bar and Grill. Nancy and Todd are glad to be together again, apparently.]
Today was a super-duper special day. Today was team arrival day!
I've been in Brisbane by myself for a week. Until Adam arrived yesterday, I was on my own. But today, the family has been reunited in the lobby of the Palace Backpackers on the corner of Edward and Ann Streets in downtown Brisbane, Australia.
I went for a run this morning, as has become my Brisbane routine, and then I did the shower/breakfast/Internet thing. I was anxious to make sure everybody was good to go concerning where to meet, since that decision and the dissemination of information was my responsibility. I sent the address out over e-mail yesterday, and I checked for replies this morning. Nothing from Todd, Nick, or Chanda, but Neil replied to tell me he, Colin, and Justin were in the know. See, I had a sneaking suspicion Nick and his gang would probably go to the Riverside Hotel, which was the last word he'd received before I sent the e-mail out yesterday.
I was in the lobby waiting to check into our new rooms when I heard a familiar voice yell my name. It was Chanda! Oh, frabzjous day! We collided in a joyful embrace, and then I was reunited with Nick and then Todd. They had gone first to the Riverside, but they figured it out and found their way to Palace. We stood in the check-in line for a few moments and caught up a little bit before Justin came sauntering in Joe Cool-style and said hello. Behind him, Neil ran in and hugged everybody, and then Colin. They were all laden with surfboards and bags and looked like they'd been having some good beach time in South America.
Adam returned from the gym, and the family was complete. We stood in line to check in and created some real stress for the poor backpacker/employee girl behind the desk. The Palace was kind enough to discount our rate by $3 per person, per night, but there was a little confusion about which room(s) we would get. Everything was smoothed out, and we all moved in.
Each did his and her own thing (I yapped my mouth off all day to poor Chanda, because this was the first time I'd had a teammate to talk to in two months), and then we met in the lobby at 2000 to go downstairs to the grill to celebrate our reunion and Colin's birthday. He turns 24 on the 17th, so his celebration began at midnight.
It was a festive evening, and we're stoked to be back together as a team. Now, what we really want to do is spring our vehicles from customs and hit the road!
April 16, 2004
[Uh, like, this is a purple flower. And it's very nice.]
Well, I'm back with the team in Brisbane, and everything is good. Tonight we will celebrate C-Day (my B-day) in typical Colin style, at a reggae club. So we're set.
I had a huge blast the last four days in Byron, and I met some really cool people and shared some strange coincidences. Anyway, I'm sitting there hanging out at a picnic table in the hostel we were crashing, and I strike up a conversation with these two Danish girls, Fretterike and Iben. We spoke about Copenhagen, where I had previously spent a few days, and eventually the subject turned to New York. Turns out that Iben had lived in New York for a while, in Huntington, my home town. Small world, right? Especially since no one ever goes to Huntington. So we're yammering on about good ol' (sort of) Huntington, when Neil shows up with some people he'd met. Funny enough, with Neil is a girl named Steph from New Paltz, my most recent town-of-residence in New York. More reminiscing there. Definitely a small world. It cracks me up, because the whole time I was in S. America, I really wanted to interact with some New Yorkers (needed some attitude in my life), and it wasn’t happening, and then, within 10 minutes, I meet not only two New York residents, but two people who had lived in both my home towns. How about that? Photos of Byron to come.
Oh and my camera started working again! Very happy about this. I even managed to save a bunch of the photos that I thought I lost from Brazil. So, all in all, things are going very well for me, although I do miss being a gringo in Latin America.
April 19, 2004
[The Brisbane Museums in a popular city park, on the same block as our hostel.]
Brisbane is a really mellow and beautiful city. The pace here compared to most cities is a bit more laid back and it is a nice and comfortable place to be. Also, due to the Expo in 1988, there is an array of incredibly beautiful parks here. There is a part of the river that runs through the city called South Bank, and it has tropical beaches and man-made pools, and even a Nepalese pagoda that was brought over in ?88. We walked over there for Colin's birthday dinner the other night, and it was really the most extensive and intersting park I have ever seen in a city.
We are staying in a hostel here in town that is nice and is right next to the Brisbane Museum, which had a concert the other night. It is really full of colors at night, and there are interesting statues and figures throughout the plaza. It is always neat to see the difference in a location between the daylight and the evening.
Right now, I am sitting in our bedroom writing this journal while we are waiting for our vehicles. They arrived today and were offloaded from our Wallenius Wilhelmsen-sponsored ship. They need to go through customs and then through quarantine. We are trying to organize the arrangements so we can be on the docks while they do the quarantine. We'll see what happens, and I will fill you in very soon, in fact, in the paragraph below. Until then, take a look around somewhere other than your computer screen for a moment and imagine a lapse in time, for that is what is happening between the end of this sentence and the next.....................
Well....the cars are still in the shipping yard and we haven't been able to see them yet, so we are in our hostel and taking care of business. It is time to eat dinner now and go to the roof and enjoy the scenery. Justin has been in the Internet cafe all day today contacting newspapers throughout our route in Australia, and now he is tackling the TV stations and other media outlets.
Until next week,
April 20, 2004
[Cairns, North Queensland, Australia. Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.]
We finally made it to Cairns, a city I had always imagined as rather large because it’s the only one that appears on political maps of Australia and I always hear the name. It’s actually quite tranquil. Not small, but far from a business centre. So far, Australia has turned out to be more sparsely populated than I imagined, and from talking to the people, I have been proven wrong that only Americans don’t know about the rest of the World that surrounds them. So far I’ve managed to find oodles of Ozzies that have a hard time with world geography. At a BBQ, I met a police sergeant who asked me if California was near the coast, I replied, “Yes,” and with a moment’s thought, he then asked, “Which one?” I gave him a thorough description, and then with a slight “Hmmm...” he then fired off another question in his philosophical tone. “Hmm, I see; now, are there beaches in California?” Bless the poor guys heart, although I have the opportunity to travel the globe, it appears that he missed his free lessons in California geography when the bombardment of “Baywatch” episodes hit the Australian coastline a few years back.
April 21, 2004
[Members of the LONGITUDE crew meet with the awesome folks at Austral Land Rover.]
Another bright and early morning, today 6:30 a.m. rolled around all too early, but I figured since Justin and Nick were up at 4:00 a.m. last night doing a conference call that I should put an end to my belly aching and drag my bones off the top bunk. We had dropped the vehicle off at Land Rover last evening after springing them from quarantine. We wanted to be waiting at Land Rover this morning when everyone arrived to work. We had given them a to do list, but it never hurts to be up early and waiting for them. We hope that maintenance will only take a day, as we would like to start traveling by tomorrow. There is a lot to see and do in this country, and the whole team is rearing to go.
Nick and I arrived early, having only made one stop at the coffee place for two cups of motivation. Upon arriving at Land Rover, we gave them a prioritized list of repairs, which, it appeared, would be no problem for them to accomplish in a day. Two thumbs of for Austral Land Rover helping us prepare our vehicle after a hazardous Patagonia.
I had to fly away from Land Rover in order to make another Parkinson’s visit. Our new friend Judy Rawlins from Queensland Parkinson’s Inc. had a speaking engagement in Caboolture Shire, a suburb of Brisbane, and she invited me to join her. She had set up a couple of interviews with local papers, so Justin went with me to talk to the reporters.
I had hoped to catch an 11:00 a.m. train, but time ran short, and Justin and I were on the road at little after 11:30 a.m. We were putting together some final edits of the news story. Judy was waiting for us with car running; she had hoped to get to the engagement earlier, but we had received word too late to be very accommodating.
As we drove to the Shire, we discussed her experience with Parkinson’s: when she was diagnosed and what changes have occurred in her life since that day. She talked somewhat bitterly about the day that she received her verdict. Apparently, at the age of 36, a neurologist came in and told Judy that she had Parkinson’s Disease. He also proceeded to tell her that within five years she would be in a nursing home, so she had better get her affairs in order. Well, it has been more than 14 years, she is not in a nursing home and, in fact, neither Chanda nor I noticed she had Parkinson’s disease when we first met her.
Although she is on medication, her deep-brain stimulation surgery she received a year ago has done wonders for her. It has reduced tremors and has reduced the amount of medication that she has to take. Needless to say, she is a firm believer in the procedure.
One of the most interesting conversations we had was about how life slows down for people with Parkinson’s Disease. I asked Judy whether she could tell her body was slowing down as a result of the disease. To my surprise her answer was no. She said the only way she knew that her body had slowed down was the fact that her mother could all of a sudden do things much faster than Judy could. Judy has always led a very active life, and in fact was often ahead of most people around her. I thought this was amazing--the fact that she didn’t know her body had slowed down. It can take people with Parkinson’s disease up to 5 times longer to do what are seemingly simple tasks.
She gave an informative talk, and the people in attendance were grateful for having her there. One lady said that she had learned more from Judy in 40 minutes than she had learned from her doctor in 1.5 years. This shows that there is much to be done in the area of Parkinson’s Awareness.
After the talk we had a chance to speak with many of the people in attendance. They were interested in what we were doing and offered their support. One man came up to me and asked if there was anything he could do to help our cause. Since he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he had pretty much just stayed at home. I asked him if he had a computer, and he said yes, but that he didn’t know how to use it. He said his wife did all of that stuff. I gave him my card and challenged him to use a computer. I told him he needed to set goals of simple task for himself. The first of these goals would be to send me an e-mail. I told him that once I had received an e-mail from him, I would tell him the next step. I wonder if I will hear from him?
After returning on the train to Brisbane, I gathered Chanda, and we began a mile trek to the Land Rover dealer. Unfortunately, Nick nor anyone from Land Rover was there when we arrived. Dark areas and locked doors were all that remained after a busy day at Land Rover. We turned around and found ourselves in the middle of an Australia trivia night at a neighborhood pub. After knowing the first five of the 40-some questions, we figured we should enter. Unfortunately, our lucky streak came to an abrupt end when the trivia went from general trivia to Australian trivia. A couple of guys helped us out, but as happens in a pub, we got distracted by the conversation and stopped listening to about five questions. Oh well. We made some new friends but sacrificed a trivia crowning. I guess we were really not good enough to consider ourselves trivia royalty, anyway.
It was another good day, and a day that brought us closer again to accomplishing the overall goals this expedition has set out to meet.
April 22, 2004
[Justin gives 174-year-old Harriet a scratch on the head.]
Today is a big, action-packed day. This morning, I got up around 0530 to go for a run. It will be my final jaunt through the city of Brisbane, because we are leaving today to head north toward Cairns. Since it was my bright idea to move our meeting time from 0800 to 0700, I was saddled with team-wakeup duty. I actually welcome the job, because it will help me stay on track with my morning runs. My goal is to run every day, and being accountable to someone other than just myself will help me to realize that goal.
So, I ran my usual route, one block down Ann Street, right turn toward the river, wait for three crossing signals to turn green, right turn past the coffee shop and alongside the river, and left turn through the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. I love running in here, because Brissy is an exercise-friendly city. It is clean and beautiful, with parks, sidewalks, and even bike/pedestrian lanes, throughout. My favorite city feature is the pedestrian bridge linking the botanic gardens with the shops and restaurants of the South Bank area across the river. It’s a beautiful bridge, with a wide lane in either direction for walkers/joggers/bikers (no vehicles allowed!), and an overhead shade awning that looks like an artist’s rendition of a benevolent serpent. In the mornings, it provides just the right angle of shade protection from the strong Australian sun.
I took my final run through the beautiful, shady, flowery paths of the South Bank and along the waterfront toward the Civic Center. It was still fairly dark out in the wee hours of the morning, but I could still see the river, with its small waves and ripples of current, small eddies forming around pylons and beckoning to me to cool off with a swim. Neither the City Cat boat that moves people like a city bus from one riverside boat stop to the next, nor the other various tourist boats, had begun their morning services, and all was quiet on the river. The majority of my company came from other early-morning runners and cyclists and a few people hustling to work.
I didn’t have time for a full 30-minute run, so I increased my speed and planned a 25-minute route. I ran back over the vehicle-traffic bridge and through the Queen’s Street mall area, sprinting the final seconds through the park where I normally stretch and do lunges and push-ups. No time for that today. I have to wake up my teammies!
Feeling invigorated, I knocked on the door of Room 117 at the Palace Hotel. Todd answered, and the rest of the boys shushed me and grumbled in their sleep. Back upstairs on the 3rd floor, I woke up Nick and Chanda and grabbed my shower items. Everybody had to meet downstairs in the lobby at 0700 for morning muster and instructions, bags in-hand.
Todd, Nick, Justin, and I caught a cab to Austral Land Rover in the city, while the rest of the gang guarded our luggage, checked out of the hostel, and tracked down breakfast. At Austral, the gang and I loaded the vehicles with the Red Bull and Hella keychain lights that our sponsors had shipped to Brisbane for us, and we talked a bit with the fine people at Austral Land Rover who had performed a whole heck of a lot of maintenance and repairs (cracked windshields and such) for us in a short amount of time and for no money at all. Thanks, Austral!
Back at the Palace, we parked in front of the building, in a bus lane, and dashed in to grab our luggage. We tossed everything into the vehicles, the film crew strapped surfboards on top of D2, and I put my bike trailer on top of D3 and locked our Santa Cruz mountain bike into its bike rack. We did all that in a matter of minutes and moved our Discoverys to a park on the other side of the river to repack everything and also make sure the vehicles were clean and ready to drive to the Australia Zoo.
Justin led us out of town toward Beerwah, home of the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. I had set up a visit when I passed through on my bicycle a couple of weeks ago, and the zoo provided us with a host from their marketing department so that we could film inside the zoo walls. Kylie met us at the zoo entrance, and we received complementary admission PLUS a guided tour and special access to special animals.
I know this journal is too long already, but I have to quickly tell you about some highlights from our visit. Kylie showed us around, and we got to pet an American alligator and a boa constrictor, and we saw a humongous, 24.5-foot-long, 242-pound reticulated python named Lillie, who was big enough to swallow us whole, but who prefers to dine on baby goats. Later, we watched the crocodile-feeding show, during which the croc-keepers hand fed a gigantic croc named Agro, who was known to attack and drown more than four lawn mowers. We also watched a keeper feed crawdaddies to a mob of playful-but-hungry otters who, if the keeper isn’t alert, won’t hesitate to sink their sharp little teeth into the ankles and buttocks of their surprised human friend (it has happened before). Later, we met and fed three Asian elephants, and we got to hold a koala bear! Koalas are not bears at all, but rather marsupials, and they eat ONLY eucalyptus leaves. They sleep 18-20 hours a day, and they poop like a conveyor belt during their waking hours. After holding the koala, we went into the kangaroo area and watched all types of roos (wallabies, rock wallabies, grey kangaroos), and we even got to pet them. They are ultra-soft, and the zoo roos are friendly and unafraid of visitors. They’re sooooo cute! I want one!
Now, with all of those amazing zoo experiences, I have to say that one experience really stood out from the others for me. After the crocodile show, we said goodbye to Kylie and hello to our new escort, Sally, also from marketing. She introduced us to the oldest-living zoo dweller, Harriet, who is a Galapagos tortoise. If she could only speak, we would be treated to some wonderful stories. You see, Harriet was found on the Galapagos Islands by Charles Darwin himself, in 1835, and was brought aboard the HMS Beagle for voyage to England. Based on the measurements he took then, she was 5 years old at the time. When he was finished studying her, it was decided she needed a climate that was more suited to island tortoises than the wet and cold of London, so she was sent to Australia. In Australia, she lived in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens (where I ran this morning) for many, many years, and then she lived at another zoo before being given to Steve Irwin’s parents and taking up residence at the Australia Zoo, where she will probably live well into her second century. She is 174 years old, now. The only other living things I can think of that are that old is the trees. She knew Charles Darwin. She sailed aboard the Beagle. She knows the Crocodile Hunter. Oh, the stories she could tell…We got to pet her, and she loved having her legs and head scratched, and when I found her sweet spot, just at the base of her head, she rolled her eyes back and grinned in approval. I felt so respectful of her, like I should be saluting her at attention rather than rubbing her shell and head, but she sure loved the attention. I wonder of ole’ Chuck Darwin ever scratched behind her head.
We had an absolutely fantastic visit, and we all agreed that the Steve Irwin’s zoo is the happiest, most loving, best zoo we’d ever visited. All the animals have names and are cared for like members of the family by the zookeepers who seem so thrilled to be working at a job they adore. The only downside of the zoo visit is that we just barely missed an opportunity to have Steve Irwin himself sign our vehicles. He was in town, and had we asked earlier in the morning, Sally could have arranged to have him meet us. Darn! So close! Oh well. We left at closing time, finally hitting the road at around 1700.
I took the lead for our journey north, and we stopped in a town called Gympie for dinner. (I wrote about my visit to Gympie in one of my East Coast of Oz Bike Trip journals.) There, I introduced my team to my friends at the Imperial Hotel. Owners Gary and Georgia were there, as well as some friends I’d made weeks earlier, Siri, Alan, and Shannon. It was cool seeing them again. We ate some delicious food and then pressed on.
I was really excited to get to Miriam Vale and the Dougall place, where I felt like I had family. Chris and Suzanne Dougall, and their kids Sam and Maddie, would be asleep when we arrived, but they were expecting us. Tomorrow, we are going to be treated to a tour of their cattle property and then to a real Australian Bar-be-cue with the Dougalls and my other new and dear friends from the area, Greg, Phillipa, and Kelsie Realf, and friends Ajay and Gabbi from the Baffle Creek. I cannot wait to see my wonderful friends again, and I am excited to have my team meet them. We didn’t arrive at the Dougall place until a little after midnight, so we just pulled into their driveway very quietly, parked, popped our tents, and hit the rack. I had trouble falling asleep, I was so excited to see the Dougalls. It’s difficult for me to explain the peaceful, secure, warm feeling I have while I am at their place.
April 23, 2004
[Colin kicks it Aussie-style in an outback hat borrowed from Chris Dougall during a tour of the Dougall cattle property in Miriam Vale, Queensland, Australia.]
Today was in interesting day. We awoke at a decent hour on a cattle farm in Miriam Vale, a small town about an hour’s drive north of Bundaberg. We were staying with Chris and Suzanne, some friends that Nancy had met on her bike journey from Cairns to Brisbane.
Anyway, Chris and Suzanne treated us to something I had not had in a very, very long time: breakfast burritos. I love breakfast burritos; they’re yummy. Especially when it’s actually breakfast time. You see, Suzanne was born and raised in Texas, so she knew the joyous wonder of the breakfast burrito.
So, post-burrito, the team headed out on a whirlwind tour of the farm. You see, Chris and Suzanne’s cattle farm practices a method of raising the cows called “low-stress cattle raising”. In other words; they raise happy cows. Now, on the tour, outside of what I was told, the cows seemed like any old cows, mooing and looking at me funny and whatnot, so at first I couldn’t really tell the difference between a regular cow and a low-stress happy cow, but, when I returned to the ranch house, I was startled to find a cow sitting on the living room couch watching television and eating beans on toast, that’s when it dawned on me just how happy these cows really are.
Ok, so that didn’t really happen, but it would have been really funny if it did. Anyhoo, the tour of the ranch continued and we saw some cute kangaroos bouncing around, and it was all very interesting, and Chris and Suzanne really do have a good thing going for them with all this happy cow business.
So, once the tour was done, the team had a bunch of work to do on the cars, so we done did it.
So, after the work was done, Chris and Suzanne had organized a classic ozzie-style bbq/campfire for us that began around 6 or 7 or something. The food was delicious, and classic Australian style. All the ozzie classics were there: rump steak, sausages (on bread w/o buns), profiterols, and potato salad, and I ate them all, heartily even. Afterwards, when it started to require a lot of effort for me to breathe, I realized that I ate way too much, but by then it was too late, so I had some desert, and continued to not be able to breathe for another hour or so.
Once I was able to talk, I struck up some really interesting conversations with some of the people attending the BBQ, especially Chris, who had some cool tales. He, kind of like us, had travelled from the US to Panama over land; however, he and a friend of his did it by motorcycle. And, they did it on one motorcycle, I mean, I know that sometimes I feel like I’m in quarters that are a little too close on this trip, but sharing a bike with another guy for that long must have been really intense. I have a lot of respect for a person that can put himself into that kind of situation. Chris told me another great story about his solo hike down into the Grand Canyon that also impressed me greatly, and strengthened my desire to visit the canyon.
So, it was a good day, and a long one, and now, my good friends, now I am going to sleep.
April 26, 2004
[It has been raining on us since today's drive began, and Cairns is soaked under dark skies.]
Well here we are again, as a team, driving around the world. It is nice to be back together and run into all our daily challenges. I am really excited to head west across the entire desert and see the stars in the sky at night. But as for now, we are in Cairns at a backpacker hostel about 15 blocks outside of the center of town. It is pretty empty at the moment, with most backpackers staying in the center of town. We did receive a nice rate to stay here though, three nights for the price of two, and free Internet, even though the Internet is only open a few hours each day. There is always some kind of quirks with deals.
So, today it is pouring rain, literally pouring! We have designated today as a workday, and we all have various things to do. I have been editing some photos and catching up on some email correspondence. It is quite nice to spend a day in the rain indoors just working and relaxing. We are all looking forward to our dinner at the Woolshed tonight. In Cairns, you get tickets to eat dinner for free at the Woolshed, however the free dinner is a small plate of spaghetti or rice with beans, which is not enough food for the hearty appetite. So, for an additional $4-6, you can have a complete dinner plate, which isn't bad, and still much cheaper than eating anywhere else. After dinner, the Woolshed turns into a nightclub scene and fills up every night of the week.
After driving up here to Cairns and the north east coast of Australia, it reminds me of Central America, in that it is completely tropical and humid. I never realized how green and lush it was up here. I had always pictured Australia as a much drier place. It is really beautiful, and filled with endless fields of sugarcane.
So, I will keep today's journal entry short, as we are all working and doing the tasks needed to keep us in the public eye and raise money for Parkinson's. In fact, we met a news reporter today who is coming by early in the morning to do a story on us and put us on Channel 7, which is Australia's largest channel. That is really great publicity for us, and we are excited.
Until next Monday,
April 27, 2004
[A flying fox, Australia's version of the fruit bat, strikes his best Dracula pose. These little guys just about licked Nancy to death.]
Recently I have told Nick that we the film crew would like to combine the education visits that are scheduled by Todd for his education website with shoot days. In the past, we have failed to successfully be able to fit ed. visits and interesting shoot days into the expedition timeline. My solution was to amalgamate the two and require all to attend. It’s been such a problem getting life to breathe from the shoots, because many times half the crew has scheduled work to accomplish, and the ed. visits sometimes consist of Todd talking to a professional in an office or house. I often tried to grab a few bodies to accompany Todd on his random ed. visits, but it usually panned out to on-camera disasters. By stepping in and requiring all to attend while discussing with Todd what may qualify as an ed/film visit, I think we are all benefiting.
The other day was a perfect example of our first success. We visited a scientist on Cape Tribulation, a national wildlife and nature preserve nestled in the subtropics three hours north of Cairns. We drove through the hardest rain to date on a narrow road that winded along a remote coastline and through flooded roads. We discovered an eccentric Dr. Hues Spencer subsisting minimally in the forest.
After offering us coffee, the doc took us to a cage full of flying foxes (very large bats) that licked, sniffed, and peed on the entire crew. Chanda, being the luckiest of us all, managed to get a stream of urine shot down her back. As she turned around to see what it was, it continued to flow down her face and into her right ear. If you’ve ever seen a large, rabbit-sized bat pee while hanging upside down, you would know how much and how hard they can shoot a continuous stream. The Doc was also hit on the chest, and Justin sustained a puncture wound to the left arm while removing one who had migrated from the ceiling down the back of my head to my inner thigh. Colin almost drowned when he bummed a bucket full of water with the microphone fuzzy mic cover while Todd managed to fire off an incessant barrage of questions about bats. We all managed to survive regardless, and the Doc showed us his two research rooms before we departed from another interesting visit to the life of a professional. I know the crew enjoys a day away from their work when they continue to talk about what they saw the next day. The next day, they were still talking about bat urine, so it was a success, and another story to add to our ever-growing over-the-dinner-table stories about bowel movements.
April 28, 2004
[Members of team Drive Around the World receive an introductory dive on the Great Barrier Reef off of Cairns, Australia, while Colin documents their first experience at breathing underwater. (L to R: Colin, Justin, Todd, Instructor, Neil, woman.)]
What do you do when you see a shark?
Thanks to the famous Colin McCulife and Reef Magic of Cairns, Australia (Cairns is pronounced “cans”, don’t ask me why), team Drive Around the World had a delightful experience at the Great Barrier Reef. The adventure started at 8:00 a.m. with check-in and departure, and the cast and crew of our boat had us going until we returned completely wiped out at 5:00 p.m.
Over the last couple of rainy days, Colin has been arranging this trip for us, never knowing if the weather would ever clear up for good diving conditions. The power of the New Yorker paid off as prices fell while he kept talking. We got a great deal and were all very impressed with the facilities, the staff, and what we learned over the course of the day.
It was about an hour-and-a-half out to the reef, so on the way out, Justin, Neil and I learned some scuba (self contained underwater breathing apparatus) basics. We learned how to clear our regulators and let water out of our mask while we were under the water. Instructors spent about an hour teaching us the basic skills we would need to know to dive for about 20 minutes on the reef. It was not very technical, but it was enough to give us a good feel for things and to keep the more faint-hearted from panicking.
After our schoolroom instruction, a marine biologist took over describing different types of reefs--fringed, ribbon and patch--how they were created, and some of the stuff we would see. It was a nice intro to the reef and got me more excited to go underwater.
Close to where our boat set anchor, we were issued stinger suits (suits to prevent jelly fish stings), or wet suits if we wanted to rent them them. The water was 27°C (80°F), so it was pretty comfortable; the rough-and-tough Nancy chose to do her snorkeling in just a swimming suit. I opted for a stinger suit that covered me from hands and feet to neck. This not only protected me from the jellyfish, but also from the unrestrained sun that crashes down through this ozone-depleted area!
Our group was called, and we were given our hands-on training. From the back of the boat with head underwater, we needed to prove to the instructor that we could breathe normally, clear our regulators, and clear our masks. Once checked out, we headed down, down, down. Colin “the shark”, a certified diver, swam around us like a a predator as our instructor and the five of us, Neil, Justin, our instructor, another woman, and I, swam arm-in-arm down to a depth of about 10 meters. Colin was swimming with his special Equinox underwater camera housing; it looked like a cartoon ray gun. We were only underwater for about 20 minutes, but in this time we saw plenty of fish and coral. We saw clownfish, like Nemo, Damselfish, Parrotfish, and sea cucumbers; we could even touch them. The Clownfish (Nemo fish) have special mucus on them that protects them from the anemones. They also coat themselves in the same mucus that is secreted by the anemones themselves, so the anemones do not sting the fish as it passes through them; their sense organs recognize the mucus as their own, and since they will not sting themselves, they do not sting the fish. That’s just one of the many things we learned!
After diving, we were free to snorkel to our hearts content. Nancy and I hit the sea highway and trailed a sea turtle, a white tip reef shark, a puffer fish, and a triggerfish, before we broke for lunch. This place was amazing! Although we were 30 miles off shore, it was really not that deep! Apparently, as you go offshore here, there are ridges and channels. The channels are deep and wide, and the coral reefs sit on top of the more narrow ridges; that is why the water seemed deep as we were going out and it suddenly got shallower where we stopped. We were parked on top of a ridge.
After lunch I went out snorkeling again with Neil, Chanda, and Nancy; however, it is so hard not to get distracted. There are so many colorful fish, interesting coral, and beautiful colors. I saw some coral that reminded me of scotch heather, which made me think of my Grandma; she loves scotch heather. I watched a moray eel, from a safe distance, for 15-20 minutes, and hung out with fish as they were slapped back and forth by the underwater currents. There is just so much to see!
The Great Barrier is a true wonder of the world. I hope to someday return when I am a fully certified diver. The underwater kingdom is teeming with life and is a beautiful place to explore.
We were all tired after a day of diving, but the day did not stop there. One of the most rewarding parts of this expedition for me is spreading Parkinson’s awareness. I have been learning so much about the disease from the many people I have met that have been dealing with it. Today a woman stopped Adam after reading the Parkinson’s logo on the vehicles. He gave a brief description of what we are doing, after which she revealed her mother has Parkinson’s disease. He mentioned that I conduct interviews with people with Parkinson’s along our route, and then called me out. We visited for a while and set up a time to have coffee tomorrow. It sounds like her mother has been having a lot of trouble with her medication and suffering from bouts of depression. After having a tremendous experience with Parkinson’s Queensland Inc., perhaps we can share our experiences to a positive end. I guess tomorrow will tell. This is Todd signing off after an amazing day in Cairns, Australia!
[Todd does the underwater disco.]
April 29, 2004
[Horses race by at the rodeo.]
Woooohooo! Yah! Yah! Come on horsie!. I guess it was quite a hilarious sight, 5 Australians and one American galloping around an earthen mound like horses, spanking their own bottoms the whole way. I’m sure you guessed it, that American was none other than myself. I don’t really know how I got involved in the “horse race” but I know it was extremely silly.
We came here quite by accident. On our way out of Cairns, a kind gentlefellow informed us that there was a big four-wheel-drive party going on in Mt. Garnet, which just happened to be on our route towards Alice Springs. Well, there was no 4x4 party, but there was a huge horse race/rodeo (pronounced here as roe-day-o) party going on. As we pulled in we asked where we should camp and were told that there were a few sections for families, and one for rowdy people. Being the super genius that I am, I of course persuaded the team that we needed to be in the rowdy section. Man, was I sorry. Ozzies are a crazy bunch and they seriously love to party, and when I say serious, I mean it, really. We’re talking 5 a.m., shaking-strangers’-tents party. We’re talking wake Colin up by opening his tent and yelling at him, even though you have no idea who in God’s name he is, and you don’t really care anyway, as long as you get to wake him up partying. We’re talking every other word is an expletive party. We’re talking horseless horse races partying.
Justin somehow met a cricket team at some point, and at some other point, Justin and I ended up at their camp. The Mongrel Dogs, as their team is known, are a bunch of friendly jovial fellows, and took us into the fold like we’d known them for years. They all had names that contained the word dog, such as Black Dog, Lap Dog, Red Dog, Mock Dog, Big Dog, etc, and they found it hilarious that I had a nickname (now fortunately defunct) that also contained the word “dog.” Ahem, however I won’t mention it here for fear of proliferating that which I really do not want to proliferate.
Anyway, a seriously good time (except when we tried to sleep, which really wasn’t fun, or even possible) was had by all, and I am rather glad that we chose to attend the roe-day-o.
April 29, 2004
[The team's accommodations in Cairns: The Big Backyard hostel. They gave us a good rate on rooms, so thanks, Big Backyard!]
Well, I didn’t run today, so that makes it a bad day. I mean, I guess it’s not a bad day, but it’s definitely below average. I was just really, really sleepy, and then I ended up working all day. I worked from the hostel for several hours, and then I went to the Internet café to post journals and photos. That was several hours, too, $9 worth of hours.
The cute/nice guy who used to work at Global Gossip when I was in Cairns a couple of months ago now works next door at another café. Global Gossip’s computers couldn’t read my memory stick, so I was forced to venture next door, and viola! There was Hayden. He was excited about his new Yamaha motorcycle street machine, and he was happy to tell me all about it in the way a new father might boast about his kid. I love it when people are just so totally stoked about something that way. It doesn’t matter what it is, just be excited.
Hayden asked how the story ended with my dented Santa Cruz (The bike was dented on the flight from Argentina to Cairns, and I was talking to the airline and my insurance company about a claim when I last saw Hayden.). I let him know that neither the airline nor my renters’ insurance would cover the damage. The good news, however, is that I emailed Rob Roskopp of Santa Cruz some photos of the dent, and he assured me it is cosmetic versus structural, so I’m in the clear. I felt bad about breaking the news about the blemish to Nick over email, but he assured me in his response that he doesn’t care. Oh well; the bike seems happy, at any rate.
So, I finished using the net and gabbing and went to Woolworth’s. Remember Woolworths? It’s been out of business in the U.S. for ages, but it was a sort of department store, if memory serves me correctly. Well, In Aus, it’s a grocery store. Uh, I guess select Woolworth’s grocers do have a variety store section, but not all do. So, uh, like, I sense that this is, like, the world’s most boring blog, but that’s how my day was. Internet all day, shop for lunch and dinner, return to the hostel to do more work, resize and rename images for several hours, and then get ready for bed.
The exciting thing was when Nick, at about 11:30 at night, broke the news to Todd and me that we needed to make space in our vehicle for the team’s refrigerator. Great. Now, here’s an example of something that would have been nice to know sometime prior to minutes before midnight on the eve of departure. No worries. Life is just swell. See ya’s later.
MAY 02, 2004
[In Australia’s outback, the team encountered its first road train. These little babies are three times the length of a regular 18-wheeler of the variety found in the States.]
The team left the Mount Garnet Rodeo and headed toward Alice Springs. Crossing the Kennedy Developmental Road, the team watched the landscape change from coastal cover to dry scrub. The team made a quick stop at Porcupine Gorge (similar to our Grand Canyon, sort of) before continuing on into the night and camping in the outback. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 02, Day 184|
Start: Near Mount Garnet, Australia
Time: 8:15 a.m.
Finish: Cloncurry, Australia
Time: 7:15 a.m.
May 03, 2004
[Long shadows sprawl out on the Outback's red dirt as a road train passes by near the start of the Gunbarrel Highway.]
Whoa, there's some kagaroos!!! This is what we just experienced a few minutes ago out here in the Northern Territory of Australia's Outback. The thing that you might not realize is that since we are in our vehicles moving at about 65 mph, in addition to seeing the kangaroos and being happy and excited, being the drivers, we have to be very alert and have a quick foot on the brakes. The kangaroos we just saw were jumping really fast across the road, right in front of us! It is 11 p.m. and very dark, and there are no lights on the roadside at all. Just bush, dirt, stars, and a bit of moonlight fill our vision. It is very serene, and also a bit monotonous behind the wheel, after seeing the same landscape for the last three days. And today, we have been on the road, literally, since 7 a.m. We actually woke up on the roadside, packed up our tents, and continued driving.
It has been a long day, yet a good one. It is not often you get to experience driving on one road going perfectly straight for hours and hours and hours and hours, literally. You look straight ahead and see the road dissipate into the horizon, like a mirage. And this view continues for many days on end. It is really a good feeling to be out in the wilderness and be surrounded by bush and flies. Well, alright, the flies actually suck, but they are a constant reminder that, yep, we are out there, in the middle of nowhere, or I guess, the middle of Australia. We are actually a few hours away from Alice Springs, which is smack-dab in the middle of this island continent. It amazes me that we have driven here in the last three days. We have covered an immense amount of ground today.
Since this morning, we have driven about 600 miles, and we have stopped almost every 50 to relieve ourselves of tired drivers, where we drink coffee or Red Bull, which causes even more stops due to all the filled-up bladders. All the stops are really good for us though, for we must STOP, REVIVE, and SURVIVE!! There are road signs all over the place reminding drivers to stop if tired.
Along this road we have seen all kinds of birds, termite hills, dead kangaroos, bush, and Road Trains. The road trains are these huge trucks that have anywhere from 3-6 truck containers behind them. There are some cool windmills as well as magnificent cloud formations. The colors out here are very vibrant too, with red earth, green bush, blue skies, and white puffy clouds. There are also road signs to remind you of how far out you are, such as one in particular that has a large "O" on it with a slash through it, indicating "Nothing." Or the sign that says, "No gas for 375 kilometers."
So here we are, finishing up our day; I am writing at midnight now, and we still have about 100 miles to go. We just stopped to fill up our tanks, for the second time today, from our reserve jerry cans on top of the cars. So I will bid you a good night and pray that we don't hit any kangaroos tonight.
PS - We finally arrived at 1:45 in the morning after driving 745 miles today!! And unfortunately, Justin and I were in the front car this evening and we ended up nailing two kangaroos, killing them. It was sad, but inevitable. The little buggers, about 4 feet tall, ran right in front of our car a moment before we passed them. And we were sure they died quickly at least, from all the blood and flesh left on the bottom of D4. Pretty nasty. Hopefully we won't have to do much more night driving, especially as we get into Western Australia, where the Red Kangaroos get up to 6 1/2 feet tall!!
P.P.S. - Long day. We had a long haul toward the Australian outback and Alice Springs, where we will meet our first Take Me With You! journalist. We had to do some night driving, and even though we were extremely cautious, D4, in the lead, hit two kangaroos…No vehicle damage sustained. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 3rd, Day 185|
Start: Cloncurry, Australia
Time: 7:15 a.m.
Finish: Alice Springs, Australia
Time: 01:30 a.m.
May 04, 2004
[We stopped at a gas station the other day and while refueling, a local, rough-looking Ozzie came up to Colin and enquired, “Wot you’s doin?” Colin said, “Driving around the world.” He replied, “Ah yeeeh? You’re a gaaay maaan…!” Colin thought for a minute and then asked, “Why, because they should be Land Cruisers?” And the man replied, “You’s should be drivin’ Toyotas mate, not those Landies, they’re for gay men.” The team is quite satisfied with the “Landies.”]
It was in the wee hours of the night and Neil pulled up the driveway to my urban duplex in his 1980’s Thunderbird. He jumps out in a panic yelling, “Dude you gotta help me get rid of her!!” In the back he had a dead woman wrapped up in towels and plastic bags. Apparently she died while hanging out with him, and we now had to get rid of the body. We started digging a large hole at the foot of my front door while the rains poured down. We dug all night, and by sunrise we managed to plop her in there and fill the pit back in. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough dirt to fill in the hole. It was time to panic for real now because of several factors. The commuters were hitting the city streets around us one by one, and our neighbor opened the door to find out what was going on. It just so happens that she was the head of the Post Office and she was the only person who would know whether someone was missing, so I pinned her up at the door with worthless conversation while Neil kept trying to fill the hole with whatever he could find. Unfortunately the gutter downspout emptied gushing water from my roof straight into our pit. The flow of water began digging out all the dirt we had left. Finally the neighbor went back inside and so now I had time to run off and grab the sacks of cement my dad had in his garage. We began sealing her off under a rather large slab of concrete. It started to work quite well and by midday we had made some crude and out-of-square steps up to the front door while a pristine slab covered the front yard. Then I began worrying about where I would run to and came to the conclusion that fleeing to Brasil was my only chance. At least I knew the country now…But I was so angry that I was a part of Neil’s problem and that it ruined my life. And so I woke up this morning from a rather disturbing dream.
P.S. - Today was amazing. We picked up our first Take Me With You! Journalist, Gregor Stronach, of Australia’s “Overlander” 4X4 magazine, and had breakfast with him. The team split up to accomplish various missions, and everything went swimmingly. We got our permits for traveling through and filming within aboriginal lands, Justin had interviews with ABC Radio and CAAMA Aboriginal Radio, and we had a photo shoot/interview tih the Alice Springs newspaper. We also had an enriching Parkinson’s visit, which you will be about to read about soon in our educational section. After all that, we hit the road and drove all the way to Alice Springs, and we didn’t hit a single kangaroo, cow, camel, or slithery beast. Life is good. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 4th, Day 186|
Start: Alice Springs, Australia
Time: 7:30 a.m.
Finish: Yulara, Australia
Time: 12:30 a.m.
May 05, 2004
Today we had our first sighting of Ayers rock, traditionally called Uluru. We traveled late into the night last night so we could see the sunrise on this marvelous scene. Well, the sun rose as a few drops of rain fell. In this desertscape, there is not much rain, and the few drops that fell were soon chased away by the hot sun that followed. The sky is big here, and the landscape was threatening; sandy red soil covers the ground, sparsely covered by shrubs and other plant life that seems like it should be more appropriately placed in a Dr. Seuss book. The rock was easily seen in the distance from where we camped, as it is one of the largest monoliths in the world (9.0 km around and more than 348m tall). Impressive!
The rock is red and towers over the flat landscape surrounding it. Looking at it, I am convinced that it is Australia’s paper weight; without it, Australia would simply be blown away by the wind.
Since we had a late evening last night, we sluggishly snapped to attention about 10:00 a.m. Needing to make contact with Gram, a representative from the Mutijula tribe of Aborigines, we headed to the town of Yulara to find him. We came into contact with him as we were going through the process of obtaining permits to cross aboriginal land (the Outback from Yulara, Northern Territory to Carnegie, Western Australia). After we obtained the proper permits, he invited us into come visit the Aboriginal Community for which he is a representative.
We met Gram at the foot of Uluru. He explained some of the rules of the rock, and he described the community we were about to see. It is a big privilege to be invited into an aboriginal community; not everyone has this opportunity.
Not knowing much about the wide variety of Aboriginal tribes, we asked if they threw boomerangs that came back after you threw them and if they played the didgeridoo. Apparently, the people in this area did neither. The tribes that made the boomerangs, the kind that returned to the owner after he threw them, lived on the east coast. Apparently they created these to kill birds over water. The boomerang would fly over the water level, either hitting something in its path or returning to the thrower. The tribes that played the didgeridoo resided in the North.
After arriving in the community, we sat down and talked to some local health workers. They filled us in on aboriginal history, focusing on the last 100 years. Their experience and knowledge offered explanations as to what these communities were dealing with, focusing mostly on the health issues.
It is thought they have lived in the Australian Outback for more than 40,000 years, possibly more like 60,000 years. Traditionally, the aboriginals walked the land, hunting and gathering as they went. This lifestyle required them to have intimate knowledge of the bush, plants, animals, weather patterns, and how to survive in this harsh environment. Their word for how to live in harmony with the earth is Tjukurpa (the tj is pronounced like a ch). Living in harmony with the earth meant that they had to take care of their environment, protect their water sources, and ensure regeneration of the animal and plant life; without these practices they would surely die. Some of their practices included harvesting in moderation and doing controlled burning to create an environment for regeneration.
Their diet consisted of fruits, seeds, animals, and insects. They served Whichetty grubs at the cultural center; the grubs are about 2 inches long and supposedly tasted like peanuts after they are cooked. Hopefully, I will get to try one. Another insect they ate was a honey ant. This insect looked just like an ant except it had a big ball of honey attached to its hind end. The Aboriginals ate this ball; it is supposed to be sweet. I would love to go on a walkabout with the Aboriginals, as I think it is an amazing skill to be able to walk through the bush and never be hungry.
At one time, it is thought, there were more than 1,000,000 Aboriginals in Australia extending from shore to shore. However, this number was abruptly reduced after the European arrival. As in the United States, conflicts with the native people arose as to ownership of land. Since the lifestyle of the Aborigines was hunting and gathering, they roamed from place to place, depending on clean water for survival. While roaming from waterhole to waterhole, they would collect food from plants or hunt whatever came into their path. You could imagine that conflicts with cattle ranchers could easily arise. If the Aborigines saw a nice fat steer, they would be psyched, thinking this was a gift from the gods rather than someone’s property, after all how could you own something that belonged to the Earth? Killing this animal would annoy the rancher, and big problems would ensue. It is predictable what would happen if a rancher came upon a family that was eating his steer.
In the minds of the immigrants from Europe, the concept of land ownership was as normal as having a cup of tea. They figured you were entitled to land if you built a permanent dwelling place upon it. Well, this precept worked perfectly in Australia. There were no permanent dwelling places, like houses that marked aboriginal territory; therefore, according to the Europeans, land was free for the taking.
After about 200 years of conflicts and struggles, many Aboriginals live on Aboriginal land and others live in different parts of Australia. They are indeed viewed as lower-class citizens by many. From the minds of many people, they appear well taken care of with their monthly checks from the Australian government. However, another view is that they are a culture in transition. As the juice from the old way of life becomes squeezed out and dries up, a new life has to emerge. What that new life will become, only the future will tell. The bigger question is what do we (the world) want the future to look like?
I guess the bottom line to some of this discussion is that I don’t know of a country that doesn’t have a lower-class, a somewhat depressed population. The world has Native Americans, the Sams in Norway, the Aboriginals in Australia, the Kurds, some of the Chinese minorities (just to name a few). What is our responsibility as a global population to these people, or do we have one? As creative people, are we going to accept Darwin’s laws of the survival of the fittest, or is this a human problem we can solve?
P.S. - We awoke in camp, early in the morning, in an absolutely beautiful setting. Eager to see Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru, we got going and headed a few kilometers into the national park. There, we met with the liaison from the local aboriginal community. He graciously invited us in to the community and arranged a tour through their medical facilities and their art workshop. This was a very rare occurrence, the invitation to enter the community, and we really feel honored to have received an invitation. We learned a bit about the culture, and we met a few of the beautiful kids from the community. Later, we did some filming and caught the sunset at the Rock. Breathtaking. I cannot wait to see Gregor’s magazine spread. He took some great photos. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 5th, Day 187|
Start: Yulara, Australia
Time: 8:30 a.m.
S: 25* 13.782
E: 131* 03.165
Finish: Yulara, Australia
Time: 9:00 p.m.
May 06, 2004
[Ayer’s Rock at sunset. Incredible.]
I woke up around 0730 and crawled out of my bug tent. Todd and I are sharing my airy little tent because journalist Gregor Stranich of “Overlander” magazine is home-based in D3. We volunteered our vehicle as the journalist vehicle for several reasons, not the least of which is that I love sleeping on the ground (when the weather is good). I rather enjoy the but tent, and I’d use it more often if rain and laziness weren’t always a factor.
So, I got up and made some coffee for Gregor and myself while he and Justin went off to take some photos. Gregor had a 0915 flight to catch, so Todd, Justin, and I packed up D3 and headed to the local airport to see him off. Gregor was a lot of fun, and I know the team will miss his company. We are quite hopeful that Land Rover Australia will send him out to join us somewhere else down the road, in another country. Please, please, PLEASE, Land Rover!
After our farewells, Justin, Todd, and I headed to the local resort to steal a shower. All I’d really wanted to do was get straight back to camp, rustle up the team, and head out to the Rock for some cycling and running. I was duped into the trip to the showers, but I have to admit it felt nice to be clean. When we finally got back to camp, two vehicles still had tents up, so my gut (and experience) told me we’d be getting a very slow start…
Tents came down surprisingly quickly, and we headed off to the resort area so the others could shower. Justin went off on his own to conduct a radio interview and was to be finished by 1100.
We sat around doing nothing while people showered and ate breakfast. Then we waited for Justin to return.
Noon-thirty finally ticked around, and the Justin returned, and it looked like we might all be ready to start the day. I am NOT good at sitting around idle and wasting time while there is a bike to ride and a gigantic rock to explore, so I was more than anxious to get going. We had wasted an entire _ day! And we still had to do sunset photos and filming. I wasn’t sure I’d actually have time for any exploring.
I hopped on my Santa Cruz and rode off to the entrance to the park to wait for the team. We had a lot to accomplish today, and I wasn’t keen to miss out on my ride.
They arrived 20 minutes or so later, and we all entered the park together. I continued on my bike in order to get in a bit more guaranteed riding, and we all met up at the cultural center 13 km down the road. There, I came across a tiny snake and tried to block him from slinking off into the bushes by parking my bike in front of it. I wanted Nick to see it, because he was desperate to see a snake. Well, a park employee from the aboriginal art shop came out and yelled at me.
“Just leave it alone! You’re on a national park, you know. You aren’t meant to molest things.”
Well, no kidding! But I didn’t hurt the snake by getting in front of it and making it change course, did I? If that proves damaging to the snake, then I believe he is going to have a very difficult and unhappy (or short) life in the harsh desert environment at Uluru. I mean, c’mon. I didn’t even pick him up the way snake-lover Steve Irwin would’ve. A little stress isn’t going to hurt the little guy.
So, Nick didn’t get to see the snake. Still hasn’t seen one. Probably won’t see one.
Nick and I hopped on our bikes and road to the base of the mountain. Our goal was to pedal the 10 kilometers around Ayer’s Rock. When we got to the little parking area where people who want to climb it begin, we stopped. I wasn’t going to climb it. I didn’t even have proper shoes. The Aboriginals asked people not to climb it. It’s spiritual to them. But when I got there, I just had to climb it. So I took off my shoes and told Nick I’d return within an hour. It took me 23 minutes to reach the summit, and I could feel a big blister in the middle of each forefoot. I didn’t bother looking at them. I just snapped a few pictures and turned around. The entire trip was 53 minutes, and Nick was pleased I hadn’t lied to him about the “back in an hour” thing. For me, that sort of physical challenge is about as close to spiritual as I get, and I imagined the barefoot aboriginal men journeying up the rock.
We hopped back on our bikes and continued to ride the path around Uluru. It was beautiful, and the little roller-coaster hills and dips in the path made for a lot of fun. Nick shouted with glee as he finally figured out what “Virtual Pivot Point” meant. The bike’s rear suspension and frame design made the bike absorb bumps in the trail, and our ride was perfectly smooth. A work of art, that bike.
We met the team back out toward the park’s exit, at a viewing area where cars can park to see the sunset. Just like the night before, it was beautiful. Even prettier this time, I think, because the clouds didn’t block out any of the sun. This place is, indeed, spiritual.
P.S. - Today we had to bid farewell to our temporary 9th team member, Gregor. It was really great having him with us for a couple of days here in Australia, and we feel privileged to have shared with him his first visit (and ours) to Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru, one of his nation’s greatest treasures. He had a wonderful time with the team, and we with him, and we sincerely hope he will be able to join us again somewhere down the road, perhaps in Asia, or Russia, or even the U.S.! He’s a wonderful guy, and we just really had a blast together. We miss you, Gregor! Join us again soon! After we saw him off at the airport here, we headed out to Uluru again, and the team split up to do whatever each wanted to do. Nick and I rode our Santa Cruz bikes around the rock (it was awesome!), Chanda learned about the aboriginal culture at the visitor’s center, the film guys explored the Rock and had some photo ops, and the others did their own thing. At about 4:30 p.m., we had a photo shoot in the good end-of-day lighting and then watched the sun go down on Uluru. It’s an indescribable experience. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 6th, Day 188|
Start: Yulara, Australia
Time: 8:15 a.m.
Finish: Yulara, Australia
Time: 10:00 p.m.
S: 25* 14.328
W: 131* 03.387
May 07, 2004
[Colin fiddles with the gear on top of his Certified Discovery. Thanks to Hannibal, everything on our roof is secure and easy to access.]
Mmmm, hot dogs. OK, well, usually I don’t particularly look forward to hot dogs, but this day is different. We are on the road, on the Gun Barrel Highway, a barren stretch of dirt road that cuts directly through the center of Australia. Food is scarce here, and it is up to us to provide it for ourselves. This is why on this day, a Friday, we are cooking hot dogs, and since we haven’t eaten hot food in days, they are in fact very yummy.
The funny thing about these hot dogs is not what they are, or where we are, or why or how or with whom we are eating them, the funny thing about these hot dogs is the way in which we cooked them. Previously, I had thought that the method we used was reserved for red necks and wierdos, but now I see the err of my former ways. The way with which we cooked these wieners is ingenious, and I would like to send a hearty thanks to whatever redneck or weirdo thought the method up.
The method of course, is engine-manifold cooking. Simple, easy, and extremely convenient when on the road. The way one completes said task is basic. Take food, wrap aforementioned food in tin foil, place food on engine, drive for an hour or so, enjoy food. And that’s all. Now, our engines don’t actually get very hot in the area that we place the foil package, so we are relegated to the foods that will not kill you if they do not reach a certain degree of heat. Hence the weenies. However, after seeing master chefs Nick and Chanda at work, I have decided to mimic them, and my next engine meal will be burritos, and I think they will out yum the yummiest of hot dogs.
P.S. - We had a morning of logistical challenges as we readied team and vehicles for the long stretches of desolation we will encounter along the next leg of our journey: The Gunbarrel Highway. The “highway” is a wide, washboarded, long, straight road through central Australia, with hazards that include roaming camels, cattle, kangaroos, lizards, and road trains. The biggest hazard for us is the long stretches between petrol stations. Even with gerry cans, we don’t have the range needed to take us from one petrol station to the next. There is a problem in Australia with Aboriginal miscreants sniffing unleaded gas to get high, and the fuel has been outlawed in the Outback near the Aboriginal communities. The native Australians have problems similar to the ones we face in the U.S. with bored young people seeking escape through various drugs and vices. So, we don’t have petrol available, and we can’t get it, and we are left with AVGAS (aviation fuel containing lead) as our last resort. We’ve spoken to the Land Rover mechanics, and we should be alright. We’ll see! We left Uluru after finalizing preps for transiting the Gunbarrel, and we had fun bumping down the red, washboard roads after watching the sunset at Kata Tjuta (big rocks near Ayer’s Rock). The lead vehicles spotted six camels in the road on the way to Lasseter Cave in the Petermann Ranges, where we camped for the night. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 7th, Day 189|
Start: Yulara, Australia
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Finish: Lasseter’s Cave, Australia
Time: 9:45 p.m.
S: 25* 01.163
W: 129* 23.839
May 08, 2004
[The red dirt roads of Australia's Outback.]
One of the great things about visiting so many places is the ability to soak in local stories, legends, and facts. Last night, we stayed at Lasseter’s Cave along the Gun Barrel Highway. Lasseter’s Cave, we had been told, was an incredible monument to exploration and a testament to the strength and will of one man. Here’s my take…
Legend has it that Lasseter was one of Australia’s great explorers, and while he was exploring the Outback, he discovered a reef of gold. As he was returning, he took shelter in a cave. You see, his camels had bolted and left him stranded without food. He remained in the cave for approximately 25 days before setting out to meet his relief party. He was weak from starvation, and although an aboriginal family assisted him in his efforts, he died approximately three days later after walking about 55 kilometers.
The story from a few Australians we met was that Lasseter was a bit of a crazy fellow. After his alleged discovery of the reef of gold, he wound up stranded at the cave. Some say it was due to poor planning; others said the camels actually bolted on him as indicated in the legend. From here, the stories start to vary. Some actually say that before he was assisted by the aboriginal family, he was actually met another explorer who offered to help Lasseter get to safety. Fearing for his “reef of gold”, Lasseter refused to leave his cave until driven out by starvation. Others even wonder about the truth of any of it. Many think that the entire story was made up by Lasseter’s descendents. Hard to say.
Nobody knows what happened. The man is dead. Nobody has ever found a reef of gold in the Outback, and the cave was much smaller and less impressive than I expected. Can we get back on the road now?
Until next time, I wish you well from the far side of the world.
P.S. - [First things first: Today is Eric Olson’s 33rd birthday. He is in Hawaii flying CH-53 helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps. I love you, brother. Have a great birthday!] Now, back to business: We were rudely awakened at about midnight by a wild storm that blew and shook our tents and pelted us with a driving rain. Lightning and thunder cracked and lit the sky around us, and we were worried we might get washed away. We survived the night, and woke up with a couple of tourist buses in our vicinity. We departed after a quick visit to the cave, where an Australian explorer spent 25 days stranded without food before leaving to walk 140 km to Kata Tjuta on 1.4 liters of water and perishing 50 km down the road. That was in 1831, I believe. Ever since, they have been looking for a legendary “reef of gold” he claimed to have discovered before his death. We continued crossing the Outback through the Great Reserve past the Warakurna Road House and Giles Weather Station. There, we combined AVGAS and unleaded petrol to max our fuel capacity and picked up a weather forecast before continuing west. The weather was perfect. The team saw several groups of camels along the highway, but we saw even more car corpses, or “hulks” that had been stranded and abandoned over the years. We saw more than 12 of them in the first 100 miles. (N.O.)
|Logbook for May 8th, Day 190|
Start: Lasseter’s Cave, Australia
Time: 9:45 p.m.
S: 25* 01.163
W: 129* 23.839
Finish: Warburton, Australia
Time: 5:00 p.m.
S: 256 07.937
W: 126* 34.099
May 9, 2004
[We're at Camp Beadell in the middle of Central Australia, and we just woke up. In a few minutes, we will continue our journey west. But first, we want to say, "Happy Mother’s Day from the Outback!"]
Welcome to a special Mother’s Day edition of the Drive Around the World Logbook. We drove from our campground at the Warburton Roadhouse along the Great Central Road to where it joins the Gunbarrel Highway. We were surprised to leave the wide, flat, fairly easy-to-travel, fast, red dirt of the Central Road to enter a narrow, rutted, mega-washboarded, rough, treacherous, slow-go track that is the Gunbarrel Highway. I think we were all expecting the sort of conditions we had experienced on the Great Central Road. The Gunbarrel is providing us with a real sense of adventure and excitement, and it makes for some really fun driving, so we’re all quite enjoying ourselves.
Where we are, it is already Mother’s Day, and we have been thinkinga about our moms. By the time this is posted via satellite Internet, it will be the beginning hours of Mother’s Day in the U.S. With that in mind, we are each sending a message to our moms via this logbook. Drive Around the World is blessed with some wonderful moms, and we want them to know how much we love them.
From Todd to mom Karen: Mom, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. I wish you were here. Love, Todd.
From Chanda to mom Brenda: If you were here, you would cook witchity grubs for dinner. J I love you, Mom.
From Colin to mom Jeannie: I wub my mommy.
From Neil to mom Connie: Mama Jamma, I love you, and I appreciate all the support you’ve always given me.
From Nick to mom Bunny: Hi, Mama. You need to go on our next journey. Thanks for teaching me how to be. I’m sending you a big hug from the outback. Love, #5.
From Adam to mom Georgina: Thanks for having me, but just don’t have another.
From Justin to mom Alice: Mom, words cannot express the gratitude I have for all the inspiration and guidance you’ve given me in my life. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day. And know that even when I am at the far corners of the Earth, you are in my thoughts. I love you. Justin.
From Nancy to mom Katie: Mom (MNBH), I wish you were here. Remember all our family excursions to the Grand Canyon, and California, and Maine, and Colorado, and Florida, and that place where you can climb up into the Blackfoot Indian ruins? Remember driving, and stopping to fish for trout, and listening to Willie Nelson, and playing road games? Well, I’ve done all of those things on this trip, just like you and Dad taught me. Guess what? The stars here in Australia are the best I’ve ever seen. I love you to the Southern Cross and back. Love, Nancy (LNBH)
Happy Mother’s Day, moms! Have a great one. With love from the LONGITUDE team.
|Logbook for May 9th, Day 191|
Start: Warburton, Australia
Time: 9:00 a.m.
S: 26* 07.937
E: 126* 34.099
Finish: Camp Beadell, Australia
Time: 6:00 p.m.
S: 25* 33.132
W: 126* 20.040
May 10, 2004
[Vehicles splash through puddles along the Gunbarrel Highway!]
Today was one of the most memorable and spectacular days of our trip so far! We are still on the Gunbarrel Hwy and in the middle of Australia's famous "Outback." We awoke to a picturesque scene of wildflowers and our camped vehicles glowing in the morning light. There was a light wind, which kept off the majority of flies, as well; it was Mother Nature giving us a helping hand.
Justin was looking a bit funky this morning…take a LOOK!! Ha ha. He also decided to throw away his oranges, which have gone bad, so we ended up playing, "Huck the orange to your buddy" game. We quickly found out who could throw and catch well, and who couldn't! It's always nice to see married couple's strengths (Chanda's arm) and weaknesses (Nick's)…ha ha.
After having some fun with oranges and taking a group picture for our mothers, since it was Mother's Day back in the U.S, we headed out west for more fun on the Gunbarrel. This road is awesome!! It is barely a road; it is more a track with one or two side tracks to choose from. We always choose the right-hand track; it is less used and more windy and fun. The dirt is red and extremely sandy, coupled with fun turns and potholes, dips, and crazy rocks, termite hills, and bumps all over the place. It is a fun park out in the wild, and we are the lucky participants who get to drive this off-road track for days and days, without another vehicle in sight. This is truly wonderland.
Along with the zany roads, there are all kinds of animals, too. We saw camels, dingoes, kangaroos, and all kinds of different-colored birds. Luckily, we haven't seen any right in front our moving vehicle yet, phew. It is actually safer on these roads, since you are moving slower due to the extreme terrain. When we see animals, we usually have sufficient time to slow down. And you should see the road signs, whenever there are any. One of them had bullet holes in it. I think we average one road sign every 200 kilometers. We are in the middle of the Outback.
We have also been filming tons recently. There are so many puddles and interesting terrain to cross, it is great for the film. We have been getting some great footage. And of course with all this great Outback, we are slowly turning our vehicles RED with dirt! We are the dirtiest we have been in a long time, and I mean the vehicles, and us. We are on our third day of dirt and sweat, and no shower, mmmn, wish you could smell me now.
Well, the Gunbarrel is much more fascinating than I had anticipated. I know a few of us had worries that it was a huge open dirt road with road trains zooming down, narrowly missing us, and having dust plumes in our face all day long. It is nothing of the sort. Like I said, the roads are narrow, windy and sandy, there is no way big rigs come down this way. It is a fun off-road adventurer's dream, and I thank Nick for setting up this experience. I hope to come back again some day when I have a sweet honey and children to bring along. Until then, cheers mate.
P.S. - Team continued westward past numerous monuments to Len Beadell. After crossing through the Gibson Desert and Mangkilly Claypan Nature Reserves, the team made camp in the Fame Range. Team saw more wildlife, including camels, red kangaroos, dingos, and wild birds._(N.O.)
|Logbook for May 10th, Day 192|
Start: Camp Beadell, Australia
Time: 10:30 a.m.
N: 26* 33.132
E: 125* 20.040
Finish: Gunbarrell Highway, Australia
Time: 6:00 p.m.
N: 25* 28.067
The Outback: A whole lot of nothing.
Journal and photos by Adam
Upon arrival I found Australia similar to the U.S., but as we head into the desolation of the interior there’s a striking difference…nothing. In the US when you head out into the interior there are sections of nothing, but often lined with commercial farms or intersected by a solid highway that passes through towns, small but complete. There’s nothing here. You drive for 2 days on a bechum, single lane road (if you’re lucky) pulling over into the dirt with one set of wheels in order to pass oncoming Toyotas. It’s a different story when the “Road Trains” come. Should one come ripping over the horizon followed by a red storm cloud of dust, you’ve got just enough time to pull all the way off the single track, because they won’t budge. The aftermath from four trailers whipping past is a shower of dust and stones that occasionally chip the windshield. But it’s not only the road and total lack of towns that differs; the people are distinctively different. They have a charm that is remotely English, and not like the bubbly American country folk. It’s warm and witty with a bit of cheek but also incorporates a distinctive roughness that’s not impressed with the obvious. The other day I asked a woman at a confection stand, “Are the apple pies good?” She replied, “Thet’s a stewpid question, I werrk eer. Do yous jest want change?” Fair enough, she was right, I wanted coins for the Laundromat. The pie however, was extremely good and I walked away feeling rather transparent. Tea is still the drink of choice here and I have had several gratis cups along with offers to send my un-stamped letters for nothing but a smile.
So we are about 7 days in and our road has been a combination of trails and single-lane, red-dirt roads. We’ve managed to see a range of wildlife on our route. Kangaroos hopped all over the place on the East side, but we’ve seen fewer and fewer as we head West, or should I say we’ve hit fewer. Camels seem to have replaced them. These tall lanky creatures are hilarious to watch as they flop their stride across the bush, stopping to look back at the rattling Land Rovers as we pass. Yesterday I decided to go “National Geo” on them by steering the car off the dirt road and into the bush. I chased them for about a mile across the endless expanse, weaving erratically around shrubs and trees as Colin and Neil leaned out of the window filming and snapping photos. It was a liberating experience.
Later that day a few dingos came out from hiding. One was so curious we killed the engine and let him circle the car as he sniffed and stared intently, perhaps wondering what we may toss or drop from the window. But 99.9% of the wildlife here take the form of insects, crickets in all colours, beatles in all sizes, tons of termites, and the most pestilent flies available for human annoyance. These small black buggers absolutely refuse to fly off. They zip around you with sleek wings and an insatiable appetite for ears, eyes, and mouths. In hoards, they circle and land on your head from sunrise ‘til sunset, and its enough to drive me to lose what sanity I might have left on this trip. Filming has become one of the most brutal punishments available to man. I step out of the car or tent for one second and immediately they coat my hands, eyes, lips and nose. I try to remain quiet and still while shooting the others as they practice the luxury of shooing the flies away. Recently I have discovered an anecdote to the epidemic. I bought a sarong in Brasil that happens to be thin enough to wrap over my head Hamas style while allowing for 60% visibility. Apparently summer is 10 times worse…
Adam's method for avoiding the flies...
P.S. - Today, we woke up in a makeshift campground, surrounded by short, scrubby trees, red sand and rocks, the scent of fresh rain, and, of course, the ever-present flies of Australia’s Outback. We were treated to a breakfast of bacon and, um, bacon, by Nick and Chanda (yummy), and then we hit the road for more remote dirt-road driving on the Gunbarrel Highway. We made it to our first sign of civilization in three days, Carnegie Station, which proved to be a perfect little oasis for a road-weary crew. The nice lady there hooked us up with unleaded fuel, free showers, and some grub. It was a beautiful day, and there were four baby sheep there, and the place was just so warm and inviting, so we decided to stay. Adam and the film crew shot a couple of team interviews, and everybody did some work, socialized, and cooked up some dinner. We enjoyed the camaraderie of our team members around the laptops and guitars staged around the kitchen table. We felt at home, and it was wonderful to finally shed the layers of orange dirt that caked our skin and clothing. We thought we were tan, and then we noticed our “tan” going down the shower drain… This is the life, and I think we will all be sad when our Outback driving comes to an end. For now, we will savor every moment we have on this road through the middle of nowhere.
Logbook for May 11th, Day 193
Start Gunbarrel Highway, Australia
Time: 10:30 a.m.
S: 25* 28.067
E: 123* 30.784
Finish: Carnegie Station, Outback, Australia
Time: 1:00 p.m.
S: 25* 33.132
W: 126* 20.040
May 11, 2004
Throughout our entire expedition, Red Bull has proven invaluable to the LONGITUDE team as we strive to drive around the world, remaining ever-alert and wide-awake for each spectacular moment of every day. This photo journal contains pics of Red Bull’s greatest moments throughout our journey across Patagonia and the Outback. (This one is from Ushuaia, Argentina, at the tip of the world).
In Cairns, the local ABC affiliate aired a story on Drive Around the World. They showed a clip of the RBAD (Red Bull Auto Delivery System) apparatus mounted in D3. It dispenses Red Bull to driver and co-pilot without either having to take their hands off the wheel.
Here, at Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Neil uses his superhuman Red Bull-aided strength to lift Nick clear off the ground!
In New Zealand, Nick and Todd discover the Kiwis’ secret for staying alert behind the wheel. They’re not so different from us, after all, those crazy Kiwis!
The LONGITUDE team stopped at a “Driver Reviver” (these stops are located all along Australia’s roads, offering free coffee and cookies to weary drivers) to donate a case of Red Bull to one of the last rest stops between Cairns and the outback.
Justin, Nick, and Nancy prepare to donate some Red Bull to the volunteers at this “Driver Reviver” rest stop.
Nancy hands a Red Bull to help revive a thirsty rest-stop visitor on the way to the Outback.
On the way to the Outback, the team stopped at a local rodeo to enjoy some Aussie traditions. While there, they sent Nancy and Chanda out to dispense Red Bull on ice from a trailer towed behind their bicycles. They earned more than $500 in donations toward the expedition’s fuel account!
Nancy prepares to help Chanda rustle up some donations at the Garnet Rodeo. Their Red Bull helped them earn more than $500 to fuel the expedition, and the Red Bull fueled the partiers and rodeo bull riders.
Red Bull helped net the team more than $500 in donations at the Garnet Rodeo.
Fueled by Red Bull, the team made it to Uluru, in Central Australia.
At Uluru, Nancy downed a Red Bull and then dashed to the summit (in her bare feet because the cycling shoes were too slick) in 23.57 minutes, trouncing the former record of 27 minutes, set by Hayes Wheelless of Red Bull Austria!
At the top of Uluru. Red Bull helped her get there. That’s the Olgas in the background.
On Australia’s Gunbarrel Highway, the only other vehicles the LONGITUDE Expedition saw were camels. This place is so remote that no unleaded fuel is available, and the vehicles had to run on AVGAS, or aviation fuel. The team, however, ran on Red Bull.
Here, Nancy and Chanda sign a visitor logbook and leave behind an emergency can of Red Bull for visitors to this section of the Gunbarrel Highway. About 4,000 people pass by this spot each year.
May 12, 2004
Days of washboarded roads and dust along the Gunbarrel Highway.
No more Camels: Carnegie to Meekethara
We should hit paved road today, but I am not holding my breath. Crossing the Gun Barrel Highway has been one of my favorite parts of this expedition. Four days of nothingness, that is if you are not counting the many camels, dingos, and kangaroos. The ground is always red, the road is often illusive, and the pace is slow, yet continuous. The washboard roads have prevented us from using our computers during the day. This has allowed many of us to bathe in the scenery that we are slowly passing; at least we get to bathe somehow.
Actually, the shower thing is not entirely true; we had showers yesterday in Carnegie Station. This was a much-needed stop and the first place in over 800 km that had petrol. Today we will cross the first part of the Gun Barrel Highway (or the part that was built first). The Gun Barrel Highway was forged by a Surveyor/Engineer named Len Beadell. Coincidentally, today is the 9th anniversary of his death. Len’s expertise led him all around the world; however, he is much better known in Australia for his work in developing over 6,000 kilometers of roads through 2.5 million square kilometers of some of Australia's harshest deserts.
The Gun Barrel highway derived its name from its original purpose. Western Australia is a vast area of dry scrubland, which at first sight wouldn’t seem to be the most hospitable place to live, although the aboriginals might disagree. As you move west from Queensland, land just seems to get drier and drier. This area is home to the Gibson Desert and the Great Sandy Desert, and lies just north and west of the Victoria Desert and the Simpson Desert; ok, so you get the picture. This is why this area became a bombing range. To check the accuracy of missiles and the like, a system of roads had to be built into this area. The Gun Barrel Highway was created to reclaim and further study the accuracy of the guns and such that were delivering these high explosives to their targets.
Fortunately, this area of the country has been in retirement for sometime, so we were able to freely go from one end to the other of this highway with out seeing a single rocket or hearing an explosion, besides lightning. Driving in this area has been one of the great joys on this journey for me. We drive until we are tired, or about the time the sun goes down, fix a meal from collections of cans, cheese and salami, and then we chill, write, or play guitar until the next day, when we get up and repeat the previous day. Keep in mind we can still check e-mail with our sat phone, regardless of our remote location. The vastness is really exciting to me, and I have enjoyed being out in the open for days on end. However, knowing that Australia is home to the 11 most deadly snakes in the world, it causes me to think more than once or twice when I have to pee in the light or dark.
Our drive ended in Meekethara. As we drove into town, we lost the vibrating dustiness of the Gun Barrel, and will presumably be on pavement for the rest of our time in this country. A mixed blessing, as I will not have an excuse for not working on my computer in the vehicle. Well, I will have to work on that.
We rolled into Meekethara and celebrated our accomplishment with great joy. It was a great bonding experience, although we look forward to the all the stuff we have coming up. I believe all of us have benefited from driving on this lonely highway. I am not sure exactly how, but I think we will all look back on this experience fondly. I would also like to extend a special thanks to the police and medical people in Meekethara (I am sure Nancy’s blog will tell you what we spent our early hours of the morning doing).
P.S. - We left the Gunbarrel Highway when we left Carnegie. The road was still dirt, but it was wide and level. We filmed some convoy shots and investigated a couple of dead camels, and then we stopped at a grocery store. There, we shot some team interviews and worked on the webpage before continuing toward Meekatharra. When we arrived, we stopped at a pub to chat up the locals. Later, the police helped us locate a nice campsite, and we parked it for the night. Nancy decided to do some exploring in the dark and climbed up a little burm toward what appeared to be a large crater. She took a step forward into what she thought was just a shadow or a dark spot of earth and ended up stepping down into a meter-deep hole and landing on the side of her foot. Her left ankle swelled up instantly, and it was clear to the team that she needed medical attention. Under protest, she went to the emergency room, where she was x-rayed and medicated, the ankle was declared unbroken, and they sent her home with a bandage. It’s double the size of her right ankle. Nancy has a fankle (a fat ankle).
|Logbook for May 12th, Day 194|
Start: Carnegie Station, Australia
Time: 8:30 a.m.
S: 25* 47.774
E: 122* 58.472
Finish: Meekatharra, Australia
Time: 7:00 p.m.
S: 31* 53.363
E: 116* 02.032
May 13, 2004
I’ve a feeling this purple and painful ankle is going to need a little physical therapy. We need a ninth team member. I figure that ninth team member ought to have experience in healing bones, tendons, and ligaments. Interested, qualified parties should contact Drive Around the World.
My second toe, the one next to the Big Toe, is long. It’s as long as the big guy, and it’s actually longer if I stretch it out. They say if your second toe is longer than your big toe, you wear the pants in the family. Well, I haven’t got any family of my own, but I can’t imagine wearing the pants if or when I do have a family. Sure, I like to have my way whenever possible, but that doesn’t mean much. When it comes right down to it, I don’t mind being told what to do. Not at all. As long as what you want me to do also happens to be what I want to do. Haaaaa.
I’m staring at my toes because three of them are purple. The three in the middle. And this journal is supposed to be about the day I twisted the heck out of my left ankle.
I was on my own, exploring. The night sky was alight with zillions of bright stars. The Milky Way took on the glow of phosphorescence on a clear, dark ocean. In the darkness, I could see the outlines of what must be a crater, with high walls encircling a dark divit in the lunarscape of our campground. I didn’t have time to be bothered with searching for a head torch. I was there to see the crater, doggonit, and I didn’t need the assistance of artificial light.
I climbed up the loose, rocky walls of the crater, my teammates laughter and chatter echoing mildly in the background of my perception. Before me, I saw the crest of the little hill. I figured the lip must be five feet or so in width, and I paused briefly before deciding to take a step forward. There was a curious dark line around the lip of the crater, and I reckoned it must be a shadow, or maybe just some dark rocks. I was suffering from a bout of space madness, and I knew it, but somehow that didn’t figure into my decision-making process. I stepped forward, left leg first, into the darkness.
What happened then was surreal. I plummeted for a split second, and then I landed, in a twist, on my left ankle. The dark patch I had contemplated was actually a ditch. A two-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep moat of sorts surrounding the hole I meant to explore. I had stepped forward with the expectation of landing on solid ground, and, actually, I did land on solid ground, but that solid ground was several feet below where I thought it would be. All of my weight landed on my ankle, which twisted inwardly, rolling in so far that my pinky toe and the top of my foot were scratched and bloodied. I felt the cracking and popping, so I knew it was bad. I sat and grabbed my ankle. It was swollen. Taut. From Achilles, to ankle bone, to mid-foot. It was huge. Instantly huge. I called out for Todd.
Todd performed a brief inspection and called for Nick. Nick and Neil carried me down the walls of the crater to the lunar module (Land Rover Discovery, Vehicle D2), the only one that hadn’t yet popped its tent. I was going to the emergency room, insurance be darned, and there was nothing I could do or say to get out of it. Secretly, I figured it was for the best. This ankle thing was worse than any ankle thing I’ve ever had before. Nick said I was half joking, half crying, saying they shouldn’t have put that ditch there, etc., etc.
Todd and Chanda took me in. We found our way there by some miracle, without a single hitch. Drove straight to it. It probably has something to do with the fact that the town is only about the size of four city blocks, but we like to think it was a miracle. They X-rayed me, and they gave me “Brufen”, which is Australia’s version of Ibuprofen, I guess. They also gave me a few tablets of something stronger, called Panadiene. I took one of them, just in case. But no crutches. I’d have to hop on one foot.
So, I hopped out of the car (the nurses said I wasn’t broken, but that the doc would have to read the X-ray in the morning since they weren’t actually qualified) back at the campsite, and I realized I needed to use the bathroom. If you’ve never tried squatting with only one leg, then you ought to. It ain’t easy. When I was hopping, my right flip-flop caught a little, and I fell forward. The momentum of my fall on the stuck flop caused the she to rip at the point where the toe piece joins the sole, and it ripped out. Broken. I’d bought those leopard-skin-print flops in about ’98 or so, in Carlsbad, California, in a surf shop, and they’d served me very well. Sure, they didn’t smell too right, and they were a bit worn out, but they were my trusty flops. And now they were dead. Totaled. Kaput. And that was the great tragedy of the evening. Sure, I’ll be miserable and out-of-action for the next several weeks, and everybody will soon tire of my complaints about not getting to exercise, but the great tragedy is the loss of those old flip-flops. Guess I’ll have to find a new pair in Asia. A better pair. A step pair to fill in for the real pair. Nothing like the originals, but a pair to fill the void. I’m on the hunt, and I’ll fill you in later when and if I find a new set of flops.
P.S. - We decided to have a hot breakfast in town, and then we split the convoy up. Two vehicles, D2 and D4, went on toward Perth so Justin could call a radio station from Mount Magnet, and D1 and D3 stayed in Meekatharra so Nancy could get her X-rays from the doctor and so Nick and Chanda could download some stuff to the Internet. D1 and D3 were in town until late in the afternoon, and D2 and D4 had left Mount Magnet hours earlier. We didn’t meet up again until about two in the morning, in the parking lot the tyre shop, where we camped for the night. _(N.O.)
|Logbook for May 13th, Day 195|
Start: Meekatharra, Australia
Time: 10:00 a.m.
S: 31* 53.363
E: 116* 02.032
Finish: Maida Vale, Australia
Time: 2:00 a.m.
S: 31* 53.363
E: 116* 02.032
May 14, 2004
Colin and the boys got their Discovery stuck on the beach at Margaret River in Australia. There's just nothing for the tires to stick to in that deep sand.
Well, our time in Australia is quickly winding down. today is Friday; we get on a boat on Monday. Today was an immensely busy day, one that by all DATW standards, was a typically immensely busy day. That is, as far as days that would be considered immensely busy are concerned. The day started early in the western city of Perth. The team awoke in a tire yard, where we had been graciously hosted by the owner of the tire company that was doing some tire replacements for us today. Anyway, we got all that tire business started and then began powerwashing the cars. All those days on the gunbarrel had left our vehicles positively caked with bulldust, a hard, clay-like residue of the Outback. So, with the cleaning completed, we headed over to Barbagallo Land Rover, the Perth dealership. Anyway, we had a nice long list of things to be done to the cars and the staff at the dealership was more than glad to assist us. They did a bang-up job, and I was amazed at the speed with which they undertook their task. While we were there Neil came up with a great idea: he suggested that he, Adam and I take D2 down to Margaret river to catch what he would call "some epic surf." Margaret River, or Mags, as the locals call it, is about 3 hours south of Perth, and is a complete Surf town. So here we are, in Mags, and Neil and Adam are bedding down early so they can get up at the crack and ride some waves. Me, on the other hand, I plan to sleep. This being the first night in over 2 weeks that I've slept in a bed, I'm very excited about crawling in and going to sleep, and staying there for a long while.
P.S. - After replacing a couple of tires in the morning, the team went to Barbagallo Land Rover for checkups and repairs. Film crew went south to surf. Interviews were conducted with 6PR Newsradio and several newspapers. Team rounded out the day by meeting a representative (Claire) from ARB and chatting with the Land Rover employees in the Barbagallo parking lot.
|Logbook for May 14th, Day 196|
Start: Maida Vale, Australia
Time: 8:00 a.m.
S: 31* 53.363
E: 116* 02.032
Finish: Cottesloe, Australia
Time: 6:30 p.m. S: 31* 59.406
E: 115* 45.222
May 15, 2004
The team poses for a photo with BFGoodrich and the team from Tyres Plus.
Another one down…
We have finished our crossing of Australia and now are ready to begin preparations to ship our cars to Singapore to start the Asian leg of our journey. It is too soon to call it the road home, since there are yet several months of driving to go.
Today is an early start for almost everybody. Thanks to the warm reception by Australians, we have had a great deal of press as we’ve traveled around. Just yesterday, I conducted two radio interviews, and today we are making an appearance with BF Goodrich tires. Going into these events always brings a great deal of uncertainty, because you never know who is going to show up. Also, after the long days we’ve had getting into Perth, the team is a bit haggard and could use some time off. But everyone knows the drill—shirts on, cars cleaned, smiles firmly affixed to our faces, and it’s game on.
We arrive on time, set up the cars, and wait…
Unfortunately, luck is not on our side today. Only a few people show up to support our appearance, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
On the bright side, Perth is a great city. After the long haul across the Outback, it’s nice to be back in a developed area. At first glance, it reminds me quite a bit of San Diego. Perth is full of museums, beach areas, and friendly people, plus it has a vibrant downtown shopping area. But Perth also feels quite a bit more laid back compared to the other cities I visited in Australia. It also reminds me a bit of home. It’s been nice speaking English again for the last month, although I have to admit that sometimes trying to translate Australian English can be just as difficult as translating Spanish or Portuguese.
But, I do feel it’s time to go. Having given Australia its fair shake, I’m yearning for the challenges and cultures that await us in Asia. I have never been to the Southeast part of Asia, and I am uncertain of what to expect. As with all of my travels, I’ll find out when I get there.
Until next time, I wish you all well from the far side of the world.
(L to R) Todd, Nick, and Nancy pose with the Michelin Man at the SEMA show in Vegas at the end of October. Michelin and Drive Around the World sponsor BFGoodrich are part of the same company.
Day started with a 3-hour appearance at Tyre Plus with BFG corporate present. After lunch with Brent Laobrook from BFG, we prepared a news story for the local papers and made a visit to a local gentleman who has Parkinson’s.
|Logbook for May 15th, Day 197|
Start: Cottesloe, Australia
Time: 7:30 a.m.
S: 31* 59.406
E: 115* 45.222
Finish: Cottesloe, Australia
Time: 5:00 p.m.
S: 31* 59.406
E: 115* 45.222
May 16, 2004
Adam and the vehicles await a photo session outside of ARB Australia. We are quite thankful for the kindness displayed by one of our favorite sponsors, ARB.
Today started with the ugly task of washing the Gunbarrel mud and dirt off the cars. The rest of the day was given to the team to accomplish tasks individually.
|Logbook for May 16th, Day 198|
Start: Perth, Australia
Time: 7:00 a.m.
S: 31* 59.406 _E: 115* 45.222
Finish: Perth, Australia
Time: 6:00 p.m.
S: 31* 59.406 _E: 115* 45.222
May 17, 2004
Adam films as Nancy, Justin, Chanda, Todd, and Nick climb aboard Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel M/V TARAGO for a 5-day sail from Freemantle to Singapore
So today is our last day on mainland Australia. We awoke in our oceanfront hostel in Cottlesloe and ate our last Big Brekky!! It was a tasty one too, with crunchy bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, toast, and hash browns. And of course, I ordered a very rich-tasting cappuccino. It is a good thing it is our last day in Australia so we can stop spending so much money on the food here. Australia has been really expensive.
We then rallied the troops and drove over to ARB to snap a picture with those friendly folks. They have been really helpful to us in Australia, so thanks ARB. And after we visited ARB, we headed back to the hotel to meet Todd, who had met with the Western Australia's Parkinson's Branch. He had a very impacting visit with them.
Now it was time to head over to the shipyard and load our vehicles onto the Wallenius Wilhelmsen ship that is taking us to Singapore. We have all been a bit worried about what to expect on this ship. All our past ferry experiences were rusty ferries with no accommodations or food, so we had reason to be nervous.
However, upon driving up to the ship, which is enormous, we were all pleasantly surprised by how beautiful and big it was!! It is 240 meters long and looked like a huge orange-cream Popsicle. The bottom 3/4 of the entire ship is bright orange, with white on top. The ship is only four years old, as well, so it is in very nice condition.
As we arrived, the captain came to greet us and introduce a few of his crew. They are all extremely friendly people, and I have already begun to have a really good time with them. The captain and a few of his mates are Norwegian, however 80% of the 23-person crew is from the Philippines, and they are really fun to be around. They showed Adam and me the engine room, and that was unbelievable. The piston had broken a ring, so they had just repaired it, along with the cylinder. Now you have to realize that the piston was about two feet wide in diameter and three feet deep!! Enormous!!!!! And there were quite a few of them. And then there is the hydraulics to lift the main cargo entryway, and the engine for the propeller, as well as a plethora of machines that filled up the entire deck of this ship! It is literally mind-boggling!
All the Philippino guys and we are going to play some basketball later, too. They have a gym here with a squash/basketball court and a weight room, and of course, a ping pong table. Our rooms are great, too. Each person has his own room, except Adam and me; we are sharing. The rooms have a bathroom and a couch, a few chairs, closets, windows, and plenty of space. There are also many other recreation rooms filled with sound systems andTV's, and filled with books and DVD's. We are not going to be bored on this ship. They even have karaoke!!!
The chef is from Goa, India, and prepares some delicious curry, mmmn, mmmn.
So after we settled in, since the ship wasn't leaving until 3 a.m., we went to Fremantle and hung out at a few different places. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that had a special deal for $9.95. They had penne pasta with pumpkin, rosemary, olive oil, garlic, and a few other ingredients. It was delicious, and then afterwards, Nick ordered a cheese plate that came with this very rich bleu cheese and pears and figs. It was quite a meal to mark the last few steps on Australian soil.
And back to the ship we went. I shot some hoops for a while then hit the sack and anxiously awaited waking up the next morning out in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
P.S. - Team started with a photo appearance at ARB. After that was completed, some last-minute errands, including picking up a CD of our radio interview with 6PR, were handled. At 2:00 p.m., the team began the loading process on the Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel M/V TARAGO, for their 5-day sea voyage to Singapore. Ship sailed just before 5:00 a.m._(N.O.)
|Logbook for May 17th, Day 199|
Start: Perth, Australia
Time: 7:30 a.m.
S: 31* 59.406
E: 115* 45.222
Finish: Freemantle, Australia
Time: 6:00 p.m.
S: 32* 02.378
E: 115* 45.100
May 18, 2004
(Top) The M/V TARAGO. (Bottom) Neil in his beautiful stateroom aboard Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel M/V TARAGO.
One idle summer of future-searching, I walked into the Coast Guard office on Stevens Creek Boulevard to inquire about the officer’s academy. The thought of being in the high seas saving little crafts and stopping smugglers sounded intriguing that day. That evening I received a call from Captain something-or-other on my message machine that confirmed, “Yes, indeed, your missing finger DQ’s you from entering the Coast Guard.” I suppose holding back that I couldn’t smell either was futile. The lust to be drifting around in the ocean never really died, because I bought a sailboat a few years later. But now, as I lay on my stomach vibrating and swaying on the top bunk in my room, I realise I have finally got a taste of the real thing.
We successfully finished running the Gunbarrel Highway on Friday after burning 80 gallons of leaded 105 octane aviator fuel in the Land Rovers. I managed to survive on a diet of peanut butter on bread, Marmite on bread, mueslie bars, beans on toast, and packets of noodles. I have never eaten so much peanut butter in my life, and I may actually hate the stuff by now. When we arrived in Perth, Neil and I went south for the weekend to surf in Margaret River and returned for the big day. Monday. Once again the cars must ship. This time from Perth to Singapore in order to link us up to the Asia stretch of the journey. The only difference this time is that we join the cars on the ship. Some of us were dreading the idea of six days at sea with the cars on a freighter. We’ve spent nights on ferries and had to sleep in the tents on the cars as they sway on the deck; some of us had opted to sleep on the deck where I woke up to a Chilean man hawking phlegm into a puddle he had created next to my head. So the images of sea travel were very grim. As we pulled up to the ridiculously large orange Willaneus Wilhelmson cargo freighter, the images of steel and ocean dew crept into my bones. We met with the captain and first officer and confirmed that I could film the crew driving our cars onto the ship a few times and several tours of the vessel. Fortunately Nick had set it up with WW (our shipping sponsor) ahead of time with countless phone calls. It just so happens that we made it into their monthly publication with a large article that showed photos of us driving and how their “sponsoring a philanthropic cause goes hand-in-hand with WW’s business model…”. The article and the presence of film cameras has led the Captain and his crew to believe that we are very important individuals, and so during our tour we quickly learnt that each of us will be staying in a berth that rivals any cruiseliner’s, complete with bedside lamps and artwork. We have access to a small gymnasium complete with weights, squash, basketball and, of course, a ping pong table and three cooked meals a day, including beer. It’s all absolutely luxurious after having spent seven months in cars and hostels. The tour of the ship included climbing inside the escape pod on the stern of the ship and chilling out with the captain in the wheelhouse at the top. It’s been great filming the crew on board as they slowly sway back and forth and walk into walls. Chanda has “figured out her sealegs” by leaning against one wall and walking the entire corridor without leaving it. Rather amusing.
On the first night Neil and I were informed that down in the engine room, the head mechanic and his crew were working on a piston. Apparently we were supposed to leave at 2 p.m. but they had to replace a piston. I grabbed the camera and Neil joined me for a little venture down under. We jumped into the elevator with Rudy and headed five stories down. We stepped out into the engine room that seemed like a well-lit version of an “Aliens” film or some submarine action flick. The generators roared at deafening levels and hydraulics ran all over the place. Rudy led us to the culprit of our delay. There it lay on the walkway. A steel, carbon-fouled piston the size of a wine barrel accompanied by a rather jovial mechanic. He screamed over the roar “Peeston wings! They are bwoken!” and he pointed at a massive 5-inch chunk that was missing from the ring. (For reference, one of a car’s pistons is about the size of a coffee cup, and the rings are millimeters thick) The MS Tarago has five of these suckers. From there we stepped into the Control Room to meet the head Engineer and mechanic. According to the mechanic, the damaged rings also scored and ruined the piston, and so they both had to be replaced. If you can imagine the size of the cylinder that housed this wine-barrel-sized piston then you’d realise what sort of work he had ahead of him when they pulled into port. Covered in grease and quite excited, he explained that he replaced another piston and new cylinder loaded on by a crane in nine hours! I told him it takes three days for a shop to repair a car’s, and he laughed in agreement. I was pretty stunned. The ship’s size is impressive. It houses eight decks, or stories, grosses 67,000 megatons, and its 27-foot propeller whips around with 28,480 Bhorse power.
P.S. - Sailed up West Coast of Australia, between Java and Sumatra, to Singapore. Team sailed as guests aboard Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel M/V TARAGO. Team settled into a routine with meals at 7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:30 p.m., dining with the captain and senior officers. Tonight, the team was invited to share two bottles of Aquavit with the officers and a karaoke party with the Philippino crew. Program work continued with time spent on the bridge and swimming in a pool on the top deck that was filled with water piped in from the ocean. With the ship under a pirate watch, the team crossed the equator again._(N.O.)
|Logbook for May 18th, Day 200|
Start: Indian Ocean
Finish: Indian Ocean
May 19, 2004
Hirohito, the chef, runs a tight ship. This is his galley aboard the Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel M/V TARAGO.
Sailing north off the coast of Australia, next stop Singapore.
I am used to the rocking now, and I kind of like it. The boats rocks you back and forth, but I feel as though I am constantly being rocked to sleep, therefore I deal with a constant drowsiness.
Everyone here has been great--very friendly and the food as been incredible. Great food, and I don’t even have to do any dishes! I just show up, eat, and take my dishes to the wash window. Meals are from 7:30am to 8:00am, 11:30 to 12:30pm, and 5:30 to 6:30pm. The team is privileged to eat with the officers, and it has been great getting to know them. The Captain, a stoic Norwegian with a twinkle in his eye; Sten, a rare Norwegian Ford Mustang enthusiast; Freddie, the chief mate who looks like my cousin Ben, who is also a sailor; and the rest: Sparky, Hirohito, Kenneth and Johan. Our experience has been so great that we don’t want to get off the ship in Singapore.
Most of us have our own cabins, which has been a great morale boost and something many of us haven’t been used to over the last 6 months. Many of us are trying to catch up on a lot of work that we have been attempting to do over the last month, although at first it doesn’t seem like there is much to do. There are plenty of distractions such as the crew’s nightly Karaoke festivals, or when the Captain brings out the special Norwegian drink called Aquavit.
It is interesting to be at sea for days on end. With all the conveniences on the ship, it is hard to notice that we have been at sea for a couple of days. There is a basketball court, a swimming pool, movies, books, and many other distractions. The ship is about four years old and every spot is neatly painted, all gear is neatly stowed away, and the 23 officers and crew seem to work very peacefully together. These are four-month tours for them, beginning in Germany and ending there as well. I think this crew will be home in another two months.
I have my own room with a private bath, desk, couch, table and bed. I have been having fun staying in my room and thinking my own thoughts, and more importantly completing some of them before I get interrupted.
At dinner tonight I was invited over to the Captain’s table, and during the course of the meal and the rest of the evening everyone migrated there until we had twelve people sitting around discussing everything from politics, to cars, to life at sea, to life on the road. There were even some stories about eccentric Americans trying to go visit their long lost relatives in Norway. I just can’t begin to convey how relaxing it has been here. This relaxation is essential as we build up for the upcoming months through Asia.
Now back to my own thoughts in my own room.
P.S. - (N.O.) Ship antics. Still sailing!
|Logbook for May 19th, Day 201|
Start: Indian Ocean
Finish: Indian Ocean
May 20, 2004
The USS Peleliu, Naval amphibious ship LHA-5, leaves port in San Diego for a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf region. Aboard are the Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including first lieutenants Nancy and Lori Kelley.
As we neared the port, we could see a mountain of bright=orange steel capped with snowy white. On the side, giant white letters, all caps, spelled out “WALENIUS WILHELMSEN” down her entire length. This don’t-shoot-me-‘cause-I’m-not-a-deer orange vessel was both beautiful and shocking to a girl whose ship experience has consisted entirely of gray war machines.
We climbed aboard, and we were met at the top of the ladder by a security crewmember in a blue jumpsuit standing behind a podium. On our way up the ladder, I had been instinctively looking for an American flag to salute, but I found none, because, duh, this is a Norwegian vessel. I asked him for permission to come aboard, and it was granted. I felt a sharp stab of longing for times I spent aboard the amphibious ship USS Pelelieu, LHA 5, as a young Marine Corps captain. I remember the evening we boarded her in port in San Diego. My best friend, Lori, and I saluted the ensign (the American flag on the ship’s stern), and then we saluted the sailor on duty standing behind his podium and requested permission to come aboard. It was granted. That night, we were setting sail for six months. Today, the crew of Drive Around the World was setting sail for six days.
We drove our four Certified Land Rover Discovery expedition vehicles up a large metal ramp astern and inside the bowels of the ship, like Marines loading their precious Humvees and 5-Tons into the Peleliu for deployment to the Persian Gulf. We had washed most of Australia’s muddy Gunbarrel Highway off of the vehicles, and they were ready for Singapore. __Wow, was this ship clean! You could just about eat off of the deck plates! We grabbed our gear and headed for the water-tight door that would lead us inside. Our berths were about five decks up, and I envisioned having to haul our gear up several sets of metal ladders. To my surprise and, admittedly, relief, we bypassed the stairs and walked straight into a little elevator. With the push of a button, we were lifted to the top. I felt like an Admiral or a General, but I guess even they don’t ride elevators aboard ship. So, I guess I felt like a ship’s hospital patient…no, that’s not right, either. I felt like a queen.
Upstairs, we were led through the passageway by the captain, who showed us to our staterooms. That’s right, I said staterooms! Woo-whoooo! We’d be riding in style! I never would have imagined that we’d all have our own rooms with comfortable little beds, including linen, a desk, and, most astonishingly, a shower and toilet! No walking way down the passageway in the middle of the night to use the shared toilets!
In true Nancy fashion, I was asleep when we pulled out of port. In the morning, I was delighted to awake to the gentle rocking of the ship at sea. We were underway of the coast of Australia, in the Indian Ocean. Awesome!
Like it was on the USS Peleliu, the ship aboard the M/V Tarago is deee-licious! We were treated to three incredible squares a day, and the Indian chef, Hirohito, makes the most incredible curry dishes outside of India! It’s a good thing this cruise is only six days, or we’d all get fat! Of course, like the Peleliu, this ship has a gym.
Occasionally, aboard the Peleliu, we would have the opportunity to go topside to the helicopter/Harrier deck to run, lay out, cook hamburgers, etc. During these times, the ship’s “flattop” was referred to as “Steel Beach”, and Steel Beach picnics were the best! The only thing that could have made them better was a swimming pool, and, you guessed it, the Tarago has a pool! The crew filled the pool for us by pumping it up from the Indian Ocean, and we swam and giggled in this delicious pool during a break from our work.
The Tarago's pool.
We’re looking forward to enjoying the rest of our “Carnival Cruise” here aboard the Tarago, and I think we’ll be sad to disembark. We sure are thankful to Walenius Wilhelmsen and the Captain and crew for welcoming us aboard. The Tarago lacks the ambiance of a U.S. Amphibious ship, but it’ll do just fine!
P.S. - We have our sea legs, and we’re loving the voyage
|Logbook for May 20th, Day 202|
Start: Indian Ocean
Finish: Indian Ocean
May 21, 2004
The Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel M/V TARAGO had all the luxuries of a 5-star cruise, including a gym and a basketball court. Ping-pong, too.
I must admit, at first, the idea of taking a boat from Australia to Singapore did not sound fun. I had imagined a dirty, diesel-fume, sinking barge full of swarthy sailors, tiny beds that I would be seasick in, and disgusting food. Well, none of the above were true.
As soon as I saw the boat I knew that this trip would be interesting. Huge and orange, it was resting at the pier. Our cars lined up; we drove into the immaculately clean holding deck. We were greeted with smiles and handshakes from the Fillipino and Norwegian crew.
Since then, this trip has been great. Amazing food, beautiful cabins, a topside pool and lounge chairs, late-night karaoke with the crew, a reading library, a movie library, what else could I ask for? This was a serious treat, and to tell the truth I am sad to leave the boat; however, the promise of Asia, that unexplored continent (for me at least), keeps me moving.
P.S. - Still sailing…weather is getting hotter…
|Logbook for May 21st, Day 203|
Start: Indian Ocean
Finish: Indian Ocean
May 22, 2004
Neil peeps in through a porthole aboard the M/V Tarago.
The big blue ocean is spread out before me. Like no ocean I’ve seen before, I am captivated by its beauty. Crossing the Indian Ocean, I am struck with a new sense of wonder. A quick check of the atlas reminds me of how far we’ve come. A second glance reminds me of how far we still have to go. Our ship-bound voyage is quite helpful in that we are covering a lot of earth in a short amount of time. By the time we dock in Singapore, we will have left the Southern hemisphere for good.
It does just seem like yesterday that I was packing and unpacking my bags repeatedly to determine what should stay and what should go. Now, I’m on my 2nd bag of the expedition, having destroyed one and having shipped about 50% of what I originally packed home. How is it that I still seem to have more items than I began with?
The great thing about the ship is that in between all the time that we’re spending working, I actually have time to reflect on the journey behind us. We have collectively traveled through 16 countries. We’ve driven somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 miles. We have met thousands of people, many of whom are now fast friends.
The amazing thing about this journey is how quickly one can adapt to all of the new places you go. Each day brings a barrage to your senses. New sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and smells attack the five senses in an endless wave. Sure, every now and then you really get a craving to go see a baseball game or return to your favorite restaurant, but on the whole every day brings something new, and if you can handle the constant change, you have entered a life unlike any other.
So, to each of you sitting at home right now, I have a challenge for you: with your next vacation—be it a week or a month, consider going someplace that you have never thought about before. Push your personal boundaries to new limits. If there’s something you want to see or do, now is the time to capitalize on that urge. Besides, the hardest part about travel is deciding where to go. The easy part is getting moving.
The only question left is how far do you want to go?
Until next time, I wish you all well from the far side of the world.
The sun sets over the side of the ship.
P.S. - Last day aboard ship! We disembark tomorrow, and we’re sort of sad. We’ll miss the comfort and the crew of the M/V TARAGO. Thank you, Wallenius Wilhelmsen! This was a major highlight of the entire expedition.
|Logbook for May 22nd, 204|
Start: Indian Ocean
Finish: Indian Ocean