No, It’s NOT Fathers Day just yet

We had a proper lazy winter weekend. Friday evening was our only activity as Mike & I joined the Pinjarra staff for a social evening of bowling and dinner – lots of fun despite the fact that I still have not beaten Mike in a game.

We spent the rest of the weekend lounging around as the weather was rainy and very windy, and Mike was feeling a bit under the weather. And somehow in the laid back atmosphere I managed to mix up my dates…..

As mentioned back in June, Fathers Day is not celebrated on the same date here – it is on September 2 this year. I managed to get my weekends out of sync, and we ended up celebrating Father’s Day this past Sunday. Kyle made Mike a very respectable Western Sandwich a la Montgomery style along with Irish Coffee. It wasn’t till into the evening after we had catered to Mike for the day that I realized I was a week off on my dates. So despite the attempt to ensure Mike only got one Fathers Day to match my one Mothers Day, it looks like he may have lucked out in the end!!!

And on a semi-related topic, we are as mentioned earlier, one son down now here in Oz. So it’s time to update the family photo again. And no, it’s not just an optical illusion – Kyle really is taller than Mike now, even without the giant mop on top of his head.

Gold Rush Fever

Feeling much more refreshed after a full nights sleep, Saturday and Sunday had us venture into the mining world of GOLD. After a yummy ‘camp breakfast’ with jaffles (cast iron sandwich maker bread, egg, cheese and bacon cooked in the fire pit), we headed out to the mines.

On Saturday we visited an underground mine. The mine we visited is no longer active, but is still maintained as a tourist site. We only went down 1 level in the elevator shaft – it actually goes down 12 levels. The lower levels are now flooded since they are no longer pumped out.

The site also included many historic aspects of mining. There were samples of miner camps, older style mining rigs and such. You could pan for gold if felt lucky (we passed). There was also an extensive indoor display of rocks and minerals. Patrick would have enjoyed the crystals – they were very colourful and large. My favourite exhibit was a massive polished wall hanging of tiger eye.

Our guide on the tour underground was a retired miner. He had worked as a contract miner for many years, and now does the tours. As a result he was knowledged as only a first hand worker could be.

The tool Michael is demoing here is used to ‘hammer drill’ the holes for putting blasting rods into. They would place about 14 charges, wire them up, back away and set them off. The same man would then clear the rock into the trolley which would be taken up the shaft for processing. Today the miners work only one station, and contract work is no longer allowed – all in the name of safety.

 

Included in our tour was a gold pour demonstration. In actuality, we saw a bronze pour, not a gold pour. They don’t have the necessary security setup for a real gold pour here. As such, you were able to concentrate on the demonstration, rather than try to think of creative ways of making off with the gold πŸ™‚

Next on tap we paid a visit to the ‘Two Up’ ring just outside town. As mentioned in my last posting, anywhere there are many men and few women, the predicted vices seem to crop up – and gambling is of course one of them. Two Up is a simple game based on a coin toss – you can read about it here if you wish to know the rules and history. We had been given a demonstration and some play money to get us going, and we had a lively game at the now dilapidated ring. Michael and I were NOT on the winning end I must add.

After a quick visit to an abandoned town to catch the sunset, we returned to the camp school (where we were staying) for a bbq dinner. The group had kindly modified the agenda to allow Michael and I to catch the Rockingham Flames basketball game in town. Michael teaches with the coach of the semi-pro team, and he wanted to show his support. We had been to game 1 of the play-off set last weekend in Rockingham, and now they were playing in Kalgoorlie.

Unfortunately despite winning the first game in Rocko, they lost game 2. So they had to go to a game 3 which was held on Sunday at noon, by which time we would be on our way back home.

After the game, we managed to catch up with the rest of the gang at a local bar – after all, you can’t visit Kalgoorlie and not check out the bar scene!

Sunday had us rise early to pack the bus, and then we headed for a tour of the Super Pit. As we waited for out tour to start, we browsed the local Sunday market – complete with sellers of ‘gold nuggets’ by the local prospector still struck with gold fever.

We had viewed the Super Pit from a lookout point earlier, but this time we entered the actually property. It is one big hole!!! It is 3.5km long, 1.5km wide and 680 meters deep. To give you a sense of scale – the shovel Robin and I are atop of here is from a digger.

Several shovel fulls are required to fill one of the trucks seen here. These trucks run non-stop 24 hours a day hauling out ore.

The current estimate is that the pit will continue to produce gold till about 2017. At that point, they will abandon the mine – leaving a big hole. Currently about 10% of the worlds gold comes from this pit. It certainly is impressive – but at the same time I must admit that I left the tour feeling sickened by how we treat this planet.

And then we were back in the van for our 6 – 7 hour return trip home. Lindsay was our prime driver for the weekend which saved the rest of the chore – which was very much appreciated! By the time we were back in Mandurah it was after 8pm, and Kyle had returned from his buddies home and fixed himself dinner. Then to an early bed and back to the grind on Monday – at least for Michael that was, Kyle’s school actually had a PD day – but no such luck for Mikey!

Around and About Kalgoorlie

Sorry for the delay folks – I’ve been making plans for our wrap up trip and yesterday when I was ready to post, blogger was having problems – but I’m here now. I must say though – I have a new found respect for travel agents. Perhaps if you know your markets you can be much more efficient, but I find it takes me an awfully long time to find hotels and cars and flights and tours and….

This past weekend however I did not have to do the organizing – the teacher exchange group again looked after this one for us. We headed to Kalgoorlie on Thursday after school. We convened in Perth where a ‘team van’ picked us up and the 12 of us headed off. It was a long drive and we did not arrive till about 2:30 am on Friday.
So with minimal sleep, we started our Friday with a visit to a local aboriginal school. Unfortunately a parent of one of the students had recently passed away and the funeral was on Friday – so many students were absent. We still had a chance to sit in the classes with the students however and it was especially fun for me to be back in the company of a class of pre-primary kids and to read with them. Memories of helping out in Patrick & Kyle’s classes when they were young! We also caught a maths lesson where we even got to count Smarties.

The school itself had a wall painting by well known aboriginal artist Mary McLean. She has a very unique style and she has received high honours – her work hangs in Buckingham Palace and she has been granted honourary doctorate degrees. Mary paints out of Kalgoorlie and had her work not been so out of our price league we could have met her to get a custom piece!

The school had prepared for our visit, and we were treated to a kangaroo stew which had been slow cooked for almost a day along with fresh baked damper by the pre-primary kids. Turned out we did not really need the packed lunch we brought!

As part of the aboriginal education program, local elders are brought into the school to do cultural education. We were lucky to have the boys present their dance as a rehearsal for an upcoming show. They also had a practice run at getting painted up.

Later in the afternoon, we were off to visit the Royal Flying Doctors Service. This is a privately run service which now receives some funding from the government for operational activities, but still no capital allowances. The service is fundamental to life in the outback. It is the only access to medicine for many people – these doctors actually do fly around practice and assist local clinics in addition to emergencies. The service was conceptualized by Reverend John Flynn in the early 1900s before either the planes or the radio service required existed. But as planes became more advanced and a simplistic radio box which could be used by the average person was designed, Flynn’s concept became reality and by 1928 the service was running. And they’ve been fund raising ever since.

Kalgoorlie itself is a gold rush town. So as you would expect, there are lots of bars as there is not a lot to do in Kalgoorlie. We visited one bar which had a mine shaft in it. It is covered with a thick glass plate, but you are able to look down into it as seen here. And after a quick drink, we were off to our next stop.

And Kalgoorlie has other activities associated with lots of men in one place with few women. To get a well rounded education (which of course teachers are after) of the local life, a trip to Kalgoorlie would not be complete without a tour of the local brothel. There are only a handful of them left, and they are ‘tolerated’ rather than legal. There was a law passed allowing the existing brothels to continue, but no new ones are allowed. Today I suspect they make more money on their tours than on their service. At a couple of spots on the tour the guide required an assistant to demonstrate the ‘equipment’. Lucky us, the Montgomery’s were both chosen as the guinea pigs! Oh well, I got to be the volunteer to feed the dolphins in Monkey Mia, so I guess it balances out in the end!

During the day we also had some time to browse around town and check out the scene. Mike found another bar with this ‘Ned Kelly’ in it, and we found another ‘Monty’s’ Cafe. This time it was named after the import/export dealers who owned the warehouse where the cafe now resides. From the newspaper articles on the walls, the Montgomery brothers did not sound like very nice blokes.

Also around town (just out of town I believe), Mike also browsed around the local cemetery. It’s not difficult to tell which plots belong to those who found gold and those who did not.

After a full day, we packed in a bit early to get set for another busy day on Saturday!
(view here of Kalgoorlie from the top of the museum)

And Now We Are 3

Our time markers continue to tick. Patrick has now landed back in Canada. His trip home was one he will remember for a long time I’m sure.

We started at out in Mandurah by leaving an hour earlier than planned. We had to rise at 3:30am to get to the airport in time for Patricks flight. In setting the alarm however, I somehow managed to put the time ahead an hour without realising it. So we ended up rising at 2:30 am and we were well on our way to the airport before discovering my error. And Patricks lack of sleep was to continue as you’ll hear.

After a rather lengthy meander at the airport, it was finally time to say bye-bye to Patrick. As expected I choked up and had tears running down my face as I hugged him and wished him “Happy Birthday”, “Merry Christmas”, and “Happy New Years”. He then seemed to disappear very quickly beyond the security gate. I’m not sure if he was embarrassed by his mother, or needed to leave before he got weepy too…

His first flight to Singapore went smoothly as did the connecting flight to Los Angeles. That’s when things went awry. After more than 24 hours in transit at this point, they landed about 1/2 hour late. But then they were held on the runway for over 5 hours due to a problem with the customs computers. Since it was Saturday evening in LA, I’m sure that contributed to the lengthy delay. By the time Patrick got into the airport, he had missed his connecting flight and the place was deserted since it was the small hours of the morning. Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore airports, LA has no public internet access computers, so Pat had to make phone calls to let us know what was going on. Patrick left a message with Mikes parents (Marucia and George), but of course they were already at the airport, and then phoned us to give us an update and let us know “I’m not dead…”. He had to wait for the Air Canada booth to open at 4 am to make alternate arrangements.
He managed to catch the 7am flight to Toronto and finally was picked up by George & Marucia around 3 pm on Sunday. They of course had been expecting to pick up Patrick earlier and had been back and forth to the airport twice by this time. So after 40 odd hours in transit, Patrick had a nice steak dinner and then crashed. I hope to talk to him later tonight when he wakes up!

And once again, here are some remnant photos to round out the July trip selection. These include the menu at Monty’s Cafe in Darwin, Mike donning his dust protection gear, another drive past a bush burn off, and Steve holding a long neck turtle which we encountered on one of our journeys near a swamp.

It’s all about Patrick – his Grand Finale

Upon returning from our trip to Darwin, Patrick headed back to Gingin to wrap up his volunteer stint at the Australian International Graviational Observatory. That week he managed to finish up the video and even helped with a display at the Gravity Discovery Centre. With 2 weeks left in Australia, we have worked on filling in the gaps on local tourist visits and getting his university life ogranized.

Patrick missed the cutoff date for applying for residence this year so despite making the deans honour list, he does not have residence. After searching on the Mac website, and with Joannes help to visit, he has rented a student housing room in a house right near the university. Looks like he’ll have access to good facilities and be even closer to the Engineering buildings than he was last year in residence.

Rounding out Patricks tourist venues, our first stop was to visit the Perth Zoo and Kings Park where Pat had not been. Patrick and I spent the first part of the day watching monkeys, orangutans and reptiles. Next we had a nice lunch then did the tour of Kings Park, even doing some walks which were off the beaten path and new to me. The horticultural area of the park is quite different now in the midst of winter. The weather has been incredibly wet these days, with rain a daily event, often accompanied by very high winds. But the day held off for the most part and we did not get too wet. We also took a trip to the local stromatolites (which are actually thrombolites here). Not overly exciting to look at, but knowing that the ‘rocks’ are actually living organsims is intriguing.

For Pat’s last weekend here Mike, Patrick & I headed to Rottnest Island. For the first time in many weeks we had 3 consecutive warm sunny days – so even though it was winter, the visit to the island was very pleasant. We enrolled Patrick into an introductory scuba dive for the day. He did not need a diving certificate – just an intro to the equipment and then he dove accompanied by a dive instructor. We headed over to the island on the early ferry. It was almost empty as you can see – and very early as you can see also!

The dive wasn’t till afternoon, so we had the morning to explore the island. We stopped by the bakery for a treat and to check out the quokkas. This little fellow (between Pat & I peeking over the bench) was hoping for some food which we failed to give him.

We visited the Kingston Barracks where we had stayed our last visit to see the defence posts set up in the second world war to protect the harbour at Perth/Fremantle. We also showed him the aboriginal prison (now a hotel) and the local cemetaries.

We dropped Patrick back at the dive shop and once he figured out that the wetsuit goes on with the zipper at the back, he was off on the boat to check out the scuba scene.

He used the underwater camera, but it was difficult to manage when loaded down with diving gear. I can certainly concur – just with snorkel gear it was hard enough to hold steady. He had a fantastic dive despite the lack of quality photos and saw many different fishes and corals. They swam through lots of ‘gorges’ and tunnels and he managed with no problems.

Meanwhile back on the island Mike & I sat back on the beach and relaxed. The beaches were now deserted (it is winter after all), We also checked out the ‘Pilot’ ship as seen here. Since the approach to the Fremantle docks was so dangerous, between 1848 and 1903 ships would be met by a pilot boat. The Pilot (an experienced sailor) would be rowed out to the ship, board the ship and then guide it into the harbour. The pilot boat would follow into the harbour then return the Pilot to the island. The round trip would take up to 28 hours, with no rest in between. The staff on the boats had a very rough life since all their ‘spare’ time when not rowing was filled. They had to provide all the fish for themselves as well as everyone at the prison.

Patrick returned and we headed over to the island pub for a drink before heading back on the ferry to Fremantle. We checked out ‘the shed’s at Fremantle and then headed back home.

We’ve since returned Patricks guitar – he really enjoyed it and the staff at Crescendo Music where we rented from were wonderful people.

Also this week we attended a guest lecture by Sir Roger Penrose at the University of Western Australia in Perth. We had run into Dr. Blair on the ferry back from Rottnest and he told us of this talk being given by one of the leading mathematician/physicist/philosophers of our time. His talk was titled ‘What happened before the Big Bang’. He was an engaging speaker and despite the many times we were each scratching our heads, we all came away with a new view on the life cycles of the universe.

And now we are in the final throws of packing Patrick up for his flight home on Saturday. I think he’s had enough of living with the parents again, and he is excited to be going back to see friends and the rest of the family. And while we are ready for him to return also, we’ll miss him as soon as he steps on the plane. sigh.

Break 2 Wrap Up

Our last morning on the Kakadu tour had a more leisurely start. First off we headed to Yellow Waters. There was a lovely boardwalk through the marsh with lots of birds – but we failed to spot any crocodiles or snakes this time round.

Next we stopped at the roadside for a wander through the termite mounds. They were quite similar to the cathedral termite mounds we had seen in Litchfield park, towering up to 12 feet or more.

Then we were off to Maguk, aka Barramundi Gorge for another climbing hike and falls. We had a swim up at the top pools. This waterfall was a bit different than the others. The top pool was sort of a deep elongated river with steep walls up the edge and underwater tunnels.

Some of the group did some rock scaling along the edges, falling back into the water when their grip gave out. Patrick joined some of the group who dove into a deep pool which had an underwater tunnel into the main stream. Steve had the whole group of us lay down across the stream and block the water from the waterfall also. It was lots of fun to then jump up and run over to the edge to watch the wall of water hit the edge and push the waterfall several feet further out.

After a quick stop for some snacks, we stopped at Fog Dam. This was an interesting place where they had built a dam back in the 1950’s hoping to flood the land to grow rice. After a couple of years of limited return and several lost staff due to crocodile attacks, they finally gave up on the idea. But the dam is still there and the area is now a wonderful sanctuary for the local wildlife. The place was swarming with busloads of people. Some not so knowledged folks were wandering almost into the water where salties are rampant. Amazingly they all came out alive – especially the old guy who wandered far out into the marsh alone for bird photos. Natural selection failed on this occasion.

Our last stop was at aboriginal art store where Pat bought himself his ‘big’ souvenir – an aboriginal painting. The shop also had emus (babies running around), a baby wallaby, a pink & grey galah, a red tailed black cockatoo and lizards and snakes to entertain those who were waiting for the shoppers.

Then the exhausted bunch of us were back to Darwin to go our separate ways – and a much appreciated shower. The four of us were then off to dinner to Thailicious which fulfilled its name before an early bed.

We had one day left in Darwin – we slept in a little bit till almost 8am. We headed to Monty’s (we tried to buy one of their custom t-shirts, but no luck!) for breakfast which was just outside of the local bookstore. Patrick was in line waiting for the store to open to pick up his copy of the latest Harry Potter. He thought it would be his flight reading material, but he had it finished by mid morning the next day! While Patrick read, the rest of us went off to do some shopping. We spent the day browsing around Darwin and just relaxing around the cafes. Kyle caught up on some of his internet access with his friends and Mike and I caught up on our diary and photo editing. Sunday morning we were up and off to the airport to return to Perth.

By the time we landed, Kyle was well into Harry Potter….

Break 2-Day 13 A JimJim Swim

We all rose early at 6 am to head out for a full day hike up to the falls. The team did quite well with breakfast and clean up organization and by 7am we were on the very bumpy drive into the falls for the physical exertion day.

This tour is actually geared for 18-35 year olds but only 1 of our family falls in that range! But Mike and I are young at heart and our bodies are holding out well enough to do the climbs, and Kyle is certainly fit enough to handle the load. Our hike was quite lengthy taking us not only to JimJim Falls, but up and over it also. Most people hike to the bottom pool for a swim and we left Alexi behind to do that on her own since she has bad knees. The rest of us were headed to the top pool for our swim along the road less travelled.

It was a wonderful day with a tough climb for about 3 hours. But it was enjoyable all the way. We climbed all the way up to the top with many spectacular views on the way. Our group photo at right was take just prior to the big loss of the day. We lost Steves hat – the wind was whipped up. He tried several rescue missions for the rest of the day as we passed the area where it went down, and although he finally spotted it in a tree, he could not reach the ledge where it sat. It had been with him a long time and we all grieved for him!

We hiked to the very top, then went back down one β€˜step’ of pools for lunch and a swim. Steve introduced us to several edible trees and flowers along with info on some insects.

The hike was in some ways similar to the Kings Canyon trip in β€˜89 although a tougher climb I think. We were in small organized groups in areas of immense beauty and seclusion. Both were hikes you could not have done without a guide and were on trails not modified for humans. Kings Canyon has certainly changed to make the hike more accessible, and It will be interesting to see if JimJim can stay as remote as it is now.

At one area near the summit – as seen at the left here, Steve took us along a rocky ledge right next to the water fall. We all laid down on our stomachs then crawled to the very edge and looked over. At right is one of the shots from this angle so that you can appreciate the view.

Again this area must be incredible in the wet. Much of what we hiked would be up over our heads in water and the power would be awe inspiring.

The swimming at the top was amazing – we swam in the pool photoed at left here. We saw no one on the entire long walk, and we had our own private paradise. One of the most memorable things on this trip will be the swimming at waterfalls. Each one has been a place of great beauty and tranquility. It is hard to imagine a more perfect place to be.

After lunch we retraced our steps back down JimJim Falls and headed for one last stop of the day.

While JimJim Falls has been opened for swimming by the aboriginals, Twin falls remains off limits for swimming. The two falls are the homes of two sisters. The one at JimJim is active and sort of an extrovert, and so the aboriginals were comfortable allowing swimming there. The spirit at Twin Falls is much calmer and reflective. So swimming is not allowed there. To access Twin Falls you first must hike in a short ways then take boat, then do another short hike out. This area is again quite commonly accessed by saltwater crocodiles and there are traps around. They had caught one here just a few days earlier. When we reached the base of the waterfall, the crocodile trap there was tripped. It is not likely that it was tripped by a croc since it would have been caught. But none the less we stayed well back from the waters edge – this is about as close as we got!

Back at camp once we were all fed, it was hard for any of us to stay awake. The whole group had sauntered to bed by about 9:30 – and us oldies were not the first to crash!

2…3….4…Hello Kakadu Dreams

We rose very early the next day (5:30 am) to head out for our 2-3-4 Kakadu Dreams trip. We were going on a 2 night-3 day-4 wheel drive tour into Kakadu park. Our group consisted of Meg, Darren, and Dave who worked on an oil exploration/surveying ship. Darren and Dave were ship navigators and Meg a geophysicist. The last 2 in our group of 9 were Marian and Alexandria who were sisters from Italy. Marian is from the Italian international snowboarding team and has just retired from competition. And of course, our tour guide – who was Steve. Steve has been doing tours for about 1 Β½ years and knows his stuff and seems to enjoy his work. It was enjoyable group with lots of interesting conversation over the bumpy drive (that’s a view of our trailer out the back of the vehicle – including the spare tire which we were about to use).

So by about 7:30am we were off to Kakadu. We saw wild horses on the drive into the park. Our next stop was for a flat tire. Since we were stopped anyway, we set up lunch at the roadside while Steve and some of the guys struggled with the tire. All inclusive trip – part of the fun.

After lunch we headed for the South Alligator river where we took the jumping croc tour. To start however, we were introduced to some of the local snakes. We got to hold the water python. The snake was very calming to hold. It was soft and smooth and you could feel its muscles moving very strongly under its skin.

The crocodile tour was impressive. We spotted lots of crocs – all ‘salties’. Despite being called salt water crocodiles, they in fact live much of their life in freshwater. Males can grow up to 7 metres – the average fully grown male about 6 metres. Some of the crocs were a golden colour, and others were dark and had algae growing on them. We found out later that it was due to whether they had been out to the salt water or not. They go out to the salt water to get cleaned off, and will come back lighter coloured. These are the ones which are most hunted for their skins.

There were a surprising number of missing limbs from these guys. They apparently fight a fair bit, and most were missing one or more hands, arms, feet or legs. One was missing 3 complete limbs and one foot. They do an amazing job of hiding themselves in the mud. They dig their nose in and crawl into the mud leaving only their eyes and nose exposed. They can be very hard to spot and given their acceleration and ability to jump, you really don’t want to get anywhere near them. (The jumping seen here is encouraged by hanging the food from a rod off of the side of the boat)

Similar numbers of people die of crocodile attack as shark attack (average 1 per year or so). Steve told us of one instance where some guys were out on their ATVs. They stopped for some reason. One guy was grabbed by a croc and his mates had to scramble up a tree. They were there for 48 hours as the croc walked back and forth below them slowly eating their friend. They were finally rescued by a search party. Bit of trauma there I suspect.

The black kites were also fed on the river cruise. They are well accustomed to the feeding and would swoop right in to catch the food mid air. They must have exceptional eyesight.

We stopped by the cultural centre to learn about the traditional aboriginal ways. There are still a few hundred people living off the land in Kakadu in the full traditional way, and many others still follow the traditional rules even if they don’t live in the bush.

Then to Nourlangie to see the rock art. On the walk in Steve gave us one of his many insights into local life. These green ants live in the trees and wrap the leaves into their nest. You can actually hear them working if you listen carefully. The aboriginals boil them up. The nectar that rises to the top of the pot is sweet and is medicinal for breathing and lung problems.

There were many paintings – more than we saw at Uluru. And they were a different style. Here there were many more spirit drawings. Several of the larger drawings were done by an elder in the 1960’s. He wanted to make sure the stories were captured. He drew a large image of the spirit which women must avoid. His story teaches girls not to roam into the bush alone. The second story (artwork photoed here) was related to Namondjok (a warrior in the centre here), his wife Barrginj (lower left) and Namarrgon (Lightning Man to the right). The whole story can be read here.

Then we were off to our campsite near JimJim Falls. We all chipped in to get dinner going – sausages, mixed veggies and baked potatoes. And beer. The campsite manager brought over some fresh baked damper for us – made with dried fruit, it was very good. After some impressive didgeridoo playing by Steve, we all packed in for an early bed by 9:30.

Thank you Euroflush 2000!

Our 10 days in the camper van were over. Returning the camper was quite an experience, and I have to share my comic relief from all the stress.

We got into Darwin – its suburbs and lights hitting us about 50 km out. I dropped off the 3 guys and our bags at the hostel and then headed to drop the camper. Finally finding the rental depot, I first learned that it had to be washed or pay a $300 fine. So off I went to the car wash – I had to use the self-clean wash due to the size, and it took a bit to figure out the automated soap and water dispenser car wash process. Back to the rental shop over an hour later where the boys had come looking for me by now – Mike had ordered me a beer an hour ago!

Next I learned that I had to empty the toilet or the fee was $150! So Pat & I headed to find a public toilet while Kyle went back to Mike – I was hot (it was well over 30 degrees) and tired, and my frustration was at it’s limit. We found a public toilet – the Euroflush 2000 – it was a stainless steel cube. There were 3 lights – vacant, occupied and closed. When we walked up, another couple had been waiting but gave up and left. The light said β€˜closed’.

We were at a loss on what to do – reading further we read it was programmed to self clean when unoccupied. It was certainly making lots of swishing sounds. Another couple passed and we inquired if they knew anything about these toilets. They just replied “Oh no, I’m not sure you could get out” (or something like that) and wished us luck. The swishing suddenly ended and the β€˜vacant’ light came on. We quickly emptied our toilet. The whole time a voice was repeating β€œWelcome to the Euroflush 2000. Press the button to close and lock the door.” We had entered, but had not pushed the button to close the door. As we were leaving, Pat reached in and pushed the button.

So we left the Euroflush 200 with its door closed, no one in the toilet, and the β€˜occupied’ light flashing. So much for the fully automated Euroflush 2000 – Patrick was quite thrilled to have outwitted this rather elaborate and certainly expensive fixture!

This hilarity helped my mood and upon returning to Mike 2 Β½ hours after having left him, I enjoyed my beer immensely and got to meet all of his new acquaintances. You can’t leave Mike alone a bar and not expect him to meet a whole new crowd of friends after all!

Pat & Kyle had a very tasty fish & chips then headed to see the Harry Potter movie. Mike & I had a nice dinner as recommended by his new mates, checked out some souvenir shops then returned to catch up on photo editing and diary. And despite my initial introduction to Darwin, I really do like it.

We all Fall Down….waterfall down that is!

Today is waterfall day. We had a quick brekkie (mostly what we do it seems!) and hit the road. We wanted to delay driving around wet as much as possible, so visited Tolmer Falls first since you can’t swim there.

You could either take the stairs in, or hike. Of course we hiked – which was well worth it. You went through a grove of cycads. These were quite different than the ones in Kings Canyon. These were feathery looking – although stiff and hard to the touch.

The areas around Tolmer falls are sensitive for native wildlife, hence no swimming. The walk took you to a lookout over the gorge. A woman was all set up with her easel and paints capturing the scene. I was able to see her work progress quite nicely as we waited for Mike to arrive (he of course stops to photo along the way), and then to finish his shots.

All of the waterfalls here are very impressive. Due to the extremes of wet season and dry season, the volume of water changes drastically. We are seeing the falls in the dry season. But most of the force which carves the landscape occurs in the wet season. The falls are basically inaccessible by roads during the wet season – you have to fly in since most of the roads are flooded. It must be incredible to see them in the wet.

Next we headed to Florence Falls – they are a twinned set of falls. We had an early lunch at Florence, then hiked in for a swim. It was not too overly crowded, but there was no where to put your stuff, which made it a bit chaotic. Kyle managed to have his shoe fall in and drift downstream, but managed to fetch it okay. The dual waterfalls were very nice, and the water was not too cold. It did get colder right up to the waterfall and the force of the water pushes you back quite noticeably. The wind is quite strong coming off of the falls also making the swim to the waterfall more challenging. We all had our turn directly under the waterfalls, and both Pat & Kyle climbed up at the base of the falls and did cannonballs into the pool (it is nice and deep where the water falls hits). We had a great time.

Next we headed back into the depths of Litchfield closer to our campsite to Wangi Falls. Kyle and I went in for a swim while Mike took some photos (Pat deferred swimming). If you open up the photo at the left here, you can spot Kyle and I under the waterfall with our hands up – Kyle in his red bathing suit. There are crocs here – freshwater for sure – which you try to avoid and β€˜be nice’ to. Occasionally there have been salties here in which case you get the hell out of there! (They monitor closely and have traps set.)

All of us then took the hike over the Wangi Falls. Mike and I take the hikes with the shortest steps possible, especially on the downhills and our old knees are holding out quite nicely for us. This hike had some incredible orb spiders – they were HUGE and numerous. One of the creeks we passed over was surrounded by their webs. The one at right here is a yellow spotted orb.

We ended with a final swim together. Again this is a dual waterfall, and again we all made sure to get right under each of the falls. The one on the left (photoed here) had a natural β€˜mini pool’ part way up the ledge of the fall which you could climb to. Since it is a very small pool, it is warmer than the main pool at the base of the falls. We all had a nice dip in there – although returning to the main pool to get out was less pleasant!

Then back to our campsite and after a nice curry dinner, we laid back to listen to more of Bill Bryson where I quickly fell asleep (could have been all the fresh air or perhaps the extra glass of wine at dinner!).