Worrall Travel R's

Worrall Travel R's
Roz and Russ

Worrall Travel R's - Kicking the Bucket List

My photo

We are the Worrall Travel R's Roz and Russ Worrall. Our goal before we "kick the bucket" is to see as much of the world as we are able, learn about world cultures, experience making friends around the world, and share goodwill and what we learn with others. WE HOPE YOU JOIN US VIA THE BLOG ON OUR TRAVELS.

We started our world travels in 1969 in VW camper van in the USA, Canada, and Europe, but didn't actively blog about our travels until 2009 aboard our sailing vessel SV Worrall Wind, a 44 ft Nauticat Ketch.  On September 5, 2009 we left San Francisco and took a left at the Golden Gate to Explore the World.

From to Sea to Land
After almost 4 years of cruising Mexico and the South Pacific, we sold our beloved boat in Australia, 2013. The Worrall Travel R's are continuing our travels around by many other means of conveyance -boats,trains, planes, sometimes camels, elephants, rickshaws, and hot air balloons.. 

Russ is a retired engineer, optometrist, professor from U.C. Berkeley. Roz is a retired computer programmer/analyst, educator, (teacher, administrator, professional developer). 

Our Mantra:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Australian Outback Adventure - The Beginning

Sunrise at Uluru - Ayers Rock

G'Day Mates!

We have just returned from almost 2 weeks in Australia's Outback Northern Territory. It has been a great adventure, however, it is really nice to be back in Brisbane where life is a little more civilized, the sweat and flies don't cling to your body, and critters don't crawl in your bed and ears.   Since I did not have my computer with me on the trip, it is taking me a while to edit and post photos of our adventure.  I will be posting our adventure in as-ready installments....so stay tuned.

When Russ and I were debating whether to drive our own camper, rent a camper van, take a train, bus, or whatever to Australia's outback, our friend Brian sent us a photo he had taken of a heavy duty four wheel drive mini-bus with a Website written across the side.  We got online and looked up Wayoutback.com, perused the options, and decided to sign up for the 10 Day Adventure Package beginning Friday, October 19, 2012.  It's a little late in the season and the weather changes from the dry season to the wet season around the first of November.  The desert was heating, and we would be taking one of the last tours of the season.  Per the Website:

"This Wayoutback 10 Day Package combines our 4-wheel drive Red Centre and Top End Safaris into one inclusive Northern Territory experience! Where 4-wheel drive is needed you have it (maximum passengers 16) and between Alice Springs and Darwin you will travel in an air conditioned minibus (maximum 24 passengers). We'll give you the opportunity to really experience the desert and the tropics - driving on dirt roads, staying in private campsites, eating quality food (which will be cooked over a campfire on some nights) and sleeping under the clearest southern stars you can imagine."  

Sounds great!  Top-end Safaris sounded really good.  

Somehow, however I misconstrued top-end meaning classy when it really meant the top-end of Australia.  Silly me.  So to begin with my misconstrued expectations were soon to get a reality check.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - One year in Australia today!

In preparation for our 1 year in Australia Anniversary Adventure to the outback, we purchased two small light weight duffle bags, advertised as "extra bags" that could fold down to the size of a small pizza.  Along with our day packs, we needed to stuff all that we wanted to take with us for ten days of blistering hot or rainy days and to possibly cold nights into these little bags.  Additionally, we needed heavy duty footwear, toiletries, swim gear, towels, cameras, headlamps or flashlights, hats, insect repellant, sun screen, water bottles, and of course our electronic gadgets, GPS, binoculars, kindle, iPod, cell phone and appropriate chargers.

We were packed and ready to go the day before our departure.  We hung out most of the day on Wednesday doing some odds and ends, downloading some audio books and ebooks for the Kindle, iPod, and iPad, and bookmarking some geocaches we wanted to find.  After closing the thruhulls, turning off the water pump, cranking down the hatches, and locking the doors, we picked up our incredibly stuffed and heavy little bags and met our shuttle ride to the airport in front of the marina.  Our little pizza bags now looked the size of a fat queen size pillows.

Our plane for Brisbane left at 7:30 p.m. and we arrived in Sydney and at our hotel with a time change forward around 11:30 p.m., just enough time for a shower before falling into bed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - Onward to Alice Springs

Electing to bypass the $15.00 per head rubbery egg buffet at the hotel, we caught the early shuttle and had brekkie burritos at the airport before boarding our 9:00 a.m. flight to Alice Springs.  
Add caption

This little desert town is west enough, but not enough for another two hour time but just 1.5 hours time change. The Northern Territory it not on savings time so we had to turn the clock back a half hour. 

We descended the steps from the air-conditioned jet onto the (bituman) super-heated tarmack of a desert airport, and boarded a shuttle to our Best Western Hotel in downtown Alice Springs.  Alice Springs has the climate of Las Vegas.

We explored Alice Springs to the extent that we stayed on the shady side of the street to the supermarket to buy dinner supplies and snacks for our trip.  Well that was enough for the first afternoon...too hot.  We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging by the pool until the sun went down, and then taking a dusk walk to the old Stuart Hill Grave Yard where we hunted down a geocache.  

This graveyard was estblished in the late 1800's before Stuart Hills was renamed Alice Springs.  The tombstones are testament to the short hard lives of the outback pioneers.

After our geocache find, we headed back to the hotel for wine, dinner, and a last night's sleep on a real bed.

Friday, October 19, 2012 - Outback Adventure - Day 1

Our Way Out Back Itinerary for Day 1
After picking you up from your accommodation in Alice Springs bright and early from 6.00 am, we complete ticketing and introductions and then hit the road on our adventure of a lifetime.
Our journey begins heading south to Erldunda travelling through the Waterhouse and James Ranges with a stop at The Camel Farm for refreshments and a Camel ride if you're keen (own expense). We also stop at Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse where you can view or purchase Aboriginal artifacts. On the way to Uluru (Ayers Rock) we stop to view Atila (Mount Connor), a mesa tableland and the first significant rock formation of our trip.
After a stop for lunch and our arrival at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, we head to the Cultural Centre and the opportunity to learn about the local Aboriginal law and religion (Tjukurpa) before a short, guided walk at the base of Uluru. At this point you can take a full base walk or climb Uluru if you choose, weather permitting. (Note: Uluru is a sacred site and the Anangu people ask visitors to respect their law and do not climb it). 
Of course no Uluru tour would be complete without experiencing the famous changing colours of Uluru at sunset, complete with sparkling wine and nibbles.  It's a great time to kick back and contemplate the day and the vastness of the desert.
  • Camel Farm    
  • Erldunda    
  • Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse   
  • View Mt Connor (Atila)   
  • Cultural Centre
  • Base Walk or Climb at Uluru    
  • Sunset at Uluru (Ayers Rock)

The 4x4 mini bus pulled up to the hotel at 6:15 a.m,  Our driver/guide Dave, looking very much like Crocodile Dundee in his kaki greens and wide rim Aussie hat, helped us load our bags into the heavy duty utlity trailer.  We were one of the first adventurers to board the Way Out Back Rover.

By the time we picked everyone up from their respective accommodations, there were 16 of us plus Dave. Six of us were from California, one each from Israel, UK,  and France, two from Belgian, and five Germans.  Five of us were signed on for the 10 day Wanderer tour to Darwin which strings three of the Way Outback adventures together.  Only four of the 16 would be completing the 10 journey.  With the exception of the couple from Belgian, we easily had 25-40 years on the other participants.

Our first stop was the camel farm and I was keen to ride on the camel.  Fortunately the camel lays down for the rider to mount.  A camel at a gallop is much like a horse. Camel tours of the outback are offered, but bouncing on a camel's back for several hours in he heat and blazing sun just doesn't seem as appealing as an air conditioned 4 x 4.  

Prior to trains and cars, camels were the only sensible transportation in the hot, dry outback to which these camels easily adapted.  After being replaced by vehicles, the camels really didn't have a purpose as they were not good for eating, sheering, or milking, so they were set free to fend for themselves.  Today there are an estimated 1,000,000 wild camels in the outback that can be captured and resold to the middle east market for upwards of $30,000 each....if you can catch 'em.  Think we'll bypass this business opportunity.

Reality Check #1:

From the itinerary and description on the web, I don't think we or the other passengers fully comprehended the do-it-yourself nature of this adventure. Top-end didn't mean service.   There were some pretty wide eyes when we stopped in the middle of nowhere, which is pretty much anywhere and everywhere, to get out and collect fire wood.  "Yeah, watch out for snakes," cautions Dave.  Crikey!

Gingerly, we climbed down from the bus into the heat and onto the red sandy dirt.  No one seemed particularly thrilled.  Dave took some of the guys to break off some dead branches from mesquite trees while the not so strong and timid picked up twigs and kindling within sight of the bus.  I was in the latter group.

We could hear exclamations of "Get that spider off of me"' "Ooooh, What is that?", "Look at the size of that bug".  After a half hour of squealing, swatting flies, collecting, and loading wood onto the utility trailer, we had been initiated to the red center....Picturesque red earth was on our hands, feet, and clothes.  Gee that was fun!  And that was just the beginning.

As we continued on our journey towards Uluru, the blue sky was being obscured by dark grey clouds.  This was a disappointing weather development, as the best photos of this mammoth geologic red rock are produced when the rising or setting sun casts its ruby glow on the already red earth.  Hopefully the clouds would pass.

Reality Check # 2

Our next "stop for lunch", was at the "private campsite".  I don't know why I thought a "private campsite" conjured up an image in my mind of something nicer than a public campsite, but some how it did.  I guess I fell victim to the same illogic that people use regarding private and public schools.  Just because something is private doesn't mean it's better.  So when we pulled up to the private sight which was basically a tin sided slant roof shed with no electricity, a rustic gas camping stove, two picnic tables, and a large outdoor fire circle surrounded by miles and miles of little shade and red dirt, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't an advance team waiting for us with cold chardonnay and buffet.
Our Private Camp Site
This was much more rustic than I anticipated.  We weren't just stopping for lunch, we were making lunch.  Dave set us to work unpacking the Eskie (ice box), and laying out the ham, beef, and salami, slicing tomatoes with well worn and dull paring knives on questionably sanitary cutting boards. 

It became apparent in this second exercise (wood gathering being the first) who the worker bees would be and who the slackers were going to be.  Seemed that some fellow campers were willing to pitch in and others were just hanging around for others to do the work so they could do as little as possible.  We needed a kaper or rotating chore chart, but alas we did not have one.  Although I unrealistically, thought the meals would be prepared for us,  I decided to jump in and help with cooking and leave the cleanup to someone else. At least I could make sure that the food we would eat was properly handled.   Russ headed the cleanup team. As it turned out, some of the cooks also wound up doing quite a bit of the cleanup as well, as some of the campers seemed to disappear after eating.

Reality Check # 3 - No Cots.

After lunch and the promise to return to our private campsite where we would cook dinner and sleep on the ground in the red dirt (now I'm really getting excited..I've been so looking forward to sleeping on the Australian ground where there are scorpions, dingos, and 18 of the 20 venomous snakes of the world, and now it looks like it will be raining, too) we signed a mandatory at your own risk statement, holding the tour company harmless.

Yipes!  Seems like an over-the-barrel time to have to sign this kind of document.  Once everyone was on board with accepting the risk, we were off to the cultural center while the dark clouds continued to gather.

We enjoyed learning about the indigenous Aborigine.  The cultural center was dedicated to the creation (dream time) stories of Uluru and the laws the Aborigines believed and lived by that were passed down from their ancestors.  Our guide told us that out of respect for the sacred beliefs and because it was the law, he could not discuss the scientific geologic beginnings of Uluru.  He would explain that to us off site.  For now, the striations on Uluru's surface was caused by a giant serpent visiting vengeance on murderous lizards, the boulders were snake eggs, and the pock marks and gashes in the rocks surface were the scars of the great spear battle between the reptiles.  We were to learn that Aborigine sub-cultures all had variations of creation stories based on their localized connection to the earth and topography of where they lived. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the cultural center.

After visiting the cultural center, we took a trek on the base trail around part of the rock where we found the primary water hole, kitchen cave where women ground seeds into flour and prepared food, shaded caves where the male elders sat during the heat of the day, and paintings on cave walls that were used to educate their young.

Dust Devil at Uluru

Most of us were unprepared for the hoards of flies that tried to attach themselves to our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to suck on the moisture our bodies were sweating off in the heat.  We could have used the head nets that were packed away on the boat.  The heavy cloud cover did not enhance our photography, but it did shade us from the relentless sun.

Despite the overcast skies, Dave drove us to an observation point where we had an unobstructed

view of Uluru and the "sunset".  We waited.   The cloud cover was so heavy that we went from day to dark while drinking our wine out of stainless steel cups, and the rock changed from mauve to invisible. The sunset at Uluru was lovely but anti-climatic without the red glow of the sun setting fire to the rock.   Time to head back to camp.

When we arrived back at camp, it was time to build the fire, cook dinner, cleanup, setup the swags, trek to the bathroom for showers and hit the sack.  Once again the worker bees went to work chopping vegetables and browning minced kangaroo for our kangaroo spaghetti feed.  The slackers and cleanup crew took first showers down the road in a fairly decent amenities building. The cooks took their showers after dinner while cleanup was going on and the slackers found other things to do.

The spaghetti was really good. The sauce was filled with rich kangaroo meat and vegetables   The air temperature was still in the high 90's, and we were sweating round a blazing campfire so that we could heat up the dishwashing water, give us some light as there was none, and to keep the desert animals at bay.  Russ and I pulled our swags as far away from the pit as we felt safe doing.  It was uncomfortably hot.

So what's a swag?  

A swag is a heavy duty canvas bedroll with a slick vinyl bottom. There is a foam mattress and a pillow inside.  The swag opens ad closes with two long zippers down the side and top flap that folds under the top cover like an envelope.  Dave demonstrated how we should unroll the swag, shake out any of the sand, grime, and perhaps bugs from the previous users, tuck on a clean sheet and pillow case, then lay out our sleeping bags, and cover them with the top cover of the swag and zip it up. The top of the swag goes over your head in the event it starts to rain and that was looking more and more likely,  It wasn't a difficult task, but a bit tedious in the dark.  The thick sand was easy to kickup and re-grime the insides of the swag while we were in the process of making it up.  There aren't many things I hate, but dirt and bugs rank at the top of the list.

So did I mention it was 90 degrees F, we had a blazing fire, and were now in a sleeping bag swag zipped over by heavy canvas? We were all lined up around the campfire like baking sausages on a grill.    Did I dare unzip and risk getting creepy crawlies in the swag?  Well I guess the answer was yes as I couldn't stand being so confined in the sweat bag.  I lay on top of the sleeping bag wishing I could see the stars through the clouds.  The fire slowly died out, and the rain started just as we were drifting to sleep.  It was refreshing, and for a bit I just stayed uncovered cooling down as the fire hissed with falling drops.

Finally, when we couldn't tolerate anymore rain, we reluctantly zipped up the swag and pulled the head piece over our heads.  The rain came in short patches throughout the night. Consequently, the zip up-coverup-and roast followed by the zip down, cover off, exposed to the elements routine continued throughout the night. But alas, we survived our first night of our Way Outback Adventure.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Koala Cuddling

What a Thrill!
Being able to cuddle a real koala has been something we've wanted to do ever since we got to Australia.  And today was Cuddle Time!  Yeah!

Koala Has Her Eyes on the Prize for Being Cuddled 
In Australia, Queensland is the only state that allows Koala Cuddling.  Of course, these little marsupials are wild animals and in the wild, one would never think to do this sort of thing.  But at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the Koalas are quite friendly and are scheduled for 30 minutes a day of cuddling, with every 3rd day off.  They are enticed to keep their eyes open and photo responsive by being fed gum tree leaves.

We started our journey by taking bus and train from Scarborough to the CBD (central business district) of Brisbane, then proceeded to the dock where we caught a 1.5 hour cruise up the Brisbane River to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

We enjoyed the ride up the river.  Homes and spring foliage made for a lovely ride, although it was abnormally cool for this time of year, and the winds were gusting up to 40 knots per hour.  Only the brave with jackets sat outside on this sunny day.  We rode outside in the lee of the pilot house on the way up the river, but chose to sit on the inside on our way back.

Looks like Spring and Fall Combined

Along the Banks of the Brisbane River

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a rustic and fairly small sanctuary.

Arriving at the Dock

Koalas, Dingos, Wombats, Devils, Lizards, and Kangaroos, Oh My!
There were many kinds of animals at the Sanctuary, but the main event for us was of course the Koalas.  They are just as cute, if not cuter than one would expect.  Koala is Aborigine word meaning "doesn't drink water".  These little marsupials "not bears" get their moisture from the gum tree leaves they eat.

Doing What Koalas Do Best  - PEEK - A
Koalas eat about 4 hours a day and sleep for 20.  They are sleepy little critters.  In order to sleep safely high in the trees, they lodge themselves in the crooks of the branches.

What could be cuter than a Koala?  How about two Koalas....mum and joey.

And What Could Be Cuter than a Mum and Baby Joey Koala?   How about Mum, Joey in the Pouch, and Kindergarten Joey on her back.

The Koala fur is dense and soft, but not as soft as that of a kangaroo.

What I lack with my little for legs, I make up with my powerful back legs and tail.

What have you got in your pouch?
We also got to see some dingos up close and a lovely Kukaburra who wasnt' laughing.

Golden Dingos Checking One Another Out

Kukaburra Proverb.....She who laughs, lasts.

And so ended our wonderful day of being with these wonderfully unique creatures of the earth.  G'Day for Now!

All is Well with the 2 Yank Sail R's on SV Worrall Wind.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Uniquely Australia

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just a quick update to our uniquely Australian experience.  

We have made arrangements for a 10 day Way Out Back Experience in a 4 wheel drive from Alice Springs to Darwin.  Really excited!  You can check out our itinerary here.  We're going to be the jolly swagmen...hmmm...swagpeople, camping, and letting someone else doing the driving.  We are really getting used to  kicking back.  We leave Brsibane a week from tomorrow.

So after we made our 4x4 travel arrangements, we spent another day in Brisbane walking around and visiting the city museum, the state museum, and the state library, and then taking a nice bike ride. 

My picture of the day was the young man above dishing up a side of Vegemite in a mall cafe.  If you are a New Zealander and enjoy Marmite, you might enjoy Vegemite.  If you are an Aussie, you probably love the stuff.  If you are anybody else, you would probably prefer a pre-colonoscopy cocktail!  Crikey.  This is miserable stuff.

And then, we have been brave enough to go bicycle riding during Magpie nesting season.  Last year, you may recall that our first ride resulted in being attacked by a mad male magpie.
Hey!  Isn't that a part of my ear on the end of your beak?

He nearly knocked me off of my bike and took a good swipe at my ear drawing blood.  After getting the "local" advice, we put cable ties on our helmets.  We were also told that the birds attack from the back when they think you are not looking.  It was suggested that we put some sunglasses on our helmets backwards so the birds couldn't tell if we were "looking" at them.
Is the one on the right, coming or going?

Symmetrically Stylish with Black and Red Cable Ties

I'm Getting Rock N Roll!

What channel are you getting Russ?

Before we did all of this, because we thought it might be an Aussie-American initiation joke, we observed that many Aussies were riding around looking like helmeted porcupines.  So today, we tied on the cable ties and sunglasses and hit the pavement.  We enjoyed our ride.  I did see a shadow of bird flying over my head, but he didn't come near me.  We both still have our ears!  Cheers!

All is Well with the 2 Sail R's  on SV Worrall Wind