So here we are,finally approaching Byron Bay with our 2nd leg almost complete and our truck trip meter already passed the 10,000km milestone. Yeah, it's been tough at times... as can be seen by the frugal Mudgee tasting plate in the picture above... but alas, we struggle on.
But now, it's time to reflect on some journey discoveries, previously unknown and in order of appearance...
PENNINGTON BAY, Kangaroo Island, South Australia - we arrive at Kangaroo Island after almost missing our ferry, and when alighting on the island, we immediately head south to be greeted by over 30 dolphins surfing turquoise waves - us the only human audience.
WESTERN RIVER COVE, Kangaroo Island, South Australia - after 20km on a scenic, rolling and winding dirt road, we arrive at our own secluded cove, ragged rocky outcrops and a beautiful golden beach.
MCLAREN VALE, Adelaide, South Australia - our favourite winery being CORIOLE.
WOMAD, Adelaide, South Australia - A last minute stopover, "The World's Festival", a wonderfully eclectic annual get-together of music, food and friendly people.
TANUNDA, Barossa Valley, South Australia - our favourite winery being ROCKFORD.
The quiet and the isolation of the Outback - the red dirt and dust, the open endless skies, failed dreams and ancient dreamings, town names replaced with stations, out-stations and homesteads... opening and closing gates... lost and found in SOUTH AUSTRALIA and NEW SOUTH WALES.
MUTAWINTJE, New South Wales - A wild and isolated National Park north of Broken Hill, with an impressive collection of Aboriginal cave art. We rise early, another 40degC day predicted, and set out on a 5hr hike through the wilds of the gorge, followed by the luxury of a hot shower, a Goan curry and a cheeky cask rose.
MENINDEE LAKES, New South Wales - to see the lakes full of water, a chance encounter with a fire engine red mirror image of our own Troopy truck... oh, and a special evening birthday dinner.
BOURKE WHARF, New South Wales - After days of 50degC, the town has cooled off to 40degC. We walk out on the old wharf, currently hanging high above the Darling River, to be greeted by hundreds of corellas screeching, wheeling this way and that.
BREWARRINA, New South Wales - Seeing Aboriginal fish traps made of stone - over 40,000yrs old - thought to be the oldest man-made structures on the planet. And a stunningly beautiful campsite at BEDS ON THE BARWON, with ancient river redgums, a plethora of birdlife and iconic rustic amenities, right on the banks of the Barwon River at the very start of the mighty Darling River system.
MUDGEE, New South Wales - Over 40 friendly cellar doors and great wines at around 800m elevation and surrounded by hills, a magnificent tasting plate at LOWE, our favourite local winery. Gorgeous bush camping among the rolling pastures of nearby Havila, OLD BARA HOMESTEAD.
HILL END, New South Wales - In the past a major gold town... now a nostalgic memory. Crooked fences and walls - all romantically set among rolling hills and grazing kangaroos, all surrounded by wild bush, rocky terrain and daunting 4WD tracks. And one of the best inter-reactive museums we've seen anywhere - HILL END HERITAGE CENTRE..
UPPER COLO, New South Wales - On arrival in darkness, through sheets of rain, via a narrow winding track surrounded by bush, we set up camp and dine in drizzle. In the morning we wake to wet bush smells, the chuckle of opposing kookaburra clans, and crowds of black cockatoos in clear blue skies... and a ramble on an unexpected sandy beach. All this, on 'NSW's most pristine river'.
WOLLOMBI TAVERN, New South Wales - a wonderfully rustic tavern, with well-worn wooden floorboards, hand-wrought furniture and riverfront camping out back.