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Another island home

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Another island home

The island is an odd shape - wide at the northern end, thinning down south - but at about 35km long it's the 3rd biggest sand island in the world. We've been lucky to have previously spent time on Fraser Island - the 1st largest - but are always on the lookout for something different.

The first we heard of Moreton  Island was some weeks back in NSW, where we were approached by the owners of a camper trailer close by - John and Karen. They asked about our go-anywhere truck.

John is a butcher by trade. They've left their "now older kids at home to fend for themselves" and look for work here and there. Karen smiled. "Yeah, the money comes in handy, but life's not all about the money, is it?". There was butchering work to be had, and even an offer to manage a hotel for a couple of weeks... but I digress.

John had the words 'Moreton Island - escape the fake' emblazoned across the chest of his black tee shirt. "It's like Fraser," he said, "but quieter."

So here we are, after waking at 3:45am to catch the only ferry with any space - the 5am from Brisbane.

On the ferry we lower our front tyre pressures to 15psi, the back to 20... gulp hot coffee upstairs and ponder the thought of our first 'serious' sand driving since Namibia over 2yrs ago.

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Where to next?

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Where to next?

It's great to catch up with friends, but after 5-days BYRON BAY BLUESFEST is over... so it's back to the road for us. OK, so we often don't know where we are headed... not 'exactly' anyway. As always, our methodology is simple though, in this instance our 'plan' saying 'north'. And it is true our default setting is to follow the coast. For this leg it's Byron to Townsville, about a 15hrs drive if we were to head straight there.

But to beat the Top End Wet, we've allowed up to a month... so we are in no hurry. And on our last day in Byron, a friend asks if we'll be visiting Tenterfield and surrounds in Queensland. It's "beautiful country out there, and well worth a visit".

We look over our maps, then at each other. It's a minor diversion - only 250km to the west, and there is another wine district as it happens. So we change our 'plan' and head inland for now... just because we can.

Once on the road again, we check out 'WIKICAMPS' as per normal, finding a 'rest area' with 4-stars. After the festival, we are keen to keep today's journey short, and this place fills the bill - a rolling grassed site called 'Crooked Creek Rest Area'. It costs nothing to camp, allows campfires, has covered picnic tables and a toilet... all surrounded by glorious bush.

For dinner we share a Kerala coconut curry with salmon, a cask shiraz, a raging red campfire to warm the legs, the last calls of kookaburras and currawongs, then a lullaby of crickets, frogs and a gurgling creek. From our cosy bed in the top of the truck we listen to the intermittent rush of a passing breeze laden with damp bush smells and a hint of woodsmoke.

In the morning it's the last of Byron's best hot cross buns, toasted on last night's now flaming embers, surrounded by tiny wrens that dance and tweet at our feet... and we discuss nomadic life  with our only overnight neighbour.

Brisbane Bill wears sandals with socks, has a grey beard, blue eyes, and enjoys a natter. He and his wife are headed "whichever way the wind blows".

It seems there's another great camping spot not far from here -'Tooloom Falls' - also a free NSW State forest site as it happens. We look it up on Wikicamps - '50km NE from you' says my mobile phone app.

*****

A word about WIKICAMPS - an invaluable app for travellers and nomads of all ilks... dependent on public input and loaded with different camping sites, rest areas and points of interest throughout the country - with photos, lists of facilities, candid comments and prices of each.

Filters enable searching a current location, favourites or selected areas. New sites, comments and photos can all be added.

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Postcard from Broken Hill - What's in a name?

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Postcard from Broken Hill - What's in a name?

Broken Hill seems a long way from anything, but is certainly entrenched in Australian folklore, being the 'BH' component of 'The Big Australian' BHP Billiton , and becoming the first city in Australia to be included on the National Heritage List - the 'broken hill' that gave the town its name initially being a number of hills that appeared to have a break in them. Alas, all have now been mined away.

And there's no shortage of culture here, with at least 8-galleries showcasing the work of artists including the iconic Pro Hart and Jack Absolam. Chips Rafferty and June Bronhill also came from here.

Today the air is dense and hot at 37degC, but it's hard to warm to a place where over 700 souls have been lost in mining accidents - the youngest killed at age 14 - and most streets are named after rocks and minerals.

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A birthday away

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A birthday away

Today is Sue's birthday, last night having set up camp by Lake Parmarmaroo - part of the Menindee lakes on the Darling River NSW - dinner a chilled Coriole Fiano with a watery sunset through ancient, river redgum boughs.

But this morning is the big day, us relaxing, having finished fruit, muesli and yoghurt... with black coffee of course.

Two figures approach, kindred spirits in more ways than one it seems.

They are from faroff Switzerland, having hiked the 2km from their camp this morning, beside the same lake... and as it happens... with a similiar truck... and a similiar fitout.

But their truck is fire-engine red, a left-hand-drive Toyota Troopy, having been fitted out by Roger - gifted carpenter -and his partner Connie... then shipped all the way from Switzerland.

Tonight though, the big day almost over, we are by the roaring weir overflow, more ancient redgums riddled with nesting holes, and a celebratory bottle of Rockford Black Shiraz we've lugged all the way from the Barossa... oh, and 1kg of Menindee's finest giant yabbies, freshly caught and cooked... but eaten by us.

We finish with birthday cheese, chocolate and a traditional Italian green walnut liquer from Kangaroo Island... the smells here of red sand and dust, the sound of rushing river water, and thoughts of how far we've come so far... and our new Swiss friends - with a red Troopy truck the mirror of ours.

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It's all about karma

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It's all about karma

Problems? More like inconveniences really. Busy right up to our departure, leaving late, forgetting bits and pieces.

Well, this morning we're camped at 42-mile Crossing, The Coorong, South Australia. A young couple approach after our breakfast of muesli, fruit toast and coffee.

Rani and Rasheed are French born, with family from the south of India. They are driving a clapped-out camper they've bought in Perth. The inside lights have been left on, the battery now flat. Rani looks sheepish. "Would you have jumper leads?"

We shuffle the truck alongside their van, happy to help out, connecting the leads and wait till their engine kicks in.

They talk a little, of their life in France and leaving their jobs to come to Australia on a 12-month visa, wondering what their family would think of their "reckless abandon".

We wish them well, and hope they enjoy their time in our favourite city/home - Melbourne - when they finally reach there.

But now we are running late, losing time we can ill afford, our Kangaroo Island ferry connection booked for 1pm.

Funny though, after our good deed, we seem blessed with a change in our luck.

We are 10min from the listed ferry departure time, with a 30min check-in period recommended. The phone rings. "You're how far away? 10min? No problem, come on down."

We are waved past the wharf barricade, backing the truck onboard - the barricade closed, the bow raised and shut.

Once on Kangaroo Island, we head for Pennington Bay to be greeted by a private show, over 30-dolphins surfing turquoise waves.

Then it's on to our camp for the night, us alone among rolling hills, by a secluded river outlet and beach called Western River Cove... and a magnificent Indian evening meal of 'Southern Pepper Curry' served with a glass of selected red from a well-travelled wine cask.

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Grim by name but not by nature - `Cape Grim', North West Tasmania

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Grim by name but not by nature - `Cape Grim', North West Tasmania

Time for another trip in the new truck, and our first ferry - overnight from Melbourne to Davenport - the treacherous Bass Strait an ominous black chop.

With an early dinner and a cosy twin cabin our morning port of Davenport lay sleepy and cold.

By midday we're 180kms to the west, the most northwest point of Tasmania, with an annual rainfall of almost 1m and according to one of only 3 'Baseline Air Pollution Stations' on the planet `THE CLEANEST AIR IN THE WORLD'.

We've passed rolling green fields of wind turbines, over 50 of the gangly beasts producing 12% of the state's power; each 60m tall, with rotors the span of a Boeing747 and generator housings as big as a bus.

Next it's the old Van Dieman's Land Company homestead - once a great wool empire. There's a deserted shearing shed and echoed footsteps from a dust-laden floor. There's a rambling shearers' quarters and a gap in a dark row of cyprus wrent by a recent tornado, miraculously leaving the old kitchen intact, the photos of black folk with missionary garb and blank bewildered stares.

And finally we're up here on the coast, the goal of our journey; buffeted by fresh salty air and the crash of grandiose southern oceans.

To the south lay the Antarctic. To the west, the famed 'Roaring 40s' winds, blown all the way from Argentina past the southern tip of Africa to get here; those same gales lashing our faces. We've wool and possum fur beanies pulled down tight, flapping Goretex jackets all buttoned up. I wonder at the wrecks that must surely be buried in paddocks of kelp that sway on sub-sea tides.

We gaze northward, to a tall natural rampart topped by rich green grass, grey and white waves crashing at its base - this is 'Suicide Bay', where a band of the indigenous Pendowtee people were shot in 1828, their bodies thrown over the edge of the 60m precipice; the culmination of a series of events beginning with the harassment, abduction and rape of Pendowtee womenfolk.

So we really are at `Cape Grim', evocatively named by the intrepid English navigator and cartographer Matthew Flinders, from his 8m open whaling boat... for the wild weather and bitter winds, the huge swells, hissing foam and boiling cauldron seas, or maybe the treacherous rocky reefs... or could it really have been named in honour of a Mr 'Grim'?

There are flashes of sun on shining seas, the salt and spray a timeless presence. Broken clouds race on eastward, shedding shadows dark, on grassy tussocks and rolling pastures painted in hues of emerald green.

`GRIM' BY NAME, BUT NOT BY NATURE.

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