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The Big Journey

The whole trip is gonna take us 12000km from the Indian Ocean into the tropical north and towards the Pacific and Sydney in the end. We got about 4 weeks for the whole trip, so there is gonna be a lot of driving involved. Just have a look on the map: we are gonna start in Perth on the west coast (on the left ;-)) then we'll head north along the coast, through the Pilbara mountains, the Great Sandy Desert and the Kimberleys to finally reach Darwin after about 5000km. From there we will go south and then further east and in Cairns we will arrive on the Pacific. The last 3000km are gonna take us along the east coast and the Great Dividing Range up to our final destination: Sydney.

Allright, I can't wait anymore. Let's do it.

Perth to Exmouth

Leaving Perth a bit later than intended me and my brother went on the first stage towards the Pinnacles, a limestone formation in a desert 200km north of Western Australia´s capital.
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After testing my cars desert abilities along the Pinnacles we headed on through the remoteness of Western Australia. {short description of image}
Our first night in the outback was following and the next day around noon we reached Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef. The Ningaloo Reef is the western counterpart of Queensland´s Great Barrier Reef. However, it is much smaller and far less touristy due to its remoteness and it is really close to the coast. that means that you can just walk into the water from the beach and after a copuple of metres you are snorkelling above the coralls into swarms of tropical fish... So we spent about two hours snorkelling and sunbathing before it was time to move on towards Exmouth and Cape Range NP where the Reef is meant to be even more colourful and less spoiled. {short description of image}
Cape Range NP

This surely is one of the best places I have seen in Australia. Empty beautiful beaches, absolutely clear water and an amazing diversity under water. We have just been floating in the shallow water over the reef and we have not only found nemo but we have seen all sorts of marine creatures. There was a stingray hiding between the corals and there was an octopus almost perfctly camouflaged a meter underneath us.
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And then I had a stunning encounter with another fish. About three meters from me I saw the distinctive three fins of a reef shark. For a few seconds I was shocked and a bit scared although these sharks are only around 1.5 meters long and no threat to humans. But after the first scary seconds I just enjoyed the view of the king of the reef majestically floating past me. Such a beautiful creature... {short description of image}
Exmouth to Karijini NP

We stayed in the national park overnight and the next day we headed on towards the Pilbara and Karijini NP. We had just left Exmouth for about one hour when the biggest trouble of our travel was about to start... Without notice, a bearing broke in the gearbox of my car. That does not mean that you are stuck straight away, cause you can drive in fourth gear for a couple of hundred kilometres but you definitely need a new gearbox.
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And that is quite complicated in remote WA. So we went on towards Karijini NP and I phoned ahead and found a used gearbox at a car wrecker in Port Hedland. That seemed like a much better option than waiting 4 days for a new gearbox from Perth and paying incredible $4000 for it. {short description of image}
So we explored the beautiful Karijini NP with its mountain ranges, gorges, waterfalls and pools. What a splurge, fresh water on our dusty skin in the dryness of the outback. {short description of image}
Karijini NP to Broome

We arrived to Port Hedland at 9 am on a Saturday morning, found the car wrecker and got the gearbox. Everything was looking fine becausew setting in a gearbox should be a matter of not more than 3 hours. But then our troubles were about to start... We were in Port Hedland a dirty mining city with a large port from where most of WA´s iron ore was shipped overseas and on a Saturday morning no garage was willing to put a gearbox in our car. As we were not willing to stay and wait until sometime the following week over here and as it would have been an incalculable risk to try to drive with a broken gearbox 700km through the Great Sandy Desert to Broome we desperately needed someone to change the gearbox. And we found him. There was a guy in town who was working for cash and changing a gearbox should not be too much of a problem. So we went to his place and his neighbour helped us waking him up since he was still drunk from last night. He was a typical crocodile dundee like Aussie. Doing just some work to get through in the outback and to have enough time to go fishing and chill out. He had tattoos all over and not everybody got along with him in Port Hedland but he was willing to help us. And to cut a long story short, the gearbox we got was not the correct one for my car. We had to swap it but the exactly right one nobody had over here or within 2000kms from us. So we had to get a similar one from a broken car, take it apart and combine it with the working parts of my old one and put it back in. That all worked more or less properly but when the gearbox was set in we saw that its dimensions were different from my old one. So we had to cut open the interior of my car since the gearstick was further back than the other one. Afterwards we had to shorten the tower-chart as well... A proper garage might have seen stuff like that beforehands but Tatts, how our mechanic was called, was just a master of improvisation and so after working 24 hours in a row and drinking at least 24 cans of beer the car was working again. But I had to spend $1000 and had a car that looked like a mess inside and I was really not sure if we would get to Sydney like that...
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But with a delay of one day we went on the road to Broome and arrived there just in time to catch the sunset on Cable Beach. This beach has been voted the best in WA for several times and we enjoyed swimming in the really warm water after a day crossing the Great Sandy Desert. {short description of image}
Broome to Darwin

Broome itself doesn´t have that much to offer so we left the next morning towards the Northern Territory.
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The incredible hot Kimberleys rewarded us with another beautiful outback sunset and a starry sky at night before we came to the more humid savannah around Katherine Gorge NP. {short description of image}
We were planning to go on a canoe trip through the gorge but as a saltwater crocodile or saltie has been seen there, 200 km from the ocean, the gorge was closed and all we could do was hiking for a bit at a safe distance from the water. We found the measure to close the park a bit exaggerated but a couple of days later we had a closer encounter with a saltie and we saw that it was not. {short description of image}
So we went on into the famous Kakadu NP the next morning. Here we have been a bit disappointed since the best things we encoutered were aboriginal cave paintings as big parts of the park have been closed due to high waters and there is not that much to see from the car anyway and due to the crocodiles you can´t swim anywhere. {short description of image}
That night we made it to Darwin and stayed in maybe the best hostel we have been to in Australia. A big rooftop terrace with three different pools and a sunset on the bar were just incredible after 6000km of dry red sand... {short description of image}
Darwin to Cairns

We enjoyed a bit of civilization and nightlife in the Northern Territory´s capital before we left towards the east coast. On the way we stopped for a crocodile cruise on Adelaide River. Waiting for the boat we saw a huge iguana looking for food...
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...and later on on the water we met the most aggressive and probably dangerous animal on earth: the mighty saltwater crocodile.
They go and attack anything that moves and with their size of up to seven or eight metres and a weight of a small car (up to 700kg) they can easily do so. Our guide told us that he has seen crocodiles eating sharks on the riverbank!! So looking back I think it was a very wise decision by the rangers to close the whole Katherine Gorge NP for canoeing just cause of one Saltie...
But again, with some precaution it is just beautiful to see these ancient animal from a couple of metres distance.
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After that we moved on towards Cairns. We had seen enough of the red desert so we did not make the extra 2000km to the Ayers Rock. Apart from a blown up tire and some hot outback camping with redback spiders on the toilet we had no further obstacles and made it to Cairns within two more days. {short description of image}

Despite of a broken gearbox and all the troubles involved, we made it: 8000km in 12 days... And we have seen a lot as well. Now it was time to take it easier. We stayed five days in Cairns and really liked it. Tropical forest and mountains instead of bush and desert, an appreciated contrast. The next day Luci arrived and we went to the Great Barrier Reef together. The nights we usually spent at the Woolshed or surrounding backpacker pubs and we checked out Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas and the rainforest in Daintree NP as well.
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Then it was time to drive 700km to Airlie Beach and go on a three day sailing trip around the Whitsundays. {short description of image}
I would consider this as the highlight of my trip. Just look at the pictures: the best snorkelling in Australia... {short description of image}
...incredible beaches... {short description of image}
...barbeques in the sunset on the ship and a very friendly crew and fellow passengers. {short description of image}
Whitsunday Island at low tide {short description of image}
Quite close to paradise: Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island {short description of image}
Our last Sunset on Black Island... {short description of image}
...and on our boat {short description of image}
Another daytrip in the car got us to Hervey Bay. After a night in the hostel we headed with 6 others and a 4WD to Fraser Island, a 100km long sand island in the Pacific. {short description of image}
What existed first, ship or island? Bloody drunken sailors... {short description of image}
We had some great beach camping and football and obviously some proper parties as well with this fun-loving crew. {short description of image}
We checked out the beaches and fresh water lakes and on the final day we almost missed our ferry back since a very strong flood cut off our campsite and we had to wait several hours for the water to retreat. {short description of image}
Another three hours in the car took us for a short stop over to Brisbane... {short description of image}
...but as we were more keen for beaches than cities we moved on to the Gold Coast and spent the night partying in Surfers Paradise. Well, actually in the last 20 years it has developed into a city as well. Today it even hosts Australias tallest building which you can see on the picture. {short description of image}
New South Wales

We left Queensland and made it to Byron Bay the next day. Luckily Michi was around and showed us a bit of the nice region he is living (and surfing) in. I would have liked to stay longer but we only had two days to check out the sunrise on Cape Byron, Australia´s most easterly point and to get a taste of the nightlife in this hippie community.
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The next day we had a look at Nimbin and the picturesque hippie museum before heading towards Sydney. A final night sleeping on the beach at Elizabeth Beach in Booti Booti NP before we made it accross the Harbour Bridge into Australia´s biggest city. {short description of image}
We stayed in a pretty hostel in King´s Cross and after a mad day in the garage of the backpacker´s car market I had sold my car... In the end I was sad to give it away, it made a really good job in the 5 months it was mine. So I could enjoy the two final days in Sydney and check out all the places from Bondi to Manly Beach, darling harbour and of course the incredible ensemble of Harbour Bridge and Opera House. {short description of image}
Although I am a bit biased since I lived in Melbourne for a while, I have to confess, Sydney is the most beautiful city in Australia. However, sports and nightlife in Melbourne are much better, so its necessary to check out both of them and not to miss Perth obviously. Sydney is the perfect ending for my almost a year down under. Of course, living and working down here, not every day was a holiday, but over all I had a great time, I learned a lot, I made many friends and I have seen a lot of incredible places. And I will surely benefit from my travelling experience in the next part of my trip, across the Pacific in Latin America...

To see what my work-life down under looked like, please click here

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