Monday, September 15, 2008 Australia Australia

The Rock

Ayers Rock: just a short detour from Alice Springs! [Enlarge]

Most people are familiar with Uluru—the big, red, flat topped boulder formerly known as Ayers Rock. If you haven't been there you still know about it: you've seen it on documentaries, in magazines, on the front cover of any book about Australia. It rises suddenly from the flat, golden grassed plains, dwarfing the landscape, including the few stunted trees nearby. You see it from tens of kilometres away. For the aboriginal tribes it has been sacred for millennia; for the colonial explorers who stumbled upon it in the 1800s it was notable and they undoubtedly exclaimed "By Jove, how terribly notable", before claiming it as their own and naming it after Sir something Ayers, who happened to be important at the time. The government handed it back just a few years ago. It's up near the top of the 'must do' list for Australia. And yet even many Australians have never seen it in the flesh. This is not so surprising when you consider that from the local town, Alice Springs (which is in the middle of nowhere), getting to The Rock involves a 900 kilometre round trip.

Sand storm on the Lasseter Highway [Enlarge]

Still, what's another 900 kilometres, we told ourselves as we turned right off the Stuart Highway and began heading west. The Lasseter Highway was very quiet—even quieter than the Stuart Highway. We saw more camels than cars. It was blowing a gale and we were glad we weren't in a bigger van, as our tiny van was being blown all over the road. Ahead the sky was very overcast; surely it wouldn't rain on us? About 200 kilometres into the journey, with Isla in the driving seat, we saw something strange on the horizon. We'd seen plenty of dust devils up to this point, but ahead of us it looked as if the whole desert had upped sticks and was marching towards us in a spooky, amber cloud. Within seconds we were engulfed in a sandstorm. We slowed down and crawled along at 30 kph. Driving through airborne sand is very similar to driving through fog (something we Brits have ample experience of), your headlights reflect back eerily and shapes loom up from the roadsides. We seriously considered turning back, as it would take days to get to Uluru at the speed we were going, and in any case if the rock was also in the sandstorm there'd be bugger all to see—but we pushed on.

The storm eased up quite quickly and was completely finished by the time we got to Yulara, the purpose built tourist village that serves The Rock. It was still as windy as hell, but the sand was all on the ground where it should be. From our campsite we could just see what we'd come to see, but it was a long way away. To go any closer we would have to pay an admission fee—$25 each (GBP 9.36 / USD 15.81). Why is the Devil's Marbles free, but not Uluru? Why does the Devil's Marbles campsite cost $6.60 and the Yulara one $31.31? Answer: because they can! Uluru is a must-do and people will pay for the privilege of seeing it. Doesn't mean we're happy about it. We grudgingly paid up and drove down the narrow road. The closer we got, the bigger the rock became... obviously, but from a distance you don't realise just how huge it is.

Uluru at sunset [Enlarge]

The thing to do is to be here at dusk and watch the colour change as the sun sets, so we went to the sunset viewing area and waited. From time to time we glanced behind us. The sun was heading horizon-wards, but it was doing so behind a blanket of cloud—it was just a pale disc and wasn't strong enough to even cast a shadow. Had we just driven 450 kilometres through a sandstorm to watch a sunset that wasn't even going to happen? As we waited, some bored teenage girls on a school trip were combating the monotony by posing for photos of themselves with our cool campervan. Then just as we entered the golden hour before sunset, by some miracle the sun broke through the bottom of the cloud and Uluru's sandstone surface was suddenly bathed in warm, yellow light. Over the next hour we were treated to the most incredible natural light show imaginable, with the rock changing colour from pink to yellow to red, to a deep burgundy just as the sun dipped below the horizon, and finally to a black silhouette against the crimson night sky. It really was stunning. We went to bed thinking the 50 dollars had been well worth it.

The following morning we got a chance to look at our van in daylight; she* too had changed colour—from white to red, coated as she was in a layer of sticky, fine dust. We'll have to give her a thorough wash before we give her back, or they'll think we've been off-roading! The wind had dropped. We set off back toward the Stuart Highway, happy to be able to see the edges of the road this time.

Back on the main road we stopped for lunch at Mount Ebeneezer Roadhouse. We'd finished our Famous Mrs Mac's Pies and were availing ourselves of the facilities (US: using the bathroom) when a tour bus rocked up and a load of tourists flooded in. We overheard the tour group leader talking to the roadhouse staff about the previous day's weird weather. In his many years of Uluru tour guiding he'd never known a sandstorm like it... or a better sunset!

Driving through the desert [Enlarge]

South of Alice on the Stuart Highway is a whole lot of nothing. There's not much choice of campsites, so we drove until about 17:00 and stopped at the one we were closest to which happened to be at Kulgera Roadhouse. Apart from the Devil's Marbles, which only had a dirt toilet, and certainly no showers, it was the cheapest place we'd stayed: $11.00 (GBP 4.12 / USD 6.96). For that we got to park anywhere we liked on a large field of dry grass. We picked the only bit of shade we could find, behind a big yucca tree. The wind gusted across the campsite, rocking our little van from side to side. There's a good reason why campsite adverts emphasise "shady" and "sheltered"—when you're camping in the Red Centre it's very important!

We were sharing the huge site with half a dozen other vans. A tow truck was parked beside one of them, preparing to take it back to Alice Springs. There were no obvious signs of damage, but evidently someone's holiday had gone pear shaped. As we were making breakfast this morning the same tow truck rolled up again, and a second crippled campervan was loaded onto the back. This one had hit not one but two kangaroos last night—we mean it kids, don't drive in the outback at night! Park up and open a tinny instead.

We really hope our little Mitsubishi can make it out of the desert in one piece. This road trip has been one of the highlights of our whole round the world trip, but we don't want to be stuck in the desert forever, with this dust, constant wind and relentless sun.

[* For some reason, Isla always assigns a gender to vehicles (it's a girl thing). Our van is apparently a she—Glenn.]

Friday, September 12, 2008 Australia Australia

In search of water in The Alice

ANZAC Hill, Alice Springs [Enlarge]

Alice Springs is a town in the middle of nowhere. Known in Australia as 'The Alice', it's about as close to the centre of Australia as you can get in a normal car. It's almost the halfway point between Darwin on the northern coast, and Adelaide on the southern coast. Twenty-six thousand people call it home. Back where we come from that would be a sizeable local town, but nothing notable. Here it's the largest place for 1,500 kilometres in any direction. It's a very nice place with art galleries, restaurants, shops, and interesting tourist attractions. But it is absolutely in the middle of nowhere.

The Alice began life about 150 years ago. The south of Australia had been settled, with towns like Melbourne and Sydney attracting people from all over the rest of the world, but communication was a major headache. How could this new British colonial outpost function when it took three months to get a message to London, and another three months to receive the reply? What Australia needed was the latest high-tech communications network: the telegraph. Darwin in the north was quickly linked to Europe through Java, Singapore and then overland up through Asia. But the last link from Darwin to the south of the country was still unconnected. A mere matter of three thousand kilometres of inhospitable, mostly uncharted desert was in the way. And there was one more minor problem: telegraph technology was still in its infancy and messages could only be sent 200 kilometres before needing a repeater station. At each repeater station they had to be decoded by a person, and then manually resent down the line to the next repeater.

Telegraph Station, Alice Springs [Enlarge]

So, just to be clear, it's 1850-something; you're 12,000 kilometres from home; winter is summer and summer, winter; the natives... well, they're not very friendly because you've just nicked their country; it's up to 50 degrees in the shade; there's no water... and you want to build a telegraph wire across a continent with manned stations every 200 kilometres. These days no one would even tender for the contract, that's if the Health and Safety Executive hadn't already vetoed it. Back then, the Victorian can-do spirit made anything possible. And so they just did it, trekking off into the unknown on (imported) camels with a roll of fencing wire.

We found out about this history at the brilliant Alice Springs Telegraph Station from a guy called Bruce, who was a very knowledgeable volunteer guide. We highly recommend this museum to any visitors because it doesn't just give you the telegraph history, you get an insight into what any nineteenth century settler would have faced in the outback. We were left wondering why anyone would have taken the skilled job as a telegraph operator... not to mention the wives and families that went with them—it was a commitment to seven years of almost total isolation, and your shopping came twice a year by camel.

Some things are easier out here now: groceries are delivered to supermarkets by road trains and you can buy anything from fresh avocados to tasty cheese. We know it's tasty by the way, because it's called 'Tasty Cheese'. You can also get 'Extra Tasty Cheese', 'Australian Tasty Cheese', 'So Low and Tasty Cheese' and 'Strong and Bitey Cheese'. But still, we kind of wonder why people choose to live here.

The original Alice Spring [Enlarge]

Just next to the telegraph station is the actual Alice Spring from which the town gets its name. It was, of course, completely dry (did you expect running water?), and had a few wallabies walking around on it, but we were reliably informed that you can dig down a metre or so and find water. We chose to go for a cold beer instead.

Sadly, we missed by just a few days the famous Henley-on-Todd Regatta held every year in The Alice. Inspired by the Henley Royal Regatta held in London, the Aussies don't let the fact that the Todd river is as dry as a bone stop them from having a regatta. In fact, the Alice Springs version is the only regatta in the world ever to have been cancelled because there was water in the river. Details as ever at Wikipedia.

This historic building was built in 1939 - old by Alice standards. [IMG_5163]
RFDS Visitors Centre [Enlarge]

We visited the Flying Doctor Visitor Centre in The Alice, which operates out of the actual Flying Doctors control centre. If you're ill in most of Australia, you really need these guys—and you'd better hope you're not too far from one of the hundreds of airstrips dotted around the country.

The Flying Doctors were started by a missionary named John Flynn. One of the stories which inspired him to do this is retold at the Flying Doctor Visitor Centre in Alice:

Darcy was a stockman in Western Australia. After being found injured by some friends, he was transported over 30 miles (12 hours), to the nearest town, Halls Creek. Here, Darcy was met by FW Tuckett, the Postmaster, and the only man in the settlement trained in first aid. Tuckett said there was nothing he could reliably do for injuries so serious, and tried unsuccessfully to contact doctors at Wyndham, and then Derby, by telegraph. He eventually got through to a doctor in Perth. Through communication by morse code, Dr Holland guided Tuckett through two rather messy bladder operations utilising the only sharp instrument available, a pen knife. Holland then travelled 10 days to Halls Creek on a boat for cattle transport, a Model T Ford, a horse drawn carriage, and even on foot, only to find that Darcy had died the day before. To rub salt in the wound, the operations had been successful, but the stockman had died from an undiagnosed case of malaria and ruptured abscess in his appendix.

One of those who heard him speak was a young man named Clifford Peel. Sometime later, during World War 1, Peel wrote to Flynn. He had seen aeroplanes used in France by missionary doctors. Slowly Flynn began to solve the technological barriers to the service, and eleven years after Peel's letter was sent from France the service got started. On an average early twenty-first century day the flying doctor makes 159 calls and sees around 600 patients from its 22 bases across the country. The running costs are government funded, but all capital costs like replacing aircraft and buying lifesaving equipment are met by fundraising.

So we enjoyed our relaxed couple of days in Alice. Next stop, the world famous local attraction, Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Thursday, September 11, 2008 Australia Australia

A fair dinkum road trip

The UK, Ireland and Australia at the same scale
For us Poms, Australia is quite big [Enlarge]

Note to reader: this post should be read in an Aussie accent.

Mate, Australia is a big country. If you're a Yank you can probably understand but if you're a Pom you can't. No matter how much you think you can imagine how big this country is, you're wrong. It's way bigger than you reckon.

We thought we knew it was big, but we're Poms and so we had no real idea. Our plan is to go south straight through the 'Red Centre' of the country to Adelaide, and then round the coast a bit to Melbourne. The main road north-south is the Stuart Highway, named after the famous explorer John McDouall Stuart, whose route of 1861/62 it roughly follows. It's sealed and has just one lane in each direction. Most of the other few roads in northern and central Australia are either gravel roads or dirt tracks only passable with a 4WD.

Home (for the next three weeks). [IMG_5074]
Our van beside a termite mound [Enlarge]

As we left Darwin behind, the Stuart Highway was eerily quiet. We were so close to the state capital, yet we probably saw one other vehicle every ten kilometres. We did see a lot of termite mounds though. All along this section of highway, and as far as you can see off it, these teeny tiny bugs have constructed towering termite cities, many bigger than our van. In one area they were so impressive they had a tourist attraction sign!

We detoured off the Stuart Highway onto the Arnhem Highway into Kakadu National Park, to visit Ubirr, home of some famous Aboriginal rock art and cave paintings (our pictures here). We spent our second night at a campsite in Jabiru, near the paintings.

Past Jabiru the sealed road runs out and if you continue on the tracks (permit required) you enter an Aboriginal Reserve called Arnhem Land. Occupying a corner of the 'Top End' of the Northern Territory, Arnhem Land is bigger than Portugal or Hungary. In that space it has only about 16,000 residents. We couldn't go further as we didn't have a permit and anyway you're not allowed to take rental vans off sealed roads. So we turned back towards the Stuart Highway. In all, our little detour to see a few paintings was about 425 kilometres. Did we say Australia is big?

We'd heard about Australia's big skies. Heard about them, but never fully understood what they're like. The landscape spreads out around you in vast, sweeping bands of colour. The road stretches to the horizon, dead straight, disappearing into a shimmering heat haze. The sun beats down, white hot in a pure blue sky. You can see forever and you feel very small and vulnerable. Britain's skies are shrunk by buildings, trees, pollution, clouds, street lights—you're hemmed in, unable to see the horizon, except on the coast. Outside of the cities, Australia is absolutely empty. However, it's also a dessicated, inhospitable place. In places, bush fires have burned away almost all the grass and low bushes along the side of the highway, but the trees seem to be able to cope with it as they still have leaves on their top halves. The wind is as dry and hot as a paint-stripper, whipping up dust devils that surge across the road in front of you and blast the harsh dust into everything. It coats every surface and gets everywhere.

Porridge with banana and a mug of tea. [IMG_5091]
Breakfast [Enlarge]

The landscape was unlike anything we've seen so far. In the Top End it's a tropical climate and so there are lots of trees. In places it seemed to belong in Africa—there should have been elephants roaming and wildebeest stampeding, but instead there were kangaroos, hopping we presume. You see a lot of kangaroos on the Stuart Highway, but sadly they're all dead at the side of the road. Kangaroos are mostly nocturnal and anyone driving at night runs a real risk of hitting one. If you're in a car this is bad news for you as well as the roo. A male red kangaroo is about two metres tall and weighs 90 kilos (14 stone / 198 lb). Regularly we saw trashed cars by the side of the road, which had hit roos, or else swerved to avoid them, and then rolled into the bush.

At our third overnight stopping place, Nitmiluk National Park (formerly known as Katherine Gorge before it was handed back to the native people) the temperature on the walking trail was posted on a sign as 50 degrees Celcius (122 F), in the shade. We didn't go for a stroll.

Only once did we see a pair of live roos hopping away across the desert. However our campsites each seemed to come with their own unique wildlife features. At Nitmiluk semi-tame wallabies boing'd about the campsite. They were very inquisitive so everything had to be locked up so they couldn't get into it. As we were drifting off to sleep we could hear one of our fellow campers chasing them out of her rucksack that she'd left outside her tent.

Attack Creek [Enlarge]

Every few kilometres the road would pass over (or rather 'through') a dry creek-bed. The road signs would warn of the danger from flooding. Marker posts allowed you to gauge the water height before driving through it: the posts went up to 2 metres. At this time of year this seemed crazy, as there was not a drop of water in the creeks. It felt like the area had never seen rain at all, let alone floods, but actually in the summer the Top End gets a lot of rain and the minor roads become impassable. The highway deliberately dips into each creek to create a natural flooding point, to stop the whole lot from being washed away.

The Stuart Highway is the major road across this continent, yet the "towns" along its route are just tiny collections of a few buildings. The main focus of each town is the filling station, without which it would be impossible to continue. The fuel stops are so infrequent that we fill up at nearly every one. On day four, we stopped for the night at one such fuel stop, at Elliott, a dustbowl whose unique wildlife offering was a flock of peacocks! Out here there's no mobile phone signal for hours on end, sometimes all day. The van radio only receives static. Even now, in our high tech world, the outback feels unconquered. We're loving seeing this area, but we honestly can't see what would make anyone choose to live here.

Daly Waters Pub [Enlarge]

One thing we've found is that the people out here are friendly in the extreme. Everyone talks to everyone, presumably because they don't know when the opportunity to have a chat might next arise. One of Glenn's goals for his big road trip was to be called "darl" by an Aussie sheila when he went into a shop, and sure enough it happened at Elliott when he went in to pay for petrol ("Fifty bucks thanks darl!")

1324 kilometres into our journey, we paused to refuel at Renner Springs, the generally accepted boundary between the Top End and the Red Centre. When we set off again we could indeed see a subtle shift in the landscape, to a grassy savannah. Here the drought hardly ever breaks. It was 14:00 and yet there were no shadows. A raptor looked up from the kangaroo carcass he was pecking at to watch us pass, then went back to his lunch. The paint-stripper wind blew tumbleweed across the road.

The Devil's Marbles [Enlarge]

That evening we arrived at the Devil's Marbles, a bizarre rocky outcrop where massive boulders of ancient lava lie perched on the bedrock, as if placed there. According to Aboriginal tradition, the marbles were formed when... Sorry, we're not allowed to tell you the story according to our Barkly Region Tourism booklet. You'll have to visit for yourself. We had plenty of time to enjoy the view at sunset and then took a couple of cold tinnies of Victoria Bitter (a very fine beer indeed, considering it's made by Aussies) out of the esky as it got dark. Above us millions of stars came out across 180 degrees of sky. True magic. The Devil's Marbles Conservation Reserve campsite set us back a princely $6.60 (GBP 2.97 / USD 5.53).

On day five we got up before sunrise so that we could see the whole light show in reverse. It didn't disappoint. On the road that day not much happened, we were fully in the travelling groove and sharing the driving between us. There was no rush: we went at a steady 85 km/h (53 mph) and only did between 300 and 500 kilometres per day. Two notable incidents that day were crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and being overtaken by a road train. Eventually, five hot but incredible days and 2,034 kilometres after we left Darwin we rolled up at the first real town, an oasis right in the centre of Australia: Alice Springs.

Map of Days 652-657

Days 652-657
Darwin to Alice Springs

This map shows the route we took in this post. Click it to see larger maps of our whole route at flickr.

Maps are taken from the CIA World Factbook.

Saturday, September 06, 2008 Australia Australia

Crossing Continents

Chilli's Backpackers hostel [Enlarge]

Note to reader: this post should be read in an Aussie accent.

We stumbled into Darwin's airport at 05:10 local time (02:40 Sumatra time) and were completely awed by how friendly, helpful and efficient the immigration and customs staff were. They were like normal people. The staff in certain other Western countries (ours included) could learn a lot from watching them at work. We swapped our last few Indonesian rupiah for Aussie dollars and got on the airport shuttle bus into town. It was driven by a German guy on a working holiday visa. A visa which we'd love to have ourselves, but unfortunately we're over 30 so don't qualify.

Arriving in Australia was information overload. After 22 months in countries where English was at best a second language, we could now understand people's conversations on the bus, read every shop sign and billboard, and speak to anyone we wanted to. It was bewildering. We hadn't been able to book accommodation from Indonesia, so we asked the bus driver to drop us in the city centre.

Actually we say 'city centre' but the centre of Darwin is about the size of the centre of a typical market town centre back home, so it didn't take much walking to get anywhere.

We just wanted to find a room and go to sleep. After twenty minutes looking around the few places to stay which had manned reception desks (it was now still only about 06:30), we settled on Chilli's Backpackers hostel. Our double room with a shower, but no dunny, cost 77 Aussie dollars per night (GBP 34.64 / USD 64.31). Our days of sub-ten-quid hotel rooms are well and truly over. The Brit (on a working holiday visa) at the reception desk said that we couldn't check in until 11:00, but we could put our bags in their locked storeroom until then, which freed us up a bit. We gave up on the idea of sleep at that point—it was getting light and we were feeling more awake than before. So we went for a proper cooked breakfast at a nearby cafe, which consisted of extremely non-halal bacon and sausages, egg, beans, and proper tea with milk and the bag still in... absolute heaven. It was cooked and served by Brits on working holiday visas.

Now when we have western food we don't have to feel the slightest bit guilty about not eating the local food—this is the local food!

As we ate our brekky a group of Aussie workmen turned up at the cafe for their morning tucker. They were dressed in blue denim shirts, blue shorts, blue socks with workmen's boots and bush hats, and all of them were called Ned. We wondered if they were part of some tourist attraction but it gradually dawned on us that these were just regular guys. Although we were in a city, this was no Melbourne or Sydney. We were in the capital of the Northern Territory. The fair dinkum outback, mate. We loved Darwin already.

While we waited for check-in time to roll around, we put our efforts into what to do next. Number one on our list of things to investigate was transport. We didn't want to take a bus or train through Australia: a seat on 'The Ghan' train from Darwin to Adelaide will set you back a stinging 710 dollars (GBP 319 / USD 593) and a sleeper berth will come in at a brutal 1410 dollars (GBP 634 / USD 1178). The bus is cheaper but did we really want to sit on a bus for 42 hours? Anyway, we wanted to be able to take our time, and stop when and where we wanted. We've been looking forward to Australia as a major goal for a very long time, and there was only one way we were going to see the place: in our own vehicle.

The noticeboard at Chilli's was full of campervans for sale, but they weren't all that cheap, even if we went for a heap of scrap metal which would probably break down hundreds of miles from anywhere. And if we bought something we'd have the hassle of selling it later. Several companies will sell you a vehicle with a guaranteed buyback at the other end, but there are strings attached and of course a hefty margin built in for them on the prices. Hiring something seemed like the better choice. The tourist season in Darwin is very close to being over (summer, from October to March is very wet and very hot), whereas in the south of the country it is now springtime and the season is just beginning... So vehicle rental companies want their cars and vans down south to meet the demand of the summer tourists along the coasts. Maybe there was a deal to be had on a one-way hire to the south?

We eventually hired a little Mitsubishi campervan for 64 dollars a day (GBP 28.79 / USD 53.45) including fully beefed-up no worries insurance cover and unlimited kilometres. We have to deliver the van to the company's Melbourne branch in three weeks. We'll obviously have to pay for fuel, food and campsite fees, but that's us sorted for the next few weeks. Maybe we'll camp by the roadside some of the time to save on fees. We celebrated the discovery of a way forward with a delicious meal in town with Australian beer for Glenn and Australian wine for Isla and went to sleep very early.

Roads in the Northern Territories go on forever. [IMG_5050]
Endless highway [Enlarge]

At a reasonable hour the next morning, we had another fab cooked breakfast, picked up the van and spent the rest of the day sorting ourselves out with supermarket shopping (at which the checkout was manned by a Brit on a working holiday visa) and route planning. Mid-afternoon we drove out of Darwin and spent the night at a campsite on the edge of the city. A pitch in a campsite with cooking facilities, showers, barbecues and a swimming pool cost 30 dollars—much less than a gloomy hostel room. Prices will come down a bit as we get further from Darwin and choose more basic sites. So now, let the adventure begin! Ahead of us is over 5,000 kilometres of tarmac.

You will have noticed that we mention the fact that there are a lot of foreigners here on working holiday visas. If you spend any time in London, you discover that everybody working in the pubs and hotels there is an Australian backpacker. In return, all the British and European backpackers are doing the same jobs over here.

Map of Day 651

Day 651
Denpasar to Darwin

This map shows the route we took in this post. Click it to see larger maps of our whole route at flickr.

Maps are taken from the CIA World Factbook.

Friday, September 05, 2008 Indonesia Indonesia

Flying out of Asia

Javan volcano [Enlarge]

Our three flights have gone smoothly so far today (actually yesterday—we're writing this at stupid o'clock in the morning somewhere over the Timor Sea), although it's been a very long day sitting around in badly organised airports. We had a final chuckle on the first plane from Padang to Jakarta. Garuda's inflight magazine for this month has a couple of interesting articles that the general population could do with reading. The first is a piece by one of the magazine's publishers (a Westerner) all about why corruption is such a bad thing for a country; the second is by an Indonesian journalist talking about how the current generation of 20-to-40 year olds have to stop blaming colonialism for what's wrong with their country and their lives, and taking some responsibility for fixing it. We have to agree. Korea fared much worse under Japanese colonialism than Indonesia did under the Dutch, and it has almost nothing in the way of natural resources, yet it's now a prosperous developed country investing heavily outside its boundaries. Because its people are hard working and forward looking. Same with Singapore and Malaysia. And yet in Indonesia, everything is always the fault of the Dutch, even though they left over sixty years ago. And amid the moaning nothing actually improves.

So anyway, there ends our Asian adventure which began on a short ferry ride across the Dardanelles in Turkey twenty months ago. We've had infinitely more good times than bad. It's a shame we've had to leave on such a low, though it does mean we have no qualms about moving on. Australasia, whatever it brings us, will be very different. At the moment we're most looking forward to eating our own kind of food and being able to converse easily with the natives for the first time in nearly two years. We just have to remember not to mention Olympic Gold Medals... You beaut!

Map of Day 650

Day 650
Padang to Jakarta to Denpasar

This map shows the route we took in this post. Click it to see larger maps of our whole route at flickr.

Maps are taken from the CIA World Factbook.