We aim to spend five months driving over 30,000km and travelling through 18 countries before we reach Singapore. From there we’ll ship our vehicle to Darwin to complete the final leg of the journey to Sydney.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Driving Chrissy Home Stats

Total days: 317
Countries visited: 19
Total Mileage: 20,000 miles

Hardest drive 1st: Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) to Bukhara (Uzbekistan)
Hardest drive 2nd: Mengla (China) to Udomxai (Laos)
Scariest drive 1st: Osh to Sary Tash Mountain Pass (Kyrgyzstan)
Scariest drive 2nd: Driving into Osh - the burnt out quarter
Longest drive (hrs): 17 hours, Kashgar to Kuche (China) arrived at 3am
Longest drive (km): 920km, Nullarbor Plain Australia

Highest drive: 3330m, Otmok Pass, Kyrgyzstan
Lowest drive: 150m below sea level, Turpan, China

Hottest day: 48°C Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan
Coldest day: 4°C Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan
Muggiest day: Caspian Coast, Iran
Muggiest night: Krabi, Thailand

Worst road 1st: Ashgabat to Mary (Turkmenistan)
Worst road 2nd: Osh to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Border Crossings
Longest Border Crossing: 6 hours Turkey/Iran
Bribes asked for: 2
Bribes given: 2

Vehicle Breakdowns:
Turkey: Scammed into replacing half-shaft
Iran: Front right brake problem
Turkmenistan: Front right brake problem
Uzbekistan: Electrical problem with gear selector
Kyrgyzstan: Broken electric window motor and bent undercarriage
China: Fuel pump problem and new injectors
Laos: Fuel pump recalibration and new fuel line
Malaysia: Fitted emergency handbrake and repainted undercarriage
Australia: New accelerator and brake hand-control and faulty lift
Longest breakdown: 8 weeks in Laos

Calls to Frogs Island 4x4: Once a month
Black market diesel runs: 3
Miranda stalled in China: Too many
Punctures: 1
Overheated: Miranda: 1 Colin: countless times Chrissy: 1
Times used jerry can: 0
Times used water spray: Countless to cool Colin down & once for a shower
Services: 4

Colin & Chrissy
Bouts of diarrhoea: Chrissy: 2
Days wearing a hijab: Chrissy: 13
Days wearing flipflops: Chrissy: 317
Days wearing slippers: Colin: 317
Pressure sores: Colin: 1
Given begging money: Colin: 8
Accepted begging money: Colin: 0
Wheelchair broke: 1

Invites to someone’s home/campsite/restaurant:
Austria: 1
Serbia 2
Turkey: 3
Iran: 1 visit but lost count of invites
Kyrgyzstan: 1 visit in a Yurt and 2 other times
China: 2
Laos: 1 gazillion
Malaysia: 1 trazillion
Australia: 10 bazillion

Amazing moments
Switzerland/Austria/Serbia: Catching up with old friends
Turkey: Visiting Gallipoli War Memorials
Turkey: Watching air balloons and the sun coming up in Goreme
Turkey: Visiting Ephesus, an ancient port on The Silk Route
Turkey: Goreme at the carpet shop & meeting the locals
Iran: Going to the Ebadi’s for dinner and breakfast
Iran: Meeting the people and camping in car parks
Iran: The experience in healers gorge & the Kopet Dag mts
Turkmenistan: Completing the drive across the Karakum Desert
Turkmenistan: Visiting the ancient city of Merv
Uzbekistan: Visiting the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand
Kazakhstan: Ummmm visiting Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan: Sleeping in a Yurt
Kyrgyzstan: Meeting locals/aid-workers in Osh & hearing their stories
Kyrgyzstan: Crossing the Irkeshtam Pass
China: Kashgar & witnessing the end of Ramadan ceremony
China: Eating Sichuan Food
China: Arriving in Xian the end of The Silk Road
China: Visiting the Terracotta Army
China: Great friendship formed with Louis Long
Laos: Riding tuk-tuks and meeting new friends
Laos: Visiting Cope
Thailand: Driving into Bangkok & the southwest coastline
Malaysia: 1Dollar & friends and Double Zero, family & friends
Singapore: Overnight train and meeting new friends
Bali: Trip in a pick-up & visiting Senang Hati Foundation

Surreal Moments
Kyrgyzstan: Driving into the burnt out area of Osh and witnessing the aftermath of human conflict.
China: Seeing a whole hill blown up in the distance
Australia: After seeing the faces change as we drove from the UK to Singapore we arrived in Australia to see European looking people again and totally different fauna and flora

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The final count down: Adelaide to Perth, 5th April to 25th April

McLaren Vale to Port Augusta, 348km
When we first arrived in Queensland I had to chuckle to myself when I studied the Australian road map. After looking at the different state names I imagined that from the outset the early cartographers must have felt like true ambassadors of the Crown, but slightly homesick at the same time. I guess that they started out in earnest by naming the top right portion as the mighty ‘Queensland’, before heading south to map ‘New South Wales’ and ‘Victoria’. By the time they finished mapping Victoria their efforts must have began to wane as they moved on to name ‘South Australia’ and ‘The Northern Territory’. Finally, their initial feelings of pride and enthusiasm must have diminished into boredom and fatigue as they neared the end of their enormous challenge of mapping Australia when (I guess) out of shear exhaustion they must have thought, ‘Ah, bugger it!’; drew a fat line down one half of the country and named the final bit off to the left, ‘Western Australia’. By the time I’d finished humouring my imagination, the realisation of the enormous task actually carried out by the first explorers and cartographers of Australia almost left me dumbstruck in admiration for what they accomplished. After all, Australia stakes its place in the world as the sixth largest nation; and as being one of the driest continents (after the Antarctic).

As the beginning of April loomed we were confronted with the challenge of driving from Chrissy’s Home (south of Adelaide) to Perth in ‘Western Australia’. I have to say that travelling in Australia by road is unique. There aren’t many countries in the world that when you travel from one city to another the route planner says it will take 1 day, 23 hours and 59 minutes – nonstop. Ahead of us we had to drive north to Port Augusta- a famous crossroads in Australia; traverse along the top of the Eyre Peninsular; take on the ‘treeless land’ of the Nullarbor Plain; cross two timelines; and follow the southern coast through the ‘Land of Giants’ before ending up in Perth – the most isolated capital city in the world. Furthermore, we would have to share the (at times) mind boggling straight roads with Kangaroos; Wombats; Cattle; Camels; Stumpy-Lizards; Grey Nomads and ginormous Road Trains.

By the time we came to leave McLaren Vale we had spent two weeks with our exemplarily hosts Mary and Bohdan Prydun. Their happiness to have their daughter safely at home after our arduous journey was evident. During our stay Mary had fed us up with some delicious meals and Bohdan had even managed to pass on some of his wine making knowledge to the chief ignoramus of wine drinkers i.e. me. What is more, we had serviced Miranda and after the fault occurred in my electronic hand-controls we even had time to fit a new manual throttle and brake hand-control. However, when we came to leave, Miranda resembled a retired Black Labrador that we had met in Laos, who was called Major. Like the mine detecting dog (who had discovered eighty-seven mines during his course of duty and as a result had probably saved eighty-seven lives) Miranda gave off an air of enthusiastic loyalty and energy to embark on the next adventure, but in reality Miranda looked old and tired after the mammoth task she had accomplished. In fairness yes, she sustained her fair share of problems, but she had carried Chrissy and I safely over 18,000 miles; through ferociously hot deserts and over numerous mountain passes. Nevertheless, the final journey to Perth was going to involve one more valiant push from our faithful stead.

The morning we departed, Mary, Bohdan and Marty waved goodbye to us from their house that sat amongst a sea of grapevines. Although we felt excited to be on the road again both Chrissy and I felt sad that we were about to embark on the final chapter of our overland adventure. Added to that we had to complete the equivalent mileage we had done from Brisbane to McLaren Vale, but this time we would have to do it in under two weeks to enable us to put Miranda on a England bound vessel towards the end of April.

Apart from running a stop sign by a nanosecond, which infuriated the hell out of the road worker (who manned the Stop sign) and then consequently being stopped by the Police, our drive through Adelaide and on to Port Augusta was relatively straightforward. After several hours of driving we spotted the Flinders Ranges spreading out ahead of us and before long we were in the country town of Port Augusta. Port Augusta acts as a major intersection in Australia where you can head north to Alice Springs/Darwin; west to Perth and east to Adelaide, Melbourne etc. As we pulled into our campsite for the night, the setting sun lit up the Flinders Ranges on the horizon into an ochre blaze. At the base of the hills a train that came close to one kilometre in length and that was carrying everything from vehicles to tons of raw materials reminded me of Australia’s economy which seems to be propped up by the mining industry and more importantly China’s hunger for raw materials.

Port Augusta to Streaky Bay 391km. Flaming Galah
It is interesting how circumstance changes ones outlook on life. Two nights after arriving in Port Augusta we found ourselves in a campsite in Streaky Bay talking to a fellow traveller who had also sustained a spinal cord injury. Simon, who was from Cornwall had been in a serious motorbike accident, which put him in a coma for days. After he came around it became apparent that he had sustained a brachial plexus injury. From my time spent in a spinal cord injury unit I had heard that this type of injury is fairly commonly after a motorbike accident. This type of injury can occur when there is a lot of trauma sustained in the shoulder, head and neck area and as a result the nerves that send signals to the arm, hand and shoulder are damaged, which leads to paralysis of the arm, hand and shoulder. This is what had happened to Simon.

The night before we met Simon we arrived in the dark, so we didn’t see his three wheeled motorbike (that resembled a three wheeled snowmobile) and trailer with a tent perched on top. The 400km journey from Port Augusta to Streaky Bay could be described in Australian terms as a small day trip, but for Chrissy and I it was slightly more difficult because we had to carry out my lengthy routine in the morning, which only left us with fours hours of daylight to drive in. As we left Port Augusta we were confronted by huge wide open plains and a bright blue sky above us. The straights roads where lined by gum trees that scarcely concealed thousands of hectares of harvested fields that looked like they had produced a wheat crop earlier on in the season. Small country towns were visible on the horizon from miles away thanks to huge white wheat silos that stood next to the railway track like abandoned fuel containers from some kind of space shuttle attempt. Only the huge flocks of Galahs lurking around the silos gave away the fact that they must have been filled with tons of grain. In fact, from the bird’s point of view these silos must have seemed like paradise to those ‘Flaming Galahs’.

At the midpoint through our drive we reached the town of Kimba, whose claim to fame is being the ‘The halfway point across Australia’. Its second claim to fame is that the town and its surrounding district form one of the largest wheat growing areas in the driest state in the driest continent. Kimba itself only gets 340ml of rain annually and the small town has to rely on water that is piped in from the Polda Basin and the Murray River. I imagined that for the early settlers it would have been a harsh place to have lived and that they would have had to clear acres of bush before they were able to start farming the land. I presumed that it would have been so dry there during occasions in their history that they probably would have had to pray to any god that might be listening to give them rain. I’m only guessing but maybe the reason that they built a gigantic statue of a Galah that was twice as tall as Miranda was to appease a rain god that came in the form of a Galah. Either that or they wanted their third claim to fame to be the town with the largest statue of a Galah in the world.

We were only sixty kilometres out of Streaky Bay when the sun set behind the horizon. As we drove into the night the silhouettes of gum trees eerily passed by and my headlights lit up florescent signs warning of kangaroos on the road ahead and consequently I slowed down to a meagre 30mph and cautiously crept the rest of the way into our campsite for the night.

Streaky Bay to Ceduna 110km
We had originally planned to leave Streaky Bay and drive the short distance to Ceduna as early in the morning as possible, because we wanted to stock up on supplies and fuel before we started to cross the Nullarbor Plain on the following day. However, we hadn’t planned on meeting the aforementioned Simon. Chrissy and I where sitting at the back of the van eating our cereal in a campsite that overlooked a motionless sea when a tattooed and bearded guy leisurely walked by whilst holding a melted Mars chocolate bar in his left hand and casually said, ‘Hello’ in a Cornish accent.

Simon was on a circular trip around Australia on his motorbike and trailer despite not having the use of his right arm and experiencing constant and excruciating nerve pain. After talking to him for a while it became clear that we shared the common belief that there is always a solution to most problems. He went on to prove this by showing us how he tied his shoe strings together with one hand and explained how he used his mouth to help carry out simple tasks like opening his tent. Simon had also learnt to use his less dominant hand and arm to make himself independent. He even demonstrated how he managed to control the throttle on his motorbike by using his paralysed arm. Despite being woken up by the nerve pain in his arm and living off a few hours of sleep a night, Simon was still extremely positive in a quiet and laid back manner. What is more, he was certainly making the most of life by undertaking the things that he really enjoyed doing even though as he put it, ‘Travelling [by vehicle] is not easy. You have to get up early, drive all day and then at the end of the day you have to set up your home for the night’.

Meeting Simon made me reflect on how a radical change in circumstances like a serious injury or brush with death can alter your outlook on life; make you appreciate everything you have and drive you to live life to the fullest. For example, I wondered whether Simon would be driving around Australia if he hadn’t had his accident. Well I don’t know because I didn’t get a chance to ask him. It also made me contemplate whether I would be driving an old Ford Transit with Chrissy across the world if I had not had my accident. Probably not! These thoughts made me realise that although I didn’t know it at the time of my accident, the fundamental change in my circumstances (as a result of my spinal cord injury) had actually forced me into changing my attitude to life.

Whether we know it or not, we can all change our attitude to the way we approach life. There is an old saying that says, ‘Your cup is either half full or half empty’. However, maybe the saying needs adjusting because if your cup is half empty you can fill it up by working on your attitude. My travelling companion Chrissy happens to be the most optimistic person I know yet she is a great example of this, given that she firmly believes that you can always work on bettering yourself and I think she might be right. However, like a dark cloud that hangs over you I know all to well that it is easy to become consumed by personal challenges that make you loose sight of what is actually around you. Therefore, before you are able to start filling up your cup, first of all you need to accept and appreciate everything you have, which will make it easier to change your attitude to life. My mum Val reminded me a year after I had left Stoke Mandeville Spinal Injury Centre that it was my acceptance of my spinal cord injury that allowed me to move on to start living life again. Despite our very brief meeting, Simon’s attitude of appreciating the here and now (despite the fact that he has to deal with many challenges) was a great example of all that I was thinking about.

Ceduna to Nullabor, 409km

Driving in Australia has almost given me a compulsive/obsessive disorder. I’m almost obsessive about looking in my rear view mirrors for ‘death trucks’. This is the name I have given to Australian road trains, which transport ‘everything’ from one end of Australia to the other at roughly one hundred miles per hour. I believe that these goliath trucks are probably designed in testosterone filled workshops by gangs of petrol head truck drivers with a job criteria to build trucks that can: ‘ pull their grandmas’ house from Sydney to Perth in under a week, whilst making sure that they can smash through anything that stands in their way’. When you spot these trucks in your mirror it seriously looks like an armour plated barn is bearing down on you like an irritated rhinoceros. The closer the truck gets the more the substantial bull bar situated on the front looks like the truck itself is gerning sadistically at you before it kills you. At the same time you can almost hear the equally irritated driver planning to ram you off the road. If you don’t get out of the death trucks way it will get so close up your back side that you can’t hear anything apart from the roar of the trucks engine, which seems to be screaming ‘Die imbecile!’. Like in Iran it is almost guaranteed that the driver will blast the living daylights out of you with his air horn. However, even though I know this will happen I still (almost) jump out of my wheelchair in fright every time they let rip. So when I do see one of these death trucks in my mirror I generally pull off the road and into the hard shoulder, but if I don’t spot them early enough they will be up my backside so fast that I won’t have a chance to pull over and I will have to live through a few more terrifying moments before they overtake me at an astonishing speed.

Thankfully, when we set out from Ceduna on the first leg of the Nullarbor Plain crossing, there was such a strong southerly wind blowing that all of the ‘death trucks’ plus ‘grey nomads’ had decided to stay at home. To put the strength of the wind into perspective it had been so strong that morning that I thought the tin roof on the toilet block in our campsite was going to blow off whilst I was sitting on thunder box. Although the strong wind had worked in our favour by deterring my arch enemy, the disadvantage was that it did make driving slightly more challenging.

It had been just over two weeks since Chrissy had driven the van so that Miranda could have a new hand-control fitted. It had been the first time Chrissy had driven the van and the concentration required to drive with this alien steering system had been obvious by the expression on her face. As I watched her cautiously meander through the busy streets of Adelaide it reminded me of how difficult driving with hand-controls could be. Ten years of driving following my accident had made me complacent about controlling such a large vehicle with the use of sensitive controls and the slightest of movements from your arms. This experience also reminded me of how difficult it had been learning to drive Miranda in the first place. Chrissy did a fantastic job that day and a few days later we found ourselves in Miranda with a new hand-control trucking across the Nullarbor Plain during a strong side wind that was blowing me across the road. I found that the new hand-control, which I had to pull towards me to accelerate, had actually made me sit up into a more comfortable position. Not having to continuously stretch out to operate the old controls had made such a difference and as a result of this change in position I didn’t experience the same old sore-back-after-a-long-days-trucking fatigue. Only hours into our drive I remarked to Chrissy, ‘I can’t believe I drove with that old control for so long!’ The disadvantage with the new seating position was that to be able to reach my steering wheel I had to hold my right arm further out in front of me, which caused extremely painful shoulder pain after awhile. On winding roads the pain would be alleviated as soon as I moved my arm to steer around a corner, but here we where driving on Australia’s straightest roads with barely a corner in sight. After an hour of holding my arm out without going around a corner the only thing I could do to take my mind off the pain was to shout, ‘Agggggggggghhhhhhhhh’ at the top of my lungs, which would then scare the ‘Bejesus’ out of Chrissy and as a result she would automatically scream, ‘Agggggggggggggghhhhh’ back at me.

About one hour after leaving Ceduna we drove over a cattle grid in the road and entered the Yalata Aboriginal Reserve. Instantly the wide open plains turned into thick, unspoilt bush, which was so dense that we joked that there was probably some luxurious aboriginal resort/retreat hidden in there, which nobody else knew about. Moreover, the flat plain that we had been driving on had also turned into hills undulating like the back of a camel and the air seemed to be so clear and crisp, which made Chrissy go wild with her camera. By this point in our trip Chrissy was feverishly looking out for the camels we had been warned about earlier on in the drive.

All of a sudden the bush seemed to disappear as quickly as it had sprung up and we where confronted by an enormous wide open plateau and a sign that welcomed us to ‘The Nullarbor Plain’ – the eastern end of the treeless plain. As we had seen in the Yalata Aboriginal Reserve, the Nullarbor Plain was hardly treeless, however this section certainly was, although it definitely wasn’t scrubless. The Nullarbor Plain is the world’s largest limestone karst, which roughly covers an area of 300,000 square km and extends from Ceduna to Norseman. By the time we passed the sign to the eastern end of the treeless plain, the sun was beginning to set in front of us and at the same time we neared the ‘Head of Great Australian Bight’. This is the upper most section of majestic limestone cliffs that have been eroded away by the powerful Southern Ocean to form a ‘bight mark’ that runs along the South and West Australian coastline. If you are lucky enough to be there at the right time you can view migrating whales making their way along the coast.

As the final rays of daylight magnificently lit up the land we drove into the tiny outpost actually called Nullarbor, which consists of a fuel station, restaurant/bar and small camping area. When we pulled up to refuel we had realised that the fuel was going to be expensive but we hadn’t expected it to be two dollars a litre! At the time both Chrissy and I were too busy taking a photo to realise that the owner had walked up to my window and was watching us take a picture of his fuel pump. ‘Taking a picture are we? Well we’ve had too many people driving off and not paying for their fuel, so you’ll have to bring your driving license into the shop before you can fill up’ , he snapped as he walked off to inform his next unassuming customer who had also pulled up opened mouthed at the sight of the cost of fuel. I could see the reasoning behind his rule as I imagined the consequences of someone driving off without paying. I doubt there was a policeman within two hundred miles of where we were and if the perpetrator even managed to get a ten minute head start over this old boy then he would never catch them.

By the time we had refuelled, the night had drawn in so we decided to sleep in the campsite for the night and wake up early to attempt to drive 920km to Norseman, where we could find the next campsite that I could do my routine in. After consuming a bowl of soup in the quirky restaurant we walked back to the van under the most amazing star filled sky, to the sound of a thunderous generator that worked tirelessly into the night.

Nullabor to Norseman, 920km. Truck on Trucker
Have you ever travelled on a road where everyone including truck drivers wave to each other as they pass by? Well, if you haven’t then you have never driven across the Nullarbor Plain before. There does seem to be a legend attached to crossing the Nullarbor Plain. Whenever someone says, ‘Have you ever crossed the Nullarbor before?’ it does tend to conjure up tales of arduous adventures and each person seems to have their own unique story. I think the mystic of the journey goes back to the days when the roads where not tarred and when fuel and water were harder to come by. However, the legend of driving into a wild frontier seems to have lived on despite the good road and availability of fuel along the road. The factor that will always stay the same is the huge distance that has to be travelled.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have driven this route once before on my own when I was nineteen and at that time one of the legends about the crossing went like this; ‘The road is so straight that a group of backpackers tied up their steering wheel and put a rock on the accelerator of their van and then jumped into the back to play a game cards together’. However, like a lot of things in this world you will either love it or hate it. For Chrissy and I we loved it even though we had to get up at 5am to attempt to drive a distance (equal to driving from London to Inverness in one day).

As we pulled out of the Nullarbor station at 6am we left our neighbours tucked up in bed and watched the sun rising in our rear view mirrors. Astonishingly that morning we were confronted by a rainbow that was created by a fleeting rainstorm. Chrissy even contended with the cold strong wind that was blowing off the sea to take pictures of the Australian Bight. The sheer vastness of the Nullarbor seemed to completely fascinate both Chrissy and I.

At the Western Australian border our van, like everyone else’s, was thoroughly searched by border guards looking for fruit and vegetables that could harbour the nasty fruit fly. Since so many people travel around the country the Australian government are very keen not to contaminate neighbouring states with pests or diseases that can be harboured in fresh food. With our load lightened we turned our clocks back and pulled away from the border.

I’m sure isolation breeds eccentricity and the small outpost of Cocklebiddy was certainly proof of that. The welcome sign to the restaurant called Cockles read, ‘Welcome to Cockles’. 'Home of Bull S*@T & Beer & Great Food & Good Cheer’ and whilst Chrissy was inside she read so sign saying, ‘Please don’t steal, the government hates competition’ and ‘how about a nice cup of coffee?…f*&k off’! Another example of this eccentricity was that certain trees along the road had been turned into a piece of modern art. Some had hundreds of shoes hanging out of them and others had colourful plastics arranged throughout the tree. One even had a boogy-board decoratively placed halfway up a trunk.

The start of Australia’s straightest piece of road that is signposted as the '90 mile straight’ is located just outside of Cocklebiddy. I remembered that whilst I had been on this section of the journey ten years ago, the driving on the road had felt so straight for what seemed like an eternity that I started dreaming about going around a corner. Despite this longing for a corner, which all drivers must experience on this road, it does certainly take you buy surprise when you do encounter the first sweeping bend - even though there are huge warning signs for the corner!

We had spent ten hours driving non stop since we had left that morning and I still had another two hours of driving left to do. The only disadvantage of driving from east to west is that during the hours before and during sunset the sun shines right into your eyes, which adds to the challenge of driving. Moreover, kangaroo carcasses littered the road, which meant that for the last two hours of driving I had to drive incredibly cautiously into Norseman and although I felt completely knackered I still somehow felt on a high. I have to admit that driving from Nullarbor to Norseman had to be one of my proudest moments on this trip. I never would have guessed that I would ever drive across the entire Nullarbor again, let alone drive 920km nonstop in one day - but here we were driving across Australia like a couple of obsessed driveaholics. It always amazes me what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Norseman to Pemberton, 935km over four days
When we arrived in Norseman we decided to celebrate the success of completing our huge challenge of crossing the Nullarbor Plain by treating ourselves to a pizza in the local boozer. After all, the welcoming committee that I had imagined (to keep me motivated on the long drive) hadn’t actually been in Norseman to meet us, so we decided to celebrate on our own. However, it only occurred to us that it was a Friday night when we swung the pub door open and we were met by the unmistakable sound of drunken banter. It reminded me of the scene in Crocodile Dundee when Mick Dundee comes flying into ‘Walk About’ pub with a stuffed crocodile under his arm. Only in our scene I was the one who came flying into the pub thanks to the over zealous help from a slightly intoxicated Australian labourer (whose biceps where as large as my head), who yanked me up the front step and practically launched me into the pub. It certainly was one of the most unusual entrances that I had ever made and thankfully the experience was made less embarrassing due to the fact that I was able to pull to a skid before catapulting into the bar itself. Whilst we waited to devour our meal we watched and listened to the hilarious repartee going on between the patrons of the pub.

Norseman also acts like another major T-junction in Australia. You can choose to go the more direct route to Perth via the legendary mining town of Kalgoorlie or take the scenic route by heading south to Esperance and following the coast to Perth. After completing my routine in a tranquil campsite in the bush we chose the later option and set out in a daze as a result of the effects from the mammoth trucking experience the day before.

To get to Esperance you drive through tinder dry bush before you emerge in farm land, however, this time the lands seems to be used in a combination of livestock and arable production. Yet again the road runs parallel to the railway track, which provides the communities with a method of transporting goods in and out of their isolated towns. On our journey we passed an old-world hamlet called Scaddan that had amazing paintings displayed on the walls of the toilet block, which portrayed the history of Scaddan. As we neared the end of our drive doves, Twenty-eight and Red-capped parrots provided us with colourful flybys as we frightened them away from their roadside position. What is more, we witnessed an amazing sunset that washed over a darkening rainstorm and turned it into a pink blaze.

Esperance is one of the largest towns on the coast and it has the most amazingly white beaches and it is also home to the famous ‘Pink Lake’. Unfortunately it is not home to the Thai restaurant we had been craving (like a salivating pair of drug-addicts) as the lady we had stopped to ask for directions from alerted us to with a loud cackle and ‘dream on honey’. Thankfully, Mary Prydun had stowed away some dumplings in our fridge, which quenched our longing for Thai food that night.

Although it was overcast we decided to explore the coastline the next morning and we where amazed by how incredible the beaches looked even though the dull sky diluted the colours. We followed the coast out of Esperance as far as we could before heading in land for another long days drive through farmland and native bush, however, Chrissy and I were both feeling like our time on the road was beginning to catch up with us. Yet again we drove into the night, but we saw some amazing bird life en route. In Albany the next day we had just enough time to visit ‘the gap’, ‘the blowhole’ and ‘the bridge’, which are natural rock formations in the cliff that have been carved out by the power of the relentless Southern Ocean. The power of the wind alone was evident that day as it blew the sea spray hundreds of yards inland and luckily Chrissy wasn’t blown into any gaps or holes despite the strength of the gale that ripped around these rock formations.

Our time at these rock formations where cut short because we had to keep pressing on to the next small town, which was called Denmark. From Demark we headed to the ‘Land of Giants’, a famous forest home to Karri and Tingle trees that have grown to over 40 meters tall. We know this because we successfully completed the swaying tree top walk, which highest point is a 40 metre high platform that allows you to look over the vast treetop canopy. Although our drive along the south coast of Western Australia was fantastic I have to say that witnessing the sheer size of these enormous trees was the highlight on this section of our drive. Apparently, some of the trees in the forest were over four hundred years old, which should be enough evidence for any ‘carbon-catching inventor’ looking for a solution to reverse the effects of too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to hang his lab coat up in retirement at the marvel of theses wonderful trees. Moreover, four hundred years of absorbing carbon dioxide seems like a good enough reason to start planting more trees in this world – obvious, I know.

After leaving Pemberton we drove off road to visit the Warren National Park, which is again home to trees that where so tall that they dwarfed Miranda in size. The ochre coloured soil reminded me of Africa and to me the National Park and acres of giant trees in this part of the world should be one lasting legacy that humans should be very proud of.

Pemberton to Perth via Margaret River, 420km. Grains of sand

Margaret River is not only a beautiful coastal town and a famous wine growing region but it is also home to Chrissy’s cousin Tamara. Tamara was the one of the last of Chrissy’s family who I had not met on our journey, so meeting her was an opportunity that we couldn’t miss. We met Tamara in her cottage in the bush and then she invited us to meet some of her close friends that night. Meeting Tamara was another great example of somebody who is trying to appreciate the here and now.

From Margaret River, we were left with the last four hour drive of our trip and appointment to meet my great family friends the Tremlett’s. As the time ticked by I imagined that the duration of our trip was measured by an egg timer the final grains of sand where falling through the funnel to join the rest of the memories that had piled up below.

Arriving in Perth truly marked the end of our journey. Although our budget was on a record low we felt extremely wealthy due to the new friends we had met; the time spent reacquainting with old friends; gaining new experiences of different countries and overcoming numerous challenges and acquiring a lifetime of memories in such a short period of time.

However, we still had one week left in Perth to prepare Miranda for her slightly more relaxed journey back to the UK. Yet again, we owe thanks to our friends for helping us on this journey and my old family friends the Tremletts are true example of this. William, Carolyn, Beth and Saige thank you for having us to stay with you for so long and for helping to get Miranda onto her vessel. We spent a great week with you – thank you. And we also owe an enormous thank you to your friends and family for all of their support in preparing & cleaning Miranda; lifting me in and out of vehicles; driving us around and for your/their great company.