Sunday, August 16, 2009

Australia 2009 ( English )

Our sail from Tasmania north bound was very good. We left Low Head, the pilot station at the entrance of the Tamar River, the first Friday of May ’09 in the late morning with very light winds. Most of Tasmania was covered with a heavy low-lying smoke-blanket from various fires. During the day the wind and seas picked up and by early next morning we were at the entrance of the passage between the islands at Deal Island. It was very cold out in the night and we both tired from not sleeping well. I caught a cold and was very sea sick. The skipper luckily had only a little attack of sea-sickness. A wet and cold front with strong winds chased up extreme water dykes against the current and we had a testing ride to the anchorage. We went down for two days to recover.
The following Monday we had a healthy walk on the island between the wallabies and cheeky cape barren geese and enjoyed the beautiful views. Tuesday we hoisted sails in soft breezes on our way north. The breeze soon changed into wind. Wednesday the winds in front of a 50knots westerly chased us over Bass Strait with big seas for a day but Mylady was doing her normal thing with the usual ease. Once around the corner at Gabo Island we were in the lee of mainland Australia, the sea smoothed and in contrast to the past day and ‘n half, the wind only occasionally jumped up lightly to eventually get us into Quarantine Bay at Eden. We slept like rocks in this calm bay with the chime of bell frogs on the background.
Eden is an active port. Big fishing boats come and go regularly. The quay is like a bumble bee with supplier trucks, crew actively engaged, loading trucks receiving bucket loads of fish and rushing off to the ice storage. On the other side of the quay the local grown mussels were washed and sorted on their boat. They also had a point of sale to the public. A BIG pipe-laying vessel with Adelaide, South Australia as home port came in. It is a boxed island of about two hundred and fifty by forty meters and five or more storeys high. A large Singapore towing vessel had it in tow. Two harbour tug boats were doing their bit of the push and pull to maneuver the pipe-layer to its berth.
We were alongside a neglected and unoccupied yacht at the inner pier. A considerate local fisherman came to warn us that it was a bad spot for when the wind would change later in the afternoon at expected gale force. With the speed of light we got our empty LPG-gas cylinder out when he offered us a lift to town - we had heard and read about the more than healthy walk uphill to town. The friendly fisherman dropped us at the refill shop and from there we wandered through Eden exploring all the shops and facilities. We thoroughly enjoyed the butcher’s ware and his outgoing friendly chat. And we saw how the fish is scooped half-a-ton-a-time from a successful catch onto a big fishing boat weighing it down almost level with the water surface.
The Eden museum was interesting, their focus point, the famous killer whale ‘Tom’ and its clan that helped the whalers of Eden in their toil of whaling. The clan would round-up a whale and once it was harpooned, Tom would take the harpoon-line in his mouth to put a drag on the line to tire the whale. For ‘payment’ the orcas ate the tongue and lips of the whale. There were recordings where men that fell in the water were ‘protected’ by the orcas.
Our next stop going north was Bermagui. We arrived just before midnight. The wind was light and the East Australian Coast current running south, formidable. Bad weather was beating further north and due at our whereabouts soon, so we opted for refuge in Bermagui. We were on the bar at the entrance before we knew it. It was difficult to judge the distance to shore in the dark and we realized too late the speed with what the swell forced us onshore. Big waves picked Mylady up and carried us over the bar while breakers crashed with thundering noise on the rocks next to us. Finally we could pick-up the red and green markers and not even properly lined up to the strikingly bright and big leading triangles, we charged through the spewing foam into the channel. Eelco kept looking back at how close this disaster was. In the narrow channel all breakers were gone and the fast flowing current and swell pushed us at a hair’s width passed the unlit buoys of the shallows.
All at once we were in the sanctuary of Bermagui Harbour. Packed with boats we eventually rafted up, three thick. Our spot was touching shallow but well protected and calm. The large fishing trawlers were also in harbour, waiting for the bad weather to strike the next day and to pass. When we walked to the headland the next day, two of the green buoys in the channel were swept away and onto the breakwater. The entrance was a spectacular show of wild seas. We looked at each other with a did-we-came-through-that-last-night?-look and turned away.
Bermagui was an affluent, small town. Sport fishing, the game of the rich, was the hum in this town. The bakery was excellent and affordable. While we walked to the goldfields at Beauty Point just north of Bermagui, we were picked-up by Martin, a German immigrant since forty years. He was our spontaneous host for the rest of the day and took us on a tour to Central Tilba, a historic town kept in its original form and now a tourist attraction.
Central Tilba stood at the foot of the impressive Drommedaris Mountain that rose just short of eight hundred meters high.
We passed historic Tilba Tilba with its handful of buildings, naturally the hotel and pub was one of them, and the century old cottage of Foxglove Spires with its award winning garden. I loved the country town of Cobargo. When I commented on the chime of the bell frogs Martin informed me “No, it’s the small bell bird.” Like always, something to be learned everyday. With arms full of fresh veggies from his garden we got back to Mylady with satisfaction and gratitude. It is days like this that make traveling so rewarding.
Three days after our arrival in Bermagui, the small boat fishing fleet dared it out on the water. There must have been about fifty of them. They queued to be launched and they queued in small circles, droning just like a swarm of bees in the harbour to be hauled out. When the fish bit they seemed to anchor all on one rock, sharing the catch.
In rain we left Bermagui but for most of the day we enjoyed sunshine and light winds. We stayed very close to the coast and enjoyed the sightseeing of the mostly developed coastline as well as the little effect of the counter current.
After dark we arrived at Broulee Island where we were well anchored and protected from the southerlies. Broulee is a holiday suburb, no town. As we walked through the neighbourhood we were introduced to the loud cacophonic chattering of the wild birds and screams of the parrots, cockatoos, rosella, and what-have-you’s. It was a madhouse, but fascinating colourful and pretty.
Near the “whole in the wall” on the south side in Jervis Bay was our next anchor spot. It was easy to go in by night and we were well protected. Jervis Bay initially was a port for ships carrying produce of inland settlements to Sydney. Eelco kept commenting on the lots of colourful fish that swam around our boat.
The coastline at Jervis Bay with its magnificent sheer cliffs was a display to appreciate with its outcrops, caves and collapsed walls, shaded in mist and haze. The turmoil of rebound swell and waves with counter current kept us at the lighthouse of Point Perpendicular, the entrance of the bay, for hours. After lunch we finally started the motor to get away.
Greenwell Point, about an hour south of Sydney and fully built, was a sleepy town. A lot of people we didn’t see, so we guess most of the houses are for holiday purposes. We anchored next to the moorings in the river where strong current ran constantly and sea-grass strung as a horizontal wall from our anchor chain. The Dutch immigrant butcher had a good selection and was a great source of info. One petrol station, real estate and general store were the centre of town next to the pub which was filled with gambling machines. We came to Greenwell Point to see the admirable seventeen feet stuffed crocodile in the pub. It wasn’t there. The croc moved with one of the previous owners further up country. We left without filling up with freshwater because it was too difficult.
Port Hacking just south of Sydney was a safe anchorage. The incredible air traffic that landed and departed seemed never-ending and kept our fascination. At Sydney we were joined for the first time on the water by other sailboats. We entered Sydney on the Queen’s birthday. It was a sunny, summery, public holiday in June and there were hundreds of boats out in Port Jackson. Anchored across from the Opera House, close to the zoo, we enjoyed a magnificent Sydney night skyline. An expensive tour into the Blue Mountains was worth every cent even though it was freezing up there. Time flew whilst we enjoyed some of the anchorages around Sydney.
Broken Bay was a soul refreshing place. We explored the many arms of the Cowan Creek on the mighty Hawkesbury River. Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park surrounded us. Thick bushland covered the sandstone weathered rock. We walked to some aboriginal rock engravings in the park near Bobbin Head. Colourful crimson rozellas delighted us with their presence. I spotted a small stingray in a cozy creek and was surprised to find it so far, almost forty kilometers, inland.
A south-westerly blew us to Fingal Bay just south of Port Stephens. It was a beautiful anchorage with a long white crescent beach. At the southern end of the bay was a long rocky outcrop with builders smoothed by the grinding waves. The rock wall must have been a storey high. When we left it was almost lost in the dramatic foam fury of the Tasman Sea southern swell.
Port Stephens was a very expensive area, except in Salamander Bay we found a good value for money bakery. Karuah had some aboriginal touch to it. The Port Stephens is a big cruising area.
Further north the Camden River and Laurieton were our next stop. I liked Laurieton a lot. We had perfect weather. Summer sun and hot during the day, cooling to just before cold at night. Doing the bus trip to Port Maquiry gave us a good overview of the area. After a week it was time to move north again, the wind was right.
We entered the Clarence River in rain just before it was completely dark. A broaching wave took us skiing on the paint of our hull over the bar and into the river. Mylady and skipper righted spontaneously. They’re a great team.
The Clarence River is an amazing cruising area. We loved it, from the bridge, the big wide water, awesome cane fires, fascinating birdlife, and spooky thick fog in the mornings to the friendly people. Grafton was our turn around point. In Lawrence we had a very interesting tour on a sugar cane farm. Maclean, a Scottish town, is our ‘working’ town as we support the hardware store for all our boat maintenance and the post office for a shipping address. We have spent a month here. We could easily spend a whole season here – we still might one day. There are more than hundred islands in this river and everywhere one can anchor.
From Coffs Harbour we clear for New Zealand before the end of August. In December we will be back here in OZ to explore this very big island a little more.
Take care and please drop us a note.
Regards, MisA-le and Eelco

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tasmania 08 ( English )

When the locals refer to Tassy, one can hear the love in their voices. Love for a place that is special. Nature is close to anywhere and history, though young by world standards, surrounds one almost everywhere.
We are moored at the Port Dalrymple Yacht Club on the Tamar River in the north of Tasmania. There is a big fetch to the north and northeast and a little less to the southeast. The western shore which is the closest is still so far away that no land bird life can be observed from Mylady. In fact, this bay is dominated by about ten small seagulls which are aggressive and attack us every time we show our noses on deck or dinghy to shore. It is so much in contrast to some of the anchor places in the river where bird life abound. There graceful black swans parade in the shallows, birds of prey circle the river on the air currents, oyster catchers dig in the mud with their long pointed bills, big and small seagulls beg in competition with the pelicans for something to eat. In the background the constant chatter of the crows are often interrupted with the sharp pitched voice of beautiful galahs and song of yet unidentified small birds. The fur seals swim far up the river and have a habit of drifting. A few have bumped into Mylady already.
We sailed up and down the Tamar River. In Bell Bay, across from our mooring, is the largest port in Tasmania, according the pilot book we use. The quantities of big ships, twenty to fifty thousand tonners that come up the river have amazed us. Strong currents, shifting shoals and hazards in the river demand full alert of everybody concerned, all the time. Adding to this, silting up of the river due to the building of dams further upstream and one have a tricky and sticky business. Trying to prove a concerned case for boating, there was a photograph in the local newspaper of the only remaining dredger stuck in the mud just south of Launceston.
Low Head pilot station in the north facing Bass Straight is an old settlement and the rock enclosed small harbour is a beehive of fishermen activity. The museum was very interesting and the walk to the lighthouse enjoyable. Every Sunday around noon, they sound the foghorn installed in 1929, which is the only fully operational one of the type “G” diaphone in the world. The semaphore telegraph on the hill with which a message could be send in four minutes from the entrance of the river to Launceston, the main hub of the north some fifty eight kilometres away, was fascinating. At the side of the road is still an engraved rock pillar with “Hobt Town 167 M” and “Low Hd 1 M” distances in miles on it. Now I can understand why some of the local elderly refer to Hobart as “H’bt”. The small fairy penguins have a rookery just below the lighthouse and a ‘”gentleman’s retreat” of 1838 is a castle-like tower in the garden of a lovely old house built from natural stone and convict-made bricks.
From Launceston we drove with a rented car to Evandale and then westward through Perth. In Westbury we needed a toilet stop and discovered Andy’s with its baked cheesecake like I last had in German influenced Namibia. Cheesecake that melts in the mouth. I was in seventh heaven. Deloraine was by all standards, a big town. There we stocked up at Woolworths and turned south on the mid-highlands road through the mountains. My ears froze whilst we admired the pencil pines. It is hard to see how they can be related to the great red woods in California as the information board claimed.
The view over the big lake was stunning even though the water level was low. Heavy weather blackened the sky and after a few flakes of snow, it turned into hail and rain followed. It was cold. After most of the rain stopped we took the descending road winding next to the lake down to Miena. The fish camps were most interesting. Not too many people but every house looked like a story. Just passed Miena, on the Bothwell road, the snow-clouded sky gave a serene sense to the stark naked dead eucalyptus forests. Fortunately the heater in the car worked. The combined effect of drought and fire is visible throughout Tasmania.
In Bothwell we came to the unpleasant knowledge that most of the accommodation offered in the local tourist newspaper is not available because there is no occupancy. We wondered why they advertised. Will there actually be enough travellers over Christmas? We did not encounter more than three cars on the whole trip that we thought looked like tourists. We ended the night up in Bush Inn at New Norfolk, a cold, old, dilapidated hotel, but it had the oldest, continuous trading liquor licence in Australia. According our informant, a local lass with ancestral linking, the hotel was the only worthwhile touristy thing in the town and the hotel has traded ownership many times.
From there we went through Bridgewater, Brighton and stopped in Richmond. Richmond was a lovely quaint little tourist town, neat and interesting. We loved the general dealer grocery shop with its street stand advertisement of “Yoghurt the way only Greeks can make it”. It had wall paintings reflecting the different stages of use of this building. It always was a grocery store and some of the original stone wall is still in use. A little curio shop owner surprised us with some traditional Afrikaans expressions.
It was a beautiful sunshine day and we could appreciate the old bridge that the convicts had built. Just out of Sorell was a fresh veggies store and even we could afford a bag full of delicious cherries. The beautiful blue wren was a delightful sighting. But the animal care centre, just as one enters the peninsula to the historic Port Arthur convict settlement was the highlight of the trip.
The Tasmanian Devils were most interesting. About a foot high and twice that length, these black dog-like animals with their red ears look simultaneously cute and devilish. The white markings some have are neither characteristic nor uncommon. They only live about five years and are poorly endowed with beauty, brains or skills and are therefore forced to live as scavengers. The weakest and young are often eaten by their own kind. Unfortunately these devils are threatened by a cancer type for which there currently is no cure. The disease spread at a rate of ten kilometres per year. A lot of investigation and projects are going into the survival of the devils which have long since lost existence on mainland Australia.
However, more fascinating for me was the film we saw of the Tasmanian tiger. The footage was taken of the last animals in captivity at Hobart in 1938. It is a Dingo dog-like animal with a thick long kangaroo tail. Its’ back and tail have tiger stripes across and it has a pouch (Marsupialia) to carry the young. Many sightings have since been reported but none confirmed. Is the animal extinct? Fascinating!
The Sunset Beach Cabins close to Dunalley was excellent. Tall enough mirrors, high enough shower, long enough bed, working heater and fitting the budget. Near Cygnet in the Huon Valley was a small bay and yacht club where we wished we could be with Mylady. It was ever so peaceful.
Hobart’s Central Back Packers’ only advantage was that it was central. The Salamanca Market was a delight with lots of art and craft stalls. Diverse live entertainment was most enjoyable. We left Hobart as the rain started. All the way to the West Coast we did not see ten vehicles on the road. Impressive forests crowded the little visibility left by the heavy rain. We would like to return to the mined Queenstown in better weather. In the graceful Empire Hotel we could imagine the rich times of the gold past.
Strahan, a neat, small tourist town had small memory plaques on the low foreshore stone wall. It was special. Involuntarily we spent memory time with our own loved ones. The road from Zeehan, Rosebery to Burnie led us through forests and more logging plantations. Penguin town has penguins everywhere, from letter boxes to street statues. From Solaire to Folktown, close to Beauty Point, we were on the worst corrugated road I’ve ever been on. Bridport bay was totally lovely. Scottsdale has a most interesting information centre combined with forestry. Here we could learn about the poppy fields that are in bloom in large parts of the state. Tasmania is the only state in Australia allowed to grow poppies and the harvest is strictly controlled. It is illegal to enter any poppy field and huge fines or even imprisonment can result.
Derby, a very small town had a genuine old atmosphere to it. In St.Helens we saw an industrial fishing vessel with a scallop dredge and sorting bench. Also the small fishing boats launching into and retrieving from the Tasman Sea at the southern point off St.Helens. A dangerous game played with ease by the local fishermen. We enjoyed the sandy beaches and colourful rocks. The wind was as always, cold. Everybody assured us it is summer, but agreed that it is still cold.
We were through the one horse town of Scamander before we knew it but made a u-turn to take pictures of fascinating metal art, covered in cobwebs and dust, at the only petrol-café-grocery shop. Large flocks of sulphur-crested cockatoos would not sit still to have their picture taken. Smoke curls from a couple of chimneys and a few smart modern cars belied the ghost town appearance of Rossarden. Here we saw the first, and only, wild deer.
From Avoca we went across country through intensive farming land to Poatina and had a look at the lake from the east side. That was a good excuse to get via Longford back to Westbury and excellent cheesecake.
We replaced the wheel on the alternator with a bigger one and hope to solve our fan belt problem. The sheet metal man fixed our heater chimney problem. Bus service is not cheap, but available. Telstra phone booths are spaced frequently. LPG gas is locally filled but one can only collect it an hour later. Internet is not everywhere or easily available.
Initially, the accents with which the people spoke, made communication discerning. It was suppose to be English, but it could have been Greek for all I knew. Tuning my hearing unto a person did not help either. It quickly became clear that whatever the dominant background of somebody was, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German or even Scandinavian, is the lingo with which English is spoken. Sometimes they even laugh at us when we can not follow them. In turn that makes for situations that do not encourage interaction. Then there are also the exceptions to the rule. Some of these grumblers will actually make an effort to be informative, but very seldom spontaneously hospitable. Even to this are exceptions. We have met a handful of spontaneous, sincere, helpful interesting people we would love to call, a friend.
It is 20 December 2008 and warm weather has arrived in Tasmania. Morning temperature 9 and day temperature 17 to 22 degrees.
Take care and have a blessed festive season.
MisA-le & Eelco


NAMIBIA is a land of vast contrast and beauty. Animals are but a part of it. All land is privately owned apart from a few “parks” the government own. To see wild animals in “regular” life, you should book accommodation with a game farm. There is plenty guest, game and hunting farms all over the country. That means they are registered to cater to a certain level for tourists. Mostly not camping but ask is for free. One of the main activities (attractions) offered normally, is a game drive. The farmer knows best what game he has on his property and where to find them. These animals are in natural habitat and are wild. As such you will also be involved in regular farming. However, on game farms, which have a game fence around, meaning the animals can not leave the property, you have a greater chance to see a lot of regular and imported game. If the area is too small, one get to see the animals but in a zoo-like atmosphere. The next problem to keep in mind wherever you go is the natural vegetation, high bush. Even though the animals are present, it is not always easy to spot them due to the bush-cover they have.
In Etosha National Game Park, you will definitely have a fine and unique experience. Up North, in the Caprivi, you should camp at Bumhill campsite. It will certainly give you a wonderful “African safari” feeling with the hippo’s in the background.
Have to: Sossosvlei close to Sesriem in the Namib Naukloof Park. It is a nature reserve of mainly the sand dunes. The camp is just in front of the gate. You have to go into the park the moment the gate open (it will still be dark) in order to experience day break and sunrise in the dunes. The magic of God’s paintbrush is unreal. There are desert animals, oryx, springbuck, ostrich etc around. You have to be out of the park by sunset. If I had 3 months I would definitely spend 5 –7 days here. Going through the Namib Desert to the coast via the Spreetshoogte pass is very interesting and give different views of the country. If you pass one car in the day, you may be lucky. If you encounter five cars it is very busy. Roads are mainly gravel and more than often going slow is extremely wise.
The Namib Desert is unique. Don’t miss the moonscape just outside of Swakopmund. Try to do all the roads in the park. The road over the Boshua pass back to Windhoek is very steep. Better maybe to do it from Windhoek to the coast.
Everywhere it is relatively safe. Thieving (which is a common and group practice) is mostly confined to the big towns. Tourists are definitely a soft target; try not to look like one. Cover all valuables and put it out of sight, where ever in the country you are, like under the seat or in the boot of the car. And  ALWAYS lock your car.
Sleeping next to the road has a 50% change of turning into a disaster.
Snakes and scorpions and bees and some creatures are poisonous, therefore dangerous. Fact is, 50% is poisonous but 99,9% they will disappear when you approach. It is good to wear boots when you walk in the dark; most of the bad stuff comes from the bottom and moves with the cover of night. Do not encourage ‘familiarization’ with the wild animals (like baboons, jackals, mongooses,) even if they so cutely come to you, especially in the parks. They are dangerous and could damage your camp, steel all your food, or hurt yourselves – they are carriers of diseases.
A reliable four wheel drive is the only thing that will open the most of the country to you. Kaokoland with the Ovahimba’s in the north-west is a very big, desolate, forlorn, no-road, beautiful area. I qualify it as dangerous - travel wise - and would advise not to do it. If you want to do it, do it with a local outfitter or with some other local travelers. The pros’ do not outweigh the cons’ if I should choose for you. Similar beauty you will experience on the Namib Desert roads. You can try to include Twyfelfontein – Ais – on the way to or from Hentiesbay and Cape cross - Etosha. It is representative of Kaokoland.
Our trip driving from South Africa, one month, 4 persons, Cost in 2005: N$ 30000-00 low budget (camping and no luxuries).:
International SE Border : Rietfontein - Kalahari dessert: – aroab – Koes – Gochas
South : – Mariental – Hardap dam – Maltahohe Sossosvlei: – Sesriem
Namib border and highlands: – Solitaire – Spreetshoogte pass to Windhoek but at the Gamsberg road crossing you go to Walvisbay over the Gamsberg pass and through the Namib dessert.
Coast: Walvisbay - Swakopmund – to Windhoek via the Dessert. – Bloedkoppie etc – Boshua pass
Windhoek - Otjiwarongo – Outjo –
Etosha National Park: Okakuejo – Halali – Namutoni - Tsumeb – Grootfontein – Okavango: Rundu – Popa falls
Caprivi: – Bumhill – Lianshulu – Katima Mulilo – Border: Ngoma through Botswana back to South Africa.
Fenata is an umbrella association for tourism association in the private sector. They will give info of whom to contact:
e-m: (car rentals, accommodation etc)
The website: will give extreme good info with regard to Namibia.
In the event you can stop in Luderits, see Kolmanskop (a diamond mining town taken in by the sand) and the wild horses of the Namib. From there one can go up to Aus where it occasionally snow in Aug – Sept and then on to Sesriem. It is fascinating, desolate country.
The islands off the coast are small and rocky.
Looking forward to hear from you with more questions: