What have learned from our travels?
1. People need to visit the pristine and isolated places in Australia to fully appreciate the destruction wrought by white settlement and the demise of so many of our native species. This destruction has occurred though inappropriate use of fragile ecosystems for cattle, sheep and other grazing; the greed of mining giants; introduction of feral pests and diseases; and clear felling of marginal areas. The destruction of country by cattle and sheep is more obvious in Queensland than anywhere else. Whole islands off the Kimberley coast are disappearing before our eyes.
2. We've been horrified by the numbers of feral animals everywhere, especially in the National Parks, where they need to be destocked, urgently. We've seen feral cats, dogs, pigs, donkeys, cattle, camels, horses, buffalo and goats, in enormous numbers. In addition, the national parks are overrun with cane toads. Introduced grasses, weeds and escaped garden plants all add to the woes. A very special place for us is Mornington, off the Gibb River Road, where the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, is making every effort to protect our fragile ecosystems, by destocking, removing introduced flora etc, eco-fire management. It is one of the VERY few places left to see the endangered Gouldian Finch and Purple Crested Wren. A ray of hope lies in their new acquisition of managing one of the few pristine and inaccessible places left in the Kimberley; the Artesian Ranges.
3. We've most enjoyed being away from the "madding crowd", especially the "grey nomads"! To do this it's best to travel on dirt, to out-of-the-way National Parks, preferably 4WD only and to travel before and after the "great migration", which happens annually between Mother's Day in May and Father's Day in September. Most grey nomads take three to four weeks to arrive at their destination and three to four weeks to return. They usually stay in one place only - in the warmth, but sometimes travel slowly between caravan parks.
4. It's best to avoid "free" overnight camping spots on highways where there are no toilets. Otherwise you have to deal with the detritus of human existence - rubbish, excrement and toilet paper!
5. A very pleasant surprise was the friendliness of the Indonesian people, particularly those on Lombok. This is particularly surprising given the extreme poverty we witnessed. There was little evidence of crime, and the people were concerned to ensure visitors had a wonderful time. The discrepancies between the haves and the have nots was extreme.
6. The iPad has been a wonderful traveling aid. We have used it to make phone calls, check emails, make bookings, keep photos and diaries, navigate, banking, play games etc. But you must remember to turn off "data roaming" when overseas!
7. Good points about the camoer: Being off the ground has has so many advantages. We have avoided mud underfoot in Harndorf and Mallacoota, Flash flooding flowing through the tent in Port Pirie, mouse plague invasions throughout SA and the centre of Australia as well as other creepy crawlies getting in. Being up high has meant that the tent as been able to take advantage of any breeze and with all the windows open very cool inside in the hotter areas. It was warm during cold nights in Victoria and SA with the heater - got too hot! The tropical roof is a bonus and ensures the tent stays dark inside at night as well as cooling the inside whilst up north. The kitchen is out of reach for dingoes and possums. The seals to all cupboards and the kitchen are dustproof and waterproof. When the weather wasn't so nice the space inside allowed us to set up a table and two chairs inside. It's excellently designed and well made. The canvas and window materials are all excellent quality and didn't let any mosquitoes or sandflies in. the kitchen is very well designed with it's storage shelves.
8. Some bad points about the camper: we had to purchase eggshell overlay and new woolen overlay for the mattress because it was cold underneath to begin with. This prevented us from keeping the bed made up when closed. Pillows, blankets and dons had to be stored away. We also had to purchase non slip strips to place on the steps - this should be standard. The gas stove needs to be more powerful and it needs a windshield. The plastic water tank tainted the water too quickly. It needs better electrical connections that are more robust in corrugated road conditions. The bed isn't quite long enough for Peter, but better than some where you have to climb over each other to get in and out of bed.
9. The people, we met, from all walks of life and from all over Australia, are seriously concerned about the lack of leadership in our country at the moment and the lack of vision for the future. They all expressed serious concerns about what happens to our future generations when the mineral boom finishes and we've sold all our best land and assets to overseas conglomerates.