About Driving Australia

I'm retired, in my sixties, born in Ireland, lived in England for five years before coming to Australia, married with two daughters and two grandchildren.

Europe Trip 2018

Belgium – France

We crossed the border into Belgium on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels. It was pretty uneventful. A couple of officials checked our passports. That was it!

It wasn’t a long walk from the train station to our hotel but it was a bit tricky – cobblestones and luggage wheels do not make a good combination! But it was worth the effort, Hotel Mozart was just amazing!

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Getting to breakfast was an adventure in itself. It was served in the basement, which was accessed via spiral staircases from the ground floor. Our room was on the third floor and the lift only went down as far as Reception, but then only if Brian kicked the door in the right spot. Other times he would have to go down the stairs and send the lift up to me.

Brussels surprised me. It was vibrant with a holiday atmosphere. Not what I expected. It has a great selection of grand buildings, cathedrals, parks, Manneken Pis – the Peeing Boy – and a magnificent plaza with gilded buildings that shone in the sunlight and at night were illuminated with coloured lights. There’s a wide variety of eateries in the square, the streets and the laneways, all offering alfresco dining with entertainment provided by a band of street musicians. We enjoyed Lebanese at La Perle du Liban and Greek at Makonos in our street and at El Greco on the plaza; and sampled various beers along the way!

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Bruge

We had a day trip to Bruge by train.

The highlight was visiting Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child at the Church of Our Lady, Saint Salvadore’s Cathedral.

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It was Market Day so the square was quite crowded. We had lunch at Sintamandje on a quaint cobblestoned laneway before exploring the rest of the canal town including a statue of Jan Van Eyck, ‘Skyscraper’ the Bruges Whale made from plastic waste from the seas and oceans of the world and Beaterio with its swans and a nuns’ priory.

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Next morning we reluctantly handed in the key and trudged back up the cobblestones to catch the train to Ypres.

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Ypres

Ypres is also spelt Ieper and pronounced by our tour guide like the sound of a whisper ‘i-pe’ – the  i as in ‘it’ and the pe as in ‘pet’ .

It is the home of the Menin Gate which used to be guarded by two lion statues, since presented to Australia and relocated to the Australian War Memorial Canberra. The Last Post ceremony is held there nightly at 8.00 pm and on our first night there the Australian cricket team participated in the wreath laying.

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On our second day we visited In Flanders Fields Museum, an excellent interactive experience providing an insight to the realities of war and the people impacted by it.

 

We followed this with an Ypres Salient guided tour of nearby battlefields, cemeteries and places of interest such as Hill 60, Caterpillar Crater, Pool of Peace, Bayernwald German trenches, 1914 Christmas Truce Memorials and Hyde Park Memorial. André, our guide and driver from Over the Top Tours, provided insightful, knowledgeable commentary.

 

The drenching rain lent itself to the sombre nature of the day.

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As we walked back to the bus at one of the sites, our guide André picked up the shell of a bomb from the edge of a field we were passing, just by the side of the road. Farmers continue to find such items when they plough their fields. They just place them by the road and the authorities collect them. Its all part of their normal routine.

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We finished off our stay with a meal and a beer  in a local café before taking in the Last Post again.

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Farewell Flanders Fields, farewell Ieper!

Lille

We has a two-night weekend stay in Citadines Apart’ Hotel Lille.

We explored the old town on the Saturday. It was bustling – people everywhere!

 

The next day it was the complete opposite. No Sunday trading here! No crowds of  people! It made it easy for us to continue exploring though: Saint Maurice Church, Porte de Paris, Hotel de Ville, an Ola Cuba exhibition in an old railway station and the Citadel.

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely couple of days, especially considering it was a mistake. I was supposed to book us into Amiens, so that’s where were heading next.

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Europe Trip 2018

Holland

Whenever we go back to Ireland we take advantage of being on that side of the world to make a side-trip to Europe. This time we visited Holland, Belgium and France.

Amsterdam: bicycles, crooked buildings, canals, flower market, cheese, Ann Frank’s house

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We tried to visit the Van Gogh Museum but after a bus, train, then tram-ride to get there, we found that the only way to get tickets was online and I had left my iPad at the hotel so had no means of accessing the Internet and the museum didn’t provide any. Seems to be a very strange form of crowd control!

We had the same sort of luck with the tulips. Family in Liverpool had shown us their photos of field after field of tulips, each a different vibrant colour. But when we asked at the tourist office for directions to the tulip fields and windmills, we were told the tulip  season was over and the farmers had pulled any remaining tulips out of the ground.

Fortunately in the Zaan Region there’s a dedicated windmill village that can’t go out of season so we went there instead!

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We used 1-day Amsterdam and Region travel tickets to get a bus to the windmills at Zaanse Schans Village; trains to Zaandam where we ate lunch and to Edam where we had a beer across from a cheese shop; then a bus via Volendam and Julianaweg – one of my middle names is Julianna – back to Amsterdam Central.

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Zaandam

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Edam

We had dinner at the waterfront before taking the free ferry over to Buiksloterweg, then back again after a short walk. Its a very popular ferry with pedestrians and cyclists.

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Den Haag and Delft day trip

We caught the Sprinter train from Schipol to Den Haag.

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After exploring  Den Haag also known as Le Haag, The Hague and Le Hague, we caught  a tram to Delft.

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Next stop Belgium!

 

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018 cont

A last taste of Ireland

During our last days in Ireland we concentrated on places around or close to Dublin.

We discovered a lovely walk along the banks of the River Liffey from Chapelizod to the Memorial Gardens in the shadow of the Phoenix Park.

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Nature’s flowers from the heart!

It wouldn’t be a trip to Ireland without a visit to the Hill of Tara.

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Dowth and Newgrange are other ancient burial mounds.

 

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Newgrange

 

The whole area is steeped in history.

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Slane Castle and Brewery

Slane Abbey

 

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Trim Castle

Closer to Dublin, we also explored Portmarnock, Malahide and Skerries  and a little further as far as Drogheda.

From a photo displayed in reception, I think we might be related to the original owner of Skerries Mills, Richard Flynn. I had an uncle Dick/Richard Flynn, and though not the same person, probably a relation as my Dad’s family came from around that area.

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Skerries Mills – We didn’t need to go to Holland to find windmills.

 

Malahide Abbey

 

Defensive forts called Martello Towers are dotted along the coast north and south of Dublin. The name comes from the tower they were modelled on at Mortella Point on the western side of the Gulf of San Fiorenzo, Corsica.
Read more at – History of Martello Tower

 

Drogheda was a good base to explore from.

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I’ll leave you with this idyllic Irish scene.

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Next stop Amsterdam!

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018 cont – England and Scotland

England

From Edinburgh we drove to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where I used McDonald’s’ wifi to book us into the nearby Holiday Inn Express, which was sheer luxury in comparison to the previous night’s accommodation. It was on the outskirts of town so we went for a drive in the evening to find somewhere to have dinner.

 

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Next morning,  after a hearty breakfast which was included in the tariff, we got the very friendly, helpful staff at Reception to print out our boarding passes for our upcoming flight back to Dublin. We were flying Ryanair. With them you have to provide your own boarding pass, or pay something like €50 per person for them to do it at the airport. Your boarding pass can only be accessed within four days of departure an,d if you are not on a European passport, has to be in hard copy not electronic format. So it’s no easy feat producing one when you’re on the road without a printer in your backpack! I have noticed printers for public use in some airports but there’s no guarantee that it will be operational if you’re lucky enough to find one.

The rest of the morning was spent visiting the ancient South Shields’ ruins of the Arbeia Roman Fort. Parts of the site have been reconstructed to provide an insight to fort life at the time, around AD160 to 275.

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Working from home – we’ve come full circle

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Hadrian’s Wall was next on our list of ancient locations.

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The caretakers of Hadrian’s Wall

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View from Hadrian’s Wall

York

We got to York in plenty of time to have a walk on the city wall and around the old town including the Shambles and various churches and ancient buildings.

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The Shambles

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We tried Nepalese cuisine for the first time at TAAS restaurant where the staff were so attentive and friendly I felt guilty when I couldn’t finish the huge meal they’d served me.

Next morning we went for a walk to the River Ouse and around part of the town we hadn’t been to the night before. Saw some interesting wildlife.

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On our way from York to my cousin’s place in Skelmeresdale, Liverpool, we visited more ruins: Sawley Abbey – a Cistercian abbey founded in the 10th century and the Roman baths at Ribchester.

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It was a relatively short drive from Ribchester to Skelmeresdale. My cousin was working late but her husband welcomed us with a delicious dinner. We talked well into the night before going to my aunt’s house next-door to sleep. My aunt is in a nearby nursing home.

My cousin took us to see her the next day.

 

We took her around the corner to The Fox for achat and a cuppa.

She joined us again that evening for another sumptuous dinner at my cousin’s place, along with a family friend and later her sister who lives nearby. We had a good night talking about all of our travels and adventures past and planned.

After saying our goodbyes the following morning, we spent our last day in England visiting Antony Gormley’s Another Place – statues in the sea; and

 

the Beatles statues on the Mersey promenade, Liverpool.

The Beatles Merseyside (2)

Then it was back to Ireland for a few days before taking off again to Europe.

 

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018 cont – England and Scotland

 

Scotland

Wallace statue

Wallace statue, Stirling Castle

After a Full English Breakfast we got back on the road and drove to Stirling Castle.

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Wallace Monument

We could see the Wallace Monument in the distance but drove around in circles for ages trying unsuccessfully to find the turn-off to it. We gave up and continued on to the Falkirk Wheel, an enormous structure that moves boats between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal.

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Here’s a slideshow of the wheel in motion:

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From the Wheel we drove to Falkirk town and negotiated our way through a very complex one-way system to our hotel, probably the worst place we stayed in throughout our overseas trip. The website had warned that the lift didn’t service all floors, in fact it didn’t service any. It was out of order due to a brawl the night before! That will give you some insight as to the class of hotel I’d booked us into. Our room was up several flights of stairs, interspersed with long corridors, badly lit with sensor lights not all of which worked. The white towels were grey and threadbare, the heating was temperamental and the bathroom flooded in the middle of the night. When reception wasn’t staffed you had to go into the bar for service. It stank! Fortunately we only had to spend one night there.

We had a walk around the town and found somewhere to have dinner, the Orchard Hotel, where the food was tasty and the staff were friendly and renewed our faith in Scottish hospitality.

After that we went to Helix Park to see the Kelpies. These are amazing, giant, metal horse-head structures that are illuminated at night. Normally you can do a tour to see the structures from the inside, but there was a crew recording a TV show when we were there so the tours weren’t operating.

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Helix Park is a vast community-use space incorporating wetlands, canals, the Kelpies and the Wheel.

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We drove to Edinburgh the next day. We parked in the city and walked up to the castle, then down through the gardens. I looked for the floral clock I’d seen there about 40 years ago but it was too early in the season so it hadn’t been planted yet.

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Next, back to England.

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018 cont – England and Scotland

Dublin to Liverpool and beyond 

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Catching up over high tea and dinner

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____________________________________________________

Note to self: Take your phone out of your pocket before going through airport security.

It wasn’t the metal implant from my hip to my knee that set off the security alarm, just my phone.

When we approached Security at Dublin Airport we were asked to remove our belts, loose change, keys, watches, jackets. I was even asked to remove my cardigan. We put everything  into trays including my walking stick and proceeded to walk through the scanner. Brian went through OK but I set off the alarm and even though we established that it was my mobile phone that I’d left in my jeans pocket, I still had to undergo a full body scan and pat down. Then our hand luggage got pulled off the conveyor belt for checking – mine twice because the first time they found liquids, as in shampoo I’d taken out but Brian put back in thinking I’d forgotten it, and the second time because they let me keep it!

Then we tried to exchange Euro for Sterling at three ATMs unsuccessfully. Fortunately, when we got to John Lennon Airport, Liverpool, we found one that worked. My phone didn’t though, so neither did my iPad because they were connected to the one SIM card.

We were very grateful to the Budget salesperson who, when we couldn’t find the car hire firm we’d booked a car through, phoned them on our behalf and got them to come and take us to their office which was off site.

It took forever for them to process our car rental, so we were running really late when we left to go to my cousin’s house, following the directions she’d given us via the Birkenhead Tunnel. The first problem was the Birkenhead Tunnel. It was closed for repairs overnight so we had to take a detour. Eventually, that took us to where we would have come out of the tunnel where our directions were to take the first left, but there was another detour! By the time we finished following that, it was only Brian’s good memory that got us to our destination because he recognised the final turnoff from a previous visit many years earlier. My cousin and her husband were more than glad to see us, firstly because they were worried about what could have happened to us, also because  they were hungry as they’d held dinner for us. Needless to say we made short work of the delicious meal they had prepared and we had a great and late night catching up.

Most of the next morning was spent trying to get the phone to work but when it worked the iPad didn’t, which was extremely frustrating as we needed both to make bookings and keep in touch with family and friends. I resented spending time on that instead of with the people we’d come to visit but it couldn’t be helped.

We made up for it in the afternoon though when we visited another cousin for afternoon tea and caught up with almost all the rest of the family. The remainder met us that night for a sumptuous dinner at Risa Spice Indian Restaurant.

 

Liverpool to the Lakes District

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After a lovely breakfast, we left my cousin’s and got on the road to the Lakes District to visit our friends Gail and Steve. They own the beautiful Meadfoot Guesthouse in Windemere, an ideal base for touring the Lakes whether driving or walking.

We enjoyed dinner and a fun quiz night at one of the local pubs, The Brookside.

Next morning, after a delicious Full English Breakfast, we went for a drive and did the Aira Force Waterfall walk.

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We finished off our stay with dinner at the Cafe Italia.

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Next stop Scotland!

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018  

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Welcome back! Sorry for the long delay in posting but I found it impossible to maintain this site while travelling. A recent knee operation has forced me to stay still for a while so I’m going to take the opportunity to bring it up to date. As I will be relying on my diary and camera to jog my memory, it will be mostly photos of our visits to more of Ireland; parts of England and Scotland; Holland, Belgium and northern France; and a different part of Singapore on the way home. Hope you enjoy the trip!

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Up the mountains

We enjoyed spending times with friends and family in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, including a visit to Avoca Mills and the Meeting of the Waters. It was great to be able to have a look around the mill which is still working – the oldest working mill in Ireland I think and free to enter. Afternoon tea in the coffee shop wasn’t bad either!

 

Cobh to Clare

or the scenic route from Dublin to Doolin

 

It was a beautiful sunny day when we left Dublin and we had a lovely drive to Cork to visit my cousin and her family. We took a detour to Cobh on the way so as not to arrive too early. By this time the wind had started to get up and rain was threatening.

Next morning the rain was horizontal so we enjoyed a forced rest-day indoors with good company, good food and a bit of forward planning for our trip to Normandy later.

 

 

We drove into Cork the following morning and had a walk around the English Market and St Fin Barre’s Cathedral before getting on the road to Tralee via the Dingle Peninsula; the ruins of a Celtic stone settlement from 500 BC; and, Slea Head.

 

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It was so bitterly cold and wet in Tralee that night, I nearly didn’t stop to photograph this mural, but now I’m glad I did.

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We visited Ardfert Cathedral on the way to Talbert to get the ferry, then on to Kilrush, Kilkee, Doonbeg, Quilty, Spanish Point and Lahinch.

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It was a short drive from Lahinch to Doolin. Lucky we didn’t want to see the Cliffs of Moher on the way as they were shrouded in rain clouds. Visibility didn’t improve throughout our stay but we’ve been there before so no great loss.

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After checking into our accommodation at McGann’s Pub, we caught up with the family at the Doolin Hotel for our grand-nephew’s post-Confirmation function –  something like a wedding reception with the bride and groom replaced by 100-plus children and their families, all in fine attire.

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We had dinner at McGann’s that night with some of the family, then enjoyed the session afterwards.

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We drove through the Burren on the way back to Dublin.

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Next stop: parts of England and Scotland.

 

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018  

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Two and a half weeks into the trip and it’s still wet and miserable. Summer happened last Saturday. The sun came out. So did the shorts and short-sleeved tops, revealing an unsightly amount of bare lily-white skin. I’m still cringing.

We did manage to get out a couple of times, first to Dubllin Castle to see the art exhibition ‘Coming Home: Art & the Great Hunger’ a visual interpretation of the Famine with artworks from the 1830s to the present. 

The Great Hunger (1845-52) was the worst demographic catastrophe of nineteenth-century Europe. The conflicting need to remember and the desperate need to forget, result in an extraordinarily moving exhibition… Curated by Niamh O’Sullivan.

The second exhibition, ‘Caution! Fragile – Irish Glass – Tradition in Transition’ was at the National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks. This place was an absolutely fascinating treasure trove. We went for the glass exhibition but there was so much more. We spent hours there but still didn’t see all of the exhibits, about thirty, so I hope we get the chance to go back.

We also got to catch up with some family and friends.

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Thursday 12 April. 2018

It’s a week since we left Darwin, flying to Dublin via Singapore and Abu Dhabi, it was an uneventful trip.


During our 10-hour stopover in Singapore we visited the Kampong Glam area and Haji Lane, places we hadn’t heard of on previous trips and well worth the trip.

Singapore airport, Changi, is interesting enough in itself with an indoor orchid garden and rooftop sunflower garden at Terminal 2.


Our Ethiad flight landed in Dublin 30 minutes early and we had no delays with collecting our luggage or getting through Imigration, which would have been great except that without an Irish SIM card I couldn’t phone my brother who was picking us up. I had to use the free Dublin Airport wifi to message our daughter Aisling in Sydney, who messaged Barry in Dublin, who eventually came to get us after being parked behind the airport plane-watching, waiting for the Ethiad plane to land! The weather was bleak – cold, grey and raining.

A week later it hasn’t improved. The only place we’ve been other than grocery shopping is the Phoenix Park which we drove through yesterday. We saw a couple of herds of deer quite close to the road but didn’t get out of the car, it was too cold.

Sydney to Darwin – The big drive home

Sydney – Tamworth

On Monday, the first day of our 4200-kilometre drive home, we left Sydney just after 11.00 am and drove through the Hunter Valley passed vineyards, coalmining, horse breeding and sheep and cattle rearing country to Tamworth, stopping only at Wilberforce for fuel and Bulga to eat lunch.

We got to Tamworth around 6.00 pm.The information centre was closed but we managed to find the tourist park we’d stayed at before.

Tamworth – St George

We did a bit of shopping before leaving Tamworth next day, then stopped for fuel at Barraba and had a pitstop at Warialda Apex Park. After getting an hour back when we crossed the Queensland border, we stopped for lunch in Goondiwindi and visited the information centre and the statue of Gunsyng.


We got to St George just after 4.00 pm, checked into our cabin and went for a walk along the Balonne River.



St George – Barcaldine

On Wednesday we left St George for Barcaldine. On the way we saw an echidna, a very special privilege, scurrying into the undergrowth by the side of the road; and, a couple of herds of cattle being driven along the ‘Long Paddock’; again, not  something you get to see every day..

We stopped for lunch at Meat Ant Park in Augathella, then fuelled up and drove on to Barcaldine through Tambo and Blackall.

Barcaldine – Mt Isa

Before leaving Barcaldine on Thursday morning, we visited the Shearers Memorial and the remains of the Tree of Knowledge. 



Longreach
was our first top for fuel then Winton where we watched the reconstruction of the Waltzing Matilda Centre while we ate lunch. The original was destroyed by fire in 2015.

We had a pitstop at McKinley and fuelled up again at Cloncurry before arriving at Mt Isa around 6.00 pm..

Next day we intended doing a tour of the Hard Times Mine but it was closed for maintenance so instead we just had a walk around town, drove to the lookout, went back to the cabin for lunch, then drove out to Moondarra Dam.



Mt Isa – Renner Springs
We left Mt Isa at 9.15 am and drove to Camooweal where we stopped for fuel before crossing the border back into the Northern Territory and getting back another half an hour, so it was now 10.55 am not 11.25 am as it was in Queensland. 

We stopped at the Barclay Homestead around 1.oo pm and ate lunch, then at the Threeways for fuel at 3.10 pm before getting to Renner Springs at 4.15 pm, where we stopped for the night.

The walking tracks were shortened by the recent rain but we saw plenty of birdlife around the motel and dam.

Found this pair on our way to dinner.



Sitting outside our room after watching our last outback sunset, I suddenly had a green tree frog land in my lap! 
Renner Springs –  Darwin

Between the resident cockerel and the ‘ventilated’ curtains, we didn’t need a wake-up call the next morning.

So we started the last leg of our journey and left Renner Springs at 8.40 Sunday morning. We stopped for fuel at Elliot and Mataranka and had a pitstop at the explorer Alexander Forrest memorial cairn. We were going to eat lunch at Bitter Springs but it was closed due to a crocodile sighting so we continued on to a roadside stop just before King River.

After lunch it was less than an hour’s drive to Katherine where we fuelled up, then on to Adelaide River for our last pitstop before the final drive home, arriving in Darwin at 5.30 pm.


It rained for a week after we got home!

Well that’s it, the end of another journey. Thanks for joining us. Hope you enjoyed it. Bye for now!