March 2015
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Month March 2015

Timor-Leste 1

We’re here
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We spent our last days in Darwin with my cousin Tony and his wife Deb, from Perth, drinking beer, being tourists and fishing.

Lucinda went off to the shipping agent and was packed into a container. The ship to Dili (Timor’s capital) is on a sketchy schedule but is due on April 9. I caught the daily flight from Darwin.

A nice new jet from regional carrier Air North.
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Thankfully not through one of the area’s almost-daily thunderstorms
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Past an island
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Along the coastline
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And into Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport
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After a short wait in a line-up we had a 30 day visa ($30) instantly. No questions, just a huge full-passport-page stamp.

We check into our hotel and walk down to the waterfront
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The temperature isn’t too bad, about 85F/35C, but the humidility is 85% and it’s uncomfortable. Way worse than 105F/40C and zero humidity. This sounds unlikely, but just is.

More soon.

Darwin, again

The first two days from Alice Springs to Daly Waters
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The heat had backed off to 38C as forecasted.

Alice Springs is within 50K of being half way between Adelaide and Darwin. We expected the first 1000K going north from here to be a repeat of the last half, but it wasn’t. The first 500K was grassland, possibly an extension of the Barkly tablelands to the east we’d ridden through a few months ago
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We’d been wondering when we’d see our first termite mound again, going north. Here it is, just a little fellow. The center is just too hot for them
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We’ve never seen a big one on the road shoulder, so I guess it’s just a matter of time before a road train removes them, sadly. They’re fairly solid so a car wouldn’t risk it
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The town of Aileron doesn’t have a wiki entry so we couldn’t do our usual evening read. Pop about 25 as usual we’re guessing.

But we found out about this. The sculptures of aboriginals of the Anmatjere tribe are about 40′ tall , located here. Artist Mark Egan was contracted by the roadhouse owner to build them
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The female figure and child was excellent. A coloured guanna at her feet
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The roadhouse
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Aboriginals doing what they do in the heat: sit under trees in separate guy/girl groups
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Back through the grasslands. A strong side-breeze today. It’s been a concern that Lucinda overheats in a tailwind in the outback. Fortunately it’s never pushed her into the danger zone, but it’s been close a couple of times
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Gassed up at the Barrow Creek roadhouse. For travellers, this is the only roadhouse we’ve seen in Australia we wouldn’t overnight at, unless we had no choice. There have been some rough places so far, but this is the roughest. Rough isn’t always bad, it’s sometimes good, and if you’re going to ride Latin America you need to enjoy it, but this pinged our keep-Lucinda-safe alarm. Secure parking is hard to find in Australia and no way will they allow you the L.A. fallback of rolling the bike into the room
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A bridge, which was odd in the middle of nowhere. Then we saw the line. We had to look at the map to see where it was going: It’s also crossing the outback north/south. Probably a fast way to do this with no night stops. This is the only time our path crossed
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A rock formation off the road made a change
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Not big, about 50′ at the highest
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A sign nearby shows how they were formed. Just like Joshua Tree, but mini
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About 10′
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A great Australian sign, terrific names. If you look carefully you can see our tiny new Clearwater LED lights, 4000 lumens total, so with our existing bi-xenons we’ve now got plenty. Too much unless you’re alone out there, but the Clearwaters have a ‘volume dial’ by our right thumb. Very nice
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Our first water in 2000K, unless you count the poison pond and that temporary trickle in Alice Springs. We’re not in croc country yet, but soon
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Then at Tennant Creek, everything changes. The lush green is unexpected and is almost shocking. We’ve changed climatic zones. We’re now in tropical monsoon place and time. More on this below
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Agriculture is happening here. The road trains are limited to 3 trailers here, we’re guessing, since we don’t see any of the superb 4 trailer behemoths we saw in the west. But they’re still excellent. We looked it up and the 3’s are limited to 53.5 meters, 175′. The speed limit on this long stretch north of Alice Springs is 130 kph, so imagine how they look flying by at that speed. When they hit the kangaroos and emus at dawn and dusk, as they do with regularity, the remains are an unimaginable mess. Obviously they don’t slow down before or after. Hitting cattle is the only concern
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Another fire. We ride out for a closer look because we’re looking for something
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We don’t see it at this one. But later, at another fire, we do. Back in the west we saw eagles circling above fires and thought they were circling the thermals. But actually, we found out, they’re watching for small mammals and reptiles running from the fire as it invades their homes. Once in a while a bird will stoop for a kill and eat it on the ground
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Very cool
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Doing a low pass
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The aftermath. The termite mounds in the background survive these fires – certain lizards tunnel into them to lay their eggs for this reason
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Beautiful birds
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Then a long ride to Daly Waters
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It’s a bit like Camooweal somehow, but smaller. A nice place, pop 25. Google Earth
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About 4 miles from the main road
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A typical outback house
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It was founded by John Stuart on his 3rd (and successful) attempt to cross the outback in 1862. It’s a bit wacky, trying to attract tourists
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It’s now famous for the pub. A great place to stay
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Years of travellers from around the world have left bits and pieces here attached to the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Bras above the bar
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Ladies can staple their knickers to the ceiling provided they take them off then and there, same as the bras.There are more bras than underpants
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One wall area had these. For the second time this trip there’s a Vancouver Police badge. The first time we saw one sewn to the jacket of a tough Peruvian, which was curious

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Locals, looking like locals do everywhere
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Daly Waters to Katherine
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Still hot, and now humid. The curse of the northern Stuart, and Darwin in particular
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Dressing the termite mounds up again. This one had a wedding dress on
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We’re at Katherine, so the crocs have started. This is probably stuffed with them. It’s wet season so they’re breeding and antsy
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Katherine to Darwin. The final ride in Australia, so a thoughtful one
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Towards the clouds. We have 3 hours to get into town before they build to monsters and all hell breaks loose. Lots of time
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And through town to the sea
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Darwin is a bit lower than center here
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The climate specs. It rains more in 90 days here than in a year in Vancouver, and it does it in an hour a day, not everyday
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Darwin is in a cyclone zone and the tropical storms build in the afternoon at this time of year. They’re violent. Once, when they were counting, Darwin got struck by lightning, the big type, 5000 times in one hour. It’s legendary for it. The first day we watched one build like this
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Later, at sunset, they’re nearly gone
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And on that note: I’ll be combining my journal with this blog at the end of the month and it won’t be publicly accessible. There will be a map and some brief milestone posts on another site, so please email me on the ‘contact’ page if you would like that future address. Thank you for following along. Safe travels.