Our Aussie trip

Hi Birgit, first our best wishes for the new year and keep up the good work. We still like to read your newsletter, even now that we finished our 2 month Australia trip, including the Gibb River Road.

We wish to thank you for the push in the back you gave us to do the Gibb River Road. We are both early 60, had never done any 4x4 nor any camping, now we did it and we loved it.


Our first itinerary was Perth to Darwin over the GRR, with the detour to Bungle Bungle. We did this in 28 days with a Kea Pop-Top camper which is based on a Toyota Landcruiser 4.5 liter V8.

Mechanically this vehicle is unbelievable and it got us without any problems thru everything we encountered. Admittedly the Gibb River Road in September early October is not too challenging but still.
The secret is to follow your advice. So...

We let the tyres down to 30 psi front and 32 psi rear.
We let the speed down (although sometimes we did 80 km/hr).
We let our hair down.
We never let our eyes of the road in front of the car.
We let everybody pass that wanted to go faster then us.

We did the Gibb River Road with a defective aircon and survived, the temperature although sometimes 38 + degrees was not really a problem till we reached Kakadu.

The second secret is to start early in the morning, so every morning at 5 am we were up and about.

The nice thing about doing this in Sept/Oct is that the roads and campings are quiet. In most places we visited we only met a couple of other people. The negative is that some falls or gorges are dry. Still there are plenty of nice ones left.
How does our top ten looks for this part?
  1. The Bungle Bungle
  2. Karijini National Park
  3. The Gibb River Road
  4. Yellow Water (we did sunset cruise and saw plenty of crocs and all sorts of birds)
  5. Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park
  6. Cape Range NP
  7. Kalbarri
  8. Pinnacles
  9. Kakadu NP
  10. Litchfield

We found Kakadu a bit over rated. Jim Jim falls we skipped as we were told it was almost dry, Gumlom falls was lovely especially if you carry on beyond the first pool and we liked Ubirr rock.

After the GRR gorges and falls we found Litchfield to 'civlized', to 'touristic'.

Things we learned as we went along:

  • Buy for over 30$ in Woolworth or Coles super market and you get a fuel discount voucher. It helps on the fuel bill!!

  • Fill your empty water bottles were you can from the taps (mostly very OK) and add this Gatorade powder, makes it taste better and it helps against dehydration.
  • Make sure you got plenty of plastic bags as in many places you need to take your rubbish with you.
  • Our rental had no pressure gauge, so buy one to let your tyres down without the need of a fuel station.
  • Keep in mind that 'business hours' are not very touristic. The office and fuel pump and store may not open before 8 am and close anywhere between 5 and 6 pm. So if an early start is required fill up and settle accounts the day before.
  • Our rental had no jumper leads and on 2 occasions we could have helped people if we had had them. Next time they will be part of our kit.

The Red Center

Next we spend 6 days between Alice Springs and Uluru.
We visited everything there is to visit, this time we have a 'Prado' 4 WD.

The visit to Palm Valley we will never forget. The last 4.5 km to get there are lunacy. No brochure or internet site warns you for this. On occasion my wife stepped out to guide me thru the holes in the rocky riverbed. Several times we thought we should not be there in a car but a passing ranger assured us we were OK.

The absolute highlight of this part was Kings Canyon, the rim walk early in the morning is fantastic, a close second is the Olgas again an early walk is spectacular.

Together with dozens of others we waited for sunrise and sun set at the rock and did not see much change other than that it got light and dark. (Which happens everywhere.)

Worth a mention is Ormiston Gorge.

The East Coast

Next we spend 16 days on the east coast from Cairns to Brisbane. From Cairns we went to Cape Tribulation, regretfully only for one day. But we did see a wild Cassowary. We did the mandatory reef cruise (with Reef Magic cruises, they were excellent) where I learned to snorkel, another thing that was easy and so wonderful. And of course we went on the Kuranda railway which makes for a very nice day.

After that we descended the coast with as highlights:
  • Heron Island where we witnessed the Giant turtles laying eggs (again good timing).
  • Fraser Island were we went for a one day tour and I would have loved to have done this with a self drive arrangement and stayed 2 days.
  • White Haven beach is nice but there is no shadow and if you are not a water/beach lover there is nothing to do. But we ticked it off, done that.

The End

The last 4 days we spend in Sydney with a day trip by train to the Blue Mountains where we met some friends we had met in El Questro.

Sydney is wonderful especially when you get a day bus pass and jump from one ferry on the next one.

Overall we drove about 12,000 km which is a lot anywhere else but not in Australia. We came back with over 6000 pictures (which will take a while to delete the not wanted ones and arrange the others in a video show), hours of video tapes and plenty of good memories.

Would we do it differently now that we know??

Yes maybe we should have spent more time in WA and North of Cairns. And ideally we should have started the trip mid to end August I think, but of course we don't know if it would have been better.

How does our top 5 look for the trip?
  1. The Bungle Bungle
  2. Kings Canyon
  3. Karijini National Park
  4. The Gibb River Road
  5. The Olgas

If would be travelers would like more info, contact us at tfverelst @ gmail.com (remove spaces around the @).

Comments for Our Aussie trip

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Jan 05, 2009
What a wonderful trip report
by: Birgit

Thanks for the kind words, Theo.
It is Theo, isn't it? I remember your email address from your pre trip questions :-).

Thank you so much for your wonderful report of what must have been a wonderful trip. Let the tyres down, let the speed down, let the hair down... What a great recipe!!

I am so glad that you did go camping and 4WDing and that you did love it.

And interesting to see that none of the east coast places made it into your overall top five... Well, what can I say. There's a good reason why my websites focus on WA and the NT...

One thing that I read with some sadness is your experience in Kakadu and Litchfield. Because, it doesn't have to be that way...

The southern access track into Litchfield, hiking up on the Tabletop Range, Koolpin Gorge in Kakadu...

Well, suffice to say that a while ago I started working on a second guide book for the NT. (Not making any predictions whatsoever as to when it may become available, but comments like yours make me even more determined to make that info available.)

Update: Destination Top End is now available.

I also had to laugh about your comment about Palm Valley. I know the track along the riverbed well, and know exactly which section you are referring to, where your wife had to get out. I made my passenger guide me there, too! Not for the faint of heart if there is water in it and you can't see the holes... I can just imagine what impression it would have left on first timers!

Thanks again for the amount of time you put into sharing your experiences here. A great report full of great tips that many future readers will benefit from. Thank you.

Jan 07, 2009
Our Aussie trip continued
by: Theo

Hi again Birgit
Don't feel sorry for Kakadu and Litchfield , we did enjoy Gumlon Falls and would have done Koolpin but for the permit which is a bit difficult if you do not know when you will get there. The trouble also was for us that after all the exceptional things we saw out west and on the Gibb River Road nothing could compete. And as you point out so often it's all subjective and personal.

And yes, the east is not in our top five but then again after WA and the Red Centre when we landed in Cairns we thought we arrived on a different planet.
The vehicle of choice is not a 4x4 anymore but a sedan, there are traffic lights and thousands of people, no camels, kangaroos, cows or horses on the road. It took us 2 days to adjust to it and accept it.
Cairns is lovely though and is a great starting point for the reef, the Kuranda train and to go north, once you go south beyond Mission Beach we enjoyed it less. Although we were lucky to see the turtles at Heron Island. (We picked up a good deal on the internet when we were already in Australia).
So for future travelers no need to book everything in advance (at least that time of year), that may partly explain why we loved the first month so much, with the camper and nothing booked you feel very relaxed. You make the plan for the day or not who cares!!
Talking of the internet, out west and in the NT there is not much connectivity neither internet or GSM, so if you depend on those plan for it.

Jun 21, 2016
Corrections to Destination Top End
by: Warwick

Hi Birgit
We recently completed a 3 week trip from Darwin to Berry Springs, Litchfield, Katherine, Kakadu, Mary River and back to Darwin. We found your Top End Guide very useful and very informative about each destination and you frank and detailed descriptions about each place of interest helped us to have a really enjoyable trip. There were some things which need to be updated, as inevitably things change:

Kakadu Park prices (pages 27 and 72) have increased.

The Mandorah Beach Hotel (p42, 43 and 101) closed in 2013 and was demolished in 2014. We took the ferry from Cullen Bay but ended up with nothing much to do but wait for the return ferry!

The Crocodile Hotel (p77) in Jabiru is now a Mercure, not a Holiday Inn.

The Lakeview Park (P77) is now the Anbinik Kakadu Resort and has a swimming pool, but still no restaurant.

The Bowali Visitor Centre (p77) has Aboriginal arts and crafts (not carts).

The Pine Creek railway (p132) was being built in 1888, not 1988.
Thanks for all the time and effort that you have put in to creating these guides. They are excellent value.

Jun 25, 2016
Guide Updates
by: Birgit

Hi Warwick,
Thanks for writing and the kind words.
That sounds like you were travelling with an outdated version! I also supsect you may not be on my newsletter list. (Which I strongly recommend everyone signs up for!)

These changes are already reflected in the guide.

Customers are welcome to contact me for a fresh download link to the latest version before they travel. The page to do so is here.

(Newsletter back-issues where I reminded people to update their guides are here and here.)

Mind you, that addresses only the first four points in your list. I am afraid the typos you found are still in there :-)
Will get that fixed asap!

I am very sorry about your wasted trip to Mandorah. That one should have gotten fixed much earlier than it did.

Thanks again for taking the time to write!
It's much appreciated.

Mar 12, 2017
by: Anonymous

I have driven 4 wheel drives all over this country and when people say they let their tyres down they seem to be letting them down to what I run normally. 20PSI is what I drop mine to on bad roads and have had no problems, normally only run 32PSI.

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