"You both did a great job, thanks for inviting us." Martin & Josephine Aaldering
"The Amble was well organised in all aspects... just perfect. We will never forget this Australian adventure!" Bob & Karin Bouwense
"We loved the outback, there was so much 'nothing to see'." Pieter & Annemieke van der Horst
"The atmosphere of the event was warm, friendly and inclusive. Anyone thinking about an overland event should take this to heart as four/five weeks on the road as a novice crew can be hard and relatively lonely. The sites, images and experiences make 'Jingers Jaunts' events truly memorable and fun." Andy & Shelagh Marshall
THE AUSTRALIAN AMBLE - 16th OCTOBER 2012 UPDATE
Arriving in Sydney perhaps ten days before our due start date I planned to iron-out the last of the issues relating to roadworthiness, to start and to move the vehicles from storage and to finalise our start venue. Stephen met me at the airport and very kindly ferried me about Sydney before offering his workshop to make any final adjustments. I managed to sort-out some minor mechanical glitches, get the cars running, and moved to the hotel car park before the first of the customers arrived.
With everyone arriving in Sydney a few days prior to the start, memories of previous events and the pre-start excitement came back to me once more. The weather had, up until that point, been fine warm spring days with brilliant sunshine although cooler at night. Unfortunately, a change on Saturday meant the evening of our welcome dinner aboard a catamaran on the harbour was less perfect due to choppy waters and brawny winds. After being welcomed by a dancing aboriginal group we found calmer waters to enjoy a meal and conversation. Participants’ attempts to mimic a Kangaroo as part of an Aboriginal ceremony was a splendid effort and one I am sure will embarrass them for some time. Murray Coachlines not actually providing the arranged transfer from the boat back to our hotel spoilt the end of a pleasant evening; having paid for the service 90 days in advance, been reassured of collection point and time only to be let down and given the pathetic excuse that it was a different driver really isn’t good enough.
Convincing Kangaroos? The flag drops in Sydney.
However, the first car was flagged away from Sydney at 08:30 on Sunday morning making a path due west towards the Blue Mountains. What a sight! A mass of rugged 4x4s equipped with snorkels & winches accompanied by a lone Citroen 2cv; Pieter & Annemeike Van der Horst from Holland are the most versatile travellers I have met, eager to experience 12,000km of Australia from behind the wheel of their trusty French automobile. Should I need to smile I simply walk down to the hotel carpark and along our row of tough looking vehicles until I come to a gap, and there smiling back at me is their little red car.
Thankfully the weather returned to more typically spring form for our arrival in Katoomba amongst the Eucalypt forests and mountains of the Great Dividing Range. Some crews continued further west over narrow roads to the Jenolan Caves complex for an interesting excursion.
Only one minor mechanical issue gave us work on Day 01 when Andrew Marshals Range Rover Sport decided to apply the rear brake without release. It was obvious the lack of use combined with sitting in a shipping container had caused the brake to bind; it was easily rectified.
After dark repairs. A miracle; Nick Thake slows down!
After a comfortable night in Katoomba we began north and then east past some of the most spectacular Botanic Gardens in the Southern Hemisphere, several crew remarking on the diverse beauty of the gardens. The road weaves endlessly along the banks of the Hawkesbury River until we crossed on a tiny ferry to push further north. We travelled on rural country roads through the horse breeding capital of Australia to overnight in Tamworth famous as the centre for country music. The restaurant of the hotel provided a wonderful range of very tasty fare before most of the crews headed to bed after a busy day.
Day 3 again took us in a general northerly direction passing Uralla a town infamous in the gold rush days as the home of bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’. The dry weather has meant the normally spectacular Wollomombi falls were completely dry but this also meant our first 4x4 track of the event was easier to negotiate with some steep inclines on a bare clay surface. The wildlife has begun to increase with kangaroos, wallabies and emus easy to spot. Sure enough, as I had hoped, the Jacaranda trees are in full blossom making a beautiful display in the centre of Grafton amid the historic colonial architecture.
Land Rover finds traction. 2cv at pace!
Our route from here north covered some beautifully smooth and peaceful gravel roads arriving at Lamington National Park via a rugged 4x4 track. Vero took photos of the vehicles as they scrambled through gullies and up hills to the guesthouse nestled in temperate rainforest. This idyllic spot was chosen for our first rest day, however in the early hours of Thursday morning rain began to patter on the tiles of our roof and by daybreak it looked set to stay. Indeed, as the day wore-on the rain became more and more entrenched which was disappointing because there is so much to see and explore in the area; that said most crews enjoyed relaxing in the historic and peaceful setting of the retreat. For our evening entertainment Lally had organised a wonderful degustation dinner a few kilometres from the hotel where the conversation and the food combined to make a memorable evening.
Thankfully, Friday dawned clear and bright making our exit from the national park a stunning drive on twisty roads with rainforest pressing on the narrow path. Some had decided to head directly for the beach to play on the wide-open expanse of sand at low-tide while a few crews opted for a longer but very scenic day skirting Brisbane via Mount Glorious and the Glass House Mountains. The beach was a huge playground for those who went this way with one GPS registering 178kph! The fun began immediately upon entering the beach with most of my staid and respectable customers returning to more childlike behaviour attempting handbrake turns, donuts, and ‘J’ turns. With so many 4x4s, so much laughter and so many cameras it was not long before somebody became bogged in the sand; Martin Aaldering ventured too high up the beach into softer sand, which soon took hold of his vehicle. We easily pulled him clear but he now holds the accolade of the first to become bogged on this jaunt.
The glorious beaches of Queensland. More adrenaline than bungee jumping!
Day 7 saw us enter the tropics and a different chapter of the jaunt. With the change in climate also comes the shift to ‘wilder’ wildlife, the roadbook containing numerous warnings of both land and sea creatures to avoid. As we departed Rainbow Beach a few people spotted whales out on the eastern horizon as they form pods prior to migration. The fourth 4x4 option of the event took us east of the main thoroughfare to experience a maze of tracks alongside the coast. Thankfully, nobody got stuck and all were accounted for before we left the district. Rockhampton hosted us for the night staying in an endearing turn of the twentieth century hotel, the rooms containing large four-poster beds and period furniture. The evening entertainment was literally across the road at the steakhouse with round 8 of the regions rodeo championship. The youngest rider, a lad of just four, was strapped to withers of a bull-calf for us to cheer as he cavorted uncontrollably about the ring until finally being flung to the dusty earth amid hooting, cheers and laughter. From our group, Nick Thake appeared the most concerned at this kind of treatment ‘though I’m not sure if it was for the boy or the calf?
Climbing out of trouble. Do Meeus enjoys Australia.
Encouraging those who wanted more 4x4 action to rise at 5am and drive 400km to our next off-road section made me slightly uncomfortable as I watched bleary faces find their vehicles to depart; was this 107km loop that good? Seven 4x4s entered Pinnacle Station to endure four plus hours of very rugged but exciting tracks. The ability and angles some these modern machines are capable of is truly outstanding. Using the ABS system to apply brake to spinning wheels thus transferring drive to those with traction is a wonderfully logical and proficient use of technology. A mad dash ensued later in the afternoon to Shute Harbour where our transfer to the Whitsunday Islands awaited. Arriving at the terminal, the smiling faces and stories told me of the fun and excitement everyone had enjoyed although one or two vehicles sustained some damage and Jim Carr had managed to remove the skin from ankle to knee of his left leg. OUCH! This, of course, made the doctor’s day! Opening his case to apply liniments and dressings while poor Jim winced was like winning the lottery for our doctor, Terence!
Steep river crossing. The bush of Northern Queensland.
Ensconced on Hayman Island enjoying the startling reef right on our doorstep with temperatures a comfortable 26-centigrade has made a welcome rest. After a day on the water, an outdoor meal in the evening air coupled with friends and laughter has completed a wonderful pause in our journey. Watch this space for further updates as we continue north visiting the Aboriginal communities of Hopevale and Endeavour.
THE AUSTRALIAN AMBLE - 31st OCTOBER UPDATE
Many sleepy faces greeted eachother silently as crews stumbled
towards the jetty for our 05:00 departure from Hayman Island on Tuesday 16th
October. The comfortable catamaran
glided out of the harbour and headed for the mainland offering coffee and
breakfast for those conscious enough to register morning had broken. With a
long day of over 600km to cover many crews were keen to get moving and wasted
no time once ashore. Unfortunately, Stephen Friend found an ominous pool of transmission oil waiting beneath his 4x4 Volkswagen; we made repairs and
refilled the axle before any damage was likely to be done.
Evidence of recent bush-fires smouldered alongside the highway just
north of Bowen and further north after passing Tully more fires left a
blackened soil with palls of smoke and isolated flames still evident. The day
itself was uneventful, our goal simply to reach the luxurious Sebel Hotel in
Cairns as a base for more reef and scenic adventures. Several crews wanted to
get on the water again to enjoy more of the startling underwater world while
others used the time to acquire provisions in anticipation of the two rugged
4x4 routes on offer. The well-known Bloomfield track is undoubtedly a very
scenic route up the coast to Cooktown but we also have a little used and rugged
track that is only passable when weather conditions are perfect. The majority
of participants opted for the outstanding scenery of the coast ‘though the
unseasonably dry weather has meant the track was by no means demanding for the
off-road fanatics’. A number of people paused for a drink at the famous ‘pub’,
The Lion’s Den, and to read the cluttered graffiti adorning the walls. Cooktown
is the last real township of any consequence before the Cape York Peninsula
starts in earnest and our base for an Aboriginal encounter with two tribes of
the region. We were hosted in the oasis of the Sovereign Hotel where we could
stroll to the restaurants and bars of the entire town! Driving further north
signs warn of the prohibition of alcohol; these people have survived for
millennia without this demon and their digestive system cannot cope with
alcohol in any form. Arriving at the Aboriginal settlement we were greeted with
dancing and welcomed to share food. Lunch included Dugong (Sea Cow) and Sea
turtle only permitted as food if caught locally by the indigenous people using
traditional methods. The cooking methods are basic using just an open fire and
little in the way of herbs and spices; in honesty, the Dugong was hard work
although I would describe the turtle’s taste as a strong form of turkey.
Several of the men showed us how they make their very effective spears, which
they give extra velocity using a cunning device known as a ‘woomera’. During
the afternoon we met with an elder of another community to be shown some of
their survival methods, including the use of simple plants as soap and others
for making resin type glue. We also visited ancestral rock art sites learning
the meaning and historical value of this important part of their culture. The
journey back to Cooktown in the late afternoon was amid a heavy tropical
downpour making the primitive roads slick but not muddy. There was a good deal
of jolliment during the evening, several unnamed individuals not finding a bed
until 3 or 4am! Aboriginal encounter Jim Carr or David Bellamy?
Day 14 dawned clear and bright. Jim Carr made the decision to skip
the very pretty and rural Mt Mulligan station to return to Cairns for more
tyres. The sharp rocks and fierce scenery has destroyed 3 tyres on the Range
Rovers; with only isolated outback roads ahead his decision was very sensible.
Staying in a quaint and tidy guesthouse in the Atherton Tablelands gave
everyone a last glimpse of lush greenery and waterfalls before we start west
into the outback and from there into the deserts.
Dropping down from the tablelands that catch any moisture in the
climate, the change is dramatic. Within 20km the surroundings become flatter
and drier, the typical Eucalypt bush for which Australia is so famous
prevailing. Arriving in Undara mid-afternoon meant crews could enjoy excursions
into the lava tubes themselves to understand the colossal upheaval of this land
many millions of years ago. Vero caught some dubious looking snakes on camera
as well as the millions of bats exiting the caves as darkness fell. We rested
for the night in converted railway carriages placed amongst the trees where the
cooler air made sleep comfortable. Breakfast was a few hundred yards from the
main camp cooked over an open fire, the ‘billy’ swinging over the flames for
true ‘outback’ tea. I hope everyone enjoyed the glorious peace of the outback
at dawn broken only by a rather buxom Aussie sheila shouting, “You want some
bloody tea?” Some members of the group are perhaps more accustomed to the
gentle tones of Radio 4 at Six O’clock in the morning! Sunset drinks in the outback 2cv forges on
Now the scenery changes again but this time in a less obvious
manner. The bush is still Eucalypt and the country still defined by steep river
valleys but the scale has adjusted with huge gorges, vast panoramas and a dry,
dusty earth. Continuing west and south the roads develop that rich red hue so
common on big screen movies depicting Australia, the sun falling from the sky
‘a la’ Mad Max. Lally had arranged a halt in the stunning setting of Porcupine
Gorge where drinks were served and everyone exchanged stories of their first
‘outback’ adventures. The Hughenden hotel can only be described as basic, as an
organiser, I would like to find a more colourful adjective but simple,
straightforward, uncomplicated or unfussy all mean the same thing, basic! And
‘though this be true, the place was cool and very welcoming. A first for me was
entering a hotel breakfast room with gambling machines from wall to wall!
The roads from here south were primitive and for long sections only
a blade pushed through bush to mark our way, just the minimum of rain would
make things complicated on such rudimentary tracks. However, the wildlife was
abundant with plenty of Emu and their young as well as the more colourful birds
of paradise. Jim Carr managed to shear an integral bolt on the suspension of
his Range Rover probably caused by the poor roads we have covered. After
organising a truck and a late night ‘local’ repair Jim rejoined us in Longreach
tired but happy to have caught-up. His vehicle sustained more damage from the
dash to keep-up with both airbags deployed as well as a number of lights
becoming victim of kangaroo.
The cattleman’s town of Longreach was our resting place where we
enjoyed colossal steaks at the local grill before a very welcome bed. The roads
are beginning to take their toll not only on the vehicles but also on
crewmembers. Dusty outback roads 2cv receives attention
For Day 18, October 24, we travelled directly west into the opal
fields of northern Queensland and just when you thought things were returning
to civilisation they become seriously rural! Only with accurate tulips and
waypoints it is possible to navigate without local knowledge; at one point we
had painted arrows on nearby rocks as a confirmation of the route. We arrived
at our lodgings from the flat-topped ranges of the district enjoying enormous
views of the pastoral farming country spread before us. The station where we
stayed, a 55,000-acre property, has converted some of the older buildings into
quarters for passing travellers. We had planned a traditional Aussie bush
barbeque which developed into a true outback evening. The still desert air was
filled with music and laughter providing a great evening lasting into the small
A magical dawn broke clear and bright, several crews moved quietly
around drinking coffee and basking in the peaceful tranquillity of dawn. The
day held more endless vistas and lonely roads with temperatures reaching 41°
Centigrade, added to that the roads produced more punctures giving the tyre
shop in Boulia (population 160) a late afternoon surge of work; thankfully,
mechanical issues were not a concern.
The road leading us south from Boulia has received plenty of
attention since we were here 12 months ago with almost 200km of sealed highway
now replacing the more archetypal dirt. A brief pause was required in Bedourie
(population 72) to weld an exhaust which the roads had managed to fracture.
You’ll be happy to learn Birdsville (population 131) remains the same and I am
also happy to report the little 2cv Citroen of Pieter & Anniemieke van der Horst
has made it thus far with only one mechanical misdemeanour. Their brake
reservoir sprung a leak caused by the constant vibrations of the road and has
received a ‘bush’ repair until parts can be sourced when we return to
Lally had contacted the run holders west of Birdsville and during
the afternoon of our rest day I lead a convoy of twelve vehicles across the
open deserts in a wide arc to arrive at ‘Big Red’ before sundown. ‘Big Red’ holds the title of highest dune in
the Simpson Desert and is noted locally as a challenge for 4x4 enthusiasts. We
enjoyed drinks and canapés while those up to the challenge launched their
beloved steed at the mountain of sand; everyone had a go, the more aggressive
in general doing better. I need not go into the detail of Nick Thake’s euphoria
after conquering this test. We had a great evening although Simon Dedman’s fun
was cut short after fracturing a hose suppling his air suspension. Our able
‘fix-it’ man, Tim Foate, worked on the car whilst half buried in sand allowing
Simon to continue with his journey. Impromptu bush party Some common wildlife
Before leaving Birdsville I had to rummage and fossick over the
dump, thankfully several kilometres outside town where I was less likely to be
spotted. I needed some suspension bushes for the Thake Toyota and Sunday
morning in a town of 130 people on the borders of the Simpson Desert is not a
promising venue! However, after 15 or 20 minutes a 1950’s J4 Bedford and 1979
Datsun bluebird combined to offer a solution.
Our route south covered the most beautiful vast expanse of outback
gibber plains which whilst inspiring is very hard on tyres. Jim Carr had a
reoccurrence of suspension trouble that we rectified with the help of the only
habitation for 400km. Luckily he broke within 50km of the station and was still
able to drive although, gingerly. I had the use of a good workshop complete
with welder and we soon affected repairs.
Outside the fuel bowser in Innamincka sits the remains of a radial
14 cylinder Bristol aero-engine; locals tell of a Bristol Beaufighter coming
down nearby in 1944. These desert climates are so kind to both ferrous and
non-ferrous metals you would think the aircraft came down recently. Indeed, I
needed some bolts to repair another car and searched the carcass of a different
aircraft which came down just last year. Creek crossing Land Rovers old and new
Monday, 29 October saw us continue south with a long day ahead and
more of the endless ‘outback’ across sandy plains although as the day wore on
small hills and ridges appeared finally entering the northern regions of the
beautiful Flinders ranges. The corrugated roads shake everything loose with
nothing safe from the incessant chatter. Passing the Gammon Ranges and finally
arriving in the Flinders we over-nighted in a beautiful boutique establishment
bringing to an end the basic outback quarters endured over the last seven days.
There was some nice art for sale in hotel, which several crews admired or
These roads take no prisoners, Nick Thake’s suspension has broken
again but he’ll need to continue without shocks to Adelaide where we have
replacements waiting. In addition, 6 crews had punctures so the local tyre shop
made a booming trade in the late afternoon.
The following morning provided a beautiful dawn in the silent yet
cool desert air. The rough & tumble brigade left early to cross one of the
stations alongside the Flinders Ranges making a loop on tracks and across
creeks while those more inclined to amble filtered slowly down through the
outstanding scenery to stay on another station that has pretty villas
overlooking the majestic countryside.
Adelaide looms and another well earned rest.
THE AUSTRALIAN AMBLE - 8 NOVEMBER UPDATE
Towards the end of Day 24, the rough & tumble boy’s
brigade arrived at our luxury eco-villas nestled in the Flinders Ranges with
stories of excitement and skill while crossing the creeks and tracks of the
ranges. Some sections were a mire of bull-dust, others so steep even low range
and full power was not enough. The lone Toyota of the group made several
attempts at one particularly steep section only just clearing a long climb
after a change of driver who chose a different technique; Tim Foate has shown
himself to be a very capable driver throughout the event.
Against my better judgement, I am becoming more impressed
with automatic transmission for tricky 4x4 work. Being able to lever vehicles
delicately over rocks whilst climbing or descending but still have all
available power ‘on tap’ is really very useful, although ultimately, I prefer
the ultra-low gears of the Defender and its rugged workhorse abilities.
However, with so many gaps and cracks in the doors, windows and panels I’m not
entirely sure whether it’s letting dust in or out? Black swans in the desert. Bush bashing
The following day we had another long haul on empty roads
into the city of Adelaide, some crews making short-cuts to be able to enjoy the
world famous National Motor Museum at Birdwood. Whilst surveying this region we
had stumbled on a property containing a colossal menagerie of vintage
machinery, I had spoken with the very affable farmer who agreed we could visit
with clients. Several crews arrived and spent an hour exploring the barns and
outbuildings covering a wide area. A ride across the property to view more
early mechanical contraptions in a wonderfully dilapidated 1924 Dodge was
another highlight. Dilapidated Dodge! Climbing the dunes at sunset!
Upon arrival in Adelaide several crews began the task of
sourcing parts to refurbish tired vehicles after the harsh desert conditions.
It was a relief to see Simon & Lee in good spirit
although disappointed with their broken Range Rover in Birdsville. Stephen
managed not only to find an aircraft at short notice but then also pulled a
pilot out of his hat. Simon & Lee returned to Birdsville flying in with new
parts. After fitting them and leaving town in a southerly direction, they
covered only a handful of miles before issues relating to overheating returned.
Reluctantly they re-visited the township realising that with more than 1000
kilometres of empty roads ahead only a fool would continue. Unfortunately, the vehicle will need loading on a truck and transporting to Adelaide for
trans-shipment back to Europe. The crew have now morphed into Jingers Jaunts very
own hitchhikers! Simon may need to grow his hair and Lee could miss using the
shower if they are going to fulfil their new roll entirely.
The Dutch crews have been the masters of enjoyment; they
really know how to let the spirit take them and enjoy what each day brings,
whatever that may be. Indeed, the 2cv of Pieter & Anniemieke has rumbled
along with almost no help, though at times I’ve seen a smiling Pieter with a
healthy engine grime hue to his skin. Also, new friends, the Aalderings’ have
grasped the nettle offered and wallowed in the adventure of every day. Do &
Els Meeus are a splendid example of how to live life and more importantly, love
life. A feral feast! Dust in the deserts!
Jim Carr had been unhappy with his vehicle’s handling and
upon inspection it was obvious why! Several important components of the rear
suspension had come completely away from their mountings! A major overhaul was
required, parts were hurriedly ordered and striping of the car began in
earnest. Nick Thake’s Toyota also limped into Adelaide with pieces missing some
of which were not immediately available. The Mitsubishis’ of our Dutch
participants have fared much better, probably because they have not been
bouncing off the countryside with such gusto!
The weather has cooled considerably, just twenty-one
Centigrade as we entered the city, making things feel decidedly chilly by
comparison to the deserts. Although the cathedral gives Adelaide city status,
it is in fact, much more akin to a large provincial town with wide leafy
streets and large manicured parks all the way through the city centre; lovely.
On the evening of our rest day we clambered aboard a bus to
one of several top-line restaurants on offer. We dined superbly at Auge, an
Italian establishment of some repute, with delicious wines matched perfectly to
The main party left Adelaide on the morning of 2 November
heading for Halls Gap and the Grampians National Park. It was to be a clear
trouble-free run for everyone except the Admin. vehicle which developed a
crippling mis-fire. Jim Carr had left Adelaide after lunch with an almost totally
refurbished Range Rover, just a few fashionable items of trim missing from the
exterior. He was to arrive tired but elated after dark with stories of wildlife
bouncing into his path at every opportunity. Let's not grow old! Volkswagen works hard.
We ate outrageously good food in the simple township where
we spent the night although Tim & I spent nine tenths of that night
removing engine parts to access an ignition fault on the G4 Discovery.
Thankfully, by dawn the job was finished and the vehicle ready to continue.
Day 28 was to be a long day into Melbourne but included the
Great Ocean Road, one of the iconic roads of the Antipodes. It is all too easy
to waste time meandering down tracks and paths to view the coastline and the
beautiful lush greenery clinging to the limestone cliffs. Vero produced an
almost never-ending series of photographs illustrating the coast from every
possible angle but then had the unenviable task of editing her stunning shots
into some kind of usable précis.
Melbourne is such a cosmopolitan city with every kind of
food and entertainment on offer; indeed several crews mentioned they would love
an extra rest day to explore Melbourne and its surrounds. The Park Hyatt was
our resting place and in the run-up to the Melbourne Cup (advertised as ‘The
race that stops a nation’), Annie Friend decided to run a sweepstake! All
horses & riders went into the hat and for ten dollars you could have a dip.
Race day itself was to be Tuesday November 6, our final day entering Sydney. The Great Ocean Road. Final celebrations in Sydney.
Leaving Melbourne westward the Yarra Ranges hove into sight
along with endless winding gravel roads. Whilst enjoying the sweeping curves
through a dappled forest Jim Carr drifted wide on a fast left-hander managing
to belt a huge log which in turn upset the computer-controlled air suspension
of his livid orange chariot. I’m afraid these ultra-modern computer controlled
vehicles require ‘plugging-in’ before any sensible diagnosis can be made, and
further to that, you are simply given a ‘fault code’ of no real value except to
some pubescent boy who’s studied the subject and its finer details. We
therefore could only escort the go-kart like vehicle 120km, on its bump-stops,
to a nearby workshop but had to deposit Jim in the next-door motel until
morning when the facility reopened.
The penultimate day, November 5, saw us travel directly
north through the stunning ridges and valleys of Snowy Mountains National Park.
We had a multitude of wonderful options to choose from. The gravel roads were
made in heaven, so smooth and twisty yet with visibility through the bends.
Some of our 4x4 options required a little ‘opening’ which is where Tim Foate
once again excelled. Donning his lumberjack hat and thus equipped with chainsaw
he forged ahead clearing a path. Our ‘hardcore’ 4x4 gang has dwindled, the
tough terrain taking no prisoners. However, Jim once again arrived late after
another day playing ‘catch-up’ with his vehicle repaired after many hours of
analysis with a Land-Rover specialist; he is certainly a determined traveller
and never one to miss-out on our demanding alternative routes.
The tiny community of Tumut hosted us for our final night
‘on the road.’ We lodged in simple quarters ‘though Lally had arranged a very
agreeable meal out, a short stroll from the hotel. The food & wine both
delicious and aplenty had everyone relaxing, laughing and recounting adventures
of the day.
The final day of this journey arrived with more choices; a
4-hour dash on mainly sealed roads to Sydney for an early shower and a cool
drink in preparation for the farewell gathering or a more testing alternative
over the steep rugged hills of Brindabella National Park. ‘Gentle Annie’ could
not be a more misleading title given to the track awaiting those still in need
of discomfort. Precipitously steep with mind-bending drops off either side I
had intended to finish this event with memories that might create a little
shudder when recounted over roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in the comfort of
ones own home. Of course, once again Jim Carr launched his revitalised Range
Rover at the rugged tracks which I’m glad to report produced nothing more than
smiles from behind the smoked glass and cool interior of his battered orange
With everyone showered, refreshed, and assembled in Sydney we
boarded in coach for the 15-minute transfer to our final party. The evening
began tamely enough with aperitifs and canapés overlooking Sydney harbour while
a magician kept us both baffled and focussed as he performed marvellous tricks
that even the closest eye couldn’t spot. We laughed, drank, and relaxed served
scrumptious bites by six nude waitresses (not really, I just wanted to regain
your attention!) in preparation of our meal and more entertainment. Vero had
assembled 800+ photographs projected across the room as a slide-show. The
arrangement was totally random so as bring instant and vivid recollections of
the preceding 5 weeks shooting back to everyone’s mind. The room turned silent
when the first images appeared then as the pictures changed some would produce
laughter, others a sigh, and yet others more giggles or ‘oohs’ & ‘ayes’ as
we let ourselves reminisce on what we had shared throughout this escapade
across more than 12,000km of delightful Australia. We also had a marvellous
band, the female vocalist whose voice was truly honeyed. We danced, sang and
made merry until I could see the doctor’s features beginning to resemble a
pumpkin; whoops! It must be time to go! And there ends another Jingers Jaunt
with, I hope, plenty of unforgettable moments for those involved.
Mundane tasks relating to the cleaning and shipping of
vehicles was reserved for the two days after the farewell and before our return
to New Zealand. With complex shipping schedules to adhere to it seems kinder to
store customers’ cars in the temperate Sydney atmosphere than have then waiting
for trans-shipment in tropical conditions at the Singapore hub; sweating inside
a shipping container for an extra ten days is not ideal.