23 Australia, NZ


Why are the people so pale? Why is the air so dry? Where are all the bright colours of Asia? We were in Australia. It was a culture shock!

However after meeting friendly Australians and walking from comfortable Backpackers to parks, markets and museums, we grew to like Perth and Fremantle, where we were waiting for the arrival of the ship from Singapore with Dipli on board.

We had cleaned the camper thoroughly before departure but the Ozzy inspector at the port persevered and said there would be dirt inside the Landrover box-type chassis. High pressure spraying, disinfecting and paying followed. We had to find a new compressor for the freezer and 2 deep cycle batteries.

A great reunion took place with Clive and Sheilagh Ball whom we had met in Panama in 1971 when they were traveling around the world in Samantha, a 1929 Austin Seven.

We set off North; then East to explore the state of Western Australia.

There were no towns. The road map showed huge sheep stations/farms.

At a remote rest area night stop, there were scores of sulphur crested cockatoos screeching in the Eucalyptus trees. At dusk we were fascinated by kangaroos grazing, and then bouncing away when the camera approached. The southern night sky was bright – and familiar! (After months in the northern hemisphere).

The 700km Gibb River Road detour track was mostly dirt but offered enchanting scenery of creaks, waterfalls, rugged cliffs, Pandamus palms and Baobabs

through the ancient Kimberleys. Karijini National Park has hikes through gorgeous red gorges.

Washboard road caused the 1st chassis crack and the first of numerous times of welding the chassis. The damage had mainly been done on the atrocious Russain “asphalt” roads. Wild camping became not so peaceful with the engine roaring to use the on-board welding system. Often sparks were falling on Jan’s face and into his sleeves.

About a week after leaving Perth, we notice a broken spring bracket. We return to mining town Tom Price.

We park behind a filling station and seek drums to drain the 290 litre diesel tank. (Jan gets a shower of diesel). It takes us until evening. The next day the wheel and diesel tank are removed in order to weld the spring mounting bracket. A stubborn rusted polyurethane rear chassis bush has to be hammered and sawed.

Leone patches sleeping bags and writes on the pc attached to our generator, and watches spinifex pigeons and long tailed rainbow lorikeets.

Empty trains and those carrying iron ore from Hamersley open pit mine, thundered past 24/7. Some have up to 260 wagons.

Miraculously 4 days later we get back on the road again. Jan persuades L not to discard diesel- and mud-caked clothing but to scrub items in a river…

Blissfully there are no fences or wires and no habitation within sight. We carry fire wood on a special rear platform. In the outback there is plenty of firewood, but not always near the camp.

Where we find a river we sleep and weld. One time, sparks set the groundsheet under the welder (Jan) alight!

At a station (farm) that allows camping, we learn about life in “The Outback” They receive mail by airplane once a week. We also learn about the “flying doctor service” and the “School of the Air”. (Lessons on radio)

Sometimes we reach the sea. At one spot we find Stromatolites, the oldest form of life on earth.

Road trains are intimidating. They are up to 53m long (10 times as long Dipli) and have at least two trailers. They give way for no one. They arrive in a cloud of dust and spray gravel as they thunder past. There were always many dead kangaroos next to the road. Kangaroos must be the animals with the least road sense. Even when they can hear a truck, they keep coming.

To get around on the tracks in Bungle Bungle National Park, 4wd is essential. For a closer look a helicopter takes us over and in between the deep canyons and spectacular rounded “bee hive” domes striped like tigers in bands of orange, grey and black.

The fridge door falls off. The speedometer cable breaks. After more corrugated roads, the right rear side shaft needs replacing. The shore of the immense Argyle reservoir is the ideal place to work.

Australia is BIG! When we reach the border with Northern Territory, we had traveled 5090 km through Western Australia from Perth. (Having left 2 months before).

With camping wild we have to look out for ticks which cause Scrub Typhus and we have to repel mosquitoes which cause Ross River disease. Flies and stinging flies abound.

Near the hot and humid northerly city of Darwin, at an outdoor market with an Aborigine Didgeridoo show, Jan gets spider bites on his back. We dig out First Aid literature and the antihistamine.

An oasis paradise under shady palm trees welcomes us at Tumbling Waters Tourist Van Park.

Alas! We find a crack in the chassis behind the gear box. Days later, Jan finds an old fallen wind pump. With angle grinder, he cuts an angle section to strengthen the chassis.

When that is welded, we continue to Kakadu, the largest national park.

It has 6 major landforms and encompasses a variety of superb landscapes swarming with wildlife and has some of the best Aboriginal rock art.

In Alice Springs town, we rise before sunrise to catch the golden light on Ayres Rock. (Uluru). The climb to the top is closed due to wind. While Jan slaves on Dipli, Leone explores the galleries with dot paintings and Aboriginal art. At sunset we admire the Devil’s Marbles of the Olgas range surrounded by ochre sands. We enjoy a typical DIY barbecue at an outdoor restaurant.

From Alice Springs we have a hot and dusty 275km drive into the desert (mainly in 4WD) to find the Center of Australia at Lambert Centre – and more flies than we have ever seen anywhere! Hence drinking beer through a straw while wearing a head net.

At Kings Canyon We enjoy a scenic 7 km day-walk; followed comically by a Spinifex Pigeon (Jan’s last hike ever!?.) 6 days later the pain in Jan’s calf turns out to be Deep Vein Thrombosis.

On the northern shore of Northern Territory near Normanton we have dinner one evening at Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The TV is on. We left at 21h00. (08h00 New York time 9/11).

We were in Queensland. As often the day was too hot and the road too long; so on 12 September mid morning we needed cooling down and took refuge in a small historic outback hotel, Croyden.. On the TV screen in the pub, was playing a violent scene of skyscrapers collapsing. We though it was fiction. Speechless, we realised it was replaying over and over, the bombing of the Twin Towers in N Y only hours ago.

(It had happened one hour after we had left the restaurant the night before.)

When we reached Cairns we really stood out like “Crocodile Dundee in LA”-Dipli covered with dust and carrying a stack of fire wood.

What joy to have Ingrid and Gerhard join us and to catch up in a shady campground! The four of us took a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling. We enjoy with them the fascinating fauna at a Wild World: We see Echidnas (spiny anteater), bilbies, bandicoots, wombats, dingoes, possums, etc. One could cuddle a Koala and see a joey up close in a kangaroo mother’s pouch.

On the Atherton Tablelands we find lush green vegetation and many water falls and natural places to swim. Dipli takes us to the tropical Port Douglas.

While driving, a loud clatter. Smoke is rising at the back. Right rear axle wheel hub is burning! We get a tow truck to Mossman campground. Free because our SA AA membership is recognised in Australia. We fax Robur in Germany to request the right rear half axle casing. Ingrid and Gerhard go with Down Under Diving on a multi-day scuba diving cruise. Jan’s leg is painful and has to be elevated. More anticoagulant. While waiting for parts, I and G take another scuba trip to Fitzroy Island.

One day we go by hire-car north via Daintree to Cape Tribulation in the Rainforest. A high boardwalk enables us to marvel at the surrounding jungle canopy.

When the parts arrive, it is great to have Gerhard's help.

We start south towards Brisbane. Sights include: Jourama Falls, Townsville Aquarium, and the green sugar cane fields with palm trees around McKay

At Sarina Beach a Blue-Winged Kookaburra screeches loudly and watches Gerhard and Ingrid erect their tent.

We pass cattle farms. Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia. We enjoy good steaks for lunch at historic Bush Inn. At the campground it is more of the same for supper! (Can you believe it!)

Vast fields of sugarcane, again; to supply the Bundaberg rum Distillery, where we have tastings and great fun. At the camping we are attacked by small biting flies and we itch for days afterwards.

Noosa’s accommodation is right next to the sea on the Sunshine Coast. On the famous Gold Coast we have a divine lunch at the Rainbow Bay Surf Life Saving Club.

Good friends from Randburg put us all up in their home in Brisbane. We take a river tour by catamaran, stopping to browse the festive River Market.

Being in a house makes it easier for Ingrid and Gerhard to pack. Early the next morning they leave for South Africa, via 6 days in a Backpackers hostel in Sydney.

On our own again, at Maroochydor we met many South Africans. We buy biltong and boere wors from a South African butchery and learn about the rules to qualify as an immigrant. Jan replaces Dipli’s wheel bearings and welds yet another chassis crack

When the pain in Jan’s leg becomes unbearable and the swelling increases, he spends a night in hospital. The ultrasound shows the blood clot in the calf and groin. With a supply of anticoagulants, we stay a week in Stanthorpe in southern Queensland on a cattle farm of someone we had met in Ethiopia. Jan relaxes with leg elevated while Leone explores with the farmer and 7 dogs. Wild fauna included Red necked kangaroo, Goanna lizards, Echidna and a female Lyrebird at her nest with weird “treasures” she had collected.

The coastal route from Queensland to Sydney passes through resort towns like Coffs Harbour and an endless string of superb beaches.

We found the nice Parklea garden village campground near Sydney. We are so happy when Andre and Liesl arrive in Sydney with the new side shaft for left rear. Much easier to install with Andre’s help.

We drive and walk in awe over the Sydney harbour bridge overlooking the spectacular Sydney Opera House and the busy harbour below.

Andre and Liesl pack up their small tent and we depart from the comfortable campground to Canberra. The capital city was specifically planned and has wide streets, parks and the parliament buildings set around the artificial lake.

At Pebbly Beach kangaroos join with breakers.

In between the seashore towns, Batemans Bay and Narooma are a series of sandy and rocky beaches, bays, and estuaries backed by pockets of gum trees. Eden at the border of NSW and Victoria has the most interesting Killer Whale Museum. We camp near the boat ramp at Malacoota and watch pelicans hovering around fishermen and trying to out-stare the fish cleaners.

After the elevated Rainforest walk, the Princes Highway leads to Lakes Entrance, the gateway to 400sq km of inland waterways.

Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary gives Andre and Liesl the chance to see up close: wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, platypus, koalas and snakes. A ranger shows the Taipan, the most poisonous snake in the world.

The camp ground in Melbourne is on a bus route. We find the city on the Yarra River lovely to explore on foot. We are excited to visit the Melbourne Cricket (and tennis) Ground and the 2000 Olympic Stadium.

At sunset we were lined up on Phillip Island for the Penguin parade. Soon Fairy Penguins were starting to surf out of the waves. The cuties gather and then start waddling up the dune to their nests. Quite a din! Mothers calling out to chicks and quacks of the hungry chicks.

The Great Ocean Road is one of the most spectacular coastal routes in the world. It has, sheer and rugged cliffs, idyllic sandy beaches with intriguing rock formations and forests of towering eucalyptus. Our camp has “absolute beach frontage” next to a river mouth flowing into the blue sea. On Christmas Eve we reach Warnabool. Our spot is sheltered from the wind by high shrubs. We share champagne and gifts

Christmas day is cold. We enjoy the hot water pool and spa. When we try to phone Ingrid in South Africa we are almost blown away by the freezing wind.

Adelaide has the interesting South Australia Museum with a huge 120million-year old whale skeleton. We are fascinated by a dazzling collection of opals and other minerals. Aboriginal culture is illustrated with videos.

A special exhibit honours Sir Donald Bradman, the greatest cricketer of all time. His highest score was 334 and his runs average 99.94. His career was from1928 to 1948.

At the Art gallery of South Australia, Andre discovers 20 bronze sculptures by Rodin

(Bought by The State from a collector in 1996 for $6 million)

The Barossa Valley has many wineries. Seppelt Cellars dates from 1852. We taste sherries and port. 100-year old port sells for $1060.

We drive inland to Mildura in Victoria; on the Murray River (the 3rd biggest navigable river in the world). Large trees are magnificent; so is the birdlife.

It is New Year’s Eve 2001. At “Mildura Waves” we are glad to find a grassy site. We have champagne and a pot roast from the gas cooker.

In Gunbower State forest with magnificent River Red Gum trees, we see an Emu.

We have our last “barbie’ (braai) with Andre and Liesl At Wagga Wagga Beach caravan park, and drive to Sydney.

The Sydney Power House Museum fascinates us for hours. The Taronga Zoo has Bongos, Tapirs, Red Panda, Urang Utangs and a One-horned Rhinoceros.

The South African shop, “Springbok Delights” is a must-stop for dry wors, biltong and Marmite.

We deliver Dipli to the port (for New Zealand); The 4 of us stay in a Kings Cross Backpackers and enjoy city sightseeing.

When Andre and Liesl fly back to South Africa, we fly to New Zealand.


At Auckland Airport we are met by Jan’s cousin Amy, and Roy. We receive wonderful hospitality and meet the rest of the family who have also all emigrated from South Africa. What a loss for our country!

Auckland-on the-water is a beautiful city; with it’s bays and small harbours. “Underwater World” has an aquarium with Antarctic fish. We are fascinated by Puffins and amused by King and Gentoo penguins. There is a realistic exhibit of Scott’s ill-fated 1910 expedition to the South Pole. (To arrive 1 month after Amundsen).

Our cousins take us to the Gannet Colony on the West coast where we enjoy divine fish and chips on the beach.

When Dipli arrives at the port, we head south to the Rotorua region of geothermal activity; where geysers gush, mud pools bubble and steam vents blow. (The geothermal activity is because the Oceanic Pacific Plate pushes under the Continental Indo Australian Plate.) We admire The Blue Baths, the glamorous Art Deco luxurious spa of the 1930’s. To add to Leone’s worldwide collection of wild hot water bathing, we camp next to Kerosene hot water creek for blissful soaking under the stars.

Lake Taupo which was formed by a great volcanic explosion is a huge lake formed by the CE186 eruption. On 10 June1886, Mt Tarawera erupted from 3 vents, spewing fireballs, then ash, lava and mud over 1500 km.

In Tongariro National Park, the highest and most active volcanic peak Ruapehu at 2797 m, towers over lava fields. We travel the Whanganui river route, which sweeps over green hills with sheep and cattle to Wellington.

The ferry takes us from the North Island to the South Island

Every night is at a picturesque location; appreciated in spite of biting sand flies. The West coast is a rugged remote wilderness with seascapes, pristine forests and lakes. Everywhere there are signs indicating adventure activities like tramping, climbing, caving; plus all water and aerial activities. Overlooking the sea Punakaiki Pancake rocks (limestone weathered domes) look like stacks of pancakes. The hiking trail is through a grove of nikau palms. At night we have a sea view by the light of the full moon.

We follow the river with glacial-green water towards Mt. Cook and other snow-covered mountains. Signs point to “ski fields” and “ice skating ponds”.

Leone, wearing special non-slip heels, hikes with a guide on Fox glacier and into blue ice caves. An unforgettable experience.

Mt Cook is the highest mountain (3724m) .There are 60 glaciers in Westland National Park. After glimmering lakes and waterfalls we reach Fjordland, where calm waters mirror the sheer peaks surrounding the 22km long Milford sound. We take a boat cruise surrounded by the cliffs of rock layers imbedded with plants and animals dating back to 80 million years.

Hokitika has many shops with turquoise Paua shell and greenstone objects. We camp on a beach. Leone finds lots of Paua shell fragments (which, many years later she assembled and framed as a mosaic piece of art).

The next day we cross picturesque Te Anau Lake by boat. The footpath passes waterfalls and limestone caverns into the Glowworm Grotto. The cave is completely dark but magic little “starlights” glow and flicker on the walls and the ceiling above our small boat.

Near Invercargill at “Country Nostalgia” we enjoy the perfect tasty and creamy sea food chowder.

Far south in Invercargill, it is a balmy February day at the Summer Festival. People are lazing on the green grass while watching the passing parade and on-stage entertainment.

The coastal route through the Caitlins region passes through native podocarp forests and dune flora. There are fur seals, sea lions, elephant seals and yellow-eyed penguins; also blue ducks, albatross and. gannets. Windswept Slope point on South Island is the most southerly point of New Zealand.

East coast sights lead to Christchurch. We park in the Botanic Garden within reach of city-pleasures.

Near Nelson Jan “collects” the Centre of New Zealand.

The interislander ferry from Picton, South Island leaves very early morning and we marvel at a spectacular sunrise over the sea as we cross the Cook straits back onto North Island.

In Wellington’s “Te Papa”museum we see the earth-quake-proof foundations on which the floors of superb exhibits rest. Maori customs and crafts are artfully displayed. There is an exhibit about New Zealand’s unique flora. The depiction of sheep farming shows types of wool from different breeds. (2002 there were 37million sheep. In 2020: 26 million). Leone notices the museum’s Paua shell surfboard.

The nearby town of Carterton has a Paua shell Factory. We learn how the abalone shells are harvested and the layer of blue” mother of pearl” removed.

Beyond Napier’s art deco buildings of the 1930’s we enter Kiwi fruit country, signposted by a giant Kiwi fruit. First ones were brought in (from China) in 1920 .The vines take 7 years to mature. The export value is $750 million.

“Hot water beach” is such fun! Like a child with bucket and spade. At low tide you can dig out your own little hot pool and scooping with cooler sea water make yourself a perfect little spa.

The Auckland family motivates us to drive to the North West Coromandel Peninsula with 2000year old Kauri trees.

We deliver Dipli to the harbour and depart ‘Kiwi land” by air for Melbourne. (after 4 weeks).


While Dipli is on the way from New Zealand, we take the ferry over the Bass Straight from Melbourne to Tasmania island. (Named after Dutch navigator Abel Tasman 1642).

In a little Daewoo from Launceston Car Hire we drive north east to picnic next to Cataract Gorge. The Tasman Highway winds through forests with huge tree ferns and past Frazier cattle grazing, to Pyengana cheese factory. We sleep at the cozy historic “Pub in the Paddock “.

White beaches surround St Helens’ sheltered bay which used to be a port for shipping tin. Over breakfast we watch comical seagulls with nobbly beaks.

We drive south on the east coast along great Oyster Bay to Seaview Lodge Host Farm. Large windows have views over pastures and blue sea to the Tasman Peninsula.

From Port Arthur we take a tour to the penitentiary on The Peninsula which received about 12 500 prisoners up to 1877 from 1830. Escape from the isthmus was impossible.

The long Tasman Bridge over the wide Derwent River mouth leads into lovely Hobart, the capital of “Tassie”; backed by mountains offering excellent vistas over the lovely city.

At the waterfront, we munch on fresh fish and chips from a floating seafood stall.

Central Northwest has a rugged interior with a maze of mountain ranges and ridges with rainforests and lakes sloping to raging seas and coves and beaches.

Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park protects caves which Aborigines had occupied up to 400 000 years ago. The approximately 10 000 Aborigines on Tasmania were completely removed when white people arrived.

We saw a “Tasmanian Devil”, a scavenging marsupial. (The Tasmanian Tiger became extinct in 1936.)

In some areas tulips, lavender, onions, and grapes are grown.

The road is North along the sea to Devonport from where The “Spirit of Tasmania “-ferry sails. After a nice buffet dinner and a peaceful night we arrive back in Melbourne.

Two days later Dipli arrives from NZ.

Melbourne to Perth.

We stocked up with supplies for the 4000km journey to reach Perth in 3 weeks.(Dipli’s shipping from Fremantle to Durban and our tickets Perth to Johannesburg had already been booked to depart in April.

A day later we are parked for the night at a rest area. On 19 March 2002 early in the morning Jan and I squeeze pass each other on the small space which is Dipli’s floor area. “What is this”!? he exclaims. I also feel the hard golf ball size lump in the left breast. Harbouring anxious thoughts, we continue south to Adelaide. To Royal Adelaide emergency. After 3½ hours we are referred to a breast and endocrine specialist, Mr. Kollias. After a painful mammogram, an ultrasound scan and a biopsy, he orders a blood test.

Other patients come and go. Only we are left eventually.

Doctor calls us in. “Mrs. Vorster I am sorry to tell you; You have breast cancer”. He has a nurse beside him (expecting an emotional outburst?) Mr. K explains that the tumor is so large that breast conserving-treatment is out of the question. He is convinced that under- arm lymph nodes would be affected.

We are unknowledgeable. In stead of lamenting, we discuss the logistics of an operation soon. The reasons being that: We still have Travel Insurance Coverage. We have time. We think it is urgent and life threatening. No stress for the family back home because it will be over and done with when we get home.

Somehow L manages to prepare a meal in Dipli. “Nothing will ever be the same…”

Next day x-rays, ultrasound, scans. The doctor declares: “Mrs. V is in excellent health and all bones and organs are healthy” he says.

Jan starts lengthy discussions and arguments with Europe Assist in South Africa on the hospital phone in spite of 8 hours time difference.

I have already been admitted to St Andrew’s Hospital for the mastectomy when the arguments continue. They wish to repatriate us (because it would be cheaper). We have medical coverage and they want to book tickets for us for the next morning (not listening that we have a vehicle and already have tickets and shipping booked).

On 23 March 2002, 4 days after discovering the lump, L is pushed into the operating theater- To return minus womanhood! Medical care and psychological support is excellent.

No one in South Africa has been told. L is weepy when girls phone on her birthday 25 March. When we tell half truths, Jan’s mother and Liesl’s mother-in-law ask probing questions. We have to shock them all when the truth is laid bare. Doctor tells us that 4 of the 14 lymph nodes were affected and that chemotherapy and radiotherapy would be essential back home.

We spend a few days in a hotel near the Hospital. Jan pays all medical expenses with a credit card. – To claim back from insurance. (Eventually successfully!)

On 3 April we tackle the long road over the endless Nullarbor Plain.

It is too painful to sit on the passenger seat on top of the stiff springs.

So I lie at the back and sob loudly, muffled by Dipli’s loud engine.

We make time for a coastal detour of Esperance bay’s white beaches surrounded by grey hills. We see the Tingle woods with unique eucalypti. Valley of the Giants tree top walk is in a forest of old Red River Gum trees, followed by the Margaret River Vineyards.

Our arrival in Perth is 6 days before departing by air to SA (Having traveled a full circle in Australia for 10 months ) 107000 kilometers. We learn to appreciate Perth’s delicious “flat white’ coffee. Dipli had to clamour for attention before being shipped! (Rear prop shaft is broken, but front-wheel-drive works).

Airport bus collects us from the first-class Freo Backpackers.

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