Monthly Archives: May 2008

Clean Sweep

Posted by on May 31, 2008

I’m leaving Broome today. I have a 6-7 hour drive to Port Headland where I’ll stay overnight before I head to Exmouth. Almost the entire coast between here and Port Headland is beach. It is known as 80 Mile Beach, which is an understatement because it is much longer than 80 miles.

If you look at a map, the beach is very smooth and circular which have lead some to speculate that a meteor might have hit the Earth off the coast here sometime in the past.

Despite working on my photos in Broome, I wasn’t able to upload that many due to internet connection issues. It would drop every few minutes canceling any upload I attempted. I do have a few photos up from Purnululu (aka the Bungle Bungle mountains).

McDonald’s Australia (or, Long Live The King)

Posted by on May 31, 2008

If it looks like Burger King...

If it looks like Burger King...

I know that my McDonald’s posts are some of the most popular ones I do, but seeing how long I’ve been in Australia (waaaay longer than I ever intended), I haven’t had a whole lot to write about. Since the beginning of the year, in addition to Australia I’ve been in Brunei (no McDonald’s that I could find), Malaysia (saving that till I get to Kuala Lumpur), Indonesia, East Timor (no McDonald’s), and PNG (no arches to be found in Port Moresby). That doesn’t leave me with a whole lot of Ronald to talk about.

Nonetheless, I feel it is time. Time to talk McD’s.

The menu at the McDonald’s Australia isn’t really that special. When I first arrived in Melbourne there was a McDonald’s about half a mile away (1km) from where I was staying. The first time I went there they had something called the McOz on the menu, but it was replaced by the next time I went there. The McOz was just a regular burger with beetroot on it. It was the same as the Kiwiburger I found in New Zealand, minus the egg. (and I must say, I’ve become a convert to putting an egg on hamburger. It bothered my American sensibilities at first, but now I’ll go out of my way to have a fried egg on my burger at a restaurant.)

The McOz was replaced by the McFeast which is just a burger with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Boring.

There is no $1 menu because nothing here costs anything close to $1. Even a simple cheeseburger is over $2, and the Australian dollar is close to parity with the American dollar. A large McFeast meal is $8.75. Sadly, McDonald’s is the cheapest meal you are going to find in Australia.

...and it tastes like Burger King...

...and it tastes like Burger King...

They have just introduces a bunch of new sandwiches in preparation for the olympics. They are the McEurope, the McAsia, the McAustralia and the McAfrica. Needless to say, as the spokesman for all of the Western Hemisphere, the Americas are pissed at their exclusion from the menu.

  • The McAsia is a chicken wrap, harkening back to the days of yore when Asians ate their foods in tortillas.
  • The McAustralia looks good, but in reality the only good parts are on the edge of the burger. If you look inside, the middle is totally dry and empty and there is nothing but a big red rock in the center.
  • The McAfrica is given to you in a box. When you open it you find it empty and the cashier can not explain where everything went. In truth, the burger has been put in a safe deposit box in Switzerland.
  • The McEurope is chicken. No joke required.

But honestly, I really don’t want to talk about McDonald’s. The whole McDonald’s around the world is great, but McDonald’s often isn’t the interesting fast food story. In Brunei for example it was the pizza. Because it was a Muslim country, they didn’t have any pork. What needs to be brought to the attention of the world in Australia is Burger King….. or, the lack thereof.

It should be BURGER KING!

It should be BURGER KING!

There is no Burger King in Australia. They have Hungry Jacks.

Hungry Jacks is to Burger King what a watch sold by a guy on a street corner is to a Rolex. A cheap imitation of the original.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was in Australia when I saw the Hungry Jack’s sign. For a country which still has a queen which doesn’t even live in the damn country, you think they could extend the monarchy to something as important as flame broiling.

What was their beef with the King? I think they couldn’t take the idea of two monarchs ruling them from other countries.

What happened to him? Was he beheaded like Louis XVI or Charles I? I imagine there was some burger cabal of Ronald, Wendy and the usurper “Hungry Jack” who got together to plot the coup. Mean, motive and opportunity. Just follow the beef and it will lead you to the truth.

Shame on you Australia. Shame, shame on you…..

Magnificent Desolation

Posted by on May 29, 2008

Buzz Aldrin described the surface of the moon by saying it was “Magnificent Desolation”. That phrase could probably be used to describe the part of Western Australia I’ve been driving through the last three days.

Since I’ve left Darwin, by my trip odometer, I’ve put on about 2,200km (about 1,400 miles). Western Australia is EMPTY. I can’t really stress just how devoid of anything it is. For hours and hours I saw nothing but scrawny eucalyptus trees, termite mounds, red dirt, and occasional rock outcrops. There are no radio stations to listen to and nothing really resembling a town. Between Kunnurra and Broome, there were some outposts and roadhouses. Most of the time you could look out and see no evidence of human beings other than the road itself. No fences, no cattle, no buildings, no power lines…..nothing. I resorted to listening to my iPod while driving. While having an ear bud in your ear while driving isn’t probably the safest thing (I only used one), I wasn’t too worried because I would only see another vehicle every 20 min or so.

I found the maximum length of a road train in Australia is 153.5m or 500 feet. That’s a lot of truck. I asked a drive what his average speed was and he said 80 kph (48 mph). In the wet season, it much be a real bitch to get those trucks through some of the stream beds and flood plains which are everywhere.

I spent two nights at the Turkey Creek Roadhouse, where I was picked up by a tour group to go and visit Purnululu National Park, which I have to say, really surpassed by expectations. I have close to 300 photos from there I have to go through and will right a longer post about it later. (The list of articles I have to write it getting pretty long.) I usually can’t even use my computer at night because I have no electricity.

I’m currently in Broome, on the west coast. When I got in to town I was relieved, but ultimately got depressed when I realized that, as the crow flies, I’m still only about 1/3 the way to Perth. It should be more of a straight shot from here on out, however.

Broome seems to be like some of the towns in Arizona where people flock to during the winter. The campground I’m staying at looks more like a cross between a refugee camp and a permanent party. My plans for Broome are to get through as many photos as possible, sit on the beach and not drive.

Gas in the outback is expensive. I was paying the equivalent of US$6.80 per gallon ($1.87 Australian per liter). One place was US$7 per gallon, but I didn’t fill up there. I risked it and drove 160km to to next gas station.

I can’t even tell you how much my camper sucks. I’m going to write up more about, but the short version is, if you are going to make a drive like this you are better off spending a bit more per day on the car if you can get significant improvements in mileage. You are going to spend more on fuel than on the car.

The weather out here is nice. Temperature never gets above he low to mid 80’sF (30C) and it is very dry. No humidity. It is the beginning of the dry season and you can see bush fires, or the evidence of them, all over. Burning is natural and part of the ecosystem. There is a bird up here which will pick up burning sticks and drop them to spread a fire to flush out animals.

I have another day in Broome, so expect to see some more updates tomorrow at least. From Broome I’ll probably travel to Port Headland and then to Exmouth, each of which are probably 6 hour stretches in my camper. Port Headland is the approximate half way point.

I have also determined that there is no way in hell I’m driving to Uluru…..

Plants and birds and rocks and things

Posted by on May 25, 2008

Driving yesterday went much longer than I thought it would. The map is deceptively small. Most of the drive was near the Victoria river and the Victoria River Gorge in Gregory National Park. The scenery was quite stunning and unexpected. It reminded me a lot of West Texas and New Mexico, except with more trees. The rocks in this area look old…nay, ancient. They are dark red with a black film over everything.

This area is definitely arid, but it isn’t a desert. It is currently the dry season, but there is a wet season. You can see flood level markers all over and there are enough trees that obviously water has to come from somewhere. As I came close to Western Australia, I began to notice some boab trees. I think the boab tree has quickly become one of my favorite trees. I remember seeing a photo of a boab tree from Africa in an encyclopedia when I was younger and it scared me. I have no idea why. I have definitely overcome my boabaphobia.

The time zone change from NT to WA is 90 minutes, because the middle of Australia is 30 min offset from the east coast. I really loathe time zones which aren’t full hours. (I’m looking at you India, Newfoundland, and Venezuela)

Today will be a short drive from Kununurra to Turkey Creek where I’ll do the tour of the Bungle Bungles tomorrow. Wednesday I’ll try and make the long drive to Broome. I figure that will be at least 10 hours.