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Friday, October 11, 2013

Australia Unplugged

The first thing we do when we get to a campsite, is plug the van’s power cord into a little post to give us electricity inside. Free camping sounds like a nice venture, but it also means no facilities. And when it’s +40 degrees, you do want your air conditioner on.
I’ve never traveled with so many items before that need charging. We have a cell phone (here called a ‘mobile’) which is great for making local calls or for our kids to reach us if need be. The boys also gave us an emergency thing with which we can text (but it takes us half an hour to type ‘help’. It also works as a tracking device in case you never hear from us again. IF we turned it on and IF it is charged.
Then there’s the GPS which tells us where to go. This is a lifesaver in big cities, which we are short of here. Unless the GPS is a bit outdated. She keeps yelling at us to “turn left now!” when there is no road to the left. Finally she sighs and says ‘turn around’ but we know we are on the right track. We argue a lot with our GPS but tolerate her for the times she got us out of trouble.
We also have a laptop so that I can work on manuscripts, update our blog, download photos, etc. The camera, of course, needs to be charged regularly too.  And the iPad is the device we use most often, to quickly check email, skype with the kids and my sister and brother-in-law, find a campground, and much more. We love having the iPad. As long as it is charged it has proven to be our best way of communicating with friends and family. We bought the iPad specifically with this trip in mind, thinking it would allow us to bring 100 books with no problem. However, I have not found the iPad all it’s cracked up to be for reading books. In airplanes you still have to shut down any electronics for quite a while, even in airplane mode. You do run out of battery power, something you never need to worry about with a real book.
At home, before we left, I had started to read Bill Bryson’s book In A Sunburned Country. I didn’t want to lug this thick book around so I thought I would borrow the e-book from my local library. Brilliant idea, right? Well, by the time my turn on the waiting list came around, I was in the Outback with virtual no internet access. I saw an email informing me that I had 3 days to downloaded it before the book would go to the next lucky person on the waiting list. I never did find enough internet to download a book. After about a week, all I managed to do was put myself on the waiting list again. And, hurray, one day I was entitled to borrow the book again AND had access enough to download it onto the iPad. I was able to read most of the book this way, but when an e-book is due, it magically zips back into cyberspace. Taking all of my notes and bookmarks with it. So... I still much prefer a real book, thank you very much.

Then there are two iPods with music and a tiny but powerful speaker. That one has been worth the investment. We sing along loudly as we travel down the endless roads.
It’s a day job to keep all of this charged. All of this is plugged in, with the use of an adapter, to the Australian outlet we have in our camper.
BTW, many Australians around us put up  large rectangles of solar panels in order to charge much more than we own: iceboxes full of beer. And fish. TV’s, computers, and whatever else waits inside their cravans.
The one thing we own that doesn’t charge anymore is Kees’ razor. And so he grows a beard.
Tomorrow... we go unplugged. We plan on camping in a national park, which means no electricity, no water. Just us on the white sand beach. Maybe we'll see some electric eels...!

We went to see the famous Ghan as it cross our path in the Outback.
A long journey, a long train.

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