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Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

While in Vietnam we had the absolute pleasure of meeting Hannah and Melissa. When we parted ways we had discussed meeting up again in Perth for our last few days in Australia as they also planned to be in the area. Things worked out and we spent three days together. They were unbelievable hostesses and we felt immediately welcome and at home. It’s funny how sometimes you feel like you’ve known someone forever when really you’ve just met.

We spent most of our time sipping wine by the pool in the backyard and enjoying some great food. We visited the nearby beach and were thoroughly impressed. It was a much needed break from driving and we felt quite refreshed after the few days. It was difficult to say goodbye¬† to both girls but I’m sure we’ll meet up again, somewhere in the world.

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We have seen some pretty beautiful things on this trip, but very near the top of the list was “the end of the earth”. After leaving Uluru we headed south until we reached Port Augusta and then headed west along southern coast. The road heading west gets closer and closer to the coast the farther you go and eventually you end up driving right next to huge cliffs in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. The world seems to vanish as the cliffs drop off at 90 degree angles into beautiful blue water. You can imagine the aboriginals finding this place and thinking they’ve reached the end of the world.

The thing I will remember most about the south coast was just how windy it was. The wind whipped through the fields and most trees seemed to grow at about a 45 degree angle. Standing at the edge of the cliffs was freezing from the wind whipping up out of the South Ocean. It seems reasonable that it’s so windy and cold seeing as the next piece of land is Antarctica. There were tumbleweeds blowing over the edge and shooting back up.

The south coast was awesome, but unfortunately, it was the last awesome thing we saw for the next two days. The road leaves the coast and drives through nothingness until you reach the west coast. I don’t think I’ve ever been so thankful to reach water.

 

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Day 118: Uluru

I have to admit that it was Jacob who really wanted to go see Ayers Rock and I didn’t really care either way. It’s something clearly unique and special to Australia, but as far as I was concerned it was just a rock in the middle of nowhere. Either way, we decided we’d add it to the itinerary and it was the reason we were going to drive 2,800km from the east coast and then 3,200 km again to get back to the west coast. It better be quite the rock.

Most of this is going to sound ridiculous if you have never seen Ayers Rock yourself but it was amazing. It’s about a 2 hour drive farther inland from the main highway and it’s not until about the last 20 minutes that you actually get to see it. It definitely looks cool from afar, or at least it really gets exciting when you think you are almost there. As you get close though, it seems to become magical. It looks like it’s not a rock, but more like a living thing that has just settled in for a rest. It feels like at any minute it could just get up, stretch it’s limbs and go for a hike. It changes colours, shape and sometimes looks like it’s moving as you drive around next to it. We sat and ate lunch staring at it for more than an hour.

There’s also a cultural centre in the park that explains the legend and spiritual significance of the rock. It was really interesting to read, and after spending some time sitting and watching the rock, I can see how the story exists and even makes sense. The rock was closed to climbing because it’s too hot in the summer, it was about 40 when we were there, but it is unfortunately open the rest of the year. It is against the aboriginal’s wishes and beliefs that the rock should be climbed as they consider it a spiritual place. We hadn’t intended to climb it anyway, but I’m not sure how anyone could justify it after reading why they don’t want you to.

We spent the better part of the day staring at the rock before we hit the road again so that we could find a rest area before dark. I don’t imagine I will ever go back to the rock, as cool as it was, it’s more of a one time thing, a really amazing one time thing.

 

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Driving through the outback was so much better than I could have ever imagined. The scenery, wildlife, and size felt supernatural, as if I had suddenly entered a giant’s playground. It was like nature had been amplified.

I had expected the outback to be nothing – days and days of driving into empty space. What is surprising though is how awesome that nothingness is. There would be stretches of hundreds of kilometres where we could see the horizon in all directions. Now it shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone that I’ve felt smaller than average before, but this is something different. When you are able to see so far that you can watch five different thunderstorms while you are sitting in the sun you get a real appreciation for just how big this world is. And how small you are. It dwarfs you in all directions. Nighttime is no exception. You can see the headlights of cars 5 minutes before you meet and stars everywhere you look.

It wasn’t all wide open spaces though. Every few hundreds kilometres we would be surprised by some drastic change of scenery. It felt like we turned a corner and had been taken back in time. Several times there were these massive rocks that rose out of the ground. Huge taple top rocks, ranges of hills that looked like natural defense lines or round boulders stacked on top of one another would appear pop up. It was if the dinosaurs and giants had had a party and forgot to clean up. Or that they might just round the corner any minute. It often felt like I just didn’t belong, I’m too small.

Even the colours seemed unnatural. . The sand is so red it looks orange. The hills look freckled because the only thing that can grow in the heat are bushes that stay separated. When you are driving past though all of the colours blend together and it looks lush.

It wasn’t uncommon to drive past kangaroos – we had one joey and a human size male jump across the rode in front of us. Lizards, goanas and snakes lined the road. At night you could hear the dingoes howling and we even had a cow wander over during dinner.

It wasn’t just nature though that was supersized. The man-made additions seemed to follow the trend. Because the driving distances are so huge they have road trains. Road trains are 53 metres long. The truck hauls 3 full length trailers behind it. To help move things along the speed limit is 130km/h. Even the fuel has jumped on the amplified bandwagon. The least we paid in the outback was $1.67/L. The most: $1.89.

The only thing that wasn’t huge was the number of people. We passed through towns with only dozens of people living in them. The next town would be a couple hundred kilometres away. Sometimes it would just be a single family running a roadhouse so passerbys can fill up.

The outback is magical. My descriptions, and unfortunately, the pictures just don’t do it justice. You just have to see it for yourself.

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I have been looking forward to the great barrier reef for this whole trip. Well to be honest long before that. And it was awesome.

We decided to tour the reef with cruise whitsundays. They have a pontoon anchored on a section of the outer reef at knuckle reef lagoon. It was a three hour ride to get there. We passed idyllic little islands en route and got some sunshine on the upper deck of our three storey boat. On the way we could see flying fish hopping in the waves we created.

As we finally pulled up to our destination it was one of the most incredible things I have and probably will ever see. Everyone on the boat went silent as we docked as there are really no words to describe it. The water is an unnaturally clear and bright blue with lighter and darker streaks running through it. Let’s just say it looks just like the postcard.

We left the boat for the huge pontoon they have set up. We decided to first go out on the glass bottom boat. We sailed around over the reef. There is coral as far as you can see and just as many fish hanging out. I even saw a stingray chilling out on the ocean floor. The boat was cool but it had nothing on the snorkeling.

We went out twice for about an hour each time. We didn’t see much the first time as we didn’t get close enough to the coral. Even though there wasn’t a lot to see there were still schools of funny looking fish with long noses, jellyfish, baby squid and some other randoms.

The second time though we hovered over some amazing coral. It’s not quite what I pictured it to look like. The colours aren’t as obvious as I thought. They aren’t screaming reds yellows and purples instead they are subtle and you don’t really notice until you stop and look. We saw upwards of fifty different kinds of fish. The giant clam was my favourite. Sadly though Nemo didn’t come out for a visit.

In case you haven’t gathered the reef was spectacular. I still can hardly believe I saw it.

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Day 113: Beachin’

Still in search of a beach day we headed farther north up the coast to Conway national park. We spent the morning on the rather small beach until the tide kicked us off.

We went into Airlie Beach for the afternoon. The tide was all the way in so we walked around the boardwalk. Airlie beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays – 70 some islands on the Great Barrier Reef. The water in the harbour is crystal clear and bright blue. It’s clearly a place with some money as the wharf is packed with million dollar yachts.

We checked into our campground and went for a dip in the pool. Afterwards we sat around and watched the cockatoos flying around. The caravan park was packed with tropical birds just milling about. We settled in early to get ready for the next day.

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Day 112: Platypus Hunters

In Mackay there is a national park, Eungella which is supposedly the home to the largest population of platypus. Since we have never seen a platypus we decided we’d take a look. The park sits on the top of a mountain. Thankfully we were able to drive up, climbing 700m in less than 4km of road.

The views on the way were incredible. The top is covered with rainforest with a bunch of walking trails. We opted for the 5 minute walk in the clouds. Unfortunately though we didn’t get to see any platypus. We were there at the wrong time of day. The park info says you must sit and be patient to actually get to see one – not my forte.

On the way back into town we stopped in Pinnacle for a Pinnacle Pub Pie. Pinnacle the town is about the size of Dremore with about 30 residents and a rather large pub. The pie was excellent and the locals entertaining to spy on.

We had great plans of checking out one of Mackay’s dozen beaches for the afternoon but on the drive in we had a tropical storm. The rain came down in buckets with thunder and lightning. Not really ideal sunbathing conditions. Instead we sat next to the beach in the van and read.

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Finally a full day of sun! We spent the morning being lazy at the campground. Jacob sat in the sun and finished up a book as I walked the beach. Not a bad way to start the day.

We headed to the beach just outside of the city hoping to get some more of the fabulous white sands that we saw in New South Wales. We didn’t find the white sands but figured the red would do just fine. We spent a few hours roasting in the sun watching all the trucks race up and down the sand. We had to leave around noon – it got too hot. We haven’t gone swimming yet. In NSW the water was too cold and now we are too scared of the jellyfish and stingrays.

We went for a long walk on a different beach in the afternoon and then hit the road again. We traveled much farther than planned as we couldn’t find a rest stop. We are in MacKay now hoping to figure out our Great Barrier Reef adventure for the next few days. The sunshine is so much more fun.

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