The Red Centre

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All I do is drink water and sweat now (part 2)

Hello again! This post is so terribly late and three countries behind. Whoops! I think I left off at my sweating profusely and popping rehydration tablets like candy. I honestly think I lost two kgs in about two days when we were out in Coober Pedy. This is only a positive if you like your face hollowed out though, hmmm gross. Anyhow, cold dark places and six litres of hydrolyte water made me much better and ready to take on another hot dry place. Alice Springs! We were so fortunate to be able to stay with someone we met though a Couchsurfing connection.  He was the most gracious host, driving us around to beautiful things on every single one of his work breaks, which included a really neat trip to the Tropic of Capricorn for night time photography and pavement-lying. Even at 1am the pavement is still warm from the day’s sun. He also took us for a drive around the Aboriginal camp areas which was, eye-opening, for lack of a better word. The Aboriginals’ story in Oz very much mirrors the one of Canada and all countries with indigenous populations. The issues are just as complex. Opinions about such issues are definitely contentious and often times quite…overt, especially in the centre of the country. For me, it is clear that this is a people of amazing knowledge and resources that, in my opinion, have been left the middle of Australia because no one else seems to want it. For a more articulate (though certainly opinionated) vision of this ongoing issue, I strongly suggest you try to find the documentary “Utopia” by documentary film-maker John Pilger. It will upset you, but that’s good; I think that’s the point.

From Alice Springs we continued our journey in the red centre and made our way, officially, to the Outback. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, and I think for Curtis too. It’s just so remarkably different from anywhere else we’ve ever been, including coastal Australia. We did a three day, two night tour with a really great guide who sincerely seemed to enjoy being covered in red dust and sweat all day long. His enthusiasm was infectious, and as he blasted some of my favourite 90s tunes, we drove and drove and drove. We arrived first at Kata Tjuta, a grouping of giant conglomerate rocks covered in iron oxide to give them that deep red hue I love so much. We didn’t even know this rock formation existed, so it was a welcome surprise! Necessities for hiking here included: one litre of water for every hour you hike, fly net for your face, giant hat, probably more water. You’re not even allowed to start a hike after 11 am as it’s just too stinking hot and you’ll probably get the aforementioned hollowed-out death face….or heat stroke…or death. Cheerful stuff, but they had rangers out and about to make sure you abide by these sensible rules. That evening we unwrapped our swags (flat open-air tent type things), scattered them across the dusty ground and enjoyed the most beautiful starry sky I have seen in a very long time. With nothing around us for miles, save the wildlife, it was a very special experience. The only thing more special would be seeing Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunrise and sunset. I’ll let Curtis’ photos explain why.

All I do is avoid death and other backpackers now

The last leg of our tour was to jump on the famous Ghan train and ride 24 hours up to Darwin at the “Top End” of the Northern Territory. The trip was really fun and surprisingly affordable as long as you’re willing to sleep in chairs. We made some nice train friends and overall the 24 hours was not too bad at all. Arriving into 86% humidity was a smack in the face though. As soon as you get used to one kind of heat, Australia will blast you with another! My body showed its displeasure by constantly feeling lethargic and generally like it was full of bowling balls. The Northern Territory is beautiful though, once I actually went outside. This region is home to some of the world’s most famous waterfalls and unique flora and fauna. All of which want to murder you, but they’re still lovely to look at. The most well-known danger is of course the salt water crocodile. These prehistoric scaly beasts are a huge boon to their tourism industry as well as NT’s export demands. If you’ve ever bought a crocodile purse or belt or shoes, chances are the Northern Territory is where it came from. The “salties” are the reason no one goes in the ocean, or rivers, or any body of water with the exception of a few swimming holes in Litchfield National Park. The saying is “if it’s sign posted that there’s crocs, don’t’ go swimming; if it’s sign posted that it’s safe, don’t go swimming; if there’s no sign about safety, don’t go swimming”.  Watching crocs jump for raw meat from the safety of a tour boat though, totally cool. And it was actually, as much as they scare the heck out of me, it’s crazy to see them in the wild. The males get up to 10 metres long and their jaw pressure is officially the strongest of any modern animal. They’re bonkers!

As much as I did like the Northern Territory, I didn’t love its capital city Darwin as much as other places in Australia. In short, I think the city is perhaps ironically named, as I would say that some natural selection still needs to occur. Or maybe it already has! Thus leaving the city plagued with terrible humans. I mean I’m sure there are very nice people that actually live there, but unfortunately many people we met were awful backpackers bored out of their minds due to aforementioned imminent death which apparently limits the activities to: drinking; waking up at 2 pm and proceeding to drink; maybe throwing garbage at strangers; showering in Axe body spray; using loud racist, sexist, generally ignorant language all day long. Barf. I retract my earlier statement that there is “no wrong way to travel, and its all part of a spectrum.” Sometimes, you should just be terrible in your own country and leave us all alone. Anyway, rant over. It was definitely worth ending our trip up there and I’ll miss Australia as a whole very much. From Darwin to Hong Kong, we’re off to Asia!

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Through the middle

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Country two on the backpack list: Australia. Yes, again. Fourteen months living in the joint and we barely cracked the surface! However, I reckon we saw a lot of variety this time around, even in our few short weeks. The trip seemed to naturally break into three main themes, which are as follows:

All I do is eat cheese and avoid road kill now

We flew from New Zealand into Hobart, Tasmania which was actually the worst (self-inflicted) flight layover experience. To save some cash we slept overnight on the cold, hard benches of the McDonalds in the Auckland International Airport. The experience wasn’t really sleeping; it was more pushing your face into stale hamburger smell while listening to constant announcements and loud (cranky) children at forever am. Bleariness made the five hour drive from Hobart to Launceston, our first stop in Tasmania, a bit dodgy but once we got there all was well.

Tasmania was connected to the rest of Australia via a land bridge until about 10 000 years ago when the rising sea levels separated the two land masses. Thus Tasmania feels Australian but is also quite unique. It’s given its name to the devil and the (now extinct) tiger; it’s been the destination of boat loads of prisoners; it’s only a six hour drive from one end to the other; and we thought it was beautiful. In certain places Tasmania is wet with ancient rainforest. In others it’s jagged with buttongrass-filled heathland and mountains. Either way, the landscapes are always wild….and full of wildlife.

Incidentally, most of the wildlife we saw was dead on the highway. Devils, wallabies, pademelons, wombats, kangaroos, and I’m not sure why! We did enjoy driving through the rural areas though, which most of Tas is. From Launceston we went to Cradle Mountain National Park, and after a night spent in a pub hotel, we arrived back in the capital city of Hobart. This is where the “eat all the cheese” began. Tasmania is known for its fantastic food and drink! Wine tasting, beer tasting, whisky tasting, cheese and spreads were all enjoyed as much as possible. Basically, that’s where all our time went in Hobart, with the exception of MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. I’m not really sure how to describe our experience there. It is a weird and wonderful place. If you gave one thousand art monkeys one thoussand art supplies you might come close to the bizarreness. These art supplies would include computerized nozzles to make “rain paintings” of the daily news or perhaps test tubes and pumps to create a room-sized digestive system (that poops twice a day…yes, really). The themes are clearly sex and death but I will say; besides being shocking I did find the whole thing entertaining and educational.

To wrap up the cheese-specific food awesomeness we spent a few days in Melbourne on our way to Adelaide. It was really lovely to pass through one more time and say hello/goodbye to some great pals. This trip we didn’t even leave Brunswick Street as all the hipster smugness and hipster nonsense cafes and restos you could possibly need are there. Melbourne, you are tied for number one in my heart with Sydney.

All I do is drink water and sweat now (part 1)

From Melbourne we rented our last car for this trip, most likely, and drove the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. I wouldn’t say it was “great” mind you, I would say it was “perfectly fine”. Most likely I would have enjoyed it more had it not been freezing cold and pissing rain. Alas. It was a nice drive though, and it was neat to see the gradual change of scenery from Victoria through to South Australia.

And then things got quite hot. We took the overnight Greyhound bus from Adelaide and arrived in a little town called Coober Pedy at 5am. At 5am it was 29 degrees Celsius. This is why 60% of the residents of Coober Pedy live underground with new homes being dug out all the time. Home owners hire opal miners to dig out their houses and besides the fact that they are underground, they are surprisingly normal minus the whole no windows thing. Our hostel was underground and I was so grateful for the reprieve from the heat…and the ten billion flies. Flies, heat, and warning signs for open abandoned opal mines aside, it was a neat little town. It was effectively only opal shops and churches, but close by you can see the world’s largest manmade structure: The Dingo Fence. It’s longer than even the Great Wall of China! Apparently it does keep the dingos away from farmland, but feral camels not so much. For more on camels in the desert, you should watch the movie Tracks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-DiOyxCQQI
I plan on reading the book as well, as it’s based on a true story of a woman who is far more badarsed than I will ever be. Also she doesn’t seem to get dehydrated and icky as easily, which is a helpful trait in the desert. I’m such a feather weight.

I’m going to leave part 2 of the desert and my final theme for the next post as this is feeling long.

G’day for now!

Also, Curtis’ freckle “tan” is looking rather dapper. He never seems to get dehydrated. I think he’s a camel, but I’m too scared to ask.