Thursday, August 30, 2012

a "real" australian dinner.

Kangaroo and avo salad with box-o Aussie shiraz. 

So after our little stop in the Northern Territory it was time to fly over the rest of the empty Outback and head for the East coast: where the majority of people in Australia know and go. From the beginning of the trip planning, it went from up and down the west coast, across the country in a train, up to the north east and down the entire coast....there were endless possibilities in a limited time frame, a restricted budget, and a huge continent that deceivingly looks quite manageable on a map. So, instead of trying to do everything and go everywhere, it came down to being realistic. I was leaving Perth. Sure there were sights along the way, but ultimately, after mum left, I'd be alone and in need of a new home. Ideally, it would be fantastic if mum could see my new city, as she did in Perth, and help me find a home - it would even help settle her if she knew what I was doing and where I would be! And so, that guided us towards Brisbane.
I like Brisbane. It's energetic, sunny, attractive, walkable, jay-walk free, clean, London-like, San Fran-like, bigger than Perth, open later than Perth, architecturally stimulating, outdoorsy, well-fed, cultural, bustling, dive-y, modern, hippy,'s a place I'd like to go back to and spend more time in. I tried to look for jobs, we went to one messy flat, and I realised that even though I like the city, the capital of Queensland, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is meant for me to live in. 

it was flooded last year in 2011 and there are no signs of any remaining disaster except for numerous flood lines across the city. it's pretty impressive considering some other residing destruction in other cities devastated by flooding catastrophes. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

When in the Australian Outback, look out for the bird-flower.

Sun Rise Camel Ride!!

Words cannot express how fun a sunset camel ride is. I was actually really giddy nervous to go. This wasn't the best part, but it helped: I wasn't allergic! I had fully prepped myself with long clothes and benedryl, but none needed!

the team.
all the camels were once wild before captured. there are about 1 million wild camels in Australia - watch out! 

so calm. 

such long eye lashes!! must be a ryan.

our camel!! cusco - like my fav movie, except it's not quite a llama.

giddy up mum!

and we're lifting off...

desert cowboy.


ships of the desert. i like that. 

mum made a friend.


red dirt feet.


a week later in ireland, mum goes to trivia and is asked what is the named of the camel with two humps? 2 humps: Bactrian. 1 hump: Dromedary.
the sunset.


I can't remember what time we had to wake up to meet the bus for the Sun Rise Tour, but I do remember it was really cold, there were a lot of people waiting to get on a succession of coaches for the same tour, and it was pitch black outside. And -1C. We had booked our tour quite late as I couldn't remember if we had booked it previously, whereas I had booked one of the same flights twice. Oops. But no, nothing was booked. We thought the sun rise tour with the walk around the base of the rock sounded nice, with a little bit of morning exercise to explore the area, but there was only one seat left. So we opted for one that included the sun rise viewing across the rock but then shuttled us to Kata Tjuta, which had promising reviews (mum loves and goes by the reviews). There seemed to be a bit of confusion as to which bus we were meant to get on (one tour guide said none of the morning tours go to Kata Tjuta) so we finally got up to the front of the line to where the woman stood with the clipboard, found our name, and pointed us onto a bus. Relieved we hadn't been forgotten about, we chose our favourite bus seats and cuddled in our sweatshirts and wrapped scarves across our legs.

 Bus by bus left as we picked up other passengers in the different hotels amongst the resort and then we were on our way to the viewing area in the national park. Because it is a national park, we had to buy an entrance pass which being on a bus tour (most everything in the area required a bus tour) meant just holding the piece of paper ticket up to the window to some lone soul in a booth two lanes away who waved us through. Very strict and regulated. When we arrived, we were greeted by long folding tables with packets of duo-cookies and hot water for coffee or tea. The hot beverages, the sugary early breakfast, nor the 6 layers I was wearing could possibly warm me up. We followed the crowds up the paths to the different viewing areas and found our spot for the show. However, I was too cold and kept having to move locations - not that the view changed much, we were still a few kilometres away. Mum and I both thought or envisioned the sun rise coming up from behind the rock, but I suppose that doesn't visually make sense.

There were quite a few people there, by which I mean a lot, but we managed to get in some good photos that don't make it seem so overwhelmingly touristy.
The sun was set to rise at 7:20 and we had to be back on the bus by 7:25. To be honest, the colours weren't as fabulous as promised or previously seen on all those postcards. It felt more as though we were waiting for some miraculous sunlight to hit the rock and beam sun rays as the rock changed all sorts of colours and the sky lit up. But that didn't happen. Because we were so cold, it almost felt as though we were waiting for 7:20 to happen so we could scurry back to the warmth of the bus. It was definitely a pleasure to witness, but there was no great spectacle, no life-changing ah-ha moment, no climax. So we scurried back to the warmth of the bus where we found the rest of the group waiting for us. How we were last back, I haven't a clue. Maybe everyone else felt the same about the sunrise rock show.

We thought we were off to Kata Tjuta but there was no such trip. Instead, we went to the base of Uluru where we saw where crazy people can climb up it and risk falling or a fatal heart attack back at the hotel; we saw all the shapes and contours of the rock that tell ancient Aboriginal stories; we drove around the area that is forbidden for photos and videos to be taken as it is sacred, yet the Italian couple in front of us either didn't understand or didn't care and filmed the whole thing; then we got out of the bus and went to a watering hole and saw Aboriginal art painted on the rocks. There was a lot of history and a lot of stories, but it was freezing cold and completely uncomfortable. It would have been nice to see Kata Tjuta for something different, but we learned more about Uluru on this trip. Plus, a walking tour at those arctic-desert temperatures would have been way more disagreeable. 
 It would be cool, I could imagine, and if you were so inclined, to spend a couple days in the area and really get to hike and explore all the rocks and natural formations in the surrounding national parks. But the average trip to Uluru is 1.6 days. I imagine the average tourist is not that fit or so inclined.
mum is so tiny!

teenie tiny!

that silver line? that's the walking path up...

the art work is faded b/c way back when, the cameras were black and white so they would throw water onto the rock just as the camera flashed to capture the images...

underneath a little shelter, still not warm.

Shauna and Sheelagh went to Uluru and all I got was this lousy virtual t-shirt.

get it?

Ayers Rock Resort - Yulara

After a somewhat bewildered trip to Alice Springs, I'm not sure what we expected from our next destination at Uluru/Ayers Rock. It kinda seemed like one of those destinations you have to see, but at the same time wonder what's so great about a rock? And you think, but I've seen it already - it's on every postcard, every Aussie calendar, every t-shirt, every snow globe, every poster in every tourist shop. But still, there's something about this giant rock in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Australia.

Visitors used to be able to stay at the base of this monumental monolith, however, because of the influx of visitors and out of respect for the local Aborigines who consider this a sacred site, there is one resort about 20 kilometres away. The resort, which is really a little self-contained municipal called Yulara, has all types of accommodation from campsites to luxury hotels. It has a post office, a supermarket, hair salon, tourist shop, news agent, various delis and restaurants including Ayers Wok Noodle Bar, and a loop road with a continuous shuttle connecting it all. 
After our long bus ride, we decided to stretch our legs and check out the sunset over the surrounding landscape of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The resort offers various viewing areas so we took our map and headed towards one, but ended up somewhere completely different. Up on the mound, we could see Kata Tjuta in the distance, northwest of Uluru, with its 36 "mini" monoliths. 
Uluru, as promised, was highlighted various hues of red by the setting sun due the iron content of the stone rusting on surface after years of erosion.
The viewing area was a bit crowded, mostly couples wrapping around each other in order to keep warm as they stared off into the sunset - quite literally - so, we decided we had a full day of viewing the rock tomorrow to look forward to. We knew we had better head back to the hotel through the bushy dirt path before it became too dark to see what creatures were in our way.
Despite the amount of visitors - apparently it's always high season - it was rather quiet in general and from this, tranquility, you did get a sense that not only were you in the middle of nowhere, but you were in the presence of something great.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

red dirt :)

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru...

According to Google Maps, it takes 6 hours and 21 minutes to drive the 463 kilometres from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock. As I mentioned before, given the vast enormity of the Outback, this is actually quite close together and why the two are usually clumped together in tourist brochures. The drive is said to be incredibly boring so instead of renting a car and daring the trip, we booked seats on a luxury air-conditioned coach that promised sightseeing along the Stuart Highway including a stop at a camel farm, views of Mount Connor and the West MacDonnell Ranges, cattle stations while be entertained and informed about the area and the history by the bus driver's commentary. And yes, it was very entertaining and informative. 
First stop to break up the long trip was to a camel farm. Why? I'm not really sure....

 all sorts of camel souvenirs!! 
 also had kangaroo's, emu's, dingo's....
 The second stop an hour later was to a petrol station. The third stop after that was to a scenic vista on the side of the road, still 100 kilometres away from our destination. Mount Connor is a mesa that is often confused with Uluru, and although it is equally impressive and actually quite larger, it is the lesser known of the two. The bus driver informed us that this is because the shape of Mount Conner offers less shade and less water which attract both flora, fauna, and people to Uluru.
Mount Connor.
Behind us was a giant salt lake, which is also on the Curtin Springs station.

 mum and the salt lake.

it looks like it might be warm in the desert, but not really!! 

Then it was back on the bus following the very straight, flat road. We did see a wild kangaroo jump out in front of the bus and into the bush!