A Travellerspoint blog

The Northern Territory

Darwin to the Red Centre

sunny 30 °C

The highlight of Darwin had to be the wildlife. We spent a day at Kakadu National Park after a 5am start (one of so many recently - what's that about?) and en route we got to tick off almost all the missing animals from the classic Australia list - wallaroos, dingoes, crocodiles, jabirus - we saw them all. Our four days was a lot like hanging out with Bear Grylls and we now know what it is like to eat a green ant - it tastes like lime......didn't get to try the honey ant though.....we also nibbled other items that Ben picked up off the forest floor that have been feeding aboriginal communities for centuries. It's like 'I'm a celebrity' down here, I tell you! Other Darwinian activities included:
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Lizard spotting.

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Noush's debut for the Cardno work volleyball team.

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Wishing we'd travelled by boat and not ute!

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Viewing aboriginal art at Kakadu.

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Playing Crocodile Dundee.

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Even more crazy ornothology.

Visiting the Darwin bush is like stepping back in time - everything is so wild and huge and you start to get a sense of why so much of the country is uninhabitable. If you're not a nature buff it probably isn't the area for you but I'm really pleased that we got to see it, especially at the end of the wet season when it is so green and lush. Our next stop was the Red Centre - which is currently nicknamed the Green Centre as bizarrely high levels of rainfall have resulted in a much greener desert than would be expected. We were quite taken aback at how much plantlife there was, expecting nothing more than red dust.

We headed off on a three day, two night tour of the centre in a group of 20 travellers and 2 guides. All our tour mates were European although unfortunately no Spaniards to practice our Spanish with - although we spoke some spectacular French/German/Italian combos. We were collected in Alice Springs at 5.45am (you see?) and after all the usual admin we set off in our quaintly old fashioned bus towards the Uluru National Park. It was a five hour drive so we made a few stops to stretch our legs and buy snacks and chat to the locals.

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After lunch at the campsite, where I swallowed a fly - not intentionally, we headed to the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park to walk the Valley of the Winds. Kata Tjuta is also known as the Olgas and it was formed at the same time as Uluru but is more like a range of hills rather than one sandstone mass. Oh yes - and that's an interesting fact, Uluru and the whole area is sandstone i.e shades of grey and beige - the only reason it's red is due to iron ore dust that blows in and oxidises in the sun and rain. Basically it's rusty.

We had an afternoon hike for a couple of hours which was slightly challenging but well worth it for the views.

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At the end of which we headed to the viewing area to watch the sunset over Uluru.....OK be prepared there will be a few shots of Uluru in the next few minutes but it was stunning to see.

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We headed back to camp to make dinner and also to face up to the fact that there were no tents/caravans/anything. For we were to be sleeping out under the stars with nothing but a swag to protect us. A swag is like a canvas sleeping bag with a built in foam pad at the bottom and you sleep in it in your sleeping bag. In the open. Face completely uncovered. In the land of giant spiders and baby stealing canines. I'm not ashamed to say we were a bit bloody nervous. Add in my stupid bladder and a perpetual mid slumber desire to pee and having to find your way to the bug filled toilets at 2am in the dark. And did I mention the snakes? All of this did go through our minds as we set up our swags on the first evening, smoothing the sandy floor around them so you could check out the footprints around your bed in the morning - but when you lay under those starry skies you do forget about it. The skies are unlike anything I have ever seen and we had already been impressed by the New Zealand skies. No pollution, no light, no moon (where is it?), just thousands of stars. Mindblowing.

A gentle 5am wake up call by Shaz our tour guide and some very bleary packing up and breakfast was followed by being back in the bus by 5.50 to go and watch the sunrise on the other side of Uluru. Noush loved this - I was too busy trying to take a good photo and sometimes you miss the actual experience in your determination (note to self). It looked like this - but better.....

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We then visited the Cultural Centre to learn more about the history of Uluru and it's place in the Aboriginal community and the reasons why they ask people not to climb it. It is clearly a place of great spirituality and very sacred to the local people, they would never walk on it themselves unless they were an elder and it was for a very specific ceremony. Yet still it would appear the sense of conquering the big rock is too strong for some individuals and they still walk all over it. Nowt stranger than folk. I may have had a slightly strained debate with a German woman about respect for local culture.....who me?
Instead we did the 10km base walk which was beautiful. I've already mentioned how lush the surrounding countryside was so the contrast made it all the more stunning.

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(obligatory pouting to avoid fly swallowing)

Kings Canyon was our next destination - another 5 hour drive away. But it was cheered up by getting to meet this little fella on the way.

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He's a thorny devil and unbelievably those spikes don't hurt you. Looks a bit grumpy that we interrupted his sunbathing though. We arrived in the Kings Canyon campsite around sunset and got to work on building our open fire and getting on with dinner. Interestingly this site had canvas huts that you could sleep in and yet all but two of us chose to sleep outside again - there was a rumour that the Kings Canyon sky was even bigger than Ulara. It was very cool to spend the evening talking to lots of new people - we ranged in age from 19 to late 60s so there was always something to talk about. A lot of the younger lot were in Australia from their native country to improve their English - strange how no one comes to the UK to do that.....apparently it's the weather. We played some pretty dreadful games around the campfire before settling into our sleeping bags for another night under the stars. We spotted about 4 shooting stars that night. As Shaz would say 'pretty awesome'.

A 5.30am lie in (woo hoo) meant that we were at Kings Canyon at 7am ready to start the 7km hike around the rim of the canyon. Of course you have to get up there first and despite only being about 150m climb it was so steep that they have built 3 platforms to catch your breath - god knows how we're going to cope with the Inca Trail! One of the highlights of the Kings Canyon walk was getting to walk through what has become known as Prescilla's Crack after the scene in the the movie. We also got to rest hafway at the Garden of Eden, a watering hole for the lucky local wildlife. The canyon is stunning and the hike was brilliant. The guide has so much information about the flora and fauna of the local area and there is a reason why you start so early as by 10am it was scorching hot. A few last photos for you - including the obligatory group shot at the top of the canyon.

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And that was it. A five hour drive back to Alice Springs and a few beers with our fellow hostellers and we flew to Sydney yesterday. Just another 24 hours and we are winging our way to Chile. Wow - what an adventure.

Sorry if this has been staggeringly long but there was a lot to tell you and remind ourselves of. Along with the Great Barrier Reef, the Red Centre tour was definitely the highlight of our Australian antics. We can't recommend it highly enough.

Posted by Dani Parry 18:14 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

On the road again part 2

Noosa to Cairns

semi-overcast 29 °C

Moving on.....

We departed Noosa and headed north to Hervey Bay. I'm sure Hervey Bay is gorgeous in the sunshine and to be fair we had a really good time (could this be because we had our first drink in about ten days?!) but it rained the entire time we were there. We hilariously tried to do laundry and played cat and mouse with the downpours until eventually we had to admit defeat and turn Evil Erk (new van) into a Chinese laundry (why Chinese?).

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The weather was changing as we drove and therefore we had new wildlife friends to discover - mainly of the frog and gecko variety. Noush has a new love - and it is the house gecko (drawings to follow). A tiny, flesh coloured, pad toed little critter and they are everywhere. And they make kissing noises - which seem especially loud when you get up for a pee at 3am. There were also frogs everywhere - like when you went to plug in the power cable for the van (apologies Lee)....

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After two days in Hervey Bay we packed up our clean and finally dry clothes and headed to Yeppoon. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn on the way so we were really entering the tropics now. This is where Noush ran into the emu. She went for an innocent jog along the beach and literally stumbled across an emu having a drink. Apparently the bird was quite unpeturbed - we think her baseball cap may have been mistaken for a beak! A few sidesteps later Noush continued on her way - a little shell shocked. So she has seen an emu - I have not had the pleasure yet. We have also discovered that there are birds here called Cassawaries and they are also huge and they have crazy claws that can slice a man in two or something....but we're yet to see one. Yeppoon was a bit crap to be honest - our campsite was a building site - and we changed dinner location three times during the meal due to the crazy amount of bugs around - and toads. It was also getting really hot - 27 degrees at midnight kind of heat - and we had no fan or A/C - that, I imagine, is why we found ourselves dancing in the bathroom at 3am to Hall and Oates. All campsite bathrooms play music 24/7 it seems.

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The drive to Airlie Beach continued to intermittently look like the above photo - which was great fun as evil erk had temperamental windscreen wipers. It was during this drive whilst listening to Triple J that we realised that they kept mentioning the time and that it was different to the watch. We had gotten up especially early to leave Yeppoon as it was a long drive to Airlie Beach. Well who knew there was a time difference between NSW and QLD - they're right above each other - we thought time lines were vertical - but there is and we had been an hour ahead for 5 days now. Gotta love those 5.30am starts!!!!

Airlie Beach was a cheap, fun, boozy resort and we arrived on St. Patricks Day which added to the melee. You can get those big Guinness hats here too you know. As you head north you also enter stinger territory - the jellyfish is actually the most dangerous sting you can get in Aus now - it can kill you. Consequently places like Airlie have built large lagoons on the seafront and it was great to hang out with a massive pool on one side and sea views on the other. No photos for reasons I can't remember but some pretty amazing sunburn on my part - twit that I am. We also got to join in with the 8am lorrikeet feeding - about 100 beautiful small parrots that know which side their corn mush is buttered and turn up like clockwork for their breakfast.

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We also wanted to include this photo of the bush chicken/turkey (depends where in the country you are I think) that we had previously mentioned - he was performing for Noush in the hope of getting some of her cereal.

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We spent two nights in Airlie Beach before the penultimate leg of our journey to Townsville. You all know about our dramas there so we'll move on swiftly. Monday we arrived in Cairns with our few belongings and dropped the van back to Backpackers with our long list of grievances! However our knight in shining armour took the form of the Southern Cross Atrium Apartments where we were booked to stay for a couple of days. We soon extended this to the full week once we had had a look around as we were keen on the idea of staying in one place for a while - especially as we needed to sort out insurance, buy clothes etc.

Cairns treated us pretty well - we were about 100m from a massive shopping mall which catered for almost everything we needed and the outdoor shop took care of the rest. Noush has a new rucksack which is considerably smaller than her first so she is thrilled - my new one is the same size so I can carry the lions share...hmmm. While in Cairns we also went on a Great Barrier Reef trip for a day and it really cheered us up. Great boat, great crew, great food and amazing snorkelling. We snorkelled alongside a turtle - an awesome experience (dude!), stingray, reef sharks, a myriad of fish and of course the beautiful reef itself.

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Special mention to Tony - if ever there was a caricature of an Essex boy abroad he was it - complete with compulsory hangover and fag when boarding at 7.30am - he entertained us during the day with stories of generally bad behaviour!

There are places north of Cairns that we would have loved to see but you can't do everything and ultimately we wanted a chilled week which we had. Yesterday was my birthday and a huge thanks for the emails and photos and we flew to Darwin to stay with my cousin Ben (Bin). We arrived at his flat to balloons and birthday cake and were taken out for dinner - it was a real treat. Ben has promised us crocs and Barrumundi fishing so I'm sure we'll have some great stories by the end of the week.

Posted by Dani Parry 15:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

New computer

and new pants!

sunny 29 °C

We are back online. Heading off to Darwin tomorrow so will update blog from there.

I just know you are all waiting to hear about that emu.

Thanks for all the lovely emails XX

Posted by Dani Parry 03:04 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Townsville SUCKS!

Who needs underwear anyway....

We've been robbed. We went on a ferry to Magnetic Island and came back to find that our van had been done over in the Ferry Terminal car park.

Thankfully we had money and passports with us but we have only the clothes on our back and of course no laptop with which to update the blog, upload photos etc.

So I'm afraid all our lovely friends - this will be our last entry until we replace the computer - and we've got some really good photos and stories to share with you too.....like not realising we crossed a time zone for 5 days and Noush running in to an emu (whilst running - not with the van!!).

We're fine though - and it's only stuff - let's hope the insurance company are more helpful than the Townsville police!!

Big love
Dani and Noush xxx

Posted by Dani Parry 22:44 Comments (0)

On the road again......

Our east coast adventures so far

semi-overcast 27 °C

Mother Nature is really showing her strength to the human race at the moment. Does it just feel that way - or has there been a marked increase in natural disasters in the last 6 months. If you lined up the fatalities of 'acts of god' in the 80s, 90s, and 00s would we see a rapid acceleration in the carnage. The photos of Japan are horrifying - the potential nuclear threat is frightening. It makes us feel very far away form home. For those who have asked - Australia has been given the all clear and we are fine - although Queensland is getting battered by heavy rain again.

That's where we are by the way - Queensland. The Sunshine Coast infact. Noosa to be exact. I'm going to work backwards to Sydney for a change but just to say we have hired another van to drive the Sydney - Cairns east coast....like driving to Italy in terms of distance I'd say. This van is RUBBISH! We hate it. Plus it's about 22 degrees at night and we can't have all the windows open due to fear of killer spiders and those giant crocs that crawl in your van (these don't really exist of course). We miss Erk.

So yes, Noosa......famous for being a bit glam. Certainly not our favourite place so far on this trip but then nowhere is struggling in the blue sea, golden sands beauty pageant. And how cool is this?

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We have been taking stock of the old finances as Australia is just ridiculously expensive for us Brits right now (yes I know, Aussie friends, you had it bad when you were in London....you all tell us!!). Anouska decided to grab the bull by the horns and whip up a little SPREADSHEET ladies and gentlemen....oh yes - you can take the girl out of the office.......It is providing me with massive opportunities to take the piss of course. All is fine and we have booked a proper (24 travellers together....yikes) tour of Uluru and Kings Canyon before we leave at the beginning of April.

Anyway - it's a bit drizzly in Noosa but we did manage to complete Day 2 of the 'why is everyone thinner than us on the beach' exercise program so that's good. We drove here yesterday from Byron Bay. I was in Byron Bay 10 years ago (gulp) with Emma May and it's exactly the same. Noush and I loved it - the beach is amazing - the surfers look super cool - you could hear the waves from the van at night - bush chickens roamed the campsite - the lighthouse sweeps its beam through the sky at night - and 2 kookaburras lived above our van. The sunset looked a bit like this....

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There was also a wonderful variety of new birdlife - I mentioned the bush chickens - they are like a turkey without all the wobbly bits and I remembered them hanging around ten years ago as I read my Harry Potter book. There are also gorgeous lizards and look at these fellas.....we call them Dinobirds.

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What's that beak about???

Before Byron we spent a night in Coffs Harbour further down the coast in another beachside campsite and our first night on the road was spent in Salamander Bay in Port Stephens. We were quite late arriving but decided to check out the beach in the morning and I'm so glad we did. Welcome to Birubi Beach.....

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Miles of sand dunes and a blue sea to body surf in - bliss.

Right - about turn...this takes us back to Sydney. So last we spoke Noush and I were sitting in Perth airport I believe - stocking up on bad food with our vouchers. We arrived in Sydney about 9pm that night and headed to our first home from home with Sarah, Rich, Ginger and Rupert the dog (yay!!) in Surry Hills. We lucked out completely while we were in Sydney - put up for a couple of nights by three lovely sets of friends in 3 vastly different areas of the city. Sydney is called the City of Villages and we got to see why.

Surry Hills is amazingly central and yet a completely independent little village of cool shops, cafes, restaurants - we loved it. We could walk to Oxford St in ten minutes and right into the CBD and to the opera house and bridge in 25. We spent our 2 days walking and walking and window shopping and drinking some very nice white wine with Sarah and playing with Ginger. Loved staying with a doggie too!

Our next two days were spent further north with Nick, Lorna, Heidi and Otis in Hunters Hill. This was like the Cotswalds - quite ladidah - Cate Blanchett lives here!!!! We didn't see her :-( Had a great time hanging out and playing with the kids, playing cards and spent a day out and about on the ferries which, like Auckland, is one way to do your daily commute. It also allowed us to take some photos of the big sights.

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Our final couple of days in the city were spent in an entirely different environ again - at Bondi Beach baby!! Huge thanks to Justin and Izzy for the amazing hospitality (what I can remember of it anyway!). Their apartment looks over the sea - I was in love. Bondi is hilarious - it's the most active beach I've ever seen - no one lies down - they're too busy improving their already amazing physiques. I really wanted to take a photo of the guys at the outdoor gym but couldn't find a hiding place! We also went down to watch the Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday night. What a zoo! I must admit - I prefer taking part in a march rather than watching a parade and it all took a bit too long and we got bored and went back to the bar - how bad is that?! A ridiculously drunken night ensued and the 4 of us spent most of Sunday looking at the beach from J&I's sofa!

Another sunset photo from the balcony....

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And Bondi Beach by day....

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Nice work if you can get it. Yep - Sydney is definitely our favourite Australian city so far. Got it all really. A huge thanks again to all our hosts - you were all so helpul and generous.

We've got another week heading up to Cairns - will be interesting to see what the weather has in store for us.

Love to all

XX

Posted by Dani Parry 16:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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