We had all good intentions of updating the journal as frequently as possible, but as you might have noticed we haven’t had much computer access since leaving Perth! So for all of you who have been having sleepless nights worrying about our latest adventures, worry no more… Here’s a bumper edition!
Alice Springs & 3-Day Ayer’s Rock Tour (8th-11th March)
The night before the tour we were sitting in the hostel’s bar chatting to other travellers. An American was telling us about the tour that he’d just come back from… “Do you like flies?” he asked me… “Why?” I replied… “Because they REALLY like you!” – He told us that the flies around Ayer’s Rock (as well as the rest of the Northern Territory) were a real pest… He quickly sold me a fly-net that he no longer needed (and for only half the price he paid for it, bonus!)
Our three day tour to Uluru was quite eventful, Thommo our tour-guide/driver (yes the same guy from the previous day’s “town tour”) was an energetic and interesting character. While driving he’d often turn around to us and start chatting away… “erm, Thommo watch the road!” – Strewth!
The first day of the tour we headed down to King’s Canyon. On the way we stopped off for a Camel Ride, I’d never rode a camel before I thought it would be like a horse… (horse riding is so comfy compared to the camel ride although its been a long time since I rode a horse – Lucy) lets just say that I was walking a bit funny afterwards (and my voice became slighty higher in pitch).
Back on the road Thommo slammed on the breaks, jumped out the bus and ran into the distance… (we have another Steve Irwin wannabe – Lucy) he returned a few minutes later with a Thorny Devil in his hands (Thorny Devils are small liquard like ceatures that are covered in spikes like rose thorns used for protection, also their colouring makes them very difficult to spot on the desert floor. They also move increadibly slowly so predators don’t see them – Lucy). We took some great photos of it. Thommo told us that it was important to put the Thorny Devil back exactly where he found it, otherwise it would be disorientated, confused and probably die!
Arriving at King’s Canyon we started a 3 hour walk, it was mid-afternoon, so we made sure that we were carrying a few litres of water (Thommo didn’t have many rules but carrying plenty of water with you was the most important – Lucy). The sights from the canyon were amazing. Thommo told us a few interesting stories about the place… some white-fella stories, some black-fella stories, then some Thommo-fella stories (aka b*ll-sh*t stories).
(One the black-fella stories, (known to the aboriginal people as Dreaming), was how the little mounds around Kings Canyon were formed. Thommo acted out the story for us explaining how the Aboriginal Ancestors, giant half-man half-animal, in this case a Man-Kangaroo once lived in the area enjoying life, happily roaming the land eating and drinking only what he needed. He grew old and curled up happily on the floor and fell asleep forever. The hills we see today are the mounds made by the sleeping anciestors – Lucy)
In the evening it was time to set-up camp in the Outback. Curtin Springs was our destination, (a farm that ranged over 1000 km2, in other words a very large farm – Lucy). We first headed to the main station, which included an outback bar, camping facilities and a petrol station. This is were we picked up our faithful swags (or as I called it ‘a Bivy Bag’ – Lucy), used the wash facilities then headed out into the bush.
We got to base, started a camp-fire, set the swags around the fire for seats, and cracked open the beers! The ladies began to prepare and cook the dinner, and before you start NO I’m not being sexist, on this tour men were out-numbered by the women (4 blokes, 18 sheilas).
After dinner we sat around the camp-fire chatting away, under the stars. The night-sky was beautiful, we could see every star in the sky. We got in our swags an lay on the bush floor hoping we wopuld have no visitors in the night.
We were woken early the next day, Thommo showed us how to Go Waltzing Matilda – this is how you roll up your swag, throw it over your shoulders and continue your journey in the Outback. (Having known the song Waltzing Matilda most of my life; Matilda is another name for a swag – Lucy).
Next stop… Kata-Tjuta otherwise known as The Olgas
The walk at the Olgas took 2 and a half hours, it was alot easier than the King’s Canyon trek as we got an earlier start, the sun wasn’t as blistering! The Olgas are a collection of smaller rocks, from a distance (and a certain angle) they appear to look like Homer Simpson lying on his back, no joke. (Unfortunately I didn’t have the camera ready for a photo, sorry you’ll just have to believe us – Lucy)
(Whilst walking around Kata-Tjuta I was amazed at the geography, I was actually now experiencing what I had spent years studying at school. Why St.Brendans didn’t send us here on field trip instead of down to Cornwall I don’t know! I was so impressed with Kata-Tjuta I was starting to think I’d be disappointed with Uluru – Lucy).
We drove down to the Uluru Discovery Centre to learn more about Ayer’s Rock and how it sits culturally in Australian history and Aboriginal heritage. The message from the Anangu is “Please Don’t Climb!” – but they don’t really tell you why you shouldn’t climb the rock, just that you shouldn’t do it. (The centre told us more Aboriginal Dreaming about Uluru which they believe explain the markings on the rock – Lucy)
Sunset was soon upon us, what better than to have dinner watching the mighty Uluru change colour as the sun goes down. There was lots of other tourists doing the same thing as us, but they all arrived on huge 60-seater coaches moments before the sunset,drank champagne and canopies on silver platers then left moments after it became dark. We stayed for a while, had some food and a couple of beers… “experiencing the Outback”. One group of elderly tourist came over and chatted with us and they were almost envious of us.
We headed back to Curtin Springs to set-up camp, tell a few stories, more beers and good laughs. Lucy saw several shooting-stars (one was so clear I even saw it explode at the end – Lucy), I however did not.
Early start again for the last day of the tour. A Sunrise Breakfast with Ayer’s Rock in the distance. It was truely fantastic watching the sun come up from behind the rock. (On the way to the rock I asked Thommo if we having bacon and eggs for breakfast, he just smiled. Whilst waiting for the water to boil, Thommo started to sort out breakfast. Lee and I went for a quiet walk. When we got back breakfast had started. One girl came up to me and I got excited as I saw poached egg and toast in her bowl. She called it an Aussie Breakfast, it took me a moment or two to realise it wasn’t an egg on toast but yoghurt and peach on ‘vitabrits’ aka wheatabix – Lucy) After breakfast we headed for Uluru.
We were given the option to climb the rock if we chose to, or do a walk around the base. The Anangu now loves us as we chose not to climb Uluru. The walk around the base took us approx 3 hours, the sights are great, the rock looks very different as you walk around. Amazing experience. (I was certainly not diappointed with the rock, it was an incredible experience – Lucy)
After we had lunch we headed back up to Alice Springs. Lots of stories and tunes on the way back. The group all met up again that evening for a meal at the hostel, chatting about our backpacking plans for the next weeks.
Before getting The Ghan on Tuesday, we just about had enough time to check out Alice Spring’s famous School of the Air. We watched a video about the history of the school, then had questions-and-answers with a member of staff, then watched (or should we say listened?) to part of a “class-room” session. Lucy wants to be a Radio DJ-Teacher now. (Very funny Lee. It was interesting to see how it works and to discover the children only have 30-mins a day contact with the school teacher, most of the work is actually done with the parents or nanny – Lucy)
We got the train, chilled out, only 20 hours till Adelaide!
Adelaide (11th-16th March)
We arrived safe and sound mid-morning at Keswick Station, found a backpacker hostel called the Blue Galah to stay at for a couple of nights. Once we arrived at the hostel I just crashed, Lucy arranged with Susan and Michelle to pick up our backpacks and meet up for lunch. Big thanks (again) for storing our bags! (The plan was to get fish-and-chips and go to the beach. I experienced my first drive-throu fish-and-chip shop not once but twice that day as we got to the beach and realised we drove off having only got the drinks. Doh! – Lucy)
We booked ourselves on a 1-day Winery Tour around the Barossa Valley, not being a big wine drinker I still found it very enjoyable going to each place sampling loads of wine. Lucy was singing all the way home on the bus. (How Lee likes to exaggerate – Lucy)
We bought a few bottles of desert wine during the tour, they are alot cheaper to buy them from the wineries, plus they make great gifts when people let us stay with them! 😉 (I was very surprised when I tasted the desert wine as from past experience I had found it too sweet but I must admit I did like the wine we tasted – Lucy)
At the weekend we moved all our stuff to Michelle’s house. Then we got to see the rest of the sights around Adelaide.
Friday we headed over to Victor Harbour and Granite Island, we got to see a sealion happily swimming near the coast, and there were a few penguins hiding under rocks. The views from Granite Island are breath-taking, watching the angry Southern Ocean turn into the calm of Victor Harbour.
Michelle accidently curb’ed her car when we were parking, the tyre looked a bit unsafe to drive on… so we had a good old laugh trying to change the tyre… and yes we have photo evidence to prove that I can change a car-wheel, thank you very much! (Well, Susan and I had a good laugh while Michelle and Lee changed the tyre – Lucy)
Friday night we stayed in with a few drinks and some dodgy 80s movies, Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation, oh yes!
On Saturday we drove to Port Adelaide, there wasn’t much to do there… we did stop for lunch at a real Internet cafe (one that serves food & drinks).
Later Michelle wanted to take us to Magic Mountain in Glenelg! Lots of fun and laughs playing multi-player video games; racing-cars, shooting-killer-zombies, ski-ing, skateboarding, samari-ninja-swords, horse-racing (we didn’t actually play the horses, but it would have been fun).
Saturday night we gate-crashed a 21st Birthday party, a friend of Michelle’s. It was an experience and a half, I had to get very drunk to make it through the night. (We had ventured into Redneck country or as I was calling it Red Back – Lucy)
(We didn’t stay long as we were getting abuse from the birthday boy’s drunk mother. Back at Michelle’s we worked our way through Michelle’s acting career, some interesting pieces. About midnight I had to crash so left them to it. About 3am I woke and could hear Lee and Susan reminising about Liverpool – Lucy).
Sunday morning we headed for the train station again, this time it was The Overland to Melbourne. I was very hungover, Lucy literally had to drag me out of bed, threw me into the shower, force-feed me breakfast, then kick me onto the train. I owe her a big thanks for staying calm! (It was hard at times – Lucy)
Melbourne (16th-21st March)
Now more sober, but very tired and aching, we arrived in Melbourne on the Sunday evening. Bec & Jay (friends of Petra’s, my big Sis – Lucy) were at Spencer Street Station happy to greet us. (I was amazed I recognised Becs so quickly having only meet her a couple of times years ago – Lucy) We slept like babies that night, nice and comfort beds. 🙂
We ventured into the city centre a few times during the week. Melbourne’s Tourist Vistors Centre is probably the most amazing information places we’ve been to. It was extremely friendly and organised, a place of interest in its own right!
Monday night we had an aussie BBQ with Bec & Jay, we’re loving these BBQs. Considering it was St.Patrick’s Day, Jay invited me to sample some of Australia’s finest Guinness, being from Irish decent how could I refuse? As you would expect it doesn’t taste as smooth as Dublin’s finest!
Australian pubs are facinating places, most of them have betting shops inside them, now this doesn’t sound too strange to the aussies, but to an English-man this is unheard of. We placed a few small bets on the dogs, won our money back, bought some beers… wow! and I’m not a gambling man!
We had booked ourselves on to the Ramsay Street Tour, taking a trip to the real street where Neighbours is filmed. We arrived at the bus pick-up location 10-minutes before time, outside of St.Paul’s Cathedral. Lucy thought we could take a super-quick look around before catching the bus. Well to sum it up, she was wrong! The bus arrived slightly early, so we missed it! (It wasn’t my fault the bus was early and didn’t wait for us; anyway I was able to light a candle and say a prayer at the same prayer-deck as Pope John Paul II – Lucy)
Instead we spent the rest of the day exploring Melbourne City. One of the highlights was Fitzroy Gardens; the home of Captain Cook’s Cottage (sent over brick-by-brick from England), there was also the Fairy Tree (a tree trunk that has had fairies and Australian creatures carved into it – Lucy).
In the information centre we saw an aerial photo of the gardens, that showed the design of the garden was meant to resemble the Union Jack!
Then on to the Old Melbourne Gaol, famous for hanging the infamous Ned Kelly. We found more info about the folk legend at the State Library, they had a Ned Kelly exhibition (which was strangely timed with the release of the new movie!).
As with most major cities these days, there’s always an observation lookout. The view from the Rialto Towers Observation Deck is spectacular, a full 360-degree of the city, which really helps put locations into perspective and bearing.
Bec & Jay took us to Williamstown for pizza and ice-cream. Afterwards we took a stroll down to the harbour and along the jetty. Very scenic and romantic (until you get to the end and theres and huge spot light and ten other couples and tourists – Lucy).
On Wednesday Bec & Jay were feeling a bit ‘crook’ so they took the day off work. We decided that a day-trip to Ballarat would make them feel a whole lot better. Soverign Hill is a recreation of a gold-mining township in the 1850s; a living history museum. Its quite an interesting place to go and find out more about the Australian Gold Rush. (I even had a go at panning for Gold. Sorry Dad no luck – Lucy)
While we were there we noticed a sand/dust storm in the distance, it was amazing and scary (at the same time), it was so dusty that we couldn’t make out the city skyline!
For dinner I cooked up one of my (now) World Famous Omelettes. Chicken, mushroom, cheese, seasoning, you name it we got it! According to Jay it scored a 9.5 out of 10… Who says I can’t cook eh? (Not me any more so you will be doing your share from now on – Lucy)
Thursday we arranged to go on a 1-day tour of the Great Ocean Road. Many said that it can not be done in a day, but we proved them wrong… setting new standards in, what I like to call: “eXtreme Tourism”… speedy-fast-sight-seeing-extravoganza!
OK I’m just getting carried away… some do say that the Great Ocean Road is too big to do in a day, but the tour managed to get all the sights in at a leisurely pace, we didn’t feel rushed at all.
We got to see all the famous sights: Bells Beach, The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and (now partly collapsed) London Bridge. (It was the first musically accompanied tour we have been on, starting off with The Beach Boys as we headed down to the surfing Bells Beach – Lucy)
Friday we successfully managed to make it on the Ramsay Street Tour. When we walked up the street it was very different to the images we’d seen on TV. First the street is a cul-de-sac and real people live in the houses, second its about 50% smaller (they use wide-angle lens to make it look bigger), third they re-numbered all the houses, I would have found more interesting facts like this, but the tour bus had already left by then…The rest of the tour involved attempted stalking of the Neighbours cast. We felt a little conned by the ‘tour’ but it was worth the price just to meet true Neighbours fanantics (they know every little detail of the show).
A couple of days before I noticed a building called Australia Centre for the Moving Image – being a big movie-buff, I wanted to go check it out. Lucy didn’t seem to interested so we went our seperate way for the rest of the afternoon (well I went food shopping and to the post office, great – Lucy). The ACMI had only just recently opened so everyone inside was very excited about it. There was some arty-farty exhibitions on, plus some really cool experimental technology being used.
Friday night Jay wanted to make us his famous Spagetti Bolognaise… Bec told us that Jay likes it quite spicy, but he was going to ‘tame-it-down’ for us… “Mama-mia!” Lets just say that our lips were still tingling an hour later. (Very tasty Jay though I would re-name it Spagetti Chilli – Lucy)
We arrived at Spencer Street Station ready for the mammouth journey to Sydney (via Adelaide) on The Over Land and The Legendary Ghan (36 hours in total). Said our goodbyes to Bec & Jay – Big Thanks for putting up with us all week!
We haven’t written up anything about our adventures in Sydney yet, we’ll leave that until next time… until then… send us more emails! (I’m getting gossip with drawals – Lucy)