A Travellerspoint blog

Skydiving Video

sunny 25 °C

I've uploaded a small screen copy of my Skydiving DVD to the internet.

You should be able to download it from -

mysharefile.com

or at -

SaveFile.com

The file is 25Mb in size, and you may need to install the XVid video codec to watch it (try without first).

You can pick that up from -

XviD-1.1.0-30122005.exe

Hope it works !

Posted by richardn 04:29 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Cairns (part 1)

sunny 26 °C

I haven't been doing much photogenic stuff in Cairns, so there are no photos to upload with this item. I should have some tommorrow, when I pick up my Skydiving DVD (more on this later)...

Sunday (20th)

Bit of a lazy day really,as planned. Had a bit of a wander around, looking for a free WiFi hotspot, but couldn't find one. Cairns is such a techno-desert...

The weather was rather cloudy, but still in the mid 20's.

Sarah rang me in the afternoon, and we arranged to go for some food and a beer in the evening.

Ended up at a place called Rhino bar, which was (I thought) a bit of a dump. Sarah got a free meal, but I paid the extra $5 to get something 'nicer'. It was nicer, but that's not saying too much...

We also had a serious hassle getting a bottle of wine. I'm not going to bore anyone with the details, but it took us 10 minutes at the bar to get the wine we wanted.

Definitely a place to avoid!

Anyhow, Sarah was in a good mood (she always seems to to be) and kept me entertained for the evening. It started raining, so we stayed in the same place, drinking on the balcony 'till 11ish.

I'd had e-mails from James and Sabina, suggesting they would be around Carins the next day, so we arranged to go out when they turned up.

Friend Count : 1

Monday (21st)

Started my day by shopping for a few essentials (a new bag to hold my sleeping bag, some shorts I can swim in, a new book to read).

Had a nice surprise, when Freddy rang me. She was also in Cairns (popular place), so we decided to meet up for a coffee/beer, etc.

I asked if she'd had a good time on the rest of her tour to Darwin (I'd left that tour at Alice). She said the first half was good, but that she hadn't enjoyed the second half so much. "Too much time with the same people", was her reasoning.

It was great to see Freddy, and we had a nice afternoon. Arranged to meet her in the evening, along with Sarah.

Met up with my lovely German friends at 8ish, and wandered into Cairns to find somewhere to eat. James rang me, and arranged to meet up with us, as well. Sadly, no Sabina :(

Had a nice Italian (meal) and went for a couple of beers with the guys.

Friend Count : 3 (seasonal high)

Tuesday (22nd)

Decided what to do with myself after Brisbane. Instead of going to Perth + the West coast, I've decided to do a quick (two week) dash to New Zealand.

The first thing I do is exchange my Australia only guide book for a combines Oz/NZ book. I figure I need to do a quick read-up before I book any flights, etc.

Got my second nice surprise in 2 days, when I check my e-mails. Sabina has finally got back to Cairns, and is at a loose(ish) end.

As soon as I walk out the internet cafe, I hear someone calling my name ('Richard', for those who've forgotten). When I turn round, I see that it's Michael, from the Melbourne->Alice tour. We have a quick chat, and he say's he'll give me a ring later. It's a small world, we backpackers inhabit.

Sabina and I meet up at the Lagoon (it's a man made beach, on the Esplanade), and spend a couple of hours chatting/sunbathing. Afterwards, we do some shopping, get our hair cut, etc, etc.

Discover that we may be on the same tour from Cairns to Brisbane, on the 30th. Unless there are 2 tours on he same date, it seems pretty likely. I consider this to be very good news (so 3 nice surprises in 2 days).

As we are both getting a bit peckish, we decide to go for dinner. We end up at a really quiet place called "The Yacht Club", which (I think) really is the clubhouse for the local yacht club. The view over the marina is really nice (especially when the sun sets), the food is great and Sabina is lovely company.

After dinner, I help Sabina sort out her trip to Asia (by making a few phone calls for her). She's decided to spend some extra time travelling, and is going to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam - all very adventurous.

Somehow, I can't imagine her in a 9-5 kind of existence...

After lots of messing around, we finally get her trip arranged, and Sabina get's the shuttle bus back to her hostel.

We should both be around on the 29th, so we're going to go for a drink then.

Friend Count : 2 (1.5 + 0.5 - you do the maths)

Wednesday (23rd)

Skydiving day.

I'm even slightly excited (very unusual).

One of the guys in my room snored like a dying whale during the night, so I'm also pretty knackered.

While I'm waiting for the bus to pick me up (at 7am), I bump into Josep, another Alice springs tour veteran. He's actually staying in my hostel. He's going on a 2 day trip, but should be back on the 24th for a few beers.

The skydiving takes place at Mission Beach, about 2 hours drive south of Cairns.

There are 8 of us on the bus, 3 Koreans, 4 Brits, and a Belgian.

Seem like nice people to jump out of a plane with.

When we get to the beach, we're joined by some other jumpers who are staying locally (about 6 of them).

The beach itself is lovely. Quiet and sandy, with a gentle inward curve. This is where we will land.

We are split into groups of 5. I'm in the first group to jump, along with the 3 other Brits, and the Belgian girl.

I'm much happier to be in the first group. Once we're down, we can just laze on the beach while the other guys do their jumps.

Most of us decide to get a DVD of the jump. The guy you're attached to uses a handheld camera to video everything (the terror, the fear, etc).

The 5 of us a driven to a small airstrip, just a few miles away. I'm still not really nervous (although I feel I should be).

We get some training from the pro's about the jump procedure (cross your arms, head back, jump, arch, keep your head back). 'Jump' is such a small word...

The airplane looks like the one from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (the one that crashes at the start). I can believe it was used in the 1930's too.

In the plane, we all sit in our pairs, facing the (open) door that we will have to jump through. My pro (Dave) tells me that we will kneel on the edge, and just 'fall out'. I like it - a nice simple plan.

Take off is pretty cool (small airplanes always seem faster than the big ones) and we begin our climb to 14,000ft.

The scenery is fabulous, seen from the plane. There are no clouds today, and visibility is fantastic.

When we reach 4000 feet, it seems really high. This is where the 'chute will be deployed (fingers crossed), and your freefall will end. That means 14,000 to 4,000 feet takes just 60 seconds...

At 10,000 feet it's much colder, and the plane turns onto the final jump heading. Just 5 minutes to go, and I'm still not nervous (honest). The pro guys keep up a banter, which is probably to relax the passengers.

At 12,000 feet we all have to get to our knees, and order ourselves for the the jump. I'll be 3rd.

14,000 feet. The first to go is an English girl. She IS nervous, but you don't really have much choice when you're kneeling at the front of the queue ! With a big 'whoosh', and a blast of cold air, she's out the door and we all shuffle forward.

There isn't really time to think, or worry, as the next guy goes with another 'whoosh'.

Now I'm kneeling at the edge of the door, looking down at the sea 3 miles below me. What a cool view.

"Arms crossed, head back" come the instructions. I drag my view away from the sea, and then we're tumbling out the door.

It's a bit disorientating (I didn't know we'd start with a roll), but we flatten out after just a second.

First thing you notice is the noise. It's basically the same noise as putting your head out of the car window, but much louder.

It's also cold (I'm wearing a T-Shirt, and jeans), and the air 'tastes' slightly ozone like.

Despite what I'm told, I look down, and around. It's more difficult to breath when you do, so I put my head back like I'm supposed to.

It doesn't feel like your travelling at 125mph. There's no reference point to give you a sense of speed, and at terminal velocity you're no longer accelerating. It is a serious buss though.

After what feels like much less than 60 seconds, I'm told to cross my arms again, ready for the 'chute to open.

When this happens, you REALLY feel it (especially in the straps under your groin - ouch), as you decellerate to only 12mph in a couple of seconds.

The wind noise disappears, leaving you in almost silence, and you get your first chance to speak ! I can't remember what I said, but it was probably some random whooping.

The drift to the ground would be very relaxing, if my whole (considerable) weight wasn't resting on my testicles... Good job I don't want to have children.

The view is great from 4,000ft, and you can spend more time admiring it, than in freefall.

Landing 5 minutes later is very smooth, I just pull up my legs when told, and put them down again, when told. And that's it - I'm down.

There's lots of 'Wow', 'F**king awesome', 'Woo hoo' kind of shouting going on. Most of it from me.

5 minutes later on, we're all sat on the beach chatting about the experience. Feels a bit wierd to be doing something so normal. I think it'll take a while for my senses to adjust to normality again!

We spend the afternoon watching the other guys do their jumps, and head back to Cairns, arriving at 6pm.

All in all, a seriously great experience.

Friend Count : -2 (I lost 2 close friends as the parachute opened)

Thursday (24th)

Spent today booking stuff for my little 'sidestep' to NZ.

Booked flights (Brisbane to Auckland on 13th Sept, Christchurch to Sydney on 30th Sept), and accomodation for Brisbane and Auckland.

Still need to book a car for 14 days (I'm going to drive myself around this time), which looks like it'll cost about £300. I might splash out on a nicer car - one place has the new MX-5 for rent ...

Felt lucky, so popped into the Casino to put $300 (about £120) on red. I won :)

Spend the rest of the day in the sun, deciding what to do in NZ, and writing this lot.

Friend Count : 1 (30, Red)

Posted by richardn 02:14 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Darwin - Kakadu - Cairns

sunny 31 °C

Monday (14th) -

After the hassle of finding a room in Darwin, at least I managed to get free internet access, a decent shower, and a good nights sleep. That's assuming you consider getting up at 6am good, I suppose.

Got picked up at 6:30am, outside my Motel.

The first thing I noticed was that the kangaroo obsessed spanish family were on this trip as well.

As we picked up the other passengers, the next thing I noticed was the other passengers - they were nearly all Aussies, and all over 50.

I thought we might be calling at the crematorium to drop a couple of them off, along the way...

Our guide was called Andrew. He seemed a stoic chap, especially compared to Jess from the previous tour.

Driving through Darwin, it seems almost Carribean (the climate, the palm trees, the wooden houses). We finally drove out of Darwin when the last Chelsea Pensioner was picked up, and hit the Stuart Highway, and headed towards the Litchfield National Park.

Our first port of call was Florence Falls and Buley Rockholes (both virtually in the same place).

Florence Falls was pretty nice, but nothing spectacular. Had a bit of a swim in the pool at the base of the falls, but it was too busy to be relaxing.

Buley Rockholes is a series of small pools, linked by waterfalls. It's also quite pretty, but far too busy.

We stopped for lunch at about 1pm. The food was very simple (hotdog sausages, bread rolls, tomato slices), but tasted OK. Things always taste better outside, even the flies.

At this point, I'm not impressed with my tour. I suppose it does give me a chance to talk to a few genuine Aussies. Probably about the war.

Forour afternoon entertainment, we are off to the Mary River, for a wildlife cruise. We should get to see a few crocs, and lots of birdlife. Perhaps there's a glimmer of hope ?

On the way, we pass through an area of bush that really is on fire. Apparently, this is a managed fire, started by the rangers or the aboriginies. They do this to clear the grass, and scrub, before the lightning storms begin in October. The tree canopies don't get affected by this burning, as they're still too green to catch light.

The cruise down the river is actually pretty cool. We get to see lots of crocs (freshwater, and saltwater). The freshwater ones are relatively small (4") and timid. The salties get upto 15", and are pretty dangerous. The biggest one we see is about 10" long.

We camp in pre-erected 2 man hut/tents. I'm sharing with a guy called Mike. He isn't ginger, but he is 70. He also snores. There's also a loud generator on the campsite. Needless to say, I get zero sleep.

Before bed, I have a drink with Tony and Lucy, who are an English couple living in Melbourne. They're only in their mid 40's - this is the hip and trendy gang of our tour...

Kangaroo update : no sightings all day.

Tuesday (15th) -

Up at 5:30am.

Andrew goes up a notch in my estimation, as he cooks bacon, sausages eggs, and toast on the BBQ.

I try to get some sleep on the bus, but I keep imagining the sound of Mikes snoring.

It's quite a long drive to our next stop, which is right in the most North Eastern corner of the Kakadu National Park.

The place is called Ubirr, and has some extensive (and well preserved) aboriginal rock paintings.

They mainly show the animals they hunt in the region (especially barramundi, which are fish), but they also show white men, buffalo, spirits, and ancestors.

There's also a really good lookout point at Ubirr, which we climb up to. The views over the floodplains are really good, and you can see smoke from various bushfires in the distance.

After lunch at new campsite near Yellow Water, we switch to a 4WD truck, and head to Barramundi Gorge (Maguk is it's aboriginal name).

There's a pretty rough track leading to the gorge, followed by a scramble over rocks to get to the waterfall/pool at it's head.

Once you get there, it's a really nice spot. There's virtually no-one else around, because it's difficult to get to, the pool is nice, and deep enough to dive into from the edge.

I'm getting the impression that there are lots of waterfalls/pools/swimming on this tour ! I really should buy some swimming gear - at the minute I'm just using a pair of boxers ...

We get back to our camp in time to catch the sunset over Yellow Water, which is very colourful. Completely unexpectedly, I bump into Sarah, who was on the trip from Melbourne to Adelaide. She's on a different tour, but they all visit the same sites... We catch up, I complain about the oldies in my group, she loves her group. Bitch. We compare dates, and figure we should be able to meet up in Cairns for a beer, in a few days.

After dinner, went for a couple of G&T's with Tony/Lucy/Mike and a guy called Kim.
Some random, drunk, aborigine called Aggie sits herself down with us, totally uninvited.

I ignore her. Kim spends the next hour failing miserably in his attempt to not talk to her.

In the end, she realises no-one will buy her any alcohol, and goes away.

Have to share tent/hut with Tony/Lucy/Mike this evening. Gin does the trick, and I fall asleep before any snoring can get started.

Kangaroo update : there was a small rock wallaby at Ubirr, but the Spanish guys missed it. Shame.

Wednesday (16th) -

Back in the 4WD this morning, and off to Twin Falls and Jim-Jim falls.

There are some seriously rough tracks here, and a 1 metre deep creek to cross.

To get to the base of Twin Falls, you have to take a short boat ride through a gorge, and then clamber over a rocky path. It's worth it though, because the falls are really nice. You can't swim in the pool, because of the (slight) risk of crocs, but it's very peaceful here.

Jim-Jim is about a 30 minute drive from Twin Falls, along more rough tracks. Although the actual falls are dry at this time of year, the gorge leading up to them is very nice. The water is clear, and there are lots of fish. You still can't swim because of the croc risk, though.

Back at camp, we have lunch, switch back to the normal 2WD bus, and head off for Gunlom Falls, to catch sunset.

On the way we stop at the biggest termite mound I've ever seen. It's got to be 4m high, at least.

Gunlom Falls are quite picturesque at the bottom. There's a nice pool, that you can swim in, and a (gravelly) beach.

The best views, though, are from the top. It's quite a steep rocky path (with a few climbing bits) to get there, but it's worth it. There are a couple of pools at the top, and not many people (3 others made the effort). You can walk right to the edge, and look down to the pool 80m below. Sunset at the top was pretty nice, too.

Camping was in swags, outdoors, this evening. Best nights sleep on the trip.

Kangaroo update : not a one.

Thurs (17th) -

Sleeping bag was suspiciously damp when I woke up.

Fortunately, it wasn't me (or a dingo mistaking me for a tree). It was just some early morning dew, whew.

We headed off to Katherine after breakfast.

Our first stop was to collect some firewood, for the evenings campfire. During the process I was brutally savaged by a dead tree. God damn trees have got it in for me, <mutters>.

We made a quick stop in Katherine to see the hot springs. They were lukewarm at best.

It's a pretty hot day today (35c), so when we got to Katherine Gorge, I chose the sensible option. A 7km walk, with no shade, to get to the lookout point over the gorge.

This was seriously sweaty work ! I must've gone through 2 litres of sweat in 2 hours. The view from the top was pretty good though.

The Spanish guys did the walk (probably hoping to see mountain kangaroos), as well as Bill (a 59 year old Kiwi from Brisbane).

Once you get to the top, you can also go down to a rock pool for a swim. I got about halfway, and decided to give up. If I went for a swim, I'd only have to climb back up, and then walk down from the lookout again. I'm sure I'd be just as sweaty by the end.

Instead, I walked back down to the visitor centre, and had a dip in the river, near where we would get picked up. How sensible.

Back at camp, we got a tent each - pure luxury !

A local digeridoo maker (an Aussie guy) came to the camp, and played some music. We also got to have a go ourselves. I sounded rather like a flatulent elephant who'd taken up suicide bombing.

Kangaroo update : no mountain kangaroos seen - they're quite shy you know.

Friday (18th) -

Our last moring on the tour. I won't say 'hooray', I've enjoyed most of it so far, and the crinklies are decent company. Kim, in particular, is very funny.

First off, we visit the digeridoo shop run by our friend from the night before.

His mate Eddie (an aborigine guy) is in the shop, painting a digeridoo. He also does paintings on canvas that are sold in the shop.

A few people buy things, but I'm cynical (what, me?) and think it's all a big tourist scam.

Our last stop is Edith Falls. These are pretty underwhelming, IMHO. I just spend the hour reading.

After lunch, it's the 4 hour drive back to Darwin. The only thing keeping me sane at this point are the Killers and Lush on my MP3 player. Bibble.

This time in Darwin, I've pre-booked a hostel! It seems pretty nice, but is quite noisy (there's a bar downstairs).

I manage to get my smelly clothes washed in time to go for dinner with some of the guys.

Kangaroo update : there was some on the menu in the restaurant.

Sat (19th) -

Up at 4am, to go to the airport
Arrive Cairns 10am.

I'm staying in the YHA Central, which is really nice. I have to wait until 12 to check in, but I use the time to upload a few piccies onto the internet. I'll do the rest tommorrow.

I've decided to plan ahead a couple of weeks, so I book a few bits and bobs -

- Skydiving on the 23rd Aug (about £120 to jump from 14,000 feet - gives you 60 seconds free fall)
- 5 Day diving lessons/reef diving
- 11 day trip from Cairns to Brisbane (starts on 30th)

That should keep me occupied for a while !

I think James should be in Cairns on the 21st, and Sabina on the 21st/22nd, so might have someone to play with in a couple of days.

In the evening, I go to the pub to watch Liverpool vs Sheffield Utd with my room mate, Chris. He's a Scot, and likes beer and rugby above all other things.

I'm now going to do nothing for 2 days. Fab.

Posted by richardn 21:25 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (6)

Adelaide to Darwin

sunny 25 °C

Monday -

Bit depressed that Sabina and Sarah aren't on the next leg of our tour, but at least James and Elrik can keep my spirits up !

We had to get up early again (5:45am) to meet our tour bus.

Tour bus turned up late (about 45 minutes late, in fact). That extra 45 minutes might not sound like much, but I really would have prefered to spend it in bed...

This part of the tour was completely full (24 people).

I'm writing this on day 2 of this leg, so I'll give the names of the people I've been hanging out with so far -

- Jess (our new guide/driver)
- Michael,James,Elrik and Linda from the first leg.
- Barbara (beautiful French girl)
- Carol (Barbara's mate - really nice too)
- Franno (German girl, whose got a really cool, surreal sense of humour)
- Freddy (who's another German girl with no luggage)
- Doreen (guess what - she's German too)
- Joseph ("he's from Barcelona")

There are lots more girls on this trip than men. Terrible.

There was another delay while 2 stray passengers had to be picked up. Got to see more of Adelaide, If you want to find a positive side...

We drove to some small town for a stopover. Got some breakfast, and went through introductions.

This involved standing at the front of the (moving) bus trying to be funny/informative/stationary. I'm not convinced I pulled it off, to be honest.

Jess's brother is called Murray, and as we drove through a place called Murraytown, we stopped of to make a silly video for him. This involved me auctioning the local church for $100 to one of the other tourees. I was fabulous.

Eventually, we stopped at an aboriginal art site, which was, frankly, dull. It did let us get out of the bus for half an hour, though.

I spent most of the first day sat on the bus chatting to Carol and Barbara. They're both just qualified teachers in Paris. Chatted about travelling, French bread, and Australian mayo among other things.

We saw lots of kangaroos outside the bus. Some people insisted on stopping to photograph every flaming one. Perhaps they don't know how many kangaroos there are in Australia. They soon will.

In the evening, we stopped at a 'town' called Parachilna - population 3. One of these is a mad old woman. The other 2 run the bar and the accommodation.

Got a few beers, played some poker, and chatted with Franno and Freddy. Franno is a very funny girl. She's been working in Australia, and is travelling around for a few weeks now. She does have a rather violent streak though - I think this is just for fun, but I can't be sure yet.

Freddy has only been in Australia a few days, but her luggage has gone missing at Adelaide airport. She's on a tour for 6 days in the outback with 1 pair of knickers. That's gotta be hell for most girls !

I offered to lend her my underwear, but I don't think she really thought I was being serious ... can't think why ...

Parachilna is a bit of a dump. It's got a railway line, some rusting water towers, an abandoned train, and a few portacabins for accommodation. Despite all this, the pub is really nice, and the accomodation was really good - clean and warm.

We had a BBQ, cooked mainly by Jess, or driver. We got Emu burgers (really), Camel sausages, and Kangaroo steak, plus lots of salad stuff. All very nice.

Tuesday -

Bit of a lie in this morning. 7:30am !!

Took a few early morning photos of Parachilna.
We drove into the Flinders Range this morning, over the bumpiest road in the world. I think my kidneys may have merged with my liver.

Saw more kangaroos. The Spanish guys are STILL getting excited about it. GET OVER IT !!

We stopped off for a quick look at an abandoned copper mine. The area is really remote. When the mine was open, it used to take the miners several hours on horseback to get to the nearest bar. Sounds like hell !

Just before lunch, we got to the entrance of Wilpena Pound. It's an enclosed valley, with peaks all around, and a couple of passes to get in/out. There's a really cool topographical model of the area at one of the lookout points - I'm sure saying this makes me look like a nerd!

Went for a 5km walk to a lookout point, at Wilpena Pound. The view wasn't the best, but the walk was very nice. Had a good chat with Carol, Barbara, Elrik and Linda. Everyone else saw lizards and echidna's, but I missed them all. Instead, I took lots of pictures of trees.

We stayed in a little area called Rawnsley Park. The sunset view from the top of the hill near our bunkhouse was really nice. Well worth the 10 minute climb.

Doreen, James, Joseph, Franno, Freddy and myself all sat up there in the peace and quiet for an hour or so, watching the sunset with a few beers. Got a nice picture of a tree.

Had a nice dinner with the group, and then wrote this nonsense !!

Everyone was pretty tired, so after a few hands of Poker most people went to bed, including me.

Wednesday -

Up early again (6:30ish) for a longish drive to Coober Pedy.

On the way we had a karaoke competition. Me and James represented the UK and were crap. It was a bit like the Eurovision in many ways, with the UK coming last, but not really wanting to take part anyway.

The South Korean team won, in fine style with a rather squeaky rendition of "I will survive" (in Korean). Comic genius.

We also stopped at a dry salt lake, where Jess made us lick salt of the floor, before drinking tequila. All in all, just the start to the day I like.

Not much to say about Coober Pedy really. It's an opal mining town, where most of the homes are built into the hills. This means they are cool during the day and warm at night.

We got to stay in an underground hostel, which was pretty unusual.

We also went on a tour of an underground house, and learned about opal mining (dull).

Went for a few beers and a pizza with the whole group. I had a special pizza with no cheese. It was manky.

Thursday -

Another big drive today, up to the area where Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are.

On the way we collected some firewood, for the nights camp fire.

These are both sacred spots to the aboriginies, Kata Tjuta even more than Uluru.

We got to Kata Tjuta in time for an easy, 1 hour walk. Kata Tjuta is a series of 36 sandstone domes that were pushed up during some big tectonic shift, hundreds of millions of years ago. The surrounding area is all flat, because it used to be the ocean floor, and that's why it stands out in the landscape.

After our walk, we went to a viewing spot to see sunset over both Kata Tjuta and Uluru. Jess supplied a couple of bottles of fizz for us to drink, which got the mood right.

Some poor guy got roped into taking a group photo for us. There were about 20 cameras, and everyone wanted a picture. He did get some of our champers for his trouble, though.

Our camp was nearby, and this evening we slept out, under the stars, around the campfire.

We did the whole marshmallow toasting thing, which is quite tricky to get right. Quite a few people ended up with some ash on a stick. Doreen cooked mine, and made a good job of it.

You use something called a 'swag', which is a mattress, with a cover. You put your sleeping bag inside it, and bingo - it keeps you warm.

That's the theory, anyway.

In practice, it nearly works! You're quite warm when you go to bed, because you're near to the fire. When you wake up at 4:30am, it's much colder, the fire has gone out, and your face has frozen solid. It's the first time I've ever been pleased to be getting up at 5am.

Friday -

After our early start (5am), we went to see sunrise near Uluru.

It did look pretty cool, but not as good as I might have hoped.

The sun hits the rock at about 7:15, and you can see it gradually get redder, starting at the top,and spreading to the bottom.

By 7:30 it's all done, and we went off to either climb the rock, or walk around the base.

I (and most of the others) opted for the base walk. It takes about 2 hours, and is about 7km long. You're strongly discouraged from doing the climb, mainly because the aboriginies don't like it, but also on safety grounds.

Uluru definitely looks better from further away. Up close, there are a few interesting features, but the aboriginies prefer you not to photograph many of them (they are sacred sites).

The guys who climbed to the top said it wasn't as difficult as it looked, as long as you don't look down to your left or right ! The climb itself goes up a ridge, and there is a handrail along most of it. There seems to be a steady stream of people doing it, regardless of the locals wishes.

After our walk, we went to another spot to take some piccies of Uluru from a different direction, where it looks more rugged.

Then we set off for Kings Canyon, which was a few hours drive North.

On the way, we stopped for firewood (more camping tonight), and also to search for wichetty grubs.

Jess showed us the type of tree they are found in (a wichetty bush), and how they eat the roots from the inside out. Unfortunately, despite digging up half the desert, we didn't find any.

When we stopped later on in they day, we met another tour, who HAD found some. I got a photo, but they wouldn't trade a grub for some beer, so I didn't get to eat one. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

Our campsite was pretty cool. It was very near Kings Canyon, but about 1km from the nearest main road. We had to drive down a small dirt track to get to it. There were still some luxuries (toilets/showers) though.

We cooked on the fire this evening. Mainly veggie and meat stews, but also some bread called damper bread. This was really nice (it had beer in it to help it rise) fresh from the fire.

Saturday -

The last day of the tour. I've really been enjoying it, so that was a sad realisation.

We drive the short distance to Kings Canyon. The walk here takes you up one end of the canyon, along the edge, and back down the other end.

The first climb is pretty steep (it's called 'Heart Attack Hill' ... ), but only takes 20 minutes. After that, the walking is pretty easy, and the view is good.

The walk took about 3 hours in total. I spent most of the time chatting to Freddy and Franno, and taking piccies.

Apparently the final scenes in the film 'Priscilla- Queen of the Desert' were filmed here. I haven't seen it, so I didn't really care. Maybe someone reading this will ?
Decided, with Freddy, to go for the helicopter flight over the Canyon. Jess dropped us off, while the other guys were making lunch.

The flight was pretty cool, but quite short (8 minutes - but it only cost £30). It looked very spectacular, but I don't think it translates in my pictures as well.

When we got back to the bus, everyone was finishing lunch, so we crammed our food down while the others washed up. It was worth the money, just to get out of the chores !

Our final stop was a 'bonus',just because we had a little extra time spare.

We went to see Dinky, the singing dingo.

Dinky stands on a piano, and 'sings' (howls) when someone 'plays' (hits the high notes). It was pretty funny, but I can't see Broadway calling just yet ....

We all got dropped of in Alice Springs at the end of the tour. Most of us were staying in the same hostel, which is also a nightclub.

Jess booked us a table, and we got some food, and got drunk ! Most people came along for the food, but only the real hardcore stayed for the nightclub. As usual, it was the Brits (me and James) and the Germans (Doreen, Franno, Freddy) plus Joseph.

I had a good time, dancing to lots of cheesy sh*te, and bumbled off to bed at about 3am, drunk bSut happy.

Sunday -

Not a good day, today.

Got up at 8ish, with a hangover. My room was pretty cr*ppy, and smells of cigarettes. One of the other guys must have been smoking.

In daylight, Alice Springs looks pretty rotten (it didn't look that hot at night, either).

Grabbed the bus to the airport, and got my plane to Darwin.

It's pretty hot here (30C+), and feels almost Carribean on the drive from the airport.

There appear to be virtually no rooms in Darwin, so I'm forced to spend £60 to stay in a motel, further out than I hoped.

I was planning to get a couple of days 'rest' before another tour, but I can't get a room, so decide to get a tour tomorrow morning. This tour takes 5 days, and covers the main areas around Darwin (Kakadu Park, Litchfield, Katherine Gorge and the Mary River).

I've got a nights accomodation when the tour ends, and I just need to either book a flight to Perth or Cairns (still haven't decided yet).

Other than this, I have washing to do, and blogs to update, and that's about it !

Posted by richardn 02:39 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Ocean Road to Adelaide

sunny 19 °C

Thurs -

Had to get up at some awful time this morning to go on my tour to Alice Springs. By awful, I mean 5:30am.

The bus was supposed to be at the hostel at 6:30am but turned up at 6:45am, by which time I was freezing....

There were 9 people on our tour, which meant plenty of space on the bus (a double seat each, no less!).

The suspects, in no particular order are -

Andy (the Driver)
Sabina (from Switzerland)
Elrik and Linda (from Holland)
James (from Worksop, in Notts)
Sarah (from Germany)
Ashley (from Ireland)
Michael (from Germany)
Kako (from Japan)

First off, we drove to Torquay (About 2 hour) for breakfast (which, was fine, but nothing to shout about).

The first 2 days of the tour are along the 'Great Ocean Road', which is supposed to be one of the most picturesque routes to drive in the world.

The first place we stopped was 'Bells Beach', which hosts the world surf championships sometimes. The waves might be great, but it's definitely NOT a beautiful beach. On the other hand, it does have a spectacular toilet block. Didn't do any surfing, didn't use the toilet...

After that, we got to the Ocen Road 'proper', and stopped to look at the (really) crappy sign that show's you where it starts. It looks rather like it's been made by some 1 handed 8 year olds, using only telegraph poles.

The next bit of road was pretty spectacular. Got a picture of a rainbow that I really liked ... I guess you can judge for yourselves...

We stopped at a small campsite where they have some wild (not angry, just free-range) koalas. They don't really do much other than eat or sleep, but I suppose they do look cute...

After a long stretch, we visited a rainforest reserve, where youget to walk on these metal platforms, 30 metres up in the trees. Got some photos of some, er, trees. Oh, and some moss.

The coolest thing was a part of the platform that sticks out, unsupported, from the rest. You can stand at the end of this platform, and rock it from side to side. Some people got scared, but I thought it was very funny...

Finaly, we went to the (pretty spectacular) 12 apostles. These are actually 13 (?) rock stacks, just off the coast. Normally, at sunset, these look spectacular. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to get anyreally great shots. I got a couple of half-decent ones though.

We stayed overnight in a really nice little hostel, near the apostles. Another group (of 19) was also staying, and we all went to the pub to take part in a quiz. I won (mainly on my knowledge of the planets and StarWars), and got some free beer for my trouble.

Friday -

We all had an early(ish) breakfast, and left to go to Loch Ard Gorge, just 20 minutes down the ocean road.

It's the site of a shipwreck, the ship being the Loch Ard.

Only 2 people survived, and when you see the rough sea at the entrance to the gorge, you wonder how they made it ashore alive.

The next port of call was a rock formation called London Bridge. It used to be a double arch, but one spectacularly collapsed, stranding 2 tourists on the wrong side. When they were rescued, it turned out they were a boss/secretary having an affair. Needless to say, the news coverage alerted his wife, and it all ended in tears.

After the drama of London Bridge, we made our way to the Bay of Islands. Funnily enough, this is a bay, right, containing some islands. Crazy.

This was the last part of the ocean road, and we headed inland to the Grampians. They are are range of mountains (little ones, anyway) covered in Eucalyptus, and other native trees. A huge amount of the Grampians was burned in a forest fire in January, so lots of the trees look dead, but have started to sprout new leaves.

We did a couple of walks up to some viewing points, and a waterfall (the Mackenzie falls), which, to be honest, knackered me out !

Hope the pictures are worth it !

Ended the day in a cool lodge, basically in the middle of nowhere. You can see the stars really well, and I'll try and get some pictures of them later tonight.

Saturday -

Didn't get any star piccies, 'coz we stayed up playing poker/drinking last night. Oops.

We had to leave at 9am in the morning, which meant (in theory) a lie in, but I got up early to try and get some sunrise pictures. I didn't really get anything too good, though :(

After breakfast, we went to our last real stop on the tour - Hollow Mountain.

We did a walk/climb up the 300 metres of rocky paths, to get to the top. I found it pretty tough (being an unhealthy blob), but at least I made it to the top. We had a lovely 30 minutes at the top, telling a few jokes and taking in the view.

My photo's don't do the view justice, but I'll remember it (partly because of the stiff legs I have today!).

After we got back down, we had a 5 hour drive to Adelaide. Had a bit of a sing-along on the bus ... there was some good music, some bad music, and some Rolf Harris.

5 of us decided to share a room for the night in Adelaide (Michael, Me, James, Sarah and Sabina), and all went to the pub for a few beers with Andy (the driver), plus Kako and Ashley.

Andy, Michael, and Sabine wimped out (OK, Sabine was Ill, and Andy had to work the next day) at about 10pm. The rest of us went to a really cool little pub/bar with a couple of unsigned bands playing. The music was pretty good, really, especially the second group. Unfortunately I have no idea what either band were called. If they do make it big, I'll never know ...

Got in about 1am (ish), after a short detour. Sarah decided there was a McDonalds just up the road from the hostel.

It was a bank.

Oh, how we laughed.

I think we had the noisiest room in Adelaide. There was some kind of fight outside at about 4am, involving lots of shouting and sounding of car horns. This lasted for about an hour. Everyone said Adelaide was so quiet - they obviously didn't stay here !

Sunday -

Sabine and Sarah were leaving today, so they had to get up and check out at 10am.

I got up as well, and the 3 of us went for a wander around Adelaide, and chilled out over coffee.

Sarah is extremely funny (despite the handicap of being German), and always has something to say.

Sabine is really lovely, I don't think our paths will cross during the rest of my 3 months here, but hopefully I can persuade her to invite me to Switzerland, or come to Manchester :)

Saw Sabine off at 1pm, and Sarah at 4pm.

I'm writing this at 5pm, so the rest of today is in the future tense - hope that makes sense !

Myself, James and Michael, plus Elrik and Linda are all doing the second part of the tour (Adelaide to Alice Springs). We have to set off at 6:30am tomorrow (Monday) morning, so tonight will be a quiet one.

Probably I'll hang out in the hostel. May sneak a quick beer in later, just to help me sleep, OK !

Posted by richardn 00:50 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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