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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !