The roads I have traveled….

Ok, I admit, I have been very negligent with my blog postings.  The availability of internet (or lack of) has been poor and I have had trouble finding a simple charging port to give my laptop juice.  They are stingy with electricity and internet here, I know this isn’t the fist time I have complained about it..sorry for my rant.  Where do I start?? Nearly three months since my last post….how do I sum it all up? Incredible!!!  Life in Australia has been a wonderful heart opening experience that has enriched my soul and desire to keep traveling.  Not everyday gives you a beautiful sunset or stunning waterfalls, but those wonderful days give the bad days a run for their money.

My last post put us in Cairns, Queensland.  The weather is a daily 30 C or (86 f) a perfect temperature for me.  Many days were spent playing or lounging at the city lagoon.  A little ways up the coast we camped out for the night along the ocean and saw our first “saltie” crocodile swimming in the ocean.

Our next adventure was snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.  We chartered a larger boat that took us to the Agincourt Ribbon Reef which is on the outer continental shelf of the GBR.  We heard the reef was spectacular the further out on it you went….so we wanted to go out as far as possible.  The day started out with black clouds, rainy and choppy weather but ended with sunshine.  We visited three locations that allowed us to see many different colored fish, live coral, giant clams, sea cucumbers and my favorite the Maori Wrasse.  This big gentle giant was like a fishy “Labrador”, social, attention seeking and wanting to be touched.  I opened my arms and he swam right into them as if allowing me to hug him.  That was the highlight of my underwater adventure.

After the GBR we were on to the next adventure…heading west towards Darwin.  Initially we ventured the Savannah Way, a supposedly rugged but beautiful alternative to driving on the main highway.  We drove for about two days, seeing red tail black cockatoos, galahs, eagles, kites, etc.  We were basically on a one lane road for hundreds of miles.  This is where we encountered our first road trains (55 meter semi-trucks, hauling 4 trailers behind them).  These gigantic beasts nearly throw you off the road when they whiz past you.  The goal is to pull over as quick as possible when you see one coming, they always have control of the whole road.  So, after a few days in we began a new stretch that was all dirt and very corrugated.  Everything in our whole van jumped out of it original place and was laying everywhere.  We were laughing, but in all seriousness we realized this was way too washed out to drive on for 3-4 days.  Our brains would have been mush by the end of it and the shocks on the van would have been obliterated.  Before we changed routes we hit and killed a Momma and joey wallaby.  She ran right out in front of us.  It happened so fast we barely saw her.  Jeremy went to make sure she wasn’t suffering and to pull her off the road, this is when he discovered that there was also a joey in her pouch.  This just broke our hearts. We decided to turn around and take the “normal” route to Darwin.

The drive into the Northern Territory was scattered with beautiful hidden waterfalls, hot springs and lakes.  These excursions were a blessing because the sun is so hot and the solitary road is so unvaried.  This is also where we encountered our first experience with the “bush flies”.  These flies don’t want to “just” be on you, they want to be in your ears, nose, mouth, eyes…you name it.  They make you so irritated you scream at them.  Hence, the pictures of us with screens over our heads, which seemed to work quite well for us, all throughout the northern and middle parts of Australia.  I forget to mention the heat.  It was hot!  I thought I liked it hot but now that I have a new understanding of “hot”, I like it warm.  There is nothing like a beautiful Michigan summer.  While in the NT we visited Nitmiluk National Park, Edith Falls, Katherine Gorge.  After six days of driving we arrived at Darwin, NT.  The beach was beautiful but we were warned the water had box jellyfish in them.  These are the most dangerous/poisonous creature in the sea.  Our time in Darwin was spent at nearly every market (five a week), the Royal Botanical Gardens, Wavepool and we finished our adventure in the north with a visit to Litchfield National Park.  This is the park that has the Cathedral termite mounds, the Magnetic termite mounds, Florence Falls, Wangi Falls and many other beautiful landmarks.  The day before we left we were invited to stay with a young family who shared their home and hearts with us.  Lexi and Gary treated us to two things “backpackers” miss most, a home cooked meal and hot showers.  They also had central air.  The air in Darwin was so thick you could cut it with a knife.  The cyclone season starts in December and the weather leading up to that is brutal.  It also felt like you were sleeping underwater most nights because is was so humid and the air was so still.  We will never forget the generosity or kindness we have encountered on this journey and will without a doubt pass it on.  After we spent two days with our new friends we decided it was time, time to take on the longest, hottest and most desolate drive through the middle of Australia.  5,000 kilometers / 3,106 miles were ahead of us.  We were first headed to the Devil’s Marbles, Uluru and Kata Tjuta ending in Melbourne, Victoria.

On our drive down we saw bush fires, dust tornadoes, colorful parrots, dingoes, kangaroos, brumbies (feral horses), feral camels, etc.  The Devil’s Marbles were just as beautiful at sunset as they were at sunrise. They are giant rocks of granite that have found their shape by the wear and tear of rain and wind over millions of years. We happened to arrive on Halloween and were sung to sleep by the dingoes that were in the field of our campground.  It was actually soothing to listen to all of them together.

Uluru.  A very sacred and very special place.  If you ever get a chance to visit, you should.  This large beauty leaves you speechless for words.  We drove around it and just stared.  We couldn’t stop looking.  There is just something magical that traps your gaze and you can’t let go of it.  We watched the sunset, the sunrise and did a 10.6 km walk around the monolith, which is 600 million years old.  We loved it.  The Kata Tjuta park is about a 50 km drive from Uluru but you could see it in the far off distance.  The following day we drove to Kata Tjuta and watched the sunset and did a little hike.  A very special place indeed!  A long drive, but worth it!

The next state we were headed into was South Australia.  It was almost hotter and more desolate than the NT.  I think it got to nearly 45-50 C (113-122 F).  The terrain was barren and boring.  Many hours were ahead of us, so we drove ten hours a day.  We took a pit stop in Coober Pedy.  A small opal mining town in SA.  Many houses and churches here are built underground because of the severeness of the heat.  This is where the movie “Mad Max” was filmed as well, this made me think of my brother, Matthew, he loves movies.  We thought we deserved a nice dinner after a long hot drive and treated ourselves to the best outback pizza!

Arriving in Victoria we were greeted by cool weather and rain.  Both of these were something we had not had for some time.  We were not prepared.  It was almost like someone flipped a weather switch.  We went from 45 C to 15 C – almost a 60 degree difference overnight.  After digging out the sweaters, we ventured on the Great Ocean Road, a stunning 250 kms ocean side drive that ended up taking us right into Melbourne.  The famous rock formation, The Twelve Apostles, is included in this drive.  Along the route we saw a random koala, who looked lost because there were no  gum trees in sight and it was in the middle of the day (they are nocturnal).  We hurried him across the road and hoped he stayed safe and out of harms way.

Melbourne.  It took ten days of driving from Darwin.  The weather is cool but sunny most days.  The public transport includes buses, trains and trams is very easy and affordable.  The city is going to be fun to explore.  Stay tuned … I will post again before we venture on to New Zealand at the end of December.  Thanks for taking the time to read my lengthy post.