Week 217 May 26, 2018

This week was one of long drives to see outstanding scenery and wonderful hiking.

We started with an all day drive to reach Uluru – also formerly and often still known as Ayer’s Rock, after we passed from the state of South Australia to the Northern Territory. We watched a fabulous sunset in Yulara which is viewing distance from Uluru and Kata Tjata. We saw in person how the massive Uluru changes from maroon-ish red to brilliant orange before fading into night. 

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Speaking of brilliant, so is star gazing here. We can now easily pick out the Southern Cross constellation, yet the Milky Way seems to have so many more stars than at home. Someone had told us that at home we can only see a third of the stars in the sky, while here we are able to see two thirds. It seems strange and I have no idea how that would be true, but surely there appear to be many more than I have ever seen from home.

We also enjoyed a sunrise walk around the base of Uluru, 

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then had an Anangu guide and translator explain some of the Mutitjulu cave paintings. We also learned how the Aborigines feel Uluru is sacred. This land was only recently returned to them, and in respect the government has agreed that beginning in 2019, the climb will no longer be allowed.

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The next day we started off with a sunrise view over Uluru and Kata Tjuta – also formerly and often still known as The Olgas,

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where we later had a wonderful hike including a loop up, down and around Kata Tjuta.


The area also has some interesting birds with bright orange beaks and eyes!

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We had such beautiful views, and enjoyed talking around fires at our campsites.

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On our last full day of the week touring the Oodnadatta Track and the Red Center Outback, we spent hiking in Watarrka – also formerly and often still known as Kings Canyon National Park. It was described as a Rim Walk which to me conjured up a circular walk looking into a volcano, or along the Grand Canyon edge, but this was also up, down around and through. We saw ancient cycads and ghost gum trees up close.

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We said fond farewells to half of our travel mates and our guide over a fun dinner out. Now eight of us have now flown to Darwin where we have a free day before we start the reminder of our tour of this area. If you would imagine that the whole of Australia is a large upside down heart, we are now at the bottom point of the heart, where this area is known as the Top End of Australia. 


I want to finish this week with more of the Aussie – pronounced Ozzie by most everyone but Americans, lingo that I have heard while we’ve been in the country: G’day, mate, fourteen sometimes sounds more like fourdeen, billabong – which is a form of lake or lagoon, and, boomer – for a male kangaroo. 




Week 216 May 19, 2018

Thank you again to everyone who helped us with your ideas and input on our hard decision about a return to California. We have decided and plan to finish an abbreviated itinerary in Australia, then will fly to San Francisco.

At the beginning of this week we spent an entire day traveling from Melbourne, Victoria to Adelaide, South Australia, partly because our flight was delayed by four hours due to rainy late fall weather. Very early the next morning we walked to the Adelaide Central bus station for our transport to the ferry to reach Kangaroo Island. Over our two days there we saw more than a few mobs – after our guide explained that a number of kangaroos together is called a mob! In fact, Kangaroo Island is advertised with this: a zoo without cages, the best place to view wildlife. And we did see some unique-to-Australia-wildlife that I had hoped we would see. In addition to more koalas, we saw: 

Cape Barren geese, Echidna – said e-kid-nah, which is an anteater, and the most unusual, enormous Cassowary. 

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And, we saw others in a Wildlife Park, which is like a zoo but I still enjoyed seeing, like our first Dingo that is similar to a wolf or wild dog, the Flying Fox who hang upside down like a bat, and the Little Penguin. I was especially happy to see these as we missed seeing the same species known as Fairy Penguins in Victoria or Blue Penguins in New Zealand.

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On one beach we had a ranger led walk to see seals – some with pups nursing, and, at a Raptor Display show we saw among others, Barn Owls and an Emu egg.

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Two other places of interest we visited included an Eucalyptus Distillery, and a Honey Farm. Then there were the unique Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch views we had too. In the parking lot, we saw our first Wallaby up close!

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We then had one full day in Adelaide where we took a Bikram Yoga class, then enjoyed a delightful afternoon with the daughter of friends from home. She took us to see Mount Lofty for the view. However, even though we lingered over lunch, the clouds refused to dissipate. We were more successful with the fabulous display of fall colors at the nearby mountain town of Stirling. I would love to include her photo but I neglected to pull out my camera other than for these turning leaves. 


Then it was another early morning to meet our travel mates for a week’s tour of Australia’s Outback – from Adelaide to Alice Springs, also known as Australia’s Red Center. So far, we have visited the Clare Valley hillside in the Flinders Ranges and went for a hike at Wilpena Pound, traveled the Oodnadatta Track, visited the historic Blinman Copper Mine, saw Lake Eyre – Australia’s largest salt lake, drove through Anna Creek Station in the Great Artesian Basin which hosts the world’s largest cattle range. and saw a quite different sculpture gallery made from scrap materials.


We spent our first two nights sleeping in a swag – an Australian bedroll to keep our sleeping bags warm in the Adelaide-Flinders Range and at William Creek. Now we are at Coober Pedy, called the opal capital of the world where we have also visited a Kangaroo Orphanage, had an opal mine tour and home of the Outback Bar and Grill, and a town tour where we visited the Catacomb Church. 

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Our accommodation is in an underground bunkhouse, which someone thought would be funny to rename a bonkhouse. It is underground because here the days are so grueling hot and the nights so bitterly cold. Many of the residents also live underground, in homes not unlike our housing. I am writing this from the coffee shop at the gas station – the only place in town that has internet!

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I would like to finish by introducing our lovely travel mates. There are 16 of us, actually 17 with our enthusiastic female Australian driver/guide/cook. Otherwise we are 8 older than 40, with 2 being men, and 8 under age 30, also 2 are men. We are 3 couples, one Canadian though the wife is originally Chilean, one young couple from France who were long time friends before recently becoming romantic, and us from the US. Four are mature women, one a Kiwi and three Australian, three are young women from England with two of them being close friends since they were 10, while the other is Algerian-British advanced med student, and two young women are from different cities in Germany. The one single young man is also a med student from Norway whose familial heritage is Sri Lankan. An most enjoyable group to travel with!