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Archive for the ‘Yulara’ Category

After almost five months in Australia, having sneakily avoided winter, I’m settling back into London life. When I think about my most recent travel adventure, I suppose I was able to see quite a lot of Australia, but really, I didn’t see half of it. This is one big country. I passed through five of Australia’s eight states and territories, saw cities, the ocean and the outback and I left thousands of miles uncovered. But what I did see, I’ll never forget.

I loved wandering through Darling Harbour or taking the ferry to Manly Beach in Sydney, exploring the great cafés and night spots in Melbourne, and hitting some of the fantastic museums in Canberra.

In the Northern Territory, I got a taste of what I’ve always imagined to be ‘real’ Australia (not that the cities are any less real) in the Outback. I walked around Ayers Rock and ran under its waterfalls after the rain, trekked through the Valley of the Winds in Kata Tjuta, and hiked around the rim of Kings Canyon. I drove past herds of wild camels, slowly backed away from a Western Brown Snake (one of the deadliest in the world), and evicted various lethal spiders that had found their way indoors.

On the coast, I got to see some music legends at the Byron Bay Bluesfest before heading up to the Whitsundays for a spot of sailing among these beautiful islands. I walked across pure white sand on Whitehaven Beach, and went snorkeling around the most amazing reef I’ve ever seen. The Great Barrier Reef isn’t world famous for nothing after all.

And finally I got to explore the famous Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world, with its stunning freshwater lakes and abundant dingo population.

My list of Australian memories could go on, but the list of things I still want to see is even longer. It is almost impossible to really convey how fantastically huge and diverse this country is. I’m glad I got to see what I did, and I can’t wait for my chance to see more. The plane ride has never been more worthwhile.

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Life in the outback opens up a whole new set of everyday experiences.

The sunrises and sunsets are almost always stunning. My camera’s memory is full of photo upon photo of the sun coming up and going down, but it still doesn’t get old. When the horizon seems to go on forever and your line of sight includes Australia’s most amazing natural wonders, it’s easy to see why. Even in between the morning and evening this place is hard to take for granted (even though I probably do, especially when I’m up at 4:30am for an early work shift and wishing I could be doing anything else…until the sun rises of course and I remember why I love this place).

During the day, if it’s sunny, the sky is a blue that you just don’t get in the big cities. Even on a rainy day, the Rock is covered in silver waterfalls barreling down every crevice. And at night: I have never seen so many stars. Apparently when you’re not surrounded by pollution you can actually see the Milky Way, plus whole other galaxies that look like clouds in the sky. For our guests at Longy, our guides do a ‘star talk’ and show them the Southern Hemisphere’s constellations, so thanks to them I know where the Southern Cross is and have seen all the zodiac signs that are currently in the sky – things I had never seen before.

Then there’s the wildlife. First there are the flies. Step outside and it’s like your face is covered in honey. They seem to fly straight for my eyes, nose, ears and mouth. I try not to think about how many I’ve swallowed. The extra protein in my diet isn’t worth the unpleasant feeling of an insect hitting the back of my throat. Trust me. Even the ants around here aren’t normal – here you get Inch Ants. No prizes for guessing why they got their name. On top of that are the endless grasshoppers, giant centipedes, and the oh-so-aromatic Stink Bug. There are plenty of things out here that eat all the little critters, but I’m not sure that’s any better since half of them can take down a human any day they feel like it too. Why a bug that only needs to kill tiny flies and ants has enough venom to take down any man is beyond me. Maybe the most literal sense of overkill ever…

First there are the snakes. So far I’ve come across a Western Brown Snake (NOT a snake you want to annoy) and what was apparently a Whip Snake jumping across my path. And I thought snakes only slithered…  The emergency call list in the office includes the numbers for the local fire department, medic centre, police, and snake catcher.

Then my favourite: spiders. It is amazing how much I have been forced to quell my usually uncontrollable arachnophobia. When a six inch long Hunstman suddenly crawls onto a table at dinner in the restaurant, I have to act like the cool, calm employee that has everything under control. Inside I’m screaming, but never have I exhibited such restraint around an eight-legged thing. Lately there’s been an outbreak of Golden Orb spiders – apparently harmless but I’d still rather keep my distance, and this past week whilst walking into a bathroom I looked up to see four Redbacks, one of which was getting ready to lay her eggs. The larger female Redback spiders are barely one centimeter long, but one bite would definitely ruin your day. I just found out that these little things can take down lizards 20 times their size, and the females eat the males WHILE they’re mating. Not a creature you want to annoy…

Some of the wildlife here is a lot more entertaining. Like the Blue Tongue Lizards, the really cute little Thorny Devils, the occasional dingo or herd of wild camels and the ever-colourful birds.

The pigeons and squirrels in London are never going to hold quite the same charm…

** Unfortunately I’m having trouble uploading photos onto WordPress at the moment, so please check out the links below for all my photos including the wildlife!

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock 2

Kings Canyon – blog post coming soon

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I have been in airports a good number of times in my life, and every once in awhile, I’m sitting at my gate, maybe reading, listening to music or eavesdropping on the nearest conversation feeling all smug about how early I am when I see someone sprinting down the hall, trying to hold up their shoulder bag, maybe yelling at their girlfriend/husband/kids/etc. to hurry up as a voice echoes overhead “This is the final boarding call for flight BA 247 to Barcelona. Would all remaining passengers please make their way to Gate 15. Final boarding call for flight BA 247 to Barcelona.”

Well…

That was me. I was the idiot sprinting down the hall in Sydney airport, running to the front of the First Class check-in desks to beg the woman to let me get on the flight, getting stuck at security TWICE because I forgot to take out the nail scissors and bottle opener from my hand luggage, desperately searching the screens for my gate number which has already been taken off the screen because I’m so late, red-faced and panting as I get to the gate just before the staff members close the doors and getting all the haughty looks that I give out myself so often to that last guy who gets on the plane and can’t find a place for his bag overhead because it’s all full already. Yikes.

But I clearly did make the plane (just), and was on my way from Sydney to Ayers Rock. For whatever reason, I didn’t really pay attention at all to how long my flight was about to be, but when I realised that I would be getting a meal AND watching a film, it started to sink in how far I was really flying. And I wasn’t even going across the country; I was just getting to the middle.

I had a window seat and there were no clouds at all, so in between watching the film (The Invention of Lying, by the way, not a bad movie) I kept an eye on what we were flying over. Which was…nothing. Miles and miles and miles of red sand, bush, dry riverbanks, and nothing else. For the ENTIRE flight. I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s Down Under and in that book Bryson points out that “Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all inhabited continents. (Only Antartica is more hostile to life.)” So that’s what I saw. Dry, flat, red land.

After a few hours, it was there. Ayers Rock (or more traditionally, Uluru) was passing by my window, and what seemed like a stone’s throw away (it’s actually 20 kilometres) was a tiny line of little white tents – Longitude 131, my new place of work. I first heard about “Longy” when I wrote the article linked earlier during my time at Black Tomato. It was quite another thing to really see this place from the sky.

I was met at the airport by Kristy, my restaurant supervisor, who drove me around Yulara (the resort-town) to help me get a grasp of where everything was. Yulara has less than 2,000 residents and almost nobody here is actually from the Northern Territory. The ‘town’ is essentially one ring road with one of everything you need. One Post Office, one petrol station, one bank, one small library, one supermarket and so on. The ground is nothing but bright red dirt that now colours most of my clothes, and the bushes that cover the land seem to thrive despite all the odds. In fact, a lot of the bushes around here are completely blackened from previous fires and yet they are green with new leaves. In the middle of the ring road is a hill that gives you a good 360 degree view of the place and the hundreds of miles of nothingness that is behind every building. You can also see Kata Tjuta and Uluru (usually just called ‘the Rock’ around here) which are everyday sights since they’re both only a few kilometres away. After all, the only reason this town even exists is because of these huge monoliths.

I have never been quite so literally in the middle of nowhere.

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