Archives for posts with tag: Alice Springs.

From Alice Springs I fly to Cairns. I’m in Queensland now and it’s much more up to date here then it was in the Northern Territories, there are healthy food choices and stores actually stay open past 8pm and on Sundays. I spend almost a week here and see absolutely nothing. Sometimes it just happens that way. I hung around the pool at the hostel, met people, drank wine (oh sweet glorious wine) and just basically chilled out.  My impression of Cairns is not fantastic though, too touristic and I don’t find that the women that live and work there are very friendly to me, they are to the guys I mention this experience too, but not to me. I don’t get this, I’m nice and friendly and I tip well so really what’s the deal? Nowhere else in Australia did I experience this, I won’t take it personally though, there is no point. This is a party city, a big drinking, clubbing, hook up scene complete with bar brawls, half naked women, and an awful lot of rugby players, not my deal at all. I’m killing a bit of time here because I don’t want to rush south too quickly or I’ll catch the cold weather. But, eventually I get restless and start on my journey south.

My first stop was in Townsville where I planned to spend the night before I could get over to Magnetic Island. Once on Magnetic Island I find a hostel and settle in for a few nights. I meet some people and we play trivia one night in a bar and win! I guess all that useless information in my brain IS good for something. Also I get to hang out with lizards, snakes and birds, I’m even allowed to cuddle with a koala!

Back to Townsville and then a bus to Airlie Beach. I spend a couple days doing research to decide which boat I am going to travel on to see the Whitsunday Islands. There are so many to choose from it’s overwhelming, such a variety of information and options and price ranges. Do I want the party boat, no. Do I want good food, yes, but it’ll cost me. Do I want to dive, big no. Do I want to go to the Great Barrier Reef or just stay on the inner islands, hmmm not sure, need to do more research. Do I want 1 night, 2 nights or 3? Do I want a sailboat or a motorized boat, again, don’t know. I do finally make a decision, choosing to go with a group called iSail Whitsundays and I think I made an almost perfect choice. Just check out this boat that I got to spend 2 nights on!

Australia 2012 219

Alice Springs to King’s Canyon.

I am the last one picked up in the morning, this leaves me with the front seat, right up front with the driver/tour guide, awesome I get to play copliot and see out front and chat with Fitzy (our guide) as we start to travel the 441 kms towards our goal. After a quick orientation chat from Fitzy about how he’s expecting us to act like grown-ups and how we will be doing some of the work on this trip we stop to check in at the office in Alice Springs where we lose 2 of our group right away, I guess they didn’t like Fitzy’s welcome speech.

We drive for a few hours, through scenery that is unchanging, stunted gum trees with scorch marks near the bottom from the control fires that are set every couple years and clumps of yellow spinifex grass cluster all over the ground. The not infrequent remains of road kill are the only thing that breaks up the monotony. Still it’s beautiful, the sky is huge and bright blue and the contrast with the dry dusty landscape is almost surreal. This area is only one step above a desert, I believe the proper classification is semi-arid landscape.

We arrive at our first destination, King’s Canyon, about 300 kms north of Uluru by road, and it’s the inverse of that big rock, as if someone had made an impression in sand. There are 270 meter high cliffs that drop down into a palm-lined valley floor. We walk a 6km loop that starts with a steep climb up steps carved from stone, that hurts my knee but the pain eases off as we walk the rim of the canyon. At around the midway point we walk down a lot of wooden steps and descend to the valley floor where we find a large swimming hole. Most of us jump in, enjoying the break from the scorching sun. Up to the other side of the valley by more wooden stairs and my knee is exhausted but we’re almost done and it’s beautiful so I suck it up.

Back at the bus we continue towards Uluru, we won’t reach it until tomorrow though. We are on the way now to our overnight campsite but before we get there we need to gather enough firewood to last us for the next 2 nights. We stop on the side of the road, Fitzy gives us half an hour and we all start scrounging. It’s harder than it sounds, all of our legs and arms end up scratched and bloodied (3 months later I still have scars) and we are filthy without an opportunity for a shower until sometime tomorrow, hopefully. It takes us an hour but we pull in a good haul and manage to get it tied down on top of the trailer. We stop at a roadhouse not far from our campsite and pick up enough beer to last the rest of the trip. From there it is “party bus time”, Fitzy pulls out a disco ball with flashing coloured lights and has secretly managed to garb himself in about 5 different flashing headlamps. With ACDC’s Highway to Hell blasting over the stereo we fly down the road until the turnoff toward our campsite. He turns the buses headlights off and it’s pitch dark but for our flashing lights, we’re dancing in the aisle as we careen wildly down the pot-holed dirt road, he turns a couple doughnuts in a wide gravel area and then we shudder to a halt.

It’s time to set up camp and prepare dinner. I’m immediately impressed with Fitzy’s organizational abilities, he’s got people chopping vegetables, setting up swags, and building the fire within 15 minutes of us arriving. Pretty impressive for a kid who I think is around 23 years old. But he is a bundle of energy and positivity and he just makes it all happen. Within an hour we’re eating chili, both meat and vegetarian options, and bread made in a cast iron pot. Everything is cooked over the fire and afterwards we all help clean up. Everyone has a few beers around the fire, it’s cold out here at night, and slowly we all start to curl into our swags, dropping off one by one.  I lay in mine, staring up at the crisp night sky, seeing the constellations I recognize turned upside down here in the southern hemisphere. I realize that in all the times I’ve camped I’ve never slept outside under the stars before and a small shudder goes up my spine as I realize that I am doing it for the first time in a country that has more poisonous snakes and spiders that will outright kill you than any other place in the world. It’s not enough to keep me awake though, not after such a long and busy day, I pull the swag’s flap over my head to keep the heat in and creepy crawlies out and quickly fall asleep.