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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Adelaide to Alice

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 17 May 2008 | Views [4764] | Comments [10]

After a day and a half of rain, which was so unusual that it made the front page of the papers, Adelaide looked a lot better in the sunshine. The grid of the small city centre is surrounded on all sides by big parks - like a greenbelt right in the city. Still, after a few days there, it wasn't a patch on Melbourne for me.


I went on a wine tour of the Barossa Valley, Australia's biggest wine growing area, and joined in the minibus by a couple of other tourists, and a bunch of 'spunky' Australian girls who were travel agents from all over the country on a work jolly to try out the tours that they were selling.

We started the wine tasting before 10am at Jacob's Creek and then went on to several boutique wineries - by lunch we had sampled a lot of wine, and had some tasty bbq'd kangaroo to soak it all up.


The Whispering Dam... After this dam in the Barossa was built, people discovered its unusual acoustic properties by surprise. From where the photo was taken, you can talk normally and be heard loud and clear right across the other side. It's bizarre - you can see the person who's talking to you far away on the other side, but it sounds like they're just over your shoulder.


An in-pub, coin-operated breathalyser.

A few days later I went on a quick trip to Kangaroo island, which looks miniscule on a map of Australia, but is actually pretty big - larger than quite a lot of whole countries! That started with a surfing lesson where I managed to stand up on the board enough times to get an idea of how brilliant surfing properly must be, but I mostly ended up tumbling into the roaring surf after all the hard work of getting to and waiting for the right wave.

I was glad that nobody told me about the alarmingly frequent shark attacks on surfers in the bay until I was out of the water!

Unfortunately the weather was mostly crap, but we managed to go for some long walks in the huge national parks, visit big sea lion and seal colonies, try sandboarding down some dunes, toast marshmallows round the fire (while possums in the trees around us made their bizarre territorial
warning sounds), and have a look at the formations of the Remarkable Rocks - the picture doesn't show the scale, a person can easily stand under the weird shaped rock, which is just one of many in the formation...



Next up I joined a motley crew on a ten day trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs with a small company called Heading Bush. Stuffed facing each-other like soldiers in the back of a 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser, with all our bedding (swags and sleeping bags) on the roof and all our food and clothes in the trailer, we were off to take the rough and winding routes north, rather than the perfectly good Stuart Highway which goes straight up to Alice Springs.


I joined a fairly international crew - Alex (Germany), Andy (England), Caroline (Scotland), Chris (England), Dave (Holland), Gitau (Switzerland), Kirsty (England), Gary (US), and Steve the guide/driver (very definitely an Aussie), but we soon found a shared interest in slagging off the French and each-other. It didn't take long for Steve to have us in a near military routine each night of getting the camp, fire and food sorted out when he stopped somewhere suitable in the wilderness each night around dusk.


It wasn't long before we were taking the piss out of Steve for pronouncing things the longest/widest/oldest etc in the Southern Hemisphere, but when we crossed the Dingo fence (above) it got ridiculous when he proclaimed it the greatest continuous man-made structure in the whole world, more significant than the Great Wall of China! It was built to allow farmers to keep sheep east of the fence without worrying about dingo attacks, and zig-zags coast to coast across the country. Only problem is that it doesn't work properly - we saw quite a few dingoes far south of the fence.


This quite big joey (toddler kangaroo) was commanded by his mum to hop into her pouch as we approached - somehow he managed to fit in, and turn around to poke his head out.



Our camp in the painted desert, and a nearby view at sunrise...

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This is Dalhousie springs at sunrise, a big and very deep pond fed by a hot spring. Waking up freezing cold in our swags, it was a chilly but
short walk to the lovely steaming water which felt just the right side of boiling. No crocodiles thankfully, but we did get nibbled on our feet
and legs by these tiny minnow-like fish, which apparently like dead skin. The feel of a desert oasis was helped by dozens of native parrots flying overhead and squawking.


Can't remember what they're called, but we saw hundreds of these coloured and the white wild parrots along the way, often in huge flocks.



One thing about the whole journey that really surprised me was how much the scenery changed all the way. No two half hours were the same - one
minute all we could see was mile after mile of flat lunar landscape of grey sand and small black rocks, the next we were bumping through dried up creeks with red soil and bright green trees.



Sometimes the road was straight and flat (but still heavily corrugated, making the truck judder like a pneumatic drill), the next it was winding
around hills.



On the sixth day, back on tarmac after two days on unsealed roads Steve slammed on the brakes and we stopped short of a two metre taipan, not only the most deadly snake in the world, but also the most toxic land based species on the planet (I checked it on Wikipedia!). It was basking on the hot road, and slithered around poking it's forked tongue at us as we watched from the safety of the land cruiser. Since it would have had enough venom to kill every one of us in the group (it's reckoned that one taipan has enough venom to kill 100+ adult men), we opted to stay in the truck!


This point, miles and miles away from anywhere else, marks the dead centre of Australia - if the continent was a spinning plate, this would be where you'd balance it on your finger. Steve our guide wasn't too keen on remarks that if Australia was nowhere, this would be the middle!

Sunset


Before coming to Australia, I wasn't going to bother with going to Uluru (Ayres Rock), the main reason for people coming all the way to the 'red centre' of Australia, since I thought that a big rock in the middle of a vast desert would be a bit of a let-down. But I'm glad I did - just the
vast scale of it is awesome, and doesn't translate at all in pictures. Its taller than a lot of skyscrapers. Plus, on the 8km walk around the base (for some reason, despite the signs requesting that people don't climb the rock as its a sacred Aboriginal site, and also quite dangerous, lots of people still feel the need to) you can see how complex the surface of the rock is, with fissures, gullies and bizarre shapes and markings all over, as well as aboriginal art.



Another astonishing thing was the speed of the sunset once it had reached the base of the rock. In under a minute it went from fully illuminated
bright orange-red to a dark silhouette, with the light moving up the rock and fading away incredibly quickly.

Sunrise

The night at Yulara, near Uluru was the only one we spent at a full-on campsite, and with the nearby roads, lights and noise it was by far the
least pleasant. This was the campsite where, in 1980, Lindy Chamberland saw her baby being taken from the tent by a dingo. Nobody believed her story, and she was locked up as the murderer until years later when DNA evidence proved that the dingoes really had taken the baby away and eaten
it. We'd already seen dingoes scavenging around us after dark in a few places where we camped, but the ones we came across all seemed fairly scared of humans.

This dingo was trying to scavenge off tourists in a car-park


Part of the incredible Olgas (Kata Tjuta), which are not far from Uluru. We walked all round them, and through the valley of the winds (above)

A small part of King's Canyon, where we went for a long walk, above and below the canyon rim.


A Ring Tailed Dragon in King's Canyon. Probably deadly too.

There was lots more on the journey - I could go on for ages! Bits that I've missed out include huge and furry (but unusually for Australia, totally harmless) huntsman spiders; going into underground opal mines and dugout homes in Coober Pedy; lots of swimming in billabongs and creeks along the way - some warm, most freezing cold; an eccentric chap called 'Talc Alf' who lives in the middle of nowhere and seemed to have a unifying theory of the universe and everything, based on the shapes of letters in the Roman alpahbet; the nightly shooting stars viewed from our swags; spotting a whole bunch of endangered Rock Wallerbies, and tonnes more.

A wild camel that we managed not to hit

Termite mounds

A rest from the bumps

Part of the huge MacDonnell Ranges from a helicopter

Emus that had just decided to run across the road right in front of us

A little kangaroo

Ruined houses built by early European settlers

Around the campfire

Just before sunrise from the same place


So after 3085 kilometres on (but mostly off) the road, we arrived in Alice Springs dusty and probably smelling awful, looking forward to showers and a restaurant meal, but not looking forward much to bunk beds in hostel dorms after getting accustomed to sleeping under the bright stars in a cozy sleeping bag and swag around the warm camp fire.

Tags: adelaide, bush, desert, outback, uluru

Comments

1

Hi George! I found your travel blog fascinating and enjoyed looking at all the wonderful photographs - what an experience you are having - may be you should start up a travel business and we will be your first customers!

Poor Alex and Nick are moving into their new flat this weekend and Nick has a bad back! Good excuse you probably think. Alex is having a 2 week trial at ITN starting on Monday and she is very nervous about it all but she loves living in London and being very near Livs. Livs, Charlie and George are all in Bali for 3 weeks and are having a magical time and best of all the local women adore George and so Livs is having lots of massages and lie-ins!

Granny and Grandpa are fine and are still having and going to lots of parties - we all send you lots and lots of love Celiaxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  celia forrest May 18, 2008 12:56 AM

2

Wow, George, these are gorgeous shots. I am writhing with jealousy that you are still out there having adventures almost ten months later. When do you head home again?

  Jessamyn May 20, 2008 11:54 AM

3

Thanks Celia & Jess... Jess - good question, not exactly sure, but don't think I'll be back home till early next year.

  George May 24, 2008 7:49 PM

4

Hey kiddo. Just thought I'd drop you a note to say happy birthday. Looks like you've been having quite a time. The pictures are beautiful - almost make me want to go to Australia. Almost. I just graduated on Saturday and will soon be seeking some form of tedious, menial employment, so it's lovely to travel the world vicariously through you. Hope nothing eats you while you're down under.

XX Amber

  Amber May 28, 2008 3:45 AM

5

Crikey, can't believe I forgot yesterday (or the day-before-yesterday where you are) to wish you HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Big love from Chloe and Peter too! Did someone give you a razor as a birthday present?

  Will May 29, 2008 6:18 AM

6

Still loving your blog George - great pictures and commentary. So not jealous! Fringe soon . . . and managed to get another part this year, though would prefer to do the Melbourne version by all accounts!

Take care and soak up the fun and culture.

Mark

  Mark May 29, 2008 6:20 AM

7

Just so it doesn't look like I don't know your birthday, it's still today (i.e. 28 May) where I am. And to prove it, I'm almost never up, certainly not on the computer, at 6.18 am.

  Will May 29, 2008 6:22 AM

8

Thanks everyone. Amber I still wish you wouldn't call me 'kiddo' ;) ! Was away in Kakadu over my birthday, which was great - total Mick Dundee territory! Managed to escape the crocs, of which there were many!

  George May 30, 2008 6:55 PM

9

increible photographs ,enjoyed a lot to see them all, actual i was looking some photographs of adelide,australia.I think for living , it may be a nice place.beautiful, sunshine.Would pleae drop some words of adelide city.my e-mail is attached.best of luck.Life is beautiful...Danke.

  Omar Sharif Jun 14, 2008 1:39 PM

10

The pictures are beautiful. I've always wanted to visit Australia but I know I never will. At least I get to see such beautiful pictures thanks to people like you.

  Amanda Jul 16, 2008 2:55 AM

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