BootsnAll Travel Network

Northward Ho

I am now sitting in Alice Springs midway through my 14 day tour of the red center of Australia. I have one day off here before rejoining the tour for my trip to Darwin. The trip began with a 6:00 am pick up at my hostel in Adelaide. I was the first one to be picked up and proceeded to meet my very energetic guides who had such interesting names as Horti and Doc. These are not there real names of course, but merely nicknames that they have either decided to grace themselves with, or have been given to them by others. We then went around Adelaide and picked up the rest of the people on the tour. The final group consisted of 10 people (8 girls, two guys, and two male guides). The group was made up of two Koreans, two Mexicans, one Spanish, one French, one German, two Swiss, and me. I was the oldest person in the group with the exception of one of the guides who was 30. I belive the youngest person was 21. After completing all the paper work we started on our way. The bus we were in held up to 21 people so we had lots of room to spread out. We began to do the usual things that happen when you throw people together. We introduced ourselves to each other with the help of such musical classics as Ghostbusters to help break the ice. We soon left the city behind and made our way to Parachilna which was our first stop for the night.

Parachilna is a small outback with a permanent population of 2 (no this is not a typo). There are also about 7 or so semi-residents which come in for work. It sits near the Flinders range which is a spectacular area of arid plains and worn down mountains. The town consists of a solar/diesel power station, a botanical garden, consisting of about two trees, houses, and a campground (where we stayed). On the way to Parachilna we stopped at Yourambulla Caves to look at very old Aboriginal art and managed to find some yellow footed wallabies to photograph. In Parachilna, we ate a supper consisting of camel sausages, emu patties, and kangaroo. (For those of you telling me to eat vegetables, we had those as well). We then spent the evening partaking in the town’s nightlife. This consisted of standing around a fire barrel and drinking alcohol form the pub. The town’s people were quite interesting as you can imagine in a town with about 9 residents. The big finale for the night was a 3.5 km coal train which rumbled through the town at about midnight or so. Most of the town residents, myself, and the French girl named Kelly went to look. Kelly and I were the only ones still awake.

The next day we drove to Wilpena Pound which is a large ring of mountains surrounding a central plateau. We climbed up to the top of Mt Ohlssen-Bagge and were rewarded with great views of the surrounding plains which stretch unbroken to the horizon. On the way back we came across some half tame kangaroos. People feed them so they are used to humans getting semi-close. I got some great pictures of them. My favorite is the mother kangaroo with a joey peeking out of the pouch looking around. One of the young males came close enough for me to pet it.

On Wednesday we went up the Stuart Highway to Coober Pedy. We had a very long drive on some very straight roads. The landscape was made up of dry river beds and was dotted with small trees and sometimes only small salt bushes. Central Australia was once an inland sea and the soil is somewhat salty so it makes it hard for many plants to grow there. Before arriving at Coober Pedy, we stopped at a salt lake. In the salt lake, the water had evaporated leaving the salt behind. The entire ground as far as the eye could see was covered in white salt which was quite tasty. This lake is part of an Australian military rocket range and is full of signs warning people about live bombs. We then went to Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy is the opal mining capital of the world. A large portion of the worlds opals come from here. The landscape is dotted with mine shafts and mounds of waste dirt left over from the mining process. The town itself is known for its underground dwellings and business. Surface temperatures in Coober Pedy are extreme (50C, 106F+) in the summer. Many people burrow into the hillsides for their homes. Much of the town is based on a cash economy to avoid paying taxes. This fact is actually broadly bragged about in town. We went on an Opal mine tour of the town and then I went noodling. Noodling is looking through the waste piles of sand for missed opals. There are few mounds in town left over from the day when people could actually mine in town. We slept in an underground hostel.

Thursday we made our way to Uluru or Ayers Rock (the big red rock in the middle of Australia that shows up in photographs). Uluru is very impressive and we watched the sunset at the rock. Uluru changes colors from a bright, almost glowing red, to a dull rust as the sunsets. We also spent time in the Anungu Cultural Center. The Anungu are an Aborginal people that control the lands around Uluru. It is a very sacred part of their society. As such they discourage people from climbing Uluru, but many still do. We slept outside that night in swags. Swags are an Austalian contraption that is basically an overbag for a sleeping bag. It has a matress and a head flap. The night was somewhat cold though as the temperature changes are very extreme here. The daytime temperatures are shirt sleeve weather while the night time temperature drop below freezing.

The next day the majority of the group, including myself, did a sunrise walk around the base of Uluru. The walk goes past several sacred Anungu sights which couldn’t be photographed. At the end of the walk, I watched as people climbed Uluru. The climb is very steep and slippery. We then drove to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and did a walk into a small gorge. The Kata Tjutas are large red rocks in the shapes of domes, unlike Uluru, which looks more like a cube. We then went to King’s Canyon for the night. Dinner for this night was cooked on an open flame. The Korean guy and I built two fires in seperate pits on which large cast iron pots full of potatoes, vegetables and chicken were cooked. The highlight of the evening happened later though. We partook in the Aboriginal delicacy kangaroo tail. A kangaroo’s tail is made up of a long chain of vertebrate surrounded by a thin layer of meat. The tail of a kangaroo is placed hair and all directly into the fire. The hair is singed (very stinky process) and scraped off as the meat is cooked. It actually looks more like cooking a long snake. To eat it, one has to twist off pieces of verbrate and tear the sinews connecting them. This process creates sort of a wet squishy sound. This grossed out most of the group. Besides the guide Horti, I was the only one who actually ripped off my own peices. It probably didn’t help that the girls had been chased around with the kangaroo tail by our guide and myself before it was cooked. The meat really tasted no different from the kangaroo that I had eaten before.

On our final day before Alice Springs, we did a fascinating hike around King’s Canyon. The hike went along the canyon rim. The top of the canyon was full of fossils from the old inland sea. Inside the canyon, trees grew up in places where standing water existed. We then drove to Alice Springs. In Alice Spings we visited a kangaroo rescue center which takes care of joeys that have been rescued form car accidents. Joeys can often survive wrecks which kill the mother. We all got to hold a seven month old kangaroo. We then went out to dinner as a group. Some of us stayed out later to sample the night life of Alice Springs. I am actually leaving Alice Springs a day earlier than the rest of the group. I will join them again for the Kakadu portion of the trip. So once again, bright and early tomorrow morning, I will have to begin the process of meeting new people all over again.

Side notes:

1. Several songs have come into my possession which I shall share with you over the coming updates. Please just click on the blue text to hear it. Let me know if they don’t work.Australian Travel Song

2. Didgeridoo: I have tried my hand several times at playing the didgeridoo. Much to my surprise I have actually progressed to the point where I can make the proper noise come out. The main thing I would need to learn to truly play it is circular breathing which consists of pulling in air through your noses and forcing it out of your mouth at the same time.

3. Organized tours: Being on an organized tour is about what I expected. I enjoy the people, but it does become hard at times if I just want to hear and experience nature by myself.

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One Response to “Northward Ho”

  1. Mom and Dad Says:

    Enjoyed reading this blog. We especially enjoyed the song. If we were to imagine Australia in our minds, it would be as you described it.
    You are loved and missed much!

  2. Heidi Says:

    Glad to hear you are eating some veggies! 🙂 nrnrWhat exactly is a didgeridoo? It sounds like a harmonica? nrnrI am glad you are on an organized tour. The interior of Australia sounds like a dangerous place to be by yourself. Your posts are the most thrilling part of my day.

  3. Posted from United States United States
  4. Dogwood Dell Says:

    Appears the grand adventures continue. Still waiting for you latest post.nrnrAnything new???nrnrSafe travels (and veggie eating).

  5. Posted from United States United States
  6. admin Says:

    I will probably write an update and put pictures on tomorrow. A didgeridoo is a long wooden tube hollowed out by termites. It is an Aboriginal instrument.

  7. Posted from Australia Australia

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