A Travellerspoint blog

Tick Tock, Tick Tock.....Our Final Australasian Blog

Perth to Dunsborough to Margaret River to Pemberton to Walpole to Bow Bridge to Denmark to Mount Barker to Kojonup to Perth

all seasons in one day 68 °F

Only a few days left of this wonderful Australian adventure. We’re happy to be going home but sad to leave such an awesome country behind. We’ve barely scratched the surface in the four months we’ve been in Australia, and the month in New Zealand was never going to be enough.

One of the things we’ve said several times over the past couple of months is that we need to do more travel in the US and, will hopefully, see things with different eyes now that we’ve seen so much of Australia. As awesome as it’s been, we’ve realized that there is so much to see on our own door step.

We flew from Broome to Perth, the largest city in Western Australia (population 1.2 million) and the most isolated city in the world. Perth is the only city in Western Australia - imagine the equivalent in the US of Perth being the only city west of the Mississippi. Hard to imagine that this vast country is so sparsely populated.

Perth is a vibrant, beautiful, diverse, easy to navigate city. We stayed in the city center in a quaint hotel called Miss Maud’s Swedish Hotel. Miss Maud migrated to Perth from Stockholm, Sweden in 1971. She established Miss Maud Swedish Pastry House then expanded to include 13 pastry houses, the boutique hotel and restaurant in the center of Perth.

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We enjoyed a tour around the Perth area and a boat trip on the Swan River from Perth to Fremantle. We wish our time in the Perth area had been longer - maybe a reason to come back to Australia sometime to enjoy this area a bit more.

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We then (on recommendation from Karolyn Wrightson our Australia connection in Asheville who can be found at EssentialDownUnder.com) drove through the wine region of southwestern Australia, The Margaret River and The Walpole Wilderness. After the bleak, red, sandy desert of the outback, the south western area of Australia was like an oasis.

Rebecca thinks it’s the most gorgeous area we visited in Australia. Think Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley times 100. There are wineries, olive groves, hiking trails, gorgeous coastal scenery, green rolling hills, ancient eucalyptus forests and stunning views every turn of the road, and very, very few people.

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We took a walk through the tree tops in The Valley of the Giants in the Walpole Wilderness. The tingle forest (eucalypt family) are some of the most enormous trees in the world (170 feet). The tree top walk was built to allow you to walk at the tree top level (125 feet) to give you a different perspective of the giant trees. It was a bit disconcerting in that the steel structure swayed (quite a bit) even though there were few people on the walk when we visited. We couldn’t wait to get back down to solid ground.

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From our base in Bow Bridge, at Tree Elle Retreat, we enjoyed the Southern Ocean in Australia’s south west, where the sea meets the forest. Tree Elle was a perfect getaway to celebrate the end of our journey. We particularly enjoyed our wine country villa, the gardens and animals at Tree Elle, and the hospitality of the owners, Trina and Elle. We took a particular shine to Shawn, the friendly sheep, who is a bit skittish now that she’s “with sheep” and sounds like she has a really bad case of indigestion! Click on the video below and be patient as Shawn was a bit camera shy - make sure your volume is turned up.

Then back to Perth and facing several VERY long flights back to Asheville.

The only way to end is to include a picture we took in that sums up our visit here:

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G’day Mates!

See you soon,

Trevor and Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 16:26 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (1)

Staircase to the Moon

Darwin to Kununurra to Broome

sunny 92 °F
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Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory, Australia. Situated on the Timor Sea, Darwin has a population of 100,000 making it by far the largest and most populated city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, but the least populous of all Australia's capital cities. It is the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities, and acts as the “Top End's” regional center.

Over time Darwin has grown from a pioneer outpost and small port into one of Australia's most modern and multicultural cities. Its proximity to Asia makes it an important Australian gateway to countries such as Indonesia and East Timor.

The city itself is built on a low bluff overlooking the harbor. The region, like the rest of the Top End, has a tropical climate, with a wet season and a dry season. Thankfully our visit is during the “Dry” and the weather was beautiful. Darwin receives heavy rainfall during the “Wet“, and is well-known for its spectacular lightning.

We enjoyed the harbor during a sunset cruise which gave perspective about how big Darwin Harbor is [larger than Sydney Harbor] and emphasized the fact that Darwin itself is no more than a large town. The sunset was breathtaking due to the clouds and smoke from controlled burns around the Darwin area.

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The original inhabitants of the greater Darwin area are the Larrakia people. On 9 September 1839, HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin harbor during its surveying of the area. John Clements Wickham named the region "Port Darwin" in honor of a former shipmate and famed scientist Charles Darwin.

Having been almost entirely rebuilt twice, once due to Japanese air raids during World War II and again after being devastated by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, the city is one of Australia's most modern capitals.

Around 10,000 Allied troops arrived in Darwin in the early 1940s at the outset of World War II, in order to defend Australia's northern coastline. On 19 February 1942 at 0957, 188 Japanese warplanes attacked Darwin in two waves. It was the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbor, though a considerably larger number of bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor. The attack killed at least 243 people and caused immense damage to the town. These were by far the most serious attacks on Australia in time of war, in terms of fatalities and damage. They were the first of many raids on Darwin.

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On 25 December 1974, Darwin was struck by Cyclone Tracy, which killed 71 people and destroyed over 70% of the town's buildings, including many old stone buildings, which could not withstand the lateral forces generated by the strong winds. After the disaster, an airlift evacuated 30,000 people, over half the city's population at the time which was 43,000 people which was the biggest airlift ever seen in Australia's history. The town was subsequently rebuilt with newer materials and techniques during the late 1970s by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, led by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Clem Jones. A satellite city of Palmerston was built 20 km (12 mi) south of Darwin in the early 1980s.

A few remnants of the old Darwin can still be found, including the ruins of the Old Town Hall, which stands as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

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We then flew from Darwin to Broome via Kunnunura, Western Australia.

Originally founded in the late 1880s as a pearling port, Broome [population 11,000] markets itself as the southern gateway to the magnificent wilderness region of the Kimberley - a tropical seaside town which “simply oozes charm and character”.

No aspect of Broome in Australia is as heavily marketed as the beaches. Actually, as heavily marketed as Cable Beach. That's what all the brochures rave about - 14 miles of pristine white sand with clear tropical water. The brochures also show flash resorts and fancy restaurants, lush tropical gardens, pubs and bars packed with people and so on. You know what to expect at the strip along the beach or the esplanade of any popular holiday destination...

Everything you expect from Broome is there. At least, one or two of each... There is a resort at the beach. There is a bar at the beach. There is a cafe, and a pub. But there aren't dozens to choose from.

It also appears from the signage that you are forbidden from doing most things at Cable Beach and to perform due diligence when swimming when jellyfish are present!

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Apart from the Beach [singular] Broome is a small place! There just isn't much there. "Where the red desert meets the sea" is one of the slogans used to market Broome. That's exactly it. The desert on one side, the Indian ocean on the other. Makes for great photos, but no brochure ever mentions that there is not much in between, and absolutely nothing above or below except more desert and ocean. That's all there is to the coast of northern Western Australia, and to Broome.

As for the tropical flair: the temperatures are tropical, the vegetation isn't. All the resorts, backpackers and many residents planted lots of palm trees around the place, but those gardens are like little islands. Better think "Outback", not "tropical paradise".

The town itself provides a stark contrast to what you find around Broome in Western Australia. Both the Kimberley to the east and the west coast below Broome are magnificent wilderness areas, nearly totally devoid of people.

Broome is basically a small town in the middle of nowhere, and in its heart it would rather remain a quiet, small town...

We stayed at the Mangrove Resort Hotel overlooking Roebuck Bay where we were fortunate witness the “Staircase to the Moon“, a natural phenomenon caused by the rising of a full moon reflecting off the exposed mudflats in Roebuck Bay at extremely low tide, to create an optical illusion of a staircase reaching to the moon. Most of Broome and surrounds descended upon the hotel terrace to witness this event - we were able to observe the moon rising in comfort from the privacy of our own verandah!

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We also enjoyed a new Australian film release, Samson and Delilah, at Broome’s Sun Pictures, the world’s oldest operating open-air picture gardens. We sat on beach chairs on a verandah in front of the movie screen in the outdoor gardens (not sure we’d recommend the film - very depressing - although it is a story about the Aboriginal plight in modern Australia).

We took a whole day 4WD tour from Broome to Cape Leveque - the 256 mile round trip traverses the whole Dampier Peninsula north of Broome. The drive takes about two and a half to three hours, each way!. The turn-off to the Cape Leveque Road is only a few miles out of town, and only the first half can be really rough. Parts of the road are still unsealed, very sandy, and can be badly corrugated. There is a plan to have the whole road sealed by 2011, it looks as if the work will be completed even sooner, but at this stage you still need a 4WD to make the trip. Once you reach the Aboriginal owned country further north the roads improve.

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We visited the Beagle Bay Aboriginal community, a regional heartland of Catholic missionaries and home to the Sacred Heart Church and its beautiful altar decorated with mother-of-pearl shell. The church was built, literally in the middle of nowhere, by German Palatine monks - extremely remote! The monks were later assisted by nine Irish nuns, The Sisters of St. John of God, who undertook, teaching, nursing, domestic and pastoral duties in the Beagle Bay and Lombadina Aboriginal Communities between 1913 & 1968.

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At One Arm Point [also known as Ardyaloon] we toured the aquaculture hatchery which breeds turtles, fish, clams and trochus shells, which are cultivated for their mother-of-pearl. Needless to say, Rebecca contributed to the local economy by purchasing a trochus shell bracelet!

After viewing the impressive Buccaneer Archipelago and lunching at Cape Leveque,

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we returned to Broome via Lombadina, another Aboriginal community. This was the first community on the peninsula to venture into tourism, over 10 years ago and the beach may be the most stunning on the whole peninsula. We also visited the unique church, an ingenious structure built from bush timbers and corrugated iron.

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We fly next to Perth and then drive south to the Margaret River region. Our Australasian adventure is fast reaching its conclusion!

G’day Mates!

Trevor & Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 16:31 Archived in Australia Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

A Town Named Alice

Alice Springs to Tennant Creek to Daly Waters to Mataranka to Katherine to Cooinda to Jabiru

sunny 92 °F
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We spent four days, smack dab in the center of Australia, in Alice Springs. “The Alice” started as a simple telegraph station on the Overland Telegraph Line and is now Central Australia’s key town.

The telegraph station was built near a permanent water hole in the bed of the normally dry Todd River and named after Alice Todd, wife of the Australian Superintendent Of Telegraphs. Originally called Stuart the name was officially changed to Alice Springs in 1933, following prolonged public pressure.

Today Alice Springs serves mainly as a service provider for tourists and has some interesting museums and Aboriginal Art Galleries.

While we were in Alice Springs we learned of a Government Intervention to correct problems the Northern Territory of Australia is having with Aboriginal communities. We spoke with one resident (Caucasian) who felt that the Intervention will help and also felt that the Stolen Generations were much better off being taken from their families to help the Aboriginal people become “successful”. Mostly the subject is not spoken about openly.

One of the first things we noticed in Alice is the number of Aboriginals just “hanging around” the public squares. Because their land has been taken away they are forced to live in town “camps” and have nowhere to go during the day. One of the brochures we picked up, printed and distributed by local government, is entitled Dos & Don’ts in Alice Springs. Apparently the crime rate is very high and many of the Caucasian locals are leaving the area because it is unsafe.

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We did a little research into what this latest “Intervention” means. There are thousands of articles about the issue but hopefully the following sums up at least part of the problem (it‘s obviously only one view of the problem and current response):

A 2007 Government Report found that sexual abuse of Aboriginal children is happening largely because of the breakdown of Aboriginal culture and society and the combined effects of poor health, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, gambling, pornography, as well as poor education and housing. The Inquiry made 97 comprehensive recommendations. These include action in the areas of education, health, family support services, child protection and community empowerment so that Aboriginal communities can make decisions about their future.

On 21 June, 2008 the Prime Minister, John Howard and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough announced the Federal Government was responding to the report by taking emergency measures and seizing control of 60 remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. In August legislation was introduced into Federal Parliament and passed both houses giving the Federal Government extraordinary powers to take over townships, communities, Aboriginal-held assets and welfare payments.

While previous reports assessed that the problem is the breakdown of culture and the disempowerment of Aboriginal communities, the Federal Government’s response further destroys culture and the control communities have over their own lives. The Federal Government’s actions destroys rather than builds communities. Worse, it threatens the future of Aboriginal children.

The Federal Government’s response ignores the recommendations of previous reports, particularly the recommendation which calls on the Federal and Northern Territory Governments to work with Aboriginal and Islander leaders and communities to create a coordinated plan to address child abuse. Instead, the Federal Government has taken ‘emergency’ action without consultation or coordination with the effected communities. Also the150 legislation and strategies ignore the fact that the previous reports found that perpetrators of child sexual abuse are just as likely to be non-Indigenous as Indigenous.

The Federal Government’s legislation was rushed into Federal Parliament without time for careful consideration, thereby ignoring decent process despite the far-reaching implications of the ‘emergency measures’. The main Act does not even use the word ‘children’ but talks about acquisition of rights, titles and interests in the land, and the ability of the Commonwealth to take over business management in communities, none of which has anything to with the protection of children.

In particular the Acts take away land, property and community control by granting 5 year leases to the Federal Government over major Aboriginal communities. No negotiation is required. These unconditional ‘leases’ give the Federal Government rights to exclusive possession, to repair or demolish any existing buildings and infrastructure, and to terminate the lease at any time. No rights are noted in favor of residents or traditional landowners. Compensation is not guaranteed.

The article goes on to describe other measures which take away rights of Aboriginals without appeal.
economic capacity and independence of Aboriginal communities.

If you want more information visit www.listenupaustralia.org.

Some of highlights of Alice Springs:

The Telegraph Station

The station was built in 1870 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide. The completion of the line commenced a new era in Australia, for it enabled fast and direct communication between Britain and her independent Australian colonies.

The telegraph line was constructed in 2 years and covered 2,000 miles of the outback. 36,000 timber poles which linked one telegraph wire were installed through rugged and desolate land in the center of Australia.

The Telegraph Station was also a grazing property with 300 head of cattle and 70 horses and goats. It later served as a home and school for Aboriginal children during the time of the Stolen Generations.

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Royal Flying Doctor Service Base

The Royal Flying Doctor Service was established in 1928 to provide medical aid in emergencies throughout the remote areas of Australia. Today the service covers more then 4,500,000 square miles, an area larger than Western Europe.

The service provides emergency transportation, medical diagnosis over the phone and emergency rescue operations for residents and travelers in Australia.

School of the Air

Using a combination of satellite linked webcams and HF radio, the School of the Air broadcasts lessons to children living on remote outback station (ranches) over an area of 800,000 square miles.

Alice Springs Desert Park

The park includes a walking and interactive tour of the key habitats of the central Australia environment. Some of the explanations we encountered were very educational and forthright!

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We enjoyed our stay in Alice Springs at an apartment called Vatu Sanctuary. It was a fabulous property with beautiful gardens, outdoor fountains and lots of nooks and crannies to relax before our next stop in Tennant Creek.

On the way to Tennant Creek was passed over the Tropic of Capricorn and a place called The Devil’s Marbles which are huge granite boulders strewn in precarious piles along the highway. They are the remains of molten lava eroded over millions of years.

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Tennant Creek (population 3,290) is the only sizable town on the highway between Katherine and Alice Springs. It’s rumored that Tennant Creek was first settled when a wagon carrying beer broke down here in the early 1930s and the drivers decided to make themselves comfortable while they consumed the freight (now the site of the Tennant Creek Hotel and Pub).

Mataranka (population 20) was our next destination which was the home of the author, Jeannie Gunn, who wrote ‘We of the Never Never” A town square contains figures of several of the characters of the novel.

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Katherine (population 11,000) was our next stop. Compared to the previous days it felt like a bustling place. Katherine is built on the Katherine River has flooded many times, most recently in 1998, when water reached up to 7 feet high on the main buildings in town.

The main attractions are the Cutta Cutta Caves which are tropical caves (think warm air rather than cold like most caves), Nitmulik (Katherine) Gorge, and Edith Falls.

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After Katherine we made our way to Kakadu National Park which is a World Heritage listed site for both its natural and cultural importance. We stayed in two places in the park, Cooinda and Jabiru. We’ve now traded the flies from the center of Australia to mosquitoes in the tropical north (we’ve never seen so many mosquitoes in our lives).

Within Kakadu we visited Aboriginal art sites and museums, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. We took a 4 wheel drive tour to Jim Jim and Twin Falls, The track is barely more than a path between the trees and over creek beds (95 miles round trip).

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As we were enjoying a picnic between the falls and alongside a 3 feet deep stream (which you have to drive through), an Australian tourist in a rental SUV got stranded in the stream. We helped pull him out and the tour guides tried for 45 minutes or so to restart the SUV with no luck. The couple ended up getting in the tour vehicle with us after phoning Thrifty to tow their car to no avail (it was a Sunday).

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The things we kept thinking and whispering quietly with our other tour participants were:

When you rent a car you are told specifically to not drive on 4 wheel drive tracks

The SUV was not equipped to drive on the type of track we were on - it was too low to the ground and didn’t have an exhaust snorkel

If the renters were trying to “get away” with driving where they shouldn’t they were in trouble now since Thrifty would have to send a tow vehicle out a 95 mile dirt track to rescue them

They just bought the car they were renting!

Glad it wasn’t us!!!

Our travels are now winding down - less than 3 weeks left. Next destination is Darwin.

G’day Mates!

Trevor and Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 12:57 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (0)

Pukulpa Ngalyanama Ngurra Nganampakutu

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park [Ayers Rock and The Olgas]

sunny 78 °F
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Pukulpa Ngalyanama Ngurra Nganampakutu - Welcome To Aboriginal Country.

The most instantly recognizable of all Australian symbols is the huge, red monolith of Uluru, or Ayers Rock.

Rising high above the flat desert landscape, Uluru is one of the world's natural wonders, along with the 36 rock domes of Kata Tjuta, or The Olgas, and their deep valleys and gorges. The National Park was named as a World Heritage site in 1987.

The entire area is sacred to Aboriginal people and, in 1985, the park was handed back to its indigenous owners and its sights re-assumed their traditional names. As Aboriginal land, it is leased back to the Australian government and jointly managed with the local Anangu people.

Uluru, 2.25 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, stands 1,142 feet above the plains. It is made from a single piece of sandstone which extends 3 miles beneath the desert surface. Besides its immense Aboriginal cultural significance, Uluru is an outstanding natural phenomenon, best observed by watching its changing colors at dusk and dawn.

At Uluru, we watched the sunrise, met with Alice, an Aboriginal guide, who taught use how to make tools in the traditional way, light fires and how to throw a spear!

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We also walked the nearly 6 mile path around the base then watched the sunset continually in awe of how the rock changes from minute to minute.

One of the interesting phenomenon at Uluru is how many people climb the rock regardless of the fact that the Aboriginal owners of the land ask us to respect their wishes and not climb the rock. The route to the top follows the sacred path taken by the ancestral Mala (hare wallaby) men for important ceremonies. We watched numerous people climb Uluru and wanted to take on a personal survey to find out why, regardless of the wishes of the Anangu people and the strong warnings about the dangers of climbing (several people die each year climbing Uluru), they still choose to climb............takes all kinds.

Kata Tjuta, meaning "many heads", is a collection of massive rounded rock domes 25 miles west of Uluru. Kata Tjuta is not one large rock; it is a system of gorges and valleys that you can walk around, making it a haunting, quiet and spiritual place. Some of the rocks are bunched close together with only narrow precipitous crevices between. Others, rounded and polished by the wind, are more spaced apart. The highest is called Mount Olga [1500 feet] and is nearly 660 feet higher than Uluru.

The rocks, also known as the Olgas [named after the Queen of Spain in 1872, when the rocks were first explored by a white man], like their nearby neighbour, Uluru, have been sacred to the Aborigines since time immemorial and figure prominently in their legends about the Dreaming, the time of creation. To the Anangu people, Kata Tjuta is of equal significance to Uluru, but fewer stories about it can be told as they are restricted to initiated tribal men.

We enjoyed a sunset eco-tour of Kata Tjuta which was just as spectacular as watching the sunset at Uluru.

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Archaeological evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have lived in this area for at least 22,000 years. The Anangu people believe that both sites were formed during the creation period by ancestral spirits who also gave them the laws and rules of society that they live by today.

After leaving the Park, we continued our journey northwards towards Kings Canyon which is part of the Watarrka National Park in Northern Territory, Australia. Sitting at the western end of the George Gill Range, it is 200 miles southwest of Alice Springs and 825 miles south of Darwin, our destination at "The Top End".

We drove on the unsealed Mereenie -Watarrka Road, a scenic road traversing Aboriginal lands which required a permit. We met fellow travelers and interesting sights on our way to Kings Canyon!

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The walls of Kings Canyon are over 900 feet high, with Kings Creek at the bottom. Part of the gorge is a sacred Aboriginal site.

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Rebecca managed to find herself some sensible headwear to protect herself from the outback sun!

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We spent one night at Kings Canyon and then continued our way north to Glen Helen. Situated at the Western end of the spectacular West MacDonnell Ranges, Glen Helen Resort is the climax to an adventurous and colourful drive, a little over an hour from Alice Springs.

We took a couple of walks, including the Glen Helen Gorge

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and the Ormiston Gorge Waterhole

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Next stop - A Town Named Alice!

G'day Mates!

Trevor & Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 15:23 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (0)

An Outback Walkabout

Quorn to Parachilna to Iga Warta to Arkaroola to Marree to William Creek to Coober Pedy

sunny 65 °F
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The next 30 days of our Australia journey takes us into the Red Center or Outback of Australia. We've already seen some spectacular sights, learned about Aboriginal culture and history, viewed rock carvings and cave art that is an estimated 45,000 years old, lived with several Australian Aboriginal families for a couple of days, flown over the largest salt lake on earth and shared many rich experiences in the harsh Australian land with other travelers and native Australians.

Some of the highlights:

Located 300 miles north of Adelaide on the broad plains to the west of the Flinders Ranges (the largest mountain range in South Australia stretching over 270 miles) the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna (population 7) oozes character that words alone cannot describe. It has become a favorite with filmmakers in search of outback scenery. Scenes from Rabbit Proof Fence, Gallipoli and Holy Smoke! were shot here. The sign that announces the Prairie Hotel causes a few double takes: 'On Your Plate - 3 kilometers' it reads, beneath yellow road signs that depict a kangaroo, a camel and an emu.

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We spent 2 days and nights in Parachilna and enjoyed a 4 wheel drive geology tour to Wilpena Pound, Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges. The guide brought the geology of the area alive and helped us appreciate the harsh, barren land that contains some of the oldest mountain ranges in earth. We saw the site of a 500 million year old meteor strike that would destroy life on planet earth if it occurred today.

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Our next stop was Iga Warta (population 42), an Aboriginal Cultural Center. The first humans to inhabit the Flinders Ranges were the Adnyamathanha people [meaning ‘hill people’ or ‘rock people’] whose descendants still reside in the area. Cave paintings, rock engravings and other artifacts indicate that the Adnyamathana people have lived in the Flinders Ranges for over fifty thousand years. We stayed in a very rustic accommodation within Iga Warta and spent each day and evening with the Coulthard family learning history, culture and knowledge of the outback environment.

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We participated in several tours including a tour to the Red Gorge which contains rock engravings that are estimated at over 45,000 years old, an ochre pit tour that described how the Aboriginal people used different shades of ochre as body paint to cleanse their spirits and bodies and connect with Mother Earth, a rock painting tour that took us to caves that contain rock paintings over 50,000 years old, and a social history tour that described the more recent history of the Adnyamathanha people once English settlers and missionaries settled in the area.

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We also shared a very private, Coulthard family ceremony that honored a child taken from one of the family members at the time of "The Stolen Generation". From 1909 to 1969 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families according to government policy.

The policy enforced removal of Aboriginal children that were not "full blood" to encourage them to become assimilated into broader society so that eventually there would be no more indigenous people left. Some also believe that the removals were done to mask the fact that white men had fathered children with Aboriginal women. At the time, and some would argue it is still believed today, indigenous people were seen as an inferior race.

Children were taken from Aboriginal families so they could be brought up "white" and taught to reject their Aboriginal heritage. The stolen children were placed with institutions and from the 1950's began also being placed with white families.

The people who supported child removals thought they were doing the right thing. Finally, in 2008 the Australian Government issued an official apology to the Aboriginal People.

No records were kept of how many children were taken from their families, where the children were taken from or where they were placed. Even today some Aboriginals do not know their own birth families. If you are interested in seeing a recent film about this social issue, "Rabbit Proof Fence" not only depicts forced removals but also shows the harsh country of the Outback.

Our time at Iga Warta was very insightful, emotional and eye opening and is one of the highlights of our Australia adventure.

After Iga Warta we spent 2 nights in Arkaroola, a wilderness sanctuary in the Northern Flinders Ranges. We took a 26 mile 4 wheel drive adventure along rugged razorback ridges and across the peaks of the Flinders Ranges' most rugged mountains to the climax at Sillers Lookout.

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Arkaroola also has some of the best astronomical seeing conditions in the Southern Hemisphere since the night skies are free of atmospheric and light pollution. We toured one of Australia's largest privately owned Astronomical Observatories and viewed several stars, constellations, Saturn and the moon.

We then spent 2 nights in Marree (population 80) which was established as a major center for the Afghan camel trains that serviced the outback from the 1870s to the 1930s. Today the town is a travelers service area with a pub a motel and convenience store.

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From Marree, we enjoyed a 1 1/2 hour scenic flight over Lake Eyre, the world's largest salt lake which is normally empty. Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia, at approximately 50 feet below sea level, and, on the rare occasions that it fills, it is the largest lake in Australia.

We seem to have timed our visit perfectly since for the last month the Lake has been full (due to the heavy rains in the area a month ago). In recent times, the lake has had water in 1954 and in 2001. It's an amazing geological phenomena since when the lake does fill there are multitudes of fish and bird life that "suddenly" appear.

We also flew over the Marree Man which is a huge outline of an Aboriginal warrior that people unknown etched into the desert sands in June1998.

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The outline appears to depict an Australian Aborigine male, most likely of the Pitjantjatjara tribe, hunting birds or wallabies with a throwing stick. It lies on a plateau at Finnis Springs 40 miles west of Marree. and is just outside of the 125,000 square mile Woomera Prohibited Area.

The figure is 2. 6 miles tall. It is the largest known geoglyph in the world and is estimated to have taken between four and eight weeks to create. Despite this its origins are a mystery, with not a single witness to any part of the expansive operation.

The discovery of the Marree Man fascinated Australians due to its size and the mystery surrounding how it came to be there. At the time of the discovery there was only one track entering and one track exiting the site and no footprints or tire marks were discernible!

The flight reinforced how barren and vast this area is - it's staggering that there is nothing but sand and a few scraggly bushes for miles and miles and miles. And we've just touched a tiny portion of the Outback.

However, there does seem to be one thing in abundance here and that's flies. We've never seen so many flies in our lives and have quickly mastered the "Australian wave" trying to keep them off our faces, out of our mouth, ears and nose. We did invest in some fly nets which seem to be doing the trick but don't make much of a fashion statement!

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After Marree we drove on the Oodnadata Track (read dirt or unsealed road) to William Creek (population 12) and the weather-beaten William Creek Hotel which is basically a pub and motel in the intersection of 2 remote tracks. We drove in excess of 250 miles on unpaved, dusty, remote, treeless, barren road and passed only one car on the way - good thing we didn't have any car troubles!

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The next stop was Coober Pedy (population 3,500), the opal capital of the world. Coober Pedy is said to mean "white man's hole in the ground". Sorry to say, but is is a hole in the ground. The majority of homes and businesses are built underground or into the sides of hills to control the temperature. Summer days in Coober Pedy average 130 degrees. We stayed at the Desert Cave Hotel, the 'world's first international underground hotel'.

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The Lonely Planet Guide describes Coober Pedy as "an inhospitable environment and the town's appearance reflects this: water is expensive and the rainfall scant, so even in the middle of winter the town looks dried out and dusty. It's not as ramshackle as it used to be (would have hated to see it then!), but even so you could never describe it as attractive. In fact, the town looks a bit like the end of the world, making it the perfect locale for 'end of the world films' such as Mad Max III and several other cult films."

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We realized after our drive from Marree and a day in Coober Pedy (annual average rainfall - 5 inches) that, other than flies, there is more than an abundance of sand in the Outback - it took us hours to dust, vacuum and wash the car today. Next stop another metropolis of 10 people (Mt. Ebenezer) then on to Uluru (Ayers Rock).

G'day Mates!

Trevor and Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 11:08 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (0)

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