Post from October, 2003

white christmas?

Wednesday, 29. October 2003 8:25

Note: If you haven’t read me before, it’s important to know that I’m from the U.S., but I’m studying abroad in Australia for this semester. :)

I really want to go somewhere. There is SO much that Ryan and I need to do in the area before we leave. We’ve been so obsessed with touring the country, that we’ve barely done anything locally! We’re leaving at the end of November, so we need to find time soon.

We’d like to go to the Perth zoo for a day, because I’ve heard it’s pretty good. We definitely need to get out to Rottnest Island for a few days, and maybe go scuba diving there. I’m also semi-interested in doing a Margaret River wine tour… and going down to Albany for a weekend… and heading up to the Pinnacles. There’s also a tiny amusement park that Ryan wants to go to, but I think it looks kind of dumb. And of course, we need to get over to the beach!

It sucks that as the weather gets warmer, the school work gets piled on thicker. I have SO much to do in these next few weeks. I *think* I’ll be able to relax a little this weekend, so perhaps we’ll get to do something. We’re really running out of time though.

Yesterday we took a short work break and headed over to the Garden City Shopping Centre. Ryan has an ear infection and needed to pick up some medicine. I was finally able to buy what I’ve wanted for a while. Christmas cards! There are some really cool ones that I wanted to take home with me, but I didn’t have a chance to get them last time.

It’s so bizarre that it’s hot during Christmas here. I’m used to snow, so it’s a huge change. Most of their decorations and cards are related to a cold wintery Christmas. However, I found some that are more ‘Australian’. I especially like the ones where Santa is on the beach. They’re neat. :) I spent a little over $30 on them though.. lol. Just a little carried away, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t think I’d ever get used to the different seasons, even if I moved here permanently. It’s been drilled into my brain that it’s supposed to be cold in December and hot in July. For example, Halloween is this Friday. To me, it doesn’t feel like that *at all* — it’s supposed to be chilly before Halloween! It’s very strange.

And now, I’m going to venture out into the beautiful sunshine and go to class.

Category:Australia, Diaryland | Comment (0) | Author: Megan

Aussie Entry 17

Saturday, 25. October 2003 10:00

Wow, so much has been going on over the past week that I thought, “Hey, I’ll go ahead and write a journal entry about it!”  Then I realised that I never even finished up with my whole holiday story.  Not that it really matters since most people I know don’t even read those long entries – not to mention click on the hundreds of links posted throughout.  Already Megan’s mum thinks that I’m missing out on the glamour and excitement of doing homework, so I’ll try to keep this one shorter (yeah, like that’s going to happen) and without as many hyperlinks.  I trust everyone’s already seen my Uluru pictures, anyway ::cough::.  Right, and I’ll step off my mountain now and take you back to the beginning of the month when Megan and I took a plane out into the middle of Australia to see a big rock – literally.
 

Uluru Safari: Day 1
This morning, I was actually ready on time to get to the airport early.  This second time around wasn’t bad at all, but it freaks me out a little that I will be only going to that airport one more time (at least for the next few years).  We took Qantas, which meant longer lines than Virgin Blue, but it went pretty fast.  I ended up with an aisle seat, and Megan had the middle.  I’m always a little irked when I don’t get a window seat, so since we had time, I went back through the line to see if I could be re-seated.  Thankfully, the attendant had no problem with it, and Megan and I ended up having three seats to ourselves.  Speaking of seating (I’m already going on a tangent), I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but after talking to her travel agent, Megan was able to secure a seat on both of my flights from Perth to Sydney and Sydney to Los Angeles at the end of November.  Her itinerary originally had her scheduled to fly out a few days earlier (during exams), so she luckily moved it up to correspond with mine.  Now, international flights on Qantas arrange seating on the purchase date, so I’ve always known that I’d have a window seat in row 50.  When Megan booked, she asked for a seat near mine, and there was one available in the same row of three, aisle.  If you follow that, it means that someone was booked on (or requested) a middle seat on the aircraft.  That’s a little moronic for a 14-hour flight, but whatever.

When we boarded the aircraft, it figured that my window seat was over the wing.  However, strangely enough, this non-Boeing aircraft had the wings above the windows, meaning that just a big jet engine was in my way.  I preferred that to a big wing, though.  Our flight path took us directly over Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and I was seated on the side of the plane able to check out the latter.  The pilot even tipped the airplane so that we could get a better sight of it.  Awesome!  The same thing happened on the way home (including the routing and tipping), but this time I requested a seat to see Uluru.  So I got the chance to see the best of both worlds – from the air!

We touched down an hour later in Alice Springs (a good 6-hour drive from the rocks).  It’s not much more than a tourist town, but it was cool in its own respect.  We were dropped off at the Melanka Motel, which, according to the link I posted in my itinerary, included a refrigerator, air conditioning, mini bar, phone, TV, in-room movies, pool and spa, and a bunch more.  Of course, when we got there, we were directed to a small building down the street – Melanka Backpacker’s Hostel.  So, you can cut out a bunch of those accommodations that I originally thought we would have, but it still wasn’t that bad.  In fact, I thought it was pretty darn good!  There was air conditioning (which only worked after 6 at night, and at small intervals in-between), a refrigerator (small, dormitory-style, but still a fridge), and even a sink with a mirror.  As with most hostels, we shared a bathroom with the whole floor, but the showers in the place were great!  I’ve never seen a showerhead that sprayed so much water at such pressure.  Megan on the other hand was very disappointed, to say the least.  She pointed out that the floors were made of dingy brick, the ceiling was falling apart onto the beds, the bathrooms had hardly any light (which turned off automatically after a short amount of time), and the sheets on the beds had stains.  I guess I didn’t see the big deal – what can you expect for $15 a night?

Megan wanted to get out of the place, so we took a stroll around town, but I regrettably left my camera in the room.  I suppose it’s about equal to the avenue at White Marsh (for those who get the reference), but I still like pictures of new places I’ve been.  We had a bite to eat at some tavern down the street before coming back to Melanka.  Megan curled up in her sleeping bag, preventing any bit of her body from touching the contaminated bed.  I didn’t have any problems with the place myself (that surprises some people, doesn’t it?), so I slept soundly in my bed, under the discoloured hostel blankets.
 

Uluru Safari: Day 2
Megan and I woke early the next morning.  As she predicted, quite a bit of the ceiling flaked off onto our beds, so hopefully there wasn’t any asbestos in it.  We headed over to the “good” Melanka to check in with Adventure Tours.  Now, we had booked two other trips with this tour company in Cairns and both times the guides were over a half hour late, which meant that we were playing catch-up all day with no free time on our hands.  It just wasn’t the best experience.  This time, as predictable as Adventure Tours is, our guide was late.  She was a 23-year old blonde sheila named Kirsten who blamed her tardiness on the fact that she had other people to pick up before us.  Anyway, we started our trip south and stopped at a camel farm, where we had the option of taking a very short ride around a pen for an additional price.  Since you can do the same thing back home, we decided to skip that option.  Instead, I wandered over to a “tame” dingo.  Now, if you aren’t familiar with dingos, they are basically very wild and dangerous dogs in the Aussie outback.  So, the chance to get up close with a tame one (and take its picture!) was a cool benefit.  I walked over to the guy and snapped a few pictures, but I didn’t care for any of them, so I squatted down to his level to get an eye-level shot of him.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera around my neck, so the dog took notice of my dangling camera strap.  In an instant he jumped at me and caught the strap in his jaws.  He may have only been playing around, but having a dingo growling at me and pulling my camera with his sharp teeth was enough to make me just a tad nervous.  Even still, I was not about to let my camera fall into the paws of an Aussie dog – my warranty had just run out a couple months ago on the bloody thing!  Eventually, I pulled my camera and the dog to the end of his leash before he finally let go.  And that, my friends, is my heroic story.

Right, as we continued our adventure down the road, suddenly an alarm started sounding from the front of the bus.  Utterly and completely at a loss at what to do, Kirsten pulled to the side of the road, turned off the bus, and waited a minute.  She tried turning the bus on again, but the beeping alarm continued.  She demanded that the back emergency door be shut, which of course, it already was.  So, she pulled out the bus maintenance manual and proceeded to read it to figure out what was going on.  Having no idea what to do and already running behind schedule, she handed the manual to a member of our group and asked him to figure out the problem.  In the meantime she decided to continue down the road, with the loud beeping continuing the whole way.  Between the beeps, she made a call to another Adventure Tours guide for help.  After about ten minutes of beeping, she pulled off to the side of the road again to fiddle with some gadgets, but nothing worked.  Eventually, the guide she called on the radio showed up.  He jumped into our bus and fixed the problem in seconds.  I only threw in that story as a foreshadowing of how Kristen’s amazing maintenance and driving skills would come into play later.

Still running behind, we stopped at a bottle shop where we picked up the compulsory alcohol to last us the next couple nights.  Then, we headed to the Olgas, which was the result of an itinerary change.  Amongst my group (which was primarily in their 20’s) was an old couple, who were probably in their 70’s.  Obviously, their travel agent booked them on the wrong tour since we would be doing some strenuous hiking at Uluru and King’s Canyon.  To compensate, we headed off to the Valley of the Winds hike (the easiest of Uluru and the Canyon) first.  Of course, since we started late, we got to the Olgas late, forcing us to take a different, much shorter and less spectacular hike.  Megan, who had been here twice before was the most disappointed, knowing what we were missing out on.

Afterwards, we headed out to the Ayers Rock sunset viewing with at least 50 other busloads of people.  We picked a relatively uncrowded lookout spot and watched the rock change colours as the last rays of sunlight streaked across the sky.  We got to have glasses – or rather cheap plastic mugs – of campaign.  Whoo-hoo!

We got back to camp, which was more of a resort campground.  There were huge permanent tents set up with a fire pit and a huge outdoor room covered in mosquito netting to keep the buggers out.  It was quite a difference camping in the outback here compared to Karijini.  Anyway, we had some snags for dinner amongst heaps of other food.  None of which was thanks to Kirsten, by the way, who for some strange reason always found an excuse not to cook or do work.  This time, she needed to “refuel the bus.”  After about a half hour, she returned to a huge barbeque dinner.  Everyone headed off to bed early – after all, wakeup call was at 4 in the morning to catch sunrise at Ayers Rock.
 

Uluru Safari: Day 3
I felt like I had hardly gotten a wink of sleep when Kirsten came around the tents to wake everyone up.  I grabbed some continental breakfast and waited, and waited, and waited until Kirsten was ready to leave.  Dawn was already breaking as we got into the bus to make the half hour ride to the rock.  On the drive, we were told we had three options – first was to walk the entire base of the rock without seeing the sunrise; second was to climb the rock after seeing the sunrise; third was to walk around half the rock after seeing the sunrise.  I was in the third group that chose the last.  To drop off the “full walk” people, Kristen thought it would be a good idea to turn the entire bus (plus trailer) around in the middle of the narrow road that runs around the rock.  I suppose that rear-view and side mirrors aren’t necessary for Australian Tours guides because she sure as heck didn’t check them when she attempted the U-turn.  Once our bus was completely perpendicular to the road, my side of the bus had a clear view of another huge tour bus slamming on its breaks to avoid hitting us.  Thankfully, he missed us by a couple metres.  Since the sunrise is a popular attraction at Uluru, there was a whole line of tour buses behind him that followed suit in the sudden stop.  With horns blaring, Kirsten decided not to do anything except say “can’t he get around me?”  I guess she forgot that she was driving a long bus with trailer, which was taking up all lanes of traffic, plus the shoulders.  So, Kirsten worked the bus back and forth until she was freed from the perpendicular position and on our way again.  Of course, a third of our group still had to be dropped off, so less than a minute later she slows to a crawl and pulls into a ditch on the other side of the road.  As the group departed, all she could say was “Hmm, was he behind me the whole time?”  To which our group yelled out, “Yes!!”  She shrugged her shoulders and continued onto the sunset viewing area, which is basically a long stretch of road alongside the rock.

Once we had driven past the buckets of buses that were up early to get good spots, we came across an area of the road with just a few people scattered on it.  Kirsten decided to put her parking skills to the test and pulled her bus to the side of the road, directly in front of a line of armature and professional photographers.  Although most just rolled their eyes and moved, one bloke became extremely livid.  He banged his fist on our bus, demanding that we move forward, out of the way of his camera, which he claimed was set up hours beforehand to take time-lapse photos of the sunrise against the rock.  Kirsten didn’t want to listen and shut down the bus, to which the man replied “You lazy sacks of sod!  Get the heck out of my way!”  (I cleaned up his language a bit for you.)  Still unwilling to budge, the photographer jumped into Kirsten’s seat and turned the key, screaming that she move.  Of course, by now the beauty of the sunrise on the rock was disturbed and everyone’s attention had focused on us.  Not wanting to get run over or miss the sunrise, Megan and I walked away from the bus and to the other side of the road to take our pictures.

After the whole sunrise ordeal was finished, we hopped back on the bus and Kirsten drove us to the rock climbing area for those who wished to partake.  I suppose it’s too much work for tour guides to turn their heads, too, because as the other third of the bus was disembarking, Kirsten thought she might move it forward a few more metres, almost running over a couple of our group members.  Megan and I just held on tight for the final drop-off location.  I think everyone was glad to be out of that bus.

The rest of the day was very nice.  Megan and I walked around half of the mammoth rock, which was awesome.  I’m sure if you check out my pictures, you will just see a bunch of boulders and shapes in a big, red, rocky hill, but I tell you, it was pretty cool.  Not cool enough for me to go again (after all, it is just a rock), but it’s definitely something you should see if you come to Australia.

A few hours later, everyone met up at the scary bus (or is it the scary Kirsten?).  Kirsten told us between puffs of her cigarette that we would be making another little hike to another part of the huge rock.  She took us around to the different areas and rattled off a bunch of facts.  I have to admit that Adventure Tour guides do know a lot of stuff, but it sounds like they are reading from an encyclopaedia.  I could learn just as much from the plaques along the way or from brochures handed out by the park.  Other than that, I don’t think I can say anything good about Adventure Tours.  Now, don’t get the impression that I didn’t have a good time at Uluru, because I did.  The sights are incredible and something you can experience once in a lifetime.  I think we could have been better off with different tour guides – say Paul or John from Australian Adventure Travel (definitely a different company).

We eventually headed off to our next destination – King’s Canyon.  Or, at least we made our way to the outskirts of it for another camp site.  On the way there, we stopped by a roadhouse that offered helicopter tours.  Without hesitation, half of our bus squealed in delight of being able to ride in the skies – if even for the five minute tour they offered.  I have to admit that I was a little nervous of the whole ordeal.  You always hear horror stories about tour helicopters crashing into the Grand Canyon in Arizona or volcanoes in Hawaii.  And this was with a rinky-dinky roadhouse that happened to own a small helicopter without doors.  Even still, as most of our bus lined up to take the tour, I swallowed my fears and convinced Megan to join me in a flight.  I am so glad that I did!  Even for five minutes, it was one of the most incredible rides I have ever had!  Now, airplanes are cool and everything, but since you are in a large room with tiny portholes, it’s hard to believe that you are really flying.  In a helicopter (especially this one without doors), you can look out huge windows, as you feel yourself swaying in the wind.  It’s really surreal and awesome.  Plus, with the noise-cancelling headphones, you don’t even hear the engine.

Once everyone’s adrenalin returned to normal levels, we were on our way to our final camping site.  Along the way, we stopped to get some firewood (same as North West Trip – just walking into the outback for wood).  Without any specific instructions on what kind of wood to get she just sent us into the bush to “look for mulga branches.”  After about five to ten minutes, everyone returned to the bus, ready to load the wood onto the top of our trailer.  Unsurprisingly, Kirsten hadn’t returned with any wood yet.  So, our group took it upon ourselves to load up the wood we gathered and tie it down.  Just as we were finishing up, Kirsten returned from the bush with a couple twigs.  She noticed what we had done and said “You tied it down already?  Did you check the wood?”  She climbed up onto the trailer and untied the pile, inserting her branches into the bunch of logs.  Then, without a word, she started chucking off a bunch of the stuff (almost hitting our group as she did).  When asked what was wrong with the wood, she replied that it was either “too fresh” or “not mulga and will burn too fast.”  As far as I know, some wood is better than no wood, and once a fire is hot enough, anything, including fresher logs, will burn.  Nonetheless, she continued to empty at least half of the wood we gathered, making our efforts seem worthless.  Again, without another word about it, she climbed back into the bus.  She asked if everyone was on board, to which we replied “How many people should be on board?”  Her answer was, “I don’t know.  I didn’t count.”  Then, she started the bus and drove away.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think that if you are in charge of a large group, you should at least know how many people are with you – especially if you are sending them out alone.  Oh, well, huh?

We eventually got to camp, which was actually another series of permanent camp sites owned by Adventure Tours; our spot was a site adjacent to another group.  We emptied our trailer, picked our tents, and cooked a huge campfire dinner.  Since most of our wood was chucked earlier in the day, we ran out pretty quickly (unlike our adjoining neighbours).  As everyone was getting ready for bed, Megan convinced me to sleep outside by the dwindling fire in a swag.  We each grabbed one from a tin shed and laid them out by the fire pit, along with a couple others.  A swag is basically a big, soft, durable mattress inside of a thick, insulated cover.  You slip a full sleeping bag into the thing and zip it up.  It covers your entire body, including a flap that goes over your head.  It’s a good thing, too because it got mighty cold at night in the middle of the desert.  Good thing I wasn’t there in winter, when Megan was there last!
 

Uluru Safari: Day 4
Yikes, I think I’ve written far too much again.  Hopefully you have read this far and found it at least a tad bit interesting.  I’ll hurry it along.  On day four in central Australia, we were once again woken up around 4am.  I wanted to get some brekkie before everyone else, so I hurriedly rolled up my sleeping bag and swag.  I grabbed some cereal and walked over to the fire pit where some people had stirred up some hot coals to keep warm.  About a half hour later, we were seated on the bus, about to head off to Kings Canyon for some early morning (before the heat of the afternoon) hiking.  It was at this point that I realised that in my haste, I had left my new inflatable pillow inside of my swag.  Drat!  I bought the thing just before the North West Trip at K-Mart, and the thing couldn’t have been more useful and comfortable.  It was too late to get Kirsten to wait another half hour to go through the swags, so I just decided to suck it up and let someone else have a free pillow.

We got to Kings Canyon quite early in the day, which was a good thing because we had a very vertical mountain to climb.  You can check out some of my pictures on Webshots if you are so inclined to see what was there.  All I can say is that it definitely was a great way to wrap up our trip.  The place was absolutely unbelievable.  Well, I know it seems that I’m dwelling on the bad points in this journal, but I can assure you that the experiences I had more than made up for the incompetent Adventure Tours staff.  It’s just that the bad is interesting and the good is indescribable.  To be fair, Kirsten did explain a lot about the plants and rock formations at Kings Canyon, but that’s just one decent day out of three.  Blah.

After an unforgettable climb up and around the canyon, we piled onto our bus for the long ride home.  We were promised free pizza at the Melanka bar, which prompted some people to make up some Melanka songs – “It’s an outback pub in the middle of the scrub.”  I slept for some of the trip home, unlike Megan who clenched her teeth together every time we passed another vehicle.  We didn’t die and we had a great time, so it’s all good.

Back at Melanka, we were able to get some much-needed showers before heading out to the pub for pizza and piss.  Around midnight, I stumbled back to my room and fell asleep.  I don’t remember too much else.  Oh, right… I forgot that parents read this… Umm, I stumbled back because of muscle pain from hikes – certainly not from intoxication.
 

Uluru Safari: Day 5
Today, we woke up early to catch a shuttle to the Alice Springs airport.  Megan and I made it back to Perth by the afternoon, so we were still able to catch a bus back to Murdoch without having to pay for a taxi.  Thus, our trip had come to a completion.  Overall, it was a very awesome trip.  Of course, much has happened since then, including US President Bush coming to Australia for a full 21 hours before being booed out.  I think this is enough writing for this entry, though, so perhaps those stories are for another time, or another entry.  Cheers, everyone (and thanks for reading, or at least skimming, this whole thing)!

Category:Australia | Comment (0) | Author: Ryan

ahh, friday

Friday, 24. October 2003 21:33

TGIF!! I’m am so happy that it’s Friday. :) :) :) My paper is finished (3,014 words total, thank goodness) and handed in. That really pleases me. Of course, next week I have just as much work to get done. It’s an endless cycle. Well, until classes are over in 2 weeks.

Two weeks, yes. Have I written that in here yet? I can’t believe how fast the semester has gone by. I’m not actually done with exams until much later, but I don’t have to sit in lecture anymore. Er, or skip them. That’s what I did today. Instead of going to my computer lecture, I went to Ryan’s environmental one. It wasn’t as good as I thought it’d be. It may have been worse than my computer one, but that’s okay.

Tomorrow at 4pm, I have to meet up with all the other Butler students. We were the group that came to Australia together and had the orientation/vacation before the semester started. Tomorrow we’re having a “debriefing session” and free dinner. I guess it’ll be okay. I’m not really friends with many of them anymore, but I’ll survive. I’m a little upset, because tomorrow is supposed to be really good weather. I’ve been wanting to go to the beach lately, but something always stands in the way. If the Butler thing was a few hours later, it’d be perfect. Oh well. I should be productive tomorrow anyways, I guess.

It’ll be a little cool, because we’re watching the video of us at orientation. If I read the email correctly, we all get to keep a copy of it. That should be amusing. I don’t *think* they caught me on camera very much, but it’ll be a good thing to remember the trip by. Have I ever mentioned that I hate video cameras? Ugh.

Have a good weekend, people! :)

Category:Australia, Diaryland | Comment (0) | Author: Megan

walk this way

Wednesday, 22. October 2003 21:31

Who thinks that I finished my paper today? Hmm? If you know me, then you’re right — I didn’t even work on it. I have 1500 more words to write by Friday. Will I be able to do it? Hopefully!

Instead, Ryan and I decided to explore the neighbourhood. There is an amusement park called Adventure World that is very close to our university. Ryan wanted to walk there, to see just how close it is. We had no intention of going in though, since it was about 1:00 in the afternoon and we didn’t want to pay $30 each for only a half day.

It was a beautiful day today, so I was happy to get outside. We walked and walked and walked. The area is so nice. There were two lakes with parks that we walked through, and saw lots of ducks, sea gulls, black swans, and many other birds. It was really cool.

However, by the time we got to Adventure World, my foot was killing me. I can’t wait to get surgery to make it all better. Anyways, so yeah. We made it to the amusement park, and geeze.. the place is so small and dinky. I was expecting as much, but yeah. Who knows if we’ll end up going for a day or not; it wasn’t even open today.

So basically, we walked all the way there, and then had to come all the way back. However, on the way back, we went a different way so that we could make a stop at the grocery store. We didn’t realise that the road we had to take was a freeway without footpaths. It wasn’t very fun, especially because I was in super pain by this point.

We somehow made it to the store, shopped for a bit, and then walked back to our university. I’m glad that we got some exercise on this gorgeous day, but I’m not glad that my foot is now extra swollen and I didn’t get any work done. But hey, that’s alright. I have tomorrow to work.. right? *crosses fingers*

Category:Australia, Diaryland | Comment (0) | Author: Megan

Aussie Entry 16

Tuesday, 21. October 2003 23:30

Howdy everyone!  After a month and over a thousand pictures later, I have finally returned to write up a journal entry.  I’m getting the feeling that no one really cares to read really long entries (with the exception of super stalkers and those who care deeply about me).  So, to make things easier on you and me, I’m going to try my best to sum up two long, yet incredible trips in a page or two.  Don’t think I can do it?  Neither do I.  After all, I’m going on a tangent already.  Anyway, I’m going to try to cut out most of the long-winded stories, so if you want to know more about what I did here or there, just ask me in December.

Over the past month, I took two major trips in Australia.  The first, which has been dubbed the “North West Trip” was an amazing ten-day excursion across Western Australia with 31 Murdoch students, 2 tour guides (John and Paul), plus a Murdoch staff member named Kerry.  The day started off at around 8am on a Friday morning.  That’s right; a trip sponsored by Murdoch was actually encouraging us to skip a day of classes to do this thing.  Anyway, about 50 students showed up, and we were split into three different buses.  One bus headed up the coast for a reversed itinerary, and the two others drove straight into the outback of WA.  I was among that group on the “second” bus.

North West: Day 1

The first day of the trip was basically all drive and no play (making us a bunch of dull boys?).  We stopped for lunch in a very small town called New Norcia.  Otherwise, we continued onward stopping here and there for fuel, firewood, and potty breaks.  Firewood collection basically meant that we stopped the bus on the side of the road, wandered into the bush, and tore apart dead mulga trees.  It was a nice change of pace from sitting on the bus all day.  Our final stop was at Wogarno Station, which was nothing more than a really large farm.  The major differences between this farm and the ones back home is that these stations are huge (extending sometimes thousands of acres), and they don’t have that many fences, other than to separate one station from another.  Thus, while driving along, it’s not uncommon to see cattle and sheep in the middle of the road.  We also saw some emu and kangaroo, but most of them were dead.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen so much road kill in my life.  The problem for drivers is that when you are speeding along narrow stretches of road at fast speeds, it can be more dangerous to attempt to swerve rather than hit the creatures.  That’s why most of the roos we saw in the outback were just reduced to bones.  Our deluxe accommodation for the night was a large building used for sheering sheep.  Some people chose to sleep outside near the bonfire we built, but Megan and I stayed in – I didn’t want to get my contacts full of red dirt this early in the trip.

North West: Day 2

The next morning, some of us raced to get a quick shower in what basically amounted to tin sheds being fed by a large tub of rainwater.  I knew that showers would soon become a luxury in the outback, so I scrubbed myself up while I still could.  The rest of the day was once again spent driving through the outback.  We passed through a number of mining towns (the only real source of income out here) and stopped the bus once to have a look at an old, yet “small” (1 kilometre) mining site.  The thing was really quite something to look at, and definitely not that small-looking.  We had lunch by the side of the road under a small covering.  Meanwhile, huge road trains, as they are called, sped past us.  These are basically Mack trucks, hauling about three or four trailers behind it.  Later down the road, the other bus’ air conditioning cut out in Meekatharra, but thanks to Paul’s mechanical expertise, we were up and running again in about ten minutes.  Eventually we made our way to the Kumarina Roadhouse where we set up our 16 tents behind a tavern.  The most amazing thing about the place was the amount of foreign bugs, moths, and spiders.  After we filled up on snags and lamb at dinner, most everyone went drinking that night in a “bar” that was about the size of a small living room.  The prices were a bit much for Megan and me, so we headed off to bed early, knowing that we would have to wake early the next day, anyway.  We were awakened a little before midnight by some folks (including Paul) who thought it would be cool to move around the tents to fool the drunkards coming out of the bar.  Just before two in the morning, everyone came back from the pub, and in a noisy uproar pried through all of the identical tents to find their own.  The noise finally subdued when everyone eventually passed out in what was hopefully their own tent.  Of course, that was after a number of people tried to get into ours – I found the whole situation kind of humorous myself.  Megan disagreed.

North West: Day 3

On day three, we woke up around 5am to more rattling of tents.  This time it was Paul making sure everyone was up and ready to go in an hour.  We took down our tents and found the last bit of civilisation for a few days in the town of Newman.  We stopped for two reasons: petrol and alcohol.  Since they seemed to think that you can’t go camping in Australia without a nice supply of piss, we drove all around town, trying to find a bottle shop that would be open before noon.  Eventually we found one bloke who was willing to open his shop early – despite local law preventing him from doing so.  Now, I don’t know the prices of beer back home since I don’t usually indulge, but I thought that $50 for 30 cans of beer was a little expensive.  I would rather spend the money on something a little more sustaining.

After our brief stop, we continued on to Karijini National Park, where the roads changed from smooth pavement to red and rocky gravel.  We bounced around for about another hour before we finally came upon our camp site.  Paul made us a little lunch as we set up our tents in the hot, dusty, and windy outback.  Straight after getting a bit of food, our crew headed off for our first hike at the Fortescue River.  The first bit of the hike involved walking about ten minutes through the bush over to Dales Gorge.  The view was spectacular, even as we made our way down tons of steps to the banks of the river.  We walked right on past the falls through a bit of denser vegetation to Fern Pool.  It was quite hot by this point in the day, so everyone took a welcome dip in the cool, deep waters.  We could even get ourselves right underneath a couple small waterfalls, which was quite a neat experience in itself.

Once everyone had a nice bath, we headed back to camp, this time stopping alongside Fortescue Falls.  Being obsessed with interesting-looking pictures, I climbed down the dry ledges alongside the falls.  About half way down, I walked right next to the falls and snapped a picture.  Satisfied, I turned around to climb back up, but my right foot slipped on the mossy, wet rocks.  I tried to catch myself, but it was hard to do with a camera in one hand, so my body collapsed onto my crooked foot, sending shooting pains through my foot and leg.  I grabbed hold of a rock outcropping and pulled myself up and into a sitting position next to the falls.  Now, I may seem like a freak, but I’ve never broken a bone in my body or even had so much as a major sprain, so this was quite incapacitating for me.  I sat there for a couple more minutes trying to figure out what to do.  The rest of my group, including Megan, was at the top of the falls, getting ready to make their way up the hundreds of stairs to the top of the gorge.  Since no one could see me (nor do I think I wanted people to – it was a bit embarrassing), I didn’t have much of a choice but to climb back up the falls.  Once I inched my way to the top of the falls, I caught up with Megan.  I briefly told her what happened, and she walked behind me up those long, red, stone stairs.  Surprisingly, that wasn’t as difficult as the walk back to our campsite, which was primarily a long stretch of flat land.  Finally, a little late, I was able to limp my way all the way to our tent where I tried to massage my already swollen foot.  Figures, huh?  Our very first hike and I already injured myself.  Only seven more days of hikes to get through!

North West: Day 4

I purposefully woke up early on day four to talk to our guides about my foot; I didn’t feel like mentioning it over dinner the night before.  It was still quite painful, which sort of worried me.  Megan tried to comfort me saying that “the pain could last for up to a year or more.”  Hooray!  However, I had to admit that it didn’t hurt quite as bad as the day before.  I still had a limp while walking, but at least I could walk.  The thing that worried me was that this was the day that we were going to attempt to walk along the walls of cliffs in the gorges.  So, I grabbed some brekkie and mentioned to Paul that I had sprained my ankle the day before and was concerned about the upcoming hike.  He reassured me that I could go at my own pace and that John would be hanging out in the back anyway because he has a bum knee.

After everyone woke up and grabbed some cereal and coffee, we were on our way to our first stop – Joffre Falls (great, another waterfall).  This time, however, we just checked out the “falls” from an outlook area at the top of the gorge.  While we all attempted to get decent pictures of the dried-up falls (despite the sun’s angle making it extraordinarily difficult), John and Paul worked to repair a flat tyre on the first bus (that bus has all the problems, doesn’t it?).  Soon enough we were on our way to Hancock Gorge.

We were warned ahead of time about having to climb down ropes and ladders, but those obstacles weren’t much to worry about – especially since John and Paul hovered around both of those areas until everyone was in the clear.  Once we had gotten into the bottom of the gorge, we realised just how incredibly beautiful it was.  We walked along the water’s edge for a little while, but once the water became too deep to walk around, we had to start heading upwards.  Eventually, we found ourselves navigating the cliff walls.  The views were amazing, but most of our attention was focused on keeping ourselves attached to the cliff and not falling downwards.  So long as you held a firm grip on the cliff and leaned inward when possible, the task wasn’t all that difficult.  However, it required enough concentration to take my mind off of the pains shooting through my foot.  For the most part, the sections of rock that stuck outward were completely flat, so as long as you didn’t look down, you’d be right.

Eventually we came to an extremely narrow section of the gorge, which required us to strip off our shoes and socks.  As shown in this picture, we had to find small crevasses in the rock to place our hands and feet, keeping our body in an X-like pose.  The fast, ever-flowing water beneath us made the smooth rock extremely slippery, meaning that simply “walking through the water” was impossible.  The narrow part didn’t last for long, so my foot thanked me when we came across Kermit’s Pool where we could relax for a while.  Most of us took a swim in the surprisingly deep water, which was filled with frogs.  Megan sat alongside the shorelines, however, just taking in the atmosphere of it all.

After our little swim, we retraced our steps up and out of the gorge.  By this time of day, it was extremely hot, and the water from the pool combined with sweat made every bit of red dust cling to every part of your body.  Thus, by the time we reached our buses, however, nobody cared that the apples that were waiting for us were a bit dirty themselves.  We had just enough time at the buses for our temperatures to return to normal before we headed off to Weano Gorge.  There weren’t quite as many cliff walls to walk across this time, but instead we got to walk down a waterfall (while holding onto a handrail so we wouldn’t slip and… sprain anything…).  This got us to another magical waterhole aptly named “Handrail Pool.”  We spent a little bit of time there, and some people tried some short cliff dives, but the water was shallow in some areas, which were covered by really sharp rocks.  Most of us stayed close to the shoreline for the majority of the time.  After we had a chance to cool our bodies off, we roped ourselves out of the pool area before walking along some minor gorge walls, and eventually up the seemingly endless, rocky stairways.  Our day at Karijini was half over.

We stopped by the visitor’s centre where we could buy some fresh, cold water and pick up a couple souvenirs.  Those that weren’t already exhausted also explored some Aboriginal history.  We then headed back to camp to grab a little bit of lunch before we continued onward to our final gorge hike of the day at Dales Gorge.  We were all quite tired already and most of us weren’t looking forward to too much more wall climbing.  However, this time after we climbed down a bunch of stairs, we were treated to a surreal, magical area of the gorge.  Although the pictures might show it to be a drying up swamp, the place was truly amazing, like you had just stepped into a fairy tale.  We walked around the area for a bit until we came to beautiful Circular Pool.  This was our last chance at washing off the red dirt for a while, so everyone took a dip in the water.  I joined some others of our crew at the far end of the pool where trickles of very warm water dripped down from the rocks above.  It was the best shower I had since being on the trip, actually.  You know, the thing I love about this tour is that we are totally unrushed.  Everything is at a very leisurely pace so if you want to stay somewhere for longer amounts of time, there is no problem with it.  So, we basically stayed at the pool for quite a long time.  By the time we climbed back out of the gorge, the sun was already setting, making the gorge glow red.

That night, everyone just chilled out with some snags, sliced potatoes, and lamp chops – delicious!  Megan and I chatted it up with Carrie, Bill, Kris, Anna, and a few others, under literally trillions of stars.  It made me think about the old days when people would pick out constellations; how in the world did they do it?  The sky was just a ton of little white dots on a sheet of blackness.  It was impossible to find any recognisable constellation because there were just so many stars!  Awesome!

After a nice, long night, I grabbed my torch and some wet wipes to clean off my hands and face so I could take out my contacts.  Actually, I needed about three or four of the wipes before they stopped turning completely red.

North West: Day 5

Day five consisted of a very long drive from the park to Coral Bay.  Our biggest event of the day was stopping at Tom Price to pick up supplies, get some R&R, and go to the toilets with RUNNING WATER!  Hooray!  That’s about it.  Once we got to Coral Bay, everyone grabbed their towels and raced off to the showers.  The showers were fed with warm salty groundwater, but I don’t think anyone cared by this point.  It’s amazing the difference a shower makes to people who haven’t seen running water in three days.  That night, we met up with the reversed itinerary group at the local tavern.  Good times.

North West: Day 6

From this point onward, our tour of WA turned into a lovely beach holiday.  Day six had no official itinerary, and we could do whatever we wanted at Coral Bay.  For me, that meant snorkelling and for Megan, that meant scuba diving.  You know, I’m sure scuba diving would have been pretty cool, but Megan scared me out of that a long time ago by informing me of all the deadly dangers that can happen while doing it.

Anyway, my trip started off early in the morning on a glass-bottomed boat with a bunch of other folks from my group.  I was a bit excited to be snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef because, due to sunburn at the Great Barrier Reef, I didn’t enjoy myself quite as much as I could have.  Plus, this time I didn’t have a wetsuit to complicate things further.  The views on the reef were amazing!  Fish were everywhere!  They weren’t quite as diverse as the ones I saw back in Cairns, but this time the water was extremely calm, and the skies were sunny, making for some gorgeous coral.  The only downfall to the dive was that they plucked us out of the water far too soon.  However, we did get to move to another dive site where we really got to swim with the fish.  While we were snorkelling around the boat, the crew tossed in some food, causing a stir of buckets of fish.  They would swim right past your face!  It was really incredible – unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my life.  However, the whole event was over far too soon.  We had the option of hiring some snorkel equipment for the rest of the day since the coral was just on the outskirts of the white sandy beaches.  Megan and I wanted to do a little bit of ATV’ing, though, so I got some lunch back at our campsite while I waited for her to return from her underwater exhibition.

Megan’s scuba boat came in about an hour late 12:55pm because they had to leave late due to extremely low tides.  Unfortunately, that meant that Megan couldn’t grab any lunch and we had to literally race over to the 4-wheel-drive vehicle rental place to grab our bike before 1pm.  We just made it in time for the instructional lesson with our crew on how to drive the things.  I was a little nervous since I hadn’t driven in a couple months (how strange is that?), but they were very easy to get control of.  Megan didn’t feel like driving and wanted to just enjoy the ride and scenery, so we shared a bike that I drove the entire time.  It was great!  We got the chance to explore remote areas of the beach that the general public can’t really get to.  Even though we weren’t supposed to fool around on the things, Hasani, a guy from New York, thought it would be cool to try out some tricks on them.  He embarrassingly ended up flipping over his vehicle, but it was all good.  We continued onward and were able to spot some sea turtle poking their heads out of the water from a cliff.  Anyway, even though it’s kind of cheating, at least I can say that I’ve driven in Australia!

After the bike rides, Megan and I walked around Coral Bay for a little while.  We ended up eating early at a little café by the seashore so that we could walk around on some distant sand dunes.  By the time we made it up to them, the sun was already beginning to set, which made for some awesome shadowy effects.  The sand dune we climbed was quite high, too, and when we got to the top we were able to get a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean.  The wind was blowing pretty hard, though, which made it almost surreal.  It felt like we were tramping through a harsh desert in a sandstorm at times because the wind would pick up tons of sand and throw it at our faces.  Imagine a little kid at the beach hurling sand at you, only he doesn’t stop when you tell him to.  It was sort of like that.  After looking out from the top for a while, we eventually made our way down to see a nice sunset in back of a whole bunch of seagulls.  Of course, seeing a bunch of birds happily sitting around together was too much of a temptation for me, so after the sun set, I charged at them to get them all to take off.  They yelled at me for a while afterward.

North West: Day 7

On the seventh day, we got up early to pack up and head out from Coral Bay.  Our next stop was Hamelin Pool, which is located at the southern portion of Shark Bay.  It took almost a day’s worth of driving to get there, but after days and days of driving previously, it didn’t seem like much at all.  Plus, we all got to sleep on almost all of the trips, anyway.  We did stop to stretch our legs (and take plenty of photos) at the Tropic of Capricorn, which was kind of cool.  It’s almost like you expect a line to be drawn around the earth at the 25th parallel (don’t they do that with the equator?).  In this case, there was a nice line drawn across the road to mark the parallel, and in case you didn’t notice that, there were quite a few signs pointing out the fact.  After collecting some firewood, we headed on our merry way.

Our final stop was at another sort of farm/campground sort of deal.  It seems like a lot of people in the outback rent out spaces on their property for backpackers and the like.  In fact, you can even find sheds in the backs of petrol stations that offer accommodation for the weary traveller.  I’m sure it’s just another source of income for them, and it makes sense since towns are spread so far apart, but it’s still kind of different.  Anyway, this place was located within walking distance of the famous Stromatolites.  These are basically a bunch of clumps of bacteria near the water.  Supposedly, they were the first species on earth, and produced enough oxygen to support all additional life on this planet.  They were kind of ugly and didn’t do anything, so unless you are really interested in the history of this planet, I wouldn’t come all the way out here just to see these things – despite the fact that many people do.

North West: Day 8

The eighth day of the trip took us to Monkey Mia.  Despite the name, we didn’t see any monkeys, but we did see plenty of dolphins and pelicans.  It was pretty cool because the wild dolphins come in from the ocean to be fed fish from random volunteers.  I guess it makes sense, though.  They say that dolphins are one of the smartest animals on the earth, and who wouldn’t come back to the same place to be fed fresh fish three times a day?  Craig and Helen were the only ones from our group that were chosen to feed the dolphins.  Although I was a little saddened that I didn’t, I was a little relieved that I wasn’t chosen when I saw the super huge, super sharp teeth on the guys!

After we watched the early-morning dolphin feeding, we were once again let loose to do whatever we wanted.  Some people hired a fishing boat, some tried sea kayaking, and Megan and I decided to join a group that was heading out on a catamaran.  This was my first time on a sailboat, which was really awesome.  I sort of missed the engine noises that come with regular boating, but I guess that’s just because whenever I am on the water and don’t hear an engine, it means that we are in trouble.  The ride was supposed to be a nature cruise where we checked out various species of marine life in Shark Bay, but aside from a couple dolphins, we didn’t see all that much.  Not that it mattered – I love boating of any kind, so the whole experience was just fantastic.

When we got back on shore, I chased around a few pelicans before walking around the area with Megan.  On our walk, we came across a whole section of beach that was almost blue in colour because of hundreds of sand crabs scurrying around.  I think I accidentally murdered quite a number of them, but the whole thing was crazy to begin with!  A few hours later, we had worked up a bit of an appetite, so we came back to the buses to get a few grilled sausages.  At the same time, unknown to everyone else, Andy decided it would be a great gag to bury his friend Gian Carlo’s expensive sandals on the beach.  It could have been a funny prank, but after a couple hours, he completely forgot where he buried them.  So, for the last couple hours before we left, about a quarter of our group was recruited to help dig a huge hole in the sand to find the thongs.  Even a few kids that were on holiday came to help us out.  Once our hole reached about 6 metres in diameter, we became the centre of attention with random beachgoers snapping our pictures.  The result of our labour was about half a dozen seashells and one angry Gian Carlo.

Once that whole mess was over with, our tour made its way back to the campsite.  We stopped at a few places of interest along the way, including an extremely windy cliff called Eagle’s Bluff, and a beach composed entirely of shells (Shell Beach, go figure).  Back at Hamelin Pool, we sat around our last bonfire and had a terrific dinner, complete with damper (a sort of bread that’s made via the heat of a campfire).

North West: Day 9

Day nine was really more of a night of goodbyes than anything else.  We did take a trip to Kalbarri National Park, but we only stayed long enough to check out a famous landmark in WA – Nature’s Window.  We had a group photo taken at the natural bridge as we braved the most flies we had seen on the entire trip.  Some other groups that were there had thought ahead and bought fly nets to put over their heads.  It really made them look more ridiculous than anything else, though.  We also stopped along Pot Alley, which is just a marvellous view from a cliff overlooking part of Shark Bay.  On the drive to our final stop, we happened upon a thorny devil.  They are perhaps the coolest looking lizards you could ever see.  Their skin is made up of a bunch of thorns, but they aren’t really sharp to the touch.  It looks like a mean little beast, but when we found it, it was simply the centre of attention.

Our next and final stop was at Lynton Station, where we set up inside of another sheep shed.  It honestly wasn’t all that different from the other one, but at least we didn’t have to worry about setting up and taking down tents again.  The remainder of the night was filled with laughs and fun as a bunch of people acted out different skits.  A few girls got creative and gave out paper plate awards to everyone as a nice summary of our trip.  I can’t remember too much more from that night, so I’ll just rely on pictures to tell me the story.

North West: Day 10

An early morning rise saw us making a long haul back to Perth.  Most everyone slept the majority of the way home, so we didn’t stop more than a couple times for lunch and dunny usage.  We got back in the middle of the afternoon, unpacked our bags, bid farewell, got showers, and caught up on sleep after the most memorable and amazing trip of our lives.

Okay, true that was a lot of writing, but considering how much I wrote in only a few days at Sydney and Cairns, I think I did fairly well.  I think I’m going to leave off on this entry for now and just post it.  I’ll get to my second adventure at Uluru in another entry.  And if you’ve read this far, thanks!  You love me!  You really love me!  Well, either that or you just scrolled to the end of this page to say “Dang!  That’s too long of an entry for me to read!”

Category:Australia | Comment (0) | Author: Ryan

soo gross

Tuesday, 21. October 2003 10:23

Today we’re having a flat inspection and my job was to vacuum the living room and hallway, and wipe off the tables. Sounds really easy, right? It should be. However, people are stupid.

Question: do you know that you’re supposed to empty vacuum cleaners once in a while? It seems like I’m the only one that knows that. And why SHOULD I know it; we have a central vacuum system at home and that doesn’t need emptying. Last semester, I borrowed Matt’s vacuum cleaner and I had to empty his too!! When I asked him if he knew how, he told me that he had no clue. He had the vacuum cleaner for 3 years and didn’t know how to empty it!?!?

So, yeah, I started to vacuum and the sucking-power sucked. I knew right away what the problem was. It was too full. So, I started to figure out how to take the bag out, in order to empty it. Tan (one of my flatmates) was in the room and I asked her if she knew (thinking it had been done earlier in the year, before I came here) — but she had no idea. I’m smart and I eventually figured it out. Oh.my.gosh. It was SO disgusting. The bag was jam-packed with dirt, dust and hair. I emptied it out into the outside rubbish bin and then tried to vacuum again.

Well, since it hadn’t been emptied in so long, the dust had backtracked all up the stick-thinger. So, I had to stick my fingers in it and pull wads & wads of dusty hairballs out. I hate to touch other people’s hair. Eugh. It was definitely Asian-type hair too (so, not mine).. very black and coarse. Eww.

What should have been a very easy task turned into such a big ordeal. I hate it. Ryan’s flat is so clean and friendly-looking. My flat is always dark and dingy-looking. Blegh. It’s not fair.

Now that my allergies suck from all that dust, I need to try to write more of my paper. :(

Category:Australia, Diaryland | Comment (0) | Author: Megan