Finally Down Under, Darwin and Kakadu National Park

16th of August, Arrival in Darwin at 4:30 in the morning.
Instead of exploring the city I went straight to the youth hostel to get some sleep. Later that day I booked my trip to Kakadu National Park, Uluru (Ayers Rock), and a 4000 kilometre Bus ticket…

17th of August, Kakadu National Park
I left the youth hostel at 6:30 to meet up with my singing tour guide Glen and eight other travellers

(Jane, Raphael, Jenn, Alexandra, Georgia, Per, Eveline and Klaus). In the beginning a group of strangers, but in the end we acted like we would have know for years. The Kakadu National Park is about 500 kilometres east of Darwin.We started with a crocodile and wildlife cruise on the Corroboree Billabong, a part of the Marry River system.

We were able to see “Salties” (saltwater crocodiles) and “Freshies”(freshwater crocodiles), the two different types of crocodiles in this area also various kind of birds and a few buffalo’s. Next was he Ubirr Rock, where Aboriginal left some amazing art sites.

While the European, African and Asian cultures where rising and falling, the Aboriginal in Australia spend most of their time with hunting, eating, sleeping, playing the Digaridoo and drawing. What a peaceful life…

After the close look on Aboriginal art, we went to the Jim Jim Falls. We reached the plunge pool by a walk through the rain forest. Relaxing in the cool, clear water was a excellent refreshing after the ten hour drive.

18th of August, Kakadu NP, Twin Falls
We spend the whole day at the Twin Falls. In the morning we hiked up to the top of the waterfalls to look down to the magnificent gorge.

To reach the final top of the Twin Falls we had to climb through a little cave which was an real experience. Glen was the first one to climb down the cave and instructed us how to climb down safety. After walking back and eating lunch, we swam up to the base of the Twin Falls.

I had my snorkelling gear with me so could watch the underwater world with all different kind of fishes (no crocodiles…). In the evening, we walked up to the Budjimii Outlook, to watch the sunset. Glen prepared a wonderful Barbecue with different kinds of meat (Crocodile, Kangaroo and Buffalo), and potatoes. We finished the day with some group talk, sitting around the camp-fire.

19th of August, Kakadu National Park, Barramundi Gorge
The day started early, as we wanted to reach the Barramundi Gorge before the crowd would arrive there. After swimming and relaxing, we had to leave the Kakadu NP, to go back to Darwin. I really recommend a minimum of 3 days in the Kakadu national park, there is so much to see, I’m quiet sure you could spend two weeks in this amazing nationalpark.

Alice Springs, Uluru

20th of August, Bus to Alice Springs
I had to leave Darwin at lunch time to go 1500 kilometre south, to Alice Springs. A never-ending 22 hour journey.Luckily the bus was comfortable!

21st of August, Alice
A 22 hour journey on a bus is an “experience”, I never thought my back could hurt that much! It takes about 15 minutes to get from the bus terminal to the youth hostel. Not being in the best condition it seemed like an eternity to me.

Many Aboriginal live in Alice but sad to see lots of them sitting on the street’s doing nothing the whole day or even worse, drinking alcohol most of the time. I tried to talk to some of them, but it seems that they avoid talking to foreigners. A local told me that they get money from the Australian government, so they don’t have to work. All the bottle shops (the place you can buy alcohol) are closed the day they get their money.

22nd of August, Kings Canyon, Sunset at Uluru
Start of my two-day journey to the heart of Australia. Peter, the guide on the two-day trip and Glen (my former tour guide) had two things in common: Both sang a lot and loved Pulp Fiction. Peter was about to enter a Karaoke contest the following Friday, so he kept training the whole time. As soon as we left Alice, I realised that the “Red Center” was more a green garden then a dessert. Lots and lots of various flowers, green gras and beautiful trees created amazing scenery. It had stopped raining just a week before I got to Alice and spring was just about to start. The got lots of rain the past few years, very unusual for this region.

Our first stop was Mount Ebeneser, about 250 kilometres west of Alice, a little gas station with an Aboriginal Art gallery in the middle of nowhere. Our second stop was King’s canyon, where we hiked on top and had a look into the canyon. The first white owners already thought about tourism in this area so they choose names such as “Lost City” and “Garden Eden” to attract travellers.

After a two-hour hike through the canyon we headed on to the Uluru, to watch the sunset. It was really awesome to see “The Rock” changing into all this different kind of red’s. We where also able to see Kata Juta (the Olga’s), which looked like Homer Simpson, lying on his back (seriously!).

23rd of August, Uluru, Kata Juta (Olga’s)
We had to get up early, to watch the sunrise at Uluru. As you may know, the Aboriginal doesn’t want you to climb Uluru as it is a very religious place for them. Many people got hurt or died trying to climb and the Aboriginal feel responsible for them. I respect the rules of the Aboriginal and decided to do a walking tour around the rock instead. Which was very good decision.

Kata Juta was our next stop. It’s a very important place for the Aboriginal man, as they go there to “teach” younger men. After a last stop to take pictures at Uluru we went all the way back to Alice.

Taking the Ghan to Adelaide

I had to get up early, as I wanted to go to Adelaide by the infamous “Ghan”. My first stop was at the train office in Alice, but unfortunately they didn’t had any tickets left. I decided to walk over to the railway station in case some passengers wouldn’t show up. Lucky me, I got the last available seat. The trip was very comfortable and surprisingly cheap (100 Australian Dollar) compared to the bus. To travel by train trough the outback is very funny, you can watch the landscape passing by, and if you take another look four hours later, it still would look like the same.

Adelaide and the Barossa Valley

25th of August, Arrival in Adelaide

My first day in the “city of churches” started with a tram ride and a visit at the beach. Adelaide got it’s second name because it was the first city where everyone had free choice of religion. In the evening I met Gerry (I met him first in Bangkok) again, who showed me around the city.

26th and 27th of August, Adelaide
Adelaide has a lot to offer, if you have enough time… For me, being short on time, it was my first break after travelling almost 5000 kilometre in 10 days (It’s about 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide, and about 1000 kilometres per trip I did) . I originally planed to stay just two nights there, but, plans change frequently… I visited the beach a few times, which is a nice trip by tram and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Adelaide during the night as I explored some pub’s and bars with fellow traveler’s I met in the youth hostel.

28th of August, Barossa Valley
If you like wine as I do, there is no way to skip Barossa Valley if you have a day or two in Adelaide. The Barossa Valley is about 55 km north east of Adelaide. Many agencies’ offer day-tours leaving Adelaide in the early morning, I booked a tour with Groovy Grape, but I guess they are all pretty similar. Our first stop was the “Whispering Wall”, a concrete dam wall with an unbelievable acoustics, normal conversations held at one end can be heard clearly at the other end, more then 140 Meters away. Our next stop was Orlando, one of the oldest wineries in the valley, established 1847. Next was a lunch break and we continued with two more wineries and a distillery. I ended up with 26 different wines and 3 cocktails. My favourite was a Port Wine named “Choc a Bloc”, (or something like that), but I unfortunately forgot the name of the wineries. I wonder why… Later that day I found out that being “tipsy” doesn’t mean to be able to sleep on a bus, as I travelled from Adelaide to Melbourne.

Melbourne

29th and 30th of August
The second largest city of Australia is on the one hand a very modern city but on the other hand still keeps a very special European flair. In the year 1835, John Bartman bought the area from Aboriginal people. He died soon after his deal, and John Pascoe Fawkner was the driving force behind the new settlement, nowadays well know as Melbourne.

Australian city’s have such a short history, for example my home village in Austria (Ulrichsberg) – It was founded in 1325, more then 675 years ago by a priest named Ulrich and it’s current population is about 4000 people. Melbourne was founded about 175 years ago, now it’s a city three time’s bigger then Vienna (capitol of Austria), which has a history that goes back to the Roman Empire.

But back to my short visit in Melbourne… Of course I spend some time at the Crown Casino, the biggest of it’s kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Altogether I lost a whole dollar at a slot machine, shame on me… If you are on a short budget (or lost all your money at the casino) and don’t want to walk, there is a free tram operating from 10:00 am to 03:00 p.m. It operates around downtown and you get an explanation of the most important sights.

A visit at St Kilda beach was also on my list of “Must Do’s” and I ended up as an photo model for a bunch of girls, (they where working on a school project). I was on a pier when one of the girls walked over to me and asked if they can do pictures of me… Nothing else to do I agreed so the girl hugged me and the other girls made a bunch of photos. I wonder what this school project was about…

The Royal Botanical Gardens were my last major sight of Melbourne. I enjoyed a cup of tea in the cafeteria and explored the huge park, which took me nearly three hours.

31st of August, Melbourne to Sydney
Trip to Sydney on a Firefly bus (40 Dollars). There is nothing much to say about the time on the bus, expect that we once stopped at the biggest Merino of the world (Wow…) and that one of the guys was constantly fighting with the bus driver.

Exploring Sydney

1st of September, Wallabies VS All Blacks
If you travel Australia, you pretty soon will find out, that everybody else is doing the same stuff, at the same time. When I woke up that morning in Sydney I met Uwe (a guy from Germany) again. We where staying in the same room – in one of the biggest hostels in the world! For explanation,I first met Uwe in Darwin, later again in Alice Springs and Adelaide and finally in Sydney, thousands of kilometres away from where we first met.

But we never planed to meet at all those places! We spent the rest of the day together, exploring the city. Our walking tour started at Circular Quay, which is kind of centre for transportation. You can catch ferries, trains and busses going to every direction at this place.

There are also plenty of restaurants and little shops around and plenty of street artists, which creates a very relaxed and funny atmosphere.

Next was a walk to the “Opera House”, which took us about 5 to 10 minutes from Circular Quay. We continued our tour with a quick walk through the “Royal Botanical Gardens”, passing by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, before we did some shopping at Martin’s Place. St. Mary’ Cathedral and Hyde Park were the two major spots on our way to Oxford street. We actually bumped into a wedding at St. Mary’s Cathedral but in order not to make the whole thing a “Two funerals and a wedding” we headed on to the “Australian Museum”.

The Museum looked kind of interesting, but six dollars admission and not being in the mood for natural history and cultural diversity, we just had a quick look at the lobby and the museum shop, those parts where free of charge. Finally, we experienced Oxford street, but compared to the description in the guidebook I thought it’s quiet boring and not worth to be visited during the daytime.

At night I watched the rugby game Australians (Wallabies) VS New Zealand (All Blacks) at a pub next to the hostel. The atmosphere there was gorgeous since both nationalities where represented in the pub and every time one of the teams scored one of the groups in the pub would jump up and scream and clap their hands. Australia finally won the game, 26/23, after an amazing turnover in the last fifteen minutes.

I finished the day with a walk to the Opera House and a short visit at “Kings Cross”. Lot’s of Australians where celebrating their victory on the streets and it was kind a fun to watch them. My visit at Kings Cross at 11:00 p.m. at night was pretty scary, after five minutes, walking around I already got the offer to try Cannabis, which was a sign for me to take the next train back to hostel…

2nd of September, Manly
Following an invitation of Karen to visit her, I took a ferry to Manly in the morning. It was a very sunny day and I enjoyed sitting on the outside of the boat, looking at the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Lots of people from Sydney come over to Manly on weekends to relax at the beach. Karen showed me around and also forced me to try my first “meat pie” an Australian speciality you must not miss if you spend some time “Down Under”.

3rd of September, The Rocks, Sydney Olympic Centre
Another day of exploring Sydney, this time with a friend I first met in Bangkok on a bus. We started at “The Rocks”, Sydney’s first European settlement. Former a place for convicts, whalers, prostitutes and street gangs, today a charming place with lot’s of old colonial buildings.

After our tour trough the early history of Sydney we went straight to a very futuristic place of Sydney, the Olympic Centre. The Olympic Summer Games where held in Sydney last September. You might remember the reports about the games, millions of people and more then 20.000 athletes. When we got there, the whole area was nearly deserted, a few people here and there and I felt like an little ant, compared to the massive stadiums and the huge parks.

Blue Mountains

I had booked an Eco tour to the Blue Mountains, and after a 1,5 hour drive in the early morning, we arrived at the entrance of our walking trail. The Blue Mountains are a part of the Great Dividing Range, and a nice break from the city if you feel the need for some fresh air and wild nature.The blue haze, which gave the mountains their name, is the result of the fine mist of the oil, given off by eucalyptus. We started with a 3-hour hiking tour, which was a great chance to see lots of different birds and animals.

The temperature differences between the top and the bottom of the canyon is impressive and the vegetation changes dramatically as we where walking deeper into the canyon. After the hike we were rewarded with a great outlook of the “Grand Canyon”. Our next stop was at the Echo Point, where we were able to see the marvellous “Three Sisters”. After lunch I took the “Scenic railway” to the bottom of the valley, more a fast ride then a usual railway… We finished the day with kangaroo watching. My first closes encounter with those animals since I arrived in Australia.

Sydney for a couple of days…

5th of September, Harbour Bridge Walk, Darling Harbour
My day started with a walk on the infamous Harbour Bridge. I guess there is no way to escape from it if you want to claim that you “have been” to Sydney. I didn’t climbed the Harbour Bridge, which is a 150 Dollar experience, instead I paid 5 bucks to walk up the stairs of the observation tower, which is just as nice.

Next was Darling Harbour, home of the IMAX Cinema, Sydney Aquarium, Chinese Gardens, the National Maritime Museum, the casino and some other major attractions. I spend about 3,5 hours in the Aquarium, walking around and watching the amazing and very colourful examples of Australian Marine life. They got some amazing underwater tunnels there and the sharks do really look very scary. Since the casino was very close to the Aquarium, I just walked over and tried some of the slot machines. Fortuna seemed to like me that day, I won 20 Dollar, walked out of the casino and had a nice dinner.

6th of September, Yoga lessons in Avalon
Wondering about the topic? To enlighten you: Avalon is a beautiful suburb of Sydney and a friend (the one I met in Bangkok) is currently living there. It’s also a nice trip by bus (or ferry) along the coast. My friend showed me around Avalon and we had a nice walk down to the beach.

I had a terrible cold that day, and needed tons of tissues, but after some yoga practice (my friend is a superb Yoga teacher) I felt much better. It was by the way my first experience in Yoga, and I recommend it to everyone who spends too much time in front of the computer (or TV).

For those who’ve never heard about Yoga: Through controlled breathing, prescribed postures (called asanas), and meditation, Yoga seeks to enhance the prana, the so called life force, that resides in the body and achieve a state of balance and harmony between body and mind.

My balance and harmony between my body and mind is now in a perfect condition and my cold was gone the very next day! 🙂

7th of September, Newtown
It was time for some changes, and I already had visited the important sights of Sydney so I wanted to get a closer look at one of the suburbs of Sydney, I decided to walk to ‘Newtown’, which is situated about 30 minutes north-east of the youth hostel. The suburb is very nice and not as expensive then the downtown area. The buildings look quiet old (like from the 70ties) and you can buy nearly everything you can imagine. I found a cool second-hand book shop with an huge selection of great novels and non fiction as well just on the main street.

Sydney to Brisbane

8th of September, Botanical Gardens, Arriving in Brisbane
My last day in Sydney, which I spend mostly at the Royal Botanical Gardens. It was a sunny day and walking around in a green surrounding was, for my opinion, the best thing I could possibly do.

One of my favourite spots in the park was a walk that explains the history of Sydney.It showed the history of the white people in Sydney and on the other hand the Aboriginal point of few. For example: James Cook discovered Australia in 1770, the Aboriginal comment related to this note:
They (white people) say he discovered Australia, but we never lost it!
By the way, did you know that more then 700 convicts where among the first settlers which arrived in Sydney? I finally left Sydney at 6:30 p.m. to go to Brisbane, after eight wonderful days, with lots of great impressions.

9th of September, Brisbane
Days in Bris-Vegas, or the story ofhow I saved some bucks in accommodation, thanks to my mate Severin who currently studies in Brisbane. I arrived in Brisbane on the 8th of August, and after my first night, which I spent at a Irish pub in ‘Garden City'(a shopping and entertainment centre). Brisbane got it’s second name (Bris-Vegas) because of it’s active nightlife. Active nightlife…

On the 9th of August, my friend showed me around Brisbane and it’s most important sights which included a the city hall and a ferry ride on the Brisbane river. If you have some time in Brisbane, visit the New Farm Park , a very nice spot to relax and have BBQ or something like that. Later that day we visited the final ceremonies of the Goodwill Games, a major sport event in Brisbane. This included a INXS concert (the rest of the group with a new singer) and a huge fireworks. Good fun and best of all, for free.

10th of September, Campus
I spend a couple of hours in front of a PC University, to keep up with my writing for Worldsurface and to send some emails to my friends, which hadn’t heard from me for a while.