Australia - What we've been up to - PART 1

Trip Start Feb 17, 2008
Trip End May 08, 2008

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ok, so no drawn out, never ending story only covering 6 hours of some event that happened last week.  This time you will actually get a sense of where we've been and what we've been doing here in Australia so far. 

We spent a few days in Sydney and walked around the entire city.  It is extremely modern and diverse, quite beautiful.  They have enormous and wonderful parks to wander through, though we were quickly introduced to some of Australia's famed creatures.  There are enormous black spiders everywhere, the size of the palm of my hand.  It seems as though they can take a finger off.  No bad encounters to speak of yet, they are just creepy.

We found a campervan to rent, and hired it for 42 days.  This old beater has seemingly been through hell and back, but we quickly adapted to our new home for the next 6 weeks.  We have been spending the nights in the many holiday parks which are widely available.  They are a cheap option that offer bathrooms, cooking facilities, showers (which keep the wife happy...), water, etc...

Tracking our route on the map with our locations, you can see that we traveled the coast for quite awhile.  We obtained some fishing gear and have been putting it to good use, but have so far been unsuccessful in catching anything edible, only one starfish to speak of.   It has been quite fun though, and relaxing. 

We have seen many coastal sights, which you can google if you like.  Some have been The 12 Apostles, London Bridge, and the Bay of Martyrs...all beautiful and very scenic.

Karla has been learning to drive the manual transmission on our camper, and there was quite an interesting encounter on one of the coastal roads.  We were waved down to stop by a police checkpoint which was set up at noon on a weekday.  Realizing it was a DUI checkpoint, I was a little nervous that Karla would pop the clutch, lurch the van all over the road, and come to a dead screeching halt before getting immediately taken away to the slammer without any sort of explanation.   Of course this was not the case, she came to a perfect stop, blew into the breathalyzer, and smoothly pulled away.  This was a first for both of us (breathalyzer), and was quite funny.

We had some exciting weather in a town called Warrnambool which is near Melbourne.  There were hurricane force winds which were ripping off roofs and tree limbs.  The sky had that tornado green look to it which was quite scary.  We ended up waiting for a few hours on the side of the road after a trailer ahead of us was picked up and blown over.  Returning back to the town, we waited out the storm until the next day once the winds had died down some.  We were sad to learn that a few people had unfortunately died in the storm, locals said they had never experienced anything like it.

We spent almost a week in the Adelaide region and the surrounding wine country.  It is a very beautiful area and is very similar to the Central and Northern California wine regions.  We found some wonderful wineries there and started stockpiling for the long journey through the desert we had ahead of us.  They are as much into their food in Adelaide, as they are into their wine.  Central Market is located there which is singlehandedly the best market I have ever been too.  They had everything you could ever want there, all high quality products with independent businesses...very impressive.

Leaving the wonderful vineyard laden countryside to travel up north into the outback, we spent our first night in a town called Woomera.  If you have ever seen any horror movies set in the desert (think "The Hills Have Eyes" or something similar), this was it to a T.  This was located in a vast section of land where atomic bomb testing was done in the 50's.  The massive growth on the side of the lady's face who checked us into our campsite was in no way reassuring to me that we would not come home glowing in the dark.  The landscape was vast, barren, and echoed with the constant screeching cry of crows, not the happiest place on earth.  Before the radiation could seep into our brains any further, we quickly headed farther up north, out of the blast zone.

We arrived next at a quirky little opal mining town called Coober Pedy.  Most of the residents here live underground in caves as it is extremely hot and arid there.  There are also underground businesses, churches, restaurants, etc...  One of the most unique places we have ever seen.  We spent some time in the only public area you are allowed to "noodle", or, search for opal by hand through the debris.  Unfortunately, no retirement stone was found.  It was a bit eerie knowing that you could not wander off the roads or paths due to 1.5 million unmarked mine shafts in the area.  I guess they lose people sometimes.  Up until recently, anyone in Coober Pedy could buy explosive making materials at the local supermarket along with the milk and eggs.  Apparently they have had problems with people not using their homemade bombs for the intended use of mining, but instead blowing up the local newspaper for some slanderous article printed, the local courthouse for apparently disputed rulings, the police station because "they were innocent", etc...  It sounds like New Years was quite fun though...  This was our introduction to Outback Australia in which we would spend the next 2 weeks. 

Next update will cover part 2 of our adventures and everything outback including killer flies, 200 foot long semi's, slabs of concrete through campervan windows, never ending road kill, stoned didgeridoo masters, etc...  Unfortunately we have to leave you now to go camp on a tropical island in the Great Barrier Reef for 5 days of scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding on pristine beaches, partying with lusciously quenching umbrella drinks, and other horrible things that no human being should ever have to go through.... ;-)  Till then!

Jesse and Karla
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