What we've been up to PART 2

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

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Alright everyone...our trip is winding down and there are many things to get you caught up on concerning where we've been, what we've seen, etc...  This update will be a bit general and move a little quickly, but we have a couple of days left and no offense, sitting in front of the computer all day is not currently on the top of our "to do" list.  There will be plenty of time once we get home for reflection, recollection, and further ramblings. 

I remember leaving off at Coober Pedy, the little mining town which needs an entire update to itself to do it justice.

Our next destination was to the center of the country where Uluru awaited us.  Uluru is also known as Ayers Rock which is the massive red monolith (single stone) that is usually associated with Australia.  This is a very magical place and an extremely sacred site to the aboriginal people there.  I won't get into it now, but there is quite some controversy here politically, economically, and socially concerning the massive amounts of tourists and the Aborigines.  This is an issue all over Australia, but even more so here.  We will dive deeper into this subject in a later entry.  There was another amazing area near here called Kings Canyon which I can only describe as a compact Grand Canyon with even more character, very beautiful to hike around and one of the countries true treasures.

Next stop was the largest city for many miles around, Alice Springs.  Situated in the middle of the desert, this city is almost completely tourist driven and for the most part, has no business being there....almost like Vegas minus the gambling, debauchery, and overall fun factor.  Don't get me wrong, there were some good things about Alice Springs, just not many.  Racial tensions between whites and the native people were very thick here, almost sticky in the air.  I was introduced to the didgeridoo here and was able to take a couple of lessons from a world renowned player named Andrew Langford.  I ended up buying a didge from him which was great because I knew it was authentically made and not some mass produced tourist version which you see by the thousands, scattered about in every souvenir shop you pass.  We also took in a show that Andrew produces and stars in called "Sounds of Starlight".  This is a 3 man show with Andrew on the didgeridoo with two percussionists along side him.  There is also an entire visual aspect which is put up on a large white screen showing digital computer generated images accompanied by a complex, coordinated light show.  It was quite an amazing show and left me wondering if anyone slipped some peyote into my dinner. 

Leaving Alice Springs, we continued our drive northward into the vast outback.  Having been in the middle of the desert for some time now, we had visions of turquoise waters and white sand beaches waiting for us when we finally made it to the east coast.  As this was still a ways off, these visions were pushed aside as we headed to our next scenic destination called the "Devil's Marbles".  This was a massive collection of enormous boulders that seemed impossibly balanced on top of each other, created by thousands of years of wind erosion.  This was going to be a great day of hiking around and picture taking until it happened.  There was this feeling I had when we first picked up our camper van that the central locking system which locks all the doors when the drivers door is locked, would eventually pose a problem.  That problem arose today as we finally locked the keys in the car.  Normally, locked in keys are not usually a big deal....not this time.  We are in the middle of the outback, the sun is literally searing the skin, and the bush flies have now caught our scent.  Bush flies might just be the worst thing about the outback.  Similar to the common house fly though slightly smaller, these flies travel in packs.  Not packs like a couple dozen, I'm talking about a black buzzing cloud consisting of hundreds of sinister insects whose sole purpose in life is to cause you distress and agony.  It takes mere seconds for them to track you down and when they do, they send word to their friends.  Luckily for us, there were a couple of other people there checking out the marbles as well.  We were able to obtain a coat hanger and a butter knife and unsuccessfully attempted to jimmy the lock on the door or pop the locks on the windows.  Exhaustion, approaching heat stroke, and constant bombardment combined with personal violation by the  hundreds of bush flies was driving us to the brink of insanity (I honestly cannot express to you my complete hatred of these flies as words cannot describe the intense agony and frustration they bring out in an individual.  They are the only thing on this earth that I pray experience pain, suffering, and complete extermination).  Having no choice at this point, we are now inclined to force our way into the van, so I introduced a large rock to our side window. They didn't get along so well, the rock had too dominant of a personality.  Squeezing myself through the narrow top window, we retreated into the van and burned rubber out of there.  

A few more full days of driving landed us in the east coast town of Townsville (finally).  Locating a vehicle barge that was able to accommodate our camper van, we shipped off to nearby Magnetic Island.  It is here we would soak in the sun and sea after spending so much time in the dry dusty outback desert.  I spent a few days becoming scuba certified while Karla was out exploring the island.  She was also able to do an awesome horseback day trip where she was able to run the horse up and down the pristine beaches, take it into the water, and basically show off all of her horse riding skills.  We spent our last full day there taking a boat trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef.  The skies were blue, the seas were so calm the water was like glass, it was a wonderful trip.  I was able to put my scuba certificate to use and do a couple of dives, and Karla and I were able to do some excellent snorkeling together.  It was one of the few times where massive expectations built up in your mind are actually met.  There is a reason that the Reef is one of the great wonders of the world, it is absolutely gorgeous, a never ending collage of color and texture, the ultimate piece of art.

Leaving behind beloved little "Maggie" Island, we began to head down south along the coast, stopping at the Whitsunday Islands.  We booked a cruise out to Whitsunday beach on an 85 foot sailing catamaran.  This beach is on one of the 75 islands in the area and must be what heaven is like.  It is a few miles long and the beach is made up of 99% silica.  This makes it as fine and as soft as baby powder, and whiter than you could ever imagine.  The contrast of bright blue sky, blinding white beach, and deep turquoise water make the scene look fake.  The most touched up and doctored photograph or post card could never do it justice...too bad this was the only day that we forgot to bring our camera with us!! (seriously, I'm not joking....)

Winding it down, we continued driving down south towards Brisbane.  Not the most exciting of cities, it was the small nearby town of Beerwah which held what we were looking for.  The Australian Zoo was located here and although we had already been to a few during our trip already, this was the one that was owned by the late and great Steve Irwin, otherwise known as the Crocodile Hunter.  Although not the largest, this was one of the most impressive we have ever experienced.  If you have ever seen Steve's television show, the zoo is exactly as you would imagine it.  Extremely hands on, trainers hand feeding croc's, playing with tigers, etc...  It was very educational with a large emphasis on conservation.  They had large open areas where you could hang out with and pet the resident kangaroos and koalas.  After experiencing the zoo along with the impressive and emotional memorial to The Croc Hunter himself, you left with the feeling that not only did you know Steve Irwin, but that you were now a part of his vision and team.  This was the type of place that could change the mind of anyone who is against the traditional concept of zoo's concerning caged animals.  This is exactly the type of education and exposure needed in order to start saving what is left of nature.  Crikey!

The last stop before returning our campervan to Sydney was the majestic Blue Mountains.  Situated only 70 miles west of Sydney, it is an impressive range consisting jagged sandstone peaks draped with lush and dense rainforest.  Only having an afternoon to see as much as we can, we opted for the more "touristy" of options consisting of glass bottomed air tram rides which sweep you across the peaks as well as take you down to ground level in the valley, allowing you to walk around under the rainforest canopy.  They were quite beautiful and an excellent way to spend some time before entering back into the craziness of Sydney. 

Although we will be arriving home soon, there will be a couple other updates we will send out regarding some reflections we have had and experiences we have forgotten to mention.  I will also introduce to you an outback phenomenon known as "the wave", which is vital information for anyone who will be driving through it in the future.
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