And so today, we continue Denise's trip to Australia. Love your photos Denise!
After a week in Adelaide, I flew up north to Uluru (Ayers Rock) which is in the middle of Australia and very dry and hot. The Rock is a scared place for the aborigines and climbing is not promoted as it is a hard and dangerous task to complete. The park has set restrictions on climbing and although they still allow it, the weather, temperature and special aboriginal events can cause it’s closure. I personally made a choice not to climb before I went there but it was closed due to the high temperatures while I was there.
I went on an early morning tour to see the sunrise over the desert and then we explored the rock art and various locations around the base of the Uluru. Later that day I took another tour to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) which is comprised of 36 rock domes and I walked up the valley between two of the domes on a very hot and sunny afternoon and then watched the sunset on Uluru where I met my friend Patrick from Switzerland. One thing I learned about Australia was that there a large population of feral camels out in the desert causing havoc with the environment. Camels breed very well and for a long time and they have survived very well in this climate but they are very destructive in their search for food and water. Just before I left took an early morning walk to see the camels and along the way I saw 3 wild dingo’s which not a very common experience.
Denise at Alice Springs.
My two nights at Uluru came to an end and I took the bus to Alice Springs and if you have seen the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert, you can relate to what total desolation is like as there is only one gas station on a long lonely highway. The bus stopped along the way for some people to get off for a tour to the Kings Canyon, something I would have liked to have done but I was booked to go onto Alice Springs. Alice is a town that surprised me as I expected it to be dusty, dry and flat. The dry part was right but it is situated in a valley in the middle of the MacDonnell Range and the Todd River that runs through it is dry. It was funny to see a bridge in the town that goes over sand and at other crossings there are markers to show the water height when it flows. The people here use their imagination and have boat races on the dry river bed. The town is quite green with trees and had a lively market going in the town square. I visited the local botanical gardens where they served a lovely breakfast. The aboriginal presence is very high in Alice and town has many galleries selling their art work. I learned that the best way to view the art is as a map as the paintings are the dreaming of these people or their memories of locations for water holes, food and travel routes. I loved the art but the prices and the challenge of traveling with a painting stopped me from buying. I also learned about the aborigines themselves as they are very quiet and prefer to keep to themselves as many villages have declared themselves as alcohol free and tourists are not allowed to enter as the influence of alcohol has caused many problems in their society.
I left Alice on a hot and sunny late afternoon on Mar 18th on the Ghan, the famous train that runs from Adelaide to Darwin. I was booked into the Gold which included all meals and a private single berth. The Ghan is an experience and about the people you meet and certainly not about the views as you travel through desert at night. The food was great and company lovely. The train stopped the next morning at Katherine where I met up with the people riding in either the Platinum or Red sections as the groups are physically separated on the train. The Ghan offered optional tours at Katherine and I met many people that were travelling in the Red section and they were a lot of fun and full of adventure as the red section consists of lounge chairs to sleep in all night. Frankly for the amount I slept the in the Gold, the red would have been just fine for me and the price was about half the amount. I did the tour down the Katherine Gorge which was nice but nothing spectacular as we didn`t see any crocodiles along the route only a tree full of fruit bats. After a 3 hour break it was back on the train and another 4 hour journey to Darwin. The one thing that the Ghan offers is the ability to load your car on the train so that you can continue your journey without having to return on the train, this is something I wish the trains in North America would offer.
Rock painting near Darwin. Photo by Denise Perrier.
Darwin is an interesting city as it has a very young vibrant population along with being hot and humid. The city has many pubs and hotels and it is another place I would return to if given a chance. I took a tour to Kakadu National Park and would have enjoyed a couple of more days there as the birds and wildlife there were incredible. Again I never saw a wild crocodile but it gives me another reason to return. The next day I was off to Lichfield National Park which is known for the waterfalls of which we saw 4 great ones. The best experience of all was being able to lie in warm pools of water and let the water flow all around you, the best massage ever. The remaining waterfalls all had a threat of crocodiles being in them so we could only photograph them not a typical Canadian experience with our waterfalls.
The southern coastline near Denmark, Australia. Photo by Denise Perrier.
I left Darwin wishing I spent more time here but it is what it is and I flew down to Perth for the next 10 days where my cousin Kim (brother of Trace in Auckland) met me at the airport. I hadn`t seen Kim in about 10 years and I had a blast with him and his wife Marie and daughters Sienne and Sophie. We explored Perth, the coastline beaches and went to Freemantle to see the Sculptures by the Sea festival. While I was there the Blues and Roots Music Festival was also on and we went and saw Steve Miller, Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Paul Simon all on the same day. The best memories are Bonnie Raitt singing ``I Can`t Make You Love Me`` which brought tears to my eyes then joyfully dancing to Paul Simon`s ``Diamonds In the Soles Of Her Shoes``.
Paul Simon in concert. Photo by Denise Perrier.
Kim and I headed south of Perth to the Margaret River Region for a couple of nights and had fun finding places to photograph sunsets along both the coastline and exploring the giant forests. Margaret River is also known for being a wine region and it wouldn`t be right if you didn`t stop at least one place to sample. Kim`s home is in a place called Bridgetown and it is a sweet town nestled in a valley and is known for growing apples and that it is cold there (many Aussies told me this). Bridgetown is higher so it can experience the colder temperatures in the winter but it is a really lovely town and location. We spent Easter Weekend there, many people dropped by to visit and Kim took me around to some of his favorite locations nearby.
After the weekend, Kim and I headed further south to beautiful southern coastline around Walpole and Denmark and then headed north through the Sterling Ranges to a place called Nowanup, a place for aboriginal people to go back to their roots to find their footing once again. Kim`s friend Eugene runs this place and it was a real experience being able to speak with him and find out what they offer to the people in experience and knowledge. I had my own personal experience seeing poachers on the property that night, a scorpion, giant moths and lizards. In the Southwest area of Australia is where I found the outback of Australia that you see in movies, really does exist. Little towns with one hotel done in style you only see in Australia with a pub filled of many memorabilia on the walls, sheep shows and large tracks of farmland. My days with Kim were a wonderful experience in exploring the parts of Australia you would never see on a tour bus and given a chance more people should explore this part of Australia.
Brisbane is a surfer's paradise! Photo by Denise Perrier.
My last place for my adventure in Australia was Brisbane and the Gold Coast where my cousin Kevin`s ex-wife Jo lives with her two daughters Meagan and Jessica. I spent 5 days with them on the Gold Coast and Jo took me on the weekend down to Byron Bay to the famous market, Cape Byron Lighthouse, Springbrook National Park and Mount Tamborine. Jo had to work on Monday, so I went to Surfers Paradise on my own and although lovely, it is a placed filled with tall building and leans toward the party life. I personally wanted to experience more natural wildlife so I found the bus to Currumbin Wildlife Park and spent the day exploring it. I was just about ready to leave the park when it was pointed out to me I had just walked by John Travolta who was there on vacation with his wife and little boy who was 3 that day. I did an about face and saw him very close up and I must say he looks pretty darn good.
A Barking Owl at the Currumbin Wildlife Park. Photo by Denise Perrier.
I was now down to my last day in Australia and I decided to spend it in Brisbane exploring the city and I tried to do it all which is impossible. I paid for a hop on off tour bus that covered the highlights of Brisbane. The city is really lovely and certainly deserves more than one day to explore it along with the coastline north and Cairns which I didn`t plan for on this trip. Brisbane has had some great spaces developed along the south portion of the river and I was impressed with how they have developed such a lovely place within an established city.
Brisbane at night. Photo by Denise Perrier.
My adventure ended April 10th after 10 weeks of travel and it was an amazing experience and one I could not have afforded to do in this style if I hadn`t won the contest. During my travels, I generally find a theme for my trip and this one I call my Butterfly Trip as sometimes when I would feel unsure or alone, it seemed I would see a butterfly and it gave me comfort and I feel assured in carrying on in my journey. I met so many people in my travels and learned a lot about life on the other side of the world and hopefully you have enjoyed reading about my experiences and will enjoy your own adventures there one day.
As a footnote my sister Sue from Calgary was quite ill before I left for Australia. After I left for Australia, she was admitted to the hospital for surgery on her bowel. I brought her home a Koala from Australia that repeats whatever words you say to it, which she loved. Unfortunately her system was very poisoned from the bowel leakage; she developed cancer and passed away in August. I wish dedicate my trip memories to Sue as she loved and was dearly loved by our family members in Australia and New Zealand. She is now that butterfly out there supporting and guiding me in my life.
(Thanks for taking the time to write down your journey Denise. We enjoyed reading it and I hope our readers did as well. Plus, it has a lot of information for anyone planning a trip to Australia. We'll make it there some winter, and now we know why people who have been there rave about it so much!)