A Look Back at Australia-Part 1

Hi everyone,

One year ago today on a Friday, October 18, 2019, I began my three-and-half week adventure to Australia. For the next few weeks I’ll share ten to twelve of my favorite photos each week along with stories and experiences. During this time of the virus, I hope to provide you with something to take your mind off the rising number of cases for a few minutes and all the things we have to do to keep ourselves safe and healthy.

That day a year ago started off on the right foot. I had a good nights sleep and woke up refreshed for the long haul to Sidney. My suitcase was packed along with my camera gear, gifts for my hosts, and the small carryon backpack. I’d arranged for my neighbor (my Traveling Partner was in North Dakota at the time) to give me a lift to the Madison airport in plenty of time to check in for the flight that would take me to Minneapolis then on to Los Angeles for the plane to Sydney. In the late morning that all blew up when the Madison flight was delayed making my connection in Minneapolis very tight, then delayed again insuring I would miss the flight to LA and Sydney. During the time I was on hold with Delta, I was on my computer searching for options. Once the agent answered my call, she told me that if I could get to Milwaukee (one hours and twenty minutes away) I could make all the connections. I arranged with my neighbors to pick up my vehicle the next week at the Milwaukee. I then scrambled to get myself ready, have some lunch and button up the house for a few weeks. While the stress free, relaxing start to my trip was out the window, everything did work out.

After traveling nearly twenty-four hours, I arrived in Sydney at 8:30 AM on Sunday morning, October 20. I didn’t sleep much on the trip but was reenergized after exiting the train at Central Station. It was springtime in Australia, the weather was pleasant, the sky a bright blue, and poofy white clouds dotted the sky. My AirBnB accommodations wouldn’t be ready until 3 PM. No worries, I’d arranged with my hosts to store my bags. This gave me plenty of time to begin exploring Sydney.

After devouring a late breakfast and enjoying a great cup of coffee, I visited the ANZAC war memorial. ANZAC is an acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Corp. The memorial commemorates those who died and injured during the World War I British military campaign at Gallipoli (today in Turkey) to clear the Straits of Dardanelles and provide a supply route to and from Russia. It failed with about 250,000 casualties on each side. This was the beginning of when Australia and New Zealand began to openly discuss seeking independence from Great Britain.

The sculpture displayed below is titled “Sacrifice” based on the Spartan warrior from ancient Greece. It’s located in the center of the museum surrounded by reliefs from the military campaigns made by ANZAC soldiers.

 

After a few hours of bumming around enjoying the sites and sounds of central Sydney, it was time to check into my AirBnB. I needed a shower and some clean clothes after thirty hours of traveling. After a bit of a rest, I bought a few groceries at the local convenience store, had some dinner, then cashed in for the evening.

The next morning after a good sleep, I met John, a guide I hired through City Unscripted for a three-hour walking tour of some of the main sights of Sydney. My goals were to identify places that I wanted to visit more in depth and other easy to reach locations to visit. John and I rode the train to Circular Quay adjacent to Sydney Harbor. After a short walk, two iconic sights to came into view, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. 

As we walked along, John talked about the history of Australia and Sydney while pointing out some of the historical buildings. We made our way along the Sydney Harbor to the Royal Botanic Garden. They were advertising an exhibit of carnivorous plants.  I thought the sign was clever!

From the botanic garden, we could see the modern business district of Sydney reportedly Australia’s financial and economic center. 

I love this big sign near the Sydney Harbor. Even though Australia is no longer tied to the United Kingdom, there are a lot of similarities between the cultures. One tradition that endures for some is tea time where tea (sometimes coffee) and light snacks in mid-afternoon are consumed. For many Australians, beer’o clock has replaced afternoon tea!

After a fun few hours scouting the city with John, I boarded the ferry to Manly Beach. John suggested a couple places for lunch but they were closed until evening dinner. I scored some fish and chips at one of the many small cafes along the beach. Again, the warm sun and beautiful scenery made for a pleasant, relaxing afternoon. 

After a few days in Sydney, it was time for my next adventure. I checked out of my AirBnB and took the train to the Sydney airport for a three hour flight to the center of the continent, the Northern Territories. My destination was Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. I’d booked three nights at the Ayers Rock Resort, the only place to stay near on of the most recognizable landmarks in Australia. After getting settled, I learned that to get to the big red rock without a car, one had to purchase a tour. I signed up for both the sunset and sunrise tours as well as tours to Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. It didn’t take long to drop several hundred bucks on tours but it was the only way I could see the area.

The soil is red and the vegetation consists of hardy grasses interspersed with low growing shrubs. There is a surprising amount of life in the desert. It has a beauty of it’s own and the more time I was there, the more I appreciated the hot, dry, dusty climate and interesting landscape.

Uluru is sacred to the aboriginal peoples that inhabit the region. They believe that their ancestors continue to reside within the rock. When the sun sets or rises, the rock reflects the light and begins to glow a bright rust color as seen the photo below. It’s almost magical and just maybe it’s the spirits try to tell us something, like take care of the earth.

After the sunrise tour, I got off the bus at one of it’s stops so I could hike along the base of Uluru. I donned my wide brimmed jungle hat and the fly net to keep the flies out of my eyes, nose and ears. They don’t bite but are very annoying in their search for any moisture in the extremely dry climate.

Towards the end of my walk, I came to the area where visitors were climbing to the top of the 1100 foot rock. You see, in two days the climb would be closed forever at the request of the aboriginal peoples. That’s why the resort was packed with people and busses from Alice Springs, two hundred miles away, filled the parking lot. People began climbing in 1930’s and a chain was installed years lated due to safety concerns. In the photo below, you can see the mass of people making the climb even though the indigenous peoples requested them to respect their wishes. The short video offers you another perspective.

After my time at Uluru, I took a tour to the nearby (40 or 50 miles!), Kata Tjuta National Park. This is my favorite photo from the trip with the huge rocks popping out of the desert. There weren’t nearly as many visitors and some areas of the park were closed due to the heat. The sunset over the Kata Tjuta range is said to be spectacular but the clouds moved in and obscured the sun. We thought it was going to rain but the bus driver didn’t think so, it didn’t.

I’ve gone on longer than I thought. I’ll pick up the story in next week’s episode.

Until then, happy virtual travels!

Tom

 

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