Welcome back to the second in a series of look backs at my October-November 2019 travels to Australia. During this time of the pandemic, I find it revitalizing to look through my photos and reminisce about the wonderful time I had just a year ago. Last night I fell asleep thinking about the sounds, smells and sights I experienced on this trip. Things like the buzzing of the flies at Uluru, the call of the kookaburra, and the sound of the ocean waves against the rocky coast. The smell of the bush fires, the aroma of a koala, and the feel of the dry desert air. I dreamt I returned to Australia for another go at seeing the large and diverse country.What a pleasant dream it was!
At the end of my Uluru excursion, my new black shoes were covered with the red soil of the interior. A badge of honor, I never cleaned them, just let the dust eventually wear off.
Last week I left you with one day remaining on my excursion to Uluru in the Northern Territories. My wake up call came at 2:50 AM so I would have plenty of time to be ready for the 4:00 AM departure of the tour bus. Our destination was Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park about a three-and-a-half hour ride through the red desert. As we neared the park, we stopped for a hearty breakfast at the Kings Creek Station. The smell of frying bacon and steaming coffee was welcome after the long ride. At the park our guide, Jacob, explained there were two walks visitors could take. One was an one-and-a-half hour fairly easy walk on the canyon floor to an observation platform. The second was a three plus hour rim walk that began with a five hundred step steep climb up Heartbreak Hill” otherwise known as “Heart Attack Hill!” We had to sign a waiver to make this trek and promise to carry three liters of drinking water. I signed the waiver and followed the much younger crowd up the path. There was a point of no return, only two people turned back. I kept going, glad for the energy from breakfast.
Once we reached the rim of the canyon, the view was spectacular with the George Gill Mountains rising out of the flat as a pancake landscape.
We traversed the rim of the canyon with the guide stopping from time to time for both history and geology lessons. It was an opportunity for me to take photos.
The descent from the canyon rim was much easier, long and gradual. We did have to watch our step as the rocks were uneven in places. By this time it was around noon and getting very hot. At the bus, the driver handed each of us a cool towel to mop our brow, that felt good after 13,000 steps with 500 steps damn near straight up! We hopped on the bus and stopped at a nearby resort for lunch, a sandwich and a nice cold beer. On the ride back to Uluru, we stopped at a wayside with sand dunes and a salt lake on one side of the road. On the other side of the road, off in the distance was a mountain that looked like Uluru. It’s not. It’s Mt. Connor and is located on private land. Our guide told us that some tourists who stay in Alice Spring about four hours north of Uluru, do a day trip, stop at the wayside, think this is Uluru, take a few photos, then get back in the car and drive back to Alice Springs. Uluru is another 65 miles!
After the long day of walking and riding the bus, my last evening was pleasant and restful. Had a great meal at one of the Ayres Rock restaurants. The next morning, I packed my gear for the plane ride back to Sydney where I would meet up with fellow members of Friendship Force the next day for a week-long home stay. The flight back was delayed due to high winds in Sydney. Once we were boarded I was seated next to a distasteful guy who made crude comments about the flight attendants, drank beer like it was oxygen, and walked around in his bare feet. Pretty gross.
As I mentioned earlier, spring along the coast of eastern Australia is gorgeous with mild temperatures and clean air. That’s the way it started when the Friendship Force club hosting us, sent a small bus because there was track work on the regional train line. The hour-and-a-half ride north of Sydney along the coastal highway gave us a glimpse of what our stay would be like. We weren’t disappointed. Meet my hosts, Jennelle and Rod Williams. They put up with me for a week and made sure I was on time for the many activities the club planned for us. They were great hosts and wonderful people. I appreciated their hospitality very much.
Here’s a brief recap of some of the things we did while visiting the Central Coast Friendship Force Club. If you want more detail check out my posts on this trip from last year; The Trail to Central Coast, New South Wales – Part 1 ,The Trail to Central Coast, New South Wales – Part 2, The Trail to Central Coast, New South Wales – Part 3.
The first place Jennelle and Rod took me to was Crackneck Lookout. It was near their home and a place where hang gliders could launch off the side of a bluff overlooking the ocean when the winds were in the right direction. It was a beautiful sight to see and introduction to our week.
One the most unusual and interesting places we visited was the Broken Bay Pearl Farm. Being a farm kid who grew up on the Great Plains of the United States, farming is done on land. Pearl farming was a whole new world for me. A couple of parallels are: both types of farmers have to take care of the resource that produces their crops and they have to wait awhile to know if the harvest will be successful. A very enjoyable day.
The juice factory showed another side of production agriculture. This company produced most of their own fruit then squeezed it into marketable drink products for consumers.
We were treated to an entertaining tour of Mortels Sheepskin Factory by the owner Tony Mortel. They make UGG boots along with other leather products. Tony shared an abundance of Australian humor with us and made non-pc irreverent comments about politicians in Australia and the U. S.
We visited the Mandalong Aboriginal Gallery that featured original aboriginal art works. In the photo below, proprietor Shelia explains some of the deep meanings imbedded in each piece of art. I purchase a small piece titled Family Gatherings.
A visit to Australia wouldn’t be complete without seeing at least one koala and kangaroo. We saw both at the Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park.
That does it for this week, join me next week for part 3 of more adventures in Australia.
Until then, happy virtual travels!