23.12.2007 - 26.01.2008 93 °F
swirling in the vortex,
can't find air
my feelings are distant
my mind's fair.
driving into the void north of alice springs was eerie, especially after glancing at the road atlas. we were truly on a road to nowhere that may have floated through david byrne's wild imagination. the dry, lifeless landscape surrounded the track for a seemingly endless distance. every few kilometers a road train, a truck with two to four carriages in tow, would fly centimeters away and wallop us with its' air bubble.
the days on the track were neither wonderful nor miserable, happy nor sad; they just were. a few carcus-like cows meandered around on either side the track, providing us with reinforcement that life could survive out there. in fact, aboriginals still survive off of bush tucker and water found beneath plants in the desolate land. a wonder to someone like me who would probably keel over and exit this life after a few days in the bush.
we were fortunate enough to have overcast days, providing us with some shelter from the stinging rays of the sun. the 'devil's marbles', a group of rocks apparently resembling game pieces from a land below were the only tourist attraction for the thousand kilometers north of alice. a brief stop at the campground and a short hike up the rocks gave us a glimpse of the surrounds.
a bit further on up the road was a lush green land known as the tropics. slowly crossing into the humid region was a site to see from the passenger seat. termite mounds and green plants began to dot the flat land; a welcome relief to the dry desert.
kakadu national park proved to be the highlight of my stay down under. the gorgeous forests, aboriginial rock art and wildlife constantly amazed me. one solo hike took me across a flat grassland that was recently burned by aborginals as a ritual. the dead grass was then used to form bridges over several waterways. walking alone in the woods i couldn't help imagining what it would be like to live out in the woods. catching fish with spears, hunting down kangaroos, searching for crocodile eggs in the sand. the life that may never be for me. along the way were countless art galleries that tickled my fancy. the rock art was outstanding, and the murals drawn on tree bark were unbelievable.
arriving in darwin on christmas day was perhaps the most anti-climactic entrance i've had this past year. rain shot down in sheets of hatred on the earth. our vehicle was barely able to withstand the torrential assault from the monsoon. it was not the jolliest of days to say the least.
twelve long hours later the sun shone brightly, and it was time to depart to litchfield national park, full of swimming holes and waterfalls. the largest pool recently welcomed a 'saltie', or salt water croc, so that swimming spot was off-limits, but the others were more than worth the journey.
a few more clicks down the road we came to 'three ways', an intersection we had passed earlier on our trip out of alice. this time, however, we were turning left into another abyss of nothing. east was the cardinal direction, and cairns was the destination. just outside of mt. isa, however, a travelers' tragedy occurred. fumes spouted from the hood as smoke billows from a fire. the outlook was not good, and within the hour i knew i would need to find another way to cairns.
after mulling over the options for a day i decided to try my hand at hitching. unfortunately i was out on the road on new year's eve and the number of cars heading out of town could be counted on my digits. my two-hour attempt was unsuccessful and i opted for the overnight train to townsville, an unexpected and serendipitous decision.
i found a couch to surf via the grand website and i was living like a king on new year's day. the town offered a glimpse of real aussie life that was great to see on the touristic east coast. my three-day live-aboard trip to the great barrier reef was brilliant in every aspect. the weather, the food, the crew and of course my fellow divers. eating, diving and sleeping were the three activities that filled my days, and i could ask for nothing more. the vivid colors of the coral and abundant marine life rivaled my dives in southeast asia. the last day was spent on the SS Yongala, an old cruise ship that met its' unfortunate fate off the coast of townsville. the wreck was inhabited by fish of gargantuan proportion, and i was swimming through countless schools.
heading down the east-coast i made stops at must-see places, including the whitsunday islands and fraser island. the former was done via a two-day boat trip that hit the beautiful beaches and snorkelling spots, but left out free-time to actually savor all of the flavor. nonetheless, the 'Romance' boat crew gave their finest effort.
Fraser Island was an absolutely out-of-this world experience. The largest sand island in the world, Fraser is accommodating only to 4WD vehicles. The standard budget trip out there involves throwing ten strangers into a Land Cruiser and giving someone the keys. Luckily I was the guy with them. Tearing up the tracks and dirtying the car was something I took great pleasure in. In fact, upon returning our vehicle the inspector noted that he had never seen a dirtier vehicle. My smile may have enraged the cleaners, but I believe the compulsory $100 cleaning charge was put to good use.
The lakes on the island were the essence of pristine. Sand as nature intended and water so pure you could drink it. Jumping into the lakes was a shower and a step into heaven all in one.
Finishing up my Oz tour in Brisbane has been wonderful, due in most part to my gracious couchsurfing host Mie. Her humble abode has comforted me over this past week and I am all the cleaner and well-rested for it. From here, on to Kiwi Land..............