A Travellerspoint blog

muddy shoes ahead

sunny 93 °F
View tin-man's gold road on ggithens's travel map.

swirling in the vortex,
fluid surrounds.
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.

DEVIL'S MARBLES

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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.

ROCK ART

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WALLABEE

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KAKADU LANDSCAPE

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BATS

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ROCK ART

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CROCODILE WARNING

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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..............

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Posted by ggithens 21:25 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

vehicular migrations

sunny 96 °F
View tin-man's gold road on ggithens's travel map.

the sky is grinning,
beaming rays of warmth.
the red earth reciprocates,
sending a smile back.

green life can linger,
sustain itself with secrets,
underground tunnels,
give shade a chance.

hot, arid, dry. desolate, deserted desert. rain, rain, please come and wet me before i dry into redness.

the center of oz has natural beauty so distinct and rare it is hard to take it all in. the past few days in the outback have been full of wonderful treats. torrential downpours, a rainbow, camels, thorny devils, a fire extinguisher in the bush, icy cold watering holes, roos, emus, a sunset from heaven. the list will continue. my time wandering around the red rocks that draw tourists from all over the world was stellar. the contours of uluru and king's canyon were breathtaking upclose, and learning about the aboriginals that survive in the bush was even more startling. the roads around uluru and king's canyon were full of impressive scenery, a grand treat after driving in nothingness in south australia. photographs below will surpass my descriptions.

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ULURU ROCK ART

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KATA TJUTA

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THORNY DEVIL

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SWIMMING HOLE

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KING'S CANYON

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MACDONEL RANGES

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prior to entering the northern territory, i accompanied my dutch friend through the flinder's ranges in south australia and made a brief stop in coober pedy, the opal mining capital of the world. the flinder's were brimming with wildlife, including kangaroos and emus that ran across the road with reckless abandon. we set up camp and enjoyed a marvelous sunset before hitting the dirt track in the morning. coober pedy is famous for its underground homes, and we decided to set up camp 5m under the earth. one hotel had camp spots in the cool caverns that were once mined for opal. it was the best night of sleep i've had on our five-day journey.

ROOS

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CAMELS

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FLINDERS

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OUTBACK

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UNDERGROUND CAMPING

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UNDERGROUND CHURCH

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OPAL MINING SITES

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PLANE WARNING IN THE OUTBACK

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BUS

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the trip materialized at the fruit shack, where i departed with a german girl at the beginning of december. we took a train from the fascinating town of wagga wagga and found ourselves in melbourne in search of a hotel and a car. the first night in town we were without accommodation, and it seemd that most hostels were full. a flip of a coin determined that we would sleep in fitzroy gardens, which turned out to be a very pleasant experience. it certainly will come to mind next time i see a homeless person sleeping on a park bench. my back forgave me after a few days, and the rest of our time in melbourne was spent at a gracious couchsurfer's home. we cruised the city for a few days and found a suitable car to tour the great ocean road.

the touristic road, which winds along victoria's coast is dotted with parks and sublime beaches. a sore throat caught me at an inopportune time and my time at the beaches could not be fully appreciated. nonetheless, the famous twelve apostles, stone statues in the sea, were worth the wait. we even spotted some tree-dwelling marsupials in a forest. the melbourne-adelaide leg of the trip finished with a day meandering around the adelaide hills, which are lined with grapes and cherries. we spent a night in a cricket ground before heading into adelaide, where i switched travel companions and shot up north.

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MELBOURNE

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KITESURFERS

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APOSTLES

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GREAT OCEAN ROAD

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ADELAIDE CRAB FISHING

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KOALAS

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Posted by ggithens 18:09 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

opposites abound

a return to the "first-world" and the simple life

98 °F
View tin-man's gold road on ggithens's travel map.

planning, scanning for the present
past and future intersect
reflect on a pool
full of options
decisions to be made
i'd rather rest in between the glades
in the shade.

landing in sydney town was the first time my traveling emotions featured any second-guesses. leaving asia was a tough decision, and i even avoided talking with caucasions at the bali airport. my indonesian was sufficient for a few conversations, and i was lucky enough to meet a group of japanese that provided me with another half an hour before i plunged back into the proper english.

my initial impression of sydney was highly positive, due in great part to the abundance of green in the city and its cleanliness compared to american cities. the harbor area and botanical gardens were absolutely gorgeous, and the british colonial mark is comparable to parts of boston. the bustling city center featured a good number of asians, but it seemed a little too segregated for my liking. subversion also seemed lacking, but maybe there are just too many punks and winos in new york. either way, i like seeing graffiti and civil acts of disobediance. the laid-back atmosphere in such a large city left me thinking that life down under could be a possibility.

my walk along the coast was definitely the highlight of sydney, and the sculputures were an added bonus. a few odd ones are featured below, but there were plenty more that tickled my fancy.

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after a week in sydney i made my way to the fruitshack, located in leeton, nsw. it's a backpacker house full of euro's and a me. everyday we work hard in the fields and relax at night. the sunsets are long and dramatic and the boxes of wine are large and go quickly. the simple life is a wonderful respite from traveling somewhere new every week, and the backpackers i've met all rock. i'll probably be heading out with a vehicle in another few weeks to a destination unknown, but still in aus.

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Posted by ggithens 20:12 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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