Friday, June 17, 2011

The Red Centre

Welcome to the Northern Territory.  The Australian Outback.  The Red Centre.

Our first stop across the NT border was Tennant Creek.  The town itself was really small and we got there early in the day(say around 2pm -ish, which is early considering we drove 8 hours); so we had to find something to do until dinner and bed.  The Tennant Creek telegraph station provided the perfect solution for our problem.

Random fact: Tennant Creek is the NT's fifth largest town with population of 3,000 people.

The telegraph station was once part of the Overland Telegraph station that once linked Melbourne to London.  The two (large) solid stone buildings were completed in 1874 and remain the same today, although in the 1930s the telegraph station was sold and used as a cattle station.

The buildings were so neat and the walls were unbelievably thick! The station consists of two large buildings (one was used for boarding operators and the other held the telegraph repeater in the 1870s), as well as a livery, smoke house, butcher shop, and underground cellar. There was also a small cemetery with two graves.  It was really neat because we got one of the four master keys in town so we could go inside all of the buildings!  Can you believe that they trust people that much? Just to give someone the key and hope they won't steal things. Like the amazing wood organ from the 1860s!

Obviously I though the entire Tennant Creek/Overland Telegraph Station was awesome.  :)

The next day we drove to Alice Springs and went to the Sunday mall on Todd Street.  It reminded me of the Pike Street markets in Seattle. We spent most of the day in Alice relaxing, although mom and I went to a casino (I lost) then shopping.

The following day we drove to our final destination: Yulara/Ayer's Rock/Uluru depending on which name you would like to choose. But before we got there... we went to Devil's Marbles!

"The ‘Devils Marbles’ or ‘Karlu Karlu’ with its gigantic, rounded granite boulders, some spectacularly poised, is a remarkable landscape. Scattered clusters of these ‘marbles’, including many balancing rocks, are spread across a wide, shallow valley. The Devils Marbles is a nationally and internationally recognised symbol of Australia’s outback." - Wikapedia

But after that mom and I did something really neat... we rode camels in the Outback!  Heck yes!  Haha. They are like horses, only not even close.  I think the only thing similar between camels and horses is that fact you can ride then and the have 4 legs.  I am so excited that I got to ride a camel in the outback!  Totally sweet.

In Yulara we stayed at Ayer's Rock Resort which was so expensive!  It was crazy!  But it's the type of thing you do once in your life.  We found a pretty good place to eat pizza, but I'll be happy to see American prices again.

It was nice to sleep in, but dad and I couldn't sleep in too late because I took him for a helicopter ride. Well, I personally didn't take him for a helicopter ride but I paid so that he and I could go on a helicopter ride over Uluru/Ayer's rock and Kata Tjuta.   It was fun to see the view from above and hopefully dad liked his birthday/father's day present.

After getting back and doing a little touristy shopping we headed out to Uluru/Ayer's Rock.  If you are wondering why I keep writing "Uluru/Ayer's Rock" it's because I don't want people to get confused.  Uluru and Ayer's Rock are the same rock.  The rock's name was changed from 'Ayer's Rock' some years back to it's more aboriginal name 'Uluru.'

Anyways - mom and I walked part way around the way and got some great pictures! I don't have enough laptop battery to upload them right now but if I remember I will get that done later.  We then ate at an over the top expensive restaurant but it was pretty good. :)

The next day we went hiking on a trail up Kata Tjuta. It was fun to get up into the red rock and some really neat things.  It was definitely a great place to get some pictures taken.

After hiking for most of the day we watched the sunset.  It was amazing to see the rock change colors from a red to vivid red to dull red/brown color.  I took a 40 minute video that I'll going to speed up to make a neat time lapse video.  Hopefully I'll get that posted before I head up into the mountains on Sunday.

I also took the most amazing picture of Uluru ever.  No trick magic or editing people.  Just f-stop and aperture settings.  And yes I put a copyright on it.  I don't want some random internet people to highjack it.  Besides, it might be a Christmas present for some of you. (click on it to make it bigger)

I'm glad I've been to the Outback twice.  Once with the bare minimum and once in comfort.  It was a great experience to see Australia with the parents and I am really sad that I have to head home.

This was crazy.  We just practically spent 48 hours on the move; either in an airplane or terminal or car.  Yulara to Syndey (3 hour flight). Sydney to Brisbane (2 hour flight). Brisbane to Melbourne (3 hour flight) . Melbourne to LA (14 hour flight).  [Insert 5 hour layover.] LA to Portland (2 1/2 hours).  Portland to home (5 hour drive).  Currently dad is driving home and we are somewhere near the Dalles about to get dinner.  Although it feels like I should be getting breakfast. Strange.

I think I am going to be really jet lagged. Especially since tomorrow I have to get everything together for horsecamp then head up into the mountains on Sunday. This should be interesting. haha.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On the Island/Road Trip

If you ever travel to Australia don’t bet on finding free internet.  Perhaps spending several days on a remote island and then traveling to the Outback could have something to do with the shortage…  but thank goodness for McDonalds/McCafe – they provide free internet! So hopefully you can catch up on our travels now.

This will be a long blog post with lots of pictures so I’ll write it out day by day.

Reception Area @ Fitzroy
After enjoying an absolute amazing breaky (breakfast) at the Zimzala Bed and Breakfast in Cairns, we (mom, dad, and I) caught the ferry to Fitzroy Island.  Here’s a little background information of Fitzroy: Fitzroy Island is an isolated island surrounded by fringing reef and it is home to a variety of tropical fish and coral life.  The island and it’s surrounding reef make up part of the Great Barrier Reef, which is a protected World Heritage Site. 

Sunset at Fitzroy
Fitzroy Island in one of the most unspoiled islands on the Great Barrier Reef and the majority of the island is a National Island Park. 

Coral Beach

It was so amazing to stay on a neat little island like Fitzroy.  The resort was really interesting and we learned that previous to our stay it had been closed for two years, just recently reopening.

After we got checked in and dropped our bags off at reception mom and I decided to walk to Nudey beach on the western side of the island. The track to Nudey beach went through a tropical rainforest and coastal woodlands along the side of a mountain.  The beach was made of beautiful white coral and had huge boulders on either edge.  With the sun shining brightly mom and I decided to lie out on the sand while dad relaxed on the deck of the resort room.  It was so amazing and I loved it!  That night we ate an amazing steak dinner then fell into bed.  You know what the best part was? The fact that I had my own private room!  I liked that. 
Nudey Beach

The big black blob is a school of fish!

On the second day mom and I decided to hike to the lighthouse on Fitzroy.  Over the last 80 years Fitzroy has been home to several lighthouses; the first was built in 1923 and was a carbide gaslight.  The lighthouse that is currently standing was built in 1970, but is not currently in use.  The hike to the lighthouse was really steep, but was well worth it to see a spectacular 360-degree view of the island and surrounding ocean.

View from the lighthouse
You can see the funky lighthouse off in the distance

As if we hadn’t walked enough, after lunch mom and I walked to the secret garden. This little hike took use through a tropical rainforest, but we didn’t hike the whole thing because mom had to go back for her scuba diving lesson!  Yup.  Mom went scuba diving.  She spend an hour learning about diving and then practiced in the resort pool with her instructor.  Dinner quickly came around followed by bedtime.
At a resting point on the track in the forest
Mom learning to dive in the pool
The next morning mom went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.  I was going to go, but didn’t feel very good because I was up really late the previous night (too much rich food!).  The reef is amazing and I wish that I could have seen it myself – but maybe one day I will be able to again! 

Lion Fish
In the ocean w/her instructor
One mom’s diving was done and she showered we finished our walk to the Secret Garden.  It was so neat to be walking in the rainforest and I actually knew things about the plants so it was lots of fun!
Beautiful flower
In the jungle... the mighty jungle!
I was sad that we had to leave, but first I played in ocean before getting on the ferry.  The water was so warm! I definitely love Cairns and Fitzroy!  That night we stayed in a Holiday Inn that was right on the water.  We did laundry then went off to do some shopping and eating before bed.  I bought some presents for people and also got a really neat purse that is very “outback” looking.  (I’ll have to post a picture of it later.)
In the water at Fitzroy, near the jetty
On Thursday we drove from Cairns to Charters Towers.  It was about a 6 hour drive, but we got into town around 4pm so it wasn’t bad. Charters Towers was founded in the early 1800s during the gold rush.  The town had so many beautiful buildings in it and we found a yummy local pizza place to eat at.  It reminded me of the old pizza place we used to have in Union on the corner (way back when I was in elementary school). 

This morning we were on the road by 7:30am and began our journey into the outback. Although it’s not technically “The Outback”  it’s Queenslands outback.  Among other neat things we passed, we stopped at the Kronosaurus Koner.  Why there you ask? Well, because it had a gaint dino that I really wanted a picture by.  It’s kinda amazing!

Garbage Can
The hotel here in Mount Isa is just a little joint off the side of the road, but it’s got TV and a restaurant so not bad. Mount Isa is home to a huge lead and copper mine.  It’s crazy big!  That’s really all that is in this town and I have a feeling that the towns are about to get smaller as we go.

Tomorrow we are staying in Tennant Creek… which we know nothing about.  I’m not sure if I will have internet there, but most likely not.  If there is a McDonalds though I might be able to update.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Time to get on the road!  Only a nine-hour drive today! ;)  

Sunday, June 5, 2011


On the road again... this time to Cairns! It is so beautiful up here - I love it!  And it's warm so that is an added bonus!

Today we drove from MacKay to Cairns, which is about a nine hour drive.  I was amazed as the landscape changed from sugar cane fields to cattle savannas, and open forest to rainforest. Most of the nine hour drive was dominated by sugar cane fields. Miles and miles of sugar cane plantations.

In one of the towns we drove through we saw some of the damage that the January cyclone had done. Houses didn't have roofs, trees were snapped like twigs, and the damage was still very present; even in June.

Tonight we are staying at Zimzala Bed and Breakfast on Holloways Beach about 12kms north of Cairns.  I've never been to a bed and breakfast before so it's really a neat experience! After we got our rooms and a tour of the house, we walked down to a little pizza and pasta joint in town.  The food was great and it was neat to see the beach at the sun went down.

Hopefully I will have internet the next few days so I can keep updating my blog!  Tomorrow and the next day we are staying at FitzRoy Island so I am really excited!

Keep you all posted!

Road Trip!

I'm going to run out of internet shortly, but I thought everyone might like to see a blog post of our adventures so far! The first day mom and dad got here we drove from Lismore to Byron Bay.  Dad took a nap while mom and I watched the sunset on the beach.

Mom found a cool rock on the beach!

Me enjoying Byron!

Beautiful sunset and awesome surfers!

I am sure that mom and dad enjoyed attempting to drive on the wrong side of the road.  To me it's just funny because I am used to it.  We enjoyed a pizza from a local shop in Byron and all went to bed. I wasn't super tired, but kind of sad because I had to leave all of my awesome friends at Southern Cross.  My semester abroad was amazing to say the least!

The second day we drove for about five hours up the coast into Queensland then up to Hervey Bay.  We then took a ferry across to Fraser Island.  It was so neat to stay at the King Fisher Resort.  It was unlike anything else I have ever seen. The resort was just outstanding.  And the food was great - but so spendy! (I enjoyed lamb for the first time and decided I really liked it!)

Inside the main lobby

Pool Side

The morning after we checked in mom and I went exploring on the main beach of Fraser. And I saw dingo tracks!!  So neat!

I was really sad that we didn't get to stay at Fraser longer, but I am excited that we get to continue our journey.  Today we drove for about 8 hours (!) or more (!).  It was long, but there were some really funny signs on the road (i.e. blue government made road signs).  Like "Are we there yet?"  or  "How long till we get there dad?"  There are even a series of government signs that have trivial pursuit questions on them. I thought you would enjoy them Heidi!  

Here's one for you to try:
Q: What is the state flower of Queensland?

Sunset on the drive today
A: Cooktown Orchid.

I wish I could write more but we have to pay a lot for internet so I can't be on/write for that long.  But look for more posts later on!