Do you ever get that feeling, first thing in the morning, like you’re completely lost and have no bearing on the world around you?
Mostly it’s dark, but there seems to be a faint glow of green. A strange sound comes from outside, probably what woke me up in the first place. Sounds like… sounds like… sounds like an orangutan laughing. Can’t be, where the heck am I? Now there seems to be something yellow around me. Now another strange sound, something possibly chewing something? Figure this out Andrew. Hmm..
Australia, the land down under.
You’d think the yellow and green tent I’ve spent the last 35 days in would scream ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oy Oy Oy’ every time I woke up. But no, I guess driving all around this country, sleeping in different national parks almost every night doesn’t allow your system to find it’s location that quickly in the morning.
The sounds? No orangutans here, but kookaburras and their loud, laughing call. As for the chewing, probably from the kangaroos that have no fear of humans or brightly colored tents.
We’re leaving this land in just a few short days, so lets recap a
little. Our trip, first by the numbers:
35 days of driving, still on the wrong side of the both the road and car, and with some funky road rules (cows and sheep always have the right of way, humans must yield to traffic). Mostly me behind the wheel, although Alyssa did try her hand at a manual transmission. That experiment lasted until we were staring, white eyed, into the grill of a semi-truck as it closed in on our truck that was stalled on the wrong side of the road with me yelling ‘go, go, go!’
31 days straight camping. Yes, this means 31 days of sleeping on the ground, in a tent that leaked water at times. Twice we were forced to move to the relative safety of the truck (so long as Al wasn’t driving) while a storm passed overhead. 31 straight days of setting up and breaking down camp, 31 straight days of instant coffee and canned foods. Also, 31 straight days of waking up in some of the most beautiful and far away places I’ve ever seen.
4 disasters averted. We certainly picked a good time to travel (heavy sarcasm here). Missed the
flooding in Brisbane by days. Then left Sydney just before a heat wave gave them their hottest recorded temperatures ever. On to Victoria which also flooded heavily just as we turned back north. And of course we were careful not to travel north too quickly as cyclone Yasi battered Queensland (also heard on the radio this was the worst cyclone meteorologists here had ever seen). When we came back to Brisbane we walked down by the river to see if there were any lingering effects of the flood. Things are mostly cleared but you can still finds bits of debris carried by the river at least 15-20 feet above the normal level of the river (and about 5 feet over ours heads as we walked on the promenade).
$#### money spent. I’m being modest here of course, but Australia is expensive! Everything is at least double the price of back home. $3 for a bottle of bubbly water, $13 for a 5 mile cab ride, $6 a kilo of banana’s (and forget about the other fruit), and on and on. We’re very frugal travelers and we’re spending a lot here. Sorry Australia, you’re beautiful but we need to move
on before we’re broke!
3000 kilometers driven, give or take one of two. Driving through cities, rainforests, mountains, plains, outback, national parks, state reserves, on the coast, in-land dirt roads, over mud, gravel, sand, pavement, by landmarks, waterfalls, and everything else in between. Yes, I got a few honks directed my way while behind the wheel. And yes, I did have to circle a few roundabouts more than once due to confusion. But no accidents or broken cars (Mexico) and a whole lot of fun.
9 days without a shower. This was our longest stench, although others were almost as long. Although the smell was almost unbearable to each other, we did manage to ward off most flying insects by day 6 and looked incredibly tan due to the filth buildup. Poor Hailey and Dave – they lent us their stuff for the trip and are still airing out sleeping bags (we’ve been back for three days now).
21 National Parks. If we weren’t in a city you could find us in the most remote camping spot in a national park up the road. We hit almost every national park that stood in our way, and definitely
went out of our way to catch a few more. There were parks on the coast, in the mountains, along rivers, and in the outback. They all offered something to contrast the one we were at the day before, except for the ever-present kangaroos. We also, because of said heat and natural disasters, had three or four of those national parks to ourselves.
So that’s some of it by the numbers. Here’s a taste of our day-to-day lives here in Australia:
Hello : How ya goin mate
Goodbye : G’day mate
Thank you : Ta
Your welcome : No wuckas mate
Good job : G’d on’ya mate
All is well : Bob’s your uncle
I think : I reckon
Chicken : Chook
Truck : Ute
Toilet : Dunny
Gas Station : Servo
Cooler or Refrigerator : Eskie
It will be OK : She’ll be a’right
…plus many more. And if you’re ever confused about what an Aussie is saying to you, just take the ‘y’ sound from the end of every word and poof, English.
The southern cross (star constellation) is a big deal down here. All the red-neck guys
have the tattoo or sticker on their truck.
Kangaroos and wallabies are everywhere! They were at parks on the coast and in the outback. They were in grass fields and dry scrubland. We even found some on the beach playing in the surf. When they really start moving they can jump over ten feet in one bound.
Aussie’s really like to build giant things on the side of the highway. We’ve seen a giant clam, giant prawn, giant tennis racquet, giant paper rock, giant banana, and on and on.
The water, when flushed, seems to go straight down. A sink filled with water however, definitely drains the other direction.
And finally, some thoughts:
Australia is pretty cool. While the culture is not a complete shock to the system, the animals and scenery are. The scenery is amazing. We’ve been snorkeling in crystal clear turquoise waters and hiked through mountains greens with tropical plants. We’ve been in the open heat of the outback and swam in waterfalls. My favorite memory of the trip so far occurred in Kanangra-Boyd National Park. We started the day hiking along shear cliffs with vistas looking far into every direction. To
cool off from the heat, we hiked down to a series of waterfalls with perfect swimming pools at the base. We climbed down rock faces and over boulders to find just the right waterfall and swimming hole, then took the plunge. The water from the falls, while beating down on your face and back, was take-your-breath away refreshing. After the swim we climbed back out of the gorge and then back to the truck. On the way to the truck we stopped to read a sign. ‘Please respect the water’ the sign said, ‘this water flows directly into the reservoir that supplies the city of Sydney with all of its drinking water’. This was day 5 of no shower, and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t take the opportunity to scrub more than just our underwear in the water. The lasting impression Australia leaves me is the wildlife. The animals are so different here. Things hop first of all, and carry babies in their stomach pouches. That may sound juvenile, but watching the ‘roos and wallabies hop around our campsite while we ate breakfast or dinner made me giddy with excitement. Besides the ever-present ‘roos (eastern grey and
red) and wallabies (swamp and red-necked) we saw koalas, wombats, emus, echidnas, goannas, snakes (carpet python and tiger), possums (brushtail), skinks, water dragons, bearded dragons, antechinus, dingos, and lots of birds. The birds all seem exotic with very colorful wings and calls. The only animals we hoped to see and haven’t yet (we don’t leave until the 20th) are a platypus and a crocodile. We’ll see a croc when we go to Darwin later this week and maybe a platypus next time we come to the land down under.
Darwin on the 16th, then Bali and Indonesia on the 20th. I’m looking forward to a new culture and getting back to Asia. Hope everything is well at home. Miss you all and hope you are all thinking of me sitting on a beach in Bali with a cold drink with a little umbrella.
Peace, Andrew and Alyssa
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