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Published: January 10th 2017
The blog is back after a break over the festive period, and we hope everyone has had a great Christmas, and that New Year resolutions are still going strong.
Whilst we really missed our near and dear over the holiday season, we've thoroughly enjoyed our stays in Melbourne and Adelaide, and the 4 day drive we took in between the two. Highlights included kayaking at dusk through Melbourne city centre, enjoying champagne and salmon blinis on the banks of the Yarra River on Christmas morning, watching a Big Bash cricket match at the Adelaide Oval (is there a better place to watch the sport?) followed by fireworks to see in the New Year, as well as working our way through a plethora of reds on the McLaren Vale's Shiraz Trail. Melbourne's obsession with sport and healthy living, and Adelaide's more genteel, relaxed pace of life would tempt us both to move to either tomorrow, were they not more than 14,000km away from home.
Our greatest adventure however has undoubtedly been our three day camping trip in the outback of the Northern Territory, specifically around Uluru (Ayers Rock). Whilst we've been to some beautifully remote places on this trip, none compare to the isolation experienced in this state, which is nearly three times larger than the whole of the British Isles. On being picked up from the town of Alice Springs, we embarked on a 500km drive south west, where the only civilisation we came across was a handful of cattle stations and service stops. It really did look like the outback stereotype you see back home on a Foster's advert, though curiously there has been no sign of the supposedly pure Australian lager for our entire trip.
After enjoying a visit to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre (see more below), a walk to points of interest around the base of the rock, and a BBQ and sparkling wine by the rock at sunset, we returned to our camp site in near darkness. This blog has already covered my rather limited camping experience, however this didn't stop us from opting to sleep in a swag (a canvas sleeping bag with a small mattress underneath for those uninitiated) under the stars. When in Rome and all that. It was at this point however that we began to see and hear about some of the outback's wildlife. Biting centipedes, deadly Redback and huge Huntsman spiders, fat beetles and hopping crickets were all felt or seen by our tour group in the vicinity, and that's not even mentioning the hundreds of moths dive bombing unsuspecting users of the urinals in the toilet block or the snake tracks seen in the sand the next morning. Very little sleep was had, but as a result we were treated to a heavenly star show which firmly ticked the experience off the bucket list. Needless to say, the next night was spent in the relative safety of one of the military tents on offer.
The next couple of days saw some early starts to complete walks around Kata Tjuta (a range of mounded monoliths) and Kings Canyon, their red geology exhibiting a glorious range of browns and reds as the sun came up. A short camel ride was also taken, a bumpy nod to the legacy of the Afghan Cameleers who were some of the early immigrants to explore the area. All whilst this was going on, temperatures scorched at 40 degrees for the duration of the trip, and never have we been gasping more for air conditioning and a cold shower than on our return to the Hilton Doubletree in Alice Springs.
Throughout our tour we have learnt about the fascinating history of Aboriginal Australia, and the troubled and often violent collisions with white settlers over the past 150 years. The NT's indigenous communities have inhabited parts of the state for more than 60,000 years, which was interrupted by European foreigners as recently as the 1860s. The latter, intent on exploration, gold mining and agricultural expansion, brought about violent dislocation and hardship on the local communities. Aboriginals were ousted from their lands, and their traditional way of life was left in ruins, with many being forced into employment as servants and stockmen. The thoughtless imposing of Western culture with little regard for local customs brought about a whole range of social difficulties on these people, ranging from foreign diseases to substance abuse, which still exist to this day. Whilst an Aboriginal rights movement established in the 1960s culminated in the handing back of sacred lands in 1976, prompting an increased awareness around the need for reconciliation, there are still gargantuan gulfs between the two cultures. With many still homeless, and many more in jail, the tragic divides still existing between indigenous communities and the majority of the population surely remains one of the starkest examples of 'self' and 'other' in the developed world today.
Our arrival in Sydney yesterday represents the last leg of our Australian adventure. We're staying with our friends Neil & Trudi, Sydney's finest Sheffield Wednesday household who are looking after us handsomely, and we are looking forward to cousin Joe and Becky arriving from New Zealand later this week. With a heat wave forecast, there will be no acclimatising to the cold that will meet us back home next week, but we're not complaining!
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