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June 22nd 2009
Published: June 22nd 2009
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"It's not even possible to say quite where the outback is. To Australians anything vaguely rural is "the bush". At some indeterminate point "the bush" becomes "the outback". Push on for another 2,000 miles or so and eventually you come to the bush again, and then a city, and then the sea. And that's Australia."

22 Jun - the above quote from Bill Bryson in his book Down Under is so appropriate about my adventures here in Australia! G'day from Oz. Hope you are all well. I haven't been in touch for AGES as it's soooo hectic here in Australia. There is just so much to see and do...here's a brief run down about what I've been up to in this amazing country:

New South Wales, NSW:
Sydney - fantastic time with Leigh, Darren and Surf the dog, enjoy Aussie beach life at Dee Why, Curl Curl, Cremorne, Manly, Bronte & Bondi, drinking and dining at DARLING Harbour, Sydney Aquarium, the awesome bridge climb, Opera House, view the city from the top of Sydney Tower, numerous arts and crafts markets including a great one at Paddington, leisurely Saturday brunch at Bill Grainger's restaurant, walk round DARLINGhurst & Paddington, Hyde Park, Botanic Gardens and a tour of Sydney Fish Market. Also meet up with travel buddies Nav (from Africa tour) and Bob & Doug (from Trans-Sib trip).

Blue Mountains - walking in the Blue Mountains, see the impressive 3 Sisters rock formations, ride the scenic railway (the steepest incline railway in the world), ride in the Skyway glass cable car across Jamison Valley, explore the quaint mountain town of Katoomba and audience participation at a great wee Aboriginal show about how the didgeridoo was discovered and it's links with Aussie wildlife.

Australian Capital Territory, ACT:
Canberra - brief but very enjoyable few days with my mate Kata, exploring and learning about the underrated Aussie capital city, tour of the v modern Parliament building, walk along DARLING Street and join Kata for her birthday brunch celebrations then a girls night in with loadsa wine and classic Aussie films - The Castle and Muriel's Wedding 😊

Victoria, VIC:
Melbourne - great week staying with my mate Bec in her fab hoose in trendy Richmond, see the city from a height of 253m up the top of Rialto Towers, visit the Treasury Building & City Museum to learn about the Gold Rush, stroll along the Yarra River, the Botanic Gardens, explore the trendy suburbs of Fitzroy & St Kilda, watch a very exciting Aussie Rules game on TV (Bec's team the Richmond Tigers v Freemantle), drive round the F1 circuit at Albert Park seeing the start / finish line and pits (VERY exciting for a revhead like me!!), visit Melbourne Gaol to learn about infamous Ned Kelly and see the Cannes award winning film Samson & Delilah.

Phillip Island - a great trip to experience lots of Aussie animals...up close and personal with the cute and inquisitive kangaroos at a working farm, see koalas in the wild at the Koala Conservation Centre, see the rugged coastline including the Knobbies (!) and then the main act...the Little Penguins coming ashore at dusk waddling right passed us to their burrows.

Yarra Valley - an amazing two days with my mate Helen exploring the wineries of Yarra Valley and Yarra Glen. I'm in heaven, a true pilgrimage. We visit 6 wineries on Day 1 - St Huberts, Punt Road, Domaine Chandon, Riverstone, Tarra Warra and Yering Station for my fave Shiraz viognier 😊 Day 2 we visit 3 wineries - Yarrawood, Manadala and De Bortoli and then visit Mt Dandenong on way back to Melbourne.

South Australia, SA:
Adelaide - take the Overland train from Melbourne to Adelaide, a journey of 828km. Cross over the DARLING River. Great few days exploring Adelaide, another underrated city in Oz while staying with my mate Tammy and her kids and also her parents for a few days! See the main Victorian Buildings of the city, visit the interesting Migration museum and St Peter's Cathedral.

Barossa Valley - a fab day with Tammy and her partner Richard exploring beautiful Barossa. We visit many wineries including Jacob's Creek, Grant Burge, St Hallett, Two Hands and Whistler.

Stirling & Adelaide Hills - explore this cute wee village in the Adelaide Hills where Tammy lives and have dinner at the local pub with one of her friends Tom. She tells me the next day that he's Enid Blyton's grandson, what??!!!! Fab day with the kids at Cleland Wildlife Park, get to see a koala up close this time and stroke it's cute furry bottom (!) as well as more kangaroos, wallabies, pottaroos and a wombat.

Northern Territory, NT:
Coober Pedy - fab two day 1500km road trip with Groovy Grape from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Great wee group with a fab, mad & cute tour leader by the name of Leith (honest!). Good fun, amazing to travel along the Stuart Highway and the true Outback as road trains come thundering passed us and the scenery gets more and more barren and then red with only the odd roadhouse along the way. A fantastic, bizarre and v drunken Saturday night in Coober Pedy. Famous for being an opal mining town and the locals living underground to escape the extremely high summer temperatures. Our bunkhouse is 'underground' as is the pub we visit. Tour of the opal mine the following morning but as we were out until about 3am we're all rather tired and hungover.

Alice Springs - a fab 3 day / 2 night tour of The Rock and the Red Centre. Lots of walking and wild camping under the stars in swags round the campfire. See King's Canyon, Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and of course the truly AWESOME Uluru (Ayers Rock). It is a magical sight and luckily we have lots of time to get to know this big red rock...we learn about the many reasons why it is so sacred to the Anangu (local indigenous tribe), hear several Dreamtime stories, why it's WRONG to climb it even though many still do, enjoy a wonderful sunset, an enjoyable sunrise and then great 8km base walk round this monolith. A moving, unforgettable experience. Did you know Uluru is an amazing 463km from Alice??!! Perfect example of the vastness of Australia. Another drunken night in the Outback, this time in Bojangles Saloon Bar in Alice...it has to be seen to be believed...you need ID just to get in so I'll let you imagine the rest! Try Bundaberg rum for first time...what a week for drinking, late nights and early starts...I'm getting too old for this. The next day I visit Anzac Hill, Royal Flying Doctors Service Visiting Centre and Alice Springs Gaol / Women's Hall of Fame before heading to the train station.

Darwin - take the Ghan from Alice to Darwin. VERY excited about taking this famous train journey. 4 hour stop at beautiful Katherine Gorge en route and arrive in Darwin, the Top End, 25 hours later. Explore Darwin harbour, relax in Centennial Park, stroll round the Sunset markets at Mindil Beach and enjoy the tropical weather.

Kakadu - Australia's biggest National Park. Another fab 3 day / 2 night camping trip, this time with lots of 4WD off roading in this remote part of Northern Australia, see the amazing jumping crocs at the Adelaide River, rock art at Nourlangie, Yellow Waters Billabong, lots of walking and scrambling to see the Twin Falls and then the Jim Jim Falls. Another late, drunken night with the group when we return to Darwin.

Queensland, QLD:
Cairns - despite many attempts to travel overland from Darwin to Cairns, I give up and book a Qantas flight. We have a brief stopover in Gove however in the remote and 'closed' Aboriginal region of Arhemland. Explore Cairns, Reef and Rainforest...Skyrail Cablecar over the Wet Tropics of Queensland, the amazing Barron Gorge and Falls, explore the wee village of Kuranda then take the 37km scenic railway back down to Cairns. The following day, sailing on board a flash catamaran to explore the Outer Barrier Reef. We go ashore at Michaelmas Cay and I do a glass-bottomed boat trip to see the wonderful underwater world of the Reef with amazing coral and colourful fish. Just can't bring myself to snorkel or scuba dive even though it's THE thing to do round here, too traumatised after my experience in Mozambique all those months ago, lol.

The culinary delights continue on this part of my trip too and include roo steak, lots of Aussie pies, fresh seafood galore (including prawns and barramundi), a yummy croc, mango and macadamia salad as well as trying the recommended beers of each state and LOADS of great wines...all in the name of research.

So, that's what I've been up to. I will be meandering through Queensland for the next few weeks - planning to visit Airlie Beach for the Whitsundays, Hervey Bay for Fraser Island, Noosa, Brisbane, Byron Bay and then back to Sydney for flight to New Zealand on 10 July, phew...

Happy days but missing you all 😊

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22nd June 2009

amazing!
Hun, it sounds like you've packed in to this 2 months enough adventure (and drinking!) for a lifetime! I'm SO proud of you for doing it all. Ali.x
23rd June 2009

A quick hello
You are getting close to NZ. Actually we call Oz the West Island of NZ!! See Ya Soon. Neil

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