So I’ve fallen in love with this country and the only way I will be able to come back and stay longer is if I find myself a nice honourable Australian. So I’m sending out an emergency call to all the eligible Australian bachelors out there as I am looking for a husband…….is there anyone out there??
(Mum, don’t panic. I’m only joking! I will be coming back as planned and no I won’t go off and do anything silly to extend my stay. I’ll be home before you know it for one of your lush roasts).
On a serious note, I do think Australia has to be the best country I have travelled to thus far. It’s a land of extreme diversity and the landscapes, colours, wildlife and marine life take my breath away. To put things into perspective. Australia is approximately 15 times the size of the UK and Ireland combined and it has three different time zones. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that you can be sunning yourself in one state and skiing in another. Mountains, crystal clear waters, all forms of aquatic life, luscious rainforests to tens of thousands of different types of flora can be found up and down the land.
Australia has extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity – more plants than 94% of countries on Earth and more mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians than 95% of the world’s countries! The sea is full of turtles, sharks, jelly fish – basically thousands of marine species. In many spots you can catch dolphins frolicking in the water and whale sharks and hump back whales make their migratory appearance at certain times of the year. In rivers, crocs and sharks are aplenty along with lots of other life. There is a whole ecosystem at play with everything playing its part in the food chain. Pigs eat baby crocs and crocs eat fully grown pigs, the Blue-Tongue Lizard eats the grasshoppers and the Brown Snakes eat the Blue Tongue Lizards and so on.
All the colours of the rainbow can be found across the land from deep orangey reds and illuminous greens to yellow sands and deep blue seas. The sky seduces you with the myriad of colours exploding through the fluffy clouds and orangey sunsets. Pinks, purples, oranges and reds layer the sky on some of best days and you can watch the colours of the surrounding landscape change as the sun bids the land good night. Then you have the big bright stars of the milky way that light up the black calming night.
Wallabies and kangaroos grace your presence at the sides of the road and you can’t believe that you are up close and personal with these creatures as the closest you ever got was when you visited a zoo or via the television screen watching episodes of Skippy. Yet in Australia, Kangaroos can be deemed as pests so will be shot to keep off of private land and if cooked right they taste bloody good! I know poor Skippy L. I felt bad for a little bit but then I also eat meat so it’s exactly the same right?
I’ve been travelling for about four months now and I have definitely seen a change in my ways. I went away a complete sissy when it came to insects and whilst I’m no Bear Grylls or Steve Irwin (RIP) I have definitely come back a man. Well not quite, but I am less of a pansy then when I started out.
I have stood inches away watching in awe as a mahoosive spider carefully wrapped her next victim neatly up ready to be slaughtered, I have licked a Green Ant and handled several snakes. All thanks to the great tour guides on my Whitsundays Ride to Paradise trip.
If you had told me I would be licking ants at the start of my trip – I would have politely told you to go jump but there I was not so long ago taking part in this bush tucker trial with no financial reward!!
Whitsundays was a great destination. We travelled to our millionaire’s pad by speedboat – yes a millionaire owns the resort and rents it out as part of the ‘Ride to Paradise’ trip. Boy was it lush, tennis courts, a Jacuzzi, swimming pool, pool table, paddle boards, hammocks, amazing views. The list goes on. We had everything prepared and cooked for us and lived like Royalty for a few days.
What a difference it makes when you have been used to roughing it in basic dorms. The only trouble is you miss the luxury when you leave.
We travelled to beautiful Whitehaven Beach and various spots for snorkelling by day and in the evenings we chilled over dinner before we started on the wine pong and various other drinking games. The tunes were blasting and the nights were filled with laughter and drunken antics including swimming races, streaking and falling into bushes – there’s always one and no this was not me by the way!
I met some great people on that trip and hope to meet up with them over the rest of my travels. Ride to Paradise was pure luxury but what made it even better was the amazing people and the great tour guides.
A few days after our Whitsundays trip, we were all set for diving and snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef. I saw four sea turtles throughout the day. They must be my lucky animal as I keep on seeing them- such gracious things. I love watching them swim and glide through the water. It’s just magical.
Although the sea scares me, I have a love for its waters and abundant marine life. The colours of the coral and the different types of fish darting about just have me transfixed. Originally I said I wouldn’t dive in Australia as I was scared of the sharks but I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to dive the Great Barrier Reef. I’m so glad I changed my mind.
Our trips keep popping up like a popcorn vending machine- one after the other. Although it’s quite tiring, I also love it, as this means we can fit in all the bits we want to. The only downside is it makes it quite hard to find the right time to catch up with my loved ones back home. The time difference is hard enough and with constant moving around, there never seems to be a prime time to speak to them. However, Facebook is great for letting everyone know what I’m getting up to and that I haven’t been savaged by dingos’ or bitten by spiders or snakes. So thankyou Mr Zuckerberg
We also went on a Cape Tribulation tour with Active Tropics explorer which involved a crocodile cruise, a smoke ceremony by the aboriginal land owners, a dip and drink from the pure waters of Mossman Gorge and a walk through Daintree Forest with a beach lunch.
The Daintree Rainforest is located in Queensland and is the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest in the world, thought to be 165 million years old. Mossman Gorge, located in the southern part of Daintree has clear, pure waters that cascade down over granite blocks. I filled my water bottle up with this pure natural water and I savoured the sweet taste. It can’t get much better than that! Our tour guide Casey was fantastic and really knew his stuff. He shared his knowledge with us on the plants and surrounding area and was a real charm to listen to.
After our taste of Cairns and Queensland, we took a flight to Darwin where we were soon jolting away in the back of a 4×4 all the way to Kakadu. Kakadu – almost half the size of Switzerland, is the largest national park in Australia. More than half the park is Aboriginal land – Aboriginal people have lived in Kakadu for more than 50,000 years! It is home to 2000 different plants and one third of all the bird species in Australia as well as over 10,000 crocodiles.
We had the pleasure of being led by Darren of Kakadu 4WD Safaris. It was an honour to be on Aboriginal land and see the rock paintings, swim in natural waterfalls and view the beautiful surrounding land with its flourishing green trees and stunning rock formations from the Ubirr lookout.
What wasn’t nice was the constant buzzing of flies around me trying to nosedive into any crevice available – my ears, my eyes, my nose, my mouth. What is it with these little critters getting all up in my grill?? Jeez. However, you know what they say – flies are attracted to s*t. So maybe I need to change my deodorant or shampoo!
I looked around and everyone else didn’t seem to be having as much trouble as me. I looked like I was doing some funky dance move as I darted around swatting the flies from my face. What is the point of them seriously? I want to get a hat and replace the corks with Venus fly traps so I can seek revenge on the repulsive pests!
Anyway, besides the flying irritants, the tour was really great. We had a great group –cheeky Charlie, the lovely Lucy and Luke and the crazy but cool fast talking Svelna to name but a few.
Darren – was a great tour guide and really looked after us. We had many discussions about the stolen generation and the treatment of the Aborigines. It’s so sad that their land was taken from them and children were taken out of their homes because the white man thought they were doing them a favour. Families have been ripped apart and a lack of identity is apparently a common occurrence amongst those who were taken to lead a so called better life!
We learnt a bit more about the Aboriginal culture on our three-day visit to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. We did the trip with Mulgas and were picked up at 7am from Alice Springs to make the 5-hour trip to our campsite.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and we chatted the whole way discussing many subjects. We got dropped off at the campsite and then the tour guide had to pick up the other 19 passengers from the airport while we made lunch for them. Everyone mucked in and started cutting up salad and prepping the food. It was all a bit rushed but we didn’t mind as everyone was in good spirits. Shortly after the others arrived and there was hardly any time so we had to quickly eat, wash up and then go.
Our first stop was Uluru where we visited the cultural centre and learnt a bit more about Tjukurpa (Aboriginal law). Then we walked around the base, listening to the stories told by the guide.
We were then taken to the point where many people climb Uluru. It has a big sign asking people not to climb from the Aboriginal people as it is sacred to them, and yet there were people climbing it. I think it’s really disrespectful – you come to someone’s home and you are asked not to do something because it is a sacred site yet people do. It’s very sad but because the Aborigines lease the land to the federal parks service, they can’t stop people doing this completely. All they can do is encourage people not to. I don’t understand why people can’t respect their wishes!!
Perplexed at people’s decision’s, we soon left and drove to the viewpoint to watch the sunset overlooking Uluru with a champagne, cheese and biscuit selection set out on a little table. It was really lovely and a great end to the day.
Before long it was back to the campsite where we set up our swags. I opted not to have a sleeping bag and just sleep in the swag with my little Air Asia blanket. I was warned that it would be cold but I thought I’d rough it as I didn’t want to sleep in a sleeping bag that had hundreds of other people’s dead skin in it. Urrrggghh.
I was informed that they were washed after each trip but I wondered whether this was really the case. I still opted to sleep without one and after a few glasses of vino, I hit my bed for the night under the stars.
Well I should’ve definitely got a sleeping bag as I woke up in the middle of the night freezing. Damn it – why did I not listen! However, I wrapped my blanket around my shoulders and head and then soon warmed up. A couple of hours later, I was awake again as I really needed the loo but there was no way I was going to make a move in the pitch black until it was time to get up. I felt two things drop on my head and thought they must have been flying cockroaches and immediately squirmed underneath the blanket. I just wanted to get up for the day as I wasn’t really keen on having insects as neighbours.
At 4:45 (15 mins before we were due to get up) I got out of the swag and made my way to the showers where I prepped for the day ahead. Breakfast was a grab and guzzle or wharf down as again it was a fight against time to get to our destination on time. We were heading to watch sunrise over Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Again it was really nice but there were lots of tourists and you had to try and squeeze through to get the money shot. The clouds were fluffy pink odd shapes and looked like candyfloss in the sky whilst the bright sun shone from behind the massive monolith and its size magnified with the light and dark contrasts.
Later we did a few hours’ hike around Kata Tjuta. I really needed a pee and so marched on as I had a mission and I also wanted a bit of exercise so a speed walk solved both problems.
At one point I was on my own and it was lovely. Not a human being in sight. Just the orange/red colours of Kata Tjuta and the green grass surrounded me. It was lovely. All I could hear were the birds and it felt nice to have peace and quiet for a while.
After our walk it was time for lunch and then our drive to the next camp site where we would be staying the night. After about an hour in, it was time to stop for firewood. It was here when I first noticed how the tour guide was a bit patronising. He got us to all pick up Mulga wood advising us that we shouldn’t get splinters as it can become infected as the Mulga wood is quite poisonous. Why would you have complete novices doing this?
However, none of us questioned it and we all tried to find bits of wood. He told us to put it all in a pile and so we did, then he told us that certain pieces of wood were too big so we had to break it up and then we had to untangle the bits of branches we had put in a pile. At this point people were getting scratched by the wood. It didn’t make sense; I mean bearing in mind none of us had ever started a fire before. If you know what size we need, then tell us and get us to break it up before putting it all in a pile – only for us to unravel it again. Then you make sarcastic comments such as “do you really think it’s going to fit on this trailer” and “why is one person breaking it up there’s 19 here” – probably because we can’t get to the wood until they’ve pulled their bit out mate!
Everyone in the group was lovely and trying to help but they were just confused about what to do. Anyway, soon all was forgotten and we were back at camp (which was a lot nicer than the first) and we were cooked a really nice meal by the guide who gave us some free time. It seemed like we were on the go constantly, constantly doing this and that – prepping, moving, cooking, cleaning and so it was nice that we had a bit of time to chill out before doing anything that night and it was nice that he allowed us a bit of time while he prepped. After dinner it was Didgeridoo time by the fire and lots of mugs (no glasses) of the ‘Fucking Good Port’ that I bought from Curtin Springs. This stuff is lurvelly!!!
Before long we laid our heads to sleep underneath the stars and the burning embers of the fire. It was cosy and relaxing and not before too long, I was in the land of nod.
Forget your alarm clocks as the next morning we were awoken by the beautiful sounds of the Didgeridoo and warmed up by a few logs thrown on the fire. Despite me finding it really hard to open my eyes, it was a lovely way to wake up in the morning.
Again it was another rush to get sorted and out for the day. We headed to Kings Canyon for a walk and talk as the sun was rising. This glorious ancient sandstone canyon was probably my favourite part of the 3-day tour. The ancient formation of tall red rock faces with its crevices and Garden of Eden was just beautiful. We walked and talked and at each point there were sighs of amazement.
People were busy clicking away trying to savour the moment with their lenses so as to not forget. I don’t really take that long taking pictures but sometimes you have to wait for others to finish or not move so they can get the shot as well. As I was being courteous to others behind – we ended up being a bit behind the tour guide and the other group. When I finally caught up, he was waiting at the bottom with a few others beckoning me to hurry up. “If he thinks I’m running down this rock, he’s got another thing coming” I muttered as I walked down. He had been grinding my goat since yesterday and then he proceeded to bellow at the others “Hurry up”. I shut my mouth and I stood there for ten minutes while he did his talk, trying to not think about how rude he had just been.
Being a very polite group, everyone waited patiently and listened to his talk and only when he had finished they proceeded to take pictures of the beautiful overhang of the canyon which overlooked the valley.
Once again he proceeded to bark at us saying we must hurry up as we needed to move on. To which I replied sticking up for the others – “we’re taking photos”. Then the condescending phallus asked whether I wanted to lead the tour and then said if I wanted to take more time that I shouldn’t have booked a tour? Was this guy for real? All I can liken him to was thrush because he was an irritating – er well you know what I mean 😉
He had obviously forgot the meaning of being a tourist? Just because he visits the same place every few days doesn’t mean that us tourists who have paid good money for this tour want to skim over everything. Of course we want photos – we’re bloody TOURISTS!
Anyway, he then tried to turn it around on me and had the audacity to say I was being really disrespectful!! How? I merely pointed out we were taking pictures and that if there was a better view he should have told us as then people would obviously hurry up. At this point Sam got involved and told him flat out that he was being rude and he shouldn’t be treating us like school kids and to not speak to us both. He then advised it was hard to manage 20 people to which I sympathised and told him “I can appreciate that but…” and then the condescending twat interrupted with “I don’t think you can”. “You know what I can’t even be bothered with you” I replied.
I’m a very nice person but I also don’t put up with crap so I will take things to a certain point and then will say something when it gets too much. I had been nothing but nice, helpful and thoughtful on the whole trip (so have the other group members) yet when someone thinks they can treat me like a child, talk down to me or be rude – I’m not having it. If you want respect, then give it – simples!
I don’t know whether he was having a bad morning or was just one of those power tripping indviduals, but either way – this was our tour that we paid good money for! Don’t try and ruin it by being an arsehole and if you don’t like it – don’t be a tour guide!
Looking back, it is quite funny how some people behave but I don’t let people like that ruin my experience. He was a very knowledgeable guide and I learnt from him which was good. I thought it was a great experience to see these sacred sites up close and personal and for that I’m really grateful. The people were great and the food was good. I also showed that I was the bigger person and that there were no hard feelings by saying goodbye to him at the end. However, one thing I know is that I will never do another tour with Mulgas – not after this.
With my time in the Northern and Central Territory, I have learnt quite a bit. It appears that the Aborigines seem to have had and continue to have a hard time and I feel really sorry for them. A lot of people sit and judge the groups that congregate around areas in the street thinking that all Aborigines do is get drunk and cause a nuisance.
However, has anybody stopped to wonder why this happens? Could it be related to the lack of acceptance by some? Are there deeper issues at force that is causing many to turn to drink? Is it any different to the hordes of people who congregate in pubs getting drunk and being offensive? Why is one different to the other? Or is it yet another taboo subject that no one really wants to get to the bottom off?
Why isn’t the government doing more to help the traditional land owners and work together with them? Why can’t more be done to help those who need a little bit of help such as introducing government backed projects or funding the existing independent ones?
Why isn’t Aboriginal culture and history mandatory in all schools to help change views and encourage the next generations to work together? I do understand that you get conflicts between race and class everywhere but the level of segregation that seems to occur just doesn’t feel right. Being a London lass, I’m used to living in a multicultural society where all different races and cultures share good times and interact together. But over here you don’t really see that. Everyone sticks to their own more or less. But why? I don’t have the answer to what the solution is but I think the first step is acknowledging it!