From Red Centre to Red Wines
In Cairns, I met up with Laura McCarthy and Suzanne. For those not privileged to be reading her blog, Laura and Suzanne had just arrived down from SE Asia and were beginning their own Oz adventure. Three of us wandered the botanical gardens and joined the Passions of Paradise cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef. At Michaelmas Cay we went snorkelling, seeing some amazing sea creatures, my absolute favourite being the giant clams. Awesome! After a sumptuous lunch (I've never eaten so many king prawns in my entire life), we went to Paradise Reef for some more snorkelling, Saw more gorgeous fish despite the choppy seas.
After saying my goodbyes to Laura and Suzanne, Ruth and I headed to Cape Tribulation ("where the rainforest meets the reef") for 2 days. On the way we stopped at Mossman Gorge, a Wild Zoo and Alexandra Range lookout which afforded a spectacular view of Cape Trib, Our accommodation was a beautiful wooden cabin which we had to ourselves (ensuite, pure luxury for 13 euro!). The following day we went on a river cruise for some croc spotting. We managed to see a 3m female but just missed the giant Scarface (4m male). that night I had leaving drinks with Ruth, Kelly, Ollie and a few others as the next day I flew to Alice Springs. The heat in Alice Springs was something else - they don't call it the Red Centre for nothing if my skin is anything to go by (not sunburned of course as I'm not stupid, but just hot!!). While there I tried kangaroo steak - absolutely sublime. I joined a 3-day tour to Uluru with 23 other eager tourists. On the first day, out group gallantly trekked 3 and a half hours around King's Canyon in searing heat of 36 degrees. Admittedly, the scenery was breathtaking - red cliffs rising from even redder earth. That evening, Glenn drove us down a dirt track, randomly pulled in and announced this was where we'd be camping. Some balked at the idea but it was the highlight of the trip - camping straight under the stars, nothing between me and the heavens (not even a sleeping bag as there weren't enough to go round so I lent mine to one of the girls). Glenn made a great chilli (complete with sour cream and cheese), not exactly the bushtucker of maggots and creepy crawlies I was expecting for camping! That night we stayed up til the wee hours gazing up at the nightsky. Up at 5:30am to get an early walk in around the Olgas (made up of 36 rounded domes, some higher than Uluru). It was 40 degrees by the time we finish the walk. Afterwards, Glenn makes a snack of cold leftover chilli with salt and sweet chilli sauce on brown bread - tastiest snack ever. After lunch we'd our first shower in 2 days and then went for a 2 hour swim in the Uluru National Park resort. We had dinner overlooking Uluru where we caught the changing colours at sunset. It was beautiful although I wasn't prepared for the sheer number of people who were there.. Another night of driving down a random track to find a camp resulted in the bus getting stuck so we decided there was as good as anywhere!
The last day everyone was up and ready for 4:30am so we could enjoy our beans and bread at sunrise. We were given the option to climb Uluru - I don't know why anyone actually does it. It's terribly disrespectful to the Aboriginals, akin to someone barging in on a church service and talking on their mobile or something. Thankfully, the weather made the decision for the group - high winds and temperatures over 36 degrees meant the climb to the top was closed. The hike around the base was beautiful, the rock scarred with cracks, splits and indents not visible in the famous shots we're all familiar with.
After Alice Springs, it was Perth. I only stayed in the city 2 days before joining a Hop On-Hop Off bus heading south to Margaret River and Walpole. I spent an amazing 10 days visiting wineries, chocolate factories, cycling through gorgeous yarrah and karri forests, hiking along babbling brooks, strolling along beaches and scrambling across rocky coastlines. Some highlights included the Gloucester Tree (a former bushfire lookout which is accessible by climbing pegs hammered into the bark of the tree up the 61m without a harness!) and the treetop walk in the Valley of the Giants (huge platforms suspended 40m high in the canopies of the forest). One of the guys who did the Gloucester Tree said his legs didn't stop shaking for over an hour after climbing back down! Of course, the best day in Western Australia was the 15th. Not just because it was all about me but we managed to fit in 3 wineries, a chocolate factory and spotted some whales off the shore (a mama and baby humpback frolicking in the surf). Fantastic!
So, that's it, the penultimate blog from me. Next stop, Singapore!!