Australia, Photography, Travel

Entering South Australia

South AustraliaKulgera PubIf the Outback looked sparse in the Northern Territory, South Australia took it to a whole new level. The trees and rocky outcroppings gave way to a completely flat, empty landscape. My eyes started to get tired as there was nothing to focus on, just miles of straight road and nothingness. The landscape, however, made it easy to spot wildlife, as we saw several groups of emus, but we didn’t see any camels unfortunately.Off RoadSandy paths

Sunset SAJump!We blitzed through the area, as we were anxious to return our car in time and were also excited about seeing friends in Adelaide. We only spent one night in between Uluru and Adelaide and that was in Coober Pedy, which I wrote about here. During our drive we did make one detour to see Lake Hart, which is a giant salt lake right off the Stuart Highway. The sun was blazing that day, so it was incredible to see this huge flat expanse glittering in the sunlight. Next up, I’ll post about our time spent in Adelaide and then on to The Great Ocean Road!

Lake Hart

Exploring Lake Hart

Lake Hart2

Blinding white of Lake Hart

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Australia, Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta

This week’s photo challenge made me look back at some of my pictures of deltas and these pictures we took in an area near the Gold Coast caught my attention. They show the change that can take place within a short distance. In one area you have waves crashing along the shore and propelling surfers through their wake and just a few feet away you can have almost mirror calm water that makes paddle boarding seem effortless.

Milky wavesSurfersCalmPaddleboard

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Australia, Photography, Travel

Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 8 Final Day in the Red Center

Today we finally reach the epic conclusion to our Northern Territory series. On our final day in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park we spent our time hiking around Kata Tjuta. The first hike was a fairly short walk into the Walpa Gorge. During this hike we saw an abundance of rare plants growing along the path.

Water hole

Water collecting in the Walpa Gorge

Wildflowers

Interesting plant life in the gorge

Flowers

Beautiful flowering tree

Completing that walk we ventured on the much more challenging Valley of the Winds Walk. The walk takes you through a labyrinth of towering stone structures and the entire circuit takes 4-5 hours. We however cut it short due the heat of the day and our exhaustion from the previous day’s hike. On our walk, though we got to the two main lookouts at Karu and Karingana, the latter easily being my favorite view in this area.

Kata Tijuta

Views on the Valley of Winds Walk

Hiking to the lookout

Hiking up to Karingana Lookout

Kata Tjuta Lookout

Stunning view from Karingana Lookout

Uluru was the obvious choice for our last sunset, but this time we wanted to get up close and personal to the monolith. We drove past the crowds of people at the sunset lookout and headed for the Mala carpark, which is located right at the base of Uluru. We couldn’t believe how deserted the area was. We cozied up on a bench and “oohed and aahed” as the stone changed colors. I honestly can’t think of a more perfect ending to our time in the Red Center.

Shadows

Brilliant colors and shadows

Changing colors

Stunning colors at sunset

Sunset

We had Uluru all to ourselves

The next day’s drive would take us into South Australia and a reunion with one of our teaching friends in Adelaide. I’ll probably be delayed in getting started on my next series because there’s some big changes coming that I’m excited to share with you soon. So stay tuned!

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Australia, Photography, Travel

Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 7 Uluru-Kata Tjuta Sunup to Sundown

Well I thought I would finish this series today, but after going through our pictures I decided that there is just too much there to sum up our time at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in just one post. So today, I’ll focus on our first full day at the park and boy howdy was it a full day! We started the day before the sun came up, groggily climbing out of our warm tent to face the cold predawn morning. Our plan was to make it to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku viewing area, which has a great vantage point for sunrise, as it puts you between the sun and Uluru. However, as I’ve noted before in my posts, we’re not the most ardent of morning people, so we got off to a slower start than we planned. Therefore, we ditched the original plan and parked at the sunset car park that we had visited the previous evening. There were only a few other souls braving the morning chill to witness the rising sun. The view from this spot allowed us to see the sun rising up next to Uluru, so while not maybe ideal, it was a beautiful sight in its own right.

Sunrise at Uluru

The sun rising at Uluru

After the sun had risen in all its glory, we made our way to our original destination, Talinguru Nyakunytjaku. We were the only people there now, as the early risers had already headed back to camp. The viewing point provided a new angle of Uluru, and one that apparently isn’t as popular for publication because I don’t think I’d ever seen it before. While we were enjoying the views, we got a glimpse of another famous Australian resident, as a dingo ran stealthily through the shrubs in front of us. As we were enjoying the serene silence in the park our stomachs angrily reminded us that we had been neglecting them, so we headed back to camp.

Dingo

Dingo running near Talinguru Nyakunytjaku

Sun up at Uluru

Uluru at a new angle

While eating, we hashed out our plan for the day. We would start with the Uluru Base Walk, which would take us completely around the monolith on a 10.6km loop. If we survived that we would then head out to the lesser known rock structure in the Red Center, Kata Tjuta for sunset.Uluru Map

We started the base walk from Kuniya Piti walking around Uluru clockwise. Being up close to the stone and seeing the fine details was an incredible experience. You can see shapes in the stone, one such place appears to be the head of a whale. Along the base there are also waterholes and Aboriginal Rock Art that you can examine. One unique thing we found when walking around the base was that there were places where the Aboriginals ask that you don’t take pictures or videos as they are deemed culturally sensitive. The places are marked on the map and there are signs that delineate the places while you walk.

Trail to the Whale

Can you spot the whale shape in the rock?

Mutitjulu Waterhole

Mutitjulu Waterhole

Hot path

Long hot path around Uluru

We had foolishly set out on our walk in almost the heat of the day, so while we had the place to ourselves, we were absolutely bushed by the time we finished our walk.When we finally made it back to our car, we put the air conditioning on full blast and greedily guzzled the water we had stored in the cooler. After a few minutes we began to feel human again and laughed at our foolhardiness of being out in the desert with no shade in the heat of the day.

Following a late lunch we ventured out to the Kata Tjuta sunset viewing area. Before our trip to Uluru, I had never heard of Kata Tjuta, so I was amazed to learn that this rock formation existed in the same area. While the changes in color on Kata Tjuta aren’t as mystical as Uluru, they are still captivating. When the stones finally turned to their dark brown color it put an end to easily one of the fullest days of our travel history.

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tijuta sunset

Changing colors at sunset

Kata Tijuta sunset2

Changing colors at sunset

Kata Tijuta sunset3

Changing colors at sunset

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Australia, Photography, Travel

Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 6: Uluru

Uluru sign

Let’s continue on our epic journey into the Northern Territory. After being forced on a detour to buy some cold weather supplies in Alice Springs, we finally turned off the Stuart Highway towards the legendary Red Center. We booked three nights in the Ayers Rock Campground located a mere 15km from Uluru itself and definitely worth every penny of the cost, which truth be told wasn’t really that expensive. We chose three nights because the pass for the national park is for three days and in addition, it would allow me the unforgettable experience of spending my birthday at one of the most iconic places on Earth.

As we continued further into the heart of Australia we both kept our eyes fixed on the horizon searching for the first glimpse of Uluru. As we drove endlessly I was transformed into a 5 year old, constantly asking if we were there yet. I feared that we would never actually get to see the rock, that it was some elaborate hoax played on us. Thankfully, eventually I was able to catch merest glimpse of Uluru way in the distance. From that distance it almost appeared purple instead of red, rising into the bright blue skies.

From a distance

Purple hue of Uluru from a distance

Now time was judged by the growth of Uluru in our windows. We spotted the turnoff for the campground and made our way to find a site. Check-in was incredibly smooth and we were able to find a place that had some slight shade from the blazing afternoon sun. After setting up camp and stretching our legs, we climbed back into the car to witness the sun setting.

Ticket

Ticket to our bucket list

Blue skies

Standing firm under blue skies

Ridges and holes

Ridges and pockmarks along Uluru

Since we were fairly early we got a nice spot at one of the sunset lookouts and were just able to sit in quiet contemplation of this unique stone mountain. From our vantage point we could see the lines running down the stone face and various pockmarks in the stone. Then, as we watched, Uluru performed magic. Fantastically changing colors before our very eyes. Going through hues of red and orange, while finally settling into a deep brown color as the sun dipped below the horizon. Watching the light go and the color change on Uluru was definitely a highlight of our time spent in Australia.

Onlookers

Onlookers

Bright orange

Bright orange color

Sun setting

Colors changing as the sun sets

Sun gone

Brown color coming as the sun dips below the horizon

That’s enough for this post. Next week I’ll finish the series off with the remainder of our time in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. If you’re interested you can catch up with the previous parts of the series at the following links:

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Australia, Travel

Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 5: Almost to Uluru

From the Devils Marbles we were about 400km outside of Alice Springs. We planned to pass through the city briefly as we had marked a free rest area campsite just past the city as our destination for the evening. We made our short stop in Alice Springs, where we restocked some food and attempted to visit the visitor center. Unfortunately, it had literally just closed for the day. Quick aside, that happens to us a LOT. We have basically given up on actually getting to see the inside of a visitor center, but I digress.Alice Springs

Now that we were this close to Uluru, I could hardly contain my excitement, so we jumped back into the car and headed for our planned campsite. The sky was clear, so we shouldn’t have any problems with rain, so everything was going to be fine or at least we thought.

Road to Alice

On the road

We found the rest area easily, pulled into a picturesque clearing, and hopped out of the car, only to be hit by gale force winds, well maybe not that bad, but it was crazy windy. Setting up the tent was nearly impossible because the wind would catch some loose piece and attempt to turn it into a kite, ripping it from our hands. The people in the camper parked near us probably got quite the kick out of watching us flailing around like mad people. Ultimately, we moved the car to use it as a windbreak and to anchor the tent to the wheels. With our home for the night settled, we hastily cooked a quick soup and dove into the tent to get out of the wind. We uneasily drifted off to sleep with the wind howling all around us.

For the second night in a row we were woken up in the dead of night, but not by a rainstorm this time, no this time it was something much more diabolical. This time, it felt like someone transported us to the arctic or brought the arctic to us. It was beyond freezing. I’ve never been so cold that it’s woken me up before, but that’s what it did. We had been camping and traveling for over a month and it hadn’t been cold anywhere. We didn’t even own a blanket. We had just been using a sheet on top of the mattress and some nights we didn’t even get under the sheet because it was so warm out. With both of our teeth chattering away in some unknown morse code I decided to act. I bolted out of the tent to collect all the warm clothes I could muster and tossed them into the tent. We bundled up in multiple layers the best we could, but it was a lost cause, there was no getting comfortable again.

Eventually we said “enough of this” and we climbed into the car and cranked the heat. After we began to feel human again we hurriedly packed up all of our stuff and begrudgedly headed back to Alice Springs. We desperately needed some warm weather supplies. We had to wait around for the town to wake up, all the while running the heater on full in the car. These tropical Floridians/Guangzhou-ites were not prepared for single digit temperatures. Once the stores opened, we picked up a nice thick blanket and some warm pajamas. Feeling more prepared for the cold we retraced our previous day’s journey south, groggy, but bursting with excitement. We knew that by the end of the day we were finally going to lay eyes on Uluru!  And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week.

If you would like to you can catch up  you can by following these links: 1, 23, and 4.

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Australia, Photography, Travel

Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 4: Devils Marbles

After surviving the night we continued south on the Stuart Highway towards Uluru, but before we got there we had one more stop to make. Before reading Bill Bryson’s book In a Sunburned Country while we were in Queensland I had never heard of the Devils Marbles or Karlu Karlu. His description of these mysterious looking rocks piqued my interest and the realization that they’re the only place to visit for miles around meant we had to stop. Boy, I’m glad we did because they are truly a fascinating site to behold. The precarious way the stones are piled up on top of each other and their seemingly geometrically perfect sphere shape leaves one dumbfounded.

Holding up stones

Holding up the Marbles

Marbles

The twin marbles

Loaves

Bread loaf shaped rocks

We spent a lot of time bounding around the area, clambering up on top of some of them to take pictures and enjoy the view. [Later we did read that the traditional owners ask that you not climb the boulders, so our glee was overshadowed by guilt.] Most of that energy came from the excitement of seeing something so unique, but I can’t lie, some of that energy came from being trapped in a car driving for hours upon hours. There were few other people around, so we got to soak them in all on our own. After covering almost every square inch of the park that was reachable to us we reluctantly retreated back to our car to continue the drive. Next week we’ll cover our last night in the wilderness before reaching Uluru.

Field of Marbles

View of the landscape

If you want to catch up here are parts 1, 2, and 3. Thanks for stopping by.

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