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

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.

Australia, Travel

Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 3: On the road to the Red Center

After leaving Kakadu (part 2) we spent the night in Nitmiluk National Park, but since I already wrote about that experience here and here, I’m going to continue part 3 of this series with our first night camping off the Stuart Highway. That night is where Australia subsequently decided to try and kill us.

We started out by stocking up on supplies in Katherine before heading out on the highway. The landscape is incredible in this part of the outback, but there are limited places to stop, so we didn’t stop again until we arrived in Daly Waters, where we filled up our tank and our bellies. Then, it was back on the road again until evening.


A coming storm over the Outback

We pulled into our rest area with the sun setting. There were only two other campers in the area and since we were getting to camp a little late, as usual, those other campers were already settled down for the night. We hurriedly set up our tent and made dinner. I must say I was truly impressed by the infrastructure in Australia for campers. The loads of free or minimally charged campsites located along major roadways were a godsend for people like us traveling on a budget.

After cleaning up we snuggled in to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. That is when the first tinges of fear set in and I could truly feel how vulnerable we could be in the tent. One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, does a bit where he jokes about getting murdered while camping. Strangely, when we were camping out in the woods I never had an inkling of worry. But being here just a few feet off the Stuart Highway, where anyone could pull up, I started to recall some of the stories I had heard about serial killers in the Outback, one of which was made into a horror film in the US, Wolf Creek.

I laid on our inflatable bed trying to relax as I failed to ignore the sporadic roar of cars and road trains flying by and the encroaching thunder. Just as I was drifting off to sleep I was awakened by the sound of a car approaching and parking right next to our tent. The vehicle’s headlights lit up our tent and I thought “this is it, this is how my life ends.” Once the sound of my beating heart quieted I realized that it was just someone stopping to use the bathroom.

At length I eventually got some sleep, only to be rudely awakened by an absolute downpour. The rain hitting our tent so hard that it was almost impossible to hear my wife talking to me. Fortunately for us none of the water was getting into the tent, but we didn’t know how long that would hold as the ground around us was pooling with water. We sat there praying that there would be a break in the rain, so we could break down our tent without getting absolutely drenched. We finally got a break in the storm and rushed out of the tent to see that it was essentially floating in about four inches of water. Needless to say, it was ridiculous, especially for the first rain we encountered on our trip. We sloshed through the water and dragged our tent to the picnic covering, where we could break it down with a little cover. Just as soon as we started breaking it down, the heavens opened again and doused us from head to toe. At long last we shoved everything into the car and climbed into the relative safety.


The campsite in the morning


The four stones you can see mark the edge of our tent

Soaked, groggy from lack of sleep we decided to skip breakfast and just push on south and hopefully outrun the storm. We drove until the weather finally passed and the sun came out. We pulled off into another rest area to have lunch and set all of our equipment out to dry. As we dried in the sun and enjoyed our lunch we laughed at the exploits of our previous evening. We’ll stop there for today and we’ll pick it up next week with part 4.

Australia, Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge

WPC: Wanderlust in the Outback

Uluru signWhen I think about travel, I think about visiting new, exciting places. Places that can awaken the senses and touch your spirit. Uluru was definitely one of those places for me. The sheer awesomeness of this rock being formed in this vast nothingness over the years into such a unique shape, crisscrossed with wild patterns. The first evening there I was just awed by the way Uluru’s color changes seemingly by the second as the sun dips below the horizon. I was so enraptured that my wife had to gently drag me away as the park was closing. For the next three days I couldn’t take my eyes away, everywhere we drove I just stared endlessly. We took in the views from every direction, stopping in random spots to see what it looked like from this angle. We took pictures from so far away you could barely see it, to right next to it with our camera mere inches away. I tried my best to capture the majesty of it all in the pictures I’m sharing here, though they fall short. The fine details, the colors, the way the stone seems to be alive. Being able to be in the presence of something this special creates a strong wanderlust in me, what creates that for you?

Sunrise at UluruUluru treeUluru detailsUluru details2Uluru details3

Australia, Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Against all odds

We don’t learn much about Australian history in US schools not surprisingly, so most of what I learned about Australia I read about in our guide book or in Bill Bryson’s book “In a Sunburned Country”. In those two books I came across John McDouall Stuart, who was the first man of European descent to cross the center of Australia overland. In our own trip we hadn’t intended to replicate his feat by driving the entire distance of Australia, but alas that’s what we ended up doing. As we saw first hand the Outback is a foreboding place; blazing sun, no shade, very little water to be seen, and poisonous critters. On our trip we stopped off in the quaint hamlet of Daly Waters and by hamlet I mean a pub and a campground.


World Famous Daly Waters Pub

This place proved to be important to Stuart because of some natural springs nearby, so he named it Daly Waters and carved a “S” into a tree growing there in 1862 and against all odds that tree still remains for tourists like me to take a picture of and try and imagine what it must of been like to travel through the barren land without the assistance of air conditioning, reclining leather seats, convenience stores, and pubs. After shuddering at the thought, I snapped a few pictures, climbed into my moderately comfortable rental car, and headed off thinking man am I glad I live in the 21st century.


The tree that Stuart allegedly carved a “S” into in 1862

In response to The Daily Post’s prompt, Against the Odds