24 March 2009

This country is beautiful

In Feb., I didn’t post anything to this blog, but I did write home to my parents after going on a 10 day backpacking trip to the Outback.

Hello everyone!

I have successfully returned from my trip to the Outback. I’ve been doing my best to get all the photos sorted out so that everyone can see them. I also want to give you a day-by-day of our events.

First, here are the photos:
Day 1 to Day 2
Day 2 to Day 4
Day 4 to Day 6
Day 6 to Day 9

I took a little over two hundred. It was basically a summary of all the things I’ve seen and all the fun we had. We got a bit crazy at times, but it was all in good fun. Some really beautiful sights!

Day 1

This is the actual dog who herds the sheep; he liked the attention.

Here we loaded up all of our stuff at 7 AM and started the trip north to the outback. This day was largely driving and we just sat around and listened to music or slept on the bus. When we finally pulled into our first stop at about 5 PM, we were told it was an active wool shed. We had the option of sleeping in the shed or pitching tents, but me and most of the others opted for the tents because it would be cooler and smell less like sheep. Myself, Allie, Oystein, Nichole, Hattie, and Kevin were all in a tent together. It was a big enough tent but sleeping was a pain since we weren’t used to sleeping bags on the ground. The girls had a shock because the showers were pretty limited, and there were Redback spiders in the bathroom, the third most deadly in Australia, as well as the world!

Day 2

You had to wear ridiculous fly nets everywhere to get any kind of peace.

This morning the flies were especially bad. All of us were donning our fly nets and trying our best not to get covered. It was inevitable, but at least our faces would be fine. Unfortunately, trying to eat breakfast was more than a pain — there were flies covering all of our food. Some opted not to eat. Rusty slapped my back to kill some flies, spilling scalding hot coffee on chest, as you can see from the later photos, but I forgave him. It’s tempting to slap anybody that has 40 flies on their back! After driving for some 7 hours, we pulled into our next stop, Newman, a mining town. We were told to not mingle with the locals as apparently miners can be the rougher crowd. Ignoring this, all of the guys and I went out to find a miner bar to see how miner life is. Sadly, we walked for a mile or two only to find out that the miner bar closes at 9 PM because of their schedules. It’s probably for the best!

Day 3

Conquering this stream in the bottom of a gorge

Today we arrived at one of our major stops, Karijini National Park at about 2 PM in 42 C (107 F) weather. We set up camp here — everything was red dirt and dry plants. We had no running water, no electricity, and no flushing toilets. We were advised to check the toilet holes before we sat down because that is where giant spiders and poisonous Redbacks live. Speaking of spiders, there were giant ones everywhere. And by giant, I do mean giant. Some were three to six inches long, as big as my hand. Some were hairy and others were camouflaged. I took a photo of one that is particularly creepy. These things are big enough to catch small birds in their webs. Scary. Our water source turned out to be the waterfalls in the rivers. They are some of the purest forms of water in the world and you can drink straight out of them without worrying about anything harmful. We spent the rest of today going through Dales Gorge, finding circular springs and waterfalls to swim in. It was a refreshing experience after climbing down rocks for several hours!

The dingos come out from the shadows

At night, the dingos, a type of wild dog about the size of bull mastiff with a long snout, started to come out and scavenge for food. Since we were the only campers out in this part of the bush, we were a prime target. We thought there may be one or two out there but as soon as the moon came up, we heard a howl on one side of the camp, and then literally from all sides of the camp came another howl. After this, they raided into the campsite to find what they could. They were certainly creepy.

Day 4

These little guys are relatives of the piranha. Ouch.

We spent most the day at the waterfalls in the river. This is a relaxing area because there was a deck to lay on after we swam. In the water we climbed up on old trees and got massages from the falling water. You didn’t want to sit still for too long because of the little fish in the water which were related to piranhas. They would give you a bit of a nibble, not enough to hurt but enough to startle you! We also climbed to a different gorge that was literally the side of a cliff. Climbing down was intense, if not a little bit scary. But, it was a good reward because through the canyon was a giant waterfall we could all lay on. It was beautiful. Later that night I helped with dinner by grilling sausages and steaks. I was able to save one sausage for later, and Stein and I, sharing a tent, threw a sausage in the bush nearest our tent to lure out the dingos. Sure enough, they came and we got some photos. It was hard to take them because it was pitch black and those dogs were sneaky, but I’ve got two decent ones. We also looked at the stars that night. They were more impressive than anything I’ve ever seen. They make a West Texas night look like a joke. I had no idea that the milky way had so many colors — greens, blues, and reds.

Day 5

Stein and I killing the dozens of giant spiders in our room.

This day we drove for literally twelve or thirteen hours, not including bathroom breaks and food stops. It was hot and sticky because the AC in our bus went out. Exciting stuff! We finally arrived at another sheep farm. Tonight we had actual rooms which was neat. However, Stein and myself had to kill something like 9 spiders in our room. They were huge and neither of us was a fan at all!

Day 6

The coral bay reef

Today we went to Coral Bay. This was a nice highlight because we got to go on a glass bottom boat as well as snorkel. I liked this reef almost as much as the Great Barrier, proof that Australia has some nice places to snorkel. The coral is not as bright as in Mexico, however, because it is a cold water coral. I got to see a 7 foot reef shark, which swam by but was apparently harmless. I also found a sea turtle swimming around, so of course, I had to grab on to it and let him take me for a ride. These are some strong animals. He didn’t seem to mind that I was grabbing on to him. I guess he’s used to people. All of the fish were out on this day because we happened to go on the very day of the coral spawning, which is the one day of the year that coral reproduce. The fish love the spores so they were having a field day. After this, we found a nearby resort and bar. Myself and Ryan split a case of beer and brought it back to the beach. From about 11 AM to 5 PM we continued to drink. All of the sudden I felt dizzy and couldn’t stand.

Hattie and I looking sun drenched after a long day out to sea

The guys just thought I drank too much and dragged my to the beach. I asked for water and after just a few minutes I was back to normal. Apparently the 104 F heat had got to me after all day of not drinking water! It wasn’t that scary, but I should have remembered to drink more water in between the beers. Everyone thought it was pretty funny.

Day 7

Nothing but net!

Today we got to feed the dolphins on the beach at a place called Monkey Mia, though they didn’t pick me. That’s fine, I wouldn’t want to crush a 10 year old’s dream! I did get some cool photos of them. Then we go to go on a cruise catamaran and see Shark Bay. We were all on a boat and had champagne (as it was the cheapest thing to drink on the boat and we felt it necessary to celebrate surviving the outback). We got to briefly stop at an oyster station in the ocean which collects pearls. Some of the pearls they produced were worth over 6,000 dollars each! Some of the people got to try black pearl meat, which goes for something like 800 dollars per 2.2 lbs in Japan because it’s a power aphrodisiac (supposedly). I don’t think it worked, though. Who knows about those Japanese! After the boat ride we laid on the beach and relaxed. We also had some delicious fish and chips (fried fish and thick cut fries), the most common meal in Australia from what I can tell.

Day 8

The entire beach was made of shells

We moved camp to an old telegraph station built in the 1800s. It was near a protected beach full of stromatolites, the oldest living life form on the planet. Basically they are bacteria that form black rocks. The entire beach at this area was made completely of shells, which was neat to look at but painful if they got in your sandals. The ocean here was pretty pristine as well. It was a relaxing area to be in and we got some good photos of the sunset.

Day 9

The last sunset we say on our trip. I miss this place like you would not believe.

We moved camp to our final location, another wool shed. Immediately after setting up tents, I saw a giant black snake about 6 foot in length. It may or may not have been the most poisonous snake in Australia. We never got to see it again to find out, thankfully. At this location, we were told it used to be a convict work camp in the 1800s. We got to scale a giant hill to see the sunset as well as enter an old mansion at night. Nichole found a lantern from the 1800s with a candle still inside, and managed to get it lit. This was the highlight of her trip, she told me later. Personally, I enjoyed the beaches more!

Day 10
We loaded up for the final time and drove back. It was nice to finally take a hot shower!

So there you have it! Hope you enjoy the story and the photos!

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