2004 Journey Australia Erik's Travels

A town called Alice…

I have been in Alice Springs for a week now. It is a pretty nice, though small, town right in the middle of Australia. The highlight of my visit here (and pretty much all the other tourist here) actually did not happen in Alice Springs itself, but about 400K away. It was my visit to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), King’s Canyon & The Olgas. Anders I and went on a three day tour and set off last Friday (March 5th) morning bright and early. The first day we drove to King’s Canyon and did a hike up to a swimming pool named the Pool of Eden. There were a lot of stairs, lots. After we got back to the camp we ate dinner and slept out under the star in swags (which are like big sleeping bags you put your own sleeping bag in).

The next day we drove to Uluru and I went on a walk around the base of it which is 9.2K. It was really fantastic to see. It is amazing how far away it looks just like a big smooth round rock but up close there are lots of caves and different parts to it. After the walk we went back to the campground which was about 15K away and watched the sunset. Then dinner and swags again.

Sunday morning we got up really, really early, 4:20am if I remember right. We set out to walk through the Valley of the Winds in The Olgas. The Olgas are another set of smaller (but still big) rocks that are spread out in a small area. There are 38 rocks in all. Then we headed back to Alice Springs. On the way back we stopped at a roadhouse (gas station and store) and got to see the world famous “Singing Dingo.” A guy had trained his pet dingo to stand a piano and yelp when the piano was played. Then it was back to Alice getting in at 7pm.

Monday we went and saw the old Telegraph Station (which was the reason why the town was started). Anders left yesterday to head off to New Zealand and I have just been hanging out and relaxing until my 35 hour train ride starts tomorrow afternoon.

After I get back to Melbourne on Friday the plan is to head up the East coast with Pete for about a month and then it’s off to Santiago, Chile where I meet up with Thomas in the middle of April.

2004 Journey Australia Erik's Travels

In Darwin at last…

I arrived in Darwin, Northern Territory yesterday (Feb. 28th). But it was a long journey to get here.

I left Perth with my Swedish friends Anders and Martin and Martin’s girlfriend Misung on Tuesday Feb. 10th. We rented a car from the same place we had rented one for our trip down south, but we got a red Ford Falcon station wagon instead. We finally got outta town around two in the afternoon and headed North, intending to make a five hour cruise north to Geraldton. There were four other vehicles of people who we had met at the hostel in Perth and we were kind of all traveling North together. They had all left the day before and our plan was to meet up with them in Geraldton.

We took the wrong highway out of town and ended up headed north-west when we just wanted to go north so we had to take another road once we got out of town to cut over and join onto the main highway. We decided to stop off at the Pinnacles, which was about an hour off of the main highway. The Pinnacles is a small area, probably like 50 acres or so, where for some reason an ancient forest was petrified and turned into rock. So there are these tree shaped rock formations ranging from a few inches tall to four or five feet tall. There were a few that were bigger but most were not as tall as me. Before it was turned into a national park it was used as a motocross track! But now it is all protected and there is a loop to drive around and spots to get out so we could take a walk around. So we snapped a few photos and were driving out of the park when we passed two of our friends cars who had left the day before us. They were just heading into the Pinnacles and hollered for us to follow them. So we turned around and went back in and watched the sunset over the beach and Pinnacles. It was getting dark then so we all went to a little lookout spot a few kilometers down the road and camped on the beach.

The next morning we made the drive up to Geraldton along the coast and met up with the rest of the crew at the campground there. We stayed there a night and the next day headed north to Kalbari. Kalbari is a small town near the Kalbari national forest. We stayed in a caravan park there in two trailer homes with bunk beds in them. The next day we went and visited some of the different gorges there. All very nice.

Then we kind of split up from there. With a large group some people always want to do different things so I found myself in a car headed north with four other guys. The rest of the crew was going to stay in Kalbari that night and meet us in Monkey Mia the next day. So we headed off and made it to Hamlin Bay that night. We camped there and in the morning checked out the local attractions. Hamlin Bay is the home to the Stromatolites, which to put it briefly are these little organisms who grow only in Hamlin bay and one spot in the Bahamas in the whole world. They were one of the first life forms on earth however many billion years ago and once covered the whole earth. What do they look like? Like a little pile of rock that once in a while has bubbles coming out of it. But they were very cool and I am glad we stopped there.

We headed up to Monkey Mia from there. Monkey Mia is just a little campground and hotel with a beach. But the attraction is that they feed the dolphins there everyday and the dolphins will just come up to the beach to get some food and swim around for a while. Everyone told us to get there really early, like 7am to watch for the dolphins. So we got there along with about 100 other people and a film crew. Two dolphins came up and swam around for a bit. Anders and I decided to take a sailboat cruise to get a better look at some wildlife. It was a two hour cruise for A$50. The only thing I saw was a one second glance at a sea turtle and a duck. When we returned back to the dock around 12:30 we saw that there were now about eight dolphins swimming around and there were only like six people there who all got to hand feed them. Then we headed off for our next stop, Carnarvon.

Carnarvon was kind of a hot hellhole. It seems to me that is the point where I started to notice the heat and humidity beginning. There were also lots and lots of insects there. They had these big flying scary looking things that made a loud noise and were all over the place. Misung said they had the same bugs in South Korea (where she is from) and she called them Locust. She said that they only lived for one day and then they died. It did seem to be true because it seemed like about half of the Locust around were moving slow and dying and the other half was flying right by your head and practicing dive bombing campers heads. The next morning we left Carnarvon and were planning on going to some blowholes (holes in the rocks near the ocean that under the right conditions have waves shoot through the holes and come surging out the top) north of town before heading up to Coral Bay. However our car battery was dead that morning so we got a jump start and when we were filling up with petrol we noticed our car was profusely leaking radiator fluid. We took the car around to three different garages and they all said it was the water pump, but the first two could not fix it until the next day. So finally the third place we went could fix it a little bit later so we got to spend some quality time in downtown Carnarvon until the car was ready at 5pm.

The rest of the group had gone ahead that morning so we decided to skip the blowholes (They were about and hour and a half off the highway) and just go straight up to Coral Bay. It started raining during the drive and when the sun started setting we still had about 45 mins of driving left. Martin was at the wheel white-knuckling it as we started to see Kangaroos jumping around in the bush on the side of the roads. Kangaroos are kind of like Deer in the USA. They will jump out in front of a car and just stare into the headlights and then when the car gets close try to kick it, not realizing that the car will win the battle. Once we got a little bit closer and it was pitch black out and the rain was pouring down we came across a herd of cattle in the road. We were going nice and slow so we stopped with plenty of room and waited for them to move along. We finally made it to Coral Bay and the rain helped us decide to stay in the hostel instead of the campground. We ended up staying in Coral Bay for two nights. We went on a glass bottom boat out onto the Nigaloo Reef and went snorkeling. There were two different kinds of fish hanging around the boat (due to the boat crew throwing handfuls of fish food into the water) and some coral about twenty feet below us on the sea floor. At the time I thought it was pretty cool. Until I went snorkeling in Exmouth that is.

So on Wednesday Feb. 18th we left Coral Bay headed up to Exmouth. Our car had a dead battery again so we got another jump start and decided to head out before the rest of the crew (they were on the snorkel trip a day later then us). So we got into Exmouth and since it was nice and sunny we decided to camp again. It was really hot there as well but they had a pretty nice swimming pool so I lounged around there for the day. The next afternoon we all rented snorkel gear and went to Turquoise Bay which was supposed to be a great snorkeling spot. My car had rented snorkel gear and flippers from the campground for A$12 for the day. The rest of the group went to a place across the street and got there’s for A$5. Once we got to Turquoise Bay we walked along the beach for a bit and then swam out into the ocean. The current there carried us all the way down the beach and over a utterly amazing forest of coral and tropical fish. One trip down the beach took around 20 minutes to complete and afterwards everyone who had rented the cheap snorkel gear was complaining that their stuff leaked and was no good. So Anders and I headed out to swim out to the break of the waves which was way out in the water. That was where the inner reef turned into the outer reef. So we swam and swam and swam and it took us an hour to get out to close to the break Then we started to get hit by waves and couldn’t easily make it out any further so we headed back in which took me 40 minutes. The whole experience was awesome though. Easily the best day I have had on my trip so far. That day was also the birthday of one of the girls who was traveling with us. So that morning we had gone into town and bought a small cake and candles and some balloons. That night we all went out to the restaurant across the street and had dinner and some drinks there.

Exmouth was the end of the road for the group as a whole. So Anders and I decided to go on the Easyrider Backpackers Tour Bus from Exmouth to Broome. Which was another 1,200 Kilometers up the road from us. It was basically three days of riding in the bus and stopping once in a while to take a break at a roadhouse or see a beach. Except for our hiking trip in the Karajini National Park. We hiked down into a gorge and to a waterfall for about four hours and everyone got just covered in sweat and mud. Lots of fun though.

We got into Broome on Monday night and were finished with the bus tour. Once we got to Broome Anders and I learned that the road was closed in two places headed north east to Darwin. So our only option was to fly. So we bought tickets for Saturday and had a week to kill in Broome. Tuesday we went to the oldest operating outdoor movie theater in the world and saw the movie Big Fish. Then Wednesday we woke up to the rain and it rained pretty much until we left on Saturday. The whole week we just kind of hung around and relaxed. One day we went to a crocodile park, which was really cool. It was a farm where they grew crocs for their meat and skin and they had some on display. We went on the little tour during feeding time and the tour guy told us all about them while throwing chicken halves into their pens to feed them. They had a McDonald’s in Broome, so I ate there a few times and that was about all the excitement there was in Broome.

Well, that sums up the last bit of my Western Australia journey.

2004 Journey Australia Erik's Travels

Perth, Western Australia :: The world’s most isolated city.

I have been in Perth since Jan. 22nd and having a great time here in Western Australia. When I took the train over I was planning on only staying one week and then moving on. But obviously my plans have changed. While in Perth I have been staying at the Swan Barracks Hotel in Northbridge. It is A$16 a night.

On Wednesday Jan 28th, I rented a Red Nissan Skylane with two Swedish guys I met at the hostel. It was an old beat up station wagon with a big Roo Bumper on the front. We took it south over four days and visited Margaret River, Pemberton, the Valley of the Giants and Albany. It had a tape deck and a radio. However the small bent and rusted piece of coat hanger that was currently serving for the radio antenna was not quite able to receive radio stations on a regular basis. I think three total times on the journey south we had radio reception, that being in Perth, briefly in Margaret River and pretty good reception in Albany. After the first day of this we were going crazy from the silence so while filling up with petrol I browsed the petrol stations tape selection (which was small) and miraculously found a lone Johnny Cash tape which I immediately bought and we probably listened to that tape at least twenty times over the next couple of days.

So now as of Feb 9th my plans are to leave tomorrow with the same two Swedes (Anders + Martin) plus Martin’s girlfriend Misong. We are going to head north and camp for around two weeks. There is a large group of people going who all meet up at the hostel in Perth over the last few weeks. All together there is going to be I think 5 cars and around 20 people traveling North together for the first bit anyways. The plan is to go as far as either Exmouth or Broome. From there I am going to head over to Darwin and then to Alice Springs and back to Melbourne to collect Dr. Read.

2004 Journey Australia Erik's Travels

The Indian Pacific

Saturday night I arrived at Spencer Street Station in Melbourne to begin my train journey to Perth, the most isolated city in the world. I was down in the bathroom and a old Australian guy with a hawaiian shirt, long white beard, scraggly outback hat and a bad case of B.O. asked me if I was heading all the way to Perth.

“Yep” I said and his response was “It’s a fucking long way mate. A fucking long way.” That was Ray.

Upstairs in the waiting area Ray invited me to sit with his wife, Mary, and himself and eat grapes with them. As we were talking they played the “grape game” where they threw a few grapes onto the floor and tried to bet on which passerby would step on them. Then we got on board “The Overland,” which is the train that runs between Melbourne and Adelaide. It was a pretty comfortable ride because I had too seats to myself and I dozed off as the train ran through the night. We arrived into Adelaide around 8am Sunday and had until 6pm to explore the city as I had to wait for the arrival of the “Indian Pacific,” which is the train that runs between Sydney and Perth. I spent the day wandering around the city center and the park terraces that border each side of the central area. I bought a few groceries for the train ride and went back to the train station to start the long ride to Perth. The train had two coaches for the “Day/Night Seater Red Kangaroo Class,” such a nicer name then “coach” or “over-energetic young child transport section.”

The train was pretty full, with the few extra seats that remained immediately guarded by their new owners. The train ride was fun though. Everyone got to know each other and I spent most of my time in the lounge car which had couch like seats that were far superior to the regular seats. The food in the “Red Kangaroo Buffet Coach” was pretty crap, but I guess with only a microwave to cook with that’s what happens.

Monday night the train stopped in Kalgoorlie, a small mining town, to re-supply the train. We had three hours to kill so a small group headed off to find the local pub. Find it we did and as we walked in we were greeted by lots of loud, drunk, screaming miners who were watching the end of a boxing match on the tele. The local favorite did not win and it there was some very loud booing. The drinks were being served by a few girls who had apparently forgotten to get fully dressed before they went to work that night. After a few “sleeping aids” we all headed back to the train thinking of how funny it would be if someone got too drunk and forgot to make it back in time.

The second night of sleep went pretty good, that is until I woke up at 4am and struggled to get back to sleep. You see, sleeping on trains kind of sucks. The seats don’t lean back very far and there is just not to much room to spread out. Couple that with severe ass soreness that develops after sitting in the same seat for endless hours and sleep turns into a hard to win battle. Luckily for me the English girl who was sitting next to me decided she was going to sleep on the floor so I had a bit more room to work with.

The train was running a few hours late because a freight train had somehow knocked a power line across the tracks when were were just a few hours away from Perth. We finally pulled into the East Perth Station around noon on Tuesday.

2004 Journey Australia Erik's Travels

Going out west.

I bought a train pass today and am going to be heading out for some solo traveling on the train. Below is my itinerary for the next month or so.

Jan 17th Depart Melbourne 10:10PM

Jan 18th Arrive Adelaide 8:00AM

Jan 18th Depart Adelaide 9:40PM

Jan 20th Arrive Perth 9:10AM

Jan 28th Depart Perth 11:55AM

Jan 30th Arrive Adelaide 7:20AM

Jan 30th Depart Adelaide 5:15PM

Jan 31st Arrive Alice Springs 11:35AM

Feb 9th Depart Alice Springs 4:10PM

Feb 10th Arrive Darwin 4:00PM

Feb 18th Depart Darwin 10AM

Feb 20th Arrive Adelaide 8:00AM

Feb 22nd Depart Adelaide 10:10AM

Feb 22nd Arrive Melbourne 9:00PM

2004 Journey Australia Erik's Travels

Onward to Australia

We made it to Australia. Pete and I left Fiji a few days early and flew out standby to Sydney. From there we took a regional flight to Melbourne and Pete’s father, whom we are staying with in Melbourne, picked us up at the airport.

We will be bumming around here for a little while and then head off to the eastern coast of Australia.

2004 Journey Erik's Travels Fiji

Sunburnt Already…

We spent New Years Eve on a remote tropical island in the Northern area of Fiji. After a four plus hour boat ride we were taken ashore to find out that we were the only guest staying in the resort. At first Pete and I were a bit dismayed by this, after planning on spending the night in the midst of a large gathering of intoxicated expatriates. However we soon discovered that we were pretty lucky. There were three small resorts on the shore of the island we were staying on, so for New Years we simply walked over to one of the other resorts for a few beers. We had after all drunk all the beers at our resort, not too hard of a task because they only had eight to begin with.

New Years day was spent in the most splendid manner of doing absolutely nothing but swaying the the cool tropical breeze from our hammocks which were conveniently placed just a short distance from both our bere (island hut) and the beach.

Today we took the boat back to Nadi and upgraded our accommodations to a bit nicer place named Aquarius Fiji. We are going to attempt to leave for Australia a bit earlier then planned because it is expensive here in Fiji if one is not very careful.

2004 Journey Erik's Travels Fiji

It has begun!

Pete and I landed in Nadi, Fiji this morning after a tiring all night flight. We are staying at the Western Hostel (US$6 each per night) and formulating our game plan.

2004 Journey Erik's Life Erik's Travels

One week left in the homeland…

I depart for my travels in one week. I just have to pack together all the stuff I have been getting ready for the last few months and I will be all set.

I am a big fan of the website I started marking bills a couple months ago and it has been very interesting and fun to find out where my money ends up once in leaves my hands.

2004 Journey Erik's Life Erik's Travels

Thanksgiving Update

Pete and I leave in a month (Dec. 28th) for Australia. We have a 10-day stop in Fiji and then we arrive in Sydney. Then its off to Melbourne for a while to visit Pete’s dad and then off to explore the rest of Australia.