Sydney – Part 2

Beth at the South Head, the Pacific waters in the back

Everything in Sydney is about the harbor.  As one non-Sydney (how do you call someone who lives in Sydney?) resident told me Sydney is the harbor with 5% that have a view of it and 95% who want to have a view of the harbor.  Any property with view of the harbor gets an instant premium on  its value.  Talking about property value, what is going on in Australia is putting me off.  The quality of the housing is terrible to not so terrible but the prices are through the roof.  I was not sure if the quality of the housing was substandard or if it was just the houses we had visited but after talking to recent immigrants to Australia from Europe they all say the same thing.  I cannot believe that this country has forced the light bulbs off the shelves around the globe but otherwise live in highly inefficient houses waisting water, energy and precious resources.  House prices through are really high, even in suburbs that are half an hour away from the CBD a decent place can cost you a million!  The same goes for all major cities in Australia.  It is crazy and stupid, the discussions about property and property values remind me of discussions I had with friends in the US back in 2007.  Is there a housing bubble looming in the  horizon down under?  I do not know but I like the

South Head again with Sydney in the background

German restrain on these matters, we do not get excited about this stuff and we do not like artificial wealth nor much credit.  As usual I tend to trail off so lets get back to the subject at hand.

We spend a week in Sydney and took in all the major sites, we saw the magnificent harbor and all its major sites the first day but we of course returned a couple times and even did a ferry ride to Manly late in the evening and were treated to an awesome sunset.  There is a single entrance of Port Jackson, the entrance is protected by two big rocks called the Heads.  We went to the South Head, through some wonderful little suburbs.  The view from the Head to the west is the city and the Harbor Bridge and on the other side the Pacific Ocean.  The views are grant and the suburb of Watson Bay is really pretty.  The zoo with its sky safari, new elephant baby, an excellent Outback area and many lookout points at the city across the harbor is one of the top ten destinations within Sydney.  The zoo itself is very good but its location and its proximity to water, plus the fact that you can reach it by ferry make it incredibly beautiful.  There was a lot of areas that they were working on, and that took out some of the fun but overall one of the better zoos we have seen.  The suburbs

Coogee Beach

on the north side also looked a lot better and more exclusive that the ones in south but we only drove through and did not linger much.  Closer to the city and next to the Rocks is the Darling Harbor and Chinatown, two parts of the city that are very interesting to visit and tons of stuff to do.  Especially around Darling Harbor there are a lots of restaurants, clubs and cafes.

As always I have to visit the memorials and in Sydney the ANZAC memorial is in Hyde Park, close to the Museum Station on Liverpool St.  There is a “Lake of Reflections”, very similar but much smaller than the one in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC.  Here I met Tony, a New Zealander veteran of the ANZAC forces in Vietnam.  You would not have guessed looking at the guy but he had done two tours in Vietnam in the late 60’s.  We talked about war, memorials and cowards (…sorry I meant politicians), it was another chance encounter that has made this trip so much more interesting.  It also confirmed that there is always pain and much sacrifice for us to get to where we are and we need to honour that… …remember them and learn to avoid the same mistakes in the future.  We cannot let their sacrifice be in vain.

Ben on Bondi Beach

Of course visiting Sydney without visiting the famous beach of Bondi is like drinking a milkshake without the ice cream.  Bondi beach was crowded, there was also a contest of surfing that was being filmed.  The commotion was incredible, and the weather perfect.  We also visited Coogee and other beaches like Cronulla around Botany Bay.  Botany Bay is also the spot where Captain Cook actually made his first landing in Australia, there is a small memorial in the Botany Bay National Park to mark the spot.  It is incredible to just stand at that spot, look around and see all the development that has taken place in the last 200 years.  I am sure he would not recognize the place today.

Another must for any visits in Sydney is the Blue Mountains.  We took the train from the central station in Sydney and travelled west through the suburbs like Parramatta for about two hours before reaching Katoomba, the gateway to the Blue Mountains.

Bondi Beach Ben and his mum!

We walked down to the lookout and then the short hike to the Three Sisters, the main landmark in the Blue Mountains.  We loved the landscape and we would love to have more time to hike through some of the trails and spend time in this National Park.  Throughout our travels we have enjoyed mountains and forrest parks the most and this one was really very pretty.  The air had a pleasant smell as the Eucalyptus oil that the trees emit permeates the air.  It is also the reason why the mountains look blue from the distance.  This place is a mere 200km away from Sydney  but it is so dense The ANZAC Memorialthat only in the mid 1990’s did they find a pine tree that was thought to be extinct for 90 million years.  This country is so vast that there are still things, species, organisms that have yet to be discovered.  Sydney is where Beth and me fell in love with Australia.  We have seen so much in the past two months but we were awestruck and dumbfounded.  Sydney maybe a city that is very far away from other big cities, Melbourne does not count (at least not for the people of Sydney) but there is a reason why so many people want to come to Sydney.

I would like to also thank our hosts Rita and Tony Vitalis, who took us in for a week and showed us Sydney.  We appreciate their hospitality and hope to reciprocate soon.
So long…

Ben, Beth and Kyriakos on the ANZAC Memorial

Elizabeth on Elizabeth St.

Sydney Tower and the Monorail

QVB, wonderful building!

Ben and Kyriakos on our way to the Apple Store in Sydney

A Memorial

Chillin' in Sydney.

Yeah, Bondi baby!

He is incredible

In Taronga Zoo

Darling Harbor

Ben the bird whisperer

At the zoo

For Ben's profile pic

My BBs

View from Taronga

Magnificent

Bondi Beach

Candid moment

with my mate Rick.

Awesome!

The three sisters

Enjoying the outdoors

Landscape galore...

Our hosts, Rita & Tony Vitalis

Great Ocean Road – Part 2

As far as coffee places is concerned, I stand corrected, I actually have seen a Starbucks it was empty and it is the first one after driving for about 8000km since we got here in the beginning of February and that is fine by me. The drive on the Great Ocean Road was planned from the beginning and it was among the Top 10 things to do in Australia.  Unfortunately, the way things turned out with the weather and all we cut it short by only taking a day to enjoy the drive.  So we decided to take the Princess Highway west and then turn south when we reached Terang and reach Port Campbell, which is at the west end of the Road.  This was necessary as the Road itself is quite narrow with many curves and although the whole length is about 250km it takes more than 4 hours to drive it all.  So we took a shortcut, on the highway to Terang we could drive fast (for Aussie standards) and reach Port Campbell in about 2 1/2 hours.  Again, we drove through some very nice towns, towns like

A candid moment...

Colac, like Camperdown.  The highways in Australia dissect many towns, actually the highway usually forms the main street, so it does make an interesting drive.  Most of these towns are like very much like towns in the US, in the 50s or 60s.  There is a main street where cars park at an angle, there are the occasional McDonalds, KFC or Subway but these sleepy towns are mostly left in peace.  There many shops and combo shops that cater to the needs of the local community.  This is a stark contrast to my personal experience back home or back in the US where, for whatever reason, people tend to shop in national or international chains, where the shops look the same no matter if they are in New York or in Dusseldorf. As soon as we reached Port Campbell we stopped at the Grotto, basically a sink hole with an awesome view.  We got our first taste of what the Great Ocean Road is all about.  It is full of magnificent views, awesome landscape, waves, wind, a dramatic sky and the great wide open ocean, green hills, nice little sea-side towns and National Parks.  It is probably one of the finest roads that I have ever driven on.  We stopped at a few of the look out points and the pinnacle of our trip was the 12 Apostles.  The formations that have been shaped by the unrelenting waves and wind that have hit the limestone formations for millions of years.  South from of here there is nothing but Antarctica, about 5000km.  The waters are

The London Arch -it used to be a bridge 🙂

cold and the beaches of Victoria although spectacular and great for surfing are not great for swimming, the same actually goes for most beaches around Australia.  I still believe that the best beaches can be found around the Mediterranean.  We then stopped at the London Arch (formerly London Bridge) and then at the 12 Apostles.  At the 12 Apostles there were hundreds of tourist, not sure where all these people came from, as most of the other spots along the route were not nearly as crowded.  I dislike these huge crowds, all these package (or as I like to call them packaged) tourists that go on a well beaten path laid by thousands before them dictated by special interests that do not allow for any interesting side trips and to me is he most boring form of tourism.  Anyway, we had to weave our way through the masses, it was always a hassle to get the pictures we wanted.  There was the constant roar of helicopters and planes flying overhead, carrying tourists.  You cannot convey that in the pictures, the pictures look great but the masses and the noise did distract from the beauty, the

Awesome!

awesomeness of the formations and the sounds of the ocean. So while it is the most popular spot we enjoyed the other spots more as you could just sit there and marvel in peace and quiet.  The Road also took us inland through rolling hills with spectacular views, we drove through the Great Otway National Park.  This park, while relatively unknown, contains ancient rainforests, tall wet forests, waterfalls and a rugged coastline.  It is also here that we saw the only Koalas that we have seen on all our travels.  We had to pick up our pace but we were also hungry so we stopped at Apollo Bay, a nice little town that is much quieter than Lorne.  It sits at the edge of the Great Otway N.P. and it has a nice little beach.  Of course we went for fish and chips, which this years celebrates its 150th birthday.  I am not sure if we are attracted or somehow it is coded in our DNA but we walk into one of the places and it was owned by Greeks.  Throughout our travels we have met so many Greeks, it was

Beth at the Apostles

really nice as we are Greeks from Greece and not Greeks from Melbourne, that automatically elevates us to a special status and we do occasionally enjoy better prices but always excellent hospitality.  We had to try their own homemade Greek deserts and had kataifi, gianiotiko, etc. while looking out at the sea. Ben as always did put up a show and he was adored by everyone.  This stop lasted longer than we had anticipated and hence had to get going as everyone was getting tired and still had a long way to go.  So we left the Great Ocean Road at Apollo Bay and headed north the way we came.

It was and probably will be for a long time the best and most scenic route we have done.  There is something for everyone and the combination of water, rugged coastline and very nice vegetation is a eyesight to behold.  We will have to return and take more time to explore and hike along the coast, maybe when Ben is at an age where we would not have to carry him.

So long….

Some of the Apostles

Another wonderful beach

A place I'd like to live....

I love the guy!

The travelling family!

Another view of the Apostles

The youngest driver

Beth and the uncle!

The road to Melbourne

Our last night in Adelaide

Well after a month in South Australia it was time to move on.  After all there are 6 states in total and two territories (NT and ACT), which in effect do function as States though.  We had to swap our hired car as the inspection light came on, so after sweet talking Bill the Greek in the Europcar station in center city Adelaide we got us a nice Skoda Octavia that fit us perfectly for the 800km trip to Melbourne.

Our trip to Melbourne was via the Western Highway, which is the shortest route.  It is still a long route that passes through a number of towns but it is a route that besides some pretty spots is very boring.  The only stops we made besides Murray Bridge 80km east of Adelaide to marvel at the mighty Murray river, was stops for gas, coffee and nappy changes.  The good thing this time around was that there were significantly less flies compared to

Ben checking out the naughty Hindley st. in Adelaide. The world's dirtiest McDonalds is on this street!

our trip up north.  Interesting along the route are the Grampians National Park and the Little Desert National Park as well as the city of Ballarat.  The city of Ballarat is known for spawning the victorian gold rush in the 1850s.  It is quite a large city, it is probably the largest inland city in Australia.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to stop as Beth and Ben were getting impatient to get going.

What is it about Australia, its highways and its bad drivers?  I mean Aussies are as nice and polite as they come but behind a steering wheel they become obnoxious and reckless.  It is weird because I expected it to be different, the driver’s have no notion of decency on the road.  On the other side you have these narrow two lane highways that make them perfect for horrific accidents.  Road trains do not help either, it is very hard to overtake them

Eleni, Beth and the kids

and when you do you have to actually speed up significantly, something that the Australian police does not seem to really agree with.  Speed limits are quite low and frustrating as it takes forever going 100km/h in Victoria (110km/h in S. Australia).  The distances are so great and there is so much space I wonder why it has to be this way.

Another thing that surprised me is that 40-50km outside Melbourne from the west side there is nothing.  I expected suburbs that stretch the horizon but the cities are much more compact, there have been recent developments but there are not that many commuters that actually have to drive 40-50km in Australia.  We arrived as night set in over Melbourne and the skyline was amazing, a stark contrast to the very (in comparison)

Ben is growing fast!

provincial town of Adelaide.  Adelaide is quick and easy, it has over a million inhabitants but it feels like much less, it is very spacious.  In comparison when we were approaching Melbourne I thought New York and Chicago, it is not quite that big but it has a few skyscrapers and compared to where we just came from it might as well have been.  We also found ourselves to a modern multi-lane highway that also came as a surprise and not long after we came to our first mini traffic jam over the West Gate Bridge.  It was a combination of a road works and a guy who wanted to jump off the bridge, let them jump I say.  It is a weird spectacle as a drama like that unfolds a mere 10 meters away while you are in your own little world looking through a window and hearing no sound.  I do not know what happened but then I could not just stop and watch.  We finally made it to Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne

My BBs, taken in Murray Bridge

about 7km from the CBD and according to Wikipedia a very expensive one.  It has a population of about 20,000 people and it is very close to the city.  We will be based here for the rest of our stay in Australia.  We will explore Melbourne its surroundings, Sydney, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef in the next few weeks.

So long….

Kyriakos, Beth's uncle and our host in Melbourne feeding the little man.

He enjoys water so much!

Our friends in Adelaide

The Red Center

Uluru from the Park HQ

Well, it has been a month since we arrived in Australia and about half our time here has passed.  It has been a wonderful month… an awesome month.

One thing that you realize once you are on the same road for over 600km and seen road signs advertising rest areas 500km ahead, a road where you can see a car approaching from the opposite direction more than 50k away or the horizon which is so far away is that this country is very, very big.  There were times when we did not see a car for an hour!  It does make you feel lonely and it makes you wonder what will happen if the car breaks down or there is another emergency.  The distances between inhabited places are between 90k-250k!  Imagine that is like going from Philadelphia to Washington DC or from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt and not see a town, a sealed road or any structure that resembles civilization.  Sure you may see the occasional car on the road and you wave at them, you really do.  It is maybe because we are the only humans for many kilometers around or because it breaks

The way up The Rock

the monotonous drive or may just be that Aussies are just very friendly to each other, who knows but you do it nonetheless.  There are many ways to greet drivers I found the one where you lift the index finger to be the most popular although the “V” sign is a close second.

On the day that we arrived in Australia we flew straight through the center of Australia.  As the sun was coming up I gazed down and all I could see is reddish brown earth with some white spots -I later found out that those are dry lakes.  There was nothing else as far as the eye could reach from 30 thousnad feet up.  I have travelled the Route 66 and the American West and I do not remember it to be that remote; the only place that resembles this experience was a couple years ago in a country that is far bigger than Australia, when we drove from Perm to Solikamsk in Russia albeit on horrific roads.  Then when you are about to reach one of these stops, even Coober Pedy, if you blink you will miss them, they go by so fast.  Coober Pedy is a town of about 2500 people but when you

Standing in the shade of the Rock

approach it it only has two exits, very close to each other.  The town spreads to the right (east) of the highway (when driving north) and not along the highway.  The cellular reception is also very localized, a few kilometers out of town and there is no reception at all.  A town like Marla with 50 people goes by even faster.

One thing that I though to take with me is our iPods and that has helped with the entertainment in the car.  I always wondered when I will listen through 36 days worth of music, well this trip has certainly helped to get through a good chunk of that.  There is something eerie about turning the radion on and not being able to get any station.
Along the road there are some peculiarities that most people are not used too, even many Australians.  First and foremost are the road trains, these are trucks that can be up to about 60 meters long!  Passing one of them takes a while, although the risk is negated by the fact that most of the highway has great visibility although not always to the left or right where wild life lurks to make the drive interesting to say the least.  The road is so monotonous that you slowly drift with your thoughts in different places and that is where it

Doing the base walk, 10.6km in 40C and with a stroller!

becomes very dangerous.  All along the highway there are skid marks, farther evidence to the dangers of the highway are the wrecks on both sides of the highway.  People just plainly fall asleep on the wheel or drink and drive.  The only kangaroos that we saw were splattered on both sides of the pavement,

The reason for the stupid nets!

along with other wildlife like lizards, birds, etc.  On the way to Uluru, we actually did hit a bird (πιάσαμε πουλιά στον αέρα! sorry it cannot be translated in English) and it must have escaped unscathed and there were no scratches on the hired car.

On the way to Uluru we stopped in Woomera, a must see for military buffs and surprise, surprise in the visitors center that doubles also as a museum, a coffee place, a restaurant, a bank and a gift shop we came across two German military officers.  Ben flashed his charming smile to them and when we talked to them in German they pretended not to be there, I guess there are some secretive stuff happening around this place or they were just fed up with Germans, it is unbelievable how many we met on our trip to the Red Center.   The town seemed deserted, up to the mid 80’s this town was off limits and it somehow feels that it has been forgotten, to rust away like the exhibits of its glorious past in the center of the town.
Farther north we stopped overnight at Cooper Pedy.  We stayed at the Stuart Caravan Park, which is owned by friends of Beth’s grandparents from Greece.

Another view of The Rock

This town had many more Greeks in the past, well over 1000 at some point.  Their dwindling numbers are now down to less than 400.  Nevertheless, as we were shopping in the general store, I came upon a face that looked Greek and so I tried my luck.  It turned out that it was Jimmy from Greece, a miner for over 40 years that emigrated to Australia as a kid with his parents.  In Greek fashion we were also immediately invited to his home for dinner with friends, it would have been interesting to meet these people and hear about their lives in this town that looked so out of place in the middle of the Outback.  Ben had to be showered, fed and then put to sleep so we had to refuse Jimmy’s offer.  At the caravan park we rented rooms (with linen!?!), as many of you know I love meeting people so I started to chat with the guy that pulled with his Land Cruiser next to our puny Jetta.  Turns out Rodney was on his way back to his farm of 5000 sq miles, yup that is about as big as the state of Connecticut.  As soon as his wife and son disappeared in their room he opened the back lid and a there from a huge cooler he pulled out a couple cans of beer and offered me one.  Beth got mad at me for forgetting that we had to get Ben and other things ready but I love these chance encounters.  It turns out

Feeding time!

Rodney is a real cowboy, that was educated with School of the Air, and has spend most of his life in the outdoors.  He was also very helpful by giving us the a fly net for Ben’s stroller, he just handed it to me although I had offered to pay for it.  Without it we would not be able to make the base walk in Uluru.

Around Coober Pedy we saw the Dingo Fence, which is the longest fence on earth and it goes a long way (literally….) to show the love Aussies have with fences.  I am amazed that people live in fenced properties down here.  I am not talking about a fence that somehow is pleasant to the eye, fitting to the environment or whatever, I am talking about fences that are up 2m in height and look as they were originally part of the Folsom prison.  I remember looking at some friend’s places on Google Earth and when I saw the fence on street view I was sure we had the wrong address, it looked more like an industrial zone but it actually is that way.  I am not sure what they have to hide or if it gives them a false sense of security but what it actually does is keep any neighborhood

It's an easy flat walk around the base

contact to an absolute minimum and for ugly housing.  We wanted to head of to the Breakaway Ranges but the road did not seem to be in good condition due to the heavy rainfalls of the past few days.  We then came across a jeep with four Germans that were actually had decided to head back due to the bad condition of the road.  They told us of other 4WD that were bogged down out there.  This chance encounter was interesting for two reasons, one that we again came across Germans, the Outback is full of them and German is enough to actually get by out there.  The other one is that this group has been on a world trip for the past six years by boat.  They always travel on land to wait out the hurricane/typhoon/etc season.  In the Outback we also met a Spanish traveller who is circling the world in his jeep, his wife joins him on parts of the trip as she has to work in Barcelona.  The guy has been on the road for well over two years.  We met many people and that has been a big part of this trip, it has enriched it and made it more interesting.    In Coober Pedy we saw the underground Serbian church and of course we visited a mine, an underground home and the underground hotel.  The town has been used as a filming location for many movies and we saw props

The Valley of the winds, The Olgas

left behind from the movie “Pitch Black”.  Here I would also like to mention the Stuart Caravan Park,  it is where we stayed for three nights in total and the hospitality was great, what would one expect, it is owned by Mr. Yianni and his family.  They also make a great Pizza.

After 1600 km we finally reached our destination.  We drove 1600 km for a rock.  This is about the distance from Philadelphia to St. Louis or from Wuppertal to Barcelona and the destination is a huge rock surrounded by lots of dry red earth.  The earth in the outback is so red, it is actually more the color of rust as it actually is rusted (oxidized) iron.  The rock which is called Uluru but to most it still know as Ayer’s Rock sits there like a giant turtle, recognizable from miles away it is a fantastic and formidable sandstone formation.  I cannot really describe the awe one feels when we first laid our eyes upon this quintessential Australian icon.  Supposedly this rock is all that is left from a mountain range.  We did the base walk which about 10.5 km in about 40C, we were exhausted after we finished and I believe that we had a mild sun stroke on that day despite the hats and the water that we made sure we drunk.  Oh, yes baby Ben was with us all the way.  He complained towards the end as he got bored and very hot but by that time he had learned

The Olgas

to drink lots of water and we made sure that he did not dehydrate.  Everyone knows about Uluru but not many people know that in the same park, not far away there is another wonderful rock formation.  A rock formation that supposedly many years ago was similar in shape to Uluru, only 6 times bigger.  This rock formation is called Kata-Tjuta or as it used to be called the Olgas, named after its tallest peak Mt. Olga.  Mt. Olga was named after Queen Olga of Würrtemberg, Germany (Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, daughter of Nikolas I of Russia).  This group of domed shaped formations is more interesting to explore as there are gorges and valleys that you can hike into.  Of course we did not miss the opportunity and we did hike part of the Valley of the Winds.  With Ben carried by Beth on her back it was dangerous to do the whole hike.  What we saw though was a wonderful and unique landscape that took our breath away.  Ben slept most of the way and there is something to be said about a baby sleeping like that on his mum’s back.  We enjoyed it immensely and love to take him around to see as much as possible even if he will not consciously remember much.  The winds were quite strong and it was a cooler day to hike, the wind sounded like whispers, and weird sounds emanated from

Sunset at Uluru!

the wind whipping the rocks.  I am not sure why the Olgas are not well known, maybe it is because the sunrises and sunsets are not as awe inspiring as in Uluru or maybe it is just lack of marketing.

The Serbian Orthodox Underground church

One thing that we really missed though, the national park is a world heritage site for it, is the cultural aspect.  We did see some aborigines driving by and one lady in the park HQ but there was nothing that else.  There was no chance to get close to their villages and see how they live or learn about their history, their culture.  In that sense the trip to Uluru left some weird after taste.  This land is new for us but it is very old for the aborigines who have lived here for thousands of years.  They know how to live here with the bare minimum.  Most aborigines that we saw where in Coober Pedy and it was not a pretty sight.  They were drunks, bums that seem not to care about themselves or anybody else.  It is a stark difference to what I experienced in the American West, where there is much more to see and do in the Indian lands and the India reservations.

We stayed in Yulara, which is a town just outside the park.  This town is actually a resort and nothing else.  There are many types of accommodation and a town center with a supermarket, restaurants, souvenir shops, a bank and a post office.  Everything is overpriced, which I kind of understand but then there was that thing with the service and the quality of the food.  I understand that it takes extra cost to haul tomatoes and minced meat from Alice Springs or wherever to the middle of nowhere,  one should expect a better level of service though.  The resort

Another day in the Outback!

employs about 1000 people on site during low season, which in Australia is during their summer.  This country is so different and hot that the winter is the high season!  There are 2000 people on site during high season all to service about 800 rooms, and a caravan park.  If you really think about it is a bit crazy but the resort at least does a good job in being as eco friendly as possible and by blending well in its surroundings.  Interesting was the mix of the staff, most where not from Australia.

The trip took us about 7 days, we crossed half a continent, that also means half a country to see a rock.  But as always with any trip it is not only the destination but the experiences that you gain while you travel there.  That was one of the main reasons that we did not want to just fly there.  It was mainly me that wanted to see and experience The Bush.  I wanted to have a beer in bar together with many other locals and travellers, a bar that in a town of 30 people.  A town where every road in every direction is dirt road and the next stop is a few hundred kilometers.  You got to see that, feel it and converse with the people.  It is the only way to

The Dingo fence

understand, at least a little bit.  Flying to Uluru from Melbourne or Adelaide and then back is half the experience.  It is an experience that will remain with us for a long time to come.  With Ben this trip has also some special significance as we literally spend every hour of every day together by forming our own little world for him.  We were not sure how he will take it but looking back at the experience and the pictures are proof he had a heck of a time.  He has become a world traveller before he turned 10 months.  His smile in the morning was priceless and despite the fact that we could not always make it comfortable for him he never complained, he took it at a stride and we can only learn from that.

We have spend a month in Adelaide and South Australia, we have seen so many people and so many places.  It is now time to move on as we have to see so many more places.  We are now moving into the second phase of our trip, in this second phase we will travel even greater distances but this time most of it will be by plane.  We are going to move to Melbourne by car and we will base ourselves there.
So long….

Can you see his teeth?

6000 plus km in that capsule!

Overlooking Coober Pedy

Ben in our motel room in Coober Pedy

Props left behind from Pitch Black

The Olgas...

...and Uluru!

Stuart Highway

Distances to some destinations

My BBs!

Well, on the 22nd of Feb we were all ready to go.  We woke up early, too early for Beth but exactly right when you consider that midday on our road the temperatures could reach 40C plus easily.  If you have a map go take it out and trace your finger along the route that we have taken.  Find Australia and then go all the way down about halfway between Melbourne and Perth.  There you will find Adelaide, from Adelaide, we will follow the Stuart Highway north.

Stuart Highway was named after John McDouall Stuart, who was the first European to cross Australia from south to north.  Oodnadatta, Stuart’s original route is a track that actually followed a traditional aboriginal route.  The modern highway is in parts laid on this track, although there are specific parts of the the Oodnadatta track that run parallel to the modern highway and are popular with the more adventurous drivers.  It is also along this route that the original Ghan (the train connection) run, the new one is closer and in many parts right next to the highway.  The train’s current name honors the Afghan came l drivers that used the same route when they arrived some time in the late 1800s.  The modern highway, still a dirt truck gained new significance in WWII as Darwin and the Australian north was repeatedly attacked by the Japanese.  So it was with a lot of haste that the track was widened and improve in 1940/1941 from Alice Springs to Darwin.  It remained a dirt truck for most of its life, it was in the late 80s when it was finally sealed.  All this was in my mind while driving north, believe there was not very much else to do.

Missile Park, Woomera SA

Pt. Augusta Crossroads of Australia

We drove straight north in the direction of Port Augusta, the city that prides itself to be the crossroads of Australia.  Port Augusta, about 450km north of Adelaide is also where civilization stops, 10km out of town on the Stuart highway there is nothing but red earth, the bush, Kangaroos and no mobile reception.  From Port Augusta trace the Stuart Highway, a highway straight as an arrow for hundreds of kilometers at a time with a total length of 2834 km to the next major town that is Woomera.  Between these two towns we passed through dry lakes that were white as snow as the only thing left after they dried was salt.  Basically, Woomera’s sole purpose was to beat the Soviets in the race to space and arms game.  It is an Anglo-Australian project and as you enter the town you see what it is all about as a rocket is there to greet you.  North of Woomera we pass through the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), an area the size of England that is the largest land-based defense and aerospace range in

Coober Pedy, SA

the world.  The town of Woomera mainly serves the people that work in this range.  Work your way about 360k north, through Glendabo and the WPA to Coober Pedy.  Glendambo prides itself that it is a town of 30 people, 2200 sheep and approx. 2,000,000 flies, we did not stay to count them.  Coober Pedy is a town that in the summer lives underground as it is too hot to be on the surface.  It is the opal capital of the world and in the little experience I had in town it looks and feels like a frontier town.  An aerial picture of Coober Pedy showed how much digging has taken place, the region looked like Swiss cheese on a bad day.

...welcomed us!

From Coober Pedy it is about 150k to Cadney Homestead and from there another 90k to the town of Marla, supposedly one of the hottest spots on earth.  These places are really service areas that offer anything that travelers may need plus a bar for the people that are staying overnight and the few locals.  Marla prides itself of being the last stop in South Australia and on the way back of course as being the first stop in South Australia, I guess it is always a matte of perspective.  In Marla there is also a police station, I immediately thought of Mad Max!  These places are so isolated.  You are not allowed to transport animals, vegetables, etc. between states so in Marla there is also a quarantine zone.  When we stopped for fuel in Marla, I noticed posters about the upcoming election, apparently the vote would take place in the pub.  That is I believe a great way of motivating the voters.  If you trace your finger

NT border, only 500km to go!

farther up north about 180k you will see a place called Kulgera that is as Marla the first or last stop in the Northern Territory and like Marla nothing more than a pub, a petrol station, a motel and a caravan park.  After Kulgera, it is only 70k to Erldunda, it is here that we turned right or west to you boy scouts out there.  It is only 250k to our final destination the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.  Now I am not sure if you have realized but after Port Augusta this is the first major turn off the Stuart Highway.  Sure you can leave the highway at Pimba to go to Woomera and then to Roxby Downs but that is a stretch of less than 100k, Roxby Downs is a city that was build in 1987 to serve the world largest uranium and significant gold, copper and silver mine, the Olympic Dam Mine.  Apart from this bitumen (sealed to you non-Australians) roads there is nothing for more than a 1000k.  From Erldunda it is another 300k or so north on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs.  Imagine that 1000k of mostly straight road and there is no other road to turn onto, nothing, nada.  Sure there are enough dirt roads to take you anywhere if you got the right wheels and experience.  For example the Tallaringa Track, which heads west at Coober Pedy through the WPA (special permission needed) for more than 500k to the West Australian border through Emu Junction, a place that is so radio active that it rivals Tchernobyl.  The British did atomic bomb testing in this area.  Once you reach the border you need a few hundred kilometers still before you hit any town of significance.

This is the other side of the same marker!

Another notable junction is to the Oodnadatta, the original south-north route.  There were many dirt roads like that on both sides of the highway and I did feel the urge to follow them but then of course I was not alone, maybe another time.

Now Erldunda is a major crossroads right in the middle of the continent and the only direction that you can go besides the north-south direction on the Stuart Highway is West.  So take a turn here and follow the Lasseter Highway for 250 km to our final destination, through Mt. Ebenezer and Curtin Springs both service stations much like Marla and Glendambo.  This highway is a bit more interesting as there are more rock formations to see and the road itself has more curves than the Stuart Highway.  Lasseter Highway ends in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, with special permission you can continue on a dirt track to the West Australian border for another 250k.
Tracing this route on a map with your finger took you a few seconds, this route though is 1600k in total distance, 3200k return and we had to do it with all the stops, hikes, sun set viewings, tours, also on the road sightseeing, etc. in 7days/6nights.

A few more meters before to the Lasseter Highway

Erldunda Station and a road train

The Bush/The Outback

Marla.

WPA, what are they hiding?

Glendambo

Ben in his capsule.

Ready to go, notice the Camelbak

Hiking in the Kata-Tjuta.

By the time you will read this we will be back in Adelaide and we will be getting ready for another 1000k of driving along the coast from Adelaide to Melbourne, we will also have spent well over 70 hours in the car.  We have been to so many places and seen so many things that I will bore you if I included them all.  I will however post a commentary on the trip itself, about our experience, our encounters with birds and kangaroos, flash floods, fellow travelers and aborigines.

Our final destination...

...we travelled 1600 km for this!

An HDR version

So long…
PS.: I do not have time to proofread these posts, so I hope you do not mind some of the grammatical or spelling errors.
PSS.: Some random videos, first one is from the drive.  This is how it looked for most of the drive!

Adelaide, SA – Part 3

Adelaide seems to be one of the forgotten cities in Australia.  It seems forgotten as not many people outside this country have heard anything about it, and within Australia it seems to be bypassed by just about everybody, they go to Perth or Melbourne, of course Sydney, maybe Brisbane but not Adelaide.  We have not yet seen the other ones so I cannot really compare this city to any other in Australia at this point but this city is

Adelaide Skyline

very comfortable, it does have more of a country feel.  Its streets are very wide, there is practically no traffic jams.  It has a very good climate, albeit a bit on the dry side.  There does not seem to be any particular rush even during lunchtime in the CBD people do not seem to be overly stressed, there is no hectic.

The downtown area is also very compact, we walked along the Torrens river and the view as you can see in the pictures is very nice.  The walk around the river is very pretty, everything is green as the city uses recycled water as of late to water the parks.  There were lots of birds everywhere, I could not believe that we were in the immediate downtown area and there was absolutely no noise, it was very serene and relaxing.

We went to the Central Market, which describes itself as the “heart

Adelaide Skyline

Beth and Ben

of Adelaide”.  It is a very colorful place, with lots of stalls selling all kinds of foods along side with different cafes.  It is interesting as it was bustling, a very stark contrast to the city outside.  Chinatown is next to the market and we choose a place to have lunch were the signs were illegible, it is mostly a safe bet that the food is going to be more authentic than the food you get in other places.  The quality was excellent and the prices were quite good.

The Central Market

Victoria Square looking north

It was a really hot day but we wanted to walk the center of Adelaide, the famous Victoria Square.  Adelaide has a nice practical grid layout and although I have a navigation system to guide me to wherever we want to go I have by now gotten the basics and I can navigate the city without any issues.  Down here they say: no worries mate!  The grid is centered on Victoria Square, all the streets radiate from there and right in the middle of the square, actually it has a diamond shape, is a big statue of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria, err a statue of hers, actually.One of the things that I have noticed and I have not really found an explanation yet is the sizes of different drinks.  In Australia a can of coke has 375ml in Europe or the US it has something like 335ml.  There are bottles of water with 1.25l, we do not have them anything like that, the same goes for yoghurts, butter, and an array of other products the sizes are just a little bit different than what I have seen in Europe and the US.  I wonder who decides on those things and what the rationale is behind a can of soda having 375ml or 335ml?  Is it economics?  Anyhow, this is no biggie but still a bit odd.

So long…

Here are some random videos of the past few weeks.

Our first Outback Experience – Part 2

Although we had seen signs warnings us of Kangaroos we had not seen one yet but as soon as we turned off the main road to head to Wilpena Pound Resort (a fancy name for an excellent motel that was trying to be more than it should) we saw Emus and Kangaroos. There is something to be said about being in a place where wild animals still roam free and along side humans.  Outside the reception area there

Ben and Beth, it was getting warm

was a place where many Kangaroos had gathered and many of the guests were taking pictures.  We arri

St. Mary's Peak, 1170m

ved just in time to see the General Store and the Visitors Center close.  Why does everything in Australia close so early?  We booked a scenic flight over the area at the reception for early next morning.  We choose the 30 minute flight that took us around the Wilpena Pound as well as the Elder Range, Edeowie Gorge, Heysen Range, Lake Torrens (no water, only salt), Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge, St Mary Peak and the Pound Gap.

Woke up early, we had to get Ben out of bed at 7am but he took like a champ.  The airstrip was only a couple k’s away, of course like most airstrips around here it was not

The plane landing

sealed, there were a few Cessnas parked but no one to be seen but a few kangaroos crossing the landing strip.  That raised a eyebrow, how do you swerve around a kangaroo when you go full throttle ready to take off?  It was not long before the plane, a Cessna 182 landed and a young pilot, Hayden flashed us a sm

Beware of Emus crossing the road

ile and welcomed us in the plane with just four seats.  I asked him about the kangaroos, in the typical nonchalant aussie tone he told me not to worry.  Those of you who know me know that I have flown many times but flying in this little plane was a new experience.  It was a pleasant short flight with spectacular views an amazing landscape.  A landscape that formed millions of years ago, an ancient landscape that is unlike any other.  A landscape that was hidden away to anyone outside the aborigines, until the late 1800s.

Ben was sleeping!

When we landed half an hour later the temperature had risen considerably, the swings in temperature is amazing.  We had seen the area from above and realized that we needed a 4WD in order to see some of the spectacular gorges so we inquired at the visitor’s center.  They told us to head up to Blinman and ask at the hotel.  We also decided to postpone the hike into the pound for the next morning, by the time we would have reached the Wangara Lookout it would be mid-day and that is too hot for walking and too sunny to take good pictures.  We then spend the next few hours lounging around the hotel, we had coffee and I finally had a Punch Punch!  It had been a long time since I had a good cigar like that; Ben had his mid-day nap and sometime in the

I was carrying the water and the nappies!

afternoon we drove north to Blinman.  Blinman is about 60km north of Wilpena Pound and it is the highest town in South Australia, in the 1850s they found copper in the area.  You can check a 360 picture of the main street here.  We wanted to check the general store, despite the fact that it was still 4pm, the store had closed as business was slow on that particular day.  We decided to head for the hotel and see about that 4WD.  The hotel was really nice and the coffee was really good.  Unfortunately, a rainstorm caught up with us and it was a bad one.  We were advised to head back to the hotel quickly as flash floods would cut off our way south.  True enough when we reached our hotel we were told that there were people stuck in Blinman, the extend of the flash floods only became apparent on our way back to Adelaide a couple days later.  On our way back we stopped at some locations and took pictures on some lookouts.  I was lucky

Ben after his nap, Beth after reaching the first marker.

enough to get a nice picture of the storm that was brewing over Blinman that I posted on my last posting.  By the time we returned to the hotel rain had caught up with us again.  There was not much to do but go to the bar have a beer and meet the many Germans and French that seemingly were the only nationalities present.  It is interesting but we have met so many people from Europe travelling in Australia. I guess there are so many interesting things to see and down under.

Early in the morning we got ready and after checking with the visitors center about the weather and the general condition, it was still cloudy and wet, we headed into the direction of the Pound.  The first 3.3 km would take us through a very easy walking trail, the last 600 meters would be a steep walk up to an altitude of 900m to the two Wangara Lookouts.  The view from the Lookouts was breathtaking. Throughout the walk we met again many Germans, if anything had gone wrong we would have been ok as we speak

The view from the Wangara Lookout

their language.  One thing that we were warned about were the flies and we got our first encounter during the walk, we have never seen so many flies.  They tell us that it will get worse when we travel to the red center, so we have bought fly nets for us, we are not sure yet what we can do for Ben as he did not like the net.  We did the walk in 2 1/2 hours by the time we were back the temperature had risen

Mother and son with a Kangaroo in the distance.

considerably, so we headed back to the air conditioned room.  In  the afternoon we drove around on sealed roads as we did are not allowed to take our hired car on non paved road.  We went and took pictures of the Cazneaux tree, named after the famous Australian photographer who immortalized it in 1937 with his

The Cazneaoux tree

depiction of it called “The Spirit of Endurance”.  These gum trees are magnificent, they were here long before we were born and they will outlive all of us.  Here looking at the Cazneaux tree with the Pound in the background one realizes the land itself is ancient, the formations that we saw were hundreds of millions old.  The country we know as Australia maybe really fresh but its land is far from it.

The next morning we packed and left the resort early, Ben had some tummy problems and we rushed as fast as we could towards home in Adelaide.  Rushing is only a figure of speech as the highway here is

They are having fun.

limited to 110kmh and it is for the most part a one lane highway!  What also surprised me is that the highway is not dotted with rest/service areas as we know them in Europe or the US.  We found some gas stations every 60km or so and the occasional hotel -hotels in Australia are usually the pubs, not necessary a hotel as I understand it. Funny is that this was the stretch of highway in the more densely populated part of SA between Port Augusta and Adelaide.  What will we encounter next week when we drive back the same highway past Port Augusta towards Cooper Pedy and Uluru?  Well, we will take lots of water with us and probably some extra diesel just to be safe.

One of the things that has surprised me here in Australia is the lack of education about conserving water and how cheap water is.  This is after all the driest continent and country in the world and SA is the driest state in this country, nevertheless people use too much water of which more than 60% is used to water gardens and plants that have no place in this country to begin with.  The cost of water is about 1/4 of the cost we have in Germany!  No wonder people let the water running when brushing their teeth or shaving!  There is something to be said about how conscious we are in Germany about this matter despite abundant water, we have learned to conserve and leave for the most part more efficient -high cost and taxation do work after all.

In the past few days we have been going places around Adelaide, will post fresh pictures and a new post soon.

So long….

What an angel!

Dramatic and spectacular!

A small pond along the hike.

Ben hiking!

The way up to Wangara Lookout

Can you spot Beth?

Can't get enough looking at them two!

Is he going to become a pilot?

Lake Torrens, a dry lake!

An HDR image!