Northern Territory Rocks!

WOW! Back from my Ayres Rock adventure and what an amazing couple of days! My words and pictures will not be able to express (or give Austalia’s red centre) half the justice this spectacular place deserves! If I could lend you my eyes I would but I guess you’ll just have to use your imagination (with the help of my descriptive adventure blog hah) just how truly magnificent this place really is!

Oh but first things first…I must tell you how I spent my last night and day over at Hunter Valley! As you know from my last blog, I was staying with my friends Lynne and Rob. Lynne and Rob knew how bug and wildlife crazy I am so on my last evening, they both took me over to visit one of their friends because this friend practically lived on a farm haha and I loved it…….

Earth Mother!

We pulled up at huge wooden cabin (which immediately reminded me of Ross’ cabin) and tapped on the front door. It was pretty dark but a dimly lit porch lantern revealed 2 old (and rather creeky looking!) rocking chairs which actually made me think of the movie Deliverance haha! Suddenly the door flew open and we were warmly greeted by a lovely lady who instantly made me feel as though I was her long lost daughter which was so nice! Her husband was the same, both were just wonderfully welcoming and made me feel right at home 🙂 The lady (whose name ashamedly escapes me right now but for the purpose of my blog will be renamed Jane!), showed me around and oh my word…they could have charged me an entrance fee to see all of their animals hah!

The barn out the back was infact like stepping into a Reptile house at the local pet shop! Shelf upon shelf, top to bottom were glass aquariums all neatly lined up next to each other. So like a kid, I rushed over to the first ones to peer inside…I could see snakes of all sizes and colours in the first few glass cages and bearded dragons and blue tongued lizards in the others! They were actually breeding the snakes so there were smaller containers and incubators which they called ‘nurseries’. Pressing my face against one of the glass aquariums, I was busy watching a small python slowly rearing up and turning it’s scaly head to look at me. I was imagining that snake Kaa from the Jungle Book staring at me trying to hypnotize me with it’s eyes haha…then the thing jolted forward and attacked the glass haha, so glad the glass was between us phew! After I’d met all their reptilian lodgers, Jane then took me into the lounge where I was immediately greeted by the cutest lil puppy, a goat and……a baby Kangeroo!! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

“Would you like to bottle feed the goat and Kangeroo Helen?” Jane was busy preparing 2 small bottles of milk so it was obviously dinner time for them and what perfect timing for me to ‘rock up’ ! “Hell yeh I would!” I screeched with eyeballs the size of dinner plates, I was so excited hah! “It’s not often you will be able to say you’ve fed a Billy and a Joey hey!” Jane laughed as she approached me with the first bottle. “Ok, lets go in the garden for the goat as he can be messy” I followed Jane outside and was soon barged by the little black goat excitedly jumping past me for he clearly knew what was about to happen. Standing in the garden, Jane showed me how to feed ‘Billy’ and then let me take over. I held the bottle down low and straight away Billy latched on! He was drinking so fast that he was almost choking the poor little thing haha…he had to stop for a cough now and then before drinking some more, it was so cute! And yep, he was proper messy…milk was going all over the place….the lawn, all round his chops and splashing down my trousers hah! Billy only drank half the bottle so handing the leftovers back to Jane, she then got the other bottle ready for ‘Joey’

“Right, it’s better if you sit yourself down in the rocking chair and then I’ll put Joey in your arms so you can feed him” Jane then picked the baby Kangeroo up in a nice big snuggly blanket and placed him gently in my arms. Omg, I was lost for words he was so god dam cute! Jane then handed me the bottle and just like Billy, Joey went with it and drank…in fact, he drank and drank and drank until the whole bottle was gone! It was just unbelievably adorable looking down into the eyes of this gorgeous lil Kangeroo awww! It’s such a sad story though…Joey’s mum was killed by a car (which is fairly common over here). They found Joey lingering near her body not knowing what to do with himself so they took him it to look after him. They are planning to release him when he’s older but it may have to be at a sanctuary now as he’ll be too used to humans by then.

Janes husband said normally Joey doesn’t like being around people he doesn’t know but he must have been comfortable with me haha! “You’re a natural Earth mother Helen!” Jane said laughing! After the Kangeroo gobbled all the milk up, I took him outside to let him have a pee! This was so cute because whenever I turned to walk away, Joey followed me! “Go on, do your biz Joey!” I ordered him as though I was his mama haha! But each time I walked off, Joey hopped one, two, three steps after me….I asked Lynne to film it because it was just so adorable haha! After all the fun and excitement of meeting the family (and the farm), we had to leave to go back for dinner so we said our goodbyes and left. Sitting in the back of Lynnes car, I was grinning like a cheshire cat for that is one experience that I will never ever forget!

Wine Tasting….drinking more like! 

The next day, Lynne and Rob took me off to see some of the many wineries in the Hunter Valley, I mean, it had to be done right…I was in Wine Country so it would have been rude not to! Wow, the countryside is just so beautiful around here. You are just surrounded by acres and acres of land purely dedicated for grape growing!

We stopped by 4 wineries and one place where you could try some Hunter Valley cheeses, jams and chutneys which was so yummy! It’s so funny going to these places because of course, you’re only given a tiny amount of wine and you’re standing there thinking “Is that all I get?” haha! But oh my word, by the time I left to get on the train back to Narwee, I actually felt rather sloshed hahah!

Well, I had no idea what wine was what to be honest, I was just more than happy tasting the freebies they were pouring us *hic! No, actually, I rather liked the Chardonnay’s (which would normally be my wine tipple anyway). It was funny trying to be all serious about it though! I was standing there with a flushed faced and probably looking as though I’d stepped out of a cider farm rather than a winery (and probably wobbling a little bit too!) listening to the sales men and women going on about “Full bodied this and crispy that and fresh citrus flavours” I nearly laughed when they came out with the ‘spit bowel’ “Why would we want to waste it?!” I whispered to Lynne and Rob hehe! Lynne was a little sloshed too I think hah! Poor Rob was the dedicated driver so he was stone cold sober! That was such a great afternoon and I’m so chuffed I can tick the vineyards off my list too.

At the end of the day, Lynne and Rob drove me to the train station at Awaba so I could get back to Gemmas in Narwee. It was sad leaving them! They treated me as though I was family! I am so so grateful to them and their kindness and will always keep in touch with them all. Aww they even paid for my train ticket to get back which was so sweet of them. So thank you Lynne, Rob and co….I hope to see you again someday.

Rock on! 

It was an early start the next morning as I had to be up and out for my flight to Alice Springs….yep….my adventure to Ayres Rock 😀

Thanks to Gemma, I only needed to take my small ruck sack so left my (now 19kg) invisible man behind! So a few clothes, hiking boots, torch and camera were the only things I really needed to take with me. As soon as both my alarms went off at 5am (I struggle with getting up at silly o’clocks so need more than one wake up call!), I was up, washed and dressed and then off to grab my train to the domestics airport terminal. 30 minutes later and I’m already checked in and waiting in the departures lounge making use of the free wifi haha! It’s amazing to think that it takes over 3hrs to reach the centre of Australia and if you take a flight from Heathrow for 3hrs you’ll be in another part of Europe! This makes you realise just how big Australia really is so my 4wk trip hasn’t even scratched the surface!

Oh one really embarrassing thing did happen actually….As soon as I’d gone through security (the bit where you put all your gubbins in the plastic trays to be scanned etc), there was a security guy standing at the other end. I was busy scooping up all my belongings and was just abouts to walk on through when I heard a loud authoritative voice booming down at me “Are you ignoring me Miss?” Looking up I could see this huge security man staring at me with a sheet of instructions of some kind and a funny looking plasticy ‘wand’ “Um, no, not at all!” Nervously I approached him to see what he wanted. “Read this” He then shoves this sheet of instructions in my one and only free hand. It basically said I was going to be searched and was I ok with it, oh and that they could take samples if they needed! Well, I had to say yes of course but wondered why I had been selected haha….my imagination was then chattering away ‘Well, I must look dodgy or something’ ‘Perhaps I look like a gangster drug lord’ ! Then that was it……as soon as he was waving his funny plastic wand up, down and over me I went bright red! I think it’s only because I could see other people staring at me and I was wondering what they were thinking haha “Oh look, she’s been pulled up, bet she’s smuggling drugs or something!” Oh dear! While I was being ‘wanded’ I felt I needed to break the awkward silence so I said “I don’t know why, but I feel really nervous!” “Well you shouldn’t be if you’ve nothing to hide!” was the big security dudes response to that! Anyway, he then put the wand into a machine which promptly lit up with a green light which instantly made me feel better….phewie!

The plane journey over to Alice Springs went pretty quick actually and was a nice smooth ride. I flew with Qantas who I would rate 2nd amoung all the other airlines I’ve now flown with (Singapore Airlines are still my number 1) You get fed, watered oh and you also get to watch a movie which helped to pass the time. Most of the time I was staring out the window waiting in anticipation to see the ‘red land’ approaching below. And wow……when we were almost there, yup, there it was…..Planet Mars was now in view! That is exactly how it looked to me! Below I could see mile upon mile of ‘red’ ground and rocks! Blimey, this really is the desert! Then the captain called out to the air crew to get ready for landing and I pretended I was listening to astronauts communication to their space station; “Houston, prepare the rocket for landing”

As soon as I was off the plane, I had to reset my watch to match the new time in Alice Springs….see, this is how big Oz is, even though you’re in the same country, there are still time zone differences! Alice Springs is 30 mins behind Sydney. The heat also hit me as soon as I’d stepped my astronauts foot onto the floor of the red planet (haha….well, it was tarmac at this point!) It was 34 degrees, about 10 degrees hotter than Sydney. Straight away I’d found my free shuttle bus transfer to my hostel (Annie’s Place) and sat waiting for the bus to fill up before it moved on. It’s funny actually because I later found out that the girl I was sitting next to, was indeed a girly on my tour 😀

The bus went round dropping people off at various hostels but finally we reached Annies and 3 of us hopped out. Waiting at reception, I got chatting to the other girls who were also on my very tour! Laura and Anne-Marie were lovely, a german and english girl. Once we’d been given our room numbers, I went and unloaded and then met my other roomies. I was in a 6 bed dorm and thankfully it was a female only one (never have understood mixed sex dorms). Immediately I met 2 more girlies in my room who were on my tour (germans) and I met an Aussie girl called Heidi (however, not on my tour). Within 10 minutes, Heidi and I took a walk into town for lunch and we were also joined by Anne-Marie on the way out. So literally, I’d instantly made new friends within the first 10 mins…that is how easy it can be when you’re travelling 😉

Well, what can I say, Alice Springs really doesn’t have much to offer but that was also the beauty of it! It was fascinating! It made me think of that movie ‘The Hills have Eyes’ haha. Alice Springs is hot, well, very hot, dusty, fairly spread out and not very built up. I found my throat would dry out so quickly but that is probably because I was in a semi-Arizona desert! There were also a lot of Aborigines around too, they were sitting in their groups or lazing about on nearby lawns and benches. In fact, one came up to me begging for 5 dollars the cheeky swine….apparently a lot of them are addicted to alcohol and other ‘highs’ and if they are caught begging they can be fined. I think that’s what us white people introduced them to (or so I’ve been told).

After much exploring and walking around, Heidi, Anne-Marie and I all went back to the hostel to freshen up and get ready for day one of our tour. We met later again for dinner and that’s when I met most of the other group and every single person I met, I loved! What a wicked bunch of like-minded individuals. That’s another reason I love travelling, you just get to meet so many people from all around the globe and it really opens your eyes (and mind) to new cultures etc…I think I can safely say I now have friends around each and every corner of the world (and hopefully lots more places to stay one day when I go travelling again after this trip haha!)

Once everyone had eaten dins, we all went back off to our dorms for bed because we had a super early start in the morning….5.45am to be precise ouch! But saying that, no one got a good nights sleep because Thursday nights at Annie’s are party nights so all of our dorms were filled with house music, banter, laughter and the chinking of pint glasses etc until gone 1am haha! Nevermind, that’s hostels for you to be honest. As soon as our alarms went off, we were up, breakfasted and then met our tour leader out the front. As soon as we were on the bus, most of us then all fell asleep. We had a 3hr journey ahead of us before we reached the actual Red Rock they call Ayres!

Our tour guide Angus, was so cool! Of course, he was an Aussie guy who lived in Alice Springs so he was a fully fledged ‘local’ and knew the place like the ‘out’ back of his hand. “Right, wakey wakey everyone! I’d like you to each grab a coloured pen and draw pictures on your windows. The best decorated window will win alcohol!” Angus enthusiastically shouted over the microphone! I grabbed yellow and pink felt tips and then started drawing typical aussie emblems on the window (Koala’s, crocs, BBQ’s etc). It was quite fun actually and it got everyone mingling. Later on, we all stopped for a toilet and coffee break and got to know each other a bit better. We also ended up buying more provisions for our trip; sun cream, ice cream oh and wine / beers 😉 Oh and guess what I saw in the shop? Obviously you can buy souvenirs etc but I saw a bag of Ayres Rock sand and…..a bag of camel poo! haha….yup. an actual bag of s**t, it was so funny! Imagine coming back and giving that to one of your friends…”Oh, I got you a s**t present!” LOL!

Back on the bus, Angus asked us to each sit up at the front and introduce ourselves on the microphone…he’d already set us questions such as; Name, age, places already travelled to, best place we’ve been to so far oh and what super powers would we have? Well, for my super power, I said I’d wish for a matrix style power….you know, the one where you could plug your mind into a machine and tap in what you wanted to know be it a new language or how to fly a helicopter and then within minutes, your mind would be saturated with the knowledge of your chosen new skill! 🙂 That seemed to go down well with the group anyways haha.

It was just amazing staring out the window. We spotted wild and free running (or hopping) Kangeroo’s too which was fantastic! You forget they are wild here because you are so used to seeing them in zoo’s right? But the main thing you see is literally miles and miles of red dusty ‘plains’, dry looking bushes and the odd trees, plus the roads are some of the longest and straightest I’ve ever seen…..welcome to the desert haha! We soon stopped again for some firewood. Angus asked us all to do our ‘gathering’ bit and find suitable wood for our campfire that evening. “You want good wood that is fairly thick and almost as long as you are” Sounds easy enough, so off we all went sourcing wood. We spotted a fair few lizards (no snakes sadly) and managed to get a whole bundle of wood. Angus tied it all up and plonked it on the top of the bus to take back to camp.

Ayres Rock Sunset 

Tired, hot and sweaty, we’d finally reached our camp. Straight away Angus was getting everything set up and the camp fire ready to light for when darkness fell upon us. “Right everyone, once we’ve unpacked, we’ll sit and have some lunch and then we’ll go for a walk around Ayres Rock. Later on we’ll go and watch the sunset together and toast with Champagne and biscuits. When we get back to camp we’ll prepare Camel patties and Kangeroo steaks for dinner, how does that sound?” Angus then paused allowing us to all shout “WOO HOO!” Camel and Kangeroo haha! Well, c’mon, when you’re in the outback, you’ve gotta try these things right!

So off we went to Ayres Rock! Wow! I really have landed on Mars haha! There it was, right in front of us, the famous red rock itself! “Rifght everyone, grab yourselves some water because you will need it! Don’t let yourselves get dehydrated especially as we’ll be drinking later!” Good old Angus, he really did look after us all out there. So we filled our water bottles up and then took a walk over to the rock to start our trek. I’m not sure of the kilometres but we must have walked for about an hour and a half. It was just incredible! You could even still see aboriginal paintings inside the walls of the rock! Angus was so knowledgeable and taught us how the aborigines lived and how they would hunt etc…there were even certain crevasses of the rock where the abbo’s would sit and cook, hang out or even teach their children how to hunt. Some of us placed our hands on the rock and took a picture of well….our hands on the rock haha just to show we’d touched it! Angus told us that some people even lick it which is pretty gross hey! I loved it…here I was, walking around Ayres Rock in the middle of the desert with fab new people AND getting an education out of it too. And the other thing that fascinated me was the fact the Abbo’s never wasted a thing….each and every plant was a tool of somekind, be it for medicine, making weapons, clothing or material, just amazing! For example, one plant (which sounds like The Yipe Yipe plant) was pretty cool. You’d cut open one of the stems and a thick white liquid would ooze out. This would have been used to ‘glue’ wounds together or even as a nasty punishment…..if an Abbo had betrayed his / her tribe (or just been naughty in general), you could end up with this glue in your eyes which would cause a 2-3 day blindness! It get worse, they’d then dump you in the desert and force you to find your own way back in your blind state, strewth! They had pretty nasty punishments you know but they believed they had to be harsh so you wouldn’t fall out of line again! Another punishment would be to get you to stand so many metres in front of the tribe and you’d be shot at by spears! ‘Dance Abbo, dance!’ Wouldn’t fancy being an Abbo myself haha!

Oh there was also a cultural centre that we had a walk round too. It was basically like a mini museum where you could learn more about the lives of the Aborigines, see the weapons they’d made for hunting as well as all the various plants and medicines they’d use etc….as I mentioned before, nothing was wasted, everything the land produces is used up!

After we’d had a good walk round, it was time to head off for the sunset woo hoo! Pulling into the ‘sunset point’, our eyes were suddenly staring at crowds of other visitors! It’s funny because in the desert, you almost feel as though you’re all on your todd, you only see your group really but as soon as you’d reach the ‘touristy’ bits, you’re suddenly with the masses again hah! So, out came the champers, biccies and dips and then we waited. The sun doesn’t take long to go down in the desert, before you know it you are suddenly surrounded by a blanket of darkness so we knew we wouldn’t have to wait for long. But there it was…, just breathtaking! A mix of purpley blues would slowly transform the sky and blend into deep oranges and pinks through to firey crimson reds. The rock itself seemed to change colour with the sunset which was absolutely gobsmackingly beautiful! Photographs just don’t seem to capture the beauty of sunsets really do they! Once we were in total darkness and the champers had all been downed (of course ;)), we all headed back to camp for our camel burgers and kangeroo steaks. And do you know what….they actually tasted gobblicious 😀

Before we got into our swags for bed, I found out Angus actually had the same camera as me (Canon 7D) so I asked him if we could all ‘paint with light’. That was great fun! There we all were drawing our names in the skies with torches and generally mucking about and having fun with it haha! Later on around the campfire, we unrolled our swags for bed. Swags are literally thick sleeping bags with a soft padding inside (so like a mattress) and oh boy are they comfy! They are super cosy and nice and warm. All laying on our backs and staring up at the stars, we all screamed with delight when we saw a shooting star “Make a wish, make a wish!” * Sighs, that moment still gives me goosebumps! We could even see the milky way! It really felt like we were all in a movie haha. I couldn’t help but say goodnight to everyone in the style of the Waltons, “Goodnight Mary-Jane” then of course everyone giggled and followed the theme, “Goodnight John Boy!”  Some of us were worried about bugs getting into our swags during the night but Angus said the camp fire would keep the nasties away. We tried not to worry about what would happen once the fire went out haha but actually as soon as my head hit the pillow, the champers (and wine!) soon knocked me out and do you know what….that was the best nights sleep 😉

Kata Tjuta

So it’s another early start, 5am ouch! It was freezing first thing and of course still being dark, we were all fumbing around with our torches hah. Breakfasted, washed and swags rolled up, we were off to see the sunrise over Ayres Rock and Kata Tjuta which was just across the way from Ayres Rock. It was absolutely stunning to see the rocks go from dark to grey to a deep red before turning to their usual burnt and dusty orangey colour! We then drove round to Kata Tjuta to start our 2nd day of trekking. Kata Tjuta is a much larger and more spread out rock formation and is simply magnificent! We spent hours trekking around (and through) the Valley of the Winds as they call them. Oh and I also spotted a little bearded dragon too which was another highlight for me hah! Phew, it was stinking hot and again the heat and dust gave us all that dry feeling in our throats. We must have all drunk at least 1.5 litres during that trek. Angus was nagging us all to keep the fluids up, he would joke that he didn’t want to fill out any ‘paperwork’ you see haha! One thing we noticed is just how dirty you get trudging through the desert. All our clothes and hiking boots were covered in red dust and actually, the people wearing shorts were getting red smudgy legs – the dust would just cling to every little drop of sweat, nice!

With most of the day trekked away, we then drove back to camp for lunch of sausages, sarnies and left over camel and kangeroo meat, gobble gobble! We then had to pack up our stuff to move onto our next campsite – Kings Creek Station.

This camp was pretty cool! We unloaded and once again got our swags out and prepped the campfire for later. There were more facilities at this camp too….yup, they had a pool yipeee! So we all hung in and out of the pool and generally mingled and had a great time. Angus prepared a ‘damper’ cake for us too! It was basically a bread choccy cake that you make in a small pot –  you bury the bread under hot coals and slow cook it I guess and oh my word that was so yummy!

Once darkness fell upon us, the drinking began and the portable speaker was cranked up and the bread cake was gobbled! At bedtime, I laid on my back again so I could drift off looking up at the stars because I knew I may not have that chance to do it again haha! I didn’t actually sleep so good that night for some reason. I remember looking up at thinking “Oh my god, where am I? Who stole the roof!?” haha! Plus there was a super noisy cricket right next to my ear chirping away for most of the night keeping me awake the cheeky lil thing hah!

Kings Canyon

Our third and final early start! It was a rush to get all packed up, loaded up and rolled up but back on the bus we were headed out for our final trek. Angus saved the best to last in my opinion ….The Kings Canyon.

This place is absolutely spectacular! Words will not be able to describe the sheer beauty of this place! The Kings Canyon is HUGE (hence the name I guess!) You are surrounded by cliiff tops and sheer drops! It may not be too wise for someone with a fear of heights to embark on this trek haha. Well, I know I’m not afraid of heights but I kid you not, we stopped to look over one cliff edge and even I felt wobbly! I think it’s your bodies natural reaction to stay away from such dangers though.

I loved it here. The walk was approx 5.5km and took us about 3.5hrs to trek round. This was such an experience and do you know what, I imagined that this must be what the Grand Canyon looks like? Who knows, maybe that’ll be my next stop one day haha.

At the start of the trek you are faced with what they call ‘Heart Attack Hill’ and oh my goodness, it is SO steep! That took us about 20 minutes to clear. But just as you think it’s gotten flat, the cliff soon gets your legs working again and drags you onwards and upwards, good exercise though! We trekked the North and South Walls and also saw the Garden of Eden which was like a small lake in the dip of the mountains, just breath taking! We even saw wild bright vivid green budgies swooping down for a dip! When we reached Pride rock (yup, the Lion Kings rock!) we all stood at the edge and posed and that was pretty hair-raising I tell thee!

Coming to the end of our trek, it was then sadly time to head back to Alice Springs. Angus put ‘our camp tune’ on the radio and we played a trivia to keep us entertained on the way back to the hostel.

Before we reached Alice Springs though, Angus pulled into a Camel Farm! That was great fun, For 7 dollars you could get a camel ‘run’ yep, a ‘run’. I didn’t fancy it myself as Angus explained some of the camels have bucked before, gulp! But it was fun watching a few of the others being thrown about hehe!

Ayres Rock after party! 

Finally getting back to Annie’s Place, we all got freshened up and glammed up for our leaving party. We’d actually bought Angus a thank you card earlier in the day so we presented this to him over dinner.

“Hey Angus, who won the window decorating competition?” I shouted over everyone. “Yehhh Angus, who won?” A mass chorus of excited chants were thrown back over to Angus. “Oh, do you know what, I say you all win so I’ll buy you all a shot and a few jugs of cider” “YIPPPEEEE!!” Then the drinking began and continued on until the wee small hours of the morning!

It was hard saying goodbye to everyone. Even though it had only been 3 days, we’d actually all gotten pretty close to each other. I’m so SO happy I did this mini trip. Once more, I’ve been privileged to meet such FAB and fun people and see another part of the world!

Monday morning I checked myself out and headed off to the airport for my flight back to Sydney. And there was about 5 others from my group also on the same flight back as me so we all managed to sit near each other for our way back which was cool 🙂

Next move

So another adventure ticked off and another country conquered….well almost! I’m not done with you yet Oz, I was just getting into the swing of it all but will now be whizzing off to Bali. Not quite sure what I’ll be doing there yet but I know one thing for sure – a massage will be the first thing I do hahah!

So thank you for having me Australia, ❤ ya!  I have a feeling our paths will cross again…..Adieu for now  😉

I will leave you with ‘our camp tune’ to listen to 😀

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