The Desert Venturer
Trip Start Mar 04, 2004
77Trip End Jul 02, 2005
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Where I stayed
The journey itself was 2067km in 3 days, through a bit of tropical rainforst, over the Atherton tablelands and across a vast stretch of outback. Outback some locals calls 'the Dead Centre' a play on the popular name 'the Red Centre'. Up at 5:45 am on the 10th of April and at the bus stop I eyed up those I would be travelling with. I knew I would soon be chatting with them, making quick friends, hearing about their lives and passions. This is pretty much the way all tours in Australia go and its one of the best bonuses of travelling.
On our way out of Cairns a rainbow came out over the Daintree rainforest, a good omen and nice send-off
In the afternoon, after the radiator overheated once, we walked Porcupine Gorge, which looks like a micro-Grand Canyon. The sandstone had been worn into wondrous wavy shapes giving the whole valley floor a 'soft' feeling. We spent the night at the Hugenden Grand Hotel. Myself and Josh from Saskatoon ended up in the rooms out the back of the hotel. These we christened the "Serial-Killer Rooms" They had eerie green lights, ramshackle construction and on the whole I felt like I had just walked onto a set for a bad horror movie. The bar in the hotel certainly had character though. One wall was completely covered in bras, panties and fake plastic breasts. There were also various mannequins stuck up on the ceiling and other bizarre, paraphenalia.
Well I survived the Grand Hotel and was aboard the bus watching "American Wedding" by 6:50am the next morning
For lunch it was up to the Caleston Station, one of the bigger stations in Australia. You can't get onto this station without being on the tour so that was a cool perk. We saw the Three Sister rock formation, had a BBQ, and checked out some Aboriginal cave painting in a gorge. The highlight was when Brian from Ohio found an 8-foot python. There was only 4 of us left looking at the rock paintings and the snake had been coiled quietly behind us. It was digesting something big, it looked like it had swallowed an infant but was probably a rock wallaby or some other poor marsupial. The snake was too full to move and just hissed at us while we happily snapped photos.
After stopping at Australia's smallest bar we rolled into Wirriyerna Station for the night. Me, Brian, the Swiss couple and Bryony from York were quick to snap up the swags so that we could be ones to sleep outside under the stars. I managed some ood sunset shots and am beginning to think I will have a sustantial collection of beautiful sunset shots by the time I return to Canada. Our group was treated to a big meal, some didgideroo playing and got to play with the family pets. I note this because the pets included two baby lambs, two full grown pigs, and half-grown kangaroo and a little joey (baby kangaroo). It was an overload of cuteness. It was also Easter so we shared around chocolate eggs and other goodies. Once everyone else was in bed I wandered out onto the station and lay watching the stars. I saw three shooting stars and heard an emu calling in the night
The next day we stopped for morning tea at Tobermorey station, which is 1.8 MILLION acres. And its only the fifth or sixth largest station in Australia. The station is bigger than many European countries. Soon after came my highlight for the day, which was seeing a herd of 25 wild camels. So cool. We were able to get out of the bus and snap lots of pics. They are massive here in the outback and the Arabs pay extradinary money to import for their camel races. I reckon a male camel is actually the biggest land animal I have ever seen in the wild.
Later we saw some huge termite mounds our guide estimated were 130 years old. He could tell by the height, which was 4m for the biggest one. That's a whole lotta building for some itty-bitty insects.
Everything in the land and vegetation of the outback speaks of struggle. The few trees are stunted and gnarled, the other plants are dry and rough, and the cattle are big but haggard looking. There is much life to be found in the driest areas of Australia, as our guide Bernie pointed out, but its never life that has it easy. We also stopped at an Aboriginal community, which I found sadly reminicent of a Canadian First Nations reservation. Pretty run-down, pretty neglected.
Eventually the Macdonald Ranges came into view my first excursion into the Australian outback came to an end. We checked into Melanka's, the biggest hostel in the not-very-big town of Alice Springs. I made it through another post-tour piss-up, this time by avoiding the demon drink too much in favour of about 3 hours hard-out dancing. I fully recommend the Desert Venturer to anyone going between Cairns and Alice Springs.