Going Outback

Tomorrow morning I leave for three days in the bush. I’ll be sleeping outside under the stars. This three day trip was cheaper than a two day trip, so I figured “why not?” I get back on Friday and I hope to be in Singapore by Monday. As far as I can tell, flights to Darwin are about the same price as a bus trip. The train is cheaper, but it only leave Alice on Mondays and Thursdays.

I’ve just uploaded the last of my Western and South Australia photos. It took forever given the bandwidth in Alice Springs, but I managed to finish it. Most of the photos are from the Pinnacle Desert and Coober Pedy.

I’m also working on a Seven Wonders of Japan project with Neil Duckett, an Australian living in Tokyo. If you’ve been to Japan, take the time to vote. The results will be published here when the voting is done.

Also, if you haven’t, take a moment to check out my other website: Where On Google Earth. It is a game where you try to guess places on Earth from Google Earth images. Some are easy, some are hard.

Alice Springs

I’ve made it to Alice Springs. From Coober Pedy to Alice Springs was about 850km (510 mi). In that distance there were zero towns, cities, villages or communities on the road. None. There were three road houses where you could buy fuel, but that’s it. North of Alice Springs it is pretty much the same. It is 1500km (900 mi) from Darwin, which is probably the closest real hospital.

I know I’ve spoke of this before during my drive through West Australia, but it is hard to fathom just how vast and empty the middle of Australia is. Between Alice Springs and the Indian Ocean there is probably only one or two paved roads, and that is about 1,300 miles away (2000km). Near Coober Pedy, there is a cattle station which is larger than the nation of Belgium, and yet it can only support 2000 head of cattle because the land is so dry and barren.

The Todd River in Alice Springs has no water in it. Zero. It is totally dry. (The locals joke the water is so clear, you can see the bottom of the river.)

Yet, Alice Springs really is sort of an oasis. There are trees here and while there isn’t much water, there is at least some water.

With only 25,000 people, the town may be small, but it is by far the largest in the outback. It is home to the Royal Flying Doctors, which services the outback, and the school of the air, which is a school for kids living in the outback. It used to use two-way radio, but now uses satellite internet connections.

Depending on what Uluru tour I take, I may take the train to Darwin.

Despite being so remote, I was able to see The Dark Knight last night in a theater here. I was sort of surprised they had it.

Cya Coober Pedy

I’m off to Alice Springs tomorrow at 5:30am. The bus schedules out there are really odd.

I took a lot of photos and video the last few days and hope to be editing them over the next few days. Coober Pedy is a very unique place. I’m having a hard time trying to explain everything which is here, why it exists, and trying to capture the place.

Some fun facts which you’ll hear about in a future podcast:

  • 65% of the population here lives underground.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome as filmed here, as was Percilla Queen of the Desert and several other movies with a post apocalyptic theme. If you are looking for desolate waste land, Coober Pedy is your place.
  • I got to go out with an opal miner for an afternoon. All the mines here are operated by individuals, each staking out their own claim. It is one of the last spots in the world where people mine like this.
  • My knowledge of opals comes from one day in a lab for my mineralogy class. All I knew before coming here was that opals are technically not a mineral as they are amorphous. Opals might now be my favorite gemstone. I am particularly fond of Boulder opals from Queensland. If I had a girlfriend, she’d have a ton jewelry now. Not only Australian opals, but Tahitian Black Pearls, and Hawaiian Olivine (my favorite mineral).
  • The people in Coober Pedy are some of the most interesting characters you’ll ever find. Legend has it that Crocodile Dundee was modeled after Crocodile Harry, a croc hunter from NT who moved to Coober Pedy. They filmed some of the Mad Max scenes at his house.

All I have left on my Australian schedule is Uluru (Ayers Rock). I can’t believe my planned two months in Australia turned into six. Especially consider how expensive it is here.

Many readers of this site have probably only been reading since I’ve been in Australia. I may be sounding like a broken record, but I’m a really looking forward to South East Asia.

Coober Pedy

I’ve left Adelaide and am now in Coober Pedy, South Australia.

This town is……unique. The place i’m stayin is 15 feet underground. Many of the buildings here are underground, built by miners looking for opal. The town sort of looks like Tatooine from Star Wars.

My bus arrived at 5am and I slept until 11am. It is easy to lose track of time when you can’t see the sun.

I’ll be here for two days shooting some podcast video, then I’m off to Uluru and Alice Springs.

Adelaide

I’m currently in Adelaide, South Australia. The last state in my (long) tour of Australia.

The weather the last few days has been overcast, cold and rainy. Nonetheless, I like the city of Adelaide. The area of town I’m staying is near Chinatown and it is loaded with tons of restaurants of all sorts.

I wish the weather was better so I could better experience the city. I’d say that it is my favorite city in Australia so far, save for Melbourne. The city is laid out in a grid, so you don’t see any roundabouts (which is fine by me). The city of Adelaide proper looks as if it is a big square surrounded by parks when you look at it on a map.

In addition to the resaturants, there seems to be a very vibrant arts scene here. Lots of theater and music.

I’ll be renting a car to visit some places outside of town, then making the trek up to Uluru. I might do another Margaret River type excursion as well.

I ate dinner last night as a Brazilian steak house, which is the first time I’ve ever done that. It wasn’t a really fancy place, but it was some of the best beef I’ve had since I was in Buenos Aires several years ago. I’ve been eating much better in Adelaide if for no other reason than the food in the neighborhood is so much better.

Episode 3 – Stromatolites

In this episode, I look at some of the most boring creatures on Earth….Stromatolites.

Remember to subscribe on iTunes and leave some comments. A lot of people only discover podcasts through iTunes. Subscribing and leaving comments will help people find it.

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Bye Bye Perth

What the hell have I’ve been up to the last week you might be asking? There has been steady stream of photos but nothing in the form of text, or details of my adventures.

I got back from Margaret River and spent the last several days working on editing some of the video I took. Hopefully, you should see the results of it very soon. I’m very excited.

Tomorrow I fly from Perth to Adelaide, where I visit my final Australian state: South Australia. My plan for Adelaide is to drive to to Naracote, a World Heritage site about 200 miles out of Adelaide and the Barossa wine region. I’ll then hop up to visit Uluru to close out my Australian adventure.

I’ve also just been suffering from good old writers block. As I’ve stated before, I’m suffering from Australia fatigue and am looking forward to a change of venue. Got to keep moving….

Margaret River Runs Deep

I’m sitting in a bar in Margaret River, Western Australia enjoying the only free wifi I’ve found in Australia outside of the Cairns International Terminal. That is not an exaggeration in the slightest. This is the only place in the entire country.

I’ve come to Margaret River with a single objective, which I haven’t achieved yet and I’m not going to leave here until it is done. If I have to stay a few more days, then so be it. Its a very nice town. If I have to compare it to anyplace I’ve been before, I’d have to say it is like Door County, Wisconsin. Lots of small shops, nice restaurants, and rather touristy (but not in a big way). It is the low season for tourists so finding a table or a room isn’t too hard.

The hostel I’m staying at is surprisingly full, however. It is full of 20-somethings who are here to prune in the vineyards. I’ve noticed that Australian agriculture relies somewhat heavily on the young European tourist crowd to work a lot of its field work. I saw the same thing in Mildura, where there were tons of Europeans who would do day labor in local fields picking fruit. I’m told if you work for three months, you can get an extension on your visa for an additional year.

The weather here is cool and rainy. Nonetheless, people here are still surfing. This is about as winter as it gets here. For someone who has tried to avoid winter, I’m experiencing my third one since my trip started.

My stomach ache has returned. It isn’t something with my body. It is definitely something with my digestion. It happens when I eat certain foods, but I’ve never been able to put a finger on what exactly causes it. I get a sharp pain in my abdomen, which I’m assuming is caused by a gas build up in my stomach, because I have to burp all the time when it happens. When it is really bad, the pressure can cause pains in my back. It eventually passes as the food moves out of my stomach. It isn’t in intestinal thing either, it is definitely in my stomach.

I’ve been pretty productive the last few days, taking advantage of the free wifi at this bar. I’ve processed and uploaded almost all of my photos from the Darwin-Perth drive. I’ve added about 160 photos to the Western Australia collection, including some photos of humpback whales I saw in Exmouth (or at least their back and tails). I always let my photos pile up and always have to catch up in a marathon Photoshop session.

Episode 2 – The Tropic of Capricorn

As I was driving through the outback of Australia, I drove past this sign. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass, so I pulled over the van and did an impromptu podcast. If you ever wondered why the tropics are the tropics, now you’ll know.

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