Australia Part 4 – Great Inland Road

April 7, 2008 at 10:19 am | Posted in Australia | 1 Comment
January 30 – February 8…………… 11 days

With our Great Barrier Reef adventure under our belts, we took a big sigh and headed for our long, long, long drive back to Sydney. 1,800 miles to go. There was heaps (Aussie for “lots”) to see on the way up but we were not sure what was in store for us on the way back. Our plan was to follow the Great Inland Route (there are only a handful of recommended, paved routes). It was not far enough inland to be truly considered the Outback but far enough inland to be considered The Bush. With all of the flash floods, heat warnings and huge expanses of deserted land, we opted to not venture too far inland.

Our first stop was at a town not far from Cairns that had a lot of shops and, more importantly, a bat rescue center. Our boys had grown quite fond of flying foxes during our adventure in Australia and were anxious to get a closer look. Down a small pathway, a generous lady houses dozens of bats that have either been injured or orphaned or stuck on fences. She rescues them and takes care of them until they are ready to be reacclimated to the wild. She held a variety of bats for us to look at closely. She held them upside-down, as they prefer, and fed them cookies. She explained that despite their name, their closes relatives are primates and that they are very smart. She walked over to the cage containing all of the hanging bats and called “Tilly!” and sure enough, one single bat eased her way from the middle of the cage rung by rung with her feet and walked, upside-down, over to the lady. The bat knew it’s name and the other bats knew they were being spoken to and didn’t budge from their hanging perch. The flying fox had the cutest furry face and deep, dark eyes and nudged around looking for cookies. It resumed it’s vampire-like position with its wings symmetrically covering its body. For us, all evil connotations were permanently thrown out the window.

We were impressed with the amount of recycling that Australia does. Wherever there was a public trash bin, right beside it was a recycling bin. All of the streets and sidewalks were 100% litter-free. All of the toilets used low flush and motels encouraged their guests to leave glass, paper, and cans aside for proper disposal. Australia being an isolated destination, needs to be careful of how it uses it resources and needs to vigorously protect its unique wildlife. The customs folks nearly confiscated our grass baskets from Africa as they may have contained miniscule mites but we got away with a good dousing of spray instead.

When we spied a group of kangaroos from afar at a golf course, we knew we might be in a good place to get up close and personal with these giant mice. Up until now, we had not seen them in the wild. We read about a good campground with cabins nearby so we headed for it. Tourism was low in these parts due to recent floodings but there was no rain in sight and we were one of only a few guests at this huge campground – or so we thought. After selecting our sight, we were surrounded by about 30 kangaroos and wallabies hopping around the campground. It was such a treat to be alone with these strange creatures. They were very cute and came complete with joeys to make our encounter that much more special. Kangaroos are big while wallabies are smaller and prettier. To further accentuate our outdoor adventure, Kookaburras were everywhere flitting from tree to tree overhead. We hadn’t seen one of these large birds in the wild either. We couldn’t believe our luck. We slept in strange pod-shaped plastic huts to the sounds of the Australian bush and woke to an outback-style breakfast outside where we cooked our toast over fire and sat on logs while eating our oats. The boys loved it.

We had to hit the road again and dodge the enormous “road trains” that barrelled past us every 20 miles. They were huge trucks hauling 4 cars carrying coal. The whole car would shudder and shake when they rolled past us. We think we counted 74 tires on these road trains. After the kangas and kookaburras, that was about all the excitement there was for a few days. Just the road and more road and more road. We did see beautiful parrots along the way and a flock of emus here and there but otherwise, the infamous long stretches of Australian highway was what we saw. There was lots of time for pondering so we had to answer some hard questions like “What are eyeballs made of?” and “Can people run faster than the wind?” and “Do germs have germs?” We listened to My Father’s Dragon and watched the beautiful country scenes pass by dotted with old windmills, purple fields, horses, crops, and towns that were a potpourri of saloon-style buildings, victorian hotels, and non-descript motels that we called home.

After spending a couple of nights in the Australian country music capital of Tamworth for some good barbeque and to watch a depressing Superbowl (yes, it was televised in Australia), we finally made it to Sydney and without reservations, needed to go around door to door looking for a place to stay in the outskirts in a town called Manley. Everything was extraordinarily expensive or booked so we ended up in a backpacker-style place (ie flimsy beds, old furniture, no soap, don’t look in corners) type of place. Ughh. We spent the days in Sydney returning the car, going to the museum, touring the Opera House and strolling through the botanical gardens decorated with flying foxes in the trees. We mailed home yet another box of collected trinkets and felt that our adventure in Australia had been successful and worth every mile.

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  1. Ha, “depressing Superbowl”, it was one happy happy day for us ‘G-MEN’ or if you prefer ‘BIG-BLUE’ GIANT fans. Better luck next year, maybe it’s karma for the “Spygate” issue.


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