Newsletter 7: Fall Break Trip to the Northern Territory
April 9, 2000

G'day mates! How is everyone doing? Now that I'm back in wonderful
rainy Townsville, I figured I'd take the time to tell you all about my
great lecture recess to the Northern Territory in Australia....the only
other state that I haven't been to now is Tasmania!

So, the first day was a pretty uneventful day, I just got on a plane and
headed out to Alice Springs....right in the middle of Australia. Let me
tell you....I really felt like I was in the middle of nowhere flying out
there. There is nothing around for miles that you can see!! So, I
landed in Alice and went to check in at my hostel. I was a little
worried at first because the guy checking me in had this huge snake
wrapped around his arm as he was checking me in!!! But it ended up
being a pretty cool place, it was clean and the people were really nice.

The next day (Saturday) I spent bumming around Alice seeing what little
there is to see in the tiny town. I climbed Anzac Hill at the end of
town and from the top of the hill got a pretty cool look of the town.
Alice itself is surrounded by the MacDonell Ranges through which you
have to pass to get in and out of Alice. After that I just walked
around seeing what culture the town had to offer and looked at a couple
of the Aboriginal art galleries and was shocked at how much everything
cost!! On my way back to the hostel in the afternoon I stopped by the
Royal Flying Doctor airbase to have a look around. It was an
interesting thing to learn about. For those of you who don't know what
the Royal Flying Doctor is, it was set up to provide medical assistance
to those people who are isolated in the outback of Australia. These
people can now phone or radio to the flying doctor base closest to them
and if necessary they will fly out there and pick you up and transport
you to the nearest hospital. There are now 13 bases set up on Australia
with the newest one being completed in Darwin so no area is left
uncovered! That evening I went on a camel ride down the Todd River
bed. Now, in the outback they have only 2 seasons....wet and dry.
Therefore there rivers only ever have water in them for approximately
one week each year. So, if you were wondering why I could go for a walk
down the river bed, it's because it is normally dry. My camel's name
was Numry and it was pretty cool to see life from the back of a camel.
They are much softer to the touch than you would think by looking at
them. After that we had a delicious steak dinner cooked for us.

On Sunday I left at 6:30 in the morning to head off down to Yulara.
After driving for about 4 1/2 hours we finally made it to Ayer's Rock
Resort. And the minute we pulled in you could see Ayer's Rock looming
in the distance. It's a pretty cool site to see....I mean I knew it was
big and all, but I didn't expect it to be THAT big!:-) After we set up
camp and had lunch we went for a hikes in Kate Tjuta or the Olgas. They
are a big mountain rock like formation made up of 36 domes. We were
only allowed to walk through a couple of the domes though because the
Aboriginals hold that place very sacred so they don't want tourists
going through their sacred ancestral spaces. That evening was finished
off by watching the sunset over Ayer's Rock or Uluru as the Aborignies
call it. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy, so there was nothing too
spectacular to be seen.

Monday morning saw an early 5 am start and we were off and hiking around
the base of Ayer's Rock to see the sun rise that morning. The sunrise
made up for the the not so spectacular sunset. The walk around the base
took a long time seeing as though it's 10km around!! But it was quite a
nice and peaceful walk with many interesting things to see along the
way. A lot of the rock cannot be photographed because they are sacred
aboriginals sites and they do not wish for their to be pictures of these
floating around. Several people climbed the rock after that, but I for
one chose not too. While yes it would have been cool to see, the
aboriginals really do not want tourists climbing the rock because in
their ancestral days the males climbed it as part of their ceremony and
they feel that when you climb it you are walking over their footsteps.
Therefore, I thought it was best to honor their wishes by not climbing
it, that and it was a really long way up there!!:-) All along the base
of the rock are many of the caves that the aboriginies used for shelter
and there is still some remants of their rock drawings that they used as
teaching purposes. That evening we drove another 5 hours away to
King's Creek cattle station where we camped for the night.

Tuesday morning saw another early rise and we were out hiking King's
Canyon as the sun came up. It was quite a hike. It was a 5 km hike all
up and down hills and over rocks, plus it was hot!! But the view from
the top of the canyon was really cool. You had to lie down on the edge
to look down into the bottom of it because it was a sheer 80 meter drop
or something like that. At the bottom was what they called the garden
of Eden because it's a little rainforest pool in the midst of all the
rock. It was quite a beautiful place, one of my favorites of the trip I
think. That night it was back to Alice for one last night.

On Wednesday since my flight didn't leave until the afternoon, I went
out to the MacDonnell Ranges to have a look around. They were really
pretty, but there wasn't all that much to see. Then that evening I flew
up to Darwin where it was really hot and really sticky! The humidity
was so high it was very hard to breathe coming off the plane.

I left early the next morning to head out to Kakadu National Park. It's
a really pretty area with lots of aboriginal rock art to see. We did a
couple hikes through the woods and looked at rock formations, mountains,
and rock art. Then we did a cruise of the Yellow Waters and spotted a
crocidile along with some really pretty birds and wild flowers. It also
poured on us on the way back so I got absolutley soaked!!! That night I
took a shower with so many was really gross but a good
learning experience for me to commune with wildlife. And for those of
you who understand this....the spiders in the showers were worse than
Alodie's Undara one and there were 3 of them! Yuck!!

The next morning we drove down to Katherine and spent a good part of the
day just down at Katherine gorge taking a cruise down the gorge, looking
at rock art and swimming. Unfortunately we only go to see one of the
gorges because the water level was too high to go into the other gorge
and the other gorge is supposed to be the most spectacular. Oh
well....that's life I guess.

The next day on our way back to Darwin we spent the day looking around
at abandoned gold mines, saw Charlie the Buffalo star of Crocidile
Dundee 1 and 2, and looked at many of the waterfalls in Litchfield
National park and saw huge termite mounds. Then it was back to Darwin
where I promptly went to bed because I was up at 3 am this morning to
catch the bus into the airport for my 5:30 flight. Fun stuff.

It's good to be back in the sense that I was getting really tired of
living out of my suitcase, but kinda sad that my travelling is over. I
really enjoyed all of my trip....had a lot of fun, saw many cool sites
and met many interesting people. I'd do it again if I had to now that I
know I can survive!:-) But, now it's back to the books seeing as though
I have a test coming up on Wednesday and a lab report due on Thursday.
Getting baack to reality is never fun;-) Okay, that's all for
now....hope to hear from you all soon with updates on YOUR life!! And
for those of you who I haven't heard from in would be nice
to know that you are alive and well...thanks!:-)

Love, Michelle