A glance in the rearview mirror (Australia)

IMG_2231

Wow. It has happened, half a year has passed and my Australia visa will expire soon. Therefore, this will be the last post about Australia (from this trip ;)).

My last month here, I have spent in Melbourne. I’d never have thought before that I would choose a cold place from where you can’t see the ocean (only if you take a tram for 15 or 30 min). I much rather saw myself somewhere, where it’s hot and where I can surf every day. But Melbourne quickly gained a special place in my heart with its awesome architecture, delicious coffee and food, art, markets and perhaps also the similarity to NYC. Plus, a friend offered me to stay at his place which made a lot of things much easier for me. I thought I’d have some more time to sightsee but the second day I arrived, I found a job distributing flyers for a restaurant and after working my first shift, I also got offered a job as a waitress. So, from then on, I distributed fliers on weekdays and helped in the restaurant on the weekends. The pay was very bad but I just wanted to do it for the experience and to have something that covers my expenses at the moment. A good side effect was that I met more really nice people. It’s sad that I already have to say goodbye again now.

10301934_10152163266550740_8919375341588689059_n

One of my colleagues told me about this 10day introductory yoga course at his yoga center. So, for the past 9 days I’ve been trying different classes at Power Living. I never thought I’d be the yoga type, since I always thought that it was probably more on the spiritual and less on the physical side. But I was proven wrong and have to say that I love it!

I recently found this quote about traveling or life in general.

So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.
Alex Garland

In Australia, I really tried to live up to this. To just say ‘yes’ and go for something I’ve never done before or only knew little about. Especially, when I wouldn’t be able to do it back at home. The outcome were many adventures, a broader horizon and all these nice people, I’m so glad I got to meet. And I’m so thankful that somebody always seemed to be there when I needed a ride, a mechanic, a guy to carry my suitcase upstairs or carry me over a water puddle ;), a place to stay or help in any other way. Thank you!

IMG_3675

The two downsides of my travels here were that the medical system of Australia is sooo complicated, especially for foreigners and that I wasted way too much time at the Peterpans Travel Agency, because it always took them so long to get something done. Like I said, the trips were great but I was beginning to think that I should have booked them separately and not all of them with Peterpans. But in the end, I’m glad I did the tours I did with the people who were on them!

Several times I have been asked what my favorite place was. It’s such a difficult question but I tried to make a few lists.

Colors of Karinjini

Colors of Karinjini

Nature:

  1. Karinjini NP (Amazing gorges with rocks in beautiful reds and oranges and clear green blue water as a contrast. The hikes there involved swimming and climbing and therefore were very entertaining. The nights on the wild campsites were beautiful and driving on the outback roads during the day was a lot of fun (although it was a torture for my car and covered everything we owned in red dust.)
  2. Kakadu NP and Lichtfield NP (Waterfalls and swimming holes, WOW!!)
  3. The Blue Mountains (so close to Sydney but such awesome views and beautiful waterfalls)
  4. Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays. The whole sailing trip was fun.
  5. Diving at the Great Barrier Reef
  6. Sunsets on long, straight empty roads, surrounded by nature (and the stars at night at these deserted places, wow!,for example in the Nullabor and in the NT)
IMG_5096

Lichtfield NP

IMG_3407

Blue Mountains

And then aaaaaaall the other incredible places..the Pinnacles and Natures Window in WA, the high trees in Pemberton, Lake McKenzie and the rest of Fraser Island, Devil’s Marbles, Mataranka Springs, Wilson’s Prom in Victoria and of course the Twelve Apostles and the rest of the Great Ocean Road. And so much more.

Beaches:

Here it’s really hard to make a list because I just love beaches in general. And most people would probably just expect me to put Whitehaven Beach on top. You can read further down, why I didn’t.

  1. Beaches in Margaret River. Wild and beautiful and waves to surf.IMG_1296 IMG_1300
  2. Bundegi Beach in Exmouth (because it felt like we had discovered an insider spot)
  3. Esperance, Lucky Bay (such white sand and kangaroos on the beach)
  4. Coral Bay (such white sand and crystal clear blue water)
  5. Whitehaven Beach (the view from the viewing platform is probably the most spectacular one I’ve seen in Australia but the white beach itself is not that different from Esperance or Exmouth, I’d say. Plus, we had to wear a stinger suit, and so I didn’t even get in direct touch with the beautiful clear water)

IMG_4605

Actually, they are probably all on the same level…all beautiful in their own way. Not around salt water but also amazing:

  1. Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island
  2. Lake Wabby on Fraser Island(a desert next to a lake surrounded by trees. A very special sight)

Very close after that is Cottesloe in Perth 🙂

20140220_090442

Towns

  1. Melbourne
  2. Margaret River (wine, chocolate, cheese, nature…what do you need more?)
  3. Fremantle
  4. Noosa (the Margaret River of the East Coast)
  5. Albany (very backpacker friendly, heaps of nice free campgrounds)
  6. Sydney
  7. Perth

IMG_3832

Things that surprise me:

–  Bird whistle in very different tunes and melodies than in Europe. It sounds like people are whistling, or a song on a radio, monkeys, or somebody laughing

–  The showers have old faucets to regulate the hot and cold water (with two handles) it takes ages to get the water to the desired temperature. What a waste of water!

– There are more places without internet or phone reception than anywhere else in the world I’ve ever been.

IMG_1213

– Helpful people and kind people in places we last expected them to be

– It’s possible to have no McDonalds around for 2000km in any direction!! (same for Starbucks and H&M)

– Big birds, big eagles, big fish, big kangaroos, big spiders (everything is in all sizes here!) plus, the eyes of spiders look like diamonds in the light of a flashlight

– Spotting koalas and possums is so awesome for people like me who get excited when they see a squirrel because I hardly ever get to see a wild animal at home

IMG_2074 IMG_1254

– How much rain and cold Australia gets in winter!!! Didn’t exactly chose the right half year to travel, or did I? At least there weren’t so many tourists but my sunny Australia illusion is definitely shattered

– Ciders. We need to import more brands to Switzerland.

– A bit shocking but drinking while driving seems to be normal for Australians. Plus, most Australians I met really do like to drink a lot.

– On all the TVs in public areas there was always a cooking shows on. All the time!! Or The Voice of Australia.

–  Australia has good chocolate!

Karinjini

Karinjini

– How expensive fruit and veggies are!! And cheese and yoghurt and cold cut meat L Minced meat and steak is extremely cheap though. I love eating burgers here.

– How the fuel prices can vary even during the week! From 1.34 to 1.63! It’s worth to check online (at least in Perth that worked).

– That my student concession card didn’t work anywhere on the west and south coast. They only accepted local cards although STA told me that the ISIC card was an Australian invention.

– Retired Australians seem to get the best discounts

– The amazing nature. Knew that before I got here but there really are extremely beautiful places, just can’t stop saying ‘wow’.

IMG_2127

See ya, Australia. Probably not so soon because you’re so far away but it would definitely be worth returning some day.

Advertisements

Welcome to the Red Center

20140615_125126

When we got off the bus in Alice Springs, we were surprised to find that it was a freezing 16 ºC at 6.30pm already. We had an hour to get settled in the Haven hostel and then we were picked up again to have a group dinner at the Evolution club. The location itself was a bit weird and there only was one other tour group and about 5 other people but the 10$ dishes were beautifully arranged and I had the most delicious fish and chips I ever had. We danced until they closed the place at 1am by then, I was so exhausted from the past days, that I just wanted to go to bed. At first, a few of us had planned to rent a car the next day to go to the MacDonnell Ranges but in the end, we didn’t want to be bothered with organizing it and I wanted to see Alice Springs too.

So, after finally sleeping more than 5 hours, Maya and I strollethrough town, passed the headquarters of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, walked across the bridge of the dried up Todd River and then visited the botanical gardens. There were mostly bushes and this dry, dusty or rocky soil but there were colorful parrots and butterflies too.
We had lunch in a Thai place and then wandered through the shops (they have K-Mart and Coles/Woolworth here!!) and the aboriginal art galleries.
Then, for the first time, I went to Gloria Jean’s Café. I don’t know whether it’s the same in the other shops but here, I could put my own toppings on it afterwards, like in the Stewarts ice cream shops in the US. I probably had the most unhealthy but delicious coffee because it seemed that everybody else was there with their mother, who told them not to put so much on it.

Sunset on ANZAC Hill

Sunset on ANZAC Hill

For the sunset, Maya went on a camel tour and I met up with Tiffany to walk to the top of ANZAC hill. I wished she’d be with us on the next part of the tour but unfortunately, she had other plans. She was the Hong Kong girl that Jan first left behind. I’m glad we waited for her, she was such an awesome person and really spread a good mood among the group.
It only takes 3min to walk up the hill, if you take the steep path. The sunset was beautiful and the view on Alice Springs and the flat desert in front of it and the mountains behind it impressive.
Back in the hostel, I had to pack once AGAIN. It doesn’t get better over time. Although we then went to bed early, it felt like a rather short night. When we got up for breakfast at 5.30, some people were already watching Spain-Netherlands.
When our bus arrived, I was pleased to see that it was a 4WD truck without a trailer. Our guide Bender than told us that we all got bumped up a class. Must be thanks to our Italian grandparents who are on tour with us again and were already waving good morning to us from their seats.
And I have to say that the quality of information and food has been a lot better on this tour. Good that this was the last part, so that our tour has been gradually improving.

IMG_5926

We spent the morning driving towards Ayers Rock (Uluru). Now we didn’t need as many bathroom stops since the weather is freezing and windy.
After a few hours of driving, we saw a big flat mountain that could have been Uluru but isn’t, so the tour guides call it Fooluru. Finally, after about 500km, Uluru came up in the distance. It does look quite cool in the otherwise flat landscape.
We had lunch on our campsite in Yulara and afterwards, Bender brought us to the visitor center at Uluru, where we had an hour to look around. At first, I thought that an hour would be too much time. Time I’d rather spend at the actual rock. But in the center, there was a great movie about the Aborigines living here and a lot of art and information. In the end, we really needed the time.
Then, Bender took us on a walk half around Uluru, always stopping and telling us the stories of the Aborigines, that we were allowed to know.
From up close, the rock also looks impressive. It’s just a pity that there is a metal fence running to the top, where you could climb it on certain days. There are enough other high platforms you can climb here, Uluru must not be one of them. Hopefully, soon it will be prohibited and they can take away the ‘scar’ of Uluru. There actually was an ‘I did not climb Uluru’ guest book, which I found a funny idea.
After the walk, we drove to a parking lot where all the other tour groups were waiting for the sunset already. My group walked a little off to the side on a sand hill. From there we had a beautiful panorama of Uluru and the red center. And we even had dips with crackers and a glass of sparkling wine to go with it.
We arrived back at the camp in the dark but luckily, there was electricity in the kitchen.

Cooking on an open fire

Cooking on an open fire

We built a fire with the wood we had collected on a stop during the drive in the morning and Bender actually cooked dinner for us on the fire. It was spaghetti bolognaise with kangaroo mince. It was delicious!! Then, we had the option to sleep in a cabin with nice hostel bunks but in the end almost everybody opted for a swag, since they tend to be warmer than tents. And since there were clouds, I actually wasn’t cold at all and had a great sleep.
The next morning, we got up at the usual time to have breakfast and then walk up a sand dune for sunrise. Now I was glad that it was winter and we didn’t have to get up at 3.30.

Sunset at Uluru

Sunset at Uluru

By the time the sun had risen, we were all frozen. Unfortunately, the rays never really reached Uluru, so the color play there wasn’t so special but the Olgas in the distance were quite pretty. That’s where we were driving to now. Katja Tuja looks great from the distance but is also amazing from up close to walk around. We went on a three hour hike, on which Bender gave us more information about geology and flora. The rocks around here really are fascinating!
Then, we drove back to the camel farm in Yulara, where we had a bbq for lunch. This must be the place from where my parents had taken a sunset camel ride about 25 years ago.

Katja Tuja

Katja Tuja

Katja Tuja

Katja Tuja

The afternoon, we spent driving to our night camp at Kings Creek. On the way, we stopped again to collect some firewood. When we got to Kings Creek, Bender first received the sad news that somebody had fallen off Kings Canyon that day and therefore it wasn’t sure whether the rim walk would be open the next day. Apparently the first time in about 8 years that had happened.

We set up our camp and Bender cooked on the fire again. Chicken with vegetables and rice and two dampers (bred with different kinds of fillings).I’m amazed what you can do on fire if you know how to and I loved the dessert damper that had a chocolate dough and m&m’s and Nutella inside!
At this camp, the toilet hut was a bit off in the bush and didn’t have a door. To have hot water for the shower, you also had to build a fire below the tank. Now, this really felt like adventure camping. The evening was warmer, because there was no wind and so I wasn’t too afraid of being cold when I climbed in the swag. However, that night, there were no clouds and somehow, the swag wasn’t isolating from the ground and just felt freezing all around. I was busy wiggling my feet and changing the side that touched the mattress all night, to stay warmer, I don’t think I slept at all. I was glad when Bender finally turned on the wake up music because that meant I could go have breakfast by the fire. I could have checked before that, whether the fire was already burning but I didn’t want to stick my head out and let even more cold air in…

Katja Tuja

Katja Tuja

After breakfast, we drove to Kings Canyon to find out whether the walk was open. There still was a police car and a lot of park ranger cars. Half the walk was open and so we climbed the steep hill up to the rim, from where we had a beautiful view on part of the canyon and the plain. Bender told us some more about plants and rocks and four small toy koalas, that found their home on tree on the canyon. We walked to the billabong in the Garden of Eden, where we turned around to walk the same way back. As usual, climbing down the steep hill seemed more straining than getting up, because you are always facing the long way down.

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

Our last stop here was lunch and then we already started the drive back to Alice Springs. Before I came here I assumed that you’d see Ayers Rock and the other sights from Alice Springs. Now I know that even once you get there, you have to do a lot more driving to get to the famous nature sights, But as they say, the journey is just as important as the destination and the red center really wasn’t disappointing.

Sunrise on the road

Sunrise on the road

On the road again (Darwin to Alice Springs)

10492549_10154296752560094_7724183379502817742_n
After a night separated from the group in different hostel dorms, we met up at 6.30am again to be picked up from Jan, our next tour guide. We picked up some other people because a few from our top end tour had left us. Now we were 17 girls and a Danish guy, an Italian couple in their sixties (we adopted them as our grandparents) plus Jan. There even is a Swiss girl from Solothurn 🙂
Jan is very energetic and so he spread a good mood among the group right away. We had a pen with which we could draw on the bus windows on the long drives but first, we all had to enter the Weet Bix-challenge. Weet-Bix are compressed cereal shaped into small bars. You take about three of them and soak them in milk to have a bowl of cereal. It’s an Aussie thing. However, the challenge now was to eat it as quick as possible. Without any liquids. That was torture! After a while it was like swallowing oversized pills. But we all survived and the winner only took 1’11”.
After 1,5 hours, we stopped at a gas station we had already fueled up yesterday on the way back. It should have been just a short toilet break but then Jan got a call that he forgot to pick up one girl from Hong Kong and so we all waited the 1.5 hours while somebody was driving her down. Jan brought out some oranges (they taste different here) and a didgeridoo, where we could have ago. I was as successful as I had been in Switzerland with the Alphorn, which means I only produced a weird elephant noise. Luckily, that happened to most people.
Then we went on a short walk to have a look at some flora and the WWII war cemetery.

Jan entertaining us in the evening

Jan entertaining us in the evening

Finally, our group of 20 people was complete and on we went.
We had lunch on a grass patch in Kathrine and then drove for another half an hour to Kathrine Gorge.
There is a nice exhibition about the area in the visitor center (and air-conditioning). It was another really hot day. Therefore, some chose to do the 80$ boat tour, while we others went on a walk with our guide. We hiked to the top of the gorge. The views were stunning but we had to earn them in this heat. Luckily, there was a water tap with cold (!) water at the top. The water was pumped up from underground that’s why it was colder.

IMG_5524
Then, we walked back down to the visitor center, passing different kinds of trees and flowers. Afterwards, it was time to jump in the river and I was really looking forward to it after the walk. However, because the water wasn’t clear here and there were saltwater crocodiles in the area, everybody was very hesitant with jumping in the water. Even after Jan had jumped in. And the employees in the restaurant said it was safe too. In the end, it was only me and the other Swiss girl who went for a swim. We didn’t see a crocodile.

Back in the bus, we drove to the shopping center in Kathrine, where we had half an hour to buy more things we might need and there was wifi too!
Then, we lucked out that there was no other group at the campsite. We’d have had to sleep in swags with only a small kitchen tent but instead we could have the big kitchen and cabin tents with beds and electricity inside! And a bedside table too!!
For dinner we had pasta with chicken and vegetables and afterwards we were sitting around a campfire for a short time but soon, everybody was overwhelmed by tiredness and retired into the cabins.

Natural hot springs <3

Natural hot springs ❤

The next morning, it was freezing! I had to keep wearing long clothes until our first stop in Mataranka. We didn’t swim in the Mataranka hot springs because that’s a manmade place. Instead we went to the Bitter Springs 3km out of town.
Now, we were glad that it wasn’t so hot yet because the water was 34º bathtub temperature. And that in a beautiful blue creek in a palm tree forest. It was wonderful! We stayed in the water for at least an hour. Swimming along the creek was cool too. Except for the many big spiders that towered in their nets right over the water. I just pretended to be a crocodile and kept my head half in the water.
At 10.30am we were on the bus again heading towards our lunch stop; the Daly Waters Pub. It’s the oldest pub in the Northern Territory and has a very cool set up. It’s filled with things that people leave behind and funny signs. Also, the food and drinks were cheaper than in Darwin.

Sunset from the roof of the bus

Sunset from the roof of the bus

During that break, our driver tried to fix the air-conditioning of the car. The belt broke and so the bus had been making weird sounds for the last 40min of the drive. When we set off again, it worked for five minutes but then weird noises were back and from now on, our air-con were the windows. It’s ok but after walking in this heat I would have preferred to really cool down.
From there it was pretty much just driving and having toilet and fuel stops until Jan parked the bus along the road in the middle of nowhere. The country side was flat and wide in all directions. That’s where we watched the sunset. From the roof of the bus. Standing on the roof of a car in a wide open space was a point on my life list. Really makes you feel free 🙂 Now I can check that off.
We even had a sunset platter with olives, feta, crackers and a dip. Momentary upgrade to a 5 star tour 🙂
When the sun was gone, we drove to our campsite on a cattle station. Banka Banka was an actual caravan park with a nice kitchen building and good showers and toilets. We had a delicious bbq dinner and afterwards sat around the campfire, where Jan played the guitar and didgeridoo.
Then, it was finally the night where I’d get to experience sleeping in a swag. I was expecting the nice looking ones from the people I had met along the way. However, ours just were bags on the ground with two thin mattresses inside. The grass with all these bags on the ground looked a bit like a disaster had happened…

IMG_5642

There was no mosquito window for the face, so either, you zipped yourself up all the way and had bad air, or you left your face in the open. I just wore my woolen hat, a jacket and cuddled in my sleeping bag. Like this, I was actually warmer than the previous nights in the tent! Plus, it was quite comfortable and we even had a real pillow! I felt bad for our Italian grandparents who are doing this trip in their sixties and weren’t expecting to sleep on the ground. But they seemed fine too this morning and now they will have great stories to tell 🙂

When my alarm rang in morning, I was surprised that I didn’t wake up when the Singapore group that was sleeping next to me left their swags. I really must have slept well!

Devil's Marbles

Devil’s Marbles

On the road again, Jan was asking us quiz questions over the microphone. We stopped at a few roadhouses for toilets (we are drinking so much water in this heat) and at the Tenant Creek Telegraph station. Then, we reached a fantastic place called Devils Marbles. The marbles are granite rocks that were shaped into round and oval boulders over the years. They looked really cool and so we went on an explorer walk and had some fun with taking pictures.

Devil's Marbles

Devil’s Marbles

Lunch we had at Wycliffe Well. One of the funniest places I’ve ever been to. They call it the UFO capital of Australia and everything is in an alien theme.
From there, we pretty much drove straight to Alice Springs with just a few stops at gas stations and to take a few road kill pictures of ourselves on a long straight stretch of road. At the Tropic of Capricorn line, the whole group held hands and on three, we jumped from the tropic into the desert. That was fun and we entertained the whole parking lot. Welcome to the red center!
Once we arrived in Alice Springs, I couldn’t believe I actually made it here. To the center of Australia. Was a long but exciting and amazing journey from Perth along the South and East Coast and then from the top end down to here (and I’d do it again).

IMG_5824

Billabongs or “do you wanna lick an ant”?

IMG_5052

Buley Rockhole

Thanks to Andrew who drove me to my pick up point at 6am, I was readily waiting when my tour bus from Wayoutback Tours came to pick me up. We drove around town some more to pick up other people until we were a group of 19 girls, two French guys and our guide Kel.
He drove us for about 1,5 hours into Lichtfield NP. The roads started to look more like dirt again than concrete. Then, I realized that I had actually missed these outback roads that build an orange red contrast to the sky and that cover the cars and everything in red dust. It’s just an experience you could never have in Switzerland.
We quickly stopped off at a café, where we’d leave the trailer for the day. Then, Kel brought us to Buley Rockhole. It was a clear stream, floating over rocks, building several swimming pools and waterfalls. It looked incredibly beautiful, plus the water was the perfect refreshing temperature. It was a lot of fun to fight against the currents of the waterfalls and then float back to the edge of the pool, where the next waterfall would drop into a lower pool.

IMG_5060

Florence Falls

Too soon, we had to head back into the bus and then drove to Florence Falls. There was a viewing platform from where the two broad waterfalls looked amazing! The hike down to the pool was an easy walk and probably took less than 5 minutes. It’s definitely worth to go and jump in the water again which shone green against the rock but was crystal clear too. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people there but once you swam out to one of the waterfalls, you were pretty much alone. The view from when you are floating on the back, looking up at the falling water is indescribable. It was possible to swim under the waterfall and have a nice shower. On the sides, the water pressure wasn’t that hard.
Again, too quick we had to hike back up. That was a bit harder in this heat.
We then drove to the Wangi Falls, where we set up for lunch. A chicken burger with lettuce, tomatos and cucumbers. After lunch, we walked the two minutes to the falls. Again, I couldn’t take my eyes off them, they were so stunning!! Amazing colors and this big amount of water! In this national park there probably are some of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen.

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls

I realize that here in Australia I say a lot that this is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. So, I asked myself, whether I just forget how beautiful the other places were, whether they are just differently beautiful or whether they really are prettier…

I also jumped into the Wangi Falls pool and again, it was cool to look up to them and the water was green and clear.

IMG_5103

Our next stop was a place with many termite mounts and a termite ‘grave yard’. The rocks that the termites are building look like tombstones. When we stopped to observe the plain, Kelly caught a yellow ant with a green tail from a tree and asked us whether we wanted to lick it. It would taste like lime. One girl was brave and so…licked the ant. She confirmed that it tasted sour and so Kel caught a few more ants and we all had a go. It really was quite sour!

Then we had a 2,5 hour drive ahead of us. We picked up our trailer and made the way towards Point Stuart Campground. After the sunset, the bushfires were very well visible and since they all were controlled and purposely laid, we could drive right past them. It looked quite pretty, like thousands on lanterns in the forest.

IMG_5137

The campsite really looked like a group camp with cabin tents arranged around a big kitchen hut. So it was actually quite luxurious to share a little house with someone else.
We checked well for spiders and frogs (snake food) and were happy not to find any. Only the mosquitos really were a pain!
For dinner, we had a big and delicious bbq with sausages&steaks, a Greek salad and coleslaw. We were all full after that and ready to go to bed.
During the night, I heard new animal sounds again and wondered which animals they were.

Ubirr

Ubirr

The night was short. At 5.30am, still in the dark, breakfast was served. Surprisingly, everybody got up to eat. Travelling just makes you hungry!
We packed up while the sun was rising and then drove to Murray River, where our boat cruise would start at 7.30am.
We boarded a small boat with about 24 seats and a driver brought us up and down the river in the early morning sun (I was glad brought my sweater; mornings are quite chilly compared to the day).
We saw a few big saltwater crocodiles, a few freshwater crocodiles and even a baby. Plus, there were a lot of birds and water lilies. The two hours on the water passed really quickly and soon, we were back on land, where a fruit platter awaited us.
Then, we drove on to the Mamukala Wetlands, a beautiful wetland bird watch place. There also was an interesting painting about how the aborigines tell the seasons.
Then, we jumped back on our ‘school bus’ and drove on to Jabaru, where we made sandwiches for lunch in a nice park. There were some little aboriginal children playing on the swings. Sadly, these were the first happy aborigines I have seen in Australia.

At the top of Gunlom Fall

At the top of Gunlom Fall

After lunch, we entered the beautiful Kakadu Nationalpark and drove to a sacred site called Ubirr. It’s a small mountain from which you have an amazing view! On the way to the top, it was like an outdoor museum with ancient wall paintings. We stopped at every spot and Kel would tell us a story about it.
We took our time, so that the walk wasn’t too exhausting, despite the heat.
Back at the start, it was already time to drive to the campsite. We arrived at Cooinda shortly before sunset and had time to swim in the nice pool with a small waterfall and hot tub.

IMG_5491IMG_5462
The camping huts were similar, except that here, we had actual beds with mattresses. The one the night before almost felt like sleeping on bare wood.
For dinner, we had stir fry chicken with rice. Such a simple but delicious dish! I have to remember that for home.
Here, the bathrooms were a bit further away and it was quite hard to find the way in the dark. Plus, there were so many frogs and (poisonous) cane toads that you heard a scream by a girl from our group once in a while:)

See that saltie?

See that saltie?

The next morning, breakfast was at 5.30 again. At 6.45 (unbelievable how much time packing up with a group needs) we were ready to roll. Our destination was Gunlom. To get there, we drove along another 4wd track, which was quite fun with the bus. I even saw wild donkeys, a wallaby and a pig somewhere in the trees. In the golden morning light, everything looked even prettier than during the day.
At Gunlom, we hiked for 20min up a steep path over slippery and uneven rocks. On the top, there was an amazing view over the plain and a little further back, there were pools from a waterfall glistering in the sunlight. Once I walked there, I realized that we were actually standing at the top of a waterfall that fell over the cliff we just had walked up. It was beautiful to swim in the pools. They looked like infinity pools because behind them, a huge wall would drop down.
We spent about 1,5 hours up there but I could have stayed all day!
Nevertheless, we hiked back down and this time, had wraps for lunch. There even was grated cheddar cheese! Not just the slices in plastic foil.
Then, we walked the two minutes to the bigger bottom pool and just relaxed until it was time to drive back to Darwin. After all, it should take us 5 hours to get back. It took us a bit more and so shortly past seven, we were finally dropped off at our hostel.

IMG_5316
Quickly, we hurried to Coles to buy some more road trip snacks for the rest of the tour. On the way there, I ran in to two guys I met at Peterpans the other night. That’s the good thing about only having one main street, you run into people you meet again and again. Since it was a Monday, we made plans to go get 5$ Domino’s Pizza afterwards. However, since it was a public holiday for the queen’s birthday, there was a 10% surcharge this time. The evening passed too quickly. I had planned on going to bed at 9.30 because I was so tired and I had to get up at 5.30 again but in the end it was midnight after all. Fault of the good public wifi in Darwin 🙂 But I’ve learned from experience in Australia, that you have to enjoy the wifi while you can and I assume that I won’t see much of that on the way to Alice Springs.

IMG_5380

Anyways, exploring the top end was amazing! I could have spent weeks in these national parks. There would be so much more to see but I was really happy with the places we visited. Every stop was a highlight!