A Travellerspoint blog

The Red (Green) Centre

camping in the blooming outback.

sunny 33 °C

Wednesday, March 9

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After a hurried morning of grabbing coffee and finding transport to the train depot in the pouring rain, I boarded The Ghan for my 24 hour excursion to... Alice Springs! I was soaking wet and pretty grumpy as I settled myself in my seat (which would also serve as my bed that night), and I almost didn't notice the 20-something guy that sat down next to me and started up a conversation about my Australian travels. I detected from his accent that he was probably German, and I was right: he hailed from Munich. What is it about Germans and Aussie train travel?!

As with many Germans I've met throughout Australia, the guy, Patrik, was spending a year working and traveling around the country (he'd actually spent 4 months doing onstruction work in Leichhardt - small world much?) and we had a grand old time discussing our love of Sydney and our disappointment of Darwin (he'd been so disappointed, in fact, that he'd spent the rest of his Top End trip in Bali.)

After only a few hours on the train, we pulled into Katherine for a break - a FIVE HOUR break - so that the Gold and Platinum class passengers could disembark and enjoy a cruise through the gorge. Having already enjoyed a boat ride, I spent the hours in a pub with Patrik and another girl from Munich (whose name escapes me), then over at a cafe where we met Melissa, a sweet English girl from Sussex. We grabbed dinner from a nearby grocery store before heading back to the train for a couple hours of Uno, during which we picked up another friend, Alcide from southern France. Unfortunately, I didn't do so well at defendig my nearly undefeated Uno record.

After a restless night's sleep curled into a tight ball across two seats (our car was pretty empty), I looked eagerly out the window to see the sun rising over... an unchanged landscape. Where was the red dirt?? Everywhere I looked, I saw the same trees, shrubs and thick grasses we'd passed through the day before. Turns out Australia's center has also seen quite a lot of rain this year.

Checking into the YHA, I met up with Alcide (who was also staying there) to check out downtown Alice. The atmosphere of the town is a bit strange: it's not exactly a "destination" tourist town in itself; rather, it's the stop off point for travelers looking to check out Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, so most folks fly into Alice a day before their 3-day excursion, then fly out the day after their tour ends. Since it was pouring rain, it wasn't too happening on the main street. However, I found plenty to do:

- Alcide and I enjoyed a free didgeridoo lesson from Andrew Langford, a well-known musician who has toured all over the world (including a stop in Muir Woods!) and runs a didgeridoo shop. Alcide was a natural and managed to produce some actual notes from his instrument, while I tried to cover up the fact that I was basically spitting through a tube of wood. (When we returned later for the group lesson, I did much better. Will have to work on the "circle breathing" technique a bit more.)

- Checked out the Royal Flying Doctor's Service, which has helped people living in Australia's most rural areas receive medical care since 1928. It's pretty incredible - Alice Springs' service, which includes six doctors and nine nurses, covers a 600 km radius. That's roughly the size of Great Britain. According to our tour guide, they respond to an average of six calls per day anywhere in that radius (that day, by 4 p.m., there had only been one call.)

My bedtime was early that night, as my Uluru tour bus was due to pick me up at 5:55 the next morning. Yikes!

Friday, March 11
Right on schedule, my second Intrepid tour truck arrived to take me to Uluru - a 450 km drive away. This tour group was bigger than my last with 13 passengers (younger too, but still significantly older than me), plus two guides-in-training who were about my age. At the (thankful)request of a fellow passenger, our driver, Gavin, obliged to stop for a fresh brewed coffee before taking us to a camel farm for optional rides. As we pulled into the farm, Gavin de-sold the camel rides well: for $6, we could enjoy a 5-minute ride around an oval-shaped paddock. I'd been keen to try riding a camel on this trip, but when we arrive at the camel farm, I could see what Gavin meant: the paddock was pathetic, and the camels actually looked upset about being tied up with saddles on their humps. Taking a look around, I could feel myself further resenting this place as my eyes rested on the dingo tied up next to a pet dog (dingoes are wild dogs and not normally kept as pets) and the red desert kangaroos hopping helplessly around a fenced enclosure. The place was like an animal prison, and I was happy when we left after just a few minutes. I'd have to find another opportunity to ride a camel elsewhere.

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Hopping in the front seat, I chatted with Gavin about hiking around America (a native New Zealander, the guy has hiked, biked and run around California and the southwest) as we drove past Mt. Connor (from a distance, this looks A LOT like Uluru) towards our campsite for lunch. Our camp was in Yulara, a tiny town built specifically to service tourists heading to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

Finally, FINALLY, we packed into the truck and made our way to the cultural center at the base of Uluru to further understand how the Anangu people, the Aboriginal tribe who originally settled in Yulara, have survived the intense heat and ridiculous number of flies who populate the area (best purchase on the trip = a fly net that covered my face.) Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a place of great significance to the Anangu people and their cultural traditions, which is why they urge people to not take any piece of the rocks from the park - or to climb Uluru. Gavin shared with me a fascinating piece of history:

The Australian Government took over the land and made it a national park, but when they gave the land back to the Anangu people in 1995, they did so with a 99-year lease that would allow the government to turn one of the sites into a bigger tourist attraction (a.k.a, let people climb it.) Ceremonies take place at both sites, but since Kata Tjuta holds a bit more significance to the culture, the Anangu people allowed the installation of climbing cables on Uluru. There are signs everywhere urging people not to climb Uluru out of respect for the land and their traditions, as well as in the interest of their safety (Uluru is quite steep and it's pretty windy at the top), but thousands of tourists still do it every year.

Having learned how disrespectful it was to climb Uluru in my Aboriginal culture classes at UTS, I'd made a promise to myself that, when I finally got to Uluru, I would not climb it - and I wrote my promise in the visitor center's guest book. If this hadn't been enough to convince me to respect this cultural site, fear would have done the trick: the center has a binded collection of letters from a world of travellers who have visited Uluru, taken a piece of the rock home with them, and then sent it back to the visitor center years later with a letter of apology and a request to please replace the bit of rock because they'd been suffering terrible bouts of bad luck since they'd left. Some of the letters were quite comical, but others talked about relatives who had suffered illnesses or died soon after the travellers' arrival home. It was heavy stuff.

The walk around Uluru's base (which is more than 9 km around, so we didn't do the whole thing) was hot, but it was beautiful. The contrast between the rock's reddish orange color (which is from all the iron ore in the dirt; ordinarily, the rock would be black) and the dazzling blue of the sky was breathtaking, and I must have paused every 10 feet to take a photo of the rock from every possible angle.

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It was too windy to climb to the top, so we trouped over to the truck (Gavin had kindly driven to pick us up, saving us from a heated walk back) to go watch the sunset over the rock (they have specific parking lots for sunrise and sunset viewers.) We arrived to find several other tour groups who were doing the same thing, all standing in front of tables laden with chips, crackers and cheese, fruit and bottles of champagne. Lovely.

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Saturday, March 12
Today was another 5 a.m. wake-up call so we could eat a quick breakfast before driving over to Kata Tjuta, where we would embark on a challenging 3-hour hike through the 34 massive boulders that make up the park. I know I'm not selling it well, but this was my favorite day because unlike our walk around Uluru, this hike allowed us to walk through The Olgas, appreciating every individual rock and all the plant life that lived amongst it. I found myself astounded all over again at how green everything was, as I'd been expecting a barren landscape similar to Arizona's.

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That night, we drove to Kings Creek Station, a cattle farm near the next day's hiking destination: Kings Canyon. To fuel up, Gavin and the guides in training whipped up a fabulous campfire meal where the chicken, potatoes and curry dishes were actually cooked in pots covered in campfire ash.

Sunday, March 13
Our last 5 a.m. wake-up call - much as we complained, we were always rewarded with a stunning sunrise and a cooler climate in which to hike (still, it was funny when we finished these 6-7 km hikes by 10 a.m.)

Paddy's mum had told me how beautiful Kings Canyon was, and she was right: the reddish brown walls of smooth rock, the blooming Garden of Eden where other hikers swam in freshwater pools, and rocky lookout points that provided sky-high views of the crevice.

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We walked around the perimeter of the canyon - another solid 3-hour loop - before heading back to the campsite for lunch and showers. Then it was back to Alice Springs, and the next day, Sydney.

I feel like a bona fide Aussie now.

For more photos of the trip, click here.

Posted by Alykat 03:07 Archived in Australia Tagged uluru kata_tjuta ayers_rock intrepid camels alice_springs the_olgas kings_canyon yulara Comments (0)

An Intrepid Explorer

ah, the wet season up north.

rain 27 °C

intrepid [adj]: resolutely fearless; dauntless: an intrepid explorer.

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Saturday, March 5
Psyched for a 4-day tour of the national parks around the Top End, I was waiting eagerly out the front of the YHA at 7 am for my Intrepid tour bus to pick me up.

Let's back up: a few weeks prior, I'd been researching trips I could take in March when all my Sydney friends went back to uni, flipping through stacks of Top Deck and Contiki brochures and talking to friends about places they recommend I check out. I came across a photo of Kakadu National Park up north, a sprawling, beautiful park full of great bushwalking tracks, waterfalls and Aboriginal history, and decided that was where I wanted to go. Just as I was preparing to splurge $2,000 on an 11-day Contiki tour all around the Top End and Outback, Travelzoo posted a sale on Intrepid tours - for 50% off in March. My friend Shellie had taken a tour with the company around Morocco and absolutely loved it - their itinerary is much less structured and involves more local interaction - so I figured that was the way to go. I booked a 4-day tour of the national parks around Darwin, a 3-day tour of the famous rocks around Alice Springs, and a ticket to ride The Ghan train in between, therefore saving myself $500. Score.

In a refurbished travel- truck, a small group of us - a couple from Norway, another from the south coast of Australia, a guy from Perth and a woman from Denmark (all close to my parents' age, mind you) rode with our Darwin-born and raised guide, Owen, through flat farmlands towards the Adelaide River for a jumping crocodile cruise. A "jumping" crocodile is a saltwater (estuarine, man-eating, extremely dangerous) crocodile that is lured to our double-decker boat by a slab of raw meat dangling on a fishing pole into the water. When the croc tries to catch the meat in its jaws, the fishing pole is raised up, causing the croc to follow it out of the water. They're quite deceptive, these crocodiles: around us, they acted very lazy and uninterested in our boat, but our boat driver assured us that if someone were to fall overboard (or perhaps even lean too far over the side), these creatures would spring into action and roll their prey underwater before anyone knew what was happening. Therefore, the boat didn't issue us lifejackets; there was no point, since no one would make it out of the water. Scary. On the fun side, I let the resident pet olive python, Ollie, wrap itself around my waist before we left.

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From the river, we piled back into the truck and headed towards Fogg Dam, a marshy area teeming with wildlife. Because the road was so flooded, we were unable to get out and walk around, so we viewed the sea birds and turtles from inside the truck. The wet weather flooding (this year's being the most on record with 2.5 meters of rain since October 1st) also meant that the salties were able to more easily move around the area, so getting out of your vehicle was not encouraged.

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Before hitting the road to Kakadu, we stopped off at the Adelaide River Inn to see... the water buffalo featured in Crocodile Dundee! (Remember the one Dundee trances into a deep sleep with his hand gesture?) According to Owen, the bar owner paid $5,000 for the buffalo when it was alive, and then a whopping $20,000 to have it stuffed after it died. It's now on display inside the bar next to a movie poster.

After lunch, we stopped in Pine Creek to grab cases of beer before heading to our campsite. In its heyday, Pine Creek was a booming gold mining town, but to give you an idea what this place is like now, Owen shared this story: He'd worked as a cook here a few years back (he's held all sorts of random, short-term jobs in his lifetime) and when he returned six years after quitting, two of the locals were seated in the exact same seats he'd last seen them in. One guy asked if he'd been on holiday, and the other inquired what the dinner special was that night. Clearly, not a lot goes on here.

We stopped for a swim in a locally-known swimming hole that featured this sign:

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(In locals' terms, when it doesn't straight up ban swimming in the area, it just issues a warning, it's safe to go.)

Having covered 500 km (just over 300 miles) in one day, we all slept soundly at our campsite in Kakadu.

Sunday, March 6
By 6 am, we'd all assembled ourselves in the dining room for cereal and instant coffee before packing up and trekking into Kakadu to check out some ancient Aboriginal rock art, some dating back as far as the Ice Age. Pretty ridiculous. Along the pathway, Owen identified different plants and berries used as food and for their medicinal properties. As an accidental example, Owen stuck his hand on a hidden wasp nest and ran to grab a little green berry to help ease the pain of the sting. Needless to say, we believed his identifications had been correct.

Owen was a funny character: he'd spent his life jumping between jobs at pubs and travel companies, and had the scars to prove he was a true blue Northern Territory Aussie: a scar across his chest from a box jellyfish, his wasp sting mark, and a little bump in his finger where a piece of glass had embedded itself when Cyclone Tracy had caused the glass doors on his house to implode towards him and his brother. He was bursting with stories about his outback childhood and the funny tourists he'd had on previous trips.

Thank goodness he'd grown up here: the roads were still so flooded (March was supposed to be the end of the wet season!) that we'd had to detour along other roads and check out different areas of the park that weren't on the original itinerary. Most other tour guides would have probably gotten lost, but Owen was a pro.

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We stopped at the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center to learn more about the ancient ways of surviving this seemingly unhabitable place, then turned in to our campsite at the Springvale Homestead in Katherine (built in 1880, it's the oldest in the Territory). Thinking himself funny, Owen have each of us a slice of bread and encouraged us to go "feed the ducks" over in the flooded pond about 50 meters from our campsite. While there were ducks and turtles floating around, there were also about seven "resident" salties living in the pond, including a big one Owen referred to as "Elvis, because he likes to put on a show" (as in, pretending to lunge at people. Real funny.) Fortunately, we didn't see any of these "residents," even when we returned that night with flashlights and shaky knees. I would never survive living here.

Monday, March 7
Today we drove over to the Katherine Gorge to go jetboating. Normally, visitors have the choice to enjoy a 2-hour boat cruise or go canoeing through the gorge, but because the waterway was - you guessed it - too flooded - canoeing was out (there were salties abound. Freshies too, but they're not really dangerous unless you piss them off.) Fortunately, the flooding meant that we had access to three of the gorge's 13 waterways, so our jetboat experience was actually longer than most cruises (when the water levels are lower, folks have to walk on platforms between the waterways and board separate boats.)

Of course, this also meant that there were rapids tearing over the hidden trees and rocks along the way, and yours truly looked like she'd been on Splash Mountain at Disneyland by the time we got back to the dock. Lovely scenery though.

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We had lunch at Edith Falls, and under normal weather circumstances, we'd be able to swim here. Damn flooding.

That evening, we drove to another homestead campsite at Mt. Bundy Station, a still-operating cattle farm located out in the boondocks. The place was awesome with all its animals roaming around - water buffalo, horses, cows, wallabies, etc. - and we enjoyed a nice last dinner together. Owen went all out and prepared crocodile sausages, kangaroo steak, damper (yeast-less bread), roasted potatoes, and steamed veggies. I went to bed full and exhausted, but was woken up around midnight by the sound of heavy footsteps and chomping just outside my tent door. Startled, I clung to my sheets and watched a dark figure outside loom closer, and with a loud snort, I realized that the culprit was a couple of hungry horses. I had a hard time falling asleep that night.

Tuesday, March 8
Off to Litchfield National Park! On the way, we stopped by the Adelaide River War Memorial (the only cemetary in the country where all the soldiers buried were killed on Australian soil; I saw one American tombstone).

The weather was dreary and rainy that day, but we braved the showers as we checked out the termite mounds (both cathedral and magnetic, some dating back forty years. That's a lot of work!) Inside the park, we visited three waterfalls: Florence (1st photo), which offered a lovely bushwalk and an even better swimming opportunity in a spot no other tour companies are allowed to access; Tolmer, viewed from a high platform that looks out over the rest of Litchfield; and Wangi (2nd photo), which I could hear roaring from the parking lot. The viewing deck for this one was almost flooded itself.

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We grabbed lunch next to Wangi Falls before piling back in the truck for the drive back to Darwin. Keith and Sandra, the Australian couple on the trip, kindly invited me out to dinner when we got back to the city, so I was able to enjoy a lovely seafood dinner at Cullen Bay on my final night in Darwin. :)

For more photos of this leg of the trip, click here.

Posted by Alykat 17:59 Archived in Australia Tagged darwin intrepid katherine_gorge kakadu_national_park florence_falls litchfield_national_park wangi_falls termite_mounds tolmer_falls cullen_bay mt_bundy_homestead adelaide_river_inn jumping_crocodile_cruise springvale_homestead saltwater_crocodile pine_creek fogg_dam Comments (0)

Charles Darwin

voyaging to the tippy-top north

overcast 27 °C

When I first came to Australia, I made plans to visit cities all over the country. Darwin was never on the list.

The thought of coming to the Northern Territory's capital city was intimidating: the tropical weather is unpredictable, the air is sticky with humidity, and it's home to most of Australia's killer wildlife. In March, I was likely to encounter saltwater crocodiles (the biggest one ever discovered here was 7 meters - that's 21 feet - and they're capable of eating animals as large as a water buffalo. A human would be no problem), poisonous snakes (whose population has dwindeled significantly thanks to the uber-poisonous cane toad, which are huge - still unsettling), box jellyfish (if stung, a human will die in about 3 minutes), blue-ring octopus (awesome looking, but also deadly), and of course, the usual eight-legged suspects. Given that Darwin's population is just over 200,000, it was no mystery why so few people chose to live here.

Therefore, I shocked myself by booking an early March flight to Darwin and a 4-day group tour of the surrounding national parks. Uni had just started up for Paddy and his roomies, so it was the perfect time to escape Sydney for some wild adventure. Since two of our housemates had visited the NT just last year, they were brimming with advice and recommendations before I left.

Thursday, March 3
After an hour delay at the Sydney airport, I landed in Darwin around 6 p.m. and was hit in the face with 80+ degree heat and an even higher degree of humidity. I caught a shuttle to the YHA, dropped off my stuff and headed out to grab dinner at a nearby Thai place, but before I'd even made it across the street, the tropical weather stepped in and drenched me head to toe. Thank god I'd remembered to bring an umbrella on this trip, but my Rainbow leather sandals were surely not going to make it home....

Friday, March 4
This was my only free day to explore Darwin, so I awoke early to grab a coffee from across the road and head to the Esplanade. Here are a few of the sights I passed:

- A memorial for the US destroyer, the USS Peary, which was sunk by the Japanese on February 19, 1942. The memorial, a cannon surrounded by flower wreaths, was positioned in the direction of the sunken ship.

- Parliament, a gorgeous white building that I ducked into when the humidity became unbearable. A free self-guided tour provided a bit of background information about settlers' relations with the Aboriginal people when they first arrived in the NT.

- The WWII oil storage tanks hidden from invaders underground, and a memorial plaque for the WWII bombings.

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- Stokes Hill Wharf and the Pearl Exhibition, where I learned more about the pearling industry between Darwin and Broome (in Western Australia). Paspaley, the original family-owned pearling business that produces some of the world's most valueable pearls, is based here. (Another fun fact: Lieutenant Stokes was a friend of Charles Darwin's and named the harbour after him. The city later took on his name as well.)

- Walked along the Travellers' Walk, a cool little walkway that recognizes the arrival of travellers from all over the world between 1870 and 1940. A mosaic along the walk is made up of tiles, stones and bits of whiskey bottles found along the pathway.

- The outdoor Deckchair Cinema, which was unfortunately closed until the dry season.

- The remains of Town Hall after Cyclone Tracy ripped through the city on December 24, 1974. Like an idiot, I failed to bring my camera with me, so I don't have a photo of the two remaining walls.

- Cullen Bay at sunset. The restaurants around here were much too pricey for my budget, so I tramped back to restaurant-lined Mitchell street for a more affordable steak sandwich and beer.

For my Darwin photo album, click here.

Posted by Alykat 16:56 Archived in Australia Tagged darwin wwii pearls charles_darwin cyclone_tracy paspaley Comments (0)

"The Climb Of My Life"

paddy turns 22 on top of the city

overcast

Sunday was Paddy's 22nd birthday. Considering he spent his 21st waking up in a Big Sur lodge waitress' guest room and driving to SLO in a tow truck (courtesy of me and the damaging of my car in a rainy rockslide), I wanted to make this birthday more memorable in an all-around good way.

The night before, we had gone to his friend Jack's welcome home/belated birthday house party, but just before midnight, five of us dashed down the street to the Annandale Hotel for Jaegarbombs to ring in Paddy's birthday. Not a bad start to what promised to be an amazing day....

For breakfast, we stopped off at Shellie's cafe, Grind, for coffee and eggs. Shellie was our server that morning, and before we headed out, she provided Paddy with his first lighted candle and sweet treat of the day:

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After breakfast, we headed down Norton Street to catch a bus downtown towards... the Sydney Harbour Bridge! For Christmas, Paddy had given me a gift certificate to climb the bridge. Figuring it would be more fun to do together, I bought him the same certificate and booked a climb for 12:25 in the afternoon. Bridge climbs may be done at dawn, daytime, twilight, or nighttime, but the day was forecast to be sunny and gorgeous.

Unfortunately, the forecast was wrong: we awoke to rain, but it had mostly subsided by the time we got to the Bridge Climb center in The Rocks. After checking in, we bopped around the gift shop, checked out the photos of famous folks who have climbed over the years (Keith Urban, Daniel Radcliffe from "Harry Potter," Sir Richard Branson, Chris Isaak, Oprah...) and then made our way to the waiting area with a group of other climbers.

A woman soon popped out of a door opposite the waiting room, calling out the 12:15 climbing group. Paddy and I exchanged confused glances as everyone but us rose and filed through the door, so we got up too - only to be turned away and told to wait for the next group. So, we were left sitting alone... until another woman popped her head out the door and called us in, adding "you're on your own tour today!" Normally, tour groups are made up of 12-14 people - how had we scored this?!

We did a quick breath test (you can't do the climb drunk - no shots to calm the nerves!) and signed waivers, then changed into our grey jumpsuits (we learned later that the jumpsuits were designed to blend in with the dark grey color of the steel bridge in order to avoid distracting drivers with our presence. Clever!) We met our guide, a cute girl in her late twenties named Amanda who had spent the past seven years working at a ski resort in Aspen, Colorado. While equipping out jumpsuits with the necessary safety attachments and radios, she informed us that Own Wilson was scheduled to climb the bridge around the same time as us, so we might catch a celebrity viewing. (If sighted, he was definitely posing in our photo at the top. Unfortunately, he ended up canceling his climb at the last minute. Shame.)

With the rain holding off and the overcast sky above us, the three of us began our ascent up the bridge. Walking along the platform to the first steps, I felt my heart flutter as we stopped to take in the harbour view and the bustle of people in The Rocks below. I've never been a big fan of heights, but between climbing Half Dome last summer and sky swinging in New Zealand, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't feel nearly as nervous as I expected.

Of course, that changed when we came to a series of steep ladders. Not only could I see the cold water of the harbour crashing below me as I climbed, but I was prevented from scrambling up the ladder by my cable attachment, which would get stuck on the line if I didn't hold it in place as I ascended. At this point, I began questioning what I was doing up here (and I'm pretty sure Paddy was thinking the same thing.)

Fortunately, when we go to the arch, we were greeted with a feeling of peace: you couldn't hear the traffic from up here, it wasn't a steep climb, and best of all, you couldn't see through the span. Perfect! Since we were such a small group, the three of us took our time on the arch, chatting about our travels and taking photos of ourselves against the ridiculous view. Though the sky was overcast, you could see out to Bondi Beach on the right and just make out the Blue Mountains on the left. Amazing.

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As we walked, Amanda kept us entertained with all sorts of factoids about the bridge:

1. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was originally going to be painted orange, but the paint was too expensive (it would require a lot more than the Golden Gate. I can only imagine how ugly that would have looked on the big "coat hanger" though.)

2. When Bridge Climb founder Paul Cave first submitted his business plan to the RTA in 1989, he was handed 62 different reasons why his idea would never fly (one of the reasons being the distraction to drivers below.) It took nine years to work through all 62 points, and Bridge Climb opened in 1998.

3. Amanda's favorite tourist question: "Was the bridge built specifically for Bridge Climb?" (Yeah, the question came from an American.)

4. When Oprah took her studio audience to Sydney and they climbed the bridge, the cameras showed Oprah climbing the stairs and cheering on her audience members as they freaked out over the height of their ascent. According to Amanda, Oprah actually took the elevator up to the top. She did, however, set the record for the most people to ever climb the Harbour Bridge at once: 250.

We probably spent a good 30 minutes on the arch before crossing the see-thru path leading to the other side of the span (and as you'll notice from the photo, I wasn't all that frightened at this point.) As we started our descent, the rain finally hit us, but by this point I wasn't fazed; I was ready to turn around and spent a couple more hours up on the arch!

We walked from the bridge with huge goofy smiles plastered over our faces and ducked into a nearby pub for some much-deserved pints of Little Creatures pale ale and an Aussie specialty: potato wedges with sweet chili sauce and sour cream. I know it sounds odd, but it's a genius combo.

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By the time we got home, we had just enough time to relax in front of a couple episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" before a few friends came over to pick us up for dinner at Braza, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurant on Norton Street. It was incredible: for $42 each, we were served bowls of side salads, beans and rice while servers came around with massive hunks of meat on metal skewers, which they'd rest on your table and cut slices off if your table nodded in their direction. It was a major protein hit as we all consumed our body weights in pork ribs, bacon wrapped chicken, steak, BBQ chicken, chicken heart (I skipped that one), and cinnamon-dipped pineapple.

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We all went to bed that night in food comas, but it was the perfect end to a fabulous day.

Posted by Alykat 20:47 Archived in Australia Tagged braza sydney_harbour_bridge_climb grind Comments (0)

Sydney Goes Troppo!

the world's largest short film fest 2011

sunny 27 °C

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Last night, Paddy and I packed up a picnic dinner and headed to The Domain for TropFest, the world's largest short film festival. From about 650 entries, judges and the voting-via-the-internet public choose 16 of the best under-7 minute films to play - for free, under the stars - for the top honors. Each year, TropFest chooses an object that must be integrated into the film, and this year's object was "key." While most films featured the main actor dropping his/her house/car keys on the floor/table/kitchen counter, the winning video took a much different approach...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxiSP_ch_oI

I loved this one, and the song is still stuck in my head, but the one titled "Missing Her" was my favorite of the night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUm3Fw4sHck&feature=relmfu

Posted by Alykat 19:27 Archived in Australia Tagged tropfest Comments (0)

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