People told me there was more to Australia than Sydney, and I believed them. I just didn’t know what the *more* was having not experienced it first hand. After this 6-day adventure, I’ve seen more of the country than just the streets of capital cities, and I loved it.
Reading travel blogs for years gave me a taste of what the world has to offer. But as Joanne Fedler shares in When Hungry, Eat, “What others can teach us through their experiences is only useful to a certain point, and when we recognise where that point is, that’s when our authentic experience begins. It becomes a fork in the road of our consciousness in which we turn and face inwards, and ask ‘How is it for you?'”
I knew there was Australia beyond Sydney, and now I’m living it for myself so I can *know* on my own terms.
With that in mind, I’m not quite sure how to share the 6-day journey I had from Adelaide to Alice Springs with you. I’m not an author or poet who can weave a magical story to convey my thoughts and feelings as clearly and fully as possible. While I enjoy taking photos with my fancy pants digital-SLR, I am in no way a photographer and photos simply can’t do the journey justice. I’d love to share all of the historical and cultural tidbits I jotted down throughout the week, but without the full context, it would probably be infinitely less interesting to you than it was to me.
Friends and family have eagerly asked for details of the trip, so here is my best go at sharing some of my favorite moments and impressions…ask questions if you have them, or better yet, come to Australia and experience it!
If you read about my first month in Australia, you’ll know I encountered some good, some bad, and some ugly moments in the first four weeks. Fresh on the heels of a “what in the world have I done quitting my job to come here?!” feeling, setting out on a 6-day trip was probably going to be the best thing I could do or quite possibly the worst.
Once a group of 14 had gathered at the bus pick-up point and I learned more than half of the group had traveled the previous leg together, my heart sank a little. When nobody spoke for the first few hours, it sank a little further. Would I spend the next 6 days amongst cliques or complete silence? Though understandable after my bouts of loneliness in Melbourne, the fears were thankfully completely unwarranted. At the first stop of the day, I met another 30-something from Sydney, who by the trip’s end would be a new friend (I continue to be pleasantly surprised that the people I have connected with the most have been Aussies or long-term residents).
After settling in to our overnight accommodation in Quorn, the group set off on a hike to the Dutchman Stern in the Flinders Ranges.
On the hike down, our primary tour guide (who was in training — we’ll call him M) decided to give everyone clever nicknames. One of the girls from France became “Frenchie.” Upon hearing my accent, he declared that I would be known as “Seppo.”
“Wow…that’s my first time being called Seppo,” I started.
“Nope. Never been called one til now.”
“WOW. You’ve never been called ‘seppo’. Well do you know what it means?”
“Sure. I knew what it meant before my first visit four years ago.”
“Well what does it mean then,” he asked, sounding suspicious that I knew the actual meaning.
“It’s a term for Americans and instead of ‘Yank’, it’s for ‘septic tank’, which is shortened to ‘seppo’.”
“Oh okay, wow, you do know what it means.”
It was the last time he called me “seppo” all week!
Later that night, a few of us wondered down to the pub where I sipped my first Boag’s Premium and listened to my new friend (let’s call her MW) and one of our tour guides (known as J) discuss Aussie and Aboriginal culture. I was absolutely fascinated and took turns asking questions and simply sitting and soaking it all in.
We visited several sites in the morning that weren’t of particular note then so I won’t bother to share them now! Let’s fast forward to one of my favorite parts of the entire 6 days — our visit to Yourambulla Caves
Tour guide J is very interested in Aboriginal culture and spoke about songlines, which provided information about how to navigate one’s country, where to find food, how to conduct ceremony, information about religion, and so on. As you grew in experience and status, you learned more lines of the song. There are no more full-blood members of the group who inhabited the area of the caves, so their songlines have been lost. It is an oral history rather than a written one, and I found it sad that over time more culture, history, and tradition will be lost. I learned more from J and have it tucked away in my notes
At lunch kangaroos came out to play, hoping we’d feed them as other travelers have apparently done.
Following lunch we had a walk at Wilpena Pound. Then we drove a bit further for this beautiful view.
We started the day with another early morning wake up call that rewarded us (well, me — pretty much everyone else fell asleep within moments of boarding the bus) with a beautiful sunrise over flat terrain. I loved the sunrises during the trip.
After a few “points of interest”, we stopped at one of Australia’s many salt lakes that *surprise* actually has water in it — this only happens every 100 years or so.
From there it was on to Coober Pedy, the warmest destination I’ve visited in the last 6 weeks and the world’s opal capital! I instantly fell in love with Coober Pedy…not sure why, but something about the town charmed my socks off.
Unlike gold, few companies have large opal mines because it is more difficult to predict where to find it! Instead, many individuals or small groups set out on their own to search for the glittering gem.
I thought I would write about the entire trip in one post, but the last three days deserve their own. Come back soon for the second half!