Monday, October 29, 2007

Southeast Australia part 1

We visited a few wildlife parks on our way and have interacted with the native creatures. A good number of them are suitable for petting zoos and consequently many are petted.

Southeast Australia part 2

Here's some various rock formations and overlooks... The third one is a "Where's Betsy" puzzle.

Southeast Australia part 3

There's some more great coastline along the south, including the iconic 12 Apostles. Well... 11 since the one front and center crumbled a few years back. They also have a very PCH-like stretch of road with nice surf beaches. Their flies, however are incredibly persistent and land wherever they can find an orifice [do not insert joke here].

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

South Central Australia part 1

We’re finally back in a town with over 100,000 people and decent internet. Since the last time, we’ve essentially driven along the southwest coastline of the country, across the Nullarbor plain, down part of the Eyre peninsula and up to Coober Pedy. The southwest coast is reknowned for its turquoise beaches and white sand (1 & 2). On many of these beaches kangaroos and wallabies hang out mowing on the grass fairly unconcerned about human presence (3). This one ambled by our van door and peered in for a moment.

The southwest also has a couple forests with eucalyptus trees almost as tall as redwoods. In one of those forests they’ve erected a steel walkway amongst the treetops about 130 feet up (4). It sways in the wind and the forest floor is in clear sight through the metal grating walkway causing a bit of a pucker.

Unfortunately, snakes enjoy this country too and we nearly stepped on a King Brown (5) later to learn it is somewhere around the 3rd deadliest in the world. But all Australian snakes have teeth no longer than a few millimeters so you’re typically fine unless it gets bare skin.

South Central Australia part 2

The birds are a bit more friendly though (1).

The outback starts to dominate the central part of the country producing spectacular sunsets (2). For a short while the highway skirts the southern ocean along impressive cliffs that run for a hundred or so miles along the coast (3). The softer sandstone underneath harder rocks doesn’t allow beaches to form as chuncks of cliff crumble into the ocean. Along these long desolate roads many people just camp in various picnic areas along the way and the stars are bright. Unfortunately there’s a fair amount of roadkill and most trucks and SUVs have “roo catchers.”

This is also the land of the infamous “road trains” (4) which are allowed to be up to 150 feet long and whose air drag can lurch your ludicrously tall campervan half a lane over. On the way to Coober Pedy in the true middle of nowhere are some large dry lakes (5). A lot of this land is used by AUS and USA military for rocket tests.

South Central Australia part 3

Coober Pedy itself is one of the hottest places in the country but has a ton of opal, so the miners ingeniously turn their mineshafts into homes afterwards (1 & 2). A few scenes from the Mad Max movies were filmed in this area- very desolate and otherworldly looking (3). It’s just a lot of dirt, heat and more dirt- most of it in hundreds of thousands of piles left over from the mining activity.

The football field is kept alive by treated sewer water while the golf course doesn’t have a blade of grass on it- you carry a small patch of artificial grass to hit your ball off of. The putting greens are simply a different blend of dirt so there’s some color contrast (4&5). However, it is the only golf course in the world that has reciprocal rights with St. Andrews in Scotland. Years ago, somewhat as a joke, the offer was made (with a token gift of a mine claim thrown in) and the Scots accepted on account of the novelty of it all. Now we’re on our way back south and east to more civilized areas and coastline.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bad formatting apology for below post

Being too lazy to correct, simply accept my apologies for the bad formatting below. Cheers!

A bit of excitement

While in Perth- normally a very clean and inviting city, we had a bit
of excitement with some of the locals. We sat down at an internet
cafe and, as many people do, completely zone out the world around
them while on the computer. Fortunately the shopkeep and one other
person in the establishment weren't completely engrossed in the latest
goings ons of Brangelina- to see a young kid probably no older than
11 "tie his shoes" next to Betsy's purse. Ashamedly, I had the best
view of her purse at her feet and saw none of this.

The shopkeep immediately came over to us and asked us to check if
everything was still there. The wallet was indeed gone. He and
the one other observant person (out of maybe 20 people crammed
in the shop) pointed him out as he was quickly walking down the street.
There were several people in black shirts so couldn't readily
figure out which one while they were back at the shop frantically
pointing in various directions. I got to the first intersection
about to give up when one passerby noticed the hubub and said a
kid just went to the right down the street. Sprinting in that
direction, a nice lady at a sidewalk cafe calmly noted that a kid
turned down the next closest side street and continued sipping her
coffee as if this was an everyday occurence. Running down the
street, in a doorway were one young boy and 2 slightly older girls-
no more than 14. No one else was around though one other young
couple followed me to possibly help or just see what was going on.

Then a strange moment occurred when the young boy looked at me and
the wheels were turning on what he could say next, but with Betsy's wallet
in one hand and the other full of her cash, he simply handed it all
over. Betsy caught up and confirmed everything was intact. At
this point curiosity got the best of me and I started to question what
a kid his age is doing all this for. At which point the oldest girl,
maybe a sister or cousin, started getting belligerent about us suggesting
this might not be a wise career path and we ought to mind our own business.

I threatened to call the police but they just laughed. They had an
untouchable attitude and began to quickly walk away. More flabbergasted
than anything we just let them go and thanked the various passersby that
pointed us in their direction. Everyone seemed to be very casual about
it and one person jokingly said "Welcome to Australia". We all had
a good laugh (much easier since everything was retrieved safely).

Later at the cybercafe, the shop did call the police and when they did
show up 45 minutes later it was explained to us that even if caught
red-handed as they were, the police could only call their parents to
pick them up from the station. And most times, Aboriginal parents don't
even show up so the kids are put back out to the street (until they reach
legal age- when the laws can finally do something). Apparently this
is a common problem in a lot of big cities and there's not a whole lot
the government can do about it. Other than that, it's been a fantastic
trip so far!