Australia Afterall…

I never thought Australia would be the last of the seven continents I would visit. I really thought Antarctica would be last, but since I travelled there last December, I guess it finally will be Australia afterall. I’ll depart for the land “downunder” on August 2, 2008. It will be the 47th country I’ve visited thus far. My month-long trip will have three central themes: wildlife, rock art, and Aboriginal culture. Here’s my planned itinerary:

August 2 — Depart LOS ANGELES for Brisbane just before midnight on Qantas (the shortest option from L.A. — a measely 13.75 hours non-stop!)

August 4 — Arrive BRISBANE at 0605 AM. That’s right… I “lose” one full day due to travel time and crossing the International Date Line. I fly directly on to Darwin to begin my adventures in Kakadu National Park, Australia’s largest national park, full of wild life, waterfalls, rock art, and Aboriginal culture. While there, I’ll be able to spend some time in Arnhemland seeing rock art and learning about how Aboriginal people have survived off the land for thousands of years. I think Kakadu is going to be a great introduction to Australia.

August 9: Morning flight to CAIRNS to experience that well-known natural wonder of the world, the GREAT BARRIER REEF. Just today, I discovered that 2008 has been declared the “International Year of Reefs”! How cool is that? (Strangely, I was in Antarctica last year, 2007, and that was declared the “International Polar Year”. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2002, and that year was designated the “International Year of Mountains”. No, I did not plan any of this. It’s just an amazing, continuing coincidence!) This portion of my trip will be especially meaningful to me because I’ll be visiting landmark sites discovered by Captain James Cook, a relative on my mother June Cook Colton’s side. (Can a passion for travel and exploration be hereditary?!?!) Anyway, I’m looking forward to a full day out on the reef diving and exploring that amazing ecosystem. While in CAIRNS and PORT DOUGLAS, I’ll also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Cooktown, and the Kuranda Nature Reserve.

August 13: Morning flight to ULURU (aka, Ayers Rock) to learn about the Anangu culture and creation stories, explore some famous rock art and sacred sites as I do the approx. 10 km stroll around the base of Uluru (they discourage climbing the rock these days out of respect for Aboriginal beliefs), and of course photograph Uluru at sunrise and sunset. I’ll attend a “Sounds of Silence Dinner” to learn about the southern night sky from a local astonomer. I’ll also visit Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), some nearby rock formations of Aboriginal significance, and on my final day I hope to make it out to Cave Hill to see what many say are the most spectacular rock art paintings in Central Australia, the Seven Sisters Dreaming.

August 16: Morning flight to SYDNEY to tour the Sydney Opera House and other city highlights, visit some famous beaches, and spend a day at the Taronga Zoo.  On my final night in Sydney, I’ll do a Sydney Harbour dinner cruise and see Lucia di Lammermoor at the Sydney Opera House.

August 20: Morning flight to ADELAIDE. Spend first day seeing city highlights or doing a Barossa wine country day trip. On day 2, take the ferry out to Kangaroo Island for a two-day visit. Return to Adelaide evening of day 3.

August 23: Morning flight to MELBOURNE to visit with two of my Australian friends whom I met whilst traveling in Namibia and South Africa. We’ll drive the Great Ocean Road, see the 12 Apostles and Apollo Bay, cuddle a koala along the way perhaps, go to Phillip Island to see the Fairy penguins (smallest in the world), and visit some wineries in the Yarra Valley.

August 27: Morning flight to BRISBANE. Day 1 in Brisbane I’ll see some city highlights. Then, on day 2, I’ll head off for my 2-day trip out to UNESCO World Heritage FRASER ISLAND, the largest sand island in the world, and home to the purest dingo population in Australia. There are caves, lagoons, rainforests and a 75-mile beach to explore along the way. Returning to the mainland on day 3, I’ll visit the Australia Zoo on day 4, and do some final souvenir shopping before trying to fit all my goodies in my bag for my flight home!

August 31: 1105 AM flight to LOS ANGELES, arriving in LAX at 0700 AM August 31 (yep — I gain one day crossing the International Date Line again).

WHEW! That’s 2 international flights and 7 domestic flights — all on Qantas. I’ve never made so many flights in a one-month period before, but this was really necessary since Australia is just so HUGE — about the size of the continental U.S. Distances are great, so flying was the only way to pull off an itinerary as ambitious as that above. And, hey… I’m only covering Eastern Australia! At least, I’m seeing the parts that interest me most. I’m excited and positive. Don’t know quite what to expect in terms of culture shock… although friends who have been there tell me no other country reminds Americans more of their own than Australia. That may be, but I think there will be some surprises and confusions as well — especially when it comes to the slang terms used in Aussie dialect. That’ll be interesting.

Weatherwise, I’m going at a prime time of the year for my travels in the Northern Territory at the start of my trip. It will still be winter and therefore, cooler — better for wildlife viewing in Kakadu. And no nasty box jellies in the GB Reef in August, so they say. During August, we may even see humpback and dwarfe Minke whales in the GB Reef. By the time I get down to southern Australia, it will probably be pretty cool in parts, but I’d prefer that to the tremendous heat Australia has experienced more and more over recent years. The whole country has been in a drought. So, winter’s fine with me. It’s all relative anyway. Australia’s winter is more like our late fall or early spring in the U.S. from what I hear.

So, this is my “plan”. I’ll be posting updates all along the way as much as possible. Stay tuned.

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One Comment on “Australia Afterall…”

  1. Laura Says:

    AWESOME!! Have a great trip, I’m eager to hear all about your adventures!


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