40 days and 40 nights left of our travels on the day we arrived in Alice Springs... it seems such a long time ago that we started our trip but we've enjoyed all of it - both the good and bad bits! (Not that there's been many bad bits unless you count the number of times I've had a dodgy belly!)
We left Cairns behind and caught our flight to Alice Springs which was a little bumpy and arrived there around lunchtime. As soon as we landed we caught our free shuttle bus to our hostel and checked-in to our 'double room', we ended up with an air-conditioned caravan which was actually quite nice - kind of carrying on the whole camping theme! As we were melting from the intense dry heat we greased up and sunbathed whilst we read and then took a dip in the pool to cool ourselves down. We then showered and decided we'd try to find a phone outside of the hostel and we came across one down the road, unfortunately whilst figuring out the phone wasn't working an aboriginal lady came up to us and asked for some money but we flatly refused her plus we only had a few coins ourselves! We then walked back to the hostel and used the one their (lack of privacy) to call my parents and Ria call her Grandma as it was her birthday. After that we had a chuck in the oven pizza for dinner with some baked beans which was just as well coz it was flavourless so we scooped the beans on the pizza for more flavour! Just after we'd finished eating some man offered us a shot of sambuca so we took it so as not to insult the poor guy - what good citizens we are!
A good nights sleep was had in our little caravan and after brekkie etc I took a shuttle bus back to the airport so I could pick our hire car up (left Ria at the hostel as it was cheaper!). We got upgraded to an automatic white Hyundai Elantra which was very lush inside - only 30,000km on the clock! Drove back to the hostel and picked the bags up (Ria included....only joking) and we started our 5 hour trip into the outback on the road to Adelaide - there's a turn-off for Uluru! 461km later (so the signs say) we arrived at Ayers Rock resort and checked ourselves into the hostel there. Quickly discovered that it's pretty damn expensive there so we agreed we'd buy something for dinner and cook it in the camp kitchen. We then drove into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for $25 fee and drove up to the sunset viewing area where we stayed and took thousands of photos before and after the sunset! It was an amazing experience to see the rock in all it's glory and the changing colours around sunset, the only downside was the millions of flies about. We finally left there and decided it was time to eat so Ria got herself a salad and I had some noodles which tasted awful so ended up having some very yummy cornflakes for dinner! We got an early-ish night as we were gonna be up before the crack of dawn!
4.35 I woke up (without the alarm as it didn't go off) - I don't know how I did it, but I did! We didn't shower then we only brushed our teeth and then drove back into the National Park. We drove past the rock and managed to get a silhouette photo of it, then parked up at the sunrise viewing area - a few cars but plenty of coaches and we all just stood there waiting for the sun to come up. Again we saw the changing colours of the rock and just as the sun was emerging the eerie silence (apart from the odd few people) turned into some dingoes howling from somewhere in the distance. It was quite a surreal experience (especially the dingoes). We were really tired at this point so we decided to drive back to the resort and catch a couple more hours sleep, en route we saw some people climbing the rock using the Maya trail (the only way to get up there) but we didn't do it then and there as we didn't have much water and no breakfast in us! Back at the hostel we managed to have a little bit of sleep then checked out and headed back there and went to the Maya trail contemplating climbing it, fortunately/unfortunately depending on how you look at it the climb was closed. It closes at 8am due to the hot summer temperature; today was no exception as it was about 40C. Therefore, we walked down to a part of the rock and got to touch it and stand on it in an alcove so that was good enough for us, plus the Aboriginee's don't like people climbing it anyway in case someone dies - 30 deaths over the years apparently.
We did that and then visited the centre and looked around, then bought some postcards. We then drove another 50km to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and took some piccies and thought we really should think about heading back as it was getting on but beforehand we scribbled on those postcards and posted them to everybody! Another 461km journey back to Alice Springs on that same road seemed like forever - although Ria wasn't technically insured to drive she still did - who would know out there?! Plus she wanted to just experience it. We also stopped at Jim's Place where the famous Dinky the singing Dingo lives so we were entertained by him howling for about 10 seconds! Those two days we had driven over 1100km! We checked back into the hostel we'd stayed at previously and were given a real room this time where we had a very long nap coz we were shattered. That evening Ria cooked us a lovely meal...well it was a nice meal at the time, unfortunately it gave me the worst upset belly I'd had in a long time - I'm wondering whether she's trying to kill me!
After a night of broken sleep for me (wondering whether Ria was trying to kill me - not really - just due to my belly) we got the shuttle back to the airport and caught the flight to Melbourne. Fair enough it was a budget flight but they even weighed our hand-luggage. Luckily all of our bags were well within their limits - phew! We foudn out beforehand that we weren't going to get any meal so we bought sandwiches beforehand. We read mostly on the flight - I'm getting into this alien abduction book although I managed to pick up a free copy of Harry Potter number 5 at the hostel! Anyway, we arrived in a much colder area of Australia and boy did we notice it. We figured out we had to get the skybus to the city and get a train to a suburb called Windsor. We were successful and arrived at the Back of Chapel hostel but it seemed like a dive. Our 6-bed dorm smelt and it was really untidy - we're not looking forward to this we both thought (and later admitted). We made a quick exit (only for food as we were starving) and ended up having a very delicious veggie pizza together.
Up a little later Wednesday - about 8.20ish. We decided the night before this isn't the hostel for us and were all set to leave but after talking to the guy at reception he said it's quite a good area and only 4 stops to the city centre - of course he's gonna say that but he did make sense so we booked another 2 nights but this time into a 4-bed dorm - ahhhh much nicer! We found out there was a cinema down the road and so our plan for the afternoon was to go and see the newBaz Lurhmann film 'Australia'. Apparently it didn't go down too well with the critics but we really enjoyed it. We stopped at a supermarket where I bought some cheese and crackerbread and ate that for lunch, Ria wasn't feeling too hungry as she'd stuffed herself dull of salty popcorn - yuk! We kinda just had a really lazy afternoon also and just watched some rubbish tv back at the hostel and then went out for some kfc for dinner.
Thursday - "Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours" we sang throughout the morning! Yes,we managed to book ourselves onto the infamous 'Neighbours' tour for the afternoon! As we were going to be in the city for that we decided we'd have a whole day here. We didn't do much before the tour - plenty of walking and then grabbed some lunch. We got on the minibus and started our tour. Firstly we drove past Erinsborough High, then onto Channel 7's studios which funnily enough was also used as the prison in 'Prisoner Cell Block H' so took a couple of piccies! Then inside the grounds we saw the Grease Monkeys cafe, Carpenters Cars and also the famous bus stop where everybody leaves from in Neighbours! We then drove for a while and ended up at Pin Oak Court a.k.a. Ramsay Street and there we could take plenty of photos. After that we were taken to St Kilda and met Janelle Timmins and got her autograph! It was a nice tour and it also meant we saw a bit more of suburbia Melbourne. After the tour we did yet some more walking and ended up in Chinatown and ate some good chinese tukka! Back at the hostel we were naughty and has a krispy kreme donut each whilst watching 'The Beach'... kind of an introduction to Thailand for Ria!
Friday we did yet another road trip and hired a car to drive out to The Great Ocean Road. We made our way out of the city quite easily and didn't get lost once! We started at Torquay (the start of the GOR) and stopped off at Bells Beach (famous surf beach) and then had lunch at Anglesea. We drove (slowly) in total for about 4 hours and ended up at our destination of Apollo Bay and checked-in to a very lovely hostel which was previously a motel. We had originally booked a 4-bed dorm but ended up in a 2-bed! We then had a lovely cup of tea in front of a tv without much reception and then watched another tv waiting for Home and Away to come on but for some odd reason it didn't! Feeling rather hungry now we went out and found an Italian restaurant and got takeaway pasta and rice for dinner and it was belissimo!
Yesterday we left the hostel later than planned but still only 9.40ish. We talked to the man at reception who advised us to stop at certain places along the way. Firstly we took a road down to Cape Otway and there we discovered wild koalas sitting and sleeping in the trees - way better than seeing them in the zoo! After that we got back on the GOR and visited the famous 12 apostles, bought sandwiches in port Campbell, then drove further on to Bay of Martyrs and Bay of islands before heading back inland via Port Campbell and back ito Melbourne, via Colac (where Janelle Timmins in Neighbours comes from!). Unfortunately as the car hire place was shut our next option was to drive to our hostel we'd stayed in before and find a parking place - easy enough if we'd had a map of the city! Luckily I seem to have an in-built GPS system (Aman-Aman - not Tom-Tom!) and found it without getting lost! Parked up and then went out to buy a cooked chicken and some veg and also we were naughty yet again but this time we bought a chocolate bavarian cheesecake!
Today we checked-out of the hostel and returned the car, an almost new white manual Toyota Corolla. From there we walked quite a way to a train station and put our backpacks into lockers for the day then looked around Bourke Street area and decided we'd get a tram into St. Kilda and visit Luna Park (a seaside amusement park). Nothing much there, we then came across an English entertainer just about to start is act so we stayed for that - quite amusing; comedy and juggling. As there was nothing much else to do we headed back into the city and so here we are...... waiting for our 9pm coach to Canberra which is an overnight one. We're spending tomorrow there and then leaving on Tuesday for our final destination of Australia - Sydney!
Can't wait..... til next time!