Saturday, March 28, 2009

Australia Impressions

The best feature of Australia is Australians. Australians are funny, friendly, and the most welcoming people. I've lost count of the number of times we camped out in a campground and had a neighbor come by and greet us, say hi, or give us tips. Whether it's the climate, or because a large number of folks we meet are tourists, it's such an amazing experience. It's even institutionalized. Young people, for instance, can apply for a working holiday visa, where you can work (and minimum wage is $12.50/hour in Australia!) while on vacation for up to a year. There aren't too many other countries that are so generous to visitors!

As an old continent, I knew intellectually that Australia would be eroded and not have as many mountains, but that still did not prepare me for the emotional reaction I had when I visited. This is definitely a country where most of the features are off the coast, under the water. Australia is definitely a great place to visit for a SCUBA diver or a snorkeler. The water is nice, and the wildlife plentiful --- for this trip, the highlight was definitely the trip to Ningaloo Reef. What an amazing place.

I learned that one of the reasons why I enjoy my cycling trips, and why I enjoyed the coast to coast trek is the navigational challenge. At the time when I did the Coast to Coast, I was annoyed by how frequently I would get lost. It was only after doing the Tasmanian Overland Track that I realized that being led by the nose had never been the experience I was after in the outdoors, even if I had some nominal choice as to which side-trips I could choose to take!

What would I do differently on this trip? The big one would have been to plan to visit Ningaloo right from the start. That would have saved us some time and money! Secondly, rather than doing the Overland Track, I would have chosen to whitewater raft the Franklin/Gordon river system. While the Overland Track is nice, I don't think it actually offers anything that many other hiking trails in New Zealand, the U.S., or anywhere in Europe doesn't, while the wild rivers in Tasmania were really impressive. I would cut the amount of time spent in the Red Center to just 3-4 days rather than almost an entire week. While Kings Canyon is impressive, it really wasn't worth a whole day, and by the time we got to Alice Springs we were quite sick of desert. I don't expect to visit Bryce Canyon, or any of the desert U.S. parks either, after this visit to the desert.

All in all, however, this was definitely a trip of a lifetime.
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