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Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Darwin, ...)

Back on the road and ready for new adventures. After living 2 year in the New Zealand - the country of the ‘Long White Cloud’ I am leaving for Australia. My visit here is going to be shortish. Just a month, before I catch a plane to Singapore.

Australia, is a country of size of the Europe and yet another one from the old British Empire. Well known by its colours, poisonous animals, jumpy kangaroos, cuddly koalas and big red rock called Uluru. Sometimes resonating by the sounds of Didgeridoos played by the native Aboriginal tribes. The native inhabitants are also famous by their surviving skill in the hostile conditions of the desert, hunting with boomerangs (open U shaped piece of wood thrown in specific way, so it can return to it’s master, when target is missed) and dotted art often composed on their bodies or rocks.

One of the most famous images is the Sydney Opera House. It’s spectacular architecture, glaring in the night into the open sea makes one of the cities dominant. Though for most of the Aussies is the Harbour Bridge the main symbol of Australia. It’s truly amazing to watch the big cruise ships passing under it or being docket in the Darling Harbour. They are of size of a several buildings and while passing under Harbour Bridge, you just have to wonder, if it will fit.

Blue Mountains - Katoomba and surroundings
Got their name from the cloudy haze lazily rolling above the bush most of the mornings. With the colour of the eucalyptus (in Oz so called Gum trees) trees they create bluish mist. Views from the Katoomba are fantastic. No wonder it’s sometimes referred as to a Grand Canyon. Steep carved cliffs and deep valleys covered by bush. Just a big river is missing.

Is busy, buzzing city, with many restaurants, compact centre, big parks and many historically looking churches. It has very mixed, almost spicy feel, which compared to quite uniformed Sydney is something I would be expecting more from Europe. To me it’s certainly the closest reminder of the old continent in the whole Australia/New Zealnd area.

Great Ocean Road
Beautiful views, big waves, plenty of sand, cliffs, sunsets and small sea towns compacted in about 300km. The easiest way is to hire a car from Geelong (if you are on short time schedule) - where you can get on the train from central Melbourne ($6.40 one way). There is lots of bush around the road as well and you can visit National Parks for bush walks and camping. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you will get to see lots of wildlife. I was lucky to spot several wallabies (similar to kangaroo), parrots, one small snake (most likely deadly poisonous) and many koalas. It’s been such a marvel and surprise to find koala in the wild. There was a forest, where there was a koala on almost every second tree. Bit of exaggeration, though I saw about 30 koalas in the space of some 8 km and took me driving/photohunting almost 4 hours. Talking to an active bushwalking friend in Melbourne, I was told that’s a lot of koalas to see. She apparently saw about 6 wild one in all here life. Wow.

Rockhampton + Emu Holiday Par
"Rocky" is considered as on of the traditional local places in Australia, where nothing much is happening. Famous by it's cattle and nearby Saphire mines. By nearby I mean distances in the local view, so some 2-3 hours drive inland. As one of my friends said: 'nothing to hold you there, get the hell out of there as soon as you can.' Well, I found it quite relaxing place, really local almost pure and full of friendly people. As opose to Mackay, a very boring place I would never want to end up again!

A few days at leisure at Emu Holiday Park, which is a place down the sea shore, about a half an hour drive from Rocky. It could be reached by the local bus through the Yeppon, but it takes almost 1.5 hours instead. That's because the bus goes around the whole coast. Price is great $5.60 for the whole ride though. There is a backpacker place (the only one outside Rocky), with a swimming pool. Good place, great owners. There are an easy walks around if you are interested and it's a good base for the trip to W.... Island. You can catch a ferry from the nearby village and it returns back in the evening. You can also organize it as full day trip by some of the travel agencies. I was stoked to see lots of birds here: lorekeets, kakarikee, parrots and I even saw 3 black Cockatoos flying around. That's apparently great to see them in the wild.

Cairns + Kuranda
One of the main places on the travelers route through the Australia. Lots of shops, cafes, bars, night life and also a gateway to Great Barrier Reef for diving, snorkeling. There are several islands around you can visit and endless companies offering tours around. If you are not into the diving, you can have a swim in the city's lagoon, which provides excellent alternative to a safe swim as opose to a sea full of harmful creatures. Also the beach in Cairns is rather muddy shore, than a beautiful sandy beach. Many backpackers has a good swimming pool, where you can relax all day long. (like the Gecko's near the train station). Also walk in the botanical gardens and in the park behind gives you a good alternative of visiting the local rain forest. City itself is surrounded by hills with a few towns hidden in them. One of the most famous is called Kuranda. It's a town situated in the hills above the Cairns. After 5pm it becomes almost a ghost town, when all the day tripping tourists disappear and shops, cafes close. Only a few people stay over the night. The main attractions would be walks in the forest, Barron Falls, shopping, scenic railway and skyline. I saw lots of butterflies around and a few big spiders. For those, who are used the trains (like from Europe), the railway will not appear nothing special, but rather pricey. But for others it's a great adventure. You have to consider how few trains are there around. If you just want to visit a place and wonder around, but not going crazy over the attractions, get a local bus ($4) from the center of town.

Darwin -
Was hot and humid when I arrived. Busy place, full of tourist. I was slightly surprised how big travel hub Darwin actually is. It is easy to get a cheap flights from Darwin to Asia (especially Singapore, Bangkok, Bali), but you pay a lot more to get to the city itself. Though, for those heading to Australia's outback (places like Brome), passing through the central to Ayers Rock or visiting the Kakadu National Park (listed in Unesco Heritage list) is Darwin a great gateway. It has all the facilities you need. You can get a car here, organize tours, find a work or party like a crazy. Kakadu National Park protect something like 20.000 ha of bush, full of wildlife and some of the most famous Aboriginal rock art sites. There are a few mining town around, which nowadays create your entry points for the park. It's easy to get an one day or overnight tour from Darwin, if your time is limited. You can also easily organize your own transport and explore it yourself. As my time here was limited I have resisted the temptation of spending a half day on the bus while going on the day trip to Kakadu. Well, maybe another time. I have tasted Australia and discovered its potential. Next time I am going to drive around to see it a lot better.

I have enjoyed walking around the sea, watching a groups of indigenous people chatting and drinking in the parks or trying to play didgeridoo (very badly) on the street to rise some money. Sometimes they surprised me, with their creativity, when one older guy took two sticks, sat down and started to bang them together. While creating this monotonous noise, he has started to sing some vocals into it. Though all of his concentration went towards passers by, to get some contribution rather then to the performance itself. Generally, it's rather a sad look to see the native inhabitants in Darwin. My recommendation in Darwin is to visit the botanical gardens (with good selection of plants) and connect it with the coastal walk for the views and beach.

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