Friday, 5 November 2010

My life as a tourist: Part 2

 Well, my life as a tourist is coming to an end tomorrow as Maik is flying back to Germany (with my bicycle!) and I will start a new trail, the Hume & Hovell Track. But I have seen a lot of Australia in the last 2 weeks since my last entry:

Brisbane: We drove into Brisbane on a Sunday and with a GPS - thank God, as traffic can be hell. We even found a parking spot immediately and started a 9-hour long non-stop tour through the museums. And what wonderful museums they had: A brand now Art and Contemporary Art Museum - absolutely fantastic! I even saw some pictures of the Australian painter Hans Heysen, after whom the Heysen Trail is named.

Glasshouse Mountain
Glasshouse Mountains: I had just planned to go there because we needed a place to camp in a National Park but this turned out to be truly spectacular. These mountains are the "plugs" of old volcanoes and while the volcanoes have eroded away, the mountains are rising steeply into the sky. We even climbed one!

Mount Morgan: is a former mining town that offers 2 hour tours of the town and the old mine. This did not appear in any guide book but we just took a risk and went - and found the most entertaining tour of small town Australia. The tour company is a family enterprise with Dad driving the bus and one of the five daughters doing the tour. They tell you everything - really everything about their town including even the names of the sheep that are kept by the local police to "mow" the lawn in front of the police station... They are named after Australian lawn mower brands. But that is not all: At the end of the tour you even get to see dinosaur footprints on the ceiling of a man-made fire clay cave... Not that we would have recognized that they are dinosaurs, but still....

Beach on Keppel Island
Keppel Island: is basically the stereotype of a Bacardi Rum TV ad tropical island with white deserted beaches, palm trees and clear water. To make things even better there was the best internet connection on this trip and fantastic snorkeling! Yes, I went snorkeling for the first time in 20 years. Maik says I am a natural for snorkeling because I did not drown myself on the first attempt...

Outback Australia: The outback we saw in Queensland was pretty green - it had been raining a lot recently. We saw the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and learnt everything about life in the outback. We even visited a wool scour and the Royal Flying Doctors and learnt that working on an oil rig or as a sheep shearer is probably not one of our dream jobs..

Blue Mountains Waterfall
Blue Mountains: Eventually we had to turn back southward again towards Sydney and discovered that Australian National Parks are not the most accessible ones: We drove 124 km along Wollemi National Park and there is not a single decent road leading into it. Out of frustration I suggested visiting the Blue Mountains - and big surprise: We encountered some of the most impressive scenery and waterfalls! Now I understand why the Blue Mountains are World Heritage.

Canberra: Here we are staying with Aussie Dave, an Australian long-distance hiker and his wife smack bang in the country. Maik is feeding the kangaroos and cockatoos every morning and then we go sightseeing of which there is a lot to do here. The Parliament building is very new, but not very pretty, but at least very interesting. And because the Old Parliament is now empty, they turned it into an even more interesting museum. Not to mention the National Art Gallery and a confusing Australian Museum. I am a bit sight-seen out and ready for hiking again!

Canberra War Memorial
I can't list all the National Parks and small towns we visited. We have seen everything from fantastic beaches, subtropical rain forests, spectacular mountains and arid outback to small towns in the middle of nowhere whose only claim to fame is a giant banana (Port Macquarie) or a statue of the local sheep shearer hero Jackie Howe, who had shorn 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes (Barcaldine)! We ate lamb sausages and kangaroo steak! We never paid for accommodation or camping while we had the camper van. And Maik drove over 5.000 km! Great trip and I am pretty sure Maik will come back to Australia....

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