Category Archives: Travel

The Overland Track – Tasmania (Day 2)

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After a good nights sleep, we made our way towards Windermere Hut which was a short hike away. Some of the people we met were trying to complete the hike in 5 days, so they had some double days ahead of them. Many of them skipped Windermere hut, so we said our goodbyes and headed out. One of the side trips along the way was climbing Barn Bluff. We decided against doing it because it was very cloudy and there wasn’t much hope of getting good views. Those who did it said they saw what was behind them but once they reached the top the views were blocked by the clouds. Some climbed it simply for the challenge of conquering it. We plan on doing all the side trips when we return to Tasmania.

Barn Bluff hidden on a cloudy day

Barn Bluff hidden on a cloudy day

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As we approached the hut we saw a baby wombat who kept running in and out of his burrow.   The mother was also around but ran off and left him. The Lake is only a short walk from the hut. We were worried about not getting a bed because there seemed to be a lot of people at first. This was never a problem though, but we decided to claim one before heading back out to the lake. People can swim in the lake if they choose to, but it was far too cold for us. It was very quiet other than the buzzing of the dragon flies. A great place to relax and admire the scenery.

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The tent sites at Windermere hut were also very good.   The plots were quite big and spacious. Of course on a hike like this there are no showers and the toilets were the decomposing ones. They were reasonably clean but the smell was nauseating, emitting what smelled like a toxic odor! Everyone joked about how they tried to hold their breath every time they used it but it never worked. There was also warnings about possums who apparently could gnaw their way through anything. Needless to say we kept our backpacks inside, based on the advice of the rangers. The people sleeping in the tents said they could hear the possums at night.

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Pademelon

Pademelon

Lake Windermere

Inside the huts the main activity of the evening was to make dinner. We brought the Back Country freeze-dried food as we found these to be very lightweight. My favourite flavor was the Thai Chicken Curry. I was impressed with how spicy it was. It was interesting to see what food other people brought with them. One couple had homemade freeze-dried food, which look amazing. Others brought food that wasn’t really suitable for backpacking. There’s always one :-).

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Have you done the Overland Track? Share your thoughts on it below.

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The Overland Track – Tasmania

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We completed the Overland Track in Tasmania in March. Here are some highlights from the trip. Stay tuned for more next week.

Overnight Stay

Our first time in Tasmania was doing the Overland Track. We took the 10 hour ferry. When we got off the ferry we began driving towards the finishing point of the Track. We were going to leave our car at the visitor Center and arranged to get a taxi to the starting point. We stayed overnight at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge before beginning the hike the following day.  At $200, the taxi ride wasn’t cheap. We also had to be very organized and ensure we took what was absolutely essential. As whatever we took from the car had to be carried and taken on the hike with us.

So all our luxuries had to be left in the car.  It was a nice drive to the lodge.  The views were really impressive and we had to get use to the elevation and winding roads.  The lodge had a scenic environment.  There was the potential to see different animals, including a platypus.  We saw a wombat for the first time.  I had no idea how huge they were in real life.  We did the Enchanted Guided Walk in the evening.  It was a nice and relaxing start to the trip, before the hard work began.

Wombat

Day 1

The following day we drove to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Center, which was just a couple of kilometers away.  We took the bus provided by the Lodge because we didn’t want to walk with our heavy backpacks. It would have been good practice for what was to come.  The starting point was at Ronnie Creek car park.  The bus driver told us how some people hold the record for running the Overland Track and completing it in eight hours.  We were happy to take our time.  We also heard that the first day was the hardest.

 

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It certainly was a though start.  The beginning was flat and we walked on the board walk for most of it.  However, the difficult part was encountering some elevation.  We had to climb up a steep mountain with our heavy backpacks.  One section required the use of a rope.  It was also extremely windy.  This made it difficult to balance at times, especially with the heavy backpacks.  We reached the top and took some of my favorite photos.  My hands were very cold but I didn’t have gloves.  I used a pair of socks instead.  This worked a treat.  We saw the waterfall at Crater Falls and stopped for a short break at the lake house, which was a small shelter.

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Cradle Mountain

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The first night in the hut was a new experience.  The best part was meeting other backpackers, many of whom were doing the hike for the first time.  There was a variety of people of different ages and nationalities.  It was the beginning of a great trip and we were in good company.  We soon discovered that every hut had a snorer or two though :-).

Barn Bluff

Barn Bluff

Stayed tuned for days 2 -7 and the rest of our trip in Tasmania.

Indonesia – Final Week

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After river rafting in Ketambe we made our way to Lake Toba.  Johan the guesthouse manager introduced us to a driver and got us a great deal (for tourists at least).  The drive was not for the fainthearted, we were on a mountain with direct drops on either side.  The driver couldn’t wait to overtake at any given opportunity, taking us closer to the edge. He relied on the horn to warn other drivers approaching the blind corners, never slowing down. The potholes were horrendous and I had a serious headache because of the bumpy ride. He did an excellent job though and certainly knew what he was doing. We stopped at a local restaurant where the four of us (the driver brought his friend) ate for under $2. We also stopped at another lake that had an awesome waterfall.  We arrived safely at the port in Parapat and took a small trip to Tuk Tuk, Samosir.

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Lake Toba had a more touristy vibe and there were a variety of resorts. We stayed at Tabo Cottages and our room was beautiful. It had a rustic feel to it, with wooded floors and panels. We also had a nice balcony with a hammock to chill in. Other than lounging beside the pool or eating in the restaurant, there wasn’t a lot to do.  The hotel also provided a variety of beauty and relaxation services. It was certainly a change of pace and different from our usual style of travelling.  So, we decided to rent motor scooters to explore the beautiful lake and the surrounding areas. This was the main activity planned for our stay. I’ve always said I would never rent motor scooters on holiday because I had never ridden one before and you hear so many horror stories.

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Lake Toba

Lake Toba

We were given a crash course (no pun intended) on operating our motor scooters, we each had one. Then we set off on our journey. It was brilliant and we had a lot of fun at first. We saw some stunning views of the Lake and people kept waving at us, especially the children. Some of them thought I was from Papua Indonesia and would shout ‘hello Papua’.  I was wondering why I hadn’t done this before. The potholes were very problematic  but on the main road there was less to contend with. We went around for four hours without any major problems, other than encountering some very uncomfortable potholes. Then, ten minutes from arriving back at our guesthouse, it all went blank.

I woke up in a clinic and my husband explained that I had been on a motor scooter. I didn’t even remember being on one and was confused. It eventually came back to me. I was told the local people were very helpful. One put me in his car and drove me straight to the clinic, while my husband followed behind.  I was unconscious at first, bleeding from the head and lying on the side of the road. It all sounded pretty horrific.  At first I was more concerned about having a scar, but I soon realized I was extremely fortunate to come through it alive!

Near Lake Toba

Near Lake Toba

Thankfully I only had  a couple of stitches, near my eye though, and one side of my face was extremely swollen. I also split the inside of my mouth, which freaked me out but it closed up by itself relatively quickly.  The nice hotel room was a haven as  I recovered for a couple of days.  I  looked like a boxer after losing a fight; I resorted to wearing sunglasses indoors. We’re not sure why I fell off the bike; I believe it was because of the potholes and gravel. Where the accident happened was a particularly bad patch in the road. I was wearing a helmet but it wasn’t secured properly and it flew off.   When considering renting a motor scooter you have to decide if the risks are worth it. I don’t know if I will rent one again, probably not and certainly not in a country where the roads are so bad. I had to go to a clinic every two days to have my wounds cleaned and to get prescriptions. I had my stitches removed towards the end of the trip in Yogyakarta .   The cost of medical treatment was under $30 in total!

Having my stitches removed towards the end  of the trip

Having my stitches removed

After Lake Toba, we took more long distant car journeys. Our Indonesian friend introduced us to a driver. It really helped to have good contacts.  We went to Ijen Crater where we were hoping to see blue lava at night. However, we were told that it was emitting toxic fumes, and at night there would be no one there to warn us if the fumes were coming. So we went during the day, and it was still very beautiful. We had to hike to the top. It wasn’t that much of a distance but I was struggling, as I was still recovering from the accident.  On the way up we were passed by the people that collected sulfur from the crater.  Some of them would try to sell us some sulfur souvenirs but they did not harass us.

Ijen Crater

Ijen Crater

Sulphur collected from the crater

Sulfur collected from the crater

The following day we had to get up at 2 am to drive to Mount Bromo and make it before sunrise.  There were a lot of tourists there and our view was blocked by people standing on the walls. This was quite annoying but we decided to walk down to a  lower level and had exclusive seats.  The views were stunning before and after the sunrise.  There was some visible activity from it at various points.  We stayed there for quite a while taking photos and keeping an eye on it in case anything exciting happened.

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Indonesia is a great country with wonderful people who are very welcoming.  Three weeks was not enough and it is likely we will be returning in the near future. I had never seen a volcano before in real life prior to visiting Indonesia and, I certainly hadn’t seen Orangutans in their natural habitat.  Neither had I seen Octopuses or Sea Turtles before when scuba diving. So it was a first for many different experiences. The scooter accident only reinforced how lovely the people are, because without their help and the help of various medical staff, it would have been much worse.  Thankfully receiving medical treatment was very inexpensive.

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We packed a lot into the three weeks and finding someone to drive us around helped a great deal. That was our biggest expense but everything else in terms of food and accommodation were extremely economical. We finished off our trip by going on a  jeep ride around Mt Merapi, a volcano that erupted in 2010.  There was a lot of information about the aftermath of various natural disasters, such as the Tsunami of 2006 and towns affected by volcano eruptions.  I have some photos relating to these visits that I will be sharing.

Have you been to Indonesia? Maybe you can recommend some places for when we return.

 

Thanks for reading :-)

 

Indonesia – Week 2

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We took a flight to Medan and stayed there for one night before heading off on a 7 hour car journey.  We hired a local driver who took us to a small restaurant where there were no tourists. It was unbelievable how little we paid for food. The three of us ate for under 2 dollars. We passed through a town with a volcano; Mount Sinabung, it was really impressive. I had never seen a volcano before in real life. The town had to be evacuated in 2010, when it erupted. There is an exclusion zone around it. We arrived in Ketambe and stayed at Wisma Cinta Alem for our jungle adventure. The guesthouse had a nice family vibe, the rooms were clean and the food was good. The manager and guides were super friendly; we would usually sit around chatting in the evenings. The first night was eventful, the power went out and I ran away from a large bug that had a hard shell. It was so big it looked like a flying scorpion. At this point everyone was wondering how I was going to survive the jungle.

Mt Sinabung

Mt Sinabung

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We set off in the morning for our jungle trek, with a small load each. Ival, our guide carried the food and everything else we needed. We did a two-hour hike and saw some domestic monkeys and long-tailed ones, high up in the trees. We had plenty of breaks so it was a reasonable hike, nothing too strenuous.  It was very humid though, after a few minutes we were dripping in sweat. We set up camp by the river.  It was basically plastic sheets held up by sticks to provide shelter.  This was truly roughing it as there were no toilets or showers.  However, we had  the luxury of having our meals cooked for us, so we couldn’t complain. We ate noodles,  rice, vegetables and egg, the food was good. In total we were there for two nights and three days.

The river near our campground

The river near our campground

Our Camp

Our Camp

The highlight of the trip was seeing Orangutans.  They are extremely rare. The rainforest in Indonesia is the only place in the world, where you will see them in their natural habitat.  We saw a mother and baby on the move and I managed to get some decent shots of them.  Most of the monkeys were at a great distance, high up in the trees. So it was hard to get a clear shot of them. We are going upgrade our zoom lens for our next trip.   After a day’s hiking we would go back to the camp for dinner and sit around having a nice chat with the guides and porters.

Interesting moths. I named them Mathstick Moths

Interesting moths. I named them Matchstick Moths

Ant Photobomb

Ant Photobomber

For the first night we were the only western tourists there, but more people came the next day. After searching for monkeys all day we found it ironic that the domestic ones surrounded the campground in the evening. One night I found a leech on my ankle, I was very vigilant about leeches after that. I was like the leech detective. Thankfully there were no super scary bugs to deal with, not any that I was aware of.  On the second night we went to the hot springs and saw two more Orangutans in the distance.  The water was freezing when I first got in; it was a huge shock to the system. Our guide showed me where to find the warm water and it was like being in a hot tub.  The whole area was surrounded by steam.  Some areas contained scolding hot water, so you had to be careful. There were campgrounds there as well; it would have been a stunning place to camp.

Phunky Monkey

We survived the jungle and decided to spend our last day doing river rafting. Ival and some other guides took us on the raft with some other tourists. It was a lot of fun; some of the rapids were pretty rough. We got to see the local areas and scenery along the river.  We thought we were going to fall in at one point but we managed to stay afloat. It was a great way to end our time at Ketambe, saying goodbye was sad.

Hot Springs

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The last week began at Lake Toba, where we decided to rent motor scooters (big mistake), and we took some really long car journeys to visit volcanoes.  I’ll share these next week.

Indonesia

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A wonderful three-week trip of scuba diving, jungle trekking, volcanoes, and delicious food. I will share what we did each week, along with photos and highlights.

Salak

Salak

Week 1

Our Indonesian friend who works in Australia, picked us up from the airport. We were looking forward to meeting his family and spending time with local people. The car journey in Jakarta was eventful to say the least. Immediately, it was apparent that red lights were optional, and if you missed your turning, you could always go back and drive down the road on the wrong side. It was certainly not for the faint-hearted, but our friend was a good driver so we were in safe hands.  Meeting his family was wonderful, they were very welcoming and hospitable. It was Sunday, so the whole family usually met up after church. When we entered the neighborhood, there were many kids playing on the street. We thought they were kids from around the neighborhood playing together, in fact they were all from the same family and related our friend. He has a lot of nieces and nephews! Lunch was excellent, we had Batak food, which is the tribe our friend belongs to.  We also had traditional Indonesia food. There was chicken, pork, rice, noodles, chilies and vegetables.  We ate with our right hand and each of us had a bowl of water to wash it with. The rice wasn’t sticky so it  kept slipping through my fingers. For dessert, we were introduced to fruits grown in Sumatra and Java. These included; salak and duku. There was a festival later in the day where people of different tribes wore their native clothes and paraded through the streets.  People stopped us and asked to take photos with us.

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People from the Papua tribe

People from the Papua tribe

We spent two nights in Jakarta and headed off to Banda Aceh, the town most effected by the Tsunami of 2004. From there we took a ferry to Pulau Weh. We booked with a local agent and found their price much cheaper than the  price quoted on the internet. Pulau Weh was all about scuba diving and we booked with Rubiah Tirta Divers.  I hadn’t done it for almost five years so they suggested I do a refresher course. They also offered a Discover Scuba dive for those who aren’t certified. I was told there was a very strong current on most dives. I later found that to be an understatement.  The refresher course was pretty straightforward and it felt good to be back in the ocean.  In the afternoon I did my first proper dive at a site called Arus Paleeh, the current wasn’t too bad and there was a lot to see; scorpion fish, clown trigger fish, rainbow fish, nothing I hadn’t seen before.   As my husband isn’t certified, it was only me and the instructor at times. The groups were divided among different instructors to keep them small, as not to scare the fish away. It was organised very well.

The next day we visited East and West Seulako. At both sites I was blown away by seeing certain creatures for the first time in their natural habitat. We saw sea turtles, Octopuses, see horses and tiny lobsters. The current was no picnic though. On both dives I descended with very little air left in my tank. Most of us went through a lot of air and one man ran out of air completely, on both dives! His buddy always had enough to share with him thankfully.  Getting swept along by the strong current for most of the dive probably caused us to take more breaths than usual. The instructors were fine though, some had over half a tank of air left, all of them were Indonesian and dived everyday. It sounded like a dream job, as well as a dream location to work.

Our last day of diving was the toughest, unfortunately I got separated from my buddy and the instructor. I was swiftly swept away by a very strong current, everybody was swept away at some point. Running very low on air, it wasn’t the best timing either. Thankfully they caught up and people from the other groups were around, we all ascended together after a rest stop, that seemed to go on forever. I  kept frantically checking my air.  Pulau Weh is a beautiful  island, the choice of accommodation is very basic though as all you will find are simple beach bungalows.  We were fortunate enough to have a sink in our bathroom as nobody else seemed to have that luxury.  We stayed at Iboh Inn, the staff are super friendly and the accommodation is clean and one of the nicest on the island. We had a balcony and a stunning sea view.

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

Pulau Weh

Pulau Weh

A lizard we saw while eating lunch

 

If you have any specific questions about our trip, you can email us or leave them in the comments below.  Next week I’ll write about our trek through the jungle and an unfortunate motor scooter accident. Stay tuned!

The Great Ocean Walk

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We set off from Adelaide towards the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, South-East Australia. We were not going there to stop along the various lookout points and sample some of the activities along the way. Neither were we going there to admire the view from the car window.  We were going there to be a part of it, and explore it from the inside.  The Great Ocean Walk (GOW) is 97.1km in total and can be completed in five to eight days.  Hikers can also choose to do shorter walks, over fewer days.  Carrying a full backpack; with the tent, clothes, food, and supplies wasn’t easy, but I was looking forward to the challenge.

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Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge

Our adventure began at the Great Ocean Road Visitor Centre.  We took an expensive taxi ride there, from the Princetown Recreation Reserve, where our car was parked.  Essentially, the aim was to walk back to the car. The beginning involved walking through the town. We stood out from everyone else, as we carried our big backpacks through a small market place.   It was a 9.8 Km walk in total, no major hills yet.  Approaching the Shelley Beach picnic area, we decided to take the beach walk, to avoid an uphill climb. There was a scary section, where we had to cross over a gap between the rocks.  This was tricky to negotiate with our heavy backpacks.  We had seconds to cross before the waves hit. I crossed just as a huge wave came in, crashing against the rocks.  The map clearly marks out the areas that should only be crossed during low tide. Not being experts on tides and waves, we certainly didn’t have a scientific approach to determine safety. We just went for it, anything to avoid those hills. Be cautious and refer to the map when in doubt. Walking up a hill would have been a lot safer.

The Elliot Ridge campground was our first stop. Unfortunately, just before entering the campground there was a steep uphill climb that seemed to go on forever, especially as it was our first climb. You may not feel good while climbing it, but you certainly feel good when it’s over.  There were many more of these to come.   Upon entering the campground we heard a strange noise.  It sounded like a wild pig, I immediately wondered if they had these in Victoria. Is it alright to run from these? I asked myself, do they chase?  Thankfully, one didn’t come charging out from the bushes to attack us.  I thought it could also be a motorcycle engine, but we were deep into the rainforest. It was confusing to say the least. We were surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees, which created a shaded and mystic environment. We then saw a Koala half way up a tree, the first of many. Later, we discovered it was the Koala making the strange noise. We had no idea they made this bizarre sound. You usually don’t hear a peep from them at home.  All night in our tent, we could hear the Koalas up in the trees, making a collective sound.

 

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An Echidna

 

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Elliot Ridge to Cape Otway

The following day was our first double day. Instead of camping at Blanket Bay, we had lunch there and continued our journey towards Cape Otway. In total we walked 22.5km. Along the way we saw Wallabies.  They would stare at us for a few moments, before hopping off through the heavy shrubbery. We wondered how they managed to do that so comfortably, without getting hurt.  There was one Wallaby that didn’t hop off straightaway.  As we approached it, we wondered why it wasn’t scared and became a little concerned. Then he appeared to hop away in slow motion. He was an old fellow.

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The Elderly Wallaby

We  passed a lot of cattle, which may have explained why we were harassed endlessly by flies.  They would cling to our backpacks and fly into our faces. Fighting them off was utterly futile.  They would go away momentarily, and come straight back. It was as if there was a magnetic force, pulling them towards us.  We had to learn to accept them; I even took my fly net off after a while.  We stopped at the lookouts at Parker Inlet to admire the stunning views of the Ocean. Stopping became problematic, as the flies took it as an opportunity to pounce on us.

We reached the Lighthouse just as it was closing. We didn’t mind because we had been hiking all day, and climbing a long flight of stairs didn’t appeal to us.  Besides, we were feeling self-conscious about the flies that were following us. I took a chance and entered, to buy a drink. Thankfully, as soon as I went through the doorway, the flies left. Of course they were waiting for us outside like stalkers.

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Cape Otway to Johanna Beach

From Cape Otway, we embarked on yet another double day. We felt stronger and better prepared for the uphill climbs. When hiking, the first couple of days are always the toughest, but your body gets use to it as you progress.  We didn’t see any other backpackers along the trail at this point; we were alone for most of the walk. As we were doing double days, we had already gone ahead of people.  The stillness, and silence was peaceful. Use to travelling to busy places, full of tourists; we experienced a quiet contrast on the GOW. There was just the two of us and an occasional wallaby, echidna or snake. Perhaps the beginning of summer was not the most popular time of year. There were certainly some hot days, but it was usually cool in the mornings and rained heavily on occasion. We were well prepared for the different conditions, carrying warm and waterproof clothing just in case.  Bringing a small tripod was handy because there wasn’t anyone we could ask to  take a picture of us.  Our tripod had straps, so we would tie it to a tree to position the camera.

The walk started with an uphill climb, although it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  We then reached a road that seemed to go on forever, with no bench or log to sit on.  Going downhill was no picnic either; the pressure on the knees was intense at times, especially with a heavy backpack.  Crossing the Aire River was a mini adventure for me; I took my shoes off and stepped into the cool crisp water. It was very refreshing. We crossed a bridge and stopped to have lunch at the Aire River Campsite.   There were tourists stopping at the various lookout points, this was in contrast to the isolation we had experienced before this point.

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From the Aire River campsite to Johanna Beach, we experienced what felt like the longest beach walk in history.  Every step resulted in my feet getting buried in the soft sand, it was horrendous. Even the stunning views of the ocean didn’t distract me from the tedious and bitter task of simply walking on the beach. All we could do was try to find wet sand to walk on, when possible.  The waves along this section were gigantic. An explanation as to why it was deserted.  There certainly wouldn’t be any surfing or swimming in those conditions.   Watching the waves crash was a stunning sight.  Part of the beach was sectioned off to protect the endangered Hooded Plover birds.  Towards the end of this stretch, we had to negotiate passing in between a giant wave, crashing on the shore.  We took our shoes off and went for it.

As we approached the Johanna Beach campsite, some locals told us where the Kangaroos come out to feed at dusk.  We were the only ones at the campsite so we had the pick of the plots. We chose the one with a spectacular sea view.  We set up camp and took a short walk up a hill and through a gate, to see the Kangaroos.  We saw three or four on the field below.  That night we learned that  having a sea view came at a price.  Our tent was totally exposed during a very stormy evening.  We thought  it would be blown away, with us in it.  Thankfully it held up and we survived the night.

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Johanna’s Beach to Ryan’s Den

Rain greeted us the next morning. We waited before setting off and had breakfast and tea under the shelter.  Then we had to reside ourselves to the fact that it wasn’t going to stop raining. Johanna’s Beach to Ryan’s Den was the most difficult hike of the trip so far.  From the onset, there was a great deal of elevation.  We walked up towards the Melanesia Track and had a close up view of the Kangaroos, peeping at us from behind the grass. Although this day was more difficult than both double days, it was one of the most beautiful hikes.  The challenge was more mental than physical. As soon as we reached the top of a hill, we had to come straight back down, then up again. As the trail led us through the rainforest, I would have chosen walking on soft sand in a heartbeat.  Meanwhile, we saw a scary snake for the third time during the trip. A  distraction from constantly asking myself; “are we there yet?”

Take in the views and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, while rising to the challenge of the hike.  There were nice places to take breaks along the way. Towards the end, there were a number of timber staircases.  A stair lift would have really come in handy at this point.  Arriving at Ryan’s Den, we didn’t make the same mistake twice.  We camped behind a tree to provide a barrier against the strong winds.  This was a nice campsite, with communal areas on a hilltop to admire the views.

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Ryan’s Den to Devil’s Kitchen

The plan was to go to Devil’s Kitchen the next day.  This certainly was the most difficult day of the hike. There were many steep climbs up to the cliffs, and downhill walks into the valleys. It was both mentally and physically challenging, but this did not diminish the beauty of our surroundings. We entered the Great Otway National Park and walked through the Moonlight Valley. There were day hikers and tourists doing the Great Ocean Road and going to The Gables Lookout. We felt really under-dressed at this point.  The Gables Lookout provided awesome views of the Ocean and cliffs.

Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, we decided to stop at the Gables Car Park to call a Taxi. We had planned to walk from the Devil’s kitchen campsite to the Princetown Recreational Reserve, where our car was parked. We were going to leave our backpacks in the car and walk the rest of the way, towards the 12 Apostles. Then we would have walked back to the car. That would have been a very long day. I’m glad we drove there instead! The 12 Apostles were great, but we saw many more beautiful sites; through the rainforest, along the cliffs, in the valleys and on the beaches. Everyone told us we had seen the best parts of the walk and not to feel too bad about not doing the last day.  If you want to see the area in all its glory, I would recommend doing the walk. Even a shorter 3 day hike would be worth it. Get out of the car and put your hiking boots on.

 

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Kitchen and Shelter

Have you done the GOW? Share your experiences below.

Camping in Central Australia

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After recently buying a car, we decided to head to the Outback, and go on our first camping trip in Australia.  We took off from Adelaide and made our way towards Alice Springs, stopping at places along the way.  Coober Pedy was our first stop.  Famous for its Opal mining, there are tours available for finding your own opals and learning about the workings of the mines.  We stayed there overnight, in a unique underground campground.

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We continued along the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs.  We stayed there overnight,  in a well equipped campsite that had a supermarket, bar, restaurant and showers.  It was an ideal place for passing through.  The next day, we continued towards the Western MacDonnell Ranges, National Park.  This is a 644km stretch of mountain ranges. The scenery is stunning throughout, with views of the spectacular gorges and gaps contained in the mountain ranges. This National Park is home to the famous Ayers Rock (or Uluru).  The Visitor Centre has many exhibitions of Aboriginal Artwork, and information about the historical and cultural significance of area.

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The first campsite we stayed at was in Ormiston Gorge. The area for tents was along the Larapinta Trail. This is a world-renowned, long distance bush walk, that is 223 kilometres long.  It is a two-week hike that requires a lot of planning.  It wasn’t feasible for us to do it, but we plan to come back to do this hike another time.

We started off with a short 1 hour trail – The Pound Walk, just as a warm up. The main walk of the day was the 3-4 hour, Ormiston Gorge walk.  The first thing that struck me, was how rough the terrain was. There were a lot of large rocks and boulders to walk over, throughout the trail. It was a beautiful hike and worth doing.

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The Terrain

The Terrain

Later in the day, we did another short hike.  These are always worthwhile, you never know what you might discover along the way.  We walked to the Gorge and saw some brave people trying to swim in the ice-cold water. They didn’t stay in the water for very long.  On the way back we saw a Black-flanked Rock-wallaby heading up the mountain. I was very excited about this, because up until that point, we really didn’t see many wild animals.  We only saw some dead Kangaroos along the side of the road and some wild Emus in the distance, while driving.

Spot the Wallaby

Spot the Wallaby

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Heading towards the King’s Canyon we stayed at the King’s Creek’s Station. This was the only campsite that allowed us to make a fire. My previous camping experience was in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, where camp fires were not allowed.  So this was my first camp fire, and we had to collect our own fire wood.  It gets very cold at night in the Outback, so it was nice to have a warm, cosy fire.

Camp Fire

Camp Fire

Base Walk

Base Walk

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The next day, we hiked in Witarka, and completed the 3-4 hours Canyon Rim Walk.  This was a pleasant walk, we managed to complete it in two and a half hours. The only tough part was the very beginning, which was a steep uphill climb. After that, it becomes less strenuous. Again, the terrain was quite rough, but we were use to it by then. The views of the Canyon were amazing!

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Uluru/ Ayers Rock

We watched  the sunset, and sunrise, on different days.  It was nice to see how the mountain changed colour, depending on the position of the sun.  We did the same at Kata Tjuta, and enjoyed sitting in a picnic area with a couple of other people.  The best time to arrive for the sunrise was about 6:30am, as the sky began to change colour at that time.

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Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta

Climbing Uluru

We did a short, 1 hour hike, with a ranger. He explained the cultural significance of the gorges and gaps in the rocks.  He also explained the medicinal and practical uses of different trees and plants.  Then he covered the reasons why the indigenous people didn’t want tourists climbing Uluru.  They consider it to be sacred, with religious and cultural significance. Also, 35 people have died climbing Uluru, since the 1960s. Uluru is opened to the public to climb at various times during the day, depending on the weather conditions.  Once you know all the facts, it is up to you to decide whether or not your want to climb it.

Sunset at Uluru

Sunset at Uluru

The beginning of the climb is quite steep, and very exposed.  There is a chain for climbers to hold onto, for the first hour, or so.  You will also see people coming down as you go up.  This is a good opportunity to get further information from people, about the climb. They would usually tell you the bad news that what was ahead, was actually a false summit and there was a lot further to go.  Take plenty of water, stay close to the chain and take your time.  You will see people of different ages climbing, including children.  You can climb it to the halfway point if you prefer.

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Camping Essentials

Sleeping bags: the Outback gets very cold at night. So if you are sleeping in a tent, a good sleeping bag is essential. We used the Sea to Summit, Trek TK II sleeping bags. They are designed to withstand temperatures as low as -25 degrees celsius. These certainly kept us warm at night and they insulate well.  When you set up camp, put the sleeping bags out straight away and leave them out all day.  The longer they are left out, the more air gets into them, and the better they insulate.

Food: Tasty Bite vegetable curries and couscous. These curries are 100% natural, which is rarely found in packaged food.  This meal is very simple to make. Heat the curry in the plastic bag it came in, and boil for five minutes.  For the couscous, just add boiled water, and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. Super easy, and healthy!  These can be purchased in Coles.

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Tuna: drain free tuna keeps you from making a mess! This is an excellent addition to any meal, for added protein.

Soap Bar: I used the MacDougall’s Natural Soap.  Light weight and super convenient for travelling. Shower gels often leak and create a mess. This brand is made with natural ingredients and doesn’t dry out your skin.

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Dangers

Dingos! They don’t attack but they steal shoes! Keep your shoes in your car or tent. I saw one man tie his shoes up in a tree, not taking any chances.

Driving: on a more serious note; the Stuart Highway is considered one the most boring highways in the country. It seems to go on forever and you can drive for miles without seeing another vehicle on the road.  If you get tired, take a break!  There are plenty of rest stops with various facilities, along the way. Take your favourite CDs with you as well, to pass the time.

Camping hairstyle

Two strand twists, pinned up into a bun. Very simple and convenient for camping.

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Fly Nets

The flies in the Outback are relentless. If you are easily annoyed by flies and insects, I would suggest getting a fly net to wear on the hikes. Some areas are worse than others, so it’s good to have one on you, just in case.

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Fees

Take note that the prices listed in the Lonely Planet book, do not specify whether they are per person, or per site.  We were surprised that most places charged per person. So if you are travelling in groups, bear that in mind, or you will have unexpected expenses.

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Wherever you live, camping is an economical way to travel and explore remote places.  There are many activities to do, depending on where you go, such as: hiking, fishing, bike riding, swimming and, simply relaxing in beautiful surroundings. 

For specific information about the campgrounds and their prices, or for general information; email us at naturalfantastic1@gmail.com.

Have you camped in Central Australia? Share your experiences below.