Oceania – The Barefoot Nomad http://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Thu, 18 Jan 2018 04:03:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Travel Photo: Ayers Rock (Uluru), Northern Territory, Australia http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-ayers-rock-uluru-northern-territory-australia/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-ayers-rock-uluru-northern-territory-australia/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 22:00:58 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=1569 Ayers Rock / Uluru, Australia at Sunset

Ayers Rock / Uluru in Australia at Sunset

Ayers Rock, or Uluru to the local Anangu Aboriginal people, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory in central Australia. It’s about 3 and a half hours south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs.

The area around the rock outcropping includes a few water springs, waterholes and rock caves with some ancient paintings. There are numerous guided tours and seeing the rock is a great way to learn about its Aboriginal history.

Truth be told, it may seem like a long way to travel just to see a giant rock, but the entire experience can be quite memorable.

Whether you’re enjoying the sunrise or sunset views (the only time the rock truly looks red) with the traditional glass of champagne or hiking around the 9.4 km trail at it’s base, Uluru needs to be seen from different angles throughout the day to be fully appreciated.

The color and texture change so much depending on the time of day you would almost believe it was alive. The nearby domed rocks of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) is equally captivating, has a few walks of it’s own and will leave you with a feeling of wonder.

The drive there can get a little boring, however, the occasional kangaroo and emu sightings, the red dirt and scrub bush, the camel ranches and the beautiful Australian outback sky are all interesting things to see along the way. They have a nice resort/campground in nearby Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort) where you can stay for a few days. If you go you’ll definitely want to see at least one sunrise or sunset viewing and I would recommend against any extended driving in the dark when you’re new to the outback.

Here’s a travel tip: If you’re driving in the outback by wary of kangaroos. For whatever reason when they’re on the move they rarely stray from their path.

When we drove up the Oodnadatta Track and the Stuart Highway in our van from Adelaide to Darwin and then across from Darwin to Cairns we saw countless kangaroos and even more carcasses along the highway. More than once we had to stop the car to let a kangaroo jump across.

The funny part is that in a lot of places you can see the kangaroo coming from a mile away. They’re usually bouncing perpendicular to the road and traveling at a decent speed. Even though you’re 10 times they’re size and are quite visible they don’t seem to notice that you’re there. They’ll run right into the side of your vehicle if you’re at the wrong spot at the wrong time, even if you’re at a complete standstill!

Next to the zigzagging road trains, the kangaroos are the biggest threat on the roads in the outback and aren’t so easily dismissed.

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-ayers-rock-uluru-northern-territory-australia/feed/ 9
10 Unusual Things to Do in Fiji http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/10-unusual-things-to-do-in-fiji/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/10-unusual-things-to-do-in-fiji/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 04:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=9803 Unusual things to do in Fiji

Fiji is truly an isolated island paradise. It takes 10 hours to fly from either Hong Kong or Los Angeles and three hours from New Zealand, its closest large neighbor.

The islands are best known for white sands and crystal clear water, so we were surprised to discover a great mix of fun, offbeat things to do on Fiji.

Sure, you can still enjoy the relaxed island life, but it’s also nice to know that Fiji has enough to do that you can mix it up a bit when you get tired of sunning in your beach chair.

Here are our picks for 10 of the most fun and unusual things to do in Fiji.

Holi Festival

Each February or March, Fijians break out their colored paints and powders to celebrate the Holi Festival. Also known as the festival of colors or the festival of love, Holi is an ancient Hindu religious festival that Fiji has embraced with great enthusiasm. Holi isn’t a public holiday in Fiji, but Fijians of all religions get in on the fun.

Holi Festival by FaceMePLS on Flickr

Photo by FaceMePLS

Poseidon Undersea Resorts

Though it’s not yet open, and has been plagued by ongoing delays, the Poseidon Undersea Resort promises to be one of Fiji’s most unusual attractions. When it opens, not only will it be located on a private island in Fiji, it will be the world’s first sea floor resort. You might want to save up before you book a spot though; it’s rumored that rooms will cost $30,000 per couple per week.

Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool

Definitely not overly commercialized, the Sabeto mud pools are not much more than a heated mud bath in the ground with a distinct smell of sulfur. That said, they’re a nice taste of island life outside the commercialized resorts.

Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool by Jon Roig on Flickr

Photo by Jon Roig

Visit one of Fiji’s 333 islands

When most people think of Fiji, they think of the largest and most visited island in the chain (named Fiji as well). In fact, Fiji is made up of 333 tropical islands, many deserted and private like Castaway Island Fiji (also known as Qalito island). With 333 islands to choose from, you’re bound to find one that’s perfect for you. Check out this map of Fiji to check out the islands for yourself.
Castaway Island Fiji

Photo by Castaway Island Fiji

Firewalking at the Mariamma Temple

Every July or August, you can watch men walk across red hot coals at the South indian fire-walking festival at the Mariamma Temple. Indigenous Fijian fire walking (known as vilavilairevo) was originally practiced only on the tiny island of Beqa, but today you can also see fire walking year round at the Pacific Harbour Arts Village, in many major resorts, or at Suva’s Hibiscus Festival in August.

Firewalking by Lars on Flickr

Photo by Lars

Fijis underwater caves

The limestone caves of Sawa-i-Lau are famous for being one of the locations for the movie The Blue Lagoon. The inner limestone cave of Sawa-i-Lau is only accessible by swimming under a rocky veil so getting there isn’t for the faint of heart.

Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park

These vast sand dunes set against a deep blue sea are well worth the two hour hike that takes you along the dunes and through a mahogany forest. If you ask, the rangers will tell you a little bit about the ancient burial site in the park that has evidence of human habitation from almost 3,000 years ago.

Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park Fiji

Photo by kyle post

Vinaka Fiji Volunteering in the Yasawa Islands

Fiji’s Yasawa Islands are home to 27 villages living below world standards of health and poverty. The Vinaka Fiji Trust was set up to give something back to the villagers and to say “thank you (vinaka) for welcoming us into your islands.” The Trust runs three main programs: marine conservation, education, and sustainable communities.

Naihehe Caves

The Naihehe Cave was once a fortress for a cannibal tribe, and still houses a cannibal oven. Even today, the cave is secluded, and only accessed by a 4×4 drive through the limestone mountains.

Colo-i-Suva Forest Park

The Colo-i-Suva (pronounced tholo-ee-soo -va) Forest Park is a true lush rain forest. If you’re lucky, you may spot a sulphur-breasted musk parrot, Fiji warblers or goshawks. There are natural swimming holes along the walking trails, with a rope swing in the Lower Pools to bring out your inner Tarzan.

sulphur-breasted musk parrot

Photo by jdf_92

Lonely Planet Fiji (Travel Guide) Countries Less Traveled Fiji Part A

Fiji North Beach Mana Island photo by Corey Hamilton.

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/10-unusual-things-to-do-in-fiji/feed/ 10
Crazy Moments on the Road: The Crocodile Dundee Knife http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/crazy-moments-on-the-road-a-crocodile-knife/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/crazy-moments-on-the-road-a-crocodile-knife/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 16:07:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=8651 Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of crazy moments on the road. From being chased by a water buffalo in Sumatra to getting lost in the winding souks of Marrakesh we have a few interesting tales of our travels around the world.

Luckily, we’ve always emerged unscathed however these moments have taught us a few lessons about ourselves, the world in general and of things to watch out for while on the road. At a minimum, I hope they make for an entertaining story.

Chuck and Micki Ellery Creek Big Hole West MacDonnell Park Australia

Looking for watering holes in the Outback

Without further ado, here’s our first officially crazy moment on the road and the lesson we took from it.

That crazy Outback

While on our first year long RTW in 2003, Micki and I had the opportunity to spend nearly five months touring Australia. On that trip we bought a van and crossed through the center of the Outback twice. First vertically from Adelaide to Darwin and then horizontally from Darwin to Cairns.

It was a great drive and we had the opportunity to meet tons of awesome, unique and interesting locals and visitors alike.

While near the center just outside Alice Springs, we made friends with a young couple from the UK. They also had a van they were traveling in and after a long day checking out the sites together we cracked open a bottle at our campsite and settled into a long night of drinking and story swapping.

At some point during the evening, our new friends invited another fellow (a Queenslander in his early 30s) to join us in our conversations. The fact he was camped right next to us and had a wife and two young kids (who were all already asleep) seemed proof enough that he was a decent fellow to our new friends, but something about him made Micki and I distrust him from the get go.

A long evening

As the night wore on, we listened to this newcomer continuously trash the local Aboriginals, rattle off false facts about Australia (we actually had a guidebook on the table in front of us) and pretty much every other word he said was rude and bigoted. Perhaps it was the JD and cola we were drinking, but we argued with him a little more than we probably should have.

Disgusted with us clueless idiots, he finally had enough of us and bid us goodnight in a not so pleasant fashion. Happy to be rid of him, we let him leave and good naturedly wished him a pleasant journey on the morrow.

To our amazement, a short while later, we noticed that he was returning. As he entered our camp, we quickly noticed the unusually large knife he was now carrying. To make a long story short, we spent a few minutes in an awkward holding pattern. That is, he was holding the knife while the scene from Crocodile Dundee continuously replayed in my head.

You know, the one where he pulls out this huge knife and says “That’s not a knife. That’s a knife.

All joking aside, we finally talked the guy down (it seemed he hated me most of all), however to say he put a damper on the evening would be an understatement.

Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.Virginia Wolfe

A long night

As he returned to his campsite, we all called it a night and we made sure that our new friends (who were severely inebriated by this point) were safe in their locked van before we headed to ours.

Seeing that we were in the middle of the sparse Outback, we had a clear view into his camping spot and we watched him clutching his knife and eyeing our van for over an hour before he finally went to bed.

I won’t lie, it was one of the longest nights of my life.

The good news is, by the time we got out of the van in the morning, they were already striking up camp and preparing to leave. We half expected a slashed tire or worse however all was good.

Wait, there’s more!

I wish that was the end of story however, almost comically, a few nights later we pulled into another camping spot up at Tenant Creek and wouldn’t you know it, we were parked right next to the Crocodile Dundee knife wielder once again.

Not willing to go another sleepless night, we quietly backed out (before he noticed us) and took another spot on the other side of the campground. We saw him a few times that night, however we’re not sure he recognized us. Needless to say, we didn’t go over and re-introduce ourselves.

Lessons learned: Trust your instincts and never get into a heated discussion with a Queenslander.

Micki Driving Our Van in Australia

Micki driving in Oz

If you learn nothing else from this story, remember this: The wilder the situation, the better the story will be so get out there and learn your own lessons. Just remember to get a picture of it or it never happened. 😉

If you’ve have any crazy on the road stories we’d love to hear it! Leave us a comment below and we can trade badges. I’m sure no one can beat our threatened with big ass knife badge. That one was definitely hard earned.

Feet on the Dashboard Driving in Oz

Crazy travel moments on the road - Australia and the Crocodile Dundee Knife

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/crazy-moments-on-the-road-a-crocodile-knife/feed/ 22
10 Great Things To Do in Sydney http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/10-great-things-to-do-in-sydney/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/10-great-things-to-do-in-sydney/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 18:00:42 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=7628 Sydney is a gorgeous city and after spending over a month there it never ceased to amaze us how many great things there are to do in town. From checking out the sights to chilling on the sand to walking in fields of daisies, Sydney has it all.

For those of you thinking of checking out this world famous city, here’s a quick list of 10 great things to do in Sydney.

1. Head to the beach

That’s Bondi Beach, baby. It might be ridiculously crowded on a hot summer day, but Australian locals and tourists alike flock to the water when the temperature soars. Located on the eastern side of town, Bondi is far enough away from downtown to feel like you’re in the suburbs, but it’s only a few minutes train ride away. Definitely the place to see and be seen.

Busy Bondi Beach - Sydney

Busy Bondi Beach – Sydney

2. Take a cruise

Being right on the ocean, Sydney is a hub port for a lot of cruise ships in the area. When we were there, we had the opportunity to see the largest ocean liner in world, the Queen Mary 2, docked in town.

3. Get iconic

The famous Sydney Opera House can be found on everything from postcards to paintings to clam shells. Even if you don’t get a chance to sit inside and listen to the wonderful acoustics, no trip to Sydney would be complete without checking it out first hand. It’s free to walk around outside and there are tons of great restaurants close by to fill up. Even if it’s not sunny, don’t forget your camera, because although the opera house practically glows when the sun is out, it still makes a nice backdrop to a gorgeous city on those cloudy days.

Sydney Harbour in the Rain

Sydney Harbour in the Rain

4. Ferry riding

Being right on the water, sometimes the easiest and most picturesque way to get across the city involves jumping on a ferry. Take off just a stone’s throw from Sydney’s iconic bridge and opera house at Circular Quay Station. Not only are the tickets affordable, but it can be a great way to see the city from a different angle.

5. Climb time

Feeling adventurous? If you haven’t gotten enough views of the opera house, how about from 134 metres (440 ft) above the waterline? Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a classic Sydney attraction and a great way to get a workout while also seeing the best that Sydney has to offer.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge (see the little people on top?)

6. Go botanic

The Royal Botanic Gardens are just a leisurely stroll from the Opera House and Circular Quay Station. They offer a quieter view of Sydney, and the vast gardens will insure that something is in bloom while you’re there. With its beautiful surroundings you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked to an oasis after fighting the crowds in the more popular venues.

7. Choo chooing

Sydney has great in town train service with routes zigzagging all throughout the city. Just like all roads lead to Rome, all trains lead to Sydney. If you find yourself close to a station, all lines go to a City Circle Station where you’ll find great shopping and restaurants. The City Circle Stations are Central, Circular Quay, Museum, St James, Town Hall and Wynyard.

8. Grab your hiking shoes

Whether you’re in Sydney for a while or only a few days, getting a little exercise and stretching those legs is a fun, affordable option. Whether you’re checking out Sydney Harbour on foot or hiking the six km gorgeous coastal path between Bondi and Coogee Beach there are a lot of ways to take in the scenery and get your heart rate up. The Manly Scenic Walkway and the Cronulla Beach Walk get great reviews.

Sydney Harbour Walk boardwalk with water and streetlights

Sydney Harbour Walk

9. Chowing down

Sydney has hundreds of great places to eat, however if you”re feeling a little nostalgic and hungry at the same time, you should check out The Rocks. History abounds in this ancient area of the city that has been uplifted to trendy status with its array of delicious restaurants, chic boutiques, old style pubs and hot dance clubs.

10. Artistic impressions

If galleries are more your thing, you can’t go wrong with the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  From traditional art to contemporary indigenous works, the Art Gallery of NSW is all around world-class. It’s also free, so it should be on your list if you want to discover Australia’s past for yourself.

Does all this sound like a lot of work?

We’re big fans of Viator tours, and they have some fantastic tours and things to do in Sydney.

Sydney Viator Tours

Have any must see activities not listed here? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below and we’ll add them to our to do list the next time we’re there.

10 fun things to do in Sydney Australia

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/10-great-things-to-do-in-sydney/feed/ 11
Australia’s Best Kept Secret: Wild and Beautiful Fraser Island http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/australias-best-kept-secret-wild-and-beautiful-fraser-island/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/australias-best-kept-secret-wild-and-beautiful-fraser-island/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 19:10:47 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=4286 Hands down, Australia’s Fraser Island is one of the most diverse, interesting places we’ve ever visited.  In our three days on Fraser Island, we packed in enough sights to last a month.

And we almost missed it.

View from Indian Head

View from Indian Head

When you think of Australia, what comes to mind? Probably the Outback, Ayer’s Rock (Uluru), the Great Barrier Reef, the Sidney Opera House, Bondi Beach, and maybe, maybe Kakadu. But Fraser Island, perched off the eastern coast of Australia, likely isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind.

And it’s a shame.

Fraser Island certainly wasn’t on our radar when we visited Australia, and it was only on the advice of a backpacker that we met in Bundaberg that we decided to make a last minute trip to Fraser Island. Turns out, it was one of the best places we visited in Australia.

So what’s so great about Fraser Island?

In a sentence? Shipwrecks, airplanes landing on the beach, towering sand cliffs, champagne tidal pools, wild dingoes, migrating humpback wales, a freshwater aquifer, camping on the beach, 4×4 sand tracks, sandy beaches, and a fascinating Aboriginal history. Here’s a overview of all the great things we found to do on Fraser Island.

Visit the rusting Maheno shipwreck, beached in a cyclone in 1935.

Charles by the rusting Maheno shipwreck Fraser Island Australia sand island

Charles by the rusting Maheno shipwreck

Drive by the towering sand cliffs of the Cathedrals, colored bright orange from years of erosion.

Cathedral Cliffs Fraser Island Australia

Cathedral Cliffs

Watch planes land on the island’s only runway directly on 75 Mile Beach.

Airplane Landing on 75 Mile Beach

Runway on 75 Mile Beach

Tour the island by 4×4 on hundreds of miles of sand tracks. You can take a guided tour, or rent a 4×4 and explore at your leisure. We spent three days touring Fraser Island in our rented little 4×4.

You can visit rainforests and shifting sand dunes all in one place. How many places boast a tropical rainforest, with 100 year old trees up to 50 m tall, growing on sand dunes? The Island’s so unique that it’s been named a Unesco World Heritage site.

Rented 4x4 on Fraser Island Australia

Our little rented 4×4

Check out the 100 freshwater lakes, some the color of tea from tannins leached in from falling leaves, and some as clear as any Caribbean beach. Fraser has 40 of the world’s 80 perched lakes (lakes nestled among sand dunes above sea level).

Fraser Island  is also rich in Aboriginal history, with Aboriginal campsites at least 5,000 years old. The Butchulla are the indigenous people of Fraser Island (who named the island K’gari, meaning paradise).

Lake Wabby on Fraser Island Australia

Lake Wabby, a sacred men’s area to Butchulla people

Float in Eli Creek, which pours 80 million liters of fresh water a day from the heart of the island into the ocean. The water comes from the world’s largest unconfined aquifer on a sand island.

Tour the 250 km of sandy beaches, and take a dip in the Champagne pools at low tide. The ocean’s beautiful to look at, but filled with man-eating sharks and vicious undertows, so save your swimming for the lakes.

Champagne Pools at Fraser Island Australia

The Champagne tidal pools

Get up close with nature. Fraser Island is a great place to see migrating humpback whales (August to October), monitor lizards or freshwater turtles lying on the shore of Lake Allom. See over 300 species of birds, including the ground parrot, or search for kangaroos, wallabies and flying foxes. We loved watching turtles and sharks in the ocean below from beautiful panoramic Indian head.

Goanna Monitor lizard Fraser Island Australia

Predatory Goanna monitor lizard

If you’re very lucky, you’ll see one of the island’s shy and elusive wild dingoes slinking through the forest.

Dingo in the rainforest of Fraser Island Australia

Dingo disappearing into the rainforest

We got close to nature by tenting just off the beach or sleeping under the stars on the beach itself, but you can also sleep in luxury at the Kingfisher Bay eco resort.

Fraser Island Tips

Where: Fraser Island, the longest sand island in the world, is about 300 kilometres north of Brisbane, on Australia’s East coast.

How to Get there: The nearest airport is in Brisbane. You’ll need to take a ferry. Ferries run daily from Inskip Point at Rainbow Beach and River Heads at Hervey Bay.

When to go: You can visit anytime, although April to October has the best temperatures. Fraser Island can get very busy during Australian school holidays.

Getting around: You’ll need to either travel with a tour, or rent a 4×4 on your own to travel around the island. There are no paved roads on the island. All roads are sand tracks. Most people sign up with a guided tour or rent a vehicle at Hervey Bay.

How long: You could visit Fraser Island in a day, but two days is better, and three days is ideal to see all of the sites.

Where to stay Accommodation on Fraser Island ranges from the upscale  Kingfisher Bay resort, to camping on the beach, to backpacker hostels and B&Bs.

Safety: Fraser Island hosts wild dingoes, which can be dangerous, especially to children, people traveling solo and even small adults. Tragically, a child was killed by dingoes on Fraser Island and several attacks have been reported over the years. Read the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s information sheet on dingo safety before going.

Fraser’s beaches can also be exceptionally dangerous, as the waters surrounding the island are shark breeding grounds and there can be wicked undertows. Luckily, the lakes are great for swimming and there’s always the Champagne Pools to play in.

More information: The Queensland government’s website on Fraser island is packed full of useful information, including a detailed visitors’ guide with helpful maps.

This post is part of our flashback series, where we brave jumping crocodiles, and cruise Australia’s Outback on the historic Oodnadata Track.


View Larger Map

Australia's Best Kept Secret: Wild and Beautiful Fraser Island

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/australias-best-kept-secret-wild-and-beautiful-fraser-island/feed/ 8
Cruisin’ the Australian Outback on the Oodnadatta Track http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/cruisin-the-australian-outback-on-the-oodnadatta-track/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/cruisin-the-australian-outback-on-the-oodnadatta-track/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2012 18:26:46 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=3543 Cinnamon-red mud splatters the windshield, and our van slides precariously sideways toward the ditch, righting just in time to keep us on the road. We don’t dare stop; the thick mud is as slick as ice, and deep enough that we would be stuck in seconds. Charles and I are driving the infamous Oodnadatta Track, which cuts through the heart of Australia’s Outback and traces the route of the old Ghan railway.

We decided to brave the track, sometimes notoriously rough and difficult, in our 14-year-old, 2-wheel-drive, Toyota HiAce van. We are prepared for the trip:  the van carries enough water to float a small navy, food for a few weeks, spare tires and a jack. Still, I’m worried that our van, which we’ve owned for barely two weeks, won’t be up to the trip.

Us and Our Trusty Van

Us and our (sort of) trusty van

That morning, we watched, disappointed, as rain turned the start of the track into a muddy mess. Locals at the Oasis Cafe in the small Outback town of Marree warned us against heading out, muttering something about it being “suicide” to take the track in the rain. That was all that I need to hear, and we decided to wait it out. Three hours later, the rain stopped, and we were clear to go.

At first, the road was smooth, but the surface quickly turned to red ooze as we made our way from Marree towards the small town of William’s Creek. Now, we slip and slide in the red muck, past rusting hulks of abandoned railway sleepers from the Old Ghan Railway. Skeletons of unlucky road kill, bleached white by the relentless sun, line the roadsides. The scenery only gets more surreal as we travel past a bizarre collection of enormous metal sculptures by some unknown Outback artist. One sculpture is of an airplane suspended precariously on its tail.

Sculpture in the middle of the Oodnadatta in Australia's Outback

Sculpture in Australia’s Outback

After hours of slipping through the mud, Lake Eyre South appears to our right, an enormous salt-water flat that rarely floods. Today, the salt crust of the lake shimmers with heat, and the lake is bone dry, despite the earlier downpour.

As we pull a few hundred meters off the main road to get a closer look, we notice that our van is starting to puff out black smoke, and backfire ominously. This is not a place where you want to break down. Tourists die out here. All the time. We must be a hundred kilometers from the nearest town, and the sun beats down mercilessly, even in the middle of the Australian winter. Disturbingly, I start to recall tales of travellers who have broken down in the Outback and died of dehydration.

Saltwater flat of Lake Eyre South shimmering in the distance Oodnadatta Track Australia

Saltwater flat of Lake Eyre South shimmering in the distance

We pull back onto the track, and the van, now coated with about 100 kgs of brick-red mud, mercifully makes it to William Creek, population:  ten hardy souls. The main street doubles as an airplane landing strip, and the gas station, pub, hotel, service station, and local restaurant are all housed in a building that looks about the same size as my parent’s garage back in Canada. William’s Creek is the hub for the Anna Creek Station, the biggest cattle station farms in Australia, with an area larger than Belgium.

The William Creek Hotel is everything that the Lonely Planet said it would be. The walls, ceiling, and bar are covered with business cards and driver’s licenses, and photos of spectacular 4-wheel-drive accidents. Gas is pricey this far from civilization.

As the van continues to cough and sputter, we decide to forgo the hundreds of kilometers remaining of the Oodnadatta Track, and make our way on the 164 km, relatively short, dirt road that leads to Coober Pedy. Leaving William Creek, the track quickly turns to corrugated washboard, and our poor van creaks and groans as we creep along at 50 km/hour. I am sure that pieces of our muffler and engine are being smashed off from the brutal impact of the ruts, but by some miracle our faithful van keeps moving forward.

Anna Creek Cattle on the Oddnadatta Track

Cows from the Anna Creek Cattle Station

I catch glimpses of the road, as I’m jolted up and down on my seat. Cattle from the Anna Creek Station appear suddenly around corners, forcing us to stop. There is nothing but red dust and corrugated road for miles, until we pass by a dusty and faded sign that points out the famous Great Dingo Fence. The fence is over 4,000 kilometers long, and built to keep dingos from preying on sheep in the Southern Australia.

I’m starting to feel like I can’t endure another second of the tooth-rattling impact when we first see the bitumen that leads the final few kilometers to Coober Pedy. We pull onto the smooth highway, and the desolate, surreal landscape of Coober Pedy, where Mad Max was filmed, seems like a lush, welcoming oasis.

Coober Pedy's bizarre landscapes

Coober Pedy’s bizarre landscapes

This post is part of our flashback series, based on emails to friends and family from our first trip to Asia and Australia in 2003.

Check out this cool time lapse of the Oodnadatta track route:

More Info

The Oodnadatta Track, still unpaved, runs 671 km from the town of Marree to Marla in Southern Australia, passing through the outpost of William Creek. It was the original route of the legendary Ghan rialway. Before the Ghan, the track was an Aboriginal trading route. Today, it is much better maintained and traveled upon than when we were there however it is still considered an adventurous route.


View Larger Map

If you’re planing to drive the Oodnadatta, you can find information on closures and warnings at the Department of South Australia. There’s some helpful information on driving the track at both Rita’s Outback Guide and Travel Outback Australia, and there’s a printable and mobile friendly guide on TripAdvisor.

Safety!

While the Oodnadatta is said to be one of the easier off-road Outback routes, it’s still very remote, and the track is badly rutted in some sections and slippery when it rains. If your vehicle breaks down, you’re a long way from help, so make sure you have plenty of water and food and stay with your vehicle at all times.

Where to stay

On the track, the only real accommodation option is the truly atmospheric William Creek Hotel. Check out the William Creek Hotel TripAdvisor reviews and the William Creek Hotel website.

How to get there

The nearest airport is in Adelaide, South Australia.

Like this? It’s no secret we love the road trip! You might like our fun road trips in Oahu, Costa Rica and the Canadian Prairies.

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/cruisin-the-australian-outback-on-the-oodnadatta-track/feed/ 19
Jumping Crocodiles on Australia’s Adelaide River http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/jumping-crocodiles-on-australias-adelaide-river/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/jumping-crocodiles-on-australias-adelaide-river/#comments Tue, 09 Oct 2012 18:33:01 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=3531 It was a calm day on the river when, suddenly and with virtually no warning, the crocodile burst out of the muddy water and snapped voraciously at its prey barely five feet from my nose.

Nicknamed Hannibal, the croc was over 15 feet long and a predator from nose to tail. Hannibal was our spectacular introduction to a jumping crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River just outside of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. Plan your trip to Darwin and go check out the jumping crocodiles. They are an amazing sight to see.

Jumping Crocodile on the Adelaide River

Jumping crocodile on the Adelaide River

Within moments of his previous lunge, our petite female guide casually dangled more meat from a long pole into the river to lure Hannibal to jump again. Using quick tail movements, Hannibal slowly powered himself up out of the water, grabbed the bloody treat from its fragile string, and slowly sank back into the muddy river.

In the background, the boat captain gave a commentary in a surreal and cheery voice that reminded me a bit of Mr. Rogers. He explained that Hannibal was an estuarine croc, commonly called a salty. He calmly noted that saltwater crocodiles have occasionally taken an unfortunate person off the banks of the river and can reach up to 20 feet in length.

Right about then, I was more than happy to be on a huge boat, with a couple of tons of steel between the crocs and myself.

Cool and calm behind her dark sunglasses, our guide showed no signs of fear as Hannibal repeatedly lunged out of the river. Curious, we asked if she’d ever come close to being pulled into the water. Smiling, she said that she’d once panicked and held on to the pole as a croc tried to pull both the meat and her into the river. Luckily, an American bodybuilder on the cruise grabbed onto her T-shirt just before she was pulled over the railing.

As the boat glided down the river, our captain announced, in his chipper Mr. Rogers voice, that he’d spotted another croc to the right. Straining, I could barely make out what seemed to be a log floating on the edge of the riverbank. Eventually, the log began to move smoothly toward the boat. As it came closer, I could see the croc’s clear yellow eyes focused sharply on the dangling meat. Nearly 20 feet away, it disappeared below the brown water. Suddenly, the croc reappeared about five feet from the boat and lunged at the tempting treat. Just as fast as it attacked, it disappeared under the surface with barely a ripple.

Croc with Meat in Teeth Adelaide River

A little midday snack…

By the end of the day, we were lucky enough to spot almost a dozen salties, ranging in size from barely three feet long to the huge Hannibal. Each time, the guide chatted calmly with us as the beasts snatched the meat dangling only a few feet from her sandals. With observation spots both on the lower level near the water and from above on the open canopied deck we always had great views of the saltwater crocodiles.

As both the afternoon and the cruise ended, we waved goodbye to our fearless guide and drove toward Kakadu National Park. Reminders of our time with one of natures greatest predators followed us throughout the day as we saw signs warning against swimming in the local creeks and watering holes all along the highway.

Crocodile Safety Sign Adelaide River

A swimming pool’s looking like a good option…

As we drove past the many creeks, I couldn’t shake the image of Hannibal hurtling himself out of the Adelaide River. After our amazing jumping croc cruise, the only swimming I planned in the near future was in the safety of a nice, clear swimming pool!

Fun saltwater crocodile facts

  • Salties can jump out of the water so far that only one third of their tail remains underwater
  • Salties can, and do, prey on humans
  • They grow new teeth as and when they are needed
  • Crocs swallow stones. This is thought to help both with digestion and buoyancy.
  • They can swim up to 15 to 18 mph in short bursts (24 to 28 km/h)
  • Crocodiles bask in the sun with their mouths open to regulate their body temperature

More information

Where: The Adelaide River crocodile cruises are 65 km from Darwin, Australia, on the Arnhem Highway on the way to Kakadu National Park. Turn left onto Window on the Wetlands.

Tour Operator and Cost: We booked this tour with the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise, still in operation. Cruises are $35/adult and $20/child. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

This post is part of our flashback series, taken from emails and letters written to our friends and family from our year long trip to Asia and Australia in 2003.

Jumping Crocodiles on Australias Adelaide River

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/jumping-crocodiles-on-australias-adelaide-river/feed/ 7
Travel Photo: Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-marlborough-sounds-new-zealand/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-marlborough-sounds-new-zealand/#comments Sat, 12 May 2012 00:18:39 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=1823 Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The Marlborough Sounds on the South Island of New Zealand are a boaters and nature lovers paradise. With over 4,000 km² of islands, sounds and peninsulas, its coastline is so jagged that it actually contains one fifth of New Zealand’s total coastline. The areas rugged beauty and natural wonder attract tourists all year long. From the large ferry terminal in Picton to the smaller leisure craft marina and town of Waikawa the area is teeming with boating and hiking possibilities.

Some of New Zealand’s most famous and picturesque hikes like the Queen Charlotte Track can be found in this region. The Queen Charlotte Track is considered to be one of the best hiking tracks in the world and is definitely the most accessible, with a variety of accommodations along the way. There’s even a water transport service that will ferry your luggage (or yourself if you’re too tired) to your next destination each night if you don’t feel like carrying a backpack. Most people can walk the 71km track in 3 or 4 days, however with a little planning you can start or stop anywhere you choose.

As well as the ferry terminal to Wellington, Picton is the start of both the Main North Line Railway and the State Highway. From Picton, you can jump on a ferry to the North Island, hop aboard a train south to Christchurch or start your South Island tour in the vehicle of your choice. It doesn’t get much greener or wilder than this.

On the water, sea kayaking and sailing reign supreme, with boaters of all ages enjoying the calm waters and easy breezes that this area has to offer. There are tons of areas where you can rent a variety of boats for a few hours or a few days.

Here’s a travel tip: Getting off the ferry in Picton you might feel a little lost with all this area has to offer. With tons of nature all around and no nearby big city to give you a clear direction, feel free to head towards Waikawa. Waikawa is the boating hub of the area and offers all the accommodations and restaurants that you’re going to need to start your adventure. From Waikawa, you can schedule your Queen Charlotte Track excursion or sit back and watch the sailboats come in and out all day.

There are numerous boating options up and down the coast, however spending the day on a sea kayak is by far my favorite. The water in Marlborough Sounds is clear and calm and you can make some good distance in a few hours with a minimal amount of work. On a kayak you can get right into nature and see the fur seals, blue penguins, Hector’s, bottlenose, or dusky dolphins as well as countless varieties of birds and marine animals that call this area home.

]]>
http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-marlborough-sounds-new-zealand/feed/ 4