Country number: 39
Territory number: 43
When? July/August 1991
How? Bus, local plane,
Who? Part solo, staying with friend Jenny in Adelaide
‘The only time an Australian ever walks is when his car runs out of petrol.’
Sydney first. It I was my first really big trip and I was very naïve. I booked a cheap hotel in Kings Cross and found out why it was such a good deal when I got there. I knew nothing about Kings Cross (it’s the red light district area) and when I arrived a guy was standing in the doorway wearing a leather mini and a blonde wig. I got take-away and stuck a chair under the door handle. I was crippled with jet lag and when I found myself down by the opera house the next day it was dusk and I was very muzzy headed. I walked back across Victoria Park and only later discovered this was a big no-no for single females.
I went up the Sydney Tower for views of what was purported to be the largest natural harbour in the world.( It may have lost its title recently due to some land reclamation) and took a boat tour of the harbour stopping g off at Bondi Beach. Other must sees are the aquarium and the mono rail that runs that way.
Sydney is scenic but it doesn’t grab you. It’s not full of atmosphere.
Next stop Adelaide to stay with Jenny. She had only just commenced her one year teaching exchange job so I pottered round the city while she was working. It was chic and easy. Mini opera house, botanical garden, bo-ho shops. I also took a bus trip to Kangaroo Island to see the… penguins. Jenny took me to park to see the koalas, so soft… though I was rewarded by a pellet down my dress as part of my cuddle. We drove round the Barossa Valley, sampled the wines and sailed up the Murray River in a paddle steamer.
Then I flew to Alice Springs for a bus trip to Ayers Rock. The trip took all day and we stopped for English scones, jam and cream once one each leg – the scones were enormous. Strange the things you remember. Ayers Rock was stunning in its rich glowing redness, with never to be forgotten views of the rock and the neighbouring bulbous Olgas from a helicopter. My first flight in one. In those days there was a steady procession of climber scrambling up the almost vertical face of the rock. It was surprisingly windy at the top, threatening to topple those who had made the ascent. Nowadays climbing is not allowed at all, in deference to the native peoples who venerate the site.
Last stop was up the top end – Darwin and Kakadu. My best memory of Darwin itself- unexpectedly small – was making an impromptu visit to the feeding of the fishes in the harbour. Crowds gather at high tide to lob handfuls of bread into the sea, which is almost instantly churning with huge fish who fight for the scraps. The most common attendees: milkfish, mullet, catfish, bream, batfish and barramundi.
Kakadu itself was wonderfully memorable. Beautiful lakes, (dived in, forgetting I still had my sunglasses on and my Oakleys sank to the bottom). The Aboriginal rock art was incredible. Best of all, this definitely was atmospheric, a trip up the remarkable Yellow Water Billabong, in a flat bottomed boat to see the crocodiles, buffalo and jabirus.