Ever since watching the classic MK+A movie Our Lips Are Sealed (has anyone else ever seen this?), going to THE land down under has been on the top of my bucket list. I mean, who doesn’t want to go surfing with kangaroos and eat vegemite sandwiches with Men at Work? Even if literally everything in Australia is trying to kill you. So mom and dad and I popped on down. under.
Fortunately I haven’t had too many close calls with the nasty animals (we did see a snake while strolling down our first trail – but we high tailed it outta there and didn’t find out if he was nasty or not). But I DID get to see most of the legendary strange furry Aussie mates. We saw loads of wallabys and kangaroos, even some on a beach (not surfing though). Koalas galore, even one that MOVED, which they practically never do! Saw that kookaburra sittin’ in the old gum tree, an emu, and even a handful of…llamas?
While we faced no danger from the native fauna, the flora was going up in flames all over the driest inhabited continent. We saw some pretty serious dark smoke as we were driving by one of the biggest fires in the area, but the smoke is so thick that it is impacting visibility and breathing all over New South Wales. Although not helped by the severe drought across much of Australia, the fires are mostly natural and a necessary part of maintaining the ecosystem here… but those poor koalas didn’t stand a chance.
The drought has negatively impacted the sea turtles, as I learned on my visit to the Mon Repos turtle center near Bundaburg. The sand is so dry, they sometimes can’t build their nesting burrows and give up in frustration. Also because it has been so hot, most of the turtles are being born female since incubation temperature determines sex. This has biologists concerned about the long-term viability of turtle species, if there are a lack of breeding pairs. Yay global warming. Thank god good ole Bundy produces the most famous rum in Oz… so you can drink away your worries.
Speaking of hot (check that smooth transition there), I have also been out to the red hot center of Australia. I made the pilgrimage, like many tourists do, out to the middle of nowhere to see Uluru. The sun was sweltering, the flies were miserably annoying… but the desert was spectacular. It was surprisingly green out there, and the colors of sunset and sunrise were incredible. There are actually a few other large monoliths in the area, which I didn’t know – some even bigger and wilder looking than Uluru.
I reckon Uluru just played a bigger role in the creation myths of the local indigenous folks. It is considered a sacred site (which is why you are no longer allowed to climb it), and like a holy text it tells the story of some of the most important cultural myths and legends. It also served as an important gathering site for the Anangu people, where they would meet to pray, share stories, and instruct the next generation on how to survive in the desert. Cave paintings 5000 years old present the lessons for us to see today.
Most recently, I have been kicking it in small-town Oz. Friends of mine I met in Antarctica (seriously, who says that) bought a country tavern and are running a super charming little local bar. It’s all very chummy and Cheers like (there’s even a Norm!). For a couple days I hung out at the bar, had some good food and drink, and took a country bike ride (I can still ride a bike… sorta). We had live music one day and fire action on the mountain the next.
It’s been such an amazing couple of weeks, and it was so great hanging with some beloved locals. There have been too many highlights to even count. I’ll keep’em coming in the next one.