Let's work on the tan later eh?

What's this? Irish winter (or any season really) in Australia! Flipflops aside, Sydney welcomed us with chilly weather and rain. And not the few silly drops here and there, this was hardcore left-to-right break-your-umbrella style Irish rainfall! Therefore, we tried to come up with various indoor activities: we spent a lot of time watching tennis (Australian open), hung out in museums, went to the movies etc. We also went to see a comedian called Akmal Saleh in the famous opera house and laughed until we peed in our pants.

The tragicomic part of our stay was the manager of our hostel. Apparently he had just recently got dumped by his girlfriend and this terrible ordeal had turned the man into some sort of a psychopath. I felt sorry for the guy in the beginning, but when he had finished his 877th Rebecca-related story, I was ready to call the lady myself and ask for reconciliation. He also started to react with swearwords to any request we had. "Could we have our stuff back from the safe?" - "NO! Sh*t. Do you really have to? F*uck." Dear Rebecca, please take this man back to your life. Or at least refer him to a good shrink.

Cairns, Queensland

We have managed to switch the desert dry weather for the humid climate of tropical Cairns in Queensland. Before we made it over to Cairns, we received a booking acknowledgment email from our hostel (Asylum) with the heading stating that if we are not ready to party or don't like to have a good time, we should not come :). Well, this basically describes the city of Cairns for the most part. A tropical metropolis of backpacker parties, free dinners with hostel bookings, awesome/cheap BBQs and Great Barrier Reef (GBR) trip shops on every corner. In most hostels and pubs, each day of the week has a particular nickname or a venue associated with it (Mad Mondays, Thursday-Ladies night, Friday BBQ etc.).

So, now that I have got you in the mood, let me tell you what went on during our stay. No, I will not be talking about doing the coyote ugly style dancing on the bar :). Most beaches in Cairns are on the north side where public transport goes quite regularly, however, during this time of the year there are infestations of jellyfish, so some of the beaches are closed. However, do not worry, there is a great place to chill out by the water right in town. The man made Lagoon pool is open for free to public, so we took advantage of this and had a couple of lazy days lounging around that area.

Since we were in Australia, we wanted to get more info about the aboriginal folks out here, so we decided to take a trip to Tjapukai park which is run by the local tribe and is supposed to educate us about their culture. The park is nicely situated about 15 minute bus ride from the town, so no problems getting there. You can spend about 3 hrs in the park to get all the attractions in which encompass boomerang and spear throwing, dancing and digeridoo acts and also some videos about the history and culture. I think, I speak for both of us if I say that this place was just ok and it is very much geared toward tourists who have probably never seen an aboriginal person before. Since we already had some introduction into their culture in Alice Springs, we were quite disappointed with the park. The videos are quite good, but the other performances could definitely use some choreography and screenplay to begin with :).

The highlight of the trip to Cairns is of course its proximity to the GBR (see above if you have no idea with this stands for). We took part in liveaboard trip with the Pro-Dive shop in town for 3 days and 2 nights with a hell of a lot of diving to be done. I don't really have words to describe the underwater experience out there. So many fishes, corals, sponges and of course some jellies for which we were equipped with stinger suits. When you are dressed in one of these, you feel like a professional speed skater, only the thigh muscles are much smaller :). The trip went well, with some sea sickness to be expected, but overall a wonderful experience.

Hot - hotter - sauna - Alice Springs

After the West Coast it was time to fly to Alice Springs, in the heart of Australia. The views from the plane consisted of deserts and a few bushes, it really felt like we are flying into the great unknown. And boy is it hot in here!

Alice stands in the middle of the desert and serves as a logical place to make trips over to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta National Park, though the distance is nearly 500 kilometres. We decided to rent a nice, small and fairly cheap Toyota Yaris and hit the road by ourselves. And since we were convinced of our camper spirit by this time, we also decided that we will sleep in the car. What's one night in a Toyota Yaris to a couple of campers like us?

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park was impressive. First we went to see Kata Tjuta and Mount Olga, after which was Uluru's turn. No matter how many times you have seen it in pictures, it is still quite incredible to get close to the world's largest monolith. It is huge and it is so red. The National park area is aboriginal land, and it is requested not to climb Uluru, so we didn't. It is already impressive enought without getting all Edmund Hillary-ish and climbing the thing in that heat.

Yes, the heat. I used to say in Finland that you never quite understand how many nosehairs you have until you experience the Finnish January freeze. Well, Alice Springs has given insight on the heat. It is nearly unbearable. In order to step our of the air-conditioned car you just have to splash a bottle of water on your clothes and preferrably repeat this action every 10 minutes. You drink about 5 litres of water a day, and you pee once, that's how bad it gets.

After Uluru sunset, we headed to camping ground for a shower and a sleep in our Toyota. 8 hours later we evaluated the situation: Libor had kicked the horn twice during the night, which was fine by me as I was awake the whole night anyway. I spent my time observing rabbits and insects that were occupying the parking lot, falling asleep at 5 a.m.

The following morning we drove back to Alice and spent some nice days in town. We visited the reptile center, the desert park, Anzec lookout and even took a 30 minute free lesson on playing didgeridoo!

Alice Springs and Uluru have also offered some great information about aboriginal culture. Aboriginals have been treated in a terrible way and the signs of the abuse can be seen in the streets today. However, Uluru and Alice Springs broadened the picture to a positive direction and showed positive aspects of the rich culture.

On the road again, different style

Well, since you are reading this, we have more than likely survived the campervan experience in the western parts of Australia. Let me give you the short scoop on the experience. Awesome!!! :).

Ok, seriously now. We have rented a pretty slick campervan from Britz for which we gave an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. It ran without problems the entire time and after 5000 km journey we have seen many stunning sights (some more than others :)). Our first stop was a city called Cervantes where there are famous limestone pinnacles sticking out of the sand. It seriously looks like one is walking on a different planet. The occasional Emus that were running wild amongst them gave it the proper touch.

The next destination was a Kabarri National Park where we really found out that 4WD rental would be much better for this type of journey (and probably not much more expensive). In Kalbarri, we have fully became aware of the serious fly problem (yes flies, not mosquitos). They are everywhere. It seems like their main goal in life in WA is to sit on your face and get into your mouth and nose. We had to start wearing cowboy bandanas around our faces, so we looked like most wanted outlaws (check out the gallery on the right). Neverthless, Kalbarri poses some spectacular views of the wild nature (very similar to the of Grand Canyon).

For Xmas, we have settled in Denham, city near the Monkey Mia area where they feed dolphins every morning right from the beach. So, of course, we went and saw the spectacle. I'd say, the more interesting part of the whole thing were the crazy pelicans who we caught drinking out of the local sprinkler. Around Denham are a few cool lookout areas, one is the Eagle bluff where you can overlook a picturesque bay and possibly spot marine animals (we saw some sharks from above). Other good trip is the Shell beach, totally made out of shells. Last, I'll mention the Hamelin pool, which has one of the world's largest population of stromatolites (the oldest living organisms on earth).

Our north journey ended in Coral Bay, where I took a snorkelling trip with Manta rays along with a couple of dives in a forests of corals. It was just amazing, however, I can imagine that some of the beginner snorklers/swimmers probably cursed the hell out of it since the Mantas can swim quite fast :). From Coral Bay we decided to make a quick sweep back to the south of Perth and visit the famous Wave Rock. Well, let me tell you, it is cool, but not sure if it is worth driving 800 km in one day :). However, on the way down, we stopped at the small campground, totally taken out of the movie Deliverance. It seems like it was in the middle of nowhere and we were the only van there. There was a pleasant surprise waiting for us there though. The local owners had some kangaroos that they took care of, so during the evening they came up to the campground and Jenni even petted a wild kangaroo. Wow! While we were in the south, we decide to do a Tree top walk, which suppsedly is 600m long and gets up to 40m above the ground in the conopy of the trees. Well, it was ok, but the thing is that 300 of the 600m are the incling leading up to the highest parts hehe. This was much better experience than Wave Rock, but probably not really worth the drive either. Our last stop before returning back to Perth was a city called Busselton (actually we stayed in Bunbury's campground as Busselton was full for New Year's). In Busselton though, there is a 2km long jetty leading out into the sea at which end is an underwater observatory. Now, this was the coolest thing we have seen from the south are of Perth.

Now, we are resting in Perth which is a very beautiful city, btw, and tomorrow are ready for a trip to Alice Springs.