Today Andy and I are heading off on a snorkeling trip on the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef.
I’m very excited because the GBR is one of the few specimens of natural Australian beauty that I haven’t yet seen.
I love international travel of course, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to do a great deal of travel on home soil. I think it’s a shame that we as Aussies don’t do it more, when there is such an impressive array of beautiful sights to see.
On my 17th birthday, I woke up to the freezing cold winter air and hopped on a tour bus to Central Australia with a bunch of girls from school.
We pitched our own tents, and pulled them down again in the wee hours of the morning with nothing to greet us but icicles and frigid desert air. We lived on a diet of Chicken Twisties and red creaming soda and caught some serious cabin fever in that bus. I’m continually reminded to this day of the time I ate Tracey’s Twisties while she was sick and forced to sit with the teachers (What? She was sick! She wasn’t going to eat them!)
Apart from making some new friends on the trip, we also witnessed the gaping maw of King’s Canyon and slept in an underground hotel in Coober Pedy (where the only thing above ground is one small patch of grass that passes for the – underground – school’s football oval). We used our “outdoor voices” at Kata Tjuta, learned how to castrate a sheep (let’s just say it involves a rubber band) and, of course, watched the sun set over Uluru.
I was one of the few who walked around Uluru instead of up it, and I’d have to recommend the same to any of you who are considering a visit. It’s not hard to see why Uluru is considered a sacred site by the local Aboriginal population, and that’s part of the reason I didn’t climb it, but I was also keeping my friend Gillian company. You see, she’d sprained her ankle running around the underground hotel (a few too many creaming sodas perhaps?) and thought she’d be better off on solid ground. Unfortunately, neither of us were aware of the sheer size of Uluru when we started, and the hike turned out to be much longer than we had anticipated. For some reason I’d always thought Uluru was oblong-shaped, but of course it’s actually a lot rounder than that, just like a rock should be. There are all manner of caves and tens of thousands of years old Aboriginal artworks, preserved more by luck than care. It’s a must-see, I guarantee it. And preferably before you’re part of the blue-rinse set and too shortsighted to enjoy it!
Speaking of the oldies, I’ve also managed to see more of Australia while accompanying my Grandma on a senior citz tour of the Never Never. On that trip I saw Cable Beach (stunning!), savage saltwater crocs, cute Freshies, the immense Lake Argyle, the Kimberley and, my all-time favourite and Aussie must, the Bungle Bungles. I somehow managed all of this while still making it to our hotel each night for the obligatory 5pm dinner and “early night”. If there’s one thing I learned that trip it’s this: Never get between a pensioner and a free meal. Yikes!
The other thing I learned was that the Bungle Bungles, these unusual striped beehive-shaped rock formations, were only “discovered” by us white fellas in 1983! By those terms they’re the same age as me. Of course the Aboriginees knew about them all along, but when you do eventually go out there and see them for yourselves you’ll be in a similar state of disbelief as I was as to how we didn’t catch on sooner. It just goes to show how great our southern land really is, that such a huge expanse of bizarre rock formations could lay unnoticed and untouched for so long.
So, I’ve been to every State and Territory of Australia and from Broome to Port Arthur. “I’ve been everywhere man”, I just haven’t been to the Great Barrier Reef!
Now, here I am, sitting on the tour bus on my way to the boat. For some strange reason I’m feeling really nervous about the whole thing. I can’t really put my finger on why, but perhaps it’s got something to do with the recent local news reports of a shark “feeding frenzy” in the area. I know I’m supposed to dive with sharks at some point this year… I was just hoping they’d be well fed before I got there!