Friday, May 02, 2003

Australia Day 11: Uluru to Cairns

Now this is a damned small airport. Strictly D-class for any fans of Traveller out there.

I woke up this morning around three hoping to catch some more quality starviewing, but it was clouded over. Night before, however, was just stunning. I've never seen as many stars as I did out here -- including the large and small magellenic clouds. Alpha Centuari was so bright you could fool yourself into believing you could see that it was closer than the rest (which, of course, it is) -- and to catch a few of the closer stars to us - Delta Pavonis, Beta Hydri -- no matter how small and insignificant they seem -- they're our neighbors. I'll need to come back here some day. This is a pretty amazing place.

[outta time -- more comment later on cool aborigine legends n' stuf -- soon to be some significant blog-shattering entry... blahblah]

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Australia Day 10: Uluru

Drove down from Alice Springs yesterday -- not much to see, but we enjoyed the desert nevertheless. Despite the groans from the various Australian bloggers, I dutifully listened to both Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil on the drive down.

We visited the Olgas yesterday and walked around (but not to the top of) Uluru (nee Ayers Rock) today. A lovely walk -- a good six miles -- but perfectly flat so it wasn't particularly tiring. But the flies -- ye gods -- the flies are horrible. They climb onto you down wind so either your front, or your back, end up covered with literally hundreds of them. They're pretty innocuous assuming you are sporting a net for your face -- which we were --

ugh, this keyboard stinks. Pay terminals need some improvement here.

Anyway, not much to tell you that's clever, but it sure is beautiful out here in the deep desert. Tomorrow we're off to Cairns.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Australia Day 8.5: Tropic of Capricorn

Had a nice jaunt up to the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees South) -- what struck me was just how dull the monument was. I like good, cheesy road sign attractions and the Tropic of Capricorn marker did not disappoint. It was painted white box-beam frame holding up a globe at 23.5 degrees -- although, oddly pointed east -- not north or south, so it didn't provide much information if you didn't know what it was you were looking at.

Anyway, it was about as exciting as one of those "Markers of Historical Interest" that mark, say, the foundation of an old armoury or where George Washington and his army once took a dump. So, given that it lived precisely up to expectations, it was worth the drive.

Australia Day 8: How Would You Like Your Camel Sir?

We arrived in Alice without too many troubles -- I had a window seat for the flight up and was just stunned by the beauty of the desert. Lots of long-dead arroyos, evaporation pools and the like. And my neck is just now recovering from being tilted over the whole 3 hour flight.

I really like the airport here (Mrs E: What airport don't you like?) - where you exit onto the tarmac and the very-modern runway, through economics or geography, dictates that the runway be used as its own taxiway. (I think there are only about 10 commercial flights here a day - 4 jets and a few turbo props that use this place as their hub. Phillip Goldsen in BElize City is sort of like it.

Anyway, Alice itself isn't much of a town -- I was expecting (unreasonably) -- that it would be a bit more Santa Fe with Aboriginal Stuff replaced for Zias and Adobe. Not that I'm compaining mind you, but I found the place to be more like Lihue, Kauai, HI -- with tourist wealth uneasil layered atop native poverty. And that is pretty apparent here, too.

We ate at a neat little restaurant heavy on the local game -- kangaroo, emu and the like - and I enjoyed a Camel Sirloin. It was a bit chewy even when quite rare, so I doubt I'd get it again. But I think it was worth it nevertheless. Unfortunately, they were out of the very high-concept Emu carpaccio.

Anyway, today we're going to drive north to go to the Tropic of Capricorn -- yes, I'll drive 40 miles to take a picture of a sign -- and then to check out both the Australian Aviation Museum here in town as well as the old Gaol ... er... jail. And the rail museum.

Tonight were going to drive a bit north into the desert to see if we can spot some of the cooler deep sky stuff like the LMGs and such.

Edited for a bit of spelling. Hurried earlier to get done with the pay terminal

Monday, April 28, 2003

Australia Day 7: En Route to Alice Springs

The pay terminals here in the Sydney Domestic airport have keyboards to die for -- tough and responsive -- too bad the connection is utter crap. This is like 300 baud and it keeps prompting for more money so I can't finish.

More later.
Australia : Day 5 3/4 (Delayed): Beer Mat Blogging

In a more civilized time, the activity was called "writing a journal" - no longer. Now it's blogging, whether you have internet access or no.

I am not one of those travellers who feels compelled to have Italian Food ever night in Tuscany if there is another option worth a try. That may be the way to bet, but if there is a German restaurant or an Indian restaurant worth a try - we will have a go. So I am hear in Sydney, Australia enjoying a pint of Spaten while Mrs E is off running about ---
damn. Double Damn. Australia hospitality has foiled me again. I can no longer blog via beer mat since the waitress saw my predictament and, without asking, brought me a healthy stack of 2 x 3" paper. I meant this entry to be entirely self-referential about the difficulty of blogging via beer mat, and now I must do something else.

I am tinkering with a handful of change and it occurs to me that while Australia is a considerably less grumpy member of the United Nations version of the International Community --- a sort of Homeowners' Association of the Unwilling, where France and Libya have a death grip on the Pet Leash Task Force -- but Australians willingness to attend committee meetings with a minimum of eye rolling has manifested itself in odd ways.

Their dollar coin -- all too convienent (sorry, Sacagewea, I did my part) -- has a default reverse of five kangaroos, but like our own state coins, has a number of variations on the reverse. Mostly, it's nice pro-Australia stuff, like aviation pioneers and centennaries of statehood and such. But I've also noticed a disturbing number of them read like adverts for UN campaigns -- the International Year of the Old, the International Year of the Children forced to Eat Genetically Modified Vegetables and such.

I hope that this is merely that the Australia mint is in cahoots with the Royal Australian Numismatic Society, but if not, I must call my friends in the Black Helicopter Crowd and advise their travel bureau to not come down here, I'd hate for the Australians to have an American go postal on them when they present my would-be traveller with AUD $2.25 in loose change.