Australian Adventure

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
October 20, 2015

In preparation for my official visit to our chapters in Australia, Steve and I left Houston on Wednesday evening, August 26, 2015, and flew over 20 hours to Sydney, arriving at 7:00 AM on Friday. We used the extra days to recuperate from the long flight and to explore a small part of the lovely continent.

Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for at least 40,000 years before the British settled in the late 18th century.  After the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled a penal colony in 1778. A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s.

Like the U.S., Australia has a wide variety of landscapes, with tropical rainforests in the north-east, mountain ranges in the southeast, southwest and east, and dry desert, known as the outback, in the center. The country is a bit smaller than the U.S. with only 24 million people. It is the world’s largest island. We were struck by how incredibly friendly the people we encountered were.

After going through customs in Sydney, we flew to Cairns on the northeast coast.  The weather was ideal as their winter was coming to an end and we were grateful to escape the Texas heat. Our condo at the Palm Cove Resort overlooked the beach and we had a front row seat for the sunrise each morning.  After a refreshing nap, we walked down the beach to enjoy dining outside under the full moon.  It was my first time to try barramundi, a large, deepwater fish, which was delicious.

On Saturday we rented a car and drove north.  The steering wheels are on the right side of the car and Steve managed the challenge of driving on the left side of the road quite well.  The drive up the coast was beautiful and reminded us of our visit to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia several years ago. 

We visited a wildlife habitat in Port Douglas where we got to hold a sleepy koala, see many species of colorful birds, and feed wallabies and kangaroos.  I was so tickled to see the baby tucked into its mother’s pouch.  We had a delicious lunch at the marina and enjoyed looking around before returning to the beach for a marvelous dinner.

The next day we returned to Port Douglas to scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef on the Coral Sea. The Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is the only living thing on earth visible from space.  The colors of the water were spectacular – azure blue, aqua, sapphire and teal.  The barrier reef stretches over 1800 miles and consists of the world’s largest collection of corals as well as over 1500 species of tropical fish. The Reef was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1981 by UNESCO. It was easy to see why it is considered the best place in the world for scuba diving. Steve and I have not yet become certified divers but thoroughly enjoyed our 3 dives with an instructor in the clear water.  We will get certified before our next tropical adventure!

On the return boat ride to Port Douglas, we watched a humpback whale and her young calf as they migrated from Antarctica. Returning to Palm Cove, we enjoyed another fine meal at a restaurant on the beach. 

Early Monday morning we flew from Cairns to Ayers Rock.  We stayed at Sails in the Desert, a beautiful hotel in the Ayers Rock Resort.  The desert was absolutely beautiful and many of the shrubs were blooming.     

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a huge sandstone rock formation, which is over 1100 feet high and a total circumference of 5.8 miles. Ululru is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area, the Aṉangu, who believe it is part of the creation story.  Humans settled in the area more than 10,000 years ago and the area was declared as Aboriginal reserves almost 100 years ago.  The Park is owned by the Aborigines and they have leased it back to the National Parks for 99 years.

It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings. Tourists flock to the site to see it change colors at different times of the day, glowing red at dawn and sunset.  Our first morning, we rushed out for the sunrise and were disappointed that the sun hid behind the clouds.  We had a good view of nearby Kata Tjuta, a group of large, domed rock formations about 16 miles from Ayers Rock.

Later that morning Steve and I rode camels, which was another adventure.  They were well behaved and offered a gentle ride, although I will admit to thinking I had whiplash when my camel knelt to the grown abruptly. 

That afternoon we returned to the park to see Uluru at sunset and were not disappointed as we watched it change color with the evening light.  Several of the Aboriginal women were at the viewing area to sell their art.  Steve bought a small piece and the artist signed the canvas and agreed to have her picture taken with me. 

We went further into the park for BBQ, which was a lavish buffet of grilled steak, shrimp, chicken skewers and side dishes.  Our guide pointed out the difference in the constellations on the southern hemisphere.  Instead of the Big Dipper, they navigate by the Southern Cross.  It was so dark in the desert that the vast sky reminded us how insignificant we are.

Our last morning in the desert was quite cool and we were grateful for our jackets.  In fact, the temperature was at least 40 degrees cooler than our home in Texas. Departing for Sydney, we looked forward to learning more about the city and meeting the DAR members on the next leg of our Australian adventure.

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