Tuesday June 30, 2015

We’re actually in the air as I’m writing this. Our Oz Adventure is all but over, and we’re flying from Darwin to Brisbane aboard a Virgin Australia 737. But the last two chapters of these oh-so-sketchy travel-jottings have yet to be written, and I’m in catch-up mode. So come back with me a few days to the Red Centre …

You may remember reading ‘A Town Like Alice’ – a classic tale of love and war by author Nevil Shute. Published in 1950 (then turned into a film and, much later, a TV mini-series), it follows a young Englishwoman from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback.

Well, we spent last Thursday in that same remote town – namely Alice Springs … visiting the Royal Flying Doctor’s base (where we learnt how medical aid reaches those who live in the Red Centre’s remote wop-wops) … the School of the Air (that allows Outback kids to receive their education via radio and, these days, the internet) … the historic Telegraph Station (where we watched devoted Morsecodians tap-tap-tapping away on their ancient devices) … and Simpson’s Gap (for some spectacular rocky landscapes set in the surrounding bushland).

Last but not least, we got dropped off at the railway terminal – where The Ghan was waiting to take us on the final long overnight leg of our amazing train-trek to Darwin, on Australia’s tropical northern coast.

We were old hands now on The Ghan, and, after dining that evening on barramundi, kangaroo steaks and crocodile (no kidding), we slept like babies in our compact, comfortable cabins. Then, following breakfast next morning, we made a four-hour stop in Katherine – gateway to the Nitmiluk National Park and (for us) a small-boat cruise along the truly gorgeous Katherine Gorge with its 25 million year old canyons.

Talk about Nature’s artistic wonders! We’ve been getting an eyeful, I tell ya!

Then we were ushered back on the train, arriving early evening (in the middle of yet another glorious sunset) at Australia’s Top End. Temperature? A balmy 32 degrees! We’d covered a total of 3000 kms on The Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin) … and motored another 1500 kms on our coach, criss-crossing the fascinating Red Centre (Alice, Kings Canyon, Uluru, etc).

But there was more mileage awaiting us …

STILL TO COME: Darwin gazes out across the Timor Sea – and is jumping-off point for Kakadu National Park. This is the Northern Territories’ legendary Wetlands … ancient homeland for the Aboriginal peoples … crocodile-country (wow, is it ever!) … and roosting-place for countless birds. Don’t go away ‘coz it ain’t over yet!

PEOPLE-NEWS: The final ceremonial handing-over of quacky yellow ducks occurred last night at our Midlife Madness Farewell Dinner:

  • Tony won our “Here’s How You Handle A Smorgasbord” Award – for arriving at our table with his soup in one hand, his main-course in the other, and a couple of bread-rolls hidden in his trouser-pockets. Rumour has it there was also a side-salad down there, plus some cheesecake for desert.
  • Bruce & Julie are the joint winners of our “They Can’t Have Gone Far” Award ­– for, well, it was like this: in the coach yesterday we suddenly noticed the Julie was upside-down, bum in the air, head under the seat, searching for something. Rumour has it (although they emphatically deny it) that Bruce had lost his teeth while enjoying an open-mouth nap. Investigations continue …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!

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