Writing this from Portland…not Oregon or Maine but Victoria, Australia. It’s cold but not as cold as it is back home.
Here’s what’s happened since the Northern Territory…
Tuesday, 12/15: We leave Uluru in a cloud of red dust…okay not really as it’s cloudy and sprinkling rain here and there. We are South Australia bound, specifically Coober Pedy. It’s a 8-9 hour drive and though I’m use to the hours, the heat makes the drive feel like 110 times longer than it is. The temperature rises as we get closer to the SA border. It’s like driving through an oven. We’re riding with all 4 windows down, the air con (Aussie term for air conditioner) uses too much petrol/gas and to be honest makes the weather a billion times more unbearable. We arrive at Coober Pedy right before the darkest clouds I’ve seen in Australia roll in. I am super exited to camp underground (or in the side of an old opal mine), but the campground we want to go to is closed!!! I am beyond crushed. I know we’re both on budgets but I say fuck it and I’m staying in a bunker in the goddamn ground/mine. We stay at The Underground Motel (http://www.theundergroundmotel.com.au) and Mike who runs the place is the best. He reminds me a bit of Mario Batelli with his exuberant smile and his positive energy reminds me of my great friend, Darrin. A smiling face and energy was much needed to lift my tired, hot, and melting self. Mike gives a list of churches to visit and restaurants to eat at. We visit the Serbian Church and it’s really enchanting (lack of better word here. The heat had made me a bit dumb and if I’m completely honest, I’m crunching this out as Tanguy drives the first leg to Port Lincoln). I’m not a religious person but you feel the religion of old here. The church like the hotel is in the remnants of an opal mine. You see the drill marks left behind and the tool marks left behind. It’s beyond cool and my description will pale in comparison to seeing it in person. We are also accosted for the first time by beggars. I’ve seen them through out Australia, but it’s the first time they’ve walked up and asked for money. The lady asked me while at the pump, when I walked into the gas station, and when I walked out. Even if I had a bajillion dollars I wouldn’t have given her the $2 she was asking for when I saw her buy a pack of $20 cigs (I don’t know if they’re that much, but I know they ain’t cheap!). We splurge on dinner and eat at Tom and Mary’s Greek Restaurant and it’s deeeelish…mainly because it’s not a sandwich. By the way sleeping in a bed has been greatly missed. GREATLY MISSED.
Wednesday, 12/16: we bid adieu to Mike and his lovely place and start our 9 hour haul to Port Lincoln. It’s a thousand miles away (being sarcastic here) but if I’m honest it feels like billion miles. A BILLION MILES. As hot as it was in the Red Centre it feels way hotter in the Outback of South Australia. The heat is oppressive and it sucks giant donkey balls. When we finally arrive to Port Lincoln that familiar salt in the air tickles my nose and I’m transported back in time to my childhood when we would go the beach for vacation. I knew we were close once I could smell the salt air. After traipsing across the Outback, I realized how much I missed the salt air. I’m reminded of a Jimmy Buffett lyric, “salt air it ain’t thin, sticks right to your skin and makes you feel fine…” It is exactly like that here in Port Lincoln. All I’m missing is oysters and beer and a little steel drum and I swear I could be in Key West. We set up camp and fall asleep to the sound of the waves brushing the shore. It gets chilly enough for me to crawl into my sleeping bag and sleep like a swaddled baby. La Belle Vie…the good life.
Thursday, 12/17: we decided to stay in Port Lincoln instead of heading straight to Adelaide because we were gonna go to Coffin Bay National Park but we scratch that idea and head to Lincoln Park National Park and spend our day hiking the trails by the sea and swimming in the sea. Can I tell you the water is chilly and the winds that come into area don’t help in warming your bones or skin? It’s just chilly. I was lucky to find a little patch of water that had been warmed by the sun and sat in it. Worshipping the sun, the sea, and sand like a seal. Afterwards, we drive to various points in the park looking for more beach and lookouts. We end the day warming ourselves on the rocks near our campsite and watching fisherman and children do their thing in the water.
Though it was the 16th back in the States my friends send me love and support in honor of #CelebratingLek. When it turns the 17th in the US at 12:55p, she would be gone from this mortal earth for 6 years. I know she’s with me. I hope I’m making her proud. I sure as hell do miss her more than I can express.
Friday, 12/18: Adelaide bound…646km…I must be completely honest here: this is the day where I find myself hating Australia. I’m hot and cranky. Mother Nature is hot and cranky. Kilometer by kilometer it gets hotter and hotter. The air is thick and has a stranglehold on my neck. My skin’s on fire not from being roasted by the sun but by a heat rash. I am miserable and all I want to do is sit in an air condition bar with my best friends and bitch about how hot it is and spew vulgarities at each other. I throw up a facade for the sake of Tanguy. No need to show my whoa-is-me-cranky-pants side. So I trudge on. By the time we get to Adelaide, I cannot wait to get out of the car and jump into the nearest body of water and even if that body of water is a vat of warm horse piss it’s gotta feel better than what I’m feeling in the car. At dinner we chat with a nice German fella who resembles Kris Kringle. It’s the first time I’ve felt like Xmas is near.
Saturday, 12/19: peace out Adelaide, you and Darwin are tied for my least favorite “city”. We head to Cleland Wildlife Park for the morning. Though it’s too hot to hold a koala, I become the kangaroo and bird whisperer. I feel like Snow White as animals just come to me and I know it’s the bag of food they want but whatever I got a kangaroo Eskimo kiss and that’s a win in my book! We head to Mount Gambier and the Blue Lake. During the summer the lake turns a brilliant shade of blue vs grey. We want a photo so why not drive 5 hours, camp, and get that photo! The pictures I’ve seen and take don’t do the color justice. The lake looks like one giant sapphire. It’s gorgeous.
Sunday 12/20: it’s the coldest it’s been since I’ve been in AUS. The weather is gray and rainy and as much as I’d like to stay in the warmth of my sleeping bag like a cocoon, we get up and do the Blue Walk and the Potpepper Trail. The sister lake to Blue Lake is Valley Lake and it’s the most gorgeous shade of green I have seen. I like it 1000 times better than Blue Lake. I want to win the lottery and move there. I’d be nestled in between the quiet valleys and away from most of the human race. It’s that kind of peaceful and quiet. Our hike has us chilled and soaked to the bone from the rain. We head to the city centre for supplies and a warm cup of coffee before heading to the border. We cross into Victoria at 12:21 Victoria time (30 minutes ahead of where we just were…your time zones AUS are so ridiculously confusing and amusing). We have decided on Grampian National Park for a few hikes and well to get out of the heat that has smothered us. We land in Halls Gap and set up shop and then do the Mackenzie Falls circuit and the stairs down are 110% worth the climb (I am beyond dreading the climb back as the chilly weather has my knees screaming in pain). We do half of Zumstein’s circuit by sheer accident and probably would have kept going but we weren’t sure where it went or ended. Those steps I climbed down to the falls drain me and I for once think hiking is for the birds. We then tackle Reed Lookout and The Balconies. Afterwards it’s dinner and sleep. The temperature drops to cold and for once I’m grateful my sleeping bag temp is suppose to be warm at 5C.
Monday, 12/21: I wake up as usual before my 8am alarm…this time it’s because it’s cold. 15C, may 10. It’s cold and everyone around the campgrounds has hoodies, jackets, and layers upon layers on. We’re up and at’em and attacking the Pinnacle and Grand Canyon walk from Wonderland. Tanguy almost sprints up the mountain like a goddamn forest sprite/elf as if he’s Puck from A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM. He’s channeled his inner kangaroo energy and I am almost dying, well my knees are beyond in pain. Every bend and step sends a pain through me and has my breathe rapid. I have to focus on something other than the pain to get my heart in control and my breathe from making me pass out. I keep telling myself it’s a marathon not a sprint and that slow and steady wins the race. I let Tanguy lead and I fall into second place. I’m okay with treading behind him, besides he’s got a great butt to stare out when I tire of seeing trees and the path. The Grand Canyon is Aussie’s mini version of the US’s Grand Canyon. Pretty. The Pinnacle is where it’s at though…a 360 view of the Grampians. I can see where we stayed and beyond. It’s breathtaking and worth every bit of pain my knees suffered and those moments of beauty far outweigh whatever pain my body is feeling and I am constantly reminded of that at the end of each hike. I am grateful for the journey in the end. No pain, no gain. Afterwards, we do the Mount William lookout and that is 1.8km of straight up a goddamn paved road on the side of a mountain. My lungs burn but my knees are fine. It’s totally not worth the hike. The view lacks compared to The Pinnacle. In the car…we head to Portland as that will be our starting point for the Great Ocean Road drive.