Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Ode to Oz

This was supposed to be posted BEFORE the previous post... but for some reason it didn't. Sorry!

This is a ode to a country that is vast, self-centered, and wholly Western (in both the worldly sense, and the cowboy). It is an ode to a place where people are generally kind and welcoming, down-to-earth and ready-to-talk. It is an ode to a people that love their country, for all its faults and errors throughout its short history. This is an ode to Australia, which I came to love in the short time I was there, as it reminded me fondly of my own country, while being completely different. It's almost like we are brothers from different mothers. Or at the very least, Crocodile Dundee and Butch Cassidy are. I mean, we both have a lot of deserts and a lot of coastline, we both have Kmart and Target, and we both have race/class/social issues that we have been trying to work out for the past 100 years. Our economies are opposite right now (Australia on the up! US on a flatline!), and the Australian minimum wage ($18/hr) is about THREE TIMES that of the US. However, the good things in life stay the same: you walk into a bar in either country and the chatty old men come a-runnin', filling you with stories, jokes, and a dose of reality.

Such was our experience in south and central Australia. Ben and I spent a little over two weeks road trippin' it from Melbourne to the Red Centre (yes, that is an 're') and back, covering some Great Roads, National Parks, and a whole lot of nothingness. We started with The Great Ocean Road, which snakes its way along the coast of southern Oz, through Victoria and South Australia. We started in Lorne, where our free campsite gave us the false hope that this would be a cheap trip. That was the only free campsite we ever saw. We then hopped from cute coastal town to cute coastal town for the next few days, spotting koalas in trees (and witnessing our fist koala bear jam!) and admiring the fantastic surf, until landing on the mother ship of coastline in the south: The Twelve Apostles. The end of The Great Ocean Road is a 30 km stretch of shear cliffs, rock formations, and moon-like landscapes. The morning we saw it the sun peeked out from behind the clouds only long enough for us to get some awesome sun streaked views of the crazy scenery, and the ocean was so angry that sometimes the waves splashed us- several hundred feet above the water.

From there we headed to Grampians National Park, which, because it was Easter weekend (woops) was so overly crowded with people that we both felt claustrophobic and decided to continue on immediately. We decided to make our way towards Ayers Rock, 900 miles away, which before that point had only been discussed in speculation, but all of a sudden became a reality. Or favorite mantra: why not? We stopped only in Adelaide to check out the weekend market and buy some supplies for our road journey. When traveling in the Outback, one must pack well. Water, food, and extra tires if you plan on going off the main drag. We were to scared of our $3,000 deductible on the rental car to make any off road moves, so we settled for food and water. Off we went!

Our first stop (btw, all of these stops are literally the ONLY stops on the highway between Port Augusta and Alice Springs)

You know a country is big when you drive through absolutely nothing for multiple days. Much like driving through Nebraska, or Arizona, some days all we would see were a couple dead kangaroos on the side of the road. Luckily, we come from a place where driving two days just to get somewhere else is fairly common. We were aiming for Ayers Rock, Ben was undergoing a massive cold, and the highlight of each day was stopping at a Roadhouse to get a Lift (carbonated DELICIOUS lemon beverage) Come day #3 on the Adelaide-Darwin highway, we started to wonder whether this

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