Monday, December 8, 2008

Australia Number 1!

The Downunders are competitive people. Now they have managed to become the number one polluting nation in the world (as in both hemispheres) per capita! Thanks to long distances that needs to be covered to move people and goods around, many a large town that is run not on power plants but on diesel aggregates, numerous heavily polluting mines and lots and lots of farting sheep, they're really running the planet down!

It seems they intend to keep this position. There's not much more they can do to become worse, but they sure try hard. Between Perth and the rest of the country there's both a road and a railroad. On the road there is no scheduled bus service. If you want to go by road, you'll have to buy a car and drive it across the Nullarbor plains. If you want to go by train, which presumably would hurt the environmental badness of Australia, you'll have to book your ticket well in advance. There's only ONE weekly train between Perth and Adelaide/Sydney, and on that train there are only about 124 sleeper seats!

The result? There are LOTS of flights, both cheap and expensive ones, to and from Perth, and people get on them. It seems that will have to be my option as well, although I really wanted to cross the Nullarbor by land. I've already seen the second longest straight stretch of land, near Coral Bay, so I don't think I'm missing out on much, but still...

What's more, Australia has managed the impressive feat of becoming the most obesive nation in the world! The US is really losing all their hegemonies these days. Food is not even particularly cheap here, they still eat and eat and eat, and leave most of the exercise to be done in Australia to their Olympic swimming team. Sustain-a-belly dwell-up-ment, they call it, I believe.

To make sure that nobody performs any slimming activities, the Australians have introduced tight limits on how many people are allowed to go on the most beautiful walks available in the country. On The Overland Track in Tasmania, for instance, only about 60 people are allowed onto the track per day. And a large portion of those who walk it are actually foreigners. Like me! I'll be going on December 24, yay! I still have to make my way to Tasmania in time for it, but that shouldn't be too difficult.

Right now I'm warming up for the Overland Track by walking sections on the Bibbulmun Track in the south of Western Australia. It's also a beautiful walk, with amazing, tall Karri trees. In a couple of months I'll show you the photos.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nature Calls

I just had the most intense cinema experience of my life, in the Sun Pictures outdoor movie theatre.

Since the wet season is starting, pretty much all tours and destinations north of Broome are closed down for the season. So, to get to see at least some of it, I went to see the movie "Australia", which was shot in the Kimberley region just north of Broome. Now, there's nothing special about the movie, but that movie and that cinema is just about the best combo I've come across ever since I tried putting potato chips on bread. You should try it once. Both the cinema and the chips.

The cinema is "the world's oldest picture gardens", which may be true, or maybe it's just something the Australians like to think, like they often do, and when they discover there's something older, better, faster, taller somewhere, they just add "in the Southern Hemisphere", and then they're usually right. Anyway, the place is from 1912 or so, and it hasn't changed much in the meantime. Everything is built in slightly termite-chewed wood, on the walls there are old movie posters, you sit in beach chairs on a lawn, and the popcorn tastes just perfect.

The movie, however, is brand new. Nicole Kidman is in it, but she is bare noticable compared to the main star of the movie, namely the landscape of the Kimberley. It's an easy plot. An English lady comes to Australia to see to her husband and her property. The husband dies, so that the lady can fall in love with a cowboy. WW2 begins, the Japanese are bad guys and the Aboriginals are good guys, and there's a happy ending. Fair enough.

While the movie is basic, watching it outdoors in Broome is fantastic, because:

* When the movie begins you discover that the screen has lots of geckos on it, running around and feasting on the flies that are attracted by the light from the movie. Some flies are caught by large bats instead, and the bats seem even larger when they're projected onto the screen as they fly in front of the light beam of the movie. And if that's not enough wildlife for you, you'll find that lizards and snakes wiggle their way through the grass just in front of you during the parts of the movie when the audience is quiet enough.

* It turns out that the cinema you're in also is IN the movie! Suddenly watching the movie is like looking into a mirror, except the people in the mirror are wearing 1942 clothing, and they look straight back at you. Surreal! (The movie was shot in the very same cinema.)

* The highlight of the movie was during a scene where Japanese war planes are on their way to bomb the town in the movie. I have no idea how they did it, but just then a large plane flew 50 meters above our heads, making a deafening sound! The cinema is right next to the local airport, so it could of course happening, but the timing was just unreal!

An evening to remember, for sure.

There's much more to tell, but the short story for now is that I flew back to Perth from Broome, and I am now doing the southern part of Western Australia. When I'm done with that I'll go to Tasmania. You see, I've managed to secure a place on the VERY limited access Overland Track there, starting on December 24. I am very excite!

I'll get back to you soon. If I don't fall down from the Bicentennial Tree tomorrow, that is. Google it. #8D)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Careless being carless in Karijini

Wohey! I've just spent some days in the prettiest thing Australia has on offer now that the impressive buttocks of both Kylie and Elle seems to have gone missing.

First you drive for hours and hours and hours across flat land that from a distance looks so nice, green and lush that you have to wonder why the sheep standing along the road look so grumpy. Then you make a stop, to pee or to pull a rotting kangaroo corpse off the road, or both, and you see that between the green bushes there's plenty of red, infertile dirt, and the bushes themselves are armed with long, sharp, lethal needles that could outcompete any kind of porcupine. Poor sheep!

Every 300 kilometers or so there's a petrol station and a roadhouse, and you don't drive past it. You stop, and you fill your tank with petrol at a price two or three times what you might have had to pay for it in any of this continent's major cities. Or if you're twelve years old or so, maybe you just spend all your pocket money for the entire week on a can of Coke or something like that. Life is hard, and expensive, in the outback.

Maybe you drive through Marble Bar, a place that a few hundred souls calls home, and they're proud of the fact that they officially live in the hottest town in Australia. The title was won when they for 160 days in a row could observe the thermometer rise to above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 37.8 degrees Celsius. That's actually true, just look here.

Then, right in the middle of the dry hell, you suddenly arrive in the Karijini National Park. It's still a hot place to visit, but you don't care. Down in the many gorges in the park the temperature is bearable, especially because there's a large number of places you can swim and cool down, natural pools that underground rivers fill up with fairly cool water. Besides, it's all just so stunningly beautiful that you forget about the heat.

I spent the last 4-5 days in the park, almost all on my own. During this time of the year the temperature is usually even higher than what it has been lately, and because of this, very few people plan to go there to enjoy themselves between December and March.

I had been warned that I would have to bring all the supplies I would need. But when I arrived, I found a lovely camp, Karijini Eco Retreat, supported by the aboriginal community, where I could get cold drinks, and where I could rent a nice tent with a bed in it. And I could zip off the outer walls of the tent, so that at night a cooling breeze could come in and help me sleep, and in the mornings I would lie in my bed and look out at brilliant sunsets, beautiful colours gradually filling the sky, creating the perfect backdrop for the silhouettes of acasia and eucalyptus trees. Now, THERE's a good way to start your day!

I went on a walkabout in the park. Or to be more exact, I got lost. I carried plenty of water, so it wasn't really a problem. Well, I survived, anyway. I found my way back to the camp, but before doing so, I found a tree that stood by itself, gushing out blood. "That's weird", I said to myself, and photographed it. Back in the camp I showed the photo to the people working there, and they were impressed.

Apparently I had found a pharmacy tree, and it was bleeding/producing medicine as if there was no tomorrow, which was rather unusual, I was told. I took some people back to the tree and we gathered crystallized chunks of the "blood" from the bloodwood tree. The stuff is supposed to be good for your heart, and dissolved in boiling water it becomes a drink that will cure a cold and stop your coughing. They let me try it, but since I did not have a cold the medicine must have become confused, and helped me produce copious amounts of gas instead. It's a good thing I had a tent for myself, and that there were no immediate neighbours of it either.

Supposedly I got off easy. I met someone else who also had tried drinking The Stuff, and she had just started ejecting the contents of her stomach both upwards and downwards. At least she had lost her cough! I'll bring some blood crystals back home with me, so that you, my friends, also can get to try it. It tastes horrible.

Anyway, I'm still alive, and I have now vroomed to Broome. I haven't done much here yet, but I have bought new shorts. The last ones were torn and ripped in dozens of places after too much rough climbing in the Karijini cliffsides. It was SO worth it!