In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 22 – Ayers Rock – Cairns
The drama began first thing when pretty much the entire group struggled to find the restaurant where we’d be having breakfast. To be fair it was still dark with only dim lights offering us any illumination. We made it in the end.
Alex wanted us off at 8.00 a.m. for our morning sightseeing. Worryingly, we had to leave our cases outside the rooms, check out and trust someone wouldn’t steal them before we came back. There was no pilfering thankfully but it’s not a system I approve of when it comes to security of one’s bags.
After the exciting tour of Ayers Rock we followed up our journey with sightings of the Olgas. First off we went for an hour-long stroll in Walpa Gorge which offered an impressive view of the towering rocks, particularly of the eroded face. The walk was overshadowed by one of our party losing her footing and landing heavily. The walk in Walpa Gorge was hard work in general so for the elderly members of our group it must have been tough. The path itself was unpredictable in places and contributed to the accident. Luckily, the woman in question wasn’t seriously hurt but she was still later taken to the Flying Doctors Building as a precaution. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful to elderly people but surely there are some easier walks for them in the Northern Territory. The majority of the group didn’t complete the Walpa Gorge trek.
We had a brief stop at some toilets but the photographers were given the chance to snap the Olgas from distance. The toilets themselves were worth a mention, being the usual design only with the addition of a hole in the ground rather than the U-bend. My sympathies went out to the women with most being petrified of a snake waiting to pounce!
Our last stop was a lookout point offering distant views of both the Olgas and of Ayers Rock. It was a bit of a walk to get there but mercifully this path was more even. The annoying characteristic of the Northern Territory was in evidence once again – the flies. Any one of us that left the coach would come back with a dozen of the pests on their back. Even insect repellent had little effect against this lot.
The coach wasn’t due to take us to the airport until 2.00 so most of us headed for the village to have a look around. It was a very brief tour. The handful of shops were arranged in a small square and it took little time to walk round, so I got the shuttle bus back to the hotel to wait for the coach.
In the run up to 2.00 a group of us enjoyed a simple lunch of chips at a shop with bizarre ordering techniques. I’d seen this in a few other places and what happens is you place your order, you’re then given what looks like a remote for the television before being sent to your table. When your order is ready the device vibrates and plays a little tune letting you know your food is ready. Not bad technology for the Outback!
Alex warned us of rigorous security at Ayers Rock Airport. I found it to be the same as usual. The airport itself must have been smaller than Alice Springs and only had two gates. The best bit was the flight ticket advising to allow plenty of time to reach your gate before departure. A snail would have had little trouble getting to the gate on time!
As usual Quantas were eager to keep us well fed. Despite a flight of just over two hours we had a snack and a cooked meal before touching down in Cairns, which was in the midst of heavy rainfall. It was tropical weather in Queensland and took some getting used to after the Northern Territory.
Our hotel was, according to Alex, the best on our Australian tour. I couldn’t deny it was very nice with a flat screen TV, a fancy propeller-like fan, venetian blinds and lots of furniture. The guidelines for the hotel didn’t, however, fill one with confidence. Apparently the sight of ants, cockroaches and geckos were a frequent occurrence in one’s room! I soon witnessed the ants but not the other two thank goodness.
Tomorrow promised a full day at the Great Barrier Reef. I chose not to go swimming for a few reasons. 1) I’d never scuba dived before and despite a guide there to train us I preferred more practice. 2) The last time I swam on holiday I struggled to stay afloat and quickly abandoned the sea. It would still be a grand experience even without an underwater camera.
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