Wednesday, February 25, 2009



The mistake most people from the US make in planning a trip Down Under is that we get a map of the whole of Australia and pick places we want to go, either driving or flying, in our standard vacation time of 2-3 weeks including the time to fly to Australia and back. Hey this is how we do it at home….except we are usually looking at state maps and are talking about doing something in one or two states. Makes sense…Hey; my map of Texas is the same size as my map of Australia! We simply forget that we would not try to see all of the US in a couple of weeks and, like wise, we cannot do that in Australia either. Both countries are huge!

We arrived on January 22 and left on February 24. We went from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans on the Indian Pacific train and from the Northern Territory to the Southern Ocean on The Ghan. We drove some 3,000km in West and South Australia. We stayed mostly in self-catering cottages with a few city hotels thrown in. We shopped in local produce and meat markets, fixing many of our meals in the cottages and visited with lots of lovely people. We visited Kangaroo Island, but did not go to Tasmania nor to the state of Victoria. We stayed in Sydney, 4days; Albany WA, 4 days; Yallingap WA, 2 days; Fremantle WA, 3 days; Darwin NT, 2 days; Seven Hill SA, 2 days; Oakbank SA, 4 days; Kangaroo Island, 2 days. We spent three nights on the Indian Pacific Train stopping in Broken Hill, Cook, and Kalgorrli, then spent two nights on The Ghan with stops in Katherine and Alice Springs. We flew from Perth to Darwin and from Adelaide to Sydney on Qantas. We found their service to be great and the planes comfortable in coach. Our final time in Australia was spent on the Tahitian Princess with stops in Brisbane and Cairns.

We feel we got a good taste of the country. It reminds us of the US…very diverse terrain, varying in appearance very quickly sometimes with lots of cigarette-smoking, tattoo-sporting, scantily clothed young people. As we went from place to place we would say oh, this looks like…. For instance, the Red Center looks like Utah and the four corners area. It is a much drier country than the US. It is a young country compared to the US; almost 200 years younger….their history begins with the transportations in the late 1700’s, ours begins with the Jamestown settlement in the early 1600’s. The people are friendly, easy to talk to, fun to listen to, very proud of their country and do not hesitate to tell you how great it is.

Traveling in Australia reminds me of traveling in the States in the 1950’s…in the rural areas, the small towns have not changed…actually, it looks like time has stood still since, say 1900. On the other hand, the cities are very new and shiny looking with a core of the original Victorian center.

ACCOMODATIONS: There are many nice small B&B’s and guest cottages, but very few hotel/motels except in the big cities and, with the exception of Sydney, the hotels are not up to the standard we are used to in the States. The name hotels are expensive for what the rooms are like. Some of the cottages we stayed in were over the top in what was provided, some tended to nickel and dime us. If I have one BIG complaint, it is with the A/C. Everywhere we stayed, I checked for A/C and all places said they had it. However, the reality is some places think an A/C unit in the living room of a four-room cottage is air-conditioning. This brings me to the climate.

We visited in the summer time. The north and the east coast are humid and hot, but no more so than on the Texas or Florida coast…actually not as hot as we get in the Summer. The problem is the lack of efficient A/C in public buildings. I am not sure whether the abundance of street side cafes is a result of people liking to be out doors or because it is just too hot inside. The center and the south are hot during the day, but comfortable at night, in fact far more so than summer time at home. Of course, this is because it is the dry season.

FOOD: We found the meat and produce in the local markets a real treat and very reasonably priced, but did not enjoy the restaurant food that much. Most of the restaurants were very pricey, in fact. The type of food leans too much to the Pacific Rim style for our taste. The food combinations and spice choices just did not hit us right and we realize that is a personal thing.

DRIVING: The roads for the most part were well maintained and traffic was light, even during what is considered the rush hour. The roads, except around the big cities, are two-lane with passing lanes where needed. We never had problems with animals on the road, but we did not drive after sunset either. We did encounter some road-trains, but not any longer than four trailers. The road-trains are allowed to be as long as six trailers! Driving was very easy and we would highly recommend a driving vacation! Like driving anywhere in our western states or Alaska, you need to plan a little and be aware of your gas situation etc, but it is not a big problem.

We enjoyed our time in Australia. There are a few places we would still like to visit and a few we would like to revisit in the springtime. My biggest recommendation to anyone planning a trip is to get out of the big cities and away from the big tourist areas and visit the areas and the lesser known coastal areas… in the south and west, they are wonderful!

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