November 13th: The Great Barrier Reef

Ilgonis writes:
Today we experience a different Australia, we go by ships to Great Barrier Reef. We have booked tickets at three different companies, but reefs are quite the same, only the level of service is different. I have chosen the cheapest company [Compass].

Crew is very kind and lunch is excellent, only freshwater showers are missing. On the way to reefs waves are high and ship rocks seriously. Some people become seasick. When we arrive, I go for a snorkeling. Waves are still high and it is not so easy to go even 15 meters to the reef. But I did it and I am rewarded with nice view of tropical fish and corals. Evija swims just outside the ship. Our boys Emīls and Rūdolfs are full of energy and spend a lot of time snorkeling. Rūdolfs films a video with the underwater camera. Emīls makes his first dive ever with aqualung and is very excited about it.

After lunch we go to another reef. I decide to go or a ride in a glass bottom boat. It is a really nice view when all those sea creatures wander below your feet. Boys continue snorkeling. Unfortunately Rūdolfs does not apply sun protection cream and gets severe sunburn on the back part of his legs which are not covered by wetsuit. Who could imagine that you can get sunburn, swimming underwater! On the way back waves are even higher but we successfully reach the shore and are eager to share our new experience to each other. Nice day.

November 7th – West MacDonnel Ranges and Tnorala

Ilgonis writes:
Today is a nice day, few clouds, not very hot. At last no thunderstorm and heavy rain! Today we relax. We visit objects “near” Alice Springs, at West Mcdonnell range, only 200 km to drive in one direction. The first one is Tnorala (Gosses Bluff), remnant of old metorite crater. Crater itself was 20 km in diameter, but now is not visible because of erosion during millions of years. Five kilometer wide center hill Tnorala is all that is left. But nevertheless its huge and impressive. We cannot drive close to it because of water on road, so our group decide to walk.

Later we visit two gorges, Glenn Helen and Ellery Creek. Nice view and warm water. We swim with pleasure. We are back at AS at sunset and watch beautiful clouds illuminated by setting sun. Strange phenomena, rays that stretch from sunset point to opposite point in the sky are visible. They are called crepuscular and anti crepuscular rays.

Major part of our group decides to have dinner in town but is shocked by high prices.
And yes, one more kangaroo crossed our road today. We also saw one camel, one wild cow and several lizards.

October 29th – arriving

Main part of our group (6 out of 8 people ) successfully arrived in Sydney today. Well, not completely, Evija’s luggage is missing. Promised to deliver later. We met with our hosts (we stay with local Latvian families). Nice and warm welcome!

I sniff the air. It’s quite the same as in my country. Only later I notice that blossomed trees are everywhere. Violet jacaranda is especially beautiful. All city today is dressed in violet.

In the afternoon our whole group meets for the first time. First looks, greetings and impressions. We will stay together for three weeks while driving 8000 kilometers around Australia. Lets see how we shall adapt to each other.

Sydney is gorgeous and Agnes is an excellent guide of our city walk. We visit Town Hall, Anzac memorial, ibisses in the park, St. Mary’s cathedral, Old Mint, Barracks and NSW state library.
Business part of the city around Martin place looks like a jungle. Narrow gorges between huge buildings are full of trees and crowds. Surprisingly there are no kangaroos on streets :-). Queen Victoria building with its remarkable clock is like an isle of quietness.

We continue with Darling harbour, seagulls and more ibisses. I especially like skyscrapers that shape silhouette of the city. Surprisingly, famous Opera is not visible from every corner :-)! Our tour finishes at Chinatown where most of us order different Chinese soups. I and Anders order soup with small chilli amount and even then it is very hot. Rūdolfs order medium chilli. Poor guy!

I am going to Australia

“I am going to Australia to see total eclipse of the Sun”. This is my most frequent answer when my friends, colleagues and relatives ask me about my plans for this autumn. And each time I say this, I still
cannot believe that my dream comes true. Yeah, I am going to Australia!!! To meet outback and bush, kangaroos and koalas, Uluru and aborigines, to drive many thousand kilometers to finally reach Cairns
where I and my seven Latvian friends (sorry, one of them is actually Swedish) will watch this rare and beautiful natural phenomenon – total eclipse of the Sun on 14th November 2012. I have seen one in the year 1999 and this was the best experience of all my life, so I expect to feel something similar this time also, plus all great emotions from voyage around Australia for three weeks.
While leaving date approaches, e-mail exchange between the members of group intensifies. Australian dollars, travel guides, campervans, those crazy Australian electricity plugs, snorkeling near Great Barrier
Reef, solar filters and souvenirs to Latvian people we plan to meet in Australia are subjects of our discussions. In the evenings I “travel” around Australia on Google maps and Wikitravel and gather things I hope will fit into my luggage. In my mind I am already there. Australia, we are coming!