Easter break, for the local Aussies it’s a time to catch up on readings and relax at the local watering holes. For us study abroaders, it’s a time to venture out in to various parts of Australia. The popular choice is, of course, the east coast. Beaches, fishes, cozy sleeping accommodations, Sydney, all fascinating. However, I had a thirst for more, a thirst only quenchable by a tall glass of adventure.
I had always envisioned Australia as a place where pernicious spiders and snakes could strike at any moment, a place where you drop your sandwich and risk losing it to a crocodile, a place where aboriginal culture and arts and intense rock paintings were celebrated. In Melbourne and Sydney this has not been the case. Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my time here, I have loved my time here. However, I have had a craving for the real Australia, the outback.
Furthermore, the outback was my destination of choice due to what I have been learning in my Australian history classes. We speak a lot about aboriginal culture in class. I hear how the aboriginals have survived extreme climates and tumultuous times. But that’s it, just letters and words. I wanted to get a chance to see what we have been talking about.
Now, on to the trip…
I flew in to the small town of Alice Springs. When I say small, I mean tiny. Very tiny. Alice Springs serves as a stopping point for tourists and backpackers on their way to see Uluru, Ayers Rock, and so on.
The first half of the trip was more or less a road trip from Alice Springs to Darwin. This is a drive directly through the center of Australia. It is the only road in the center. To help break up the trip, we would stop every hour or so to look at a point of interest.
The points of interest were fairly interesting.
After the “road trip,” we arrived in Darwin. Darwin is a small beach town, where you can’t swim at the beach for fear of crocodiles and box jellyfish. This was something I was unaware of until I arrived. Nevertheless, Darwin is a charming place where I wouldn’t have minded staying a little longer. However, after two splendid nights, the next part of the tour was set to begin.
The second part of tour took place in Kakadu National Park, a National Heritage Park nonetheless.
Kakadu National Park is magnificent. April is the end of the wet season. This means that all of the waterfalls are still pouring, the flora and fauna is vibrant and lively, and crocodiles are still lurking around the local swimming holes.
By far, the most exceptional part of the trip was seeing the rock art.
However the highlight for me came while climbing up some rocks. As I was ascending the mountain at record speeds, my foot slipped, coming within centimeters from playing Armageddon with a small green ant colony. (Side note: you can eat the green ant’s bum, one bum tastes like a hundred lemons, and the bums were originally used in preparing fish.) Upon closer inspection of the colony, to assess damage and provide support, I found that this group of ants was completely oblivious to my apocalyptic foot.
Instead, the ants were completely absorbed in an epic battle with native Australian bees. Picture something right out of Star Wars. Better yet, picture the final fight in Avatar. The bees were doing regular bee stuff like getting honey, not looking for trouble. But the green ants thought differently. The ants would strike in to the sky, looking for any bee to hit. The bees would try to evade the ants by using impressive aerial maneuvers. Unfortunately for one bee, his moves were not stellar enough and the long arms of the ants caught him. Once he was brought down, 40 more ants surrounded the poor bee. The last I saw of that bee, he was being carried down to the ant’s lair, desperately trying to escape.
All in all, the trip was very informative. The tour guide, from the second part of the trip, seemed to know everything outback. He was able to answer any question about aboriginal history, culture, and modern life, along with what we could or couldn’t eat in the bush. He was also a spitting image and held the same general demeanor of Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies. That is, he was hip to the problems of the outback, had his ear to the ground, and had a reasonable answer for any issue, all the meanwhile the fat cats in Canberra made the decisions on how to treat the outback.
By going on this tour I came back with new friends from around the world. By traveling alone, I came back with a greater trust in myself. By keeping an open mind, I came back with a new respect for the aborigines and their culture. Altogether, I came back with a greater knowledge of the Australian Outback, which was quite influential on my last history paper.