July 31, 2001
Australia: land of big, colorful, noisy, slow-moving birds - how perfect is that? Once our plane landed in Darwin, well over two months ago, it seemed like the trip had ended and the vacation was beginning – bring on the dancing horses. Of course, with easy traveling also came expense. Amazingly, the car we rented in Adelaide worked out at under $20 US a day, which helped the budget tremendously. The fact that the Australian dollar is pretty weak didn’t hurt us either. We did stay in a few youth hostels, mostly in the Northern Territory, but managed to find a chain of really cheap, good hotels (around $30 - 35 US a night). If anyone is interested, it’s the Budget Motel Chain, and most have direct dial phones. (If only we were uploading more often. It did help us keep up with our e-mail, though).
Most of the time we didn’t spend at national parks was spent driving to national parks. We didn’t stay too long in any particular city, although we really liked Darwin, Adelaide and Sydney. Brisbane was a bit charmless and the drive between Brisbane and Cairns was pretty dull, unless of course endless sugar cane plantations are your cup of tea. We also traveled with Kirsten, my niece, for almost a month and as far as I can tell we didn’t push her over the edge with our birding obsession. She was also a big help with the car. In one town I jumped out of driver’s seat and let her reverse into a parking space (awesome) and we also learned how to use the headlights properly (bless her). Not to mention the intricacies of radio programming.
All the national parks we visited were true gems, but my two favorites were Kakadu and Wilson’s Promontory. Kakadu really deserves several days to explore, and the nighttime birding is fantastic. One night we found Bush Thick-knees and Barking Owls all by ourselves – I called in the owls by impersonating their call (woof woof, Timmy) and Bill accidentally found the Thick-knees when he got lost. Wilson’s Prom wins the most beautiful award in the National Park stakes. Although the birding was a bit thin on the ground, the scenery was outstanding. Another favorite was a visit to Phillip Island to see the Little Penguins, as was the pelagic trip off the coast of Wollongong.
My only gripe with Australia is that Sara-Marie should have been the winner on Big Brother. Oh well, never mind - looking forward to getting home and teaching everyone the Bum Dance. (It’s an Aussie thing).