In my previous photosNtravel article, we visited the south eastern part of Australia. Today we are continuing our trek by heading north to Queensland, and the coastal city of Cairns. Situated on Trinity Bay, the city of Cairns is set against the magnificent background of jungle-covered mountains, with sugar cane fields everywhere.
I took the seaside tour to the small village of Kuranda, passing along steep cliffs, which overlook Trinity Bay. The village of Kuranda is known for its native arts and crafts, and many colourful shops. It is also the ‘home’ of bungee jumping, a sport I have not yet participate in.
The aboriginal name for this region is Tjapukai, a tribal word for rainforest, and is also the language spoken by the Tjapukai people. Their traditions include the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo.
From Cairns, I journeyed along a picturesque route to the small coastal town of Port Douglas, for an adventure on the Great Barrier Reef. On board a catamaran, we travelled at speeds in excess of 80 km an hour. Once I arrived at the reef, I transferred to a floating pontoon to enjoy a day of snorkelling, and underwater viewing of the eighth wonder of the world.
The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth's largest living ‘thing’ visible by astronauts from the moon. It stretches 2,000 km or 1,200 miles along the north eastern coastline of Australia.
After a long day on the reef, I left the area for my next destination: the Australian outback and world-famous Ayers Rock, located deep in the centre of the vast Australian desert.
The colour of the landscape is reddish-brown, with Ayers Rock springing up some 500 metres or 300 feet in its centre. It is considered a very sacred place to the Aboriginal tribes of Australia and I was very careful to adhere to all the rules, while I made my way to the rock for a detailed exploration.
As I mentioned earlier, Ayers Rock, for those who are interested in an in-depth overview, is featured in the February edition of this magazine. It is the tip of a giant monolith, the world's largest, and was formed about 500 million years ago.
In the true style of Australian adventurers, I set forth at 6 a.m. to challenge Ayers Rock in a daring two-hour climb to its peak. My timing was good, as climbing Ayers Rock has been banned since the fall of 2019. This was largely due to the religious significance of the monolith, but also because the strong winds would take as many as 20 lives each year.
Located about a 60 minute drive to the west of Ayers Rock, are the Olgas. A fascinating rock formation, the Olgas are actually 36 individual Stones rising from the flat desert floor.
I drove the 235 km Lasseter highway, which is the main road in the area. Stations or ranches border the highway, and are home to cattle and ranchers alike. An average station can consist of thousands of acres of land, and is usually left unattended by its owners.
My next stop was the town of Alice Springs, which lies just south of the Tropic of Capricorn in Australia's Northern Territory. Gusts of wind make this desert come to life, as dust clouds swirl across the flat plains of the Simpson Desert. Due to its tropical location, there are only two seasons in the Northern Territory: wet and dry. The temperature of Alice Springs reached a hot 40 degrees while I was there.
The flying doctor base for the Northern Territory is located in Alice Springs. Fully equipped with the latest in medical technology, aeroplanes fly from one end of the country to another, tending to the medical needs of small remote communities.
Camels were brought to Australia by the early settlers because of their great ability to function effectively in the desert. Today more than 350,000 camels roam wild throughout northern and western Australia.
After my fill of camel riding, I ventured to the airport to continue the journey to my final destination in Eastern Australia, the wonderful city of Melbourne.
Melbourne has a population of just under three million, making it Australia's second-largest urban area. Although it lacks the charm of Sydney's Harbour District, it does have the Yarra River running through its centre. The city was created in 1837, and was developed carefully, ensuring there would be a vast amount of Parkland and wide tree-lined roads and boulevards.
From Melbourne, I travelled south along the coast to beautiful Phillip Island, and the home of the fairy penguins. The sunset waddle of the fairy penguins has lured millions of visitors to this area. As the sun began to set I witnessed hundreds of these cute little birds marching home from a hard day's work of fishing and food gathering.
Australia is a fantastic place to visit, and if you are a world traveller, it should be on your bucket list. I hope to return one day and visit the western half, which I understand is just as spectacular. For those of you who are interested in seeing more of this land downunder, my photosNtravel show for May,featured this wonderful country-continent.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com