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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

The phrase “Australian Saga” reminds me of Colleen McCullough’s 1977 book and the subsequent 1983 mini-series The Thorn Birds which spoke to the young romantic in me. (Anybody else with me here?) Perhaps more than anything else I can point to, this dramatic fictional story brought the Australian Outback to my attention and contributed to my dream to visit the country someday. Last year, along with my husband Cliff, I realized that dream.

Uluru at sunrise – a mesmerizing sight.

The saga I am recounting here, about our travels, includes a visit to the Red Centre of Australia. However my husband and I had a completely different experience in the Outback than what I read about in The Thorn Birds.  We never drove a jeep on long, dusty red roads or visited a sheep ranch. Instead we chose to visit a national park that is endowed in amazing natural beauty and cultural significance.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is home to both the 2.2 mile long monolith Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock, and a cluster of huge rock domes known as Kata Tjuta, 22 miles away. It is a World Heritage site – home to the Anangu people, the traditional and current owners of the area. The national park is co-managed by Anangu and the Australian Government. Visitors are welcome within

Living in the moment and experiencing the beautiful intensity of the desert at Kata Tjuta.

certain parameters – some areas of the park are restricted for religious and cultural purposes – but I never felt limited.

In the few days Cliff and I were in the Red Centre, we lived the kind of travel experiences I could only dream of. We took part in the Sounds of Silence dinner – a pricey but very cool experience where we were seated at candlelit tables under the desert skies with people from around the world, eating the food and hearing the didgeridoo music of the outback, under the night sky of the southern hemisphere.

We visited Uluru at sunrise, midday and sunset. The rock is fascinating on so many levels.  Its color changed from rosy sandstone to a ruddy brown to a deep burgundy depending on daylight and perspective. Up close you can see the texture and crevices on the surface that looks smooth from a distance.

We hiked though the rocks at Kata Tjuta on a hot day. We were fortunate to be there during a fertile spring bloom that followed earlier rainfalls.  The contrast of vivid red dirt and lush green foliage with flowering plants in the desert painted an enduring image in my memory. 

 This part of our Australian journey was an intense experience that will live forever in my heart.

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Sydney Cityscape

I believe in creating wonderful travel experiences – putting yourself in a fortuitous situation and then allowing the magic to happen. That means making the effort of learning about your destination and planning the trip accordingly.

 That is why I was out of my comfort zone when my husband suggested that we go to Australia and make our internal trip arrangements with a local agent once we were there. Since it was difficult to put together our transportation connections and other detailed plans from the USA, I agreed.  We left for Australia with only the airline reservations that got us to Sydney and back home, and hotel reservations for the first two nights in Sydney. That’s it. Lots of people would thrive on that level of spontaneity – Cliff loved the idea, but I admit to being a little uneasy.

 One year ago today we walked into X BaseTravel in Sydney to make travel arrangements for our trip. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do (I did do my advance reading and research after all!) but we needed somebody to help us put it together.  Thank goodness we found Jay. He put together a detailed itinerary for the rest of our trip, which included flights, trains, buses, day tours, accommodations and all our connections. We put ourselves in Jay’s hands, and were rewarded with easy and relaxing travel to awesome destinations. Thanks, Jay!

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Overlooking Katoomba Falls at Blue Mountains National Park.

The Blue Mountains National Park of Australia is remarkable on many levels. Paths lead to breathtaking vistas overlooking waterfalls and a rain forest. In the distance are sandstone formations like The Three Sisters, and a eucalyptus forest that emits a fine hazy mist that gives the Blue Mountains their name. Wild cockatoos fly overhead. The park protects sites of significance to Aboriginal culture. No wonder this place is part of a World Heritage area.

We were part of a day tour which picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel in Sydney.  We

The Three Sisters and the blue haze of the eucalyptus forest beyond.

learned that tour operators in Australia do this type of excursion very well.  We could just relax with other visitors in a small bus and leave the driving and all the details to our genial host.

 One of our destinations in the park was Scenic World, with its skyway ride over fern trees in the rainforest valley below. We also took a ride in an open air “train” (like a caged-in roller coaster) that plummets into a hole in the ground – the world’s steepest railway plunge – in what used to be a coal mine. Of course, Cliff and I, along with our new friend from the tour, Tamara, climbed into the front seat of the train so we could be the first to take the dive!

Our instructions were to take the boardwalk path to a skyway ride that would lead us back to the bus in Scenic World’s parking lot. Somehow, the word “boardwalk” dropped out of my memory and I led Cliff and Tamara astray, hiking along a steep, rocky path. I thought the occasional signs that said “Landslide” referred to the trail’s name – until we came to an actual landslide area!  By the time we realized our error and turned back, our bus had left without us. Luckily, there were other tours there. A guide was able to track down our driver and arrange a rendezvous in a nearby town. I bought a package of fine chocolates to share with our guide and tour mates – hoping the treat would help put me back in good standing after causing a delay! Lucky for me, it all ended well, and we even saw our first kangaroos in a golf course on our way back to Sydney.

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Here I am in front of the busy Circular Quay area of Sydney Harbour on my first day in Australia.

We arrived in Sydney one year ago today.  It was a warm, lush, humid spring day – a contrast to the fall weather we left behind in the USA.

I am not able to sleep on airlines, so it is an understatement to say I was tired. We settled into our hotel room and rested for a while before venturing out to see the city on foot.

Sydney immediately became part of my short list of favorite urban areas. It has fascinating architecture – a juxtaposition of modern and historic – public art, blooming gardens, and peeks of sprawling Sydney Harbour, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, beyond the buildings. We walked to  the busy waterfront to see our first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House. 

Back in our hotel we booked a tour of the nearby Blue Mountains National Park for the next day. Check back here tomorrow for more.

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One year ago today my husband and I began to fulfill one of the dreams long-held close to our hearts. 

This idyllic view of the Golden Gate Bridge was taken during our stopover in San Francisco last year. Thank you to Rick and Danny for picking us up at the airport in SF and returning us there a couple of hours later. We had the chance to stretch out, eat brunch, and experience a little low-key sightseeing as we prepared for the long journey ahead of us.

On the morning of Saturday, October 1, 2011, we left Minnesota, taking a route that would lead us from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to Denver, San Francisco, and Vancouver. We left Canada shortly before midnight and landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday morning.  Because we crossed the International Date Line en route, Sunday did not exist for us last year.  

It was a very long flight. The next time I go to the other side of the world (I sincerely hope there is a next time!) I think I will plan an overnight (or longer) stopover in Hawaii. 

I hope you will check back here occasionally in the next few weeks. I’ll be sharing photos and memories here, as they happened a year ago.

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“A 1980s love story on two wheels, with adventures and great scenery.”
 
That is how I describe my first e-book, a memoir titled Traveling Together: Cliff and Me and the Motorcycle Makes Three. I am thrilled to announce it is now published and available in the Amazon Kindle store.

I met Cliff in 1981 and we married a year later.  We took several motorcycle trips together — to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, the Black Hills, Door County, and Colorado.  Our adventures during those journeys are the basis for this book. At 20,000 words it is a quick read.  

I hope you will consider taking a “look inside” at the link (book title) above.  Let me know what you think!

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I have heard it said that Baby Boomers don’t want to grow up.  We want to feel young and carefree as we continue to live life to its fullest.

I plead guilty!

The evidence in this case is provided by my wide smile when I recount my activities during the past two weeks:

  • I spent time leading up to the 4th of July playing volleyball in a lake in Wisconsin with a group of friends.  The net is literally set up in the lake.  Classic fun!
  • I experienced Santana in concert – for two+ hours, under the stars.  Carlos is fantastic – he’s still rocking – making it fresh and real after all these years.  He plays with a large group of musicians, and they know how to do it right.
  • I got behind my husband on our motorcycle for the first time in many years.  He recently had our Yamaha 1100 revamped and has begun to ride it on nearby country roads.  I have been writing my motorcycle memoirs, Traveling Together, Cliff and Me and the Motorcycle Makes Three, and it brought back the memory of soaring down the road on a bike. I tried it and I liked it!

What are you doing that shows your rockin’ spirit?

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