One of the souvenirs I will dearly keep in my heart is the ten days and several plane trips we made to the Northern Territory for my birthday in April. I couldn´t have asked for anything better… NOT for having one year more but because of the enriching experience of getting in contact with such a different world and culture.
We visited the capital city of the NT, the beautiful and welcoming Darwin on the Timor Sea; then Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock), both in the very heart and red center of this country/island/continent.
While in Darwin we took all the excursions possible: a cruise to Katherine Gorge and Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu´s famous wetlands…. the flora is amazing, we could spot native birds and treated ourselves with the view of more than 5 meters long crocodiles swimming graciously in the calm waters. It’s quite impressive to see them in their natural habitat. The scenic flight allowed us to enjoy the diverse landscapes, the colors and geography, water falls, etc., an interesting experience especially for a geologist like my husband Alain. We did an hour’s walk in Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in the area of Ayers Rock, and a 2 hours’ walk on another mountain where we had to cover our hats with nets to avoid the little flies. They don´t sting but are quite annoying with their constant buzzing! The heat is appalling. Along the roads we spotted wild camels, horrible big bats that hung from trees, adorable wild roos and walabies, some water buffalos, emus and several other birds.
Alice Springs was very special: we learnt more about the Flying Doctors and the Air School. We were taken to the school where we were briefed about its history and could see the teachers (behind sound-proof glass walls) teaching the lesson of the day through computers to their far away students, most of them living many hundreds of kilometers away!
It’s sad to see the ‘Abos’ (as Aborigines are known here) wandering aimlessly and untidy… sitting in circles under trees or going to the BWS (Bear, Wine and Spirits) stores. I understand they receive money from the government but hold no jobs. One of the guides told us that this is a sensitive issue for Australians.
In Yulara (the less than 900 inhabitant’s town close to Ayers Rock) there was an art-exhibition of paintings in the open air. I was happy to admire the aboriginal art and see the old ladies sitting on the floor painting silently on their canvases. They are very shy. Thanks to one of the Australian women that support and sponsor them I could approach them and express my respect and appreciation for their artistic talent. It was very moving.
At sunset we were offered nibbles and drinks with Uluru (Ayers Rock) at the back and while toasting with champagne with Alain, we watched fascinated at the change of colors on the Rock. Later on, we were taken to another area in the middle of nowhere but still with view to Uluru and offered a barbecue. After that, the few camp lights were turned off and our guide took us to watch the sky: countless twinkling diamonds in the dark! He pointed at stars, planets and constellations with laser and named several. A happy, happy birthday indeed!
I could go on for hours… of course! This brief summary cannot possibly reflect all the beauty we saw and the emotions we lived in this part of the world but at least it will give a tiny idea of some of our experiences in this amazing Aussieland.