Tuesday, 29 January 2008

New Time Zone

We left the hot and sunny climate of Australia and after a 15 hour flight (via Auckland, NZ) landed in ... hot and sunny Chile, tired but excited. Our first day was spent exploring Santiago.

Us at the top of Cerro Santa Lucia, a viewpoint above Santiago.

Last days in Oz

On our last day with Johnnie we visited Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm, two canyons in the West MacDonald Ranges. At our camp that night at Standley Chasm we listened to the second mens semi final of the Australian Open tennis on the radio between Djokovic and Federer. Djokovic won in straight sets.

Standley Chasm

Sharon with Johnnie at our last campsite

The next day we flew back to Sydney over the vast red desert.

That night after a meal overlooking the harbour and opera house we watched the final of the mens open tennis in a park on a big screen with thousands of other people. The atmosphere was great, just like being there. BTW Djokovic won.

National differences in attitude towards animal welfare

Remember the American concern about wildlife? Fines for non compliance, rangers patrolling the system. Keep wild animals wild.

Well, Australia has a slightly different attitude towards some of their wildlife. Click here to see what they advise. (Don't click if you are offended by bad language)

Kangaroo drinking from a puddle on the road after a shower.

It moved off for us when we didn't swerve.

Monday, 28 January 2008

All those things we heard about at school

If we had been in Australia for one more day we would have been around for the start of the new school year (which starts on 27th Jan with a training day for teachers). This made it difficult for us to visit a school but in Ayres Rock we managed and visited the most amazing school. It's catchment is 1.3 million square km.

There are about 100 children who have lessons 5 days week from age 4 to 13, then they go to boarding school until minimum school leaving age 15. They follow the full Northern Territories curriculum, including languages over the air and the teacher visits them at home every year. The children come to Alice Springs for one week every term. They all go on a school trip every year to the beach or to the mountains to see snow. The furthest a child is from Alice Springs is 1000km! They use satellite broadband now not radios and get home study packages sent out regularly with the work. They even have weekly assemblies all together online.

Then we visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service and found out about their work. Apparently no Australian is more than 2 hours away from help even in the outback because of them.

KIngs Canyon

Following Uluru we drove the short distance (300+km on dead straight roads) to Kings Canyon, sold as the Grand Canyon of Australia, where I did the spectacular Rim Walk in the heat again.

We then drove back towards Alice Springs and stayed at the Stuart Wells Roadhouse where we met the guy who had dug the road through the desert for 100km in the 1960s, to reach Kings Canyon and open it up for tourism.

We watched the Australian Open tennis semi final with him and two French lads. Tsonga (an unseeded player knocked Nadal (seeded 1) out in straight sets.

We then suffered the hottest night we can ever remember. It was boiling and never cooled down all night. We just lay in Johnnie and sweated.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

From coast to toast

We thought that as a counter to the high humidity and heat of the coast and the monsoon rains we would head into the heart of the continent and experience the red desert. As we stepped off the plane in Alice Springs we were met by a fan heater blowing hot air at us. Then we realised ... it was 42 degrees celsius IN THE SHADE!

Johnnie (Depp that is) our Wicked Campervan

We picked up Johnnie and with the air conditioning on full (we had to pay a premium of $10 a day for this!) we drove the short distance to Uluru (Ayers Rock. Well it looked close on the map! In fact it is 560km but at least the road is straight).

Uluru at sunset. Although we didn't see the colours change we did see a lightening storm.

We visited Kata Tjuta (The Olgas. We prefer the Aboriginal names as we did the Maori ones. It is interesting how we have developed strong opinions about our white colonialist forefathers and their attitude towards Terra Nullius) and then watched the sun set over Uluru. Unfortunately it was cloudy so we didn't see the amazing colour change but spectacular none the less. The next morning we went on a fascinating guided tour of the Aboriginal sites then walked around the base of the monolith. Only mad dogs and Engish people walk Uluru in the midday sun. It was HOT and strangely there was nobody else doing it!

See a video of our walk round Uluru here. Note Sharon's headwear. There were lots of flies!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

150 nautical miles

Little Jeannie
We hand the boat back tomorrow after ten days of excitement. The weather has settled a bit and it has not monsooned on us again but it is overcast and VERY humid. They had the whole rainy seasons worth of rain in 3 days apparently, which caused major floods in Queensland and caused our boat to leak a bit as well

The rain pouring off the sun awning!

In total we have sailed (and motored because on some days there has been minimal wind) over 150nm in some beautiful scenery.

After we hand Little Jeannie (the boat) back tomorrow we are off to Alice Springs to see Ayres Rock.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Queensland Drought broken

The good news for the residents of Northern Queensland is that the five year drought has ended. The bad news for us is that we have experienced three days of monsoon downfall, 30cm of rain in 24 hours. The wind is also strong, up to 25 knots, which is a bit of a pain when you are ... sailing! At least the rain is warm and the sea is 31 degrees C, so the swimming and snorkeling are great.

Us in the rain. It is so heavy at times that the visibility is reduced to a few hundred yards. Difficult when you are sailing!

Sharon helming Little Jeannie.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

This may be the last blog for a while

The next phase of our trip starts today (9th Jan). Since the family departed for home we have been touring the area south of Sydney on a motorbike (Botany Bay and The Royal National Park.

Our bike, a 650 Honda Transalp. Not the most comfortable bike we have ridden!

Us at Botany Bay.
Today we fly to the Whitsundays where we go sailing and there probably won't be the internet on the high seas so this may be it until later in January.

Hope the return to work is not too painful!

Monday, 7 January 2008

The Gerrish family in Australia for Christmas

Sadly the great family gathering has broken up and they are all back in the UK. Here is a brief reminder of some of the things they did. We miss you Ben, Matt and Kate and had a fantastic time with you.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The Steepest Railway in the World

That is what they say on the advertising poster anyway. We went for a day trip to the Blue Mountains and rode up the railway back from the Australian version of the Grand Canyon.

See a video of the railway here

Following our day in the Blue Mountains we had tea in Sydney and walked back home over the Harbour Bridge.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Year celebrations in Sydney

Happy New Year to all our friends from the travelling Gerrishs .