Thursday, July 27, 2017

Heading South Again (Temporarily)

By Jen.

Darwin and Ubirr are as far north as we will be in Australia (approx. 12.4° S) unless we decide to go up to the Tip (approx 10.7° S) of Cape York (still in debate currently as it is a long 4WD road). The road leading up to Darwin also connects (via pavement, which is really important) to Alice Springs in the iconic red center of Australia. That combined with the fact that it was the right time (the dry, cool season) of year to visit the center made us decide to head south again to mark that section off our list before resuming our journey across the north of the country. However, to get to the red center requires driving around 1400km south from Darwin. It is in the middle of the Northern Territory, whose population is miniscule, which means cell reception and POIs are few and far between. We made the trip in a few days, with a few stops to break up the monotony.

First stop was Mataranka, where a set of “thermal springs” are the attraction. These actually aren’t springs that are heated by magma (etc). They are simply heated by the surface temperature of the earth’s crust as it is warmed by the sun. The result is a lukewarm water that isn’t too cold to swim in, even in the “winter.” Of course, since it is still in the tropics, the weather was still pretty warm during the day and night. The spring known as Bitter Springs has this beautiful blue-green water because of the calcium and algae growing in it. Elsey National Park had it set up so that you could enter into the stream at one point, then float downstream to another point then walk back to your stuff. We decided to give it a try.

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After visiting a few springs and doing a botanical walk in the small national park, we decided to go find a camp spot and call it day. The next day held much less of interest. One of the roadhouses on the way had a small aircraft which had crash landed at some point. We assume it was hauled and deposited there (no sign of wreckage in the area).

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I found the terrain interesting as we drove along. It was mostly flat, but there were a lot more trees than I was expecting in the “arid desert” center. We had forests and tall trees for about half of the distance to Alice Springs. Then they slowly got shorter and sparser. But even around Alice and such, there were still plenty of trees, tall brush, and grass. A far cry from the sandy desert-like center I had always imagined.

Most notable along this route are the Devil’s Marbles, which are large rounded boulders all in a small area along the highway.

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One of the roadhouses along the road was known for its eclectic collection of banknotes, postcards, and memorabilia on the walls. This tradition began as a way to guarantee that you would be able to have a beer when you next come through. A person would right his name on a bank note and pin it to the wall. You can see how it has evolved. We added our own card to the wall.

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Then, right before Alice Springs, there was a town with an aboriginal art gallery and whose position was marked by 2 large statues.

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This aboriginal man is 17m tall to the tip of his spear and weighs 8 tonnes. The woman is similarly sized.

Not far from there was the highest point on the highway, at a soaring 721m of elevation, after which we descended into the roaring, surprisingly large town of Alice Springs.

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Fun Note: In the last few days of Western Australia, I decided that I sit too much. In fact, some days, I wasn’t doing any better than when I was working full time at an office job. Many studies are beginning to show that sitting 8 hours or more a day is detrimental to one’s health. So, I decided that I should try to avoid sitting or laying down so much. It has been an interesting process, as I natively don’t stand well. I have hyperextending joints all over my body and my knees extend past vertical a full 10°. I have to focus on not locking my knees and keeping them “bent” (which for a normal person is vertical, but not locked in place). My feet have had to adapt as well (they always complain about me standing on them too much). Interestingly, many of the exercises I do for my knee have also helped my standing posture. All that to say that despite the difficulty, most days I have been able to do it. I am not necessarily more active than I was, I am just doing things standing that before I was doing sitting. For example, standing while blog posting, watching TV, etc. I don’t know that I notice much difference in myself, but I do think it has been a good thing for my knees. I guess time will tell.

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