Sunday 30 June 2013


As we approached the stadium, the battle cry became louder and louder from all the bars. Everywhere was packed out with fans that had clearly been on the sauce most of the day.

Lions! Lions! Lions!

The red far outnumbered the gold but all mingled merrily in a jovial pre-match party.

The banter was flowing as much as the beer and the Lion fans were in fine voice.

"Kurtley where's ya shoes, Kurtley where's ya shoes?" was a favourite and frequent chant referring to the Wallaby kicker who slipped at the last kick to lose the match in Brisane.

My favourite was the chant that rung out all night. In order to tone down the sea of red shirts, the Wallaby officials were giving out free yellow hats to everyone. Well it doesn't look good on telly for the receiving side to be out numbered.

Well not to be out done the Lions sang, to the tune of "she'll be coming round the mountain when she comes", the following:

"You're only wearing yellow cos it's free, you're only wearing yellow cos it's free, you're only wearing yellow, only wearing yellow, only wearing yellow cos it's free"

Loved it!

I decided to face paint a lion and get right into the spirit of things.

As it turned out I was a lone lioness, I expected lots of people to have painted their faces like mine, we didn't spot another one.

It was the perfect ice-breaker and we met some hilarious people and I think I am on a lot of peoples iphones today!

The match was tight, neither side were taking any risks resulting in only one try in the whole game.

At 15-16 to the Wallabies, Leigh Halfpenny had a kick right on time to steal the match and win the series for the Lions.

The ball pulled up short. Ooooooh! We lost!

Still it sets us up for an epic match next week in Sydney and even though the result wasn't as we would have wanted, the night itself was awesome, one to remember.


Tuesday 25 June 2013

Blooming Desert

A fledgling forest of young Desert Oak

The Desert in Bloom

This is my last post on Uluru and it's desert in the Northern Territory before we move onto more loud and rumbustious things.

The Desert here is also known as the Red Centre for its deep rusty, red sand. Back in 1988 when Hubster was last here he explained that this red carpet stretched endlessly as far as the eye could see, seemingly barren and lifeless. There was not even a hint of green in sight

However, on our trip the desert floor was far from lifeless. It was teeming with beautiful desert oaks, myrtle and flora and fauna of all kinds. The rains have been exceptional this year and the dormant shoots buried into the sand waste no time at all in springing into life.

The rock formations contrasting with the red sands, the variegated greens of the plants and the deep, azure blue of the sky is quite a sight to behold.

The guides said it has been so long since the desert has been like this that many of them are seeing plants and flowers that they have only ever seen in text books before.

It is a bountiful time for all the birds, insects, rodents and reptiles and they are prolific in their numbers. We were thrilled to see so many.

Gallah Parrot

Mr Monitor Lizard catching some rays

A very healthy looking Emu

Thorny Devil (incredible creature)

The only thing we expected to see lots of here and we didn't see one was; kangaroos and wallabies.

The explanation is simple. A type of grass grows everywhere here called Spinex. The roos find it totally abhorrent  It tastes awful, it is impossible to chew and it is spiky and uncomfortable to jump on and sleep on. I can't really blame them.

We felt very lucky to have the chance to see the desert like this.

This trip will certainly go down as one of my highlights of our time here in Australia and a lifelong dream fulfilled.

It undoubtedly left a lasting impression on us both.


Tuesday 18 June 2013


With Scruffy - 5 month old orphan

Couscous loved a head scratch

Cuddles for Couscous - good job done.

Handler aboard Daisy, who happens to be a "him!"

Camels are not native to Australia.

However, there are now around 7 million roaming the outback.

Yes you read that right - Million!

They were introduced in 1860 when the British imported 120 camels to assist in the build of the Telegraph Station in Alice Springs. When all building works were done, the Brits then ordered the slaughter of the camels. However, the handlers could not bring themselves to do this, mercifully and so they set them free into the desert instead.

The rest they say is history.

Today many camels are captured for racing, which is a huge sport here and in Arab countries and the best runners fetch thousands. There are also camel farms as camel meat is extremely healthy, low in fat and cholesterol and of course their hides have many uses too. Camel hair paint brushes are the ultimate luxury for any artist I hear and extremely expensive.

We signed up to do a sunset camel ride, we thought it would be a bit tacky and I am always wary of the use of animals for tourist entertainment. However, I was relieved to see the camels were immaculately looked after, extremely well behaved and very keen to go for their walk. The handlers were clearly passionate about their work and knew the specific characteristics of every single camel on the farm.

We had a teenager called Couscous, who like many teenagers has a short attention span. So she had to wear a nose bag as she has a penchant for nibbling at the saddle of the camel in front if she has to stand around for too long.

Apart from having breath that could only come from the cess pit of hell, she was very charming and effortlessly carried our combined weight of 23 stone!

It turned out to be a trip highlight and I really enjoyed a cuddle with Couscous at the end.

PS The farm had saved and rescued a 5 month old orphan called Scruffy, who is doing really well and was a real sweetie.


Thursday 13 June 2013

Valley of the Winds

Kata Tjuta
Ayers Rock (Uluru) is an Australian icon that is recognisable all over the world.

It is not a monolith as so many of the guide books claim but it is the tip of a huge underground mountain range some 5km in depth. Like an earthly iceberg.

Just some 40 kilometres away is another rock formation. Far less known than Uluru but just as impressive in my opinion.

It is The Olgas or given its traditional name, Kata Tjuta which means many heads. The formation consists of 36 huge sandstone domes. It is a highly sacred place for the Anangu men, it is regarded as being a very dangerous place and therefore an appropriate site for male initiation.

Women were only allowed to collect bushtucker and plant medicines (berries, seeds etc) and absolutely forbidden to stay there.

It is eerie and awesome. It is still yet powerful. Yes it feels very masculine too almost like you are walking on a huge sleeping giant, treading carefully so not to wake him. Sounds echo strangely between the domes, it's quite an acoustic that makes one bird call sound like 10 as the waves bounce around from rock surface to rock surface.

You walk in silence, almost in reverence really. You pick up every sound, the rustle of a lizard in the vegetation, the trickling of the waterfalls and rockpools and the call of the birds up high.

The vibrant contrast of the sapphire blue sky against the deep rusty red rock and the lush green desert meadow was an over sensory feast for the eyes.

The breezes are channelled through the cavernous gaps between the domes creating whistling wind tunnels.

Hence the track through Kata Tjuta  is known as the Valley of the Winds walk.

Our visit to this prehistoric place was as transient as a grain of sand being whipped through the valley, Kata Tjuta has been here for millions of years and will be for millions more.

A brief but unforgettable moment in time and one of the most beautiful walks we have ever done.


The valley between 2 domes creates an incredible frame to the desert and domes beyond.

Looking out at that view is just breathtaking


Tuesday 11 June 2013

Longitude 131 Degrees

There will be a few blog entries on our weekend to Uluru. When I look back I don't want to forget a thing.

Yes, 24 years ago when Hubster was here it was a very different place. A bit of a tourist rat run for gap year back packers and hippy types. Tents and camper vans were littered all around the base of the rock and hawkers were peddling tacky souvenirs.

Above the din of the madding crowd however, people still remarked on the spiritual like calm that washes over you here.

Today all that crazy stuff is gone and the land all around Uluru is back in the hands of Mother Nature and how very beautiful it is.

The nearest tourist accommodation is some 15km away and that is where we stayed - Longitude 131 degrees.

When we arrived we were quite in awe.

The "tents" in reality are beautifully appointed luxury apartments with Bose surround sound, WiFi, fully stocked fridges and Nespresso coffee machines! About as far removed from camping as you could get.

An extract from my diary kind of sums this place up and all it entails.

"Snuggled down in the crisp white linen of the king sized bed we succumb to the serene and silent sleep of the desert.

Above the canopy of our palatial "tent" is a greater canopy, sparkling endlessly in the night sky. Constellations brimming with Anangu tales and stories. Here, you dream the rich dreams found only in the heart of such a sacred and powerful place.

As the sun rises Uluru drenches you with it's fabled light which dances over the rock in countless shades of pink and purple, orange and red.

It is hard to tear yourself away from your personal seclusion here but the draw to explore this extraordinary land is irresistible, even at 5.30am!

Here, you are exposed to an expansive landscape teeming with life and ancient culture and traditions of the Anangu people.

You are humbled, rejuvenated and stimulated but most of all you feel liberated and your soul takes flight"


Longitude 131 is a unique destination, in a unique place, take a peek here. Another dream come true and if you have not been and you now feel inspired to, then add it to your list.

Monday 10 June 2013



On 26th October 1985, Ayers Rock was given back to the Aboriginal people. It had been their sacred land for some 22,000 years and more and Uluru, (the Aboriginal name) was repatriated with it's people once more.

But it has taken a very long time for this message to filter through to the tourists that made the trip to see this "must do" wonder of the world.

Hubster first saw the "rock" back in '89. In spite of the repatriation of Uluru some 4 years earlier, change was slow, there was still an airstrip along side, a few motels and back packers camps all around.

The constant stream of people climbing the rock were like an army of ants all in line and Hubster was one of them.

How onerous and painful it must have been for the native aboriginal people, the Anangu, to see such a sacred site turned into party central.

For the Anangu it must have been akin to watching total strangers dance and desecrate the grave of one of their loved ones.

However, the majority had no clue of this back then. To many and Hubster too,  it was an incredible structure in the desert waiting to be climbed with a view to die for and affording the most beautiful sun rises and sunsets to boot.

When I saw his photos, I too was one of the clueless and just felt jealous I wasn't with him on the climb.

24 years after Hubster climbed the "rock" and 28 years since repatriation, it is a very different story.

Virtually no-one calls it Ayers rock anymore.

It is Uluru.

The Anangu are so humble they do not forbid anyone from climbing Uluru, they just ask you not to, no force, no coercion, just "we would like you to respect our culture". A strategy that is clearly working because only 28% of all visitors now actually climbing Uluru.

Many can learn from this slow burn approach surely?

Keep tuned to see just how much this landscape has changed.

For the better.

How refreshing that is to say.

The view from the room!