A Taste for Adventure

By Alicia Pettis

Goodbye to the Outback, Hello to the East Coast.

We got the chance to sleep in this morning, at least compared to the two mornings before where we woke up before sunrise.

However, this morning was a little somber, since the “walkabout” trip was splitting off from the “outback” trip and heading to cairns. We had made good friends with some of the people who were headed back to Alice Springs to finish out their trip there.

Our trip manager and driver cooked us up a storm of brekkie: eggs, bacon and toast. We all sat and talked about how we would keep up with each other.

We went back to our rooms to pack up everything and checked out. Then, we headed to the coach to say goodbye to our friends we made in the Outback. We couldn’t stop singing “home among the gun trees” and hugging. Finally, everyone drove off and the “walkabout” trip was left.

Everyone that was left went their separate ways to relax for a little. Most went to the pool to cool off in this very hot and dry weather. I had honestly had enough sun and just wanted to relax and get things ready for the east coast.

Our room had been near a path up a hill, which promised a great view of Uluru and Kata-tjuta. I made the trek up the red sand path, finally making it to the top to see that red rock we had been staring at for almost 3 days now. I must have at least 100 pictures of this rock from difference angles and different times of the day. However, I couldn’t get enough.

For the aboriginal people, this rock is very spiritual for them and has great meaning. For Australia, it is basically in the center of the country, and is sometimes called the heart of the country. I felt very strongly that day the spiritualness of the rock and all the many meanings of this red, freak of nature standing alone.

If I’m being honest, I cried, by myself, just looking at this large red rock in the distance. It was like I finally realized I was in Australia, making my way around the country and taking it all in. I did this for me and I felt really proud and happy. So of course I cried…

I stood there for a while just looking out and taking in the stunning view for a while. But, I had things to do, so I made my way back down.

I had a list of to-dos to get done before we caught our flight so I immediately headed off to the laundry room to clean my clothes. I sat on the washer and updated my journal.

A mother and daughter were washing clothes in the washer diagonally across from me and clearly were American, from their accent. I said “hi” to the mom and asked her where she was from. She said Virginia…Fairfax, Va! I excitedly told her I was from Fairfax as well!! We quickly exchanged the similarities. Her kids actually went to my elementary school, but not my middle or high school. We talked about people we knew and where her kids went to college. It was nice to talk to someone from home, especially halfway through the trip.

She was excited to hear I was traveling around at my age and shared her experience of a long trip around Africa when she was younger. It was such an education for her and remarked that I would come back with such a rich world view.

She left to get lunch while I put my clothes in the dryer. When she came back with her daughter we talked for a few minutes more. Her daughter was studying abroad to learn more about excercise science and was loving life down under.

We said goodbye and good luck to each other for the rest of our trips. It seemed like a cool happenstance that I would run into someone from my hometown just when I was leaving this amazing experience in the Outback.

I found some of my group mates hanging out and eating lunch. I ate with them while we all talked about our excitement to be continuing on to the East Coast.

We got our luggage from reception and waited impatiently for the airport bus to come and get us. Before we boarded the bus, I took some red sand in plastic baggies and put it in my suitcase. It is bad luck if you take something from Uluru, but this was from the resort area. I wanted to remember this place forever.

We got the airport just in time to board the quantas plane and leave for Cairns.

On the plane, I updated the blog and relaxed, trying to transition my mind for the new leg of the trip: the east coast of Australia.

As we descended from the clouds, we could see the mountains and ocean, clearly a more tropical climate and populous area than we had experienced in the past few days.

When we landed, we were greeted by our new coach driver and taken into the city center of Cairns (pronounced: cans). We then met our new trip manager on the bus to go over the plan for the day and to help us transition into this new environment. There was a more upbeat, party energy about this trip that I could already feel.

We were joining a large group. All together, we were 56 people, who just barely fit on the coach. Most of them had done the first day of the trip the day before in the Daintree Rainforest. We were going to be outsiders in some way. But, also, we were told not to cluster around each other, so we could meet others and not seem exclusive.

We then went inside the hotel to our rooms and were pleasantly surprised. While staying in the Outback, we had to deal with “below average” accommodations. There were lots of bugs, bunk beds and basic bathrooms. Sometimes we couldn’t even drink the water from the sinks. Here, we had large beds, a jacuzzi, a balcony and more. For us, it was luxury after the Outback.

We were pretty tied from our long trip in the Outback and decided we would take it slow this night and relax. We wanted the night to transition back from rural society to the city life. So we of course decided to get pedicures. We had many beach days ahead, so we needed to have our toes looking pretty.

We ventured down the main road to a large shopping area. We found a salon that could take us, but in turns. I was in the second group, so we went to the local woolies (i.e. woolworths, a grocery store) to get a quick dinner. I picked up some beet root hummus, which I had discovered the day prior and had become obsessed. Also, some sweet chili chips to dip with. We abolsutely need beet root hummus in the US!

When we got back from our grocery shopping adventure to the nail salon, we ate and talked about how excited we were for this upcoming adventure. We were now in a large city and felt a bit out of place. We missed our friends from the outback, but knew we would make new friends with the group!

I got in a massage chair to get my pedicure and quickly relaxed. It was nice to get a little pampering after roughing it in the Outback. Treating yourself is especially nice when you are on holiday. 🙂

After we all had our toes done, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest, for an exciting day on the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow!

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