Boxing Day in the Outback

It’s Boxing Day, whatever that means?! The aussies said that basically it is like the American Black Friday.

I got up earlier than everyone else to FaceTime with my family at 5:30 am my time and 2:30 pm their time. It was great to see them and wish them Merry Christmas. They told me about their plans for dinner with some of my family and thanked me for their presents. I expressed how thankful I was to them for letting me not be there during christmas, since I knew they missed me during this time when families get together. They were very supportive of my decision and even empowered me when I was having doubts. I couldn’t ask for a better family!

After hanging up with them, I saw a Snapchat that my sister had sent me of everyone opening the presents that I got them. It made me feel like I was there, which was a good feeling.

We got on the bus and started our next adventure to Alice Springs, which is literally in the middle of Australia. We’ve come so far from the very top of the Northern Territory to the middle of the country.

Our first stop of the day was to see the Devil’s Marbles, which is a rock formation in the middle of the outback. It got its name from some of the first pioneers of this area who called the area Devil’s Country because it was so hot. These round rocks in the middle of the outback made sense to be called the Devil’s Marbles.

The rocks are made of granite and due to weathering and such, are in round shapes. It is pretty amazing when you think about it, since the round shape was created by Mother Nature.

We got some cool pictures in the area.

We then got back on the coach and headed to a roadhouse about 20 minutes down the road. This was an extra special roadhouse, because it is the the UFO capital of Australia. It was basically alien themed and even had a fake alien in a tube in the back, because why not. I’m just not sure whether the owner actually believes in aliens sighting here, or this is just a marketing ploy.

We got back on the road for another 2 hours.

Though the outback is quite remote and we often don’t run into other cars in front of us, there are some different types of traffic jams here than there are in the city. First, since it is wet season we have seen quite a few flooded roads, which we then raise the coach to cross over. The next is wild animals hanging out in the middle of the road. We had to slow down a few times for wild cattle in the road. You know, your everyday traffic jam.

We had about 2 hours into we would make it to Alice Springs, where we would meet about 16 new group mates.

In between making it from lunch and Alice Springs, we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn, which is the imaginary line that divides the tropical climate from the temperate climate. Basically, we were leaving the wet climate for a drier one. All of us were quite happy about that!

After sitting on a bus for so long, I needed a bit of activity. One of the aussies and I raced across the imaginary line from tropic to desert and didn’t feel a thing, haha.

We continued on our way to Alice Springs. A good friend of mine actually spent her Christmas here for 2 years to be able to be with her family, so I let her know I had made it to town.

We got to Alice Springs, met the new group, did a “ninja” check-in to our new accommodations and hopped back on the coach to head to our first sight here.

About 30 minutes away was Simpsons Gap, which is a gap in the massive ranges out here in Alice Springs. Rain weathered away basically a slice out of a hill. The rocks out here are much more red, since we are literally in the red-center of Australia.

We got out and started heading down to the gap. I met a new guy who is originally from the US, but is on a holiday-work visa in Australia. It is only open to Americans under 30, and gives you the chance to work in Australia, then maybe apply for citizenship. Good to know…right?! (Mom, don’t worry, yet!)

Simpsons Gap area was very windy. There was sand all around that was flying into us as we got closer. There was a pool at the bottom area. We got some cool pictures of the gap.

Our next stop was Anzac Hill, which has a memorial to Australian Vetrans. It also is a great overlook over all of Alice Springs.

From there, we headed to the reptile center to learn more about the types of reptiles that inhabit this area. Our speaker was very funny and quite crude, all in good fun. He was clearly excited about reptiles and loved his job.

As many of you may know, Australia is home to the most venomous snakes in the world. However, there are some upsides. First, if you find yourself close to one in Australia, they cannot sense heat, so its best to just stay still. Second, they have very tinh fangs, so you can wear long pants and not get bitten. Third, if you are bitten, you can rightly wrap the infected area with a bandage and expand your time alive by almost double. This is all in comparison to snakes from the rest of the world.

Though people are bitten in Australia by snakes, only 2 people die each year, on average. That is compared to a country like Shri Lanka, which has a similar amount of people, but 20,000 people die of snake bites each year.

I got to hold the well-trained python for a photo opt!

We also learned about lizards in the area. We got to hold two different types of lizards, one was a dragon lizard and one was a blue tongue lizard.

Here is me kissing the dragon lizard.

Here is me being a lizard momma to the blue tongue lizard.

We also got to look around and see some more crocs, which I am slowly realizing are so much more dangerous than I first thought. Crocs in Australia kill in order of country 1. Australians 2. Germans 3. Americans 4. Chinese. This speaker also made fun on Germans hard core, not just because they seem to have a lot of run ins with crocs. There was a small croc behind glass, who if you got to close would snap at you. I just thought about how I had swam with one earlier in the trip…

We got back into the coach and headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner. Plus, there was wifi, which made me happy!

At dinner, we got to know the new group mates better. They all seem great and they bring good energy to the group, who had been with each other for a while on the road. We needed some new blood!

It seems like there is an abnormal amount of rain in the red center right now and Uluru (also known as Ayer rock), our grand finale of sorts, might get cancelled. I’m hoping that in 2 days time the flooding clears and they reopen the park. Fingers crossed!

I got some laundry done, repacked everything and got ready for our swag camping tomorrow night. Goodnight everyone!

Christmas Outback Adventure

It’s Christmas here in Australia!!

I woke up early, got everything together and went to the coach to start the day. Our tour director decked out the coach with green, red and gold garlands, along with beads across the seats that made it look like a sleigh. It was a nice sight to see first thing in the morning on Christmas!

I put my Secret Santa gift in the pile of gifts with everyone else’s. As the coach started to move onto our destination, Christmas music started. Our Christmas Outback adventure was on!

Our tour manager handed out all the secret santa gifts. I got my secret santa person nice Shea butter lotion, given all sun we would be encountering. My secret santa got me a tabloid magazine and some nice chocolate protein bars, perfect for our trip!

We drove for a little before coming upon Mataranka Thermal Pools. There was short path through a palm tree forest to get there. We could see red tailed bats on the way to the pools.

When we got there, we jumped in a loved how warm it was, even though it was pretty warm out already. The water was so clear and flowed over a little brook into a larger stream. We hung out there for a little and decided to go back to the bus early after about 40 minutes in the water.

We hopped back on the bus, ready for a long day of travel. We had over 700 km of travel ahead of us for this Christmas Day.

The next stop was at lunch time. We came upon the Daly Waters Pub, which is the oldest pup in the Northern Territory. Airplanes used to land nearby to deliver goods, so this pub was created. It reminded me of Jack’s Browns from Harrisonburg, with all the knick knacks and such. Outside, there was an old helicopter was santa inside and a beer keg Christmas tree. Inside there were bumper stickers everywhere, bras hanging from the ceiling and funny posters everywhere.

We sat down at a table near the pool outside and relaxed. Though the pub wasn’t open, they had a few staff members there for us. They gave us a eskie full of beers. No, ciders or anything. So I thought I would actually try the beer and see if this could be the one that changes my mind. And…. I actually liked it! It was called Summertime, it was an Australian lager with a hint of mango. Literally a Christmas miracle that I enjoyed a beer!

Our tour manager and driver cooked us up a delicious lunch on the Barbie. Patties (hamburgers), snags (sausages) and more. We had a real Aussie barbecue, which was awesome!!

There was even wifi there, so I got to FaceTime my family to say hello and wish them a merry Christmas, even though it was only the 24th there.

Once back on the bus, there was lots of candies to eat, like Cadbury chocolate, pink marshmellows, Tim-tams, and gummies.

During the next drive, I was noticing the Termite mounds were sometimes dressed up in human clothes. Which, from far away made it look like people were on the side of the road. It was funny and interesting.

We watched a couple movies given the amount of driving time. When we finally made it to the accommodations, it was very welcomed to be standing and walking around after such a long drive. And, there was free wifi, amazing!

After relaxing and catching up with the world for a little, we headed to dinner at the restaurant next door. Tennant Creek is a very small town, and there was not many places open on Christmas night especially. We had Chinese food, which was great. One of the girls on the trip is Jewish and she loved it since the unofficial American Jewish tradition is to go to the movies and eat Chinese on Christmas.

This restaurant is also where I learned about Christmas crackers. They are a U.K. and Australian Christmas tradition. Basically, it is a bon on shaped cardboard thing, with two does. The idea is that you partner up with one other person and you each pull yourside until there is a popping noise. The person who gets the middle section wins, technically. Inside there is a small toy, a corny joke and and a Christmas crown. The crown is made of tissue paper and comes is every color. Everyone from Australia talked about their favorite memories wearing a Christmas crown.

I went to my room not too long after and fell asleep quickly, knowing I needed to wake up very early tomorrow. I had let my parents know I would FaceTime them on their Christmas Day at 5:30 am my time, 2:30 pm their time.