NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!

Monday

12 Killer Australian Sunsets of 2012!

Wattle Point Wind Farm, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia


2012 was a sunset spectacular supreme – over 5 months road-tripping through 4 of the 6 Australian mainland states. And the Silver Bullet has racked up over 30,000 km since we bought it in February ...

So with the last sunset of 2012 only a few hours away, I reflect on the superb sunsets of 2012, and select the most superior for my 2012 Australian travel retrospective!

1 Wattle Park Wind Farm, South Australia

Sometimes inanimate objects make the best props, with the contrast of dark silhouettes against brilliant swirls of sunset colour requiring only a click to get a killer shot.

My favourite kind!

These wind turbines at the Wattle Creek Wind Farm on South Australia's Southern Yorke Peninsula obligingly faced the right way as the sun sank spectacularly behind them.

More about the Yorke Peninsula: Yorke Peninsula South Australia
 

River Murray, Waikerie, South Australia


2 Murray River, Waikerie, South Australia

Luckily, I had plenty of disc space on my camera – and a fully charged battery – as I watched colours changing over the Murray, part of Australia's largest river system, while the sun set behind me.

River town Waikerie (rhymes with 'Bakery' and is home of the great Waikerie Bakery) is an excellent base to explore the eclectic delights of the Riverland region.
But after a hard day sampling local produce, birdwatching at Gluepot Station, visiting the historic Overland Corner pub, walking the town or catching the view from atop the mighty Murray cliffs, unwinding by the river while watching the ferry crossing as the sun sets is unbeatable.

More about the Riverland: Riverland, South Australia


Lake Lascelles, Hopetoun, Victoria


3 Lake Lascelles, Hopetoun, Victoria

I lucked out with an awesome sunset in the Victorian Mallee as the clouds formed unbelievable designs through which the setting sun reflected on Lake Lascelles' mirrored surface.

Our campsite on the lake's shore was perfectly positioned to catch it all. I've already worked the shots I took that evening into my blog – but there are still more I'm yet to use.

Seeing more of this spot on my blog in 2013 is what they call in the blogosphere a 'sure thing'!

More from Lake Lascelles: 1000 Words About Clouds
 

Cadney Park, South Australian Outback


4 Cadney Park Homestead, South Australia

It takes a couple of days to reach the Northern Territory border after travelling north through the South Australian Outback, and knowing how far to the next available fuel is essential.

One of the pit-stops is Cadney Park, a station with a roadhouse, accommodation and caravan park in the middle of nowhere.

There's nothing to hem in a sunset with these wide open spaces – except the telecommunications tower! I could have shot around it, but it's vital to this remote outback oasis so it deserves to stay.

Don't you think?

More from the South Aussie Outback: At the South Australia/Northern Territory Border
 

Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu), Northern Territory


5 Devils Marbles, Northern Territory

Amazingly, the actual setting of the sun is the least spectacular point of interest in the panorama of the Devils Marbles at sunset. The colours of the rock grow richer, shadows longer and the backdrop of the marvellous sky darker as the sun sinks into oblivion behind.

The campground at the base of the Devils Marbles – or Karlu Karlu as the local indigenous people know it – makes taking awesome sunset and sunrise shots pleasurably convenient.

Even if every other visitor to this beautiful spot has the same shots!

More about the Devil's Marbles: Devils Marbles, Northern Territory
 

Looking towards Kununurra over Lily Lagoon, Western Australia


6 Kununurra, Western Australia

The best sites at the Lakeside Resort and Tourist Park are at the waters edge. They're also the least desirable to the Grey Nomads who make up most of the park's clientele as they have neither power nor water. This meant we could take our pick.

Praise be!

Our massive site on the edge of Lily Lagoon gave us uninterrupted sunset spectaculars across the lake to Kununurra, And in the sunset's light, a red glow from the eyes of the lagoon's many crocodiles!


Five Rivers Lookout, Wyndham, Western Australia


7 Five Rivers Lookout, Wyndham, Western Australia

Watching the sun set over Cambridge Gulf, into which five rivers flow makes Wyndham the site of one of Australia's most spectacular lookouts.

There's standing room only at the viewing platform atop the aptly named Bastion during peak tourist season, but hey! I know what MY elbows are for!!

Philip Peter King, who named the Bastion, is arguably Australia's best explorer, but is also one of Australia's least known. Why? Because he survived! Go figure!!

The Five Rivers – the Ord, Pentecost, Forrest, Durack and King (named for the explorer) – can all be seen from the lookout, but the whole of the magnificent panorama is just a little distracting ...

More About Wyndham: Five Rivers Lookout
 

Derby Jetty, Western Australia


8 Derby Jetty, Western Australia

Watching the sun set over water doubles its effect. And an inanimate object or two makes the shot even more dramatic.

But combine both these variables with the biggest tides in the Southern Hemisphere? Lets just say I could have filled this whole post – and several like it – with sunset shots from the Derby Jetty.

The dramatic effect of an 11+ metre tidal range can best be measured against the wharf, set on pylons over 12 metres above the floor of King Sound. While we only saw a baby 10.83 metre tide, and tides are only 9th highest in the world (go visit Saucy Kod for scenes of the Bay of Fundy, world's highest) it's an unbelievably awesome backdrop to the jaw-dropping sunsets.

More about High Tides: World's Highest Tides
 

Sunset at Gantheaume Point, via Broome, Western Australia


9 Gantheaume Point, via Broome, Western Australia

Red rock, blue sea, endless blue sky. Dinosaur footprints on the rocks far below the lighthouse. Fishing, boating, birdwatching. A steady stream of travellers and locals exploring, swimming, gathering.

Gathering to watch the sun set over the sea – a sight so stupendous all other activity ceases.

Why do we travel?

This is why!

More About Gantheaume Point: Good Times @ Gantheaume Pt!

Waters of Shark Bay, Western Australia


10 Shark Bay, Western Australia

The little fishing village of Denham, where we stayed in Australia's westernmost caravan park, has more to offer than meets the eye.

Of course attractions like the dolphins of Monkey Mia and Eagle Bluff, plunging down into the wildlife-infested green sea below are well known.

But the simple pleasures – like wandering along the foreshore watching the fishing boats come and go while the sun sinks into the water leaving a trail of glitter on the waves – are what will bring us back!

That, and the bakery!!

More About Shark Bay: Shark & Eagle (Double) Bluff
 


Rainbow at Carnamah, Western Australia


11 Carnamah, Western Australia

The day doesn't always end with a glorious red sunset when we're on the road. And it didn't in Carnamah, a little town in the middle of the Western Australian wheatbelt.

AND wildflower belt!

A storm was brewing as we returned to the Carnamah Caravan Park after a tough day in the wildflower-viewing trenches. And as the sun set, the lowering clouds lit up to form a rainbow's perfect arch.

We took it as a sign to stay the extra day it took to uncover the best wildflowers we'd ever seen at nearby Tathra National Park!! No pot of gold – or was there???

More About Carnamah Wildflowers: 12 Days of Xmas – 10 Tathra Wildflowers
 

Adelaide Hills Sunset, South Australia


12 Adelaide Hills, South Australia

East, west, home's best.

Or maybe this just means you can expect killer sunsets ANYWHERE in Australia!

More About the Adelaide Hills: The Most Glamorous Little Outhouse in OZ!

I'll be hunting down and bringing you more killer sunsets – and a LOT more – in 2013! It's been a pleasure having your company this far – but the best is yet to come!!

Happy New Year!

PS:  If you liked this, you'll LOVE Natures Footstep Inspiring Photography from around the world!  But don't take my word for it - check it out for yourself!!
PPS:  It's Travel Photo Thursday over at Budget Traveller's Sandbox where there's a FAAAABULOUS collection for your reading pleasure!  Enjoy!!
PPPS: It's also SkyWatch Friday! GO THERE - for AMAZING skies from around the world!

Tuesday

The 12 Days of Christmas - Aussie Style!


In the Twelve months of this year, Australia gave to me:
 


Twelve Sunset Fishers
 
 



Eleven Kayaks Paddling
 
 



Ten Tathra Wildflowers
 


Nine Outback Sign Words
 
 



Eight Devils Marbles
 
 

Seven Rainbow Bee Eaters
 
 


Six Loo Languages
 
 


Five Mulla Mullas
 
 



Four Awestruck Travellers
 



Three Spoonbills
 
 




Two Swimming Whales
 
 



and a Koala in a Gum Tree!

 
Thank you for your visits, comments and support in 2012!  But stick around ... I've got WAAAAAAY more Amazing Australian Adventures to share in 2013!

Saturday

On the Beach ...


Swimmers Beach, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

The sun rose as usual on this shining, sparkling pre-Xmas summer morning.

A nice day for an apocalypse.

And where better to face the end of the world than on a (mostly) deserted Aussie beach, in an inadvertent echo of Australian classic On the Beach?

On Swimmers Beach, Southern Yorke Peninsula, South Australia


A disturbing vision of post-apocalyptic dystopia, Australian author Nevil Shute's masterpiece* was adapted for a 1959 film** graphically showing the utter hopelessness in the wake of a nuclear holocaust.

I'd actually forgotten that the 21st December 2012 was to be, according to some, the end of the world. But even if I HAD remembered, I'd still have chosen to go to the beach.

Stairway to heaven? Pretty close!  Swimmers Beach access, South Australia


Not just ANY old beach.
 
This beach.  The Southern Yorke Peninsula's Swimmers Beach – at least we THINK that's what it's called – almost as far south as you can go in South Australia.

And as the apocalypse drew nigh, Swimmers Beach was enjoying a summer's day of such brightness and clarity the end of the world seemed very far away.

D'you think we'll find a spot??  Swimmers Beach, South Australia


It wasn't just the end of the world, however, but also a hot summer's day, the Australian summer school holidays AND only a few days before Christmas. So sharing the pristine sands and unbelievably clear waters of a beach several hundred metres long with only five other people was a little surprising.

In a good way!

While Swimmers Beach provides a convincing argument against the best and clearest ocean waters only being found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, that isn't its only attraction.


Rocks at Swimmers Beach, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
The natural limestone amphitheatre rising above the sand, continually eroded by the treacherous seas that have scuttled several ships over the years, is an endlessly fascinating work-in-progress. Today, a jagged tumble of rocks – newly fallen if the colour and lack of plant life is any indication – create an awesome backdrop for the arching sky above. Elsewhere, rocky edges are softened by the green vegetation and wildflowers bloom among the rocks.

And the wooden staircase hugs the cliff as it climbs to the cars parked high above.

Rocks at Swimmers Beach, South Australia


Adventurous drivers on the road above the cliff top have no concept of how closely it nudges the edge – with an ever-increasing undercut adding an element of potential danger. Albeit a small one in the context of the end of the world!!

Our footprints the only ones to mark the vast expanse of white sand once past the beach's other occupants as we wandered to the end and back, the salt water cold despite the summer heat.

Looking down Swimmers Beach to Troubridge Point Lighthouse, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia


We could have been the last people on earth.

But unlike what faced the hapless characters of On the Beach, there appeared to be no apocalypse in sight today … YET!

Staircase up the cliff face, Swimmers Beach, South Australia


Just another deserted Aussie beach.  And us.
 
And a great place from which to face the end of the world ...

Want more information?
* Argue if you dare!
** Starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire & Anthony Perkins

Reef and Rocks at Swimmers Beach, Southern Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Tuesday

The Ghoulish Guide of Cutta Cutta Caves!


Cutta Cutta Caves, via Katherine, Northern Territory


I hadn't suspected the otherworldly limestone Karst country we'd crossed en route from the Visitor Centre to the Cutta Cutta Caves entrance to be a portal to a parallel universe.

But had we inadvertently stumbled into a casting call for a bad B-grade movie?

Strangler Fig at the Cutta Cutta Caves entrance
For now, waiting for our guide at the stairs leading down to the locked entry gate were an older couple (not us!!!) hung about with a ballast of camera equipment; a bickering honeymoon couple resplendent in 'resort' gear; two tanned and muscular young men travelling together in some ambiguous capacity; a young family with two hyperactive sons; and us.
 
Coincidence? Maybe.

Or was this demographically diverse group tailor made for the kind of film where an unknown threat would pick us off one by one??

I could imagine the story-board now. 'What terrors await this eclectic ensemble of offbeat characters as they're led into the bowels of an unlit cave by a guide who holds the only key ...'

Limestone Formations in Cutta Cutta Caves
Maybe I was just being paranoid. Or 'going troppo' as they say in northern Australia's Top End!

But then we met our guide.

Materialising through the shimmering heat waves of the limestone formations between the Visitor Centre and the cave entrance, Nathan* - complete with an increasingly macabre dry wit – was a gift from B-grade schlock-horror central casting.

Brandishing an oversized key, he unlocked the gate and led us through. Then, with a clang, it slammed shut behind us and he padlocked the steel mesh frame securely, gesturing us down into the gloom below.

Padlocked? What could we possibly need protection from down there??

As we descended into the depths, ducking to avoid being knocked out on the sometimes low roof, Nathan entertained us by pointing out potential catastrophes along the narrow track that wound between the sometimes spectacular limestone formations, stalactites and stalagmites.

Stalactites at Cutta Cutta Caves, via Katherine, Northern Territory


'It's only two metres to the surface at this point,' he stated, pointing up to the rocky cave ceiling. 'So the roof could cave in on top of us,' he continued, pausing for effect. 'But not today!'

How did he know?!

But the plot was starting to sound horribly familiar. I think I knew how this story ended – and it didn't end well for me.

The Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, a popular Katherine attraction and billed as the Northern Territory's ONLY publicly accessible tropical limestone cave, is a mere 27 km out of town. However, it generally takes second billing to the far better known Nitmiluk National Park, aka Katherine Gorge.

Northern Territory Wildflowers - for those already tired of endless cave interior shots ...
During the Australian winter when it's peak tourist season in the Northern Territory, Park rangers conduct regular tours through the caves. Arriving without a booking, we'd lucked out – or so we thought – by being assigned to Nathan's tour.

He was certainly holding our interest with his ghoulish wisecracks. So much so I'd forgotten to watch for the rare ghost and horseshoe bats found in the caves. I hadn't forgotten about the brown tree snakes, however, despite their 'harmless' status. But so far they hadn't shown themselves. Result!
 
Limestone Formations, Cutta Cutta Caves, Katherine, Northern Territory

A little further along Nathan told us how early in the 1990's the non-indigenous stockman who found the caves while searching for missing stock named them 'Smith's Caves' – after … wait for it … himself! Who would have thought?

A death-trap for wandering creatures who fell through the roof to become trapped in the caverns below, the cave now held a different kind of prey captive.
'Who knows what might fall through next?' Nathan wondered aloud, exaggeratedly glancing above to the cracked roof followed by anxious glances from the group. If nothing else, his macabre machinations was proving a fairly effective cure for hyperactivity as the children fell silent at last.

Inside Cutta Cutta Caves
We admired the glittering limestone before nearing the end of the accessible part of the caves. How trustingly we'd let Nathan lure guide us into the cave! Now he had total control of the light switch. AND the only torch!


'I'm going to turn out the lights to let you experience total darkness,' Nathan said as he flipped the switch, plunging us into an all-enveloping blackness so deep and intense my skin seemed to be absorbing it.

Time passed.

'Did you know that people can go mad after half an hour in complete darkness to which your eyes will NEVER adjust?' Nathan's voice spoke helpfully into the void. I felt a restless stirring in the group.

'Because you start thinking about falling into a deeper hole.' He paused to let the idea take hold.

'Or about the snakes, spiders and bats.' Pause. Was that something touching my foot?? My eyes tried again – and again failed – to adapt to the all-consuming blackness.

'Or that perhaps you'll never get out.' Longer pause. That B-grade film plot now on endless replay through my mind was starting to seem a bit more realistic. And not just to me! Around me, the complete darkness filled with total silence.

I smacked down the 'what if' thoughts I was starting to have. How embarrassing would it be to be the first to go completely mad in the darkness? After only a few minutes??

Although aware of them, the caves apparently had no cultural significance for the local Indigenous people, the Jarwoyn and played no part in their rituals. But maybe that's because this ghoulish grotto had gotten old real quick. It can't have been any fun underground in pitch blackness with no electricity.

I now knew exactly what that felt like. But I wasn't going to be the first to call out for the lights. The lights that may never come …

More time passed.

Then, without warning Nathan switched the lights back on, leaving a startled group exchanging sheepish glances with each other. He directed us back along the path towards the entrance, bringing up the rear as I stopped to take photos.

Limestone - and light! - in the Cutta Cutta Caves, via Katherine, Northern Territory

'Has anyone ever freaked out in the total darkness?' I asked.

'No, but the lights failed once and I couldn't switch them back on,' he laughed - perhaps a little TOO readily. 'And another time a lady got the giggles.'

Yes, all too sadly, I could appreciate that fine line between laughter and hysterics ...

'I think she appreciated my sense of humour,' said Nathan.
Glittering limestone in the Cutta Cutta Caves
But as my (of course) unwarranted fears vanished in the cold, hard, natural light of day, I too was left with an abiding appreciation of Nathan's dark arts. His unique and refreshing departure from the usual – and sometimes dreary – delivery of facts and information made a memorable experience that only extreme age and/or an attack of amnesia could make me forget!


Looks so innocent, doesn't it?!  Cave Entrance




And as we returned along the path to the Visitor Centre, I enjoyed a cruel laugh as the next victims tour group picked its way through the Karst to keep their date with the Ghoulish Guide of Cutta Cutta Caves!
* Nathan – not his real name

Want more information? 


Friday

1000 Words About ... Solitude!

Coconut Wells Beach, via Broome, Western Australia

 
 
As you can tell from this shot of a typical Australian Beach, it's obviously the middle of winter. AND peak tourist season.

No way?  No, REALLY!

Coconut Wells Beach, a short drive north of Western Australia's Broome on this beautiful July day (yes, that IS winter dowunder!) showed no signs of habitation except for a dune buggy track heading off into the middle distance.

COOL Blue at Coconut Wells Beach, via Broome, Western Australia


Thousands of Grey Nomads make the pilgrimage north from the colder states during the southern winter, and many lodge in Broome for the duration to enjoy its warmth.

But none of them had made it to this stretch of beach.

And while a couple of people strolled along the sandy shore further down, luckily we still managed to find some space of our own.

Coconut Wells Beach ROCKS!!!  via Broome, Western Australia


But that's just what you get when you're in a country with the longest coastline in the world, and where conditions are just right for the beach any time of the year somewhere along it.

SO … if you want to be alone on the beach in winter OR summer downunder, take a hyper-leap into another dimension where my guest post on the Explore Australia blog will show you 5 ways to find your own stretch of deserted downunder coastline!
 
Like THIS!
That darned Dune Buggy Track!  Coconut Wells Beach
There's plenty of other great Aussie travel articles on the blog – including my previous guest post Confessions of a Tween-Age Travel Blogger – so why not add it to your reading list?!

You're welcome …

Want more information?

Thursday

RED does Australia for the Glove Box Interview!!

Ochre Pits, via Alice Springs, Central Australia
The FAAAAABULOUS Fiona has interviewed me for her weekly Glove Box Interview featured today on Argus Car Hire's Glove Box Blog!

The full Gravatar pic ...
Because the interview features only one photo (reproduced at left for your viewing pleasure) I've included a completely gratuitous Australia shot of the Central Australian Ochre Pits (to be featured more fully in a future post) so new visitors can immediately get their money's worth ...

Amongst the amusing anecdotes, daring disclosures and incisive opinions I shared with Fiona in the interview, I took the opportunity to plug the mystical and magical Land of OZ!

Because my blog wouldn't be my blog without it!!

SO ... check out my Glove Box Interview to answer this pressing question:  Do I, or do I NOT give good interview do Australia proud?!?!

While you're thinking about it, please enjoy another gratuitous photo - this time of Dead Horse Springs near Lake Argyle in Western Australia (also to be featured more fully in a future post) - with my compliments!

Dead Horse Springs near Lake Argyle, via Kununurra, Western Australia




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