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Tuesday

6 ALMOST Secret TOP Aussie National Parks!

At LAST I've got the answer to that irritating question – Have you been to all of Australia's National Parks?

I'll just get out my recently released 2nd edition of Explore Australia's excellent Explore Australia's National Parks! And point out that to visit ALL of Australia's 500+ National Parks would be a life-long project.

The question comes up because many stop counting after Uluru-Kata Tjuta, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Blue Mountains. But what about the other 500 or so? Over the years, our travels in Australia have taken us to some spectacular National Parks where, in many cases, we've had them all to ourselves.

Using Explore Australia's National Parks will help to narrow the field. And I'm not just saying that because I was lucky to get a complementary copy - check out the inforgraphic at left, then take a little armchair tour of these 6 less well known Australian National Parks and you'll see what I mean!!

Then keep reading to see how YOU could win a copy for yourself!

Whale with Calf, Head of Bight, South Australia
Driving the Nullarbor is the ultimate road trip – part of a 4000 km journey from one side of Australia to the other, its big chunks of nothing broken only by roadhouses, rest stops and 'roos! And stopping for the obligatory photo of yourself in the middle of a long stretch of empty road with nothing all around ...

But the drive through the Nullarbor Regional Reserve is an adventure in itself with several world exclusives, including Nullarbor Links, the world's longest golf course; the Nullarbor itself, world's longest, flattest limetone formation; and the Bunda cliffs – longest unbroken stretch of cliffs without a natural harbour in the world.

Whales in Bight, with Bunda Cliffs behind, South Australia
For those unimpressed by such things, the Great Australian Bight – that big concave bit along the bottom of the continent – is a world reknowned Southern Right Whale nursery and migration path.
 
And on a good day – May to October – literally dozens of whales and calves can be spotted up and down the coast from the Head of Bight viewing platforms.

Such a spectacle, in fact, that I almost didn't notice the scenic public toilet!



For a complete change of pace, Victoria's Mallee country is a surprise to those who thought the Outback was confined to Australia's more central parts.

Wonga Campground, Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria


Only 450 km north-west of Melbourne, visit Wyperfeld's eastern section from nearby Hopetoun or Rainbow, but for a real outback experience camp in one of the park's two campgrounds and explore the park on foot.
 
Dunes at Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria
With walking trails to suit all levels of fitness, the park is part of a complex lake system and is a known habitat for the endangered Mallee fowl.

During our May 2012 day trip, we saw two other cars. But we're hoping that when we return to stay, we'll be on our own!

And when you're done, drop in to nearby Patchewollock for the BIG Mallee fowl!

Read MORE: Patchewollock and Hopetoun


The poor relation of Exmouth's two parks, Cape Range is often overshadowed by the world famous Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef. And while these Western Australian Coral Coast offshore attractions are undeniably spectacular, Cape Range was so intriguing on our August 2012 visit, we saved Ningaloo for next time.

Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia


After escaping our campsite between the twin delights of the amenities block and the backpacker accomodation, Yardie Creek Gorge along the western side of the range running down the middle of Northwest Cape was a welcome surprise.
 
Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park
It's not every day you get to see a classic Outback Gorge with a river running into the ocean!

The eastern side of the range was even more dramatic. A very rough, narrow, winding and steep drive along the aptly named Charles Knife Road revealed more rugged Outback scenery – with staggering views across to the ocean.

And in the height of tourist season, with caravan parks and campgrounds full to bursting, we lucked out with only a couple of other vehicles!

Although one contained quite possibly the only sarong-wearing Frenchman in the world ...


Charles Knife Road Lookout, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia


 
 

Described to us as the 'mini Bungle Bungles' in a nod to one of Western Australia's big ticket items, the Northern Territory's Keep River National Park actually abuts the WA border. And makes a mockery of the 1½ hour time difference! Although we left Kununurra early, by the time we'd visited the Ranger station and nearby Cockatoo Lagoon, then driven to the 7km Jarnem Loop walk trailhead, the morning had all but gone.

Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory


No matter.

White-quilled Rock-pigeon, Keep River National Park
This spectacular walk through bizarre rock formations to the 360ยบ lookout, then down through a lightly wooded valley past more rock formations to an Aboriginal rock shelter complete with paintings was virtually people free!

Add a lifer – White-quilled Rock-pigeon – for twitcher Pilchard and I see a return to this remote Top End park in our future …

I can only imagine the views at sunset and sunrise – but one day we'll stay in one of the campgrounds for a few days and find out!

And when one day we visit the real Bungle Bungles, we'll see how it got it's nickname!


Jolting along the rough road from remote opal mining town White Cliffs towards Paroo-Darling National Park's Peery Lake, we spotted a Winnebago parked in the middle of the road. Stopping to make sure the owners were OK, we asked where they'd come from. The middle aged couple exchanged guilty glances and seemed strangely reluctant to tell us.

Lake Peery, Paroo-Darling National Park, via White Cliffs, New South Wales


'You're not Park rangers, are you?', she finally asked. Then the penny dropped! They'd illegally stayed at the lake overnight.

'It's not really camping,' she continued. 'We're fully self-contained!'

And that was our introduction to both Paroo-Darling National Park and the new definitions of 'camping'.

Paroo-Darling National Park, New South Wales
The park is a string of seven old pastoral leases, several of which form one of the only reserves on the Darling River floodplain.
 
The park's only campground – the Coach and Horses – is in this section, more easily reached from Wilcannia.

In the northern sections, along the Paroo River Overflow before it meets the Darling near Wilcannia. In this part of the park, the massive bulk of Lake Peery, full during our 2010 visit, supports abundant birdlife but when dry its unique mound springs become visible.

Then we returned to White Cliffs for 7½ minutes in Paradise!



Back in 1998 on our first and only visit, Queensland's Lawn Hill was considered a remote destination with the riverbanks at closest town Gregory Downs a makeshift stopover campsite before the rigours of 100 km of bulldust and gravel.

Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland


Nowadays, nearly 15 years later, it's still a long, hard 100 km of unsealed road. With either mud or dust, depending on the time of year.

But it's still one of the most spectacularly memorable National Parks in Australia, an Outback oasis with a soaring red rocky gorge system, clear water and staggering scenery. The canoe trip from the camping area up the gorge, then over the portage point into the higher gorge is an amazing experience. Get close to the wildlife too! Swim with the giant carp, spot freshwater crocodiles lurking in the gorges – and watch out for snakes in the water! My first instinct was to paddle like hell when my oar nearly hit a snake in the water; but Pilchard wanted to paddle back to see what he'd missed.

Lawn Hill Upper and Middle Gorges, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland


I guess that's the essential difference between us!

Back at the campground's cold showers, the high limestone content in the water gave a whole new meaning to 'sculpted hairdo' ...
Expansive view from Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory
 

While travelling to these National Parks may take a little longer, the trip is well worth the extravaganza of stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife and extraordinary experiences you'll encounter.

If YOU would like to explore Australia's National Parks further, Explore Australia has a copy of Explore Australia's National Parks to give away! You're eligible to enter if you have an Australian postal address as the book will be posted to the winner.

Just tell me the Australian National Park you'd most like to visit AND that you're entering the competition in the comments below! Please also ensure that I can contact you by email.

The competition will close at Midnight, 20 March 2013, Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, and the winner will be randomly selected. Good Luck!

68 comments:

  1. Hey RedNomadOz - have YOU thought about writing an Aussie travel book? (hint hint)

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    1. OMG I am SO flattered! I'd LOVE to write my own OZ travel book, but how many people really want to read about toilets??!!

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  2. I think there is a type of park that you have not seen and should make an effort to see. I am sure you can google it and find adequate information. It used to be called Tara Valley and Bulga National Park, but I think it or its titles may be different now. Think of dense cool climate rainforest, dampness, waterfalls, cold climate birds and animals....and unfortunately,leeches. Very beautiful, and unlike open forest where I think an axe murderer is going to jump out from behind a tree, you are ensconced in heavy and protectively dense bush, with tree ferns galore.

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    1. Tarra Bulga NP sounds WONDERFUL!!! P already had it on the wish list - but would it be similar to the NNSW & Atherton Tablelands rainforests? AND the axe murderer is far more likely to be hidden in dense undergrowth a la 'Deliverance'!!!

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  3. gosh I keep going through your photographs and mentally make a note to make brief comment on this, and then I scroll a couple more and more 'notes' until I decide no I can't remember them all; I love reading your posts and I thoroughly enjoy seeing the wonderful places in our wonderful country where you have been privileged to visit. I wouldn't have liked nearly hitting the snake in the water either. You'd have been kind of eye-balling it. Where I'd most like to visit - I'm going to vote Lamington National Park and yes I'd like to be in your competition. I'd never heard or seen the White-quilled Rock-pigeon before either, so that was another treat; thanks Red!

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    1. Haha, I have the same problem with long posts!! Thanx for your kind words & good luck in the competition!! Whenever I take a half decent bird pic, I feel honour bound to publish it - it happens so rarely!!!

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  4. I would love to go to the Marine National Park to see the whales. What a cool thing to do. Have a GREAT day Red!

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  5. Every time I fly over the Bight, I look down at the beautiful beaches and amazing cliffs and think how fabulous it would be to explore them. One day, I'm going to have to drive instead of flying!!

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    1. And next time I'm going to have to spend even more time! Our trip was HOT and the killer wind didn't encourage much exploration ... but I have high hopes for next time!

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  6. Oh gosh, despite all the amazing beauty, I don't think I could get past the whale with calf, what a sight! Nature never ceases to amaze me, nor do your captures!

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    1. I'm a lucky photographer! It's SO easy to take good pix with subject matter like that!!! So I can't really take any credit, can I?!

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  7. hi red,

    these are all definitely interesting things. makes me want to book a trip to visit you. whales are such adorable creatures.
    i'd love to go to the marine national park to see them.

    i really enjoyed your photos. omg, what fantastic views!

    big hugs~

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    1. Well, what is stopping you, my friend?!?! Australia has whatever you're looking for!!

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  8. Being new to Australia, every trip we make here is a grand adventure. The book would be like being in a candy store trying to decide what treat to choose next.

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    1. Just between us - even though I'm NOT new to Australia, I still find evey trip is a grand adventure!!!

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  9. The mini Bungle Bungles... I nearly dropped dead due to the very dry heat back then. By golly. But it was nice, we were alone (good thing I didn´t drop dead after all), had something nice to eat in Kununurra and met a cute Aboriginal little boy. Thanks for the memories! :-)

    Boodjamulla National Park sure is on my wish-list!
    Umm... I´ll make one now! Can´t wait to retire, haha ;-)

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    1. Haha, the heat at Keep River nearly did me in as well!! And even though it's a LONG time since Boodjamulla, I'd return there in a heartbeat!!

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  10. Such amazing places -- I love visiting our National Parks and can imagine how wonderful it would be to visit yours. The first thing I had to do here was leave the post to go look up the definition of bight" and after I read the dictionary def., I thought well, yes, that's just how you described it!

    No reptiles in your parks though? ;>) !

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    1. Haha, lots of people get confused between 'bite' and 'bight' - and no wonder!! Luckily, there's no reptiles - apart from crocodiles, snakes, goannas and lizards!!!!

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  11. I think you've let the cat out of the bag as far as these beautiful gems are concerned. All of the parks look like great places to visit, but I think I would like Lawn Hill best.

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    1. I'm always torn between sharing places I love & risking crowds; and keeping them for myself! BUT ... I don't think any sudden increases in visitor numbers will be because of MY blog!!

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  12. The National Park I most want to visit isn't on this list...so not sure how that works for the competition! Basically, any Park in NT would be pretty high on my "must visit" list. One day, I am going to just get up and go!

    But if I had to narrow it down to one park, I am thinking Watarrka National Park, home to Kings Canyon could be the place for me.

    Or Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

    Or maybe Litchfield.

    Why just stop at one national park?

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    1. Haha, good point!! No reason to stop at one park - or even one state/territory - in fact, the more the better!! See you out there one day!

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  13. There are so many beautiful NP's in Oz I would love to see the Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) NP.

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    1. I'm always amazed at the diversity! Part of the attraction for Lawn Hill is that the contrast between the oasis and the surrounding area is very dramatic! Hope you make it one day!

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  14. The Great Australian Bight Marine National Park looks interesting. I always promised myself I would drive across the nullarbor just so I could say I did it. Since then I promised I would never put myself through it again [though I did get a great view of a lunar eclipse and later a fair dinkum stairway to heaven somewhere across the WA border. But I suspect the Marine Park is not a strong possibility any more.
    Never had any desire to visit the Blue Mountains - there, I said it! Would Luuurve to see Kakadu. But I'll vote with your other visitors for Lawn Hill, 'cos Gorges are gorgeous.
    If I were randomly selected as winner of a copy of Explore Australia's National Parks I could drop hints... Is it a heavy tome?

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    1. This time last year I was a Nullarbor virgin ... how things have changed!! I'm sure we'll both discover new parks we've never even heard of from the EA book!!

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  15. Beautiful! That Keep River National Park looks like a real keeper. I'd love to go hiking in all of these places actually! Great post, Red!

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    1. Thanx! And I'd like to go back to ALL of them for MORE hiking!

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  16. I've often wondered if you have any industrialized cities down under. We have an over abundance if you need one or two.

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    1. SSSHHHssshhh... don't tell anyone, but it's ALL EMPTY DOWN HERE!!!!

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  17. And stopping for the obligatory photo of yourself in the middle of a long stretch of empty road with nothing all around ...

    If only I could such a place here in the States. Yeah, I am becoming more and more antisocial but if I hear one more conversation involving some reality show I might go completely insane.

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    1. Haha! It's just one long endless game of 'Survivor' down here ...

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  18. They all look like awesome National Parks, well worth visiting. The Marine Park would be one of my favorites. Great post!

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    1. It was hard to narrow it down to just 6 - there are LOTS more I could have chosen!

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  19. Wonderful list, Red. I'd love to visit them all. We are so lucky in Aus to have such great open spaces and National Parks. Have quite a few down here in SWA too ;)

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    1. There's almost too many to pick from! And I haven't even started on the SW corner yet!!!

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  20. to Carole up at comment #2 - I have had Lamington NP described enthusiastically by a traveller who thinks it the best.
    Nothing like a gorge full of cool water.
    Great post, as always dear Red.

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    1. I'd be hard pressed to say what's 'best' - they're all good, but they're all different! Thanx as always for your kind words ...

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  21. Stop it, Red. I can’t bear that you have all that and we have the Cotswolds.
    Seeing it here gives me an idea what a fantastic continent Oz is.

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    1. Haha, nothing like enjoying a cruel laugh at another's expense ... I'm sure the Cotswalds are beautiful!!!

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  22. Australia is sooooo huge, a lifetime may not be enough to visit all.

    Fantastic photos!

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    1. Well, I'm still going strong - the more I see, the more I realise I've still got to go!!

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  23. Carnavon Gorge. It's been on the list for an eternity but we never seem to make it. Can't wait for later this year when it becomes a reality, finally.

    Jo
    wigkid71@optusnet.com.au

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    1. I remember washing my hair in water so cold I thought my scalp would shrivel up at Carnarvon Gorge! But, I'd go there again in a heartbeat! Thanx for entering!

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  24. Freycinet National Park is on my list of 'want to experience' - I reckon if we score a copy of Explore Australia's National Parks we might just take the challenge of visiting them all - now that we're 'almost grey nomads' :)

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    1. Hahaha, thanx for entering and good luck in your quest to visit them all!! I might see you out there one day!!

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  25. I'd love to head north to the Byfield National Forest.
    The timber is tall enough to shut out all your worries,
    and there are many different camping spots from all angles.

    would love this book to enhance our camping adventures :)

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    1. I haven't been to Byfield - looks like I'm no closer to visiting them all myself! Thanx for entering, and good luck!

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  26. Wollemi National Park and Wolgan Valley and the beautiful Emirates resort. My sort of camping!

    Please enter me in the competition!

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    1. HHHMMMmmm... looks like I'll have to check my book for details! Makes me realise how many more I have to see myself! Thanx for entering, and good luck!

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  27. Love Exploring our amazing National Parks each year,
    Finke Gorge is next on our list... in July we're...
    Tackling central Australia's rugged terrain..
    Impressive cliffs, river beds, red dirt... once again...
    Marvelling at our unspoilt landscape...
    Crystal blue springs, cool waterholes to escape...
    The heat and dirt... but nothing can compare...
    To the unique wildlife... spectacular Palm Valley... found there!
    "Explore... National Parks" would certainly be..
    Welcomed to explore Australia's incredible beauty with me!!

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    1. FAAAAABULOUS poem! Central Australia always delivers!! Thanx for entering so creatively, and good luck!

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  28. I would love to visit Cape Range National Park in WA

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    1. This time last year I'd never visited Cape Range - now I can't wait to return sometime!

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  29. Hi, entering the competition for the National Parks book.

    I'd visit Southwest National Park in Tasmania. I've always been attracted to the place, wanted nothing more than to walk the Western Arthurs, Mt Anne, and the South Coast Track, but have never gotten around to doing it. Maybe this year is the year to start?

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    1. Yeah, make it happen NOW! Tassie's a bit of a mystery to me - only been there once for a few days! Maybe I'll see you there - good luck!

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  30. Karijini National Park is on my wish list. It's one of WA's unique treasures! From the ancient gorges to the wildflowers, it has it all!

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    1. It was everything we expected and more - I just hope the next visit isn't an anticlimax!

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  31. I'd love to visit the Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungle range, mainly because I haven't been to that part of Australia. It would be a fabulous experience!

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    1. So would I! We came really close last year, but didn't quite make it!! Next time ...

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  32. Wollemi National Park would be my choice as I'd love to see the Pine in its natural habitat rather than just looking at a nursery specimen. AND I am entering the competition unless family and friends are disqualified on the grounds of nepotism and pointing out typos (LOL) :) Gawain

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    1. No one is excluded from this giveaway thanx to the impartial use of random.org!! But if you miss out, you can always borrow my copy ...

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  33. I just love the Blue Mountains National Park, always something amazing to see there. I think the Paroo-Darling National Park sounds very interesting. I have relatives out that way, next time I visit I'll have to have a look.

    Yes - I'm entering the competition :)

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    1. Haven't been to the Blue Mountains in YEARS!!! But I could easily be persuaded ... never let a chance go by, I say!!! Good luck!!

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  34. When i look at your images of our National Parks and the outback in general it's like a whole unique world out there. I'm not much of a camper myself Red but it takes my breath away when I see these outlooks and can imagine what it must be like to sit high up on an escarpment and gaze over such vistas.. I did do it when I was a lot younger when I lived in Africa, similar scenes. I wonder if you've had a look at 'Las Adventuras' Chris is a really keen birder, you would find his trips around Arizona fascinating I'm sure.. link below

    http://gardeningandthespanishway-rohrerbot.blogspot.com.au/

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  35. WOW! Lawn Hill Upper and Middle Gorges, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland looks really nice. So glad that you revealed these "almost secret national parks". I'm really enjoying your blog!

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