Australia Travel Report

Midnight Oil - Australian Music
The image is "Contours of the Mind" displayed on an art exhibition in Australia.
The Man from Snowy River is a way cool Australian movie set in the Snowy Mountains in Victoria with beautiful scenery. A young Australian man has to make a life of his own and sets out to tame a herd of wild horses.

(c) 1995-99 Niels Provos - If you want to use any of the pictures below, please contact me

After too many hours on the plane I finally arrived at Sydney Airport late at night. Some friends of mine who were supposed to fetch me did not turn up but the Airport Shuttle took me to the Town Hall in the city for about $6. If you had the providence to book a backpacker in advance you are normally picked up at the airport and even returned for your next flight. My visit here was in winter and despite winter being a horrible thing in Europe the weather here was sunny and not too cold.
Things to do here
Sydney Opera
The opera is a very modern building and famous for its architecture all over world. It is divided into the concert hall featuring a nice organ and the opera hall. If you want to attend the opera check out if there is a student rush about half an hour before the performance starts. I was lucky and got a very good seat in the stalls for the first performance of Aida. Due to the presence of the Governor General the Australian anthem was played and everybody stood up. For the concerts there is no student rush as far as I know but you can get reduced tickets as a student anyway which you can buy at the opera any time you like.
Sydney Tower
For a view of nearly all of Sydney you should take an elevator to the top of Sydney Tower for about $4. Here you can see the whole city plus suburbs.
Queen Victoria Building
This is a shopping mall of a different kind. The historical building was about to be taken down when an Asian corporation leased if for 99 years and transformed the interior into a shopping center. Classical music and comfy cafés on the third level are good for a short rest here.
There are many more things to do in the Sydney. For more information grab a backpackers guide in any youth hostel or backpacker you are staying at.

After some days in Sydney I took a train to Melbourne for about $60 (student concession). On second thought I would take a Greyhound travel pass now they are much cheaper if you already now where you are going. There are travel passes for nearly every route you can think of. But because I was not too sure what to do I took the train which is IMHO much more comfortable for longer journeys.

Melbourne. My first impression was: back home in Hamburg. The weather was really awful. It was overcast, raining and very very cold. I just took one jumper with me for the whole journey. But better take two in order to wear them both at the same time. Local inhabitants ( a friend of mine ) told me that Melbourne is supposed to be quite nice in summer. But that doesn't really matter. The Queensberryhill Youth Hostel is one of the most comfortable I have ever seen. Here you can get any kind of info you need and a hot meal in the evening if you forgot to bring some food of your own. Healsville Sanctuary, nice bus trips to the coast, Victoria Market and lots more can be found here.

But because of the weather I decided to go on. Now Greyhound was the way to go. I bought a Central Explorer Pass ex Melbourne for about $180 ( youth hostel member concession ) which allows stops in Adelaide, Coober Pedy, Erldunda, Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs. You just have to phone the folks at Greyhound Pioneer one day before you want to travel and they will put you on the right bus. Do not forget to check your baggage in this is like travelling by a plane ;)

Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy was my next stop where I arrived after about 24 hours of bus driving. A friend of my brother's picked me up and took me to his dugout. A backpacker here offers rockbeds for about $6 a night! Coober Pedy is in the middle of the desert not much to be done here. But wait, are you interested in Opals ? Then this is the place to be. You can buy a small claim here and dig for your own opals but I wouldn't recommend that if you do not have much time. If you just plan to stay for a week or so try to get on the good side with one of the miners here and let them take you to their claims. If you are willing to do some manual labor like shoveling, wheel barrowing and picking just for the chance of seeing a mine 47 feet below the surface this is something you should try to do. In my opinion this was a great place but if you do not want to dirty your hands a nice museum and some opal shops will be right for you. But then don't stay here for a week, one or two days are enough.

My next stop was Ayers Rock. A place every good tourist should have seen.

Ayers Rock, Olgas and Kings Canyon

One piece of advice book your lodgings early here. They only have one backpacker! You have to pay $20 dollars for a 20 bed room. If you are lucky you might even get a 4 bed room. I myself called them one day before I left Coober Pedy and they were booked out for reasons I will understand later. The only accommodation left was a $240 per day hotel room!

For $90 bucks I got on the Greyhound Ayers Rock, Olgas and Kings Canyon tour. Arriving early at the morning in the Ayers Rock Resort my first destination was the backpacker. They told me the same info I got on the telephone: We are booked out. But wait, they have cancellations at 6.00pm in the evening, what bad luck that I would be on the sunset tour to Ayers Rock. But everything turned out well and I got a room eventually.

The Greyhound tour takes you first on a trip around Ayers Rock. You get some info about the Aboriginal culture and the basic background about the place. You have some time to walk around and admire the huge rock and the unique color. It is really as red as it is shown in the travel brouchures. In the evening you go to the official sunset photo spot. There has to be an official spot because the Aboriginals do not want some places, which are specific to men or women, to be on photos of tourists because the wrong gender might see them. This place was crowdedi. You nearly couldn't see the rock for all the tourists here. Germans and Japanese everywhere they swarmed the whole place. But then, why complain, I was a tourist here myself. Bigger bus companies whose name I do not want to mention here offered also a kingly serving of champagne of which half or more was thrown away later. But then you know at least where your money goes.

On the next day we climbed Ayers Rock itself. It was freezing cold but you got a nice view of the Olgas from up there. I would not recommend this for people with bad health. Some of the passages are a bit steep. After the climb our Greyhound coach transferred us to the Olgas where we had a short walk.

At noon we were off to Kings Canyon. This was a place I really enjoyed. There is a 4 hour circular hiking track which can be really enjoyable. Seeing so much green in the middle of the desert is really amazing, the name 'Garden of Eden' was fitting. If you manage to get away from all the other people walking around here, you can start to relax and take in the marvelous nature. The rangers here have quite a lot work to keep the place in order, by the way if you see any rock wallabies here report them to the rangers.
Alice Springs
In Alice Springs you can book camel riding tours, all the Ayers Rock, Olgas and Kings Canyon tours. Melanka Lodge is directly at the Greyhound Transfer Center. If you are too lazy to walk far and do not mind a lot of noise you might stay here for a night. I myself stayed only one day here, basically to wait for my flight to Darwin. There was just enough time to get an opal cut which I found on my first day in Coober Pedy. Grab the Backpackers Outback magazine to get an impression what you can do here.
This is the place to start all the tours to Kakadu, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge. There are still many intact Aboriginal art sites in the national parks, some of them can be visited. Frogs Hollow is a nice backpacker. Prices are about $13.50 per night and walking distance to the city center is 5 minutes. The Mindil Beack Market every Thursday night and the sunset near the harbor are worth visiting. The tourist information in Smith Street can give you more info.
Litchfield National Park
Lots of waterfalls, rock pools you can swim in and rainforest can be seen here. The Magnetic Termite Mounds are also found here. They face to east-west so that one flat face of them is always shadey and can get as high as 6 meters. In my opinion one day is enough for Litchfield if you plan to go to Kakadu also.
Kakadu National Park
The Kakadu National Park covers about 20.000 square kilometers! It is owned by the Aboriginal people but tourists are allowed to enter for a small fee. Lots of different animals like birds and fish and the Aboriginal art sites made it to a world heritage site. I took a 5 days tour with Backpacking Australia for $480. This place might be right for a small warning. Most of the backpacker and hostels are not really friendly in the main tourist season they just want to make money. In order to make money they book you on tours and get a lot of commision. Sorry, I found this to be true and many people I met agreed with me. But that does not mean that the people running the hostels are unfriendly, they are just keen to book you on the tours! For example if you book the 5 day tour directly via phone with Backpacking Australia you will get the park entry ticket for free. This was a tour with a 4WD car which enabled us to go to all the big sights like Fog Damm, Jim Jim and Twin Falls. At the Twin Falls we also got a nice view of two fresh water crocodiles. The food served was really good in the evenings but breakfast and lunch consisted of sandwiches all the time :-(

Our 'accomodation' was really neat. We slept on inflatable mats beneath a moskito net and thus got a view of the nightly stars. All the noises of the bush can get really soothing once get used to them. The only shock we had was one day after coming back from a long trip. We smelled and saw smoke coming directly from our camp side. After some minutes we even saw fire, real bush fire, around our whole camping site. We all got a bit nervous but when we saw the rangers in control everybody calmed down again. The fire was just to protect the camping site against burning. Reason: Where nothing is to burn nothing will burn.

Our last day was a cruise on the Yellow Water River where we saw real salties!! One was as big as 3 meters and had the ease to eat a bird directly in front of our eyes. We also saw beautiful water birds which you won't see at any other place in Kakadu.

This is the place near the Great Barrier Reef which is divers paradise. Because of 4 days of sickness I only went diving once on a ship called "Falla". It was only a pleasure cruise not really meant for people who do diving as their hobby but it was still worth it. You got two dives and nice animation on the ship for about $90. BTW the "Falla" is not a modern motor boat but a nice old sailing ship! The first dive was a bit rushed because we had to dive against changing currents all the time but the second dive was really great. We saw a big lion fish, it looked a bit like an underwater bird because the fins were a bit featherlike. All in all a very elegant fish and also very poisonous what I learned later. The pain the poison causes is said to be undescribable and the normal way of tending to it, is to put your fingers in very hot water - just about not boiling - which will dissolve the poison and is not as painful!
I will write this part soon.

If you have any questions concerning Australia feel free to contact me. I made this page just for fun to recollect my holidays. There may be a lot of mistakes here and things which are just not true as I write the things that I remember but if you find any mistakes ( also spelling mistakes!! ) or things which you think should be added: No worries, mate. Just write me a mail, ay.
Niels Provos <>
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