August 15th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 6 of 10

Last night we slept in swags around the campfire. Over the last week or so I’ve been reading the book that Koop Kooper gave to me called Cocktail Nation: The Interviews 2. I finished it the previous evening by the campfire underneath the beautiful stars. You could even see the Milky Way. I’m blessed to have received this autographed book from Koop. I highly recommend it if you’re into classic retro music. Koop talks 19 different artists ranging from Jimmy Borges, to Irwin Chusid (fascinating read about Esquivel), and to Laurie Allyn. You can visit Koop’s website at https://cocktailnation.net/ and purchase his book from Amazon here:

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We woke up again at 5:30am, but someone’s phone was going off again at 5:00am. I ate some toast and cereal for breakfast, as well as had some coffee. I then washed up, packed my bags, and rolled up my swag. It’s very important to roll your swag nice and tight because if you don’t snakes could potentially get in. Simon ended up having to re-roll six swags because they were not rolled up tight enough.

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We left the camp site at 6:30am. We passed through Tennent Creek, which is the largest town in the area. The first telegraph station was built here, but the actual town site is about 8km from the telegraph station. The reason for this is that a truck with alcohol broke down about 8km from the telegraph station, and people congregated around it, and that’s where the actual town site was built.

The next stop, two hours away, was the Devil’s Marbles. Aboriginals felt a devilish creature lived in the rocks because sheep were eaten by dingo’s. Aboriginals also wore belts made of their wife’s hair. The Devil’s Marbles were formed from sedimentation from an inland sea. The marbles were originally underground, but due to erosion they have slowly shown up over time. It is said that there are more underneath and they will be exposed over the years. The marbles consist of sandstone.

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The boulders at Devil’s Marbles can crack and split completely perfectly. This occurs due to very fine secondary cracks, called joints, getting penetrated by rain water. The rain water reacts with some of the minerals in the rock, so that they decompose to clay. The weight of the two halves can cause them to split perfectly and fall apart.

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There are two species that live quite well in the desert like conditions at Devil’s Marbles; a desert frog and crab. The water-holding frog, Cyclorana australis, is known for its ability to bury itself alive in order to survive droughts. Before burrowing underground, this large frog bloats itself with water. While it is buried, the frog slowly absorbs the water through its stomach lining, thus avoiding dehydration. The drought surviving crab, Austrothelphusa transversa, grows up to 50 mm across and lives in deep burrows in the creek bank. During dry times, it blocks the entrance to its burrow and retreats to a small, moist chamber at the bottom where, like the frog, it patiently waits for rain.

The next stop, 20 minutes away, was Wycliffe Well. Wycliffe Well is the UFO capital of Australia. There is a secret army base in Alice springs called Pine Gap, and people in the area claim to have been abducted by aliens. This would be equivalent to Australia’s version of Area 51.

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After our brief stop in Wycliffe Well we continued on to Barrow Creek Pub. One the way to Barrow Creek we did a quiz. I got 11 out of 19 questions correct. Simon said the questions were a bit biased because they were more about Australian things. Luckily some of the questions were the same ones from Alex’s set of questions so I remembered what the answer’s were.

We arrived in Barrow Creek. Barrow Creek is an isolated and tiny outpost that became a piece of famous history when on July 14th 2001 it became a vital part of one of the Australian outback’s most famous horrific and mysterious crimes. On the night of July 14th, Bradley John Murdoch stopped a Volkswagen van driven by an English traveller, Peter Falconio, and persuaded Falconio to leave his vehicle. Falconio was shot, and Falconio’s girlfriend Joanne Lees was tied up. She managed to escape and hide in the bushes along the side of the highway and was eventually picked up by a road train truck driver, who took her 13 km south to the Barrow Creek Pub where the police were alerted. There is a movie based on this called Wolf Creek. I was told I should watch this movie, but it is really scary. He said be glad that you didn’t watch the movie before traveling through the area.

At the pub we ate sandwiches for lunch in a back room. One of the people on our group ate most of the tomatoes, which was fairly disrespectful. He’s done quite a few disrespectful things over the last six days and is starting to get on some of our nerves. Luckily he will not be on the last part of my tour. Simon had to dig into tomorrow’s food because of this. At the pub there is memorabilia everywhere dating back many decades. If you tell the pub owner where you are from he will point you to a section for your country and tell you facts about each piece. You can also write your name on the wall too if you would like. I didn’t write my name on the wall, but I wish I had now that I’m sitting here writing the blog.

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The next stop was Ti Tree for coffee and more fuel. We passed a man who is dying of a rare form leukemia. I was told that this is his third time traveling across the country to raise money. I couldn’t find any information by doing a Google search so if you know who this man is please let me know so I can post a link to his web page.

The next stop was Aileron to see a very odd Kangaroo, who’s name is too vulgar to repeat but we will call him “FN”, and his girlfriend pig called Apples. “FN” the kangaroo was introduced to Apples when his girlfriend passed away because he became depressed. I’m not entirely sure why, or how, but they definitely have an odd relationship. I will let you put the picture together for yourself. Aileron also has a beautiful tall statue on top of a hill.

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We learned some more interesting history as we continued another two hours towards Alice Springs. The word “selfie” is a word invented by an Australian man. The dingo isn’t native to Australia; it came from Asia. The Stewart Highway was one of the most dangerous highway in Australia until it was paved and upgraded in 1987 at a cost of approximately $200 million, as part of Australia’s bicentenary roadwork’s program. There are no police patrolling the majority of the highway, and until the end of 2006 there was no speed limit outside towns and other built-up areas on the Northern Territory part.

We arrived in Alice Springs at 5:30pm and were dropped off at our hostels. The majority of us are staying at a hostel called the Haven Backpackers Resort. I checked into my private room and was greeted by a slightly obnoxious smell of sewer gas. Other than that the room was great, spacious and roomy. I figured the smell would dissipate, but it hasn’t. Other people complained about the same smell in their room too. I did some investigating and even though that we are in the city we are still on a septic system, and it doesn’t handle it very well.

We all did our own things until about 7:00pm, when 16 of 19 people in our group walked over to The Rock Bar, which is on the main road in the city. Simon, our tour guide, even showed up which was fun. I ordered a kangaroo steak, and a pitcher of beer for dinner. Others ordered steaks, burgers, schnitzel, and salads. I had the only kangaroo steak that was left. It was pretty delicious, and didn’t have as much of a “game” taste as I thought it would. I was told it would taste similar to elk, but I wouldn’t agree. We all hung out until about 10:30pm, when we all walked back to the hostel together. This city is known to be extremely unsafe, so we were advised strongly by Simon to walk together in a group, or take a taxi. I went to sleep at about midnight, since tomorrow is a day off from traveling.

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August 5th 2016 – Blue Mountains, Sydney, and Koop Kooper

I started out today by heading to the Blue Mountains. I left my hotel at 3:30am and walked fourty minutes to Central Station, because the other stations don’t open until around 4:00am. It was raining lightly on my walk to the train station so I didn’t wear a rain jacket. I did have a slip and fall on the way because of the markers that are placed at crosswalks for blind people. I scraped a few knuckles on my right hand but rinsed it off with water and some toilet paper, which I had handy in my backpack. I made it to Central Station with ten minutes to spare and boarded the 4:20am train to Katoomba.
The Train ride to Katoomba, where the Blue Mountains are, took about two hours. The train was comfortable, smooth, fairly quick, and even had a plum interior to boot! When I arrived in Katoomba I noticed that the temperature was way cooler, around 2 degrees Celsius. I put on my rain jacket, as that is all I brought with me, and headed up the stairs of Katoomba station. There was a cute little coffee kiosk there, where I grabbed a Tall black coffee. I was talking with the Barista a bit, and she was saying that this was unusual weather for this time of the season.
I walked about half an hour from Katoomba station to Echo Point, a lookout from which you can see The Three Sisters and miles upon miles of beautiful dense rainforest. I was the only person there since it was barely 7:00am. I even caught the last few minutes of sunrise! When I was leaving Echo Point to walk towards a scenic lookout of Katoomba Falls. The view was spectacular. There was a 3000 step decent towards the bottom of the falls, but due to it raining so much and my slip and fall earlier I opted out.
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I then walked to Scenic World, which was not open for the day yet, and took some photos. They have one the worlds steepest Cable Way down to the bottom, the world’s steepest train (you can even adjust your seating position to lay flat if the angle is too much for you), and a very tall 360 degree glass Cable Car that spans across Katoomba Falls.
After taking photos at Scenic World I headed back towards the train station, but stopped at Aldi’s (one of Australia’s grocery chains) for a banana and Subway for a ham sub. I boarded the 9:10 am train back towards Sydney. The train arrived in Sydney at 11:20 am, and I then boarded the T4 line towards Kings Cross, where I walked back to my hotel. I downloaded my photo’s, relaxed for a bit, and talked with my friend Barry about a very old mall in Sydney called the Queen Victoria Building. I Naturally I had to go see it, so I packed up my gear and started walking towards it, while getting very distracted by other architecture along the way. I came across another old mall called The Strand, which was built in 1891. In a way I preferred The Strand over the Queen Victoria Building, because I felt it had more character.
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After visiting both buildings I walked towards Darling Habour, where I walked around for a bit, as well as got told off by an official for being too close to the water (even though I was definitely more than a meter away…). The sun was going to set soon, so I walked quickly to Sydney Harbour area so I could catch the sunset. I took some photos of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge while the sun was setting, as well as after the sun had set. This city has quite the impressive night life and really seems to come to life when the sun goes down.
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After taking in all the beauty of the Harbour I had to head back to my hotel room so that I could get ready to meet a gentleman named Koop Kooper. I’ve been listening to his Podcast called the Cocktail Nation for the past four or five years (I actually need to look back and see how long it’s been, but that’s a rough guess). I was always fascinated by his Podcast and the work that he does, so when I knew I was heading to Australia about a month ago I reached out to him and told him I was coming. He said that was great and that we should meet up for coffee. I was thrilled so I said yes.
I head down to my hotel lobby at around 7:50pm to wait for Koop. I got talking with an older lady from Melbourne, who was dressed up very nicely in furs, and jewelry. She came right up to me and just started talking with me, telling me about her younger years, air travel, living in the states, and what she used to do for work. This goes hand in hand with the era Koop and I like, which is the mid 20th century, so of course I was quite fascinated with the conversation.
Koop showed up so I had to say bye to the elderly lady. Koop was dressed in his vintage wear and had his hair slicked back, living the mid 20th century lifestyle like he does every day. We went in search of a coffee shop, which was actually rather difficult to find. The area my hotel is located in is more of a party area, with a darker past. Koop was telling me that this area is way nicer than it used to be, and was more of a red light district back in its days. Eventually we found a place that served coffee called Pie Face. I ordered a tall back coffee, and Koop ordered a tall latte. We continued walking through the area, talked about a variety of subjects such as his career, politics, and cars. His career is fascinating; progressing from tennis to eventually radio. He started out at a small radio station in western Australia, working his way up to voice overs all over Australia, as well as his Podcast. He has travelled the world and experienced such a variety of different experiences. He’s owned quite a few beautiful vintage cars in his years as well, my favorite being his 1965 Chrysler Valiant Signet. Classic Cars sometimes have a few quirks, such as the Chrysler, which ended up needing two engine rebuilds in less than a two year period. We spent about an hour together, before Koop had to go, and I was ready for bed, so we said bye. Koop gave me a signed book that he wrote called Koop Kooper’s Cocktail Nation: The Interviews 2. I’m going to read this book when I get some downtime on my trip. We didn’t end up taking a photo together unfortunately, but here’s a picture of Koop in his typical attire.
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If you like Jazz and Lounge Exotica music, then I highly recommend the Cocktail Nation Podcast. You can visit Koop’s website at https://cocktailnation.net/.
It was around 10:00pm when my eyes could not stay open any longer, so I went to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be travelling to Melbourne. Check back tomorrow for my latest blog!
If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.