Australia 2011: The Red Centre

We’d enjoyed our time in Cairns and especially our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, which it was a privelege to see and one that may be denied to subsequent generations if the warming oceans prompt its destruction.

Now it was time to surrender the current van and take to the sky again- this time a flight to another of Australia’s renowned sites: Ayers Rock, otherwise known as Uluru. The excursion had been booked here in the UK as part of the whole trip, rather than left to us to organise on the hoof. We needed to clear the van, our home for the previous 2 weeks and were faced with the problem of shedding some belongings in order to get our luggage [one bag each] down to the requisite weight for the small plane. Remember, we’d begun our trip weeks ago in New Zealand and had been in the snow-clad south of the south, where we’d worn multiple, thick layers of clothes. Now we were in the sweltering tropics and due to travel to the arid interior. The woolly layers had to go.

But where? We’d have to discard clothing, but were reluctant, even in this former, less-aware-of-sustainability time. Having sorted the items we decided that a charity shop- a thrift store- would be the answer and duly toured Cairns in search of one…in vain. In the end we just had to leave our discarded items by the recycling bins in the hope that someone would make use of them.

We arrived to our desert hotel, a building cunningly situated and camouflaged to make as little visual impact on the barren landscape as possible. I rather liked the hotel for its boho vibe, unlike one or two of the others which were catering for the luxury end of the market. We had a kind of cabin room and the dining area consisted of long trestle tables we could share with other travellers. The food involved lots of BBQ- including crocodile, kangaroo etc, a naturalist’s nightmare!

We were to rise early to go out to see sunrise at Uluru. In the event, we didn’t get to see so much as a single ray of sun since the weather was stuck in stubborn, overcast mode, but the company at the dawn party was convivial and fun and we got to see the rock close up.

There was another day at Uluru so despite the heat we walked a bit, looking at a camel farm and taking in the amazing vistas. There was also a modest mall of shops and even a salon, where I took advantage and went for a much-needed haircut.

The next leg of our trip was to be by coach. Normally I’d avoid coach tours, but this was no ordinary bus excursion. We were to travel from Uluru down through the Red Centre to Alice Springs, via Kings Canyon National Park. We’d stop at King’s Canyon to do a guided hike. While I knew little about the area it was to turn out to be a proper highlight for a number of reasons.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia 2011: Towards Cairns

Fraser Island seemed to be a ‘must’, so we made a stop at a site nearby and made reservations to go over there the following day. We got up early ready for the bus to take us to the boat, waiting by the site gate…and waiting…and waiting. An hour later, as we were about to give up, the bus came. Our mistake- we hadn’t accounted for a change of time zone. But the island of sand was worth the wait- if only for the wacky traffic on the sandy beach- several vehicles including a small plane.

We had a stopover before reaching Cairns at Townsville, where a large site faced the ocean and was semi occupied by permanent residents. We are used to staying in all kinds of sites, some purely for tourers and others where people have their permanent homes, either being perfectly acceptable to us.

It was while we were at Townsville that something happened to us which had never happened before…and has not happened since. We were robbed.

It was in the morning. We packed up ready to go and had decided to go and visit the town’s aquarium before we moved on. The last couple of morning jobs included taking the recycling across to the bins, which I did, whilst simultanaeously Husband had nipped out to empty something, meaning that the van was unlocked and open…for all of one minute, our bags left on the front seats. Thus far we’d noticed nothing amiss. We drove from the site and to the aquarium, where we entered and prepared to buy tickets. Husband drew out his wallet- which was empty of all cash. I drew out mine- also empty of cash. I don’t recall how much cash we’d had, but it was a substantial sum, however we still had our bank cards. Phew!

I’ll never know how someone was able to get into the van, access both wallets from our bags and lift all that money in such a short time! It was a salutary lesson on van security though and I think we have to see it in the context of all the years we’ve travelled safely and without incident.

Before going to Cairns we went to the Eungas National Park, a site in a great position up in the hills where we hoped to see some wondrous wildlife…and we were not disappointed. It was a peaceful and beautiful place, views over the valley below punctuated with impossibly tall palm trees. There were walkways through the forest giving access to waterfalls and pools, delicious, in the tropical heat, to bathe in. We were thrilled to see all the wonderful bird and plant species, but far and away the best thrill, after waiting patiently by a quiet pool in the early evening, was spotting a duck-billed platypus paddling around, oblivious to us.

As we’d still not spotted any koalas roaming wild we resorted to visiting a wildlife sanctuary where the cuddly creatures were in abundance, mostly slumbering, as is their nature. Wandering around, we were followed so closely by unfenced wallabies that I stepped back and trod on the toes of one, leading me to apologise profusely…and foolishly. Among the other animals there were cassuaries, dingoes and the most enormous, ferocious crocodile I have ever seen.

Then it was on to Cairns itself…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook