Day 804: Cattle Station

In the United States, what the Australians call a cattle station would be called a ranch.  They typically encompass thousands of square miles of land often in the Outback.  The cattle tend to be heat-tolerant breeds like Brahman or Santa Gertrudis that can survive on the arid land that will support only a few cattle per acre.  When a member of Laetitia’s group asked one of the station staff how they rounded up the cattle from such a vast expanse of land, he told her that cattle survival is dependent upon water tanks, strategically placed throughout the station.  Fences surround the tanks with one-way gates in and out.  When the station personnel want to round up the cattle, they simply lock the out gate and load the assembled cattle from the pen into trucks.

Because of the remoteness of most of the stations, primary-school-age children are educated through the School of the Air that offers correspondence classes.  Teacher contact was originally by short wave radio but now is mostly by Internet.  Students often go to boarding school for secondary education.  Like the dude ranch vacations offered in the United States you can book an extended stay at a cattle station for a taste of its remote lifestyle.

Laetitia and her group had a buffet lunch before heading off toward a motel near Uluru (Ayers Rock), their next day’s destination.  Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day about the cattle station.

If you choose for your Aussie vacation
An Outback remote cattle station
The time will fly by
But the air will be dry
And you’ll frequently want a libation.

Day 803: Alice Springs

The tour day began before dawn, Laetitia and her group boarded a van in the pre-dawn darkness for a short ride out of Alice Springs to the hot air balloon “airport.”  They watched as the staff inflated their balloon with hot air.  Then they boarded the wicker basket and were off.  The ride was absolutely silent when the burner was not firing and they drifted along with their way lit by starlight under the magnificent night sky.  After a spectacular Outback sunrise, they began to see wildlife as their balloon passed silently over wallabies and red kangaroos.  After the ride they had a champagne breakfast and headed off to a cattle station, their next stop of the day.  Laetitia wrote the day’s limerick about the hot air balloon ride.

It’s a great Alice Springs thing to do
A balloon ride the sunrise to view
As you silently fly
‘Neath the stunning night sky
And you may see a red kangaroo.

Day 802: The Ghan Train

Laetitia and her group spent the morning on a beach in Adelaide watching hang gliders.  Adelaide is a popular seaside resort city and the capital of South Australia.  They would soon be boarding the Ghan train for an overnight trip to Alice Springs.  The Ghan, named for the Afgan camel drivers who were brought to Australia in the nineteenth century to aid in the exploration of the vast desert spaces of the Outback.  On it’s northward run, the Ghan traverses the center of Australia from south to north ending in Darwin in the Northern Territory.  Alice Springs, their destination, is close to the middle of the run.

After settling into their sleeping compartments, some of Laetitia’s group watched the passing scene as the train sped over the Outback, but others assembled in the club car that was already a party.  When they reached Alice Springs the following day, the consensus of the group was that Australians are possibly the friendliest people on earth.  Several members of the group received invitations from Aussies to be guests at their homes when they were done touring.

When you cross the Outback on the Ghan
You’ll find Aussies greet you with elan
You may get a behest
To be a house guest
And then may want to change your trip plan.

Day 801: Blue Mountains

Laetitia and her group spent the Morning in Sydney doing a harbor tour and then taking a water taxi over to Manly to visit the north beaches.  Afterwards, their van took west of the city for a tour of the Blue Mountains.  With peaks slightly less than 4,000 feet and gorges almost 2,500 feet deep, the mountains were a barrier to westward expansion for the first European settlers in New South Wales.  Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the mountains were the territory of the Gundungurra tribe.  Carbon dating calculations indicate that aboriginal people occupied the area for more than 20,000 years prior to the arrival of the Europeans.  The group spent the day hiking trails and catching glimpses of the local birds:  Rockwarblers, Red-browed Firetail (finches), Kookaburras, Cockatoos and Lorikeets.

The area also has about 90 of the more than 700 species of Eucalyptus trees.  Scientists estimate that the Eucalyptus progenitor evolved 35 to 50 million years ago soon after the landmasses that are now Australia and New Guinea drifted away from Gondwana.  When growing conditions favoring the Eucalyptus emerged on Australia, these trees became dominant and evolved to fill niches that elsewhere would have been filled by other arboreal varieties.  Superficial resemblances between Eucalyptus trees and European trees in similar niches lead early botanists to often misidentify them as familiar species such as oak or ash.

During their hike, Laetitia and her group were lucky enough to see several koalas feeding high in Eucalyptus trees.  Though these cute little animals are often called “koala bears,” they are marsupials, as are kangaroos, wombats and many other native Australian species.  Their resemblance to mammalian bears is only superficial.  They are mostly solitary animals but they pair for a few months during the breeding season.  Laetitia made the koala the subject of the day’s limerick.

Koala, the charming marsupial
Found on mountains and on plains alluvial
On Eucalyptus feeding
Pairs when he is breeding
But otherwise isn’t connubial.