There is a place on our small planet which is a mystery and a dream for many people in the world. It is actually more than a place - it is a whole continent, almost the size of Europe or the United States, ‘down’ in the Southern Hemisphere and ‘under’ almost all the other countries in the world when looking at an earth globe. This is a fairytale about the Down Under. This is Australia.
Even though the 'sunburnt country' as some people call it has been the home of the Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years, it was so far away from the rest of the world that the first Europeans, the Dutch actually, set foot there only in the 17th century. Shortly after James Cook (yes, always the same old James everywhere in the Pacific!) also made a stop there, a British colony was established in 1788 where Sydney is located today. There is this false idea that the ancestors of all Australians are convicts! It started with convicts indeed but also with government officials and their families, as well as traders, craftsmen and adventurers who were simply looking for a new and a better life.
You do not need to travel by sea for months any more but you still have to take at least two flights and need around 24 hours to reach the Down Under! This is why it still remains a mystery nowadays!
It is also a dream, literally! For the Aboriginal Australians the Dreamtime is the time of creation of the world where many mystic creatures as the crocodile or the rainbow serpent travelled across Australia creating waterfalls, lakes and gorges. The unison between these ancient tribes and the nature is in the center of their culture and way of life, from the transcendent, deep sounds of the didgeridoo and the boomerang returning as per pure magic to the thrower, to their amazing medicinal knowledge, survival in the desert skills and stunning rock paintings.
Imagine sitting in the Australian outback next to the fire, listening to the sounds of the didgeridoo and the voice of an Aboriginal Australian with a white beard telling legends of ancient times, while watching the hundreds of bright stars in the violet sky. This is the spirit of this immense and full of surprises and contrasts continent!
Our journey started in the most spectacular bay in the world - the Sydney Harbour, with one of the two most iconic jewels of Oz - the Sydney Opera House.
Besides being an amazing architectural accomplishment, the opera house which, depending on the person you ask, looks either like a peeled orange or the sails of a ship (I personally found that it looked more like a gothic cathedral or a white heron with wide-spread wings) is breathtaking.
The sad part is that the Danish architect Jørn Utzon who designed it had to resign in the middle of the construction due to the costs and deadlines issues and never returned to see his creation admired by millions of people in the world!
As if trying to silently challenge its beauty in the harbour, the elegant, arched Sydney Harbour Bridge lies opposite the opera house and they create together one of the most emblematic pictures in the world.
Add to it the white sailing boats, the huge cruise ships, the green ferries and the rays of the sun which make the wings of the opera house shine even brighter and here it is - the perfection of a place and a moment.
The opera house is also stunning from the bridge by night, glowing with different colours in the dark.
However, Sydney is much more than that. It is also the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens founded in 1873 where you can see many weddings taking place with the background decors of a dream.
Nature is everywhere in the city with its parks and funny birds as the Australian white ibis with its long beak.
Sydney is also the aquarium where you can walk underwater through over 100 meters of glass tunnels and see around you beautiful marine creatures as sharks, rays, turtles and dugongs.
We also met our first super cute koalas and deadly looking alligators in Wild Life Sydney!
Koalas sleep almost all the time as their low in nutrition eucalyptus diet does not give them tons of energy.
The most important thing in a koala’s life, besides the eucalyptus leaves of course, is the eucalyptus tree itself that the koala hugs in order to keep cool! The tree is also their balance, their anchor!
The Opera City is also its amazing architecture.
Walking around the Rocks area, which is the heart of the city where the first British settled a long time ago, you will come across old pubs and THE BEST fish and chips in the world!
You will feel like you are taking part in an old movie!
Sydney is not only full of nature but also surrounded by it!
Besides the famous beaches in the city, there are also the beautiful Blue Mountains not too far away. The name comes from the blue mist floating around due to the evaporation of the eucalyptus trees oil.
The majestic Tree Sisters rocks, the waterfalls and the beautiful forests with peeling trees make it a paradise for hikers and rock climbers.
The Opera City will not disappoint you with its museums, the golden colours of the sunsets on the beautiful old buldings, the vintage cars and simply its easy-going atmosphere, which make you feel like anywhere in Europe and at the same time like at a place far far away from the good old continent!
A short flight from Sydney but a huge jump thousands of years back into the past lies the Red Center, the heart of Australia and the spiritual home of the Aboriginal Australians!
Even though you have seen it on postcards and pictures and in movies hundreds of times, when your eyes fall on the other icon of the Down Under in the middle of the red desert, you will without any doubt remain completely still and speechless in front of its grandeur. Something you cannot describe is in the air!
Uluru (called Ayers Rock before being returned to the Aboriginal Australians in 1985) is the biggest monolith in the world created over some 600 million years, or a single piece of sandstone rock with a circumference of 9 kilometers in the middle of a desert.
It looks like an iceberg but instead of being in the water, it is on the ground - 348 meters above ground and the biggest part, 2.5 kilometers, underground!
Only to walk around Uluru, you need more than 3 hours!
Beyond the suprising facts, Uluru is more than just a rock! You can almost feel the presence of the ancient spirits.
Walking around it, you will discover amazing rock paintings, carvings which look like coming from the brush of an extraterrestrial artist, sacred caves and an oasis-like lake in the middle of it where beautiful birds fly around.
You cannot get bored because Uluru changes every single minute depending on the light of the sun, the gliding of the clouds or even the rain drops falling on it. Its colours go from red to golden through 50 shades of brown and then violet and blue when the sky sets down for the night.
Not too far away from the Rock are the 36 Olgas, or the Kata Tjuta boulders which used to be a single rock as Uluru before the erosion divided them.
Hiking in the early morning (before the temperature jumps up to 36°C when it becomes dangerous to go there!) in the Valley of Winds surrounded by these majestic rocks, in the company of kangaroos hopping up suddenly in front of you and lizards trying to hide in the rocks by changing their colours, is one-of-a-kind experience.
The burning red of the soil and the infinite blue of the sky bring you serenity and a sense of profound detachment from the daily life.
North from Uluru, another place not to be missed is the Kings Canyon.
Hiking to hidden in the bush lakes and watching the sunset transform the clouds into a pink cotton candy above the canyon is priceless.
Pushing the limits even further away from civilisation, you can try the off-road 4WD drive on the land of the Aboriginal Australians for which you need a special permit.
It is amazing to come across a road train (which is the name given to these long trucks) with its pilot car arriving before it and asking you to pull over as the truck is to pass by shortly! The drivers of these pilot cars look very familiar, like Santa Clauses but wearing braces and jeans!!! The trucks drive so fast that you only see the cloud of dust behind them.
Besides the road trains, you can drive for hours without coming across another car but see instead an abandoned washing machine, some strange veggies and a buffalo!
Yes, Australia is full of contrasts and surprises! See you for the next trip to another world icon - the Great Barrier Reef, together with the most beautiful beach and the largest sand island in the world in the north-eastern part of the Down Under, Queensland or the Sunshine State!
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