Meeting an Australian icon

I always wanted to go to Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), and I finally had my chance! My friend T and I booked a four day trip during the Easter break.

Yulara, the closest town, was developed by the government for the sole purpose of tourism. Previously, the un-monitored tourism industry was wreaking havoc on the environment, so the government stepped in. As a result, arriving there was like walking into one big resort (which it actually is).

(Although it was at the tail end of summer when we went, it was still really hot! We ended up buying insect hat nets to keep the mozzies away and spraying copious amounts of bug spray. Apparently, there are no mozzies during winter, but I imagine it’d get really cold during that time…)

My highlights of the trip were:

1. Uluru.

To buck the trend, I’m not going to post a generic photo of Uluru. 😛

But yes, it was really good to finally see it in person. We did the base walk, which goes all the way around. Although it was advertised as a moderate walk, it was actually an easy walk — flat land all through out, tracks clearly marked. Even ran into a guy running it!

I think the only reason it was graded harder was because of the heat. There were a lot of exposed areas with no shade. Though every now and then, there would be lean-to’s where you could stop and rest and even a tap to refill your water bottle.

2. Kata Tjuta.

I’m going to admit my ignorance in saying that I didn’t know this existed until shortly before the trip. I’ll also admit that I enjoyed this hike more than the Uluru one. While it’s graded as a hard walk, it’s not super hard — there is just a bit of clambering one way, but after reaching the second lookout it turns into an easy walk. While the trail isn’t as clearly marked as Uluru, there are still arrows marking the way so we didn’t get lost.

But anyway, hiking this was like walking through the Land Before Time. There was so much lush greenery throughout, and it was nice seeing the variations in scenery.

3. The sunrise(s).

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park probably has the best sunrises I’ve ever seen.

And I was lucky I saw them. Because the weather was still getting pretty hot, we had to start the walks early — they recommend finishing walks by 11 AM in hot weather. This meant we were up at 5, and at the parks at 6, 6:30 AM… the perfect time to watch the sun rise.

Some realisations:

I got to learn a bit more about Aboriginal culture. The place was peppered with plaques, and we got to listen to a few talks about Aboriginal culture. Most of what I previously knew was from things I read — it was amazing getting to experience a little bit of it during the trip.

The food was surprisingly good. (Hah, I always have to write about food somehow!) Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much — I thought that since Yulara is isolated town, the most I could expect was decent-ish food at exorbitant prices. Granted, prices are a little bit more expensive because everything has to be imported, but otherwise the food was delicious. It wasn’t “we have no choice but deal with this because this is all that’s available, let’s make do” kind of food, but a sincere “this is pretty good, let’s come back tomorrow.”

I was initially worried that having only two full days to explore wasn’t enough time, but it turned out to be perfect. To be frank, there wasn’t much to do after exploring both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, unless we were to go off to Kings Canyon (around a four hour drive away). At the end of the fourth day, we’d smashed most of the free activities available at the resort, haha!

But yeah, I’m glad I got to go. It was a great first experience with the outback and getting to know my adoptive country a little bit more.

Adelaide, South Australia

I went to Adelaide over Christmas last year with the ‘rents. When I met up with my high school batchmate G, she commented how it was good that I visited, since everyone she knows who travels to Australia just goes to either Sydney or Melbourne. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d actually visited all the other capital cities and Adelaide was the last one left on my list. 😛

(OK fine, so I didn’t really get to explore Darwin — that was just a stopover — but still.)

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with Adelaide. I’d been messaging her before I arrived and she commented that it was a very pretty city. That was definitely true. It’s much smaller than Sydney, but it was peaceful (also partly due to the fact that I was there during the v. quiet season between Christmas and New Year’s) and felt safe.

Here’s my top three.

1. I could drive around the city! Haha! I’m notorious for taking all possible recourse not to drive to/through Sydney CBD. Lately I haven’t been bringing my car at all. I live in a suburb with great transportation options to the city. With the traffic, finding parking, and paying for said parking, I’m usually better off just taking the train or ferry in, and spend my commute relaxing.

But with Adelaide, whilst I was initially nervous, it wasn’t too bad. The hotel I stayed at was in the middle of the city and driving through the streets was un-stressful. There weren’t a lot of cars, angry drivers, or idiot drivers.

2. It’s a very picturesque city to walk around in. It was nice and clean, and less grubby than Sydney. (I’m sorry I keep comparing to Sydney. I really do love Sydney.) There was a mix of old buildings and some newer funky spots, like the graffiti pictured below.

3. The Adelaide Central Market! I’m a sucker for markets with locally made goods. We booked a breakfast tour. It was really interesting learning about the history of the markets and finding out that a number of the stallholders have been there for generations. We got to sample some really unusual things — plants from the bush, cured meats from assorted Aussie animals, that kinda thing.

Unfortunately, lot of shops were closed due to the holidays… If I were to go back, I’d spend more time trying out new restaurants (though the ones we went to were really good, a lot of the other places on my list were closed), and going back to the Adelaide Hills. (We did get to go to Hahndorf, the German town, and although we had no time to go cherry picking, we ended up buying boxes of delicious cherries from Wotton’s cherries.) Overall, it was a nice, relaxing trip, a brief taster of what South Australia has to offer.

Autumn, now

It’s been two weeks since summer officially ended, taking Daylight Saving Time with it. I’m a little sad that the sun is setting later now, but at the same time grateful for these cooler evenings. As I always say, colder weather really drives home the point that I’m no longer living in the Philippines — though it’s been eight years since I left, and I definitely consider Australia my home now! There’s this certain crispness in the air that I didn’t experience most of the years I was growing up.

I’ve taken the lack of DST as a sign to wake up, and go to sleep, earlier. That’s been my resolution since start of the year, but it’s just soooo hard to do when the sun is setting at 9 PM! I feel like I should be out and about as long as there’s still daylight.

Well, now it’s setting a lot earlier — and I resolve to leave work at 4:30 PM on most days, that way I can get still catch the final rays of sun as I get off at my train station. There’s always something depressing about leaving work and the sky is pitch black outside.

It’s a little hard to believe that it’s the second quarter of the year, now! Here are a few things I’ve learned about myself the past few months:

I am apparently the type of person who needs sleep masks. At least in my apartment, where the little bits of sunlight that stream in were causing me to wake up way too early in the mornings.

I can no longer take really hot days. I always used to love the heat. I loved going to sleep when it was extremely hot and humid — without a fan on! Well, I don’t anymore. I guess I’m no longer used to the humidity — I’d wake up several times at night because it was just hot and gross. And when I went to Uluru… I was pretty much useless the first day. For once in my life, I thought, “this heat is way too much!”

I’ve decided to cut down on supplements. I don’t know if they’ve actually been doing anything. I’ve been trying to eat a healthier diet too, so hopefully that means I won’t need them. I also read a damning article about a lady whose blood they tested and they found out she was deficient in B vitamins, although she was taking supplements daily. I think I’ll hang on to my money, thanks.

Some of my resolutions are going pretty well. I’ve been cooking a lot more, sleeping a lot earlier (I rarely sleep past midnight, yay!), spending quality time with my nearest and dearest, and taking time out for self care. I gotta say, this notebook has really helped me out. Sometimes I feel busy with work, but it reminds me to stay balanced.

For the rest of the year, I resolve… to keep going, I suppose. Taking better care of myself by sleeping better, eating healthier food, continue exercising. Cultivating my relationships. Staying focused and being productive at work. Reflecting, writing, and being more thankful.

I like plants

I’m still not entirely sure why, but last September I decided to get more houseplants. I had a succulent my brother and sister-in-law gifted me a few years ago, which was happily still thriving, unlike one I got from a former coworker, which ended up dying within a few months.

So I went to Newtown Garden Market one day and got myself a syngonium. The guy who worked there had to repot the plant for me, because I had no idea what repotting was. The syngonium ended up living on my beside table.

Since then, I’ve gotten a parlour palm (which has started sprouting mushrooms, grrr) and lavender.

The lavender almost died and I decided to replace it with impatiens, but it ended up not dying, and now I’ve got both. (Lavender not pictured, because it still looks a bit straggly.)

My original succulent ended up with babies, which I’ve placed in a new pot. (The babies had babies of their own, so I now think when they all start growing madly I may have a problem.)

The syngonium has outgrown its original container and I’ve gotten a mini parlour palm to place in the pot.

So now here I am, six months later, with a growing collection of houseplants. Now I know how to repot a plant, propagate a succulent, when to water a plant, and I understand what “variegation” means. I want some more (I want a citrus plant and some devil’s ivy on my bookcase) but have been convinced not to get more, and instead wait til I need to repot my existing ones and have empty pots to fill.

As an unintended consequence I’m now worried about going away. What will happen to my plants? What if the person who usually waters my plants also goes away? The lavender and the impatiens need to be watered every day, oh gawd… this must be what it feels like to have a pet.