Hiking Enchanted Rock

A tree growing from the top of Enchanted Rock

A tree growing from the top of Enchanted Rock

My final day of my mini Texas road trip I headed out to Enchanted Rock, a giant granite dome near Fredricksburg. It was a bit of a further drive from Austin than I had anticipated, but the countryside was lovely and the destination completely worth it.

The hike reminded me a bit of Uluru, though geologically speaking the structures aren’t alike.  There were lots of geckos and lizards darting around, tons of desert flora to admire and an indigenous history stretching back thousands of years. I hiked to the top of the rock, then around the base to get a full view.

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Hiking the Organ Pipes at Mt. Wellington

The view of the Organ Pipes on Mt. Wellington near Hobart, Tasmania

The view of the Organ Pipes on Mt. Wellington near Hobart, Tasmania

Just a short drive from Hobart’s CBD is Mt. Wellington, which, like most of Tasmania, is filled with short walking tracks. I did the 3 hour Organ Pipes loop, which is fairly steep and rocky but worth the trek for the views of Hobart and the surroundings. Despite being so close to the city, the area was mostly empty on a Tuesday afternoon save for a French family and a British couple.

The walk is filled with beautiful flowers and sneaky skinks. I also saw a pretty cool black and red spider and some interesting birds. The actual Organ Pipes, which are columns of dolerite, are magnificent, though you need rock climbing gear to get really close to them.

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Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island

A black snake on Tamar Island

A black snake on Tamar Island

I got to Launceston in time for Festivale, where I got to sample local wines and watch some great street performers and musical acts. I hadn’t heard of the event in advance, so it was a nice surprise and a welcome break from the hiking and sightseeing I’d been doing.

Upon leaving Tasmania’s second largest city I stopped by two local natural wonders – the Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island. Like everywhere else in Tasmania, the sights are well set up for visitors with clear and safe walking tracks loaded with wildlife. There is also a lot of historical elements to these sights and you can learn about the lives of early Tasmanian settlers.

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Litchfield National Park

The view from above of Florence Falls - complete with rainbow - in Litchfield National Park

The view from above of Florence Falls – complete with rainbow – in Litchfield National Park

The final stop on my 10-day tour of the Top End a few weeks ago was Litchfield National Park, a popular weekend getaway for Darwin residents and home to loads of glorious waterfalls and swimming holes. Of course I took advantage of as many walking tracks as I could, one of which winds for about 5km along Florence Creek in relative peace and quiet.

Another highlight of Litchfield is seeing the incredible magnetic terminte mounds. These termites use the magnetic forces of the earth to orient their cathedrals to optimize exposure to the sun. And, of course, the above ground portions of the nests are a gigantic 2+ meters high.

At the end of this tour I settled in Darwin to begin a job for five months – I need to recoup a lot of the money I’ve spent in Australia! It certainly isn’t as cheap here as it was in Asia and South America, and I don’t even want to share how much I’ve been spending. So my blog may be quiet for the coming months, but I’ve got a big trip to WA planned in December and I’ll be sure get my camera ready.

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Edith Falls

The view of Edith Falls from Leliyn Lookout in Nitmiluk National Park

The view of Edith Falls from Leliyn Lookout in Nitmiluk National Park

North of Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park is Edith Falls, a cascading set of waterfalls and plunge pools. There is a short walking path that goes up to a lookout over the upper pool, as well as several longer walking paths which I didn’t have the opportunity to do. As usual there were plenty of beautiful flowers and interesting critters around to ogle. This was the last stop on the leg of the tour up to Darwin and the scenery was getting greener and greener.

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Katherine Gorge / Nitmiluk National Park

The view from Baruwei Lookout, part of a 5k bushwalking trail at Katherine Gorge

The view from Baruwei Lookout, part of a 5k bushwalking trail at Katherine Gorge

Driving up from Alice Springs, the red rocks and sand suddenly turn into more familiar greenery and the air stops feeling so terribly dry. It’s just past this point where you will find the bustling town of Katherine (pop. 10,000) and the beautiful Katherine Gorge – known to aboriginals as Nitmiluk. Our group was able to do the 5k Baruwei loop walk which passes through a magnificent lookout over the gorge. As usual there is loads of interesting plant and wildlife, including wild cockatoos and tons of flying foxes.

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The Kings Canyon Rim Walk

A view of Kings Canyon from the rim walk

A view of Kings Canyon from the rim walk

One of the most popular attractions in the Red Centre of Australia is Kings Canyon (aka Watarrka National Park) and its a fixture on all the tour routes. There is a 6km walk around the rim of the canyon that gives amazing views of both sides of the canyon. There are loads of fascinating plants which are used by aboriginals for a variety of medicinal purposes and also an abundance of bird life to ogle. 

Perhaps most impressive is the sheer age of Kings Canyon – it’s believed the sandstone in this area was laid about 440 million years ago, around the same time ago life on Earth began. There used to be a lake covering the area and evidence of this is shown in fossils of ripples, worms, and jellyfish. There are plant species that pre-date the dinosaurs and still grow today. I’m not a geologist and pre-history makes my head hurt, but it’s hard not to be impressed by those facts. 

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