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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Australia 2011 - Day 6, Part 4 - Drive to Alice Springs

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." - Henry David Thoreau


Australia 2011
Day 6 - 3rd August - Drive to Alice Springs
(Part 4)

While I was sitting waiting for MR to refill his water in the Kings Canyon Carpark, there was a woman changing her top. She had a bikini underneath, but still. Next, she changed her shorts to a skirt while facing me, and ended off by changing her underwear (going to the back of the car). In the rear view mirror it looked like the man was giving her a lovebite around her collarbonone. I think they were a European couple.

Our breakfast the past 2 days had been awful a it'd been the cheese buns from Yulara:

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Luckily I had a packet of Red Rock Deli dijon mustard and honey, which was very good.

We stopped at Kings Creek Station, and there were quite a few people on working holidays, and the girl at the counter was Japanese. I asked her and she said there were some other Japs there also.

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Camel riding at Kings Creek

A man at Kings Creek Station was picnicing with alfalfa sprouts. I told him it wasn't something you'd expect on a picnic (I could've added: while picnicing in a car, too).

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Deluxe Chicken Burger with onion, bacon, pineapple, 'sauce' and egg. It was quite good, though they used frid chicken. The 'sauce' was like mayo. I didn't ask what the 'sauce' was. Perhaps it was better not to know.

We then stopped at Erldunda again. There was another Malaysian girl there this time, albeit not as cute and speaking Cantonese and Mandarin instead of English (maybe she did back-office work). I found out from the first Malaysian that there was Telstra reception at Erldunda (supposedly they were the best in Australia with 99% coverage - given Kings Canyon was not covered, I had my doubts about the rest of the Outback), even though my Yes! Optus SIM did not work. She also said that they were earning twice what they had in Malaysia (they'd been colleagues), and spent less. This is believable, even though I assumed that they were not toilet cleaners in Malaysia, as an ex-colleague said you'd make more on an hourly rate at a 7-11 in Australia than what she'd been paid.

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"Dear Customer
As you may be aware Central and Coastal Australia is experiencing a mouse plague. We sincerely apologize for the obvious smell that this has caused. We are endeavouring to irradicate this situation as best we can.
Sorry for any discomfort caused."

On reflection, this might've been a prank by a disgruntled employee, as irradicate is a rare verb meaning "To root deeply".

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Desert dog ("Cheese Kransky with sauce wrapped in puff pastry strips"). Since I'd tried the pig dog the other day.

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"Stop revive survive"
Apparently people get heatstrokes while driving

Driving up to Alice Springs, we saw the turnoff for the unsealed (unpaved) road shortcut one might take to get from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon (the route suggested by Google Maps is not the one I'm referring to).

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"Warning: Sand drifts and corrugations. 4x4 wheel drive advisable. Access to Kings Canyon via Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road is recommended"

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More multilingual warnings. German, Italian and Japanese-speakers are presumably the largest foreign language-speaking constituencies.

The road actually looked alright, so we decided to try to see the Henbury Meteorite Craters.

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Unfortunately, they cheated my feelings as the nice road soon ended. We decided 15km of this would slow us down in our quest to reach Alice Springs and might even damage the car (damage from driving on unsealed roads was not covered in the insurance). 5km would've been alright, but not 15. So we turned around.

On the drive up, I managed to push the car to 159km/h.

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Dry river

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"Enjoy your rest"
That sounds quite sad.

There was a puzzling "Cannonball Memorial" which we'd seen coming down but hadn't stopped for, so we stopped this time.

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Text on Cannonball Memorial

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Cannonball Memorial

If you're still wondering what Cannonball is, here is the text on a Flickr photo:

"The Northern Territory Cannonball Run was held from 22 May to the 27 in 1994 on the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Alice Springs and return, a distance of nearly 1600 kms, and attracted 118 racing enthusiasts from all over the world with their expensive machines. The race contained three distinct driving phases within the one event. These were the "flying miles", the timed sectors and, covering by far the greatest distance, normal, everyday driving during which there was no competitive element. The "flying miles" were a test of a car's acceleration with cars cross the starting line at 60 km/h and 1600 m later their speed was recorded by radar, with points awarded accordingly. The timed sections of the run were approximately 100 km stretches to which set times was applied. Cannonballers lost points on these sections by arriving either too late or too early by more than three minutes. While these sections of the run were happening, the road was open to regular traffic, although police swept the road ahead, side roads were manned and the travelling public and commercial vehicles were warned. During these sections, as throughout the run, Cannonball drivers were subject to the same laws as anyone else. It is to be pointed out, though, that in the Northern Territory doesn't exist a specified speed limit on the open road.

On 24 May, during one of the timed sections near Alice Springs, a Ferrari F40 crashed into a checkpost killing its occupants, the Japanese duo Akihiro Kabe and codriver Okano (first name unknown) and two track officials, Tim Linklater and Keith Pritchard. An inquest found that the direct cause of the accident was driver error on the part of the Japanese team which entered the checkpoint at an excessive speed."

Apparently my theory about no speed limits on the highway was correct. Which made the warnings about speed traps even more puzzling.

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I wanted to create a collection of Australian Animal Road Signs.

We then stopped at Stuart's Well Roadhouse, again to the strong smell of grease in the air.

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I realised that it was owned by one of the guys responsible for developing Kings Canyon - Jim Cotterill.

This should be the vehicle they used to bash out the first 100km trail to Kings Canyon

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About the landscape

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'Hooshta' - on camels

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On exploring Central Australia

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Can all patrons wear appropriate tops inside as this is a licenced area
Apparently a license means you must legislate appropriate dress.

I didn't see Jim or the Dingo, so I wasn't able to confirm the real reason why he'd ignored me the previous time.

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Birds in emu enclosure

We saw a billboard advertising a radio station but there was no reception there. Grr.

The hostel was manned by a very guai lan guy:

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Left: "Someone got some, but who!!!!!!

I arrived at reception 1 morning to find this under the big pile of keys left by people going on tour.

'I didn't sleep in the bed last night. All clean.'

Well done on getting laid last night, but who are you and what room were you in?


Right (still from CCTV): "Looking for the Vegemite?!!"

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Fake Thai place. A lot of it didn't look Thai. Though they said they were from Chiang Mai.

I then went to the supermarket, which was quite interesting.

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This cheese would be banned in Singapore.

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"Mamee. Now cooked in 100% Corn Oil"
Somehow I doubt the one you find in Singapore is cooked in corn oil. Incidentally this only meets the nutritional guidelines without the "optional flavour sachet". Bah.

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$9.14 for Terry's Chocolate Orange. But at least you can find it.

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If you don't want to use curry powder, they package the herbs and spices for you. Cool.

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"No school No service. School-aged children unaccompanied by an adult or without a Leave Pass WILL NOT BE SERVED during school hours"
And you thought Singapore was draconian in banning students from arcades during school hours. Seriously, why would you hang out at a supermarket if you were playing hookey??? (also: half of people get cancer?)

I had a conversation about this with the guy at the counter:

"People could wagging (sic)" (to "wag" = to play truant)
"I wouldn't imagine the supermarket would be the first place you would go when you wag"

In my casual survey of establishments selling reading material during this Australia trip, I hadn't noticed anything more racy than lad's mags. Possibly that was because, following in the colonial tradition, there were topless photos in FHM and similar publications. There was Penthouse but it looked softcore. Meanwhile another magazine had a lot of girls who'd sent in topless pictures. I would theorise a substitution effect, but the UK has both types.

At a Shell in Alice Springs I noticed a "Picture Magazine", "People" and "Home Magazine" (the last might be a mistake on my part - this seems to be a home decoration magazine), but all were softcore; here is an interesting (NSFW) page by someone who took photos for Picture:

"Picture 100% Homegirls features mainly Australian models or visitors shot in Australia and of all the "Australian"   men's nude magazines is probably the closest one where you may have a possibility of seeing a model from the magazine walking down your street or in your local shopping centre, or local club. All of the other nude magazines have features from overseas sources and cannot truly call themselves "Australian" in content.

100% comes out in two varieties, a softer version for Queensland to protect our delicate northern neighbours and a more explicit sealed version available in the southern states."

Picture Magazine and People were unsealed at IGA supermarket and also marked M (for those above 15 years old - boys become men early here) and as I suspected they were softcore (though they had ads you'd expect in a bona fide adult magazine). Picture had a "home girls" section, with pictures of "real" girls. One was very fat, so they were really real girls. Perhaps Australians must visit specialised adult stories for their pornography.

Incidentally, Picture Magazine describes itself hilariously:

"For almost 21 years now, The Picture has been the average Aussie bloke’s first stop for funny local stories, jokes, stunning nude girls, bizarre photos, puzzles with swear words in them and advice columns written by strippers. A weekly magazine squarely aimed at anyone who has a sense of humour and likes looking at women without their clothes on, it’s always chock-a-block with the cream of Australian womanhood in all their naked glory. We call them Home Girls, and they’re not supermodels – they’re real women you could meet at the shops, in the pub or at the bus stop. There isn’t another mag on the planet that looks at the world the way we do: through a pair of beer goggles. The Picture – don’t let the name fool you. There are words in it, too.

Editor Shayne Bugden:
“I’m quite possibly the only person in Australia who never wakes up and thinks, ‘I don’t want to go to work today.’ That’s easy to say when your work consists of looking at photos of stunning nude women, laughing at crude jokes and reading some of the funniest journalism going around – which is exactly what The Picture is all about.”

I then went back to the "Thai" place. The best Tom Yum soup I'd ever had had been in Palo Alto, since there'd been no chili inside to obscure the taste of the other ingredients. I thought I could profit from a similar experience here, since this was not an Asian country.

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I asked for Tom Yum Chicken with no chili and complained that in Asia I couldn't find Tom Yum without chili.

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I was annoyed that this had chili in it and confirmed the fact. The lady said "No. Don't cry". In fact, it was quite spicy, and mediocre to boot. She said it was just Tom Yum paste, but maybe it was from a packet. She said she didn't put "black chili" inside - maybe she'd just left out chili padi.

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"Non Indian Selection" at an Indian restaurant. Incidentally the rest of the menu was unhealthy.

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"A&W Creaming Soda"
This sounds quite wrong. Also spot the fudge in unit pricing.

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Draconian alcohol policy (even worse than the Americans). Singapore has a Casino Exclusion List - here they have a Banned Drinker Register.

The alcohol was in a different part of the supermarket, in its own room. And there was a checking station.

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Minced meat for cats. Uhh...
(also: duck fat! wah)

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"Business or pleasure. Pack condoms" (notice in hostel toilet)
Australians must be really horny. I don't normally see so many condom ads when abroad.

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Jim Cotterill wants a female assistant. Presumably they don't have sexual discrimination laws in Oz.

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I doubt anyone replied to Polly. This is quite a sneaky way of screening potential travel mates to ensure that they have the desired demographic qualities. Though I don't know why "share" was not translated.

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More guai lan-ness from the hostel guy

There was a young French couple in our room. They'd been on a working holiday, and had worked for 6 months in Melbourne. They wanted to travel for 6 months but realized they’d be bored so they planned to leave Australia 3 months earlier (at the end of September instead of the end of December).

They said they earned more doing casual work in Oz than in France as engineers (they were both civil engineers). They took a week to find work in Australia, but it would take 8 months in France.

We saw shit on the Outback Highway. Probably from all the wild horses running around.

Fuel was cheaper at more major rest stops, which made sense (for example Kings Creek had charged $2.18/l, while Erldunda charged $1.83/l, and other places had charged $2.08/l or $2.13/l for a similar grade). We hadn't been very strategic in our refueling strategy, so we resolved to do better. Given that gas was $1.629/l at Alice Springs we were losing a lot of money to it.

Road trains (trucks pulling 2 or more trailers) are a traffic hazard, since they're so long.

There's nothing to do in Alice Springs. Apart from the Reptile Centre and Desert Park (which covered a bit of the former) and maybe the Telegraph Centre there was nothing to do. Of course we'd anticipated this, which was why we'd planned to spend so little time there.

In the Alice Springs hostel, there was one guy who'd rented a camper van for the past 3 weeks. He'd been in Australia for a month and was going to be there for 3 more. I told him he'd be bored, and he sadly agreed.
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