I wasn’t sure what to be more in awe of - Melbourne’s chic, graffiti-inked walls or our mentor, Anthony Ham’s insights on the world of travel writing, while nibbling on fresh fruit at the Lonely Planet office. He regaled us with tales of Maasai Warriors by day and took us out to Tapas bars and Thai restaurants by night. It was a good life, peppered by visits to hidden gems like the Woodlands Historic Park, where I had my first brush with the curious ‘roos and then stolled through a Victorian Market selling everything from Macadamia nuts to Wallaby meat.
Being a greedy traveller, I asked myself where I could find aboriginal culture, adventure, spot a few crocs and perhaps have some natural beauty thrown in. Luckily for me, such a place does exist. As part of my first assignment, I was to document my experiences on the 3 day Kakadu Litchfield adventure by the friendly tour company – Adventure Tours Australia. From hiking up ancient rocks in search of aboriginal art to being awoken in the wee hours of the morning by playful wallabies, the tour was as a gold mine for a budding travel writer.
Straight out of an American western film, Alice Springs was a dusty ‘ol town literally in the middle of nowhere. Known as the Red Centre, owing to the red ochre of the sand in this region, it is usually considered a stopover to Uluru - the celebrated rock that some say has magical properties. While Uluru lived up to all its hype, it was Alice Springs that caught my fancy – what with its tavern with swinging doors, a solitary bookshop subtly called the ‘Red Kangaroo’, and a bunch of friendly aboriginal kids running up and down its streets.
For the last leg of my trip I tried not to have too much of a set agenda – a daunting task for someone who likes their travels planned to a T. But that’s when I overheard two passengers on the local bus talking about the possibility of spending a night moored on the Great Barrier Reef. So there I was, on the ‘Rum Runner’, a nifty little sailboat that took 12 of us right to the heart of the ocean – our home for the next two days.
While snorkeling or diving to the reef would have been a fitting conclusion to my road trip, it was an unexpected experience like this that stole the show. “Keep your eyes and ears open to stories, for you never know where one lurks.” Anthony’s words came back to me with resounding clarity as I reluctantly boarded my flight back to India.