John Hayes Rockhole

Last November 2016, we decided to visit a new place – John Hayes Rockhole. We hadn’t been before because it requires a 4×4, and we didn’t have one.  BUT, we had friends who did – so we planned a trip out there!

It’s just a little more than an hour away from Alice Springs, so it’s a great day trip. There’s also a camp ground out there, so if you want to make a weekend of it, you can, and it’d probably be a lot of fun.

You head south out of Alice Springs, make the first left onto the Ross River Highway, and then you continue on until the turnoff for Trephina Gorge, another favorite of mine.

Then you proceed for about 4km down a bumpy road. The sign says it’s for high clearance vehicles only (although, if you go slow, most vehicles will be able to make it. It’s bumpy and a little rocky, but the rocks aren’t too high).

Once you park up, you have a couple of options. There’s a nice 90 minute walk that takes you up and over and then through the chain of ponds (the hike’s namesake). If you’re not up for the walk, you can do the short walk into the rockhole. As long as it hasn’t been too dry, there’s usually water in there. For the trekkers and campers, you can hike the Ridge Walk to Trephina Gorge, which the sign says takes 6.5 hours. Make sure you bring water – I don’t think there’s much shade!

We decided that we’d go to the rockhole first. There was indeed water in the rockhole, and after climbing around for a bit, we decided to climb the rocks up to the trail. This is not an endorsement of our climb, since there’s a marked trail that actually takes you up to the top, but it seemed like a fun option at the time.

Since we went backwards, we walked though the chain of ponds first.

And then you steadily climb to the top of the ridge. The views were great!

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The view from the top, looking down into the valley from where we started

And, at the end of the walk we almost ran into a perentie!

What a fun day!

You can find more information about the park here, on the NT gov website: https://nt.gov.au/leisure/parks-reserves/find-a-park-to-visit/trephina-gorge-nature-park.

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Ballarat

In November 2016, so more than a year ago at this point, we went to Ballarat to visit Kevin’s old college roommate and longtime friend, Doug, and his partner Kate, and their two boys, Charlie and Max. They have kept in touch over the years, and now that Kevin and Doug were both living in the same country, a trip was quickly planned!

There’s a surprizing number of things to do in Ballarat. As a foreigner, and someone who would not have otherwise made it to Ballarat, I am happy we had a reason to go! There’s a lot of history there; it was definitely worth visiting!

From Alice Springs, we flew into Melbourne. It was an emotional day (see this post for why). The next day, we took the train from the Southern Cross Station all the way to Ballarat. It took just under an hour and a half to get there. Doug met us at the Ballarat train station (reminder: don’t forget to “tap out” upon exiting the train station. If you don’t, you will be charged the max price for using the train.).

Doug picked us up, and that afternoon we went to the Ballarat Wildlife Park. I am usually not a fan of zoos, but this had the feel more of a neighborhood park than a zoo. They also have different sessions where you can interact with some of the animals. Admission is $35.00 AUD an adult, but there are deals to be had with family prices and yearly memberships.

When we were there, they also had an enormous salt water crocodile. This crocodile had escaped some other enclosures in the past, so it seemed even more frightening than it would have normally. He did not seem “happy” per se, but I believe when the Wildlife Park offered to take him, it saved him from a much worse fate.

One of the more interesting animals there was the wombat. They have a couple of wombats there, included the oldest one in captivity, Patrick (update: Patrick sadly passed away after we were there in April 2017). It’s a good way to see some of the more unique animals in Australia.

The next day we went to the state fair. It was a Friday, but the kids were out of school. These fairs occur all around the country, and when it arrives in your town, it’s a local holiday and government run institutions are closed (pretty neat!). They had various rides and animals to entertain yourself with. There is also something called a “fair bag” – it’s a goody bag you can buy that is packed with sweets and toys. Depending on what is inside, the bags can be pretty pricey!

That evening we went to a town park. We had a nice walk, and then had a picnic.

The next day we went to another park. We had a lovely time walking along the trail. There was a bike path that criss crossed back and forth as well, and if you like mountain biking, seemed like it would be a lot of fun! After that, we went to Lake Wendouree and explored the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and the Ballarat Tram Museum.

The next day was rainy, which made it a good day to see the MADE museum, the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, which commemorates an uprising of miners against the colonial Victoria government. That uprising became known as the Eureka Uprising. Going through the museum reminded me that we as individuals can control our destiny, and that an oppressive master can be broken.

The following day we went back to Melbourne. We took advantage of the day we had there and enjoyed exploring the city. We also went to the Immigration Museum, which explores the last 200 years of immigration to this continent, including the discriminatory policies the Australian government adopted, known as the “whites only policy”. It was well worth the $15.00 AUD admission, and the topic is still relevant today.

That night we stayed on a boat we booked on Airbnb. The trip started on a low note due to the results of the US election, but as luck would have it, it was an incredibly enlightening place to go. Not only we were surrounded by good friends, but we were able to study the challenges that have consumed human beings for centuries. Invasions, slave-like conditions, injustices, and racist and discriminatory practices – these actions of man against another person are not new, but in studying how we fought back against oppression in the past, we can hopefully continue to fight for what is right.