"Don't climb Uluru!" Australia by kit_mc
Australia Travel Guide: 48,703 reviews and 128,521 photos
I've been lucky enough to have been to Australia twice now. The first time, at the height of their summer over Christmas and New Year 2001/2002, I went and hung out with my relatives in Sydney, who showed me such great hospitality and kindness that I was quite happy to potter about finding my way around the city and not straying much further afield.
I did however manage a trip overnight in Canberra, a day trip to the Blue Mountains and a few days in Melbourne visiting my pen-friend of many, many years, so I felt like I'd seen enough to make a bit of a judgement on the place - I liked it very, very much! This partly surprised me as I've always considered myself a bit of a Europhile, as a look at the travels on my VT pages will probably confirm.
I love Sydney, my favourite place there is Balmain where I stay with said relatives. The icons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House never cease to take my breath away. My favourite thing to do in Sydney is to take the ferry from Curcular Quay to Balmain. In many ways though, I find Sydney so big, geographically speaking that it's difficult to say where its 'heart' is.
I have to say though I really enjoyed Melbourne, particularly arty-farty, coffee shop Brunswick. Melbourne's a city I reckon I could happily live in. It's maybe a bit sad of me to say that the thing I like most about it is it's European flavour - you travel so far and yet it's the city's European style, most likely influenced by the large immigrant Greek and Italian populations and the famously changeable weather - that makes it for you. But I think Melbourne is in many ways the most cosmopolitan and cultured city in Australia.
So after spending 4 weeks in the 'Lucky Country', it was time to come back to London, miserable as hell, thinking about my next trip south. Gosh was I down! I really loved Australia, its friendly people, great weather and clean liveable cities, not to mention the excellent wine. So I was kind of interested to know how I would feel on my return trip 3 and a half years later.
So, June 2005 I returned to Australia for just over 3 weeks, primarily in order to undertake research for my Masters in Anthropology of Material Culture. On my first visit to Australia, I visited the (then) newly opened National Museum of Australia [NMA] in Canberra. Being a bit of a museum fanatic, I was really struck by this fantastic new museum and the novel ways it attempts to tell the Australian 'story' (or rather, stories) through its artefacts, exhibits and architecture. This time I was coming back to interview staff and visitors on their opinions about the NMA and the concept of a museum of the nation.
I've also been doing a lot of work in the MA on the notion of contested landscape, essentially, that landscape is not some static space that we simply live in or use, but that we construct the landscape around us socially - that our perception and understanding of (a) landscape(s) differs based on our social experiences and backgrounds: age, gender and sexual orientation as examples. This is a particularly interesting country in which to look at this topic as it's both a multi-cultural (around 98% of the population will be of immigrant stock having arrived within the last 200 or so years) and a bi-cultural nation (around 2% of the population identify as being from the Torres Strait Islander or Aboriginal Australian peoples). It's a country coming to terms - albeit with limited success in my opinion and certainly in stops and starts - with a highly contested history: a violent history involving the marginalisation and attempted annihalation/forced assimilation of its indigenous peoples.
I visited this time round then with a different take on Australia's landscape and politics, more informed, less naive perhaps than the fairly rose tinted view I'd had previously. Oh, and of course, having had a three year relationship with a Queenslander in the meantime may have influenced my views this time around.
While the visit was planned with work rather than pleasure in mind, I did nevertheless manage to get in some vacation time in for 7 days in Brisbane and Uluru. The itinerary was fairly full overall and I'd pretty much had my fill of airports by the end of it!
Sydney - Canberra - Sydney - Uluru - Brisbane - Canberra - Sydney
After spending a total of almost two weeks in Canberra (and in winter too!) I certainly have a few opinions about the city, not all of them are good... Living in London it's quite a shock to be in a national capital with a population of only 300,000 that's also a total 'planned' city where very few buildings are over 50 years old.
I only spent a few days in Brisbane and the Gold Coast but managed to get a fair overview of the place as I was staying with locals. It seems a very liveable city, not that big, but it has a lot going for it. I also obtained the obligatory pics feeding kangaroos and holding a koala at the Lone Pine Sanctuary - I'm a sucker for cute anilmals so that pretty much made my stay in Queensland.
The highlight of this trip though was definitely Uluru (still known by many, too many, as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). This was an absolutely amazing place and I feel privileged to have seen such a world icon of landscape firsthand. Truly once you are there you begin to gain some understanding as to why this is such a sacred place for its Aboriginal owners.
The Australian pages will no doubt be a work in progress. I'm hoping to be able to write a bit of a travelogue for Uluru and Kata Tjuta - I have some particularly strong words to say about those individuals who choose to disregard the requests of the Aboriginal owners of Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park and insist on climbing 'The Rock'... I mean, would you climb onto the alter at St Paul's Cathedral or expect to wander at will through a mosque when you've been told its not appropriate?
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