Winter got you down? How about Australia? Sure it’s got deadly spiders, snakes and sharks, but they don’t stop people from coming here, never mind living here. And for good reason. From the prehistoric gorges of Kakadu National Park, to the white sails of the Sydney Opera House, Australia is a country as big your imagination.
Kick back on a beach as white as your mother’s wedding dress in Western Australia; lose yourself in the labyrinthine laneways of culture-rich Melbourne or be humbled by red desert sunsets over Uluru. Turn south to visit hundred year old giants that loom large in the forests of Tasmania or take on Sydney, a heady mix of surf, sun, money and sex, and you’ll soon realise Australia is a place to be discovered, not feared.
The locals seem to be cursed with an insatiable yen for the unknown and they bend to it willingly, fleeing for weeks, months even, into that vast spot in the middle called the outback. And it’s a big out back; you can travel indefinitely without coming within cooee of a phone call or an email. Nuts! Instead you have to make do with landscapes that shift from saffron to ochre beneath a seamless canopy of deep indigo.
And then there are ancient Aboriginal cultures, dazzling salt pans, secretive reptiles, rough-cut canyons and pristine gorges. Some Australians simply go walkabout, traversing national parks filled with such devilish critters as koalas, sugar gliders and knee-high wallabies. Others whiz through world heritage rainforests on mountain bikes or apply ropes to their limbs, chalk to their hands, truly skimpy shorts to their nether regions and scale lofty summits like bronze-backed insects. And some simply launch themselves into the sky with parachutes attached to their backs.
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Originally published on Lonely Planet.com, July 1, 2009.