"Fourteen Weeks" is a series of updates that Ethan Gelber and Jane Higgins wrote
as a means of staying in touch with friends and family as they traveled around the world in 2002 and 2003.
|A BIG HINT:|
Hold the mouse over the small pictures to view the caption
and then click on any the picture to see a larger version.
First 14 Weeks (2002) — Part One: Introduction | Part Two: Australia | Part Three: Hong Kong | Part Four: Africa
Second 14 Weeks (2002) — Part One: Introduction, Ireland | Part Two: Europe and U.S. | Part Three: Europe | Part Four: North America
Third 14 Weeks (2002–2003) — Part One: Introduction, U.S. | Part Two: Mexico, Brazil | Part Three: U.S. | Part Four: U.S., Australia | Part Five: U.S.
Fourteen weeks ago . . .
Thirteen weeks ago, after taking tearful leave of Jane's mother, Leonie, and sisters, Katie and Robyn, after a short flight to Melbourne and a few welcoming nights under the roof of Mark (a former Oxfam colleague of Jane's), Janet and Rory, and after a visit to Lonely Planet's headquarters, Jane and I met her father, Peter, and the three of us hit the tarmac in a white Ford Falcon station wagon that would wheel many (many) thousands of kilometers along the Stuart Highway slicing through the heart of Australia's horizon-filling Red Centre. But first we skirted the southern coast on the Great Ocean Road, taking in Victoria's Twelve Apostles (a series of sea-battered coastal rock pillars) and dodged a few raindrops. Then, two days past Adelaide (and a petrified forest, a mountain called Remarkable, and an Alligator Gorge without any of its reptilian namesakes), we hit the hot, dry and endlessness I had longed to see. Vast space can never be rendered in just a few words (as a forest can never be depicted using a single short straight line), but -less comes to mind as a most fitting suffix.
Twelve weeks ago, we circumnavigated Uluru (the traditional Aboriginal name for what many people still know as Ayers Rock), following a flat walk that hugs the vertical undulations of the rock where it surges out of the surrounding plain. I am not a spiritual person, but sometimes one must confess to hard-to-believe things: There is something alive, living, throbbing about Uluru. It's the most energy-filled, anthropomorphic bit of earth I have ever seen, eroded into recognizable shapes and patterns, draped in a scaly changing, oxidized hide, bent and stretched (almost moving) over a massive frame and space. We walked in virtual silence, trying to understand the importance of caverns, overhangs, rock piles, gullies, water holes and more, most of which are of such significance to Aboriginal teaching and lore that their meaning is left untold and even photography is strongly discouraged. We did not climb the rock; although officially permitted, hiking to the top follows an Aboriginal trail the tracing of which is tantamount to scaling the main altar at Saint Peter's. Posted warnings request that visitors refrain. Hundreds climb anyway.
Eleven weeks ago, we spent a day paddling the rapids of Katherine Gorge — a day of wet to work out the kinks of ten days of dry. Not entirely dry, though. The Red Centre was not at all what I had suspected, which was more barren desert than the scrub- and bush-covered expanses we found. Apparently, this was the wettest (and greenest) winter in some local people's long living memory. Plus, we had made a two-day loop out of Alice Springs through waterhole-filled landscapes made internationally famous by Aboriginal artist Albert Namijira. Colors in contrast — the land against the sky — that may not exist anywhere else on this earth. This crazy earth, whose age could be read in the worn-down land even by the most novice geologist: low spines of up-thrust hills that were once higher than the Himalaya; a plain of soft rock that was once two kilometers (!) thicker than it is today (where did all that earth go?) leaving behind gorges etched through exposed harder strata. Magical.
Ten weeks ago, with a croc burger (washed down by an Emu brand bitter) in my belly, we looked out at denser and denser dusk blues settling over the bay south of Darwin. Coarse billows of storm-wrought clouds would eventually belch forth some of the liquid lashes known in this tropical part of Australia as the Wet. North of Katherine, we had crossed out of the sere interior and into a whole new forested land of humidity and fierce mosquitoes. Water continued to be the theme. We had lounged in natural hot springs, roasted through a half-day trawling unsuccessfully for barramundi, and weathered fierce storms in Kakadu National Park (site of Aboriginal rock paintings and bird-filled wetlands), where we were also briefly stranded by a water-flooded motor (I wish I had known where the air intake was and to cover it when making that crossing) after braving a raging stream crossing that had been nearly dry the day before.
Nine weeks ago, after leaving Peter (and the Falcon) in Darwin, we wound down to our final days on the Australian continent with a flight to Perth. Jane's friend, Maurice (and her family), was our excellent host. We toured the city and surroundings, including Rottnest Island, where we braced against cold evening ocean waters for a quick snorkel and got to see some real live quokkas.
Our next stop: Hong Kong . . .
Copyright 2003-2004 Ethan Gelber. All rights reserved.