sexta-feira, 1 de junho de 2018

Philippines itinerary, prices, accommodations, what to do and best tips

This post I tried to sum up and keep the skeleton of the best tips and reference of cost from a personal experience to the Philippines with the objective of helping people who like planning and travelling by themselves.

What I like most were their people and their values: fraternity, friendship, justice and happiness all the time.

Before start with the tips, a big thanks to Rosana Palla who makes this trip unforgettable, proposing the trip, planning and being an amazing company, Luke Faulkner for his awesome hospitality and the unforgettable Gaspar family from Apo Island.

I would say that my highlights from Philippines are:
1. Best waterfall: Kawasan (Moalboal)
2. Best sunset at the beach: Las Cabanas (El Nido)
3. Most strange but delicious food in Philippines: Balut
4. Best snorkelling from all my life: Siete Pecados (Coron)
5. Best Island: I owe you one. I have never seen a place with so many beautiful Island/beaches in my live. Seriously, one more beautiful than other
6. Big and friendly turtles from all my life: Apo Island
7. Coolest beach: Cloud 9 (Siargao)
8. Best nuts: pili. You must try it! I simply love it very much.
9. Best encounter: whale shark in Oslob
10: Best airport: Siargao

Now, let’s go to the details. The itinerary summary we made in 17 days, by order were:
1. Cebu (big city)
2. Moalboal (close to Kawasan Waterfalls and turtles/tune shoal) - 2 days
3. Oslob (Whale Shark encounter) - 1 day
4. Dauin (Apo Island - big sea turtle encounter) - 1 day
5. Siargao (caves, surfing, snorkelling, ecotourism, etc) - 4 days
6. Coron: islands trip, snorkelling, rock formation, hot spring water - 2 days
7. El Nido: snorkelling, hopping island - 4 days
8. Manila: destination to Sydney

General tips:
-1AUD = 38PHP (pesos)
-The best month for travelling in the Philippines is in April.
- Bring your snorkel mask. Many places are not included, and every time should be paid PHP150.
-buy a waterproof bag (20liters - PHP350)
- Get a water shoes over there, mainly for El Nido or Coron. There are a lot of rock formations and they rent for PHP100, however you can buy for PHP300 the simple one.
-Buy a SIM card (don't buy in the airport but in the city = PHP40, 2gb internet for two weeks = PHP100
-the best exchange rate was in Siargao - 38.5pesos = 1AUD
-bring cash, it is not easy to find an ATM
- Rent a motorbike to see more and be free. If you have never done you can give it a go.
-It is worth to download the map because internet is horrible in general.
-Use Uber or Taximeter if you get a Taxi.
-You can find accommodation for less than PHP1000 for double room with toilet
-Airline companies: Cebu Pacific, Scoot, Qantas, Airasia, Air-swift

Now, breaking down by place, you can see prices for transport, accommodation as a reference and also some local contacts that can help you.

From Cebu to Moalboal:
-PHP1800 taxi but using taximeter is cheaper than that.
-Moalboal is very close to the Kawasan Falls - 30 min by tuk-tuk (PHP150) or you can rent a motorbike.
-Beautiful sunset at the beach. Don’t lose it!
-Local contact: Jacquie - His Facebook is Rolly Gwaps. He works in on of the restaurants and organized everything for us in the island.
-Kawasan Falls is worth to spend a full day if you like waterfalls. It is very crystal-clear water and full of jumps. They offer canoeing which they show where is the best places to jump and do some water activity. Arrive before 8am to avoid many tourists. After 9pm is packet.
-Fish Island in Moalboal: it is not worth. It's a standard island close to the main beach - Moalboal Beach, and we must pay island fee. You can stay in front of the Moalboal Beach where everything can be seen: tuna, turtles. Probably it's worth to pay a native to help you to find the turtle and tune shoal as they know where they are.

From Moabal to Oslob:
-Taxi from Moalboal to Oslob after long negotiation = PHP1400. Or local bus for 65 per person.
-Swim with whale sharks for 30 min. It opens 5 am for registration, and 6 am for whale watching. It costs 1000 for the project.
-We stayed in Sharkly Hostel, very close to the project which helped us to be the first group.
-Sumilao Island (PHP2000 per boat negotiated in front of the beach - boat with 11 people).  Sumilao is a piece of white sand in the middle of the turquoise water. It is not a place for snorkelling, but it is a beautiful island.

Oslob to Apo Island (Dauin City):
-Boat to Dumaguete = PHP60, after that a local bus (Easy Rider Company = PHP20 until bus station. Local bus to Apo island = PHP50.
-The boat costs PHP2500 for four people, and it is not negotiable. If you have more people, you can reduce the price. It was worth to go as it was the best place to see huge turtles in the Philippines.
-Accommodation in Dauin: Contact a beautiful Garcia family on Facebook: Garcia Jeanz Baylon or Vandz Garcia or Welmar Garcia. They helped us with everything, local events, food, transportation, etc.
-We stayed in a double room for PHP600. It's close to the place to go to Apo Island. The place we stayed was in front of the bus stop in the main road - National Highway, “Apo Island Stop”.
-Tumagong Falls: it will be for the next trip.

From Apo Island (Dauin) to Siargao:
It was quite tough. We need to go to Dumaguete, Cebu, Surigao e Siargao via the local bus, local ferry, aeroplane Company. There is a boat limitation, and it is better to organise in advanced. We spent two days to get there because of the departure' boat time.
From Dauin to Dumaguete: via bus/tricycle
From Dumaguete to Cebu: there is a boat, bus and aeroplane
From Cebu to Siargao: there is a direct flight, but it was full as it is just once per day. We went to Surigao by flight, close to Siargao and then from there; we took a local ferry. Surigao to Siargao the ship is only 5 am to 11 am.  If you need to buy the ferry boat from Surigao to Siargao, You can buy directly from the company for PHP50. The hotel will charge PHP200. Another option is going by night boat from Cebu to Siargao, but it is only 7 p.m.
-If it is needed to stay in Surigao because of the time boat departure, there is an excellent hotel with a reasonable price: The Grande Suites Hotel (PHP1350 double room including breakfast, dinner and transfer from and to the airport or port). However, there is no much to do in this city, filthy and miserable city.

-It will be the new promising tourism attraction in the Philippines due to topography and geology: caves, mangroves, marine ecosystems, ecotourism, game fishing, etc.
-It's better to stay at General Lune as most of hostels, markets, stores and surfers are there. But other cities from this Island have their own tourism as well.
-Siargao Airport in Dallas City to General Luna Suburb: local bus (tricycle) to share with local people PHP20 each. Ask for that! It is very close to the airport. If not, you can pay PHP200 for private tricycle.
-We stayed 4 days but wishing to stay longer and explore better all island.
-Magpupungko pool in Pilar: walk on the left side of the beach to see the lagoons. Better to go in the low tide. PHP70 fee each.
-Tayangban Cave in Pilar: PHP70 each. You cross the cave under the water for 20 min walking.
-Pacifico Beach in San Isidro: It's a beautiful resort and you can use fresh water for showering in front of the beach/resort (it was the only shower I found in Philippines). The food is fantastic with a beautiful view of the ocean. The highlight of this restaurant is the dessert, hot chocolate cake with homemade ice cream It was the best ice cream I ate in Philippine.
All these three attractions can be done in 1 day: Magpupungko, Tayangban and Pacifico Beach.
-Cloud 9: surfing destination - it is the top five breaks in the World. Stunning sunset and beautiful beach.
-Sugba Lagoon in Del Carmen, very green lagoon = 1600 boat for six people. Wait to achieve the big number of people, and it is worth as everybody is going there. Check to go in a high tide, if you can. Kayak/paddle for renting = PHP300. Very green lagoon to be explored.
-Island hopping at General Luna: Naked Island + Daku Island + Guyam Island: go in front and rent a private boat straight with the locals - PHP1500 boat.
-Sohoton Cave: we didn't go as it was a bit far.

Siargao to Coron:
- It needs to go to Cebu first. From Siargao city to the airport by van = PHP150 per person. From Cebu to Coron: by plane = PHP7500
-Two Kids Accommodation in the downtown. Very clean and organised (Double room PHP800 after negotiation - expect for a PHP1000 double room)
-Mount Tapyas: all city and Coron mountains can be seeing from the top of the hill, escalating only 800 steps. Go for sunset view.
-Daily Island Tour: Rainy Day Company (09777181782). Try to get the company which you can see Siete Pecados and Twins Lagoons. One of them is called “ Coron super ultimate tour” which costs PHP1600 per person (this tour was the most completed package considering the most famous spots).

-Siete Pecados+coral garden: This was the best snorkelling I have seen all my life. It is surrounded by corals in all levels from the top of the water to the deep bottom of the ocean. There are plenty of shoals from different fish sizes, colours and shapes. How deep you can go, more things to be seeing in the ocean. I feel like a little grain of sand in the big aquarium.
-Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake: both are very similar, with rock formations, mostly freshwater and crystal clear turquoise fresh water, it can be seeing shrimps, fishes and shelves.
-Skeleton wreck can be skipped as it is just a wreck under the ocean
-Twin lagoon: it is composed by 2 lagoons separated by stones. Beautiful blue and green water.
-Maquinit Hot Spring: it's one of the few hot salt springs water in the world as most of them are with fresh water. You can clean all your body just staying there.
-Bali Beach: close beach from Coron. One day trip covers this spot for eating. The view from Coron Mountains is stunning. Fee entry = PHP50.
-Cabo Beach: second close beach from Coron.

Coron to El Nido
PHP1750 by ferry. Timetable 8 am or 12 pm from Monte Negro Company

El Nido
Once arrived in the port, walk to the town which takes 2 minutes. There is no need for the tricycle.

Famous boat trips PHP Best spots
Boat Trip A: 1200 - 7th Commando Beach, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon (plus kayak rent = PHP400)
Boat Trip C: 1400 - Secret Beach, Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach
Boat trip D: Cadlao Lagoon, etc
Best trips are A and C.

El Nido Tips:
-Every trip must pay environmental fee = PHP200. Keep the number/paper and get discount of 200 for the next trip. If not, you have to pay again.
-If you need to rent snorkelling or water shoes, go to the diving stores which is PHP50 each. At the beach, it will cost PHP100.
-The best deal is to rent a private boat at the beach with locals, negotiate with someone else and go earlier, for example, 7:30 am, to avoid tourists in the main touristic sites. It is packed and worth to see the paradise without so many boats and people to dispute the view with you.
-Rent a motorbike to go to the beaches around El Nido: PHP400/day.

Northern Beaches:
Duli Beach: the road was terrible and wasn't worth though.
Nacpan Beach: this is the famous beach in El Nido with a lovely sunset. The water is crystal clear and turquoise.
Duli Beach (close to the airport): the sand is a bit dark, but there are many trees for lying down and resting under the shade.
Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall: Minimal, not too much water. What I don’t think is worth.
Southern beach:
Las Cabanas: best sunset I have ever seen! Must do it! 15 min from the city by motorbike. Zipline to Maremegmeg Island. PHP700

-Taraw Cliff: we didn't make it, but there is a beautiful view from El Nido. PHP500.
-Accommodation: Og Inn Hostel - in front of the beach = PHP1000 double room with toilet. Cheap, perfect location, breakfast included. Best deal ever.
Local tourist guide: Bensor Pendon - he can negotiate cheaper than agencies as he talks directly with the boats - Bensor Pendon on Facebook - El Nido -09365527823
Agency: in case you prefer an agency, Infinity Tour El Nido - 0955-5013164. Facebook: infinitytourelnido. They are honest and have a reasonable price comparing with others. The motorbike we rented with them with discount = PHP400.
El Nido to Manila:
-Lio Airport: very organised, free coffee and snacks. Ticket = PHP7000/person. Air-swift Airline or AirAsia Airline

We didn't see but we wanted to:
-2h from Cebu
-Chocolate Hills
-Snorkeling at Alona - Panglao
-Flight from El Nido to Caticlan
-They are building a huge casino. The beach is closed for 6 months.
-White beach, sunset, party beach
-Sunset: Diniwid beach
-Island Hopping

Some Local Food you must try:
Balut (developing bird embryo) – food street
Fry peanuts with chilli – food street
Pili Nut – delicious nut from the volcano area in Philippines
Halo Halo – dessert
Ube Ice Cream – dessert
Taho – dessert

domingo, 24 de janeiro de 2016

Figure 8 Pool can be a nightmare instead of a breathtaking view

Today I´m glad to be still alive by the mercy of God. With a couple of friends, our goal is to find the Figure 8 Pool in the Royal National Park, the new spot that has dramatic increase the visitation in the last month after social media @figure8pools. What we were looking is something like this but what we´ve found was a huge wave that we couldn´t run away from it winched us from the rocks. Four people was rescued by helicopter (today in the News) and the major hurts themselves with cuts and lacerations.

What I felt more surprised is the number of Lifesavers whom were there after that accident, offering help to everybody even if it was a small cut. They were also showing us where the ambulance would be, a really impressive service for the Australian society that embarrassed me for sure.  

My objective with this post is to warn and alert people about the other side of Figure 8 Pool for everyone to make their own decision about what they want to see on their own risk.

To start with who is writing this post.

segunda-feira, 18 de janeiro de 2016

Chapada Diamantina – O que fazer na região

Chapada Diamantina – O que fazer na região
Faz literalmente 2 anos que fui pra Chapada Diamantina e só agora, motivado pela minha amiga Gisele que está indo pra lá, resolvi escrever sobre este lugar mágico que está entre os meus Top 5. Top 5 por ser o superlativo brasileiro e ter tudo em um só local: cachoeiras, deserto, cavernas, cidades fantasma, cemitério bizantino, pedra preciosa, caatinga, serrado, mata atlântica, frio, calor... e a cada hora uma nova descoberta na região.

Bem... começando pelo cartão postal da Chapada, a Cachoeira da Fumaça.

Cachoeira da Fumaça, Cachoeira do Riachinho (12km)
Vista da Cachoeira da Fumaça
Sem dúvidas o melhor mirante do local. O cânion de 400m de altura tem a maior cachoeira do Brasil em queda livre. E essa é a razão da água virar fumacinha que sobe em direção ao céu.  Depois da trilha, parada para banho na Cachoeira do Riachinho.
Tips: Comer o pastel de jaca na volta da trilha no Vale do Capão (parece palmito pois é feita com a casca da jaca e não a parte gosmenta)  

Se existe algum lugar zen é o Capão. A moda local é hippie (mas não é barato, viu?) e a proposta é vender água de coco ou correntinha na rua (brincadeira). Lá rola uns mega papo cabeça que não é conversa pra boi dormir, mas não vou nem entrar em discussão aqui, pois não é a proposta.

Pizzaria Integral Capão Grande
-Pizzaria Integral Capão Grande do Suíço. Restaurante mega sustentável, tem apenas 2 opções de pizza sendo ambas integral e vegetariana: uma doce e a outra salgada e não se fala mais nisso. O único açúcar por lá é o mel e tudo é orgânico, até a parede haha. O lugar é super descolado: teto de palha, mesa de pedra, garrafas de cerveja usados como tijolo, água no filtro São João, trinco da porta de cano PVC, etc. Não tem talheres (pra quê, né gente?) e tem um mel delicioso com pimenta pra colocar na pizza ao invés de catchup. Adooooorei.

Vale do Capão ao Vale do Pati (14km)
Casa dos Nativos
Essa é a trilha. O Vale do Pati é a maratona do esportista que tinha como meta percorrer e foi quase isso que encarei o percurso com minha cunhada corredora.  A vista do Vale do Capão, Serra da Lapinha, morro do Pati, planalto gerais do Vieira, do Rio Preto e afins é algo fenomenal. O Pati tem desníveis íngremes sobre pedras soltas, leito do rio, exposição a altura e o único meio de transporte é a mula. Não pega celular, telefone, hotel, hospital, não tem água quente, e mal e mal um pouquinho de energia vinda de poucas placas de luz solar.

O lance é ficar na casa dos nativos, últimas famílias remanescentes da plantação de café, antes do Parque Nacional. A comida é maravilhosa, super caseira e com uma pitada de Chapada - mamão verde, cactos, aipim, etc. O que não tem lá tem que ser trazido pela coitada da mula.
Tips: Largar tudo e sair gritando e cantando no planalto geral do Vieira, igual a Noviça Rebelde.

Vale do Pati: Gruta do Castelo e Cachoeira dos Funis (12km)
Entrada da Gruta do Castelo
Subida em uma baita serra da Lapinha com destino a Gruta enorme de quartzito. Nessa trilha o exercício não é apenas squat mas os membros superiores se agarrando nas árvores tipo Koala. A trilha me lembrou o Morro do Baú em Gaspar/SC, a mais difícil em toda a mi há vida, feita com meu pai e o Quintani. Não sei se os dois se lembram mas tiveram que me empurrar pra cima em grande parte desta trilha.

Foi muito esforço pra nem ver a casa de kryptonita do Super Homem. O quartzito é um pó branco que brilha um pouquinho mas sem um “wow factor”. Final da trilha, um mergulho rejuvenescedor na Cachoeira dos Funis.
-Deitar na pedra no Final da Gruta do Castelo e olhar pra cima vendo os pingos de água caírem de forma desorganizada por causa do vento e voarem como mosquitos pelo ar pelo Vale do Rio Pati.
-Mentalizar de que não existe cobra pois se bobear, pegará nela achando que é mais um galho de árvore. By the way, bota é super recomendado, pois 90% das tentativas de mordidas de cobras são até a canela das pernas. E se for picado, só uma mula pra te tirar de lá literalmente.

Cachoeirão por Cima (18km)
O nosso guia - em direção ao Vale do Pati
Vista de cima do Cachoeirão, foi o meu trecho preferido do Pati (acho que porque era plano haha). É uma cachoeira num cânion com várias quedas (quase 20) sendo a maior de 300m. Recomendo pra quem quer vencer o me do de altura (é verdade que quem tem medo de altura é porque quando vê altura quer se jogar?).

Do Vale do Pati ao Guiné (15km)
Cemitério Gótico Bizantino - Igatu
Caminhada atravessando os Gerais do Rio Preto terminando a expedição com uma vista da Serra do Esbarrancado no povoado do Guiné. Dormimos em Mucugê, uma das cidades mais antigas da Chapada, têm uns casarões antigos de estilo Português e um cemitério Santa Isabel, estilo gótico bizantino, encravado no pé de serra que merece e muito a visita.

Cachoeira do Buracão – Igatu (6km)
O nado até o Buracão
Meu Deus o que é essa cachoeira. Não sei se algum dia vou ver algo que se compare com essa, e olha que já estou meio rodada, viu? Não falo da cachoeira em si, mas o jeito que se chega e o desconhecido se aproximando a cada metro. Pra começar, se atravessa a mata atlântica, cerrado, caatinga, o escambau, pula-se a ponte e nada-se em um rio estreito cercado por uma parede de pedras em camadas.  

Em direção ao arco-íris 360 graus
Mas no final como recompensa, realizei vários desejos neste lugar: descobri que arco-íris pode ser de 360 graus e eu ainda posso estar no meio! (fique em baixo da cachoeira às 12h e vc tb o verá), pulei daquelas pedras igual canguru,  fiz massagem no dedão do pé até o cabelo (na Cachoeira das Orquídeas e também hidromassagem na super banheira natural. Gente, pra que eu preciso de mais? Comer um boi inteiro depois do passeio, lógico.
Massagem relaxante na Cachoeira das Orquídeas
Hidromassagem natural

Igatu, Poço Encantado e Poço Azul
Poço Encantado
Igatu: vila com menos de 400 habitantes, com as casas feitas de blocos de rocha do garimpo de diamante. Alguns chamam inclusive de Machu Pichu baiano. A vila também foi tombada pelo patrimônio histórico e artístico brasileiro, dando um ar bucólico e pacato na a região.
Tips: se hospedar na pousada em Igatu – Flor de Açucena. É quase como uma programação a parte de tão integrada com a natureza e aconchegante aquele lugar. Tirei foto de cada quina do lugar.

Poço Encantado: um grande espelho mágico é a imensa piscina natural de água azul turquesa com 60 metros de profundidade, dentro de uma gruta de calcário. Dá medo só de ver de tão cristalino e inacreditável, pois não dá pra saber onde começa a água e onde termina sendo que é possível ver até a pedrinha que fica a 60m de profundidade. Um raio de sol cruza o poço até o fundo através de uma entrada de luz criando um espectro maravilhoso principalmente entre os meses de abril e setembro. 

Poço Azul
Poço Azul: um luxo só onde ainda se pode fazer flutuação no interior da gruta. Também de águas cristalinas, a profundidade é de 20 metros e dá pra observar as formações rochosas e alguns seres vivos, tipo camarão.
-Ir depois das 14h pra ver a incidência da luz solar no poço azul.
-Não fazer xixi no poço haha.

Gruta da Lapa Doce, Gruta Azul, Gruta da Pratinha, Rio Pratinho, Pai Inácio (5km)
Iraquara é famosa por seu subsolo de rochas calcárias que permitiram a formação de grutas e cavernas com formações rochosas raríssimas. O passeio deste dia foi 5 em um.

Gruta da Lapa Doce: complexo de caverna com 20km mapeados mas apenas 850m pra visitação. Pra quem gosta de caverna irá adorar esse lugar.

Gruta Azul: logo translucido que ganha tons azulados entre 14h e 15h (abril a setembro). Ela é fechada pra mergulho mas a gruta da pratinha é aberta, que fica no mesmo complexo.

Gruta da Pratinha
Gruta da Pratinha: dá pra fazer flutuação na parte interna da gruta, em um túnel escuro  com saída para um lago com águas cristalinas mais parecido com praia. Tem uma tirolesa de 85m no local e passeios de caiaque pra quem estiver afim.

Morro do Pai Inácio
Pai Inácio: Atrativo mais clássico da chapada e garantia de likes no Facebook. São mais de 1000 metros de altura, com 360 graus de uma vista surreal. E a trilha nem é difícil, viu? Não faz nem cócegas na trilha do Pati.

Lençóis - Parque de Muritiba – Cachoeirinha da Primavera

Eu e a Jaca
Lençóis é uma cidade turística, tombada pelo Instituto do Patrimonio Artistico Nacional, já reinou e muito o coronelismo na época do garimpo de diamantes no século 19.
-Jantar a luz de velas na rua de paralelepípedo. Um charme.
-Em Lençóis fiquei no Espaço Luz Diamantina, uma pousada onde o casal também faz guia pararapel e escalagem.

Parque de Muritiba – Cachoeira da Primaveira: uma opção perto da cidade pra fazer em 3 horinhas de passeio.

Cachoeira do Sossego (14km)
Cachoeira do Sossego
Caminhada seguindo o leito do Rio Ribeirão até a Cachoeira do Sossego. Na volta, parada pra banho no Ribeirão de cima e do meio, conhecido pelo escorrega natural que termina no poço.

Cachoeira do Mosquito e Poço do Diabo (6km)
Cachoeira do Mosquito
Mais uma cachoeira linda com piscinas ao redor e banhos em cima e embaixo da cachoeira.

Última tip da Chapada Diamantina: todos os passeios que fiz foi através de uma agência local, Nas Alturas. Recomendo pela organização, tranquilidade, economia de tempo e pelo conforto já que muitos locais não são tão habitáveis assim.

Ao total foram mais de 100km bem caminhados nos 12 dias que passei por lá. Vi bastante coisa mas também faltou muita coisa pra ver como: Mini pantanal do Marimbus, Cachoeira do Calixto, Poço da Prefeitura, Cachoeirão por Baixo, Andaraí, Cozinha Aberta (2 irmãos), Poço do Diabo, Estrada do Garimpo (bike), Cachoeira Encantada e o que forem descobrindo durante a vida e quiserem compartilhar conosco.

. E se eu tivesse que eleger o Oscar da Chapada seria:

-Melhor cachoeira: Buracão

-Melhor sobremesa: geladinho de mangaba em Lençóis

-Pousada mais criativa e sustentável: Flor de Açucena – Igatú

-Melhor restaurante: Pizzaria Integral Capão Grande

-Melhor mirante: Morro do Pai Inácio empatado com Cachoeira da Fumaça (sorry, fiquei indecisa)

-Banho mais louco: poço encantado

-Maior quebra de paradigma: estar dentro de um arco-iris 360 graus.

-Obs: baseado estritamente na opinião pessoal de quem viu apenas parte da região.
Dedico este post a Wanessa, minha cunhada, que fez a viagem ser mais rápida, intensa e divertida, compartilhando a dor e as alegrias, e a Gisele, amiga querida que acompanhou este processo de aventuranças pela vida. Gisele, você vai chapar na Chapada!

segunda-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2015

Bush Tucker – the ancient plants that need to be discovered by the young people and Australians

Bush tucker can be from animals (kangaroo, emus, turkey, wallaby, snakes, lizards, etc), plants and fruits (wild orange, bush passionfruit, bush fig, bush tomato, bush banana, bush coconut, lemon myrtle, bush plums, bush onion-yalke, native lemongrass, bush yam-sweet potato, seeds and spices (wattle seeds, mulga seeds, ruby saltbush), insects (witchetty grub, caterpillars) or honey and nectars (honey ant).
However, because of the climate, some wild food/animals, which are not originally from the region have thrived in Central Australia’s desert, such as camel, dates, quandong, feral cat and bush honey.

Being there I could try some bush tucker and learn a bit about them with Kungkas Can Cook. Bush tomato, for example, is considered a treat, which is given to children, however, rarely are they found in the arid parts of Australia. Interestingly their growth is stimulated by fire to break the dormancy and germinate. As they don't grow in abundance the aborigines made a fruit ball to be hidden and stored for several years gave in little portions for their children (maybe it was the beginning of the protein balls! Haha). But it is not every bush tomato is edible and even for the edible ones a particular technique is used to eat them because most of them need to remove the poisonous part (or maybe this is the secret to keep us far from this delicatessen). For my taste buds it was bitter and reminded me of Vegemite (now I understand why Australians love this!). Bush tomato was the only “chocolate” some children got from the desert and they couldn´t keep away from this treat.

Another indulgence which is very difficult to find in the wild world is sugar bag - the honey made by 
Australian native stingless bees from the Western Desert. I got one from the Warlpiri tribesman who hunted it from wild nests. It’s real bush tucker. Even though sugar bar is a natural sweet substance originating from the nectar of flower like honey, it has its own special flavour, totally different.  It tastes like burned caramel with honey and propolis (it is also a little bit bitter, but enough to mix well with the sweet caramel). The flavour is out of this word and it’s a highly prized food for Aborigines who hunt it from wild nests.  

I also tried quandong the wild peach, saltbush dukkah, native salty herb, and wattle seed, which only germinates after bushfires and is a rich source of protein and carbohydrate in times of drought.

Next time I’m keen to try honey ants and a witchetty grub.

Honey ant is an ant that stores honey in their stomachs to share it with other ants when food is scarce. Because of their size, honey ants cannot move. Who tasted it say that is a very strong honey with lemon. Aboriginal women grab them from the nest into the ground.

Witchetty grub is a delicacy found in the roots of the witchetty bush. Women dig for them. Some people say that they taste like scrambled eggs and almonds.

I wish I could share this experience with every friend I have and this is the reason I am writing this post. If you have the opportunity to go there, do it and try as much as bush food you can. You will not regret it J. (more experience to be made in outback on this post). 

I’m happy to have Rayleen Brown from Kungkas Can Cook to share her culture and yummy bush food with me.

15 Things to Do in Alice Springs and Region

Today, Alice Springs is the main town in central Australia. There are heaps of things to do there and I couldn’t do everything I was planning to experience. Surrounded by a sea of red sand the size of Europe, Alice Springs attracted many famous pioneering characters. Alice Springs began its modern history as Stuart, a telegraph station on the Adelaide to Darwin line. Before that, the region was inhabited by Aboriginal people believing in an important figure there, the caterpillar (MacDonnell Ranges), amazing view from the airplane. I spent there only 2,5 days that wasn´t enough for me but and I can suggest some activities, such as:

Great for the nature lovers! It’s a huge area introducing to Central Australia - plants, animals, landscapes and people of the desert. There are more than 10 shows per day!  Every half hour you can learn more about the animals, aboriginal survival in the desert, kangaroo, dingo, etc. My favorite was the free flying bird show.

There are shows with the pet snakes, lizards, crocodile where you can give it a go to touch and work on your phobia. This park enables visitors to get up close and personal with these creatures. Due to the fact I am freaky about snakes, I could at least try to not die in front of one of them and it reduced my fear of them just a little bit.

Since I arrived in Northern Territory I was keen to eat bush food and I asked everyone how I could make it until I found Kungkas Can Cook cafe. OMG it makes me crazy!!! I tried fruits, bush honey, seed and heard the history how to get them, etc. It was so much new that I wrote in another post about bush tucker. I wish I could share this food with every friend I have.

4. The Didgeridoo Workshop
The workshop occurs every day in the city and explains how to play in one of the world’s oldest instruments. I’ve been playing wind instrument since I was a child and I confess that didgeridoo is not as easy to pick up as I was thinking.  Trying to make different sounds, vocalizing, harmony and taking in the tips on the rhythm, it is definitely something that you really need to practice much more.

It’s an amazing experience to learn about the stars over our heads. I had the opportunity to see the moon, Saturn, Antares in a stethoscope and ask as many questions as I could about our space.

20 minutes walking from the city, there’s a huge area to experience the Art & Culture of Central Australia. The Museum of Central Australia, Aviation Museum, Theatre, Expositions, Sculptures are held in this area that provides an integrated visitor experience. You can spend all day if you want, how many things you have in just one area.

7. West Macdonnel Ranger National Park
I didn’t go there but sounds like an amazing spot to see. The ranges stretch over 640km running east-west through Alice Springs. It is 250km west of town with many spots to climb and swim. In the desert there are not too many areas where you can find waterfalls, natural swimming holes and lakes so it is worth it.

8. Trail
It is a challenging 242km trek from Alice Springs towards the West, along the spine of the range, immerse in chasms and gorges. It is one of Australia’s most spectacular bushwalking and trekking experiences. No public transport runs to this area. I didn’t do it, maybe next time.

9. Olive Pink Botanic Garden
This itinerary you can do by yourself with a guided book showing you every wild plant from the desert (now boast over 600 plants). Don’t expect to see a huge rose garden but a lot of desert bush that maybe you’ve never paid attention to.

10. Anzac Hill Lookout
I don’t know what makes the sunset in the outback look like the moon so I wholeheartedly recommend you to see it in every opportunity you have there. One spot in Alice Springs is the Anzac Hill Lookout where you will have a great view of the town and the surrounding landscape.

11. Gem Cave Jewellery
This store in the city specialises in Australian Opal. It is so beautiful that I recommend 10 minutes to see the colourful and shiny Opal and the different types such as black opal, white opal, etc., which a little stone can cost more than AU$20,000 (Opal is one of the 10 most expensive stone in the World).
Apart from this, there are plenty of activities that I didn’t have time to do. Alice Springs is a modern town rich in history, attractions and offers different tourism. Each place has its own story to tell, for example, a doctor who had saved the lives of those living in remote areas with his airplane.  There is also an innovative project, which makes it possible for children living in remote central Australia to participate in school classes called the School of the Air.

What do do near Alice Springs

When people decide to go to the Red Centre, the most common place to visit is Uluru and the rest is plus, including the city Alice Springs. But there are too many things to do there that you can save more time to exploring the region. Ok, let’s start with the most famous icon of Central Australia.

12. Uluru
One of Australia’s most true blue Aussie icons of the outback is World Heritage-listed Uluru. You cannot miss seeing the sunrise and sunset on “the rock”.
Before the journey to Uluru, all visitors are invited to visit the Cultural Centre where you can understand about the importance of this region for the local environment and aborigines.
Uluru/Ayers Rock rises 348 metres from the desert (higher than The Eiffel Tower), 3,6km in length with a circumference of 9,4km and it is believed that Uluru extends for 5 km below the surface (Uluru is like an iceberg where most of it is under the soil).
At different times of the day the colours shift constantly, from pink to blood red to mauve, and the sky reflects also an indescribable colours composing with the rock. Looking how one big rock is in the middle of nothing make me astonished of the powerful God who put something so special there.
Uluru from the airplane
In Uluru you can find a hollow and the very scarce permanent water hole where animals and aboriginal people can survive in the desert and this is one reason that this location is so important. The rock also has plenty of symbology and signal; the aborigines don’t allow you to take picture to not “discover” their secrets. The rock count a big story about that woman should look after their children and have the right to defend them if necessary. Also there are sites with draws that means that is one area used to teach and spread their culture. You have some spots where only women are allowed or only men can visit (private area). Also you cannot climb the rock as well, in spite of this some companies continue to give tours to climb and people take their own risks.
Uluru is so far the World’s most famous monolith and this is the reason of thousands of people from all over the World go there every day. Everyone has a spot that is not in front of the others where you are be able to peacefully enjoy every moment.

13. Kata Tjuta – Valley of the Winds
Uluru and Kata Tjuta - separated by 30km
Kata Tjuta/The Olgas, literary means “many heads”. There are 36 rock domes of various sizes and the tallest dome is around 546 metres high. I don’t need to say there is a current of wind, do I? There are strong winds whip around the boulders and through the gorges. I spent there 4 hours doing the 7,4km hiking through creek beds, feeling the wind, domes and beautiful wilderness. I think walk between Kata Tjuta is more surprising than walk around the Uluru rock (both are separated by 30 km. In the middle and around them, nothing, ops, red sand.
Both of the complexes of rocks have water pool where animals come at night to drink it, which makes these areas sacred for aboriginals.

14. Kings Canyon
The Australia’s Grand Canyon in the Watarrka National Park reminds me again Chapada Diamantina – BA (Brazil). Walk around the rim of the canyon allows you to gaze down in awe at the sandstone chasm plunging 270 metres to the canyon floor. Into the depths of the chasm, there are luxuriant cycads around the permanent waterhole in the Garden of Eden with a tropical climate (only in this oasis, by the way). The Lost City is a breathtaking spot that looks like a huge beehive. The amphitheatre is also spectacular. Kings Canyon is my favourite track in Australia for sure.
I was impressed about the facilities in this remote area. You see stairs, bridge, signs, easy access into the valley of water holes and pool and smoking bins. The Garden of Eden is also a sacred place because of the pure water and people are not allowed to swim there.

15. Mount Connor/Atila
An imposing mesa located on a flat salt pan. The tourism bus stops there and I really wanted to walk in the salt dry lake but I couldn’t (no time for it). It’s look really nice and shiny in the distance. Some people commit mistake thinking that this pan is Uluru because is also something enormous in the middle of a big desert.

So, I described the famous spots and something I’ve learned there but if you know anything else, I’ll be glad if you share with me. I hope my purpose was achieved – share my experience in an inhospitable area in Northern Territory and learned a little about aborigines, history and ways to survive in the desert. I’m sure you will be surprised as I was after seeing it with my own eyes.

Ps: If you want to know 25 things to do in Darwin, see in this post.
And experiences in outback, click here. 

More information:

Termite Mound – the tallest non-human constructions on Earth

When I first saw a termite mound (more than 5 metres) I was confused with ants. People normally think this as they try to make a connection with something they have seen before. After a while I realized that termites are what I know as a “cupim” in Brazil.

Because I’ve never seen such a tall non-human construction on earth, I felt really impressed by them. The “castle” is really hard to break as they build the termite mound using grains of sand and saliva. They are amazing architectural feats complete with arches, tunnels, chimneys, insulation and nursery chambers. People in the region make bricks from termite mounds to build their houses or pubs since it is so robust.  

It is easy to see termites when they came with winds in the summer burning them in the light. Termites don’t have eyes like ants; they are transparent and very sensitive when exposed to sun and light. Actually the queen of a termite colony has wings to fly and find a new place to create her castle. The secondary reproductive members don’t have wings. If you tried to kill the termite colony, it is only possible after killing the queen. It doesn’t matter how many termites you are going to kill, the colony will survive as the queen is capable of producing over 30.000 termite eggs per day! Over her lifetime, a termite queen can produce upwards of 165 million eggs.

The incredible little queen reigns for 50-60 years until she dies. She has the power of the throne. The queen is so big (almost the side of a human hand) and cannot move. So, the workers surrounding the queen take care of her basic needs. When she dies, the colony dies and the mound becomes a free house for ants or bricks for humans’ house.
Termite bricks for human´s house
In this pub,  the bricks is from termites
Litchfield National Park
Another impressive building is the magnetic termite mounds that look like gravestones on the grass (big cemetery). The mounds are flat and huge. Every mound is cleverly aligned north to south to minimize the exposure to the sun and keeping the mounds cold for the termites. It is possible to see the termite mounds all over the Northern Territory, but the “official” place is in Litchfield National Park.

You can’t believe your eyes as you survey hundreds of two-meter-high termite mounds standing upright in the same direction, like enormous magnetic compasses.

I couldn’t kick the bucket without seeing it.

Outback – more than 20 new experiences to be made, impressed and seen there

Starting at the end, I can assure that it was for sure my best trip in Australia so far. I am not telling you that I didn’t like the others, but I really loved the new experience I had there and also I wasn’t expecting so much beauty. My objective of this post is to encourage people to go there and see the marvellous treasure Australia has with your own eyes.

Before travelling to Outback, the first thing came to my mind when I heard the word “Outback” was the amazing international restaurant I used to go in Brazil (by the way it is not from Australia). The second thing was the big rock and red sand. Every tourism agency I went to I could see packages selling attractions to the big rock and one day without thinking too much, I decided to give it ago. When I researched what to do there, I was impressed by the number of things the Northern Territory has to offer.

Sunrise - Uluru (left) and Kata Tjuta (right) - separated by 30km
Outback is the colloquial name for the vast desert region that comprises most of Australia’s interior (the arid Red Centre in the Northern Territory) and some of the most iconic landmarks in the world including Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Watarrka (Kings Canyon), Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles), the ancient Aboriginal rock paintings at Kakadu National Park and south of Tennant Creek. You will see hundreds of waterbirds and wildlife, the sandy red desert and lush parks and waterholes, vastness in land and diverse in culture.

The population is only 230,200 spread all over the Northern Territory, which means too much land for too few people. The number of males to females is the highest of any state or territory and the median age is the lowest in Australia (31,2 years). The proportion of aborigines is 30% (the highest proportion of all the states and territories).  Some research I did after the trip ;).

Northern Territory can be divided into 4 regions from North to South: Darwin Region, Katherine Region (Katherine Park), Barkly Region (Tennant Creek) and Central Australia Region (Alice Springs).

I did 10-day tour from Darwin to Alice Springs with Wayoutback Company. You can camp, track, cruise, spot wildlife with someone experienced. I also stayed 2 more days in Alice Springs and 1 more day in Darwin, but if I could do it all again I’d separate at least 3 extra days in Darwin and 4 extra days in Alice Springs not a part of the tour. During these “free days” you can get to know better the local culture, try the local food, visit aboriginal sites, explore the region according to your curiosities and I assure you (100% guaranteed) that you will be surprised by this experience. I confess that this region also reminds me a lot of my Country, Brazil. For example, places like Chapada Diamantina (BA), Bonito (MS), Mato Grosso (MS), Manaus (AM), Piratuba, (SC), etc.

It was in the Northern Territory where I had the opportunity to do and try many things that I’d never experienced before or at least it had been a long time since I had done them, such as:

1. Some of the most well-known and spectacular sights in Australia including Uluru, Kakadu National Park and Katherine Gorge and some of the sixty national parks and reserves in NT.

2. Spectacular breathtaking sunset and sunrise. OMG! I was on holiday, sure, but watching the sunrise and sunset was “a must do” every day. The colourful of the sky was indescribable. Every day, every minute, one unique show. 

3. Signs were everywhere. Seriously… even if I wanted to hide from them I couldn’t because I was surrounded by arrows. There were signs for lifts, stars, bridges, cigarettes bins, drinkable water, ecological toilets etc.  This really surprises me as I’d never seen such a good organization in such a remote area.

4. Eat green ants alive or if you are very lucky, the honey ants (I’ll be really envious of you if you could do it haha). For who wants to know the taste of green ants is a superpower citric which is impossible not to make a face while eating them. And the honey ants, people told me about, as I didn’t get a chance to try them, taste like honey with lemon, like a strong Chinese tea (Honey Lemon Tea). The aborigines eat honey ants as the honey ants stock honey in their bodies which is normally to be shared with the other ants if they don’t have enough food to eat.

5. Be shocked by the biggest castle of termites. I was so impressed that I wrote another post just telling a little bit what I learned about termites there. You will see thousands of them when you visit the Northern Territory and it is impossible not to ask questions about the tallest non-human constructions on earth.

6. Be surprised with the poorest and driest soils in Australia where plants, animals and people have created clever ways of surviving in such a harsh environment. Look outside the airplane how the desert looks like a big red ocean, which it once was in the past.

7. Sleep in the swag and wake up every hour to contemplate what my eyes couldn’t believe – the stars. I also couldn’t believe looking at people sleeping with ear plugs and eye patches!!! Waking up with a kangaroo near you in the middle of the night is amazing. 

8. Get a chance to know a little bit more about the stars, as you are in one of the amazing spots to look up the stars. Another point to make here is that the moon is different from my country. While Brazilian moon is a letter “C”, Australian moon is a smile J.

9. Ride a camel and learn the importance of this animal for this region, how people domesticate the wild camel. On this topic I can suggest the documentary “Track” about a girl that spent 10 months with 2 camels crossing the red centre. And there is also my favourite documentary called “Whipping Camels”.

10. See wild, pet, tiny and huge snakes all over the northern territory and witness the aborigines happiness when they find one to eat or show to the tourists.

11. See plenty of others animals in the wild or in the captive. See them in a way you’ve never seen before, kangaroos, wallabies, emus (the largest bird of arid Australia and well adapted to life in the desert), dingos, frogs that look like plastic or are fluorescent, touch lizards like blue tongue or the bizarre Thorny Devil, thousands of colourful parrots, visit a croc by taking a cruise along the Mary River or at night near your camp (their eyes are red with the flashlight). See the cane toad, a big pest that was introduced to Australia from Hawaii that spread all over the territory and neighbouring states killing native animals.

12. Cook food on the fire and try the yummy bread (called “damper”) in a pot on the fire. Eat fresh nuts from the Lily Water (aquatic plant looks like “Vitoria Regia” from Brazil) while you are doing the crocodile tour. Try bush tucker (bush tomatoes, quandongs, bush banana, etc. Learn more about bushtucker (another post) and how aborigines survive in the desert.

13. Be testimony to the numerous intentionally bushfires in order to manage bush and don’t feel bad about that. See many birds waiting to eat smoked BBQ.

14. Camp, find the best wood to make the campfire and assure that you are not going to be freezing at night.

15. Learn about aboriginal culture. Be reminded that you cannot explore all over the country as there are many areas that belong to Aborigines. Learn traditional dot painting and the symbology of the drawings.

16. Try to play or listen the enchanting didgeridoo. In this region one can do a workshop and realize that it is not as easy as you thought that it could be.

17. Learn how to throw a boomerang, the instrument used to kill animals to be eaten.

18. Stop and have a seat in the fascinating bush pubs and historic stock routes, talk with the owner, learn a little bit about the place.

19. Climb the gorgeous red earth bizarre rock formations as you are in a natural playground

20. Feel homesick. As I told you before, many areas reminded me of my country, Brazil.

21. Soak in the spectacular waterfalls or hot spring water.

22. Learn that Opal is not only a card to travel on transport services in Sydney but one of the 10 most expensive stones and from Australia.

I really encourage people to go there instead of focusing only on the coast. It is a true blue fair dinkum aussie experience for who wants to know more about Australia. The outback is unforgettable. And if you want some tips and keen on to give Outback a go, I wrote more a little bit (Darwin and Alice Springs) to be done and seen there.

Hope I could encourage you to visit Australia’s amazing red centre.