8 reasons to be crazy about Kauai

It’s very tempting to keep quiet about Kauai. I want to keep it all to myself. Just a 40 minute flight from Honolulu, but a world away in so many ways, Kauai is a place of raw beauty and laid back life. From the people to the roadside chickens, everything and everyone is pretty chilled out. And when you live somewhere so stunning, it’s easy to understand why. Here are eight reasons why Kauai takes my breath away:

1. The Nāpali Coast

From a zodiac speed boat, the Nāpali Coast seems to stretch on forever. The towering sea cliffs, dotted with waterfalls, sea caves and deserted beaches appear dramatically just as we round a peninsula on our Captain Andy rafting tour. The 27 km stretch of coast is best seen by boat or by helicopter, and we’ve zipped down the coastline on a speedboat so that we can get up close. We’re talking really close. The tides are with us today and the wind is behaving so we hold on tight as the captain backs the boat right into several of the sea caves that have been carved over time into the cliffs. We rise up with the water, which swirls and foams like the inside of a washing machine, before shooting back out on the wave. The trip has already been pretty spectacular, with pods of Spinner Dolphins accompanying us on the way down, and whales breaching left and right, but this is something else. You’ll bounce around on the boat, which many describe as a rollercoaster, but when the boat gets some air and you’ve got the wind in your hair, it’s one pretty awesome ride.

2. Jurassic Park comes to life

Much of Kauai is so remote and rugged that it can only be seen by helicopter. That means if there’s one place you’re going to tick this aero-adventure off your bucket list, make it Kauai. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters operate out of the airport and have a pretty slick operation. You’ll be checked in, given a briefing and then hopping into your helicopter in no time. It’s the ultimate birds eye view of the Garden Isle – dip into Hanapepe Valley, sidle right up to dramatic “Jurassic Park Falls” at Manawaiopuna, and hover inside Waimea Canyon, joining birds casually winging their way up to their perches on the rocks. Get a different perspective of the Nāpali Coast as you swing out to sea to look back at the sea cliffs from above.

3. Tip Top shape

Breakfast is big business in Hawaii. There are restaurants, buffets, even road side shacks that have a cult like following for their Loco Moco, but there’s one place on Kauai that’s famous for its pancakes, and trust me, it’s not what you’d expect. Tip Top Motel in Lihue looks just like an average motel from the outside. With an oddly large number of cars parked out front. And a line of people out the door. They’re not here for accommodation, they’re here for breakfast. The Tip Top Motel Bakery is legendary for its no frills, no fuss breakfasts. Head inside, wait for a table in the very casual diner-style seating, and order the macadamia nut banana pancakes. Delivered on a trolley, these pancakes are under $10 and served unadorned, but there’s syrup and butter on the table, and you won’t be leaving one bite behind.

4. Live the surfer lifestyle

If you’re after a taste of the surfer way of life, Hanalei Bay is the place for you. Famous for its dramatic headlands, and easy waves, the beach is filled with travellers trying out the sport, along with the pros who tackle the breaks further out. Best yet, the town of Hanalei has plenty of surf board rental spots. Get out there early, work up an appetite then hit Hanalei’s main street, a quaint, eclectic mix of shops, juice stands and restaurants. Order a huge smoothie from the colourful Aloha Juice stand, grab a burrito from Federico’s Mexican and settle in at a picnic table for a laid back lunch.

 

 

5. Back to the land

Kauai residents care deeply about their land, and there’s no better place to learn more about their passion, but also about the land itself than at the Waipa Foundation. Located on the northern side of the island, on the tip of Hanalei Bay, the Foundation is committed to educating its community, and its visitors. Twice a month, the Foundation’s lush farm hosts a dinner in conjunction with the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. This stunning resort sits on the cliffs above Hanalei Bay but brings its guests down to the valley to tour the farm, and taste the fruits of its harvest. Learn about poi, native pineapples and all the different varieties of kale before sitting down to a three course feast cooked by the Westin’s award winning chefs – traditional Hawaiian hula and ukulele performances are the icing on the cake.

6. Tubing adventures

There are no ‘f words’ allowed on the Kauai Backcountry Tubing Adventure. We’re talking about “freezing”, “frigid” and “frosty”. Apparently “fresh” is allowed, but that’s it. Of course, the hilarious guides are talking about water temperature, because we’re about to go mountain tubing high in the rainforest, in canals filled with run off water from the soaring waterfalls. It turns out, with a wetsuit top and shorts on, and most of my body sitting out of the tube, it’s pretty comfortable. Or maybe it’s because I’m too distracted by the gobsmacking experience of floating through tunnels and flumes, surrounded on all sides by lush rainforest. Carved back in the 1870s, these channels were originally used to water sugar plantations, diverting the waterfalls to feed an industry that eventually petered out. The tunnels and channels remained and today see thousands of travellers float down their course. With head torches on, we shoot down dark tunnels, out into the bright sunlight, bumping into each other and the walls, and it’s all good fun, like nature’s waterslide, before ending up at a picnic lunch.

7. Guilt free dining

There’s something very special about Table 53 at RumFire Poipu Beach. Sheraton Kauai Resort’s fine dining restaurant has plenty of beautiful tables, looking out over the ocean, but this one is extra special. Not only does it have the prime spot overlooking sunset, but all of the profits from anything consumed at the table go straight to charity. That’s a pretty big commitment and one the hotel is pretty proud of. You can dine on dishes like Kona lobster and fried Brussel sprouts, sip award winning cocktails (they make a mean Mai Tai), and dig into flourless macadamia chocolate tortes for dessert, knowing you’ll be helping the Children’s Justice Center of Kauai do their good work. Now that’s a guilt free dinner!

 

8. Soak up the sunshine

Poipu on the Kauai’s southern side, is known for sunny days and stunning sunsets. If you’re after a few days of sun, surf and serious pool time, make a beeline for the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. This sprawling resort has some of the most beautiful manicured grounds spread out across 50 acres, there are almost too many pools to count, with a sandy lagoon, adults pools, spa pools, kids pools, and a waterslide.

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 23 May 2018 | 5:06 am

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Unique Sleeps: Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea, Maui

There are not too many places in the world where you can be sitting on your hotel balcony, watching whales breach right in front of you. We’re not talking a few little splashes or sprays on the horizon. At the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui, guests have 180 degree views out to sea, and the prime viewing spot just happens to be anywhere you can see the water. Whales breach just off the shore during migration season (Jan-March) and it’s a show that is pretty hard to get sick of.

It’s how we begin our mornings, on a walk down to the beach, and how we end the day, with a glass of bubbles on the balcony. We learn to spot calves (small splashes) and mothers (really big splashes), with the staff quick to point out a few more technical facts and figures.

When we finally take our eyes off the ocean, it is to be rewarded with impeccably manicured grounds, swaying palm trees, several pools, and a very nice cabana we call our own for the day. The Fairmont Kea Lani has that perfect balance of family fun and grown up fun. The Adults Only pool is a haven of cocktails, cabanas and cooling off – mochi ice cream, cooler bags filled with your favourite soft drinks, trail mix snacks and very helpful staff are just the beginning.

Spend your day by the pool, or get involved in the many activities on offer.  You’ll hear the soft thrum of ukuleles when lessons are held down by the kids pool, see the outrigger canoe head out several times a day and even spot morning meditation classes on the grass – all of these activities are included in a resort fee, and are a great way to learn more about local culture. You’ll also want to work up an appetite, as the Fairmont’s decadent Kea Lani breakfast buffet is worth going to very, very hungry. Bowls of fresh fruit, a full omelette bar, muffins, cakes, crepes, pancakes, bacon, eggs, pork buns, even breakfast burritos are waiting for you each morning. Then there’s the pop up juice bar that takes over the hotel’s signature Ko restaurant in the morning and is part of the hotel’s wellness program. Local produce like Molokai sweet potato, along with celery, carrot and spinach are used to create fresh iced teas and green juices. Later in the day, Ko takes over. Chef Tylun Pang’s tenure at this fine dining fusion restaurant is legendary. With a heavy emphasis on farm to table, Pang’s kitchen produces delicate dishes from local produce that peruse the best of all different Asian cuisines – including Filipino spring roles that you won’t be able to turn down. Don’t forget to ask staff to point out the kitchen garden that’s tucked away on the resort grounds.

Eating, drinking and sitting by the pool are some of life’s simple pleasures, but then there’s the spa. Fairmont’s famous Willow Stream Spa makes an appearance here, with a menu featuring a few very special Hawaiian treatments. The Huaka’i Kupono Hawai’i (Natural Hawaiian Journey) is a full two hours of pampering using local ingredients. Start off with a Hawaiian salt scrub, before being wrapped in ki ti leaves, and covered in Maui vanilla bean. Trust us, you won’t want to leave.

Lisa was the guest of Fairmont Kea Lani 

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 20 May 2018 | 5:02 pm

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The Snuggly South Australian Winter Guide

Even in winter, from the seaside to the hills, South Australia puts on a pretty good show. With the cooler months just around the corner, here’s our guide on how to have a winter getaway you won’t forget:

McLaren Vale

The d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale

Bordering the sea, and the city, McLaren Vale is designed for quick weekend getaways. Just a 45 minute drive from the airport and you’re cruising past rolling hills dotted with vineyards. Make a beeline for Geddes Wine, off Blewitt Springs Rd, where the cosy yet modern cellar door is a great spot to try a few excellent, reasonably priced reds. Stock up on a few bottles of wine and settle in by the fireplace of your standalone cottage right next door at the Karawatha Cottages. The three standalone one and two bedroom cottages have their own wood burning fireplaces, and are a great base for a few days exploring the region. Hop in the car and drive 15 mins to the coast, where the Star of Greece perches out over Port Willunga. Brace yourself and head down to the sand to check out the old boat storage caves carved into the cliffs, before retreating to the restaurant’s light and bright dining room for cutting edge cuisine. Save time to stop in at the d’Arenberg Cube, standing tall among the vineyards and the spot for a wine tasting like you’ve never seen before.

Adelaide Hills

We have three words. Winter Reds Weekend. This three day festival at the end of July is a chance to “Shrug off your jacket. Shake your scarf free” and settle in for what Adelaide Hills does best. Wineries and cellar doors across the region open their doors, and quickly close them to keep the heat in, putting on long lunches, fireside tastings, candlelit dinners and cosy concerts. Keep an eye out for this year’s Winter Reds Weekend program launch because tickets sell out fast. The Adelaide Hills are a short drive from the CBD and another great spot for a few days away from the concrete jungle, with plenty of quaint cottages and B&Bs. Stop in at cellar doors like the Lane Vineyard before checking into Mount Lofty House. Sitting on 22 acres of gardens on the edge of the Hills, with rooms, suites and heritage cottages looking out over the surrounding bushland, its Stables Day Spa is a great place to bliss out for a few hours.

Eyre Peninsula

Fresh oysters from the sea at Coffin Bay on Eyre Peninsula

Is there anything better than a fresh sea wind on your face, when the rest of your body is nice and warm? Trust us, it’s a sensation that will clear your head, and calm your heart, especially when you spend your time watching creatures of the deep. Rug up and head out to the Eyre Peninsula to spot whales frolicking off the coast with their calves from May through to October. The Southern Right Whales seek the warmer waters off the coast to see their calves through their younger months. Watching them breach and play up close is something pretty special. Head of Bight and Fowlers Bay are two of the most popular spotting spots to start exploring.

Kangaroo Island

Seal Bay Conservation Park, Kangaroo Island

One of the best reasons to travel out of the summer seasons are the crowds. Or lack thereof. During winter, the pace of life on Kangaroo Island slows down. There’s less travellers, lower accommodation prices, and the island explodes in greenery. It is a little wetter, but when you’re out looking for fur seals and sea lions, what’s a little rain? Better yet, this time of year is when the joeys and baby koalas are easily spotted sticking their heads outside their mothers’ pouches. There are plenty of multi day tours out to the island, including two and five day options, but also lots of day trips for adventures like quad bike tours, ocean safaris, kayaking and even food and wine tastings.

Adelaide

Pink Moon Saloon, Adelaide

The Festival City doesn’t slow down when winter descends, instead it raises its voice. The Adelaide Cabaret Festival kicks off in June, running for two weeks of shows and concerts that will set your pulse racing. Vocal acrobatics, mini operettas and eclectic jazz quartets are just the beginning. Keep an eye out for local and international acts, there’s even a kid friendly gala. When you’re not at the theatre, check out Adelaide’s burgeoning small bar scene. Right in the heart of the city, Pink Moon Saloon brings new meaning to the word “cosy”. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals in this tiny cabin-style wooden bar, mainly because it is so small, but also because its one of the most popular places for a tipple around town. Over at Hains & Co, the bar staff are in waistcoats and the walls are decorated in naval paraphernalia. The extensive G&T menu is a great chance to try South Australia’s many local spirits, like 78 Degrees Small Batch Gin from the Adelaide Hills and Ounce Gin, made right in Adelaide. End your night at the beautiful Mayfair Hotel, inside one of Adelaide’s grandest historic buildings. The Hennessy bar is a great spot for a nightcap, tucked under the rafters of the roof surrounded by cow skin rugs and chandeliers.

Whether you want to curl up by the fire or rug up and head out to see wild wonders, South Australia is waiting for you this winter! To find out more, click here.

 

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 6 May 2018 | 1:08 am

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Unique Sleeps: Karawatha Cottages, McLaren Vale

Perfectly manicured rows of vines, rolling hillsides, wood burning fireplaces, fresh produce, and of course, bottles of wine at the ready. No, this is not one of McLaren Vale’s high end wineries. Or a cellar door. This is the Karawatha Cottages.

Karawatha’s three standalone cottages are raising the bar for South Australian wine region cottage accommodation. Sure, there’s a few standout super luxe properties around town, but if you’re after something with all the mod cons, an eye for detail and a fit out that’s the perfect mix of country chic and cutting edge design, this is it. Even better, you won’t break the bank. Instead, you’ll wake up to the songbirds, and a hamper of breakfast goodies. Fresh eggs, bacon, a hearty loaf of bread, muesli, milk, jam – there’s all the makings of a hearty pre-wine tour breakfast. Cook up a feast and head out to your private terrace, to well and truly start the day the right way.

Karawatha Cottages is just a five minute drive from McLaren Flat, the small township in McLaren Vale. You’ll find a few standout coffee shops, restaurants, old school bakeries and shops, but even better, you don’t even need to go into town to start your McLaren Vale adventures. Right next door to Karawatha is Geddes Wine, a family-run cellar door that is still a bit of a local’s secret, with a beautiful cellar door and some excellent, extremely well priced wines. Across the road, there’s Beresford, with a cellar door that takes minimal, modern décor to the next level. There’s even a pop up beer tasting bar for Vale Ale looking out over manicured grounds.

Once you’ve picked up a few bottles of red, and some beer and cider too, hop in the car to gather more supplies at the Willunga Farmers Markets. Every Saturday Willunga comes to life with dozens of local producers selling their wares fresh from the farm. Vegetables of every shape and colour, cakes, brownies, freshly baked bread, local meat, home made ricotta, olive oils and honey ­– you’ll walk away with a picnic basket full of goodies to take back to the Cottages.

A communal BBQ and dining area is a great spot to feast on your spoils. The hosts have thought of just about everything, with each cottage equipped with oil, salt, pepper, plenty of platters, cutlery and lots of wine glasses! Put a few logs on the fire and linger over a glass of good South Australian red. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

 

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 5 May 2018 | 9:18 pm

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Finding Fun Beyond the Pier in Santa Monica

Most people know Santa Monica for its famous pier – rustic wooden boardwalks, twisting roller coasters, and fairy floss vendors serving up a scene that’s quintessential California. Any visit to Santa Monica should include an evening at the pier, but this area of Los Angeles offers more than just amusement parks and carnival games. What you really need is a local guide to lead the way.

Sample regional fare with a global influence on a foodie-led walking tour, get close to colourful street art by bicycle or watch surfers carve waves at the beach. Whether you have a few hours or a few days, here are eight unique ways to make the most of your time in Santa Monica. 

One Sweet Ride

Burn calories while you enjoy decadent desserts on a bike tour of the best eateries around Santa Monica. While taking in the sights, enjoy award-winning chocolate truffles, handmade doughnuts, Mexican pastries, and LA’s best ice cream, all made with local and organic ingredients. You’ll even have the chance to bite into sweet-tooth-satisfying treats worthy of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” while you cruise through chic avenues and bustling promenades. 

 

Get a Taste of Santa Monica

Can’t decide where to go for lunch? Follow a local foodie to discover quaint cafes and trendy eateries on a walking food tour of Santa Monica. Learn about the strong international influences that shaped SoCal cuisine while munching on a menu that might include savoury street tacos, Japanese rice balls, or Jamaican jerk chicken. If time allows, explore the famous farmers market’s produce-packed stalls and locally made goods. 

A Day at the Beach(es)

Slather on sunscreen and get ready to soak up the sun on all the premier beaches of Los Angeles. Dip your toes in the turquoise waters of Huntington Beach while surfers look for the perfect set and volleyball players work on their spikes. Visit Long Beach and board the historic Queen Mary luxury ocean liner to hear about her 1930s glory days, hardworking war years, and spooky ghost stories. Head to Venice Beach to uncover its bohemian spirit and end your day at the Santa Monica Pier to see where the famous lifeguards of Baywatch made their heroic rescues. 

Segway in LA

Try out high-tech two-wheeled technology as you zoom along the waterfront of Santa Monica and Venice Beach on a Segway. After a quick orientation session, your guide will take you to the must-see photo-ops in the area. On a tour that’s great for teens and adults alike, you can flex your muscles with the bodybuilders of Muscle Beach, snap photos of the pier’s Ferris wheel, marvel at talented street performers along the boardwalk, and catch skateboarders practicing tricks at Venice Skate Park. 

Soar Above the City

Skip the infamous 405 traffic and see the city from a new perspective by booking a private flight over Santa Monica and the Malibu Coast. During a 45-minute plane ride, you can catch all the biggest sights of this iconic city, including the ritzy mansions of Beverly Hills, the student-studded campus of UCLA, and the giant white letters of the legendary Hollywood sign. Don’t forget your camera! 

Cycles, Beaches, and Street Art

Sometimes called the “Mural Capital of the World,” the city of Los Angeles displays some of the most colourful city walls. A culture of street art emerged during the 1960s and 1970s thanks to a lack of regulation and today it remains vibrant, especially in Venice Beach. After enjoying views of the Pacific Ocean along the Santa Monica Beach, you’ll pedal around these open-air street galleries in Venice.   

Shop Until You Drop

Unlock over $750 worth of savings while shopping and dining in the beach-chic area of Santa Monica Place. Expand your wardrobe with dozens of fashion retailers to choose from, including Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Nike, Hugo Boss, Coach, and True Religion. After you work up an appetite, ascend to the Dining Deck to enjoy fresh, local flavours from one of many chef-driven restaurants while you take in gorgeous ocean views. The best part? Complimentary package check means a concierge holds your bags, leaving your hands free while you shop for more great deals. 

Dining Movie-Star Style

Grab a glass of champagne and set sail on a starlight dinner cruise aboard a luxury yacht. Leaving from Santa Monica’s neighbouring harbour, Marina del Rey, you’ll dine on a four-course meal crafted from local and seasonal ingredients while you take in the glittering coastline. The party continues up on the top deck as a DJ spins tunes for you to dance the night away with your mates.

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 4 May 2018 | 8:00 pm

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A walk across Australia with camels - 1988
I was one of four people to walk across Australia as part of Australia's Bicentennial in 1988. March 1st - September 14th. Sharks Bay to Byron Bay. The

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 24 Feb 2018 | 2:09 pm

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Ayres Rock or Kakadu in June
I will be traveling in June with two teenagers and I am interested in either going to Ayres Rock or Kakadu. Which area would be better if I only have time

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 13 Nov 2017 | 5:22 am

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Planning a trip to Alice Springs via Uluru
Just looking for a few tips on how much I should budget for a 10-14 day trip to Alice Springs & Uluru/Kata Tjuta. We (my boyfriend and I) are planning

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 13 Nov 2017 | 5:19 am

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People broke into my hotel room at 3.30am, and no one cared
Let me tell you about an unscheduled 3.30 am wake-up call I experienced the other day. I'm hoping my story also serves as a wake-up call to the travel and security industries as well as for the police (though I doubt it).

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 21 Jun 2017 | 10:30 pm

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Tasmania's Freycinet Experience Walk: 'Truly one of the greatest experience of your life'
The acclaimed British novelist Nicholas Shakespeare describes it as "the only trek".

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 20 Jun 2017 | 11:47 pm

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Cuisine editor: Should a NZ eatery be among the World's 50 Best Restaurants?
OPINION: Melbourne was home to the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards this year. The only other cities to have hosted this prestigious event are London (for the first 14 years) and New York (last year). Landing an event of this magnitude was game-changing for Australia. And so back in April, I set off to experience a series of events designed by Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria to spread the message that Australia is a must-visit culinary destination.

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 18 Jun 2017 | 6:38 pm

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My Sydney, with Vivid's Kiwi Director Ash Bolland
As Vivid Sydney wraps up for another year, we chat to Kiwi director Ash Bolland who designed the festival's most prominent show, Audio Creatures.

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 16 Jun 2017 | 7:28 pm

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Google sings songs of Uluru with new Street View vistas
With ever-growing troves of valuable data on its shelves, Google has expanded its Street View range further to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Northern Territory, Australia.

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 11 Jun 2017 | 6:55 pm

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General tips for visiting Uluru
Read all you can before you go as I am not going to tell a granny how to suck eggs. Make sure you ingest the advice and be wise to the risks, it gets mighty

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 26 Feb 2017 | 5:54 am

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Finding unskilled mining jobs in WA
This page is a bit unusual in that it isn't for travellers. Or rather I should say not for tourists, because for long term travellers it may well be very interesting! In the section on this website about financing your travels by working in Australia I wrote about the possibility to get temporary jobs in the mining industry, which is VERY lucrative. And that page became very popular also with Australians and New Zealanders looking for permanent mining jobs. I also have two reader pages on the site where people looked for advice on finding mining jobs. No other pages on my site have received anywhere near the same amount of comments! All comments are from people looking for help with getting a mining job. Hence the new page. I hope it helps!

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 22 Nov 2012 | 8:07 am

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