Learning to travel again
I have always liked travelling. But I lost confidence when I started to lose my sight. My husband and I decided to try traveling around Australia. We drove through Central Australia to Darwin. We got very good at setting up camp. My husband would set it up the same each time. He would also guide me to where everything was. I became increasingly independent. It helped my confidence. We visited many amazing places. My husband pointed out things to look at. He also described them to me and took photos. It was a fantastic trip. We also learned a lot.
Posted by: Kate Giles, on 05/11/10
Uluru at sunset is absolutely spectacular Image: Tourism NT
My husband and I have always liked to travel. We love the outdoors. But I lost my confidence when my eyesight began to fail. I gave up many of the activities I loved.
With the encouragement of my husband Denis, we decided to dust off the camper trailer and explore Australia. We knew there would be challenges. But I was determined to overcome any problems. So with very little planning or outback knowledge, we joined the grey pilgrimage to Darwin.
Learning to get around
By the time we had reached Cooper Pedy, a system was already beginning to develop. There was a place for everything both inside and outside our camp. Denis started improving his guiding skills. When our camp was set up, I was given a tour of the area. The tour included places such as the amenities block and the camp kitchen. I was also shown objects and their direction in relation to our surroundings. Rough surfaces and uneven grounds were always pointed out.
At night I am totally blind and a good torch came to be my next best friend. My white cane also helped. Through the bumps on the ground I could work out where I was. I also counted the steps I took, especially around our camp. This stopped me from falling over the tent pegs and ropes. I began to develop a very good memory.
By the time we reached Alice Springs, I was assisting setting up and taking down the camp. Being able to help gave me a sense of satisfaction. Things I thought were impossible were now becoming possible.
Dealing with amenities
Amenities blocks were always a challenge. I have enough sight to help in most situations. But it doesn’t work in crowded areas. Using my white cane also didn’t have the desired effect. It only leaves one hand to balance toiletries and open doors. And when most people see the cane, they respond by trying to give me their place in the line. This made me feel uncomfortable. It was good when the caravan parks had accessible facilities. When they didn’t, I choose to visit the amenities block at a quieter time.
Learning to be patient
I had to learn to be patient and make allowances for my lack of vision. My husband also had to learn. I was now quite slow in my methods. But my slow pace ensured I still had independence. We also found taking our time made for a more relaxed and pleasant journey.
Getting a picture of the countryside
When we were driving, Denis would describe the beauty of the countryside. He also told me where to look. By the time I focused on what he was pointing out, we were usually well past. I came to rely on frequent photo stops. Overall, I was able to visualise and form a good picture in my mind. At the end of each day, we put our photos on the notebook computer. Seeing the pictures filled in things I had missed. Looking at the photos also gave us something to do in the evenings.
On reaching Darwin, we had overcome many of the obstacles we faced. We regarded ourselves as seasoned travellers. We also decided we were adventurers.
Some of our adventures on our journey included:
- Trekking in many of the most beautiful places in Australia. They included the West MacDonnell Ranges, Kakadu National Park and the Kimberley. We also walked around the base of Uluru.
- Sitting up late one night at Whitecliff Wells, which is famous for UFO sightings. We waited, but they never came.
- Swimming in the warm and inviting springs at Mataranka. We also swam in the beautiful cool rock pools at Litchfield National Park.
- Going on the jumping crocodile river cruise on the Adelaide River. It was quite scary to see how agile those big crocodiles are.
- Watching the colours on the waters at sunset at Mindil Beach in Darwin and Cable Beach in Broome.
- Snorkelling the beautiful outback reefs of Ningaloo. When we snorkel, my husband takes my hand and points it the direction of what he wants me to see. The beauty of coral reefs and the fish never ceases to excite and amaze us.
- Eating lots of bush tucker and drinking beer in some of Australia’s most famous outback pubs such as the Daly Waters Hotel and the Bark Hut Inn.
It was a wonderful trip. I got to experience the excitement of travel once again. It may have been different but it was still awe-inspiring.
Our trip also taught my husband a lot about my limited eyesight. It made our relationship stronger. And it also showed me my strengths and my weaknesses. It built my confidence and self-esteem. Most obstacles we confronted were overcome. We just needed to be brave and patient.
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