We have taken you on a trip to Australia’s world famous tourist spots already. But among these world class attractions are some of the strangest, quirkiest, and outlandish spots that never reached postcard status. Probably because they only cater to a certain population of tourists who only pursues the freaky, the peculiar, and the strange. But that doesn’t mean that these places are not worth the bus tickets, because they are, especially if you are beginning to think that the Opera House is too overrated.
Here are some of them.
This lonely, dusty uphill road in Peterborough has a sign that makes it clear: Turn off the gas, go on neutral, and don’t step on the brakes. And then you can watch your car move on its own, not downhill, but uphill like an invisible force is pulling it up, defying gravity and your sense of logic, at which point you will whip out your camera because oh boy this is really YouTube worthy.
No, it’s not Mother Nature trying to lure you again into a death trap with her invisible hand. This is an example of a gravity hill, a phenomenon occurring in many parts of the world. Rather than gravity, it is an optical illusion that is at play here. Here’s an explanation. It will never ruin the fun of being here, though.
Sinkholes are scary. They appear without warning, swallowing cars and houses, and making us paranoid thanks to the Internet. The Umpherston Sinkhole, however, is a thing of beauty. Also called the Sunken Garden, this geological majesty formed when a large subterranean cave’s ceiling collapsed into itself, leaving a permanent depression on the area like Earth’s giant pimple scar.
But the Umpherstons, the family who owns the land, won’t just let a humongous pockmark ruin their property. So they renovated the sinkhole, drained the water, and turned it into a glorious garden curtained by thick vines and towered by pines. This place is gorgeous from any angle, whether from above showing a lush sunken field, or from below highlighting a clear, unobstructed sky.
We call the country the Land Down Under, but in the town of Coober Pedy, this moniker couldn’t be more literal. Situated 846 km north of Adelaide, the place is a bustling municipality where more than 60% of the population live underground. But no, Coober Pedy isn’t a town of mole men, nor are they preparing for a global nuclear fallout probably to be unleashed by Skynet. They refused to live above ground because of opal.
The place wasn’t really inhabited before because of the extreme desert heat. But then in 1915 opal was discovered and soon miners rushed to the area. To avoid getting smoldered, the miners lived in dugouts bored in the hillsides where the temperature is more constant. A hundred years later, Coober Pedy is now the largest opal mining field in the word, and there are now underground hotels, barbecues, a few museums, casino, a local pub, a gift shop, and even a church all built 20 feet below the Earth’s surface. It sort of puts the caves we built beneath our gardens to shame.
It is said that the Devil will test our faith at some point, that couldn’t be more true in the Devil’s Marbles, because look at those boulders they are going to roll over us Indiana Jones-style!
Also known as Karlu Karlu, they are a collection of house-sized granitite boulders stacked over each other, some are delicately suspended and balanced, and a few a cleanly sliced and split apart like loaves of bread. Truly enough, this place is one of those geological wonders that seem to spit in the face of logic and science. The explanation, sadly, doesn’t involved aliens. The rock formations are a result of erosion and other natural forces such as wind, plant growth, and water at work.
The site has a major cultural importance for the traditional aborigines of the land, and is deemed as one of the oldest religious sites in the world. It is currently a registered Sacred Site and protected under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act.
The recent Rio Olympics caused quite a stir with its dank green-colored swimming pools that went unexplained for days, until it is found out that algae have grown in its waters after someone mistakenly dumped the wrong chemicals. Algae, among others, are also the culprit behind the creatively named Pink Lake’s salmon hue.
Located in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia, the 600 metre-long lake’s color is more apparent from above, like a huge pool of bubblegum milkshake. The cause is the dynamic duo of green algae and brine prawns in high concentrations. Once the conditions are met (high water salinity and high temperature, among others), the algae gather red pigments while pink bacteria gets trapped in the salt crust at the bottom, thus turning the entire lake into Mother Nature’s biggest campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness.
With the proliferation of high-resolution cameras and waves of hoax-exposes, UFO pop culture consumption is now limited to re-watching X-Files episodes and the occasional mistaking of ordinary aircraft as flying saucers. Except in Wycliffe Well on Stuart Highway in Northern Territory. That obsession is very much alive.
Not unlike in Roswell, New Mexico, Wycliffe Well embraces its history of purported UFO sightings and capitalizes on it to become the “UFO Capital of Australia.” This extra-terrestrial fascination began when World War II soldiers in the area recorded sightings of mysterious flying objects in the sky. The journal gets passed from one person to another and the stories get blown out of proportion every time. Now, the town is plastered with all kinds of UFO pop culture memorabilia, merchandises, panoramas, sculptures, billboards, and a display documenting UFO-related newspaper clippings in the area.
And while we’re in the topic of aliens…
Three years ago, a Dutch firm planned on sending people on a one-way trip to the planet Mars to establish the very first human settlement there. The project received over 200,000 applications from people who apparently wants a lifetime seeing only weird rock formations, sand, and vast emptiness. Which is a waste of time, really, since we have those kinds of things here on Earth.
One is the Pinnacles near the town of Cervantes, Western Australia. This area of sand and rocks covers 17,500 hectares, and features limestone formations towering up to five metres high. This provides an eerie, Martian-like atmosphere to the landscape where you can stroll or drive sans any space suit. The reasons for such peculiar formations remain much of a mystery. The most convincing theories include it being a petrified forest, or a product of wind and water erosion, or crushed ancient seashells accumulated inland over millions of years, or warring tribes turned into stone by the serpent god. We will all be disappointed if it isn’t the last one.