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A first-person account

An adventure vacation in Australia with Alyson Adventures

It's easy to get to know the other travelers in our small, friendly, gay and lesbian groups.

An active, outdoors vacation with Alyson Adventures.

Boomerang! in Australia

 in the Australia

Boomerang! Introduces Australia in all its variety: Sunny beaches and deep rainforests; the charm of Sydney and the solitude of a remote mountain canyon.


Boomerang!: An adventure vacation in Australia

Emus, beaches, and a canyon adventure

Visit Australia once - and you're sure to come back to this land of friendly people and natural beauty

Australia is one of the great treasures of the Earth -- immense, primordial, fascinating. With just under 20 million inhabitants, the place has a truly virgin feel to it, unspoiled and unmarred by humans, like the world before we were here.

I was privileged to partake of this great country when Alyson Adventures asked me to join them for their Boomerang tour. I knew I was in for an experience of a lifetime.

One of the first things that hits you when you step into Australia is the easy-going good nature of the people. Friendly, welcoming, and always ready for a joke, the national character of Australia is summed up in the popular phrase "No worries." One of the people on our tour remarked they must spike the drinking water with Prozac!

After sampling some of Sydney's laid-back beach lifestyle at the outdoor cafes and trendy shops of Bondi Beach and Coogee, our gay and lesbian group of 14 travelers headed up to the Blue Mountains. Only a couple hours' drive from Sydney, these dramatic valleys look like mini-Grand Canyons, except that they're lush and green and full of long waterfalls.

Traveling with a group of similar people is always fun, and our small tour quickly bonded during hikes through the stunning Blue Mountains. Our ages ranged from 29 to 79, and though some were more active than others, the shared activities provided a fun to get to know everyone.

Our first challenge was learning to rappel down one of the Blue Mountains' 150-foot waterfalls! None of us had done anything of the sort before, and it was an exhilarating and empowering feeling to conquer a physical activity such as this, among a supportive group and guides.

After this encounter with Australia's wonderful environment, we headed back to Sydney to ready ourselves for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which is fast becoming the largest gay event in the world. The Mardi Gras parade is enormous, with elaborate and lavish floats that put even the Rose Parade to shame! At the post-parade party, over 20,000 revelers dance the night away in two gigantic halls, where elaborate shows erupt on the stages of the dance halls, with fireworks, drag queens, and elaborate musical numbers. The whole thing feels like Christmas, the fourth of July, Easter, and a circuit party all wrapped up in one.

After this party to end all parties, it was time for our group to get some much-needed R&R. We flew up to the tropical region of Cairns, in the northern state of Queensland. Cairns is known as the gateway to the phenomenal Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest structure made by living organisms. We embarked on a large air-conditioned vessel which sped us out to a futuristic floating stainless-steel structure that looked like something out of the film Water World. From here, we snorkeled among bright blue antler coral, star fish, clown fish, trumpet fish, sea urchins, and more. The color and sheer variety of life left us in awe of the full skill of nature.

Some of our group took a rafting option, and hopped on a bus to the Tully River, the wettest spot in Australia. Queensland had experienced a small cyclone shortly before we arrived, so the river was full of gushing water, and the ride was more exciting than any roller coaster I had been on. Tall gum tree forests surrounded the river, as well as tropical rainforest, and when we stopped on the river bank for lunch, strange-looking bush turkeys and foot-long lizards came out to ask for food.

I was amazed at how flawlessly the whole tour went, from the elegant places we stayed, to the choice of fine restaurants for dining, to the tour guides on all the activities. The professionalism and quality of going on an Alyson Adventure was more than impressive. And I will continue to keep in touch with the great friends I made on the tour as well.

On my way back home to Hawaii, it hit me how well Australia has succeeded where other countries have failed. In balancing sophistication with earthiness, the Aussies have achieved what many others dream of: a modern, wealthy state that has a pure simplicity and an unspoiled nature. No wonder idealism and optimism are still strong in this far-flung continent. It has much to be proud of.

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Matthew Link is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Genre, Out & About, Our World,  and Hero, as well as in the Access, Fodor's, and Ferrari guidebooks. His Rainbow Handbook Hawai`i is the islands' first gay travel almanac. This account of his Australia tour with our group is reprinted with his kind permission.


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