In the final scene of the 1991 cult classic film Point Break (directed by Kathryn Bigelow, award-winning director of The Hurt Locker), Patrick Swayze's character Bodi, a bank-robbing surfer dude, fights off FBI agent Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) to catch a wave on a historic storm at Bells Beach in Australia which he claims happens every 50 years.
Whether this mythical storm is real or not, there's another natural wonder Down Under that blooms into an exotic habitat every 50 years as well. Lesser known than Australia's Great Barrier Reef but no less spectacular is Lake Eyre Basin, the lowest point on the continent at about 50 feet below sea level. Once every 50 years or more, life in this normally deserted region awakens as the lake, roughly twice the size of Texas, fills with water. And Down Under Answers is offering a package to see it.
The 11-night Australian vacation package to see this wonder of the natural world up close begins September 11, ends September 22 and is priced at $6,099 per person based on double occupancy. The package includes:
* Roundtrip airfare on Qantas Airways from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Sydney and REX Airlines from Sydney to Broken Hill.
* One night accommodation in Broken Hill.
* Nine days of small group touring with an experienced guide and driver. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals on the tour. Best available accommodations and all national park entry fees also included.
* Two nights' accommodation at Sebel Pier 1 in Sydney and roundtrip seat-in-coach transfers from the Sydney airport to the hotel.
The Eyre Basin is normally inhospitable to life and usually contains little or no water. The shallow lake itself is a vast drainage system, but when it fills it is transformed into an abundant oasis for flora and fauna, providing breeding grounds for some six million birds. They travel from as far away as Japan and China, and the larger birds include pelicans, cormorants and ibis. Frogs and other amphibians hibernating for 50 years or more spring to life, and even wild camels are drawn to the lake's shores by the scent of water.
Although it has contained water a number of times over the last century, Lake Eyre has filled to capacity only three times in the last 150 years; it is rare to see floods two years running. However, with this year's high waters building on the benefits of 2009's significant water level, Lake Eyre Basin is now a don't-miss place for travelers who want to see a side of Australia that's vastly different from an urban Sydney vacation.
Highlights of the circular route, which covers the Western Channel Country, include:
* Broken Hill, an isolated mining city of the outback known as the "Oasis of the West," and Tibooburra, established at the height of the Australian gold rush.
* Mutawintji National Park, with its breathtaking gorges and Aboriginal rock art, and the rolling red-sand dunes and grass-covered plains of Sturt National Park.
* The town of Innamincka, majestic red gum trees along the banks of the famous Cooper Creek, and a monument to Burke and Wills, who led an ill-fated expedition attempting a north-south crossing of the continent but perished in the desert of starvation and thiamine deficiency (beriberi).
* Explore the Diamantina River and Birdsville, in the heart of the Outback at the edge of the vast Simpson Desert, home to exotic wildlife including dingoes, red kangaroos and other marsupials, falcons, eagles, lizards and snakes.
* The old settlement of Marree, possible flights over Lake Eyre and the award-winning Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, home to more than 160 bird species and the endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby.
* Gammon Ranges National Park, which offers spectacular scenery teeming with wildlife and a wealth of cultural heritage both European and Aboriginal.
* A return to Broken Hill where travelers can relax and enjoy the town.