World Tour - Australia Main Page
Aug 21, 2002 - Feb 27, 2003 & April 18 - Oct 3, 2003 Days 317 - 542 & 592 - 759
Back to Home Page Kangaroo Island Outback Great Barrier Reef SCUBA Diving East Coast
(Dateline Feb, 3, 2003) - G’day everyone from The Great Barrier Reef (Cairns) Australia! It’s been over 17-months anniversary of my trip around the world (that’s well over 500 days or so) and country # 18. I’ve been in Oz for almost 5 months recovering from the past 9 months of 3rd world travel. Most people on this list haven’t gotten many messages from me in 6 months, so I’ll try to do a little catching up for you without burning your retinas out from staring at this screen for too long. Good thing you can browse back and forth at this e-mail when you boss walks away from the office.
So, what the heck have I been doing that I haven’t taken a few minutes to write to everyone? Well, I’ve pretty much been a lazy sack of doo doo. Well, I’ve been recovering in the comforts of the western world, shopping for some decent clothes to replace my battered backpacking clothes, doing the body maintenance things after a year on the road: going to the dentist, podiatrist, barber, etc. We spent 2 months in Sydney setting up our carpet import business with stocking 130 carpets into a storage unit, cataloguing and photographing them, evaluating the markets and prices, legal and financial aspects of opening a business, and immigration details. A bunch of things to see if we (or just I) can run a business in Oz, make enough money, and not get kicked out by immigration.
So, after 2 months of that monkey business (no, I’m not in the monkey business dad, they’re carpets), we were going crazy not hitting the tourist road, so off we we’ve been for our part 2 of the epic journey of 6 more months on the road around Australia and New Zealand.
Now that we’re in a “western” world, the stories won’t seem as exotic as being on safari, or riding elephants down the street in India, but Australia has it’s own unique culture and people that we really love, so it will be a different twist.
“DON’T DRINK THE WATER!”: When we landed in Sydney in August from our 9 hour flight from Thailand, we were lucky to have a friend me made in India pick us up at the airport and put us up in her home for a few weeks. It was quite the culture shock coming to Australia, orderly traffic, clean streets, actual sidewalks and not dirt paths and not worrying about getting god knows what diseases from the food and water. When I hopped in the shower I wanted to just stick my face under the faucet and drink as much water as possible, but I really had to force myself to swallow it, as it had become 2nd nature not to drink any water from anything but a sealed bottle. We didn’t even brush our teeth from sink tap water. It was almost like telling someone that they could breathe underwater, it was going against everything we had programmed ourselves to do. It took almost 2 months to get use to drinking the water and not thinking about it.
“NO WORRIES MATE!”: A joy about being in Oz is that people here really are laid back. It’s sort of the small town country living atmosphere of being relaxed. Having beautiful weather and land also helps with that feeling. The Aussies really say “no worries” and really make traveling here a low stress kind of living. I think Julia's and my blood pressure have dropped a heap (ozzie slang) since being here. People look out for us travelers here instead of trying to rob us blind. No hassles from anyone for anything. If I come up short on change at the supermarket or 7-11, the counter person tells me not to worry about it and pay them tomorrow when I’m in the neighborhood! We just can’t believe it.
“HIT THE ROAD JACK”: After 2 months of getting stir crazy doing errand and business stuff, it was time to hit the road. One of the unforeseen benefits of traveling for the previous year was all of the Aussies we met and would host us and go out with. In Sydney, we had several several people to stay with and go out drinking with. We took a quick weekend trip to Canberra (that’s the Nation’s Capital for those of you who probably studied the amount of Australian info in school - 5 minutes worth or so).
BOUNCY BOUNCE: While staying with friends, we were told that we would see heaps of Kangaroos! There are approx. 30 million kangaroos in Australia, so chances of us seeing some where pretty good. Unfortunately, our first sighting were lying across the side of the highway as road kill. Not the vision we had in our mind. It seems that the big red suckers are around Canberra and live only 10 minutes away from the downtown area in a forest preserve. When it gets really dry, the roos come into the city for the green grass from the sprinkler system. It’s pretty funny to equate the nation’s capital with wild kangaroos bouncing around. If that was going on in Washington, DC, I’m sure they would be trapped and detained as possible spies. Anyway, these kangaroos are over 6 feet tall with big gorilla looking rippled chests.
On the same same note of kangaroos, while in a small town in the middle of the desert, we were in a modern super market. A lady with her shopping cart (they call them buggies) had a 2 foot kangaroo in a diaper with her! It’s very common for people to adopt an orphaned roo that was found by its mother that got hit by a car. It’s no big deal to be grocery shopping with a kangaroo here.
MORE BOUNCY: After Canberra, we flew to Adelaide, which is at the bottom of the country in the center. We took at ferry trip down to Kangaroo Island to see more roos. This island is a national park and sanctuary for many native animals to keep them safe from predators (and humans). There are lots of koala bears hanging out in the trees, platypus, penguins, sea lions and seals. The island is in the direct air path of the Antarctic winds and rain, so the bottled water is actually fresh rain water.
THE REAL AUSTRALIA: For many Aussies, the outback is the real Australia in their hearts. It’s the old west pioneer spirit, similar to the old west days of America. The ranchers and miners who went out in the bush to settle the country. 4 wheel drive vehicles are the norm here, and don’t forget to have an extra tank of petrol with you, as many a tourist have gone out in the desert only to run out of gas and water and wonder off into nowhere. Since we don’t know our arse from a wombat hole in the ground, we decided to hop on an organized trip and leave the gas figgerin’ to a professional. We took a 10 day bush camping trip from south to north thru the red sand desert on old dusty dirt roads that follow the old train line. We camped at night in the middle of nowhere (which was easy to find) under a zillion stars and a sleeping bag. With 10 other backpackers we set off for adventure into the driest state of the driest country in the biggest drought in history, heading right into the summer season. Can you tell where this is going? It got pretty freekin hot! It was up to 106 F (that’s 42 C) while we were out walking for the day. Good thing the saying about dry heat applies, as it did seem a bit cooler, all the way down to 100 F.
Do you remember the Road Warrior movies? This is where the filmed them, in the middle of nowhere. A real uniquely odd place is an opal mining town called Coobers Pedy. Almost everyone here lives underground in the old shafts. So just imagine the troglodyte people from H G Wells “Time Machine”, who live underground their entire lives, well here they are. Actually, that’s what the surface dwellers of Oz say about them, we couldn’t find enough people on the surface to say for sure, but ya gotta wonder…
Outback critters: Well Oz is full of surprises, Toto, especially what you find in the outback. I wouldn’t have thought we would run into herds of wild camels just hanging out. It seems that they were imported from the middle east during the 1800’s when the pioneers were trying to cross the desert from north to south laying the phone lines and later the train lines. Of course there are the kangaroos bouncing around right over barbed wire fences and zooming across the road, just as we approach. I think they like to see the tourists get real nervous about plowing into them.
THEY WERE HERE FIRST: Does anyone know what a grub worm is? It’s a white juicy caterpillar type of creature that burrows into trees in the desert. Well, these are delicacies to the native people of Oz called Aboriginals. The Aboriginals refer to all of the tribes and language groups of the native people of Australia before the Brits came to move in to town. We usually know them as the people who throw boomerangs at kangaroos, are in harmony with the land, and are pals with Mick Dundee of Crocodile Dundee. If anyone is interested in cultural anthropology, these are the people to take a look at. The aboriginals are the longest continuous culture on the planet and have been in Oz for approximately 50,000 years. They are also the only culture when discovered 150 years ago (and a few tribes only 25 years ago) that were still in the hunter - gatherer stage of development. That means they’ve been living hand to mouth without any agriculture, structured buildings, or written language on the most desolate continent on earth. Many tribes were walking around pretty much buck naked until 100 years ago when the Christian missionaries told them to put on some pants, pray to Jesus, or else. Well we know the story of the western culture meeting the native people, bang - bang, goodbye evil savages, make way for the “civilised” people. Same story as America, just different hemisphere. Way too much to go into here, but the culture and their survival tactics are incredible. Quite an advanced and sophisticated people.
THINGS ARE GETTING FISHY HERE: I’ve just notched off one of the “to do” lists, SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef! I’m in the City of Cairns (pronounced cans), on the north eastern coast of Oz. Only a 2 hour boat ride to the outer reef, where the water is 28 degrees C, 88 F. The diving is excellent! The coral life is incredible with hundreds of different types of coral all living and growing on top of each other with some of the reefs stacking up 30 meters (100 feet) or so on our trips. We did a few night dives, which seem like being in a James Bond movie with a dozen people sneaking around in pitch dark around these coral caverns with a glow stick by their head and everyone with their high beam flashlight (think Jedi Lightsaber). It feels like we’re sneaking around someone’s neighborhood playing peeping Toms looking for the pack of sleeping sharks (about 6 feet long) and giant sea turtles (about 5 feet wide and 100 years old).
We’ve been monkeying around in Cairns for the last 6 weeks, with a week up in the tropical rain forest during the new year’s break. We’ve found that Cairns is a pretty laid back town, with a country town pace, but the nightlife of a college town the day after finals is over. Needless to say after traveling in 3rd world countries for 9 months, we haven’t had the opportunity to have a night life, nor much of a social life, so we found ourselves trying out the local brew, meeting a lot of travelers, and dancing on the tables at the bars. In between scuba diving and lounging around, we needed to stay in town until we could find a decent car to buy for our next 6 months of driving along the Aussie coastline. Christmas, New Years, banks closed, people on vacation doesn’t make finding a good car easy, but we managed to find a good one, so look out everyone, here comes the Americans learning to drive on the left side of the road (God help us all).
We’ve got 6 weeks left of our extended Australian visa, so we are packing up and moving on down south on the coast line. We’ll do some wreck diving, surf lessons, sailing and lessons, sheer some sheep and ride some horses out in the country, and take in the fine beaches until we get to Sydney. At the end of February, we’re off to New Zealand for 2 months of Lord of the Rings and Xena Warrior Princes kind of sites and adventures (that’s where they were filmed, if I lost anyone on that one).
Well, if you haven’t been fired by your boss or drooled on the keyboard while sleeping to this letter, I would love to hear from you (anyone please), as it’s getting a bit lonely on the road, as Julia can only pretend to laugh at the same jokes over and over, and I can only make fun of her southern accent so much.
As Tigger would say: TTFN (that’s Ta Ta For Now)
Bruce and Julia, World Travelers and
Adventure Seekers Extraordinaire.
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Revised: 05 Feb 2007 20:21:25 -0600 .