Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Feeling right at home...
Date: July 1, 1994 08:41

20:41 Sydney, Australia :: 30 JUN 94

You've heard the expression "Sunshine & Sharks"? Well, it's been applied to Australia as in "The Land of..." Don't believe it for a second. The only differences between Sydney and Vancouver are Sydney's bigger and the people here speak with an interesting accent. It rains all day here too, although the good people of Oz claim these last couple days are an anomaly. Right. I seem to recall saying the same all last summer: "July and August are always sunny in Vancouver."

But before we get to Sydney there's a little business to finish up with the MacLean Pizza Restaurant. Hmmm. Tonight our hosts, the Wolstenholmes, now part of the extended Jennings family, feasted us on Vichyssoise (probably misspelled) and Lasagna. A good, hearty Lasagna with ricotta cheese, spinach and a zesty apportioning of meat. I'd like to carry the memory of this lasagna for a while longer and since it was primarily MacLean's strictly school lunch programme version of lasagna that I wished to trash, I think I'll just drop the subject altogether.

On the other hand, the MacLean Pizza Restaurant did serve a rather gutsy pumpkin and orange soup. But I would expect that a decent diner might serve one decent soup or stew. As is customary in a diner, I asked the waitress whether one of these might be worth a taste and she said, "Oh, the pumpkin & orange soup is great, and home-made too!" She was right. I didn't even mind the bits of plastic I found in the soup. These had splintered off the plastic container when the frozen soup was removed from it. I didn't mind because one would expect such from a diner. Had I known that the MacLean Pizza Restaurant was actually a diner, I would never have ordered lasagna.

Time to return the subject to cruising the InfoBahn. Apparently, in Australia there are few on ramps. The highway runs right through town via an overpass without access. We've stayed in two motels since leaving Kingscliff and neither even had a phone to the room, let alone the ability to jack the computer onto the line.

Fortunately we're guests of our new family and they do have a phone. Really fortunate since my temporary CompuServe password expired and I had to call customer service in the states to renew it. Would've hated seeing the motel room expense for that particular piece of long distance.

When we get back on the road I'll be forced to make a concerted effort to find those onramps. What's more difficult is that only Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra are serviced with local nodes for CompuServe. This means long distance charges on top of the Australian FALNET (gateway to CompuServe) connection surcharge. The potential exists for real ugliness once in SE Asia...

Oh, while I'm thinking of it. I goofed. The Australian Capitol city's name is pronounced CAAaaanburra. That is, emphasis on the first syllable which should be stretched while the following two syllables are spoken staccato.

I'll write my thoughts on Sydney, other than the incessant rain, tomorrow.

00:24 Sydney, Australia :: 2 JUN 94

Well, I celebrated Canada Day yesterday (by observing the Canadian flag in a Downtown Sydney delicatessen window). You all won't be getting to it until tonight. Have fun at the fireworks unless you're stuck south-of-the-border.

Relaxation and contemplation: characteristics of the day. A long lazy morning preceding a leisurely afternoon drive through the very wet North Sydney with the final punctuation provided by Tom Stoppard's play, "Arcadia" performed at the Sydney Opera house. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Today was the kind of day travelers crave after several days on the road.

Departing MacLean, the town without a diner, left us two days yet on the road to Sydney. Two interesting but largely uneventful days. We saw scads of gum trees and breakers on the beach. We ate plenty of marginal food. We got wet. That is, if we got out of the car we were rained upon. Our next overnight stop was Laurieton which boasted a grand overview of the town and the pleasant little nature park at Camden Head.

Traveling from Brisbane to Sydney is kind of like going from Seattle to San Francisco. It's about the same distance, I think. However, imagine that the I-5 had never been constructed. Indeed, imagine that the best road between the two cities was the Pacific Coast Highway. Well, what you are now imagining resembles pretty much the state of the highway of the same name running between Brisbane and Sydney. To be fair, the Australian version isn't as curvy, nor does it manage the spectacular vistas that its North American cousin provides. Also, the Australian speed limit is usually 80 or 100 km/hr on this highway and slows to 60 km/hr only when going through towns, like MacLean.

Another difference is that where we have numerous deer crossing signs in NA, the Australians have kangaroo and koala crossing signs. Indeed, kangaroos collide with vehicles often enough that the local car industry offers "boomer bars" as an option on almost all vehicles. These consist of large tubular steel frames affixed to the frame of the vehicle and jutting out beyond the front bumper. No, our rental Camry did not come equipped with one.

The grand event of the trip thus far occurred when, after numerous highway signs promised us the opportunity to run down a marsupial, we actually saw one. It was a stroke of luck really. My mother was complaining that we hadn't seen any Kangaroos and so began calling out to them, "Here boomer! Here boomer!" ("Boomer" is the Australian word meaning kangaroo.) Almost immediately my sister shouted,

"THERE ARE SOME OVER THERE!!!! <pause> I think."

The addendum came after passing by a small hill behind which the alleged natives of the smallest continent purportedly disappeared. "Well," continued Louise, "they looked like big furry things so I thought they might be kangaroos."

Fortunately for us a side-road turned off 100 meters later which provided us an opportunity to out flank the mythical giant rabbit of Oceania. Imagine our surprise when we pulled around the corner and found ourselves about 50 meters from one mother boomer and two joeys. PAYDIRT! If you don't believe me, I've got the video to prove it.

We're still looking for the elusive Koala. Don't call them "Koala Bears" 'cause as any Australian can tell you, they're not even remotely related to bruins. Also, while there are at least as many signs warning for Koalas as Kangaroos on the road, nobody defends their front-ends with "Koala Bars".

Sydney, as I believe I've mentioned before, reminds me of many North American cities, perhaps Toronto the most. They're about the same size in population and, I think, geographical area. Sydney's much hillier and rests on an enormous bed of sandstone. Much of Sydney's early architecture exploits this readily available building material. Also like Toronto, Sydney suffers from a boom period in the '70s and '80s when high-rise architectural design was at a low-ebb: you wouldn't believe the number of exceedingly ugly skyscrapers here.

Little know Sydney fact: the domes of the famous Sydney Opera house are surfaced entirely with ceramic tile. Look real close at pictures and post-cards and maybe you'll see the pattern.

It's almost 1:30 so I'm going to knock off for the night. I'll leave you with this tidbit: parrots and cock-a-teals cost a fortune in North America but here they frequent your back-yard bird feeder. Unbelievably the cock-a-teals, which are larger than Raven sized, are considered pests.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --