Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Katrin & Stan.
Date: September 21, 1994 18:59

18:42 Murray Falls National Park (near Cardwell), Queensland :: 9 SEP 94

No power points so I'm relegated to paper & pen. I'll transcribe later.

I left Airlie Beach riding shotgun (that's the left seat here in Oz) in Katrin's car. Katrin's a German expatriot (from Cologne) now residing permanently in Melbourne. Well, permanently in that she's obtained immigration status and has no intention of going back to Germany. And I thought running from the Eastern US to Western Canada was an extreme measure to escape one's parents.

Katrin's car has a bit of a personality. The '79 Holden Gemini was the first car built in Australia to be designed specifically for the hot, dry Australian conditions. At least, that's what the marketing says. This one's seen plenty of those conditions. The suspension is not shot, quite yet, but it's pretty creaky. Cockpit noise? Well nothing a little Tragically Hip playing at distortion levels can't nearly overcome. This is a car that needs a name.

You should hear Stan, Katrin's car, shudder when road trains pass. ("Road train" is Australian for "Huge mother-f'n truck.")Or is that just me shuddering. I sometimes wonder why we're not blown right off the road. But Stan, sturdy, reliable but somewhat creaky and temperamental Stan, somehow manages the shockwave and, after a sigh of relief, settles back on the business of motoring along at something approaching the posted speed limit.

Stan's a typical student car: small; an equal number of cylinders and doors -- four; mundane beige interior and exterior so you can't tell how faded it is; a simple engine without electronics of any variety. The Holden Gemini is one of those car models built without a "use by date". The only thing that will permanently take one of these suckers off the road is excessive body damage that impairs its "roadworthiness". You can buy another Gemini for what the body work will cost.

Katrin at Great Dividing Range; Queensland, Australia

Katrin & Stan
Great Dividing Range,

Katrin at Great Dividing Range; Queensland, Australia

15:07 Murray Falls National Park (Cardwell), Queensland :: 10 SEP 94

So Stan, Katrin and I haltingly work our way toward the Atherton Tablelands. This region is supposed to contain some of Northern Queensland's best tropical rainforest as well as some stunning pastoral scenes.

Atherton Tablelands; Queensland, Australia
The Atherton Tablelands
Queensland, Australia

Since leaving Airlie Beach we've been camping in National Parks though I've extracted a promise from Katrin to stay "in town" tomorrow night to recharge computer, camcorder and-if the telecom gods are willing-transmit email. Finding power points at Mount Elliot NP elevated my hopes that forays to town might only be necessary to get on the InfoBahn but alas, power-points at National Park camping sites proved to be rather extraordinary.

Perhaps you're thinking to yourself, "Patrick, you dolt, you're traveling by car. Why not just draw power from the battery." Well, I thought of that and did some research. It'll cost me about $350 dollars to get car-lighter modules for the Toshiba power supply and a camcorder battery charger/power supply. That also means I get to carry around two duplicate gizmos with cables. I'm just about down to a choice between underwear and cables at this point. So every couple of days we'll check into a backpacker's hostel or caravan park that has a nice steady flow of electrons available. Once we get into the Outback there are few national park camping sites, so insufficient current will pose less of a problem.

As it turns out, Stan's lighter socket doesn't work so the whole point's moot anyway.

Besides power points, another prominent feature of Mount Elliot NP that's missing at the other parks we've camped at is the rather tame wildlife. At Mount Elliot, kangaroos, wallabies, bush turkeys and possums proved to be the Australian equivalent to squirrels, raccoons, crows and chipmunks. The Oz versions of the campsite mainstays are friendlier, less fearful than I'm accustomed to. I've fed plenty of squirrels et. al. by hand but they've never sidled up to my lap for a neck scratch.

After driving through New South Wales for two weeks straining for a glimpse of a boomer followed by a week in the bush country where locals consider the innumerable creatures a pest, Mount Elliot provided yet another point of view on these remarkable animals. Wait until you see the video of a wallaby giving her pouch-bound Joey a tongue bath. And we always thought Marlin Perkins & sidekick Jim traveled to remote locations and waited patiently for hours to get this kind of scene on film. Piff. My only concern was how to keep mundane human artifacts, like Stan and picnic tables, out of the picture.

The other NPs are by no means devoid of wildlife, they're just a bit more shy or not as numerous. Possums and bush turkeys still found their way into our garbage cache and plucked the fruit rinds (they don't appear to like vegetables).

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --