Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Scattered thoughts in scattered places.
Date: February 17, 1995 11:55

9:56 Perth, West Australia-Australia :: 15 FEB 94

It's good to be back online, to have my lifeline back. What a slave to technology, eh?

A week in Perth leaves me with only small impressions of the town. The first few days here were spent reconstructing the computer and catching up on my inbox. With all that finally completed, I needed a vacation.

Travel is more than going places and seeing the sights, or about learning the ways of the local culture. It's coming in contact with other travelers and their ideas as well. Travelers tend to be those who seek to open their minds, who confront their understandings with the various realities the world has to offer. There's a well-worn phrase: Travelers don't know where they're going; tourists don't know where they've been.

16:57 Melbourne International Airport, Victoria-Australia :: 15 FEB 94

For the last couple days the primary activity has been conversation. Amongst a changing group of English, Australian, American and Canadian we ranged the topics. The favoured discussion? Which three albums, videos, books, women/men, historical figures would you want with you when stranded on a desert Island. The best response? It was for books: How to Survive on a Desert Island.

On Monday, we barely left the hostel at Francis St. On Tuesday, three of us made our way to Rottnest Island, which is decidedly more interesting than its name suggests. Snorkeling, sun, sand, Quokkas (sp?) the small marsupials found only on Rottnest, and more great conversation.

12:09 Manly, New South Wales-:: 16 FEB 94

Manly is a suburb of Sydney. Sullen, sticky, soggy Sydney. Because my first experience here reminded me of the Vancouver winter (unremittingly wet) I've given the place another try. The talk on the street says it will remain wet through Saturday, at least. It brings me little pleasure to discover that the region has been inflicted with severe drought since my last visit and that the locals welcome this wet spot.

Still, the budget accommodation here is booked solid. Last night I lucked into a $70 room in downtown Sydney for $27. The bed promised when I called from the airport, had never existed so I was upgraded. My own bathroom all to my very self. Actually, I'd seen shower stall modules before, but never an entire plastic bathroom module. If this is the wave of the future, I don't like it. 4X7X7 cubic feet of molded plastic complete with fixtures-yuk.

Just now, as I write this, the young pom beside me in the common room looked at the computer and remarked rhetorically, "Bit posh, isn't it?"

"For a backpacker, I suppose," was my unnecessary reply.

Tonight I'm in a backpacker's hostel in Manly. Decidedly less posh even than the Budget Hotel chain modular room of last night. The 20 minute ferry ride out here is quite nice though and it'll be spectacular tomorrow should the skies cooperate.

I travel primarily to experience culture. Even the traipsing through the sparsely populated Outback was with the intent of coming to grips with the factors forming the national psyche. Equivalent to walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, wandering through Quebec city or visiting the restorations at Upper Canada Village. However, Australia's offering fewer and fewer surprises. The novelty that was once so exhilarating is now replaced by a comfortable familiarity. It's time to move on. The completely alien cultures of SE Asia grow more and more attractive.

21:38 Manly, New South Wales-Australia :: 16 FEB 95

98% humidity and piles of sweaty, sodden clothing, even in the relative cool of 22 degrees, have chased me from the backpacker's hostel. The only escape there, the common room, is occupied by a television featuring a rather overworked speaker.

Here in the Cafe Tunis down the road I've dined on Risotto of Grilled Chicken, Zucchini and Basil. Very nice. And the freshly squeezed lemonade is a delight. The voice of Sade lightly blankets the sound of wet tires sluicing along the pavement.

For cosmopolitan atmosphere with an Old World look-and-feel Melbourne stands out in my mind. Meanwhile, the exciting, upbeat and thoroughly modern Sydney, despite its marvelous harbour and extensive waterfront, somehow manages to offend me. Perhaps it's the sense of success-seeking self-centredness (my, that's alot of S's) so reminiscent of Toronto, another city on the list of nearly nice places to visit. The competition between these two cities is legendary. So much so that the sight of the nation's capital, Canberra, was chosen near the center of a straight line drawn between them. If I needed to live in a city of girth the first choice would be Melbourne.

Light, airy Perth, the world's most remote capital, with its lively Nightbridge across the tracks from city center. A proverbial fun-seeking western town. It will someday consume Freemantle, a coastal Nightbridge, and the home of those upstarts that took the America's Cup to the land down-under the first time. (More recently the Kiwis thrashed Dennis Conner, the only American to ever lose the cup -- and he's done it twice.)

Brisbane is a small town that has failed to realize it has become a city. God knows what people do in the evenings since hardly enough venues exist to service the potential night-life of a population in excess of 1 million. Those who would build a more interesting Brisbane receive scant support from its ambivalent population. Yet, with the Sunshine Coast to the north, the Gold Coast to the south, Moreton Bay and its Islands to the east, and surrounded by hills, mountains and forest this town-cum-city has plenty of offsetting natural beauty to offer within a day trip of downtown.

I simply cannot understand the draw of Darwin, a most unremarkable capital only partially rescued by the intriguing architecture of its very modern Supreme Court and Parliament buildings, and by the monumental thunderclouds that rule over it during the long wet, spewing lightning bolts helter skelter. One wonders if anything at all would exist here without the seat of territorial government, crocodiles and a busy international airport-Asia right next door-to draw inhabitants and visitors.

10:20 Manley Jetcat -> Sydney, New South Wales-Australia :: 17 FEB 95

The weather absolutely refuses to cooperate.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --


The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.
  graphical element Henry David Thoreau