21.03.2009 30 °C
We are back in Sydney once again, this time not in busy, never resting downtown, but instead about 45 minutes further north in a YHA hostel, smack on Collaroy Beach and not too far from famous Manley Beach. Early this morning we took our Wicked van back to where it belongs and after 7 weeks of taking us there where we wanted to go and be, we are missing both the freedom and confines our old graffiti vans gave us. The drive on the Hume Highway from Melbourne to Sydney was great while hot and dry and I do owe an apology to my Kansas friend Jeannie who taught me of the beauty that can be found while driving through great stretches of near empty landscape. The 900 kilometers we drove showed us the truth in Australia being the least forested continent after Antarctica. We camped outside of Holbrook, a very small town known as the submarine city. This had us wondering since there is no water around for many, many miles. Smack downtown, lying in a field there is a huge, old submarine and the reason why or how it got there is still unknown to us. We parked our van under the few trees available, hoping for some shade and later that evening the trees became very alive with occupants we can only guess at. Thankfully they stayed clear of our roof and settled down for the night when we did. Tom spotted a centipede but was told no worries by a fellow camper. We also learned that in Australia copperhead snakes, also well known in Arkansas, are considered shy and harmless even while the bite is venomous. Camping near the outback invites you to see the bush becoming alive at dusk and when shining a lantern beyond the field, many staring eyes greeted us.
Before Sydney, we turned back to the coast, to the Grand Pacific Drive which connects sleepy seaside towns and offers spectacular scenery from subtropical rainforests to dramatic coastal cliffs and unspoiled beaches. It is still relatively unknown and not receiving the attention of the Great Pacific Drive and we accidently stumbled on it on our way to Melbourne and planned to return and spend our last camping day on the beach in Coledale. The sunrises here are amazing, slowly a fierce red ball is pulled up out of the ocean and its intense heath burns away any clouds still lingering. From early morning on kids can be found surfing and with many coming in groups and identical shirts over wetsuits we wonder if surfing 101 is their first class period of the day. Throughout the day school kids come and go on the beach, what a great way to utilize this fantastic resource for play ground and PE. Like New Zealand, most of the Australian schools have adhered to a very traditional school uniform. While now in early autumn, all are still in summer uniform, the girls wear short, white ankle socks with their Mary Jane shoes and the skirts are remarkably shorter at the end of the day when rolled up. Boys are in short pants (not shorts) and with knee socks pulled up only knobby knees are exposed. Shirt, tie and blazer make up the rest as well as a mandated summer hat, in school colors, to bring shade from the sun. Protection from the sun is highly encouraged here as seen by the slip-slap-slop campaign. Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on the sunscreen. While we found different brands of sunscreens, they all are SPF 30+, since any less are considered frying oils. With the sun’s potency here and in New Zealand I wonder if any light skinned humans were ever meant to live way down under. The beach and what it offers to adults and youth alike is much appreciated by the Australians and not even in Hawaii have we seen such skilled, young surfers. Last week, while in Melbourne with Ern and Kelsay we watched 60 minutes, Australian style, and it showed coverage of the young boy attacked by a white shark on Bondi Beach on the first Sunday we were in Sydney. He is recovering nicely and fortunate to keep his leg which had been quite shredded and the cameras did not mind giving gruesome details. It was clear that this young boy can’t wait to be back in the waters and surf once again. While here, we heard of other shark attacks and daily planes fly overhead to keep out an eye. We honored that sharks feed at dawn and dusk and stayed clear of the waters at those times.
After almost 2 months of New Zealand and Australia down under culture we will miss their outlook on life. Their conservatism is limited to what we were truly given domain over and we have been very impressed with the care given to the animal kingdom here, maintaining natural resources and making it the responsibility of all. It was refreshing to see signs on our hikes, not forbidding us to enter places which could be dangerous but instead reminding us to be prepared, have our smarts about us and that rescue was free if one had prepared well, otherwise the cost would be ours. Empowering through granting responsibility and not putting laws in place which often are obscured through limited, narrow vision. Driving through Sydney, for the third time, did not become any easier. In America we are so spoiled with bypasses and expect a bypass to be just that, a road that does not take one near a large town, preferably not within 30miles. Alas, Sydney does not offer those. We were told to take M3 and that it would help somewhat. Taking M3 through Sydney as a bypass is like taking 5th Avenue in New York to avoid traffic. We spent about 3 hours on a Thursday afternoon creeping through Sydney and figured out why this city boasts a population of 4 million. It’s made up of people who just sheer gave up trying to find their way out and remained. One plus of that drive was seeing close-up the stadium where Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympic Games and of which to this day they rightfully talk about. Days later, we saw the Melbourne Olympic Stadium, a city equally bestowed with the Olympic honor, many years earlier. (1956?)
It was here that I learned in passing how one can tell the English apart from the Dutch. The English are too polite to be honest and the Dutch are too honest to be polite. The Australians we met these past three weeks say it as it is, they do not beat around the bush and I wonder if Dutch culture eventually rubbed off more than the visible English. From each of our spots we sent a package of that what we accumulate so our carrying load does not increase and we include the leftover coins for our son –in-law, teacher Mr. Bubba Corbitt’s class kids and tonight, our last night here all that is left is an AZ $50.00 note which will do fine buying dinner. Like New Zealand dollar bills, the Australian bills are colorful, making each note immediately recognizable and made so they are waterproof and even after a trip through the washing machine or ocean surf they are as good as new. I should take a picture of the $50.00 since Edith Bowen’s likeness on the bill resembles an uncanny resemblance to Robin Williams, Mrs. Doubtfire character and we have been calling these notes” Mrs. Doubtfires”. Shopping with Lent ending and Easter nearing brought the chocolate goodies on the aisle’s. Some years ago a campaign started to bring in the stores the chocolate bilby’s and let the Europeans and America keep the chocolate Easter bunnies. We were very fortunate to see Australia’s unique marsupial firsthand in the Healesville sanctuary and I burst out laughing in pure joy when first seeing this animal of the dark. It belongs in a Lord of the Rings movie and God’s sense of humor comes through loud and clear with creation surely taking a break and playing a Mr. Potato Head game. Visualize pink fuzzy bunny ears attached to the face and spout of a possum with a shiny Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer nose. Add it to the stocky, lopsided build of a young wallaby with the multicolored tail of a calico cat and voila…. Here is the Australian Bilby and we totally agree…only Chocolate bilby’s are good enough for the children here.
Before dawn tomorrow we are heading for the airport and a 9.5 hour flight to intimidating, mystical Asia with our first stop Bangkok. Last fall, planning this sabbatical around the world trip we took the necessary shots and yesterday started taking a malaria pill which we now will take daily until 4 weeks after leaving Nepal and India, our later Asia stops.
Exciting once again and we are approaching it with the final Wicked Wisdom as seen yesterday in Sydney.
“The mind is like a parachute. It works best when it is open”.
G’day from the Southern Cross.
Tom and Els