Parting Shots from Down Under!

Australia Travel Blog

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The day started at 3 AM on a Sunday to catch a bus and a 45 min ride to Avalon airport on the outskirts of Melbourne. An Aussie ultra-bicyclist wakes up to bid a good bye and hands me his email address and says, “Have a safe trip mate and if you ever find yourself in Brisbane again, look me up!” Aussies. You’re not entirely alone making your way to the Southern Cross Central Station on Spencer street, about a short 300 meter walk in the early morning air. Drunken Aussies and tourists (normally from other Commonwealth nations) weave along the street after a night of drinking, while a shaved head young 20 something drunk-off-his- ass screams into the night air while holding his middle finger up high at a taxi that just flew by him. “I have money yah bloody fucken asshole!” His scream echoes to a fade admist the high rises, and it’s reminiscent of a quintessential New York/Melbourne moment. Girls have given up on their high heels and are now carrying them and walking barefooted home wearing their wonderful black dresses that leave very little to the imagination. They walk with arms around one another’s shoulders for moral and structural support. I like Melbourne. Eventually, everyone ignores the drunk off your ass youth and continue to stumble along their ways. I’m all business along with few other backpack toting tourists in tow as we make our way towards the bus that should be there on time. So far, Australian transportation is spot on and just as accurate in schedule as the Austrians. I just want to make sure I got the bus schedule right, though missing my flight and spending another day in Melbourne…I could think of worse places to be.

Parting shots. Three adventure filled weeks in the land Down Under went by in a flash. Upon returning to Sydney from my tour of the Eastern Coast of Australia, it almost felt like coming home. The accents no longer exotic as three weeks ago, but still retains a pleasant ring in the ear and I seem to talk more with a variation of accents, a fusion of those I came in contact with in the past several weeks: Afrikanners, Aussies, English, Irish, Norwegians, Germans, French…ahhh the French, Canadians, Chinese, Koreans, Kiwis, Scottish, etc. “ G’Day mate! Oye, chock of blocks in the bus and the que was a bloody nightmare, eh? Laddie, “khan ye watch mi rrrruck sack fohr a second whilst I get mi ticket validated by the gentleman? Aye a glorrrrious day isn’t it? Is it?” We speak the same language, but we don’t and the Queen will be disappointed that there’s far more variations than to her liking and all the more pleasant for it, eh? I love Australia!

A friend once told me, after having traveled himself for a year around the world in the 70’s (he’s old), the Australians are more like Americans than even the Canadians. Eh? If you can overlook the drive on the left side or die, the roundabouts, the fascinations over the game of Cricket, meat pie, and other remnants of Her Majesty’s influences, Australian’s habits and its social dynamics do have more commonalities with Americans than the rest. It’s very difficult to place in words, but their competitive nature and go for broke mentality is while generic in descriptions, perpetuates similar social behavior. Having said such, the differences are noticeable.

First the children and the teenagers. Australians will lament about their youths and the changing times. It’s all relative. Australian teens are similar to the South Africans in a sense that they seem to be more innocent without the naivete. The critical mass is very polite and not uncommon for an Aussie to apologize when you bump into them; as a social experiment, I felt obligated to do this a few times on the bus and the train and more often than not, you’ll hear “sorry.” “No worries, mate, cheers, and G’day” are some of my favorite expressions, but can’t get myself to say “ta” in place of thanks. Ta ta!

Public transportation is superb! While my friend a “Melbournite” would beg to differ, the usage of trains, trams, buses (free and paid), subways, monorails, ferries, and taxis as a last resort to connect and route city goers to explore the many offerings throughout are extensive and impressive! Then there’s walking. I had to slice away a blister on my toe and squeeze the fluid out, cut out a moleskin I didn’t have and use a band-aid to put the dogs back on the street. Carrying my cameras and three lens is a major pain in the back…and on the shoulders so when I can ditch the pack and saunter along the city to enjoy the nightlife unbounded to slip through the crowd with couple pints (schooner) of Pure Blonde in hand and gracefully slide by a girl flashing a smile, it’s a freedom I relish. Beer is a universal peace offering and if not beer, you better at least drink some wine lest you damage your good will ambassador status. Just don’t try to keep up pint for pint with the Aussies. It’s a vain attempt and the Afrikaners are probably the only ones to put the Aussies in their place, then the Aussies will no doubt make a competition out of it like everything else. Then there’s the English and well, let’s not go there.

Aussie Rule Football (AFL) is a chaotic order played out for four 30 min quarters. I lost count, but some forty players are on the field with eight officials playing on a cricket field. The very physical and random chaos of game was created by a Cricket coach to keep his team in shape during the off season. You read that right. I guess you have to balance the gentile civil sleep inducing Cricket with all out physical punishment of a game. The goals are some 200 meters apart and there’s a giant big screen on the opposite side of the field at the very large 100,000 capacity Olympic stadium that looked like a screen on your iPod…mini…from the opposite end of the field. Then there’s the game. It’s simple really. As far as I can understand it, the ball is bounced at the center, mad dash to get the ball, pick up the ball and run with your life while the entire population of the other side is chasing you down screaming bloody murder and you’re hoping one of the eight officials can see what’s happening in the fog of war to call any fouls like decapitation, eye gouging, an “accidental” elbow to the groin while leaping up for the ball (wait I think that’s legal), a pass to a team mate always look like a desperate act to salvage one’s own life, and your goal is ultimately trying to kick the ball between the four posts: 6 points for getting the ball past the center and 1 point for the side posts. Then there are the skinny twig of figured runners known as “the messengers” dressed in high visible neon yellow running into the foray to relay a play, concern, strategy, a message from a love one asking if the players’ life insurance policy has been upgraded or a fond farewell...this is all happening while the game is ongoing! It’s a bizarro game, but I was absolutely glued to the action on the field. The immense size of the venue is daunting. It takes a good few seconds to acquire the actual player trying to kick the penalty goal admist the number of bodies on the field.

There’s no lack of spirit or enthusiasm here as the constant chant and cheer for the respective teams are persistent throughout the game, but the sublime nature of the fans and the general civility is respectful and courteous. I’m still getting used to hearing “…ya bloody wanker…” vs “…you piece of shit…asshole…” You can get a hotdog in between the quarters, but try their variation of 4 and 20 meatpie (I think I got the brand right) if you’re brave. I’ve never had dog food before, but I swear the consistency of the pie’s meat filling is similar to what I feed Max...a dog. Good meatpies are good and then there’s the vegemite. What is it? It’s a brewers’ yeast extract leftover, and here’s the key, byproduct of beer brewing. Like I said, what can be better for an Aussie to enjoy their beer and then spread some yeast extract leftover on your toasts in the morning? Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Oh, it’s not so feminine to use “lovely” Down Under as well and quite like the word. Lovely. I like vegemite! I’m bringing a small amount of the bootie home.

So near my end of trip to Down Under, I’ve decided to see the iconic Opera House one more time and she doesn’t disappoint. Now a familiar sight, you’ll still see something new with the changing perspective of angle and the time of the day...always beautiful and fun to watch many tourists and residents alike enjoying the scenic view by the bay. It’s one of the many heritage sites to see in one’s lifetime. It may never make a life changing difference in one’s life or will it? At minimum, whether it’s the Opera House, the Pyramids of Gaza, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, the Eiffel Tower, and other household landmarks around the world, it does plant a seed for thought or at least cultivate a wider field of view in life. It’s another inevitable fact of venturing out when you see your friends list on the ubiquitous Facebook growing, and the world itself becomes less of a stranger, but a much more familiar place with a network of friends to reminiscent past experiences together, share ongoing life via Facebook...most likely, and eventually and hopefully share future adventures together again, even if it’s as simple as a conversation over any variation of drinks.

Calling for United Airlines flight 832 from Sydney Kingsford to Los Angeles now. If you’re in Australia, I hope you realize the beauty and the magic of your country and its friendly people. You have a good thing going on here. If you’ve been fortunate to roam around this once penal colony, Botany Bay...really...sign me up...then we have experienced the magic. If you have never been here, really? Why? You did realize that Qantas had a $550 round trip from LAX to Sydney in May? I had a $40 upgrade to business class flying into Sydney (not to LA...damn!) while sipping champagne...I mean sparkling wine...they speak English here, and all the talk of dangers of snakes, ants, box jellyfish, sharks, spiders, driving on the left side, etc., as long as my 747-400 doesn’t lose more than one of it’s 63,000 lbs thrust in one of its four GE PW 4062 engine, I’m home free. The LA traffic or slip in your bathtub is probably a better odds of getting you. Come on over, Paul said he’ll “...put another shrimp on the barbie for ya...” At least your friends will have a better story to tell other travelers on your behalf after you’ve been stung by a box jellyfish and gone to the light, while they’re enjoying a Pure Blonde and laughing at a hole in the wall bar under a mellow Melbourne night. G’day and good on ya, mate! Save, send, and thanks for the hospitality, all your FB posts, and emails. Cheers!
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