Australia: August 2nd — August 14th, 2012

Posted on: September 19th, 2012 by admin No Comments

Ramblings From the Road…

Australia was an interesting, mixed-bag kind of country, more for me than for Katie, I think.  I had arrived in Australia with great and kind of specific goals and expectations, including interacting with Australians and seeing kangaroos.  Most of my experiences of the country and its people came from movies like Crocodile Dundee, Rabbit-proof Fence and Whale Rider (I know it was made in New Zealand, but whatever).  Australians we had met while traveling in other parts of the world seemed so friendly, hearty and even wise.  I envisioned a land of people who were kind of like Americans, but tougher and able to take on huge reptiles.  For someone with these somewhat righteous expectations, I was immediately disappointed and stunningly disillusioned in Sydney.  People in that city seemed weirdly normal, both in their dress and their mannerisms.  Other than the kindly folk who worked at our hostel, most Australians we met appeared reserved, quiet and much too civilized–I wanted to shake them to coax out their inner Dundee.


We attended a couch-surfing party where we met a young Australian woman.  Sitting across from her while we ate fish and chips, we listened in stunned silence as she made fun of the way aboriginals talk, adding that she was glad many aboriginals were removed from their neighborhoods after recent riots broke out between aboriginals and the police.  We had thought that Sydney-ites would all be more progressive than that, and it was unfortunate that one of the first Australians we met was so racist (Later in our travels we met another woman who works closely with aboriginals, who apologized profusely for the the first woman, so that got balanced out a bit).

Sydney-as-a-city was interesting and kind of pretty: The Opera House was beautiful and looming, and reminded me somehow of a whale, with it’s round and pointy tips stretching to the sky.  We ate vastly expensive hamburgers in its shadow as people scurried in its doorways to see shows.  The next day, we walked through a botanical garden by the sea, which was so huge it reminded us of a sort of tropical Central Park, with huge, other-worldly birds roaming cafe table-tops seeking scraps of meat pie.  For those who don’t know, Australia is a land of tiny, hand-held pies: mushy-pea pies, curried chicken pies, beaf stew pies, beaf stew pies topped with mashed potatoes, topped with a generous scoop of mushy peas…

But I digress.

We had initially hoped to meet with an LGBT contact for our documentary in Melbourne, but unfortunately that fell through, so instead we headed north on the train to Cairns to seek our fortunes there.  On the way, we realized we were sitting across from an older Australian gentleman, who wore a white tank-top, cowboy boots and had a large, bulbous red nose.  At 8:00am, he drank down a large can of vodka lemonade right before our eyes, all the while talking to us in an accent so thick, we understood none of it.  I was in heaven.  His old and worn-out crocodile-skin belt looked like he could have made it himself from a croc he subdued with a huge knife.  We were finally in Australia!  The further north we went, the more “authentically” Australian accents became, and the more friendly and enthusiastic people seemed, and I began to relax.

Arriving in Cairns, we spent 2 days  scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.  The dive master showed us how to make giant clam shells close when we touched their thick, iridescent purple lining. Katie loved the waving fields of coral, and the brightly-colored fish were so enchanting that the 40-minute dives went by way too fast.  While on the boat, we were told to cheer and scream so that a mother whale and her calf would stay at the surface longer, and we did.  It was so moving to see them breaching and diving together that I felt my eyes tear up as we shouted, cheering them on.  At one point, they came so close to the boat that we could see the long scratches on the mother whale’s skin, white against glistening black.

After a couple of somewhat uneventful days in which we did laundry and walked the streets of Cairns, we booked a tour to “the lovely village of Karunda”.  We were excited; the train ride up the mountain was stunning and the countryside was beautiful.  After reaching the “village”, we quickly came to realize that it was not a traditional Australian village at all but a fake one, filled with souvenir shops and restaurants selling meat pies and ice cream.  We looked around and saw no locals–only other tourists, who did not seem bothered at all that we were in a kind of Disneyland village.  We skipped the tour through the rainforest and headed straight for the wildlife reserve, which turned out to be a zoo.  All of the animals were caged, except for several kangaroos, who sat dazed and limp on the dusty ground as tourists posed next to them.  Since apparently kangaroos are nocturnal, they were half-awake and not very responsive or engaging as we tried our best to connect with them spiritually.  We fed them nuggets of food from our hands, which they sluggishly ate from our palms.  Although the kangaroos themselves were less then engaging, our dream of seeing them had been realized, so we left the “lovely village” prematurally and headed back to town.  A couple days later, after flying back to Sydney, we we were on our way to the great city of Beijing…

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