Australia (Austraya as the locals say) is often grouped together with New Zealand, and it is often that you hear of stories of tourists arriving in New Zealand and expecting to drive over a bridge between the countries. Or others who are surprised that New Zealand doesn't have kangaroos. In fact there are actually a lot of things that New Zealand doesn't have that Australia does, and many of these we are very, very glad we don't have. Snakes, Crocodiles, Poisonous spiders, Box Jellyfish, Endless Desert, Pauline Hanson, VB, and Australian Blokes, to name just a few.
Actually, other than the fact New Zealand and Australia are reasonably close geographically (the equivalent distance of the UK to the Ukraine), we have very little in common.
We arrived in Australia not just because the oversized island was in our way, but also to have a look at some of these things that Australia does have and New Zealand doesn't, including the nasties.
Sydney seemed like a nice enough town. I had only been here once before and Lynda had never been here, so we wanted to have a good look around. We also had friends and relatives living here, so
we were keen for some overdue catch-ups. Our plans were pretty flexible (aka we had no plans), but we figured that a week in Sydney would be about right. We spent our time here, exploring the city, visiting friends and relatives and having phone interviews with companies in New Zealand.
Arriving in Australia brought back the reality that our trip was not going to last forever and at some point (very soon), we would need to get respectable again and stop bumming around. So during our time in Australia (I like that phrase, 'During our time', sounds like the place still is a big prison), I would often find myself on the phone to New Zealand answering some question about Enterprise Java Systems.
After about a week in Sydney, we hired a car and started a drive up to Brisbane, we were planning to take our time travelling up and back down, so we could explore a little on the way. We stayed with friends in Newcastle and they lent us a tent, which meant we could really enjoy the Australian summer. So with it pissing down with rain we drove north from Newcastle.
Our trip north was
slightly more hurried than we wanted; the weather was so rubbish we figured it would be better to take our time on the way down. We stayed a night in a small Aussie town, and set up camp at the local showground. They had been getting so much rain here that some people had set up their tents inside of cowsheds. That seemed pretty desperate to us, but fortunately it didn't rain too much that night. The next day we headed north stopping at Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, before arriving in the madness that is the Gold Coast. My brother lives in Surfers Paradise, so we set up camp at a camping ground here, and caught up with him and his wife and my nephew. One real problem about spending so long overseas is that you don't often get to see family, so it was the first time we had met my nephew, and he was already four. In the morning we all headed to Sea World, which was quite a different experience to what we had been doing, but we had a fantastic time.
We also wanted to catch up with Lynda's Aunt and Cousin, so we
Lazy buggers these guys
They sleep for 18 hours a day, the rest of the time is for eating and scratching their bollucks
drove a little bit more to Brisbane. This also gave us a great excuse to explore the city, which is a really nice place, not very big but a good place to walk around and explore.
While at Lynda’s Aunt’s house we got a reminder of one of those differences between New Zealand and Australia. There was a possum living under her house, at night it would come out and eat some treats left for it. It certainly was the first time I had heard the words ‘cute’ and ‘possum’ in the same sentence. In New Zealand you normally hear the words ‘dead’ or ‘bloody’ associated with ‘possum’. It came as some surprise that not only was it discouraged to shoot possums, it was also illegal. For a New Zealander who has seen the environmental destruction that these ‘cute’ animals cause to our trees, this was quite an eye opener.
After this escapade to Queensland, we had to get back to Sydney, but with a few days in hand we wandered down the coast slowly stopping on the way and trying to see strange Australian animals. We did end up seeing in the wild most of the critters
we wanted to see while in Australia; Snakes, Kangaroos, Poisonous Spiders, Dingoes. But the koala remained elusively absent, so we settled for visiting a city park in Newcastle that had a great collection of native animals. To be honest they were a little bit of a let down, they just sat in their trees and slept. The wombat was also not very lively, looking more like a mossy tree trunk than an animal. In all fairness it was early morning and maybe they had been up all night at the pub or something.
Arriving back in Sydney, we had now only one more obstacle between us and Aotearoa (that’s New Zealand in Maori in case you didn't know), this was the Tasman Sea, affectionately known as 'the ditch'. Throughout my life, I have associated this 'lively' bit of water with danger and storms, as it is where all the bad weather of New Zealand comes from. Looking out on a stormy day, it seems quite formidable and impassable, a swirling mass of currents and waves. My grandmother's first husband was a fisherman, and this rough bit of water claimed his life.
We would also be heading into the
'Roaring Forties', the term given to this area of latitude where fierce westerly storms can make their way around the world mostly unobstructed by land. Hopefully in the midst of all this wild environment and chaos we would find a couple of small islands that we call home.
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