Australia

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From Down Under to Up & Over the Top!!

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I write this from my hotel room in Sydney with my last 24 hours in the city before returning home to my family in Hawaii.  I just scheduled myself in for “The Bridge Climb” over Sydney Harbor this evening!  I hesitated about doing this last experience mainly due to the cost, but in the end I decided to go for it, since I know I’ll never regret this memory as the way I finished this year of adventure. 

I’ve also planned a really great surprise for my family since I was due back on Nov. 3rd but instead moved the date up to tomorrow evening arriving back in the islands on Oct. 30th.  Reasons for the change in plan were several, one was due to the fact money was running tight (Australia has become a very expensive destination due to their dollar’s strength & the US’s weakened one) but mainly I was just ready to get back to my family.  The surprise will be sprung on Halloween night when my sister in law’s sister, Marcie, throws her annual Halloween bash.  The family will all be together and I’m going to show up with my niece, Noelani, in costume of some sort as a “mystery guest”….should be a lot of fun.  =)

For now though I want to share of my latest experiences and some of my thoughts on what I’ve seen, as well as felt, in the past few weeks since I last wrote.

I arrived in Sydney, Australia on Oct. 11th after having spent three wonderful weeks in Bali, Indonesia.  My last post was very introspective of all the experiences, emotions, and thoughts of all that had transpired along the way, with a sense of wanderlust lingering still.  Bali was the perfect place to reflect on all the wonderful responses I received after that post.  It is a country filled with beauty on so many levels, scenic, cultural, and the individual people there too.   It was what I needed at just the right time.  Thank you each & every one of you that responded, it meant more than you will ever realize…

Ubud's Rice Terraces

Coincidentally my final days in Bali ended with “The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival”—wonderful serendipity!  I met some very interesting people during the festival, from actual authors, to publishers, to people like myself that lucked into having this event to enjoy while visiting Bali.  I made some new friendships and left with some inspiration as well.  

 

Australia was a wonderful welcome into westernized society for me.  I hit the water my first day in Sydney via the ferry that goes across Sydney Harbor to the town of Manly daily.  It’s also a great way to get an excellent harbor cruise for a fraction of what you would pay for a “harbor tour”. It was a beautiful afternoon with some local folks on the ferry offering me to join them for a mini tour of Manly Beach.  What a nice welcome!  The next few days I spent walking around the city, exploring all the great sights it has to offer, from The Rocks area (where the first settlers arrived) to the waterfront along Circular Quay to Bondi Beach.  I just love Sydney!

After a few days in this great city, I caught a train heading south to visit some friends, one in Goulburn the other in Melbourne, a brother & sister who I know from times back in Hawaii and their sister Debbie. So off I went on the Southern Cross train line to visit Andy & Nikki McCay.  I only spent the weekend with Andy & his family Carolyn & Harry but we had a really great visit.  It was surprising how easily we finished off several bottles of wine that first night, but the conversation flowed as easily as the wine did…  We talked about traveling experiences comparing notes.  I more of a flashpacker than a backpacker, at this point in my life but it’s all good, traveling for extended periods opens you to worlds only someone that has also traveled in length can relate to.  It was a great night. 

 We headed out the next day to Canberra, Australia’s capital city to see a few sights and the National Museum of Art.  The museum left me completely moved about what had happened in Australia that I was never aware of, The Stolen Generation.  It’s a sad reality in Australia’s history but so is slavery in many countries too.  The Stolen Generation was the actual removal of Aboriginal children from their families without parental consent.  This was official government policy from 1909 to 1969.  These children were placed in orphanages or institutions to be raised by others in hopes of eventually “breeding the black out of them”.  How awful.  It makes me wonder how that mentality can exist in human nature, but then again so did slavery in the United States for many generations.  The redeeming factor in this sad part of Australia’s history is that their prime minister not that long ago made a public apology to the Aboriginal people.  Proclaiming a “Sorry Day” but that alone cannot remove the deep scars remaining, only time and more change will heal what damage was done.  I again was amazed at what I learned in the span of a few hours in a museum.  I’m glad we made that trip up the road.  Thanks guys.

 The next day instead of boarding a train, I headed out on a bus unfortunately for Melbourne, due to the fact the night before we had heavy rains which left the railway flooded out in areas.  So off I went further down under to visit Nikki in Melbourne.  The scenery along the way was beautiful, reminding me very much of what you might see in Montana’s “Big Sky” country.  Just rolling hillsides with pastures, dotted with cattle, sheep or grain growing otherwise.  Australia makes me think of the “new west” not the “old west” in many ways. 

When I arrived later in the evening, Nikki swept me off to a friend’s home for a wonderful home cooked meal of lamb roast, roasted veggies, all smothered in gravy.  What a warm welcome!  Nikki was so gracious in letting me stay at her place for nearly a week while I explored Melbourne.  She was busy at work and at night school most evenings.  She is an aspiring writer & actor that will make her mark in the world one day for certain.  We had a couple of fun nights out together, again drinking this wonderful Australian wine way too easily, finishing off my last night with her in Yarraville, where I finally got a chance to experience real “Aussie” culture.  It was a really great final night.  Thank you too, Nikki!

 The next day I hit the highways in a rented car for the Great Ocean Road, which is Australia’s version of Big Sur in some ways.  It’s a beautiful coastal drive along the Southern Ocean with highlights such as Bell’s Beach, that is world famous in the surfing world, the Ottoway Lighthouse which was Australia’s oldest lighthouse constructed around 1848 if memory serves me right, finishing up at the 12 Apostles, which are haystack rock formations out in the ocean.  I also saw koala bears in the wild, which were awake!  =)  These creatures sleep as much as sloths do I think, that along with the cold weather they are exposed to most of the year, it’s no wonder. I saw some each day. I forgot to mention I also saw some kangaroos while at Andy’s place.  He took me by a cemetery spot he knew and sure enough we saw maybe a dozen of them around twilight. I think I’ve experienced some things in my short few weeks in Australia, some people that have lived here for years never see.  I took a few days to drive the Ocean Road which most tours do in a day, I’m glad I went the route that I did.  It was a great road trip.  

The Twelve Apostoles on Great Ocean Road

My final night out was a “blue moon” which is when there is a full moon twice in one month.  It was really special, since I knew my niece Noelani and her brothers were camped out that night too, looking at it with me across the miles—we were sending our love to one another & their dear mother, Vicki, who had passed away tragically two years ago to the date.  That act of sharing the moon with them and the next day waking up to an email of the newest family member, Reagan Morton, joining our ohana (family), left me ready to go back home sooner than later.

When I returned to Sydney the next day, finding I couldn’t get a room reserved anywhere on Saturday night for a reasonable rate, that is when I told myself, “it’s time to head on home…”  So after calling to check on flight change costs versus staying for a few more days it all made sense, that and the realization of how much I wanted to be back to my family—it was an easy decision. 

So I’ll be boarding my flight a few hours from now, going home to the islands, to be surrounded with people I know and love very much.  I’ve said this often while traveling, “I am so blessed to be doing this journey at this point in my life”.  Well I am.  I am equally blessed to have what I do, to return to….

Aloha oe’ and a hui ho!