Australia:Coming to America

As expected, I’ve found Traveling around Australia to be very similar to the United States. The only real difference being everyone drives on the wrong side of the road here. People, food, drinks, stores, all pretty much the same. It seems I spent most of my time in cities having spent a few nights each in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I also spent time in Cairns, the Daintree rain forest and Byron Bay. I had some adventure and met some characters.

I started off in Sydney and spent my time mainly recovering from jet lag, realizing what items I failed to pack, and walking around the city. I took one or two pictures of the Opera house and even did a few runs across the Harbor Bridge. While in Sydney I was thinking the city was very expensive (not a good way to start a 4 month trip) and got a laugh a week later when a girl from Sydney told me she loves shopping in NYC because everything is so cheap.

From there I went to Melbourne which happened to be the week of the Melbourne Cup. Think Kentucky Derby except it’s a week long celebration. The race is on a Tuesday and the whole city (possibly State) get the day off. Again most of my time was spent meandering around the city and except for a few hangovers, nothing to eventful.

I felt like my trip really began when I arrived in Cairns. It was time to do more than just street walking. First up was an overnight live-aboard dive trip. Twelve of us plus the captain and crew went out on a sailboat (although powered by motor not wind for the trip) for a 3 hour tour (to reach the Great Barrier Reef). We dove four times the first day, slept anchored at the reef and dove twice again the next morning. The last dive of the first day was my first night dive and the crew found it humorous to play the theme from Jaws as we suited up.

During one of the dives the first day (not the night dive since you couldn’t see anything since it was…night) I did see my first shark. I was nonchalant about it (mainly because I didn’t realize it was a shark until I was told later that night when we were having beers). For the most part there weren’t a great number of fish but some good looking corral. Upon returning to port guests and crew worked together on getting our land legs back at several bars that evening.

I then went up to the Daintree rainforest where I spent a night in a hostel built within the rainforest. Prior to arriving at the hostel we did a short hike through the rainforest and a boat trip looking for crocs. In the evening as I sat in the hostel bar named the Croc Bar (I’m in Australia mate), I spoke to a guy who had lived in the area for many years and chartered croc tours. He mentioned how recently one of the guests mentioned how cool Crocodile Dundee was. He was offended because as he told me, that guy (Paul Hogan) was an actor, he was a real Croc Dundee and talked about how he killed two crocs over the years.

From Cairns I went down (or up since everything is upside down here — by the way, you know the toilet water really does flow in the opposite direction) to Byron Bay. Byron is a surf town that is very similar to Boulder before the yuppies moved in. The first person I met in Byron is a guy named Tree. As he explained, Byron had lots of guys named Tree but he was the true Tree. At points during our conversations Tree (who spent the last 2 years finding himself and wore a large wood necklace with a picture of a yogi) explained how he is “passionate about breathing” and his anarchist theory whereby everyone rises up to a higher level of consciousness to make the world a better place. When I mentioned the Celestine Prophecies he told me that was “childs play compared to his theory”.

In keeping with this aura, one day we drove to the town of Nimbon which is where all the Aussie Dead Heads apparently retired. Other than that and a kayak tour to see dolphins (300-400 dolphin live in the cove of which we saw…none of them), I just enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Byron.

From there I headed up to Brisbane where I am currently writing this and from where my flight to New Zealand takes off tomorrow morning (Tuesday Nov. 19th). Since I had seen very little wildlife up to this point, I visited the koala reserve here so I can say I saw the animals everyone expects to see in Australia. Kangaroos, Koalas and Emus…Oh my.

As I said, Australia was about what I expected and I am now looking forward to the more adventurous and culturally different countries on my itinerary; New Zealand, Vietnam and Laos.