Journal 43; Goodbye Australia
June 7 - July 4, 2012
Australia has been good for us and during our final six weeks in this beautiful country we drove from Alice Springs, Central Australia to Cairns (pronounced ‘Cans’), located on the coast of Northeast Australia. Before leaving Alice Springs we needed some routine maintenance for the van and during our extra stay we learned more about its Lost People; the modern Aborigines.
The story of Europeans ‘discovering’ the New World, destroying the land and its original people is certainly not unique to Australia. The historical treatment of Aboriginals and other minorities by white Australians was quite deplorable. In the early 1900’s the government deported most of the Pacific Islanders that had been brought in to work the sugar cane fields even though many had actually been born in Australia. Until the mid- 1960’s Australia had a “White Only” immigration laws. Aboriginals were truly second class citizens and they were not permitted into some Queensland towns and they were not allowed to purchase alcohol.
The laws of not allowing Aboriginals to purchase alcohol were “for their own good.” After being displaced from their land and traditional ways of life, most Aboriginals became addicted to alcohol. Today this condition has changed little. In Central Australian communities, like Alice Springs, there now is “An Aboriginal Problem.” In Alice Springs the Aboriginals truly look like lost souls. Large numbers of them wander the streets and city parks waiting for the ‘bottle shops’ to open.
Some Aboriginals augment their alcohol consumption by sniffing gasoline fumes. To reduce this problem many gasoline stations in Northern Territory only sell a variety of unleaded gasoline called “Opal.” It is a synthetic gasoline that does not contain the chemicals to ‘get high’ by sniffing. What they don’t tell you (and fortunately a chatty local told us) is that the missing chemicals of Opal gasoline will ruin an old engine. Fortunately this man told us this info and we switched to Premium unleaded gasoline. To prevent Aboriginals getting a cheap high, many gas stations have their premium gasoline hoses locked to their pumps. To buy premium you must go inside the store and ask for the key.
Aboriginals do not like to have their picture taken so in respect we pulled this photo off the internet.
We left Alice Springs immediately after getting the car work completed and headed north, then east toward the coast. It was still cool during the day and VERY cold at night (34ºF). We camped in the bush every night, made a fire and cooked our tucker. Every other day we stopped at a truck stop for a hot shower. Neither of us had ever showered at a truck stop but it was great. We “double dog dare” you to do the same!” Fuel prices in Brisbane are about US$4.60/gallon but in the small rural towns of the outback we paid up to US$8.00/gallon. Ouch! Somehow that’s never mentioned in the travel brochures.
The first city we arrived was Townsville, a tidy city with beautiful beaches. We enjoyed walking along the beach and after the cold desert nights JoDon enjoyed sunbathing on the beach after she warmed up first. Our surprise was the “snowbirds” (old farts) from the southern (and cold) states had driven north to the free campsites of North Australia. Here in Australia they call snowbirds, “Gray nomads.” The designated camp sites were overflowing with a combination of young European backpackers and old Aussies.
One night we were invited to a cocktail hour of gray nomads and we were treated with Aussies colorful use of their language. One dignified lady explained her shopping experience at the first Costco store to open in Australia. She was unimpressed with the prices and reported that the only thing Costco shoppers were purchasing was toilet paper. She then added, “It’s not Costco’s fault our government is for shit.” Many caravans (what we call camping trailers) have ‘cute’ phrases written on the back of the caravans. One popular rhyme is “Adventure before dementia.” Think that doesn't rhyme? Then say it with an Aussie nasal tone,
‘add-VEN-cha’ before ‘de-MEN-cha.” Now you know why sometimes we get confused while conversing!
We have remained in communication with our friends, Burt & Ingi, and we met them at Magnetic Island (in Aussie it’s pronounced, ‘Maggie Island’). The weather was smashingly perfect and we spent a most enjoyable day with them hiking around the small island. While doing so we were treated by spotting a young koala sleeping in a treetop. We had been hiking all over the East Coast of Australia and up until now, we were disappointed to not see a koala in the wild. But it’s difficult to walk a hiking trail, scanning for snakes on the ground while simultaneously looking at the treetops for koalas that rarely move. While taking photos on this koala we overheard a young boy say, “Mummy, why are these people taking photos? At home we see koalas everyday.”
Beach sunset North Queensland
Cassowary North QLD
After spending time at crowded beach campsites, we decided to go the hinterlands of Northern Queensland. We decided to provision in the small community of Ingham, known for their annual Italian festival. We were very surprised to hear Italian spoken by many young people while doing our shopping and banking. There actually ARE Italians living here and there are Italian radio stations throughout Australia. Surprised?
Northern Qld has many waterfalls and camping sites. One particular hike required us to ford a river 5 times each way. On the way out we pulled of our boots and socks, even jeans one time, but on the way back JoDon decided just to go for it. Notice that the water is so clear you can see her boots through it. The reward was this magnificent waterfall.
Just so everyone will not think that rednecks are limited to the borders of the United States, we inserted this photo of an Australian front yard. What a creative father to construct a slide for his children using a pool ladder, abandoned car and a broken slide!
We were privileged to spot a cassowary in the wild. Photo earlier. What a unique creature! Cassowaries eat fallen fruit and spread seeds throughout a rainforest with its digestive process. It is thought that its unusual pointed head shape protect their heads from falling fruit.
After some cold nights in the mountains we traveled north to the warm climate of Cairns. It is a delightful city that was full of backpackers basking in the sunshine. Since we were coming to the end of our camping we sold our van rather suddenly. I walked home from selling the van and found JoDon sitting on a mound of our clothes at the campsite. At this point all of our household possessions fit into a shopping cart. It was a shocker to have no home of any means so we checked into a room at the campsite and sorted things out. Within an hour we contacted a camper van rental center and found a van that needed to be driven to Sydney. The rental fee was $1/day and they paid us $250 for fuel. So, why not?
On July 5th we are scheduled to fly to the States and begin some new chapter of our lives. We will infrequently continue our website so please keep in contact.
Brian and JoDon