Monthly Archives: December 2013

Thursday, August 22

At 7am, I landed at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, Australia. I’m back.

Because I will be driving for a fair bit of this vacation, often in less populated areas, my dad had given me a good supply of beef jerky, no doubt thinking that if I were stuck somewhere remote with a flat tire, I’d be able to survive for days. Alas, while I knew well enough that I could not bring fresh meat into the US when traveling overseas, it had not occurred to me that dry meat taken out of the US would be an issue anywhere. All my jerky was confiscated in customs/quarantine. I’m sorry, not for the loss of the beef jerky, but simply because dad will be so disappointed. He thought it was such a good idea—one more way to protect his little girl. Oh, well. I still appreciate the thoughtfulness that prompted the giving. On the other hand, it frees me up to rely on Aussie products.

I picked up my car and travel documents at the car rental place and set off on the adventure of driving on the left side of the road. With less time for this trip, I felt the need to do a bit more planning, so I pre-booked more things, including this car and the next week’s accommodations, so I wouldn’t have to worry about a place to sleep as I wound my way up the coast.

Being in the wrong lane and on the wrong side of the car made changing lanes just enough of a challenge in the maniacal airport traffic that I missed the turnoff for Sydney and had to go all the way around the airport again. Outside the airport, it was not immediately clear which way to go, so at a stop light, I asked a charming cabbie if I had any hope of getting on the Princes Highway. He replied that I had every hope and gave me simple directions, and soon I was on the main thoroughfare that would take me up the coast—but right through Sydney, first.

As I crossed Sydney, I could hardly believe how much she had grown. But I didn’t have to think about that for long, as I was out and over the Harbour Bridge, through the northern suburbs, and out of the city. Soon the scenery was comfortingly familiar. Tree-covered mountains and sparkling water surrounded me. Signs bearing familiar names— Kuring-gai Chase, Brisbane Water, the Hawksbury River—flashed past my windows. I rejoiced to see these old friends again, all looking even more beautiful than I remembered. There was only one “scenic view” turn off where I could stop and take pictures, and while I was glad for that one, I would have liked more. Of course, I could have gotten completely off the highway and explored, but I didn’t know how long the drive was to my evening’s accommodation in Bulahdelah, and I didn’t know how long my energy would hold up, having just spent two days flying, so I pressed on.

The rugged, forested mountains of Kunring-gai Chase gave way to rolling, green farms, horse properties, and sheep stations. The drive was alternately pleasant and gorgeous.

My maps were old (they had none at the car rental place for outside of Sydney), so I wasn’t always sure where I was, particularly because there was a lot of construction in progress and a number of extended detours. But signs would appear before I got too worried, reassuring me that I was still on or headed back to Highway One. I passed Cessnock and drove through Kuri Kuri in the impressive Hunter Valley wine-growing region. No time for a winery tour this time, alas. But I could hardly feel sorry for myself, given my surroundings.


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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Trip Two Begins

As I did on my first trip–and in fact as I do on every trip I take, wherever I go–I took copious notes on my three return trips to Australia. The posts that follow, and that will probably follow for some time, will be the transcription of those notes.

For those who ask (and many do), while I largely made plans as I traveled during my initial six-month stay, for these shorter stays, I used the services of a travel agent who specializes in Australia. (Destinations Downunder–see the link at right.) With “only” a month, I didn’t want to lose any time once I got back.

And so the second trip to Australia began.

Tuesday, August 20
I am airborne, passing over a cloudscape more beautiful than dreams. If I weren’t right over the wing, I’d have shot half a roll of film already, so it’s probably a good thing I don’t have an unobstructed view. Save the film for Australia.

Despite all the planning, arranging, and anticipating, it’s still almost unimaginable that I’m going back to Australia. Even as I sit now on the plane, it’s only beginning to sink in. Typing up my journals from my first trip has kept things fresh, but the intensity of the effort needed to build a career from scratch has left me little time to relish the memories and the emotions they conjure.

I return with the strength I felt at the end of my first trip, but with the added joy of knowing the dream had a happy ending, the new career was built. I go now, not with the total abandon of my initial journey, but with a sense of this being a joyous continuation of what I started then.

I’m better prepared this time. I have better gear, including a soft-sided suitcase that converts into a backpack. I have a good flashlight and proper canteen–things I’d had to buy on the road last time, as I had so little I needed when I arrived. Only my pocketknife is the same from that first trip.

The only thing for which I’m not certain I’m prepared is the 14-1/2-hour flight from LA to Sydney. Last trip, I had more stops. Such a long stretch in a vibrating metal tube does not fill my heart with glee.

Coming into Los Angeles just after sunset was wonderful. The sight of the dark mountains reaching up through the clouds, with the fiery sky fading up to dark blue above them, was magic.

Then off again. Crossed the International Deadline, losing Wednesday somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

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The Book That Will Not Be

I had always thought that I’d write a second book about Australia, a sequel to Waltzing Australia. There were two reasons, basically: Waltzing Australia had won an award and was well reviewed, so why not follow up on that success; and, more importantly, because I kept going back to Australia and had so much more to share. However, life got busy. I had to earn a living. My speaking career began to take up more of my time. I had contracts for other books. However, rather than let the sequel simply die, I thought I’d post it here, in bits and pieces. This will mostly just be excerpts from the extensive note-taking that is part of every trip I take. However, it will give me the opportunity to share some of the remarkable things I saw on those trips.

The tentative title for the book that will not be was Australia 2, 3, 4: The Waltz Continues. Here is the introduction I wrote for the book I had hoped would be.

On Going Back
Yes, I’ve been back to Australia, though for shorter stays. It shocks people when I say “only a month,” but compared to the six-month adventure recounted in Waltzing Australia, it was definitely “only.” Yet a month was enough these times, because I was only traveling, not starting over or discovering myself. I was not looking for major changes, just the continuation of the adventure that began with that first grand tour. Of course, it is almost impossible to travel and not change some. One takes on new challenges, takes in new information, discovers, grows.

As it turned out, some of my most remarkable Australian adventures occurred during these return trips. I got farther out, to places barely dreamt of on that first trip. I returned to a few places I loved, and I visited the friends with whom I’d stayed in contact. But mostly, these trips were to reconnect with the land, to reignite the fire started earlier, and to discover the places that I had missed previously. It was to keep promises I’d made to myself, and to prove I could return.
Because I’d had to build a whole new career after the first visit, it had taken several years to get to where I could plan a second trip. It wasn’t just a matter of money, but of being solidly enough established that I could take off for a full month and still have clients and work when I returned home. However, after that second trip, I knew I could get back, and the next two visits were much quicker in coming.

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