Arriving at Brisbane’s airport on a Qantas flight from Alice Springs, we are met by Tim and Jan, our good friends from Istanbul days who have now returned to their home after ten years abroad. From the moment of our arrival until our departure more than a week later we will bask in their company. I’ll say right off how nice it is to be driven instead of driving myself and not to have to puzzle our way through yet another big city. Our friends are magnificent hosts who have planned our stay beautifully.
Look at a map of Australia, and you’ll find the town of Alice Springs almost exactly in the center of the continent and at least 1,000 miles from any other large settlement. Remember that 70% of Australia is uninhabitable desert except for Aborigines and certain alien-looking trees, plants, reptiles, small birds and marsupials. There is very little water there. The Aborigines that crisscrossed this land for tens of thousands of years until the beginning of the 19th century were exceptional. They could find water by digging with sticks under certain plants. They found nourishment by sucking nectar from desert flowers and eating grubs, ants, bush tomatoes, and tiny plant seeds they would grind into flour.
Yes, Adelaide is so called, yet if that appellation bespeaks a city sedate and unadventurous, we can only refute it. On Friday, March 14, the day we arrived, the city was celebrating the end of two festivals and the unofficial beginning of St Patrick’s Day. Along with crowds of pedestrians swarming the pavements and buskers aplenty, the cafes and bars were doing big business.
For those of you following our progress, our next major destination after Tasmania was the City of Adelaide where we would spend four days. To get there we rented a Toyota Rav 4, from the Melbourne Airport and prepared to drive more than 1,200 kilometers, taking in what is said to be Australia’s most spectacular stretch of coast, The Great Ocean Road.
This Australian island was only a name to me prior to this trip. It might not even have been that if it weren’t for Errol Flynn. He was one of my boyhood screen heroes, and I knew he came from a place called Tasmania.
The city of Melbourne on Australia’s South Coast with a population of 4,200,000 is nearly as large as Sydney, yet we experienced it quite differently. Partly, this was due to the influence of our German friends, Conny and Jocki, who have a long relationship with the city and who enjoy a relaxed style of life. They introduced us to Melbourne in a gentle fashion, first when we disembarked from the QM2 for a day and then again when we arrived for this longer visit after Sydney. It was fortunate that their current visit to Melbourne coincided with ours.
Today we visited MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, situated a few miles upstream from Hobart on high ground overlooking the wide Derwent River. We arrived at 10 a.m. and didn’t leave until 3:30. Even with a longish break for lunch and rest in the Museum Café, it was a long time for us to spend at a museum.
Ah Sydney, the brash and the beautiful! With lumps in our throat we said good-bye to the Queen Mary 2 at its berth along Circular Quay. In the six days that followed, we tried to look past this amazing harbor with its iconic opera house and bridge in order to begin to get a handle on the greater city.
Only nineteen kilometers apart, linked by history as well as proximity, Fremantle and Perth gave us our first taste of this sunburned continent. Originally scheduled to spend only one day in the port of Fremantle, our ship needed special maintenance, and this happy accident gave us an extra day. We were able to visit both towns.