[I thought long and hard about how to make this title as exciting as possible]
Ah, Australia. I am very happy to be here. Being in a developed country is a huge change for me. I’m liking it. The first thing I noticed is there is so much *space*. I had gotten used to how crowded Asia is. Here, the streets and sidewalks are wide. And there aren’t enough people to fill them. A welcome change. Other things I noticed: it’s so clean here. Especially the “western” toilets they have here. Nice. There are parks. People play soccer barefoot on the grass by the ocean. Wonderful. The water out of the tap is clean for drinking (I love this one). The Greyhound buses are clean, modern, spacious and comfortable. Nobody is riding on my lap or on the roof. Compared to most of Asia, they are down-right luxurious. I did an 11-hour bus ride the other day — easy as pie. For an 8-month Asia traveller, it was a joke. I couldn have travelled for 11 days on that bus.
Another big change for me: in this country, I speak the local language. How convenient. I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to understand all the signs and all the conversations around me. Having said that, I am having a few problems with the accent here. For some reason the people here have something against the letter ‘r’, especially when it is followed by an ‘n’. The don’t pronounce it. For example, “Cairns” and “Melbourne” are pronounced “Cans” and “Melbon.” Go figure. Apparently, it is a bit mutual. The other day an Australian woman asked me how long I’ve been learning English. “About 30 years,” I replied.
Aussies themselves are very good-natured, friendly and fun! I knew this from travelling and during my time in Whistler. They have made me feel most welcome. Twice now I have gone out to party and bumped into some locals. When they hear I have just arrived in Aus, they buy me drinks to welcome me. How cool is that? These peopel are very proud of their country (as well they should be) and really want me to have a a good time here. There is nothing to make a Canadian guy feel at home like a few beers.
The Great Barrier Reef. Probably the world’s most famous dive site. Now, I have dived it. I have been to two of the world’s “Great” places: The Great Wall of China and the Great Barrier Reef. Both are very touristed. And for good reason — they are awesome. I spent 3 days and 2 nights on a “live-aboard” boat way out on the reef. I dived 3 or 4 times a day. Great fun, the diving life. I dive, I eat, I drink beer, I hang out on the boat, nap on the sundeck. If you love to dive, you should give this a try.
Also, I did my first night dive. Very creepy, but very cool. You float around in the gloomy darkness 20m undewater. You can see nothing except what your flashlight shines on. In a way it’s relaxing. But, you can’t stop your imagination from running: what lurks in the darkness just a few feet away? I was checking out the coral when a fellow diver’s light shines into the darkness and lights up a big fish with green eyes! A shark! It was a reef shark, the kind that first pops into your head when you think “shark.” Muscular- and aggressive-looking. Fortunately, it was not too big (maybe 5 feet long?). It didn’t seem too interested in us or our flashlights. (I’ve been told these sharks are not dangerous.)
My game plan now is to cruise down the east coast of a Australia, then pop over to New Zealand. I will let you know how this all works out…
My first bowl of cereal in 8 months. Toucan Sam and I, together again at last.
Sunset on the Great Barrier Reef, from the Kangaroo Explorer
Chaos on the dive deck. Divers getting ready for a 6am “sunrise” dive
The Kangaroo Explorer. A beauty.