Yep, I know it’s been a while since my last update, but things here have been pretty busy. I spend my days on the road and during the evenings, I plan the next day's adventure while poring over my maps and my "bible," the Lonely Planet Guide to Australia. By the way, Lonely Planet is, hands down, the best Australian guide book on the market.
I also spend a lot of time at night doing more mundane
things, like washing clothes and working on my digital photos, so with everything going on I haven’t had much time to work on my website.
Even buying groceries can take a long time and ever since I left on this trip nearly a year ago,
just about every trip to a
new and unfamiliar grocery store has, for better or worse, been an adventure.
I’m starting to miss my Fred Meyer store back in Hillsboro where I
know the exact location of each and every imaginable product ("Doritos -- Aisle
8. Chocolate Pop Tarts -- Aisle 17").
I’m really behind in e-mail, too, and my In-box is starting to pile
sorry if I haven’t written back yet, but I will as soon as things settle
down a bit… I promise!
As you can imagine, the Australian group
Savage Garden is really popular here, and I hear their music
often on the radio. Here's Truly,
RealPlayer. If problems, see
I thought I’d celebrate March 1st, which Australians consider to be the first
day of fall, by posting an update.
Yes, fall is in the air… the days are getting shorter, kids are finally
back in school, and it’s cooling off a bit.
Actually, this has been the coolest summer in southern Australia in over
50 years but I’m not complaining, because temperatures have been quite nice -- between about 65 and 80 almost every day that I’ve been
Unusually cool weather on this very hot continent means that it’s just
about right. I’m really glad I wasn’t here last year, which apparently was the
hottest summer in several decades.
fall arrives, the weather up in northern Australia, where I'll be heading soon, is getting a little more tolerable.
After visiting Adelaide tomorrow, I’ll drive up into the center part of
the country – the real Outback.
Summertime high temperatures there can easily surpass 110 degrees, but this
time of year I’m expecting highs of “only” around 100 or so.
Even farther north around Darwin, the monsoon season is drawing to a
area, known as the "Top End," is quite tropical and has two seasons:
“The Wet,” from November until about March and “The Dry,” during
the rest of the year.
It’s not a good idea to visit Darwin during the Wet unless you enjoy
stifling humidity and sweating like a pig.
Sweating like a pig has never really appealed to me, so I'm not sure if I'm going
all the way up to Darwin; I'll just play it by ear and see what happens.
Back, and Ahead
been in Australia for a few weeks now and I've got about a month left to go here
before I fly back to America in early April. It's been a good trip and I
really like this country, but I'm also looking forward to getting back to the
U.S. and seeing my friends and family, playing some volleyball, and driving my pickup truck
again. Traveling alone overseas for several months is a bit more
than I imagined because I have to be totally self-reliant and, while I'm enjoying my time here, the idea of camping in a
U.S. State Park, driving down the Oregon Coast, or hiking through the familiar
Utah desert sounds pretty appealing right about now. In fact, anything
familiar seems appealing right about now. Don't get me wrong, though,
because although I miss the
U.S., I'm glad I came over here and don't regret it for a minute.
Australia is a wonderful country, it's a little different than I thought it
would be. I've been surprised so far at how many places in Australia
remind me of
Northern California, especially the Central Valley area around Sacramento or
Redding. I had images of red sandy deserts and the endless
Outback but I haven't seen much of that... not yet, anyway. Surprisingly, the most
beautiful areas that I've visited haven't been near the coast but rather 50 or
100 miles inland. With a few exceptions, the coastal drive south from
Sydney is pretty boring because the road is hemmed in on both sides with
eucalyptus trees and you can't see that much. If you drive inland, though,
you'll see lots of rolling hills, rivers, scattered trees, and interesting
wildlife. And, just like Northern California, you'll even spot some
people here are a bit different than I imagined, too. As I'm learning,
Australians in general have a good sense of humor and don't take themselves too
seriously, which I like. I didn't have any preconceptions of what
Australian women were like (except that they all looked like Elle McPherson),
but the guys here aren't
as macho or chauvinistic as I thought they'd be. I had images of beer-swilling
guys wearing muscle shirts who tell crude jokes and slap you on the back, but I
really haven't met anyone like that yet. Most of the men and
women I've met here are
like... dare I say it... Americans -- although perhaps a bit friendlier and
quicker with a smile, a laugh, and a handshake.
spent the past week driving around the Australian state of Victoria, which is
about as large as Oregon. I haven't figured this out yet, but for some
reason a lot of places I’ve visited on my
trip have been about as big as Oregon, including New Zealand.
Anyway, Victoria lies in Australia’s southeastern corner and, like Oregon,
it has a lot of variety -- quite a bit more, in fact, than what I saw
in New South Wales.
I haven’t been to the Great Barrier Reef yet, but after spending the
past week traveling around Victoria, I think if I had only one week to spend in Australia, I’d probably go to Victoria.
Snow-capped mountains, rainforests, empty Outback desert, and one of the
most beautiful coastal drives I’ve ever seen… it’s all here, as I describe
in this update:
and Over the Great Dividing Range
wrote my last update in Bega, a small farming town in New South Wales.
Bega is quiet and peaceful but, frankly, not very interesting and I wouldn't recommend
spending more than one night there unless you're, say, updating a website, like
couple of days there, I left Bega on a cloudy, drizzly morning. I
crossed over the Snowy River and headed up into the Great Dividing Range,
Australia's longest and highest mountain range, passing by Australia’s highest peak, Mt. Kosciuszko (elev. 6,700') for the second time on
this trip. I
still haven’t figured out why Australians named their highest peak after a
Polish hero in the American Revolutionary War, but if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Australians love to shorten names and add a "y" or "ie," so
it's no surprise that they call this peak "Mt. Kozzy.” Whatever
it's called, it was buried once again in clouds
so I still haven't seen it, but the locals assured me that it’s there.
Above left: Heading up into the
Great Dividing Range. Mt. Kozzy is up there somewhere.
Above center: And dropping down onto the western side of the
mountains. This is
the town of Bright, Victoria -- a pleasant summer resort town. I could've
spent a week here.
Above right: A marsupial restaurant in Bright.
Kelly: Hero or Outlaw?
dropping down the west side of the Great Dividing Range on a narrow, winding
road, I drove into the town of Bright, which had a pleasant name and seemed like a nice place so I got a
motel room there. After chatting with the friendly owner and checking in
to my room,
I walked around town and spent a half-hour at a pretty downtown park watching
some kids play in the river that cuts through town. On the way back to my
room, I stopped at a corner cafe to get some fish and chips, and that evening
watched the Winter Olympics on TV.
I really love the
Olympics, especially the smaller and more casual Winter Olympics, and Salt Lake
City is only a two-day drive from Portland, so I wish I could've gone there to
watch the Olympics in person. I'm pretty familiar with Salt Lake City,
since I worked there during the past few years on their new Light Rail Transit
system, which they built partly because of the Olympics. Now that I think
about it, though, Salt Lake City isn't the most exciting place in
the world, so maybe it's just as well that I didn't go.
I was reluctant to leave
Bright the next
but I had to make tracks. An hour after leaving, I stopped in Beechworth, a
historic mining town in central Victoria. Beechworth
is in the heart of the Victoria gold mining country and reminded me of the California gold-rush towns that dot the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
In fact, with the rolling foothills, golden grasslands, and scattered
trees, this whole area reminded me of the Sierra foothills. A lot of
miners from California came to Beechworth in the 1850s after the
California gold played out and, considering the surroundings, I bet they felt right at home here.
Beechworth is probably best known as the site of the 1880 trial of
Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous outlaw, who was either a hero or a bandit
depending on whom you talk to. After the trial in Beechworth and one in Melbourne, the 24-year old Kelly was found
guilty of robbery and murder and was hung in the Melbourne Prison.
His legend grew shortly afterwards and about a week later, I'm sure, the first "Ned Kelly" t-shirts
and bumper stickers were printed up... a prolific marketing endeavor which
continues to this day.
A lot of
Aussies glamorize Ned Kelly, comparing him to Jesse James or Billy the Kid in
the U.S. That's not a very favorable comparison in my book, because those
two American outlaws were simply cold-blooded killers and there was very little
"noble" about them, despite the misplaced idolatry which lingers in their wake.
After visiting Beechworth for a few hours and visiting the court room where
Kelly was tried, I couldn't decide for myself whether Kelly was really a hero
unjustly accused for crimes he didn't commit or was simply a cold-blooded
killer. As you
might say, "The jury is still out."
leaving Beechworth, I stopped in the small town of Glen Rowan, which is where
Kelly was captured by the police during his last battle.
Glen Rowan really milks the Ned Kelly thing to death with lots of mugs,
t-shirts, and even a play about Kelly using computerized mannequins, which
performs every hour on the hour.
The Mannequin Play was pretty expensive and, from the pictures, it
reminded me too much of wax museums, which I generally detest, so I didn't see
Well, O.K, it
also looked pretty scary.
walking around Glen Rowan for a while, I headed back to my car when I heard “Waltzing Matilda” playing over the
loudspeakers of a nearby café. "Waltzing Matilda" gets me every
time so I popped into the cafe, chatted with the friendly owner (a woman in
her 50's), and bought the CD.
As the owner told me, the CD was recorded by a well-known Australian folk singer named
Lazy Harry (seriously, that's his name) who lives nearby.
For the next hour as I drove across the hot, flat farmlands of northern
Victoria, I listened to Lazy Harry belt out “Waltzing Matilda,” “Tie Me
Kangaroo Down, Sport,” “A Pub With No Beer,” and 22 other Australian favorites.
Above left: Beechworth is in the
heart of the Victoria Gold Country. The buildings here have been well
preserved and it's an interesting place to walk around.
Above center: Australia's most famous criminal was Ned Kelly who,
some say, made money the old-fashioned way: he stole it. After
being captured in nearby Glen Rowan, Ned was brought to trial in Beechworth in 1880.
Above right: A larger-than-life version of Ned Kelly in Glen Rowan,
complete with his famous helmet and body armor. During Kelly's last
battle, a short ways from here, he was shot 29 times by the police but thanks to
the armor he survived... only to meet his fate at the end of a rope.
Going Down? A Working Mine in Bendigo
thermometer hit 100 degrees (well, o.k., 38 degrees centigrade) as I drove through the farmlands
of northern Victoria that afternoon, and after listening to Lazy Harry’s CD for the third
time (and getting a bit tired of "Waltzing Matilda," I must admit), I
pulled into Echuca, a historic town on the banks of the
Murray River. Back in the 1800’s, Echuca was inland Australia’s busiest
port and was, I guess, also a pretty rowdy place. Today, Echuca is mostly a
river resort town -- something like Yuma, Arizona without the RV's.
However, it retains a lot of its historic flavor.
Being Australia's longest river
and set in a desert-ish environment, the Murray is like a cross
between the Colorado and Mississippi Rivers
in the U.S. and Echuca
was the scene of a lot of steamboat action back in its heyday.
You can still ride the steamboats there, which I did the next morning.
Listening to the paddlewheels slosh through the water while watching the gum
trees on the banks of the Murray pass by was interesting, and for a time I felt
like I was back in the 1800s.
spending a night in Echuca and taking the paddle-steamer cruise the next
morning, I drove over to the gold-mining town of Bendigo.
Back in the 1800’s, Bendigo was the most active gold-mining town in
Australia and, unlike a lot of old gold mining towns, Bendigo is still thriving.
In fact, with
a population today of about 50,000, Bendigo is really hopping and the
architecture here is quite impressive, with most buildings dating back to the opulent gold-rush
days of the 1800’s.
I discovered in the Bendigo Visitor Center, there’s an active gold mine right
in the middle of town called the Central Deborah that offers tours to the
public. I've been interested in gold mining ever since my ranger days in Colorado
but I’ve never been inside a working mine, so I drove over to the Central Deborah
and paid US$20 for a tour.
As it turned out, I was the only one on the tour, which was led by a couple of
friendly retired miners named Roy and Brian. After I donned my overalls
and boots, Roy fitted me with a helmet light and the three of us got in a very tiny elevator
cage and quickly dropped 300 feet straight down the chute. During the rapid
descent, Roy kindly suggested that I keep my hands inside the cage unless I
wanted to lose them.
For the next two
hours, I followed Roy and Brian through the mine, followed by a short break for tea,
rolls, and jam while sitting at a picnic table 300 feet below the surface in the
dark mine and talking into each
other’s helmet lights.
As I learned during the tour, mining is VERY loud work, with air drills,
rock blasting, and ore-carting, all of which (except for the blasting) I took a
crack at. It
was an interesting tour and well worth the price… but I’m really glad I have
a desk-job, because after spending two hours in the bowels of the Central Deborah
mine, there’s no way in heck that I’d ever want to be a miner.
My ears are still ringing.
Above left: One of the many
riverboats, or "paddle-steamers" as they call them here, on the Murray River in Echuca. The Murray
is like a cross between the Mississippi and Colorado River, and forms the border
between Victoria (foreground) and New South Wales (background).
Above center: Here's the pilothouse of the paddle-steamer I rode on the next morning. Most of
the paddle-steamers here, including this one, were built in the early 1900s.
Mark Twain would've loved this place.
Above right: Big wheels keep on
Above left: The historic port area of Echuca. It was pretty
darn hot in Echuca, but it was well-worth the visit.
Above center: Railway station in
Maryborough, near Bendigo.
Above right: "Poppets" were used to drill
shafts for hard-rock mining. This is in Bendigo which, during the 1800s,
was Australia's most productive gold-mining area.
Above left: The Central Deborah is a working gold mine in downtown
Bendigo. Here's the change room where I donned my overalls, boots, and
Above center: That's me ready to head down the shaft. I guess most real
miners don't carry cameras.
Above right: Here's an old photo
from my collection. These are miners
in Colorado during the 1880s standing next to their compressed-air drill.
They drilled holes into the rock, filled them with dynamite, blasted the rock,
then repeated the process. Gold miners today use this same drill-and-blast process.
Above left: Here's Roy demonstrating an air drill
at 300 feet below the
surface. The spots are from the steady mist, used to capture the rock
dust. I operated the drill too, and my ears rang for quite a
Above center: Roy operating a mucker,
which picks up blasted rocks and throws them into a waiting ore car. Like
the air drill, this thing is incredibly noisy.
Above right: It was an interesting two-hour tour. Mining is
loud, hard, and dangerous work... and I'm really glad I'm not a
is a pretty long entry so I've broken it into two pages. The next page is
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia). See you there!
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
Australia Trip >
March 1, 2002 (Page 1)