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April 4, 2002  (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

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On to Brizbun

Before I left Hervey Bay, I spent a few hours in my motel room boxing up the souvenirs and assorted junk that I'd accumulated during my two months in Australia, then trotted down to the Post Office and mailed them to myself back in the U.S.  Each box cost about US$40 to mail, but it was worth it because, frankly, it's pretty hard to find boomerangs, Lazy Harry CD's, and souvenir cans of kangaroo dung back in the States.

 

After leaving Hervey Bay, I continued south along the Sunshine Coast.  So far, I'd been disappointed with the scenery during my drive down the east coast of Australia, and the Sunshine Coast proved to be no exception.  Part of the problem, I guess, are the endless miles of eucalyptus trees and unvarying topography that you drive through here and elsewhere on the east coast.  It's really no surprise, then, that falling asleep while driving is a big problem in Australia, a fact punctuated by the dozens of billboards dotting the highways throughout Australia that warn drivers not to doze off.   Like everywhere else in Australia, though, the friendliness of the people more than made up for the drab scenery, and I had a pleasant drive to Brisbane.

 

There are three things to know about Brisbane.  First, it's pronounced "Briz-bun," not "Briz-bane," as most Americans pronounce it.  Second, it's Australia's largest city behind Sydney and Melbourne.  Third, it's a really great city.  Up to this point, I thought Adelaide was the nicest city in Australia, but I changed my mind after spending an afternoon walking around Brisbane.  

 

With a population of about a million people and located on a large river that's called, not surprisingly, the Brisbane River, Brisbane reminded me a lot of my hometown, Portland, Oregon, although it's much more tropical.  In fact, it was downright steamy when I was there.  It's also, dare I say it, a lot more interesting than Portland.  The downtown area is lively and wonderful, the bridges that cross the river are beautiful, they have a great ferry system that shuttles people up and down the river, and there's a large and fascinating botanical park in Brisbane, just a few blocks from downtown. 

 

After walking through the garden-jungle in the botanical park for a half-hour, I felt like I was up in the Daintree Rainforest again -- it's very cool.  Well, actually it was hot and steamy, but it was also cool.  Yep, if I were ever to move to Australia, I think Brisbane would be the place.  I know, I know... I've already said that about Wagga Wagga, Adelaide, and Port Douglas, but this time I really mean it!

 

2-3264_Noosa_Harbor.jpg (38799 bytes)    2-3266_Sunshine_Coast.jpg (46165 bytes)

Above left:  Continuing down the coast, this is the marina at Noosa, a pleasant coastal resort town north of Brisbane.

Above right:  Viewpoint along the Sunshine Coast.  That's one of the Automobile Club trucks that patrol the highways of Australia looking for stranded motorists.

 

2-3302_Mall_in_Brisbane.jpg (81269 bytes)    2-3305_Brisbane_at_Night.jpg (39982 bytes)   

Above left:  Brisbane's lively Queen Street Mall.  Brisbane is something like Portland, Oregon, but it's a lot more interesting, vibrant, and tropical.  Too bad there aren't any cities like this in the U.S.

Above center:  The Brisbane River at night.  

Above right:  Catching up on some e-mail that evening, sitting by my Lonely Planet "bible." 

 

"Crikey, Looka Those Snappers!"

I spent two full days in Brisbane, exploring during the day and updating my website at night.  Well, o.k., I also caught an episode of that campy "Babes-in-the-Outback" TV show, McLeod's Daughters, one evening, but I'm not proud to admit it. 

 

 

Crikey, He's Gone...

September 2006 (Portland, Oregon)

I was deeply saddened by the untimely death of Steve Irwin earlier this month.  Steve's irrepressible personality and zest for life was one of the reasons I decided in 2001 to visit Australia.  Like many others, I was stunned by his sudden passing and his death leaves a void that unfortunately no one will ever fill. 

 

During the morning of my second day in Brisbane, I drove a half-hour north of town to visit the Australia Zoo.  If you've ever seen the TV show "Crocodile Hunter" hosted by the ever-cheerful and exuberant (to put it mildly) Steve Irwin, you've probably seen the zoo, because Steve is the zoo's owner and manager.  In fact, I was a bit disappointed not to see Steve and his American wife Terri at the gate greeting visitors with a cheery "G'day," but I figured they had a good excuse, because it was absolutely pouring down cats and dogs -- or maybe in this case, "crocs and joeys" -- when I got there. 

 

The zoo is one of most popular tourist attractions in all of Australia and during my three-hour visit, I got to see some of those cassowaries mentioned earlier, as well as a very lively Tasmanian Devil (something like a wolverine) scurrying around his outdoor pen.  And, yes, the koalas were really, really cute.  By the way, I would've enjoyed meeting Terri because she's from Eugene, Oregon (pop. 100,000), two hours south of Portland and, for about a year in 1989, a city that I called home.

 

I got a chuckle at the zoo seeing Aussies fawning over the kangaroos, and it was obvious to me that many Aussies there had never seen a real, live kangaroo before.  That might sound surprising, since a lot of people around the world think that all Aussies are like "Crocodile Dundee" and eat kangaroo and crocodile meat every night while camping by a billabong.   As I discovered, though, most Australians living on the East Coast have never been to the Outback and hardly any of them have ever been to the Australia's West Coast.  During my travels down the East Coast of Australia, most of the folks I talked to thought I was either very brave or very stupid to have driven the length of the Outback alone.  The attitude seemed to be, "Why would you want to go out THERE?"  I was pretty surprised at how little-traveled most Aussies seemed to be, especially compared to highway-loving Americans.  I'm sure that's because there isn't much to SEE in the Outback, and although I found the Outback pretty interesting, I have to admit that most people probably wouldn't.

 

Perhaps another reason Aussies don't travel around as much as Americans is because of the road system in Australia's rural areas -- including the one-lane paved highways (yes, I said ONE lane) that make driving across the Outback a real thrill (see News: March 16, 2002).  There are only 19 million people in Australia compared to 280 million in the U.S., a country of about the same size, so the road network here in Oz isn't nearly as extensive.  This really hit home while I was driving on the Stuart Highway through the middle of the country and realized that I was on was the only paved road within a thousand miles on either side of it.

 

Anyway, the best part about my visit to the Australia Zoo was the 2 p.m. Amazing Crocodile Show, during which the trainer fed a chicken to a large saltwater crocodile named Barry -- and, in the process, nearly lost part of his hand.  What amused me the most about the Australian Zoo, though, was that the entire staff, all 47 of them, were dressed EXACTLY like Steve and Terri Irwin.  Crikey, that's kind of creepy, mate!

 

2-3279_Steve_Irwin_With_Croc.jpg (53524 bytes)    2-3280_Croc_Show.jpg (41413 bytes)    2-3287_Koala.jpg (62835 bytes)

Above left:  Hey, it's the Crocodile Hunter!  This is at Steve Irwin's "Australia Zoo" near Brisbane.  That's a life-sized cutout of Steve and friend.   

Above center:  Lunchtime in the Australia Zoo.  Every person who works here dresses exactly like the Crocodile Hunter... it's pretty weird.

Above right:  Koalas do exactly two things: look cute and eat eucalyptus leaves.

 

2-3293_Croc.jpg (85676 bytes)    2-3290_Cassowary.jpg (72519 bytes)    2-3295_Steve_Irwin_Dolls.jpg (47730 bytes)

Above left:  "Crikey, mayte, looka the size of 'im!"  At twelve feet in length, this is the biggest salty I saw in Australia.  Too bad I saw it in a zoo.

Above center:  Here's one of those cassowaries that I mentioned earlier (see News: March 25, 2002).  Check out the size of his claws.  I kept a safe distance from this guy.

Above right:  Hey, it's Steve and Terri... and they're multiplying!

 

My Impressions of Australian Music

I've listened to the radio just about everywhere I've gone in Australia, sometimes to Australian talk radio and sometimes to the local pop or country station.  Australians are very proud of Australian musicians and there's a LOT of good Australian pop, country, and rock music here that you never hear in the U.S., which is really a shame. 

 

Here's Kasey Chambers singing Not Pretty Enough.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.

 

While traveling around Australia, I've gotten hooked on several Aussie singers including a young pop-folk-country artist named Kasey Chambers.  I hear Kasey's music just about everywhere I go, so yesterday I drove down to a shopping mall here in Brisbane and bought one of her CDs.  They don't play her music in the U.S., or at least, they didn't when I left the U.S. four months ago, which is a real shame.  Kasey is about as Aussie as they come, having spent most of her first nine years living with her parents out on the desolate Nullarbor plain (that's Nullarbor as in "no trees") of southern Australia, and she's a darn good singer.  I've posted her current hit here so Americans can get a taste of what they're missing. 

 

During my first few weeks here, I couldn’t figure out why they played so much Bee Gees music on the radio stations, but after hearing Jive Talkin’ and How Deep is Your Love for about the millionth time, I remembered that the Brothers Gibb are from Australia.  Well, o.k., they were born in England but they moved to Brisbane when they were pretty young. 

 

Another song they keep playing here is Georgy Girl.  I hadn’t heard that song in 30 years, but they play it everywhere here:  it’s on the radio, in grocery stores, and even in the restrooms… I just can’t seem to get away from it.  I couldn’t figure out why Georgy Girl was so popular here until I learned that the 1960’s group who sang it, The Seekers, are Australian.  It may be old music, but by God, it’s Australian music!  Of course, they play a lot of American and British music on the radio, too.  However, unlike in New Zealand, they don’t play too much from The Monkees here.  Why Kiwis like The Monkees so much is something I still haven’t figured out.

 

I really like country music, and since there's so much "country" here, it's not surprising that country music is as popular in Australia as it is in America.  In fact, there are a lot of really good yet little-known Australian country singers.  However, some of them are, um, a bit different.  When I was in the Outback town of Tennant Creek a few weeks ago, the country radio station there played a touching song called, She’s My Butcher and I Think I Love Her.  Yes, I’m serious.  As the guy sang it, “…she has nice thighs, firm breasts, sells me t-bones and pot roasts…”

 

Yep, country music always makes me laugh, even if it has an Aussie accent.

 

2-3307_Surfers_Paradise.jpg (34401 bytes)    2-3312_Byron_Bay_Overlook.jpg (39469 bytes)    2-3318_Lighthouse_Trail.jpg (44011 bytes)

Above left:  The resort of Surfer's Paradise in the heart of the Gold Coast is a cross between Daytona Beach and Las Vegas.  I got out of here as fast as I could.

Above center:  Byron Bay was named by James Cook in 1770 during the first European exploration of Australia.  Now it's big with the surfer dudes.

Above right:  Here's the easternmost point in Australia near Byron Bay.  Next stop... South America.

 

2-3322_Evans_Head_Sign.jpg (58834 bytes)    2-3328_Coffs_Harbor_Marina.jpg (58911 bytes)

Above left:  I'm sure my nephew Evan will get a kick out of this sign.  "All roads lead to Evan's Head." 

Above right:  The marina at Coffs Harbour. 

 

 

 

Next News

April 7, 2002  (Sydney, Australia)

 

Previous News

April 1, 2002  (Hervey Bay, Australia)

March 28, 2002  (Airlie Beach, Australia)

March 25, 2002  (Port Douglas, Australia)

March 16, 2002  (Winton, Australia)

March 13, 2002  (Alice Springs, Australia)

March 11, 2002  (Ayers Rock, Australia)

March 8, 2002  (Coober Pedy, Australia)

March 5, 2002  (Port Augusta, Australia)

March 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Robe, Australia)

March 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Robe, Australia)

February 18, 2002  (Bega, Australia)

February 7, 2002  (Auckland, New Zealand)

February 2, 2002 -- Part 2  (Taupo, New Zealand)

February 2, 2002 -- Part 1  (Taupo, New Zealand)

January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)

January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)

January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002 -- Part 2  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002 -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)  

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

 

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