On to Brizbun
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
of kangaroo dung back in the States.
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.
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.
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
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!
left: Continuing down the coast, this is
the marina at Noosa, a pleasant
coastal resort town north of Brisbane.
right: Viewpoint along the Sunshine Coast. That's one of
the Automobile Club trucks that patrol the highways of Australia looking for
left: Brisbane's lively Queen Street
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.
center: The Brisbane River at night.
right: Catching up on some e-mail that evening, sitting by
my Lonely Planet "bible."
Looka Those Snappers!"
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.
September 2006 (Portland, Oregon)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
center: Lunchtime in the Australia Zoo. Every person who
works here dresses exactly like the Crocodile Hunter... it's pretty weird.
right: Koalas do exactly two things: look cute and eat eucalyptus
"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.
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.
right: Hey, it's Steve and Terri... and they're
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.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
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
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.
really like country music, and
since there's so much "country" here,
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
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.
center: Byron Bay was named by James Cook in 1770 during the
first European exploration of Australia. Now it's big with the surfer
right: Here's the easternmost point in Australia near Byron
Bay. Next stop... South America.
left: I'm sure my nephew Evan will get
a kick out of this sign. "All roads lead to Evan's Head."
right: The marina at Coffs Harbour.
7, 2002 (Sydney, Australia)
1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (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 >
April 4, 2002