Report from Australia During Election Time! – Emotional Pro

November 7th, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve brought you up to date regarding our trip!  To recap, we are currently in Australia, have visited New Zealand, and cruised on the MS Volendam (Holland America Line) for 29 days prior to that!


Our first stop in Australia was Brisbane, on the East Coast.  Our friends, Julie and Robert Freak, drove in from Alice Springs (the Outback) in order to spend the day with us.  Robert hosted me for a speaking tour in 1990, including having me stay at his home, and has also visited us in the States.  Julie is a school teacher in Adelaide, on a year’s sabbatical so she can travel with Robert in pursuit of Masters Championships.  Robert has been an athlete all his life.  He was doing Triathlons in the early 1990’s.  Now age 61, Robert is competing in road biking, mountain biking and basketball.  He is the champion in his age group (60-65) and brought along 9 of his medals (most gold) and some photos of himself racing and doing time trials!  He is absolutely amazing, being the Australian bicycle racing champion for his age group.  Julie and Robert joined us in cruising the Brisbane river, that runs through the center of town, for the entire day!  They have a commuting service, the CityCat, a catamaran that plies the river, stopping from side to side, going from one end to the other.  We were able to cruise all day for $3 apiece!  We were also able to get off and enjoy an Australian pub and then had a fabulous seafood meal in an upscale restaurant along the riverside.  What a delightful experience!


Next, we flew off to Cairns in Queensland, where we stayed for 5 days.  There, we had  been booked into a rainforest resort, Kewarra Beach Resort (look it up on the web—it’s fabulous). During our five days we took a tour into the Daintee rainforest, and another to the Great Barrier Reef, where I snorkeled and viewed the amazing living corals and the fish that live among them.  Interestingly, it was not as teeming with wildlife as I had expected.  A few years ago we vacationed in the Turks and Caicos, where we snorkeled in a park that included a segment of the ocean.  The fish there were far more numerous than what I experienced on the Great Barrier Reef, leading me to realize what an incredible gift my previous snorkeling was.  There is great concern in Australia that the Great Barrier Reef has perfect conditions to be dying, especially due to the increase of temperature in the oceans.  Another degree or so and it can easily die off. 


In the rainforest, we saw a cassowary, an interesting large bird that stomps through the rainforest foraging on the larger seeds that drop there.  Some of the seeds have such tough skins that they need to pass through the Cassowary’s digestive tract in order to be able to germinate and grow!  We got an opportunity to feed and pet some wallabys and a quite large red kangaroo when we stopped for a lunchtime “barbie” along our route. I also managed to get some kind of insect bite (I was unaware of it happening) on my chin that has taken more than a week to start to recede.  The tropics can be treacherous even if you don’t encounter the crocodiles that live there!  We were advised not to swim at the beach because the crocs are amorously prowling in those areas in the Australian Springtime.  There is also an expected influx of jellyfish that can be quite painful.  Instead, we sat next to the beach and drank an Aussie beer, enjoying a Sunday afternoon beach concert and the beautiful sunset.  I’ve never seen so many children and dogs gathered together in one small location.  Each of them—child and dog alike—was quite a character!  At Kewarra Beach, we had time to relax, hang out at the pool, enjoy our delightful cabin, call home on our Skype, and eat some fantastic food.  BTW, Tomas Veiera, who has appeared on Full Power Living, stopped by to have breakfast with us on one of our mornings in Kewarra Beach.  Turns out he lives nearby.  It was a delight to visit with him.


Our next stop was Uluru (Ayers Rock).  I was amazed to see that the patterns we observed from our airplane as we came in for a landing were so similar to the Aboriginal dot paintings!  How (in the mostly flat land) did the Aborigines see the world as if they were looking from an airplane?  After an overnight stay, Bob and I set off to visit the big red rock on Eco Tours.  Bob took a van and rode around it; I took an 11 kilometer hike around its base that included a picnic lunch on the rock, and a view of the rock as the sun rose.  Both the tours started at 5 a.m.!  It is, indeed, an amazing place, and had so much more detail (erosion, caves, chipped texture on the surface, water holes at the base) than I had ever imagined.  There were also sacred places where we were not allowed to take photos. Roving bands of wild camels are now fouling the water holes and have become quite a problem.  Uluru is now the name of Ayers Rock, and is under the ownership of the Aboriginal People, leased back to the Australian government on a 99 year lease.


Everywhere we went, we were watching news of the leadup to our American election.  We talked with many people—from England, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Australia, primarily—about the American elections. Foremost, they expressed amazement with how LONG and expensive a process it is for us.  Most were appalled at McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, and were curious about what he could have been thinking in doing so.  Most of those with whom we spoke expressed their hope that America would regain its status and strength by electing Barack Obama.  There were some, of course, who supported McCain, but they were very few in number, and largely emphasized that he had more experience and therefore would be better in dealing with the economy.  I was impressed with how much fear there was related to Obama (when someone expressed opposition to his election).  As an EmotionalPro, I find it fascinating that the primary objections to Obama were based on fear, rather than fact. 


From Uluru, we drove by bus-coach to Alice Springs, a frontier town about 6 hours’ drive away.  Back to civilization, though to my mind definitely a frontier type of civilization.  Bob stayed in the hotel while I walked through the town.  I found my heart aching for the numbers of Aboriginal people—men, women and children (many of whom should have been in school)—who were wandering the streets aimlessly.  Locals explained that there is “a lot of drinking,” yet it seemed to me that the difficulties were similar to what the native peoples of the US have experienced, especially as the result of the original acts of settlers decimating their own culture.  This is slowly being reversed here in Australia, but the problems and pain are most evident.


As I stopped off to a minimarket to buy myself an ice cream, I saw on the television that Barack Obama had been declared the winner of the US election!  People were shouting, screaming, crying and looking amazed.  I wanted to be with Bob at this historic moment, so walked through a gathering of local parrots and wild cockatoos back to the hotel, where we sat together and listened to McCain’s gracious resignation and the fabulous address of Obama.  As a professional speaker, I remain amazed with him as a speaker. He seemed never to read notes, spoke without error, has placed wonderful and careful emphasis where he wanted it, spoke the things that needed to be said, and stirred masses of people to tears, including us—and perhaps, you, too!  We were so grateful to be able to participate in this momentous event, even if from afar.  One Australian commentator spoke about how important Obama’s election is for the whole world, calling it “the first world election.”


In the evening, we went to Bojangles, a local pub that serves great beer on draught and also interesting food.  Bob and I, wanting to be as eclectic as possible, sampled many different meats available locally—crocodile, emu, kangaroo, buffalo and camel (they’re getting those nasty roving bands of camels back by serving them up as food!).  It was actually quite a tasty meal and a very colorful experience!  Oh, and they have a glass cage at the front of the pub in which they keep a collection of three pythons, curled about a motorcycle that has been provided for them!


The Ghan, an overland rail service similar to the Orient Express, leaves out of Alice Springs, so the next day we boarded and set off on our next adventure.  24 hours on the train allowed us to pass through miles and miles of red desert, passing tabletop mountains.  We also had a sandstorm that covered the tracks, causing our engineers to have to stop the train and dig us out (less than an hour!).  A storm (it’s Springtime here) raged all night, from afar, giving us lightening flashes out of our window all through the night. Without that, it would have been pitch black.  We dined in the dining car and sat and talked with fellow-passengers in the lounge car.  Diamond dealers, winemakers from West Australia, retired flooring workers, nurses, accountants, homemakers and a dressmaker—lots of interesting people! 


Bob and I had the largest compartment in our car—the luxury accommodations.  This means we had more room to walk around, but still had two bunk beds that were made up for us while we were off to dinner.  The most interesting aspect of the whole trip was the bathroom, a very small compartment that doubled as both a shower and a toilet.  Not to be indelicate, but to go to the bathroom you had to pull a unit down (folded into the wall).  When finished with your business, you pushed a black button.  Curiously, all this button did was add water to the basin—it did not make anything go away!  To do that, you had to (very carefully) tip the basin up, so that everything in it dumped out… where, we don’t know!  If you didn’t do it fast enough, something opened up and offered the stench of an entire sewer system.  So the trick was to move slowly and quickly at the same time!  It was the biggest subject of conversation on the train, because of the challenge!  After accomplishing this feat, you pulled down another tab on the wall and opened the sink.  The challenge with the sink was to be able to wash the soap off your hands with spigots that had to be held open by hand—no running water, and hot and cold on opposite sides.  Quite a challenge! 


The next morning, people were pleasant, but it was clear that few had slept very well.  People tended to stare blankly into space, as they robotically shoveled food into themselves!  It was quite funny, really. 


We disembarked from the train about 1 p.m. and caught a taxi to our hotel in Adelaide, where I now sit writing this report.  What a thrill—a beautiful bathroom with regular (Australian-style) toilet, glass stall shower AND bath, a sink with running water, and a very comfortable king-sized bed.  They also have a lovely restaurant where we had dinner and talked with a couple freshly off the east-west run of the same train we were on (our direction was north-south), laughing together about the bathroom challenges.  The conclusion:  Glad we did it, don’t need to do it again!


Today I’ve prowled around Adelaide.  I went to an exhibit of Aboriginal art and bought a few gifts for folks at home.  Then I visited the Ayers mansion (same man after whom Ayers Rock was named).  He was governor of the territory for 8 years, and in politics for 20.  He made his fortune as a miner, and built himself an enormous, gilt-painted home that is quite interesting (40 rooms)!  This was quite a feat for a young married 19 year old who sailed from England for 5 months with his wife, in order to reach the territories.  By age 30 he was supervisor of 1000 miners!  What was wonderful about this exhibit was that they had actors meeting visitors in each room, posing as if we were all in the year 1876.  We were met at the door by the housekeeper, then greeted by Sir Henry Ayers, shuttled over to his wife and daughter, turned over to the nurse, and finished up with the cook, working on a wood stove in the basement.  It was such a delightful tour I had a grin on my face the whole time!


Tomorrow we leave for Sydney and the last few days of our fabulous vacation experience.  I’ve been encouraged by the feedback I’ve gotten on this episodic report, so thanks for your feedback.  With the election, this has been quite an exciting time! 

Leave a Reply