Our Love Affair with Australia
Australia is the flattest, driest and probably deadliest inhabited continent on earth and we are in love with it. Maybe it was the fact that we just left a country in which we had been robbed or it could be the 21 sleep deprived hours we spent locked up in a plane, or the confusion of losing a day of your life travelling here, but our love affair with Australia began the moment we landed. It was sunny, the airport workers cheery, the cab driver overly helpful and the campervan….well the campervan has over 600 000 km’s on it…..but we would have a permanent, albeit transportable home, for the next 22 days.
We don’t hear that much about Australia, but it is a fascinating place. Australia is the 6th largest country on earth, but it is mostly empty. Think about this, the population density of Australia is approximately 2.9 people per square kilometre. Compare that to 33 people per square kilometre for the US and 142 people per square kilometre for China. Most of her 22 million people live within close to 100KM of the coast, making it one of the most urbanized countries in the world. This is because the majority of the interior boasts some of the harshest environment found anywhere on earth. Australia also contains probably the most abundant supply of things that will kill you. If you were to look up the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world, all are Australian. Other infamous creatures of theirs – Funnel Web Spider, Box Jelly Fish and Stone Fish are the most lethal of their type on the planet! And I haven’t even gotten to Salt Water Crocs, Sharks, and deadly rips! Thus, beginning my travels here, I operate under the assumption that if it moves it can kill me, and if it is not moving presently, it will eventually and then it can kill me.
One of the things I have come to love the most about Australian’s is that in one breath they are telling you not to worry about all of the above mentioned things that can kill you and in the next, they are telling you about some near death experience. Driving with our new found Aussie Bober family – yes folks – there are more Bobers! – more on that in a bit – I was telling them about my, what can only be described as constant alertness and terror, of all of the things that could kill me here. But as all Australian’s usually do, they told me not to worry. Then we rounded a corner and they pointed out the most beautiful tree, told me the name (which I forget) and that it had something on it that resembled some kind of food, a fig or something I think, and then stated in passing – but you can’t eat it, it could kill you. Yes, even the trees in Australia can kill you. On another occasion, we were dining on Manly Beach when 2 helicopters descended over the water, flying back and forth while life guards zipped around on boats. I asked my waitress concerned “is everything ok” she said cheerily “aye ya, just probably someone stuck in a rip, couldn’t have gone to far though, there are shark nets out there”..then she briskly walked away. Ah yes….the shark nets.
Our first adventure took us along the Great Ocean Road, which starts just south of Melbourne. It was an incredible drive, we wound our way through small towns along the coast, dotted with beaches, cliffs and inlets. We saw our first Kola’s, happily sleeping in tree’s – which is apparently pretty much what they do 20 hours a day. Our destination was the twelve Apostles, which are rocky spires shooting up from the water where the cliff line once was; and the drive was worth it. The whole area was stunning and on the plus side out of the dizzying eray of signs that seem to cover australia informing you of this or that, I found one of my favourites. It abruptly declared that you may “DIE”. This is second to my first favourite sign we saw that stated matter of faculty “don’t drink and drive you bloody idiot”.
We returned to Melbourne for a 2 night stay, and we feel further in love with Australia. Melbourne is one of the most beautiful cities we have travelled to, coffee shops, stores, open spaces, rivers, public squares and a tram system that makes ours look archaic, are all features of the landscape. We also, coincidently managed to arrive for the Melbourne Cup – the biggest horse race/sporting event in Australia – we naturally bought tickets and set off to the event. It was amazing, helicopter after helicopter choppering in people way above our pay grade and everyone was dressed to the nine’s – gowns, fascinators, suits – that is…. everyone except us. The tickets did not specify dress so we were “those people” who showed up in jeans and fairly nice shirts – so basically bar chic. On the plus side, I believe we may have been the only comfortable people there. Marcin bought us a whole bottle of champagne, I placed bets and we engaged in happy day of horse racing.
Back to the Bober’s – after having planned our trip and outlined all of the details to our alway concerned parents, we got a lively phone call from Chris (Maricin’s Dad). We had booked our flights to Australia and Chris just happened to find more Bober’s in Australia! We were immediately told two things – 1: we must go to Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak in Australia (but I think that hardly mattered, it was named by a Polish Explorer) and 2: We were to locate the Aussie Bober’s. We set out to do both of these tasks happily. After accomplishing our first task of finding Kosciuszko National park and travelling through the mountains, we set off to accomplish task 2. Meet the Bobers, who happened to be established in and around Sydney. So off to Sydney we went, utilizing our trusted travel companion Suri, we navigated our way into a small hamlet of the city. We waited, a little nervously, outside of Barbara and Marco’s home; they pulled up, hopped out of the car and hugged us as if they had known us forever. It was the nicest of feelings, it had been over a month and a half since we have seen anyone who is actually excited to see us… besides the robber…but to have knew found family great us so openly warmed our hearts. They swept us into their absolutely stunning home that has been meticulously restored (it is a century old house) in a way only those with Polish and Italian heritage could. It was perfect. We spent the evening meeting Marco’s sister and more Bober’s, sharing stories, eating, drinking and enjoying ourselves.
Marco, who is Barbara Bober’s partner and the Italian half of the equation, treated me to the most memorable of my Australian adventures yet. Marco, along with Ruth and Trevor took me out on a road bike around Sydney and I was able to see the city in a way few tourists do. I peddled along an intricate and never ending bike path system, road a ferry that is over 70 years old and saw the old Olympic area. I had so much fun that I wanted Marcin to be able to experience this as well. So Marco treated both of us to a ride two days later into the heart of Sydney. It absolutely poured, I think even my bones were wet, but it was a phenomenal experience. We cycled though neighbourhoods, around the Sydney Opera House and over Sydney Harbour Bridge! Did you know there are 6 Million hand driven rivets in that bridge! Barbara and Marco also arranged many other events for us, we were able to meet Veronica, Tess and George Bober and the whole crew that came along with them. They also took us to the legendary Bondi Beach, the Sculptures by the Sea walk, and they took us to an Italian restaurant where we ate a 2 Metre Long pizza. Both Barbara and Marco went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable and to give us an amazing experience, we had so much fun and felt such a connection with our new family members, that we are already attempting to make plans to return.
Sydney is an amazing city, and we quickly realized after our touring with the BoberMan’s (as we now affectionately refer to Barbara and Marco) that we did not allot enough time. It was one of those cities you just don’t want to leave, that you could move around the world to live in and didn’t care that there is some deadly Sydney Funnel Web spider roaming about. But alas our time came to an end and we headed North, our end goal is Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.