Thursday, 8 November 2007

Sunrise to Sunset

WOULDN'T it have made an interesting read if I hadn't liked Australia? Nearly every backpacker and every traveler goes to Australia and comes back raving about it. It would certainly have sparked controversy if I didn't.

But from the very moment I arrived in Cairns airport I was in love with that country. All through preparing for this trip I cannot honestly say that it ever sank in quite where I was going. Lots of people go to Australia, so it didn't seem quite as special as it really is. But then we flew over far north Queensland, the sun having risen with us over the Gulf of Carpentaria, the landscape pure rainforest. Suddenly we banked, and out of my window the forest descended rapidly from the hills to a beautiful tropical beach with turquoise waters lapping against it. With this sight I suddenly weighed it all up in my head. That, down there, was Australia. I was on the other side of the world. Blimey.

It didn't matter to me that I then got questioned and searched three times before being allowed out of the airport, because the immigration officers were so nice about it. They even offered to repack my bag. It didn't matter that we were subject to two separate sniffer dog tests, because one of them was training and shy, cute and a little bit fuzzy. And it didn't matter that, architecturally speaking, Cairns is a little bit dull, because it is fun, relaxed and everybody there is happy, which is exactly what you want to see on holiday.

Then for the next two months I loved it all: CVA was a fantastic experience, and though I complained about the hard work of the final week, I genuinely would recommend it; the Great Barrier Reef is, well, as good as you imagine; the rainforests, the beaches, learning to rodeo (albeit with goats) on a cattle station; the beautiful Whitsunday Islands and its resident turtles; everything about Sydney; learning to surf; even the Neighbours tour.

I vow to come back and walk the overland track between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair in Tasmania, and visit all of the gorgeous scenery there I never got a chance to see. Plus I want to see more of Australia - the western coastline and the bush proper.

I shall miss the trivial details too, like the "good morning passengers!" announcements in Flinders Street train station in Melbourne, the cheeky public signs and all of the random people we have met, like the comedy double/drunkard act Karl and Karl. There are things I shan't miss also, like the bus drivers of Cairns and the state of the public facilities in Flinders Street; like being bitten by both a possum and Fuji, the fattest cat in the world; like being chased by a cassowary (even if it was in a zoo). But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

So as we flew over the Bass Strait to New Zealand, the clouds darkening, not through gain of thunder but loss of light, beset against a red and yellow sky blending into the blues and black above, I couldn't help but think fondly of my time in Australia. New Zealand has a lot to live up to.

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