Friday, June 20, 2008

OZ has come and gone

Wrote: June 15th, 2008
I’m sitting in the airport awaiting my flight to Bali and I’m trying to think of what to write about my impressions of Australia. This is really the only thing I can come up with: It’s freaking huge! I only spent two weeks in Australia, but the longer I was there the more I realized how big it really was. I’m not sure if it is bigger than the US or not, but it sure does compare with shear size. Unlike New Zealand where everything seems so close, you only have time to start thinking that you’ve been driving your car for a while before another town shows up. In Australia, you just keep driving.

From about two hundred miles south of Sydney to about two hundred miles north of Brisbane is the entire area I covered on this trip. It felt like I’d gone across an entire country or the equivalent of driving from Canada to Mexico along the West Coast. There was a lot to see. This place is big. I realized that in 6 months I didn’t even see all of New Zealand. I don’t think you could really see Australia in 6 times that amount of time.
Besides it’s shear beauty and awesome weather, which I think most of us already know about OZ, but there were two things that really struck me about this place. First. It’s weird. Everything in it is like nothing I’ve ever seen. My first day in the country, I went for a walk in the Botanical Gardens and saw the weirdest, most unusual plants and animals I’ve ever seen. All the birds looked really weird and made funny sounds. They had crazy, long, curved beaks or wore a odd almost masked like face. The plants were surprisingly different than anything I’d seen before either with funky looking branches and peculiar shaped leaves. I made a visit to the aquarium in Sydney and was blown away by everything in there. All the animals were native to Australia which I thought was pretty cool. My first encounter in OZ’s replication of their aquatic world was the platypus. Can you just stop for a moment and google-search this animal? Please. It will only take a minute I promise. Done? Ok, what the &%#$ is it? A duck? A Beaver? A rodent? A mammal? It was so different from anything the world has ever seen that they had to give it it’s own classification, a monotreme. They then found one other creature that fit into this category and it too is found only in Australia. I really mean , what a weird place. Just learning a little bit about the natural environment of this place really helps to explain a lot as to how and why it is what it is today.

The second thing that really struck me about this place was the people. I was surprised to see how different they were from New Zealanders. You can’t even put them in the same category as anyone else I’ve met. I actually think they need a name like the monotreme…Maybe Australian is enough. My first encounter with the Ozzie people was also in the Botanical Gardens. Walking through these pleasant gardens trying to grasp my mind on all the weird creatures and plants surrounding me, I was constantly being blazed by, almost run over by hundreds, maybe thousands of Ozzies running on their lunch breaks. I’ve never seen so many people running at one time like that before, other than a marathon. Soon, I found myself constantly surrounded by runners everywhere I went in Australia. This entire country runs… or swims…or surfs for that matter. Probably all of the above. There were buff, bronzed and beautiful people everywhere. I came here in the dead of winter and I still found myself laying on the beaches in the sun even as far south as Sydney. I mean I’m less than a week from the shortest day of the year and people are still on the beach. It became apparent to me that image plays a huge role in people’s lives in Australia. They do have a reputation to uphold I guess as they pride themselves in their Rugby, Women and Beer. Although I do think they could do better with their beer. I don’t know. I guess I would be a little cocky too if I was the direct decent of an exiled convict and my ancestors settled, what is arguably the most deadly, poisonous, dangerous and harshest environment the world has ever known.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to demise the integrity of the Australian people in any way shape or form. They are so incredibly nice. Every time I found myself lost or in need of some kind of direction, there was always someone there to help me. Actually there were usually multiple people there to help. Always eager. In more than one instance, I had two people arguing about what the best route for me to take or fastest bus to get on. It was a little scary, but their genuine kindness always left me with a smile. They really are an interesting people. I wish I could have had more time to really get to know them. I am fascinated by them. I found a lot of similarities between them and Americans, but at the same time I found so many more differences.

The aboriginals, who are the native people of Australia, definitely have got me even more curious to learn more about this fascinating country. I saw very few in the 1500 miles of Australian coastline that I explored. But everywhere I went, there was evidence of them. If anything, they are respected for living for thousands of years in one of the worlds most harsh environments with more venomous and poisonous species found anywhere else on the planet. They are truly a fascinating people. Their history, like many native people’s whose lands were settled by Europeans, is tragic. However, the Aboriginals are among the most horrific story I’ve ever heard. They were totally wiped clean. I really don’t know enough of their history to be properly telling you about them, but I haven’t met many people that will deny the fact that they were legally hunted up until the 1960’s. That alone makes me sick. But I think it does for most of Australia as well. I know that part of their history is not something they are proud of. From what I’ve seen, they are putting efforts into helping restore the aboriginals culture and people. Massive social programs have been developed to get them help and a huge education movement has been put forth in schools and museums to educate people and help revive their culture and traditions.

In reality, I was only here for two weeks. I learned a bit and saw some pretty sites. I actually scored some great waves while I was at it too. It was an amazing experience I will not soon forget. I came to hang out with my friends Hamish, Kunaal, Damien and Tom from New Zealand and I got a trip of a lifetime…..while on the trip of a lifetime. I did some exploring on my own in Sydney for a few days, met a super cool guy from Santa Barbara, Joel, who I went on a two-day surf trip down south with. Then met up with the Kiwi boys and totally took Australia over. We had the most amazing time. This place is definitely worth coming back to.

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