Australia: The Best Gift of all.

Australia has been a dizzying couple of months, a roundabout of adventures and mishaps and windfalls. I still find it strange to divide my life into geographical regions. There is “Africa,” the past, the most wondrous, the most strange. There is “Australia,” the present, the full-of-good-friends and the feels-like-home. Now there will be “New Zealand,” the future; it is the place where I will reenact all my favourite Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia scenes and experience travelling on my own for a month. Somewhere in the very distant future looms “Asia,” but I can’t even begin to think about that, because to think about that means that this trip is coming to a close and as much as I miss and long for home, that is a thought too devastating to linger on.

Driving to Distraction

The vastness of Australia and the number of kilometres I have travelled astonishes me still. We started in Perth and did both coasts and still we only saw a fraction of things I wanted to see. Darwin and the Northern territories remain a mystery. Tasmania. Uluru/Ayers Rock. Adelaide. All these places we could not fit in to our already tightly-packed itinerary cry out for me to come back and visit at a later date. Not to mention returning to the East coast to re-experience the places that were ruined by rain or closed to us completely: Cairns. The Whitsundays. Fraser Island. The Gold Coast.

Sarah and I took advantage of all forms of transportation. We did the typical backpacker thing and used the tour buses on the West Coast. We crisscrossed the country by airplane. We experienced the oft-crippling effort of being stuck to a Greyhound bus schedule. And, let’s not forget (or please, let’s) the rental car incident in Rockhampton.

Every drive in Australia is long and the cities far flung from each other. But we did well.

You Guys Made Australia for Us

It isn’t amazing landscapes or cool cities that makes Australia great for us. It is the people. The Australians that we have met here have all proven their reputation as charitable, friendly and open people, multiplied by a million. Sarah and I owe so much to Leahanne and her family in Melbourne, to Chris and his spare bedrooms in Brisbane and to Sarah’s neighbours from back home, Leigh and Irene, in Coffs Harbour. Every Australian we have met has been willing to led us a helping hand in our time of need and have surprised us with their generosity (David and Alex, from Brisbane, and their superbox at the Australian Open being no small exception).

But what is difficult to explain to people who haven’t yet travelled is the sense of community amongst the backpackers in Oz. Backpackers are so well taken care of in Australia; the hostels are cheap and cheerful and plentiful. And everywhere you go, you meet great travellers, united by the common goal of having the best trips ever. I can’t list off everyone I’ve met in Oz, but I have made lifelong friends here, and that was unexpected. Even being so far from home at Christmas and New Years, the people we spent those special days with made it worthwhile. To those people: I know we’ll be seeing each other again, somewhere in this ever shrinking world.

Australia Highlights

Anything I’ve blogged about has been a highlight. But moments that stand out include:

  • Finding an elusive quokka on Rottnest Island with Jason.
  • Watching the fairy penguins dash up the beach on Phillip Island.
  • Neighbours Night.
  • Sitting listening to the carols at Darling Harbour with Sarah on Christmas Eve.
  • New Year’s Eve fireworks down at Nelson’s Park with Sarah, Colin and a bunch of other friends.
  • Seeing the eagle ray while scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Watching Tsonga live entering Rod Laver Arena from the box at the men’s final of Australian Open

Yeah, it’s been good. And now: onto New Zealand!

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