AUSTRALIA, BIG, BOLD, BRASH AND YES; EVEN BEAUTIFUL

When selecting a photo to start this blog of our 25 days in Australia I was looking through different shots of the Sydney Opera House to make my selection when it dawned on me that the sophistication associated with that iconic landmark, is not by any means, all that is Australia.DSCN2613 I chose this statue of a camel and driver because “The Outback” originally exploited by caravans of these beasts, provides as much of the personality of Australians as our wild west  and its Manifest Destiny shaped America.

We flew from Singapore to Sydney on an overnight flight getting us to our hotel in Darling Harbor, Sydney about 6 am. Since we had stayed two other times at this great lodging they were prepared for a 7 AM check-in.IMG_1892           The Hotel 1888 has been our choice now four times while in Sydney and we love Darling Harbor.

We enjoyed several days in Sydney, which after the Southeast Asian adventure, served as a return to normalcy. Then we flew to Darwin on the north coast; very tropical and hot!DSCN2443  What a lot of folks do not know is that Darwin was repeatedly bombed by the Japanese in the second world war. The story was told that the first several attacks were not effectively resisted by the anti-aircraft guns shown here. It seems that the ammunition  clearly marked “Not for tropical use” because of the ambient temperature,  detonated far too soon.  We also discovered an ammo storage facility that happened to be made in Middletown, Ohio by the ARMCO steel company in Karen’s home town.

We spent several days exploring this area.DSCN2534 Found some giant termite cones 15 or so feet high.DSCN2546 Some huge fruit bats!

And the largest port in the world for shipping Liquefied Natural Gas.DSCN2429 This facility was built by a Japanese company which has a 35 year lease on all production. We had spotted several of these ships en route to Japan on our cruise in SE Asia.

Our visit to Darwin was also to catch “The Ghan”, a fabulous train that runs across Australia from Darwin in the North…to Adelaide on the south ocean as the Aussies call it. 1850 miles, 3 days and 2 nights of first class food, beverages and very interesting company.DSCN2540 DSCN2538

This was a truly grand adventure. Probably the most interesting part were our fellow passengers. We think we were the only Americans. Lots of Brits and folks from Western Australia who were seeing this area for the first time. DSCN2579 The dining car was also the local watering hole where everyone congregated to enjoy the open bar. Among the guests was a reporter for BBC who covered Buckingham Palace. She was on vacation taking her new bust line on tour. She was quite proud of her new acquisitions, and though I  resisted taking pictures; I now regret!

There was also an English Formula One driver and his wife. Each  year they take the Ghan on their way to Melbourne for its great race through the heart of the city.

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Our cabin had a nice lounge that made into a queen sized bed and a bath with shower stall. All the comforts of home.

The train had 56 cars on the trip we made. Top speed was 85mph, stopping along the way to allow freight to pass.

DSCN2545Like cruise ships, The Ghan has excursions along the way.DSCN2559 This was as close to the Grand Canyon as down under gets, still beautiful! I had to admire how this tree held on to live on the canyon wall.DSCN2568 DSCN2529

At Alice Springs we took a helicopter ride. As much as I hate to fly I am not sure why we even did it…it was even my idea, and Karen the wannabe pilot jumped all over it.DSCN2583Among the sights we saw,DSCN2595 from a distance is this USAF base which is a listening post for America’s spy satellites, located far enough down the curve of the earth that our friends in Russia and China cannot intercept.

After spending a day in Adelaide, a totally charming city that the rest of Australia makes fun of we moved on to Melbourne where we had a VRBO on the 22nd floor of a high rise apartment building, central and right on the river. We explored Melbourne mainly on foot and water taxi.

We could live here!

We also took some time to visit some animals..DSCN2633 Cockatoos are noisy and a little bit mean. Don’t feed them by hand.DSCN2724 Wallabies are cute.

Roos can be laid backDSCN2728

Among the things we did not do upon our return to Sydney and never will! DSCN2558                         The bridge walk over the harbor bridge. Just won’t happen!

As we said goodbye to Sydney as we sailed off on the 38 day return to North America..DSCN2567 (2) We knew then that we will return once again to Australia.

We often describe Australia as USA 1957. That is not meant as negative. It is more civil, safer, more trusting and a lot more eye contact.

We like that!