I’ve been away for more than three weeks.
For the first time in our lives, Marnie and I took a long vacation and travelled to Australia. It was my first trip off the continent and I expected the 13-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney would seem unending.
In fact, it was quite the opposite. I slept for most of the trip.
In many ways Australia is very similar to Canada. We are both former colonies of Britain. Many of our customs and both our governments are derived from the British model.
As in Britain, you drive on the left side of the road in Australia. Here in North America, of course, we choose to drive on the right-hand side.
In Canada as we walk down a sidewalk, we choose to walk on the right side, while Australians will walk on the left. Just walk the opposite way, and someone will stop you with a “mate” or chum and explain the walking pattern.
As you talk, they will quickly pick up your accent and flip a coin in their head to ask the question “Are you American or Canadian?”—being fully prepared to apologize if their pick of nationality is incorrect.
As Marnie and I walked around Sydney, with our city map in hand, any moment’s hesitation to consult the map immediately brought a local offering directions.
Australians are very friendly.
One of the things that surprised me was the number of signs that are on the highway to remind foreigners that you drive on the left side of the road. Every pullout on the Great Ocean Road had a pair of signs in each direction to remind you of what side of the road you should be on.
They really want North Americans to drive safely.
They also have a lot of signs encouraging drivers to get off the road and have a power nap.
The day after landing in Sydney, I also discovered there was a tremendous difference in the price of food. We had gone down to Sydney Harbour to do some exploring and I really enjoy a large black coffee.
It is part of my routine in Fort Frances to pick up jumbo or extra large coffee on my way to work.
At the coffee bar at the ferry terminal, I ordered my extra large black coffee, or “Long Black” as it is known in Australia, and paid $5.20. Here I pay $1.50.
Bananas were on sale at “Coles” for $4.29. Lamb was a bargain by our standards.
At the liquor stores, which are privately run, you could buy a good bottle of Australian wine from $2.29 all the way up to several hundred dollars. “Yellow Tail” wines cost about the same in Australia as here in Canada.
In Cairns, they have rain days while here in Canada we have snow days.
Marnie and I got to experience the monsoon season. A suburb of the city received 762 mm of rain in a 24-hour period while we were there.
Cairns was cut off from the suburbs. And the Pacific Highway was closed down, as were the railways.
The schools were closed because the buses couldn’t run.
The next day another 100 mm of rain fell, but the people of Cairns took it all in stride. Sixty inches of rain in February and March is the norm.
It’s a wonderful country facing many of the same problems we face in Canada. I’ll talk about that next week.
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