“In the end the only thing you really own is your story.” This quote from the movie “Australia” is an appropriate description of the story lived by the Aboriginal People and those of other ethnicities who inhabited Australia in the past and now. Before the British started sending their explorers, settlers, some of whom were originally convicts, there, the Aboriginal People had their own tale that originated from many tribes each with their own language and culture. The influx of Europeans changed the dynamic when they attempted to force their values and culture on the Aborigines, sending their mixed blood children who were fathered and abandoned by Europeans to state or church- run institutions in order to eliminate the black race. This generation became known as the Stolen Generation. This practice is similar to the history of the Native American children who were sent to boarding schools, however in the case of the Stolen Generation they never returned home and their records were sometimes destroyed, so families could never find them. The similarities continue in other areas, such as the killing natives by giving them small pox infected blankets, refusing to let them speak their own language, and have equal rights in many areas. As with the Native Americans, it took years for the Aboriginal People to gain equal legal status with their European peers.
Another part of the Australian story also bears a similarity to U.S. history. Before the American Revolution convicts were sent to America. Although it is our dirty little secret, Australians freely admit to ancestral connections with prisoners from England many who served their sentence and later became important members of society. Below is a photo of John Cadman’s Cottage. He was a convict who became the Superintendent of Government Boats.
These are some of the facts our Program Director, David, shared with us as we toured Cairns and Sydney. Grand Circle Travel believes in educating their travelers on the controversial issues of the areas they visit. It helped me understand the varying cultures that came together to create an amazing country or continent, depending on which website you visit. It has a population of approximately 23,000,000 people. The most populated city in Australia is Sydney followed by Melbourne. The history and culture of the Aboriginal People, the rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, cattle ranching, and the flora and fauna were covered in the Cairns area.
The following items are my adventures, but there were many other GCT optional tours, David optional tours, and attractions in all the cities we visited.
The first morning found us sleep deprived at Harley’s Crocodile Creek, http://www.crocodileadventures.com/, where we met Ted, an enormous, elderly, blind, toothless crocodile who can still mate and throw the other crocs around if they interfere with his food or him. We went on a short cruise where we watched the guide feed the crocodiles and pointed out other wildlife. This was followed by the feeding and petting of kangaroos and wallabies and a photo op with a koala. We were shown where the crocs are kept until they become expensive boots and purses. This wasn’t my favorite part of the tour, but it’s the circle of life and later I enjoyed the kangaroo pie I ate. We then visited an Aussie Queenslander pub where our Program Director “shouted” or bought us a beer. Refreshed we set off for Wetherby Station where we learned about life at a cattle station, past and present, ate a delicious dinner while being serenaded by their stockman.
On Day 2, while still severely jet-lagged, we boarded the ship and sailed out to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. This was a “bucket list” item for me, so I powered through and it was well worth it. I’m not sure if it was the jet lag or the true nature of the reef and its inhabitants, but while snorkeling everything seemed psychedelic and exotically colorful. Breathtaking is a cliché that doesn’t seem adequate. It must be experienced to be truly appreciated. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gioc3QAJ7s for a sample. I even got up close and personal with a small shark.
Day 3 saw us at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Park where we learned about Aboriginal heritage and current culture. Their past culture had “men work” and “women work”, as you would expect, and we were told even though they ate bread made from poisonous seeds soaked in water until they lost their toxicity, they lived to be around 100-years-old. Their current average life span is 50 due to their eating habits which include processed and fast food like most of us. We were taught, with little success, how to throw a boomerang and spear. The humorous, but true, warning that boomerangs are considered deadly weapons and must be packed in our checked luggage was repeated by David before we boarded each flight. Later we got a bird’s eye view of the beauty of the rainforest on a Skyrail ride. That night we attended “Ode” and last post to the fallen at the RSL, Returned Services League, for a drink and dinner. While there I spoke to a couple of Australian sailors who told me about their Navy and how it compared to the U.S. Navy.
We were out of the hotel by 4:20 a.m. on Day 4 and ready for my much anticipated Hot Air Balloon Ride, another “Bucket List” item. As the sun rose we floated over the rainforest, spotting kangaroos in their natural habitat, and watching the landscape fall away below us. The sun, as it rose over the mountains, was spectacular and made getting up in the middle of the night well worth it. We were back in time for the lavish brekkie, a stop at the lush Cairns Botanical Gardens, and a flight to Sydney. Later we went on a “wee tiki tour” of Darling Harbor on the way to a generous supper which included an entree (soup or salad) and main course plus a salad and extra chips. Did I tell you that supper always included dessert?
Day 5 found us at the iconic Sydney Opera House for a tour and a coach tour of Sydney which included lunch at Bondi Beach where we watched the surfers. Even though the sky was overcast due to the smoke that resulted from the necessary brush burn off, there were plenty of people at the beach. Next on the agenda was a stop at Altmann and Cherny, http://www.altmanncherny.com.au/#!gallery/c60z, to learn how opals were mined and to view the enormous 17700 carat Olympic Australis, the largest and most valuable gem opal in the world. We also had the opportunity to purchase opal jewelry and were told how to determine the difference between real and synthetic opals and those made slices of real opals which are laminated together called doublets and triplets. http://www.opalsdownunder.com.au/learn-about-opals/intermediate/how-tell-if-opal-real. We had late afternoon and the evening off unless we attended one of the optional tours.
Day 6 saw us at The Rocks by Circular Quay where the convicts were left to set up a settlement in the inhospitable wilderness with no source for fresh water. The other people who arrived in Sydney settled in a more desirable area. I took the optional Captain Cook Coffee Cruise where I enjoyed delightful hot tea and tasty biscuits during an informative talk about the Darling Harbor sights. During a break, I asked the cruise tour guide about single Baby Boomers in Australia. Since she was married, she could only tell me about her single friends who she said felt comfortable with their life there. I did find an article in the “Sydney Daily Telegraph” discussing how marrieds, unlike singles, could “double up on many of the super incentives (superannuation fund-like the U.S. IRA or 401K) and squeeze under tougher new contribution caps.” See http://www.atlaswealth.com.au/aussie-expats-in-the-us-ira-case-in-australia-clarifies-options/ for information on why Australian expats may want to convert their retirement saving to an Australian Super.
We were on our own Day 7, so I slept in late enjoying some alone time and took a walk to Darling Harbor. While there I visited the Australian National Maritime Museum, http://www.anmm.gov.au/, ate gelato, and took a scenic Star of the Show Ferris Wheel ride. Can you see a theme here? I like anything on the water or in the air. It’s too bad I’m usually earthbound. That night some of us attended to the musical “Pennsylvania Ave” at the Sydney Opera House, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrgnLpXhdjA . It seems like every time I see a play in a foreign city it’s about the U.S.. We do have a strong influence on the arts everywhere. At least this one was written, directed, and performed by Australians and was a Melbourne Theater Production. I was surprised tickets were only $33 U.S. dollars. That’s definitely is less expensive than a comparable Broadway Show.
Day 8 at 7 a.m. SHARP, according to our printed tour guide, we’re off to the Sydney Airport and a trip to Queenstown, New Zealand. We were greeted by a rainbow, one of many we saw in New Zealand. After we settled in our hotel, we went on a “wee tiki tour” of the area and had a wonderful dinner before going back to our lodgings and dreaming of what awaited us in the area made most famous by “The Lord of Rings” and “Hobbit” movies.
I like this new land. Next week we’ll discuss its beauty which was so well suited for Middle-earth. Until then, watch my Facebook Page, “Single Boomer Life” for more information on Australia.
Continue the adventure!