© 2014 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.
I was born in Australia and spent the first 25 years of my life there. I left in 1979. However, I've been back numerous times since then, and each time, I have added a significant "tourist" component to my usual visits to family and friends. In fact, my first visits to three of the six states have been on trips back.
Official Name: The Commonwealth of Australia (pronounced by the locals as Orstralya); Capital: Canberra; Language: a dialect of British English (see also strine, and an Aussie version of Rhyming Slang); Country Code: AU; Currency: Australian Dollar ($ or AUD)
South Australia (SA)
This is my home state, and it was created in 1836 as the only Australian state to be settled without convicts. [1836 was the year Texas became a Republic. As such, SA and Texas are "sister" states and their respective capitals, Adelaide and Austin, are "sister" cities.]
Over the next 10 years, many thousands of German-speaking Lutherans from Prussia emigrated to SA, where they spoke German until Australia joined WWII in 1939.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned when travelling around Australia on trips back there is that with a few exceptions, the Germans did not settle much outside SA, so many of the things I'd taken for granted as "being Australian", really were only "South Australian", and some of those were even regional.
From a 2006 trip to visit my home state:
[Diary] In the state capital, Adelaide, I walked around the Festival Theatre Centre, casino, and Parliament House [see below]. Then it was on past Government House to the Immigration Museum, the former site of the Department of Chemistry, where I worked from 1973–75. Next, it was on to the Adelaide University music department to meet a friend who lectures there. We lunched outside at the Art Gallery cafe nearby.
[Diary] I headed back into the city, where I had a meat pie with sauce, and iced coffee, at the railway station. From there it on to Parliament House for the 2-pm sitting of the lower house, the Legislative Assembly. I sat in the Strangers' Gallery. The house is decorated in green, just like the UK lower house, the House of Commons. There was a lengthy tribute from the state premier, his deputy, and cabinet ministers, and members of the opposition, to the recently deceased agent-general of South Australia to the U.K. He was to have become the next Governor of South Australia. (The Governor is the Queen's representative in a state, while the premier is the elected state government leader.) Afterwards, I went into the Strangers' Gallery of the upper house, the Legislative Council, which is red like the UK House of Lords. However, the upper house was not in session.
[Diary] In the afternoon, my brother-in-law, Colin, picked me up and we went to the Loxton Rifle Club. I shot as a guest. The range was 600 yards. From my 10 shots, I scored one bull's-eye and once missed the target completely, with a total of 34 out of a possible 50. At no time was the Australian Olympic Rifle Team threatened! After the shoot, we had afternoon tea at the clubhouse, along with a club meeting.
[Diary] My brother Ken and I prepared his new boat and motor for a fishing trip. We put into the river around 10:30 am. It was a very nice, but hot, day. We saw a hawk feeding babies on a nest, kangaroos came down to drink, and kookaburras and pelicans were common. We had a snack and drinks, and we caught some nice callop using shrimp and worms as bait.
[Diary] Nephew Andrew got a number of his motorcycles operational, and then he, the kids, and I rode around the fruit property to a Motocross track they had built. Andrew and Tyler showed us how to race and jump. I shot plenty of video. Later, we all went down to Hogwash Bend on the River Murray nearby, towing a boat and 40-HP outboard motor. The kids rode their hydra slides, and I shot video. We had a picnic supper on the beach.
[Diary] Awake and up by 6:30 am, although I could have done with a few more zzs. I had a light breakfast before setting off with Andrew for Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley an hour to the west. We had a pleasant drive on some very good, hard dirt roads before we got onto the main highway. Along the way, we stopped at a bakery to rescue some pastries and cartons of iced coffee. Andrew gave me a quick orientation of the town and then went to a College where he had an all-day class on viticulture. From there, I walked into town where I walked around, shot video, and looked in shops. There were a lot of nicely landscaped garden areas most of which had numerous varieties of rose in bloom. I bought a postcard the picture on which showed a narrow dirt road lined with gum trees on either side, set nearby. Right then, I decided that I wanted to retire to a restored old stone farmhouse at the end of that very road, which no doubt came complete with a Border Collie sheepdog! I bought a spare card to put on my work desk to remind me.
[Diary] I was up early, and spent the day with brother Terry in his truck carting grain from farms to the silo. We certainly covered a good cross-section of the mallee area, and saw a variety of bulk-handling loading and unloading equipment. I shot a lot of video.
[Diary] Up soon after 7 am, had a light breakfast, showered, then packed lightly for a 3-day road trip with Paul. We departed Hahndorf around 10 am, going on some local back roads. Our target was to spend the day exploring Fleurieu Peninsula (named for the Count of Fleurieu by the French explorer Nicolas Boudin). The weather was wonderful, and I shot a lot of great video. We saw quite a few large and small grey kangaroos, many quite close up. We hiked a bit through the bush.
[Diary] Around 4:30 pm, we left the highway for the 4WD track that leads to Tea Tree Crossing. That crossing was quite dry, so we had no trouble going over the Coorong, the very long water course behind the dunes. We found a secluded camp site right at the backside base of the dunes in bush land. Once we made camp, we crossed the dunes, taking several attempts up the first steep hill as we had too much air in our tires. Once we were on the beach, the going was flat and relatively easy. People had made camps at regular intervals, and were fishing. Back at our camp, we threw together some food. Then we climbed the dunes to witness the sunset. It was impressive. Then we had a few glasses of port wine before retiring at 9:30 pm.
[Diary] I was awake around 5 am, feeling less than rested. We dressed and climbed the dunes to watch and photograph the sunrise. It was magnificent! We packed up the camp, leaving only footprints and taking only photos (and a few shells). We stopped at Policeman's Point for breakfast, and then drove home.
[Diary] Early evening, Paul and I headed out for a substantial hike on the Heysen Trail. We found a steep section that went through dense bush land, passed several streams and a golf course. It was a good workout, especially for the heart. At home, we settled down with fresh melon and a glass of port.
Western Australia (WA)
I've visited this state twice, both times as a tourist from the US.
From a 2006 trip to visit my godfather in Katanning and surrounds:
[Diary] Each month, a Men's fellowship group meets for a social get-together. This month, we rode a small bus from town out to the host's woolshed. We each took meat and salads and drinks, and the host provided several BBQs. We had sausages, lamb chops, and a bottle of port wine. About 25 people attended. A large quantity of yabbies (an Aussie freshwater mini-lobster) were served as appetizer. One member raised yabbies in dams on his farm. He explained the process and demonstrated several pieces of equipment. I then spoke about some of my experiences traveling to various countries.
[Diary] After an outdoor lunch, Albert took me for drive around Albany: Emu Point, the WWI light horse and camel driver ANZAC memorial, and the new port facility with bulk handling for grain, sand, and wood chips.
Northern Territory (NT)
My first time to this Federal territory was in December 1968 to visit my sister who had been living at the Aboriginal Finke River Mission at Hermannsburg. (Like many Aboriginal Missions in Australia, this one is run by the Lutheran Church.) I was 15 and I took the famous "Ghan" train (short for Afghan from the camel trains in the early years) up from Adelaide and we drove back by car. My next trip was 10 years later, when I also flew in a light aircraft to Ayers Rock (now known by its Aboriginal name, Uluru.) Like almost all tourists who go there, I climbed the steep ascent to the wind-swept top where there are hundreds of miles of desert in all directions. Unlike a number of them, I did not fall to my death along the way. (The plaques dedicated to them at the start of the climb provide pause for thought.) It's the largest sandstone monolith in the world.
In 1997, I had my first visit to Darwin, on the north coast, a city that was devastated by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, but since rebuilt. From there, I drove to and camped with friends at Kakadu National Park, Crocodile Dundee country, and Litchfield National Park. Out there, you can be a long ways from anywhere! From Darwin, I flew south to Ayers Rock where I stayed with friends. That time, I hiked through the Olgas (Aboriginal name Kata
Tjuta), a much-eroded sister monolith to Ayers Rock.
I've been to this state once, in 2007, when I attended an international conference. However, for the few days prior to that, I spent some great days with friends.
[Diary] My hosts lived in a quiet neighborhood just south of Brisbane, the state capital. Native bush land came quite near their house, and there were many wild birds. We took the kids grocery shopping. After several weeks on the road, I was missing my kitchen, and I'd asked my host if I could borrow hers for some cooking. She readily agreed. Next to the supermarket, I spied a liquor store, so I rescued a fine bottle of Para liqueur port wine (can you say Nectar of the Gods?), which we emptied over the next three nights. Afterwards, we packed lunch and drove to a neighborhood park where we lit a classic Aussie BBQ. A number of wallabies came by to see what we were up to. One doe had a young joey in her pouch.
[Diary] We walked around the waterfront, and then took a hi-speed catamaran ferry trip up the Brisbane River. The wind took my hat for a swim; goodbye hat!
[Diary] We went to a local bakery to buy lunch. I bought good old Aussie meat pies and pasties, iced coffee, and buns. It was pretty darned good. That evening, we had a great BBQ out on the patio. I managed to force down some local Bundaberg
[Diary from a business conference] I went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. The AU$22 buffet was a veritable orgy of food. I ate outdoors by the pool; however, the sun was very bright and hot. I left my table to go to get more food from the buffet. That took a while, and when I returned, my table was cleared, my newspaper gone, and a stranger was sitting in my very seat. I decided then and there that the waiters hovered about way too much, picking up things before one had barely put them down. And now, they'd decided I'd abandoned my table. It really is hard to get good help! In any event, my paper was found, another table was procured, and all without my having to buy the hotel and fire everyone.
[Diary] Flight JQ417 to SYD was pretty full; however, I managed to get an exit seat, so had plenty of legroom. We pushed back from the gate on time, the ground crew chased the sheep and kangaroos off the runway (just kidding; there were no sheep), and we were up-and-away flying inland, to the west. Soon, we were over lakes and rivers, hills and forests, and expensive waterside houses with private docks. The ride west and south was smooth and uneventful, just as flights should be. There were forests and meandering rivers all the way.
Touchdown was textbook-style, and I was soon waiting for my baggage. With respect to collecting baggage, people all around the world seem to have the exact same poorly thought-out plan: Let's all stand so close to the carrousel that no-one can see anything, and no-one on the outside can get to in to get their bags, which inevitably arrive before those for the inside people.
New South Wales (NSW)
I had my very first business trip when I was 18, and it was a week in Sydney, the capital city of NSW. I remember how the freeway we took from the airport ran under one of the planes' access roads to a runway. Almost every time I'm departed and returned to Australia, it's been through SYD. Now they have a curfew there; no traffic before something like 6 am. I know someone who was flying from SFO to SYD, non-stop across the Pacific, and "due to weather conditions" their departure from SFO was delayed quite a while. Now you might think the conditions were bad, but, in fact, they were too good. There would be a very strong tail wind throughout the flight, and if the plane departed on time, it would arrive way too early to be allowed to land!
From a 2006 trip to the Albury/Wodonga area to visit some cousins:
[Diary] Awake at 5:15 am, and up soon after. I shot video around the farm as the sun came up. There were many bush birds. I picked up sticks from the area where two long rows of trees were recently cleared. After an hour of physical labor, it was time for coffee and bread out on the patio among the birds. After lunch, I did some laundry, Paul and I fixed a hose at the pump down on the creek, we put a mower on a tractor, and I had my first drive in the farm ute. [A ute—utility vehicle—is an Aussie invention, and is a sedan with the back half converted for carrying stuff, built as an enclosed tray-top.] We put blades on the mower, and I met the farm dogs Red, Max, and Todd, all kelpies. At 3:30 pm, we drove to the nearby town of Walla Walla, where we stopped at the original covered wagon from German settlers who arrived from South Australia in 1850. To celebrate Paul's birthday, we dined at The Commercial Club. I had a veal schnitzel and salad, my first in years.
[Diary] Mid-morning, I helped Kevin the farm hand, bring in several lots of cattle. Don't you know, one young calf decided to test me by running along the creek in the opposite direction, just as far as it could, making me trek up and down to get it back. It was a good physical workout, but, fortunately, I was wearing a felt farm hat, which made me look and think like a farmer. At 11:30, I lay on the lawn in the sun trying to nap, but I doubt I did. I quickly got back into the Great Australian Salute—brushing flies away from my face. After lunch, we worked with cattle, vaccinating and drenching them, plus ear tagging and marking calves. Then it was on to some fencing and moving cattle and sheep. We saw a lone kangaroo and some rabbits. I collected the eggs from the 12 chooks (chickens, that is), let the chooks out for their afternoon run, fed the dogs their daily dose of pellets, and checked their water. I knocked-off for the day at 5:45 pm, and had a most welcome shower to remove the day's dust. Muscles I had long forgotten I had started to ache after yesterday's stick picking. With great authority, Paul told me that the best course of action was to keep on working until the ache stopped.
[Diary] Up at 6:30 to the smell of rain, which had fallen in too small a quantity before dawn. However, it was enough to settle the dust. We got a load of laundry going, and I hung that out on the unique Aussie rotary clothes line. It dried in double-quick time once the sun came out. Paul and I had a light breakfast and then headed out to work. While I got my early morning dose of dust by sweeping hay and sand off a concrete floor of a large shed, Paul emptied fertilizer from a storage bin into a truck-mounted bin. We then dumped that fertilizer on the concrete floor then off-loaded the bin onto its own legs, and swept off the truck tray. Next, we drove 22 rams from one paddock to another, partly along a public dirt road. We put up stock-caution signs at both ends of the road stretch we used. Then Paul drove the truck to Walla Walla for a registration checkup; I followed in the ute. The 5-speed manual gears were no problem (my own car in the U.S. is a stick shift), but I reminded myself to drive on the left. In town, we sat at a table in the shade outside the Billabong Cafe, where we had morning tea: meat pie with sauce and iced coffee (coffee-flavored milk, that is) for me, and a toasted sandwich and juice for Paul. He figured it was 38 years ago when he last ate morning tea in town. (More of my decadent influence.)
At 6:20 pm, we were dressed in our finest, and were on the road to Henty, a town of about 1,000 not far away. We were guests of the Henty Rotary Club, and I was the guest speaker. It was my first Rotary meeting. I sat at the head table with several officers and their wives. Spouses were invited as were members of another club. We conducted some business and ate dinner. I then spoke and answered questions for 30 minutes. My topic was a contrast of the U.S. Congressional form of government with the Westminster Parliamentary system used in Australia. It was well received, and the evening wrapped up by 10 pm. Back at the farm, we uncorked a bottle of vintage port wine from 1980, and had a small glass along with a Violet Crumble Bar. (More decadence!)
From a 2007 trip in and near Sydney:
[Diary] By mid-morning, we were on the highway heading west to the famed Blue Mountains. This was Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson country, the explorers who were first to cross these mountains. We hiked and took a lot of photos. At Katoomba, we saw the famous Three Sisters rocks, and even climbed right down onto one of them. A brightly painted Aborigine played a didgeridoo for the tourists, and had his photo taken with them. Near dusk, we hiked a very rugged bush track cleared under the command of one of friend Jane's pioneer ancestors. Along the way, we could see over a little bit of Paradise in the valley below, where small farms were scattered among the forest. On the way home, we stopped at a pub and ate outdoors, going home for dessert and coffee. Lights out at 11:15 pm. A great day.
[Diary] I awoke briefly at dawn to hear a magpie and kookaburra singing, and then went back to sleep until 8 am.
[Diary] We drove to the train station, and then took the train into downtown Sydney. We walked to the opera house, saw the bridge, visited the botanic gardens, and then took the high-speed ferry to Manly. There, we sat on the beach and watched the world go by before walking around to a cove. Then it was on to the slow ferry for a pleasant ride back to Circular Quay.
[Diary] I tried to wash away the tiredness from my legs in the shower. Although Bernie's Plan A was for us to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, I opted for Plan B, which involved staying home, drinking coffee, and talking about walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Plan B won!
I was raised in a county that adjoined the state border with Victoria, and I visited various rural parts from there. However, my first real visit to the state was when as age 18, I rode the train from Adelaide to the state capital Melbourne, where I stayed with a cousin for the better part of a week. From there, I did a day trip to the ski slopes of Bright, where I had my first experience with snow and skiing. I had no trouble at all getting started; it was the stopping that was problematic, especially when I was faced with a long line of people waiting for the lift, and I had nowhere to go but to fall over in the snow before I hit them!
On a subsequent trip, I drove by car with a friend down the SA coast and along the Great Ocean Road of Victoria with it spectacular coastal scenery. Afterwards, I tried skiing again.
From a 2000 trip to Melbourne:
[Diary] We were up at 8:30 am, and had a light breakfast. Then we all got into our warm undies and rainproof gear and headed off, with me riding pillion on friend Jeff's new 1100 cc Kawasaki motorcycle and niece Felicity on her racy looking Kawasaki 250. It was the last day of the big international motorcycle race at Phillip Island, and there were two legs of the Super Bike World championships. It rained a little on and off during the 90-minute trip down, and then again throughout the day. We saw several riders dismount their bikes unexpectedly at the tight corner right in front of us. Bits and pieces broke off the bikes as they slid along on the road on their side. However, there were no serious injuries. The top speed on the straight was around 250 kph, which was rather quick for a bike.
In 2004, I had a conference in Melbourne, and I stayed in a very nice apartment on the edge of the magnificent parklands that surround the city. The weather was glorious the whole time, and each morning, I walked into through them to the city campus of Monash University.
Melbourne is the Mecca of Australian Rules Football (AFL), the game for which I was recruited from high school to play, starting in 1970.
I've been to this island state once, in 2002. Niece Felicity and I took her car on the ferry across the Bass Strait from Melbourne to Devonport, Tasmania. Those waters can be very rough, but, fortunately, that day they were calm. After a night in a very nice B&B, we set off west along the north coast where we stayed three nights in a cottage. From there, we drove halfway down the rugged west coast through a large wilderness park, staying in small hotels along the way. We stopped to walk on some impressive dunes. After six days, we arrived in the capital, Hobart, where I stayed with friends I hadn't seen in 25 years. Hobart is a very nice, manageable city where they have a "rush minute" rather than a "rush hour"!
I did a number of interesting things while based in Hobart, but there were two things that stand above all others. The first, was a day-trip to the infamous convict settlement, Port Arthur. This is where many male prisoners (and even boys as young as six or seven) were transported from "ye merry old England" for offences as petty as stealing a loaf of bread. [Of course, we have to put a stop to all this bread stealing!] The second was to the southeast coast and Freycinet Peninsula. After an impressive bush walk up into the rocks, we had a spectacular view over Wineglass bay.
Did you know that the name of the national airline, Qantas, is an acronym for the former "Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service"?
Bucket List: I have yet to visit my own country's national capital, Canberra. This is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In my dreams, I imagine hiking the final 250 kms of the Heysen Trail in SA, as it runs to the sea. I'd also like to make a big loop from Adelaide, driving across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, and then up the NW coast to Darwin, then back south to Adelaide. And I can easily image spending an Aussie summer in Tasmania.