Travels in Oz

I'm off - for 6 months of adventure (er, research) in Australia.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Final Post - Part II

Well, I’m happy to report that I’m officially over jetlag. Now when I sleep until 10am, it’s just plain laziness. I would have finished this up earlier, but a computer meltdown delayed this final post. I suppose I should count my blessings that the laptop held together through six months in Australia, a year before that in the UK, and countless run-ins with my cat, who doesn’t tend to distinguish between a computer screen and a scratching post. But the fact that my computer was considerate enough to die on domestic soil doesn’t make the pain of shelling out a few hundred dollars for a replacement any easier.

In any case, back to the trans-Australia parental extravaganza. After a day or two winding our way through forests, we picked up the Great Ocean Road, which runs along the coast for almost 300 km. It’s a beautiful drive, and reminded me a lot of Big Sur in northern California – lots of twists and turns along cliffs, with gorgeous views of the ocean. The area is known for its ocean rock formations – huge pinnacles in the water that somehow remained while the rest of the cliff eroded and receded. The most famous are the Twelve Apostles; gorgeous orange and pink rock towers that are peppered along the coastline. Actually, I think there were only 10 or 11 of them to begin with, and now one or two have fallen down, making the official title a bit of a misnomer. Although I guess “The Rock Formations Formerly Known as The Twelve Apostles” is too much of a mouthful. We arrived just as the sun was setting, which set off the colors in the rock beautifully. It was fantastic.

The next morning we got up early to watch whales swim past a beach near our hotel, but the whales didn’t show up. The nerve. So it was on to South Australia and the Barossa Valley, one of the oldest wine producing regions in Australia. But first, we made sure to pass through a little town called Kingston, which has achieved world fame for a tourist attraction called the Big Lobster. It is…wait for it…a big statue of a lobster. Yes, we actually went out of our way to see this. Although, to be fair, it was extremely large – about 50 times bigger than a real lobster. And it had a gift shop, so all in all, it was a successful detour.

After a very relaxing day in the Barossa Valley, tasting wine, eating a gourmet lunch and channeling our inner yuppies, we flew north to Cairns. The city itself doesn’t have too much going for it – in fact, the closest comparison I can think of is that it’s kind of like Alabama (no offense to any Alabamans out there, I’m sure it’s a lovely place). Cairns, however, is a great jumping off point for trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. My mother isn’t too fond of boats, or water, or people who like boats and water, so she decided to spend a day relaxing with a book while Dad and I joined a tour that offered both snorkeling and diving. Now, I know that many of you who know me won’t believe what I’m about to write, but I actually conquered my fears – of sharks, and eels, and seasnakes, and estuarine crocodiles, and giant killer minnows – and gave diving a try. Actually, I couldn’t really believe I was doing it myself until I was in the water. But my friend Nadine had once told me that diving is easier than it seems, since it feels so abnormal – you have to put on a strange outfit, the only thing you can hear is yourself breathing, and even the way you swim feels different – that you sort of forget all of your usual fears of the ocean. And she was absolutely right. I didn’t freak out at all. It also helped that we were only underwater for about 25 minutes, so before I could start to panic, it was time to resurface. The fish were astounding, and the coral was very pretty, although not as brightly colored as in the aquarium. I did see a shark, but it was only about a foot long, and seemed to be sleeping. Still, that counts for something, doesn’t it? The whole experience was incredible and exhilarating, and that evening we celebrated my newfound status of fearless underwater adventurer by eating a lobster dinner. What can I say, it just seemed appropriate.

We flew back to Sydney happy, tired, and with my parents’ bank account considerably depleted. After a final day in the city, my parents jetted off to Hawaii, and I was left with four days to pack, wrap things up, and say goodbye to people. I had a fantastic going away party at Retro, a dance club that specializes in 70s and 80s music, and then a final dinner in a restaurant in Customs House, which not only had great food but a beautiful view of the harbor. Before I knew it, it was time to go. These past six months have been an amazing experience, and I’m so lucky to have met such wonderful people. I’ll miss them all – and Australia – for a long time to come.

But now it’s back to real life, and hopefully a completed dissertation and professorship in the near future. I’d keep this blog going, but I’m pretty sure that my trips to the library and back won’t excite even my most devoted reader (i.e., my mother). So that’s all for me. Thanks for reading everyone!

2 Comments:

  • At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    welcome home. way to conquer your fear of swimming creatures. now let's see... what else did i freak you out about when we were growing up? and what exotic location do you plan to go to to assist with your therapy this time? i can't wait to find out.
    you friggin' rule. best kid sister i've ever had. peace.
    - johnny

     
  • At 7:37 PM, Anonymous peter o said…

    Nellie, what a fab time you had here - better than the one I've been living in Australia for the last 41 years it seems. (not true of course)....

    On my next trip to the US I can perhaps relay all the stranage facts you never knew about your country: like the diseases Florida aligators get, details of car journeys in out-of-the-way places like South Dakota (which I am sure is really very fascinating!), and what it's like diving in places you never would like the Colorado river or something.

    But it sounds like a very worthwhile trip. We certainly thought it was great meeting you. And strangely enough, we can't recall any bad habits you had when you were our housemate.... we could make some up though for the entertainment of your readers... but, well, maybe it's not the right time or right place.

    Hopefully all your detailed findings about Britain's supposedly orphaned children transported to Australia will be published into a much celebrated reveal-all book one day. perhaps we will see you on Larry King and Oprah - and enjoy trying to work out whether you've had plastic surgery or not.

    In any case, I am sure you'll go far with the work you've done and perhaps even come back to do a second edition.

    If you do, you can always look us up and of course stay. In the meantime, we will see you in NY soon!

    Ciao, Peter O

     

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