Australia Day 8- Half-Baked Thoughts from the Halfway Point

I got to Australia on the 13th. It’s the 20th. I’m leaving on the 27th. It actually feels like I’m past the halfway point, but maybe that’s because the first week was the busiest. Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, and now I’m typing this from the hostel in Cairns. Coming up next week: the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest, and one last evening in Sydney.

Brisbane was a nice city, but not particularly interesting from a blogging perspective. Lots of green space, some great outdoor malls, and a picturesque river… all make for better pictures than stories. (On a side note: I’m posting pics to Facebook, but haven’t posted any on the blog yet because that takes time, and I’ve had difficulty finding Internet time that isn’t really expensive. So I’ll probably go back to all my blog entries and post pics on ’em when I get back.)

Anyway, a few random thoughts before I go off to the Great Barrier Reef and get fully cut off from the Internet for 3 days (horror!):

-My left shoulder has been complaining about the backpack I carry everywhere. It got worse in the Blue Mountains, and I had to improvise some extra padding– so I used a sleeping mask, folded under the strap, which worked for a while. Unfortunately, I lost it when I took my backpack off to take a break, but I can console myself that when someone finds a sleeping mask at a cliffside overlook in the middle of the mountains, I will have successfully made the world a weirder place.

-America may have lost the ability to manufacture anything but reality TV and faux outrage, and the entire country may be more bankrupt than Bernie Madoff’s investors, but I am pleased to note we still appear to lead the world in certain major areas: ubiquitous acceptance of credit and debit cards, and ubiquitous (and often free) wi-fi spring immediately to mind.

-It’s good to know that American culture has penetrated the world to the extent that even halfway around the world, I can have my ears assaulted with the exact same incessantly annoying pop songs as at home. Does Taylor Swift not realize that Romeo and Juliet DIE at the end of the story? It’s supposed to be a tragedy; instead, the only tragedy is that the song has been stuck in my head for the past day and a half.

-I love decent public transportation. I loved it in Europe, and I love it in Australia. Why can’t we do it in America, outside of like 5 cities? I know, I know, it’s because American cities are too spread out… I still think it sucks. Both Sydney and Brisbane have fully functioning rail, bus, and ferry public transport networks. And Brisbane is only a city of 2 million! That’s only twice as big as the Raleigh-Durham metro area in North Carolina. Of all the things that piss me off about America… well, this isn’t number one, but it’s in the Top Five.

-Australian (and for that matter, European) cities also do green space way better than American cities. Sydney and Brisbane both had massive, well-kept, and free Botanical Gardens located smack in the heart of the city; actually, both had multiple such parks. They’re what New York’s Central Park wishes it could be.

-With all this ranting about what America doesn’t do well, I’ll give you one thing it does do well: currency. Aside from the previously-mentioned fact that debit cards are ubiquitous (they’re widespread in Australia, but some places, notably the Sydney Rail Network, still either don’t take them or require a minimum purchase cost), there’s the matter of coins. I’m quite happy that dollar coins never caught on in America; Australia and Europe have both 1 and 2 dollar (Euro) coins. Maybe this is just me, but I like dollar bills, which fit quite nicely in my wallet and don’t increase the weight of my pants pockets by two pounds, thanks.

-Anyway, enough general ranting. I’m in Cairns now, and I think this is the closest to the Equator I’ve ever been (the latitude is 16 degrees South… which is closer than my previous record, Grand Cayman, which is at 19 degrees North). Cairns has a touristy but relaxed feel to it… and like Brisbane, it has a great outdoor mall. I’m not gonna get to spend much time here, though (leaving at 6 am tomorrow), which is a shame. Still, I bet the Great Barrier Reef will be even better.

Australia Day 7- Interlude on Writing

In the Blue Mountains and in Brisbane, I’ve taken time out each day to rest my feet (much needed) and just relax (not quite as needed, but fun). The Kookaburra Inn, where I’m staying in Brisbane, has a particularly nice little patio where I can sit for a couple hours in the shade, put my feet up, and type away. Most of my creative energy has been funneled into planning out a novel for National Novel Writing Month, which will be the subject of a longer blog entry when I get back, but suffice to say: come November, me and a few thousand other authors are each going to try to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in 30 days. Why, you ask? Well, why not?

I’m also trying to organize a few people from my Writing Group who are going to do it as well, and our first meeting is four days after I get back to the U.S. Trying to organize a first-time group meeting? In the US? From Australia? Yeah, I don’t recommend it.