I recently was able to take a trip of a lifetime at the expense of of Uncle Sam. I attended a planning conference for an upcoming military exercise in Australia. It was bloody great. The trip lasted 23 days and I went to several different locations in Australia and tried several of the local flavors to include Vegemite, Kangaroo, and Crocodile (I do not recommend the first two...the crocodile, of course, tasted like chicken). I flew for 13 hours and landed in Sydney and remained there overnight and then flew to a small town called Townsville. This town was on the coast and was actually only a few hours away from the Great Barrier Reef. One of the first things I noticed was that it was Winter in Australia. Yes...the weather is a little askew there in the land down under. I was coming from sunny and tropical Hawaii and walked right into 50 degree weather. Now this does not sound too cold, but I was used to 80 degree weather year round and did not have a single long sleeve shirt or, heaven forbid, a jacket with me. Needless to say, I had to quickly supplement the local economy and buy a jacket. But...the landscape was beautiful and the people were very friendly and relaxed.
Now I will admit that I was quite challenged on certain things. Here were two countries and peoples separated by one language. I would talk to the locals and they would look at me like I had a horn growing out of my head. Conversely, they would say something to me in the Queen's language and I would just smile because I did not know what they were saying. I did learn that a "besty" was a best friend and a "roundy" was taking a trip around the block. "Bingo Wings" were the flabby part(i.e the triceps) of an overweight woman's arms. The language was a barrier....but I did not risk my life during my conversations. Driving was another thing altogether. It seems that I had entered the twilight zone and everyone drove on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel was placed incorrectly in the vehicle. I cannot tell you how many times I turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signals. I had to try and trick my brain into driving on the wrong side of the road. It took some getting used to. I almost died on a few occasions and I drove past several right turns because, heck, it just felt weird to turn right from the wrong lane. But...I did overcome the driving challenges and managed to drive decently after a week of practice.
As I said...the scenery was gorgeous. We were in the Queensland district in the town of Townsville. Townsville was a port city and the locals took us up to an overwatch that was several hundred feet up so we could "take in the view". The view, as evidenced by the pictures, was breathtaking. The town was located on one one the better ports in the country and was busy but quiet. The pictures above and below do not do justice to the real thing. it was simply amazing.
However, the climb up was not a pleasant thing. It was very steep and we walked up over 1,500 steps to get to the top. I was winded and was happy to get to the top as much for the view as for the opportunity to let my heart stop pounding and catch my breath. The view was great and you could see for miles.
I made a lot of new friends while I was there. This is John, my new "besty." John is a contracting officer and is stationed in Alaska. We hit it off because we had been stationed at the same post he is at now and could swap stories and knew the same places. John and I are sharing a glass of Kool Aid at one of the Australian dining facilities. We were both impressed with the country and amazed by the language. I definitely have more to discuss on my trip...but this is my first installment so be prepared for more.