Virtual Vacation: Beginner’s Mind: Australia, Day 1

Today is my first full day in Australia. I arrived at 6:30 AM after a six-hour flight from Singapore, and my main agenda for today is staying awake until it gets dark.

To that end, I’ve found it’s good to keep busy. Every time I stop my momentum, a wave of exhaustion sweeps over me. Yet I know staying awake until dark and getting on this time zone as soon as possible is the best thing I can do.

I had a wonderful reunion with Allison at the airport and we’ve been talking non-stop ever since. We went to the grocery store for provisions, where we bought the most delicious coconut-vanilla yogurt I’ve ever had. The total bill for our groceries was about one-and-a-half times what it would be in the States. Everything is more expensive here, even the products raised here, since so much is exported.

Allison and post box
Allison standing next to an Aussie mailbox.

I’ve asked Allison what I should eat here that l will never get back home. So far I had some vegemite spread on toast. Let’s just say I think it must be an acquired taste.

Allison and her partner, Kevin, live in a beautiful beach house just north of the Gold Coast region of Australia, in Byron Bay Shire. It’s a lovely beach town and from their house, it’s a short stroll to an endless white sand beach. After the trip to the store, we took a nice long walk on the very soft, fine packed white sand with a bluff on one side and an expansive ocean with soft waves on the other. I was mostly struck by the incredibly dark huge cloud formations over the ocean. It’s the start of winter here, and rain is in the air.

While we walked, Allison told me about all the poisonous insects, snakes and ways to die in the wilds of Australia. Did you know, for instance, that man-eating crocodiles don’t eat you straight off, they drown you in a “death roll,” holding you under the water until you stop moving, and then stash you somewhere until you start to rot—and only then eat you.

She told me the story of one gentleman who got drunk and fell asleep on a beach and woke up stashed in the roots of a mangrove tree, sandwiched between a dead pig and a dead dog, and realized he was being stored as the future lunch for a croc. Luckily for him, the croc was out hunting and he was able to swim to safety.

And cassowaries—those giant birds that look related to the emu—did you know that they can kick you to death with their giant feet? Well they can. So if you ever see one, don’t stop to admire it, but slowly back up and move away—much like you would with a mountain lion. Because if a mama cassowary has babies to protect and you’re in the way, you’re toast.

Apparently, there are a lot of ways nature can kill you in Australia.

Topographically, a lot of the local terrain doesn’t look all that different from California. Many of the trees are the same, but a few are far more tropical looking, with dozens of above ground roots growing out of the trunk, much like a banyan tree. I haven’t found out yet what those trees are called.

Every time we go back the car, I try to get in on the wrong side of the car. Along the road, the yield signs say, “GIVE WAY,” and there are periodic road signs with pictures of koalas asking drivers to watch out for them on the road—and I saw a sign with a picture of a kangaroo as well.

kangaroo sign

We also saw a couple of bridges over the highway, where the top of the bridge, instead of being a road for cars, is a government-mandated bridge for animals, a lush habitat of jungle and forest crossing the freeway. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Oh, and there are rest stops along the highway called, “driver reviver,” where tired drivers can get free coffee and Kit-Kats.

It’s now 7 PM and I’ve managed to stay awake till this long, but it’s been hard! Allison and Kevin took me to a pub for a local beer in the late afternoon and we met up with a couple of their friends. One an Aussie bloke and one an American who met an Australian woman online, fell in love and moved here four years ago.

The three of us made a wonderful healthy stir fry for dinner together, have been listening to some great music and have a fire going. I’ve had some wine—and believe it or not, it perked me up about 10 degrees, but once again, I can feel my energy flagging.

It’s pouring rain outside—winter—and it’s time to put on jammies and attempt to watch the movie we rented earlier today. If I can stay up until 9, that should put me in much better shape for tomorrow.

Weather permitting, Allison and I are going on a long bike ride and later, heading out to explore the wonders of Byron Bay.

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