I’ve never been able to pull it off BUT I’ve always wanted to go to Australia – everything I’ve heard about it fascinates me. That said I often watch those “survival” TV shows where a person takes a wrong turn in a desert, forest, mountain or the outback and is lost for days on end. Then an “outdoor survivalist” comes on and says, “If only they had done thus-and-so – they would have had food and water.”
The only glitch in this idea is that the THINGS that one needs to pull off these stunts are NEVER found in the average family or tourist car. The one tip I’ve found that seems solid is ALWAYS have a big jar of peanut butter with you – it’s said that one can last for 30 days on peanut butter alone. Result? When the coronavirus disaster started in NYC in March 2020 the first item I bought when food shopping were two giant jars of Skippy Super Chunk Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter. We’ll be eating this until 2024.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DOWN UNDER
One of the magazine subscriptions I have is for International Travel News, possibly the most unassuming 8” x 10” publication you’ll ever see. It has been around for 44 years, is printed monthly on newsprint, sports black/white art and never covers anything in the U.S. In spite of this bare bones approach it’s immensely popular and features great articles – one of which recently caught my eye. It’s titled “Touring Australia’s Top End in winter.” I decided to take a look and see what it had to say.
Well, it turned out that it had A LOT to say through the eyes of an adventurous twosome who traveled around Australia. Because of this, I decided that, instead of following them, I’d pick out the salient points that interested me – it’s a bit higgledy-piggledy but I’m giving it a shot.
JUNE TO AUGUST IS WINTER FOR THE AUSSIES
Oh yes, I forgot to mention one thing: this publication does not have any staff writers – everything is written by subscribers and may or may not be “tweaked” by an editor. Lorenz Rychner who lives in Denver, Colorado wrote this article. He traveled with his wife Kathy and starts this way. “July is midwinter Down Under – not the best time to visit many parts of Australia but the ideal time to visit the tropical Top End. So when a fare of $665 per person, round trip from Denver to Sydney, popped up for travel in July 2019, we decided we just had to grab it.”
Then he adds this tidbit, “We always reserve a window seat for Kathy and an aisle seat for myself, and, as often happens, the middle seat remains empty. What luxury!” Frankly, I’m jealous: why didn’t Peter and I ever think of this! I hate those middle seats!
FROM SYDNEY TO DARWIN AND THE BOAB TREES
He goes on to say, “After several days we flew with Qantas nonstop from Sydney to Darwin, heading for daily temperatures of about 66 to 90 degrees F. – or, considered “cool” by the locals in the tropical Northern Territory. Some high points we enjoyed in Darwin included the George Brown Botanic Gardens (free), with remarkable boab trees, featuring thick, water-retaining trunks.”
The dramatic and water-retaining boab tree with a bottle-shaped trunk in the George Botanic Gardens in Darwin – it can live for hundreds of years
Photo courtesy of International Travel News, April 2020
NOW LET’S DISCUSS: PRICES AND TIPPING
Rychner says that, “Prices overall for this trip were very reasonable, even in out-of-the-way places where a premium would be justified. But gas was expensive – roughly $5.40 per U.S. gallon. Out in the open country it can be even more.”
Since I live in New York, this is my favorite part. He says, “The culture of NO TIPPING stunned us. Not in taxis, not in shuttle buses, not in restaurants. At the end of a river cruise, if the guide stands by the gangplank with a hand extended, it is NOT about money, it is to help the passenger across a wobbly step. Your coins left on the bar will be pushed toward you with the words, ‘You left your change, mate.’”
A big saltwater croc or “saltie” – who is waiting for some action – and his dinner – fish and birds or almost anything that comes too close.
ONE MORE TIP ABOUT AUSTRALIA
August is a good time to go on a long cross-country road trip in Australia, as there’s little chance of scorching hot desert temperatures or washed-out roads in the tropics. If you want to lounge on a beach – head to Port Douglas – it’s a popular area for sun bathing.
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This is the first thing I saw when perusing the 50th anniversary issue of the Smithsonian magazine for April 2020. This eye-opening 10-page article (with spectacular photos) is titled, “The Ship in the Ice” and concerns a topic we’ve all been hearing about for years, e.g., global warming.
The pandemic this year has affected all of us in many ways. Two things that stand out in my mind: people definitely need people (to paraphrase the song “People” sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl). The phone, email, computer, TV and all the other digital creations we use DO NOT take the place of human interaction. We all need to see and talk to each other. That said we have also learned that we can work at home very efficiently and handle our normal workload if necessary. Never commute again? I don’t think that will happen, but perhaps we’ll find a happy medium – time will tell.
I have often found that when a person achieves incredible success – after a long struggle – the back-story is almost as fascinating as the achievement itself. That’s why I was interested in, yet another, Andy Warhol write-up that appeared in the May 2020 issue of the Smithsonian magazine.
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