A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Category — Australia

First Encounter


Other travelers had told me about the strange force at work at Uluru, a mystical, magical power.

Who am I to argue?

On our first evening at the Ayers Rock Resort, we hiked a short distance to an observation platform to see “The Rock” at sunset.

Instead, we were treated to a fantastical light show, the likes of which I had never seen.

In front of us, Uluru turned shades of purple as the sun set to the west.


Behind us, a near full moon rose in the evening sky.


To our right, the sun dipped below the horizon while the clouds took on a magical form and color.


To our left, a distant lightening storm raged.


And how to explain this cloud, apparently lit from above, though the sun was below the horizon in the west?


January 7, 2009   7 Comments

Far From Home


Alice Springs is one of the most far away, hard to get to places on earth.  It’s a place I’ve dreamed about visiting since first reading Bruce Chatwin’s book The Songlines twenty years ago.

When Dani and I started planning this trip she reminded me her childhood friend Kara now lived in Alice.  It became one of the “absolutely must visit” places on our itinerary.

Conor was sitting in the window seat on our flight into Alice from Melbourne.  As the plane descended through the clouds, he shouted: “Dad, look down there – everything’s red!”  And so it was.


Kara and her husband Rob picked us up at the airport.  We had arrived in time to attend Kara’s company Christmas party on a cattle station two hours from Alice in the central Australian Outback.

We made our way through the other-worldly landscape, putting Rob’s new four-wheel drive Toyota through its paces.



Once at Tilmouth Well, Roy and Janet, our hosts for the evening, welcomed us like family.

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January 5, 2009   4 Comments

NYE 2009 Sydney


In retrospect, our original plan was insane.

For some reason, we thought we would be able to claim one of the prime viewing spots for the NYE fireworks over Sydney Harbor.

So off we went to Macquarie Point with the idea we’d be able to just stroll in. When we arrived, we found people had been lining up for the limited access site since 6 AM.

Needless to say, we needed to come up with a Plan B.


For most of the day Plan B didn’t materialize. But late in the afternoon we talked to a local who tipped us off to a small beach with a good view of the Harbor Bridge.

This same local thought we were crazy to even try to get a spot near the Opera House earlier in the day.

She said: What were you thinking? Did you really want to be in the middle of 1.5 million drunken Australians?  …You know how we are.”

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December 31, 2008   5 Comments

Question Time


Canberra is a compromise.

Like all well-intentioned compromises, it excites no one.  A bit like kissing your sister.  You see, Australia’s capital city – like America’s – was sited and built to appease a regional rivalry.

In Australia’s case, residents of both Sydney and Melbourne thought their city should be the country’s capital.  The creation of Canberra was the solution.

The capital city, designed by one-time Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Walter Burley Griffin, is long on symbolism, short on functionality.

The circle is one of the city’s key design elements. While it may look good on landscape design rendering, it makes getting from Point A to Point B a bit challenging.


I can imagine the meeting when Griffin presented his plans:  “And so Mr. Prime Minister, with this design you will have a city that communicates to your citizens the strength, continuity and unity of this great country.”

Too bad no one thought to say:  “All well and good, but how the hell is someone supposed to drive on this?  Get me someone who know how to lay out a proper grid!”

Like most people who visit this city, we had come to Canberra because we had business with the Federal Parliament. Wayne Swan, a friend of twenty years, had recently risen to the position of Federal Treasurer.

Swan’s office had kindly coordinated tickets for us to attend Question Time, a regular occurrence in parliamentary systems where Backbench Members of Parliament are allowed time to question the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet.

On the day we attended, Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd displayed the rhetorical skills that have helped earn him a 70% approval rating.

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December 29, 2008   2 Comments

Boxing Day


Most Americans have no idea what Boxing Day is or when it’s celebrated.

When I was told it was a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, I figured it must be the day family members settled longstanding grievances that inevitably surface during holiday get-togethers.

Not so, it turns out.

The holiday’s roots can be traced to Britain, where it is also known as St. Stephen’s Day.

Reduced to its simplest, Boxing Day began as the day the rich gave cash or other gifts to the lower classes.

Gifts among equals were exchanged on Christmas Day; gifts to the poor and those of a lower social class are given on the next day.

In practice, Boxing Day has become another public holiday that sets up a long weekend. In Australia, think of it as a sort of antipodean Fourth of July (without the fireworks).

It’s also the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race, one of the top offshore yacht races in the world.  More than 500,000 people found vantage points along the Sydney harbor foreshore to watch the start of the race.

Sydney Hobart Race

One hundred boats started the race and thousands more filled the harbor, providing the racers an escort just beyond the north and south heads.

The prohibitive favorite this year is the Australian yacht Wild Oats XI. But the most interesting entrant is Pachamama, the first Swiss boat to enter the race.

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December 26, 2008   5 Comments

Who’s Your Secret Santa?





And a few more Aussie Christmas images:

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December 25, 2008   3 Comments

Land of Oz


Early one evening when I was about seven I walked into the kitchen where my father was sitting at the table alone, eating his dinner before he had to leave for work.

He looked up from his plate and said:  “You should know — when you’re 14 we are moving to Australia.  Better start studying up on it.”

Now this was news to me.  Being the earnest young man I was, I went immediately to our bookcase and pulled out the “A” volume of our World Book Encyclopedia.  I bet I read the entry about Australia thirty times.

From that day on I read everything I could about Australia.  I scanned newspapers and magazines for stories.  I checked out books from the school library. I searched our stack of National Geographics for every scrap of information.

Other boys my age read all they could about the Orioles and the Colts.  I read about Kangaroos and Koalas.


I’m not sure how old I was when I figured out we weren’t going to be moving anywhere.  Memorial Stadium in Baltimore was about as far as my father was comfortable traveling from the Eastern Shore.

Still, my childhood fascination with the Land Down Under has served me well over the years.

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December 22, 2008   4 Comments

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