Jane's Travel Updates

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Hi there - sorry for the lack of updates over the last couple of months - we've been too busy enjoying ourselves! The last time most of you heard from me was when we were in Canada. Well, sadly Canada is a great place, but I never got round to telling you all about it. You'll all have to wait until I publish my memoirs!

Anyway, we're now in New Zealand, but as we only arrived here yesterday, I'll tell you all about Australia.


We did pretty well whilst in Australia, managing to get photos of all the "k's" (koala, kangaroo and kookabura) as well as a cassowary (big ugly rare bird) and emus. Whilst diving we saw a bloody big shark (luckily he was more scared of us than we were of him). Some of these were easier to spot than others - the koala had chosen a tree right outside a tourist information office to take a nap in - so not much stalking through the bush to spot that one!

We also saw peacocks and turkeys - but these are not exactly indigenous - and they were also quite tame.

Melbourne Cup

I guess this is the equivalent of the Grand National in the UK - except the atmosphere is more like Christmas! During the day, Mike and I were wandering around Sydney, and were surprised at the number of hats. (Even Morag from Home & Away wore a hat for the Melbourne Cup!) Some of the ladies were wearing their very best clothes - I even spotted a Ra-Ra skirt. Oh, and did I mention that a great deal of champagne had been consumed by the time the race started!

Later in the evening, Sydney had turned into a sort of depraved hellhole. The merry revellers were now in varying stages of melancholic drunkeness. We passed one couple sitting in the middle of the pavement, surrounded by discarded shopping bags, both sobbing quietly.

However, we realised a couple of days later that the celebrations in Sydney were nothing compared to the entertainment which could have been had in a small town near Perth. In one bar, two locals were hospitalised after drunkenly trying to deal with a poisonous snake which had gatecrashed the Melborne Cup celebrations. The first bloke picked the snake up to throw it outside - and got bitten. The next bloke (his mate) caught the snake, and also got bitten - d'uh! (I know, Sam, as the only Aussie on this distribution list, is probably sitting there now exclaiming "yeah, well, we used to use poisonous snakes as skipping ropes at school" - well you're all mad!)

The Gold Rush and Opal Fever

We travelled inland from Sydney, and stumbled upon a working gold mine. This was in the middle of nowhere down 20 miles of dirt road. When we got to the gold mine, we encountered John - a man who has modelled his image on the photos you see of "oldtimers" in museums - big bushy beard and weather beaten face. This mine produced some of the gold for the Sydney Olympics gold medals. John was very proud of this. John told us that he originally came from "across the channel". "What, New Zealand?" I asked. "No", (slipping into a very dutch accent - remarkable given the pukka Aussie accent of seconds before) "I come from Holland".

Further north, we visited a town called Lightning Ridge - this was a 1400km round trip, on a bit of a whim. We'd been talking to a couple of blokes in a pub who'd just returned from here, and they were raving about it. The whole reason for the existance of this town was that there are opals in tham thar hills!

We went on a tour around the opal mines with a lady called Maj (this time from Sweden). Maj had arrived in Lightning Ridge on holiday back in 1966, and had never gone home! She had well and truly caught the opal bug. I think Mike was nearly hooked, but the damp in the mine played havoc with his asthma! I was glad we weren't staying, as the temperature in spring was 42 degrees Celsius (v hot). The locals were only too happy to tell us that the temperature regularly reaches the mid 50's in the summer. It hasn't rained here for 21 months.

The Great Barrier Reef

We got up to the Great Barrier Reef last weekend to do a bit of diving. Surprisingly I still seemed to remember most of what I'd been taught in Malaysia on my dive course - although on my first dive, I excelled myself by losing a fin and my mask whilst jumping into the water (I never was too good with heights!)

We saw a couple of sharks and lots of fish - but I reckon the diving in Malaysia was better (and much cheaper!)

That's about it really. I'll try to get in touch more often for the remainer of the year (which is depressingly short!)

Take care all,

Jane xxx