The first time my husband and I set foot outside the United States was last summer, when we spent one night in Vancouver. This fact is a bit embarrassing to admit, but be assured it was not a lack of desire that kept us home, but rather a lack of funds. Raising two kids and paying a mortgage on the island of Maui can be a bit of a challenge, especially when one of you earns the paltry and erratic income of an eternally “up and coming” writer… but I have a real job now. So this year we decided to take advantage of a two-week long spring break, and with our 17-year old son in tow, we set off on our first true international adventure, heading south to Australia.
We reached Sydney at dusk – it was a thrill to see the Opera House from the plane’s window – but upon landing we were immediately introduced to the unpleasant spectacle of the flight attendants walking the aisles, spraying insecticide over our heads before anyone was allowed to leave their seats. I understand the reasons for this – Hawaii has suffered excessively from unintended introductions of exotic species and it would be nice if our state would take more precautions – but as someone who assiduously avoids pesticides, it was a bit shocking. Fortunately, everything improved from there.
Sydney is a wonderful city. We explored from Kings Cross to Darling Harbor, walking through diverse streets and neighborhoods, and never once did I feel uncomfortable or uneasy. The architecture is a wide mix of modern and historical, and always interesting. The parks are lovely – we were fascinated by the flying foxes that inhabit the botanical gardens. It was very exotic to leave a little restaurant on Stanley Street at dusk, and see skeins of huge bats flying out of the gardens and across the purple sky.
After Sydney, we took a train to Melbourne and spent some days on the southern coast, in the company of a friend. We had already seen most of the iconic Australian animals in a zoo, but after several short hikes and lots of driving, we were able to score sightings of many koalas, a couple of wallabies, a small mob of kangaroos, flocks of cockatoos and several different kinds of parrots. Strangely enough, we also discovered an impressive grove of sequoias at a picnic stop in the mountains of Great Otway National Park.
So why the “The Land of Oz”? It wasn’t immediately obvious to me why this was a nickname for Australia, until I realized what is “Aussie” in the US sounds like “Ozzie” down under.
We had the fun of arriving home before we left, since Australia and Hawaii are separated by the dateline. It was very handy to be able to do Friday twice! The trip was a fantastic experience, and we are already talking about going back. Queensland, next time! And someday, on to New Zealand.