Down Under? Oy!
Posted on June 30, 2015
I spent the last week with sis and company. We spent three full days enjoying the beach in North Carolina followed by a couple of days in Northern Virginia. It was a much-needed respite even though it was hotter than Hades and it wasn’t a full week of zoning out in a beach chair staring out at the ocean. We even managed to not spend the entire time talking about the sad state of affairs with our mother. I took long walks along the shoreline, humming whatever tunes popped into my mind the entire time as I let the cool ocean water tickle toes and ankles. We looked for shells at every opportunity—Alexandre carted an entire bucket full of shells back to Virginia— and we even went crabbing in the dark of night. Now that was a blast I’d never experienced in all of my 57+ years! The Poodle and Nica-Roo the beagle were on sensory overload too as they ran after crabs skittering about in the sand. We laughed ourselves to near exhaustion that night!
Back in ‘Bama-land I am still on a high. I’ve just got confirmation of another upcoming trip. It’s no secret that Rocket-man is away on business travel a good deal of the time. Folks ask why I’m not traveling with him on some of his more “exotic” business jaunts. Two words would best answer the question: It’s expensive! Many of his business trips are scheduled last-minute which would make purchasing a ticket for me a costly proposition. And, even if a trip is scheduled within a reasonable time frame, it often gets changed or cancelled due to whatever is going on with his job. So, when Rocket-man came home last week and said it looked like he was going to Australia on business travel I nearly knocked him over in my rush of excitement.
Can I go, can I go….PRETTY PLEASE…. can I go!?
No shame here folks: I spent my first six months after I moved to ‘Bama-land binge-watching McLeod’s Daughters on Netflix, if that doesn’t tell you how excited I am about the prospect of traveling to Australia.
And so it is now official. Next month, we are off to the land of Down Under (Canberra, specifically with two days in Sydney). It matters not that it will entail 30-some hours of travel. It matters not that I will be stuck in coach whilst Rocket-man is enjoying business class. I’m traveling to the land of Koalas, Kangaroos, Uggs, opals (my birthstone, as it happens to be), and good wine. Unfortunately, it’s only going to be for ten days (four and a half of which are travel days!) but I’m mighty stoked to be able to visit another continent (the island continent!)…the worlds sixth largest country…the world’s largest island.
Having said that, I just so happened to have picked up a book about a month ago about Australia (not knowing about this opportunity mind you). I was perusing the shelves in the travel section at Barnes & Noble when the cover caught my eye: A kangaroo carrying it’s baby in her pouch. The title of the book: In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Knowing that the author is a world traveler who writes interesting, fact-filled accounts of his adventures peppered with a wonderful sense of humor, I purchased it without even reading the back cover synopsis.
Once home, I hadn’t even made it through the entire introduction when a thought hit me square between the eyes.
I cannot complain about living in insect hell anymore.
Case in point, here is a paragraph in Bill Bryson’s introduction, In a Sunburned Country:
“It is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluro to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures—the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too wont to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy but exceedingly venomous. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It’s a tough place.”
Okay then! And I want to go there?
So yes…Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country in the world (a total of 755 species…yikes!) and 140 varieties of snakes in addition to 32 species of sea snakes! One hundred of these snake species are venomous and of those, 12 are deadly…as in that’s it, lights out, deadly.
Hmm…..let’s think about this trip.
Back in my working days I had a boss, Jeff, who was detailed for some weeks on a project in Australia. Jeff brought back little souvenirs for everyone in the office. Mine sits on a shelf in my family room. I don’t recall asking my boss much about that trip; our work environment simply didn’t lend itself to much casual chit-chat. Still, I kept in touch with Jeff following my move from Northern Virginia to Southern California. He’s still working the salt mines, as it were, while I’m still a beach bum…(a beach bum sans the beach mind you). I follow him on Facebook because his photography is breathtakingly amazing and because, well…he’s a fair dinkum kind of guy (Aussie speak for genuine and trustworthy). Following my divorce seventeen years ago, he gave me a chance when I desperately needed it.
So I sent him an email. I told him about the book that I was reading. I said something to the effect: I’m just amazed you came out of Australia alive….in one piece.
Jeff, being a quiet man of few words, replied with an email that contained only this:
Folks, I’m trying to not get my knickers in a knot over this. I just hope to make it back alive….and in one piece.