farewell australiaPart I
There’s an old adage that one should write drunk and edit sober. This is my attempt at slightly tipsy. Why? Because I’m saying farewell to Australia, and there’s no good way to depart such a big (and big-hearted) country without a bit of tipple to send me on my way.

Where to begin? When last we left off, I was speaking on Australia’s forgotten Aborigines and I was halfway to Adelaide. Since then, we — me and a couple of CouchSurfing friends from Germany —  completed the crossing of the  southern continent from Perth to Sydney, a distance of at least 5,100 km based on the southern route we took. It’s an accomplishment that, frankly, many Australians still don’t manage to do. But what a journey. I honestly haven’t even begun to fully process the whole trip, but the landscape and the people who I’ve met on the way have been indelibly stamped on my soul. Read More

MELBOURNE—Taking a break in a Melbourne Thai restaurant, I idly glanced at the TV which held my fellow diners’ attention so raptly. A bearded Richard Chamberlain and a gracefully aging Karen Allen were puttering about with some tribal decorations from the American Pacific northwest. The Australians seemed positively fascinated by the colorful masks of the Native Americans. And it was at that moment that one of those coincidences happened that you think don’t mean anything, but upon reflection you realize they signify everything.

Shuffling by outside the window was a crushingly indigent Aboriginal woman, her tattered and soiled singlet, which must once have been purple, hanging off her beefy shoulders. Her hair was a tangle and her eyes swollen shut. She moved her lips as if talking to herself or chewing something. Her flip-flops were bright pink, but one of the straps had come loose and she had to drag her left foot to keep her shoes on her feet. Read More

EUCLA, Western Australia—I realize that in all of this, I haven’t really given my impressions of Australia, particularly its wild and woolly western half. In short, it’s tremendous and awesome. I’ve been around, and I’ve never quite seen a landscape like this.

On Sunday, as we headed north from Esperance toward Norseman, the forests of the coasts gave way to scrub. Spindly gum trees and sullen little bushes dotted the landscape. Every now and then, we pass what looks like a salt flat. The evening sunlight was low and angled, imparting a glow of gold to every tree trunk.

I could see the scars of previous bush fires. Felled trees and scorched terrain spoke of the fires that burned on our left. The charred marks extended as high as my head on many of the gum trees. On my right, there was no scorching to be seen, indicating the fire never jumped the road. Read More