“G’ day mate!” said the “bush’ hunter sitting next to me at the Outback Pub that was on my Australian itinerary.
“Hi”, I said timidly, as I sipped my ice-cold beer.
This guy looked exactly like “Crocodile Dundee”.
Rugged looking and wearing an Akubra, a wide brimmed hat made out of rabbit fur felt. He had the same sleeveless vest and brown jeans that Dundee wore with brown boots.
But my attention was drawn to the knife hanging from his belt.
“You noticed my knife, let me show it to you,” he said, drawing it out of its sheath.
“Boy, that’s a knife!” I said, inspecting it.
It had at least a 10 inch blade and a 5 inch handle, 15 inches long in total!
Dundee put it back in its sheath and smiled.
I imagined all the various uses of that large knife.
I looked around at the walls of the pub, they were plastered with foreign money, women’s lingerie, and a photo of a scantily clad lady with the caption, “the night when things got interesting”.
The menu was on the wall featuring Camel Sausages and BBQ Kangaroo meat.
Yum, yum! I didn’t have the guts to order. Anyway, I wasn’t hungry.
“You have camels in Australia?” I asked Dundee.
“Yes mate, they were imported from Arabia in the 19th century for transport and heavy work.”
“That’s interesting,” I said, getting off my stool.
I shook hands with Dundee, he had an iron grip, and I imagined his hands around a crocodile’s neck!!!
I walked out into the sunbaked plains of the Northern Territory.
There were several white painted Aboriginal dancers performing a ceremonial ritual in front of me. They weren’t sweating at all, but it was pouring off of me!
Country music was filtering out of the Outback Pub, quite a backdrop for the scene in front of me. A lone man was playing a didgeridoo, which is a long wooden tube which is blown to produce a deep guttural sound.
About 25 feet from me in a clump of bushes were some large spiders and a snake.
I wondered how deadly they were!
There was a river nearby and the locals said it was filled with crocodiles. I decided NOT to go for a swim!
In the distance, about a quarter of a mile, I saw a kangaroo hopping around. I could just make out a joey (baby) in her pouch.
As I walked closer to get a better look, the kangaroo stopped and stared at me.
This Roo was huge, about 6 and ½ feet tall and 200 pounds!
I backed up and bumped into Dundee. I bounced off him like a rubber ball.
“Watch out, mate, you’ll hurt yourself,” he laughed.
I steadied myself.
“You’re watching a “large foot”. They have powerful hind legs and large feet for leaping. They can reach speeds of 35 mph and cover 25 feet in a single leap.
Also, they can jump over 6 feet high!”
With that, Dundee jumped into his dusty pickup truck and drove away down the dirt track.
I sat down on an outside bench and closed my eyes…when I opened them, I was back in Sydney by the harbor.
I computed I must have traveled almost 2000 miles from the Northern Territory to Sydney!
I thought about the vastness that gives Australia its character.
The 48 contiguous states of the USA and Australia are just about equal in area size! But the population of Oz is only 21 million compared to the US at 325 million!
I noticed I was dressed in my best suit and then I remembered I was going to a concert at the Sydney Opera House.
What a contrast from the wildness of the outback to the luxury of the Opera House!
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most famous and distinctive buildings in the world. It is Australia’s icon.
At a distance, it looks like 6 overlapping shells. Very unusual geometry, I was amazed looking at it.
I went into the concert hall, it was huge, almost 3000 seats and it contains the Grand Organ with over 10,000 pipes!
The next day I was scheduled to climb the Sydney Bridge!!!
It is a huge arch bridge, 440 feet from the top to water level, and 160 feet wide.
I was determined to face my FEAR of heights!
They give you a safety briefing, then they suit you up and clip you onto a safety wire. You follow your guide up and up on ladders and catwalks, stopping at scenic points.
At the top you get a breath taking view of the entire harbor. The wind was blowing a gale!
When you descend, you receive a certificate of completion and a photo in your jump suit! I will pin this on my study wall!
I then took a coach tour down the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne on Victoria’s south-west coast.
It has a variety of scenery, there are breath taking cliff top views over-looking the water, watching the waves roll in. I saw the 12 Apostles, they are craggy limestone stacks rising out of the Southern Ocean. I also saw some seals lying about.
I had to see the Great Barrier Reef. I took a glass-bottom boat tour of the reef.
Fancy some snorkeling?
The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland.
It can be seen from space and is the biggest structure made by living organisms.
It is composed of billions of coral polyps. The colors were mind-boggling.
It stretches over 1400 miles!
Back in Sydney to complete my Australian trip, I decided to take in some night life.
I went to the Shady Pine Saloon, where I was greeted by a taxidermied deer and Johnny Cash on the stereo.
Where was I? In Sydney or Nashville?
I ordered a shiraz wine which Australia is noted for.
It was a well-balanced wine and went down easily.
I had three glasses!!!
Then I went to The Absinthe Salon Pub. This was the highlight of the night!
The Salon is decorated in the Art Nouveau style and the waiters were dressed in 1890’s outfits. Absinthe is the drink favored by artists and writers including Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh.
They sit you down at a table equipped with an Absinthe fountain. The fountain allows iced water to drip over a lump of sugar into the green aniseed concoction.
Some of these drinks are 75 proof!
You are only allowed three because of the strength.
If you had more, you might see a bright green Kylie Minogue fluttering about!!!
I’ll leave you with some trademarks of Australia:
Kangaroos, koalas, platypuses and other critters, outback pubs, BBQ’s, and Aboriginal dances and art.
Australian inventions include the bionic ear and the black box flight recorder.
Canberra, New South Wales, is the capital.
Australia is as Big as your imagination and mine is very BIG!
Also published on Medium.