Thursday, March 31, 2016

Farewell Australia, until we meet again

As my time in Australia winds down, I have to wrap up a few stray thoughts about Oz. First, driving. To begin with, they drive on the wrong side of the road. But since I lean left, I didn't have problems keeping left. And they have roundabouts which can send you into a loop at first. But once you master the 'right side gets the right of way', it's smooth sailing. They are way more efficient than the 4 way stop signs in the US. Though sometimes the Aussies have gone overboard and put them on highways with a 100 kmph speed limit. Exiting a roundabout at high speeds is like performing the sling shot maneuver of satellites. You dive into the intersection slow enough to avoid the kerb and then accelerate through the curve, exiting hopefully still with your eyes open and your wheels still on the ground.

Second, nature. While I didn't get to experience the famed outback in Australia, I did get to sample what nature has to offer around Melbourne. The south coast is spectacular with the rugged sandstone cliffs set against a turquoise ocean. Sun kissed beaches in pretty little sheltered coves.
When the sun's out it's picture perfect. While the beaches are magnificent, the waterfalls are mediocre. Don't go chasing waterfalls near Melbourne. One of them was so insignificant that I realized I had passed it only after I saw an arrow pointed back the path I had come from. I was surprised as I'm quite good at spotting waterfalls. So I doubled back to see what I had missed. I didn't see anything of note until I came to another arrow pointing back on my doubled back path. I concluded the waterfall must be in between the two arrows. On careful inspection, I realized what would pass off as a storm water drain in most places was elevated to the status of a waterfall in the driest continent on earth. It truly is a dry place. A lake I visited was basically an open field covered with mud that looked slightly moist in some places. And the largest river in the country was about half a mile across close to its mouth. Suddenly California during the drought felt like a rainforest.

Lastly, railways. I decided to take train from Melbourne to Adelaide hoping to catch glimpses of the bush country and maybe the outback. When I had booked tickets, passengers were warned that check-ins would close at 7am for an 8am departure. Even flights close only 30mins prior. I dutifully arrived by 6:45am and was left sitting on the platform till 7:45am. Apparently the regulars knew that the whole 7am check in was baloney. The passengers were greeted over the PA system and few safety instructions dished out in case a snake was found on the train. Just kidding, no snakes on this train. These were followed by an extensive and wordy commentary about the food options available on the train. By the end of it I knew what the attendant's grandma's favorite quiche recipe was. Information filed under, will never use in the future. The scenery whizzing by was quite drab to say the least. A never ending sickly brown brush over an endless expanse of flat land. The amount of empty space is mind boggling.
Think Wyoming, much larger and more desolate. I guess everyone is in a long distance relationship by default here. And this wasn't even the worst. Flying from Adelaide to Perth, you see how unimaginably vast, desolate and dry Australia is. It's truly a wonder that the world's oldest continuous civilization survived in this God forsaken place. The next time someone says they need space, send them to the Australian Outback.

A few passing remarks on Adelaide. It's like San Jose. It's big, it's important, but it will not be on anyone's travel bucket list. Unless, well nothing comes to mind. This one guy on knowing that I came from San Jose Calif, looked anxious and said that he had been to San Francisco but not San Jose. I told him to not sweat over it. He said he wanted to see where the big three, namely Google, Apple and FB were located. I replied not San Jose and repeated to not sweat over it. Adelaide is in the same league as San Jose. It's alright, but not striking. And all the nice places are a short drive away, just like San Jose.

Goodbye Australia. Not sure when we'll meet again. Maybe I'll check out Thunder from Down Under whenever I miss you.

Thanks to Richard and Shweta for hosting in Melbourne.

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