The Land Down Under

A friend from Australia who managed distribution for a French company once told a story about the executives of that company.  It seems they were coming down to review how things were going with the product.  They slated three days in Sydney going over current and future marketing plans and then ask if they could “see the island over the weekend”.  Well the first thing the visitor to “Oz” must come to terms with is that Australia is big, very big, in fact it is approximately the same size as the mainland USA, so a trip around the “island” can take a bit of time.  To do justice to this wonderful country takes time, the modern cities, the pastoral countryside and the national parks all call out for leisurely exploration.

The cities are modern and lovely, the friendly climate encourages outdoor restaurants, markets and sidewalk artist.  The food is good with plenty of ethnic diversity to keep up interest.  Like cities everywhere the shopping is plentiful.

Australian wine is famous around the world with good reason. Wine country stretches across the bottom of the country from New South Wales to Victoria to South Australia and if you are lucky enough to get that far, the Margaret River near Perth. If Aussie wine to you means jugs of Yellowtail, you are in for a treat as 100s of small cellar doors serve up fine wines available on a very limited basis. Days spent wandering the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, or the Limestone Coast will turn a casual wine drinker into a sommelier.

To meet the people, as everywhere, you should get out in the country.  Here you will find big friendly people with smiles and hearts as big as the outback.  Don’t be surprised if the owner of that small motel you find takes you on a tour of the town.  Most station owners will treat you like an old friend and are only too happy to take time out of their day to show you around.

For Australia’s famous wildlife you need go no further than the nearest national park.  Wondering where all those Kangaroos are?  Well, head for a national park and you will find them, just past the park boundary they will be like cattle on a ranch.  Koalas are tougher to find but a helpful park ranger will be happy to point you in the right direction and then it is up to you to search the trees.  If you like to get closer to the animals there are plenty of wildlife parks around where you can pet a kangaroo or cuddle a koala.  The beautiful birds can be found everywhere, pink cockatoos are like pigeons in the cities and anyone with a bird feeder will have rainbow colored parrots visiting their yard.

Diving in Australia occurs in two flavors; the tropical seas of the Great Barrier Reef and the cold southern seas with the main attraction being the Great White Sharks.  Finding these huge sharks has become a real challenge in the last few years as the sharks have become increasingly rare.  Often it means days of boredom on board ship while for 24 hours a day, fish blood, oil, and meal are pumped into the sea to attract “Mr. BIG”.  Other attractions are the wonderful Australian Sea Lions, creamy white graceful ballet dancers of the ocean and the tiny but deadly blue ringed octopus.

Close to shore on the rocky reefs and among the pilings of the many piers live a variety of creatures so strange they rival the more famous creatures of the Australian “Outback”.  The leafy sea dragon, a relative of the sea horse is a creature whose disguise of sea weed like leafy projections is so elaborate that it not only allows him/her to hide from predators, but actually attracts their favorite food.  Small brine shrimp swim among the “fronds” of the dragon and find a safe harbor from all predators except the dragon itself, who plucks them from the water at his/her leisure.


Wildlife, Wine, and Wandering

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