latitude = Memphis
Melbourne is 500 miles from Adelaide. It would be possible to drive, but it would take all day and we found ourselves at the airport again instead. Airports can be stressful world over. The last few miles of our drive to the airport were horribly congested and it began to look like we would not make the plane. Luckily, it arrived late and luckily, when you travel in a group, there is a special group desk that checks you in avoiding the regular line. We put our cases in an long row and they were tagged and on the belt in no time. The security check for domestic travel proceeds quickly, because they have a more relaxed approach. And we were off. During the flight the new time zone changed by half an hour as we entered a new state and we enjoyed the bikkies (cookies) we came to love on our last flight.
We are only in Adelaide two nights, so we were off and running as soon as we and our luggage were on the new bus. We are in the state of South Australia, which takes pride in the fact that it was formed by free men, rather than convicts. They came here together as a money making company and planted Adelaide in a spot where they came upon a good fresh water source. From the beginning this state also allowed freedom of religion and soon there were about 150 churches of all denominations along with 150 pubs in a square mile of the town. A toll road was built. Only people who were on the way to a funeral did not have to pay toll. Everyone who used the road dressed in black and claimed this exemption and the toll booth was manned for less than two years. This very arid area has been plagued with fires. It is full of eucalyptus trees which explode when heated. They recover in about ten years, but the people who lose their lives and homes do not.
The eucalyptus that grow here are the kind the koalas favor and you can see these sweet creatures perched on their favorite munchies out in the wild. Nets have been hung across some of the highways so that the koalas can cross safely, but so far they have not gotten the message and the interruption of habitat has taken a toll. We headed to the Cleland Animal Park to see more of these creatures and give them a hug. Unfortunately, it is unusually hot today, so hugging was not allowed. The koalas hung on their perches in a torpor and were gently misted to cool them down. The other animals in the park were affected by the heat, too. The kangaroos and wallabies reclined in the shade. A monitor lizard hug draped over a branch, appearing as if he had no intention of ever moving again. Only the bandicoots which looked like large rats scurried about and hung around as we passed by in case we had something good to eat. The colorful lorikeets put on good show, shrieking and shouting as the flitted through the trees. The dingos, which we have not see before, lounged around until a keeper arrived with some fresh chicken and they jumped up on the tree stumps like a circus act. We’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how much we enjoy the Australian cities where we could easily imagine ourselves living, it it the unique animals of Australia that really get our juices flowing. I’m beginning to think about kangaroos here like I think about deer at home. Their numbers have increased as they have learned how to live along side man and they run around in packs and can make a nuisance of themselves.
In the evening we had dinner in small groups with local families. This is an OAT tradition in effort to make our travel experience here less touristic. The house was gorgeous, turn of the 19th century and beautifully kept. On our past trips the home hosted dinners were a communication challenge, but here, that was no problem. The hosts were recently retired, well-traveled teachers. Their son who is looking for a teaching job also joined the group along with a Chinese student who is attending high school in Australia since his sophomore year. He hopes to attend Berkley in the US next year and major in astro physics. After dinner this young man played piano at an amazing level. In some ways I find the Chinese rather intimidating. They work so hard and sacrifice so much for their futures, that there seems to be no limit to what they can accomplish. We talked about a wide range of subjects during dinner and the conversation could have gone on well into the night. But blog writing duty called and here I am, trying to remember all I saw and learned today. It feels like we left Melbourne a week ago rather than earlier this morning.