Quokkas and Black Swans Down Under: Katsjourney Around the World: 15 February, 2003

Subject: Quokkas and Black Swans Down Under
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2003 23:14:09 -0600
Greetings from the land Down Under!

You know, I must say that traveling can certainly restore ones faith in the human race.  There I was a week ago, sitting in the Mauritius International Airport (yes, every flight in is international) feeling horribly lonely and tired.  My flight was delayed and delayed and delayed and the rain was endlessly falling from the tropical sky.  The airport Air Mauritiuspersonnel gave us all “Sure-maybe¨ answers as to what was wrong with the plane and when we would be leaving.  At one point there was an announcement in French and everybody stood up eagerly moving towards the gate.  I was thinking, cool we are finally boarding.  Then the announcement came in English.  Go to gate 2 for refreshment vouchers.  Fortunately, I am now a person with more patience and certainly more time than money.  Did I have some important appointment I needed to get to?

In a way the answer was yes.  My friend Ron, in Austin, had given me the name of one of his business partners (Brett) in Perth, Australia.  I had e-mailed Brett before my journey began and had asked for advice on where to stay and what to do in Perth.  He offered that I could stay it his place just a block from the beach.  So I took him up on the offer.  Now my flight was to arrive sometime after one in the morning on a school night.  So here is the thought process. I am so exhausted, I don’t want to even talk to anyone (ever have days like that?).  I am going to meet some strange guy and his girlfriend.  Wake them up at two in the morning.  Have them tell me all the things I need to know, sleep in their place, get a key, and have the whole pad to myself while they are at work all the following day.  What if they are axe murderers?  What if the girlfriend resents me being in the house? What do I say as I ring their doorbell at 2AM?  What if they are afraid that I will clean out the house in a grand scheme while they are at work?

Needless to say, they are absolutely wonderful people.  I have really enjoyed their company and hospitality.  Brett has four children that were visiting over the weekend.  They range from ages 13-5 and are some of the most charming, well behaved and engaging children I have ever met.

I have been exploring Perth and the surrounding areas the last week.  It is a wonderful city.  Someplace that I could easily live.  The population is just over 1 million and its geographiPerth skylinec location is in south western Australia.  It has a laid-back attitude like Austin or Portland or Cape Town.  It is not so nearly button down or professional as some of the bigger cities.  It is slightly inland on the Swan River and there is a charming port city called Freemantle just down the river on the Indian Ocean.  There are more boats per capita here than any other place in the world and by the looks of the endless multi-million dollar houses along the river, it is a very wealthy city.  It is an easy city to navigate, barely any crime, and is so clean you could practically eat off the pavement!  And the weather (for all of my friends and family living in blustery Chicago), how nice does it sound to live in a place that you don’t need heat or air conditioning in your home? Perth!

I took a short hour ferry to Rottnest Island on Friday.  I cycled and swam for the day. My legs are still sore!   This island is just stunning with hills and lots of inlets with safe swimming beaches and with beautiful coral for diving and snorkeling.  It got its name from the early Dutch explorers. It translates to “Rats Nest” because the original settlers thought it was infested with large rats.  No!  They are not rats at all, they are quokkas. This a most unusual, loving specie of marsupial.  They are bit like a kangaroo or wallaby but are much smaller and have a nice soft coat.  They hop and keep their young in their pouch.  They are so sweet, they come right up to you and let you pet them.  There are only a few thousand in the world and this is one of the only places to see them.  I wanted to take one home in my backpack!


I also saw a black swan in Perth for the first time in my life.  They are only indigenous to Western Australia (that is a state here) and a few other places in this country.  They look just like our white swans, but they are black and have a red beak.  They are also featured on the Swan beer label, the state beer of Western Australia.  Had my first one last night with a full moon walk on the beach with the kids.  Not bad!Perth black swan

Have you ever heard of an Australian Tea Tree?  There are many of them on Rottnest Island.  They look like broccoli in big bunches on the hillsides. They got the name because when they grow close to the water, the oil from the trees turns the water brown, like a tea color!  There are so many fascinating species of plants and animals around the world that we never get to see if we don’t leave our backyards.  I am so thankful to have the opportunity to experience these things. It has been wonderful sharing cultures and ideas with foreigners.  All weekend the kids have been asking questions that start out, “In American do they…”  So I am spreading a bit of the American good will.Perth Fremantle kiddos

Well, that’s all for now.  I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy sharing.  If not, please feel free to use the delete button.  Please send a special prayer out to my dad who will be having some minor surgery later this month and one to my new nephew who is a US Marine in the gulf right now.  And for those of you who aren’t religious, if you could just send out some positive energy, that would be great!

I miss you all and hope that the outbreak of war will not wreak havoc on our homelands.  The Australians have 2000 soldiers already positioned in the gulf to support the UK.  However, not a single native that I talked to agrees that the country should be aligned with the US or the UK in any way to support the war effort.  The large protests here chant “This is George Bush’s war”.   At times it may be best for me to be Canadian right now.

But what a fascinating experience it is to see it from this side of the globe.



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