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Showing posts from October, 2002
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Notes from Papua New Guinea, part the only Port Moresby, PNG But of course you're not really an intrepid traveller unless you're crammed into the back of a battered Japanese minibus with a dozen families and their produce and their livestock, picking your way along a stomach-churning Third World road punctuated by roadblocks where menacing drunken machete-wielding men demand a "toll" before allowing you to continue on to the rat-infested rooms-by-the-hour flophouse where you're staying. Anything more comfortable than that, and you're just a tourist. Sigh. The really sad thing is that I'm only mostly joking. So I went up to Papua New Guinea for a week, partly just to see what it's like, partly because Australia, while wonderful, seemed a little bit...tame, partly because having already been through cities and beaches and ocean and jungle, and with deserts next on the agenda, I felt like spending a little time in the one terrain Oz does not offer:
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Notes from Down Under, part the third Cape Tribulation, Queensland I have seen the Great Barrier Reef, up close and personal, and wow. Floating weightless amid breathtakingly gorgeous coral formations, in every colour of the rainbow, teeming with huge schools of fish of every size, and squid and stingrays and sharks and shrimps and eels and anemones and giant clams and and and and, and it all just went on, and on, and on -- and this was just at a few of the smaller dots on the overall Reef. I went on 11 dives in 51 hours, living on a boat the whole time; for a while there I thought I was growing gills. I am now officially an Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver, which may impress you -- unless you have done the same course, and know it's about as difficult as Basketweaving 101. Terrific fun though. The night dives were my favourite. Going headfirst down a towering coral wall, playing my light over the twisting alien formations -- I felt like an astronaut. And there were sharks at
Notes from Down Under, part the second Byron Bay, New South Wales It is with great reluctance that I leave Byron Bay. This is the chilled-out kind of beach town where people come for a day and stay for a month, and I've been here only a week. But verily it is one of life's great truths: you can live in a giant covered wagon for only so long before it's time to move on. And so in an hour's time I'll be on a bus to Queensland and the North. Understand that I was only staying in the giant wagon because the giant teepee was full. Accomodation at the Arts Factory Lodge is a wee bit idiosyncratic. It's a good place, though, in a good town, with all kinds of things to do. In the last week I've been horseback riding, surfing, mountain biking, scuba diving (twice), and trapezing -- yes, trapezing -- and I still feel like I've been extremely lazy. In a good way. It turns out I'm not a natural surfer. After a few hours of patient training I managed to wobb
Notes from Down Under, part the first Sydney, New South Wales So it's just as pleasant a city as everyone had said; green, gorgeous, relaxed, stunning waterfront views absolutely everywhere, populated by people who are almost pathologically friendly. When you walk into a store in Sydney, people ask you "How you going then?" and not in the robotic drone of a Wal-Mart greeter. I'm not even sure all of these grinning greetings came from store employees and not fellow-shoppers. Whoever they are, they genuinely want to know how you're going and how they can help. Naturally with my New York/London/Toronto reflexes I blanch and back away quickly, muttering something about "just looking," but I hope to soon overcome this reflex and establish communication with the natives. Flew in with Singapore Airlines, and I'd like to give them a shout-out for being The Greatest Airline On (or, more to the point, above) The Planet. Your own little screen with video, a