It’s not every day you get to go to Australia. Unless of course, you’re Australian. But I can honestly say that I never expected I would ever be so lucky as to travel here. For me, Australia has always been one of those countries you read about in exotic travel adventure novels, or see on televised nature programs. It’s always portrayed as being stuffed to the brim with kangaroos, dusty towns full of alligator wrangling bushmen and stereotypical Australian equivalents of the American cowboy, and (shudder) snakes. It always looks utterly fantastic, full of adventure and spectacular creatures and people. In my opinion, it’s just as fantastic as it appears from afar, if not more so.
As I write this, our van (courtesy of the Palmer family, at www.goinganyway.net, thank you guys!) winds down a twisting road in Western Australia. Magnificent forest surrounds us on every side, shading the bush from the relentless sun. The trees have a sunburned look to them, their papery green-gray bark has peeled away and hangs in great curls next to the trunk, revealing a lovely inner bark the color of fresh honey. These forests are home to hundreds of animal and bird species, many of them unique to Australia. Here’s a list of what we’ve seen, just within two days of exploration!
Kangaroos by the hundreds
Believe it or not, we actually worried about whether or not we would get to see these guys while we were in Australia. It was silly of us in the extreme. Wild kangaroos are everywhere, and seem to enjoy spending the late afternoon hours sitting by the side of the road and watching the same old channel every afternoon. Us. I was flattered to be a high form of entertainment!
I know, you’re probably re-reading that. Camels? What? I’m not sure why they were standing in the middle of a field either. But there they were, so they became an unexpected addition to our list.
Like gigantic feather dusters, these big grey birds were spotted in the nature parks, and also in pastures along with sheep and cows. We passed one place that seemed to farm them.
These birds are famous in Australia, and look rather like giant flying teddy bears. They’re also extremely curious. During our very first night camping, one stopped by to watch me and Mom prepare dinner!
Rays of various assorted kinds, primarily stingrays and eagle rays.
There are several Ray Sanctuaries around Australia, so we saw several massive rays. Most of them were longer than I am!
We didn’t see many wild deer, but there were a few deer farms scattered around the countryside that we drove past.
But it’s not just the wildlife that makes Australia so fantastic! Consider, for a moment, how it might feel to spend ten months traveling through Southeast Asia, with its smog-laden cities, crowded roadways, lack of toilets and/or toilet paper, third-world standards in housing and cleanliness, and seeming disinterest in any culinary creation other than the typical, constant, and everlasting fried rice and noodles… And then, miracle of miracles, to board a plane in a rush (read about the flight frenzy we endured here), rise out of the smog cloud, and emerge from the winged tin can in a first world country, with first world expectations for dining and cleanliness, complete with bathrooms that boast actual toilet paper instead of holes in the floor with a bucket of murky water to be used for mysterious purposes. Could anything be more delightful? Perhaps I’m biased by the months out of a first world country. Perhaps I’m just overjoyed by the food and cleanliness here. But either way, Australia has easily made it to my top five favorites list, along with Italy, Belize, Guatemala, and New Hampshire (yes, I know it’s not a country, but it’s the best part of the country, in my humble opinion!)!