AUSTRALIA! Kangaroos and boomerangs everywhere!!!
Day 3,102 since October 10th 2013: 196 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
It’s good to be down under
When Once Upon A Saga was being planned out, Australia was meant to be the 3rd last country. New Zealand was meant to be the 4th last. And for at least seven years I have been looking forward to posting my arrival photo in Australia upside down :)
Last week’s entry: MV “Suva Chief” – passenger no. 3 (reaching Australia)
It is a well known “fact” that EVERYTHING in Aussieland can and will try to kill you! The most dangerous country in the entire world for sure. Everyone who survives beyond the age of three in ‘Straya is by default a stone-cold survivalist and possible TV fame awaits. Just a few years ago the population was above 100 million beating hearts but due to all the drop bear attacks and poisonous lawn chairs, there are only about 26 million Aussies left now: the hardcore ones. Before I could disembark the good ship ‘Suva Chief’ I had a chat with some of these hardcore survivalists in the form of a lovely agent, a large assembly of really nice people from the Australian Border Force, and a nice guy from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The dangerous tea I had brought with me from Hong Kong was confiscated and left onboard. Including the delicious Sri Lankan tea 3rd officer Nav had gifted me. The agent quickly ensured me that Australia also has tea ;) A negative COVID-19 test was delivered, and I said farewell to the captain, and those around me. Then I walked down the gangway and into the blistering heat. The agent smiled and said it was a good thing I didn’t arrive earlier as they just survived a heatwave. EVERYTHING is trying to kill you in Australia.
Lily took this photo. Pretty good one I think, portraying me with the good ship 'Suva Chief' in the back.
The Port of Townsville greeted me welcome with handshakes and a Port of Townsville beer coaster to keep my first beer cold. And then I walked straight towards the gate where ABC News was ready to interview me – and give me a lift. What a start to this new chapter of the Saga. Within minutes of my arrival, I was walking about without a mask, shaking hands with people, and having face to face conversations. What was this? Mars?? I cannot overstate how strange it is for me not to be wearing a mask all the time and everywhere. In Hong Kong I had been wearing a mask for the better part of two years, unless I was home or eating. Now, one week into the struggle of avoiding being hit by rogue boomerangs, I still find it very strange not to wear a mask. Some people do wear masks in Australia, but it is far from normal, apart from at hospitals or when traveling with public transportation. From what I have seen anyway. I have certainly been indoctrinated in Hong Kong and I wonder how long it will be before I shake the feeling, I have of doing something wrong. When I step out into the street I look around for police as if I am breaking the law. It is a very odd sensation. Will it last another week, a month?
A small part of Townsville as seen from Castle Hill.
Righty, right! My mind is spinning from having met as many people as I have since arriving. And social media has been highly active with more people than ever before inviting me to stay at their place, or offering to show me around, to buy me a beer, and much more. I have received much kindness around the world but never before have so many reached out to me on social media asking to meet up with me. Before reaching Townsville, Kara reached out and offered me her guestroom as well as to show me around Townsville. I accepted her generous offer and after my interview at the port the ABC News team dropped me off at Kara’s car near the cruise terminal. Then they proceeded to do a short interview with Kara before we got into her car and drove off. Kara was nothing less than amazing! She was all in, and we began by driving up on top of Townville’s prominent Castle Hill to take in the view of the area. A stunning landscape and a city which is home to about 180,000 beating hearts. The local beachfront is called “The Strand” which is interesting to a Dane since “strand” is the Danish word for “beach” (in German too).
On Castle Hill with a 1st class host!
Kara took super good care of me, handed me a simcard, cooked for me, and toured me around the area in her car. She heads the security detail at the James Cook University which we also paid a brief visit to. I told Kara that I wanted to take a picture somewhere which I could use to illustrate that I had now reached Australia. Kara had a great idea and started messaging people. It wasn’t long before she had secured an appointment with a lovely couple that rescues wallabies. Young kangaroos and wallabies are called “Joey’s” and the main difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby seems to be the size. Wallabies are much smaller. I’m sure there’s much more too it than that but that’s all most of us really need to know. The couple consisted of retired army personnel and both husband and wife had done more than 30-years’ service. Obviously, they were perfectly structured and the Joey’s appeared really well taken care of. There are all sorts of reasons why a wallaby might need rescuing. A mother wallaby might have abandoned the offspring or might have been injured and is dying. I unfortunately forgot the couple’s names. But they were really nice and took care of about ten Joey’s at the time when Kara and I visited. When the Joey’s grow stronger, they are set loose in the wild. Of course, my upside-down welcome to Australia picture had to be me holding two Joey’s. Good on you Kara for arranging.
Hardly anyone have noticed the Joey's! :)
I would need a few pages to list all the things Kara showed me but suffice to say she did a great job representing Aussie hospitality. We even went dragon boating on Ross River. How about that? For two years in Hong Kong, I never went dragon boating and within 24hrs of being in Australia I did. Try to make sense of that. After two nights in Townsville, I boarded a bus to Brisbane which is about 1,300km (800mi) south. There’s a train but it was sold out which might have been due to school holidays. The 24hr bus ride became my first long distance bus ride since mid-2019 blasting across Indonesia’s islands. The bus was fine but my knees weren’t at all happy with the trip. Fortunately, something pleasant awaited me in Brisbane. I was received by Craig whom had hosted me in Papua New Guinea back in October 2019. And as he has since pointed out, Craig and his lovely wife Theresa may be the first to have hosted me in two separate countries? I cannot think of anyone else. I had another two nights in Brisbane which were spent being spoiled by Craig (New Zealand) and Theresa (USA). I also got to meet up with Jenny who’s a lot of fun! Jenny hosted me in Solomon Islands in November 2019. Just before the world began speaking of Wuhan and a mysterious virus outbreak. Jenny works for Swire Shipping, the company which owns ‘Suva Chief’ – the ship that brought the Saga to Aussieland, Australia, ‘Straya, ‘Straylia…take your pick :)
This ferry terminal was pulled apart due to unusual high waters in Brisbane River.
I mostly saw the town center of Brisbane. The city is no stranger to flooding but recently it had been far more destructive than normal. Not only Brisbane, but much of coastal Australia was affected, homes have been destroyed, and unfortunately lives have been lost. I will be meeting with the Australian Red Cross who will tell me more about their efforts. I’m aware that there are some who do not believe that the Red Cross has done enough. Take it from me, I have met with the movement in 190 countries: the Red Cross is humble and you are unlikely to know how much has been done in any disaster, anywhere. I have a lot of confidence in the Red Cross efforts during disaster relief and disaster management.
One couple - two countries! See you in Denmark for a kebab! :)
The center of Brisbane is lovely and there are a lot of cool places along the Brisbane River to grab a beer, a bite, or both. The temperature was cooler than what it had been in Townsville. So far, the weather had mostly been dry. It was really good to catch up with Craig, Theresa, and Jenny. There were others I wanted to meet up with and plenty of strangers offering to host me within Brisbane, waiting to become friends. Unfortunately, not enough time. I did manage to squeeze in a quick meet-up with Beau (West Australia) and Angelica (Columbia) whom are slowly going all the way around Australia in their converted van. They are sharing the experience on social media and have a video with 33 million views of them washing clothes! Most of their large online following is Spanish speaking and they asked to do an interview with me for their channel. A solid couple whom I would have loved to have spent more time with but my schedule has been mad. I’m not sure how many interviews I’ve already done in Australia but it’s a lot compared to the short time I’ve now been here. And more are coming up this weekend. There seems to be a lot of interest in this bearded modern Viking. Australian’s do love to travel but their country is so far away from everything that it quickly becomes expensive and difficult. At least difficult compared to living in Europe where tens of countries are at your doorstep. Aussies can relatively easily get to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. Beyond that it requires a lot of travel time.
Great to see Jenny again! Thanks for dinner :)
It hasn’t only been the interviews which have kept me busy. There’s as always, the logistics and bureaucracy of moving forward. Social engagements take time out of the schedule and so does general project management. Travel time has also been significant within Australia. I wanted to get on the train from Brisbane to Sydney which is about 900km (560mi) further south. Unfortunately, the flooding had damaged the rails on some sections so instead I got a three-hour bus ride from Brisbane to Casino, then another bus took an hour to reach Grafton, from where I could join the train to Sydney. Craig was kind enough to get up early and drive me to the station. I had a 04:15am start and reached Sydney at 9:15pm. The landscape was gorgeous and for the most part empty from any signs of humans. There were also plenty of fields and farmland. I also saw signs of the recent flooding including piles of discarded furniture in front of several homes. Some trees had plastic and other debris caught in the branches, and on one occasion I spotted a wooded pallet high up in a tree. Serious flooding for sure! Yet – Australia is a first world country with a strong economy and the places I saw appeared to be recovering well.
The color is a bit off due to the window it was shot through. However, I think you get the idea.
After some delay I rolled into Sydney, got out the train, and began walking towards my hostel. The internet connectivity on the train journey south had been very unstable but I did manage to place a booking at a youth hostel in downtown Sydney. I have slept on benches, on the ground, in my hammock, and on the floor of dubious looking boats. I have woken up covered in cockroaches and much more. Yet, stepping into the hostel I couldn’t help feeling: “I’m to old for this s#!t”. Before reaching the hostel, I had to walk about 700m (765 yards) in light rain. Apparently, it has been raining in Sydney for the past 14-days with no sign of letting up anytime soon. My duffel bag and Pacsafe backpack were really heavy and I wondered if they had gotten heavier after the pandemic or if I had grown weaker? In any case, it was good to be back in Sydney. I was happy. I had no idea that Townsville existed until I learned that the ship would take me there. Nice town though. I’d heard about Brisbane but had never been there before. Sydney was a revisit. I’m not sure how long ago – perhaps fifteen years? – I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, saw the famous opera house, and had a good time. Now I was back. And tired. Tired but happy.
My goodness. How many dorm rooms have I stayed in?
The following day I got up, found breakfast, had a shower, and then I got into an Uber taxi which Röhlig Logistics had organized for me. My friend Ole Sander, whom I met in Hong Kong, used to work for Röhlig, and connected me with the Sydney office to make a presentation of the Saga. A solid company which specializes in freight forwarding and logistics services. People I feel at home amongst :) After meeting Thomas Hansen, Steven Thomas, and Maria Astakhova, I was introduced to the office, had a brief tour of the warehouse, and then we were set for my presentation before the curious employees. The office was at about 50% capacity and my talk also went online to those who couldn’t attend in person. It was a real pleasure to speak in front of an audience again after so many online sessions. In front of an audience, you can really feel the response. It’s easier to tell if things are going well or if I should change the subject. Sometimes it’s time for a laugh, sometimes a pause, sometimes an expansion of a subject, and sometimes it needs to be cut short. That kind of stuff is hard to do online. I had some real good response from the Röhlig team afterwards while we enjoyed a BBQ together.
We forgot to take a group photo!!! But managed to assemble these guys just before I left :)
And that is all for this week. I’m no where near done telling you everything I want to. Yet, I cannot write more as my life is in danger from angry kangaroos, which are surrounding me, from sharks which have learned how to attack on land, massive crocs hiding everywhere and the aggressive drop bears, which apparently have declared war on me! I’ve lately been using a koala bear as a pillow and I might build a raft out of didgeridoos so that we can soon reach New Zealand. Yeah – all of that, or maybe Australian’s are just people with normal lives, friends, family, school, work, food, sports, traffic, music, movies and all the other things which makes up fairly ordinary existences. In any case – I’m really glad to be here and grateful to all who helped make it happen. I’ll be around until the end of April and maybe even longer if we can connect with a ship to Antarctica and back. I do miss Hong Kong. You do not stay somewhere for two years without it becoming a part of who you are. The nutcases keep meeting up every Thursday. Alas, the show must go on.
Ross DK at Townville's Ross River ;)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - run for your life!! The drop bears are coming!!!
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Once Upon A Saga