Somehow ultra-wifey survived Australia! Now let’s go.
Day 3,123 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).
Seven countries left. LET’S GO ALREADY!!
Two weeks ago, I had the company of my father, his wife, and my very own ultra-wifey. A few days ago, I still had ultra-wifey by my side. And now I’m back to waking up alone, having breakfast alone, walking the streets alone – and with seven countries to go.
Last week’s entry: Chk Chk Boom ‘Straya! I’m still alive!
What an accomplishment!! Ultra-wifey had more or less sworn that she would never come to ‘Straya and risk her life in a game of time vs. deadly animals. It is true that this fine country/continent has its fair share of “deadlies”. But it is a very big country and most people never encounter them. Box jellyfish, Taipan snake, saltwater crocodile, blue-ringed octopus, stonefish, redback spider, great white shark, drop bears etc. Several of these animals are confined to the ocean and staying on land is as such a great way to avoid them. In reality people have learned to live alongside Australia’s magnificent wildlife and there are certain places you never swim and other places where it’s always safe. My general rule with animals is that if you leave them alone then they will repay the courtesy. Back when I was living in Libya, I would routinely check my shoes for scorpions before putting them on. Throughout two years I never encountered a scorpion in my footwear but I still took the precaution. In tropical climates I also check the toilet seat before sitting down. I never had to, but I do it anyway. What I’m trying to say, is that living in fear is ridiculous when there is so much knowledge available. Well, apart from with the drop bears! They might get you anywhere, at any time!
Ultra-wifey at Queen Victoria Market.
Good on ultra-wifey for still being alive. Now let’s see if I survive another week. I’m fortunate to have good friends living in Melbourne and one of them is Cam! The two of us met in Bangkok back in 2006, exchanged email addresses, and the rest is history. But what wonderful history that is! It includes a four-month motorcycle adventure through India, Nepal, Iran and Turkey! You can get the full story (in 4 minutes) by watching our wonderful Electric Lawnmower Production here below :)
This is such a great story about friendship across borders and continent. And we built in a silly little tribute to my father :)
There was no doubt that I would head to Melbourne and visit Cam along with his family. This was a known fact back in 2013 as I left home. While I did arrive to Australia much later than anticipated I certainly arrived and I’m happy that ultra-wifey got the chance to meet such a good friend of mine. A friendship across borders and continents. Ahead of the Saga I have been to Aussieland four times and it was always to visit Cam. He’s a great guy with a good energy about him. In 2013 he married the lovely Justine and together they have had three lovely children. I got the sense that Melbourne’s notoriously long and hard COVID-19 lockdown was a challenge on them. I imagine it would have been for most people. But they seem good and I can only dream of having such a nice home and such a wonderful family. How green the grass always is on the other side…
We went for a hike along Yarra River. The same place where their wedding photos were taken nine years earlier.
Ultra-wifey and I joined Cam and his family for Sunday church. It was a lovely morning with lots of kind people. Some more religious than others.
Australia on a USD 20/day budget is no easy task. Although, while ultra-wifey is around the budget is usually suspended as we aim to have a good time. We spend extra on accommodation, meals, attractions, shows etc. She’s a medical doctor and works at a pharmaceutical company in Denmark. As such she also covers a lot of the costs when we are together. We just so happened to be in Melbourne during the International Comedy Festival, which is a strange name given that every comic seemed to be Australian? There was however one exception with Ross Noble who is British but lives in Aussieland. I knew of him because I have watched a great deal of QI on BBC over the years and Ross Noble has often been a guest on the panel. He has a wild and somewhat out of control attitude which I was curious to see live. So, we secured two tickets. It was fun! Ross Noble is a spectacle to behold on the stage!! I wouldn’t rank it amongst the funniest stand-up I’ve ever seen. But I would say that everyone should go at least once. It’s worth it!
The Athenaeum Theater was founded in 1839! What a place to perform.
I’ve been very fond of Australian comedians Tim Minchin and Jim Jefferies. But they have long since left ‘Straya to pursue careers in the USA. They certainly weren’t on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival roster. In the spirit of the festival, we also enjoyed a couple of shows with Louis C.K. through ultra-wifey’s Netflix subscription. But there was no time for that after the ross Noble show! We had to dash out the Athenaeum Theater and make our way to the Shane Warne Stand at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). We had tickets for the Richmond vs. Melbourne game! Believe it or not this was actually more too ultra-wifey’s liking than mine. She is the one who cares about sports and not me. What I do care about is respectively the atmosphere and experiences. At the MCG I got both. Honestly, I think that such sports are best observed on TV with today’s technology, Even at the stadium I spent most of my time looking at the big screen. But you don’t get the atmosphere at home. Not like that! The stadium can hold 100,000 beating hearts and that night it held 70,334!! That is a lot of people in one place! And what blows my mind is that Once Upon A Saga’s online following has now grown beyond that and would not be able to fit within the MCG!! Mind-blowing. Thank you for the support. It means a lot to me.
The game consists of 4 quarters and ultra-wifey and I both chose a team. I was with Melbourne. At each quarter the one following the team with the lower score had to go and fetch food :) Yes! That is a Richmond "Tiger" flipping me the bird. They lost. I received a smile afterwards :)
It was an impressively long parade.
Then Anzac Day arrived. Anzac Day (April 25th) is one of Australia and New Zealand's most important and revered national occasions. The acronym stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action the countries' forces fought during World War I. If you’re not sure about how long ago that was then I can tell you WWI ended in 1918. So more than a hundred years ago! Why on earth would Australia still be raising awareness and funds for a war which ended so long ago? Well, as a former soldier I do identify with the respect we owe fallen soldiers. Anzac fought a historical battle at Gallipoli in present day Turkey. It is a beautiful part of our world which I remember visiting many years ago. Gallipoli is green and at the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. After the war Anzac Day became an occasion for those who outlived WWI to get together and remember those they lost. And with time Anzac Day has become a day to commemorate all veterans and fallen soldiers which have come since.
Bagpipes? Apparently they were historically used to intimidate the enemy.
I wonder what this mans story might have been. He stood there solemnly and applauded the parade.
It appears to me that Australia’s war history is of much more importance to the country than what similar history might be to other countries. “Anzac” is to be found on many buildings, statues, and monuments, from Townsville to Melbourne. And further beyond, I am sure. My home nation of Denmark in the High North of Europe has, as any European country, seen its fair share of war. Yet, war history does not seem as profound in Danish culture as it does in Australia. Strange given how easygoing and laidback Aussies appear to be. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Bagdad (Iraq) and saw that most statues were of authors, poets, fictional fairytale characters, and storytellers. I’ve been through so many countries where it’s always politicians and generals. This years Anzac Day in Melbourne was under a blue sky and it was truly special to take part and observe the parade and hear the speeches.
A view of the parade ground from the Shrine of Remembrance.
Australia has historically had an international military presence and back in 2000 when I served as a UN Peacekeeper during the UNMEE mission (United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia) I actually came under the command of an Australian officer. His name was Captain Cameron Mann and he arrived somewhere halfway through my mission. I remember that it was like a breath of fresh air when he joined my posting. Young, good spirited, and efficient. Yes – Australia has also had its military present in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Fortunately, both Captain Mann and I made it home to tell the tale. Far too many have fallen in battle. Military action is always a failure to diplomacy as far as I am concerned. Armed conflict and war should never come to bear. Every account of it is a failure to diplomacy.
Read the remarkable story of this Red Cross Trauma Teddy.
I love clever art like this! Well done. It is in front of the State Library.
Melbourne is very likable. Ultra-wifey and I have walked about a great deal and enjoyed the fine weather. We have also made it out of the touristy areas and had a good look at what the suburbs have to offer. Sometimes we just randomly walk into a building and sees where it brings us. We happened to be near the State Library of Victoria. Why not just walk in? So, we did. There’s something nice about large libraries. I imagine myself going to libraries once I return home to sit and read surrounded by books and students. Ultra-wifey has studied plenty to get to where she is today. She told me that it wasn’t uncommon to catch a short nap face down on the table between crossed arms. We started a game then and there: spot someone sleeping in the library! It wasn’t long before we spotted one. Sure enough. A lovely environment in any case.
St. Kilda Pier with Melbourne Central Business District (CBD) in the back.
Last week we rented a car and drove along the coast to visit the hot springs. Afterwards we made our way to Phillip Island in hope of seeing some penguins. It’s a popular spectacle and only something which happens around sunset when the penguins return to shore for the night. As such we missed it and had to drive the long way back to Melbourne without seeing any penguins. At St. Kilda Pier in Melbourne you can spot little penguins (eudyptula minor). We didn’t initially go as we read that the pier is currently closed following repair work as part of a redevelopment project. But having struck out at Phillip Island we decided to go to St. Kilda Pier anyway and try our luck. It was the last night before ultra-wifey had to begin her long four-flight-journey back to Denmark. And guess what! We saw penguins!! It was my first time to see penguins in the wild so I was quite pleased with it. They were quite far away and it was dark. But it counts.
We saw about 15 small penguins emerge from the water, enter this small beach, and continue up the rocks. Fantastic.
What’s left to say? As much as I love picking her up at the airport, I dislike when she leaves again. I walked her to an airport shuttle bus which left from Southern Cross Station at 04:00am. The moment she boarded the bus and I began to walk away I could feel how empty Melbourne all of the sudden was. How wonderful it was to have her beside me. How wonderful it will be to reunite again. How sad it is to see her leave. In the words of William Shakespeare: “Parting is such sweat sorrow”. We do not know when we will be together again. Nobody knows.
Well, I have been pushing all sorts of work which I have now been able to attend to. In that spirit I got busy and dove right into it. We still have no solution in place for moving the Saga forward to New Zealand. That bothers me a lot. A know that our friends at Swire Shipping are working hard on solving the logistics of this. I might need to board two ships to reach New Zealand which would be costly in time. A direct connection would be preferrable and the passage should take no more than three days. People mostly have no idea how hard it has been to get this far and how hard it will be to reach the end. Oh well, if it was easy then anyone could do it.
Back to a $20 USD/day budget. Yes - I travel with my own metal chopsticks :)
As per tradition lets end this entry on a high note! I was interviewed on literally the only show I really wanted to get on!! Years ago I heard about The Project when they introduced me to the Kings Cross Bogan (referenced in last week’s entry) as well as two larrikins that went to North Korea posing as pro golfers from the Aussie national team! Gold!! So stoked to be a part of the show now!
At Treasury Gardens with Kaine while holding Greg's $20 note. Dinner!
I met up with Kaine who was a three man show on behalf of the interview. It’s always interesting to see how many people are sent out to film me. In Hong Kong I remember a time when a five-person team showed up to do a five-minute segment. Another time, also in Hong Kong, it was simply one person who had to set up, film, interview, AND edit!! Kaine was already set up with a bunch of heavy equipment when I met him at Treasury Gardens not far from Parliament House. Kaine was really likable. He has decades of experience and has done camera work internationally. We got to talk a bit about conflict zones and the strange draw difficult places have on us once we leave. As we were preparing for the interview Kaine’s friend Greg approached us. He happened to be doing some camera work nearby and wanted to stop and say hello. When Greg heard my story, he pulled out $20 AUS to support the Saga. What a kind gesture!
Click HERE or on the image above to watch the interview (5min).
The interview went well and I even managed to make the four-panel hosts (Waleed Aly, Lisa Wilkinson, Peter Helliar, and Kumi Taguchi) laugh when I told them how I aim to murder at least one person in every country as a part of my Viking heritage. Little do most know that I have conducted interviews in more than 170 countries. Each interview has its own format but most share the same framework. I love the loose character of The Project. Good fun. There’s always a comedian on the panel and this time it was Peter Helliar. It’s sometimes Tommy Little, which would have been fun as we saw him perform last week at the comedy festival. There is much to love about Australia.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still: seven countries from home.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga