Thursday, March 13, 2008

Time Travelling in Australia

"Wilderness is a spell that is easily broken." - from the movie Wild Australia, shown at The Edge theatre, Katoomba

Australia has us all under its spell, and it's hard to know where to start in describing this experience, but at the core are the people we are meeting. After just a few days, it was terrible saying farewell to Paul and Liz Wednesday morning. We stayed up late Tues. night, talking and having a shandy, biscuits and cheese. The presentation that night went well and we met the team members coming to NH in April, who are wonderful and I can't wait to see them the 13th when they're in New London.

The others have covered Tuesday so I'll tackle yesterday, Wed. We met at the Cooks at 9; our luggage all together makes quite a pile (I for one definitely overpacked, even with just 1 checked bag) but the Springwood club arrived with a small trailer for it all so that was brilliant.

Bob and Peter (Peter and his wife Lynda are my second hosts) had us for the day and we headed up the M4 motorway into the mountains. I rode with Steve and Pete in Peter's car; Peter's a retired high school teacher and principal and had loads of information about the history, geology and history of the area, which was great. Our first stop was The Edge theater in Katoomba to see the 40 minute documentary about the discovery of the Wollemi pines, thought to be extinct for millions of years but found a few years ago. It's a great film, but I'm on the world's slowest computer (it's taken 40 minutes to write this b/c it stops to grind away between words) so will elaborate more later. After, we saw the projection room and the 70 mm set up.

Then it was on to Scenic World, where we took the Skyway down 65 million years into a rainforest that dinosaurs would recognize, it was gorgeous and ancient and unlike anything anywhere else on the planet. When the Grand Canyon was nothing more than a trickling creek on the surface of Arizona, these canyons here looked the same way they do now - this land is beyond ancient.

We took the world's steepest railway backwards up to the top, and we had front row seats for the stunning, short journey. I don't know how they built that thing. Mina had a fear-driven but entertaining narrative but we all survived and then took the cable car across for a look from a different angle.

Dropping off the others with their hosts, Peter and I went to Lynda's nursery, a wonderful place with plants galore. From there we went to the grocery story, where I was able to replace the shower poof I realized I'd forgotten at Paul and Liz's. I always like going to groceries while travelling, and here there are a lot of familiar brands, both from the US and UK, plus some new things, of course.

Then we headed home, where 14-week old kitten Penny played and raced around. Lynda prepared a wonderful dinner of prawns and fish and salad and we sipped wine and discussed books, politics, travel, everything, it was a great meal and I felt right at home. Turned in at 11:30 and slept great with my feline companion curled up next to my neck, what a cutie.

And here I am at the Blue Mountains Gazette for the day; they are under a big deadline and the production room and editorial area are dead quiet. It's nearly time for lunch, so I think I will go for a wander along the interesting looking small-town Main Street and see what I can see.

This is just the roughest outline of what we've done in the past day, leaving out a lot of the thoughts and emotions that really make the essence of the experience, but suffice it to say that we have a great travel group that is meeting warm, wonderful people who immediately make us feel part of their families, and for that we are grateful, and excited, too, I think, because this is not a surface experience, it is intensely, immediately real and valuable and extraordinary. Last night at dinner, while telling the story of how Michael and I found our house and all the antics that went with the process, I got to the part where my grandfather did what he could for us in a physical sense ("If I were ten years younger I'd be up on that roof with them," he said, about Michael and our dads reshingling the place. Of course, he still would have been 71 years with the 10 knocked off!), bringing over his big tractor soon after the purchase to mow the neglected field, a project that meant he got to know every inch of the place, and he loved it because we did. I pretty much burst into tears right at the dinner table (much to my surprise - and theirs, I'm sure!) trying to talk because the one year anniversary of his death is coming up and it's on my mind, and the caring that Peter and Lynda showed ... you can't fake that. As Pete Peck said, we are all so blessed and fortunate to have this experience, it's pretty much beyond words. But I'll keeping trying, and blog when I can ...

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