Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wonderland Down Under

Since arriving early Sunday morning Australia has not ceased to amaze me. Both the country and people are wonderful. After 4 days here I am still trying to get to full strength and recover from the travel, but we've hardly had time to think about as our hosts have gone the extra mile in every instance to ensure a great time for us. Our first presentation last night went well at the GSE alumni dinner held at the Panther Club in Penrith. Quite a place....its a large social club the size of a stadium that plays home the the Penrith Panther organization, a local rugby team. It was a great night and really gave us a good feeling going forward.

Our whirlwind start has including a wonderful run on Bondi beach upon arrival where after jumping into my first waves I was able to help Aunt Betty with her walker. After adjusting her shawl and spectacles she was able to again creep towards the water and let her bunions soak in the pleasant waters of the pacific.

We followed this up with a wonderful walk along the cliffs at Bondi and were able to get some great pictures of Sydney Harbour. Then we were off to the mountains to meet our wonderful host families. John and Susan Wakefield are two of the most wonderful people I have ever met. They are the first of several families to open their homes and lives to me on this trip. I can't wait to see them at the District Conference in Mugee. We enjoyed a great barbecue with our host families before fading off into jet lag oblivion.

John was kind enough to take me to some of his favorite haunts Monday morning which included the local Holden motor car dealer. General Motors-Holden division is a long standing tradition in the Australian culture and John has owned many over the years. They often mimic the Chevy and Pontiac cousins but usually include models only seen and produced. I was able to see a restored 1948 Holden in the showroom which was right up my alley. I got some great photos while there. John was kind enough to present me with beautiful Holden racing team shirt later in my visit.

We met for lunch at a local village cafe with the group before heading off to Lennox bridge for a visit. It is the oldest bridge on the continent of Australia. Like many things built with convict labor. We then proceeded to Red Hands Cave to see Aboriginal Cave artwork. After a short hike it became apparent that Aunt Betty's wheel chair would not be able to traverse the rugged bush terrain. With some effort we were able to load her and her knitting gear into a fireman's carry and continue on down the path. The cave paintings were stunning and hard to believe that they had survived over 1500 years. Our last stop for the day included a beautiful scenic outlook of the gradual steps down to emu plain with Sydney in the background. Susan made a charming lamb dinner for us that evening and we visited and watched a recording of my band the East Bay Jazz Ensemble. They seemed to recognize most of the tunes and enjoyed the music.

Tuesday brought our hike with Bandeluk the aboriginal guide and another wonderful trek into the bush. The amazing thing about Australia is that the plants and flora we are seeing is completely new to us. Not one tree or plant could be found in normal settings in Vermont. So it is a lot to take in and totally breathtaking. With a bit of free time before the banquet Amy Beth and I leaped at the chance to try a spot of lawn bowling at the club just across the street from John and Susan's. One of the local club member's husband had offered to show us the game and we were so obliged. Gary gave us some pointers and let us have at it....wonderful fun....just lovely I say. Its always fun to try something new...especially something never seen in the state. Amy Beth was quite good at it and Gary's smile of approval made our afternoon.

People have no more valuable gift to give than there time and insight....this trip is a tribute to that and I am thankful for Rotary International for such a wonderful opportunity. I am truly blessed.

Stay Classy San Diego

No comments: