I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
from "My Country" by Dorothea MacKellerThe people were friendly. The first afternoon, as we left our hotel to find lunch, my feet went out from underneath me on the wet sidewalk and suddenly there were three handsome young men helping me get up (fortunately, I fell on my butt, and not face-forward) and dust off wounded pride.
In addition to his spotlight, Len did a couple of panels and taught a master class on comic book writing.
After Len's obligations to the conference concluded, we had five days to ourselves and the friends who came to see us. Angus Ledgerwood, who was part of the Sunday Super Supper Squad during his sojourn in Los Angeles a few years ago, came down from Queensland to be with us during the conference.
Before my pen pal Sharyn and her husband Shane Murphy could get into town, Len and I spent time at the Darling Harbour Aquarium and Zoo. Once again, we ran into the reason the Australians so wanted Len to visit.
The second native animal I wanted to see in Australia was in the Darling Harbour Zoo.
And just what would a trip to Australia be if you didn't get to see kangaroos?
The same zoo also had the first koala we saw in Sydney.
We kept running into the giant snails all over Sydney.
Sharyn and Shane Murphy arrived on a Tuesday and checked into our hotel. The last time I saw them was in Vancouver in 1975. They were on their way back to Australia after a two year stint at a university in Ontario where Shane did his post-doc work. Sharyn was a bridesmaid in my first wedding, because the timing just worked out that way. They had an infant when they arrived in 1973, and she was a toddler when they left. They had two boys after that and now all their children are married and one has a baby of his own. They are also scattered. The older boy is back in Australia, but the younger boy lives in Canada and Jenny lives in London. Sharyn became an attorney and they are now both happily retired.
When Sharyn and I started writing in 1964, we had being the eldest of a large family in common. And we were both Beatles crazy. We wrote regularly for years, then sporatically. And, somehow we got back in touch via the Internet, which is a much easier way to communicate. Eventually, I hope that she'll give social media a try.
Sharyn grew up in a suburb of Sydney called Fairfield. She and Shane made their home in the Blue Mountains while they raised their children. Now they live in a home they designed somewhere 3-4 hours north of Sydney, but they did drive us out to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to see some beautiful country.
This outcrop is called the Three Sisters.
Our last full day in Australia consisted of going to Taronga Zoo, a short ferry ride to the northeast of Circular Quay. Janis Ian had put us in touch with a friend of hers who is the zoologist in charge of the great apes there, Geoffrey Kidd. Geoff met us at the gate, comped Len and I, and spent quite a bit of time showing us around the zoo and suggesting things we should see while he was at work. We even got up close and personal with some very tall critters who were as happy to take carrots from us as my horse is.
Len even got photobomed by a giraffe later in the day when we were pretty much the only people left at the zoo except for the attendants.
Geoff took us backstage to see a couple of orangutangs and then let us come and watch the bedding down of the chimpanzee house. All of the apes come in to be counted, fed, and, where needed, medicated. We had to be careful to keep a safe distance from the cage, because if you got too close you might be grabbed by one of the chimps. They were curious and they probably would have been happy to get extra treats, but we weren't there to give treats, just watch.
The non-official days in Sydney are the longest Len and I have ever had that approaches a vacation. We never travel unless it is work related, especially now that he's on dialysis three days a week. It's a good thing we've got a house at which I'm happy to stay home and receive friends.
In a Sunburned Country. I wouldn't mind seeing an opal mine. I never got to see brumbies or kangaroos in the wild, so that is still on my bucket list. Nine days in Australia was just too short.
After a final dinner with Sharyn and Shane, we went back to our room to pack. In the morning, I ran out to find some English candy bars that a friend had requested we bring back to the states. I also stopped in the chocolate shop and picked up a gift of premium chocolate from his home town to give Hugh Jackman when we saw him at the Dolby Theatre the night after we got back.
I did a post about some of the wonderful food we ate over on the Valada Kitchen blog. You can check that out here.