By Peter Bishop
MAY I be excused for penning an article with thoughts on ‘local’ thoughts, please, for a change? Yet, in a way, we have become so used to hearing about the commonwealth that their people have become as familiar as conacts, friends and relatives.
Many of us have those who have been, or just had a card from, ‘Down Under’ or Australia.
With a son who went over with work over 15 years ago, stayed to marry and have a family, we had to go and keep going.
We’ve now lived there over a year and a half in 14 trips and are still exploring keenly.
With chances to travel around, one sees the sheer variety of terrains, landscapes and weather.
While one area suffers huge bush fires, the next will be flooded, or in drought, all within the same state.
Thus, the sheer enormity of their continent is emphasised, yet still not fully surveyed, or the resources assessed.
With the six states so spread, travel by air is popular, as rail journeys are tedious, but picturesque, we find.
From the air one sees the land - or more ‘engines’. They run along the corrugated roads from up north, bringing down livestock to the huge markets.
The trains return up with loads of farm and building equipment. Around the shores of this huge vastness lie the holiday areas for this hard working and playing population.
Australia links easily with Asia now, as new markets and industries arise. The old ties with Europe remain with the home land, especially with families, armed forces and the Royal family, moves to a republic ebb and flow as their politics change.
On the whole, the state system is strong ex-service structure through the Retired Servicemens’ League (RSL) funded by the ‘Pokies’ gaming machine.
These largely maintain the universal cafes and canteens, also open to visitors (yumee!)
The Aussies are the most sociable of hosts, and open their homes freely, even to short-term contracts.
They tread widely, and drive huge distances, helped of course by the open highways.
By comparison, our roads are congested with an overlay of buildings.
Out there, one enjoys wide sweeps of landscape and national parks.
We have sampled several of these, from the Kakadu up north to the hot centre and snowy mountains, down to the southern coasts and the Murray - Darling area.
Stays around the coast have brought other vistas - the inlets and bays, surfing beaches, yet hints of old livings in middens and Aboriginal life.
Yet the last 200 years have brought buildings by the ‘first fleeters’ with convict-build farms, and churches.
This has eventually led to well-planned estates and shopping malls now the sheer energy of development goes on space, among the pride of their traditions.
There is still feeling of a young country ouside the cities, with an adventure.
It’s just a pity that each time we travel to see family there it seems to take longer!