Under Down-Under

My wife is one of those extremely smart and valuable IT people that nobody else understands what she does outside of her field.  For years, we dreamed about her working for a company that would allow her international travel, and, by extension, me.  If at all, we always thought it would be Europe, probably Great Britain (which would be great, pardon the pun).  The proverbial jack-pot would be Australia, but that seemed far-fetched.  So when she came home a couple of months ago and told me that we were heading to Australia for a month, we just thought it couldn’t get any better.  We were wrong.

A week ago (as we sit in Sydney), she told me that she (we) was extended an invitation to visit a client in (wait for it) Tasmania!  We about peed our pants.  Australia is cool, but Tasmania is super cool, and given the time of year, that’s actually a pretty good description.

The flight was only two hours long, but it took us light years away from the city life of Sydney.  In fairness, a two hour flight to almost anywhere would have had a similar effect, but I digress.  Tassie (as the locals call it) is one of those places you see in your dreams.  You’re walking through lush valleys surrounded by jagged mountains, then you’re on the other side of the mountains along the coast with crashing seas, and then on pristinely white beaches.  And then your alarm clock goes off and it’s time to go to work.

But this wasn’t a dream.  Tasmania is one of the Australian states, but more than half of it is a national park, and the other half could be.  Known for its dairy (specifically butter and cheese) and wine (talk about a perfect match), the inhabited areas are nearly all agricultural of some variety, either livestock or vineyards.

We landed in Launceston, the second largest city in Tassie, but with a population of little over 100,000, it’s more of a town.   I picked up my rental at the airport from a very helpful bloke at the Hertz desk with a slightly left sense of humor.  He gave me a Nissan Micra that should have been named “micro”.  A four-door wonder of engineering, I could have sat in the back seat and driven comfortably.  But the punch line was that it was hot pink (Thene said ‘rose quartz’).  A benefit, he assured me, that would ensure that I would not lose it in a parking lot.

I sat behind the wheel for several minutes, partly to familiarize myself with the car and the idea of driving on the right hand side of the car, on the left side of the road, and partly to pray for God’s protection over the next couple of days of driving.  If you’ve ever driven in England of any of their territories, you know exactly what I mean when I say, “this was just damn weird”.  For the next two days, whether alone or with my wife, the mantra was “keep left, keep left”.  Actually, given the sparse population, it was a pretty easy task, though I did turn down a one-way going the wrong way once, but hey, I did the same thing in downtown St. Louis, so that doesn’t really count.

Once out of the “city” I was immersed in the terrain.  Parts are like the wine country of Napa or Washington, Missouri.  Other parts remind me of the Pacific coast in Western Washington.  Still other parts remind me of the hills of Tennessee.  Mountains, forest, oceans and fields; all within a few hours of each other.  Incredible country, to be certain, but it made me realize what we have in the States, and how fortunate we are.  Australia and the United States are roughly the same size, yet only a small percentage of Australia is inhabitable.  I’ll write more later about some of the specific places we visited, but no matter where we go, the truth that Dorothy Gale told us all from Oz still rings true: there’s no place like home.

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