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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tasmania 22 years ago

Mrs McIvor's sheep at her ranch near Camperdown (not Tasmania)

Wineglass Bay - I tried bodysurfing here in July!

Old prison cells at Port Arthur. This is where they put the baddest of the bad - transported convicts who got in trouble AGAIN.

Another view of Port Arthur - a really beautiful place

Kangaroo?  I only put the question mark because I sort of remember that it was not actually a kangaroo but a wombat or some other sort of marsupial.

Zoya's visit to Tasmania has got me rummaging through my old slides and thinking about when I was out and about traveling the world in the early 1990s.  I went to Australia directly after working for DeBeers in the diamond mines in South Africa. After working in the mines I cashed in my pension (I also got a huge tax refund for some reason), sold my Toyota Corolla and took off for parts unknown with a healthy grubstake.  Since I was an 'Apartheid bad boy' I was not allowed to fly directly to Australia and I consequently spent a while in French speaking Mauritius first.  Due to an Apartheid embargo airlines were not allowed to fly direct from South Africa to Australia, and I remember I had my choice of stopovers with Harare in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, or Mauritius.  

Once in Australia I stayed with a childhood neighbor outside of Melbourne. Mrs McIvor had a sheep farm near the town of Camperdown.  I remember that she picked me up from the train station in an old Holden Commodore (sort of a Ford Pinto equivalent only bigger). In the old Holden she drove me site seeing all over SE Australia.  I also took trains to Adelaide, Alice Springs and Perth, and a ferry to Tasmania (more on this later).  I got to see a lot of Australia.

Coming from South Africa I was struck by the ethnic and cultural homogeneity of Australia. I'd come from a country populated by Dutchmen, English, Indians, Jews, Sothos, Zulus, Xhosa, Vendans, and Cape 'Colored' - just to name a few.  And it was weird to come to a country where everyone was white and spoke Australian English with the same accent.  I remember that everyone even watched the same soap operas on the television, and told the same jokes.  It was like returning to a stereotype of Eisenhower America from the 1950s.

Anyway, I think my favorite part of Australia was Tasmania.  With the sea and rugged coastline, it was weirdly like returning home to Maine or even Kodiak.  While I was there it even snowed and I got to go skiing!  It's also very illuminating to hear and see from Zoya how much Tasmania has changed.  I remember that Australian food was sort of 'English' - like what you'd get in London. And there were certainly no organic farmer markets. That certainly seems to have changed for the better!   I wonder if you are still not supposed to tip at Australian restaurants? 

On a side note - in 1990 it was hard to find a good beer or meal in America too.  Remember that this was before micro brews changed the whole scene and the best beer that you could buy was imported (think Heineken).  Maybe even London has good food these days.

It's so cool that Zoya gets to visit a country I saw almost a quarter century ago.  I can't wait to hear and see what else has changed or stayed the same!


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