My trip down under felt more like a trip back in time. Maybe it is that Back to the Future Day* was the 21st of October, two days after we landed, maybe it is because the last time I touched down on this island was fifteen years ago when I was just a young lad, maybe it is that the Toronto Blue Jays were the closest to winning The World Series since Carter’s Game 6 Grand Slam back in 93’, whatever it was, the nostalgia was palpable. I spotted an old Pontiac Firefly at a gas station that reminded me of a car I was sad to see go as a youth. The suburbs, though not similar to the ones I grew up in, reminded me of cycling through alleyways and down hills on my first BMX. The town mall was reminiscent of the old John Galt Mall, small, always under construction in one section or the other and occupied by clothing stores targeting the nearly blind and food and drug stores for the penny pinchers and coupon cutters in all of us. Even the buildings facades in Lilydale’s downtown looked as though they had been created for the never released Crocodile Dundee 4 (can you believe they actually made three of those. The first one was good and actually was on TV while we were down under, hence the reference, but two more after that?) The trains, modern and occupied by smartphone users, the Frank Gary like architecture of Melbourne’s city centre, confirmed that I did not drive there in a silver DeLorean circa 1985. Yet, something about being in Australia made me feel like I had taken a trip back in time. A simpler time, when problems seemed minute and manageable and the most important issue of the day was whether the local baseball team had won. On second thought maybe it was that I was away from work and the Jays were in an AL Pennate Race for the first time in over twenty years.
Australia is one difficult country to get into, they check you three times before boarding the plane and three times once you’ve landed. My passport hasn’t been looked at by so many officials since I toured Eastern Europe. I understand that they want to protect their unique environment but what am I going to buy in the airport boarding lounge or between customs and baggage pick up that is going to harm the kangaroos and eucalyptus trees? I eventually got in, I am a Canadian after all, and everybody loves us. It was not without much rigamarole however, and made me feel a little unwelcome. I understand that they have unique habitats to protect and apparently very temperamental soil but honestly, relax Australia the rest of the world thinks you’re pretty cool we’re not going to mess with you. Besides were else is everyone going to go to get away from the nuclear fallout. WTF Mate?
On our first day Nance’s brother Paresh and his wife Sruthy took us on a tour of The Great Ocean Road. The journey took us through rolling hills scattered with shaggy unshaven sheep, and cattle roaming in fields of emerald green. The great ocean road twists and turns along steep cliff edges and beach vistas. Surfers were out in the waves, an echidna trotted across the road in front of us, and we passed a koala resting in a roadside tree. Where is the picture evidence you ask, sadly I only managed to capture the echidna, and not until he got to the opposite side of the road and buried his head into the guard rail in an attempt to get away, oh and did I mention the shot is completely overexposed. My enthusiasm was not diminished, as the sun was setting we reached The Twelve Apostles. Where once twelve stood only nine remain of these large towers of earth reaching out of the ocean shore, broken reminisce of an ancient coastline, now detached from their kin. It was a breathtaking sight, easily the highlight of the trip and a perfect way to end the day. As dusk set in we listened to the waves crash, felt the cool spring breeze whirl, and gazed upon nine earthen statues saluting the falling sun.
The week flew by. Nance and I took the train into Melbourne a couple times to shop and enjoy the sights, I photographed wild parrots in the neighbours shrubs, and Sruthy cooked up some delicious Indian cuisine. Melbourne is a very pedestrian friendly city with shopping arcades, graffitied alleys, futuristic looking trams, and spectacular architecture. We traveled an hour by train to get to Melbourne passing some wonderfully named towns on the way, Blackburn, Auburn, Croydon and my personal favourite Surrey Hills, pronounced ‘Sorry Hills’ by the intercom. Flinders St station was our final destination, a French Renaissance style structure finished in 1910, from there we began our journey through the city. We enjoyed talented buskers in front of what I can only say is the most elegant H&M I have ever seen, took in Australian and international artists alike at the National Gallery of Victoria, and shopped in pedestrian arcades, promenades and fancy malls. Nance and I had a fantastic trip.
I didn’t go back in time, I went to Australia, the only country that is essentially its own continent and the biggest island on the map. I met part of Nance’s family for the first time. I saw a natural wonder of the world (The 12 Apostles). And I enjoyed good food and great sights. Sure the youth there are trying to bring back pants I used to wear when I was twelve, and yes, it is common to see people barefoot strolling through the mall or sitting at the table next to you at a restaurant but there Aussies. They’re a little different, and why not, they have the worlds most unique animals, they call McDonalds Macca’s, and Vegemite is considered an eatable substance.
*Back To The Future 2 featured Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling forward in time to 21/10/2015, a moment in time when hover boards are ubiquitous and teen fashion resembles a mash up of Mad Max villains and Hackers.