Koro Neil (pelliondance) wrote,
Koro Neil

Things I noticed about Australia on my first trip there

Yachts. Looking down on the harbour as the plane flew into Sydney—huge numbers of yachts crowding every little indentation of coast for miles and miles round the harbour.

Trees. On the trip to Katoomba—trees, trees, trees. So much of the landscape in and around Sydney is trees, mostly eucalyptus. They have trees there like we have grass here. West of the Blue Mountains, you see farmland like that in New Zealand, as far along the line as Dubbo anyway. We didn't travel through Dubbo going west on the train; from Orange we took the line through Parkes for Broken Hill. We got on the train at Parramatta at about 10 to 7 on Monday morning (July 13) and arrived at Broken Hill at about 8 pm. Along most of the line there were trees for mile upon hundreds of miles of flat land—many of them eucalyptus, but not all of them. Occasionally we came to comparatively treeless sections, where we could see to the horizon in all directions with not a hill in sight. We found out the next morning that the landscape had actually changed shortly after nightfall to something more pastoral as you get up around Menindee. The area around Wilcannia and White Cliffs, and along much of the route we travelled by car and bus to Dubbo on Friday (July 17), is desert.

Birds. Down near Sydney Harbour, ibises wandering around among the crowds, picking up food scraps. On the trip west and back again, flocks of startled galahs flying out of the trees as our train went past; occasional emus moving around singly or in twos or threes. At Broken Hill and in the desert area around Wilcannia and White Cliffs, crows, lots of them (and plenty of stones handy!) At The Entrance, a popular beach town near Gosford, north of Sydney, pelicans wandering along the waterfront, accepting food thrown to them—one sitting in the water was tightly hedged in by several dozen seagulls, who had worked out that this was the place for a hungry bird to be.

Lambs and calves. In mid July! In New Zealand there is a definite lambing and calving season. Northern New South Wales presumably doesn't get the frosts or (in some upland and southern areas) snow that we do. I am guessing that Victoria and Tasmania are more seasonal in their farming practices.

Number plates, some with V, I or O in them. V disappeared from New Zealand number plates around the late 60s or early 70s. FV was the last letter combination with a V in it. Since we went from two-letter to three-letter number plates, I and O have been lacking as well, except that AI (I think) has been the only case where the second letter was an I. The old number plates (from 1964 onward) were in the pattern AB3456; the current series is in the pattern ABC456. In Australia, number plates are differentiated by state. New South Wales has several different patterns. There is an older series of the ABC456 type, black characters on yellow background, mostly with the first letter from the last few letters of the alphabet, though I did see one or two as early as L. There is a newer series, black on white, of the type ABC45F, mostly beginning with A, although I saw a few later ones, including a few Ds and even the odd F. There is another newer series, black on yellow, of the type AB·34·EF, beginning with A, or with BA or BB. I could see nothing that distinguished vehicles with one type from those with the other. There were other styles as well—I saw an occasional white on black one of the type AB3456. I think number plates from other states were all of the ABC456 type. In Sydney, Katoomba and Gosford, I saw Queensland and Victoria plates; around Broken Hill I also saw South Australia ones.

Bricks. There is a far higher proportion of brick houses in Australia than in New Zealand.

Corrugated iron. In Broken Hill and the surrounding area, many houses have their outer walls as well as their roofs made of corrugated iron. In New Zealand only sheds are built that way.

Troglodytes. I went to Australia to visit my 86-year-old birth mother in her own home and found her living in a hole in the ground—not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was an old opal-miner's dugout, and that means comfort. The living room was partly dug out and partly built out at the front; the two bedrooms were dug out. The dugout parts had smooth, white-painted walls. We actually stayed with my sister Cree and her partner Lindsay in their much more elaborate dugout, with walls rough and nobbly, and coated with a thick whitewash-like substance. The rooms (unlike those in Althea's house) are more nearly circular than rectangular. I counted five bedrooms, one off the back of the living room, the others off a longish curving passage that ran from the kitchen to the bathroom. Cree has about as many books as I have, but most of hers were bought new. In both houses, skylights with corrugated perspex at the top provide some or all of the daylight in some rooms. Lindsay is working on a much bigger dugout for him and Cree. This has a very large built-out living room, and an absolute labyrinth of passages behind it, in two stories, with rooms off them. There is an octagonal viewing room at the top.

Lindsay mines Opal, both in White Cliffs and in Queensland. Cree cuts and polishes the stones. When their friend Brian, another miner, came around and sat chatting with Lindsay about work, they sounded like a couple of farmers talking about winter feed and lambing.

The people of White Cliffs are amused by the misconception of some outsiders that they have to go down into their houses by ladder. Dugouts are caves rather than pits, and have doors like other people's houses. But it is an amazing place. How many adoptees have found their birth mother living in a cave?

Tags: adoption, australia, birth family, family, travel
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