This huge country wasn’t in my travel plans until a friend of mine, Diana Psitos, made me change my mind and tempted me to go there. For me Australia is a paradise made for families. The whole structure of the country is orientated towards that. I spent two and a half months there, a period of time that seemed very short because of the long distances in the country. I arrived in Sidney after an almost 24 hour-flight (the stop-over included). It was the first time that the jetlag got to me. I was picked up from the airport and lucky to stay at Diana’s place because for at least five days I was in space mode. As you probably know, Australia was almost taken over by Greeks in the 70’s. Diana has a Greek background so there I was, among fellow Greeks.
I stayed in Sydney for almost a week, with my hostess showing me around. After that I headed to the Blue Mountains, a national park five hours from Sidney. It was different than all the other parks I had seen until then, very organized and accessible even to people with special needs. After a great three-day trek I went into the wild, as nature is totally untouched despite the infrastructure of the park. It had something to please even the most demanding trekker. After that I went back to Sidney. Diana is a teacher and so the Christmas vacation gave us enough time to explore the surroundings of Sidney. Beautiful beaches all around, some of them overcrowded but some others we had them all to ourselves. Bondi, Coogee and Manly are just some of them. We got together with another couple and explored the Royal National Park, in the south of Sidney. It’s even better organized for people to go and enjoy nature over a picnic or a day at the beach. We tried to sail from Coffs Harbour to Sidney, unsuccessfully though because our boat broke down and we had to abandon it in New Castle and return to Sidney by train, soon enough to watch the New Year’s firework show over the Sidney Bridge.
I visited Melbourne, my southern stop in Australia and the second biggest Greek city after Athens as I was informed, another nice place. The city is very clean and everything runs smoothly. It’s a really European city with great open spaces and beautiful, old Victorian buildings. The downtown area was much more compact and easy to explore than the mega city of Sidney. From there we took the Great Ocean Road, a route that takes you through a magnificent row of small villages from Melbourne to Adelaide. We stayed in Lorne, in a beautiful small cottage. We went trekking in the surrounding area although poor Diana was not exactly crazy about the fact that the koalas were roaming the huge eucalyptus trees. (Diana, if you ever go to Lorne again, say hello to the “girls”). Diana had to return to Sidney and I continued north. I managed to get a cheap pass for the train and travelled from Brisbane to Cairns, the magnificent coast of Queensland in Eastern Australia. Brisbane and Surfers’ Paradise didn’t impress me at all because they were students’ spring break kind of places. Noosa Heads was the antidote, an area covered with vacation homes from every part of Aussie land. Harvey Bay is another beach resort in sunny Queensland and the reason I went there was to organize a road trip to the nearby Frazer Island, one of the biggest sandy islands of the world. I hooked up with two Swiss guys and two Spanish girls in order to reduce the cost of the off road trip. Apart from the fact that the weather was against us, Fraser Island was one of my favourite places in Australia. After a quick stop at the isolated beaches of Magnetic Island, it was time for me to visit the Great Barrier Reef, a coral reef so huge that it’s visible even from space. Everybody goes to Airle Beach to arrange a boat ride to the Whitsundays, the group of islands that make up the reef. The inner part of the reef is pretty destroyed by the tourists but the outer part is still a healthy ecosystem full of life and colour. I went out with a party boat, with a bunch of Irish people and two Germans. The ride and the five-day mini cruise in general was great fun. There I took my first scuba diving lesson, something that really changed my life. My time was running out and I still hadn’t uncovered anything from that huge country. Further north I entered the tropics and went to the city of Cairns. From there I explored Port Douglas and the tropical rainforest that surrounds the area. I was amazed by the many dangerous species of Australia. I found out that in Australia there are ants that can give you a lethal bite. When you get bitten, you have to go to the hospital with the animal or insect that bit you so they can give you the right antidote. There are also other, scarier things that I avoid mentioning because I don’t want to scare you. After all that tropic adventure and because the hurricane season had started, I was forced to fly to Byron Bay. Diana joined me there and I spent my last days in Australia with her. I would like to thank her and all her friends for their really warm welcome. They made me feel like a part of their society, something very important to every traveller.
Australia is so huge that I feel like I have covered only a small part of it but still I managed to see the diversity that the country has to offer to every visitor that takes the long flight down under. So long, Aussie Land. I hope we meet again in the future.