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Australia; on top and down under no longer

Kangaroos foraging on Lucky Bay Beach in Cape le Grande N.P in Western Australia.

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner

The Pacific Rim’s economic success is undeniable. But the center of its physical beauty is Australia, hands down. Australia is up these days, way up. Its economy is whirring as virtually every imaginable mineral is being extracted, sold and shipped to China. Tourism is also at an all-time high. For Americans, it is the unimpeachable safe haven of spectacular land and sea adventures.

Yes, it’s a long plane ride. Fourteen hours from California. Get over it. You can brag about the ride later. Paradise has a price of admission.

Australia’s scene is like the States in the late 50’s. World recession be damned, it brims with optimism and the energy of the late 50’s. People are hip, brash, and confident. Like Americans were and Texans still are. Colorful. In language and dress. Australian English is spoken called strine (think strilian). A beer cooler is an esky, a small bottle of suds a stubby, a chicken a chook, and a pick-up truck a ute. Super-casual is in; flip-flops and tee-shirts rule the day.

In size, Australia rivals the United States. People live on the edge. On the edge of the island that is. Since its interior is a parched desert, people occupy arable lowlands and irrigated river areas draining to the sea. The bulk of Australia’s population of 20,000,000 live in the 90 degree arc from Brisbane on through Sydney and Melbourne in the south.

Her physical beauty is vast and eye-popping, best tasted in weeklong swills. If you want to do a Whitman’s Sampler, you’d best buy a travel pass that allows a series of hops around the country offered by Virgin Blue or Qantas. Driving anywhere is time-consuming.

Beaches are everywhere, as are national parks with well-developed facilities and trail systems. Australian waters (Indian, Southern, and Pacific) are as azure and clear as any in the world. One must only take precautions for jellyfish. Good motels run around $100 a night with fresh and brilliantly creative food available in larger towns.

I’d recommend choosing among six areas: Tasmania, West Coast (Perth to Albany via wine country), Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas to The Whitsundays, Adelaide area including Barossa and Kangaroo Island, Melbourne and gold country, and Sydney and environs. My favorites are Tasmania and the West Coast.

Fire up your Barbie, put on the chook, open a stubby, and put a trip on the bucket list. It’s always summer somewhere down under!

Joe Gschwendtner is a Castle Pines Village resident and a self-described serial traveler and Austrophile. By last count he had logged more than 200,000 miles flying to Australia alone.

Two of the Twelve Apostles on Great Ocean Road, west of Melbourne, Victoria.

Erosion up close and personal at Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) near Alice Springs.



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