About Richard
The Journey
World Friends

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Report: #17
Date: 23/6/00
Location: Melbourne/Sydney

Dear Friend,

"Remember that beyond your dreams, is reality. But reality is not beyond your dreams. And dreams are not beyond reality."

Bardot, Bugger and Biological Warfare; Proudly Australian, but Sorry?

Still I am road surfing on the ripples of time; sometimes treading water to let some waves wash by and then pedalling furiously to get some ripping speed. Or get tumbled if I get the timing wrong.

Under wide skies, occasionally eclipsed by a thunderous road-train (a multi-trailered juggernaut truck); just a short wrong-steer from rude road-kill (ranks of reeking, rank, raw, decaying creatures such as budgies, possums, thorny devils, snakes and kangaroos); subjected to the bombardment of an incredible arsenal of insectry; lashed by the cold, wet tongue of the nearby, Antarctic winter; I make my bid to become a temporary child of the Southern Cross.

At least the trial by flies has been left behind for a while in the warmer climes back north. That was just about more than I could swallow, though I did quite frequently.

Is surviving this vast, mighty, diverse land, enough to make me part of it? Or make it a part of me? Australia could be a kind of caricature of the Earth. A kind of over simplification. Bush-[wilderness or forest]-culture and city-culture, quite polarized and distinct; Survival out in the elements, contrasted with social survival; Man exposed on the bare Earth or immersed in a maze of multi-culturalism and multi-nationalism, mathematics and materialism.

I walked out into the middle of a gleaming, flat white plain of a salt lake. This pushed back the horizon of hills and pressed them against the blue sky flowing with high, wispy clouds; pushed it all back beyond white nothing. I, standing alone, suddenly felt absolutely central to that place and my affirming thought was, "I have been coming here! For a long time, I have been coming here." A beautiful illusion soon obliterated by time not standing still. Fortunately.

[My whole life I have been practicing and preparing for today.]

Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney.
Adelaide to Melbourne by bicycle. Melbourne to Sydney by bus.
I had to see Spring in Sydney as winter approached.
There's a riddle for you.

Three of Australia's famous cities; each with it's own separate identity, but each with a lot in common; Fast food, record stores, glitzy shopping centres, mobile-phone-itis; a word of Vietnamese here, a word of Japanese there; China town here, Thai restaurants there; money-makers in suits, teens on micro-scooters, skateboards or BMXes; Girls from outer Spice or Great Britney; sports madness, traffic congestion insanity (not so bad in Adelaide), welcoming shop assistants, polite pedestrians, and very few beggars (though at least one who approached me in Sydney was dressed better than me. [Perhaps that doesn't say much] )

Let me take this opportunity to do the whinging pom thing and voice my irritation at having spent way too much of my life in Australia listening to "on-hold" music on the phone! When I made a complaint to TELSTRA, the national phone company, about persistent service trouble, they put me on hold for 25minutes!! Australians must have the patience of gum trees.

And the rules!!! Have to wear a cycle-helmet; Can't cycle across the Westgate bridge into Melbourne; Can't eat food on board long-distance buses, etc, etc

But I've only spent one night in jail, so far. And luckily that one had been previously converted to a "backpackers' " (hostel).

In the cities I've encountered a fair bit more TV than I've seen for a while. It's dominated by sport and high-sheen-production shows from America and Britain, along with the same old Aussie soaps (serial shows as regular as breakfast cereal, but responsible for more stiffs (the wooden actors) than any known serial killer) that were showing in the UK ten years ago. Those soaps do so much to define Australia there Up Above (well, if Australia is Down Under......) on top of the common knowledge that they are an unbeatable cricketing and swimming nation. Though I haven't seen any water-cricket yet.

There are plenty of blonde surfers with VW "Combi" vans around, too. Not only at Bondi Beach. Just to reinforce another stereotype. But, in spite of stereotypes and a large number of pubs and beer adverts, a remarkable number of true Aussies [I'm fighting hard to resist using the words "fair dinkum" here] who I've met, have been very moderate drinkers, if they drink at all. But that maybe indicative of the kind of people I associate with.

Finishing on the TV- side of things; the kind of language that is allowed to air here goes quite a long way beyond what is acceptable on UK TV and radio. Daytime swearing and name-calling, especially the word w**ker, is common. A funny one is a sheep dog that swears, "Bugger!" when dumped in the mud in a commercial for a four wheel drive truck (or Ute). I don't think many people have a problem with this. I suppose that if they can cope with their TV programme about the overtly commercial manufacturing of a new 5-girl pop group named "Bardot", they can stomach anything. Unless it's original, perhaps.

Along the Great Ocean (GO) Road, between Melbourne and Sydney, there are some fearsome cliffs against which great waves from Antarctic waters slam and unrestrained winds hammer, constantly reshaping the "Shipwreck Coast." In the early days of round-world travel, journeys of months by sailing ships would often end here in tragic doom. Had those people, who braved such disaster and risked all, envisioned "Bardot" or "Bugger!", I hope they still would have bothered. Though with better consideration, perhaps only possible with extremely advanced forethought then, for the true land owners.

But Australia has been falteringly trying to say sorry for the trouble brought by those ships to the indigenous dwellers. While the Prime Minister, John Howard, apologised personally, but stopped short of apologising nationally, crowds of other apologisers marched across Sydney Harbour Bridge on National Sorry Day, or Reconciliation day. But is it possible to have reconciliation if there was never conciliation? Arguments persist.

Were the aboriginal children of the "Stolen Generation" saved from poverty and poor conditions and given a better life, by well meaning benefactors? Or were the poverty and poor conditions imposed by the invaders using discrimination and the biological warfare of alcohol, and children stolen for brain washing and cultural conditioning to supply a land lacking in a labour force?

Is this even relevant given the subsequent march of time? Possibly the crowds who didn't march The Bridge, think not. Or perhaps just wish to avoid a meaningless mass-statement.

I'd like to give credit to Australia's maintaining the high profile of these issues even in the run up to two major national occasions; the Sydney Olympics/Paralympics, and the implementation of a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST), coming 1st July.

A large part of Australia sometimes have a grievance that the country has become very "Sydney-centric". Maybe the World too, since two major motion pictures have recently "starred" the city; "Mission Impossible 2" and "Matrix." And the Sydney attitudes to such as the "Aboriginal problem", at least a fairly audible, liberal voice, seems to sway the thinking of the government in Canberra (in A.C.T; Australian Capital Territory. Or, according to one bus driver, "Australian Confused Territory").

Up in the Northern Territory, the Chief Minister, I think, or some other similarly high-up "white feller" there, where Aboriginals have there most visible presence, said that the government should "Butt Out!" of trying to tell the Territory how to handle their problem. They don't pay much attention to the United Nations on human rights there either.

I don't know if anyone likes the GST idea, outside the ruling party. And, Grossly Stupid Tax or not, the fact that they spent hundreds of thousands of tax-payers' dollars simply to pay non-Aussie rock-star, Joe Cocker, to use snatches of a song of his in TV and Radio ads explaining the GST, sprayed petrol (gasoline) on the flames of the controversy.

They are now trying hard to convince people that a reduction in income tax, combined with some goods taxes actually being reduced to 10% and such like, will result in either a nett benefit or no change to the dollar in people's pockets.

Does anyone out there have any recollection of any prices EVER having gone down?

But despite these mammoth problems, and the reverberations from turmoil in near-neighbour countries Fiji, Solomon Islands and giant Indonesia, a "Backpackers' " fire disaster [fortunately I was nowhere near that, just in case anyone was concerned], and the odd Rottweiler (a kind of macho dog) attack on a child or two, Australia is looking increasingly fortunate to be distantly removed from Europe's sicknesses of hooliganism, racist violence and ethnic cleansing. But Australians are largely from the same stock as bred the former of these diseases; their history is founded in the latter; and I suppose the middle one is just the common denominator, which may not be so far off, if racial and religious separatism continues apace, in such forms as Muslim-only-, or Greek-only- schools.

Many things here are marketed under the slogan; "Proudly Australian." I hope they can continue to be proud because of rejecting the road to racial confrontation, as much as for any other reason.

One of those other reasons might be that there are still places where an itinerant, intercontinental bicycle man can still free camp along the way to the far horizon. And still places where the far horizon is unobstructed and uncomplicated. And there is untouchedness beyond.

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