Wonders of Australia – Travel Days

Wonders of Australia

Travel Days – Monday 5 October 2015 to Wednesday 7 October 2015

Nothing like driving to the airport under a clear blue sky. St. John’s airport has been undergoing renovations to install a state of the art Instrument Landing System that will prevent up to seven hundred cancellations a year due to fog. The ironic thing is that they had picked July to do some of the more intrusive work on the runways thinking that it’s the best weather month. Turned out to be a record setting July when it came to fog, rain and cold temps. This meant that a lot of planes couldn’t get in with the longer runway down. My flight to Switzerland was one of the first ones cancelled.

So, knowing the work was to continue into November, I booked an extra night in Toronto and turned my trip Down Under into a city hop across Canada. A night in Toronto, a night in Vancouver and then overnight to Sydney. Best part is the flight times give me time to go downtown Toronto and Vancouver for a few hours – places I haven’t seen in more than twenty years.

After the fiasco with the Swiss flight, it was an very uneventful trip Down Under. I got into Toronto at about four in the afternoon and made my way to the Alt Hotel for the night. Love this hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust hop on the terminal train and you’re there in a few minutes. No waiting for a shuttle. And you can’t hear the aircraft either. The rooms have everything you need for an layover hotel – bed, TV, shower, kettle and a great bank of plugins to charge everything up.

Before I hopped on the terminal train for the hotel, I took a good look at the new Pearson to Union Express train.

20151006_090539cThey call it the UP. The station for the train is just an add on to the terminal train area so it’s impossible to miss. Best part is that I was able to buy a Long Layover ticket online. For $27.50, I have six hours to use the ticket and it’s by far the cheapest way to go down for a short stay. The ticket scanned at Pearson and the timer starts then.

So, the next morning I was up and out by nine and hopped on the UP for the twenty-five minute ride downtown. I initially was going to visit the CN Tower for the first time in more than thirty years but the low cloud meant it wouldn’t be worth the admission. I’ll be going through TO again, so if the skies are blue, I’ll do that then.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI got off at Union Station where the UP has it’s own platform. I walked up Yonge Street and checked out the Eaton Centre, City Hall and walked a bit west to the M.E.C. store where I got a little toiletry bag. By the time I sauntered back to Union station it was close to one and just after two by the time I retrieved my luggage from the Alt Hotel and checked my bag in for the late flight to Vancouver.

I had purchased preferred bulkhead seats on my Toronto/Vancouver and Vancouver/Sydney legs and the 777 that I was on to Vancouver appears to be set up for a Premium Economy section. I was in row twelve and the seats were a bit larger and there was more legroom. It only cost me about $60 extra.

I was into Vancouver by eight, which is after midnight at home so my jet lag adjustment was already beginning. I couldn’t see the signs for the shuttle service, so I hopped a cab to the Hampton Airport Inn and managed to keep myself awake till almost midnight. The nice part is that Australian time isn’t far off of Vancouver time – it’s just a day ahead – and I’m adjusting in the right direction.

It was raining the next day, so this limited my options for Vancouver. I know I can take a shuttle bus to the Capilano Bridge from Canada Place but there was no sense in going on a rainy day. First things first, I had to pick up the prescription scuba mask and snorkel that I had ordered from a local shop called Rowand’s Reef.

I took the Canada Line train to downtown and found out my ticket was good on the bus for another ninety minutes. So, I hopped bus four and it dropped me in front of Rowans Reef shop right as it was opening. The guy there was great. The mask was a great fit and the lenses were perfect. So much so, when I put it on, I forgot my glasses were off. He got me a dry snorkel and gave me a little gift – a cover for the back straps of the mask so that my hair wouldn’t get caught up in the straps. Very nice.

I was done by 10:30 and was able to get the bus back on the same ticket. It dropped me off on Granville St. where I had lunch and wandered around, watching some of the more colourful Vancouver residents. With a few hours to kill before my Sydney flight, I dropped into the Scotiabank Theatre and saw Everest. Great way to kill a couple hours on a rainy day. I went back to the Canada Line and took it to the Richmond Mall where I was able to kill another hour or so and have a snack before returning to the Hampton Inn. I retrieved my luggage and checked my bag into the airport for the sixteen hour flight to Sydney.

I was in row thirty one – the window seat right next to the large door over the wing.

20151007_233753uAs you can see, I had plenty of leg room and could get up whenever I wanted. The door was far enough away so that I could stretch out my legs straight. It was quite cozy. Seat guru listed it as a bad seat and said it was cold by the exit but I didn’t find that at all. In fact, I found it quite warm.

Dinner was served and I forced myself to stay up for at least one movie so that I was essentially going to sleep around eight p.m. Sydney time. I slept for almost eight hours and woke at about four in the morning and watched a couple more movies – Fury Road and Jurassic Park.

They’ll wake anyone up.

20151008_021613wSo, as I wave good-bye to a non-existent October 8th, here’s a little info on Australia courtesy of Wikipedia and other sites. If you know Australian history, you can carry on to Day One.

Australia’s history of habitation is thought to have started at least forty thousand years ago and may have been as early as seventy thousand years ago. It is possible that people fleeing the eruption of Toba may have prompted the arrival of the first wave of human habitation. The sea level would have been lower and this would have helped them cross the water to Australia. While the exact timing of Australia’s first inhabitants is not known, they are fairly certain that some sort of sea travel would have been necessary, meaning the Aborigines were likely among the planet’s first mariners.

The oldest known human remains found in Australia were in New South Wales at the dry Lake Mungo and the oldest art dating back thirty thousand years can be found throughout the nation. Aboriginal population remained low due in part to the fact that they never developed agriculture. The lack of seed bearing plants and animals that could be domesticated likely contributed to this. The Aboriginal practice of burning dry rain forest and converting it to savanna to attract animals contributed to the decimation of native forests. The introduction of the dingo some three or four thousand years ago also aided in the extinction of some native species.

With the ice age glaciation coming to an end, the sea levels rose and this likely kept southeast Asian cultures from making the journey to Australia. This didn’t stop the Europeans. Willem Janszoon, a Dutch mariner, is believed to be the first to land in Australia in 1606 near the town of Weipa, Queensland. The Dutch, and soon other nations, would continue to explore the island which would be named New Holland. In 1770, James Cook claimed the eastern coast for Britain and touted Botany Bay (Sydney) as a primary location for settlement. The Aborigines were not consulted on this but the first governor, Arthur Phillip, was instructed to sow a friendly relationship with the locals.

While there would be cooperation and conflict with the native population, its greatest threat was disease. When the Europeans first arrived, there were about three hundred and fifty thousand Aborigines. Smallpox showed up in Sydney with the Europeans in 1789 and spread throughout the country, reducing the Aborigine population between forty and sixty percent in the decades that followed.

After having lost most of their North American colonies, Great Britain looked to Australia as a target for settlement as well as a location for displaced American loyalists who could get land as compensation for their loses in North America. As well, an emerging movement to improve the conditions in British prisons led in part to the inclusion of prisoners among the settlers. In 1788, a fleet of eleven ships carrying over a thousand settlers that included 778 prisoners, their guards and sailors pulled into Sydney harbour. On 26 January 1788, a settlement was founded in Sydney Cove. This day is celebrated as Australia Day.

The settlement struggled at first but managed as more fleets arrived with more prisoners and finally free settlers. Planting flax failed but in 1797, merino sheep were introduced to Australia and the demand for wool in England led to a prosperous industry with the sheep population expanding from a hundred thousand in 1820 to over thirteen million by 1850 when half the wool imported by England came from Australia.

Settlements would spread throughout the island with Brisbane founded in 1825, Perth in 1829 and Melbourne in 1834 which was founded by John Batman (I kid you not). Poverty in the UK led to a population explosion and by 1851 there were four hundred and thirty thousand inhabitants. The gold rush in Victoria would more than double the population in the following decade.

At the end of the 19th Century, the states agreed to form a Federation and on January 1st, 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed with the capital in Canberra.

Australia’s contribution to the First World War is well known with action in Gallipoli and the Western Front. More than sixty thousands Australians didn’t return. In the Second World War, Australia sent troops to North Africa but the Japanese threat forced them to concentrate of defending the home front. Sixteen thousand Australian troops were captured in Singapore in 1942 and Darwin was the target of Japanese air raids in 1942 and 1943. A Japanese midget submarine entered Sydney harbour in May 1942 and sank the HMAS Kuttabul with the loss of twenty-one lives. For much of the latter part of the war, Australians fought with MacArthur. Thirty-seven thousand Australians lost their lives in the war.

Following the war, Australia saw a massive influx of immigrants from the UK and later from Asia. Australia also worked to weaken its ties to Britain. In 1949, the National Citizens Act meant all Australians were citizens of Australia and not citizens of the UK. In 1982, appeals to British courts ceased and the High Court of Australia became the highest court in the land. In 2000, Sydney held the summer Olympic Games.

Today, Australia has twenty-two million people, five hundred thousand of which are Aboriginal. It is also home to seventy-five million sheep. Only China has more sheep. It has one of the largest mixed economies in the world with the largest segment being the service industry. Other industries include mining, manufacturing, farming, forestry and fishing.

And tourism. 🙂


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