Quote of the Day - In America, only the successful writer is important, in France all writers are important, in England no writer is important, and in Australia you have to explain what a writer is.
Getting to the Great Barrier Reef is half* the story: I left Orange County yesterday and got here the day after tomorrow. Now hold on there a moment and give that last phrase it's due. It's my first time crossing the International Date Line, which runs a straight-with-a-jog line from the North Pole to the South Pole, somewhere far out there in the Pacific Ocean. Just think of the consequences of the juxtaposition of those words.
It's degrees of magnitude that are hard to imagine.
And hard to travel. You leave from California one day and get to Australia two days later - after traveling 11,000 miles over the course of two continents and three countries and in my case, two sunsets and two breakfasts. I don't remember the sunrises, though. Your sleep clock becomes a foreign language. Breakfast, lunch and dinner simply turn into unnamed meals served when you're not hungry, like it or not.
It's equally difficult to call and converse with those back home. The "easy-to-use" formula to figure out the time differential goes something like this: subtract six hours (seven if they're on daylight savings time) from the current time and then convert a.m. to p.m. Or so it's supposed to work. I just gave up and started sending emails because every one was asleep when I called in the middle of my day.
But once you're here, it's more than worth it. The people speak the same language that, thanks to Crocodile Dundee and his several movies, I somewhat understand, mate. The food is for the most part the same as back home, with the added attractions of innumerable variations on lamb, kangaroo meat, and for the uninitiated, Vegemite, the national food, er, I mean, pastime. Sort of.
Vegemite is a black, tar-like, supposedly vegetable-based concoction they call a "yeast extract cracker spread" that I think was actually dreamed up by Exxon to sell more oil. And salt. The stuff never goes bad, but one Australian native gave away its real purpose: the Australian Army uses it for a torture device: as in, "Tell me everything, or I'll make you eat Vegemite." The black goop has the consistency of almost-dried glue and worse yet, sticks to just about everything it touches. Trust me on this one, though, even glue tastes better.
Aside from Vegemite and the occasional oddity like fighting kangaroos and comprehending a land mass the same geographic size as the US with the population of Los Angeles, Australia is a wonderfully warm and welcoming country, and the Fall season temps on land and underwater are quite moderate and comfortable. Even when things get all higgledy-piggledy (which I'll explain tomorrow) Australians remain unflappable and friendly in just about every regard.
* MIPTC has been out of electronic reach of the Internet for the last week, on a dive boat in the Coral Sea, South of Papua New Guinea and North of Australia. Here's the catch-up of what's been going on, with several more travel posts to follow.