G'day, mate. Greetings from Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia.
After 110 other countries, I am finally in Australia. Having grown up in sort-of-nearby Singapore, Australia is a place many people go to regularly for holidays or education. We hear about Australia all the time and for me, it has lost a sense of exoticness. It's a place I'd always knew I could visit any time and have never had any great urge to go. Well, it's really getting embarrassing, especially with my Aussie friends, and here I am, to tick off a big chunk of the world map!
Close to a week ago, I flew into Alice Springs, the town in the middle of the Australian continent - which with its 25,000 inhabitants, is the largest settlement within a radius of more than 1000 km. I spent 5 days in this desert region, visiting Ayers Rock, the Olgas and the King's Canyon.
This is an amazing country with spectacular landscapes and colours, few people, and wide open spaces. Ecologically, Australia is also a most unusual land, with the most vicious creatures unseen anywhere - including 10 of the 15 most poisionous snakes and the world's most deadly jellyfish. And where else are wandering kangaroos a major threat to cars speeding on the highways? Or where a prime minister goes missing after an early morning swim?
Here I am in the northern suburbs of Sydney, a metropolis of 5 million and yet perhaps the most laidback city of its size anywhere in the world. Bare-chest winter joggers on the beaches of Manly, tourists on the roadside cafes, the beautiful Sydney Harbour. No wonder people say Australia is Lucky Country. Indeed, a lifestyle place.
I will see a bit more of Sydney, then off to Melbourne, where I will join my old friend Gordon, on a drive-around on the Great Ocean Road.
OK, wish me luck and more from me later.
Manly, Sydney, Australia