Every wanderer encounters the same puzzling question, how does a traveler overcome time
constraints and the foreigner barrier in order to immerse oneself into a culture. In my
never-ending quest to give those at home a glimpse of a genuine otherness I discovered the
elusive answer, surgery. Yes, surgery, that time honored way to visit a country indepth and not
just skim the surface. Its a delightful little thrill full of ups and downs, well, more down than up
in my case, at least after I passed out much to Richard's alarm.
But, let me both move forward and then back up. I have returned to the boat all stitched up
and loaded with drugs after my undercover mission with Aussie health care. I am fine though
impatient to resume bouncing around.
It all started long, long ago in a far simpler place. Once upon a time in Vanuatu a woman
contracts your basic, really icky food poisoning with all the attendant fun and games. Move
forward to sunny New Caledonia where a very French doctor informs the same woman that the
delicate little bulge is a hernia. Woman asks what to do. The Very French doctor laughs a
Very French laugh, "Hau, hau surgery, but do not get what we call zee bloodee way, very, very
painful, hau, hau, hau...." The Very French doctor then pumps boyfriend for cruising
information since he is quitting his practice and moving onto his Very French boat while
woman weakly waves her hands and wonders if they remember that she is in the room.
Now, New Caledonia is a lovely place but they do not have a laparoscopic (read anti bloodee
method) surgeon. So, woman bounces her way, Very Gently, in a sailboat to Australia so that
a surgeon in Oz may play video games in her stomach.
Luckily Australia is an interesting place with lots of critters to distract a worried potential patient
while she makes her way through the maze of public versus private Aussy health care. In fact,
the morning of the surgery patient and care giver wandered into the bush and saw wallabies,
kangaroos and sulphur -crested cockatoos not one of which chose to reveal the secrets of
non-surgical hernia repair to the victim. sigh
Aussie care is interesting. I arrived to the hospital and waited. Then went into the day surgery
ward and waited more, but, I got to wait in snazzy paper undies that I am sure Victoria's secret
will be snapping up momentarily. I then waited in a hospital bed outside of surgery listening to
Aussie music on the radio. Disco rock did seem to be an odd pre-anesthesia choice, but, I did
spend a lot of time wondering how a music video filmed from the inside out would go over.
Upon awakening I was offered a nice cupa. Now I was high on painkillers and anesthesia so I
was not quite sure what a cupa was nor how it pertained to my current iodine doused situation.
The sister (nurse) took pity on me and revealed the secret Aussie panacea - a cup of tea.
Who knew? Tea cures hernias, broken legs and coconut induced concussions (150 people
die each year in Oz due to falling coconuts, more than sharks, spiders and snakes combined).
The next morning I awoke and promptly passed out in the middle of the bathroom floor. After
making sure I was actually on the bed and not the aforementioned floor. Richard alerted the
hotel to my condition and requested another night. The answer revealed another Aussie
culture secret - sport rules all. You see, the answer was NO and, in fact, there were no hotels
rooms within 1 hours drive of Brisbane. Why? Well apparently a cricket match called the Ashes
was being played out in Brisbane. The Ashes brings together thousands of Aussie sport fans
and further thousands of "whingeing pommie b*st*rds" (the British). Now, it is not just under
their breath that the Aussies disparage the Brits, there is even a radio game called "Beat the
Whinging Pommie B*st*rd" whose rules are as vague to me as those of cricket itself but it does
involve much insulting of Brits and a chance to win Ashes tickets.
So, Ashes -1 Jen the pin cushion - 0. Without further ado Jen was poured into a rental car and
driven into the bush in search of warmth, comfort and a TV with a remote control. We wound
up, appropriately enough, in a town called Gympie (I kid you not) where I watched colorful
parrots and bad TV. Which, I suppose leads relatively uneventfully back to here, the boat, and
tummy stitches which I hope will not interfere with belly-dancing or, at least, be interpreted as
trendy and edge-cutting. I wonder if limping will impinge upon the nightly kangaroo quest?
Fraser Island Fun
Some people move through life with the comfort of a cat. As I wait for the ferry to take me and
the rented 4 wheel drive to Fraser Island I realize that Australians, by and large, are just such
people. Wearing the scantiest of clothing, both men and women, no matter the shape or size
stride about with not a trace of self-consciousness. This, then, is my introduction to the
world's largest sandspit - itty bitty bikinis and dangerously low board shorts.
"World's Largest Sandspit" doesn't seem like an inviting description for a vacation destination.
Fraser Island now with More Sand! and Extra Salt! - more like a chip really.
The "World's Largest Chip" *malt vinegar not included..... Nevertheless off to sand city I go.
Sand spit means difficult driving, so, all who enter must operate a 4 wheel drive vehicle. This
makes for some entertaining situations in which novices slip, slide and dig their way into the
roads. Quite often you'll see a group of Australian cats acting like dogs, digging out the mired
cars wildly flinging sand behind them clearly having learned much from their bone-burying
pets. In fact, we were rescued by two lovely British rugby players after our 4 wheel drive
decided it preferred the simpler life as a 2 wheel drive. Luckily we did not have to resort to
sand flinging, only much pushing, grunting and insulting the parentage and character of our
The first thing you drive through, after being dropped off by the ferry, is a rainforest. The
world's only rainforest on a sand spit in fact. Passing from the shore with its Easi-Bake oven
temperatures and trilling cicadas into the cool, shady, kookaburra filled interior is startling.
One minute toasted the next calmed. It really does happen that fast. You could almost stand
with one foot in scrub-filled heat and the other in deep forest cool. Okay, a palm tree filled
cool, but still.
The rainforest is filled with the sounds of birds. The kookaburra is particularly bizarre. In old
films when they wanted a jungle to sound, well, jungle-like they played recordings of the
crazed kookaburra, never mind the film was supposed to be in Africa. If a kookaburra cries
near you, you are sure a psycho-killer is laughing maniacally at you specifically and you better
high-tail it to the nearest clean, well-lighted place.
In the wide open spaces, the scrub, beach and posh resort parking lots, tan dingoes meander
about trying their best to look pathetic. They say with their sad eyes and expressive brows,
"Psst, buddy, can you spare a chicken leg? Please man, I haven't had a hit for days." Of
course for the one model thin dingo you see, many more lurk beyond your sight in the bush.
They wait for a any opportunity. Yes, dingos do eat babies if they get a chance. (Although I
suspect they prefer a nice sausage or hotdog. So much fewer bones.)
The best relief on a heat shimmery day is to visit one of Fraser Island's fresh water lakes.
These lakes are really giant puddles. The earth beneath them has packed down over the
years into a granite like basin. The basin fills with rainwater and provides a crystal clear dip off
sparkling ivory beaches.
These beaches also offer another kind of bird-watching. As Richard so well put it, "We saw
dingos and cockatoos, boobs, and kookaburra, boobs, eagles, boobs, goannas, and boobs.
Oh did we mention the boobs?" Australian water seems to encourage the growth of particularly
well endowed women of all ages. You haven't lived until you've seen a 70-year old in a
push-up swim bra.
The World's Largest Sandspit - something for everyone.