On the subject of Burke and Wills, one of my most memorable trips to Australia was in a small plane put together and piloted by a friend who shares a similar interest in those explorers and offered to take me out to where they perished and other places he thought would be of interest to me. At first I thought it was just a hopeful conversation egged on by shared bourbons, but within a few months he sent me the itinerary for my next time over. We would fly into where Burke and Wills died.
First stop, The Dig Tree, then further inland where a driver would meet us and take us out to the exact sites where they died and we could read their last letters home aloud.
At each stop we tied down the plane and walked to where there would be a ride to what we came to see. Innaminka, Birdsville, White Cliffs, and more, finishing up in Broken Hill at a somewhat seedy hotel with one bathroom on each floor for our final night out. When we returned from dinner, they were waiting for the “American” one of us to read a favorite American poem aloud to the gathering of Poets in Pubs Night which just happened to be meeting there that month. A Toohey’s Old among Australian poets in a dingy hotel/pub….excellent!
There is a kindness that Australians readily offer to a lone traveler in their country. In Townsville on my wedding anniversary a young bartender bought me a nice dark porter on tap at his brewery and showed me to a very private location in which to write, sketch and have the most delicious barramundi. Another similar experience happened in a small pub after teaching and touring wineries. I waited for all on the bus to unload and follow each other to the left. Then I went right, around the corner and into a hotel bar where I met a young man anxious to relive his experiences in the states over a couple of beers he shouted for the only woman in the bar at that hour. Lovely.
A coffee shop owner opened early and treated me to a latte after watching me skype my husband from a computer perched on the lid of a garbage can out front in Katoomba. A lovely older woman of means advised me in the lounge car of a train that perhaps I should not drink my dark beer from the bottle but have it put in a glass first. A cab driver who told me all anyone would ever want to know about dingoes. A student in Gympie who told me at the close of the workshop that I had done a good enough job to learn her secret of keeping a spikey hairdo…….leave the soap lather in all day.
Kind, informative and patient people in Australia, all anxious to be of help and tell you something you didn’t know. None more so than those who volunteer to look after us during our rushed schedules of teaching, traveling, teaching again and taking a break. They offer beds, refreshments and travel….and all with such obvious enjoyment.
Thank you to them and to their country. I have my journals, my notes, my sketches and memories of some of the very best times of my life…..all ready for me when I want to visit again and again. I am looking forward to next March. It will be my twelfth time there. Some places in Australia I will never see but what I have will stay with me forever.