Dan and Justy Down Under


February 11, 2005

Dan or Justy

I'm standing in tall grass on a hill out of a Midnight Oil video. Grasshoppers the size of bottle openers are battering me from all sides. When they aren't blocking my vision, I see the red hills and dirt of the Australian outback. Turning in a 360, I see a large mine and hear the siren announcing yet another dynamite blast. Lone trees dot the immediate foreground. Gravestones too. From monumental and ornate to modest and weed overgrown. Children, pioneers and nuns. Someone in the past picked a high hill to bury the dead. From here their ghosts can survey the town they called home, Ravenswood, and how it has persevered.

We stayed in the Imperial Hotel. Not the other one. Thursday is their big night, so the party lasted until very late: miners work and party hard. The hotel is essentially unchanged from its roots 130 years ago. Some modern amenities like a/c and toilets have been added, of course, but the beds could be original for all their quirkiness.

Justy and I have been to a real ghost town before. Ruby, AZ is an entire town that was abandoned. No one lives there anymore, save the caretaker (it is private property). Ravenswood is not a ghost town, but has elements preserved of its past. Like most of these towns, there was an interregnum between the gold rush and the present mining. How a place this small survived is likely an interesting story.

We spent the day wandering around taking pictures and drinking large amounts of water. The rain and wind of the previous days had gone into remission. The humidity was much reduced, however, and the heat was bearable, if intense. The town is a patchwork of empty lots and old houses. The former dominate at 3/4 of the total. Add to this the numerous smokestacks growing like the king of a field of weeds and the barely seen brick structures lost to the weeds and you get a sense of a patient mother nature sure in her eventual victory.

Another welcome change was the bug life. There is no shortage of bugs in Australia, but the population here is less swarmlike. I'll take grasshoppers in quantity anyday over sandflies or mosquitos. Even Justy seems a bit relieved about the change.

No long-term hope lives, tho. We're back to the coast and a dive on the SS Yongala: a world heritage site and one of the top 10 dives in the world. We'll be embarking from Ayr, just south of Townsville, and thus have only a 40 min run out to the wreck (vs 2.5 hours from T-ville).

We stopped just outside of Ayr to shoot the sunset and share some bubbly. Along into the rest stop comes a bedraggled Japanese man on a touring bicycle. He is working on his second set of skin and the only reason he looks happy is that we've offered him some bubbly. His name is Joe, or something like that. He is bicycling from Cairns to Sydney over 4 months. It takes over 40 hours to drive from Cairns to Sydney. It is the height of summer w/in 20 degrees of the equator. This man is insane. We left him setting up a tent next to the highway.

I can say unequivocally, however, that we enjoyed the a/c in our van and later at the hotel much more. We know our place in the food chain.

Once in a while even your own discomforts are far better than anything.

Last night, we shared champagne over the sunset with a fellow traveler. We passed him on the road, and then he joined us by pulling into the rest area. He is a japanese guy doing Australia by bicycle! Not only is this the height of the summer here, but its the wet season! You could see he was going through a 3rd set of skin already, and he started his journey a mere 4 days ago.

That is definitly the harder way of traveling through this hot country.

Our evening spent in a motel in Ayr, we are ready to make arrangements to dive the Yongala shipwreck tomorrow. For now, its television and airconditioning therapy for us!

Itinerary Highlights
January 20: Winery Tour
21-23: Moreton Bay Diving
25: Australia Zoo
26-30: Lady Elliot Island
February 13: Diving the Yongala
15-17: Cape Tribulation + Daintree Rain Forest
17-20: Atherton Tablelands
22-28: Coral Sea Diving Liveaboard
March 11-13: OzTek Dive Conference: Sydney
14: Fly to New Zealand
20: Poor Knights Islands Diving
31: Mt. Cook
April 2-4: Queenstown
TBD: To Be Dreamed

Digital Pix Courtesy of Shimmivision.com
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