Could We Really Guide Bird People?

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Saturday, November 3, 2012


Matko is a hydrogeologist who's working hard to ensure that Australia remains one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Majka, a teacher by profession, manages a before and after school care program. They're our Slovak cousins, who spent the better part of 2011 staying with us in Toronto. Had it not been for them we would have never come to Australia.

A drab, boring flat land, poisonous snakes, tasteless food and sharks that swim right up to shore and bite swimmers in half. Couple that with a huge land mass filled with unfriendly inhabitants – we'd seen first-hand how Australia's neighbours, the New Zealanders felt about foreigners – and no thank you. Australia was not on our “bucket list.”

We were a couple of stupidos who proved to ourselves how a tiny bit of knowledge, coupled with a heap of prejudice can be ever so misleading. The first hint came when we arrived in Melbourne and had to take a tram to Michelle and Pierre's. A young woman tried to help us buy our tickets from a malfunctioning ticket machine on the tram. Then another woman came up offering assistance, followed by a third. When that was all sorted out a gentleman asked Elenka which province we were from. Confused by the odd word choice, she said we were from Canada. The man smiled and said, “Yes, but from which province?” And remarkably, on three separate occasions, we've been asked this same “province” question.

The first meal we had in Australia was at a food court in Sydney. It was Japanese and it was good. In fact, we haven't had a bad meal since we arrived. And the tastiness extends beyond restaurants. Matko told us that one of his fondest memories of coming to Canada was his first barbecued salmon dinner in our backyard. At evening's end I said almost the exact same words to him about his Tasmanian salmon meal.

Our preconceived notion that the Australian landscape was boring came to an abrupt halt when Michelle and Pierre took us to the Black Spur forest just outside of Melbourne. And then when Majka and Matko took us to Jurien Bay some 300 kilometres north of Perth we were almost knocked on our arses by the Africa-like vegetation and pristine, uninhabited, calm beaches. The sand dunes, like distant snowy mountains as we approached them were absolutely spectacular. In my mind, on the pretty side, Australia rivals Hawaii and Morocco. And we haven't even gone near the Great Barrier Reef.

If you're not into nature, which oddly enough I usually am not, you could be more than content just doing the cities. Sydney is grand, Melbourne is artsy. And far off Perth with its old and new architecture has a fabulous pedestrian mall and an abundance of parkland. They're all livable, walkable locales that, in their own way, rival the cities of Europe. Sadly, they're all that my Toronto is not.

The other night Elenka and I did a walkabout along the Swan River, just down the street from where Matko and Majka live. I presented Elenka with a plan. We could move to Australia and give nature tours to wealthy North Americans. First we'd need is a book with pictures of the birds. We'd memorize their names and be ready to go. Then we'd set up a table and chairs in our backyard and do tours right on-site. When we had shown off 50 or more of our birds we'd drive our clients down to a park towards the sea. There, with our collapsible chairs we'd show our customers kangaroos – yes, we did find them – koalas and lizards. After a short stroll to a wharf we'd present the dolphins and perhaps a whale or two. Bob's your uncle!

Tomorrow we leave Majka and Matko to their paradise. I've set aside a bucket and a box of Kleenex for Elenka. It won't so much be leaving this Great Down-Under that will start the tears flowing, as the separation from the kids. And when Elenka starts crying my eyes will get watery too.

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David on

Great write-up and terrific photos!

Dianne on

Enjoying the pictures !

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