28 October 2009 | Bundaberg, Australia
Picture: Elizabeth about to drive on the left side of the road for the first time. Ah, one of the many new excitements of Australia.
Our approach to Australia was markedly different than that of an island nation in the south pacific. Our first give away that we were approaching a new continent were the numerous tankers cruising up and down the coast (one of which we had to kindly request to alter course). We hadn't seen this many container ships since Panama!
But the real give away that we had finally reached a 1st world nation was the massive, red and white, "Coast Watch" airplane that buzzed our mast a good 200 miles off-shore. They hailed our boat name on VHF 16 to ask the usual questions of how many people were on board and where we had come from, but in typical Aussie behavior the conversation was very relaxed and almost cheerful, with it ending in a heartfelt welcoming to his home country. Talk about service!
Upon arrival we encountered a highly professional and proficient Quarantine, Customs and Immigration system. While everyone told us that Australia would be a nightmare to check into, we found it one of our easiest yet. Although they did rummage through everything looking for guns, drugs and termites (and they did confiscate our homemade pizza and popcorn kernels), they did allow us to keep our now amazing shell collection and were off the boat within 1 hour. And since they all came to us at one time, it was one of the easiest entries into a country yet. If you come to Australia by boat, enter through Bundenburg because we found the team very professional and kind. Elizabeth even chatted it up with the girls for good shopping places, spas, doctors, you name it!
My last show of reaching the modern world was found in the Marina bathroom (of all places). When I went to wash my hands I turned on the faucet and nearly burned my hands from the scorching hot water that came out! It was the first time I had noticed it, but hot water was never something available in a public bathroom in the South Pacific, and if it was available it was going to take a very long time for it to get to the faucet. The encounter made me laugh; we had finally made it to Australia and the modern world.
Well, kind of. They do still drive on the wrong side of the road...