02/29/2012, Kings Cross, Sydney, AU
I have mentioned previously that I had booked our stay in Sydney at an apartment hotel in the Kings Cross district of Sydney. We were later informed by our Sydney friends, Steve and Wendy, that we are staying in the heart of Sydney's red light district. I now know why our booking rate was charged by the hour!!!!! (A little Dave Leu joke there!)
We arrived in Kings Cross very early this morning due to our train being over 3 hours late. By the time we reached our hotel, it was almost 0100. For us, that is the dead of night. However, for Kings Cross, things are just heating up. The crowds were made up of mostly young, hip looking people, out for a good time.
Late this morning, Mary Margaret and I went out to check the place out a bit and to buy some basics that will supplement our eating out. It was raining and, unfortunately, it looks like it will be raining everyday that we will be in Sydney. However, we are sailors and from our point of view, the rain is a fresh water treat.
We had a great time strolling through the area, people watching, popping in and out of the various shops and small eateries that line the streets. I started writing up our experience but came across a write up that describes Kings Cross much better than I can. Thus, I have just copied it and will pass it along to you below:
"You can't go past the enigmatic Kings Cross for a big night out in Sydney 'The Cross' - Australia's best known entertainment district - never sleeps, working around the clock to live up to its long heritage as a colourful, energetic and sometimes madcap hub of pubs, clubs, bars, dance venues, theatre, cabaret and adult entertainment, complimented by a smorgasbord of some of Sydney's best known restaurants and cafes.
While it's easy to stay up late at The Cross, it's much harder choosing where to do it. If you plan to visit every cocktail bar in the district, you could be in for a long night indeed. Peppermint Lounge, Soho, The Tasting Room, Lotus, Hugo's and Sapphire Suite will all tempt you with delectable drinks, cool grooves and some of the city's style queens and princes.
There are also Kings Cross institutions like 'The Bourbon', an infamous 24-hour bar and eatery inhabited by Kings Cross locals, shiftworkers enjoying a post-work drink, and the occasional lost famous person on a big night out! For a more casual evening, get to the Woolloomooloo Hotel. It offers a classic pub menu of cold beer, easy-going atmosphere, and good-value pub food. Also in Woolloomooloo is The Old Fiztroy - a friendly local pub where you can enjoy comedy or theatre, a few beers, and a relaxed meal. Or melt into the deep lounges at Water Bar.
For an Arts twist to the night, visit any of the three theatres in Kings Cross. The Darlinghurst Theatre Company provides a theatrically diverse and appealing program. The Old Fitzroy Theatre - affectionately known as the Old Fitz - keeps audiences returning with its great theatre, relaxed atmosphere and the comfortable couch room where you can meet the performers. And there is also the Stables Theatre with performances by the Griffin Theatre Company. Cate Blanchett and Jacqueline McKenzie began their professional careers at Griffin, and the hit films Lantana and The Boys and the film/TV series Heartbreak High began life as plays produced by Griffin. A night out in Kings Cross is only limited by your imagination."
Tomorrow we will be taking public transportation over to Circular Quay. There are a number of things to see there including the Chinese Gardens, a museum or two and the Aquarium to mention a few.
02/28/2012, Kings Cross, Sydney, AU
Today (actually, it was yesterday since I am writing this on the 29th), we got up at 0500 and went to the train station. We arrived a bit before 0600 so we could check our baggage before the bag check office closed at 0600. The train was supposed to leave for Sydney at 0630 but, instead was delayed due to a power line failure. It was being held up in South Brisbane, just a couple of miles of away. It sat there, loaded with passengers from Sydney, for over 2.5 hours. By the time it arrived at our station and then headed back to Sydney (with us onboard) it was 0915.
All during the passage the rail attendants kept telling us that we would be making some of this time up since we would not be stopping at a number of stations where no one was getting on or off. However, as the long day transpired, we kept slipping further and further behind schedule and ended up arriving in Sydney past midnight, about 3 hours late.
This made the train ride about 18 hours long instead of the 15 hours we were expecting. The passengers took all of this in stride and we had a chance to meet, talk and get to know some of them. Mary Margaret was the "social butterfly" this time as she enjoyed the new friends she made. The rail crew was very apologetic and ended up providing all of us with a free hot dinner and cold drink.
Once we arrived at Sydney's Central Station it was but a short taxi ride to our hotel. As it turns out, the hotel I booked us into is located in the heart of the "red light" district of Sydney. Now I know why it was one of the few hotels that had rooms left when I booked during the peak of the tourist season!
However, as we drove around looking for our hotel, we actually liked what we saw of the area. It looks a little bit like Times Square in New York City with a big videotron, lots of lights, lots of stores, restaurants and bars still going strong, lots of people and lots of life.
Tomorrow, we are going to spend the day resting from our long trip and then on Thursday, start our exploration of Sydney.
Below, I finish with my brief overview of the history of Australia.
Recent History & Australia Today.
Australia has a two-tier parliamentary system of government base. There are three levels of government: federal, state and local. Federal parliament consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The party holding the greatest number of seats in the House of Representatives forms the government. For more information the website at www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-government
In the last half-century the less-acknowledged layers of Australian culture and history have begun to achieve wider recognition, in particular through art, literature and cinema; as a result, the iconic Aussie 'battler' has become less relevant. Migrants have brought their own stories, cultures and myths to combine with those of the colonial Australians. There's also a long-overdue acknowledgement that Australian Aborigines are fundamental to a true definition of the country's culture today.
The 'Great Australian Dream' of owning a house, which began in the prosperous 1950s, is ongoing and has resulted in massive suburbanization in Australian towns and cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
The economy's current good health is evidenced by a relatively high Australian dollar, increased trade with China and some record-breaking profits for local businesses. This has been accompanied by low inflation and unemployment figures. On the downside, though, the country's trade deficit has increased to $20 billion, average household debt is soaring and the price of real estate in many urban centers is significantly increasing.
02/27/2012, Brisbane, AU
This morning we went to the train station in Bundaberg to start our Australian adventure. It actually started yesterday when we received a text message that our train trip was being changed due to the heavy rains we were having. A rail bridge just south of the village of North Gympie was washed out. To address this minor issue, we would be off-loaded at North Gympie and transferred onto a bus and transported the rest of the way to Brisbane via the bus.
Actually, it ended up being not a big deal but it delayed us getting into Brisbane by a couple of hours.
Tomorrow, we get up in the wee hours of the morning to catch the 15 hour train ride to Sydney. In the meantime, below is more on the history of Australia.
The Colonization of Australia: 20th Century.
Australia became a nation when the federation of its separate colonies took place on 1 January 1901. The first federal Parliament was opened at Melbourne in May 1901 by the Duke of York (later King George V). In May 1927, the seat of government was transferred to Canberra, a planned city designed by an American, Walter Burley Griffin. The first session of Parliament in that city was opened by another Duke of York (later King George VI). Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October 9, 1942, which officially established Australia's complete autonomy in both internal and external affairs. Its passage formalized a situation that had existed for years. The Australia Act (1986) eliminated the last vestiges of British legal authority.
Australian troops fought alongside the British in the Boer War and WWI. The country was hard hit by the Depression when prices for wool and wheat - two main products of the economy - plunged. In 1931 almost a third of wage earners were unemployed and poverty was widespread. By 1933, however, Australia's economy was starting to recover. When WWII broke out, Australian troops fought alongside the British in Europe, but ultimately it was the USA that helped protect Australia from the advancing Japanese air force, defeating them in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Post WWII immigration renewed the 19th century flood of European immigrants. The post-war era was a boom time in Australia as its raw materials were in great demand. Australia followed the USA into the Korean War and in 1965 committed troops to assist the USA in the Vietnam War, though support for involvement was far from absolute. Troubling for many young Australian men was the fact that conscription (compulsory military service) was introduced in 1964.
The civil unrest caused by conscription was one factor that contributed to the 1972 rise to power of the Australian Labor Party, under the leadership of Gough Whitlam. The Whitlam government withdrew Australian troops from Vietnam, abolished national service and higher-education fees, instituted a system of free and universally available health care, and supported land rights for Aboriginal people.
The government, however, was restricted by a hostile Senate and much talk of mismanagement. On 11 November 1975, the governor general (the British monarch's representative in Australia) took the unprecedented step of dismissing the parliament and installing a caretaker government led by the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser. A conservative Liberal and National Country Party coalition won the following election. A Labor government was not returned until 1983, when a former trade union leader, Bob Hawke, led the party to victory.
02/26/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina, AU
Today the skies opened up and it rained, rained, and then rained some more. A few times the rains were exceedingly heavy and visibility was only a few feet. We could not see the bows of Leu Cat from our salon windows. Furthermore, once a cell passed by, another would appear in the near distance, ready to pounce. We were assaulted throughout the day by wave upon wave of periods of rain. Thus, work on the remaining boat projects was delayed. However, MM still cleaned inside Leu Cat to make her shine while we were gone. We will have to finish putting the battens into the mainsail when we return from our trip exploring Australia since we leave tomorrow.
Fortunately, as evening approached, the skies cleared a bit and we were joined by Cheryl and John of Sea Mist for dinner. I had rented the local junk-mobile this afternoon so that John could drive us into town tomorrow and drop us off at the train station in the morning. Armed with the reins of "The Beast", we drove over the Baraga, a little seaside town just to the south of us. They have one of the few "upscale" restaurants in our area and we wanted to have a nice dinner for our last meal before we leave for our adventure.
A good time was had by all and, even though I brought the camera, I forget to take a picture for this blog. Thus, you will just have to use your imagination to picture the four of us, with piles of food and drink in front of us, all with big smiles on our faces...
I will continue with my brief oversight of the history of Australia, picking up with the second half of the 18th century.
The Colonization of Australia: 1860 to 1900.
As the settlements started dotting the seaward edges of the continent more and more interest was being developed for the exploration of the interior. In August 1860, 18 men led by Robert Burke (1821-1861) and William Wills (1834-1861) set out on an attempt to cross Australia from Melbourne in the south to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, a distance of around 2,000 miles. They had 23 horses and 25 camels with them. They reached Menindee on 12 October having taken two months to travel just 470 miles from Melbourne. The regular mail coach did the journey in little more than a week. By now two of the expedition's five officers had resigned, thirteen members of the expedition had been fired and eight new men had been hired.
The year before, a governmental reward had been offered to the first person to cross the continent from the south to the north. The renowned explorer John McDouall Stuart had taken up the challenge and Burke was concerned Stuart might beat him to the north coast. At Menindee he soon grew impatient with their slow progress and he decided to split the expedition. An advance party would go to Cooper's Creek. The rest of the expedition would follow. Burke reached Cooper's Creek on 11 November 1860. However, in his hurry to reach the coast, he decided to continue without waiting for the rest of the expedition to arrive with the rest of the supplies. He took 3 men with him, William Wills, Charles Gray and John King. They had 1 horse and 6 camels. A man named William Brahe was left in charge of the supplies at Cooper's Creek.
On 9 February 1861 Burke, Wills, Gray and King reached a salty creek and realized they were near the sea. However, due to the extensive swampland they were facing, they were unable to reach the ocean although they were just a few kilometers away! Frustrated, they turned back. As they made their long journey back south, they were forced to eat the horse and some of the camels. To extend their food supply, they ate portulaca (- just a note to say that that the common name is Moss Rose and we used to grow it when we lived in Delaware -), Gray also caught an 11 lb Python, which they ate. Both Burke and Gray immediately came down with dysentery. Gray was ill, but Burke thought he was "gammoning" (pretending). On 25 March on the Burke River (just south of what is now the town of Boulia), Gray was caught stealing skilligolee (a type of watery porridge) and Burke beat him. By 8 April Gray could not walk; he died on 17 April of dysentery at a place they called Polygonum Swamp.
Meanwhile William Brahe waited at Coopers Creek until 21 April. At that time, he decided to leave and, as it turns out, he ended up leaving only hours before Burke, Wills and King returned. Depleted of supplies and with no food left, Burke and Wills both shortly died of starvation. Only King survived as he was rescued by Indigenous Australians. An outstanding web site dedicated to this tragic expedition can be found at: http://www.burkeandwills.net.au/index.php
In the late 19th century Northern Australia finally began to grow. Darwin was founded in 1869. In 1872 an overland telegraph was made from Darwin (north coast of Australia) to Adelaide (south coast of Australia). Cattle became very important to the northern economy and because of the hot climate sugar plantations were also established.
There was also a railway boom in Australia in the late 19th century. Although the first railways in Australia were built in the early 1850s there was still only about 1,600 miles of railway in 1875. By 1891 there was over 10,000 miles of railway. Unfortunately, each territory adopted a different gauge for the rails used within its boundaries. The benefits of a uniform gauge were not immediately apparent to the Aussies, as passengers would have to pass through customs and immigration at the border of each territory, meaning that all goods would have to be removed for customs inspection. It was only with federation, and free trade between the states, that the impediment of different gauges became apparent. This remained a problem with transportation and movement of goods between the territories up until just a few years ago when the last differences in gauges between connecting rail lines was completed.
In the second half of the 19th century, communications also improved with the invention of the telephone. The first telephone call in Australia was made in Melbourne in 1878. Telephone exchanges opened in Melbourne and Brisbane (1880), Sydney (1881), Adelaide, Hobart and Launceston (1883) and Perth (1887).
A second major gold rush occurred when gold was found in Western Australia in 1882. Another find in 1892 led to third gold rush. However this time the gold was exploited by large companies rather than by lone prospectors. The population of Western Australia boomed as a result of these gold rushes.
However in the 1890s Australia suffered a recession, which was compounded by drought in the late 1890s. Not surprisingly immigration fell dramatically during the decade.
By the end of the 19th century, many tended to idealize 'the bush' (that is, anywhere away from the civilization) and its people. The great forum for this 'bush nationalism' was the hugely popular Bulletin magazine. Its pages were filled with humor and sentiment about daily life and its most notable writers were bush legends Henry Lawson and 'Banjo' Paterson.
Henry Lawson was an alcoholic and a frequent beggar on the streets of Sydney, notably at the Circular Quay ferry turnstiles. However he was probably Australia's best-known writer/celebrity. At one time he was jailed at Darlinghurst Gaol for drunkenness and nonpayment of alimony, and recorded his experience in the haunting poem "One Hundred and Three" - his prison number- which was published in 1908. He refers to the prison as "Starvinghurst Gaol" because of the meager rations given to the inmates.
'Banjo' Paterson was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Waltzing Matilda", "The Man from Snowy River" and "Clancy of the Overflow".
By the turn of the century, the population of Australia was 3,370,000. The largest city was Melbourne with a population of about 420,000. Second was Sydney with about 360,000. Adelaide had about 115,000 and Brisbane 86,000. Hobart, in Tasmania, was much smaller with just 34,000 people.
02/25/2012, Bundaberg Port Marina, AU
The weather continues to be crappy with overcast skies and periods of rain, varying from intense downpours to light spits of rain. Between the periods of rain, the winds would die down some so Mary Margaret and I would run out and work on reordering the batten cars and replacing one of the lazy jacks. Wrestling the mainsail whenever the winds would come up was a challenge but, with patience, we prevailed.
I will continue with my brief history of Australia.
The Colonization of Australia: 1787 To 1850s
Most Americans don't realize that up until the Revolutionary War and the American Colonies' break from the English Crown Britain was sending over its convicts, mostly to the states of Maryland and Virginia. Life was hard for commoners in 18th century England and punishments for even minor crimes were severe. In England you could be hanged for more than 200 different offences. However, an alternative to hanging or serving long prison sentences was being sent to the American colonies. The British used North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Convicts would be transported by merchants and auctioned off to plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America, representing perhaps one-quarter of all British emigrants during the 18th century.
Once Britain lost its access to its penal colonies in the American Colonies, Joseph Banks (the naturalist on Cook's 1770 voyage to the South Pacific and Australia) in 1779 suggested that Britain could solve its growing overcrowding prison problems by transporting convicts to New South Wales. In 1787, the First Fleet set sail for Botany Bay, comprising 11 ships and 750 male and female convicts. It arrived on 26 January 1788, but soon moved north to Sydney Cove, where there was better land and water. For the new arrivals, New South Wales was a hot, harsh and horrible place, and the threat of starvation hung over the colony for many years. To cope with their struggle against nature and an oppressive government, these new Australians forged a culture that became the basis of the legend of the 'Aussie battler'. January 26 is now celebrated as Australia Day.
At first convicts worked on government land for provisions but starting in 1793 those who behaved well were freed and given grants of land. Also the first free settlers arrived in 1793. Although the initial hopes of growing flax in Australia came to nothing, whales were successfully hunted in the Pacific and seals were hunted in the Bass Strait.
Relatively few new people were sent to Australia during the long wars with France from 1793 to 1815 because the war at sea made that difficult. Nevertheless the Australian colony continued to grow. However, all did not go smoothly in Australia at the beginning of the 19th century. In March 1804 some Irish convicts led by Philip Cunningham took part in a rebellion at Castle Hill. On 4 March they captured a convict station at Parramatta. The next day they fought a 'battle' with government soldiers. As a result the rebellion quickly collapsed and the ringleaders were hanged.
A second rebellion, called the rum rebellion, occurred in 1808. William Bligh, famous captain of the Bounty, was made governor in 1806. At that time rum was used as currency in Australia. Bligh forbade this. However on 26 January 1808 a group of soldiers led by Major George Johnston arrested Bligh. He was held prisoner for over a year until he finally agreed to leave Australia. However, soon after he set sail Bligh decided to return. In 1809 the British government decided to replace Bligh and in 1810 he was succeeded by Colonel Macquarie.
From the early part of the 1800's to mid century, the eastern, southern and western seaward edges of the continent were explored and settlements were established. Brisbane was founded in 1825. Western Australia and the City of Perth were founded in 1829. Berrima was founded in 1829. Bathurst and Goulburn followed it in 1833. In 1834 John Batman decided the site of Melbourne was a good place to found a settlement. In 1835 he made a treaty with the Indigenous Australians in which he gave them trade goods for land. However the treaty was not recognized by the British government, which disregarded it. Nevertheless the city of Melbourne was laid out on the land in a grid pattern.
In 1836 another colony was founded at Port Adelaide, which grew into South Australia. The city of Adelaide was planned by Colonel William Light (1786-1839) the first Surveyor General of Australia.
Transportation on convicts to New South Wales ended in 1840. Transportation of convicts other locations in Australia ended completely in 1868. Meanwhile the system of granting land to people ended in 1831. From then on land in Australia was sold.
In the 1850s gold was discovered in a number locations and this discovery is what permanently changed the colony. The huge influx of migrants from across the globe and several large gold finds boosted the economy. Between 1851 and 1861 the population of Australia rose from 430,000 to 1.2 million. In 1861 Melbourne was the largest city with a population of about 125,000. Sydney had about 100,000 people.
During this rapid period of growth and a lust for gold, the 1854 Eureka Rebellion occurred. The government had introduced licenses for gold miners. This was much resented especially when the price was raised and the police carried out 'hunts' to find license dodgers. The miners claimed the authorities were corrupt and unfair. Resentment grew and on 17 October 1854 the Eureka Hotel was burned. Then on 29 November 1854 miners held a meeting under a new flag, the 'Eureka Flag'. They were led by an Irishman named Peter Lalor (1827-1889). The men swore an oath to defend their rights and liberties. They demanded not just an end to the licenses but also political reform. On 2 December 1854 they erected a stockade at Eureka Lead.
During the early morning of 3 December 1854 soldiers and police attacked the stockade. The exact number of people killed is not known but it was estimated to be about 30. Following the 'battle' 120 men were captured and 13 were sent to trial however all were eventually acquitted. Despite the collapse of the rebellion all the demands of the rebels were met. Licenses were abolished. The Eureka Rebellion entered Australian folklore as a fight for liberty. In 1998 a Eureka Stockade Center opened to commemorate the event.