By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #41
Our longest flight ever...22 hours from Cologne (Koln), Germany to Canberra, Australia. We flew eastward across Europe, over Istanbul, the Arabian Peninsula, Muscat, a stretch of India, and on into Sri Lanka for refueling. We were disembarked for about an hour and a half and were able to roam the airport to stretch and to refresh. We reboarded and continued our journey over the Indian Ocean, then over the Australian Continent to it's capital, Canberra.
Australia is a very large island continent. It is made up of 6 states and 2 territories and in terms of area is the world's 6th largest country. It is about the same size as the 48 U.S. mainland states, with a population of only 19 million people. Most live in just a few coastal cities.
The native Australians are called Aborigines. The Aboriginal culture goes back at least 5,000 years, although the first humans may have been in Australia over 60,000 years ago. European settlements took hold as a result of Captain Cook's expeditions in the late 1700's. Australia (Botany Bay) became a penal colony following the American Revolution when Britain was no longer able to transport convicts to North America.
As with Native peoples in North America, the Aboriginal population was devastated by European settlers. The Aborigines were driven from their homes by force, killed outright by superior weapons, and they succumbed to a vast spectrum of "European" diseases.
Mining is the most important industry (e.g., coal, silver, gold, copper, uranium, & gem stones such as diamonds and opals, etc.). Agriculture is also important (e.g., wheat, sheep, cattle, sugar cane, and bananas). There are also natural gas fields in northwest Australia (above Perth) which account for a substantial amount of the nation's export business.
Australia is rich with variety both on land and in the sea. But to us the most interesting are the marsupials, of which there are over 120 species. Marsupials carry their babies in pouches. Kangaroos are the most well known but there are also Wallabies, Koalas, Wombats and Possums. We have come to adore the Kangaroos and the Koalas. Koalas feed off Eucalyptus leaves, which we are told contain a narcotic...so we presume Koalas are "high" most of the time.
IMMIGRATION is always a touchy issue. Once upon a time the nation maintained a "White Australia" policy. Officially this racism has been eliminated, but it remains a controversial issue. LAND RIGHTS to indigenous people (Aborigines) continues to be an important issue. In agriculture, GENETIC ENGINEERING is causing a good deal of concern.
[Off Route...To Melbourne]
From Canberra the main body of riders began inching their way north toward the Sydney area, while the two of us made our way south to the Melbourne area in order to spend some quality time with our first cousins Mike and Marice and also to visit some other friends.
Our cousins live in a modern, modified ranch house with uncommonly large window areas on an acre of exquisitely landscaped grounds in Ballarat, a suburb in rural Western Victoria about an hour or so from Melbourne. It is a beautiful home with some of the furniture built by Mike, a manual arts instructor. Both Mike and Marice designed the outside, Mike putting up retaining walls and fencing, while Marice is responsible for the landscape architecture and for the beautiful plantings. The newest member of the household is Maggie, an adorable Border Collie, who was fourteen weeks old and had only been a family member for one week at the time of our visit.
Mike went off to Australia many years ago at the invitation of the Australian Government to fill a teaching position. There he met Marice, an Australian citizen. They married and made their permanent home in the Melbourne area.
Continued on Update #43
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