Before, and on the way over, we read books and articles, most of which reminded us that Australia will try to kill you, with crocodiles, the ten most poisonous snakes in the world, box jellyfish, cassowaries (huge birds) to eviscerate you, and the deadliest spider anywhere.
Other than that, it's a pretty dang mellow place. The first day, we visited the Maroubra beach walking from our hotel.
"A beach can be defined as a stretch of sand longer than 20 metres and remaining dry at high tide. Based on this definition, the Coastal Studies Unit at the University of Sydney has counted 10,685 beaches in Australia." A friendly Aussie told me that number may be one reason the country is perhaps TOO mellow at times.
OK, but still, a helicopter went over every five minutes counting sharks, and a sign warned of "blue bottles," which we learned were Portugese Man'o'Wars. I went swimming anyway.
Sydney has a great, easy public transit system, which we used on Sunday to attend church with our beloved Sister missionary. We lost track of time talking with her and her family, and another Sister missionary who was visiting, and caught the train back, then the last bus to Maroubra. We were the only folks on board, and the bus driver asked us where we were headed. "No worries. I'm on the way to the garage. I'll drop you off." And so he did.
The Great Barrier Reef off the north coast of Australia runs for more than 1,600 miles, has over 900 islands, is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and the food was great! We lived aboard a live-aboard dive boat for three very fun days.
We did ten dives, including a couple at night.
I thought giant clams were the stuff of cartoons. Nope! We saw a number of those suckers, which are actually quite beautiful, and measured several feet across.
On one night dive, up to four sharks at a time were sliding around us, looking for fish caught in our lights.
OK, did I mention that the food was great? By the end, I had to put an extra weight on my belt to hold me down from the effects of too many great meals.
At the moment, we're in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains , a couple of hours to the west of Sydney. It's a popular area for vacationing in the austral summer, with pretty little tourist towns and beautiful vistas,
as well as cooler temperatures.
A particular hike in a deep canyon was perhaps the most beautiful we had ever taken, with giant ferns, meticulous paths, amazing cliffs and almost no one around.
When we arrived at the Leura Ward today, we wondered if perhaps the Church had purchased the building, as its architecture was unusual.
With a grin, the former Bishop said, "No, it was planned by an architect in 1983 who wasn't a member, but he read all he could about the Church, and designed it to be filled with light."
"We think that whoever in Salt Lake saw the photos of the scale model liked it, and approved the design. However, some stuffy guy visited later and got all bothered. We think it's great!" The building has garnered several awards through the years, and the ward loves it.
And so did we, along with the warmth of the folks there.
So far, we've only seen
one two snakes, no spiders, no box jellies or deadly birds. It's been nothing but a great trip, in a country that one could come to love.
Except for Vegemite.
Who in the world thought that was great?! I've got to include it as a hazard of the continent.
We hope that your spreads are at least edible, and that the 'crocs leave you alone.
Dave & Paula