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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Days 13-16: Yarra Valley to Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

I get the impression that there is always another Australia under the surface, a parallel to what I can see and touch. In Bairnsdale, we saw signs for the Krowathunkoolong Keeping Place, but we did not get there when it was open. The Great Ocean Road is one of the most popular touring routes in Australia, but road work isn't done on it so it would be a nightmare to go this year, and anyway it's the school summer vacation so the roads would be jammed... In South Australia, the colony of little penguins on Kangaroo Island is closed to visitors, having been decimated by New Zealand fur seals. And Point Leo Beach has "excellent waves for surfing" but there weren't any to speak of when we went--no use for the bodyboards.

Everywhere we go, there is so much we don't see, so much more time we could spend. And then there are the Australians. Or rather, there aren't. I don't just mean indigenous Australians; I have met some people who seem to be natives of Australia, but not as many as I've met abroad. What I have met here are Canadian visitors, Greek immigrants, and English expatriates. I still don't know what Australians think of themselves, but I sure know what the expats think of them.

You see, cricket is big here, especially in Melbourne, where the Ashes have been going on. The Ashes are the burnt remains of bails (or is that biles?)--some piece of cricket gear from a long-ago match between England and Australia. The two nations play for these Ashes every two years. Right now the England team is so far behind that the match has already been won by Australia, but that doesn't mean they won't go on playing for days.

You may be familiar with the "cricket test" made famous by Norman Tebbit. Lord Tebbit held that a person could not truly belong in the U.K., specifically England, unless he supported England versus the country he or his parents had come from. This was Tebbit's way of saying that India or Pakistan supporters should go home, i.e., leave Britain.

Well, the expats here are comprehensively failing the cricket test. They are disappointed that "we" are losing--meaning England. The Australians in England, in turn, are doing exactly the same in supporting their country of origin. At least their team is winning.

As you can probably tell, cricket is not my sport, though I do know someone who plays on the Canadian national team.

We went down the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne's playground, to Point Leo Foreshore Reserve. The peninsula itself is lovely, with vineyards, orchards, wineries--all the things we're used to driving past by now. At Point Leo Beach we swam in the Tasman Sea. For such a hot day, the water was as cold as I ever remember swimming in. It felt good once I was out and treading water, until my dogsledding toe went numb. My toes get cold more quickly than anything else, ever since I tried dogsledding four Januarys ago near Huntsville, Ontario. But that's another story.

This is Australia, where white cockatoos fly overhead during Christmas dinner and the kookaburras chatter like monkeys in the trees. Where we spotted kangaroos grazing in a field, as placidly as cattle. They were still there when we drove back, too, one bounding away from (wisely, not towards) the road.

The Christmas crackers were inexplicably Canadian and thus, instead of jokes, included printed trivia questions--in both French and English, bien sûr. If there were a Tebbit test for Canada, I'd pass it, with flying red and white.

Next stop Tasmania.

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