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Greetings Folks, (from down under where spring has just arrived) At 6.40 am on Sunday 17th Sept, Canberra was invaded by 220 yellow helmeted cyclists looking rather bleary eyed and ready for a bed. Pleased to say that after a smooth but long flight of 22 hours from Cologne our DC 10 charter flight brought the Odyssey Cavalcade down under for the start of stage 11.
There was a welcome refueling stop 10 hours into the flight at Sri Lanka, which made the traveling time from our Hotels in Cologne to Canberra nearly 30 hours. Unfortunately Canberra Airport is only geared up for domestic flights. This means there are normally no customs or immigration staff on hand, and the Authorities here are rather fussy on who and what is allowed into the Country.
Arising from this Customs and immigration staff were brought in to process the 250 odd passengers on the DC10 who were allowed off the plane 40 at a time. This included being approved by sniffer dogs trained in looking for drugs. Regrettably one male Odyssey rider was found to be carrying an undesirable substance, and was asked to leave the tour and Country forthwith.
Having spent 6 months in Australia 4 years ago, I was partly prepared for a welcome return. Unfortunately many of my traveling companions were not so prepared. This was confirmed by a headline in the Canberra Times. The headline on the 18th Sept was WORLD CYCLISTS SHOCKED BY DEAD ROOS (Kangaroos). I am not quite sure of the ratio of Kangaroos to cars in Australia, the latter could be increasing with some doubts about the former.
Whilst there is plenty of space for both Kangaroos and cars, it is a sad fact of life that the nocturnal habits of the Kangaroos is affecting their health and population. The first 2 days here I personally saw 6 dead Kangaroos along the side of the road. The problem for Kangaroos and car drivers alike is that the Kangaroos only come out after nightfall, they have no road sense (and do not wear a helmet). The effect on the Kangaroos is fatal in most cases, I assume the car could be badly damaged, and in some cases the driver has not survived the impact.
From the 27th Olympiad in Sydney, on Sat 23rd Sept where 2 English cyclists are having an introduction to Baseball.
This is the first, and possibly only opportunity which John and myself will have to watch 9 grown men take it in turns to throw a small cowhide ball at 90 miles per hour, at one of the opposing team. The lone opposing player has only a 32 inch long wooden bat with which to defend himself. Providing the ball is thrown correctly the player with the bat has only 3 attempts to strike the ball. If he fails to strike the ball he is then relieved of his post to return to his team mates hiding in the changing room.
That is our brief version of an American style ball game, which I hope will not offend too many of my friends across the pond. They do after all pull our leg over the complexity of cricket. America has been winning it's fair share of Gold medals, but right now the US Baseball team is trailing 6 to 1 against Cuba. We are told that this is not the cream of US ball players who only got together a month ago.
Two days ago yours truly was planning to relax on the coast of New South Wales where Odyssey 2000 are having a 4 day layover. I did not have tickets for the Games and had no plans to visit Sydney. Then I was invited to join 3 Odyssey companions who had spare tickets, my initial reaction was to decline the invite. Then I thought to myself how many 68 year old pensioners at home would decline an offer like this? and am I likely to be around for the next Games ?. So I decided to accept the offer of tickets. The events for which we had tickets was the field and track events (am) on the 23rd. The Baseball in the evening, and on Sunday there was tickets for tennis. Having now attended all 3 events I am pleased that I went to my first Olympic Games. I was particularly impressed with the friendly, and efficient organisation behind the games. Moving thousands of spectators to and from the Olympic Park on the outskirts of Sydney was no mean feat. Anyone considering using a car was told to forget it. Included in the cost of our tickets was free transport on all buses and trains on the Sydney Suburban Rail network. The latter had double Decker trains running to and from the Olympic Park every 3 to 4 minutes with each train taking over 3,000 passengers at a time. This service was operating from numerous City and suburban stations. One final statistic which the Sydney press proudly convey, is over the specially constructed Olympic stadium. It is the largest purpose built outdoor venue in Olympic history seating 110,000 people. The stadium main arch is 295 metres long, the length of 3 Rugby fields (try line to try line). So when the stadium is full to capacity (mainly with Aussies in full voice) it was for me a moving experience.
Yes I am still in Oz (just) and with only 3 days left before we take off for Japan, this may be my last report from Oz. We are about to leave the familiarity of the Western World.
Having devoted the last update entirely to my visit to the Olympic Games, I now resume with my reflections on Odyssey 2000 and it's brief visit to Canberra en route to the Sydney area. My previous visit to Canberra 4 years ago lasted for 6 weeks, so there was no need for any sightseeing on my part. There was a welcome rest day after our long flight from Germany so I was very grateful for the hospitality which I had from David Fraser, likewise Bruce and Coral King a much traveled and lovable couple.
We then had 2 hard days riding over 290 Kms from Canberra to Wollangong on the coast of New South Wales south of Sydney. This was to be one of our longer layover periods where we were housed at the East Campus of Wollangong University. This was a 90 minute train ride from Sydney and a good choice.
The final leg of our Aussie tour was a 5 day ride from Townsville on the coast of Queensland to Cairns. This required a 2 hour flight from Sydney. On arrival in Townsville we were re united with our bikes and luggage which had taken 3 days by road from Wollangong.
It will be 13 weeks before this epic bike ride comes to a final halt in California ,and the next English speaking region will be New Zealand in December. Taking this into account plus the fact that I was looking to do a little leisurely exploration of Northern Queensland on my own, yours truly decided to go off route for the 5 days between Townsville and Cairns. Another attraction for me was the Great Barrier Reef which is accessible from either Cairns or Townsville. As the latter boasted 230 days of sunshine per year against periodic tropical rainstorms in the Cairns region I decided to stay put in Townsville, which also had another attraction.
230 years ago, to be precise it was the 6th June 1770 when Capt Cook was sailing up the East Coast of Australia when he spotted a small Island just 8 Kilometres off the coast, he called it Magnetical Island.
On 28th Sept 2000 the Island was rediscovered by one Globe Trotting Pensioner from Wales. During the intervening period it has been re discovered by many others from around the World. It is now known as Magnetic Island and has a unique blend of National Park with some of the best beaches and most picturesque bays in Queensland. I was informed during my 2 day visit that in 1968 the population of Magnetic Island was 290, this has now increased to over 2000 (excluding visiting tourists).
Having spent 2 days on the Island and one day on the reef where I indulged in my first taste of snorkeling, I then took the 5 hour coach journey to Cairns where I was reunited with the Odyssey party.
My first night in Cairns I decided to eat at a smart restaurant by the name of Dundee's. One item on the menu the menu caught my eye as follows ; - 'The Real Aussie Adventure' Tender slice of Buffalo, Emu Sausage, Barramundi with skewered kangaroo and crocodile. Served with selection of Dundee's special sauces. (I had grilled Trout)
Look out for the next update from Japan, at the start of stage 12 in Asia.
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