December 13th, 2000


Newsletter went out two days ago:

Gerbie on tour 22

My backpack was getting worried already, three months in Sydney was overdoing it. But the last couple of weeks it regained its status as my best travel buddy. In metro, train, bus and on a ferry, in several cars and pick up trucks on my way from New South Wales to Queensland.

First stop Newcastle, via Cardiff even. In the UK a huge distance, here both are close to the states capital. Over here it is also a harbour city, traditionally depending on the inland mining. But the innercity is very nice and so are the beaches.

On my way to Forster I took the scenic route, crossing a bay on a ferry, on which 95% of the time one encounters dolphins. So they say. But unless I have mistaken some of them for pelicans, I happen to be on the 5% crossing.

From there I continued towards Coffs Harbour, a nice coastal resort, half way Sydney-Brisbane. At that particular moment I did realise, what so many people have told me before, that distances in this country are of a whole different variety than in Europe. It was a lot warmer already and I spent a few nice lazy days there, reading and doing some walks. At nighttime I sat at a bonfire with Canadian rock artists on tour in Oz, Australian 'schoolies' (just passed their exams and spending some time off now), Swiss talking English amongst themselves, as they can't understand each others' language and Australian soldiers just back from Timor. The moment I realised I was back again amongst the travellers.

Byron bay is where since the sixties all hippies take their holidays. At the moment it is a fairly touristic place, but different from most coastal places. Endless beaches and many foreigners (and the last leftovers from the sixties), but no fast food chains, but new age shops. No discotheques, but aboriginal art. A very nice place to spend another couple of days.

The next stop I skipped. Surfers Paradise is fairly famous, being the birthplace of Australian tourism, but as soon as I arrived there I realised that I had already seen it before, 'deja vu' is the name for it. Be it Miami beach, Cancun, Lloret de mar or Surfers Paradise, it will remain to be big high rise buildings in a purpose built resort. Loads of tourists, no taste, I didn't travel all the way to the other side of the world, to see this.

I therefore decided to continue immediately to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. There was plenty to see and do in that city to spent an extra day. The old center is lovely for a walk around, the river Brisbane is dividing the city in two parts with several ferry's on the river, with some spectacular views. Comparable to Sydney there is the enourmous bump of suburbs, where Australians apparently like to live in. Apart from the central business district you won't encounter many high rise buildings in the cities here. Everyone wants his own house, with a garden and a garage, but it does make the distances within the city a lot bigger. But I was impressed with the cities' public transport. Buses with their own tunnels and lanes and the before mentioned ferry's connecting both sides of the river, on several points, with each other.

Unfortunately I have had to decide to not travel further north. I do want to visit the capital Canberra and also Victoria (Melbourne) before I continue my journey into New Zeeland, therefore Brisbane is as far north as I will get for the time being. That'll mean I will have to miss out on Cairns, Bundaberg and the world famous Great Barrier Reef ( I am not a diver anyway), oh well, you can't have everything.

Until mail, keep writing and hasta la pasta,


Books update

While travelling there was obviously plenty of time to read again, it even got to a point that I finished everything I brought, ended up swapping books I wasn't even sure I wanted to read. The list continues:

21. John Hersey - The wall
Incredibly realistic. This is the one I referred to earlier. I swapped it in Nicaragua for a big one about Guatemala, started reading it in Venezuela and only continued a couple of weeks back. Did finish it soon after that though. A very detailed account of what happened in the Warsaw getto with the jews. Harsh, unbelievable, but with a sense of humour in it. Recommendable.

22. Paul Theroux - My secret history
I also swapped this one. It was at the end of the season I worked in Menorca (summer 97) and I swapped it for one of my uniform polo's. It was one of the big ones that always tempted me from the shelf, but I never got round to starting it. I actually forgot that it even had an insription from the previous owners, John and Sophy, wishing me well. Thanx!
It is a fictional book, even though most people will know Theroux from his travel writing. Several stories about the same main character in different periods of his life, different places of the world. Another biggie, but also one I finished quicker than expected. Says enough.

23. Peter Abrahams - A perfect crime
A crime novel, recommended by Stephen King, who I do not really rate to be honest. The book wasn't brilliant, the end a bit disappointing.

24. Betty Mahmoody (with William Hoffer) - Not without my daughter
Everybody knows this one. You might not have read it, you might have missed the movie, but the story about the American woman, trapped in her husbands Iran is very famous. I had started it years back, but had to give the book back to my cousin before I finished it. This time I read it all. I can't actually remember much of the film, though I know I have seen it. The book annoyed me this time, as I realised how very one-sided it has been written. Everything Iranian is bad, everything American is good. If I want to see the world that simple I will watch cartoons! Betty is inconsistent, narrow minded and not someone I can feel sorry for, even though she's been through this horrible history. Why do you want to keep your husband's name after all this, even though in the middle of the book you already wished him dead? No sympathy on my behalf.

25. Hialeah Jackson - The alligator's farewell
Crime/detective, based in Miami and the everglades. Easy read, inbetween book. Still prefer Hiaasen.

26. Giulio Saggin - I did
Australian from Italian ancestry who returned from Scotland to go around his own country hitchhiking. And as a photographer he takes pictures of everybody who gave him a lift. Very good idea, good read, some good pictures. While travelling around the country myself an appropriate book.

27. Sandra Brown - Blindes vertrauen
This is where things started to become desperate. Nothing to read and a hostel book shelf without anything tempting on it. That's when you opt for an American novel translated into German. It wasn't as bad as I feared. I actually quite enjoyed reading this one. The original title was 'Exclusive'. A good story about the death of the baby of the president and everything that comes with it. Power games, investigations by a journalist, several changes of fortune and some interesting revelations. All in 540 pages. Better than expected, better than some other books I rated higher on first sight.