Australia pleasantries

I’m responding to the reader’s comment, “Anyone considering traveling in Australia should get a good road map in the U.S.” (Oct. ’06, pg. 4).

A friend and I spent two months touring Australia during April and May 2005. We traveled by plane, bus, ferry, train (The Ghan) and rental car. Before leaving the U.S., we bought a map of Australia to take with us for general reference. However, we stopped in each major city at the office of the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, showed our AAA membership cards and were able to buy excellent maps at a reduced rate. A couple of times they did not even charge us for them.

These maps were invaluable in planning where to go when we got to different areas.

We visited all of the major cities in eastern Australia and saw a lot of the countryside too. I had been apprehensive about driving in the Outback, but it was a breeze — a great 2-lane road and hardly any traffic (just watch out for those long, long trucks).

Don’t climb Uluru; walk around it. You will be astonished how different it looks from the different angles.

Don’t forget: every now and then, stop, turn of the engine, get out and just “listen.” We couldn’t believe the racket when we did that near Jabiru in Kakadu National Park. The sounds of the birds and animals were amazing.

We took 10 days to drive along the Great Ocean Road (obviously, many photo stops were made). We hadn’t booked any hotels for this part of our trip. We used primarily Best Westerns, and each night we would decide how far we wished to go the next day and would reserve a room accordingly.

We found that just about every hotel we stayed in had a tray with kettle, teapot, tea and coffee plus usually a small fridge with milk for the tea. This came in handy, as we would buy more milk and something for breakfast and eat that in our room before leaving.

In Tasmania, we bought fresh-cooked lobsters and large prawns right from the boat plus salad at a store nearby and, along with a bottle of local wine, had a wonderful dinner in our apartment. In fact, we ended up with enough for two meals!

The Australians each were incredibly friendly and helpful, whether a worker in a restaurant or shop or just another tourist like us. They would always ask where we had been and where we were going. As we were there for two months, our itinerary was pretty lengthy, so we would just mention a couple of places, but they were genuinely interested and we usually ended up telling them the whole story. Then they would ask how we had enjoyed those places already visited and make suggestions for stops we had not considered.

It was the trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to go back!

Zephyrhills, FL