My Trail is Australia

This item appears on page 32 of the July 2018 issue.

The last essay topic, “My Trail is Australia,” inspired a lot of subscribers to take a shot at the prize, but ITN staff narrowed the entries down to three, selecting as the 1st-place winner the work of DIANA BUTLER of El Sobrante, California, who will receive a 3-year extension to her subscription to ITN (or she can pass her prize along to friends). Placing second was that of ELSA DIXON of Charleston, South Carolina, whose subscription will be extended two years, closely followed by JOSIE GIBSON of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, who wins a year’s extension.

The next topic in our ongoing series of essay contests, which is open to subscribers only, is “Gaga Over Ghana.” If you have been to Ghana, write in; the limit on length is 300 words.

ITN staff take certain things into consideration when judging each composition. Mostly, we want to get a sense of the destination and to be inspired to go there. Tell us about an encounter or experience that lifted you or gave you insight into the culture. What feeling did you get from the people and the place? What can someone expect to find there?

Email your essay to or send it to Essay Contest/Gaga Over Ghana, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is August 31, 2018. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in ITN.

Now here are the latest winning essays.


Australia, surf to city, from calm, luscious beach retreat to the hustling pace and lofty architecture of the big city.

The beach — Palm Cove. Relax in the tranquility of the waves, with the breeze in the trees, a brilliant sunset over the water. Cockatoos milling as on a playground, chattering contentedly as they poke the ground for snacks.

Residents are up early, strolling along the beach walkway before finding that coffee bar. They say “Good morning!” and mean it. An occasional “G’day” caresses your ears. The humidity swaths your skin in dew.

On the way to Daintree National Park, the rows of sugarcane ripple in the breeze, the leaves so enormous they almost dwarf you, the vibrancy of the green color almost blinding.

At the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, wallabies wander up for a handout, but the pelicans are annoyed and attack with bulging eyes and cavernous throat pouches!

The city — Sydney. Traverse the Sydney Harbour Bridge on foot and absorb the architecture beneath your feet and on the horizon. Enjoy the food and vibe of a pub in The Rocks; eat and drink like a local. Coffee must be the national drink; cafés are everywhere.

Imagine all the artistry that inhabits the Sydney Opera House, beneath those soaring, white-roof shell-shaped sails. Feel the pulse of people and activity at the wharf, yachts galore in your vision. Stroll the side streets, where tiny, authentic restaurants abound. With 56% green space, the whole city seems a garden.

A viola concert in a church mimics life on the outside, the frantic pace of traffic alternating with the serenity of the green paradise.

People with sunny dispositions, happy to share their stories, and you feel enriched to be included.

Josie Gibson
Rio Rancho, NM


Linking arms with newfound Australian friends while singing “Should old acquaintance be forgot,” I was enjoying “Christmas in July,” a magical yule fest at The Mountain Heritage hotel in Katoomba, near Sydney. A jolly Father Christmas handed out port and mince pies following a 5-course dinner and Christmas cabaret, while fake snow fell outside.

The next day, driving back to the airport through the beautiful Blue Mountains, I reminisced about my tour so far — Sydney Opera House illuminating the harbor; noisy, cosmopolitan Chinatown near the Manly ferryat Woolloomooloo; tanned surfers at Bondi Beach, and marsupials jumping in the fields. “Kangaroos, girlie. Next, we’ll be eating them to reduce the population!”

I tasted Hunter Valley’s famed sémillon and shiraz, and at Featherdale Wildlife Park I fed a grumpy koala and crooned at wallabies, wallaroos, kookaburras, dingoes, wombats and a Tasmanian devil running in circles.

My walkabout took me to Cairns, donning “swimmers” to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, enjoying a “barbie” with locals and chugging through rainforests to tropical Kuranda, where a painted Aborigine welcomed tourists on his droning didgeridoo.

Electric-blue Ulysses butterflies and patterned Aboriginal art brightened my day before I journeyed 5 miles back across the tree canopy in a 6-person cable car.

In the Red Centre, I gazed at the luminous Uluru (Ayers Rock) and enjoyed dining under the stars. In Alice Springs, while visiting the School of the Air, I learned about the isolation of the Outback and saw manyhomeless Aborigines.

I arrived in sophisticated Melbourne in time for a “cuppa”!

My dream trail ended at Phillip Island, where daily, like clockwork, a whole colony of little penguins waddles in from the sea to their burrows. It was time for me to head home too.

Elsa Dixon
Charleston, SC


My trail through Australia, if plotted on a map, would definitely be a zigzag affair. Three trips (1991, 2004, 2010) have taken me hopping around the country to Sydney (where I met my Australian pen-friend of 60 years and hundreds of letters), to wild Tasmania, to the beautiful beach-endowed Sunshine Coast, to Kangaroo Island and to Adelaide. My husband accompanied me on two of my three trips.

I have cruised the magnificent Sydney Harbour, attended a concert at the iconic Sydney Opera House, held and petted a koala and listened to an indigenous man play a didgeridoo.

In Tasmania, my husband and I stalked the wild wallaby, day-hiked Cradle Mountain and toured the bleak, fascinating and infamous prison complex of Port Arthur, stopping to see the bizarre tessellated pavement on the way back to Hobart. Not to be missed was the delicious seafood, including the most exquisite scallops of my life.

“Trail” turned to “trial” in Brisbane, where we spent an unexpected and unwanted several days “visiting” the hospital. Upon discharge, the bill was — oh, wait — next to nothing.

We have walked the sands of endless beaches along the Sunshine Coast and have taken excursions to Heron Island for snorkeling and to Fraser Island, where we sped along 75 Mile Beach in a 4WD and looked for the never-to-be-found dingoes.

And in Adelaide, we enjoyed the botanical gardens in the city and the wineries in the surrounding area.

A 2-day trip to Kangaroo Island was a highlight of our second trip, even though we saw plenty of koalas and almost no kangaroos.

Even after three trips to Australia, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Western Australia, here we come!

Diana Butler
El Sobrante, CA