13 December 2006

Travels

As promised, here is my sort-of travel article, more generally weird advice from my many wandering across this strange and wonderful world. Frankly, it is much lighter fare than the last post (though if you have an interest in Holocaust issues, do read) and other issues I have been dealing with today.

So, I have decided on a few comments in the form of a little advice for those really strange situations that always come up when traveling. I have written several travelogues and when I was in Australia last time, I kept a travel journal I updated on another site that became a series of essays on my visit and walkabout of a sort. Of course, my journey did not begin there, and my fascination with traveling begins at a very young age when we would pile into the car and visit my dad's family in Arkansas. Since then, I have managed to visit and/or drive through every state in the 'Lower 48' (that quest being completed this past summer when I finally went through North and South Carolina) and a couple of provinces in Canada. However, most of my experiences, odd or otherwise have occurred overseas, starting in 1991 with a trip to Eastern Europe and the then Soviet Union. It would not be the Soviet Union for long, as their government collapsed and was faced with a coup d'etat scant weeks after I left. The atmosphere of the post-Communism era in Europe and the almost post-Communism era in Russia was astounding. It seemed like everyone in each country I visited loved us or at least loved our dollars. I am sure the people have changed since then, having not been back, though I would not mind visiting again. Since, I was last there, Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary and Poland stayed more or less the same; the Ukraine became a nation (and was preparing to declare its independence from the USSR while I was there); and the Baltics have gone their own way. Plus, Leningrad became St. Petersburg. In fact, when I left it was Leningrad... one year later, when my Dad visited there, it was St. Petersburg.

Well, this entry is not so much a travelogue per se, so I will spare you a whole lot more detail, especially about my two trips to Australia. Let us just say I was very young (19) the first time I visited, and older (31) the second time. Needless to say, time and the political climate in the world changed my view and most others. Regardless, political climate did not alter my enjoyment of the visits.

Ok, some travel tips... my top 10 things to do/ or not do when traveling this wide and crazy world. Also, I am not going to give you obvious advice, like say, don't drink the water or always keep your passport safe. Oh no, what you will find below is either going to be incredibly useful or totally useless depending on your situation:

1) Pack Light- Some might think this belongs in the obvious section, but no... I have seen some luggage that will overwhelm the most strong willed of pursers. Seriously, in Eastern Europe, the lighter you travel the better because the trains off load quick and you need to get your luggage quickly or you might have to reclaim it in Bratislava when you are headed to Warsaw. In Australia, I found that often times bus and rail stations were not so close together, or the local hostel was a bit of a hike (on average 1 to 2 miles in some places), so traveling light in the heat of an Australian summer prevents your death from dehydration or a host of any other heat related issues. Granted, another way to deal with this is to rent a car or fly or take a cab, but those are not concerns for us mortals and backpackers.

2) The best deal in not always the best deal- This is mostly to deal with my experience with hostels, no not the ones out of Eurotrip or Hostel, rather than conventional hotels, but it is possibly my advice might apply. Just because a place is 20 dollars a night, does not mean it is worth the 20 bucks. When in Australia, I stayed at a variety of YHA's (mostly safe and comfy youth hostels), and all averaged around 20 to 25 dollars a night. Some were worth it, others were not, especially when air conditioning is a concern. Sometimes it is better to pay a little more for the creature comforts, than swelter in subtropical heat to save a few dollars. On the other hand, I stayed in a few places (the Dunsburough and Augusta, Western Australia YHA's) that were worth the money and then some. I think in the end, for me, it all averaged out.

3) Try stir-fried Kangaroo in black bean sauce- In Adelaide, I had the most marvelous birthday dinner at a Thai restaurant that served Kangaroo... yummy. I don't really recommend salt water Croc, though... a little too chewy.

4) Don't take the scenic route into Canada unless your license or license plate is from a state bordering Canada-Sounds strange, eh? But I digress, the Canadian guards were only doing their job... a couple of college students up for the day to go visit Winnipeg and decided to take the scenic rout. Instead, the border guards see our Texas plates and licenses and decide we might be smuggling drugs into the Great White North. I explained I was going to school a scant 80 miles away, but to no avail. Therefore, they wound up searching our car. Because of that lovely experience, we came back through the main crossing on I-29 in North Dakota and had no problems.

5) Do not attempt to kill the March flies- One of the many pestilences in Australia, the March fly is one of the most annoying, for it will constantly buzz you, and it bites... much like a horsefly. Indeed, aside from its aggressiveness, I am not sure how much different it is from a horsefly. The problem is, the March fly's buddies seem to know when you whack one of them, and it only makes them madder. So, kill a March fly at your peril.

6) Digital Cameras do not handle seawater and coral very well, or at all- Tell this to my digital camera, still resting at the bottom of the Coral Sea... *sigh*.

7) See the Hermitage- for our Tennessee audience, not Andrew Jackson's home (though I hear it is nice), but the museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Truly one of the great museums in the world, rivaled only by the Louvre I suspect. I have not seen the Louvre, so I cannot make that judgement, but I have it on good authority.

8) Cape Le Grande National Park- A not as well visited place, as it is some 60 miles or so from the nearest town(and about 600 miles from Perth), but well worth it for the great beaches, the sometimes friendly dolphins, and at times, the magnificent desolation. I sat on a beach at the Eastern edge of the cape for about half an hour or so before another person showed up. One of the best half hours of my life... never felt more empty and alive at the same time.

9) Travel across Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) by ferry- For Sydneysiders, they would probably say, well, sure. It's far easier to cross by ferry than via the tunnel or the Bridge... though pretty scenic across the Bridge. Trust me, the ferry is the way to go to visit the north side of the harbour and easily the best way to get to the most scenic zoo on Earth, Taronga Zoo (which is on a hillside that overlooks the harbour).

10) Finally, have fun. I know it sounds a little trite and obvious, but I have so many involved in 'whirlwind' tours not having fun when they should be. Of course, this might be difficult if you are traveling for work, but the above advice would probably not apply in that case in any event.

Hope this advice helps, for you never know when these events might occur in your travels.

C.

6 comments:

Veronica said...

Oh, that sucks about your camera...

jedimerc said...

Worse, I lost most of my photos of my trip with it... I was admiring the view and got bumped by a boisterous fellow and into the Coral Sea it went...

Becky said...

THanks for clarifying on #6...I hadn't been quite sure until now;)

jedimerc said...

I figured y'all should know :) No sense in misleading everyone.

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