Crossing The Ditch

Linda Lou Burton posting about Adelaide, Australia from Little Rock, Arkansas – The plan for Thursday, July 23. Sleep late. Morning walk. Lunch at the Intercontinental. Check out. Wellington Airport. Board a Qantas. (Always loved that name!) Fly to Adelaide, Australia. Let’s keep my now-defunct-due-to-COVID19-RTW in the present tense today, it helps with the imagining.

Leaving Wellington is hard to do. But then, I am heading for a major Bucket List Tick – my sixth continent! Born in North America, got to South America and Antarctica in 2005, made it to Europe and Africa in 2019. 2020 is the year for Australia and Asia, all SEVEN CONTINENTS finally under my belt. Or feet, more properly put. Walk on all seven continents. Check it off!

But today, I have to cross the Tasman Sea. Folks in that part of the world call it “The Ditch.” It’s about 1,400 miles of water between New Zealand and Australia, and water being what water is, no fences define it, though geographers will tell you the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean are to the north, the Cook Strait (that’s the water between New Zealand’s two main islands) to the east, the Southern Ocean to the south, and Bass Strait to the west – that’s the bit that separates Tasmania and the Australian mainland. Got that?

There is so much to tell you about Australia. It is the oldest, flattest, driest inhabited continent on earth! And it is both a continent, and a country. It has six states, and two territories. It is almost the size of the United States. I am googly-eyed to get there.

ACT – Australian Capital Territory. Area 910 square miles. People 427,419. Capital Canberra.

Like the United States, Australia has set aside a portion of itself to serve as the nation’s capital. The spot was voted on, chosen (though not without heated discussion, of course), and the capital city of Canberra was built from scratch. The ACT is in the southeast part of the country between the state capitals of Sydney and Melbourne, an enclave within the state of New South Wales. More about Canberra, of course I’ll visit there.

NSW –New South Wales. Area 309,130 square miles. People 8,128,984. Capital Sydney.

Everyone has seen the photo of the Opera House in the Sydney harbor, and it breaks my heart that I can’t fit Sydney within my RTW timeline. My parents raved about the city when they visited years ago, so I’ll have to let their footprints serve for me. Sydney is not only capital of New South Wales, it is also Australia’s most populous city. NSW edges Australia’s east coast, such a pretty state, with beaches, agricultural plains and highlands in the middle, and the Snowy Mountains to the west. Yes, they have skiing there. Nicknamed The First State, NWS was originally founded as a British penal colony. That was 1788. Just look at it now!

QLD – Queensland. Area 715,309 square miles. People 5,129,996. Capital Brisbane.

Queensland is huge. I’m not kidding, only 15 COUNTRIES in the entire world are bigger than the state of Queensland in Australia (which is the 6th largest country). And Queensland is diverse. It has mountains. It has tropical rainforests. It has deserts. It has sandy beaches, and yes, Queensland is where you go for those world-famous Pacific waters coral reefs, if diving is your thing. Its nickname is The Sunshine State, its capital is Brisbane and sadly, I’m not visiting Queensland either. I do have a friend there though! I met Jennifer last year on my trip to Portugal-Spain-Morocco (yes, she rode the camel in the Sahara) and loved hearing her stories of farm living – flying off to boarding school as a child; koalas in her back yard when her kids were growing up. So, hi Jennifer! Thanks for sharing a taste of Queensland with me.

VIC – Victoria. Area 91,761 square miles. People 6,651,074. Capital Melbourne.

I am headed for Victoria as Melbourne is my first stop beyond the Tasman Sea. The state is small, but lots of people live in The Garden State (wheat, barley, pears, apples, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes in abundance). With the Australian Alps to the east and the Little Desert to the west, the OMG city of Melbourne sits midway, right on the harbor; Australia’s busiest seaport. Architecture ranges from 1800s Victorian to high-rise modern (52 skyscrapers!). It has the country’s most extensive network of freeways and the largest urban tram network in the world. Tullamarine Airport is where I’ll be changing planes often, wait and see how many times I stop here!

TAS – Tasmania. Area 26,410 square miles. People 537,012. Capital Hobart.

Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, situated directly south of Victoria across the Bass Strait. There is a main island, with the capital city of Hobart in the southern part; but the state also includes 334 surrounding islands. Tasmania’s fascinating history of geology, peoples, settlements, and colonization make it a place I’d love to know more about and wish I had time to visit. It is generally Australia’s coolest spot, thanks to Southern Ocean breezes; maybe the reason for its nicknames – The Apple Isle and The Holiday Isle.

SA – South Australia. Area 402,903 square miles. People 1,759,184. Capital Adelaide.

I’m spending two nights in Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city. Some of the driest parts of the country are in SA, but the Adelaide area has plenty of water. One is the nearby Murray River, one of my reasons for stopping here. South Australia seems to have two nicknames – The Festival State and The Wine State. I’ll let you know which I find most appropriate after my visit, either one sounds like a party!

WA – Western Australia. Area 1,021,478 square miles. People 2,639,080. Capital Perth.

Queensland is huge, but Western Australia is REALLY huge. It makes up the entire western third of Australia! It touches two oceans – the Indian and the Southern. The Tropic of Capricorn runs across the middle of it. The Great Victoria Desert and The Great Sandy Desert sit on either side of that. If you stand at the edge of Kansas and look west to the Pacific, you’ll sort of get the idea of WA’s vastness. It seems to have two nicknames, The Wildflower State and The Golden State; that last one makes me think of California. I’ll tell you much more about WA when I visit the capital city of Perth, my last stop on my 6th continent.

NT – The Northern Territory. Area 548,640 square miles. People 244,761. Capital Darwin.

I’m putting NT last on this list because it is officially a territory, and not a state. But I’ll be making two stops in this incredible, almost-other-worldly place I’ve been longing to see for years. My two stops are Alice Springs and Uluru – I’ll tell you all about them later. Sadly, Qantas connections just didn’t work timewise to get me to the capital city of Darwin, a grievous fact! And The Ghan, the train that runs between Adelaide and Darwin, runs just twice a week. Nickname for the NT — The Territory. Natch.

I’ve made a solemn promise – I’m not only going to reschedule my RTW when COVID-19 restrictions end and the world is safe for travel once again. I’m going back even after THAT, to stay at least a month in the Land Down Under.

And that’s my story, as I imagine myself flying across The Ditch.