The last few days have been a heady mix of jet lag, unpacking from Australia, re-packing for England, some final efforts at planning, bookings, purchases, and also trying to finish two ongoing projects — the last edits to my novel, so that I can start submitting it, and this Latin edition of Bernard Silvestris’ Cosmographia that has been languishing almost-finished for the last six months. I even took the draft of it to Australia with me, to no avail — we were too much in holiday mode. (Though I did do some edits for the novel, which I suppose shows my current priorities.)
Anyhow, I’ll have a post on packing to come later this week, once I have the last couple items sorted, but I thought I’d write something about Australia and Papua New Guinea before I moved on to the grand adventure of walking across England.
Australia was fabulous. Papua New Guinea was also marvellous, but also rather more complicated a place altogether. I don’t think I’ve digested my ten days there enough to write about it properly. There were too many of my family stories suddenly given their proper local habitation and names, combined with being an exceedingly visible minority for the first time, combined with being perceived as (and in many ways, actually) being obviously wealthy; and also, we were in a strange place, part tourists, part there to help, part there to be presented to people important in my parents’ lives. And then there was the heat, the humidity, the ants, the new foods, and everywhere we went on the Trobriand Islands small children crying out “Hey, dim dims!” and waving as we went past.
Australia is a little easier to visit. Though, as we saw, there are definitely things to be concerned about. Even in Sydney, it’s not just the obvious dangers, such as pickpockets or heat exhaustion:
Australia is famous for being full of things that can kill you, but I have to admit I was deeply impressed to learn that there is a plant, appropriately called the stinging tree, that gives you months of pain if you touch it, with no remedies traditional or modern. I was also impressed to learn that you can buy organic water there:
And then there are the places where you just don’t want to go swimming. Not just because of currents, or even jellyfish,
or even sharks — all of which could conceivably be problems on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, though our sharks are just dogfish, and our jellyfish aren’t going to kill you in three minutes — but also because of these:
Not really. These are Asaro Mudmen from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and although I have to say I wouldn’t want to cross them, they’re not the ones being raskals ( which is to say, highwaymen) up in the mountains. Not that we went on those roads. The ones in town were bad enough.
No, it’s these:
We met someone who told us that his dog had been eaten by a crocodile in a little creek near the sea. This was about in a beach suburb about twenty minutes north of Cairns. When we were in PNG we went to the Port Moresby botanical gardens, looking for birds of paradise, and saw this helpful sign about what saltwater crocodiles eat:
But I wouldn’t want you to think that all we saw in Australia were signs about dangerous wildlife. We saw signs about being a danger to wildlife, notably cassowaries:
But it was the living things I particularly liked about Australia. Birds galore, as I mentioned in my last post, and the fire tree and the curtain fig:
and a frigate bird, which is something I (being something of a nerd) have always wanted to see:
Not that this really covers a month in Australia and PNG, but I’m going to stop here, as I should really get back to my packing for the grand adventure!