Issue Number 29, 4 January 2002
Editors: Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber
In this issue...
Serious fires have been raging in NSW for over 10 days, in the Blue Mountains National Park, the Royal National Park, numerous other areas, and parkland in Sydney suburbs. They are a result of high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds. Many of the fires have been deliberately lit. Roads and railways in many areas have been closed temporarily.
You can check on the latest news at the Sydney Morning Herald online http://www.smh.com.au/
This year's fires have been compared to the big fires of 1994 in NSW. At that time, we had a home in the Blue Mountains (Faulconbridge, near Springwood) and another in Ryde, a Sydney suburb a few kilometres south of the Lane Cove National Park. Neither home was threatened, though if the wind had shifted at the wrong time, the place in Faulconbridge could have been in danger. However, the sky was red and smoky for days, and in Ryde large quantities of ash and burnt gum leaves fell on the backyard and house. Watching the television coverage certainly brought back unwelcome memories of those days.
This year has been declared "The Year of the Outback" and lots of events are being held to entice and reward tourists who get out of the cities and seaside resorts and see a bit more of the country. Of course, we've been enthusing about the outback in this newsletter and on our website since we started it, so we're delighted to see all the publicity.
Just where is the outback, you might ask. Here's a map (from data on the "Australia Unfolded" CD). It shows the main and secondary roads. The Outback is, more or less, all the parts of the country that aren't black with roads. I don't mean only the parts with no roads shown, because there certainly are roads in the outback, but anything away from the southwestern corner and the curved band in the southeast would qualify. Of course, if you ask any group of Australians where the outback starts, you'll get as many different answers as there are people in the group - or quite often even more answers than people. So I reckon my explanation is as good as anyone else's.
You might like to check these sites:
Official "Year of the Outback" site http://www.outback2002.com/
The Chairman, Bruce Campbell MBE, says, "2002 will focus attention on inland Australia - its Outback - the recognized symbol of the world's great island continent. It will showcase more than 500 events and activities and in doing so, demonstrate that the Outback not only represents an ageless past, but also holds the key to the Nation's future."
The website has large amounts of information, including maps, lists of events, historical stuff, and more. Check the second level of menu items that come up when you choose a main menu item, so you don't miss anything of interest to you.
South Australia has its own page. http://www.outback2002-southaustralia.com/
I don't know if the other states have pages.
The airline situation in Australia has been changing almost weekly since mid-2001, when some regional airlines went out of business and Virgin Blue expanded its services. Then in mid-September 2001, Ansett Airlines went out of business; it was soon revived with more limited routes and has now been bought out.
All of this activity means that anything you hear about routes, fares, and availability may change quickly. When making travel plans, be sure to check the relevant websites or talk with your travel agent often. You should be fine once you've booked your tickets, although (as always) exact flight times can change on short notice.
You can buy tickets over the Internet (often at good discounts), if you know exactly what you want, but to get a good idea of the choices available, you may need to talk to a travel agent or to airline reservations staff.
In some cases overseas visitors will get a lower price by including within-Australia travel on their overseas tickets (for one thing, you won't pay GST - Goods and Services Tax - on air travel purchased abroad). If you're an overseas visitor buying a ticket after you arrive in Australia, check with a travel agent about possible discounts not available to Australian residents (note that you will pay GST on any tickets purchased in Australia).
I found this site useful when planning a recent trip to Sydney:
http://www.131500.com.au/ (Their telephone number is 131500.)
Covers trains and both government and private buses. Includes maps so you have a chance of working out which service you want and where it runs; when you have a route number you can look up timetables.
Many people outside Australia (and some in Australia, who ought to know better) don't realise that there are many different species of kangaroos, which live in a great variety of habitats.
Some roo species (including the really big ones) have had a population explosion since the time when white people cleared so much land to use for grazing cattle and sheep, because those roos like open grassland. They've become pest species because there are so many of them, and they compete with sheep and cattle for the grass -- and they are definitely not endangered.
Other roo species live in habitats which white people have been destroying, and some of those species (though not all) are endangered.
Roo meat for pet food and human consumption comes from the overpopulated species (at least it does if it's legal). Some States allow roo meat to be sold legally for human consumption, but others don't. The last I heard (a couple of years ago), NSW didn't allow sales to the general public, though you can get roo served in restaurants, but this could have changed.
One concern with roo meat for human consumption is the same as with any game animal -- parasites and other diseases that people could catch. It's one thing killing a roo (or catching a fish, or whatever) and eating it yourself -- you take your chances with diseases. But it's another thing supplying food for other people to eat; the other people generally want some quality control. I think some people already breed and raise roos as food animals, just as deer (and, of course, cattle and sheep and other critters) are farmed. (Emu are also farmed.) I don't recall whether I particularly like the taste of kangaroo, but I know I didn't actively dislike it. My (possibly wrong) memory is that I thought it was quite acceptable but not very interesting, but that may have been due to the way it was cooked.
Another long gap between issues... what have we been doing? On 29 November, Jean had an operation to remove the cataract in her left eye and implant an artificial lens. (She had the right eye done two years ago.) Like last time, we had to travel to Townsville to get this done; as this is a tiring four-hour drive, we stayed in Townsville for a week until Jean's first checkup by the eye surgeon.
All is well, but Jean's eye is taking a very long time to learn how to focus the new lens. We had expected this, as the same thing happened with the other eye, so she had scheduled the operation when we knew we could stay home for a month or two. However, the focusing problem has meant a dramatic slowdown in Jean's reading and writing activities - though it hasn't slowed her down much in planning the itinerary for our 2002 trip.
© Copyright 2002 Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber. All rights reserved.
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