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Travels With Alice

June 2016


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

We have enjoyed our contributing writer Jeanne Davis’ regular Beyond the Headlines for some time.

Look out each month for the latest story in our exciting new series Travels with Alice. Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy her fascinating insights into human behaviour and great locations .

This is going to be a great addition to Laterlife that will become addictive…

To view all of Jeanne's articles visit the Interest Index.

Down Under
in Australia and New Zealand

This year it’s Australia and New Zealand. It was the longest trip, Alice reminds me, 21 days. Australia is huge – close to 3,000,000 square miles. We can only cover but one slice of this vast continent. To add New Zealand is pushing it but we do.

Less than 300 years ago, the continent now known as Australia, was marked Terra Australis incognita, the unknown southern land, on the maps of the day. In 1768, the British Admiralty instructed the explorer and cartographer Captain James Cook to set sail for the Pacific Ocean to find that elusive southern land and map it. And claim it for the British crown.

Captain James Cook led the way to Australia, the unknown southern land

Our route follows his along the east coast from Melbourne in the south to Sydney and to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef in the north. High on my list of places to see is the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world and the world’s longest coral reef. Here, while surveying the coast, Cook and his ship ran aground.


And here I nearly sink beneath the waves in my eagerness to swim amongst the reefs, amongst the gardens of coral, the coral sponges, and the mollusks. There are rays and dolphins and swarms of rainbow hued tropical fish to see.   

Australia's nautral wonder: The Great Barrier Reef

A small boat takes us out to the reefs and there we climb into wet suits and put on snorkeling gear. We slide over the gunwale of the boat. I’ve never snorkeled before but I am quite at home in the sea. I can manage I tell myself. But unused to the heavy fins dragging me down and nearly swamped by the choppy waters I find myself gulping water and fearful I’ll ever make it back to the boat. I’m hauled back aboard.

So much for overconfident adventurer. I did though get to see this undersea wonderland from a glass bottomed boat. Not as up close and personal as I would have liked, but good enough. And we learned later the boat’s captain had been advised not to go out that day because of the choppy waters.


We were fortunate to find ourselves in Sydney on January 26, Australia Day, a day of celebration with spectacular fireworks, regattas, ceremonies and exuberant partying. A national holiday, it celebrates the arrival of the first  fleet of British ships not long after Cook sailed back to England to spread the good news of a new land.

Sydney Harbour and the must-see Opera House beneath the "sails"

We make our way to the harbour front where the cafes and restaurants are overflowing with the joyous and party loving Australians. A group of young men wave us up to the balcony of one of the waterfront pubs.
I’m reluctant. It’s been a long day. But Alice and Betsey, a fun-loving friend of Alice who is with us on this trip, decide we must join them. I can only say, okay.

Betsey and Alice: in southern climes, you're always close to a vineyard

I’m glad I did. Our new friends, “nifty people”, Alice says recalling that day, made sure we had the best view of the famous tall ships anchored in the harbor and the iconic Sydney Opera House beyond, its exterior of sail like shapes a fitting backdrop to the flotilla of sailing ships below. The fireworks were as good as any on a New Year’s Eve.

It was a night of excessive beer drinking and rowdy singing of songs. We were okay with “Waltzing Mathilda” but when it came to the national anthem “Advance Australia Fair” we could only smile and look joyous.

This anniversary of the first permanent European settlement in Australia is not a cause for celebration for all citizens. Indigenous Australians, the Aborigines, often feel that the celebrations of Australia Day exclude them and their culture, which was thriving for thousands of years before the arrival of the First Fleet.


On board these ships were 700 convicts transported from Great Britain to establish a penal colony. For their story and the settlers who followed visit the Immigration Museum in Melbourne.

Through films, photos and interactive theatre experience, you’ll learn how and why immigration policies have changed from the Gold Rush days to post war World War II and today. Those who were welcomed to develop the country were the first. Now fewer are needed and only those whose skills will fill a gap in specific industries or professions will be considered.

At one of the museum's interactive experiences, you can role play a government official charged with the responsibility of interviewing prospective immigrants and discover whether or not they “get in.” Skills based and awarded points, it’s a system that some British citizens look to as a model Great Britain should follow.

After the interview I am not sure I would be one of those to “get in.”

But I would be delighted to come back down under again. There’s so much more to see and do.

Cuddling a koala; heavier than I expected!

Tip for travelling with a friend: Inviting a third person to come along can be great. Fun-loving Betsey, Alice’s friend, on this trip, leads us to new adventures. But beware: make sure you know that the person joining you is flexible enough to go along with your needs, too.

NEW ZEALAND – Next Month

On his journey across the Pacific to find the terra incognito Cook came upon and charted New Zealand first. Next month our lust for knowledge, adventure and fun continues on to the island nation. 


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