Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Portland Australia: It’s a long way to Portland

Much of this trip has come together like a piece of origami. We may think we are folding a crane, but after the changes, false starts and many stops, we end up holding an origami penguin. This helps to explain how we ended up in Portland Australia, so very far from our home that is Portland Oregon, but let’s go back to the beginning, and how we ended up here.

We were sitting across from two older gentlemen at a Starbucks on Khao San Road in Bangkok, avoiding the crowds and heat, when one of the men woke up from his nap and started up a friendly conversation. Turns out he was an Australian and his friend an American. They were long time residents of Bangkok, but the Aussie had tons of advice for traveling through his country. One of the things he said we had to do was take a drive on the Great Ocean Road. Originally our plans to visit Australia were centered around two weeks in Sydney in April, but we were open to suggestions, and filed this piece of information away. But now we’re in the country for a month, and could take him up on his advice.

After nine nights in Brisbane we flew to Melbourne and spent the next ten days exploring the state of Victoria. Melbourne is like Portland Oregon: a dynamic city with a number of neighborhoods sporting cool restaurants, funky shops and a laid-back urban feeling. While in Melbourne we were able to be a bit more social and visit some Australians. Our friends Rhonda and Gulu hooked us up with their close friends Norman and Charmaine. (Rhonda and I go waaaay back as friends, to our first week in college where we met when she found me in her closet after a particularly hard night of partying, wearing a ratty yellow bathrobe and meowing like the family cat, but that’s another story.) Norman and Charmaine invited us to their home and we got to eat delectable Greek pastries and play with baby Sebastian who was all smiles for us, while chatting with them about our mutual friends, the differences between Australia and America, and life in general.

Not since staying in Korea had we felt that a Servas visit was in order. We stayed a couple of nights in the Melbourne suburb of Alphington with Peter, Lynn, Rebecca and Megan, who took us for a walk in their neighborhood, brought us as special guests to the end-of-the-school-year picnic (the Aussies get to bring beer and wine to their kids’ school events!!), and Dylan got to play with kids for the first time since we met Norel in Bangkok. They had taken their kids on a round-the-world trip for four months last year, so there was much that we had in common!

While at the picnic I was telling a couple of folks about our plans to drive the Great Ocean Road to Portland (it seemed like a cool place on the map) and then drive back through Melbourne and on to Sydney. Well, the people I was talking with were too polite to tell me that I was absolutely insane, but pointed out that Portland to Sydney, which looked like about 2 inches on the map, was in fact an 18-hour drive. Crikey, I thought to meself. There was no way Dylan was going to sit in a car that long, and even Andy didn’t want to make that drive. So we quickly got on the internet and scored some cheap Melbourne to Sydney airline tickets. Yet another way our plans continue to unfold in a myriad of ways.

We hightailed it on an inner road to the hamlet of Narrawong, outside of Portland, where we met our next Servas hosts Di and Graeme, a very busy “retired” couple who are also lavender farmers. They extract the oil from the plants for organic lavender products like soaps and lotions. It was wonderful walking through the fields of lavender, over the hills and onto the beach. Over cups of tea, we got to spend plenty of time with this fun couple, who have lots of their own fun travel stories to tell, having hosted and visited scores of Servas members over the years. Dylan’s highlights with Graeme and Di were seeing a wild koala hanging out in neighbor’s yard and decorating their Christmas tree, which was held steady in a bucket of sand!.

Oh, yeah, we were also in Portland. Portland Australia is a tiny town of 9600 people. It is the oldest settlement in Victoria and has a long history of really being a port town. There’s not much else to say about Portland, except it seems like a nice enough town, but it just made us miss our “own” Portland more.

The Great Ocean Road was a fabulously scenic drive on the way back to Melbourne, with great cliffs, turquoise waters, winding roads, and eucalyptus forests. One of the more beautiful places on the earth, and we wouldn’t have ventured there but for our chance encounter in Bangkok.


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