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Living and travelling Down Under

Australia seems to be on the wish-list for most travellers these days - and for good reason. It was Bill Bryson that first sparked an interest for me, with his best selling travel memoir, Down Under. The more I read, the more intrigued I became about this vast, sunburned country. After losing my job with General Motors I looked into the chance of moving to Australia, for the chance of an adventure, even for a year or so. Luckily, my wife agreed and so did the Australian immigration department, due to a skills shortage at the time. 18 years later we now call Australia home. In that time we have raised a family, travelled as far north as Kakadu and spent time with Aboriginal guides, learning more about this amazing country. It hasn't always been easy being so far from family and friends (back in England and Ireland) but from time to time we get some of them over to stay. 

Alice at kings Canyon.PNG
Alice at kings Canyon.PNG

Alice enjoying an adventure

This is my sister, Alice, during a trip she did to Australia to visit me and my wife.  A few years after this photo was taken she was involved in a tragic accident and lost her life. The photo conjures up magical memories of a trip we took into the Northern Territory, including the chance to watch the sunrise over Uluru. A few days later we headed across the parched landscape to a place called Kings Canyon. After our trip she returned to England, prompting me to write about our adventure. It is now in one of the chapters in my book.

"Vast distances between natural formations require air conditioning and upbeat music, which we had in abundance. Our next destination was Kings Canyon, a half-day’s drive across flat, arid plains. The setting sun cast deep shadows across the uninhabited canyon, allowing just enough light for a sunset trek around the jagged perimeter. Alice took a few tentative steps towards the 100-metre ledge, her shadow stretching far across the blazing canyon as she posed for a photo."

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Shark Bay

Monkey Mia is renowned worldwide for the dolphins that visit the shoreline most days. With so many people visiting, there are rules to follow regarding interactions. I am not one for queues and decided to visit the beach away from the "official" times, to avoid loud speakers and crowds. My early start proved fruitful, with a sighting of a dolphin by the waters edge, just as the sun made an appearance. That evening I headed back to the beach with my wife and family.....this is what happened next. 

"Just before sunset we headed to the beach, in search of a place to spread blankets. This time there was no line-up of people, or a man with a microphone and loudspeaker. There was talk from a nearby couple that dolphins were due in soon, but our sights were set on a row of fishermen further ahead.

The fisherman I’d spoken to at sunrise was amongst them. He still wore the same singlet and shorts, but now sported a baseball cap and sunglasses, while holding a beer with one hand and a rod in the other.  A young girl of about ten cast her line as I passed, but while pulling in the slack it caught on a buoy. As she struggled to free it, I heard her dad call out. ‘Wait a second, and I’ll help.’

The buoy was only 20 metres offshore, and the sun was yet to drop. With barely a ripple on the water it seemed a perfect time for a paddle. I grabbed the attention of her dad whilst pulling off my T-shirt. ‘I’m happy to swim over and untangle the hook. The dip will cool me down.’

The man passed his rod to a mate and walked towards me, smiling while shaking his head. ‘That’s not a good idea, mate. Do you know what they call this place?’

I knew the answer, but Monkey Mia wasn’t what he was after. After pointing towards the ocean, he said, ‘This is Shark Bay, mate. Any guesses why it has that name?’

‘Well, I suppose it’s because—’

He smiled again. ‘Yes, mate. Sharks. Lots of them and some get up close. Don’t worry about the fishing hook, but it’s kind of you to offer. I’ll sort it, no problem.’

I smiled at the man and his watching daughter then walked towards Fran, who offered me a beer with a cracker. Partway through my second drink, the man called out to me. ‘Here mate, take a look at this.’

I stepped closer to the shoreline and followed his gaze. Just offshore, passing close to where the girl had snagged her hook, a dark, spotted shape carved through the water. The man patted me on the back and lowered his voice. ‘Bet you don’t get four-metre tiger sharks in Margate, mate. That thing could chomp you in two within seconds.’

I returned to our picnic, watching the blood-red sun take its final plunge towards the ocean. I’d only been in Monkey Mia a day and was already hooked!"

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