Brisbane and Errata

The two reasons I don’t talk much about geography or demographics are first you can look it up somewhere else and second I often get it wrong. A few days ago I said Sydney has a population of 4.4 million and Australia about 7 million. That didn’t make sense to me when I reread it. So I checked.

Sydney is about 4.9 million and Australia about 25 million. The same source (and I don’t know how reliable it is) said Melbourne is 4.5 million, Brisbane 2.3, Perth 2.0, and Adelaide 1.3. So Sydney is about 20% of the population. Alice Springs has 25 or 27 thousand, depending on who you ask. I’ll stay out of it.

Brisbane was another pleasant discovery although we can hardly claim to have discovered it since  humans have probably been there for 60,000 years, which is longer than Homo sapiens have been around. The Dutch and Portuguese  sailed by in the 17th century but didn’t think it worth claiming. The English did claim it and in the early 18th century established a penal colony there for the worst of the worst overflow from Sydney. The rest is history that I won’t recite.

The town was named after the river, which like almost everything in Australia was named by the English after the Lord of something, who was the person who drew the map, the patron of the person who drew the map, or the brother-in-law of the person who drew the map. When you ‘discover’ a continent, there are a lot of rivers, harbors, mountains, and valleys to name. The geography I will cover is Brisbane is on a river, not a harbor, miles from the ocean; I suppose you can say the same for London, New Orleans, and Minneapolis. It’s a big river but the Black Watch didn’t quite get there. The cruise terminal is a few miles from downtown. The rest of the voyage was done by public ferry, which is a rather pleasant way to commute.

The ferry terminal was described as being located a few hundred meters from the ship’s docking point. But after the first few hundred meters, we had gotten through immigration and back within a few meters of where we had left the ship and we still had several hundred meters to go to the ferry.

After our experiences of the past year, I have become convinced that the people who design hospitals are sadistic (or they wouldn’t need so many volunteers to point you in the right direction.) I would put the people who design cruise terminals in the same category. And the people who staff cruise terminals don’t want to hear about it and have very little sense of humor. It’s all in the name of “security”, maybe their version of “extreme vetting.”

It can be a major issue for many of the people who take long cruises. Some are here because a world cruise is cheaper than a ‘care center’  (i.e., nursing home.) A couple of our fellow travelers have had a crew member assigned to them to make sure they get to meals and more or less escort them on the on-shore excursions. Without having done the arithmetic, I’m sure Doré and I are in the lower half of the age distribution, maybe outside the margin of error for the mean.

However, almost everyone we have encountered is friendly, interested, and interesting. In terms of travel, we are the novices. In most cases, it is not, “Have you gone around the world?”, but “How many times have you gone around?”

But we discovered Brisbane, the Aborigines notwithstanding. It is a major port with all that involves and came across as prosperous, clean, growing, and remarkably little graffiti. The Brisbane River is large (or it wouldn’t have cruise ships on it) and it does like to flood. The most recent was 2011 but any remaining damage was not apparent to the casual traveler. There is a lot of construction.

We went to another Koala Sanctuary. While we thoroughly enjoyed the earlier one near Eden, the Lone Pine Sanctuary here was older, larger, and generally more ready for prime time. We petted koalas, kangaroos,  boas, and Australian sheep dogs (not that exotic and rather insistent about the petting) and avoided the things that bite. We watched duck-billed platypuses, mongoose, and Tasmanian Devils; none was very photogenic, cuddly, nor inclined to pose for pictures. Our conversations with emus were generally about who was supposed to be on the grass and who on the asphalt path. They were willing to share; Doré less so. Their sounds are more clicking, popping, or smacking of lips than any sound we’d heard from a bird. They also shut up when I turned on the recorder.

Australia seems to have more poisonous wildlife on land and sea than anywhere else. Sharks are the least of your worries when you go in the water, after jellyfish, string rays, rock fish, and, worst of all, Blue-Ringed Octopus. Three thousand people (according to one guide) were bitten by snakes last year in Australia. Ninety percent of the bites were to people trying to kill or catch the snake; most bites were from non-venomous snakes, and only one person died. Lots more people managed to kill themselves taking ‘selfies’.

“Flying foxes” are the biggest, ugliest bats that we’ve met to date. But we now know that they are the major pollinator for eucalyptus trees, which are the only food koalas eat.

After dealing with platypus, mongoose, and octopus, I’m almost completely at sea about how to form plurals in English.

Everyone knows that a baby kangaroo is a ‘joey’ but did you know that a ‘joey’ is any baby marsupial?


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