We've made it! We're now DOWN UNDER! Officially, the furthest we've ever been from home. And you know what, this place is STRANGE! I mean, really strange.
When Captain Cook arrived on the Endeavour and found Australia, he wrote that the Aborigines 'are far happier than we Europeans'. A view we shared with Cook when we first experienced the natives of this land.
We arrived in this country of opposites at about 2am and our first Australian encounters were with the airport staff at Darwin airport. We expected to be snarled at by gruff immigration and customs officials, jaded by the fact that they have to work through the night, but they were all, without any exception, so happy! They were joking with us, telling us to have fun, smiling and even looking us in the eye. And this trend for happy Aussies has continued unabated for the last few days. Quite extraordinary - especially for us Londoners whose main aim for any human interaction is to make any exchange with strangers as quick as possible.
The second big, big difference here is that it is ridiculously expensive. We're used to paying anywhere between three to ten pounds for a room. Here, we're paying around 30 quid EACH for a bed in a smelly dormitory! We went to the supermarket (a Woolworths if you must know) to stock up on food so that we could save money by not eating at restaurants and discovered that grocery shopping prices are OUTRAGEOUS! A regular block of cheese is three to four pounds, orange juice is about three pounds per carton - more than London prices!
In rounding off his account of the natives of this land, Cook wrote 'They think themselves provided with all the necessities of Life and that they have no superfluities'. Well our route takes us through quite a few of our new 'necessities of life' - diving on the Great Barrier Reef, surfing in Byron Bay, organic hippy villages and the vineyards of Hunter Valley before arriving at the bright lights of Sydney Harbour - if our experience over the next two weeks lives up to its expectations, then this really will be the Land of Plenty in our eyes.