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Sydney May 20, 1988 - Australian visitors experience Koala Sanctuary, long train trip

By Bob Van Leer

Bob Kangaroo  (SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, May 20, 1988) - Yesterday we boarded a bus for a final tour around Brisbane before departing for Sydney. A mandatory tourist stop is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where they have a number of the cuddly small bears for which Australia is famous. We lined up and had our pictures taken one by one, each holding a koala. Only one of our party had the misfortune to be holding a koala that was not properly toilet trained. 

  What koalas seem to do best is sleep. Our bus driver says that koalas are the original drug addicts. He said the bears get something out of the eucalyptus leaves they eat that puts them to sleep and they only awaken to get more leaves to eat. The driver explained that disease is thinning out the bears in the wild.

  At the sanctuary we were also able to pet kangaroos of all ages, and it looks strange to see females with a stray leg or two sticking out of their pouch, indicating that their young one was in residence. 

  The forested area around Brisbane is mostly eucalyptus, which seems to be the predominant tree in Australia. We are told that there are over 500 different species of the tree.

  At 2:40 p.m. we boarded the train Brisbane Limited for an overnight trip to Sydney. Our bus driver referred it as "Old Bone breaker". The last time Betty and I were on a sleeping car train was a decade or two ago when we took our daughters on a trip from Vancouver, B.C., to Kamloops so they could experience passenger trains before they disappeared.

  This time we were assigned a tiny room instead of a regular Pullman car. The room was about 4 ft, by 7 ft. with an adjoining combination toilet, wash basin and shower that was about two feet square. With all the small size, everything worked and the main compartment had bunk beds that were quite comfortable. The train did rattle and sway, but no bones were broken. The train was fun but it is easy to see why trains are becoming obsolete, here included. Flying up from Sydney took one hour 25 minutes. The train back took 16 hours and 20 minutes.

  For some miles south of Brisbane we went through scrubby eucalyptus with no houses and no livestock. Then we broke out into farmland; rolling land with the valley bottoms used for farming and the rolling hills for pasture. This is cattle country with brahmas, herefords, shorthorns and a few herds of Holstein milk cows.

  Public facilities reminded me of my native Missouri in the 1930's. Main roads through the farm country tended to be one lane, often not paved, with one lane wooden bridges. We passed by a dump serving a rather large town, and it was an old fashioned dump, not a land fill, and was burning in a couple of places, as dumps always do.

  Our train climbed over a pass, through several tunnels, and started the drop down as the light faded. It is late fall here and days are growing short. After a so-so meal in the dining car we turned in early as there is not a lot to do. We arrived on the outskirts of Sydney just as dawn was breaking on May 20 and pulled in the station right on time, at 7 a.m.

  In the day's newspaper is the first story we have seen with an Oregon dateline and we now know that Mike Dukakis won the Democratic primary, but we don't know who was nominated for county commissioner.

  At the train station we were met by a bus and taken on a tour before our appointment at 10 a.m. at the Sydney Morning Herald, the principal morning newspaper.

  Sydney is the largest city in Australia with four million people. Melbourne, on the south coast, has 3.5 million, according to our guide, and Brisbane over a million. Between these three cities, they share over half of the population of the whole country. And this is a big country; the size of the continental U.S. Sydney is bustling with new construction. It appears to be a boom town. We toured around the harbor and took pictures of the famous opera house. We are to attend a performance there tomorrow.

  Some of the older sections of Sydney remind us of old cities in the U.S. South. Houses have full width verandas on the second floor set off by wrought iron grills.

  It still looks strange to see Mercedes garbage trucks.

  At the Herald office we were treated to a full tour of the building from top to bottom. Newspapers here are more regional than in the U.S., rather than just simply local. A large daily serves a huge region. The technology used at the Herald is not on the cutting edge. The Herald changed from hot to cold type for composition in 1984, a step that most Oregon newspapers, including the Curry County Reporter, took in the 1960s.

  After the newspaper tour our bus took us to our hotel, the Sydney Regency, for a couple of hours of resting up before dinner. Our party is broken into groups of four and each group will have dinner with an Australian family.

  Betty and I along with George and Joan Measer, Williamsville, N.Y., attended a dinner party hosted by Colleen King, an estate advisor. There were King and escort and two other Australian couples at the dinner at her home overlooking Sydney harbor. It was a delightful dinner with interesting companions. One vegetable served was grilled fresh tomatoes, something of which the Australians seem quite fond. Grilled tomatoes are served with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  An undercurrent in the conversations of the Australians is uneasiness about Japanese investment in Australia. The feeling seems to be that the Japanese are buying up the country.

  Tomorrow we take a boat tour of Sydney harbor and finish the day with a performance of the Sydney Philharmonic Orchestra at the famed Sydney Opera House.

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