Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 59 Strangers in the land of Oz.

There is not much here at Burnet Head: the marina on the river, a few fishing boats, a dock for loading sugar and big storage tanks for molasses waiting for shipment. Oh yes, and miles and miles of sugar cane fields.
We sign up for a week at the marina, are welcomed with gifts of fruit and vegetables from other yachties and a set of charts of the passage south from an Australian yacht docked beside us. We go for a little morning walk and find our joints stiff and sore after two weeks at sea. "What are those birds?" we wonder after deciding that they are not pigeons after all. Galas, we find later. On the road are many very flat squashed toads. How unusual! We are experiencing our first taste of a foreign land when all is fresh and new and vivid.

The Marina provides a free shuttle bus to the town of Bundaberg several miles into the interior so we hop on board that first afternoon to visit the Saturday farmer`s market, just like we have at home. It is our first contact with a large crowd of Australians busily selling and buying their produce in a way that we have become familiar with among the islands ever since Mexico. The shock for us is that all these people are white! We have been among brown and black people for so long that these ghostly pallid folk seem very weird indeed! How sickly they look, like a flock of wooly sheep in a paddock, all bleating away.

On another day we shuttle into downtown Bundaberg with a long shopping list. We only have an hour before the bus returns to the marina so we divide up our list and go off at full tilt in different directions just as we have done across the Pacific where things were difficult to find and language barriers made communication difficult. Imagine our surprise to meet twenty minutes later with all our needed items. Sooo easy!

Language is a bit of a problem though, as our North American vowel sounds are difficult for local Queenslanders to get. " Excuse me." says Heather to a grocery store clerk, Could you tell me where the ice is?" "You mean oyce?" he puzzles. "Yes, Ice." "Oyce?" "Yes, Oyce!"We begin the process of picking up a modified Australian accent so we may communicate but will always be aware of our accent and our Canadian effusive thank-you`s and euphemisms in a culture that is refreshingly straight and to the point. "Where is the washroom?" " You mean the toilet!"

Heather picks up the proofs for her first Patti book at the post office and we settle down to read for corrections while the wind continues to howl in the rigging in the strong S.E. trade winds. We meet Pony and Sylvia of Rassamond who arrived before us and also Kemal who is on a circumnavigation. We invite them for supper and generally learn to relax, eat good food and be sociable. This is just as important as the voyaging part of our travels which can be so wild and remote. Life is not all about being part of the herd, but neither is it all about being storm bound in the Coral Sea. We need this adjustment time.

I spend some time with our new charts, going over the coastal passage among the shallows between here and Brisbane through the passage between the mainland and Fraser Island with it`s narrow shallow channels among the sandbars. A "bank holiday" is the local term for running aground and spending hours waiting for the tide to float you again. We are headed south because we have phoned a wartime friend of my family (Keith Watson) who lives just south of Brisbane and they are expecting us!

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