Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on February 4th, 2011
Categories: News

I finished my last column of the year telling all and sundry that I was going en famile to Australia to visit mates and go on a voyage of discovery. Have you ever had a less than classic holiday? Well, in general, we did… You’ve probably heard of the floods in Queensland. Guess who was in Queensland?

We should have known from the get-go that it wasn’t going to be a great holiday. Two days before departure I collected the visas. At the airport in the dead of night I was informed that my visa had been cancelled. Mine — not the rest of the family’s! It’s a long story, but at the end of the day the Australian government informed me that I had been disadvantaged and that the problem had been caused by defective administration. Their words not mine. The family flew on for a couple of days at Sea World on Oz’s Gold Coast. I eventually caught up with them two days later. Unbeknownst to us then, this was the sum total of beautiful sunny days on our four-week holiday.

We moved up north of Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast in a seriously major storm. Unfortunately, the Sunshine Coast did not live up to its name for most of our visit. A three-day safari to the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island, was blighted by the weather. Interesting all the same with a number of inland fresh water lakes, sand blows and lush vegetation plus the purest strain of wild Dingo in all of Oz.

Interestingly, you do not pay per person per day in Ozzie national parks, as we do here. A vehicle permit is all that is required; for our three days there it came to a mighty A$90.00 (Kshs. 7,000/-). The only other charges levied were for camping permits. Thankfully, we had chosen a stay with a permanent roof over our head. Well, that was the plan…

To get around the island, which is 123km long, is mostly about driving on the beach. Rules of the road apply –speed limits are strictly enforced. Police in 4×4’s are everywhere; but more about them later. We arrived at our relatively posh tented camp only to be told that they were overbooked and that there were no alternatives available on the island. Many toys out of the cot later we were offered a room in a back-packer den of iniquity. Two families of five shared a room. We decided that we might like to leave the island and go home. “No way mate”, said our host. “The tide’s up. You can’t leave”. Brave troopers that we were, we stayed. What choice did we have? We prepared our food in a squalid mess shared with backpackers from the UK, Europe and the US. Mostly nice young folk, but after they nicked our Bombay Sapphire Gin and the tonic that went with it – and stayed up all night partying we quickly changed our opinion.

We stayed the course, and explored the island, in the rain. I must say I’d like to go back there – at a less crowded time of year and definitely with better weather. Back-packers — now there is a market we haven’t fully exploited in East Africa. They  bring in serious bucks for tourism Oz. It is the fourth largest revenue earner within their tourism market.

The rain never stopped — well, it did for an hour or so each day – so we decamped from the so-called Sunshine Coast.

On to Brisbane, where we beat the floods by just a couple of days. Brisbane is a brilliant city, friendly folk, lots to see and do and a river that flows through it. My youngest daughter and I spent a wonderful afternoon cycling along the Brisbane River. The next day it looked like this.

Bad water is pretty awesome.

In closing, I must share my Ozzie police story. I was breathalysed for the very first time in my life, on a beach in a national park at eight in the morning. More interestingly, on a 45 km stretch of empty beach. There, in the middle of nowhere, was a police road block. “G’day mate, please blow into this”. I didn’t blow hard enough the first time; it was, after all, my first time! My second blow scored a perfect 000. Now, if those backpackers hadn’t nicked the gin and tonic, I might have been OTT.

Only in Oz…

Have a good Kenya day — I am!