This is either a great idea or a horrible one. Traveling on a holiday is always a gamble and in another country where I'm not familiar with the holiday habits it's even more so. But I'm supposed to be leaving for Cairns (pronounced "cans") in two hours and so far I'm not even dressed. Not my fault. I've been watching the news for 25 minutes and I still have no idea what the weather is going to be in Cairns; more than a little annoying.
The Australian TV news model is certainly different than its American counter part...for starters you don't get weather and traffic as regularly... and today it's even more so. The networks are all doing live, continuous "team coverage" of the day's celebrations. So instead of timely updates on news I'm getting anchors tossing between the Queensland reporter riding a hot air balloon, and the correspondent in Adelaide at the citizenship ceremony, next the meteorologist in Melbourne reporting NOT on the weather but on the different ideas for what to grill on the "barbie". Two hundred twenty two doesn't seem like a commemorative year so I have to assume this is how they regularly get down on Australia Day.
It's sort of the Outback’s version of the Fourth of July, only on Jan. 26 Australians celebrate the day British Lt. James Cook landed on the eastern shores near Sydney, stuck a flag in the ground and claimed the land for King George III. Pretty cheeky (like my Aussie slang?) thing to do, considering for about 50,000 years prior the land had been inhabited by over 300 different indigenous groups (sound familiar?).
Actually Australian and US history mirror each other in a lot of ways, but just like our modern cultures, there are some key differences. Although the US and Australia both have a holiday celebrating the birth of their nation, in Australia they seem to celebrate that day more as a nation. There seemed to be many city wide events where Australians come out and celebrate together, BBQs, parades, carnivals, performances, etc. Whereas in my experience at least, Americans tend to spend the 4th of July at private events with friends and family; except fireworks shows of course. And I can't remember a day where networks interrupted regularly scheduled programming to show nothing but 4th of July celebrations as they did on Australia Day (think WHAS 11 Crusade for Children's annual round the clock telethon coverage). I also noticed media warnings of increased police patrols... not for drunk drivers, but drunken brawlers. Apparently there' been a problem in recent years with Australia Day revelers getting drunk and beating people up. I guess when guns aren't an issue; people do things the old fashioned way.
Turns out flying on Australia Day was a good call. Everything was very laid back, not crowded at all, especially in Cairns. The sleepy seaside city is in tropical North Queensland surrounded by rain forest. The weather is gorgeous despite the ex-cyclone flooding the southern part of the state. Geez... a quarter of the country is in drought, battling wildfires, and had been getting 110+ degree temperatures, now another eighth is being battered by storms. So far we've been lucky enough not to run into any of that severe weather and we're taking advantage as long as we can. So next up... a wonder of the natural world, swimming the Great Barrier Reef.