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August 8th. - August 24th. for Clare but 7 weeks for George.

The trip to Australia was initiated because I was to give the Keynote Address in one of the sections of the International Palynology Conference in Brisbane. It ended up that after I had made all of the arrangements, paid my fees and booked my air-fare, LSU changed Deans and the new Dean refused to honor the commitment made to pay for the trip. In the end Ron Neal paid for my fare using some of his excess mileage. Ron, Mary-Beth and Clare had already booked for the trip using Ron's excess mileage and were to accompany me anyway. I was pretty annoyed with LSU: although I must admit this is quite typical of the present academic scene. As the 'business model' has infested Academia the entire system has started to decline - I would not go into academics if I was starting my career over: my incentive had been a thirst for knowledged instilled in me by my father but I now advise every-bright young person to take another route because once Academia chose the business model it failed to fulfill it's purpose.

I was grateful to Ron and Mary-Beth and in the end all worked out well. Both Clare and I are very happy they are accompanying us. I have always wanted to have a good trip with Ron as I think of him as one of our family.

We headed for Sidney Australia and it was a very long flight. When we arrived we simply rented a car that was too small, and headed out of town into the wine country to the north. No problems although Mary Beth was a little perturbed that I had neither pre-rented a car nor booked a hotel for the night but instead had brought them to Australia blind! I tried to explain that that was how I usually worked and as long as we had money we could get out of most situations OK. As Mary Beth was to say "we are making memories".

Mary Beth only stayed a week. Clare, Ron and I went up to Cairns and then I went to Brisbane, to the conference, whilst Ron and Clare toured around Australia for two more weeks. After the conference I went to Heron Island biological station for a few days and then flew to Darwin where I went on a jeep safari to Kakadu National Park. After Darwin I flew to Alice Springs and then back to Sidney before flying back to New Orleans. In all I spent seven weeks wandering around and had a great time. I saw my cousin Ronnie in Sidney and must admit it was great to see him again after so many years.

From Clare's Diary

Tuesday, 8th. August, 1988.

Ron and Mary-Beth Neal, Clare and George left Houston, Texas on August 8th at 4.55 pm on Continental Airlines flying via Los Angeles, Hawaii, Auckland to Sydney.  It was a good flight with good food, that was mostly chicken, and took place mostly in the dark, except between Auckland and Sydney.  We were about 26 hours in transit and it was a VERY long flight.

Exchanged $200 into $A246

Mary called the USA. 

Wednesday, 10th. August, 1988.

We arrive on August 10th and rented a car at Thrifty.  It was small but the only one we could get as I did not book ahead.  It cost approximately $45 per day. We set out for Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It took us quite a while to drive through the Sydney suburbs but once we got onto the Princes Highway thing speeded-up a bit. We stopped at the visitors center on the way up to Katoomba and they recommended the California Hotel which turned out to be a nice enough hotel with good views over the Blue Mountains.  The restaurant-bar had a large fireplace and was filled with a lot of friendly people. It was reasonably expensive for what it was but not excessive.  The area caters for tourists: which provides the sole industry.  We had a nice dinner of lamb and were early to bed.

Thursday, 11th. August, 1988.

Had a very good buffet style breakfast. The tea room was very much like England - but would did we expect? We went out into the town to buy our lunch at a health food store - meat pies etc. and then took the "National Trail' walk - It was  four hour walk.  The walk took us our around a rocky cliff and along the cliff across a couple of waterfalls.  Throughout there we were in the rainforest flora. We saw fern-trees, neat and brightly colored birds.  We went up a lot of hillside steps and down a lot of hillside steps and, as usual, Mary-Beth was very humerous and said it was her very first hike and we were ' making memories'. The whole walk was very well set-out and safe.  It was not hard enough for Ron or George but just right for Mary-Beth and me.
We went and looked at the 'Three Sisters" which was very disappointing and touristi. Returning to the hotel I had a very nice hot bath and then we went down for drinks and dinner - it has been a very pleasant day.

Friday, 12th. August, 1988.

We set out after breakfast for the Hunter Valley area - Ron was annoyed because he couldn't get his coffee at the beginning of the meal - it was english style - coffee after the meal!  As Mary-Beth said - 'remember we are making memories Ron'.

Mary-Beth and I decided we wanted to go 'where we wanted to go' and not leave it up to the boys.  Oh dear! 
We went up Putee Road which was quite pretty and windy  but actually went on and on and on, with the idea of stopping at Putee for lunch.  It was a nice little isolated place 6 km of the main road according to the map but unfortunately it did not exist and we ended up essentially in the middle of a field in the middle of no-where.  We handed over the rest of the planning to George and Ron!

Ron got onto Mary-Beth [he is bad at that] and she is so very sweet.  We eventually got to Stapleton Gorge where George had fish and chips and we had sandwiches, for lunch.  We then headed for tourist info and booked a place at the Vintage Motor Hotel.  Visited the Rothbury Vineyard - Brokenback Vinyard and tasted a few wines but the person in charge was a snobby old woman which made it a little off: we did enjoy the Hunter Valley 1986 Chardonnay though! We then went to the Hungerford Village which was very touristi - followed by finding our hotel.  We intend to eat at the Cottage Restaurant this evening. The meal was relatively expensive but beautifully served and the food was good but not exceptional. The menu was interesting and included 'brains' and 'game'.

Saturday, 13th. August, 1988.

We drove to the coast at Nelson Bay.  The coast is quite beautiful and we stayed at a resort hotel [$70 per night].  The accomodation, food ,etc is more than we would pay in the USA for similar things but that is probably a function of the exchange rate.  George likes to write down the price of things as he has found historically this is a useful measure of things passed: in fact it is sometimes amazing to look back 20 years and understand how things have changed in apparent value.

Spent some time exploring the coast: the vegetation, the rocks and the sea are all interesing.  It was chilly at night but the weather very good and it would be possible to traverse the coast for miles  looking at the beaches.  I have really enjoyed the sky - the light and bright blue and the very clear air.

Sunday, 14th. August, 1988.

We  drove back to Sydney via the coastal highway, we saw some sensational road cuts and the sceanary was beautiful. We went straight to David Hobday's home at Mosman. David took us all out in his boat onto the harbor.  It was really a treat and the best way to see Sydney Harbour.  The water was quite rough and there is quite a bit of traffic.  We went right under the Sydney Bridge.
The region around the harbour is very built-up and becoming more so.  One wonders if it wouldn't have been better less so. But it is beautiful and the development attractive enough.  The Hobday's have a new house on Bapaume Street and now have a mother-in-law living with them.  The house is built into the hillside and is attractive though somewhat inconvenient.  They have a view of one of the bays from their living room. Mosman is a very nice, and expensive, area.  We had a nice barbecue and then Ron and Mary-Beth left to stay in the Regent [$340 a night was too much for us!].  Apparently prices have tripled in the past year or two and the Japanese are investing wholesale in Sydney. They come in - drive around and buy property - sometimes without even viewing the inside as they often knock down the houses and build half million or more places in the better suburbs.

David looks thin and Eugenia seems a bit up-tight, and Hylton is immeasurably shy: for a 12 years old it seems surprising that he cannot or will not communicate with us.

Monday, 15th. August, 1988.

George and Ron met Dave to talk oil and gas.  Mary-Beth and I wandered aimlessly around the 'Rocks area' and looked at very expensisve stuff for tourists.  Didn't buy a thing but enjoyed the place.   It's certainly a tourist trap but a nice one.  The city is a mass of buildings attractively arranged - both the old and the new.  The old seem to be loosing out to the new and new development looks like it is going on and on. Below the Regent Hotel there are some more old houses being bull-dozed.  Junk, like T-shirts and jewellery, are very expensive in the shops.  Even nice prints are $60 unframed: we didn't buy a thing! Ron took us all out to supper to Doyle's-on-the-Quay- it was good food.  It is our wedding anniversary and George presented me with a black [actually dark blue] fire opal - unmounted.  He'll get it mounted in India.  I wore my black suite and special jewelled gold pin he brought me  back from Brazil in 1979.  Ron and Mary-Beth are staying at the Regent Hotel all the time

We went to the Sydney Zoo and saw platypus' and pandas.  We went over from the Circular Quay to the Zoo by ferry.  It was very pleasant and we went up to the zoo by vernicular railway and then walked down from the toop.  We tried to see Australian marsupials. The platypus'  were much smaller than I thought.  A  animal like the hedgehog is the closest relative to the Platypus.  The Panda's are a big attraction here - they are on loan from China.  They are very nice looking animals.  The zoo visit was very enjoyable.

Tuesday, 16th. August, 1988.

George and Ron are again talking to David and a fellow called Archibald about oil and gass: actually it is Ron who has the interest but the idea was to get together and see if there was any future for Ron's company in Australia. I wandered around on my own today and did the Sydney Harbour bus tour!  It was well worth it but I really needed a whole day to see more and to be able to get off the bus at various points of interest. 'Pier I' is a junky place but I would really like to have seen the NSW Museum of History. 'Kings Cros's looks like an interesting area though possibly a little seedy.  This is a really a beautiful city with parks and water everywhere.  I met George for lunch and then we trailed around in the afternoon and arranged for our air-flights to Cains - Alice Springs - Ayres Rock - Alice Springs - Sydney.  Along with the hotel accomodation at Alice Springs and Uluru it came to $1,200.  I hope it isn't a waste of money! George and I looked around the shopping area but didn't find anything we wanted to buy [at least for the price offered!].The Queen Elizabeth building is quite nice.  We went to meet John Ferguson and Ned and Helen Poole in the evening and out to dinner.  We got a taxi over to John's place and it is a very elegant apartment that ovelooks the water.  He has decorated it well with leather furnitutre and nice stuff all around.  We went to a Thai restaurant.  It was great to see all our old friends from South Africa again and we had a fun evening.  We met Anna, John's girlfriend who is many years his junior and actually was his flower-child at his wedding.  She is quite pretty but did not say a thing: I quess she was rather left out considering the circumstances. John looked older of course and Ned and Helen were well.  We had so much news to exchange. 

Wednesday, 17th. August, 1988.

Mary-Beth left today and George and Ron went to pick up tickets for Cains etc.  I went down into town later to meet George. Harry Roberts and Ron came over to Eugenia's for a barbecue - again is was a very nice evening.  Harry is a good storyteller!  He broke one of Eugenia's family hierloom plates by mashing down into his meat hard - he did not mention it and simply pushed the two parts of the plate together and continued eating so Eugenia would not get upset until after supper!  He is a funny guy.

Thursday, 18th. August, 1988.
We left for Cairns: George, Ron and I, arriving in the late afternoom.  Stayed at the Bay Village Hotel which was an OK place.  Had supper at a very nice restaurant called Tawney's - again it was somewhat expensive by USA standards.  Made arrangements to go out to the Reef on the tour boat. Port Douglas is terrific.
Friday, 19th. August, 1988.

We went to the Great Barrier Reef with 'Adventure Tours', on a huge catamaran.  It was very touristi but also very efficient. It was a pleasant 1.5 hours to the reef and most of the passengers were dropped off at Green Island.  We went on the outer reef cruise [$85 per person] and I went snorkling, whilst George and Ron scuba dived.  It was a good reef and I saw a lot of sea life.   Lunch consisted of big prawns: the water was cold so we really wanted a hot lunch and hot tea!  After lunch 250 more day-trippers arrived on the 'Sea King' and the diving pontoons became crowded with people  Overall the trip was OK but not first class.  Had evening meal at the hotel in the Jungle Restaurant.  The Great Barrier Reef is a 'must see' - the further north the better.

Saturday, 20th. August, 1988.

We went up to Kuranda and the Atherton Table Lands by train: $45 per s person.  Ron hated it but I enjoyed it.  It took all day.  We cannot get away from the touristi.  We again ate at the hotel and got bumbed from our room twice!  The second time we got annoyed.  The size and quality of the room went down each time but not the price.

Ideally one should drive up and down the coast and drive north to Port Douglas.  The pubs are worth a tour to themselves! The train to Kuranda is really a neat journey in my opinion and going down from the Table Lands through Gilleys Pass and Mulberry Valley.

Sunday, 21st. August, 1988.

We wasted the day as our flight was at lunch time.  George left at noon for Brisbane, and Ron and I at 1.20pm.  We arrived at Alice Springs late in the afternoon.  We got dumped off at a hotel out of town!  There was no transport into town and Ron dissapeared for two hours: I got mad with him that day!  [NOTE by George: They actually booked into the wrong hotel - the correct one had the same name as the one I booked into in Alice Springs, but it was outside town and mine was inside Alice Springs]. 

The hotel was actually pleasant and run by an English couple who try hard to please. They cater to big bus tours and campers who stay in a large hotel camp ground.  We went to the Overlander Restaurant and had quite a good steak.

Monday, 22nd. August, 1988.

We went into Alice Springs to look around before our 11 am flight to the Ayers Rock. There were some vary pathetic looking aborigines hanging around - some of them live down by the river in little gulleys.  We found Alice Springs to be a nice part of the world.  It is very laid back!  Taxi drivers refuse tips!  We got to Ayres Rock around lunchtime but the room at the Sheraton was not ready.  So much for a 5-star hotel!  We had lunch [$16 for a hamburger]. The room turned out to be nice and we went on a trip [$17] to the Olga's and Ayres Rock to see the sun go down.  THOUSANDS of people were doing the same thing.  We learnt a little about the desert and plants in the desert from a Park ranger.  We had dinner in the hotel restaurant - it seems that the place either does not have enough personnel or does not have experienced people.  The restaurant is very pseudo-posh and has lovely aboriginal art decorating the walls. There is a good display of indigenous plants.

Tuesday, 23nd. August, 1988.

I got up around 5.45 am to meet Ron for breakfast  and left for Ayres Rock around 6.50am, just as daylight was coming. The stars are very bright  here. We climbed up the rock with about 500 other people and surprisingly I really enjoyed it.  It is NOT an easy climb but not difficult either.  The rock is not slick and therefore traction is good.  The surface is quite flakey and there is a chain up to the top of the first part and then one can climb on up to the Cairn - going up and down on the top of the rock.There were no chains to help here and it was a little bit of a challenge in places.  Coming down was easy - just a walk.  My legs didn't even feel sore as they did when we climbed the high wall of the Himalayas in Nepal.  It must be the altitudinal difference.  It would be beautiful to cimb around the Olgas and Ayres Rock alone.  The place is is quite inspiring, if mainly because the rocks are just there rising up from the ground alone: the remains of a large mountain chain eroded away over the last 600 million years. The Ulura National Park is now aboriginal land and is leased to the Australian government for tourism - probably for a tidy sum.  The aboriginals are not very open about their cultural beliefs and therefore the significance of their culture, paintings etc is not clearly understood.  We drove around the base of Ayres Rock and saw several of the sacred spots of the aboriginals.  I bought a bowl, a boomerang, a small animal and a painting by aboriginal artists.  We returned to the hotel for lunch and onward to the airport - the flight was delayed.  We arrived in Sydney at around 9 pm. I took my case over to the international airport - this was a mistake as the taxi lines were long and it took a lot of time to get out of there.  I arrived at Eugenias at 10.30 pm and went straight to bed.

Wednesday, 24nd. August, 1988.

George called at 7.30am.  It has been raining in Brisbane for the past three days but today he is going diving. It is cold and wet in Sydney and the right day for us to leave.  Left Sydney and spent about 2.5 hours lay-over in Auckland, New Zealand.  We got seats by the toilets this time and tried to change them at Auckland but the flight was crowded and the fellow in charge of these things quite unhelpful.  Anyway when we got in the plane again I managed to swop my seat with someone.  We left Auckland at 8.30 pm which is approximately 10.00 pm [Australian time?].  It was August 23rd in Hawaii. 

George spent time on Hernon Island Biological Station with his palynology group.  There are two coral islands to the south of the Great Barrier Reef: Green Island and Heron Island all the rest are submerged rocks.

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