Saturday, March 17, 2018

4 March 2018 - Day 1 - Sydney to Eden

The first full day in Australia had ‘taught’ me a lot. Taxes in Australia is probably one of the highest in the world. Those who earn over 120,000 AUD per annum could fork out close to 50% of their earnings to the State. This is definitely a lot. As Praveen said, the top line is healthy but the bottom line wears a famished look.  However, the taxes a citizen pays must be correlated to the facilities provided by the State. Health care is absolutely free and the hospitals are equipped exceptionally well with diagnostic and treatment facilities, which are covered by the Medicare Insurance. Private hospitals do exist side by side, which often helps one to ‘beat the queue’. Cars have to be registered every year and does cost over 500 AUD for the process. Once the car completes five years the costs go up further for inspection and further registration. Similarly, traffic violations are dealt with heavily. Fines for speed and lights could be above AUD 250 per incident. Parking is extremely expensive – here you learn the meaning of "there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. But, the infrastructure backs up what the State asks its citizens to follow.

Asians who saw the ‘boom to happen’ condition in Australia from the mid-1980s have made it big through farming, real estate and trading. In fact, there are exclusive developments for the Punjabi community, including Gurudwaras. The Australians are a predominantly outdoor people and spend a lot of money and time on such activities. What sets them apart is their dignity of labour and egalitarianism. The tradesmen make a handy pile, mostly in cash, with enviable surpluses. Those who are paid weekly get their wages on Thursdays and that is one day when shops remain open late; else shops close after 5 pm.

All these I had learnt over the past two days went through my mind when I was getting ready for The Great Australian Expedition. Last evening Praveen helped me source fruits, breads, spreads, chocolates and water to last the first few days of the trip. He made the final attestations in the log sheet and I was ready to be sent off. Praveen did this in style using his drone. I gingerly eased on to the highway observing the required orderly driving. I knew it will take some time to get used to it. I was most fearful of the speed restrictions and possible fines. The first two hundred km was an exercise in caution and learning. I took a short break at Bateman’s Bay to ease the limbs. The Clyde River flows past this quaint town and flows into the Bay. The town is popular for water sports activity and fishing. Temporary jetties serve the purpose for divers and anglers. The waterfront also has a memorial to those who lost their lives in various wars.

The drive on the first day was relatively light; just 500 km, which was done leisurely in about 7 hours. I was booked to stay at the Eden Nimo Hotel, which was bang on the highway. I was pleasantly surprised to find it a Chinese establishment. When I presented my paper at the counter a young man bowed deeply, many times and spoke in deeply Chinese accented English. He told me that the premises belonged to his father. He had just come that morning from Sydney to assist his father. As I was his first customer - he told me so - he gave me a recently renovated room. The courteous young man, whose name is Nimo, gave me a thermal coated bag to keep all the foodstuff in, when he saw me struggling with it in the car.
After I had settled in, rearranged what I had to and had a strong cup of coffee I decided to walk on the lakefront, which was just behind the hotel. Nimo got the gate opened for me and I spent an hour walking the Allan Gibson board walk alongside Lake Curalo. The walk is flat and easy, but meanders through salt marsh and melaleuca forest, with many black swans and driftwood spicing up the easy amble.

Once back in the room I luxuriated in the company of chilled Canadian Club cans. By the time that was done my eyes were refusing to focus; clearly sleep deprived and jet lagged. But hunger had to be attended to first. The restaurant in the hotel was open for dinner. Nimo’s young wife was attending to guests. She suggested prawn dumplings and Chinese fried rice. The prawn starter was yummy with spicy chilli sauce. The fried rice was gorgeous with the Number 1 Chinese chilli sauce. The portion was large with liberal infusion of prawn and pork. I barely managed to get to the room and slept almost the moment I hit the bed. I intended to leave the next day only after daybreak. Therefore, there was no hurry.

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