The Wild, Wombat’s Wonderings!


Part 1


16 August 1999 – Up at 0530 to be ready for the Great Adventure.  My neighbor got me to the plane on time.  After finding out that American had rearranged my flight out without telling me, I had called the night before; I got it settled & was on my way.  I spent 4+ hours at JFK.  A friend joined me for a couple hours in the Admirals Club.  We actually got a chance to natter.  At cons we were always rushing off to a program item or something.  Then on to LAX.  At the Admirals Club there a number of friends dropped by.  Even got to meet an e-pal.  The 4+ hours passed all too quickly.  Then on to the QANTAS/American flight to Sydney.  All the flights were quite nice, being smooth & all that.  I had a couple of pleasant seat companions.  Even the food was decent.  Didn’t see much on the flight out as it was dark most of the time.  I even got about 5 hours sleep.


18 August 1999 – After clearing immigration & customs [went thru an extra search] I was met by Bob Phillips of Mosman Toyota.  [From the way he & the dealership has treated me, I recommend you use them if you want to buy a new or used car on your Australian adventures.]  Went over to the dealership & finished the details of buying the car.  Left it & my bags there while I caught a bus into central Sydney to pay for my insurance, get maps, my YHA card & just enjoy being in Oz.  I was suffering greatly from the horrible Sydney winter weather.  It was sunny, light breeze and temps in the upper teens [mid-60’s] to lower 20’s[mid-70’s].  I’ll survive it somehow. J  After killing the better part of the day I caught a bus back to MT & picked up my car, a Toyota Starlet – 3 door hatchback.  Now was the time of reckoning, driving on the left.  Wombats can do it!  I made it up the highways & byways north to Terrigal, about 80 km.  It was great meeting up with Ian Bennett & his wife after all these years.


19 August 1999 – The next day dawned sunny & nice with midday temps in the low 20’s [mid-70’s].  Ian took me around the area.  Along the way we took a couple of short hikes.  Lots of forested land up where he lives.  However, the forests just don’t look quite right.  The green of the leaves has a grayish cast.  The trees themselves are, for the most part, gnarly, branched & have an apparent slight twist to them.  It really does feel alien.  Took a look at some Aboriginal stone etchings. 


20 August 1999 – Sydney winter weather is getting monotonous, sunny & about 20 again.  Y!  After a quick brekkie I headed over to the Australian Reptile Park.  It is well laid out.  The have a croc that is known to favor humans as dinner.  It is about 5 m long.  Lost one foot to another croc.  The park has a good variety of reptiles as well as other Aussie critters.  Then on to the neighboring Old Sydney Town.  It is a recreation of the Sydney of the 1810’s or so.  They do a fair amount of street theatre.  The kids, lumbered with a number of busloads of school critters, seem to greatly enjoy the “public floggings.”  Bloody-minded little bastards.  Chatted with a number of tourists & the folk doing the performances.  Some were interested in learning more about the SCA which is active in Oz as well.  A little bit after 1600 I headed into Sydney for dinner & to drop by the Futurians SF club meeting.  Downtown Sydney on a Friday night is not a fun place to try & drive.  I found a spot to park & headed over for a Chinese dinner.  Of course, I would run across a couple of NJ fans in for the Worldcon.  We all went to the meeting where we found another 5 Americans.  We nearly outnumbered the Aussies there.  One chap, very sick, was promoting his idea of a Sydney bid for 2005.  It was an enjoyable day & evening.


21 August 1999 – Up early, but fighting traffic into Sydney almost made me late for my photo-op with 12 month old Charlotte the Wombat at Taronga Zoo.  She is a cutie.  3 Australian friends met me there to observe & record the nonsense.  The Wombat and the Wombat  It was also video taped.  After about an hour we headed out to see the rest of the zoo.  The day was for the most part mostly sunny with temps in the upper teens mid-60’s].  The day went fast.  


22 August 1999 – Suffered thru another horrid winter day: mostly sunny & temps in the lows 20’s [mid-70’s].  Ian & I headed up country into the Hunter wine region.  First we stopped in Wollombi so I could sample Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice.  It gives plonk a bad name.  Cheap, sweet, hangover inducing rotgut.  I’m sure the pub considers it fine stuff, but…  Then on to a vineyard for some wine tasting.  Real nice stuff.  NOT plonk!  Ian bought a bottle for his wife.  Eventually headed back to Terrigal where I took Ian & Karen out for dinner at the Beyond the Black Stump Steakhouse.  Yummy!


23 August 1999 – Packed up and headed out for Faulconbridge.  Oops, had a flat tire.  Bummer!  An hour later on the road again.  Wended my way thru the NW area of Sydney on the way out.  Swung by Castle Hill, but couldn’t find any info on the Castle Hill Uprising in the early 1800’s.  I was more successful at Rouse Hill.  There is a pub at “Vinegar Hill,” the town’s original name & the site of the uprising there in 1804.  Arrived at the home of Sue & Graeme Batho just in time for dinner. J  I hadn’t seen Sue for many a year & was pleased to meet Graeme.  We had a long talk.


24 & 25 August 1999 – Spent the two days on my feet.  [I did attack the queue of email waiting for me as well.]  The weather continued to cooperate with sun and mild temps.  I headed off to the Blue Mountains, about 30 km west.  I walked about Leurea then over to Katoomba and back.  The next day I started out at Katoomba – Echo Point.  Here you have a nice view of the Three Sisters.  I took the trail over to them & then down about 900 steps to the trail more or less at the bottom of the escarpment.  The trail wandered thru the woods over to the Scenic Railway which brought you back to the top.  It feels like you are going straight up the side of the escarpment.  I took a leisurely walk back along the trail which runs along the crest.  It was nice. On the morning of the 25th for some unfathomable reason I looked in the Sydney phonebook for any “finder’s.”  To my surprise I found one.  I rang the number to make contact with the widow of the chap listed in the phonebook, Maryanne Finder.  Their family & hi brother & father are the only “finder’s” in all of Australia.  Maryanne will be dropping for the Sunday BBQ.  It will be neat to meet her & her kids, if they come with.  Marilyn Pride, artist extraordinaire, dropped by for dinner on the 26th.  I hadn’t seen Marilyn for years.  I stayed with her & Lewis Morely back in 88.  Lewis is off working on “Mission Impossible 2” film.


26 August 1999 – I got up at 0600 to fight traffic into Sydney.  I was taking my car in for the 1K service.  I then hopped a buss into Sydney centre to meet Tom Thompson.  He publishes a variety of books, including a number by Upfield.  I found out he is involved with putting the Bony novels out as audiotapes.  He gave me a copy of The Devil’s Steps.  I now have something to listen to while driving across the Nullarbor.  We hit a few bookstores, including the SF bookstore, in central Sydney, grabbed a bite, & then headed over to his office.  We discussed ways of using the web & electronic communications to promote the books, tapes, etc.  It was a most interesting chat.  His company is in talks with another firm which could greatly increase access to Internet selling.  The main thing is to be able to get access the American & European markets.  We’ll be discussing getting The Beach of Atonement into print later in the year.  We hope to meet up in Moss Vale region later in my trip.  Upfield was living there when he died in 1964.  I would like to see Upfield’s home.  The afternoon ended too soon.  I picked up my car & headed out to Faulconbridge.  I’m not happy or impressed with the cruise control system That night Sue, Greame & I sampled the food at a friend’s restaurant.  We pronounced it good!


27 August 1999 – Decided to take a day off.  The weather cooperated.  It was gray, cool & rainy.  Worked on my diary.  I got a little bit caught up.  Drove over to where Sue worked at the university for lunch with strange directions from Eleanor, Sue’s daughter.  Sun began to peak out from the clouds.  On the way back drove by the Corridor of the Oaks, where the current premier plants an oak tree.  It is a neat little park on the grounds of the Sir Henry Parkes’ estate in Faulconbridge.  He was the chat who put together the Australian constitution which resulted in the Federation in 1901.  Later I got together with a number of fans to hit Pizza Hut for pizza.  It was more or less the same. J