Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Townsville, QLD

So far: it has rained a fair bit, in fact most of the time. The air is thick and humid, we are pretty much on the Tropic of Capricorn. The suburban backyards have palm trees growing in them, long and leggy like teenagers, and roses and lots of spiny-leafed bushes. Cane toads (introduced to curb pests on the sugar cane; becoming pests themselves) hop camoflaged in the undergrowth. On the 24-hour bus ride here from Surfers Paradise, we passed so many fields of sugarcane, with its leafy green tops and brown bottoms, dense as cornfields, stretching across to the bottoms of small mountains and dotted with palms and eucalyptus.

I am staying with Ev and Bev Blackman, the grandparents of Jacky's wards, the three Boyd kids. Jacky and the kids are here too, and so there has been lots of little-kid related activity, hugging and picking up and running after and soothing, feeding and drawing and watching impromptu concerts. I'm also getting some things together for the rest of my trip, booking hostels and busses and so on.

Sometimes I look at the other backpackers around me on the bus or wherever and it seems as though all they have seen or known are the 'tourist' experiences, the sights we all see. They meet other kids from the UK or Europe or wherever and talk about the tours they go on and share information: good, I suppose, but when I was in Maddie's sunlit sheep-herding truck, I wondered: how many see the 'real' Australia, or at least other versions of it? (For that matter, where do you find the 'real' of anything, of any country? What would you say is the 'real' Canada? How much of that idea is made up by an ad agency?)

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