or: English spoken here

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img0003.jpg (81285 bytes)I must admit that I did not keep my promise and did not take a picture of the Equator (you know, the thick, red line in the water). We have crossed it sometime at night, so it would have been a hell of apiculture anyway. Instead I woke up hanging in my seat belt lying across three seats. Soon thereafter we disembarked from the airplane and joined in the zoo of the Sydney international terminal: short of Chicago, this was the most impressive mess I have seen in a long time. Four 747s have arrived at the same time, and so we waited. The customs officer was very eager to inspect all of my luggage up to the last corner, more so than any Swiss inspector ever before. Minutes later I was greeted by the young woman at the car rental booth - she could have been Andrea from 90210, except for the language and probably the salary. The whole language thing is truly amazing: the air crew spoke perfect Queen's English, so do the people on the radio. Then you join the public and things change drastically. I probably never asked that often for a repeat like today. And that after mastering Scotland last summer, or Swiss-German for that matter.

img0006.jpg (106479 bytes)The car rental place held two big surprises ready for me: first, my AmEx credit card didn't go through, so no frequent flyer mileage here. I guess I need to kick someone's butt once I come back. The second surprise was the car itself: they didn't have any car in the category which I reserved, nor in the next higher one. So I got the keys to this "larger car" which supposedly holds 5 large suitcases (define large): a Ford Falcon, something without a US or European equivalent, thank god. The really important part is the 4.0 liter Inline-6 engine. Who shall feed this monster? Ok, 375Nm is great torque, but the most I ever had before was 280, and that was plenty. All I could do is to set the transmission to "economy" mode and hope my best. I would trade half the engine for ABS and cruise control anytime.

img0002.jpg (78220 bytes)At 7am, I headed straight west from Sydney, after buying some basic supplies like a 25 liter water tank or a plastic tarp. This way I could spend the whole day in the Blue Mountains; it still remains a mystery why they are called blue and not green or yellow if you desperately need a different color. Either way, I picked some of my basic gear out of the giant backpack and went onto a major hike. Stan is famous for always being extremely well prepared when hiking, hauling ten times as much gear as necessary, but still forgetting something so essential that even the most random person (hi both Rebeccas!) would not forget. This was one of the reasons for the big photo backpack - it's all in one, you just can't forget anything. But this time I chose to forget water. After hiking for hours up and down (mostly up) steep slopes, you may imagine how happily I paid $2 for a can of soda (and filled up all my water bottles).

img0007.jpg (105387 bytes)Which brings me back to something else: this place is freakin' expensive - at least by US standards. You go into a supermarket and come empty-handed out again, having paid $40. Not to mention the usual gas station fiasco. Seems that I will get my frequent flyer mileage after all. This may be the reason why the people are so thin here - or better, so much less overweight than in the US.

img0092.jpg (67269 bytes)Since the Blue Mountains were not my primary target (ok, what was?) I said goodbye in the very late afternoon and headed even more west. The traffic signs of the day would be the two directional arrows saying "Correctional Centre" and "Sunny Corner", both pointing the same way. I enjoyed what probably was the fastest if not the most impressive sunset of my life; here, the sun is right above your head one minute, and seconds later it's beyond the horizon. Something to get used to if you want to take pictures, as I guess that's what happens when you are so close to the Equator... Either way, the sheep farmer on whose farm I was parked warmly welcomed me to Australia, and so did these bizarre birds in the trees. I don't think it's the Kookaburras, but it sure sounded like someone laughing hysterically.

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