New Zealand Book – Beware of Australia

May 16, 2006 at 2:48 am | Posted in General (tips, etc.), Travel | Leave a comment

One of the last gifts my Mother-In-Law gave to me before she recently passed away was a booked called “Slipping into Paradise – Why I Live In New Zealand” by Jeffrey Masson.  I finally got around to reading it on my trip to Aruba.  I’m not sure if she read this book or not, but if she did, then she had far greater an insight on my thoughts regarding the possibility of living somewhere else in the world more than I knew.  At the least, she obviously loved visiting this country and knew I will too some day.  She essentially found the book I’ve been looking for, for a long time.  Written by someone who has been fortunate to live and travel many places.  (He lived in or visted for a significant period of time England, France, Germany, America, Canada, India, Bali, Australia and many other places.)

Without going into a full book review (not my fortay) I’ll just say the book is written by someone who is very “well read” (as in smart) and has really covered some ground.  If you are interested in New Zealand, this is a must-read.  The book does sort of go off on tangents at times and the author can be quite judgemental in an extremely intellectual fashion (whatever that means.)  So the book drags in places but not for very long.  It’s worth a read.  It’s short described as “part memoir, part philosophical reflection.”

One thing about the author is that he’s lived a lot of places but he’s never lived in Seattle.  However my limited knowledge of New Zealand is that it would be a potentially attractive home for someone who has been so fortunate as to live in such as wonderful place as Seattle (not that I am moving there anytime soon.)

Here’s a few exerpts that I found particularly interesting if not entertaining.

In New Zealand… the line among locals is that if you to the beach and you find one other family there, you immediatley leave to find one less crowded! I can no longer count the number of time we were the only people on the beach, indeed, the only person in a store, on the road, in a restaurant, at a cafe, at a bus stop, at a rest stop on the road.  We have taken many walks that are prominently signposted, a two-hour tramp through a lovely kauri forest, and not met a single other person the enitre time.  Where else can that happen? When you have a country the size of Oregon with only four million people in it, that is what you get.  Sometimes you feel lonely, at other times you exult.

AMERICA. Sigh. I am an American, and when I was in Germany, England, France, I felt it.  I was always relieved to meet my fellow contrymen. I like the openness, the enthusiasm, the friendliness, even if it was not always deep.  I liked somebody I just met telling me his or her life story.  But recently I have felt the politics have become devisive, and the materialism that was never far from the surface now seems public policy. (The only other place I have been to where shopping is practically a national sport was Dubai.) To say in America seemed some form of complicity. It is not; I know, for one of the great things about America is our First Amendment rights: thousands of Americans protest and express their opinions on a daily basis, many via the Internet, the there is also the danger of being a dissenter in America, something quite remote from New Zealand (where nobody who disagrees with government policy need ever feel threatened.) Nobody would ever stop you in the street and try to pick a fight with you because of your views no matter how high-profile they were.

Something you really don’t learn about Australia is just how dangerous it is.  You won’t learn this from Aussies; they will never tell you.  It’s too commonplace to them. Imagine this, just for starters: You are in your garden, weeding, right in the middle of Sydnet.  An ugly, hairy funnel-web spider (there are forty species) the size of a yo-yo takes a bite out of your hand. If you are very young, the single bite is all it takes: You’re dead. If not, the bacterial these spiders carry on their fangs will cause your skin to die and your flesh to literally melt away. There is no known antidote. Or the trap-door spider, the size of a fifty-cent piece, feels the vibrations as you walk by, rushes out, and takes a fatal bite out of you.  Or you are lucky and just meet the white-tail spider, which bites your hand and causes an ulcerous sore that lasts for months, then leaves a large hole (the bite works like gangrene.) Your garden also contains the king brown snake, the most poisonus snake in the world, forty times more venomous than  our rattler. Actually, Australia has a hundred poisonous snakes about a dozen which are the most poisonus on earth (New Zealand has no poisonus snakes or spiders.)

Should you foolishly decide to want to go swimming in Australia, beware of the stonefish. It looks like a seaweed covered stone, but it has a spike. Should you have the misfortune of stepping on it, you’re history. We went swimming in a mild-looking bay outside Cairns, where there was a small sign: BOX JELLYFISH. How bad could that be? I was used to swimming in Hawaii and had tangled with many a Portugese man-o-war. Ha! If the three-foot tentacles of a box jellyfish so much as touch you, the pain is so intense that you scream out of control. Not for long however, for if you don’t get to a hospital soon, you die. If somebody comes along to take it off you, she is attacked. This jellyfish is so transparent that it’s more or less invisible, you don’t see it, you just start screaming. Australians would actually rather meet a seagoing saltwater crocodile, all twenty feet of him.  These swim between New Guinea and Australia, but will also go thirty miles up a freshwater river. They attack and kill you. Still, they’re better than the blue-ringed octopus, common in rock tidal pools around Sydney. Smaller than your hand, when annoyed its blue rings become iridescent, attracting the unsuspecting child. The bite does not hurt, but injects a venom that can lead to paralysis and the cessation of breating within minutes.  It’s the world’s most lethal octopus.  They wash into swimming pools that people build at the edge of the sea. You can’t speak. One victim reported her horror at hearing the paramedics saying, “It doesn’t look like she’s going to make it.”

Still, my favorite has got to be the amazing gympie gympie tree. Sound sweet? There are six species. Two grow 130 feet. They are in Queensland. Don’t go there. The hollow plant hair easily breaks off in your skin, injecting a pain-causing toxin that can last for up to one year! Constant, unbearable pain–so extreme that one stricken soldier took his own gun and shot himself. Horses die from the pain. One dried specimen collected in 1910 is still active. Australian forestry workers carry gloves, antihistamine, and a repirator. The extreme shock of the pain can cause a heart attack and death. You don’t even have to touch this tree. You can just be sitting beneath it minding your own business. Wham! Your dead.


TrackBack URI

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: