The Ecphorizer

Austral Confusions and Other Travel Trivia
David Durst

Issue #11 (July 1982)

Up and away to Down Under

Shark Bay, W.A. (For the uninitiated that's Western Australia. Actually, I'm in Denham, a pretty dull dateline. There's a place across the bay called Useless Soap, but that's another story.)

This story begins with an Easter card. Ever seen an Easter card with dead leaves on it? And

Gee, the moon is upside down!

a message of best wishes for "this beautiful Autumn season?" In the Southern Hemisphere, it's the little sneaky things like that that get you.

[quoteright]Left side driving is another one. Driving down the wrong side of the road is the easy part. It's the little zingers like getting into the wrong side of the car (very embarrassing if you're being driven somewhere!) or realizing you're about to step in front of a car that shouldn't be coming down that side of the street. And wait until you glance into the rear view mirror and it isn't there.

Things really get sneaky when you're waiting for a train and it comes in on the other side of the platform. Or when people look at you funny because you're walking on the right hand side of the sidewalk. (Actually, that doesn't matter much in Australia; the natives walk on whatever side they feel like.)

Road signs are fun: UNEVEN SURFACE, ROAD WORKS, GIVE WAY, FREE TURN, and my own personal favorite, GREASY IF WET. And one must be quite specific about one's needs; a bathroom is a bathroom and a toilet is a toilet and never the twain shall meet. And there's no rhyme or reason as to which faucet is on which side. If you're lucky, they're marked, maybe even correctly.

It doesn't stop there. Telephone dials are backwards, light switches go down for on and up for off. Some of the airplanes have the low-numbered seats toward the rear. It's almost as if every basic premise has been deliberately altered.

I'm almost finished, but first, class, it's time for some astronomy. Gee, the moon is upside down! And its phases run backwards. Of course, the stars are weird and constellations are upside down, but another little zinger is that Orion looks right side up (only because of its symmetry). Even the sun can throw you if you tend to orient yourself by its position.

I hope this helps when you're enjoying the summer holidays next February in Auckland.

(Next: A few pointers on how to talk Strine.

He's off on a Maugham-like journey, mucking about in the South Pacific.  When last heard from he was drinking rum in the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

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