The Kindness of Strangers

Scarlet Honeyeater

Scarlet Honeyeater (Credit: Jason Grubba)

There are very few constants in one’s life when traveling for an extended period of time. Ironically, one of them is change. Change is ever present as you move from place to place: new cities, new countries, new languages, new food… Another is your reliance on the kindness of strangers. Whether asking directions, figuring out where to get off the bus or where to get a decent vegetarian meal, we have relied on the help of countless strangers over the last several months. But never more so than during our time in Australia.

It started with our friend Stuart’s parents, Anne and John, who graciously shared their home with us over Christmas in rural New South Wales. Stuart’s sister Natasha taught us how cricket is played while we enjoyed great food and drink; Anne and John even had a present under the tree for us. Their generosity helped alleviate our homesickness over the holidays.

Christmas 2015 with the McDougall Clan

The McDougall clan and me wearing our Christmas cracker crowns

Then our friend Katy’s co-worker, Gaye, graciously invited us to tag along on an epic backpacking adventure on the South Coast Track of Tasmania. This experience was one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Australia 050

Stuart, Katy, me, Francis, Anne and Gaye enjoy a much-needed rest on the South Coast Track

Back in Hobart after our hike, we enjoyed a scrumptious meal with Mel, an amazing outdoorswoman and climate scientist that Alex met in Spanish class back in Arequipa, Peru. We got to pick blueberries and raspberries in her awesome garden (something we missed dearly from home this summer), and she shared her recommendations for hikes in New Zealand where she is an instructor for NOLS.

Then it was on to Sydney, where we stayed with the brother- and sister-in-law of one of my mom’s best friends. Bob and Dorothy opened their home (and amazing wine collection – we will never forget the 2004 Brokenwood Shiraz) to us for a full week. Dorothy was an amazing tour guide, suggesting the best hikes and attractions across the city.

Sydney Harbor National Park

Sydney Harbor National Park on a hike from Manly to Spit Bridge (within the Sydney city limits!)

Sydney Harbor National Park

Thanks to her, we procured half-price tickets to see The Magic Flute at the iconic Sydney Opera House, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And Bob kept our tummies happy with his gourmet cooking, branching out into the world of vegetarian cuisine, which was absolutely delicious.

Dorothy, Bob and Erin - Sydney

Gourmet Dinner - Sydney

One of many incredible gourmet meals courtesy of Bob

Thanks to their generosity, we felt totally spoiled.

Finally, we spent two days in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney with Jason, a fellow birder (or “twitcher” the Aussie term we learned from Stuart’s sister Nicole) we met on our Amazonian trip in Peru.

Alex, Jason and Erin - Blue Mts. Botanic Garden

Jason and Erin - Blue Mountains

He kindly took us on a tour in search of superb lyrebirds and gang-gang cockatoos, among other weird and wonderful birds.

Superb Lyrebird - Blue Mountains

Male Superb Lyrebird (Credit: Jason Grubba)

Gang-gang Cockatoo - Blue Mountains Botanical Garden

Gang-Gang Cockatoo (Credit: Jason Grubba)

Musk Duck - Blue Mountains

The male Musk Duck uses that flap of skin below his bill to attract the ladies (Credit: Jason Grubba)

We were not disappointed as we found nearly all of our target species, including an amazing display by the male lyrebird! The only missed species was the glossy black cockatoo, but the hike to find it more than made up for its absence as we ended at one of the most complex waterfalls we have ever seen surrounded by incredible views (Wentworth Falls in the stunning Blue Mountains National Park), complete with a rainbow at sunset as we walked back to the car.

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls Rainbow

And the best part of these acts of kindness is that people who were once strangers, we can now call friends.

More Australia birds: channel-billed cuckoo, laughing kukaburra, eastern whipbird, brush turkey, pied currawong, australian raven, dusky moorhen, hardhead, grey teal, australasian grebe, eurasion coot, double barred finch, yellow tufted honeyeater, yellow faced honeyeater, spotted pardalote, little lorikeet, varied striella, painted button quail, grey shrike-thrush, yellow robin, black faced cuckoo shrike, rufous whistler, white throated tree creeper, peaceful dove, red browed finch, noisy friarbird, lathams snipe, purple swamp hen, bronze wing pigeon, dollarbird, king parrot, yellow tailed black cuckoo, bell miner, lewins honeyeater, superb lyrebird, scarlet honeyeater, satin bowerbird, olive backed oriole, striated thornbill, wonga pigeon, gang-gang cockatoo, crimson rosella, eastern spinebill, australian shoveler, pink eared duck, red wattlebird, crested grebe, reed warbler, blue bill duck, musk duck, hoary headed grebe, pied cormorant, black fronted dotteral, white naped honeyeater, leaden flycatcher, australian darter, black shouldered kite, red whiskered bulbul, yellow thornbill, crested shrike tit, grey butcherbird




Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. John Springer

    I do have a flap of skin there, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.


  2. Francisco Gadea

    Wonderful post guys! What a trip. Alex, Lily asked me to wish you a happy birthday. I’ll give her some treats on your behalf. 🙂


  3. Tom Madden

    Good morning you all,
    Erin, I didn’t get “chosen” for the condo I put an offer on yesterday. Looking in Vancouver today.
    It was great talking with you last night. This was another wonderful blog. Please continue to have a relaxing time. Spain sounds like a great place.
    Dad Madden


  4. Dorothy Bennett

    You were great guests and we really enjoyed you being here. Really enjoying your posts.


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