Third Dave Down Under

Guy Dugas (our HG editor) had been sharing bits about his April trip to Australia with me a few weeks ago. That prompted me to go back to a journal I’d kept of my own stay there in 1997. We emailed back and forth (he being in Vancouver, me in Winnipeg), and Guy thought that my chronical of that serendipitous adventure might appeal to a wider audience – you. So, here goes…

Photo of Domain House, University of Tasmania, Hobart
Domain House, University of Tasmania, Hobart

In early 1997, I had heard that a writer friend of mine, David Arnason, had gone to Australia as a Visiting Fellow. I called him up one morning to ask him how his jaunt had come about. He was in his U of M office (he was an English prof) and, by a weird coincidence, the man responsible for David’s trip was visiting him from Tasmania. His name was David Daintree, and he was principal of Jane Franklin College, part of the University of Tasmania in Hobart. Since the time was nearly noon, David A suggested that I go over to his office, where I could meet David D and we could have lunch in the cafeteria.

I did that and found out that David D was in Winnipeg scouting for academics who might like a Visiting Fellow gig. We had a good chat and, as lunch wound down, I asked, “When could I meet with you to discuss my eligibility?” David D answered, “You just did. When can you be available?”

What we decided upon was half a term that ended with Easter, 1997. I had accumulated enough vacation days that I could use those for the whole time away.    

My wife Janice and I left on February 10 via Air Canada executive class. (I had accumulated a lot of points in my many business jaunts up to then; I had a terrific travel agent and she determined that the points would nicely cover two return executive-class seats on Air Canada and United.) We stopped in Calgary and reached San Francisco by evening. From there, it was a United jumbo jet that took 14 hours to reach Sydney—time in which we were pampered with drinks and meals and movies in a roomy space separated from the regular folks. We arrived half an hour early at 7:30 a.m. on February 12.

 It took a day to get caught up on sleep, but we did manage to walk around a lot of downtown Sydney from our room in the Wooloomooloo Waters Hotel. On Thursday, Feb. 13, we took a day-long bus tour that included Wildlife Park, Outback Woolshed and City Sights.

Silky Oaks Lodge

We weren’t due in Hobart, Tasmania, for a week, and we had planned to see other parts before going there. So, on Friday, Feb. 14, we left much of our stuff (including a box of my books!) in the Wooloomooloo and flew north to Cairns via Qantas Airlines. We were picked up by a lovely chauffeur and taken to a resort that Arnason had highly recommended—the Silky Oaks Lodge on the edge of the Daintree Rainforest (not named after David, as far as I know). The package we’d bought in advance included a trip by bus and boat to the Great Barrier Reef, which is along the east coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea. This lively adventure included a power failure the first night that turned our cool cottage into a hot box for a few hours.

On Monday, February 17, we flew from Cairns to Brisbane. We stayed the night in a fine Brisbane hotel and took the next two days to drive from Brisbane back to Sydney along the Gold Coast. This was another kind of adventure: my driving on the “wrong side” of the road for the first time since our lengthy stay in England in 1983. We stayed that night in Port Macquarie, New South Wales. Back to the Wooloomooloo on Wednesday, February 19.

Feeding residents of the “Underlodge”

The next day, we flew to Hobart and were met at the airport by David Daintree. He took us to what would be our home for the next few weeks, the “Underlodge,” which was a suite on the lower level of his house on the Jane Franklin campus that overlooked the college tennis courts and, in the distance, Hobart and the River Derwent. We settled in and changed to our more formal clothes and donned academic gowns (provided by the College). It was “high table” night –a formal dinner that included staff and students –where I was introduced as the new Visiting Fellow.

Janice filming the scenic waterway off Bruny Island

Over the next few weeks, we met a lot of the staff and “fellows” and students, many of whom lived on campus. I was meant to be available for student consultations, and I met some really likeable ones. But we still had time to make many trips—usually no more than a few hours—to scenic places around the island. At times, it seemed that Tasmania had compressed all the great scenery of Canada into a much smaller space. We saw the best places on three coasts; the west coast is mostly rugged and uninhabitable. One highlight was David Daintree’s taking us out in his boat off Bruny Island. One of the Jane staff, Tim Anderson, took me one day to an amazing place in rugged terrain, the Mystery Creek cave, where we saw thousands of glowworms.

Janice left for home on Tuesday, March 11. I continued to visit places not far from Hobart and meet with people at the College. On Friday, March 21, I embarked on a trip I’d arranged through the federal Canadian government. The University of Canberra was hosting a Writers’ Festival, and I’d been invited as one of the presenters. I flew from Hobart to Melbourne, on to Canberra, where I was met by a woman, Paulette Montaigne from the Canadian High Commission. She gave me $500 (!) and drove me to the U, where I got a really fine room. I was at the festival for three days, met a lot of Australian writers and took part in a couple of panels. Paulette even picked me up for a tour of the Australian federal government buildings.

My parking spot on campus

On Monday, March 24, I did a morning seminar on Point of View for some U students, and at noon, I gave a talk over lunch on Canadian literature. Paulette delivered me to the airport and I returned to Jane Franklin that evening.

Tuesday to Friday I spent writing and meeting with people, including many of the students I’d gotten to know and like. It was a little difficult to say Goodbye.

I left Hobart on Saturday and checked into a hotel in Melbourne. Walked around downtown quite a bit and on Monday met Louise Carbines for lunch—I’d met her at the Festival; she was book reviews editor for the Melbourne Age. She mostly wanted to talk about her boss, who was talking of demoting her. Louise was a lovely woman but it was a sad conversation. On Tuesday, I rented a car and drove up to Shepparton to meet with Sandy Forbes, a Business prof at Goulburn Ovens College. (She was an associate member of the Association of Canadian College Schools of Business of which I’d been President for a few years.) Back to Melbourne that evening, again on the “wrong side” of the highway.

I left Melbourne the next day, April 2, flying United to Los Angeles. Our plane stopped in Auckland to change crews and I disembarked and went into the terminal to buy a book – I could now say I’d been to New Zealand. 

Believe it or not, this is Dave’s first contribution to our HG Life series (though his name has appeared in a few older posts). Thanks Dave! We welcome any uplifting, funny, inspiring, or otherwise simply interesting story, profile, or bit of whimsy. To share with our other retirees, simply email your 300- to 2,400-word piece to HG-Editor@RRC.CA.

1 reply »

  1. What an adventure you had Dave! That sounds like the trip of a lifetime and you even got paid for it! Leslie

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