It was a dark, rainy night as we walked the trail from the restaurant to our hotel. Every shadow on the track hid a snake and every hanging branch readied a lethal spider. Crocodiles were sneaking out of the bay in anticipation of a human meal. This place is so dangerous that we wondered why we came here. What other risks were we to endure? Mobs of wild kangaroos? Grunting koalas falling from the trees? Wombat attacks? Cockatoo crunches? Bad wine?
Bill Bryson* got it wrong. Well, actually, he is right – there probably are 740 ways to die in Oz, but the likelihood of dying from one of these causes is quite small. However, our extensive experience in this wonderful country (several weeks) has shown that there are other more insidious ways of getting into trouble. For instance…
The sign said that the Botanical Garden closed at 6:30. It didn’t appear to be true. It was 7:00 and people were wandering past the gate and all over the grounds. There was even a bride and groom being photographed on the lawn. What they were doing getting married on a Monday night, we have no idea, but this is Oz and things are different here. We followed the concrete path, intent on walking around the bay to a place on the harbor that would be great for photographing the Opera House.
The promenade was lovely. The trail sign said it would only take six minutes to reach our intended destination. Three minutes later another sign said it would only take us three minutes. Not bad…
It took two more minutes to reach a locked gate – just like the one we walked through earlier. Remember the sign? Evidently, they really meant it. Bugger! I like this word. In Aussie speak; it describes a complex set of events that tend to screw up your day.
It was reassuring to see other people looking at the chain and padlock holding the gate shut. With our destination close by, we wandered into the garden looking for a way to the other side.
During our search for an escape, we found an excellent location for our evening photo shoot. We set up our tripods and began making pictures – until a little car with a ranger pulled up. We hadn’t noticed that everyone else had left the garden. The ranger told us that the gardens were closed. In other words, leave! “And by the way, do you have a permit to do commercial photography in the park?” Fearing incarceration, a lengthy trial, deportation, confiscation of our camera equipment, and attack by lethal animals, we told the ranger “we are only tourists” and ran for the exit.
Australia can be a dangerous place to visit, especially if you get locked in a park.
* with apologies to Bill Bryson author of A Sunburned Country.