Archive for November, 2003

Here in Hobart

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003

Tasmania’s natural beauty is legendary. Australia’s island state is home to “one of the world’s last temperate wilderness areas,” among other wonders. So naturally, I want to talk about the movie theater.

Hobart’s State Cinema, to be precise. Conveniently (but not coincidentally), my lodging in Tassie was located only 100 meters up the street from this formerly state-owned theater. “Formerly,” because When drastic budget cuts forced the Australian Film Institute to let it go, a local businessman bought it and kept it going.

All of which is nice, but what’s better is the friendly staff. On my exploratory visit, a woman greeted me and answered all my questions about the cinema and its history. She showed me the notebook where visitors are encouraged to leave comments — and the manager writes his reply/rebuttal alongside. (Example: A request for popcorn was shot down due to management’s view of the stuff as loud, smelly and otherwise invasive. But several kinds of wine are served — in proper glasses.)

Then we got into a discussion about travel, touched on the recent Getaway episode discussing where Australians most want to visit, and then she had to leave — but not before giving me a free (actually “nil cash”) ticket to the film I wanted to see (Lost in La Mancha.)

When that screening was finished, a guy I met at the hostel who moonlights as ticket taker secured me a tour of the projection room, where the owner himself showed me around. Then he requested I be his guest to see the next offering, Swimming Pool. I’d seen it before (with B in Minneapolis) but of course I took him up on it. Hooray for free movies!

I didn’t spend all my time staring at the silver screen, of course. I also got out to see other things, such as the Salamanca Markets, a street-long bonanza of products and personality:

Plenty of people, crowded in the market

But no bushwalking. I’m on record as being staunchly pro-environment, but I see no need to be out in it all the time.

End of the Road

Monday, November 24th, 2003

Leaving the Fly, I snapped this picture of a lovely pastoral scene — cows on parade, you might say:

Green hills, blue sky and a bunch of black and white cows

The roads all over were like this. When you weren’t looking at the ocean, you were seeing great sections with forests on either side:

Curvy road disappearing into forest

This is the stuff from which car commercials are made, folks. And I don’t even have photos of the impressive bits: rising, falling, twisting and turning right on top of the Southern Ocean. That’s because it was too much fun to drive to stop and take snaps.

Fantastic stuff.

Otway Fly

Monday, November 24th, 2003

A short detour off the Great Ocean Road took me to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk, a 600 meter steel walkway high (9-47 meters) above the forest floor. I’d first learned about the concept when I read Bill Bryon’s glowing account of his visit to the tree top walk in WA. As there are just 3 steel canopy walks in the world (all in Australia; the third is in Tasmania) I knew a detour would be worth it.

And it really is something to see. At ground level, the trees (the Otway Ranges, part of a cool temperate rainforest with an average of 2m of rainfall annually) are massive and seemingly all the same:

Parallel trunks, reaching to the sky

Twenty-five meters later, you’re much more aware of the different trees that make up the canopy…

Variety of tree tops

…even as you’re dodging some of them to get along the path!
Limb hanging near path

(The brochure notes “The Fly is designed to have little impact on the fragile rainforest.” That’s nice, but what about the recent logging in the area?)

I found the walkway very secure and firm, with perhaps a slight give. Or, as the flyer puts it: DON'T GET A SHOCK, THE WALKWAY IS MEANT TO ROCK. Yet it seemed so stable, it’s a surprise when you get back to the ground, look up, and realize how high you were:

Looking up at feet on walkway

See also the pictures on The Fly’s website.

Port Campbell Fly

Monday, November 24th, 2003

After a night in “Sounds of the Sea” B&B, I’m ready to make them my primary form of accomodation. What’s not to like about lazily rising at 10 to find a full breakfast magically appearing as soon you step out the door?

Table set with yogurt, cereal, assortment of fruit and jams, and fresh flowers

After dining, I set off once again. As I was about to pass yet another brown sign, I remembered someone saying that not all of the Twelve Apostles could be seen from “terra firma.” I decided to pull in.

That sign read SCENIC HELICOPTER RIDES 300m.

Helicopter just after takeoff, hovering above a green field

Strapped in, helmet on, mic positioned, I was ready to talk to my fellow passengers — and the pilot, who first took us for a different perspective on London Bridge:

London Bridge rock formation, aerial view

…and then told us that when the “bridge” portion collapsed in 1990, it stranded a couple on the new island. Hours later, a park service helicopter rescued the pair but not — the pilot claims — before TV helicopters broadcast their faces to a viewing audience that included their respective spouses. Whoops.

Then we moved on down the coast:

coastline, Port Campbell National Park

coastline, Port Campbell National Park

coastline, Port Campbell National Park

In that last one in particular, you can see a grey stripe jogging roughly parallel to the ocean’s edge. That, folks, is the Great Ocean Road — which after landing, I rejoined in the Falcon to see some of these sights from ground level:

coastline, Port Campbell National Park

coastline, Port Campbell National Park

This included, of course, the Twelve Apostles group itself, which is the second-most photographed attraction in Australia. (You can guess the first.) There are actually 16 formations, making the name a bit of a misnomer. However, it was probably chosen not for its accuracy, but for its comparative dignity when compared to the original “Sow and Her Pigs.”

Twelve Apostles, as seen looking east on viewing platform

Twelve Apostles, as seen looking west on viewing platform

Good Morning, Get Going

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

After a glorious sleep, the friendly innkeepers gave me directions on how to get to the Road.

But first I needed fuel, so I cruised into the first petrol station I saw — and was surprised when a woman came right out to my window. Was it closed? Far from it. Turns out that particular station was full service. The prospect of full service for no charge (in that tiny town!) amused me so much I took the woman’s picture:

Natalie, smiling and standing behind the car

She, in turn, was amused when I told her how much I could have used her the day before.

After crossing into Victoria, I was closing in on the Road. Soon enough, brown signs announced “scenic lookouts”:

Jagged coast formation, with really blue water

— as well as named formations such as The Grotto:

An arched section of rock, with stairs on the right

— and London Bridge. The “bridge” once had two arches, but (as a playful sign informs) one section collapsed in 1990.

London Bridge

Further down the road, and more sea-side scenery:

Rock arch, with wave crashing at base

I stopped for the night in Port Campbell, a tiny fishing village just before the 12 Apostles (in Port Campbell National Park, naturally.) I was hungry, so I stopped for food first. At the restaurant, I introduced myself to Melissa, a 29yo from San Francisco. We shared a meal, and I learned that she had recently left her job in sports marketing to take a 2 month trip around Australia. In the process, she found a passion for landscape photography, and though she’s a complete novice, she hopes to make a living at it.

We chatted about this and other things for quite awhile — so long, in fact, that Port Campbell effectively shut down by the time I was out and looking for lodging. Everywhere in a 15km radius was shut, it seemed: even the Best Western on the highway was dark.

I was beginning to wonder what sleeping in the Falcon would feel like when I cruised by a house with a “Bed & Breakfast” sign at the curb. I crept in and was soon greeted by Maxine, the proprietor.

Soon enough, I was set up with a bed for the night.

Great Ocean Road: Get Ready

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003

Queensland was lovely, but I just didn’t have time to do it properly. I decided to save the Whitsundays and the rest for another trip and instead hire a car and drive the Great Ocean Road, which runs along the south coast in Victoria.

I decided to start a bit further away and flew to Adelaide, where the people at Adelaide Central YHA are so warm and friendly, I just love them. They instantly recognized me from last month, and were joking around (“Hey there, band chick,” I greeted the staffmember who has her own group. “How are you doing, computer geek?” came the reply.) and just making me feel welcome. Clearly, Adelaide was a good choice for my starting point — and as I found out the next day, the YHA had another advantage: it was a scant 500 meters from the Hertz office.

I’d prearranged the car on the Internet, so it was merely a matter of signing papers and dodging upsell attempts (personal effects insurance? fuel deal?) before I took possession of my Ford Falcon XT:

bright red Ford Falcon

I didn’t request red, but I did ask for the Falcon because it was the sportiest car they had — for my requirements. Though Hertz has a “Prestige Collection” which includes the BMW Z4 and Jag X-Type, those cars can’t be returned at branches in different states.

Mercifully, the friendly Hertz woman put the car on the street for me, so I didn’t have a witness for whom to feign nonchalance as I entered my first car with right-hand drive. Even better, the street was a one-way with a traffic signal just a block down, so I could literally ease my way right into traffic. Things were going swimmingly.

Until I was pulled over.

Minutes after I’d left Hertz, a police car fell in behind me, lights flashing and siren whooping. I signalled a turn to the curb, but strangely the wipers started. I cursed and switched hands, finally managing to get my “blinker” on and pull over. Meanwhile, I did a mental rewind: Did I miss some red light? Had I been going too fast? What was the speed limit anyway?

Soon the officer was at my window, and he offered an explanation: I hadn’t done anything wrong. During “Schoolies Week,” when the students are on break, police do random breathalyzer checks. Moments after I blew a .000 (this at 11am) he cheerfully sent me on my way. Deciding (wisely, I think) against asking the speed limit, I cautiously pulled out and resumed my original goal: finding how the hell to get out of Adelaide.

Hertz had thoughtfully provided a thick street directory for Adelaide and a much thicker one for Melbourne, but I had no clue how to connect the two. I’d been told the RAA would be the place for maps of all kinds, so I set off looking for it — and couldn’t find a damn thing. After passing through the intersection marked on the map at least five times, I pulled into a parking garage and set out on foot.

Naturally, I arrived at the new “around the corner” location approximately 2 minutes after they closed for the day. So after all that, I had to buy my maps at a newsagency.

But at least I was moving. I hit the M1 and opened her up. Damn, it was good to drive again! And drive I did, not stopping until 150km later, when I saw the oddest sight:

Pink lake, with clouds above

If that lake looks pink, that’s because it is. According to the helpful sign, the hue is caused by “a combination of dunalialla salina and halo bacteria,” the former of which is used as a natural food coloring. Great, but I still wouldn’t dip my toe in it.

Onward! When I came to Meningie, the next town on the B1, I elected for a pit stop. After ducking into the head, I came out to find my car refused to start. There was no possible way the battery could have been drained in the few minutes since I’d left it, yet the starter didn’t even turn over.

I tried a few more times and then gave up, more mystified than anything. Fortunately, Hertz has roadside assistance for those times when you’re in a town of 1,500 people on a Saturday afternoon. I rang them up.

After arranging a service call, I slid back in and realized the shifter wasn’t, ahem, firmly in “Park.” After rectifying this, the Falcon started instantly. One sheepish phone call later, I was ready to move over to get some gas — er, petrol.

Fuel pump, with unleaded and super

As you can see from this photo, gas was priced at AU$0.939/L for unleaded and AU$0.959/L for “super.” (That’s about US$2.57/gal and US$2.62/gal — a calculation I thankfully didn’t make at the time.)

I figured the 2¢/L difference was negligible and grabbed the “super” pump. Oddly, the nozzle was just a hair too big for the car’s tank. I found this strange but lined it up flush and gave the handle an experimental squeeze.

Ninety millileters of “super” dribbled down the side of the Falcon.

I was literally scratching my head when a service station employee came out to let me know that “super” was actually leaded and the too-large nozzle was a design feature to clue in idiots like me. So educated, I switched to unleaded.

After topping off with fuel and a wide assortment of sugary snacks and drinks, I was on the road again. What a varied road it was: when not right up by the ocean, I drove through pasture, forest, and vineyards. It was very much the case that you might find on the right a beach with some fascinating cloud (poorly captured here):

Clouds over the water

…and awhile later on your left you’ll find some “before and after” animals.

And if living animals aren’t your thing, there’s always The Big Lobster.

Really big metal lobster

For the record, that middle bend in the legs is about my height. Also for the record, I took this picture and scurried away.

OK, it wasn’t without considering for a moment whether I wanted to dine there. But I decided I would eat at Mount Gambier, which, incredibly, is the second largest city (22,000 people) in SA behind Adelaide (1,045,000.)

When I arrived in Mt. Gambier, the first thing to greet me was a roundabout. This is the guidance Hertz gives for roundabouts:

Drivers entering a roundabout must give way [yield] to traffic already on, entering or leaving the roundabout if there is any risk of collision. Decide before you enter the roundabout if you are going to turn right, left or go straight ahead.

To me, this translates as: “sit paralyzed at the intersection until there isn’t a car for miles kilometers and then creep in.” As it happens, though, the roundabouts were lightly used and I had no trouble with them.

I dined at a nice Chinese restaurant, where my waitress was friendly and flirty, and then managed to procure entertainment: though the cinema was only showing films I’d seen, the city had a Blockbuster! More importantly, it had the most friendly Blockbuster employee I’ve ever come across (save Matt, natch) as he laughed at the idea of a credit card imprint or deposit and gave me my own membership card with the motel as my address! Even better, he said now that I was in the system, I could translate the card to any other Bbuster in Australia and short-circuit all of the ID and money requirements. Brilliant!

Thusly I was able to end the night relaxing on my large and comfy bed, watching an Australian DVD — after catching the crucial final period of the Rugby World Cup, of course.

Then I had the best sleep yet.

Another Day, Another Airport

Friday, November 21st, 2003

I love the Qantas safety video because during the evacuation portion, it warns to pay attention to exit locations, as you’ll “almost certainly” be seated in a different seat each time you fly.

I’m the reason for that “almost.” On Qantas 737-400s (i.e., those used for Cityflyer) I fly 14C. On Virgin Blue 737s (the newer ones, which unlike the Q aircraft have a hinged exit hatch and not a “throw out” one) I sit in 12C.

I know this because it’s my business to know, just as I can recite the qualifications for emergency exit row seating* in my sleep.

I’m getting to my next airport via a mode of transportation I haven’t yet tried. More on that later.

* Varies by country, but generally: must be able to lift 20kg without injury, able to follow written/spoken instructions given in English, at least 15 years of age, and without hearing or vision impairments (save those corrected by contact lenses/glasses.)

Now It’s Getting Weird

Wednesday, November 19th, 2003

Today I sat on a bench near Jimmy’s on the Mall and was happily typing away until I heard a voice: “John?” I turned to my right and discovered I was sharing the bench with a young couple I’d met…in Fiji. Who’s next?

Of course I’m really holding out from someone from Fat Dog. That would be the real kicker. (At this rate, it may even happen.)

Why I Like Brisbane Already

Monday, November 17th, 2003

It’s clear, sunny, and a pleasant 80° here in Brisbane. Less than 24 hours since I stepped off the plane (remember the bus plan? Haha.) I’m nothing but impressed with the reception I’ve gotten so far. For instance:

  1. At the first movie theater I went to, the girl helpfully told me the film I wanted (Spellbound) was actually playing at another chain. Then she drew me a map, so detailed it included the location of the elevators.
  2. When I reached my destination, that guy was happy to sell me a ticket. Then he whipped out a map, pointed out a helpful navigation tip (in the CBD, all the streets in one direction have male names [e.g., Edward, George], while all the intersecting streets have female names [Elizabeth, Ann]) and gave me specifics on where all the good nightlife was located and how much it cost.
  3. The City of Brisbane provides free wireless internet throughout the Queen Street (ped) Mall, so anyone can sit at the myriad cafés — or even just a bench — and enjoy a bite to eat while checking e-mail and planning the day. Today, there’s even a free concert, with a woman doing a pretty good version of “No Woman, No Cry.”

I wonder if I’ll meet any Iowa Staters here…

Abbott & Shields Streets: Crossroads of the Universe?

Friday, November 14th, 2003

Scientists have yet to back me up on this, but I think there is ample anecdotal evidence that the intersection of Abbott St. and Shields St. in Cairns is, in fact, that crossroads of the universe.

Item: as I was walking along Shields last night, I took notice of a couple that seemed quite familiar to me, and as the female noticed my open-mouth stare and brought them up short, I got confirmation. I had spied Wade and Stacey, he my college floormate from five years ago, she his new wife of one year.

Item: as the three of us stood on a street 12,000 miles from where we’d last seen each other, another face approached from the opposite direction. Here was Benjamin, with whom I’d shared a room in Sydney weeks ago, our paths crossing again at nearly the precise moment I’d met the other two.

Item: just steps from what I shall now call The Crossroads, I came to City Place, where a singer was performing. Under a bandshell criss-crossed with faux evergreen, red bows, and twinkling lights, he belted out “Chicago” Sinatra-style to an audience gathered in the warm Cairns night.

I know I’m not technically from Chicago, but I did spend a ton of time there this year. Now if I can only find the wormhole that will allow me to get Giordano’s…

Dive Right In

Friday, November 14th, 2003

Me, giving the peace sign underwater

I’m now a certified SCUBA diver. Plus I’ve now had showers in two moving vehicles. But I get ahead of myself.

Cairns is a city set up for diving. No, really. Want to leave tomorrow at 7.45? No worries, you can book less than 12 hours in advance. Not certified? No worries. You can do escorted dives, “no school” scuba, or learn right on the Reef, no pool work required. But wait — you need a physical before you dive. No worries, there’s an office with docs 24 hours a day — no appointment required. (In my case total visit time was under 20 minutes.)

So it was that early Wednesday morning I took a ship out to Hastings Reef, on the outer Great Barrier Reef. The hour didn’t amuse me, but my outfit did. I’d donned a Nautica “Great Barrier Reef” shirt that had never been this close to the Reef, a pair of Ripcurl surfer thongs, and Billabong boardshorts. I’d chosen it all because I found the prospect of a landlocked Iowa boy decked out in the stuff to be delicious irony.

When we arrived at Hastings, I took a launch to the catamaran that would be my home for the next few days. I was doing a “personalised instruction” course that would allow me to get certified in a short amount of time.

After dumping my stuff in my room, I met my instructor, Damien. He was young, enthusiastic, and experienced as hell — over 4,000 dives before he stopped counting. Things were looking promising. He said we’d begin the instruction later in the day, and why don’t I go for a snorkel before we get into it?

So I did. And I sucked — water, that is. The trick to snorkeling is to get the head at the right angle (supposedly 45°) such that you can peer down whilst still drawing in air. That’s the theory, at least, but in practice it seemed to be that I was taking a mouthful of seawater every second breath. Since my brain was severely unimpressed by the concept of ducking my face underwater, and thus “every second breath” seemed to be quite rapid, I was taking in a lot of saline.

Then the fish came.

Wally, looking frightened.

I was minding my own business, wishing I had one of those flash snorkels that have a purge valve at the bottom and a flap at the top, when I noticed this huge fish — and it noticed me. Its huge bugged-out eyes made it look permanently terrified, but its behavior was precisely the opposite: it made a bee-line towards me.

Now I won’t say I was scared, but I will note that I am unsure of the precise protocol as to how to behave when a big-ass fish suddenly seems to think he’s Sam the Wonder Dog coming for to carry me home.

Rapidly relocating seemed a sound choice — but did I mention I’m basically crap with fins? Yes, other than breathing, moving, and dealing with the wildlife, I’m a natural when it comes to bodies of water that can’t be found within a thousand miles of my hometown.

But I’ll tell you a little secret: scuba is actually easier than snorkeling. Once you get past the first few holy-crap-I’m-underwater moments, you don’t have to think about keeping your head a certain way or how to remove seawater from a particularly persistent wave.

And that’s how you’re free to focus on things such as Wally, my aforementioned fishy friend. Seems Wally actually “went mad” (as the Captain put it) a few years ago and will now come to the instructors when they raise their hands a certain way. Not that he needs to be called; as I found out, he’ll approach snorkelers, though he prefers divers. In both cases, he doesn’t mind one bit when you “pet” him. He really does think he’s a puppy.

The other life in and around Hastings and Saxon reefs wasn’t quite as tame, but still beautiful. I was able to experience it with Damien as we swam around over the course of 6 dives, taking in tons of fish, varied coral, the enchanting way that other divers’ air bubbles looked like drops of mercury — plus the odd shark and sea turtle.

It wasn’t all sight-seeing, as along with 3 Brit boys I did drills such as the “Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.” It wasn’t all diving, either, as I had plenty of homework to complete before I could get my card. (Including a few videos to watch on the ship’s WEGA. But I also managed to slip in some pleasure viewing from the onboard video library.)

Still it all seemed to go by quite quickly, and after a final lunch I was back on a launch, again headed to the “day boat” that would be my taxi to the mainland.

Once I climbed aboard, I noticed the vessel was doing a good business, with hardly an open bench to be found. I moved out to the bow and stood in the foremost part of the ship, which was empty. Soon it was clear why, as a bunch of spray from the port side drenched me. I looked up to the wheelhouse, where the crew was laughing, and I grinned right back — then flipped around, making motions as if to offer my dry side to the water. (I wasn’t convinced the first splash was pure chance.) Seconds later, I had no dry side. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t wearing my boardshorts (which, I’d come to find out, have a purpose above merely being dead-sexy: they actually dry really fast.)

The logical approach when one is being buffeted by wind and surf is to get thee to shelter. However, as MJG once pointed out, one should never assume that I will always follow the logical course of action. I stayed planted right there, wind and water be damned.

Moments later, I was rewarded. I caught a glimpse of something long and silvery beneath me. It was a dolphin, skimming just beneath the surface, right in front of the ship. As I watched, the first was joined by another, and the pair zipped along together, closer to me than to any other person aboard. When they disappeared below, I looked up and caught the smiles and grins of the crew, who high up in the wheelhouse had been the only other people to notice the dolphins. I gave them a wide smile and a thumbs-up right back, thinking what a way to end my first visit to the Reef.

Note on photos: I took a roll, but they’re not so good. It’s a combination of too-fast film and too-slow operator. Plus I really needed a light source. The water leaches away color even more than I expected. In the photo of me, for example, the weight belt is actually hot pink, the snorkel an iridescent yellow, and I’m actually tan (well, burnt.)

Reefer Madness

Tuesday, November 11th, 2003

Tomorrow I’m off to see the Great Barrier Reef for a few days. I’m hopeful it will be an awesome experience, and will provide a full report when I get back. Look for it Friday-ish.

Have a good week!

20 Nations, 48 Games

Monday, November 10th, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen, my forearm.
wales-tat.jpg

OK. Yes, I am over 1,000 miles from the nearest Rugby World Cup game. But if you’re in Australia, you just can’t avoid it. So why not get a nice airbrushed “tattoo” and enjoy it? I chose Welsh Rugby Union, because they were the underdogs, and hell, I did live there. One less subtle gentleman who went before me chose FUCK ENGLAND, large enough to go almost ¾ of the way around his neck. (As he was all in green, I assume he was frustrated from Ireland’s loss to France earlier in the day.)

The whole World Cup thing is really a bit of a pain if you’re looking for accomodation in the city and haven’t planned ahead, but otherwise it’s good fun. The place is packed with people who’ve flown down just for that purpose — one guy I met flew 25 hours and didn’t even have tickets!

Anyway, it’s a fun time to be in the host country when it has such an international flavor.

It’s QLD for Me

Friday, November 7th, 2003

Queenland is where Australians go on vacation. This afternoon, I jetted in to see what all the fuss is about. The timing was nice: despite warm days earlier in the week, Sydney was a bit brisk this morning. Up here in Cairns, however, the temp is much more accomodating. (The 10-day forecast, for example, predicts an overnight low that won’t drop below 72F.)

I’m going to work my way down the east coast with the intention to land back in Sydney just before 25 Nov. To that end, I’ll be taking my first bus — probably on Sunday. You can bet I’m looking forward to that.

Back in the Saddle

Thursday, November 6th, 2003

It’s been something of a week. Since Halloween, I’ve made it to bed before 5 once (and that was 3.30.) There was the Halloween party, the pub crawl, the Matrix showing…

…but I get ahead of myself. Monday was the quiz, for the first time in a long time. Keef rang* and suggested we give it a go, and it turned out quite well. True, we didn’t win. But the pair of us did place second, with a 47. (Winners: 47½.) Keef found it amusing that while I knew “the local (i.e., correct) name for the Italian cities Venice and Florence” immediately, I didn’t get beyond “New Jersey” for “Which state is immediately to the north and which is immediately to the south of New York state on the Atlantic seaboard?”

What can I say? I’m a man of the world, not Connecticut.

Tuesday: another day, another quiz. This one was insufferable, with a quizmaster named “Pommy Andy.” I’ll veer off here from complaining about Andy’s tendency to, say, belch into the microphone, and instead note the Australians’ strange embrace of “POM.” One source claims the original term came from the convicts who were the first Europeans to settle here. Supposedly they were branded Prisoners Of Mother England. Snopes doubts this. Whatever the term’s origin, it is now widely applied to Brits, for which they are less than grateful.

The Wednesday following the quiz was shaping up to be a rather laid-back one, until someone pointed out that the 6am LA time (1400 GMT) worldwide premiere of Matrix meant a 1am AEDT showing in Sydney. I’d long planned to see the picture, filmed in Australia (and ending with credits thanking Sydney and the NSW Film Office) here at the world’s largest IMAX. But as a cursory comparison of IMAX.com and IMAX.com.au will show you, it’s not playing here. Damnit. (George at IMAX: “It’s just too expensive to run.” I guess Bugs in 3D is the bigger moneymaker.)

After the movie, Gotham felt like roaming around Sydney until the trains started running again (at 5.33), so I obliged for as long as I could. After all, I won’t be seeing him again until I get back on 29 Nov. But more on that later.

* …Simon, who rang me and then waited for Keef to ring him back. Hands up if you think Keef needs a mobile.