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Blog > Roxanne's adventures in Australia
World Class Travel Medicine

Australia ‘The land of Oz,’ inhabited by only 20 million people, kangaroo, koala bears, aborigine people, wild boars, The Great Barrier Reef, The Outback and a vast amount of formidable sea critters summoned me to their territory. The intrigue of a country almost as large as the United States, but populated by only 1/15 the amount of people compelled me to stay past the length of the Asia Pacific International Conference on Travel Medicine I would attend.

My introduction to The Land Down Under began at the Melbourne Airport after I cleared customs and entered the passenger pickup zone. A near stranger waited at the end of the path with a sign, “Royce.” “Graeme,” I said, excitedly. “G’day Roxanne,” he replied in his Aussie accent and so the adventure began. Small talk centered on the flight and our common ground- we had both done a bike tour in the Andalusia region in Spain with the same outfit, only 2 years apart. Off we went in a Mercedes convertible into the warmth of the tropical summer sun. We drove across the Bolty bridge over the Yarra river, passing city sprawl along the way- an area once inhabited by low income dwellings was now being infiltrated by the upper middle class.

Finally, we emerged at The Crown Royal Hotel in Melbourne, the location of the travel medicine event. Inside I took note of someone in a ‘Paul Hogan costume’ sporting leather cowboy boots, a leather hat, jeans and a croc vest. “Would you care to join me for tea,” Graeme suggested, interrupting my stare. Tea, I learned meant dinner, but I declined as jet lag- induced fatigue began to take hold of me. My next reality began at 4:30am in the hotel as I ventured downstairs into a room lit with fluorescent lights and embossed with subdued rap music which felt surreal and disorienting at best. I sunk down into the couch and began reviewing the material I was expected to know for the medical exam I was to take on Sunday. Behind the couch were ceiling to floor windows exposing the cool darkness of the early morning. A 22 wheeler obstructed my view of the McDonalds across the street. The man behind the counter with long course black hair pulled back into a pony tail asked with a teasing smile if my ride had arrived.

The day persisted laboriously as I struggled to focus on my studies in my delirious state. Sunday, I sat for the exam and then began attending conference talks and events. Plenary speakers, internationally recognized for their extensive research in their field, dispensed the most up to date information.

A few of the seminars were devoted to travel within Australia alone. Interestingly enough, although Australia receives over 5 million international visitors a year, there are relatively few travel health websites that provide travel health advice to this region. And, specific risks relating to climate, wildlife, tourist activities and driving are known to cause close to 400 deaths a year to visitors who were perhaps not adequately informed.

In the Outback, the harsh climatic conditions and the deceptiveness of distances are potential sources of injury to hikers and motorists. Car crashes are linked to fatigue, not wearing seat belts, and the failure to keep on the left side of the road. Injuries in coastal and beach areas are related to water sport activities, swimming in unsupervised areas and encounters with animals. I absorbed the information as my journey to Australia would expand beyond Melborne and also because I have a travel medicine clinic in Fort Collins. My visit would be to Apollo Bay; a coastal town in southwestern Victoria called ‘Paradise by the Sea.’ To reach this destination, Graeme and I boarded the Queenscliff-Sorrento ferry, crossing the Port Phillip Bay and then drove down the Great Ocean Road. Along the way, we stopped at a small town in search of food, only to discover that beach towns take afternoon breaks, so coffee and snacks filled the gap.

We finished our coffee and boarded the ferry with seconds to spare. Climbing up to its upper deck introduced a different perspective on the landscape and a taste of the ocean. My eyes, mesmerized by the waves, were drawn towards a pod of dolphins chasing a speed boat. Soon the details of the land came into focus and as we disembarked, we discovered the cliffside road which provided the only barrier to the expansive sea.

As we approached the town of Apollo Bay, its expansive crescent-shaped swimming beach along the edge of the Barham River juxtaposing the lush green Otway hillside, came into view. We continued west for a couple of blocks until the flat was upon us. The sounds of the ocean rustled with the foliage of the lush, tropical trees and the melodic tunes from the yellow tail black cockatoos. What a luxurious and peaceful secluded dwelling I had immersed myself into. I soon discovered the National and State parks which entice one to view ancient rain forests and groves of gum trees housing koala bears. Spectacular panoramic views from Marriners Lookout Road and Cape Patton illuminated the captivating beauty of the town and coast.

Immersing myself into this beautiful landscape and its culture of people eager to ‘take me in’ as though I were a long lost friend was comforting as I knew that my farewell was not a permanent good-bye.

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