Of Strange Beasts and Distant Lands

A migrant Indian couples inspirational travel journal
Jason and Ambika Rebello on their Australian adventure
Jason and Ambika Rebello on their Australian adventure

What Brisbane may lack in surf and beaches, it more than makes up for in the form of its beautiful, undulating waterway &ndash the Brisbane River. The longest in south-east Queensland, it begins life in the Great Dividing Range, nearly 200 kilometres north-west of the capital. It then flows eastward, snaking through Brisbane&rsquos western suburbs with funny-sounding jingling names like Jindalee, Indooroopilly and Toowong.

At the lower reaches, it eventually spills into Moreton Bay, a vast and environmentally sensitive expanse of water flanked by Moreton Island to the east. Both the river and the chance of&nbspestablishing a colony were missed by at least four early explorers, including Captain Cook, who visited Moreton Bay but failed to discover the mouth of the river. If not for a group of ticketof-leave convicts, Thomas Pamphlett, John Finnegan, Richard Parsons and John Thompson, Brisbane may never have been born.

After setting off from Sydney in a 29-foot boat in March 1823 with the intention of travelling south, the group somehow drifted north, where they were hit by ferocious gales and forced to spend some twentyfour days lost at sea. Out of provisions and drinking water, Thompson fell ill and died, while the other three barely made it ashore.

Having lost all hope&nbspof returning to Sydney, they wandered inland and stumbled upon the river purely by chance. More than 450 miles from Sydney, Brisbane was initially earmarked for the really &lsquobad boys&rsquo &ndash those recidivist convicts who were deemed worthy of even more punishment &ndash and it soon garnered a reputation as one of the harshest penal settlements in the land.

The convict era, however, was slowly coming to an end and by the 1830s, &lsquofree settlers&rsquo had begun to arrive. With the increased number of new arrivals, there was considerable pressure to allow them to live in the new northern colony. The city that Ambika and I beheld that bright August morning was a&nbspfar cry from the tough penal settlement of nearly two centuries earlier. As we left the central railway station, people from different walks of life, cultures and races raced past us.

Business executives in expensive suits and tanned leather bags, college students with noise-cancelling headphones and loose jumpers, office employees in smart casuals and polished footwear, school kids wearing the bright colours of their respective alma maters, and hordes of tourists just like us. It was hard not to get caught up in the revelry and the convivial spirit of the place. We had our first Australian picnic lunch in Anzac Square, a small patch of manicured lawn in the centre of the business district overlooking the Anzac Memorial. The city council initiative of providing recliner chairs&nbspin the square for general use added a nice touch to the beautiful setting.

Tall office buildings with gleaming glass fa&ccedilades reflecting the bright morning sun towered around us in all directions. In between sat colonial-era sandstone and brick buildings, creating a classic blend of new-age modernism and ageold character. The numerous gardens purposefully positioned amid the office blocks offered pleasant respite and was a testimony to the vision of the founding fathers. This was a city built not just with functionality in mind, but with a sense of civic pride and aesthetics.

The excerpt is from Red Earth Diaries A Migrant Couple&rsquos Backpacking Adventure in Australia.

Author&rsquos Note
A sailor by profession, I first visited Australia in 1994 when I was a young marine cadet on my first ship. It was love at first sight with this faraway country and I mused about settling down in Australia someday in the future. Little did I know how uncannily my dream would materialise nearly two decades hence, with my wife Ambika Rebello. Red Earth Diaries is a unique travel memoir that encompasses the travels of a newlywed Indian couple who migrate to Australia on a one-way ticket with the chance of a fresh start.

However, once we arrived in Australia instead of settling down straight away, Ambika and I decided to do something even bolder - we put our lives on hold and backpacked extensively in the country.

We set ourselves two specific milestones two months or ten thousand dollars we&rsquod cease our travels once either milestone was reached. Swimming with sharks, cuddling cute koalas, chartering private helicopters, and venturing deep into ancient rainforests &ndash we had incredible experiences in this stunning country.

Our travel story is interwoven with snippets of history and provides the reader with a glimpse of Australia as viewed through the eyes of newly arrived migrants.

Red Earth Diaries is founded on four primary pillars a migrant&rsquos journal, a travelogue, a delve into Australian history, and an inspirational tale. I have taken the opportunity to expose the reader to my life in India and of all the things I hold dear about my country of birth. The central message of the book is for everyone to chase their dreams - however distant and impossible they may seem. Moving to Australia has been one seemingly impossible goal that I had set decades ago, and I likewise urge the reader to shed all reservations and to dream the wildest dreams possible,

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