Date: Fri 27-Aug-1999
Date: Fri 27-Aug-1999
The Jacksons' Heads-Up Tour Down Under
BY JAN HOWARD
A long-time dream of Darlene and Don Jackson of Newtown came true during a
recent six-week vacation that took them to Los Angeles, Australia, New
Zealand, and Fiji.
"We have always wanted to go to Australia," Mrs Jackson said.
"I think it's an exotic place where they speak English but as a nation they're
totally different than us," Mr Jackson said.
The people, he said, "are more like us than even the English. They know our
"It's always been an attractive place to me. But how do you get a minimum of
five to six weeks to do that. We never had the time," he said. "I retired in
January so then we could take six weeks to do it."
"We liked the people and the animals best," Mrs Jackson said.
"The people are wonderful in Australia. There's a spirit, a moxie about them.
They are pleasant and charming," Mr Jackson said. "Anyone who puts on airs is
put down. Everybody will make fun of them. They are more democratic in the
real sense of democracy than we are."
"Everyone is a `mate' or a `luv,'" Mrs Jackson added.
A common expression used by Australians is "fair dinkum," the American
equivalent of which would be "the real thing" or "right on," Mr Jackson said.
The Jacksons left for Australia on April 10 and returned home on May 12. They
spent four weeks in Australia, a week in New Zealand, and a weekend in Fiji on
the way home.
"New Zealand is the most beautiful place I've ever seen," Mr Jackson said.
The trip was over 23 hours by air, including five to Los Angeles and 18 hours
or more from Los Angeles to Australia. They flew into Melbourne first, then to
Sydney, and rented a car and drove to Brisbane where they stayed with friends
they had met in Greece.
"We ran into them in hotels all over Greece, and they invited us to visit them
in Australia," Mrs Jackson said.
"When Australians say `come visit us,' they mean it," Mr Jackson said. "They
took us everywhere."
Mr Jackson said driving on the "wrong" side of the road, with the steering
wheel on the right side of the car and "everything backwards," takes a while
to get used to, but nevertheless they drove six or seven hours every day while
in New Zealand.
The major attraction of their visit to Australia was the animals and birds.
"The animals you see are in sanctuaries or zoos," Mr Jackson said. "All of
them are nocturnal."
They saw wallabees, which look like kangaroos but are smaller, and
six-foot-tall kangaroos that are so gentle they will eat out of your hand, Mrs
"The birds are spectacular, especially the cockatoos and parrots," Mr Jackson
One of the souvenirs the Jacksons brought home was a dedgeridoo, an instrument
used to call emus, swift-running Australian birds that are related to an
ostrich but smaller.
Mr Jackson said a major tourist spectacle in the evening on Phillip Island is
called "The Penguin Parade," during which fairy penguins, which are no more
than a foot tall, return to land in groups after spending the day in the sea,
and go into their burrows.
"Several hundred people are out there every night to see them," he said.
The vegetation in Australia is also very exotic, Mr Jackson said.
The food is similar to that in the United States, except Australians raise
deer for meat, and also serve kangaroo as an entree.
Mr Jackson admits to having tried kangaroo. "It's like steak, but more stringy
"I thought, `We were petting them. How could he!'" Mrs Jackson said.
There is lamb on every menu, they said, as well as exotic fruits, such as
mangoes and passion fruit.
Sheep outnumber the people ten to one in New Zealand, Mr Jackson said, and it
is not unusual to see large flocks of sheep on major roads.
The Jacksons said it is impossible to see all of Australia in one trip.
"We didn't go to the desert or the rain forest. There were lots of things we
didn't see," Mr Jackson said. "Australia is so big. I wanted to go to
Crocodile Dundee country, but it was too far.
"Most Australians haven't been on the west side of their country. Most people
haven't been to Perth," he said.
In Australia, the Jacksons visited the Barrier Reef, where during low tide
they walked a quarter of a mile out over the coral reef.
"It's the only place I've ever seen a shoe wall," Mr Jackson said. "They have
used sneakers for you to wear during the walk."
Among other sites they visited were the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane
and a museum about Antarctic expeditions. They also toured the opera house in
Sydney, which was built with funding from a lottery.
"Sydney has one of the most beautiful harbors in the world," Mrs Jackson said.
Avid tennis players, the first thing the Jacksons went to see in Australia was
the new tennis stadium. They also visited the Kooyong tennis club in
"We wanted to play on grass. That was one of our goals in going to Australia,"
Mr Jackson said. "We were going to play, but it rained."
The Jacksons did not attend any sports events in Australia.
"The sports are totally upside down there," Mr Jackson said. While golf and
tennis are the same as in the United States, the Australians play a different
version of soccer and their major sports are rugby, cricket, and Australian
Gambling is a big source of revenue in Australia and New Zealand, and every
major city has a casino, they noted.
Mrs Jackson said, laughing, "I was kicked out of a casino in New Zealand
because I was in jeans." New Zealand is more British and, therefore, more
conservative than Australia, they noted. Jeans were not considered proper
While in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, the Jacksons visited the
Skytower, which offers a panoramic view of the city from a sky deck, three
observation levels, and a revolving restaurant. For those who are brave, the
Skytower has patches of glass floor through which you can look all the way
down and have Auckland at your feet.
"They invite you to walk across it," Mrs Jackson said. "It makes me tremble
thinking about it. I didn't do it, even though they said it was perfectly
"I did it, but I held on to a railing," Mr Jackson said, laughing.
While in New Zealand, the Jacksons spent one night on the north island in the
town of Napier, which was devastated by an earthquake in 1931.
"I'd never heard about it," Mr Jackson said. "It wiped out the town."
Following the quake, the town was rebuilt using art deco architecture. The
buildings have wild shapes and contours and pastel colors, he said.
"We had great weather, but in Napier it was cold and windy," Mrs Jackson said,
noting it was Autumn there, with the weather the equivalent of our October.
One disappointing aspect of their trip, Mr Jackson said, was that racial
prejudice in Australia seems to be like it was in the United States in the
"The people are terrific, but they talk about black people like they are
inferior. I think we've gotten past that."
The Australians are very patriotic, Mr Jackson said. "Their patriotism is more
personalized and less nationalistic than ours. When we celebrate, it's `Our
country right or wrong,' and `Love it or leave it.' Theirs is more personal
Despite being halfway around the world and thousands of miles from home, Mr
Jackson said. "You can use your bank ATM card in a nowhere town in New
Zealand. That impressed me. It tells me just how small the world really is."