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The Old Man - The Traveling Alphabet
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The Old Man

When we last left off I was talking about the 70+ year-old man who had just lost his wife to cancer. Well, on our flight from Auckland to Melbourne I found myself talking to another more senior member of this planet. Three rows back and across the aisle on our New Zealand to Australia flight there was an elderly man
who had been curing his liver since the tower cleared our 777 for take off.  Alcohol effects everyone differently with him falling to the ‘happy drunk’ side. His boisterous voice easily carried down to my seat and probably to the next cabin. “Shhhhh” was heard all around his seat as people were trying to shut him up. No luck. Glares from people also didn’t work. I then turned around and held my index finger to my mouth hoping he’d get the clue. He was 82 and smaller than me so I wasn’t worried about him beating the crap out of me, plus I was sitting
next to a guy who looked like he played rugby.

After we caught each others eye he thanked me for letting him no he was being loud. He was polite, annoyingly loud, but polite. Three minutes later he was standing next to my aisle seat wanting to know where I was from. We spoke briefly and asked me if I thought the Australians, where he is from, were nicer than the New Zealanders. Keep in mind we were flying from New Zealand to Australia so I answered in a politically correct response. Then, he asked me if I’d ever been to New Zealand. It was pretty clear he didn’t know where he just
came from. The flight attendant then came over and said in a jovial tone, “I guess I gave him too much too drink.”

After spending a week in Melbourne walking the city, downloading pictures at Documentum’s office and having an enjoyable dinner with one of Audrey’s colleagues who happened to be in town, we caught the 11 hour train to Sydney.

We spent the weekend in the Blue Mountains two hours outside of Sydney. This range gets its colorful name from the blue mist permeating the air caused by the oils from the millions of Eucalyptus trees. Not long after the train dropped us into this quaint town, we were, packs in tow, on a day hike to see the Three Sisters rock formation. There used to be seven but four have eroded away into the valley. Seven sisters seamed like a lot to me anyhow. With the 90+ degree temperature and high humidity, it was a tiresome hike down the 900 steps carved out of the mountain to the bottom. We were rewarded with a beautiful view of a waterfall dropping from where we just came and cooler temperatures caused by the forest canopy. The picture-perfect view was framed with the trees and greenery of the lush tropical forest. Then, a typical tourist (not a complimentary term)
looked up at the falls and, in a serious tone, replied, “It would be much better if they could just trim back the trees.” Apparently some people can’t enjoy nature at its most pristine.

Instead of taking the StairMaster routine back up to the top, we decided to take the train. This no ordinary train as it claims to be the ‘Steepest in the World’. Take your ordinary train, slice off the top so it is open air, and put
it on a 52-degree incline. I don’t like roller coasters and am afraid of glass elevators and this was a combination of both. But, I figured I could do it when the 80-year-old Japanese couple with their $4,000-dollar camcorder and a six-year-old kid got on the train. I lived to write about it.

The Blue Mountains turned out to be a wonderful weekend get-a-way. Along with taking another scenic hike through canyons that dug deep into the earth, we went abseiling. Abseiling is the British term for repelling which involves descending down a cliff while attached to a rope. The first half of the day was practicing
and getting comfortable repelling down 10, 20, and 30 meter rocks all in preparation for the afternoon. After lunch, 6 of us and the 2 guides put on our 5mil wetsuits and walked through a small river canyon at the base of a rainforest. Most of the time we were walking through the water but occasionally had to jump off the rocks into pools of water to continue downward. Then, when we came to a 30 meter (98 foot) waterfall, we had two
options. Walk back up the river or repel down the face. After the guides set up the ropes, we all repelled down. Not to the side of it, but straight down the middle with the water splashing over us then dropping into a pool at the base. The advantage of going first was being able to watch Audrey come down next. It was amazing to see her hanging by a rope descending down this wall of water. Then to see the smile on her face when she rotated around halfway down. Priceless. It was the perfect picture but we did not take our cameras because of the jumping and swimming. We’ve had enough problems with gadgets under normal conditions. And, these were far from normal.

What a wonderful weekend. We’re now back in Sydney for the week where we’ll explore this picturesque city.

Bryan and Audrey

Bryan Gillette

Bryan Gillette is the founder and principal consultant for Summiting Group focusing on Leadership and Organizational Development. He has traveled extensively for both work and personal reasons visiting almost 60 countries and 40 United States. He is an avid runner and cyclist and ran 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in 76 hours as well as cycled across the United States. He recently spent one year traveling the world with his family.

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