The Travels of a Journalist; YANKEE DOODLES MEET CROCODILE DUNDEES Amidst Kookaburras, Koalas and Kangaroos (Part B)
Posted on October 15th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ©2010Professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead

 [Background: Yoke-Sim and I arrived in Brisbane (via Sydney) on a Wednesday (1 March 2006). My two younger sisters””‚”Aussie” Kanthi Wijesoma, the younger; and “Pommy” Nayana Axon, the youngest””‚were at the Brisbane Airport to welcome us. They took us to St. Lucia Gardens Apartments (5 Galey St.) in the vicinity of the University of Queensland. We spent a week in St. Lucia as the guests of the School of Journalism and Communication.

[The Yankee Doodles (Jim and Kathleen) decided to join with us in Brisbane and subsequently travel with us to Central Queensland to enjoy the amenities of the “beach house,” of the Khoos (Paul and Dorothy) on the Capricorn Coast. The Khoos regretted that they could not be in Rockhampton during our planned visit because they had made prior arrangements for a vacation in South Australia from 3-13 March. However, they invited us to join them for dinner at Gambaro’s Seafood Restaurant (33 Caxton St, Petrie Terrace) Friday (3 March) during their overnight stopover in Brisbane en route from Rockhampton, Qld., to Adelaide, S.A.

[The 2006 Bowers-Gunaratne tour of Australia involved two dimensions: one involving the reciprocal hospitality of the Khoos; the other, not. This story pertains to the first.]

 Le Grand Diner

The Yankee Doodles met the Crocodile Dundees at what turned out to be the welcoming grand dinner at the Gambaro’s Seafood. The Khoos had selected one of the best seafood restaurants in Brisbane perhaps to spoof the Catfish Saloon and CafƒÆ’†’© in Afton, Minn., that Bowers selected for them two years ago on the day of the tornado mishap. Those attending the dinner were the Khoos, the Gunaratnes, the Bowerses, Winnie Forday and a relative of Forday.

Established in 1972, the Gambaro’s boasts that it’s “the winner of six American Express Gold Plate Awards.” Its menu offered some of “the finest seafood delicacies in the world,” including mud crab, green lobster and barbecued Moreton Bay bugs. Gambaro’s Seafood Platter was the house specialty.

Although Gambaro’s was an Italian restaurant, what we ate was a Chinese-style banquet.  Khoo and Bowers dominated the dinner table in a dialogical conversation on a variety of topical issues to the extent their respective egos carried them while the Sheilas engaged in a low-key conversation on matters of interest to women. 

After le grand diner, the Khoos dropped us back at our St. Lucia quarters while the Bowerses took a taxi to their downtown hotel.  That was the only time that Yoke-Sim and I saw the Khoos on this tour of Australia. However, the Bowerses had one more meeting with the Khoos on their (the Khoos’) return to Rockhampton on 13 March.

Yeppoon Time

The Bowerses and we flew to Rockhampton Wednesday and spent five days (8-12 March) at the beach house of the Khoos (at 13 Todd Ave.) in Yeppoon, Qld. The “we” included Yoke-Sim, Nayana and me. Three separate rooms ensured the privacy of each family unit. The Dundees did their best to pamper the Yankees to show their gratitude for the whale of a time they had in the Twin Cities, despite the hostile tornado, less than two years before.

During our Yeppoon stay, we became the beneficiaries of the ties we had helped establish

between the Bowerses and the Khoos. Dorothy Khoo permitted us the use of her Holden while the Bowerses preferred to use a rented car. That arrangement gave us a modicum of independences to do our own thing on days we did not want to explore together. However, we enjoyed doing our daily beach walks between our Todd Avenue “home” and Bangalee further north.

King Kookaburra

Whereas our travels in Malaysia and Sri Lanka introduced the Yankee Doodles to randy/angry monkeys and tamed elephants, our Australian tour introduced them to laughing kookaburras, pesky magpies, cuddly koala bears and hopping kangaroos

The Bowerses loved their Aussie-style wake-up call early morning, the call of the kookaburra, Australia’s unique kingfisher. The kookaburra song that Marion Sinclair, a teacher at Toorak College in Melbourne, composed in 1932 on a sudden burst of inspiration one Sunday morning starts with the famous lines

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,

Merry merry king of the bush is he.

Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,

Gay your life must be!

The call of the laughing kookaburra “sounds uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter “”‚ good-natured, but rather hysterical, merriment” (Wikipedia). The call of the slightly smaller blue-winged kookaburra, however, sounds like “maniacal cackling.” Kookaburras “often sing as a chorus to mark their territory.” In the wild, they thrive on eating “lizards, snakes, insects, mice, other small birds, and raw meat.” Learning these details was what made the Yeppoon holiday more interesting to the Bowerses. Bowers, who owns a farm in Rosemount, Minn., was quite used to hearing a wide variety of birdcalls. But he found the loud laughter of the kookaburra a more compelling reason to wake up than the loud “cock-a-doodle-do” of a rooster.

Quardle Oodle Ardle Wardle Doodle

The Yeppoon beach walks also made the Bowerses more aware of the pesky magpies, probably related to the crows and the jays.  They are ubiquitous in urban areas all over Australia. We were walking toward Bangalee when a handful of Australian magpies swooped on us and pecked our heads with their wedge-shaped bluish-white and black bills. Known for their distinct black””…”and-white plumage and red eyes, these birds generally attack passers-by who dare to come within 50 meters  (150 ft) from their nest.  Despite its pesky behavior, the magpie receives high marks as a skillful songbird that can mimic the calls of dogs, horses and those of more than 35 other bird species. New Zealand poet Denis Glover  (1912-1980), in an anthology published in 1964, describes the mature magpie call as a quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle.

The other outback birds that fascinated the Bowerses were the emu and the galah.  The emu is the largest flightless bird native to Australia. Related to the ostrich family, it is soft-feathered and brown. Although it cannot fly, it can sprint at a speed lf 50 km per hour. The emu calls consist of loud booming, drumming and grunting sounds that can be heard up to 2 km (1.2 mi) away. The coastal township of Emu Park (pop. 3,000), the home of the Singing Ship monument 23 km southeast of Yeppoon, was another reason to remember the emu whose pouch intrigued Kathleen.

Galah is Aussie slang (the idiom of Crocodile Dundees) for a fool or an idiot. It is another name for the Rose-breasted Cockatoo, also known as Pink and Grey. The Yankee Doodles, who fondly recall the social skills of the garrulous galahs, now understand the gravity of the epithet “flaming galah” exchanged in an Aussie brawl.

Kangaroos to Koalas

The pouch (marsupium) of the blue-flyer (female parent kangaroo) also intrigued Kathleen, who tried to befriend one (possibly at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens) to let her (Kathleen) feel the inside of its pouch in exchange for an offer of corn. But Kathleen failed to tempt the kangaroo, which rejected the offer quickly and hopped toward its boomer tantamount to saying, “Let me alone, Yankee. The four teats in my pouch belong to my joeys.”

The kangaroo is the national symbol of Australia. A Digger knows the four species of the million kangaroos in Australia as a matter of course: Red, Eastern Grey, Western Grey and Antilopine. Our Yankee Doodles derived untold gratification by correctly classifying the marsupials and also by separating kangaroos from wallaroos and wallabies.

The koala, another Australian marsupial, also intrigued the Bowerses. The koalas are not bears. However, people continue to call them koala bears because of their physical resemblance to bears. They live almost entirely on eucalypt leaves.

(I found it fascinating to note that the word kola in Sinhala, my mother tongue, meant leaves. Although the Wikipedia asserts that the word koala comes from the Dharuk gula, it is also possible that   it could have come from kola, traceable to the early Sinhalese settlers on Thursday Island, Mackay and Bundaberg.)

Our Capricornia Exploits

Among the memorable things that happened during our stay in Khoo’s “beach house” were:

  • The commotion resulting from the unwanted appearance of a large green frog staring at Kathleen from the bowl of one of the toilets as she tried to sit on it.

Kathleen’s attempts to flush it down the drain miserably failed. Bowers, the bravest of us all, pulled out the unrepentant frog, subjected it to a thorough physical examination, carried it all the way to the beach, and released it with a stern warning not to bother us hereafter. To our surprise, the frog was back in the same spot the very next day. I suspect that it was the pet Green Tree Frog of the Khoos who let it reside in the cozy toilet bowl inside the house!

  • The camaraderie we established with members of the Keppel Bay Sailing Club located on the ANZAC beachfront of Yeppoon.

On the day of our arrival in Yeppoon (Wednesday 8 March), we stopped at the club for a late lunch. Bowers introduced himself as a member of the Madeline Island Yacht Club. This revelation immediately opened up friendly conversation and VIP treatment. The same afternoon, I took the Bowerses to the top of Cooee Bay, the venue of the annual World Cooeeing Contest held in August. They were amused to learn that the two-day event also accommodated several other contests: husband-calling, kookaburra laughing, billy tea drinking, beer swilling, cow horn blowing, cattle calling, gum-leaf blowing, damper eating and freckle counting.

  • The dinner at the Ocean City Restaurant in Rockhampton on Thursday (9 March).

We arranged this dinner as a get-together for some of our long-standing mates: Robert Kwong, an eye-specialist, and his wife Melanie, a nurse; Ken Kwong, a senior academic at the local degree factory, and his wife Vickie, a nurse; and Loganathan Paul, a psychologist in the Rockhampton Base Hospital. The Bowerses got to know a cross-section of our Queensland pals at this Chinese-style banquet.

  • The Bowerses’ day trip to the 14.5 square-km Great Keppel Island (15 km east from the Capricorn Coast) Saturday (11 March).

Because we had visited the GKI many times, we (including Nayana) decided to spend most of the day in Rockhampton, where we went to our rented house and joined the Liews (Andrew and Lee) for dinner at the Liews’ home. We also visited Carol Gistitin, a former librarian; and we exchanged telephoned greetings with numerous others. I was delighted to meet with Richard Irons, who lived in the rustic surroundings of Barmaryee, about five km west of Yeppoon. Irons was my jogging mate when both he and I were teachers at the CIAE, which treated both of us rather shabbily.

The farewell

Yoke-Sim, Nayana and I said good-bye to the Bowerses Sunday (12 March) and returned to Brisbane thereby terminating our joint tour with the Yankee Doodles, who stayed in Yeppoon until the return of the Khoos on 13 March. Bowers told me later that upon their return to Rockhampton, the Khoos invited the Bowerses to the Khoos’ farm in Eaton, between Parkhurst and The Caves on Bruce Highway. Dorothy Khoo had taken the Bowerses on a whirlwind tour of Rockhampton, including a stopover on the peak of Mount Archer. After leaving Queensland, the Bowerses toured Tasmania with friends.

(Next: Author examines Buddhist approach to journalism)

Figure 1: The Capricorn Coast. A/F=Rockhampton; B=Bangalee; C=Yeppoon; D=Cooee Bay; E=Emu Park.  Red A=Great Keppel Island.


Picture 1: “Pommy” Nayana Axon, my youngest sister, at the beach house in Yeppoon, Qld. (March 2006)

Photo by Kathleen Jordan


Picture 2: A male Blue-winged Kookaburra

(Photo by Adrian Pingstone. Wikimedia Commons)


2 Responses to “The Travels of a Journalist; YANKEE DOODLES MEET CROCODILE DUNDEES Amidst Kookaburras, Koalas and Kangaroos (Part B)”

  1. callistus Says:

    Here we go again. I wonder how many people want to read somebody’s travels. Dan naya ariya ethi neda

  2. gunarat Says:

    Callistus/Raj/Sri Rohana:

    Please see my Sept. 1 reply to Raj and Sri Rohana.

    I don’t read every article that appears in a newspaper. I skip the ones in which I have no interest. If my travel essays annoy you, the best remedy is to skip them.

    I craft each of my travel essays to engender drama. I use the active voice first person to enhance my ability to show rather than tell. Each article attempts to enhance the geographical knowledge of the reader. I try to apply the literary style of Charles Dickens, Gunadasa Amarasekera, Martin Wickremasinghe, Jonathan Swift, and Guy de Maupassant, among others.

    I have more story plots to work on. As long as my creative instincts compel me to write, I will do so.

    Rather than passing judgment on others’ creative work, why not try to publish your own?

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