Welcome to Australia

 

I have experienced  a lot of places on my journey and had an absolute ripper time all over the world, but the sun-kissed shores of Australia will always be my home.

 

This unique country is also a continent – the smallest and driest one (that is inhabited) in the world; the driest continent is Antarctica. Around seventy-five per cent of the ‘Lucky Country’ is arid or semi-arid, but despite that Australia’s scenery is as varied as my extensive safari suit wardrobe. We have remote snowfields, rainforests packed with wildlife, tumbling waterfalls, gushing rivers, sheer mountain ranges and kilometres upon kilometres (nearly 50,000km to be precise) of amazing coastline with white sandy beaches and breaking surf. Then there’s the ethereal red centre, so desolate and yet so infinitely full of atmosphere. Roll out your swag, cobbers, and spend a night or three lying under a galaxy of stars. With no light pollution for literally hundreds of miles, it truly is a magical experience.

 

One thing most travellers underestimate about Australia is how bloody big it is. With an area of 7,682,300km2, Australia is around the same size as the US and twice as big as Europe – yet it only has a population of just over twenty three million. From Sydney on the east coast to Broome on the west it’s a whopping 4,883km. To put it in perspective, you can fit France into Australia about fourteen times.

 

Australia has six states. In New South Wales you’ll find the largest city in the country, namely Sydney, which has a population exceeding four million. The arrival point into Australia for many travellers, Sydney is home to the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge and, of course, Bondi Beach. While Sydney is a great city, there is a lot more to Australia so make sure you hit the road sooner rather than later and give yourself plenty of time to explore the rest of the country.

 

Located in the state of Victoria, Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and is a buzzing, cultural haven for arts and music.Melbourne has been voted as the world’s most liveable city in 2011, 2012 and 2013 by the London based Economist Intelligence Unit. It’s also the home of Aussie soap Neighbours and you can visit the street where it’s filmed in Vermont South. Melbourne is also home to Australian Rules Football (AFL) and thousands of sports mad fans; skiers will love the slopes of the Australian Alps during winter.

 

Behind Melbourne in terms of size, is Australia’s third largest and fastest growing city, Brisbane – a place where you don’t have to look out of the window to see what the weather is. ‘Beautiful one day, perfect the next’ is a Queensland catchcry. This state is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest living structure and one of the Seven Wonders of the World (you can actually see it from the moon). This multi-coloured reef runs for 2,700km from the tip of Queensland: from Cape York down to Gladstone. It is home to the aquamarine waterways of the Whitsundays as well as many other idyllic islands. Many travellers head to Cairns in northern Queensland for the reef and adventure activities. Further north are the tropical paradises of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.

 

The city of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is known as the gateway to the desert. It’s a cosy town with a close-knit backpacking community. As a crossroads between the north, east and west, it’s a great place to have a rest and swap stories with fellow travellers. The country’s largest state, Western Australia, has masses of spectacular coastline and, as yet, has not been affected by mass tourism. The smallest state, Tasmania, is often referred to as the last true wilderness area in Australia. It has the cleanest air in the world and a host of great multi-day walks.

 

As well as the six states, Australia also has two territories. Contrary to what most travellers believe, the capital of Australia isn’t Sydney it’s actually Canberra which you’ll find in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) 170 kilometres south of Sydney. These two cities have both held the status of Australia’s capital in the past, but when neither of them could decide which would be the capital, a compromise was reached and Canberra was created.

 

Australia has many famous landmarks and the most well known of these are found in the Northern Territory, an area which still maintains its strong indigenous ties. Rising out of a flat and barren landscape is Uluru (Ayers Rock), possibly the world’s most famous monolith. Kakadu National Park is a World Heritage–listed site and is one of the most diverse in terms of habitat in Australia. And Katherine Gorge is one of the most spectacular gorges in the country. The Northern Territory is home to the country’s heart: the glowing red centre – a great place in which to learn about aboriginal culture.

 

The east coast of Australia is the most popular backpacker route and also where the majority of Australians live. Many travellers head out of Sydney and up the coast, visiting famous places like Byron Bay, Brisbane’s Moreton Island, Hervey Bay, and out to the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island. On your travels throughout Australia you’re likely to bump into some of the country’s many endemic species such as the koala, the platypus, the Tasmanian devil, the wombat and the kangaroo. So get hopping out there, cobbers, and enjoy the Lucky Country.

 

Australian Distance Chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Useful info (Back to top)

Size:  7 692 024 km2

 

Time Zone:

Queensland (QLD), New South Wales (NSW), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Victoria (VIC) and Tasmania (TAS) all operate on Eastern Standard Time (EST) which is ten hours ahead of GMT.

Northern Territory (NT) and South Australia (SA) operate on Central Standard Time (CST), half an hour behind EST.

Western Australia (WA) operates on Western Standard Time (WST), two hours behind EST.

Daylight savings operates in NSW, ACT, Victoria and SA from the end of October to the end of March (clocks go forward an hour). Tasmania has daylight savings from the beginning of October to the end of March.

 

Population: 23,439,200

 

Climate: Summer starts in December, autumn in March, winter in June and spring in September.  Being a continent, each state/territory’s climate is different. For example, Victoria has four distinct seasons and NT is hot all year round. For weather charts and climate information in each state or territory, check out www.bom.gov.au

 

Tourism Australia: www.tourism.australia.com

 

Accommodation: There are more hostels in Australia then you can poke a stick at. While most backpackers enjoy the culture of youth hostels, there are other forms of accommodation on offer. Camping grounds are cheap and often situated in great locations or for total freedom you could rent or buy a van. Whichever road you go down, you’ll find some great suggestions for accommodation throughout this book. While budget accommodation may not hard to come by, it is worth booking in advance, especially during summer and on long weekends.

 

Driving in Australia:

In many states an International Drivers Permit alone is not sufficient and must be accompanied by a valid overseas drivers licence for the same class of vehicle.

 

Australia Public Holidays

New Years Day  - 1 January

Australia Day   - 26 Jan

Easter Good Friday to Easter Monday (April)

ANZAC Day  - 25 April

Queen’s Birthday  - Second Monday in June

Labour Day   - Fourth Monday in October

Christmas Day  - 25 December

Boxing Day  - 26 December

 

*Additional public holidays are observed by the various States & Territories

throughout the year, for the full list,see www.australia.gov.au

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Events and Festivals in Australia

 

January

 

* New Years Eve in Sydney:  Without doubt one of the most spectacular places to be as the clock strikes twelve. Watch the harbour light up with 1.5 million people. www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

 

* Sydney Festival: Sydney's celebration of the arts has free concerts in the Domain, theatre performances and firework displays. www.sydneyfestival.org.au

 

* Australia Day Celebrations:  Concerts and celebrations for the largest single public event inAustralia. 26th January. www.australiaday.com.au

 

* Cockroach Racing - Bris: With probing antennae and scampering legs, the bucket is turned upside down and off they go! First cockroach to the edge of the ring is the winner. Buy a roach for $5. Held every Australia Day at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, at the Story Bridge Hotel. www.cockroachraces.com.au

 

* Australian Open Tennis - Melb: Watch Federer and co sweat it out on centre court in the first Grand Slam of the year. Melbourne Park, 19 Jan - 1 Feb  2015. www.australianopen.com

 

* Cygnet Folk Festival - Tas: An arts festival held in southern Tasmania with lashes of folk, markets and workshops. . 9 - 11 January 2015. www.cygnetfolkfestival.org

 

* Pier to Pub Swim: Splash away with 4,300 people over a 1.2km course on the Victorian   Coast. Loser buys everyone else a drink.. 10th January 2015 . www.lornesurfclub.com.au

 

* Big Day Out:  Featuring local and international music artists across rock, indie, electronic and dance genres.Held around Australia every January. www.bigdayout.com

 

* Street Machine Summernats: For those who like pimped-up cars, the smell of burning rubber and women in skimpy bikinis, head to Summernats which explodes into Exhibition Park in Canberra . 1-4 January 2015.  www.summernats.com.au

 

February

 

* St Jeromes Laneway Festival: Fast becoming the coolest music festival in the country,features new and upcoming indie music, look for dates in each city. www.lanewayfestival.com

 

* St Kilda Festival - VIC: A Melbourne tradition, it is a celebration of summer, showcasing Australian artists and talents against the spectacular natural beauty of the St Kilda foreshore. 31 Jan-8 Feb 2015. www.stkildafestival.com.au

 

* Chinese New Year: Thousands flock to the streets for the three-week Chinese New Year Festival. www.chinesenewyear.com.au. Check the website for your closest city

 

* Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival:  A month long festival featuring vaudeville,comedy, installations, music, outrageous costumes and much more. www.mardigras.org.au

 

* Adelaide Fringe Festival: A three-week arts festival held all over town that showcases a variety of fringe acts. 13 February – 15 March 2015 .www.adelaidefringe.com.au

 

* Perth International Arts Festival: A month long celebration of music, art, film, dance and drama. 8 February - 2 March 2015. www.perthfestival.com.au

 

* White Night - VIC: Melbourne's city streets, laneways, landmarks and cultural institutions transform into a cultural playground from dusk till dawn.

23 Feb 2015. www.whitenight melbourne.com.au

 

* Pako Festa- VIC:  A celebration of Victoria’s many cultural groups with live world music,street parades, craft displays and cultural food. Held in in Geelong, Victoria. . www.pakofesta.com.au

 

* National Multicultural Festival - ACT: Held in Canberra, this is a festival showcasing song,   night markets, food, dance and much more. www.multiculturalfestival.com.au.

 

March

 

* Future Music Festival: Featuring the latest and greatest international DJ's/Electro/Dance artists. Held in Melb, Syd, Adel, Bris & Perth. www.futuremusicfestival.com.au

 

* Soundwave Festival: A hard rock/Heavy Metal festival to make your ears bleed.

 Always a quality lineup . Melb, Syd, Bris, Adel & Perth. www.soundwavefestival.com

 

* WOMAD: A celebration of world music, held in Adelaide’s Botanic Park. 6 – 9 March 2015. www.womadelaide.com.au

 

* MOOMBA FESTIVAL - VIC: A 'festival for the people', Moomba has become an annual Melbourne landmark. 8-11 March 2015. www.thatsmelbourne.com.au

 

* Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade and Party: Pink floats, feather boas and men   in glittery, tight pants, the famous Mardi Gras Parade along Oxford Street is a must see.   www.mardigras.org.au

 

* Brisbane Comedy Festival: Laugh yourself silly watching some of the best local and international comedians. www.briscomfest.com

 

* Melbourne Fashion Festival: All the glamour and champagne-fuelled excitement of cutting-edge fashions shown off amid maximum drama and ego. www.lmff.com.au

 

* Taste of the Huon: A thirty-minute scenic drive from Hobart is Ranelagh in the Huon Valley, which plays host to this festival – a celebration of food, wine, arts and crafts. There’s also live entertainment. www.tasteofthehuon.com

 

April

 

* Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Have a chuckle at over 200 local and

 international comedy acts. www.comedyfestival.com.au

 

* Surfers Paradise Festival - QLD: A celebration of Gold Coast music, food, art and culture. www.surfersparadisefestival.com

 

* National Folk Festival - ACT: Held over five days in Canberra’s Exhibition Park, there are twenty-two venues and hundreds of musicians performing daily. www.folkfestival.org.au

 

* Byron Bay Blues Fest - NSW: Now in it's 26th year and held near Byron Bay, Blues Fest attracts local and international Blues/Roots/Folk/Rock acts. 18-22 April 2015. www.bluesfest.com.au

 

* Sydney Comedy Fest: Sydney's turn to host a bevvy of local and international funsters, held over 4 weeks around Sydney. www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au

 

May

 

* Vivid Festival Sydney: .A unique annual event of light, music and ideas. Free exhibition of outdoor light sculptures featuring the iconic Sydney Opera House www.vividsydney.com

 

* Canberra International Music Festival: A week and a half of international tunes in the nation’s capital. www.cimf.org.au

 

* 1770 Festival - QLD: Commemorating the visit of Captain Cook in 1770 and in recognition   of the traditional indigenous owners of the land. 24-25 May 2014. www.1770festival.com.au

 

* Agfest - TAS: To get a taste of country life head to this agricultural fair in Carrick, northern Tassie. www.agfest.com.au

 

June

 

* Sydney Film Festival: Check out some of the best Australian and international films. www.sff.org.au. 4-15 June, 2014

 

* Darwin Greek Glenti: This is NT’s celebration of all things Greek, with food, wine, dance and music. Held at Bicentennial Park , 7-8 June 2014.

 

* Noosa Long Weekend Festival - QLD: A 10 Day festival of theatre, literature, music, dance,film, visual arts and food. 18-27 July 2014. www.noosalongweekend.com

 

* Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF): With over 350 films at ACMI in Federation Square, this festival is long and drawn out – but in the best possible way; www.miaf.net

 

July

 

* Territory Day: July 1st marks the day on which, in 1978, the Northern Territory became a self-governed territory. Watch the fireworks at Mindil beach and enjoy the celebrations.

 

* Darwin Beer Can Regatta: You’ll have to drink a lot of beer so you can construct a boat out of beer cans. Head down to Mindil Beach for a thong throwing competition, a tug of war and the iron person competition. 6 July 2014. www.beercanregatta.org.au

 

* The Carlton Mid Darwin Cup Carnival: Locals and visitors head to the track for a

 month of horse racing and festivities.. 5 July to 4 August 2014. www.darwinturfclub.org.au

 

* Alice Springs Show: A showcase of entertainment including stilt walkers, a parade of ribbons, a world champion sand sculptor and fireworks. 4-5 July 2014. www.alice-springs.com.au

 

* Imparja Camel Cup: Jockeys swap horses for camels in a series of races in Alice Springs. www.camelcup.com.au

 

* Splendour In The Grass: One of Australia's premier indie/pop/rock/electro music festivals set in the beautiful surrounds of Byron Bay . 25-27 July 2014. www.splendourinthegrass.com

 

*Melbourne International Film Festival: The perfect way to escape the cold of Melbourne’s winter. www.miff.com.au

 

 August

 

* City to Surf Fun Run SYD:  A hugely popular 14km run from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach. www.city2surf.com.au

 

* EKKA: The Royal National Agricultural Show BNE: (or the 'EKKA') is held at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds in mid-August. , 8-17 Aug, 2014. www.ekka.com.au

 

* Hervey Bay Whale Festival:- QLD: A month long celebration of the Humpback whale, marking the beginning of the watching season. Urangan Marina in Hervey Bay, Queensland. www.herveybaywhalefestival.com.au

 

* Isa Rodeo: One of the biggest rodeos in the world with bareback bronco riding, bull riding, steer wrestling and rodeo clowns. Head to Mount Isa (Queensland) for some boot scooting action. 8-10 Aug 2014. www.isarodeo.com.au

 

* Darwin Festival: From mid to late August, Darwin celebrates with music, dance, theatre, comedy and cabaret. 7-24 Aug, 2014. www.darwinfestival.org.au

 

* Melbourne Writers Festival: One for literary types. Catch readings by world-famous authors and attend writing workshops and debates. Runs into September. www.mwf.com.au

 

* Henley-On-Todd Regatta: - NT: Make your own boat or else find a shady tree to watch   people trying to travel down the river in groups of four on homemade water skis. Other   events include sand shovelling, boat racing on sand and the bath tub derby among others.   Held in Alice Springs. August 16 2014 . www.henleyontodd.com.au

 

September

 

* Brisbane Festival: Held biannually (every even year) this is Brisbane’s major festival of the arts. 6-27 Sept, 2014. www.brisbanefestival.com.au

 

* Royal Adelaide Show: With over 500 commercial exhibitors, the Adelaide Show is a bustling event with markets, bazaars, fairground rides, horse riding and much more. 5-14 Sept, 2014. www.theshow.com.au

 

* The Alice Desert Festival: From acapella in gorges, to bands bashing out tunes in the bush,cinema by the river and cabaret, this festival showcases a variety of acts as well as wearable art and a magic garden. 10-14 Sept, 2014.  www.alicedesertfestival.com.au

 

* Australian Football League Grand Final Series: Aussie Rules final fever takes over the   city in the lead up to the AFL Grand Final on the last Saturday in September. More than   95,000 fans attend the Grand Final at the MCG with an estimated six million watching on   TV. Grab a beer –  find a BBQ – lap it up. www.afl.com.au

 

 

October

 

* Perth Royal Show: A community event showcasing WA agriculture, small business and entertainment, with fairground attractions, food and art. www.perthroyalshow.com.au

 

* Manly International Jazz Festival: Australia's longest running and largest community based jazz festival.  www.manlyaustralia.com.au

 

* Glenelg Seafood and Jazz festival: Sample some quality Australian food and wine in Glenelg, SA.

 

* Spring Racing Carnival: Giddy-up as racing fever hits Victoria. For six weeks race horses gallop around various metropolitan and country tracks. www.springracingcarnival.com.au

 

* Swiss Italian Fiesta: Ten days of celebration in Hepburn Springs (Victoria) featuring art,   music, wine, food, yodellers, street parades and fireworks. www.swissitalianfesta.com

 

*Melbourne Festival: Melbourne’s major arts festival, featuring contemporary music through to dance, theatre and opera. www.melbournefestival.com.au

 

 

November

 

* Backpackers Expo - SYD: Meet Safari Pete and get a signed copy of his guide.

 Sydney Town Hall. 8-9 Nov, 2014. www.myadventureexpo.com

 

* Surf Lifesaving Carnivals: Held at Sydney's beaches from mid November through to May.

 

* The Melbourne Cup: Melbournians don their best frocks, suits and hats and head to the races for the biggest picnic day (and piss up) of the year. Held at Flemington Racecourse on the first Tuesday in November (always a public holiday in Melbourne, but not necessarily the rest of Victoria). www.melbournecup.com

 

* Beechworth Celtic Festival: Pop on your kilt and have a highland fling. Bands, market stalls, Celtic food and musical workshops are just a few of the things going on. www.beechworthcelticfestival.com.au

 

* Tasmanian Boutique Beerfest: With over 150 boutique ales, this is Australia’s largest   beer festival. Held at Hobart’s Princes Wharf, the beerfest is a mixture of foamy heads,   live music, brewing information sessions and food-matching. www.tasmanianbeerfest.com.au

 

* Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF): Biff, baff, boff! Brisbane's premier film festival is held for twelve days.  www.biff.com.au

 

December

 

* Tropfest - Syd: The world's largest short film festival. It's a free, public, outdoor festival held in Centennial Park Sydney. 8 Dec 2014. www.tropfest.com

 

* Meredith Music Festival - VIC:  Alternative music festival held annually in

 mid-December, very popular with locals, get in quick for tix! www.mmf.com.au/

 

* Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race: World famous yacht race kicks off on Sydney Harbour on 26th December. www.rolexsydneyhobart.com

 

* Melbourne Boxing Day Test:  Join around 70,000 cricket nuts at the legendary MCG for the biggest match on the Australian cricket calendar. For a raucous time make sure you   sit in Bay 13 (get in early for tickets). www.mcg.org.au

 

* Falls Festival: See in the New Year in with the amps turned up at Marion Bay (Tassie) and Lorne (Victoria) & Byron Bay (NSW).  For line-ups and

other information, check out

www.fallsfestival.com.au

 

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Round, Round, Get Around, I Get Around…

 

Cars are always the most convenient mode of transport, especially in a country as huge and as sparsely populated as Australia where there can be massive gaps between towns (some parts of the east coast are an exception). Because of Australia’s land mass, public transport arteries may not always pump travellers to the off-the-beaten-track places. And in any case in these remote

locations public transport may not be viable.

What’s great about having a car is that you can set your own itinerary. All of the most unexpected discoveries occur when you’re driving along without an agenda with a whimsical wind at your tail. Spontaneity can lead to some amazing discoveries; a dirt road may guide you to an isolated beach. However, when travelling in the Outback it is best to know where you’re going. Take a wrong turn out there and you could end up as vulture fodder. A basic knowledge of cars is also an advantage on long haul missions across the desert – as is good preparation in the form of maps, and carrying adequate supplies of food, water and petrol. Should your car break down in the Outback then it is always best to stay with your vehicle rather than to try and navigate your way out of a scorched and confusing landscape.

 

As long as your home country’s driving license is in English then you can use it over here. If it’s not then you’ll need a certified translation. For information about Australian motoring clubs, road safety, touring and other general information about driving in Oz, log onto www.aaa.asn.au. In terms of buying a car, check out hostel notice boards for any backpackers who may be selling their chariots. Travellers Auto-Barn www.travellers-autobarn.com.au sell a range of vehicles as well as rentals. Also check out www.carsales.com.au, www.automarket.com.au, www.drive.com.au or

www.tradingpost.com.au or www.gumtree.com.au for a large selection of used cars. You may also pick up a bargain from an auction; www.pickles.com.au, www.manheimfowles.com.au or www.governmentauctions.com.au.

 

Campervans are a great way to save money on accommodation and offer the flexibility of being able to drop anchor just about anywhere. There are a variety of companies that hire them out. If you want to turn heads and drive a van splashed with artwork and mottos, then check out www.travellers-autobarn.com.au; (03) 9326 3988. Spaceships Rentals are the 'Swiss army Knife of Campervans' with all the mod cons (www.spaceshipsrentals.com.au).

If you can’t drive then it’s no worries, cobber. Australia has many bus and coach operators, the main one being Greyhound Australia (www.greyhound.com.au; 1300 473 946). It may sometimes be a time-consuming manner of travel, but if you break up the journeys then it’s not too bad and is a fairly cheap option – especially if you buy a bus pass. Greyhound offers various passes where you can either make up your own itinerary or else follow a set route. Passes range from a Kilometre Pass where you have twelve months to travel between 500 and 20,000km (it’s up to you), and a Day Pass where you can load days onto your pass instead of kilometres (up to thirty days). You can also get Mini, Traveller and Explorer passes which give you forty-five, 183 and 365 days respectively. Note that these are set itineraries. For a list of bus companies in specific states and territories, log onto www.buslines.com.au.

 

Jumping on a backpacker bus is a good way to meet fellow travellers. One of the most estab­lished is Oz Experience (www.ozexperience.com; 1800 555 287) which is a hop-on, hop-off affair so you’re not restricted. Bear in mind that their buses are usually crammed with young thrill-seekers who are eager for a beer and a good time. If you have a liver of steel and are after a social, party-filled journey, then this is the backpacker bus for you. If you’re after something a bit more chilled out then Adventure Tours (www.adventuretours.com.au; 1800 068 886) offer set routes all over the country although they’re not as autonomous as Oz Experience.

 

 If time is your enemy then you may want to consider taking a domestic flight. Because Australia is so big air fares can sometimes be quite expensive; you can pay almost the same price for a flight from Melbourne to Queensland as you would to a destination in Asia. Budget airlines always offer good deals although there are restrictions in terms of carry-on baggage; food, refreshments and entertainment are not included in the ticket price. Sign up to Jetstar (www.jetstar.com)  to receive regular newsflashes of low priced flights. Virgin Blue (www.virginaustralia.com.au) also offers good deals or to compare all of them check out www.webjet.com.au (but watch out for their hefty booking fee if you book via their site).

 

Australia has some great long distance rail journeys. Train travel is not usually chosen for its speed or cheapness, but it’s a great way to watch a country slowly unfurl. One of the best long distance train journeys is the Ghan, which chugs from Adelaide to Alice Springs and then on to Darwin. Take it easy as you’re carried across the Adelaide Plains, beside the Flinders Ranges, up through the red centre and to the top end. There are options to leave the train at Alice and do additional tours before rejoining the Ghan. The Indian Pacific traverses the lonely Nullarbor Plain from Perth to Sydney (via Adelaide), as well as chinking through the Blue Mountains and other varied scenery. You can catch the train both ways. All up you’ll spend three nights in your carriage and cover a whopping 4,352km. There’s also the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne. For more information on all of these great railway journeys, log onto www.gsr.com.au.

 

If you’ve got time then seeing Australia by pushbike is a good option. There are too many places to list for a bike adventure, but one of Safari Pete’s favourite destinations is Tasmania. You can hire bikes from the city or else scour the second-hand pages of the newspaper and buy your own. Sales tend to be mid-year, especially in June just before the end of the Australian tax year. Make sure you wear a bike helmet – they’re compulsory and you may get a fine if the police spot you without one. Also, running red lights incurs a hefty fine, as does riding past stationary trams that are letting passengers off (applies to cyclists in Melbourne). If it all gets too much, you can ride to the nearest train station and bundle your stead on there. Be mindful that you can’t take bikes on trams, and while you can take your bike on a bus you may be asked to dismantle it. Also remember to carry plenty of water especially if cycling in summer. Outback adventurers need to be particularly careful. Don’t rely on creeks indicated on your maps as they may be dried out. Check out www.bicycles.net.au for a directory of bike shops, manufacturers, tours and organisations.

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Safari Pete’s Aussie Speak

A Selection from the Safari Slang Dictionary

 

WORDS:

 

Cobber Friend

Primo: Great

Galah: Fool

Bludger: Someone who imposes on others

Bodgie: Faulty

Dunny/thunderbox: Toilet

Fair dinkum Genuine, bona-fide

Grog: Alcohol

Mozzie Mosquito

Thong: Flip-flop

Pot: Half pint

Bathers: Swimsuits

 

EXPRESSIONS:

Don’t come the raw prawn

 with me, mate:

- Don't try to fool me

Flogging the wagon:

- Drinking lots of alcohol

Like a possum up a gum tree:

- Moving very quickly

Park a tiger:

- Throw up

Strewth!: 

 - Golly!

Mad as a cut snake

 - Very angry, someone to avoid

Full as the last bus home:

- Very drunk

Bright as a 10 watt bulb:

- Not very intelligent

Couldn't beat the skin off custard:

- Not very strong

Gone off like a frog in sock:

- Excited

More Chins than the Chinese phonebook:   

- An overweight person

Busier than a one armed Cabbie with crabs:

- An overworked person

Could eat the horse and chase the jockey:

- I'm very hungry

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Backpacking Oz – Safari Style

 

The image of Outback Australians that most travellers have before they arrive on our golden shores is of a bloke in a singlet and cork hat, trying not to spill his can of XXXX as he waves the flies away. While it’s true that there are plenty of flies in Oz (6,000 species no less) and that outside the cities you’ll see many a blue singlet, there’s much more to the world’s sixth largest country than beer and buzzing pests. The roots of this singlet stereotype stretch back to 1892 when sheep shearer, Jackie Howe, shore an un-bleatable 321 sheep in one day. His trademark singlet was adopted by the masses in respect of his shearing record which was only beaten when electric shears were introduced.

 

Another stereotype you may associate with coast-dwelling Aussies is a pair of tight swimming trunks, or budgie smugglers as we call them. The original Speedo trunks were designed in Australia in 1961, although at the time they were considered too risqué - so much so that a man was arrested for wearing them. The case was eventually thrown out of court when it was determined that the Speedos revealed no pubic hair. It’s a good job they didn’t catch Safari Pete in his safari jock strap – they’d throw away the key!

 

Because there are over 10,000 beaches in Oz, more than in any other country, there’s a good chance you’ll see Safari Pete’s pert little bum cheeks soaking up some ultraviolet rays. More than eighty-five per cent of Aussies live within 50km of the beach. Further inland, in the scorching deserts of the red centre, is the place to go for a hump or 200,000. Yes, cobbers, the largest herd of camels on Earth roam our interior. Other animals synonymous with Australia are the emu and kangaroo (of which there are an estimated forty million). Both feature on Australia’s coat of arms, apparently because neither can walk backwards; they can only go forwards. It’s this kind of spirit on which the country has been built. Aussies aren’t afraid of hard work, such as mining – an industry which has helped Australia through the global financial crisis. Ninety-five per cent of the world’s opals are mined in Oz, whose roots in excavation go back to the 1860s when a 71kg gold nugget was unearthed in Victoria. For many years it was the largest pure nugget in the world.

 

Digging for gold doesn’t sound like easy yakka. Another job Safari Pete wouldn’t fancy is the mail run between Cairns and Cape York. The postie may only stop ten times, but to empty his sack he has to travel 1,450km in nine hours. It’s the world’s longest mail run and just goes to show how large the country is. On average, Australians have about 380,000m2 of land per person. There are cattle ranches in Western Australia the size of England, and running through central Queensland and South Australia is a 5,531km fence – the longest continuous fence in the world that was built by farmers to keep their sheep safe from Australia’s native dog, the dingo.

 

There are creatures of all shapes and sizes over here. Fifteen hundred species of spider scuttle around. In Gippsland, Victoria, there’s an earthworm (the world’s longest) that stretches an unbelievable four metres, and along the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland you’ll find the world’s largest oyster, weighing in at 3kg. While we’re talking about records, pack your sunglasses and head to Hyam Beach in Hervey Bay, New South Wales. According to the Guinness Book of Records this beach has the whitest sand on the planet.

 

There are so many things that make Australia diverse and distinguishable from other countries, but one of the main points of difference is its multicultural flavour. Since 1945 over six million people from all over the world have migrated to Australian shores. All up we speak 226 languages. Not only that but we also invented notepads, the pacemaker, the dual-flush toilet flush, aspirin, and, of course, the bionic ear. Sounds good to me.

 

The phenomena of the shiver shake

 

The ‘Shiver Shake’ is something special to all travellers.  It happens out of the blue, when you least expect it - suddenly ‘vaavooooom’ - it hits you.

 

You might be watching the sun sink behind Uluru, gliding through the ocean with a dolphin, or standing in the outback with emptiness as far as the eye can see (in fact it might even happen when you see one of Safari team in their sexy safari suits).

 

Usually you’re with other people.  More than likely you’re trying to be cool and not easily impressed.

 

Then it happens.  It starts from the lower back and you feel a shiver run right up your spine - and before you know what’s happening, you’re breathing out a ‘ooooowwwwww’ and you start to shake.

 

You can’t believe it: what you’re seeing, what you’re doing and where you are.

 

And that’s what travelling is all about - the ‘Shiver Shake’ moment!

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Aussie beer… it’s all about the culture!

 

‘I’d love to have a beer with Duncan… ‘cos Duncan’s me mate!’ may sound like a statement made by someone who’s just knocked back ten pints (you can almost hear the slurring), but these song lyrics to a classic Aussie folk song penned by Slim Dusty (the first Aussie singer to be issued with a Gold Record from America) underlines the essence of why we drink beer in Australia. It’s about Aussie culture, about beer in culture and culture in beer. Drinking beer over here is how mates (or ‘maaates’, depending on how many beers we’ve had) form a bond. Aussie mateship without beer would be like Shane Warne without diuretics, Australia without kangaroos or Sydney without its Opera House.

 

From the Paddo in Brisbane to Young and Jacksons in Melbourne, to Outback pubs in Kalgoorlie and Tennant Creek, you’ll see groups of Aussies bonding over a beer, hunkered down at tables and in for the long haul. While different states compete for beer supremacy one thing is certain: we drink good stuff here. From ales and lagers, to bitters and stouts, Aussie’s got them all.

 

In South Australia try Cooper’s Sparkling Ale; Tassie is home to Boag’s and Cascade; WA means Emu; Queenslanders love their XXXX; and in Victoria there are heaps of microbreweries, each putting their own unique slant on beer. There’s even a beer that epitomises Aussie culture and our sense of humour. It’s called Piss and you can swig it back at Melbourne’s Great Britain pub in Richmond. There’s also has a light version called Piss Weak.

 

While having a drink is all about having a good time, there are certain rules that go with exercising your drinking biceps. If you’d love to have a beer with your mate Duncan (or Trev, or Sally or Fred) the good old Aussie way, then follow the beer drinking hints below and she’ll be right mate. I’ll have a pot of whatever you’re having, lege!

 

Tips to drinking beer - The Aussie way..

 

1. Thou shall not be a piker: You’re a piker when you leave a drinking session before the bouncer has had chance to chuck you out or if you sneak off without a valid excuse. Being a piker won’t hold you in high regard with your mates.

The only legitimate reasons to leave the pub before the end of a drinking session are if your other half is on their deathbed, or else if you have a life threatening injury such as a brain haemorrhage. No other excuse will do.

 

2. Thou shall ‘shout’ one’s mates: This doesn’t involve yelling loudly, rather it means that you have to buy a round of beer for your mates, who in turn will buy a round later. If you don’t stick to this rule then you’ll learn a range of Aussie expressions, all of which will make the term ‘piker’ sound very tame indeed.

 

3. Thou shall use beer as currency: In the Land of Oz beer is like gold – you can use it to acquire much more than just a hangover. For example, if you do your mate a favour then saying the following is totally acceptable:

‘That’ll cost you a six-pack, mate.’ Sweet as, cobber.

 

4. Beer is the Amber Nectar: And on the seventh day God sat on a cloud and cracked open a stubbie and said to the angels: Beer is the life force coursing through my veins; it bestows upon any who drink it divine wisdom beyond heaven itself. Contrary to popular belief at the Last Supper Jesus actually turned water into beer. Aussie beer is said to contain the five basic food groups. If you don’t believe me, just ask the toilet cleaner at your local pub.

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Dangers in Australia

 

Many travellers have an image of Australia as being a country crawling with nasty creatures. While it’s true that seventeen out of the twenty deadliest snakes and spiders reside here, the chances of you encountering them in the city are as slim as Safari Pete in his lycra safari suit. Snakes and spiders will generally try to avoid you, but if you’re in the Outback be vigilant – especially if you’re camping. You don’t want to be snuggled up with Hissing Sid in your swag. As long as you’re aware of the dangers, you’ll have no worries. Here are some of Safari Pete’s things to look out for:

 

Sunburn: In some areas of the Outback, notably out near Coober Pedy where they had to build the town underground because it gets so hot, temperatures can rise to around 50°C in summer. That’s enough to make your nose peel off, not just your skin. After only twenty minutes in the Aussie sun you could find yourself turning as red as Safari Pete when he tells a dirty joke at a family dinner (note to self: diarrhoea gags are best left alone when mum serves up lumpy gravy). Peak UV time is between 1pm and 3pm so make sure you slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat, you slip slop slapper!

 

Heat Exhaustion: While you’re unlikely to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, the severity of the Aussie sun can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion if you’re exposed to it for long periods. To avoid being knocked out by the heat, drink heaps of water and always wear a hat.

 

Snakes: There may be loads of highly venomous snakes in Oz, but generally they are big sissies and aren’t aggressive. Your footsteps are enough to have most of them slithering for cover; the vibrations your footsteps make on the ground scare the snakes away. If you do come across one just back away, don’t corner it and definitely don’t try and kill it. Always wear boots and long trousers when walking through long grass. Gaiters are also a good idea as snakes’ fangs won’t be able to penetrate them. If you do get bitten, then apply pressure to the wound and immobilise the area by making a splint or a sling. Wrap a T-shirt or a bandage if you have one around the bitten limb but not so tightly so as to cut off circulation. Do not move as this quickens the distribution of poison into your bloodstream.

 

Spiders: The little critters to be especially wary of are funnel-web spiders (which are very aggressive) and redbacks – both of which can kill. There is antivenin for funnel-webs. For redback bites apply ice immediately and get medical help. While white-tailed spiders won’t kill you, their bites can cause ulcers that are incredibly difficult to heal (they look pretty gross too).

 

Crocodiles: Up in the northern parts of Australia saltwater crocodiles are a real danger to humans, so make sure you ALWAYS heed signs near creeks and rivers or get the advice of the locals before going for a dip.

 

Box Jellyfish:  Found in the coastal waters of northern Australia, the box jellyfish (or stinger) can be fatal, depending on the severity of the sting. You can be stung at any time of the year but be extra careful from October through to April. Make sure you heed signs and ask locals where the safest spots are to swim. If you are stung, soak the affected area in vinegar and seek medical assistance.

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