Travel on a budget around the country of Australia
Australia (Oz) is sometimes known as ‘the lucky country' and it is easy to see why . Idyllic beaches, tropical rainforests, striking mountains and vast, bush interior, Australia is blessed with the kind of natural environment that inevitably contribute s to Australians having a healthy, optimistic attitude to life . Maybe because of this, f ew countries in the world are as well set-up and accommodating to backpackers and travellers . You can expect clean hostels of a great standard offering free airport/station pick-ups and drop offs, complimentary meals and friendly staff, coupled with efficient public transport and safe, modern infrastructure . The laid-back attitude and informal friendliness is infectious and it won't be long before you adopt the “no worries ” approach to everything.
Below are some things I learnt while backpacking around this wonderful country, which I hope will help you on your own trip or at least whet your appetite. ..
The Great Barrier Reef
Situated off the Queensland coast, t he Great Barrier Reef is the world' s largest coral reef system. C ontaining over 3000 individual coral reefs and more than 600 islands, i t covers an area roughly equal to the size of Poland and can be seen from space. The reef is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps and is home to a diverse range of sea life including whales, dolphins, turtles, Giant Clams, sharks, stingrays, 1500 species of fish and 200 different types of bird. Whether you prefer to scuba, snorkel or free-dive there are plenty of boat hire operators in Cairns or the Whitsunday s offering various trips . If you are going to snorkel the n make sure you apply plenty of sun cream in f requent measure to avoid painful sun-burn on the back of your legs. When you do finally submerge, t he beautiful, azure water and the kaleidoscope of colour ful marine life calmly transport you to a psychedelic fantasy world populated by vivid and exotic creatures . Immersed in this bea utiful yet alien environment, you are rewarded with one of the most amazing experiences that our planet has to offer . The term ‘on c e in a lifetime experience' is an overused cliché, but witnessing this unique habitat will make you feel like you are the luckiest person alive. It is exhilarating and moving and, even for athei s ts , an almost religious experience. If you have list of ‘things to do before I die' then make sure you put this at the top. Incredible.
Australians are very, very competitive.
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating once beautifully articulated that Australia was located “at the arse end of the world”. Because of its location, Australia is somewhat isolated from the US/EU centred world regarding economics, politics, etc. The one area where Australia punch es well above its weight on the world stage is in sport, especially cricket, rugby, surfing and swimming. Doing well at sport internationally gives Australians the chance to say (shout) “we may be at the arse end of the world mate, but we kicked your f*****g arse!” New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and England (Britain) are the nations Australia likes to trounce more than any other. If you are a citizen of one of these nations and it loses to Australia at ANY sport, be prepared to take an inordinate amount of shit over it. Again and again.
Further north, the ocean will kill you.
In the southern-hemisphere summer, the Pacific Ocean on Australia's north and east coasts is full of so many things that will kill you that you shouldn't even go near a deserted beach. In the dry summer heat , salt w ater crocodiles (‘ s alties ') leave their inland swamps and rivers to head for downstream estuaries and coastal waters. Consequently, a n innocent paddle at a lonely beach may result in you being taken down for a death roll by a 20ft croc. Also around beaches in the summer are Box Jellyfish (‘marine s tingers'). They have enough venom to kill 60 adult humans and one significant sting can kill you in around three minutes. They breed in mangrove swamps and are more numerous after rain, which flushes them out of river systems towards beaches. Crocs, stingers, sharks, stingrays! If you do want to swim in thes e waters, make sure you go to a public beach where the world-class Aussie lifeguards will take good care of you and, if you're English, gladly urinate on you even if you haven't been stung.
C limbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge?
OK, so you 've just arrived in Sydney and you excitedly make your way down to the famous harbour to take in the sights. As you take another photo of the Harbour Bridge you notice a line of people climbing along the top of the structure and think “Oh yeah; definitely!” So off you go to the Bridge Climb ticket office and they lay it on you; “That's $200 sir, and you have to pass an alcohol breath test”. ” What? You want me to spend $200 and be sober? I am a backpacker, y'know . ” If only there was some alternative. Well, fear not inebriated budget travellers of limited means , help is at hand. The south pylon of the Harbour Bridge is home to an excellent exhibition about the design and construction of this iconic structure . The exhibition is on three levels and at the very top of the pylon is a viewing platform . This platform is just 47 metres lower than the height of the official bridge climb and offers equally w onderful, panoramic views of the harbour and beyond . And all this for just $10 . That's right, a saving of $190! And your state of intoxication is not an issue. Good times!
Aborigines and the “Stolen Generation s ”
Having lived on the Australasian continent for over 40,000 years, the various indigenous peoples of Australia have the oldest continuing cultures in human history. Like the native peoples of the Americas, the arrival of Europeans changed their way of life forever. The British claimed the land in 1770, establishing it as a penal colony shortly thereafter. Their initial impact was immense as Old World infectious diseases such as smallpox killed around 50% of the local population. Further colonisation and exploration yielded traditionally Aboriginal land and resources, and eventually lead to the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Legislation by Federal and State authorities marginalised Aborigines and unfavourable policies were conceived. From 1869 to the late 1960s thousands of indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families in order to assimilate them to the dominant ‘civilised' culture. These children came to be known as the “Stolen Generations.” On 13 th February 2008, the newly incumbent Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology for the past wrongs caused by successive governments; "We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians." It should be said that Australia certainly isn't the only nation to indulge in such practices; The Turks 'saved' Armenian Christian children by having them adopted by Muslim families. Nazi Germany took 'suitable' Polish children to be raised in Germany as Aryans. Canada forced indigenous children off reservations and into schools to 'culture' them. Australia's apology is understandably not enough for some; but at least it is a positive and conciliatory step.
Footy, rugby, soccer etc
Marsupials (‘ roos , koalas, wombats)