Back in the heady halcyon days of 2002, I travelled to Australia to meet up with Mandy, an Aussie girl I had met 3 years earlier while backpacking around Egypt.
We teamed up and took a beaten-up 1982 Holden panel van called MONTY on an epic drive across the red heart of AUSTRALIA.
From MELBOURNE we drove along the GREAT OCEAN ROAD, popped into ADELAIDE to feed the koalas, visited LAKE EYRE and COOBER PEDY on the way up to ULURU (AYRE’S ROCK), THE OLGAS and KING’S CANYON.
After a little, erm, car trouble we found ourselves in ALICE SPRINGS, went UFO hunting at the DEVIL’S MARBLES and swimming in the crystal clear waters of KATHERINE.
Up to DARWIN to search for the mangroves and then across to KAKADU NATIONAL PARK in search of crocodiles and cave paintings. After a near-fatal collision on the way to HUGHENDEN we limped along to TOWNSVILLE where we both decided to leap out of a plane at 10,000 feet up in the air.
Heading south down the East Coast of The Land Down Under, we took a sea-plane out into the middle of the GREAT BARRIER REEF and then high-tailed it to BRISBANE to watch the midnight screening of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Cos we is geeks like that.
Then down, down, down all the way to SYDNEY and CANBERRA before scaling MT KOSCIUSKO, the highest mountain in Australia. After adjusting to the altitude we drove down to the coast to visit EDEN on the way back to MELBOURNE.
What’s really sweet about this video is that Mandy and I only got together the day before we started filming it: and we’re still together to this very day. Hell, good travel buddies are hard to find…!!
Not wanting my trip up to Townsville to be a complete waste of time, Eagle, Sera and Robbie ensured that I at least had some most excellent experiences while up north. Last night I got to feed a freshly killed chicken to a python (called Leia) and today Sera to took me to the Billabong Animal Sanctuary where they all work so I could feed a crocodile Irwin-style. A giant (and I mean GIANT) salty – the biggest and most aggressive crocodiles in the world vs. me with a piece of meat on the end of a stick. Needless to say, the magnificent beast won the day, but not after a couple of minor skirmishes in which I was the victor – teasing the great reptilian with my prowess on the lifty-stick and the fact there was a nice high fence between the two of us.
While at the Sanctuary I also got to annoy a cockatoo, infuriate a parrot, exasperate a wombat, irritate a koala and bother a cassowary. Lovely! The horrifically overpriced coach back to Brisbane (what does this thing run on – gypsy tears?) left at 1pm, so I said my fond fare-ye-wells to Eagle and Robbie before Sera ran me into the city, purchasing sushi for me along the way (thank you Sera!!). And here’s me thinking all Republicans are evil. Evil people don’t buy me sushi, I’m sure.
Sera dropped me off a the bus stop (for $190 one would expect a station, no?) and soon I was heading back to where I came from. The same rest stops, the same films on the TV, the same big long (mostly) empty highway. Met a bunch of backpackers on board from The Netherlands and Germany and had a much better time heading down than I did heading up (a journey on which I talked to nobody). If it wasn’t for the horrendous bogan (what they call chavs in Oz) mother, four unruly kids and more unwarranted slapping than a punch-up outside The Lisbon. When I’m in charge, you’re going to need a licence to look after kids. Even if they’re your own.
The bus drove into the night and was as uncomfortable as you’d expect. Although slightly less uncomfortable than that time I was on a coach in Bolivia and the old man next to me put his hand on my leg and I had to pick it up and put it back on his own leg. That was awkward.
Frustrated with my lack of internet, I called top mate Alex Zelenjak in Sydney to see if he could find anything interesting heading up to Taiwan in the next few days. I was also mulling over the magnificently crazy plan put forward by Odyssey follower Jason Budzinski in Texas – a plan that would involve me taking a P&O cruise ship to New Caledonia, then a Swire cargo ship to Keelung in Taiwan, then get the train down to Kaohsiung in order to meet the Mell Sembawang on April 15. The chances of pulling this trick off would be as remote as Everton’s chances of ever winning the damn Premiership, but it got me thinking… what if there was a ship going direct from Brisbane to Keelung?