Australia – 7/10

hi all,

for those of you who do not know, i am travelling the world just now. this is the very first of the updates on my travels. unsurprisingly (since i haven’t been anywhere else yet) it focuses on australia.

the key points (for those of you too busy to read the fine print) are:

* overall i give australia 7/10 – although i reserve the right to revise this number later on as more data comes in on the quality of other countries.

* australia is big and empty – the best way to find out how big is to drive across half of it. this also allows you to experience the emptiness first-hand.

* i am in darwin just now, heading for asia – through some good fortune i came across an extraordinarily cheap ticket to kuala lumpur, so i am off to malaysia tomorrow (tuesday) morning very early.

* travelling is fun – good things include being able to choose to do nothing (all the time), total uncertainty about destinations and means of transport, not knowing what day it is, swimming pools, sunny days, cheap beer, friendly people, good books, interesting stuff, and internet cafes. bad things include nasty people or just plain weirdos (very rare), and spending money faster than i am earning it (very common).

i have been on the road for just over a month. highlights include (some in chronological order):

* i played some ultimate (see this link if you don’t know what that is) in sydney – which was, as always with ultimate, hugely fun.

* i hitch-hiked north to airlie beach (a backpacker place 4 hours sourth of cairns). i travelled with my old friend fraser to surfers and alone after that. along the way i heard about 140,000 bottles of beer that were (accidentally) dropped in a river, got offered work (once – i did not take it), got offered drugs (several times – ditto), and met people who amazed me with their generosity to a young man with a ridiculous beard (now shaved) and orange hair (now faded) that they had never met before (and never would again).

* i went diving on the great barrier reef (and got sea-sick coming back from the same)

* i canoed up the katherine gorge in a national park with a name that i find it incredibly difficult to remember, to pronounce, or to spell.

* i ran into two israeli guys who were going the same way as me in a van, so i hooked up with them. it was easier (and more certain) than hitching. but not a lot more expensive.

* i travelled more than 4000kms in the same van (from airlie beach to cairns and then across to darwin) – only to have it break down 60kms short of the final destination.

so yes, now i am in darwin. a long, long, long way from the east coast of australia, and even further from the west coast. don’t even mention the south coast.

i was thinking about hitching a lift on a boat from here to indonesia. but while i was thinking about it i came across an extremely extremely cheap flight. so (you have to take your serendipity where you find it) i am off tomorrow morning, bright and early. more the latter than the former, i suspect.

speaking from experience, driving across australia (while sometimes cheaper than flying and usually faster than walking) is not as exciting as either. in fact, some of the trip was downright tedious. it was a little bit awe-inspiring to be in the midst of so much nothingness, and sometimes there was traffic coming the other way that made things a little more interesting. the sunsets were nice – and the sunrises too. some of the road-side campsites were a little primitive. grass is more comfortable than stones or ashphalt.

the key things you need for a trip are good travelling companions. mine were good ones, i am pleased to say. also remember that there is very limited cell-phone coverage (it is a good test of whether the town you are in is civilised or not though). and very few radio stations. bring lots of cassettes (or cds). otherwise you will have to resort to listening to U2 albums endlessly repeated. bear in mind also that if your travelling companions are israeli, your only alternative to U2 is going to be hebrew music, which they find wildly enjoyable and will sing along with with great gusto, but which you will only enjoy for short periods while telling yourself that it is an enjoyable cultural experience.

i have, of course, met a huge number of people along the way. some of them are even recipients of this message. hi! it surprises me every day how young the people are who are backpacking around australia. admittedly i was 19 when i first went to russia, but that is no reason why any other 19 year olds out there should be allowed to travel in foreign countries.

people like new zealand, by the way, although (compared with other parts of NZ) christchurch does not have the best reputation.

motivation and money (the two key drivers of travelling achievement, it seems to me) are holding out. in no small way, the former is due to the frequent messages i get from people at home. so thank you for those. on the latter, i am more than happy to accept donations to my travel funds. i doubt that they are tax-deductible though.

i hope that things are just peachy for all of you too.

probably seeing you not very soon at all, i have the honour to remain your
humble and obedient servant,