World Trip — Australia

26 March 2014

Australians seem to know at least one horror story of a relative who was either eaten by a crocodile or lost an arm or a leg to a shark — or both. Or had an aunt whose head was bitten off by a sunflower who decided to be carnivore — just like people who decide to change their sex. I heard so many horror stories when I arrived here that I decided to walk around with my pocket—knife in my pocket all the time. Never touched a tree and always kept at least three meters distance from any plant, opened toilet seats to see if there were spiders waiting for me underneath and always shook my shoes before sticking my feet into them.

I come from the jungle and I saw so many different species here, I'd never seen before: bats as big as chickens — so big they make your hair fly when they flap their wings, spiders in the most different colors, not to mention the crocodiles. Just like Germans tell stories of relatives who died in the war, Australians tell stories of a cousin who turned into crock food. "He was camping on the beach, when a crocodile devoured him. All we found was his left shoe and a sock."

Then I thought: "Let's keep away from the forest and go swim at the sea." Nope! Can't do that either. The sea is deadly, from jelly fish to salt water crocodiles — anything goes. And when I thought I had already heard every story about every animal, I decided to go walk along the beach. Before I left the girls in the lobby said "please wear long pants, to protect yourself from the snakes on the way to the beach." You just aren't save anywhere.

I thought people were trying to scare me away, that Australians had their fun by scaring off tourists with their horror stories and I thought "yeah right?!" — until I saw the first person running on the beach without an arm. In my head that had been a shark attack — of course I never asked.

But everything else is pretty safe in Australia: skydiving, para—gliding or bungee jumping.

I had bad luck in the beginning of the trip. Up in Queensland, it rained pretty much every day in the first days. Every time I tried to say it was sad that it was raining so much, the locals would reply: "Well, it is the wet season". It's the wet season — I would prompt myself, when I heard other tourists complaining. But it stopped raining eventually and the jelly fish went away as I headed down south.

Australians are extremely friendly people. People actually greet you in the streets. In shop counters, they ask how your day is. I wonder how much an Aussie would suffer by moving to Europe. Although, Germany has gotten a lot better in the last ten years. Most shop attendants actually smile back, when you say "good morning" to them (instead of frowning). That's actually an improvement. I wouldn't ask how they are doing though. That'd be weird.

The accent ist sexy. At the airport, the immigration officer asked to see my "oi—day" — he meant my ID. It takes time to understand it, specially as a non—native speaker, but after a while you figure it out. Something funny is that they go over your luggage to make sure you are not bringing in animals into the country — as if there was anything new you could bring to Australia. But that I can actually understand: "we have a complete ecosystem here — there is no space for more weird animals."

In order to save money, I stayed the first half of the trip in youth hostels — cooking for myself sometimes, sharing a toilet with 5 other people — sometimes with an entire floor. I hadn't done this in a long time. But it made the trip a bit more adventurous.

The first part of the trip, in Queensland, was all about nature — from possums to koalas to jelly fish. After two weeks traveling from beach to beach (and not being able to bathe) I ended in the capital city, Brisbane. I had heard mixed comments about Brisbane. Some people said it was a boring city, too small, too big. But I had to form my own opinion. Brisbane was great — great restaurants, nightlife, museums and shops. Maybe I was just happy to see a city again after so much nature.

Byron Bay incorporates the cliché of Australia: Surfers running up and down the beaches, with their suits half rolled down, surf boards under their arms, sunset at the beach, music playing all the time, artists and good food. Well, good food was something I was able to find almost everywhere — organic food, junk food, healthy food, asian food, all kinds of international cuisine.

Melbourne was by far the biggest highlight in the trip. If Melbourne was a room it'd have lots of art on the wall, smell like coffee and have good music playing all the time. There is good french pastry, healthy organic food, food from all over the world, old victorian houses, skyscrapers and lots of art. The good parts of the city are not on the main streets but hidden in the different arcades between the streets. The city is like a quilt made out of different neighborhoods, each with their own character — long streets, old trams running, full of funky shops, cafes and bakeries.

When I got to Sydney I realized I needed at least twice as much time to see the city. I started with the Opera House, Harbor Bridge. Although it's not written anywhere I think the Opera House is supposed to resemble a cockatoo. It's the first thing I thought. But maybe I just spent too much time with the "trippers" in Byron Bay. I would've like Sydney more if it hadn't rained so much.

Next Stop: Brazil

The Trip in Numbers

Days: 29

Average cost of a bed (hostel/private) for one person: 29 EUR

Average cost per day per person, including transportation, accommodation and food and tours: 112 EUR

Highlights: Byron Bay, Fraser Island, Airlie Beach, Brisbane, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Blue Mountains, Sydney.

Cities: 10 — Cape Tribulation, Cairns, Mission Beach, Airlie Beach, Rockhampton, Hervey Bay, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Melbourne, Sydney.

Hotels: 11