Straya – ancient, beautiful and full of wide open spaces and endless natural spots to explore. While many decide to jet off to Europe, Asia and the States, others are opting for a different sort of adventure and instead going walkabout in our massive backyard.
It turns out the ‘grey nomads’ were onto something and trekking from coast to outback to coast can be an amazing experience. Plus, it doesn’t cost as much as you may think. All you’ll need is a mode of transport (preferably a 4WD) and a tent. Steve Irwin-style khakis are optional.
While the grass may seem greener on the other side of the globe (and it is in the UK because it rains a bucket load) there’s still plenty of reasons why travelling in Australia is heaps of fun as well.
#1 Adventure is everywhere – and cheap
Scaling gorge walls Indiana Jones-style at Karrijini National Park, hiking along coastal cliff-faces on the east coast, snorkelling in turquoise blue waters at Ningaloo Reef, or spotting the rare and endangered mega-bird – the cassowary – in Far North Queensland. The hardest part is trying to do it all. It truly is choose your adventure for the nature lover.
Best of these natural amusements won’t cost you more than the price of a National Park entrance (varies among states, but no more than a $20 fee per day), while many are free to explore at your own leisure.
Budget savvy travellers can also rejoice at the abundance of free and low-cost camping options everywhere – if you’re OK with roughing it. All you’ll need to worry about it paying for your petrol and your tucker.
#2 There’s some really crazy characters out there
Despite warnings from everyone, you are unlikely to come across any Wolf Creek or Snowtown characters, but more Crocodile Dundee meets Bob Hawke meet Kath Day-Knight types. These characters are real genuine Aussies who will happily invite you around for dinner (fish caught locally) and share their tinnies with you.
These eccentric folk often live in isolation and appreciate the company and a chance to show off their home-made whizzbang loo. They’ll probably tell you croc stories that will give you nightmares and make you rethink camping beside a river again.
Their local knowledge is essential to sussing out the best locations and they’ll usually hook you up with an aunt or cousin for you to meet at your next stop.
#3 It’s a totally different world
Yes, Australia is big. With only three people per square kilometre (compared to the 35 in the US and 267 in the UK) it’s a whole lot of land.
But its distance and space only hits home once you’ve started travelling. Then you’ll realise that 40 hours from Melbourne to Cairns is a really long time – and you haven’t even reached the top yet.
With so much space, exploring Australia means you can enter different worlds that are untouched and exotic, ranging from arid zones to the tropical. The Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland is the oldest rainforest in the world. It still exists in Jurassic form, with some plants the same as they were 110 million years ago. Arnhem land, the size of Victoria in north-eastern Northern Territory, has corrugated chalky orange roads and strong indigenous culture. Didgeridoos can be sourced from the woollybutt trees and crocs slide along the beach.
#4 You can connect with your parents and grandparents in a totally different way
While you might laugh at your parents and gramps trekking Australia at 80 kilometres an hour in a caravan (oh the luxury!) you’ll come to appreciate that they know a few things about roadtripping and its wonderfully colourful lingo. You are fellow travellers of this country and like a secret club, you can connect on a deeper level, without the cool secret handshake. Warning: Your conversation will almost certainly confuse non-Ausssie travellers who do not speak the same dialect:
“Who’d risk it on the Tanami?”
“You definitely need a diesel for the Gibb.”
“Did you stop at The Lion’s Den? How about the Dalby?”
#5 You get a better understanding of your country, culture and history (and thus excel at pub trivia)
Sure, we read the newspaper (your Facebook newsfeed counts, right?) and we know the basics of Aussie history from school. But viewing this country through a different lens helps us learn some solid facts which may even prove handy for pub trivia. While white man’s history has been fairly short here, the first Australians and their lives are entrenched within the landscape and ancient beauty. One cannot go to Uluru and not be fascinated by its sacredness and the Dreamtime stories.
In the white sanded country of Lake Mungo in Victoria, the human remains of the oldest human in Australia were found. Mungo man lived 40,000 – 68,000 years ago. By venturing outside major cities you will discover that English is not the main tongue of all Australians – 150 indigenous languages remain today. However, most are highly endangered.
#6 Make friends with all the Europeans
Australia may be vast, but you’ll never be alone in your journey. The country is swarming with French, Germans and Italians backpacking around and enjoying themselves. And as you’ll be one of the few young Australians they’ll meet, you get to be token Aussie. It is your job to introduce them to our rich culture and educate them on Farnsy, Barnesy, Acca Dacca and Kylie. No need to get the Aussie flag out, but force-feeding Vegemite is a must.
Making European mates is pretty handy for having somewhere to stay for your next Euro trip too. It’s also a good opportunity to practice your high school French out – just try not to embarrass yourself.
#7 How’s the serenity?
It goes without saying that travelling Australia includes a whole lot of freedom, serenity and beauty. Escaping the cities and exploring what’s out there will give you a strong sense of contentment. You can move as you please, with no language or currency limitations, and visit some one-of-a-kind places.
First published on AWOL.