I spent only 2,5 months in Australia. It is by no means sufficient time to get known all the many different faces of this huge country.
However, the small but varied part of Australia I was lucky to see, Australia’s South-East (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania) was great and doubtlessly worth the visit. Although this part is probably not what people usually associate first with Australia, like reddish endless dirt roads through the outback, I really enjoyed cycling through Australia’s most mountainous areas with some snow covered hills, vast gum-tree and rain forests, omnipresent exotic birds and other remarkable animals, stunning coasts and cliffs, etc. Furthermore, the distances between towns weren’t too big and, thus, easily manageable without much planning, still most roads were pretty quiet – at least in the mountains. Hence, a varied, enjoyable and very easy to travel part of Oz.
Finally, I’d like to conclude my time in Oz with two (not entirely serious, obviously subjective, and surely not complete) lists of the things that I didn’t like and that I liked about Australia (given in random order).
What I didn’t like about Australia:
– Magpies in spring: no comment. I just refer to to this post, for instance.
– Caravan Parks: Caravan Parks offer campsites mainly dedicated to people with big recreation vehicles (motorhomes, caravans etc). The price for the campsite is usually fixed and about 30 AU$ for a vehicle and two or three people or more altogether. Sometimes a Caravan Park is the only obvious option in town for camping including a shower. But I never did so, because some narrow-minded people just don’t see that it’s way too expensive for a single cyclist to pay a whole campsite and there is simply no way around that (and every time there were plenty of campsites left). Even the simple request of having a shower was refused multiple times.
– Truck drivers: Actually, I haven’t had much trouble with truck drivers. You just have to respect them and sometimes have to get off the road in time. If not, as I once did in a town (limit of 50 km/h), in a curve, a truck driver became annoyed and passed his anger via radio to others. At a gas station, I finally bump into one of his colleagues who gave me a lecture. Just to say this: I didn’t have a bad conscience ;). Maybe I should explain to truck drivers what the horn is good for. Because they never, again never, used it so far, although it would really help sometimes (too shy? too polite? truck drivers?)
– Car drivers: well, not all, not in general. But significantly many drivers don’t know how to overtake a cyclist. Some either pass to close (fortunately not too often) or, more frequently, changing the side of the road completely and therewith putting the oncoming cars under risk.
– Food: No, I definitely don’t want to say that Australia has bad food. No, there is probably brilliant food (just to mention the fish at the coasts). But if you want to live on a fairly cheap basis (according to European standards) you very often end up eating crap (for instance a bright, soft substance, called toast … hard to get a proper bread here). Even vegetables and fruits (at least in the supermarkets) were quite expensive for me.
– Tassie’s weather: yeah, snow, rain and strong head-wind. Just what cyclists like most.
– Mountains: I liked the mountains in Oz (see positive list). But, of course, you should not expect a lot of them nor being very spectacular like the European alps. They are usually more hills than real mountains (with some exceptions).
– Towns/Cities: Modern Australia hasn’t a history that reaches far back. Consequently, the most cities or rather towns don’t have much charm and appear very practical and car dominated. I barely took photos in towns for not much to see. Exceptions with kind of special characters are Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. But still, I was every time looking forward to getting into a town: food and people!
– Dead animals: Sad but true: I have probably seen more dead animals than alive. And I have seen a lot of wildlife.
What I liked about Australia:
– Tassie: yes, Tassie was lovely as many were assuring already beforehand. A nice mixture of different sceneries, like coastal cliffs, bays, mountains, lakes, forests, etc. And Hobart.
– Warmshowers-hosts: 16 out of 80 nights in Australia I was staying with warmshowers-hosts or got invited (2 times). And every single stay was pleasant, interesting and absolutely enjoyable!
– Flora and fauna: plants and animals you don’t find anywhere else. E.g. gum trees, that regularly lose their bark instead of their leaves, tons of exotic birds, and a lot of other animals (I saw kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, one koala, walabis, possums, to name just a few). …Oh, yes and snakes. I fortunately only saw three or so (I almost drove over a big one for they don’t hear and only perceive their environment via vibration – cyclist don’t cause many vibrations). I think its fortunate because every single snake is poisonous (if you follow some simple rules its actually not a serious danger).
– Mountains: many of them are not really spectacular but still unique in its own way, in particular due to the vegetation and views.
– Language: G’day, mate. Well, its English (sort of), but exactly this makes traveling here absolutely easy and I very rarely felt lonely. Simply plenty of people to talk to – provided you understand them since the Aussie slang is not a guarantee to understand people. And don’t tell them you’re traveling with a bicycle. It’s a push bike!
– (Wild) camping: Due to the relatively sparse population, even in the south-east, it is fairly easy to find places to camp wild, except in farm land with all the annoying fences. Additionally there are quite a few free camping sites, in particular in or next to national parks. And just asking in town where you can pitch your tent is always a good idea. Because I like it and to save costs I camped 46 nights out of 80 nights in Australia for free (either wild or on free camping grounds) and stayed only 7 nights on payed campgrounds (not Caravan Parks). The remaining nights I spent with warmshowers-hosts (16x), in hostels (9x) or on the ferry (2x).
– National Parks: for most national parks in Victoria and NSW entry fees were abolished, and still they are well maintained with lots of information and signpostings (and sometimes free campgrounds). In Tassie, at least as a backpacker or cyclist, one has to pay only 30 AU$ once for all national parks (even including the shuttle bus service in Cradle Mt. for instance).
– People: Aussies are nice and communicative, indeed, but, in my opinion not exceptionally. As a lonely cyclist you get in touch with people very easy, anyway. Interesting was how many people have roots overseas, most likely Europe.
– Libraries: if opened, many provide gratefully free Wi-Fi.
– McDonalds: No, I don’t like McDoof and didn’t eat any of their junk burgers. But it reliably provides Wi-Fi if, for instance, the library, tourist information or other sources of free Wi-Fi are closed.
– … there is certainly much more I liked but this should be enough for now
Obviously, the ‘likes’ outnumber the ‘don’t likes’ 😉