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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : Work and Travels in Australia...

For being in the Antipodes, for its kangaroos, for the red earth of the Outback, for its immensity, for its waves even, Australia is a place that you can dream about. 

I have to say that I got some emotions when I arrived by sea to Brisbane, and while my first steps on this huge island. Looking at the world map, once again, I was telling myself: here I am!

Then I spent 5 months in this country big like 14 times France. I obtained a Working Holiday Visa and I started to save some money that I hope will last until the end of the journey.

Five months in Australia didn't allow me to see everything, of course. However, I can understand today a little bit better the Australian way of life.

From Brisbane to Darwin, through the east coast and the famous Outback, here is my hitchhiker's point of view of the country of Matilda.

My journey by hitchhiking in Australia

 

The “Working Holiday Visa” 

Arriving at the end of my savings, that were by the way supposed to last two years and ended up to last four, I had to find a solution to keep traveling.

Thanks to the information given by many travelers I met on the way, I intended to have a little break to “work and save” when I would arrive to Australia.

Australia is currently known to have a lot of jobs to offer, with good salaries, and to have a politic of immigration that is attractive for many young people of developed countries.

The “working holiday visa” has been created few years ago by the Australian government, giving the opportunity to some young people of under 30 to come to work for a time of one or two years.

I was chocked.

That was the first time in my journey that I was finding myself in a country with a real good economic wealth. Nicknamed the “lucky country”, I quickly understood why. As a waiter in a cafe-restaurant, I was paid 20 Australian Dollars for one hour (near 16 euros). I got half of this salary for the same work in France. I found this job in two hours.

Often waiter, sometimes (very rarely) barrista, in the Tusk Cafe in Melbourne

In almost three months, I succeeded to fill up enough my bank account to be able to travel the last two years of this journey. Three months in Australia, two years traveling in Asia... The economic reality of one country can be so different to another.
 

The backpackers

As the government as the will to attract workers and travelers, the country becomes a playground for many “backpackers”.

The backpackers, that you can understand by “the one carrying the backpack” are easy to spot at every street corner or in the Outback in Australia. You can hear speaking German in the town of Port Augusta, French in a cafe of the Great Ocean Road, or see the libraries filled with young people connected to the internet with their netbook.

Buying a camper-van and selling it at the end of the stay, fruit-picking in a farm are thing that most backpackers do when they spend a year or two in Australia.

Here I am with two German backpacker that I met in front of the Uluru

I think that the backpackers have a good opportunity to open themselves to the world, to discover an independent way of life and to get a taste for traveling. Some do it, are open to meet new people and are curious to learn. Some others are gathering by nationalities, are not really interested in anything and are more there to party and to drink beers... Well, as everywhere, there is a little bit of everything.
 

The Australian

My world tour has for goal to help me to understand different cultures and ways of living. I focus my journey on meeting the locals. Unfortunately, I have to say that traveling in Australia was globally disappointing on this point of view for the reasons I am going to describe below.

The Anglo-Saxon
The culture is mainly Anglo-Saxon in Australia. After having lived in the United Kingdom and traveled in North America, I didn't have a lot more to learn. Fortunately, it has been some little differences.

« Outdoorsy »
Most of the Australians like to go out or to practice sport. The sunny weather most of the year and in most of the country surely helps.

If there is something to what the Australians are connected, this is the sea. Well, I would more say its waves in fact... No need to say I am talking about “surfing”.

In Bronte, on of the beaches in Sydney

There is even a city that dedicated his name to this sport: “Surfers Paradise”

Well, again, most of the surfers are not interested in anything else than the quality of the waves. They go to Indonesia, they go to Brazil, they go to France, they go to Thailand.. They will not talk about something else than the quality of the waves. Few times, I felt I was in front of a parody of the movie “Point Break”.

I liked the culture of the barbecue. There are a lot of public barbecues, free to use. Those one are well maintained and it is nice to come to cook your sausages on the beach or in a park.

A public barbecue in Brisbane

Socializing in public places
Or consuming many liters of beer in a pub. I didn't like the drinking culture of the Australians Anglo-Saxons. If they go out to drink, this is generally to end up totally drunk and why not close to a alcoholic coma.

A hotel in Sydney, where I could find as many zombies at 1pm as at 3am.

Even if it looks “cliché”to say that, I have to say that most Australians are a true reflection of their caricature: they like to surf and to drink a lot of beer.

Even though most of them can be very friendly, I found difficult to have a real conversation with a local. It has happened, but not very often.

The aboriginals
Sadness.
Here is the word that I use to describe what I feel about the situation of the aboriginals people in Australia. If you want an example of a lack of tolerance, of close-mindedness and a lack of interest of a culture towards another one, look at what happened to the aboriginals people. As with the amerindians from Canada to Argentina, the white man brought his poisonous gift to the aboriginal people in Australia. Alcohol.

Alice Springs was surely the worst that I could see.
I arrived at night in this town in the middle of the Outback. I went towards the center and I started to hear people yelling, groaning. There, in front of a pub, were about twenty aboriginals people completely drunk.

The day, I was seeing them wandering in the streets, aimlessly. Most of them receive indemnities from the government. Because of this, they don't need to work to make a living, so many got addicted to alcohol. As the Indians in America, as many other ethnic groups before them, the white colonizer found a good way to make disappear the local that they considered (and probably still consider) as primitive.

An aboriginal man wandering in Alice Springs

I will give you some unbelievable statistics. The aboriginals people represent 2,5% of the Australian population. The percentage of aboriginals in the Australian jails is 25%. There are a lot of reasons to believe that alcohol and delinquency are connected.

I will never forget this night that I spent in Tennant Creek, a village of around 3000 inhabitants in the middle of the Outback.

Between two days hitchhiking, I had to find a place where to spend the night. I chose a bench in the local bus station. From 7pm to 3am, I witnessed one of the most incredible night of this world tour. A good part of the local aboriginal population was drunk and was yelling, banging on the door of the bottle shop while wandering on the main street.

Some came to talk to me, to touch my hairs or even giving some drunkard kiss on my head. What a night...

I believe and I hope that this situation must be a bit better far from the urban centers. Some communities living in the middle of nowhere in the Outback may have a better life. As I didn't get the occasion to meet them there, I still let this idea as a supposition.

The governmental problem

I have the impression that the government is aware and embarassed of the atrocities that their ancestors committed, so they try to solve the problem in the most democratic way...

We can see appearing an aboriginal flag

Or a foolish propaganda of love between white and aboriginal people

I understand that the past is embarrassing, but the bad is done and this government made by and for the white people keep on trying to find solution for a civilization that he never understood. Please read the following story:

In Darwin, in the Northern Territory, I was invited to talk on the radio about my journey. After the show, an auditor invited me to stay at his place for the time I find a way to get to Indonesia by hitchhiking.

I accepted the invitation and I was getting at Keith's place.

Keith is a former military, prison guard, police officer and lastly a lawyer. When I arrived at his place, he was getting ready to spread a letter of discussion about his experience with the aboriginal people, about their problem with alcohol and what solutions could be brought. Keith was claiming to have a huge knowledge of the aboriginal people as he lived with them for more than twenty years in the Outback. With facts and statistic, his conclusion was clear: the aboriginal people have more chance to get addicted to alcohol and in consequence to become violent. To make it simple, it leads them to their own destruction.

The solution that Keith offers is to stop to sell alcohol to aboriginal people.

Keith spread this discussion paper to many members of the Parliament of the Northern Territory and to the medias. The next day, he received many calls, and specially one from the minister of education in the Northern Territory and one from John Laws (very famous radio presenter in Australia). Most of them were getting scared of talking about this subject, fearing that they would be accused of racism and risking their carrier.

Keith decided to keep fighting for what he thought was good for protecting the aboriginal people and their culture. If the things don't move locally, he will go federal in Canberra.”

I am personally sceptical of what the white man does to improve the live of aboriginal people. Unfortunately, he often tried to bring white people solutions for a civilisation that never lived like white people...
 

Mother nature

I know that the aboriginal people are very attached to the earth. This land is, according to the fauna, the flora, the landscapes, are a true good reason to visit Australia.

A little disappointed about my social expedition in this austral ground, I still enjoyed to discover the wild side of the country.

The fauna
I had similar feeling than when I traveled through Kenya, when I saw the giraffes, the zebras and the elephants.

Here, the kangaroos, the koalas, the wombats or even the wallabies are the animals to spot.

A group of kangaroos observing me observing them

A koala, busy to his favorite occupation: “sleeping” (the koala is known for sleeping up to 20 hours per day)

An emu, another typical animal of Australia

Australia has also a large number of dangerous species, as some spiders, snakes, jellyfishes or crocodiles.

What remains from an unlucky snake in the Outback

The landscapes
Another good point for Australia: its natural beauty.
From the coat of the “Great Ocean Road” to the many wonderful beaches, going through the flat and red desert of the Outback, there are some good photos to take.

The « Twelves apostles » on the Great Ocean Road in the State of Victoria

A sunset on the Uluru in the middle of the Australian Outback

Two minutes later...

The Australian coast near Port Campbell in Victoria

A dry salt lake near Pimba

An incredible landscape in the Kata Tjuta, near Uluru

The immensity of the Outback
Here is a big desert!

Crossing the Outback by hitchhiking made me think a little bit of my journey in Patagonia. The landscape is flat and always the same for thousands of kilometers. There aren't many villages.

The immensity of the Outback

However, there is no wind in the Outback ,which could have been good for avoiding the flies, the countless flies. Those insects are coming on your face and are not scared when you try to make them go away.

Even taking a picture seems to be a challenge because of those flies

Of course, waiting for vehicles and to try to catch the attention of the drivers while hitchhiking was difficult because of those flies. If I was smiling, I had every chance to see a fly curious enough to go to insect between my tooth. If I wasn't smiling, I would have less chance to attract the sympathy of a driver. At the end, I crossed the Outback wearing a Bedouin scarf.

When the traffic was non-existent, I was disguised as a Bedouin.


 

Hitchhiking in Australia

Hitchhiking in Australia was very easy. The roads are good, the concept of hitchhiking is good and Australian people stop easily.

The east coast, more populated, and the rest of the country are different. It was easier to stop the vehicles between Brisbane and Adelaide, but the distances were shorter.

With an Australian and his “surfmobile” on the Great Ocean Road

In the other hand, the time waited is longer in the Outback, even if I never waited more than two hours. The asset is that the distances traveled with a vehicle are greater. It happened two times that I hitchhiked close to 1000 kilometers with one vehicle.

Here I am spending the night in the van of one of my drivers

There is also what we call the “road trains”. Those trucks with two, three, four, or even more trailers. In the Outback, as the roads are flat and straight for thousands of kilometers, those vehicles can be used. I had the occasion the hitchhike one. It is indeed difficult to stop them on the side of the road.

By « road-train-hitchhiking ! »

You can notice that those ones have huge bumpers. There are indeed a lot of kangaroos and other wild animals that are on the road in the desert and those trucks can't technically stop in time.

Here is one with three trailers

 

Unpackaged facts

Here are some pieces of Australia that I have seen.

The kangaroo meat can be eaten and its price is quite low. The taste is close to the beef.

Some kangaroo meat

You can, if you want, put some “vegemite” on your steack. The vegemite is a kind of salty spread made from vegetables. If you like it bitter, you will like the vegemite.

In Australia, as in England, you drive on the left side of the road. To remain this to the tourists, you can see many signs in Australia.

You drive on the left in Australia

And also to remain that the kangaroos are indeed there

The petrol station of a man passionate by the UFO in the Outback

 

Finally, I found that Australia was a good country to live in, to work and to realize professional projects. This is a safe country, where it is generally safe to go out at night.

Traveling in Australia can be interesting for its nature, its fauna and its landscapes. This is a country easy to travel to, by camper-van or by hitchhiking. In the other hand, I found that it wasn't an interesting cultural destination. I was also shocked by the situation of the aboriginal people.

The Outback let me a good memory and helped to taste again the sense of aventure.

Australia, finally gave the chance to take a quick break in this world tour and to gather my ideas before to start Asia.
I succeeded to reach Indonesia those last days and I can already tell you that the cultural shock was beneficial.

I see you very soon for an article about the crossing of the Timor Sea by plane-hitchhiking and I let you with this unmissable: a picture in front of the Opera of Sydney

See you soon,

Jérémy



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