The wildlife of Australia is what first drew me to the land Down Under. The country’s Outback offers so many backpacking adventures, I could return to it over and over again. Just me and my camel, tracking the Red Waste in search of excitement. In this blog, I’ll tell you about some of the “bite-sized” adventures I’ve had while traveling in Australia.
Upon touchdown in Melbourne, I reunited with my Aussie travel mates Jamie and Jarrah! Australians are a strange type of humans: they have a tendency to end words with “ie” for no apparent reason. In the morning they eat “breakie”, they prepare food on the “barbie”, people who sailboats are “boaties”, the “postie” brings the mail and parents are “oldies”. And who hasn’t heard of the “selfie”?!
Going urban in downtown Melbourne!
Driving the Great Ocean Road along Australia’s south coast is one of the best things to do in Australia. Along the Great Ocean Road, you can find the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are eight impressive rock formations rising up from the sea, indicating that once upon a time, there was land where there now is sea… And yes, I said “eight”. In 2005, a storm took down a 50 meter high “apostle”, leaving only eight out of the then nine pillars. As far as anyone knows, however, there have never been more than nine apostles. So either the humans who came up with the name couldn’t count, or they just wanted to sound fancy! Do you think “The Twelve Apostles” sounds better than “The Eight Apostles”?
Together with my friends Jamie and Jarrah, as well as my humans, I went on a “roadie” on the Great Ocean Road, visiting the Twelve Apostles. I met Jamie and Jarrah in Vietnam and it’s been great exploring both Hanoi as well as Southern Australia with them.
Time to get in touch with my inner wildcat! I was so excited when my humans told me we were going into the Outback! Not sure what’s that big pancake in the middle of the desert, but it makes for an interesting sight… Now, where are the zebras?!
OK, so apparently there are no zebras in Australia and the pancake thingy is named Uluru, a rock sacred to the Aboriginal, and one of Aussie’s most important symbols. Don’t expect a simple plushie backpacker to know everything! Thankfully, I ran into a giant bouncing mouse who could tell me all about this region.
From afar, Uluru looks flat and round, but when walking around its base you can see the rock is far from straight. Uluru’s spectacular caves, crevices and colors look remarkable today. The green vegetation, the red sand, the sharp blue sky… The Australian outback is truly beautiful!
Walking around Uluru, my whiskers started tingling. My journeys across the world – touching upon both modern and ancient cultures – sometimes remind me a bit of the Australian Aboriginal concept of “walkabout”. Walkabout is a rite of passage during which boys live in the wilderness for several months, to make the spiritual transition into manhood. I can think of no better place for such a ritual than the Australian Outback, which covers 75% of the continent.
Kata Tjuta, also known as “The Olgas”, lies a 45-minute ride away from the sacred Uluru. Geologically, Kata Tjuta was formed in much the same way as Uluru millions of years ago. Countless years of rain and wind have carved Kata Tjuta into its current shape: something which is most likely to happen to Uluru as well over the next million years. Not sure if I’ll be around by then, though… Both rocks own their reddish color to the oxidation of the iron-bearing minerals within the rock. I really love the color palette of the Outback!
New South Wales
The Australian Outback is such an immense contrast to the urban buzz of Sydney! Here, the ancient cultures and traditions of the continent have vanished and have been replaced by modern Aussie society. I was surprised by the look of Aussie’s famous Opera House: on film, the distinctive structure always looks as if it’s one big, white building. Up close, however, it looks much more like a honeycomb, made with glazed ceramic tiles – and you can see the complex is composed of several buildings!
Surf’s up at Bondi Beach! Bondi is one of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches. If you’re lucky, you can even spot a dolphin or two here. I’m thinking about taking surfing lessons!
800 kilometers straight into the Outback from Brisbane, you’ll find the quirky town of Lightning Ridge. Following the Green Door Route on our first evening in the desert, I visited the First Shaft Lookout, where I met Tinnie the Tinman. Tinnie protects the Shaft, which is said to be the site of the first opal mine in the region. The Australian Outback is rich with minerals, such as opal and gold.
At Lightning Ridge’s First Shaft Lookout, a tiny house was built out of tin cans and bottles. To celebrate my arrival in the Outback, I bought a bottle of wine to share with my humans and our sweet friend Kelly, who lives out here in the wilderness.
Deeper and deeper into the Red Waste we go! Another 80 kilometers deeper into the Outback, we hit Grawin, where Kelly introduced us to a handful of crazy humans, who go by even crazier nicknames. Today we visited the camp of “Roo Sue” and “Pohmmie John” in the Red Heart of Australia, where we met some of the kangaroos living in the bush. Whereas most farmers shoot the ‘roos who eat their crop, Roo Sue feeds them and welcomes them as her friends… It’s amazing being able to get so close to these sweet, wild creatures!
Exploring more of the Outback, my love for the “Red Waste” continues to grow! From Kelly’s camp in the remote village of Lightning Ridge, we moved to her camp in the even more remote Grawin. Currently, the camp consists of a trailer, a small water tower containing rainwater, and a Long Drop bush toilet. There’s no heating, no running water and no road to speak of! Yet there are kangaroos, wacky bush-burned neighbors and at night all the stars in the universe reveal itself…
In the Outback, everyone has a nickname. There’s Roo Sue, Pohmmie Jon, Kiwi Al, and our friend, Camel Kelly, who earned her nickname by traveling from Steep Point (the easternmost point of Australia) to Cape Byron (the westernmost point) by camel, over the course of 18 months. Over the years, many of Kelly’s friends gifted her little camels. I wonder what my Outback name would be!
Inspired by my friend Camel Kelly’s 18-month long camel trek from Steep Point to Cape Byron, I have decided to go on my own track across the Red Centre. Wish me safe travels!
Celebrating my many years functioning as a Discordian Pope – inaugurated by Michal and Pim in Bratislava, 2010 – I visited the camp of Shirley Pope in the heart of Australia on Parramatta Road – a dusty sand road filled with potholes, humorously named after Australia’s busiest road. I never knew the Pope had a camp in the Outback! Maybe she’ll forgive me for my sins of chasing after bouncing mice. Although, is that really a sin? It’s so much fun!
The opal miners’ town Lightning Ridge is full of humans who’s brains have been deep-fried by the sun. Underneath the town, a man named Ron Canlin is carving an extensive network of tunnels out of an old opal mine, nicknamed “The Chamber of the Black Hand”. While carving the tunnels, Canlin decorates the walls with artworks sculpted out of solid rock. I’m very honored that he included a sculpture of me!
Down the rabbit hole we go! Lightning Ridge is one of the most creative places I’ve been to in my life. The locals, who proclaim they all have “a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock”, erected a slur of creative artworks. This is one of my favorites: the Green Door Route! By following the Green Doors, you can find your way through the wilderness…
Travelling is fantastic, but too much time on the open road has had a nasty side effect: my leopard spots have almost completely faded away! Sometimes, people call me a lion… others call me a bear… I’m going into crisis mode here! My humans tried to help me by putting me in a support group for emotionally disturbed animals. Am I truly a leopard? Or am I just a lion? Or am I a bouncy mouse? A koala, maybe..? Please, help..!
Cairns’ Esplanade runs along the shore of the Coral Sea and features a beach filled with pelicans. It looks like the perfect place for a swim, but somehow, nobody is in the water… The signs along the beach will tell you why, though: the shores of Cairns are haunted by monstrous saltwater crocodiles! So much for my beach day…
To accommodate the humans living in Cairns, as well as the travelers stopping by for a visit, a swimming pool was constructed on the elevated esplanade along the beach. Though it seemed odd and pointless at first to have a pool next to the beach, knowing the beach is crocodile territory the pool suddenly sounds incredibly attractive!
The sunny shores of Cairns lead straight into the world’s most diverse coral reef: the Great Barrier Reef! The Reef is the most complex natural systems on Earth. Today, I’m visiting Normanby Island, which is part of the uninhabited Frankland Islands. As soon as our little boat docked, I started foraging to secure our survival. Just look at this piece of fruit I found! I hope it’s edible!
Just across the water from Normanby lies High Island. If its shape seems somewhat familiar to you, then you might have grown up in the ’90s! High Island was the filming location for many of the scenes from the Aussie TV series Ocean Girl (1994-1997), which ran for four years and starred the lovely Marzena Godecki as Neri. In the series, the odd-yet-enchanting Neri lived as much on the island as in the water.
Meet my two favorite pets in the world: my humans, Pim and Beki! Humans are an odd, but wonderful species… and I’m glad I found a few of them to keep me company!
Sweet. Adventurous. Silly… Though my humans are a bit naughty sometimes, it has been very nice to have them accompany me on my many trips. Whether we travel for a few days or for months in a row, it’s nice to know you always have someone to count on to get you food, carry your bags, and take your pictures!
Dear humans, I have decided to stay on the Frankland Islands. The beach, the reef, the humpback whales… I’m in love! Please take your boat and leave the cookies behind. I’ll be alright. I’ve seen a lot of episodes of Survivor, and I’ve seen Finding Nemo (2003) a dozen times, so don’t worry. I’ll be fine. G’day mates!
More articles on Australia
- Fluffy in Australia: Highlights
- World Cinema: One Film Per Country
- Cinema of Oceania and the Pacific
- Wildlife of Australia
- The Best Places to Visit in Australia
- Backpacking in Australia: a Travel Guide
Fluffy first strapped on his bite-sized backpack in 2010, and the tiny traveler has been exploring the remote corners of the world ever since. Fluffy is the author of the story book “Fluffy’s Adventures: Southeast Asia & the Pacific” and frequently writes about his life on the open road.