Italian jumpin’ kangaroo: an Aussie road trip

Australia, Uluru
Uluru, Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, in the Red Center

Australia
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

Dorothea Mackellar

Immensity. No other word might try to describe Australian wonders: Down Under, the Continent where you can find everything and where everything is so large, extreme, unique. Sunsets on the ocean, majestic waves, infinite starry skies, Martian deserts, tropical forests, boundless vineyards and natural parks as large as a European state. Extreme habitats, where survival is only for an extreme fauna, sometimes dangerous, for sure unique in its kind. And immense, the dreams of those who have chosen to leave everything, and try their luck in the brand new continent, for centuries – and still today.

This post is the very first one of a long serie, the story of my solo travel to Australia, for sure the most beautiful journey in my life … at least so far! 🙂 Below you find the links to the posts I am going to publish day by day.
NB: The journey was Pre-Covid, in 2018; you can find updated info on the issue here.

Whitsunday Islands
Australia - Darwin
Sunset in Darwin
Wallaby mum with her little baby, Kangaroo Island

Australia – Summary

map
The road trip

7/8th September: The trip from Milan to Sydney.
Days 1 and 2 – Down Under, between rainbows and random meetings

9th September: Sydney (city center and Cockatoo Island).
Day 3 – Strange yeasts, historical drunks and ghosts

10th September: Sydney (Bondi beach and Coastal Walk).
Day 4 – The noise of waves crashing on rocks

11/12th September: Sydney (city center and Rose Bay).
Days 5 and 6 – Harbour tales, creative Aborigines and Aussie Bonton.

13/14th September: Melbourne (city center).
Days 7 and 8 – In Melbourne. Between food, culture, music (and food again)

15th September: Great Ocean Road. 16th September: Melbourne (city center).
Days 9 and 10 – Great Ocean Road, rocky waves and graffiti.

17th September: Adelaide.
Day 11 – A strange Tuscany, in the middle of the ocean

18/19th September: Kangaroo Island.
Days 12 and 13 – Kangaroo Island.

20/21st September: Alice Springs.
Days 14 and 15 – Red Centre. Alice Springs’ secret.

22/23/24th September: Tour of the Red Center: Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Garden of Eden.
Days 16, 17 and 18 – Walking on Mars. The red heart of esoteric Australia.

25/26th September: Darwin (city center)
Days 19 and 20 – WWW – Welcome to Wild Wet.

27/28th September: 1-day-trips to Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks
Days 21 and 22 – Kakadu e Litchfield National Parks.

29/30th September and 1st October: Cairns and its beaches, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clifton Beach
Days 23, 24 and 25 – Cairns, sporty car hire clerks and picture-perfects beaches

2/3/4th October: Airlie Beach and boat trip to Whitsundays
Days 26, 27 and 28 – Whitsundays Islands, the heart of the reef.

5/6/7th October: Sydney (Neutral bay) and trip from Sydney to Milan.
Days 29, 30 and 31 – The return. The grass hides, the rain erases (v.h.)

Australia – Tips and tricks

Australia, Sydney Opera House

Some facts

  • Days of travel: 30
  • Flight a/r from Italy to Australia: 1.100 eur
  • Km traveled: More than 10.000, by flight, bus, car, boat
  • Focus on: Eastern, Northern, Central and South Australia. Western part, the great missing
  • Cars rented with Hertz (Kangaroo Island only)
  • Accomodation: hostels (YHA in Sydney and Darwin)

Best time to go

Australia is located in the southern hemisphere, therefore seasons – as well as constellations! – are opposite, compared to Italy and Europe:

– Summer from December to February
– Autumn from March to May
– Winter from June to August
– Spring from September to November.

The Northern part has a tropical climate with two main periods, Wet Season (October-April) and Dry Season (May-September). To find a good climate across all the country, a trick is to visit it during the half seasons (I went in September).

To-do list

Immigration issues. The visa obtainment process is fast and easy: you just need to hold a 6-months validity passport, and apply for a visitor visa, that lasts 12 months, multi-entry (the limit is 90 days per stay). In addition to this, there is the popular Working Holiday Visa, available for young people between 18 and 30 years, that allows you to stay up to 1 year and can be extended if you certify to have worked in specific jobs (i.e. farm jobs). Here you can find the complete list oof Australian visas.

Health insurance. Healthcare is terribly expensive: a good insurance is essential! By the way, luckily I didn’t need to use it, in any case I chose World Nomads, a specific travel insurance.

International driving licence. Mandatory: both types of international licenses are fine (Geneva and Vienna). After 3 months of stay, you have to apply for an Australian license. In the Country you drive on the left. Alcohol tests in the road are frequent, therefore it is necessary to pay close attention: the allowed limit is 0,05% for expert drivers, 0% for beginners. To rent a car you need to be at least 21 years old and have got a license for at least 12 months.

Money. Local currency is the Australian dollar (today, September 15th, 1 AUD is worth about 0,67 euros). Payments with credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the Country, in the most remote locations you better have cash with you. Be sure to enable your credit credit / debt card for Australia and check your bank commission. Personally, for safety reasons and to reduce commissions for exchange, I chose to also use a pre-paid card: Weswap, it’s a multi-currency debt card based on peer-to-peer currency exchange, but remember it is not accepted for car rental.

Voltage, power plugs and sockets. The standard voltage is 220 volts, and thorns have two flat “V”-shaped slats, therefore it is essential to have a power plug adapter.

Beware of

road signs

the SUN.

It’s much stronger here than in Europe, so don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses

the ANIMALS.

“Everything in Australia wants to kill you”, isn’t it?! Ok, I do not recommend to watch on Netflix “72 Dangerous Animals” before leaving (my sister, in Canberra, at night has kept closed her window for a month… terrified by the new South Wales spider!) but before bathing in Queensland or in the Top End, read carefully signs and guides, consider the season and … think about an eventual lack of other swimmers 🙂
Pay attention also to the nice and tender kangaroo: it is definitely not recommended to drive at night, unfortunately the little furry friend has the bad habit of “throwing” himself under the cars, hypnotized by car lights

DISTANCES.

On the map, the distance between Sydney and Melbourne is almost slight… but it is more than 800 km! With only 1 month, during trip planning I bought 4 internal flights.
To save money you could buy them together with the intercontinental flight (for example with Qantas) or, in any case, well in advance. The alternative solution is to choose a specific area of Australia and dedicate yourself to that (for example, an on-the-road trip in Queensland, up and down from buses, or in camper).

ROAD TRAINS.

In the Outback, you will see these huge vehicles: they are world’s longest trucks, used in heavy hauling trucking; the longest road train can be up to 53 metres in length and up to 80-120 tons in weight. Pay attention if you see one of them: they run very fast and won’t stop easily! Keep a safe distance and be very careful if you need to overtake it. Here you can find more info about these monsters of the desert!

Itineraries (Australia in books and movies)

Australia, Darwin
Reading “Women of the Outback” under the trees in Darwin

Mr Crocodile Dundee (movie, Faiman, 1986). A US reporter goes to the Australian Outback to meet an eccentric crocodile hunter, who has just survived to a croc attack, and invites him to NY. Will he be able to survive in the metropolan jungle?

Priscilla, Queen of the desert (movie, Elliott, 1991). Two drag-queens and a transgender woman contract to perform a drag show at a resort in Alice Springs, in the remote Australian desert. They head west from Sydney aboard their lavender bus, Priscilla. En route, it is discovered that the woman they’ve contracted with is Anthony’s wife. Their bus breaks down, and is repaired by Bob, who travels on with them.

Australia (movie, Luhrmann, 1975). The romantic story of an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) who, after her husband’s death, has to run a huge farm in Australia. She will be helped by the aussiemandrian Irquieto, together they will be able to save the farm.

Mad Max Interceptor (movie, Miller, 1979). Action and science fiction movie, tells the story of a policeman (Mel Gibson) who seeks revenge after the death of his family. Wandering the desert territories, he will kill the criminals one by one.

Stolen Generations (movie, Johnson, 2000). Based on the true story of Aboriginal children who were deported to re-education camps by Australian white men. Three children escape from one of these prison camps, and after an infinite journey they manage to survive and come back home.

In a Sunburned Country (book, Bryson, 2000). Soooo funny!!! Bryson tours Australia by car and train, visiting the larger cities, the outback, the tropical rainforest, every tourist attraction. Basically, in the book he recounts both his travels and information about Australia – its creatures, its history, its people – in his usual humorous, personal style, displaying his great affection for the Country.

Mutant message down under (book, Morgan, 1995). The spiritual odyssey of an American woman in Australia. Summoned by a remote tribe of nomadic Aboriginals to accompany them on a walkabout through the outback, she makes a four month long journey with the ‘Real People’, as the tribe calls itself. During this time, she learns how they live and thrive in natural harmony with the plants and animals of the desert region.

Women of the Outback (book, Williams, 2008). Drought, flood, harrowing isolation and horrific accidents  the Australian outback is no place for a lady. But the women of the Outback are a different breed: tough, resilient and endlessly resourceful; this books tells 14 inspiring true stories of strong women who have fought to survive. I have bought this book in a small shop in Alice Springs, and finally gave to my boss, who made my trip to Aussie possible, when she has been promoted 🙂

And what about you? Have you ever been to Australia, are you planning a trip or dream about going there? Tell me in the comments 🙂

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