I’m in Melbourne for a couple of days. It’s very….. British here. Familiar shops, familiar food, familiar pubs. Though they could do with more traditional names than ‘The Elephant and Wheelbarrow’.
I’ve been watching the Australians for a week or so. Did you know they sound like that all the time? I thought it was just a thing they did on holiday.
No-one has yet said “G’day” to me. I’m very disappointed. The normal greeting here is ‘”How are you going?”. Or, if they like you, “How are we going?”.
It’s customary to drop the t’s in the middle of words (‘Would you like a glass of wader?’). And syllables are spaced out, like Hos-Tel, or De-Von.
A pink lake has appeared in Westgate Park. Sunlight, drought and warm temperatures have precipitated an algae bloom in the salt. As you can see below, I was having fun with the reflections using my polarising filter.
I’ve had a few encounters with Australian wildlife. The animals don’t really want to be photographed, so I have supplemented my efforts with a visit to the Zoo.
Kangaroos (and their smaller, cuter cousins, the Wallabies) are everywhere in Australia. On the walking paths, in the campsites, and in people’s gardens. They are a serious problem at dawn and dusk, I had to pull an emergency stop on my second day as one jumped in front of my car.
Kangaroos have big claws on their hands (for defense), huge feet and an elastic Achilles’ tendon (for hopping). They breed extremely fast, the females are permanently pregnant and are often nursing three young at once (one in the womb, one in the pouch, and one in the wild).
If you’re thinking of red kangaroos, seven feet tall and wearing boxing gloves, they are only found in remote areas of the mainland.
Tasmanian Devils are small scavengers able to eat half their own body weight in a single sitting, storing the excess fat in their tail. Despite weighing only eight kilos, they can match the jaw strength of an adult human. I heard one of these howling outside my tent at night and I can see why they are called ‘Devils’.
Wombats are my favourite. Like moles, they burrow tunnels. Unlike moles, they are fairly big, so those tunnels can be accessed by the smaller Tasmanian Devils and Dingos.
When threatened, a wombat will dive into a tunnel and block the entire width with its hindquarters. It’s rear legs are plated with armoured cartilage and will resist predator attack. In the event the predator tries to squeeze over the wombat and enter the nest, the wombat will suddenly lurch upwards and crush the predator against the roof of the tunnel.
I was advised not to hit any wombats. They have a low centre of gravity, can weigh up to fifty kilos and are built like tanks. You car’s radiator will not survive a wombat strike.
Wombats are also the only known animal to leave square poo. Fun fact.
I’m afraid I havn’t had any encounters with sharks, jellyfish, snakes, spiders or jumping fire ants. I suggest a David Attenborough documentary if you are interested in these topics.
Today marks the beginning of the end of my journey. This morning I hiked to the far edge of the Tasman Peninsula, to the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.
I sat, on the far side of the world; with the seagulls circling far below. A pair of whales breached in the bay below me. I considered that this is likely the furthest I will ever be from my home.
In that case, ever step I take from here onwards takes me closer to the UK. I’m halfway through my journey and I’m on my way home.
Tasmania is about the size of Ireland, so some transport is needed. I’ve hired a car and I’m heading out for a road trip.
Heading north through the central plains, I’m told that the state is waiting for some rain. The landscape is a hue of browns and yellows, as far as the eye can see.
Driving here is normal enough, lots of dirt roads and wooden bridges. Wildlife is abundant, this morning I had a near miss when a kangaroo hopped in front of my car. The radio is mostly discussing the energy crisis in south east Australia.
I camped overnight at the Bay of Fires. The red lichen on the rocks contrasts with the blue sea to form a colourful tapestry. The air and the water here are clean and pure, and the sky is so bright that you can see the Milky Way.
On the far side of the world, there is a town that looks a lot like Devon. Welcome to Hobart, Australia.
As Tasmania sits square in the path of the ‘roaring forties’, it can get a bit windy. Hiking up Mount Wellington, the situation was less a ‘wear a coat’ and more ‘try not to get blown off the mountain’. Spectacular views though.
Due to last month’s nerve gas assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, immigration at Kuala Lumpur airport was tighter than usual. Luckily they finished decontaminating the terminal last week, so I am unlikely to have been exposed to any residual VX nerve agent.
Malaysia appears to have three main seasons; sweaty, sweatier and sweatiest. It’s really hot. The host at my hostel advised me:
“Take a coat when you go out. It rains here often, almost every week.” 😂
Food here is standard Asian fusion. Unique dishes are bean curds and something called ‘Claypot Drug Frog’. I’ll by trying that one out before I go.
I’m currently eating a shaved ice dessert with multiple layers of deliciousness. The bottom layer is…. sweetcorn and kidney beans. Yargh.