INSIDE AUSTRALIA

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A POM (Prisoner Of the Motherland) DOWN UNDER

Alexis, Greg and Adriano spent a year in Melbourne and Sydney taking in the wonder of Australia. We travelled from the north to the south, to Tasmania, the eastern coast and met some of the most interesting people who have been involved in shaping some of the amazing ancient history of this country.

THE NORTH - SOUTH DRIVE

- Route in Beast - Route in Mini Beast

The Mini or 'Petit Beast' - due to distances and fuel consumption we decided to hire a camper van for our north south journey, a trip of merely 6500km in 10 days! Greg and Alexis showed Jean Christophe, a friend from France around the fantastic interior. The Beast got a rest on this particular trip.

DARWIN

Darwin Bay - croc infested waters

The start of our adventure - the Stuart Highway. It is named after one of the great explorers who transected the country in 1862, became the first European man to reach the centre of Australia

KAKADU

Just 150km from Darwin, this World Heritage National Park covers a huge area of the Northern Territory. It is one of the very few World Heritage sites in the world that is conserved for its natural heritage as well as its cultural heritage. It is also a RAMSAR wetland site. There are over 1,700 species of plants, 60 species of mammals and marsupials, 117 species of reptiles, 280 species of birds and 10,000 species of insects.

Nourlangie

An ancient Aborigine rock shelter in Kakadu with rock paintings dating from 6,000 to 20,000 years ago.

Paintings in Kakadu show of activities that the aborigine people in the region do - killing Kangaroos, food types etc. The paintings also differ from those found at transient and worshipping places like Uluru (Ayres Rock) where the people used the rock as a blackboard for demonstrating history. The paintings in Kakadu show more that the aborigines had more time to do painting as they show the skeltons of the animals and people.

This painting is of Nabulwinjbulwinj (pronounced nar-bull-win-bull-win). He is considered a dangerous spirit who kills females by striking them with a yam and then eats them.

Yellow River

Jabirus wander the river banks whilst...

...Crocs lurk in the depths to jump out at any prey waiting

Giant termite hills like the Kakadu Highway like little termite motels. Termite hills are communities of termites that can survive for upto 50 years before they decay and the entire community relocate to a new motel.

Australian Mosquitoes

DEVIL'S MARBLES

These giant red granite rock are known as the 'eggs of rock serpents' to the aborigines. Fantastic onion peel can be seen from the thousands of years of weathering.

The strange things that you see on the Stuart Highway.

The tropics. Just above Alice Springs is the tropic of Capricon which signifies the difference between the hot and humid and the temperate zone.

DESERT WILDLIFE

There are big insects in the Top End. This Cicada spends 17 years buried underground before it digs itself out, climbs to the top of the nearest tree, mate and then die.

Witchitie grubs

Witchitie grubs live in the roots of the Witchitie bush.

Thorny devils, spiky lizards that eat ants and termites

The red Kangaroo and the Emu

Wild camels roam the red centre. They are the largest wild population of one humped camels in the world. They were released or escaped from the early explorers and have established in the large open expanse.

HENBURY METEORITE SITE

Over 12 meterorites hit an area 100km south of Alice Springs, 4,000years ago travelling at about 40,000km/hr. The meteorite holes are between 7m and 183m wide and 15m deep.

MOUNT CONNOR

The majestic mountain confuses you as you drive to Uluru.

ULURU (AYRE'S ROCK)

The sacred site of Uluru is used as a meeting point for ceremonies by five different tribes. It was first European to see the rock was Ernest Giles in 1872, but William Gosse was the first to actually reach it in 1873 and named it after the chief secretary of Australia, Sir Henry Ayres. The name Ayres Rock was retained until 1993 when it was renamed Uluru as part of the handing back to the traditional aborigine owners.

The sunset parade - the car park where everyone pulls up to watch the serene scene of Uluru vanishing into the black. Sunset and sunrise are magical at Uluru as the rock changes colour through the varying light.

The walk up to the top. You are asked by the traditional owners not walk up the Rock to as it is a sacred site and it is also very dangerous. It takes about 40 minutes to walk up to the top. Temperatures get upto 40 degrees and above and there are 310m drops off the side. Over the past 15 years, 37 people have died, falling off the side.

The view from the top (courtesy of Jean Christophe)

Rock paintings in the caves of Uluru, used for teaching and explaining the history and the location of different kinds of food.

The distribution of Australian aboriginal populations

COOBER PEDY

We stayed in the Desert Cave Hotel. Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in the middle of a desolate desert. Temperatures stretch into the mid 40s so people have dug their homes underground into the pretty clay.

Coober Pedy has underground shops, underground hotels, undergound houses and underground churches.

The Dingo Fence

The dog fence runs for a total 8,500km from Surfers Paradise in Queensland to Bight in Western Australia. It was built from 1880 to 1885 to stop dingoes from eating the sheep. It is upto 6ft high and extends 1ft below the surface. It is one of the longest structures on earth.

THE GHAN RAILWAY

The Afghan Express is a 48 hour railway rail journey from Melbourne or Adelaide over the 2,979km to Darwin. It follows the route of the Afghan Camel trains

LAKE HART

A series of massive salt lakes line the roads south from Alice Springs to Port Augusta.

PORT GERMAIN

Port Germein has Australia and the southern hemisphere's longest wooden jetty - a mere 1.5km long!

KANGAROO ISLAND

Kangaroo Island is situated 100km to the south of Adelaide and is classified as one of the last unspoilt havens in the world. There are koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and seals.

New Zealand Fur Seals

An echidna and some Australian pelicans

Kangaroo Island roads

The Remarkable Rocks - quite remarkable!

GREAT OCEAN ROAD

The Twelve Apostles and three other followers!

London Bridge has fallen down

Ned Kelly in Glenrowan

Ned Kelly was a famous outlaw in Australia, an Irish Immigrant who aspired to escape the English rule in Ireland and came to Australia only to be persecuted as he was in Europe. He is famous for robbing two banks of £20,000 each (equivalent to £2 million in modern money) with a shoot out in Glen Rowan, located in northern Victoria, against the police famously wearing this homemade armour.

He was shot (the bucket on his head didn't work), captured and then hanged in the Melbourne gaol with the famous last words "..and so is life!".

A larger than life character.

MCG and AFL

The ancient game of Aussie rules (Australian Footbal League) was played by aborigines before the invading europeans started playing it. It is played in the winter months on the unused cricket pitches, i.e. Melbourne Cricket Game. The game is similar to rugby but also very, very different with four goal posts and referees that only run backwards, scores of 1 between the outer posts and 5 in the centre posts, you will be sent off the pitch if you bleed and you have permission to punch anyone in the head as many times as you want! It has to be seen to vaguely understood.

TASMANIA

We caught the Spirit of Tasmania to Tasmania. It takes 10 hours to travel over the Bass Straits being battered by the Roaring Forties (high winds that whip across at the 40 degree latitude).

The Beast and the Nut at Stanley on the northwest coast of Tasmania. Stanley was the headquarters for the Van Dieman Company.

Breakfast Ozzie style! There are electric and gas barbeques positioned at every beauty spot across Australia.

WARATAH

Waratah and Waratah Falls. The Mount Bischoff Mine was one of the world's richest tin mines for many years. Now the town is famous for its waterfall.

The Kangaroos are viscous in Tasmania

BAY OF FIRES

The beautiful eastern coastline is heaving with golden sands, turquoise water and red algae coating the rocks. A 30km stretch of the coast called the Bay of Fires was named after the aboriginal fires that were seen by the first european settlers.

Christmas Day at Coles Bay

We were woken at at 8.30 on Christmas Day by the local fire brigade driving through our beachside camp site with Father Christmas and his elves blaring their siren. Father Christmas returned a bit later to give presents to the kids on the beach.

WINEGLASS BAY

This beautiful golden beach is located on the Freycinet Peninsula

PORT ARTHUR

The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830. It soon became a prison settlement where the worst of the convicts were sent, sentenced to work in chain gangs. Flogging became a way of life, 100 lashes being the normal punishment with silent solitary treatment being used for the worst offenders. An asylum had to be set up for those that had endured the solitary confinement. Between 1830 and 1877 about 12,500 transported convicts were imprisoned at Port Arthur and one in seven died at the settlement.Port Arthur hit the news on 28th April 1996 when a madman produced an AR15 semi-automatic rifle and massacred 35 people.

THE TASMANIAN DEVIL

This beautiful marsupial is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world and is found only on the island of Tasmania. It has very strong jaws capable of crushing large bones and eats mostly carrion. Unlike most other pouched mammals, devils carry up to four young in their "marsupiums". Up to 15 neonates (new born), only the size of a grain of wheat are born but just four can be fed so it is a case of survival of the fittest from the start of life. The gestation is just 19 days.

Picture from the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Industries information sheet

The Tasmanian Devils are being devastated by the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) which is thought to be transmitted through saliva and blood. In all cases the facial tumour disease is fatal, killing the animal within five to six months of the first signs. The disease is thought to have killed over half the population. The Tasmanian Devil Park is trying to create a disease free area of Tasmania in case the population is completely devastated on the mainland and save the Devil from extinction.

CRADLE MOUNTAIN

Al and Sarah joined us for New Year and we visited Cradle Mountain.

Dinner on the beach

QUEENSTOWN

Queenstown owes its existence to the mining of minerals and gold, discovered in the area in the 1880s. Trees on the surrounding hills were cut down to fuel smelters and then the topsoil was washed away by the area's heavy rainfall, leaving the bare, coloured rocks and odd, lunar landscape. The town became so renowned for its lunar landscape that when some saplings started growing back the locals started them pulling up.

HOBART

The Sydney to Hobart race pulled into Hobart after setting off from Sydney on the 26th December. The winning ship, Wild Oats IX, travelled 628 nautical miles came in 1 day 18 hours.

Hobart from the water

TASMANIA'S FORESTS

Tasmania has some ancient and enormous trees. This browntop stringybark has a diameter of 3.39m and a height of 50m. The highly valuable Huon Pine, found on the west coast of the island, was almost made extinct by forresters who cut them down for ship building materials. Although extremely slow growing, the tree may attain heights of over 40 m. Growth rates average a mere 1mm per year, but can vary from 0.3 mm to 2 mm, depending on conditions. Some trees have been discovered that are in excess of 10,000 years old, they are some of the oldest living organisms on the planet.

The Tasmanian Greens and the Lumberjacks continue to fight and argue over the way that the forests are managed. Many tracts of ancient woodlands are chopped down and pumped into paper mills, burnt for forestry or become designated as mining sites. We were told that the forestry groups also poison trees in order to obtain land to grow their new eucalypt forests.

The Black Line - the pincer movements made by the armies moving to eradicate the Aboriginal population from Tasmania in 1830. They were unsuccessful in killing the aborigines but they did translocate the ones they captured subsequently to Flinders Island in the Bass Strait. Nearly all of the Aborgines died due to a change of diet, homesickness and the sparse environment.

DEAL OR NO DEAL (Australian Style)

Alexis and Greg tried to win $200,000 on Deal or No Deal but just ended up competing on the stage with the golden boxes,

COMMONWEALTH GAMES

The Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games which over 1.5 million people attended a variety of different sporting events all over Victoria.

All along the Yarra River 72 metal fish were positioned.

The 72 fish signified every country within the Commonwealth.

There were a variety of different events extra to the sporting events which included nightly fireworks, art exhibitions, a beach in the centre of town, daily musci shows from across the Commonwealth as well as sand sculptures on St Kilda beach front.

GRAND PRIX MELBOURNE 2006

The earsplitting Grand Prix was held at Albert Park in Melbourne. Alonso won with Jenson Button blowing his engine metres from us and not even managing to crawl over the finishing line.

Easter in Australia. Rather than chocolate bunnies, these chocolate Bilbies are helping to conserve the future population of Bilbies in Australia.

The Gippsland Giant Earthworm. It is endangered as it is only found in one part of the world, southeast Victoria. The worm is enormous, reaching up to 4m in length and is the diameter of a wine bottle cork.

Photo kindly supplied by Robert Pepper of Overlander Magazine

The photo shoot with Overlander Magazine

Luna Park

Leaving Australia

Anthony and Bill of British 4WD helped us to get the Beast prepared for the container to ship it to Buenos Aires in Argentina, South America.

Fitting the rims to reduce the height in order to fit into a 20' container

The Beast's new home for the 6 week ocean voyage

Packed up and ready to get loaded onto the ship