Australia – The Great and the Ugly

I was thinking forth and back if I should write this blog as we spent so little time in such a huge country but on the other hand I thought it might be still interesting and relevant to our readers how we experienced Australia. And in the end it is very personal anyway so it doesn’t really matter as we can never be really objective. So there we go: we spent a little more than two months on this continent, about 3.5 weeks in Tasmania and the rest in Victoria. We cycled 2,432 km and spent a few weeks with dear hosts to rest.

1 – Food
Difficult to judge as we mainly cooked ourselves. We discovered Tim Tam, a chocolate biscuit, yum. What we also discovered is that there is a lot of junk food (fish & chips, KFC, McDonalds and what-have-you) and shockingly many people in the countryside are obese – no surprise! Staying with locals we usually got excellent and healthy food, but then we most likely didn’t stay with the average Australian. Oh, and most of the people we stayed with baked their own bread, made their own yoghurt and had vegetable gardens of all sizes.

All the ingredients for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls

All the ingredients for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls

2 – People
Oh what a disappointment. Nobody was welcoming us anymore, let alone saw us. Having spent a year in Asia we really got used to the fact that everybody was greeting us, wanted to talk to us or took our picture. Now not even other cyclists would bother to acknowledge our presence. Welcome back to the western world! At the beginning we still greeted every cyclist and even stopped when we saw other tourers. But as nobody would return our attempts of getting in touch and just continued pedalling without even looking up we felt quite embarrassed and just did the same. This doesn’t mean that we don’t attract interest at all. On the contrary. The older generation, and I mean the 80+’ers are very interested in what we are doing and the way we are travelling. We also met a lot of very nice people helping us with directions but on the other hand people who would refuse refilling our water bottles even though we bought food and drinks at their place. Oh and then all the tattoos! We almost felt naked not having a single tattoo somewhere. And long hair and as Johan nicely said all these CC Top looks and toothless smiles from people our age and younger.

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3 – Landscapes
We chose the right states to travel through, despite the weather ups and downs, the landscapes were stunning and often breathtaking. We got a feel for the hugeness of Australia but also know that we are not too keen to return. Somehow we feel we’ve seen the best already.

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4 – Architecture
Beautiful old timber houses with ironworks, verandahs and lovely gardens around the houses. We really liked them. Melbourne is a great city not only from an architectural point of view, showcasing a nice combination of old and modern buildings. A lot of towns in the country looked as if they were from another century, forgotten with just a few people trying to survive there.

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5 – Environment
After Asia we were thrilled about the cleanliness and the recycling efforts in place. And everybody seemed to really stick to the rules. However, Australia is a car-country with a not so good public transportation system, cheap petrol and roads made for cars. Outside the bigger cities you hardly see any cyclists or pedestrians, people drive everywhere.

6 – Coffee culture
Delicious coffee almost everywhere. We were back to coffee heaven, cappuccinos the Italian way and the choice of skim milk, full cream milk, cream or soy milk, single shot or double shot, flavoured or non-flavoured, small regular or large sized coffee while all we wanted was a cappuccino the Italian way😉.

7 – Infrastructure
Roads are made for cars and only sometimes to be shared with cyclists. Drivers go fast, all the time, as the streets are very long and straight. If there is a cyclists on the road they move a little to the right, but not too much, if at all. Sometimes we thought it was a sport to get as close as possible to us. Not much fun for us though. And Aussies love their cars, they really do. Cars need to be tuned, with huge spoilers, painted like an artwork and have to have at least two huge exhaust pipes. Cars like little Hondas or Vauxhaulls.

WiFi availability wasn’t great and best at local libraries. McDonald’s free WiFi never worked and if it did, it took ages to just download a few emails. Very annoying.

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3 thoughts on “Australia – The Great and the Ugly

  1. Being Australian, and having travelled all over the country I could say a lot. I know Aussies can be quite rude, especially in the service industry. I’ve had first had experience of it more than once. Perhaps it’s because we all came from convicts🙂 On the other than I’ve had the owner of a restaurant in Paris refuse me the use of the washroom when I needed it. But I must say this – you haven’t remotely seen the best of the scenery/country – the Great Barrier Reef is truly extraordinary as is Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the centre. Maybe you’ll go back one day knowing the people will be like in Europe/North America/western developed countries – mostly you don’t speak to strangers on the road. You’re not a novelty there the way you are in Asia. Anyway I’m glad you had good friends to stay with and saw some of the fabulous coast and countryside.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, very interesting to hear. Am glad that there is more. And I agree that the service industry in Europe is as bad or even worse as in Australia. You can have really good service some places but you often have to be grateful to be served at all. And yes, using the toilet often is an offence. We Europeans still have to learn a lot. You have to bear in mind that we wrote from the perspective of a cyclist and we think we don’t want to come back cycling (except mybe the outback….for the challenge). Other travellers in cars or vans had completely different experiences. Just one more example. If we are on campsites in Europe, people often give us things we cannot carry with us, serve us breakfast, make a cup of coffee if we arrive late etc. That never happened once in australia. People would talk to us while we are putting up our tent in the rain, have their warm drink or a glas of bear/wine in their hands but never offer anything. That’s what we found very sad somehow.

      • Yes that is very sad. And a bit surprising to hear, though when I’ve been camping in Oz certainly my experience is that everyone kind of keeps to themselves. Don’t know why that is. We’re usually such a friendly lot. I bet you’re finding the New Zealanders much friendlier and more welcoming! (Haven’t read that post yet but that was my experience of NZ many years ago)

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