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The International Writers Magazine: Tab's Australia Tour 2008 - From our travel archives

Australia - Part Two
Tabytha Towe

Ok, this is what I know about my adopted home so far:
First of all this place is absurdly massive! It has 6 States, 2 territories and 4 surrounding waters; The Northern Territories (Darwin), West Australia (Perth), South Australia (Adelaide), The Australian Capitol Territory aka "ACT" (Canberra, hence the capitol), New South Wales (Sydney, the first city founded by foreign settlers), Queensland (Brisbane), Victoria (Melbourne, where I am now) and of course lets not forget the Island Tasmania (Hobart).

Between the Tasman Sea and Coral Sea lies the Great Barrier Reef (the largest in the world), under the Tropic of Capricorn is the Indian Ocean, and above it the Timor Sea.

This is the 6th largest country in the world, though considering the size it still has a pretty low population (of humans) just under 20 million to date. It does however hold the most insects, amphibians, animals or oceanic wildlife; home of the poisonous spiders, venomous snakes, the viscious sting of jelly fish, the sharp bite of a crocodile or shark, Australia hosts the worlds most dangerous creatures alive. Some of them remain a scientists' infinite mystery as to how they have survived in these severe climate conditions for so long. Many species even date back to millions of years ago and are, as of yet, still unidentified. There is a line across from Queensland to Victoria that dates back 60 million years, known as The Great Diving Range, which has been found to preserve the oldest fossils and ancient rocks in - you guessed it - the world!

On a less feared and more adored note, cute animals that outside admirers can witness in the wild are kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, foxes and possums as they leap and frolick in abundance all over this land, (though sadly make for frequent roadkill I have often found and in some towns are considered otherwise as pests these days). Much to my dismay you won't see a wombat or dingo crossing the street, though the signs do warn you of the possibility. Magpie birds are the most migrated over Australia. They are back and white and always hang out by the side of the road which I can’t quite comprehend (are they hitchhiking?) They are also known as the swooping bird, as they will peck you from behind, but never if you stare at them. Strange bird is an expression for a reason after all.

This is the first and only Island to start off with criminal ancestors: Back in the 1700's before British explorers came to so "claim" this inhospitable desert, criminals were sent here and escape was certain suicide. This new found soil was vast and strange and completely surrounded by the sea, so of course who better to test the waters than prisoners who were reasonably easier to discharge, should anything go wrong on the voyage. Shipped here on a continent that was completely misjudged for its seasons, they had to survive a long and rough journey and learn to co-exsist with indigineous people who were ancient themselves and wary, perhaps not the most friendly either. The prisoners who were mostly just petty thieves aged from as young as 8 years old to 80 had to make a new life where survival conditions were extremely harsh and unforgiving. Not one of these new settlers came prepared with any knowledge on agriculture, farming, medical requirements, nor really knew how to fish or bulid adequate shelter!? Who knows how many actually managed to live during that time and how many blood lines passed through, it was only when the States and coasts had final given names that more people from abroad came to see this far off curiousity. So it goes without saying that Aussies sure love their criminals seeing as their foreign descendants derived from prison. Ever wonder why Chopper Read is so famous?

The former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made history with a public speech and apology to the stolen generations of the Aborigines that had their children taken away from them for decades throughout the early 1900's. The Indigineous people have been residing on these shores for centuries prior to any white man's foot setting path, and thus way before Captain Cook unabashedly came to confirm this discovery and put it on a map. This atrocity on their culture has since stopped, but now just a small gesture to say sorry has made a heartfelt impact on these lost families.

It wasn't until 1970's that any non-European immigrants were allowed entry or citizenship. Asians were killed by thousands for mining the white man's treasures, so were banished along with other nationalities. Today Australia is very multi cultural and bilingual.

There has been an on going, supposed drought here for a decade and will continue to have water restrictions for another. However from what I have observed it hasn't been completely disciplined. Unless you find a way to monitor a 10 minute shower, I’m going to go with the rule that you just should not.


To inform you of what nonsense I have been going about, let me refresh you:
I last left off saying I was living in Byron Bay and desperately looking for a job to stay. Uh yeah, about that... it was a great idea and a nice stop over for a few weeks, but, the prices are far too incredulous and the season at the time was horrendously slow, so work was extremely scarce. Therefore I had to go where the business was, and that was to head towards a more populated destination. I really loved it up there and wish I could have fulfilled my conquests to kayak with the mystique of dolphins swimming around me, or to learn how to surf better on those magnificient waves, or drive up to the unfathomable beauty of Whit Sundays and Surfers Paradise; but unfortunately things don't always go your way. Therefore I have not yet made it up to Queensland either, as initially intended. However, now I can revisit Byron and my adventures missed on my way up later.... Just like I said earlier in the trip, it's an open plan, I'm going to let whatever happen, happen, and go with the flow and enjoy any endurance in the meantime. I've still got until November to live out these opportunities whilst here.

Melbourne is a pretty damned phenomenal city! It has everything you need and has well planned transit systems to get around from suburb to centre and back. The trams are efficient and frequent and take you everywhere, though are considerably dangerous as they hold their lines on the same streets as cars which, to someone who isn’t familiar with the rules, namely me, you tend to run for your life quite often. They also have horse carriages and bike lanes, never mind the street parking which can be chaotic nuisance. Passengers get off in the middle of the road and must be overly cautious of oncoming traffic that does not always yield to pedestrians. I’ve seen some hard core road rage and screaming matches, have nearly been bumped a few times myself and have already witnessed a gruesome accident of a woman getting smashed by a hit and run motor cyclist who sped off while her legs were dangling like spaghetti out of her pant hems. She was just stepping off the tram and will never take another step again.

There is entertainment here every night and bars stay open late. Drinking is obviously a huge Australian courtesy, (not a privilege,) as the legal age is 18 years old so the pubs are plentiful. There are the generic, standard watering holes that serve the same goddamned beers on tap, but otherwise if you seek out in hidden alley ways, roof tops, behind office buildings, you will discover a glorious array of the most unique and authentic crevices of which to socialize in style –or to get intoxicated in comfort -or to get trashed and shit faced! Thankfully in Melbourne there is a lot of work to be found, especially in my field as it has some of the worlds’ best restaurants and bars. I have never seen so many brilliant establishments that still manage to have a good vibe, unique atmosphere, decor, promising quality food, extensive wine lists –not all wine is Shiraz in this region - and fancy cocktails –fantastic recipes for your pallet -with consequences for your liver. There is so much competition in this place that every venue strives to be the best, there’s no half assed establishment

There are numerous musicals, plays, comedy events and concerts of all sorts going on here, for this I am giddy and over zealous, making a long list of have to do's.

In one month I saw over 40 artists (music is an essential part of my life) all within 3 concerts and 2 music festivals! Recognized names such as Catpower, Ween, Iron and Wine, Sinead O'Connor, Galactic, Xavier Rudd, Clap your hands and Say Yeah; I even scored VIP tickets to the bat-head-biting Ozzy Ozbourne! *except didn't meet the Sabbath front man himself, though did have a beer with Sevendust backstage. The music festivals made for hectic fun and short lived road trips to Meredith at the Golden Plains where firemen came and sprayed you with their hoses because the sun was too harsh and burning your flesh, and to Portsea at an old, natural quarrantine station in a lovely seaside town with extravagant bays and beaches.

They were absolute highlights no doubt, got to camp out in the trusty van again, bask in the sunshine absorbing various talent and guzzle whack loads of tinnys (Aussie slang for canned beer.) I have been very lucky in this respect.

The fashion in this particular part of Australia is extraordinary. Yeah the cool kids all wear the same shit, tight black jeans or flouro (since when does fluorescent become cool again?) but the style and statements passing you in the pavements is like a catwalk. Now I know big labels and industries cater towards Europe and the likes of New York, but Melbourne could definitely do a Zoolander walk off. We just had a huge media event filled Fashion Week, in which I regretfully realized I had a free ticket to one of the shows only after it was over!

I have found another job by now, the old fine dining pub did not give the hours in my favor so, of course I am still struggling and getting rather fed up with this broke bullshit! But I have accomplished getting my own room at last (first since my days of couch surfing, shared mattress on the floor or hostel bunk hoping from August, mind you) and new full time work that's more ideal. I can feel a little more settled now and have a bit of a regular routine. So now I can get back on my high horse and save to go to travel this land again. I think I will stay here in Melbs and suss it out a few moths more as I cannot get bored any time soon, and then we'll see about those dolphins! In the meantime, I'm going to work hard and enjoy my temporary life here, a city where bats fly over head at dark, with beaches, vineyards and forests just a two hour drive away, what more could I possibly want from a place? Of course the Nullabour Plains or wet lands sound enticing, but we will see…..
Lets not forget I'll have my drivers license back in a few months too!
Take care and no worries mate!
©  Tabytha Towe April 21 2008

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