About two years after leaving home, I have finally made it: I reached Australia! Traveling in a Western country should make quite a difference after having flaneured around South-East Asia for a year.
Prior to the arrival of my motorcycle, I had the opportunity to discover Fremantle and Perth, two of the three first colonies by the Dutch. It is quite peculiar that in a huge country like Australia, Perth with a population of only two million is the biggest city in all of its West. Karl Marx even mentioned this area in “Das Kapital” as an example how to not start a colony and there’s something in its historical development that left Australia’s West Coast much lesser populated.
Coming to Fremantle, one can see clearly there were no worries about dimensions when the city grew, so everything is quite spread-out and there’s practically endless suburbs with one-story houses and lawns in front. If you’re not in the middle of Downtown, walking it is not practical, and you’re far better off having a bicycle (“push bike” in Australia), use (perfectly functioning) public transport or your own car.
Yes, an own means of transport — after a week in Fremantle, my well-awaited motorcycle aka “the R“ finally had landed. As one could expect, this was also when I got introduced to Australian bureaucracy. Up to now, the process when entering any country on my trip was the following: Present motorcycle and Carnet de Passages (equals sort of a vehicle passport) at the border, get a stamp, done. The process in Australia is the following: Get your Carnet stamped, report at the Department of Agriculture that you’re importing a vehicle, get an appointment with a Biosecurity Officer, have your vehicle checked, report to the Department of Transport, get a roadworthiness inspection, get a Temporary Vehicle License. The latter is required in specific states only and depends on where you might be headed with your vehicle.
A country of prescriptions
Australia seems to have a prospering economy and I admired its cleanliness and its (sometimes lenghty) thoroughness. There’s rules and prescriptions for literally everything. Signboards of “dos” and mostly “don’ts” raises the question in what way this affects culture. On average and in comparison to Asian cultures, my impression is that Australians tend to be, like all Western(ized) cultures, more cautious and cynical. Indeed, I felt a bit parented by people who gave me advice on how and where to travel. What tends to become an annoyance when you have been on the road for a long time is all out of a good motivation, of course.
The Australian Accent
Being in a country where English is the main language, it’s a bit of a relief to be able to connect with anyone instantly (at least, on a factual basis). This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have any issues with the Australian dialect. One sure needs to get used to it — it’s round, melodic, and when Australians seem to use all vowels at once it can be hard to understand.
Being a Western culture doesn’t necessarily mean that people would be cold and selfish. I instantly realised how friendly many Australians are, which is a good outlook on traveling there. The other evening, I had stopped on the sidewalk to check a thing on my engine, and during a few minutes three pick-ups (or “utes” as referred to in Australia) stopped with the driver asking if I’d need any help or gasoline. “All fine… cheers mate!”
As I have heard good things about the South-Western coast (forests, vineyards, beaches), I am headed down the coast and up to Albany (the third of the first Western colonies), before making my way towards the East Coast.
It’s probably the song about the land of plenty, smiles, and Vegemite sandwiches that describes my feeling about finally hitting the road again.
“Do you come from a land down under?Men at Work — Down Under
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover”