"A YANK DOES THE LOOP"
It all started at a small fishing lodge in central Tasmania in January of this year (*see e-mails sent to friends in Jan/Feb 2001 below), when Patty and I met a young Australian photographer by the name of Bill Bachman. At dinner we learned that Bill was actually born in the states, but after a positive high school exchange program experience in Australia, and after spending 1 year at Bucknell, he opted to finish his college in Australia. There he met and married Sally, became an Australian citizen, and launched his now very successful photography career. (You've seen his work in National and Australia Geographic Magazine) Upon hearing of our plan to drive a portion of the lower Outback in February, Bill declared "it's good to meet some back roads Yanks -- you'll get to see parts of our country that many Aussies haven't seen." What really hooked me, though, were the photographs from 3 of Bill's books which we now cherish. The sunsets in the Kimberley region, the character studies in the faces of the stockmen and others of rural Australia -- made me want to experience a bit of what Bill and Sally did when they took a 2 year swing through this great country, exploring most of its nooks and crannies. That's where the idea of a 4WD circumnavigation of the perimeter of this continent began.
By April, my plans were taking shape, but I was lacking the local knowledge that would be necessary to successfully make this nearly 10,000 mile trek, much of it through very remote and rugged country. Then a good friend in Savannah, whose daughter was engaged to a young Aussie from Perth, suggested that I might find him to be helpful in my preparation. Enter Brett Barton, a 34 year old with an incredible background. A graduate of Melbourne University with a BA in agriculture, Brett worked as a research technician in New Zealand for the game industry, had an 8 month agricultural exchange opportunity in Scandinavia, managed a Safari & Game operation in Zimbabwe, and then returned to Australia as a Team Leader for a helicopter assisted Desert Mineral Exploration for The Queensland Metals Corporation. For the past 6 years, Brett served as a Safari Guide and Tour Coordinator/Leader for AATKings of Alice Springs in The Northern Territory. This experience of providing a total package for extended adventure safari travelers in remote areas of Australia, meant familiarization with all things Australian, and the development and training of others in survival skills, etc. I HAD FOUND MY MAN! He's been my guru and mentor -- and the reason why I look forward to this adventure with enthusiasm, and confidence!
Brett, his fiancee' Margaret, and the U's
Click here to read the e-mail updates from the first trip Patty and I took to Australia and New Zealand in January and February 2001.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON AUSTRALIA
Australia is a bit different than any place most of us in the States have seen before. It does have Crocodile Dundee like characters, and it does have kangaroos, and wallabies, and wombats -- and other animals, snakes, and insects that aren't found in our country. However, the main thing that strikes you about Australia is its sheer size -- and most of it non-inhabited. Nineteen Million people (most of them in a half dozen coastal cities) in an area about the same size as the 48 mainland states of the US. Australia is the world's 6th largest country, with a coastline 36,735 km long (approximately 22,000 miles -- which makes my 10,000 look like a breeze, -- right?)
Want to talk history? While Australia was the last great landmass to be discovered by Europeans, when they eventually did get there (early 1600s - Dutch sailors), the continent they found had already been inhabited for tens of thousands of years! The debate is whether it was 35-45,000 years ago, or 55-60,000 years ago!
That brings us to the Aborigines (which literally means "the indigenous society"), who can claim to trace their time in Australia back 35-40,000 years. They were (and still are in many places) tribal, living in extended family groups and clans. Each clan had various sites of spiritual significance, places to which their spirits would return when they died. Many of their communities were semi-nomadic, others sedentary, the determinant generally being the availability of food. By the time Europeans started to settle (approximately 1770 - Captain James Cook - Botany Bay), it was estimated that there were as many as 300,000 Aboriginal people in Australia -- and about 250 different languages, many as distinct from each other as English is from Chinese. (Tribes living on opposite sides of present day Sydney harbor spoke mutually unintelligible languages!)
During my circumnavigation, I will be passing through a minimum of 7 Aboriginal Districts, and have applied for the required permits to access their lands -- but not their sacred land. According to the 1996 census there are about 350,000 people who identified themselves as Aboriginal or being of indigenous origin -- surprising to me given the toll taken on the Aborigines during "settlement" of Australia. In addition to the killing that took place as they were often driven from their land, many more succumbed to exotic diseases such as smallpox, measles, venereal disease, influenza, whooping cough, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
The process of social change for Aboriginal people was accelerated by WWII -- but it wasn't until the 1960s that Australians became increasingly aware of the inequity of their treatment of Aboriginal people. In 1967 they were given full citizenship by Australian voters. Still an issue with some Australians (not unlike the issues in the States that have revolved around the assimilation of Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups), real progress is apparent.
For me, and for Patty, based on our experience the past two years, the overwhelming attraction comes from the warmth and humor of the Australian people. Nowhere that we've traveled (with the exception of New Zealand), have we felt so comfortable and welcome. Possibly because these are people comfortable with themselves, who don't take themselves too seriously -- with one exception -- when it comes to athletic endeavors! This is a country of activity -- and with people of all ages! Surfing competition, The Iron Man, Tennis, Jogging, four types of "Football" (Aussie Rules, Soccer, Rugby League, and Rugby Union), Cricket, Horse Racing, and Motor Sports. In recent years Basketball, and women's "Netball", as well as Hockey have become increasingly popular. You'll also find more cyclists and joggers (again, of all ages) per capita than you'll see in the States. These are active people!
There's so much more that captures your interest with this country and its people. I hope to get more insight over the eight weeks between 9/24 and 11/16/2001! CHEERS !!
To begin your tour, just click on the week you want to see, at either
the top or bottom of the page -- and enjoy!
Stay in touch!!