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3 Backpackers Experience the Real Australian Outback

Jun 13, 2008
When 3 backpackers,2 from Cambridge England and one from Maryland USA travel to outback Australia, they experience many surprises. What secrets do they reveal about life in the real Australian Outback?

The sounds of laughter echoed through the main bar of the tiny pub in outback Queensland. Three young backpackers, Sarah and Debbie from Cambridge and Barbara from Maryland were being "educated" on the unique culture, language and customs of the Australian Outback. Here are their discoveries.

Sarah.

"Deb and I left Cambridge for Australia after spending Christmas with our families. We not only wanted to escape the cold, we wanted to experience the real Australia.The outback.

When we landed in Brisbane, it was hot and very humid. What a contrast to England where it was around 3c (38f). After spending a few days on the Gold Coast, we returned to Brisbane and caught a train called "Spirit of the Outback". Our destination was Longreach, a town in far western Queensland.

The journey was very comfortable and on the train we met Barbara, another independent traveler who had been in Australia for 2 months, mainly in Sydney. She too was looking for an outback experience and we got along fine, so decided to team up.

Our first culture shock came when we stepped onto the platform at Longreach. The temperature was hovering around 48c (126f). It was like stepping into a furnace! Fortunately our accommodation was air conditioned and after settling in, headed to the local pub to down a "Nice cold Aussie beer". It was here that we met 2 young sheep station hands, Josh and Trevor. Our Australian Outback education had begun."

Debbie.

"Josh and Trev were a real hoot. They offered to buy us a beer as soon as we entered the bar and decided to give us a quick lesson on the Aussie Outback language and culture. We learned about the word "shout", meaning your turn to buy, saying "emma chisit" or "how much is it?" and all about Aussie blokes and shielas.

They also taught us a few disgusting phrases. Here's one: If a bloke had been working all day fixing fences in the summer heat, he would be very thirsty. In the words of Josh, he would be "As dry as a dead dingoe's donger".

Trevor invited us to go outside to see "me holden ute". A ute (short for utility truck) is like a US pick up truck. At the front was a "Roo bar", designed to protect the front of the vehicle should it collide with a kangaroo. Apparently kangaroos are a vehicle hazard in outback Australia and if hit at speed, can cause major damage and injury, even death to the driver or passengers. Josh told a story of an unlucky driver who hit a roo and it went through the windscreen, landing on his lap. The furious scratching and kicking of the animal killed him!"

Barbara.

"I asked about the spotlights on the cabin roof and discovered that they are used for a barbaric Aussie sport called "spotting" or "roo shooting". This "sport" takes place at night. The kangaroos, blinded by the spotlights are easy targets. In some parts of Australia, kangaroos are in plague proportions and can do major crop damage as well as being a driving hazard.

Professional kangaroo shooters are often employed to cull the numbers. They then sell the meat to butchers. Most is used for pet food, but the tender meat finds its way to selected restaurants as kangaroo steak. Joss took great pleasure in advising us that the testicles of the males are tanned and sold to Japanese tourists as money pouches.

The boys offered to take us "spotting", but we declined this Aussie cultural experience with thanks."

The following day the 3 backpackers were leaving on an organized tour to a number of sheep and cattle stations. They were looking forward to experiencing the hardships and celebrations of these isolated parts of outback Queensland. Their tour included helping with farm chores, enjoying home cooked meals, campfire singalongs and country hospitality.

The 3 girls were looking forward to this next travel experience to remind them about what life is all about in outback Australia. They wanted to meet new people, discover new landscapes, try new cuisines (even kangaroo steak) and to sit at dusk soaking up the atmosphere and silence of the Australian bush.
About the Author
Are you an independent traveler? Enjoy new experiences and exploring the road less traveled? Then you'll love Australian travel expert Graeme Lanham's new e-book "Travel Tips Australia".
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