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Trip Start Mar 14, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  ,
Thursday, November 15, 2007

They let me on the plane!  Haha, they didn't say anything about my visa or the one-way ticket - budget airlines are the way to go.  Unfortunately, there was a crew of muppets working security.  After an unpleasant ordeal, I nearly got my knife taken away, my toothpaste got thrown out, and I nearly missed boarding the plane before it took off.  Anyways, there was about a four hour flight to Darwin, and time moved forward an hour and a half (what's up with that?).  Around midnight, I set foot in Australia.  I was pretty excited, waiting to see a kangaroo and have someone call me 'mate'.  That buzz was soon killed by customs.  I filled out the customs form the same way I had for the past eight months but soon discovered I was no longer in Asia.  Talk about the fifth degree - I was interrogated and every piece of my luggage was checked over.  They washed my shoes and stole my cake.  But, the fools forgot to ask for my ongoing ticket.  After a few hours, I was the last one through customs, but I was through and in Australia.  Huzzah!

I spent that night on the airport floor.  Airports really are wonderful - they're better than churches as far as being safe havens for the wayward traveler.  I was back in the western world and marveling at things like coke machines.  The toilets were disappointing though - the water doesn't spin when it drains down.  In the morning, I took a free shuttle to one of the backpacker hostels in the CBD (Central Business District).  It was $20 for a dorm - yikes. 

Australia was very different from what I had grown used to.  I had to develop a whole new strategy.  The next town is hundreds of miles away, and public busses are no longer an easy option.  So, I have to spend every day perusing the message boards in the hostels around town for people wanting to share fuel costs.  Things are expensive, so I have to search the boards for possible work (illegal work since I don't have a working visa).  This also means I can no longer just pay fifty cents for some fried rice whenever I get hungry.  Now, I have to buy discounted groceries and cook up some interesting meals that you aren't very likely to find in any recipe books anytime soon.  I immediately noticed a change in my fellow backpackers as well.  The "first week of school" feeling was gone.  People don't move from place to place every few days here - they stay and work for a couple weeks at a time.  So, most people are tired, jaded, and just not outgoing anymore.  A weird fact about my fellow backpackers: at least a third of them are from Germany.  Strange, no?  The first thing that came to mind was they figure a third times a charm and they've been playing too much Risk, but you didn't hear that from me.  Lastly, I'm less than pleased with the Australians I've interacted with so far.  I get the feeling that the Northern Territory is kind of a backward place and is laughed at by the rest of Australia, so I'm holding out hope that the rest of the citizens of this nation won't be so lame. 

Walking around town on my first day, I started talking with these Scientologists.  It was interesting to speak with them, and they bought me a fish and chips dinner.  I spent the next few days looking for work and a ride out of town - I had no idea where I would go, but I was starting to think I should go see this big rock in the middle of the country.  One of my roommates was cool (the other snored so loud I had to change rooms eventually), so I hung out with him and his friends.  Then, one magical evening, I heard about the casino.  I was excited but wary after my casino experiences in Asia.  Apparently, gambling is legal in Australia and Australians like to play poker.  It was a good night, and I was happy I wouldn't have to look for work for a while. 

On Tuesday, I went out to Crocadylus Park to see some of the infamous crocodiles from the territory.  That was a lot of fun.  The guide was a regular Crocodile Dundee.  That night, I got picked up by Sam, a guy I was trying to get a ride with to Uluru.  It was an interesting evening - I got a good tour of town.  Sam was a little off and I probably should have tried to find a ride with someone else, but I was desperate.  So, the next day, I bought a $20 tent and some groceries for the road.  Early Thursday morning, I began my Australian Outback adventure.

Random notes: Australians use the greeting "How you going?" rather than "How you doing?" or "How's it going?"  It always throws me off.  Also, apparantly, the mango tree is in the poison oak family.  It's pretty funny to see all the backpackers, who are out picking mangos all week, walking around with stains and rashes all over their arms and legs.  And, there are a lot of aboriginal people hanging around, which is interesting.
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