Welcome, one and all.
We've got a long way to go, so grab a beer from the esky1 and jump on board for the virtual Mini-bus ride of a lifetime.
Australia - A bit of background
Capital City: Canberra
In the Southern Hemisphere, with the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west, there is an island. A continent. A country. A big country. A really big country. Bigger than western Europe. As big as the 48 contiguous states of the USA, with less than a 10th of the population.
Australia is the home of The Great Barrier Reef, more poisonous arachnids and reptiles than you can poke a stick at, kangaroos, koalas, platypus, man-eating sharks, man-eating crocodiles, man-eating women, the longest stretch of straight train track in the world, 20 million sports maniacs and Sir Donald Bradman R.I.P. (Cricketing legend and the most gifted sportsman ever to walk the face of the earth).
Beer plays a significant cultural role in Australia. Nothing of importance happens in Australia without a beer. Recently, Australia voted on whether to become a Republic and divorce itself from the British Commonwealth. In the vote to decide who should represent the people at the Constitutional Convention, the 'More Beer!' Party attracted a considerable percentage of the primary vote. We take beer very seriously.
Almost all beer in Australia is 5% alcohol, it varies a little and, if you really want it, you can get Low Alcohol beer. Low alcohol beer still runs at 2.2%, which is stronger than a lot of mainstream production beer in the US. Australians generally can't see the point in drinking Low Alcohol beer, sort of like fat free, decaffeinated, coffee really.
Don't get involved in a serious drinking session with Australians unless you know what you're doing.
Each State calls its beer glasses different names - this is to sort out the tourists from the locals. There are pints, stubbies, middies, handles, sevens, butchers, pots, glasses, ponies and schooners, to name a few. This leads to some nice little surprises because you can order, for example, a schooner in South Australia and be presented with a different quantity of beer from what you expected. For tourists, the best idea is to simply order "a beer" and calculate from the arriving quantity what you really wanted to order. Alternatively, a more comprehensive explanation is available here.
The experienced Australian traveller will quite often use the beer ordering process to work out which State or Territory they are currently drinking in.
Story telling is elevated to an artform by Australians. As a general rule, Australians never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Whilst there is quite often a measure of truth in a story, over the years the facts become increasingly hazy - to the point where it is no longer possible to determine what actually happened. Beer and story telling, or 'having a yarn', go hand in hand.
Australia was also home to possibly the most remote and short-lived McDonalds store ever.
Participants in the Variety Club's 1988 "Bourke to Blathiskide Park (Alice Springs) Bash" were absolutely stunned to see the Golden Arches rising from the dust in the South Australian outback town of William Creek2. Erected by McDonalds transportation company (F.J. Walker), the temporary Maccas, complete with limited menu, was pulled down later on the day in question. A plaque in the public bar of the only pub in William Creek reads as follows.
Opened 7/6/1988 8:30am
Closed 7/6/1988 3:30pm
By the way, the above story is true.
Likes: Beer, wine, Guiness, sports, a good yarn, any type of alcohol not previously mentioned and any combination of the previous six.
Favourite catchcry: God Save the Queen, God Bless America, God Protect New Zealand and thank Christ for Australia.
Favourite pastimes: Sport, baiting tourists, drinking.
Every tour has to start somewhere. We shall begin in Victoria and travel in a clockwise direction around this vast land before returning and taking a jaunt across Bass Strait to Tasmania.
Capital City: Melbourne
Situated on the south-east corner of the mainland, Victoria is home to the second largest Greek community outside Athens, fairy penguins, the Great Ocean Road, the Gee5 (home of the Australian Football League Grand Final and the Boxing Day Cricket Test), trams, the hook turn, the Twelve Apostles, the Rutherglen wineries, parochial Australian Rules Football idiots and cricket lovers.
Australia also has the dubious honour of being the only country in the world to lose a Head Of State. Other countries have leaders that die in office, that are overthrown in coups, that leave the country or are assassinated, but Australia actually lost a Prime Minister. In 1967 Harold Holt went swimming without his bodyguard6 at Cheviot Beach, near Portsea in Victoria, and was never seen again despite a huge search. He is listed as missing, presumed drowned. Victorians later named a Swimming Pool and marine park after him. The pool is on Alexandra Parade in Melbourne and the marine park is just inside the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.
Melbourne likes to think of itself as the cultural capital of Australia. Melbourne likes to think of itself as the sporting capital of Australia. Melbourne likes to think of itself as every kind of capital of Australia. Melbourne ignores what Sydney might like to think of Melbourne, or anything else for that matter. Melbourne regards Canberra as a sheep farm converted into a nicely landscaped prison for the federal politicians. On this final point, Sydney agrees.
Melbourne stole the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix from Adelaide. Sydney learned from Melbourne and stole the Australian 500cc Grand Prix from Melbourne, which promptly turned around and stole it straight back! Surfers Paradise won the right to host an Indy Car race on the Gold Coast. Neither Melbourne or Sydney has tried to steal it from them.
Victorians will tell you that they brew the best beer in the world. They are mistaken. The best Victorian beers are Victoria Bitter (VB), Carlton Draught and the aptly named P**s7.
Victoria sent Fosters Lager out in to the world only because no Victorian (or Australian, for that matter) would drink it. DO NOT admit it to an Australian if you drink Fosters Lager. This only lets them know that you are gullible.
Capital City: Adelaide
Comprising the southern portion of the central bit of Australia, South Australia is home to the sensational Barossa Valley wineries, the just as sensational Clare Valley wineries, the equally sensational McLaren Vale wineries, a tram, parochial Australian Rules Football idiots, cricket lovers and not much else other than Churches - lots of Churches.
South Australia also has the highest average murder rate in Australia, thanks mainly to the hard work of a few serial killers over the past 20 years. All are now in custody - we think.
Adelaide residents generally regard themselves as fairly clever, having off-loaded the financial nightmare that is the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix to those arrogant saps in Melbourne.
Adelaide claims to have the most biologically clean drinking water in the world - in fact there is generally no bacteria in Adelaide water. The chemicals, heavy minerals, Murray River dirt and industrial run-off killed all the bacteria. This situation also contributes to the taste of the beer.
South Australians will tell you that they brew the best beer in the world. They are horribly, horribly wrong. Their most drinkable beers are Coopers Sparkling Ale, Coopers Pale Ale and West End Bitter.
If a South Australian EVER offers you a Southwark, pronounced Suthuk, run away. They are trying to poison you. It is arguably the worst beer produced in Australia. Possibly the world. Although some South Aussies swear by it, most other Australians swear at it. Particularly the morning after. This beer should be labelled "For emergency use only".
Capital City: Perth
If you drew two vertical lines down the Australian continent, dividing it neatly into thirds, Western Australia is the humungous bit on the left. Imaginative name, isn't it? Western Australia is home to Australia II8, Wave Rock9, Mt Augustus10, quokkas, parochial Australian Rules Football idiots, cricket lovers and lots of former east coasters.
The question 'How do you like living in "The Sticks"11', was once posed to a bloke who had spent six years working in an extremely isolated mining town in Western Australia, called Leinster. The reply was, 'Mate, "The Sticks" are about two hundred miles south of here. This is the f*****g desert!' This can be applied to most outback areas of Western Australia. Nuff said.
Perth is a very pretty little city, with some sensational beaches, which is cut off from the east coast of Australia by an unimagineable expanse of desert. It is the most isolated Capital City in the world. And that's just the way they like it! Rumour has it that when you cross the border into WA you turn your clocks back one and a half hours.....
And ten years.
Western Australians will tell you that they brew the best beer in the world. They are deluding themselves. Quench your thirst with a Redback, Little Creatures Pale Ale or Emu Export.
The Northern Territory
Capital City: Darwin
Directly above South Australia, in the central third of Australia, the Northern Territory is home to extreme heat and humidity, Uluru12, an oil field the size of the US state of Texas, Kings Canyon, Kakadu National Park, parochial Australian Rules Football idiots and cricket lovers.
Darwins main clame to fame is that it consistently appears as the city with the biggest beer consumption per capita in the world.
On first assessment Territorians seem to be slow moving and slow talking. Whilst technically correct, the perception that they are slow witted is wrong. The NT has extremes of heat - energy conservation and fluid intake allow people to live there. Queenslanders have a similar argument about why they are slow, but Queenslanders generally ARE slow witted so you can't really be sure.
Territorians will tell you that they brew the best beer in the world. They don't come close. Quoff down a NT Draught stubby.
The Northern Territory makes beer in 2 litre bottles (about a gallon for those of you in the USA) and sell them over the counter in Darwin. They are called stubbies. Darwin is probably the only place in the world where nine and 18 gallon beer kegs are home delivered like soft drinks.
Comprising the north-eastern corner of Australia, Queensland is home to the Bundaberg Rum distillery, pineapples, sugar cane, Qantas, Crocodile Dundee, the Big Pineapple, a mixture of parochial Australian Rules Football idiots and parochial Rugby Union/League morons, cricket lovers and a lot of topless sunbathing.
Queensland is a very curious state which continually claims to have the best weather in the world, possibly because, despite claims to the contrary, their beer is so decidedly average. It has inserted an imaginary line into itself, separating Far North Queensland from South East Queensland. The only time they ever mention the inland parts of the state is to tell tourists that this is where Crocodile Dundee came from and where Survivor II was filmed. They then go on to warn tourists that it would be extremely hazardous to go there and take a look.
Surfers Paradise, a couple of hours drive south of Brisbane, is the tacky tourist capital of Australia. Only go there if you really want to see what Australians think the world, and more particularly the tourists of the world, want to see. Real Australian surfers can direct you to much better surf beaches, some only a few hours drive south of Surfers Paradise.
Queenslanders will tell you that they brew the best beer in the world. They wish! NQ Lager, Eumundi Lager and XXXX (pronounced four-ex) are quite reasonable though.
In some parts of the world a XXXX is a condom. In Queensland do not ask a barmaid for a condom. Not straight away, at least. Ask for a four-ex without embarrassment. Queensland is rumoured to have called their favourite beer XXXX because they couldn't spell 'beer'.
New South Wales
Capital City: Sydney
Wedged inbetween Queensland and Victoria, New South Wales is home to Sydney Harbour, the Blue Mountains, the Sydney Harbour Bridge14, the Sydney Opera House, the Hunter Valley wineries, parochial Rugby Union/League morons, cricket lovers and a lot of topless sunbathing.
It has been said that the name is confusing, as New South Wales is not New or South or anything at all like Wales. Two of these three assertions are correct. New South Wales was the initial site of European settlement in 1788, but the State itself is actually the youngest of all. Confused? Here's what happened.
Throughout our short history, chunks of the Colony of New South Wales were carved off to form what is now Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, etc. Each State and Territory set its name and boundaries under letters patent in the United Kingdom. But no-one thought to gazette the name of what was left.
231 years after Captain James Cook's voyage along the east coast of New Holland, on Thursday August 16 2001, the State name of New South Wales was finally registered and defined as a location under the Geographical Names Act.
So, as you can see, the New South Wales claim as "The Premier State" of Australia is ludicrous and wildy inaccurate.
New South Wales hosts one of the most brutal and car destroying races in the world. The Bathurst 1000, at Mount Panorama in Bathurst. For 161 laps of the 6 kilometre (almost 4 mile) circuit, competitors fly up the side of a bloody big mountain and belt down the other side at absolutely frightening speeds. An internationally renowned Formula 1 driver recently parked his car half way up the mountain after only 3 laps. A flag marshal asked 'Was it the engine, gearbox or some sort of electrical problem?', to which the (clearly shaken) driver replied "Oh, no. There's nothing wrong with the car. This is just too f*****g dangerous."
Sydney people have an intense dislike for their southern counterparts in Melbourne. Melbourne people couldn't give a rats fat clacker15 about what Sydney people think! Sydney is the home of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. This is considered to be the greatest single money earning event in Australia, surpassing the F1 Grand Prix and second only to the Olympic Games. As a result, fat clackers (disregarded in Melbourne) are very popular in Sydney.
Sydney distracted Melbourne by stealing the Australian 500cc Grand Prix from them and, while Melbourne concentrated on stealing it back, quietly went about the business of winning the right to host the 2000 Olympic Games. Melbournians now say that they never really wanted the Olympic Games, anyway.
Sydney has one of the most spectacular harbours in the world, but travelling to the city on a harbour ferry from Manly will reveal to the casual on-looker that most residents completely ignore it.
New South Welshmen will tell you that they brew the best beer in the world. That's a laugh! You might like to try a Hahn Premium, Pilsener or Tooheys Dark Ale on for size.
The Australian Capital Territory
Capital City: Canberra
Situated on a converted sheep farm, more or less half way between Melbourne and Sydney, the Australian Capital Territory is home to Australia's Federal Parliament, roundabouts16, parochial Australian Rules Football idiots, cricket lovers and legalized pornography.
No sunbathing, topless or otherwise. No ocean. Just a bloody big, artificially created, lake. The ACT was located where it is because Sydney and Melbourne couldn't decide which city should be the Australian capital. A compromise was reached and the ACT was created. The ACT has been compromising ever since.
Architect designed from the ground up, some say that this proves that to study architecture you must have absolutely no taste or creative ability whatsoever. Built in a circle around the main Parliament building, drivers regularly complain of having their steering wheel on full lock just to get around. If you miss a turn off it can take all day to get back to where you were, as there are only about 4 kilometres of straight road in the whole damn city.
They don't brew beer in the A.C.T. Mores the pity. The almost complete lack of anything interesting to do suggests they'd make the best beer in the world.
Capital City: Hobart
Separated from the mainland States by a treacherous stretch of water called Bass Strait, Tasmania is home to Australias first legal Casino, wilderness, more wilderness, a dam in the middle of a vast expanse of wilderness, a quiet bunch of people who quite like Australian Rules Football and cricket lovers.
So small in size compared with the rest of the States, Tasmanians are often referred to as inbreds, i.e. 'He can't be from Tasmania, I can't see his second head' and 'he gave his sister a present for Mothers Day'.
A large proportion of Tasmania is taken up by some of the most pristine and dangerous wilderness in the world. This is true Deliverance country - if you stop and listen you can hear Jon Voight and a Banjo...
Tasmanians get very irate when the rest of Australia forgets about them sitting on an island off the south-east corner of the mainland. Curiously enough, most Tasmanians you meet have left the mainland so that they can forget about the rest of Australia.
Tasmanians listen to the rest of Australia arguing amongst themselves and trying to convince everyone else on the planet that each mainland State makes the best beer in the world, whilst quietly sitting back and sipping on a Boags Premium or Cascade Premium. These smug b*******s make the best beer in the world, but aren't prepared to let too many people know about it.
There is only one rule about beer in Tasmania. In the North they drink Boags, in the south they drink Cascade. No-one is really sure where the North starts and the South finishes - so if you're in the middle somewhere just be careful.
So, there you have it. That is Australia. At least the States, Capital Cities and most palatable Beers of it anyway. Country, or Outback, Australia is another thing altogether. We'll go there another time and see the sights. Until then, here is a short list of Australian smaller cities and country/outback towns worthy of mention.
- Bendigo - They are currently mining for gold. Directly under the main street.
- Ballarat - Suddenly regards the main street in a completely new light.
- Geelong - a.k.a. Sleepy Hollow, most residents can't find the main street.
- Nuriootpa - Mentioned only because it is a wonderful name to say out loud.
- Port Augusta - the edge of nowhere never looked better. Very nice Public Library.
- Coober Pedy - The inhabitants live and work underground, mining opals. You will only ever see them on the surface when a new shipment of beer arrives from the city.
- Kalgoorlie - the open pit mine rivals the Grand Canyon in size.
- Albany - any quieter spot in Australia is regarded as a ghost town.
- Broome - You can't swim at low tide because the ocean retreats about two kilometres from the shoreline.
- Katherine - absolutely gorgeous, in more ways than one.
- Tennant Creek - the middle of nowhere.
- Alice Springs - south of the middle of nowhere, with a really nice casino.
- Burketown - if you stand on tippy toes you can just about see the middle of nowhere from here.
- Cairns - the jump off point for The Great Barrier Reef.
- Rockhampton - the jump off point for Cairns.
- Tamworth - the Country Music Capital of Australia (this is where we send all our loonies).
- Wagga Wagga - should be closer to the middle of nowhere.
- Mullumbimby - there is actually only one man and a dog living here as the other resident man went to the city and never returned.
- Tuggeranong - try saying this to a taxi driver after 35 beers.
- Launceston - on the way to Devonport.
- Devonport - all aboard for the mainland.
- Bicheno - immortalised by the song line 'Bicheno, Bicheno, what a hole of crap and crud, where the rain falls down like sweet urine, and turns the s**t to mud.'