Hopefully I won’t be boasting about how much of a great time I’m having here in Australia when I say that so far the most disappointing part has been arriving here. Not that I mean getting here in general, just my actual arrival. Perhaps I had overhyped any expectations from watching too many episodes of Border Security, but going through the airport just wasn’t as action packed as I hoped it would be.
My very first experience of Australian culture however, was almost textbook. Immediately upon exiting the plane from Kuala Lumpur I walked down the corridor and had to turn a few corners; so far no different from any other airport in the world. What made it (stereo)typically Australian is that before any form of pretty much anything, I was confronted with row upon row of booze. At Brisbane airport it seems, duty-free alcohol is much more of a priority than any form of official, legally binding, and internationally important paperwork.
But unfortunately this is where my good experience seemed to end. Fully prepared that in this day and age of technical over reliance I would have to ask to have any kind of chance of having a stamp in my passport (even my visa was completely digital), I wasn’t prepared for the fact that you can’t ask a self-service immigration machine. Coming as I do from a select group of nations, I had the ‘convenience’ of allowing myself into the country. As much as I appreciated the trust placed in me courtesy of my nationality, I personally would have much preferred the human touch of an actual person welcoming me to their country, stamp or otherwise. Oh well, on to customs.
Like my previous visit to the USA quite some time ago, coming into Australia required me to fill in a form of important and confusing questions. As the Australian economy relies so greatly on agriculture, this included questions about whether I had spent time in or around farms and/or vaguely rural environments in the last month. Coming from Somerset I took the advice of “if in doubt tick yes”, and figured a few questions would be better than the heavy fines I had often seen handed out on TV. Having gone through auto-immigration, I also figured it would give me chance to interact with a real life person.
Customs itself then consisted of someone at a desk who scan read my form, asked if my shoes were clean, and allowed me to carry on my way when I said that they were. The closest thing I got to Border Security was a sign that said the programme was being recorded today, which again raised my expectations of the immigration experience, but I guess by 9 o’clock they’d just gone home and either forgotten to take the signs with them, or left them there for the next day.
After a quick train ride into the centre of the city, for which buying my ticket constituted the my longest conversation with an Australian at that point, I then spent my first night in Australia at the Base Central hostel in Brisbane. I also did so in a style which I hoped would be indicative of my many travels round this massive country. I stayed in a dorm with “Jungle Room” emblazoned across the door, and despite a pair of lacy knickers hanging from a wall fixture, figured it was instead so-called due to the jungle mural painted on the main wall. A room I shared with people ranging from a quiet guy reading on his bed in the corner, to a pair of Scandinavian girls who told me I had beautiful hair, and asked me to check out their shirts to see if they were too short to be thought of as a dress. And they were.
Yep, backpacking in Australia was going to be alright.