We start the month with a fun guest post from Ben West, who writes the Living Vicariously blog. This is exciting for me for several reasons. 1) It’s our first contribution from Australia, a country high on my bucket list for all its BIG roadside attractions. 2) It’s our first travelogue about an adventure on a motorcycle. 3) It’s an adventure being enjoyed by someone SO outside my demographic – a young, unmarried, carefree couple – which is why the name of his blog really resonates with me!
Ben is currently exploring his own country with his girlfriend Jette. Some of the BIG highlights of his trip include the world’s largest Tasmanian Devil! Here’s his report:
“Since I started to follow the Go BIG or Go Home blog, I have been noticing just how many big things we have here in Australia. Australia is a big place, so big that if all Australians had an argument and spread out evenly over the continent, every person would have 213 square miles to themselves — that’s only 4.6 people in every square mile.
Holbrook is a perfectly charming little town on the road from Sydney to Melbourne. It has bright cafes with reasonable prices, and parks full of play equipment where parents can air out their children. Holbrook not only has the sole set of traffic lights between Melbourne and Sydney, it also boasts a massive submarine sitting proudly right in the middle of town.
Holbrook is named after Commander Norman Holbrook, a decorated WWI veteran. Commander Holbrook spent the war hiding underwater and driving his Oberon class submarine around, occasionally popping up to shoot at the surprised baddies then disappear in a stream of bubbles. Lt. Holbrook won the Victoria Cross, our highest pat on the back for military people.
Jette was amazed to sight this big black submarine shell (sadly they took out all the bombs and fun stuff) almost 400 kilometers inland from Melbourne. Despite my best efforts, she would not climb aboard for a photo.
Us Aussies love a bad guy and we love an underdog, so you can imagine how much we love a bad guy-underdog. One of our most notorious underdog-baddies, Ned Kelly, was hanged in November 1880 after a violent confrontation with police. Before being shoved off the little platform Kelly coined the phrase “Such is life.” To this day it is tattooed on footballer’s torsos, printed on bumper stickers and more recently uttered by annoyed housing investors.
Kelly famously wore home made armor during his last shoot out. Despite trying to be scary, he looked like a kid wearing a mailbox and a barbecue plate.
Some consider Kelly to be a symbol of Irish resistance against the bossy rich guys, however most of us just love the fact that an amateur blacksmith wearing a drinking trough could not be shot by the police.
Nowadays the small town of Glenrowan between Melbourne and Sydney is cashing in on it’s most famous son. Gift shops abound, there is a forgettable animatronics display and a great museum with all you need to know about Ned…Umm, Yeah, he lost.
Penguin is a small coastal town on the Northwest coast of Tasmania. Ronald Campbell Gunn was one of the first residents of Penguin. He was a botanist and one hell of a modest guy. So modest that when they gave him the honor of naming this tiny portside town, he named it after the penguins which abound along the coast, instead of himself.
This massive concrete penguin is joined by numerous medium sized fiberglass penguins, as well as penguin-shaped garbage bins around the town.
In hindsight, it’s a good thing that Gunn didn’t name the town after himself. A big statue of a be speckled, wild-haired botanist is no competition for a large penguin standing to attention.
I assume that at some point in your life you have seen a cartoon of that whirling dervish “Taz,” the Tasmanian Devil. Jette and I were passing the Trowunna Wildlife park when we spotted the world’s largest Tasmanian Devil.
In reality, the existence of the native population of Tasmanian Devils face a huge challenge in the next few years — the Facial Tumor Disease. In recent years, a transmittable form of facial cancer has sprung up, and these lovable scavengers are facing quick extinction if we cannot find a cure. Trowunna Wildlife Park is part of a captive breeding effort to deepen the genetic pool in the population so that the tumor will slow down.
So there you have it! Without even actively searching for big things on our Australian road trip, we have managed to stumble across plenty. Venture further north and you’ll also see a big avocado, a big prawn, a big merino, a big lobster, a really big coral reef and not one, but two big pineapples! You really should pop down for a visit one day; we love our big things “Down Under!”