A New Year, A New Trip, A New Continent: Plans for 2019 – Australia

As I was wrapping up my South-America trip, new travel plans were in my head already and a ticket booked even before I left for my little loop around France last summer.

Destination: the sixth largest country in the world: Australia ! 

With its 7,69 million square kilometers, it is over twice the size of India, which is the seventh largest country in the world.

Apart from a stop-over in Brisbane, I’ve never visited the country before, but we all know it from so many things.

From famous sport events like the Australian Open tennis, the Australian Formula One Grand Prix or the Tour Down under cycling.  From famous television series like Neighbours, Home & Away and the Flying Doctors, from musicians like Kylie Minogue, AC/DC and Crowded House or from top cyclists like Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans and Richie Porte. Or probably the most famous of them all, Crocodile Dundee.

We also know the country from its iconic animals, many of them not to be found anywhere else on the planet; Kangaroos, koalas, wombats, wallabies, dingoes and – maybe my favorite – the thorny dragon.

The country is also home of what might be the worlds most famous oceanic landmark (The Great Barrier Reef), one of the worlds most famous man made buildings (the Sydney Opera House) and probably the worlds most famous mountain (Ayers Rock / Uluru).              
(Put Uluru’s picture in a series of pictures with Mount Everest, K2, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua, Erebus, … People will start to get confused which mountain is which.  Everybody will still recognize the monolith Uluru).

Besides all that, Australia is the driest, inhabited continent and apparently it has the highest concentration of creatures that can kill you: Jellyfish, sharks, crocodiles, snakes, bees, spiders, …
20 of the world’s top 25 deadly snakes live in Australia and some of the most deadly spiders in the world, like the Red Back and Funnel Web call it home as well.

Enough raison to go and explore the place a bit myself 😀 

The size of Australia, projected on a European map.  To cross it west to east equals as going from Ireland to Kazachstan.  North to south would be going from the Lofoten Islands in Norway to the Black Sea Coast in Turkey.
… or on the Usa map.

With a European passport, one can visit Australia on an easily obtained tourist visa, but that allows stays up to three months maximum only.  Not sufficient for the trip I have in mind.
It would be possible to extend that visa once you are in the country, but I want to be sure in advance and don’t want to have headaches over an extension  once I’m there.

I applied for a visitor visa, subclass 600.  You could do this with the help of a visa bureau, but with a little bit of effort, it’s easily done yourself.

Apply online on the website of the ‘Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs’.  You’ve got quite some pages to read, fill out the necessary documents, send a copy of your passport, etc ….

After a couple of days I received a mail back that I had to go for a medical check-up at a medical facility approved by the Australian Government, a choice from three different places in Brussels.
Once the doctor has forwarded all the results back to Australia, you’ll receive your visa, if all is ok.

The application costs around 90 euro (no money back when your visa is denied, I think) and another 60 euro or so for the medical check-up.
They might request evidence that you are financially capable of supporting yourself for such a long trip.

As I said, it requires a little effort, but the whole procedure  seemed ok to me and I can perfectly understand the things they investigated or required to know.

A projection of my home country Belgium on the Australian land mass (that tiny, little pink area in the north-eastern corner).  Australia is 252 times bigger than Belgium, but it only has twice as much inhabitants.  Lucky folks !  🙂 

With a plane ticket and a visa in my pocket, the fun part of preparing the trip could start.  After a holiday (off the bike) in Thailand in January and early February, I will arrive in Melbourne on 8th February 2019.  Not being a big fan of major towns, I booked a ticket on the 9th of February on “The Spirit of Tasmania”, the ferry that will bring me from Melbourne, across the Bass Strait, to Devonport on Tasmania, formerly known as Van Diemen’s Land.

And a projection of Belgium on the map of Tasmania.  Tasmania is roughly twice the size of Belgium (68.400 km2 vs 30.500 km2).  But Belgium is 22 times more populated (11,35 milj. vs 0,51 milj. people)

Being such a huge country, it’s northern part in the tropics, Tasmania a lot closer to Antarctica, a decent planning is a good idea.  I’ll arrive in Tasmania in the second part of summer (southern hemisphere) and will probably stay for a month or so before returning to Melbourne and head slowly north during autumn, arriving in tropical Queensland during the dry and cooler winter months.

The excellent side of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is a good place to start planning.

Below is a map of my planned route in Tasmania (+/- 2.200 km).  Rather then ride along the coast on busy highways, I chose smaller backroads, probably often gravel, but still including some highlights like Cradle Mountain, Lake St.Clair, the National Parks of the southwest, Hobart, Bruny, Maria and Freycinet islands, Ben Lomond National Park, …

I’d love to go to Walls of Jerusalem National Park as well, but I can’t find a good way to include that in the trip (leaving the bike in a secure place).

A planned route of how I will ride north from Melbourne will follow later.