Big Country – whilst I’ve always know Australia is vast, it’s not until you travel around you realise how big it is. It is so huge that even Australians have not visited parts of their own country. Jumping on a plane seems to be the normal way of getting between towns and cities, just the mad tourists making the long treks across the regions.

Toilets – Australia is absolutely mad on public toilets, they are everywhere you go. And they are spotlessly clean. You’ll never need to go behind a tree in Australia as there is probably one there anyhow. In the rain forest the toilets were proper housings like you would get in a town or city, but the pan opened up straight to the forest floor. You can get much natural than that for deposits.

Roads – the roads in Australian are very well maintained, towns well sign posted and everyone obeys the speed limit (which seems on average lower than the UK). It can take some time to get used to kilometres and km per hour though but as this distance is less than a mile journeys do seem quicker. They do seem to like roundabouts in Australia and traffic lights change very quickly so you have to be on your guard ready for the off.

Early Closing – it seems that most restaurants close by 9.30, even in the city. Whether it was just the time of year but it did seem strange that everyone ate so early. Many a time on this holiday we have been the last to leave the restaurant, with the staff clearing tables around us. Also the tourist attractions close early, often by 4pm. Again this may have been the time of year but it does seem odd coming from a country that seems to be open 24 hours these days.

Ants – they come in all sorts of sizes in Australia, from large menacing ones to tiny versions that apparently are the ones that can give you a nasty bite. Judging by the amount I’ve seen so far, I think they be having a world domination bid, starting in Australia as thee are thousands of the buggers. In Queensland the authorities are particularly concerned about electric ants, which have invaded and taken over the indigenous species causing mayhem in their wake. There are roadside signs such as ‘Don’t Spread Electric Ants’ warning contractors not to help them dominate the world. I think they’re losing the battle.

Flies – and whilst I’m on the subject of insects, those flies can be so annoying. Not experienced too many so far but when you do get ‘attacked’ they get up you nose, in your eyes and ears resulting in the continual Aussie wave. I can see why the corked hat is iconic head wear, although so far we’ve only seen tourists wearing them.

Money – things seem quite expensive in Australia (exchange rate $1.75 to the pound). For an example a can of coke is around $3 (£1.60) and a coffee around $5 (£2.70). Fuel seems cheaper ($150 for unleaded and $159 for diesel), but then in Britain we are heavily taxed so it’s bound to be cheaper. A meal for two has been costing us around $100 per night, which is quite reasonable I guess, although if you add alcohol, it can bump up the cost considerably. Our most expensive meal was $159 in Sydney but that did include a bottle of wine and desserts.

Gluten Free – I love Australia. It is so geared up for people with Coeliacs with most restaurants and cafe’s marking their menus with GF options. And the supermarkets don’t just have a small section dedicated to GF but whole isles. I was spoilt for choice. One supermarket chain offered an online delivery services so I was wondering if they delivered to Thrapston?

Birds – noisy buggers over in Australia. The dawn chorus is quite loud but quite magnificent, with the cockatoos being quite vociferous. We saw a couple of laughing kookaburras in Kuranda and they really have a distinctive call and all around Sydney we saw birds with long beaks (we referred to them as the Australian pigeon as they were as common but were actually Australian white ibis).

Australians – very laid back and they really do say ‘no worries’ a lot. It seems such a relaxing country so I can see why they are so chilled out. There are lots of non-Australians around, many from Asian who I guess are working here for the holiday season.

The Southern Hemisphere – we’ve yet to see the Milky Way but we have seen stars and constellations not visible from the UK. I’m hopeful we’ll get to really observe the stars before we return, clear skies permitting.

Alice Springs – it really is in the middle of nowhere. We flew for three hours and the majority of the landscape down below was just desert or mountains. You could drive it but it would take around 30 hours non stop. When you are there you get the feeling you are in the back of beyond. The people who live there, and there are people that live there must really love the feeling of isolation.

Visitors – we’ve met some British people and there are loads of Japanese and other Asians (Malaysian & Thai) but we have been surprised as to how many Americans are visiting. Almost everywhere we’ve been there have been Americans. Distance wise, it must be just as far to travel to Australia as it is for us to travel from the UK, yet there seems to be loads around. They all see friendly enough though.

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