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January 27, 2005
Amy writes:

While many could claim to feel like the 'king' of their own castle (or modest semi-detached), it's not often that you meet a former farmer who actually owns his own country right in the middle of Australia. But we did.. Yes, even other sites will confirm it's true.

Almost 35 years ago, Prince Leonard Casley (as he is now known), after a wrangle with the Australian government over his wheat crop managed to outwit them and secede making his farmland an independant sovereign state. The Hutt River Province principality is about the size of Hong Kong but while 13,000 people worldwide have citizenship only about 30 of them actually live there. How do you become a citizen? Cough up $500. For that sum, the key to the kingdom is yours and you get an official passport as well.

Residents don't pay any taxes making the prospect of living there much more inviting, but with nothing around for hundreds of miles you'd have to either be a recluse, or work in the gift shop. Although you'd have to fight Princess Shirley (his wife) for the job.

The Prince and Princess have an eccentric life to say the least. Running your own country is a full-time occupation, I was told by a tired-looking Princess Shirley. Their sons have taken over the farming side of things while they concentrate on state visits, processing overseas citizenship, residency and knighthoods; appointing people to represent the Province worldwide, getting the website updated, running the government office and the post office. For a couple who must be reaching their eighties, it's a pretty mean feat.

The first warning that this was going to be a strange experience was coming up the long driveway and passing an imposing stone bust of Prince Leonard's head (complete with lazy eye). I was the first one out of the coach marching up to the elderly man, my hand outstretched. We Brits were going to make a good impression! And, it was we who felt like royalty when the great man himself treated our group to the grand tour. Into the government building we went to get our passports stamped and checked - when we get home I'll prove it!

Obviously just a ploy for the bemused tourists rather than for security purposes, he scanned all our passports then showed us the symbols on each of them that only showed up under UV lighting to prove they were legitimate. On mine and Jody's, welsh daffodils appeared on the pages and a sunrise lit up the background of Angkor Wat on our Cambodian visa.

The Prince gave a history of Hutt River and showed us the vast collections of currency, stamps, gems, paintings etc that they've amassed over the years. However, he spoke so fast and without pause for breath that it was clear that he'd made this speech a hundred times before. I think it gets faster every time. The entire speech was all-one-sentence-and-the-same-tone-of-voice that even us native English speakers had trouble following him. Of course this meant that the 80% of our group whose second language was English didn't understand a word and spent most of the time staring open-mouthed. At least, we all got our pictures taken standing in front of the flag once he'd donned his more regal attire, and got to raid the gift shop for Hutt River Province official stamps and money (so we'll never forget his face).

Where are we? About to head south through the red centre of Australia. It's our last day in Darwin today though all we've really seen here is the inside of shops and swimming pools as it's low season and nothing's open because of the sticky wet season heat. They must have all fled to cooler climes. We've just returned from an errand to buy sleeping bags for camping. See, we're proper travellers now!

posted at 8:24 PM | link

5 Comments:

  • Oh how exciting....

    Jody has the exactly the same photo of me hanging upside down in Kalbarri National park.... did you also see the Window? I have that photo at the same rock on my bedroom wall as we speak... nice piccie of the Stomalites also..

    I just had to tell you, got all excited.

    Love you and miss you x

    P.S Enjoy Alice/Ayers x

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:34 PM  

  • Who are you? I wish people would sign their names!

    Jody

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:19 AM  

  • oh the sheer joy of reading these latest entries - your travels become more surreal as you go along. Your travelling diary has become a serious equal to those produced by the travel diary masters, Alan Whicker and 'er, Michael Palin.
    'scuse me though, for questioning the integrity of the bitometer... are you seriously suggesting that bites by bleedin' great big creatures merit the same single count as a pesky titchy little bugger? I don't think so. Bites need to be rated or graded according to the size of the biter... I'm sure there's an international convention about this which some anorak or other has put up somewhere on the internet, if you are in any doubt.
    Keep on truckin' you two - and may the god of the outlandish be with you. Your diary is an excellent, entertaining read - and the photos are fantabuloso too. I bet you're makin' a whole heep of folks with hum-drum lives who are checkin' out your travels, extremely jealous! When do you meet up with your grandma, Amy? Lotsaluv, Jonathan.
    PS: why do people post you anonymous messages? What in gods name do they need to keep secret?

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 6:06 PM  

  • Wow, sounds like your having an amazing time, despite all the bites Jody!

    You just can't write the script of your incredible journey - meeting royalty.. whats next? Becoming one of the royal family?

    Keep enjoying and smiling - xxx

    By Blogger Matteh, at 5:03 PM  

  • Jonathan - As far as I'm concerned, a bite's a bite. Breaking it down into bite size ratios would be far too complex!

    By Blogger Jody, at 7:50 AM  

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Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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