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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!

Jody writes:

Thankfully, it was only a small one. The big 'roos are taller than me and could easily beat me in a fight. Here's a picture of the incident as it happened. I hope this ends the series of animals that bite me before the list includes crocodile.

I've updated the bite-o-metre accordingly.

You can see all our latest Australia pictures now. It's the first chance I've had to upload a set, since Australian internet access is strangely harder to find and more basic than in Asia.

Jody writes:

"There's a snake crawling out of our room," I announced as the green and red creature slowly slithered out of the tin shack we'd been asigned. We were spending the night in an outback sheep station as part of an organised tour travelling up the West coast of Australia. "It's head's thinner than it's body. I bet it's poisonous," I continued, repeating information I'd heard that day but still not really believing we'd see a dangerous snake, which is why I was only standing a couple of feet away from the thing.

A minute later, a small circle of people from our tour had gathered behind me, watching the snake. Then our guide came over and told us to run. We didn't. We just took a couple of steps back and kept watching, reaching for our cameras before he grabbed a rock and a stick and beat the beast to death. Which took some doing.

Our guide (a top bloke from Red Earth Safari who grew up in the outback and was only happy when we were stuck in the middle of nowhere) told us it was a Mulga snake. Pretty, yet highly venomous with "the largest recorded venom output of any snake," according to this website. There wasn't a house - let alone a hospital - around for miles and had it bitten one of us, we'd have been screwed. It was an excellent start to the evening.

During dinner we were joined by a huntsman spider, which is also (of course) highly lethal, but thankfully it's fangs aren't sharp enough to penetrate adult human skin. Why such small creatures pack enough venom to kill a horse when they only eat insects is beyond me.

After a few songs around the campfire we decided to sleep in the open air. With no light for miles around, the stars were brighter than I'd ever seen before.

January 19, 2005
Jody writes:

It was 10 or so days back and Amy and I were trying hard to befriend one of the fat-arsed marsupials that live on Rottnest island (here's a cute, close-up photo of one). When a Dutch explorer discovered the island in 1696, he mistook the quokkas as king-sized rats, thus it's name, in English, 'rats nest'. So for us it was essential to track some down and coax them out for photographs.

It was all going fine until the little bugger bit my finger. No blood was drawn, but for a moment I thought that the 120 quid I shelled out for rabies jabs might have been worth it.

Where are we? We're currently staying in Coral Bay and settled here after a six-day tour up the west coast with an excellent local company called Red Earth Safaris. Coral Bay is small, with one hostel, a few shops, two cafes, a pub and a couple of restaurants. Today was the first day that it's been cool enough to lay in the sun on the beach - it's unbelievably hot here and reached 46C yesterday.

Yesterday we got up early to see reef sharks and sand sharks from the shore, before wading out to get close to them. It's perfectly safe, Mum - they're very timid and scatter at the slightest movement.

We haven't seen many computers, which is why the blog has become neglected, but we'll try and upload a few photos and write some more before we leave on Friday. Otherwise, just take it that we're having a good time and are too busy to write.

January 06, 2005
Jody writes:

See our Singapore photos.

I've finally had time to upload some Singapore photos. We were only on the island for a couple of days. The place is amazingly clean and looks like it was only built yesterday. This is mainly due to the multiple fines that are exercised. We had to bin our chewing gum before crossing the border (it's banned because it stains pavements) and after two months of sprinting across busy roads (the usual practice in Thailand and Malaysia), we had to restrain ourselves in Singapore, or feel the wrath of a hefty jaywalking penalty.

Although it's spotlessly clean, there is a downsize to a nanny state: condescending government posters. I took a photo of a public information poster that I found near a food hall. Helpful instructions such as "wash hands regularly" and "spit, cough and sneeze into tissue" really put those suited workers on their lunch break in their place.

We visited several different temples of different faiths in Singapore, but the Temple of 1,000 Lights will always stick in my mind. Most temples are tasteful, but this is like Buddhism-meets-Vegas. The interior is dominated by a giant concrete buddha surrounded by a Ready Brek-glow of almost a thousand lightbulbs. Tourists have to pay 5 Singapore dollars (almost two quid) for the caretaker to switch them on. We didn't bother. In another corner sits a wheel of fortune. We shelled out 50 cents each to experience the pleasure of spinning the wheel to reveal our fortune (see photo). Our wheels both stopped on 'snake' - what it meant, I can't remember.

After discovering our destiny, we climbed up the giant buddha's arse to literally enter the statue's bowels. Inside was another statue of buddha, this time reclining. The place wouldn't have been stranger if there was a helter skelter around the big concrete fella's gut.

We also went to Raffles Hotel - the birthplace of the Singapore Sling - and sunk a couple of the overpriced cocktails. It was rammed with tourists doing the same thing, other than a couple of guys on beer (obviously they weren't man enough to handle a bright pink cocktail). Patrons are encouraged to eat peanuts and toss the shells on the floor - I'm not sure why and neither was the waiter I asked, but I think it was something to do with the British who originally frequented the swanky hotel finding it amusing to pretend to be peasants and litter the place. The result is a steady crunch of shells wherever you walk, with finches darting in now and again to sift through the debris.

Where are we? We're still in Perth, but on Monday we head slowly North to Broome (where temperatures are topping 38°C, dammit!), seeing sights along the way.

Jody writes:

This blog has received a lot of traffic from people searching Google to try and find out news of how certain places (guesthouses, etc.) faired in the tsunami. If you're searching for news, we found a website with news of people from businesses on Ko Phi Phi and Amy emailed Ko Lanta's Merry Hut, which received damage to it's bar and restaurant, but no one was hurt and the accomodation was untouched.

January 04, 2005
Jody writes:

As the search continues for people lost in last week's tsunami, I'd like to take time to mention the kittens that lived outside our bungalow on Ko Phi Phi and how we hope that they made it through the storm.

I first mentioned them in a post a month back and our fondest memory will be when after a nasty downpour we returned to our room to find a bedraggled kitten sheltering beneath our sarongs outside (pictured left).

Everyone knows how cats hate water, so we hope the manky felines made it to higher ground in time. They were only a few weeks old after all.

January 01, 2005
Amy writes:

And g'day from Perth, the capital of western Australia.

We arrived here two days ago and because of the festivities, all we've seen of Perth so far has been the inside of a few shops and Kings Park at night (so really we've not seen much of it, it was too dark).

But we had a great new year's eve. They're a fun bunch at our hostel, The Witch's Hat and our NYE was an evening of drunken revellery at our hostel and on the hill at Kings Park, overlooking the rest of the Perth skyline with about 30 European, Japanese and Australian peeps. A really random fun night of chat, distant fireworks, a loud rendition of Auld Lang Syne and "massage" conga.

Amazingly, we've been drinking much of New Year's Day too. The boxes of cheap plonk left out from yesterday were just too tempting. Tomorrow starts our sightseeing here, and then we'll move on. We've met a few people chartering cars, who we could travel with. North or south? Who knows...

For older entries, see the archives at the top right-hand side of this page.
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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