The Great Australian Game

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If you follow any Australian’s on social media, you’ll probably see mentions of ‘footy’, ‘Aussie Rules’, ‘speccies’ and a host of other foreign words. They’re talking about football, Australian Rules football and… well a speccie’s a speccie but we’ll talk more about that shortly!

One day you might find yourself visiting Australia during footy season and may wish to partake in this traditional local custom, whether it be watching the game at a pub (relaxed bar) with a mob (group) of sport enthusiasts over pints of beer, or if you’re really lucky, you can head to a game to experience the electric atmosphere of this great sport of aerial ping-pong.
Here’s a quick rundown of the sport which is a lot different to any other contact sport with a ball!

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A perfect weekend involves beer + pub + footy, if you can’t get to a game

The game was first codified in Victoria in 1859, so it is actually one of the oldest sports of the modern era. It is commonly thought that Australian Rules is an offshoot of Gaelic Football, but while there are similarities, Gaelic football was codified 30 years after the Australian game. More likely is that the sport was influenced by the indigenous game of Marn Grook which involved large teams over an even larger playing area, kicking a stuffed, possum skin ball and punt kicking it to other players. There weren’t many rules in the game but individual players who exhibited outstanding skills such as leaping high over others, were celebrated and this is probably the skill which eventually turned into the ‘mark’ in Australian Rules. This is where a player catches the ball from a kick where the ball otherwise hasn’t been interfered with by other players. Sometimes the player will launch themselves from another player’s back to gain extra height and if they complete the mark, without dropping the ball, this is known as a speccie (from spectacular).

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Example of a speccy (high-skill, high-altitude mark)

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Going Bush…

East Woody Point

The little, tin boat I’m in is starting to feel even smaller as I spot another giant Tuna jumping through the water, chasing a school of bait fish. Hundreds of birds hover above taking turns to dive head first into the turquoise waters hoping to surface with a meal in their beak just as a dozen sea eagles swoop in and fly off with a tasty silver fish in their claws. The top of the waters bubble as the bait fish scramble to get away, but my eyes cannot see the larger fish below herding them towards the shallower waters.
Nearby, a large white crane stands stoically on a flooded sandbank, passively watching the scene around him. Dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles glide through the waters beneath, unseen today, but I know they’re there.

One more creature to spot and then I’ve finally ticked off ‘The Big Five’ out of the wildlife found in this hot and humid, sunkissed land.
Scanning the edge of the water as we potter past slowly in the little, tin boat, I’m hoping to see the fifth or at least the flick of its giant tail as the beast scatters back into the jungle-like foliage.

It’s a pretty remote place here, I’ll give you that, the majority of visitors fly here and even the local people prefer a plane over enduring the very long and very bumpy 10 hour drive down a corrugated bush track to get to the nearest town. For six months of the year, the whole community and surrounding tribal lands are cut off from civilisation by the rising banks of the rivers that flow through the area. Fresh supplies to the community have to be shipped in weekly and heaven forbid if the seas are too rough for the barge to dock in what are normally some of the brightest aqua waters you’ve ever seen!  Continue reading

The Day Machu Picchu Was Mine

In a mountain jungle high above the clouds, I can look down upon a sprawling puzzle of stone, combined  like an ancient God’s lego stash. Most pieces resemble the walls of houses or terraces with loose stones lying in the emerald green grass waiting to find their place in the rocky mosaic. The only sound floating in the breeze is the fossicking of llamas keeping the lawns trim, the scurry of furry chinchillas enjoying an evening dust bath and my mate yelling from a ledge above, “This is fucking awesome! I can’t believe we have the whole place to ourselves!”

Machu Picchu…for most young, modern explorers, it is the epitome of any South American backpacking trip, but the majority will have to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with about 500 other tourists. This can remove some of the majestic vibe of the ancient Incan ruins, which only had its first set of foreign eyes look upon it just over 100 years ago. But imagine having the whole place to yourself! Not even a park employee looking over your shoulder! See, while most people train in and out on the same day, thus ensuring they have to leave the mountain in the late afternoon to get the last train back to Cusco, not many people stay overnight.
This is how we came to have one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World…all..to..ourselves. Continue reading

Bolivia’s Death Road

Nearly five kilometres above sea level, travelling 60 kmh+ down a highway in the Bolivian Andes, on a mountain bike competing with trucks, buses and cars, a solid rock cliff-face to my left and a 600m drop to certain death on my right, racing around hairpin turns and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery when I take the risk to look… I have never felt more exhilarated or had so much fun in all my life!
This is mind-blowing excitement at its best and I haven’t even hit the really dangerous section yet!

The Camino de las Yungas or going by its infamous name of Camino de la Muerte (Death Road) or The Worlds Most Dangerous Road, runs from La Paz through the mountains to the town of Coroico, 70kms away and drops from a cold and often snowy 4650m above sea level to a steamy, rainforest at 1200m.
Prior to building the newly paved highway, the North Yungas road served as the main road between the two towns, with high amounts of two-way traffic travelling its narrow, muddy and often unstable path.
Many cars, trucks, buses and cyclists have plunged to their death over the side of the cliffs with the worst tragedy occurring in 1983 when a bus travelling with 100 people aboard succumbed to gravity, everyone perished. Continue reading

Palace-hopping in St.Petersburg


Russia is dodgy. Stunning architecture, fascinating history, but lets get it out of the way first, it is dodgy. When a tour company has a budget for bribing officials at the borders, you know something is not quite right. Not even 20 minutes into the country and our Top Deck bus was pulled over by the Police, a pay-off amounting to AU$20 settled any potential prison visits and we were back on our way to St Petersburg.

Welcome to Russia!

That aside, Russia is absolutely beautiful. It is not like any other country in the world (besides the ex-Soviet States that have since claimed independence.) The bright colours of Cathedrals and Palaces provide a stark contrast against the grey concrete of the many communist apartments. When the sun peeks out, the gold highlights on buildings reflect the opulence of the country’s varied past.  Continue reading