GLOBE TREKKER: NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
Review by Ed Nguyen
Megan McCormick, Ian Wright
Directors: Peter Boyd Maclean, Jenny Dames
Audio: English Dolby stereo
Video: Color, full-screen
Studio: Pilot Productions
Features: Round the World tour, fun travel information, web links
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2002
tropics are so temperamental! Either
way, down there or up here, I'm going to get wet."
aside from being the sixth-largest country in the world, is also one of its
newest. Although formally
established as the Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901, the nation was
considered a dominion of the British Empire up until the Statute of Westminster
of 1931 (ratified by Australia in 1942). Even
then, the British Parliament still held symbolic authority over the individual
Australian states until the passing of the Australia Act in 1986.
Today, Australia maintains strong ties to Britain and considers itself a
constitutional monarchy with the English monarch as Australia's head of state.
So, Queen Elizabeth II technically reigns (in absentia) as Queen of
Australia over the six states, several territories, and scores of small islands
which comprise the nation of Australia.
first became aware of the existence of this large Pacific continent back in 1522
when it was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Cristovao de Mendonça.
In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook re-visited this intriguing land and
claimed the eastern two-thirds of the continent for Britain.
White settlers officially landed on Australia on January 28, 1788 (now a
national holiday), and the country has been linked to Great Britain ever since.
In fact, Australia, for some time, even served as a British penal colony,
especially following Britain's loss of its North American colonies, and remnants
of this convict past can still be seen in parts of Australia.
Australia remains a popular destination for immigrants, albeit of a less
criminal nature. The native
Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders make up a small portion of the
population (2.2%), but Australia has become a rich multicultural melting pot for
peoples of English, Chinese, Indochinese, Japanese, Greek, and Italian descent,
to name but a few. Furthermore,
Australian maintains a strong immigration program to off-set its aging
population and the absence of nearly one million overseas residents, the
"Australian Diaspora" (about 5% of the total population).
such diversity, Australia represents an irresistible stop-over for a popular and
long-running travelogue show such as Globe
Trekker. Long a staple of cable
and public broadcasting television, Globe
Trekker has been hopping around the world for over a decade under such
aliases as Lonely Planet and later Pilot
Guides. Currently known as Globe
Trekker since the new millennium, this travelogue show specializes in
breath-taking cinematography and intimate encounters with the ethnic and
cultural populations of its host countries.
The Globe Trekker presenters
are not afraid to wander off the beaten path away from the usual tourist traps,
either, and as a result they frequently revel in some wonderful sights and
sounds that the typical tourist might miss entirely. This particular disc, Globe
Trekker: Northern Australia, offers a trip to Queensland and the Great
Barrier Reef and then to the rugged Australian Outback.
possibly one of the most aquatically picturesque Globe Trekker episodes, Megan McCormick visits Queensland, five
times the size of Texas and yet only Australia's second largest state (the other
Australian states are New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and
Western Australia). Queensland in
particular is famous for its 3000-mile coastline, which borders the Great
Barrier Reef, so Megan sensibly starts off from Surfers’ Paradise on the Gold
Coast, home to beautiful beaches, heavenly waves, and a gluttony of
tourism-oriented developments. The
locals in Surfers’ Paradise are quite friendly, particularly the Bikini Meter
Maids, whose function presumably is to roller-skate in bikinis around the
boardwalk while altruistically depositing tokens into parking meters to save
tourists from receiving parking tickets. Suffice it to say that the Bikini Meter Maids are big tourist
attractions in Surfers’ Paradise and don't mind posing for photographs,
vicariously experiences a few moments in the day of a Bikini Meter Maid before
trekking northwards to Noosa, a quieter and low-key surfers’ mecca renowned
for Mod Aus, an innovative Thai-influenced cuisine blending European and Asian
styles. Megan chomps down on a
Morton Bay bug salad. It's a lot
better than it sounds - the Morton Bay bug is actually an Australian crayfish!
Megan travels to Harvey Bay via the Bruce Highway and catches a ferry to Fraser
Island. As the world’s largest
vegetated sandbar, Fraser Island is also home to seventy fresh water lakes.
Megan even takes a dip in Window Lake, named for its sparkling clear
waters. In fact, these lakes are
probably safer than the tiger shark-infested coastal waters, complete with
dangerously strong undertows. If
the sharks don't get you, the deadly Box jellyfish (or "sea wasps")
might. These jellyfish, found in
abundance along Queensland's coast from November through April, are to be
avoided if possible. Megan opts to
stay on dry land, going instead on an Australian beach safari in a four-wheeler
up to Indian Head, only to encounter some wild dingoes and even worse, the
who said Australian wildlife was completely safe? Even koalas are not entirely docile!
cane toad, or giant neotropical toad (Bufo
marinus), is a prime example of what happens when mankind foolishly
transplants an alien species into a new environment bereft of any natural
predators. The cane toad was
introduced into Australia from Hawaii in 1935 to control a pesky beetle
population plaguing Australian sugarcane crops.
First released around northern Queensland, the omnivorous cane toad not
only completely ignored the sugarcane pests, but it began to feast instead on
Australia's native fauna. The few
native predators which attempted to eat the cane toad were rudely introduced to
bufotoxin, a deadly venom secreted by adult cane toads from paratoid glands
behind their eyes and across their backs. Even
touching a cane toad can have deleterious (or hallucinogenic) effects upon
with little in the way of effective predatory intervention, the reviled cane
toad has proliferated almost without check throughout Australia, threatening the
native species and generating creating an ecological disaster.
How badly do despairing Australians hate the cane toad, which can grow to
the revolting size of an ugly, mutant house cat?
Well, Aussies have made a natural past-time of running over as many cane
toads as possible during long car journeys!
For a truly hilarious yet insightful look at the cane toad dilemma, check
out Cane Toads: An Unnatural History
don't be a dill. Next time you
travel to a foreign country, think twice before sneaking pass custom officers
with any critters (or even fruits, like apples and oranges) not already
indigenous to that region! Without
careful consideration of the possible environmental ramifications of your act,
you risk becoming regarded heinously with eternal disgust and revulsion by
future generations, not a particularly a good legacy, mind you.
wisely shuns the cane toad before embarking upon the long drive from Fraser
Island to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, the "gateway to the
Great Barrier Reef." Formed by
the eruptions of old volcanoes, the Whitsundays are a beautiful place for
snorkeling, sun-tanning, and sailing. From
here, Megan has her heart set on experiencing the thrill of several days aboard
the Matador, an 85-foot world-class
racing yacht once used in the America's Cup, sailing's premier racing event.
first dive to the Great Barrier Reef includes a search of a legendary (but
elusive) gigantic Mauri Wrasse. Although
she doesn't find it, there are many other gorgeously colorful and friendly fish
living among the spectacular corals of Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island.
if to illustrate the hazards of other Queensland wildlife, aside from cane
toads, north Queensland is also home to many crocodiles which lurk in wait
within the region's fresh waters. Swimming
in these rivers and creeks is rather ill-advised, to be frank.
Megan, being either crazy or just insanely bold, actually finds a
disturbingly large crocodile to sit upon (presumably for the novel experience).
with all her limbs still attached, Megan heads northwards for the Magnetic
Islands. Named after a particularly
disorienting experience by a befuddled Captain Cook with his suddenly-useless
compass in the vicinity of these isles, the Magnetic Islands are also home to
more spectacular portions of the Great Barrier Reef. Incorporated into the Reef over the years have been the
wrecks of various ships, including the Yongola.
Megan takes a dive down to visit the Yongola,
a passenger ship that was hit by a cyclone in 1911 and quickly sank to its
watery grave. As with all
shipwrecks, the coral has claimed the ship for its own.
The Yongola is now home to the
Great Barrier Reef's unique and frequently spectacular blend of seafaring flora
next stop on Megan's itinerary is Cairns, where she hopes to partake (surprise
surprise) in yet more diving and exploration of the Great Barrier Reef.
Sometimes referred to as the world's largest single organism, in reality
the Great Barrier Reef is a huge ecosystem comprised of three thousand reefs and
nine hundred islands and countless thousands of different species of fish and
corals. Extending for over 1,200 kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef
is considered a World Heritage site and is today protected as the world's
largest sea reserve and marine park.
Cairns, Megan travels to Thursday Island, the capital of the Torres Strait
islands off Cape York Peninsula, the northern tip of Australia.
Comprised of over one hundred islands, only a handful of which are
inhabited, the Torres Strait islands are a stepping stone to Papua New Guinea.
The people on these islands reflect a strong Melanesian, Papuan, and even
Japanese influence, and Thursday Island was even once the center of a thriving
Japanese pearl trade. Megan has an
opportunity to ogle some gem-quality pearls.
clams aren't particularly exciting creatures otherwise, so Megan returns to the
mainland where she joins a wild boar hunt.
Such hunts are sanctioned as a means of controlling the population of the
now-feral boar, yet another non-indigenous animal introduced to Australia (by
Captain Cook, no less). At least
the primal hunt results in a rather enjoyable and tasty barbie.
another taste of the exotic, Megan heads back to the mainland and samples a
local snack food - Oecophylla smaragdina,
or the green tree ant. Believe it
or not, this type of weaver ant is an excellent source of vitamin C.
To eat it, simply pluck one of these Bush tuckers off a nearby leaf and
bite off its abdomen (preferably before the ant bites you back).
Presumably, mixing a bunch of these honey ants in a pail of water makes
for a rather refreshing lemonade-flavored medicinal beverage!
adventurous journey ends fittingly at yet another fantastic Great Barrier Reef
dive site, the Cod Hole. Situated
near the posh and luxurious Lizard Island, the Cod Hole is home to some
spectacular species of fish, including reef sharks, snappers, Clown Trigger
fish, unicorn fish, and lion fish. However,
the Cod Hole is named for its famous Potato Cod (Epinephelus
tukula), a huge fish that is one of the Great Barrier Reef's most-amazing
the Great Barrier Reef is obviously quite wet, the same cannot be said for much
of mainland Australia. Three-quarters
of the Australian mainland, 90% of which is unpopulated, is rugged landscape and
mostly covered by sand dunes. This
decidedly arid region, popularly known as the Outback, has replaced the American
Wild West of old as a modern-day romantic version of the Final Frontier.
This Outback is also the destination for the next Globe
Trekker host, Ian Wright.
Englishman Ian Wright has the longest tenure of all the Globe Trekker hosts. A
three-time winner of the prestigious U.S. Cable Ace Awards for "Best
Magazine Host" (for his Morocco, Central Asia, and Ethiopia Globe
Trekker programs), Ian has a pleasantly off-beat and amusingly
self-deprecating style that instantly endears him to everyone he meets, tourists
and natives alike.
adventures begin in the Northern Territory capital of Darwin, recently destroyed
by a 1974 cyclone but now completely rebuilt.
Darwin is also the "gateway to the Outback" and has many
friendly hostels in which to exchange experiences with other tourists or to rest
up before a long trek into the vast and endless expanse of the Outback.
Darwin's proximity to Asia also makes it an ideal stop for exotic
buys a boomerang before heading eastwards for Kakadu National Park, a truly
enormous reserve that stretches for over eight thousand square miles.
It is also a good place for wildlife sightseers to visit between April
and October when the wildlife is most abundant.
Just travel with a good guide, and beware of the wild crocodiles!
Ian tries his hand at feeding a crocodile (but doesn't quite go so far as
to sit on one). However, he does
allow a black-headed python to wrap itself around his neck (a pity the spineless
camera operator shrank back in fright).
Ian isn't crushed to death but lives on to travel to the town of Katherine just
in time for the Barunga Aboriginal Festival.
Held annually every June, this huge conglomeration of Aboriginal people
is a celebration of sports and culture. The
festival is a great opportunity for tourists to sample several varieties of
local Bush tuckers or participate in events like spear-throwing contests,
didgeridoo-playing, and cultural dances.
Ian sets off (with a new didgeridoo in tow) via a commuter plane to Cloncurry,
Queensland for the Cloncurry Bush festival.
An annual celebration of the Queen of Australia's birthday, this festival
is apparently also the Outback's answer to a bluegrass and poetry reading
concert. Ian takes a stab at Bush
poetry in front of a live audience before participating in a nocturnal kangaroo
hunt. Despite their cuddly
international reputation, kangaroos are considered pests which regularly damage
regional crops. At least they are
an indigenous species, and the natives know how to make efficient use of
kangaroo parts. Next time you are
in Australia, purchase a wallet or purse made out of kangaroo testicle sacs.
Or, sample a cooked kangaroo tail, a rather common and hearty meal in the
heads back into the Northern Territory for Alice Springs, the biggest if
isolated Outback town. Alice
Springs is also home to many Aborigines, a people native to Australia since long
before the dawn of recorded human history.
Their ancestors are believed to have arrived in Australia over 50,000
years ago, and the Aboriginal people are presumed to possess the world's oldest
surviving culture. Over the
centuries, there has been an uneasy integration between Aboriginal people and
the later European immigrants, and racial issues are still an on-going concern.
Recent, dark chapters of Australian-Aboriginal human rights atrocities,
such as the "Stolen Generation," are still relatively fresh in the
minds of many Aborigines. Today,
these people live in separate and sometimes highly isolated communities or
impoverished small towns, although the younger generations are gradually
drifting more towards urban settings. Over
half of the Aboriginal population resides in New South Wales and Queensland.
Springs is noted for its Aboriginal artwork which can be found in some forty-odd
galleries scattered about town. Ian
receives a crash course about the complex symbolism in Aboriginal art before
heading out west of the town into the sparsely-populated and arid Outback.
He helps out on a cattle station, one of the few regular means of
employment in this otherwise unforgiving land.
hundred miles southwest of Alice Springs is the sacred Anangu Aboriginal site of
Uluru. After Mount Augustus in
Western Australia, Uluru is the world's largest monolith, a site virtually
unchanged for eighty thousand years. Formerly
known as Ayers Rock, the monolith reverted back to its original Aboriginal name
in 1986 and, despite being out in the middle of nowhere, is today one of
Australia's popular tourist attractions. Climbing Uluru is permitted but dangerous, and the Aboriginal
people themselves don't climb it out of respect for its sacred significance to
here, a six hundred mile Tanami trail cuts westward through the Tanami Desert to
link Alice Springs with Halls Creek in Western Australia.
However, it is an extremely hot and desolate region, and careless or
unprepared travelers can easily perish in this region.
So, respect the land and travel with an experienced guide.
Travelers who run out of food, never fear - the Aborigines have been
eating Witjuti Bush grubs in the
region for thousands of years and can show a starving traveler how to locate
this fine if wriggly source of life-sustaining protein, too.
the Tanami trail, Ian visits Kandimalal,
an ancient meteor crater almost one kilometer in diameter.
Well-known by the local Djaru Aboriginal people for years, this Wolfe
Creek crater is now a national park.
survives the road trip through the desert to Halls Creek, a fairly
inconsequential town. Nevertheless,
Halls Creek is one of the few settlements before the nearest coastal town,
Broom, another four hundred miles away. Obviously,
anyone trekking across the Outback can expect a lot of driving and outdoor
camping under the clear starry night skies.
once Australia's largest pearling port, is now a popular beach resort for
tourists. Anyone seeking a quieter
retreat can try the nearby Cape Leveque, home to the Bardi Aboriginal people, or
can check out the serene "staircase to the moon" at night, the
reflection of lunar light off the local mud flats.
the coast, Ian flies to the town of Kununurra.
By day, it is just another good place for casual agricultural work,
perfect for the carefree tourist seeking a little extra income.
By night, especially during one of the Bachelors and Spinsters Balls, it
is a truly wild party town.
ends his tour of the Outback in the Bungle Bungles. These ancient hills in the Kimberley Ranges are known by the
local Aborigines but few others. As
a result, tourists rarely visit this spectacular landscape, just one of many
wonders yet to be really discovered and appreciated in the vast and still
the dry and desolate Outback is a complete contrast to Queensland's Great
Barrier Reef, although both are popular tourist attractions.
For the casual tourist seeking a bit of surf or scuba-diving with his
sand, the beaches of Northern Australia are ideal.
For the more adventurous cowboys out there, the lure of the sandy and
arid Outback is a modern-day mirror of the romanticism of America's old Wild
West. Either way, Australia has
something for everyone!
Trekker: Northern Australia
presents two original Globe Trekker
episodes in their original full-frame format.
A variety of different film media, including videotape and special
underwater stock, is used in these episodes, so the contrast level and
graininess of the images is not always uniform. Nevertheless, the images are crystal clear and frequently
quite colorful, especially in sections involving the Great Barrier Reef.
Trekker: Northern Australia
is presented in English Dolby stereo. The
soundtrack is a mixture of on-site recordings, voice-over narratives, ethnic
music, and an abundance of sounds from the natural fauna.
Dialogue is generally audible, although occasionally drowned out by
ambient noise. Such is the nature of travel through the rainforests or the
you spend too much time thinking about it, then you miss it!
Things come. Keep looking,
meet different people, and exchange ideas.
There is no rule." - Ian Wright
want to quickly praise the rather pleasantly aquatic, animated menu screens
(like watching Finding Nemo) for Queensland,
in opposition to the arid, scorching look of the chapter selection screens for Outback Australia.
anyone with a desire to take a trip Down Under, this disc offers basic
information pages regarding the Australian weather, cuisine, travel
infrastructure, historic sites, and festivals.
This information can be further complemented via links to the various Globe
Trekker web sites.
only other feature is a Round the World
tour (10 min.), a collection of clips promoting various Globe Trekker DVDs. Hosts
Ian Wright, Christina Chang, Megan McCormick, and Justine Shapiro can be seen
traveling through such countries as Brazil, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Bolivia, to
name but a few.