Thursday, December 04, 2008
secret life of backpackers by barry divola
Being the type to turn my nose up at anything less than a Conde Nast reviewed establishment, I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into how the other half travel. Divola tackles the so-called "ant trail" - the well-trodden backpacker path from Sydney to Cairns, and meets some hilarious and interesting people on the way. Two experiences stand out in the book for me - firstly his night with a group of extremely drunk Irish backpackers (because he diligently records their conversation sound for sound - e.g. "foorty books fer the tuxi. We got screwed cos a'you") and the toilets at a tropical Queensland town, labelled "mangoes" and "no mangoes". There are great insights from those who have lived in the popular backpacker haunts such as Byron Bay and Airile Beach about how their hometowns have changed (or not) over the years, as well as the chance to see Australia (or at least a very small part of it) through the eyes of someone who stumbles off a twenty-hour flight, crams themselves into a undersized coach seat aboard what is affectionately known as "the dog" (as the most popular coach service among backpackers is Greyhound) and risks life and limb by swimming with stingrays, plunging off towers attached to an elastic cord and ingesting more alcohol in a month than most people would in their entire lifetimes. It almost made me want to give backpacking a go. For a few milliseconds or so.