Arriving in Australia was a strange and mixed feeling. On one hand I felt excited and refreshed to explore a new city and a new country. On the other hand, the weight of a 36 hours long journey with approximately 2 hours of sleep was lying heavily on my shoulders. My travel companion, Lars, was in an even worse mood. Earlier on the trip, he had raised a strong case against buying flight socks, claiming it was just another fake product hyped by the travel industry. Now, 36.5 hours later, his feet were on the size of an elephant.
The flight had felt even longer than I had expected it to be. I had been lucky enough to be placed half a meter away from the toilet, so by the end of the flight I could probably state what every single person from the row of 20 to 46 had chosen for dinner. The only thing keeping us alive through the flight was the obsession we developed to become a millionaire in the on flight TV-game version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?”
While we walked stuck in our own heads dragging our backpacks behind us, we nearly tumbled over the old lady in front of us when she suddenly stopped in front of what looked like a third security point. “What the hell is this then? Another queue?” said Lars with a resigned look on his face. “Please keep your passport and your yellow slip ready” I read out loud from a poster next to us. “What yellow slip? Did you get one?” sighed Lars. We kindly explained this to one of the security personnel, and he asked us to step aside of the queue so he could help us out.
“Okay boys, have you brought any medications, organic food, fruits or anything similar to Austraaalia?” he opened with a stiff grin on his face. “No, no” we quickly replied. He gave us a look like he didn’t believe a word of what we were saying before he continued. “Have you brought any hiking or training shoes that might contain dirt or mud?” On a mission to better his mood with a joke I firmly stated “Well I’ve been walking in these shoes for almost 2 days now, so I can’t guarantee that they smell fresh and new.” Clearly not getting my drowsy attempt at a joke he repeated with a deeper voice “Sir, Does your shoes contain dirt or mud from your home country?” Annoyed by his sudden rudeness I decided to take a different tone as well. “Well I didn’t really clean them with a toothbrush before I came here did I, so they might very well yes.” “I must ask you to come with me sir.”
I didn’t really understand what had happened at the security point until I heard the story of Thomas Austin and his rabbits. You see, Australia might come off us a rough and tough country with lots of desert and mountains, but in fact it’s one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. The reason why is because they have been separated from all the other continents for such a long time, so things that are common and adapted in EurAsia and America can have a huge impact if introduced to the untouched Australian nature.
One of the best examples is the already mentioned one about Thomas Austin and his rabbits. Austin was a pioneer settler in southern Australia. He had made a good life for himself in Australia, the only thing he missed from England was his favorite hobby; rabbit hunting. Australia didn’t have a native rabbit population, therefore he asked his nephew in England to send him a shipment of 24 grey rabbits, so he could create his own little rabbit population.
The only problem was that Austin hadn’t considered the rapidity of the rabbit spreading that would come. It turned out that Australia had the perfect climate for rabbits, with a temperature that allowed them to breed all-year round. And Rabbits doesn’t need to be asked twice when it comes to breeding…. In a couple of months, the rabbit population of 24 had exploded into thousands. Within ten years of introduction, there were over 10 million rabbits in Australia.
After reaching a top point of 600 millions in the 1950s, the Australian government has been able to reduce the amount to 200-300 millions. Rabbits are still seen as a pest in Australia, and much is still blamed on the poor passionate rabbit hunter Thomas Austin.
This article was written by VagaBen, a freelance travel writer who wrote this article for Backpack Australia. Ben is a passionate backpacker and has made traveling and writing his living.
His past journeys have taken him through Europe, North Africa and latest Australia. His next trip will be to South America to experience the Rio Carnival!
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