Australia’s highways are peppered with groups of travellers doing the road trip of a lifetime up the east coast, or along the Great Ocean Road, or across the vast expanses of the Nullarbor… but not every backpacker is so productive behind the wheel. Estonia’s Henri Meil had only been in the country two weeks when he was fined $1000 and banned from driving for six months by the Bunbury Magistrates Court in 2014, all for a couple of burnouts – the time-honoured Australian tradition of creating a cloud of smoke by spinning the wheels of a stationary vehicle.
Anyone who reckons chivalry is dead needs to meet the backpacker who ended up in hospital after falling down a 12-metre cliff trying to retrieve a woman’s handbag. The two tourists were walking through a park in Bundaberg, south-east Queensland, in the wee hours of the morning when the incident occurred, requiring ambulance and fire crews to ferry the man to hospital for treatment on his injuries. It’s worth mentioning Bundaberg is home to Australia’s favourite rum distillery, which may or may not have had something to do with the incident.
The Top End is renowned as one of the most laid-back corners of the country but the city of Darwin got their knickers in a knot about some bare backpacker boobs last year. One mother’s Facebook post about two topless sunbathers in the Howard Springs Nature Park went viral, while the NT News reported that “white pointers” were “stalking children” in a park at East Point, risking a fine of $432. Prudes.
No one’s a huge fan of snakes and spiders but Munich man Ricardo Kammermayer took his phobia to a new level in Brisbane four years ago, when he fell asleep on the roof of a Toyota Camry because he was so terrified of ground-dwelling creepy-crawlies… then was invited by the local constabulary to spend the night in lock-up instead. Ricardo reckoned his fear was exaggerated by one glass of low-cost wine — known as ‘goon’ Down Under — too many. “I shouldn’t have done it,” he told the local paper the next day. “I was just drinking too much goon.” We’ve all been there, Ricardo. We’ve all been there.
Travellers these days are obsessed with shooting the perfect photo to rake in those Instagram likes, and Johnny Bonde from Denmark went to extreme lengths to snap the ultimate selfie last year. Bonde bumped into a saltwater crocodile on the banks of Lake Kununurra in WA — literally — when he slipped while taking a photo and slammed his body into the croc, who retaliated by munching on the backpacker’s arm. “I learned my lesson,” Johnny said. “Try to snap a croc, and they’ll snap you right back!”
The winding Great Ocean Road is one of the biggest backpacker magnets in Victoria — but three Belgians’ journey involved a few more twists and turns than they would’ve liked. The unlucky trio sparked a massive 24-hour search and rescue mission involving four police units and the air wing when they unintentionally went all Bear Grylls this June, after their car got bogged in mud and their phone battery died in the middle of an emergency call seeking help.
It’s no secret that backpackers are fond of a drink or nine, and ever-so-rarely, things get a little out of control. One French backpacker woke up with a hangover that was more costly than usual in 2014 when he and a few hundred mates turned Cable Beach in Broome — normally the tranquil home of camel trains striding along the sand as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean — into a massive bonfire bash, copping a disorderly conduct and pot possession charge from party-pooping police. Naughty boy.
Plenty of law-abiding backpackers get a legitimate job when they come to Australia — something like picking fruit on a farm or pulling beers in a pub or working construction on a building site. Making a few bucks through credit card fraud? Less advisable. Canadian teenager Nathanial Meryk Bell was fined $1200 by Noosa Magistrates Court this June for checking in to a Sunshine Coast resort with credit card details he purchased off the dark web, before telling the court he planned to continue his working holiday (making money legally this time, of course).
Would you leap into crocodile-infested waters to impress a girl? Because that’s exactly what 18-year-old Lee De Paauw did in March. This backpacker fail involves a daft Australian trying to impress a British backpacker after 10 glasses of goon, when Lee told a group of travellers — including his love interest Sophie Paterson — that crocs were less likely to attack an Aussie than a foreigner, and jumped into Innisfail’s Johnstone River to prove it. His theory was destroyed when a crocodile nearly ripped his left arm off before Lee escaped by punching it in the nose and poking his eyes. The North Queenslander recovered in hospital and Sophie accepted his invitation for a date, so perhaps the leap of faith wasn’t completely stupid after all.
Anyone who’s ever caught an episode of Bondi Rescue knows that international backpackers aren’t always the most careful in the surf, so now a council on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast is teaching travellers about ocean safety. Working holiday makers around Coffs Harbour are now being educated about how to take care of themselves in the water, including the golden rule: swim between the flags, which designate the safest area of the beach patrolled by lifesavers.
Walk into any hostel in Australia and you’ll spot an Englishman, fresh off the plane from Heathrow, who’s spent the day at the beach sans-sunscreen and now sports skin that glows somewhere between smoked salmon pink and fire engine red. The scourge of sunburn is so bad that Queensland’s emergency services have even reported a spike in hospitalisations during the summer high season because of burnt backpackers. Remember to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on some sunglasses, kids.