TRAVEL CHANNEL TOP-10
A joke in every sense!
Aired in early February of this year, this program claimed to offer the ten most worthy places of interest in Australia. All it offered was a major disservice to any would be travelers to my country, as well as a major plug for all the various companies who were shamelessly promoted through the program. One is left to wander if the business's highlighted paid for the privilege of featuring in the 'top 10', because the fact that some made it on to this laughable list at all was a travesty.
Here's the list
1) Outback ballooning
Yeah right. The number one experience in Australia is to hop into a balloon and go sailing over a flat featureless landscape for day or two. Screw every natural wonder the country has to offer like Kakadu, the Franklin river, the Kimberley's, the Great Barrier reef, etc, (all but one didn't even make it on to this ridiculous list) your priority is to fly all the way to Australia so you can float over the outback.
2) Underwater world
Probably the most ridiculous recommendation on this list of laughable entries and a shameless plug for the company concerned. Come to Australia so you can hop into a tank of harmless sharks - how distinctly Australian. Yep, this really deserves it's place at number two on the list. Refer to the list I provided on the other pages - if you really want to see sharks up close there are infinitely better ways to see them in their natural environment, up close, and potentially a lot more lethal! Even then I wouldn't rate the experiences in my personal top ten of things to see or do in Australia.
3) The Great barrier reef
One of the few places mentioned that deserves to be on the list, yet as per usual they had to screw the presentation up by choosing probably the worst way to see the reef, mass transit catamarans that ferry out hundreds of people at a time to floating observation platforms, where the visitors can all jostle and jump on each other whilst trying to see something of the nearby reef that hasn't been ripped, mangled, or purloined by previous hordes.
If time or money are short than perhaps you have little choice in the matter, but even if you don't want to scuba dive the best way to see the reef is to go out with one of the dive companies on a two or three day trip. They'll happily take passengers who just want to snorkel, you'll get to see an infinitely finer variety of corals and fish in a leisurely fashion, and you'll undoubtedly have a great time with a small bunch of people who all get to know each other pretty well by trips end. This will give you a far more memorable experience of the Great barrier reef than the 'catamaran crush'.
Another one of the few to merit inclusion on the list.
5) The Sydney harbour bridge
I love my home city of Sydney and have a great deal of sentimental attachment to the old coat-hanger, but this in the top 10 - give me a break! It's just a sodding bridge that offers a nice view. Save yourself the exercise and considerable expense and catch the lift up to Centrepoint tower, have lunch at the top of the Boulevard hotel (or the Regent hotel if you've got the money), or just wander over to Blue's point and get an even better view for free at ground level.
Again, I don't have any particular aversion to the bridge climb, it looks like fun, I just have a problem placing the climb amongst the elite experiences the country has to offer.
6) Fraser island
Worthy of inclusion perhaps, but over the claims of Kakadu, the Franklin, and the Kimberley?
7) Bondi beach
Another joke inclusion. Most Sydneysiders probably wouldn't even include the beach amongst their 10 favourite beaches in the city, let alone one of the premier places to visit in the country! It's crowded, hemmed in by suburbia, and not a particularly pretty strip of sand. Amongst the many beaches that the city has to offer there are far more beautiful - and often secluded - strips to the north and south, and even within the harbour itself.
This was just another shameless plug, on this occasion for a restaurant where the beautiful people apparently like to go - great deal of name-dropping throughout of movie stars who visit. I was suitably impressed, who wouldn't want to go there and possibly bump into Keanu Reeves? If you really want to experience a nice seaside setting for food try world famous Doyle's at Watson bay (if you can get a booking) or the restaurant by Shelley beach, near Manly.
8) Kangaroo island
I would rate this even higher, but at least they put it in!
9) Sydney Opera house
I love the Opera house, but again I would have a problem singling it out for inclusion on a 'top 10' list. For me I would prefer to package it together with all the other sites of interest in Sydney, as I've done. My experiences of traveling the world are that the most rewarding aspects of visiting countries are the people and the landscapes, and with few exceptions buildings have never rated as highly for me, much as I may admire them. I guess I may be taking the Opera house a little for granted given that I come from Sydney, as it is a magnificent structure - and I also have to bear in mind how my visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling water in Pennsylvania was a near religious experience for me, so who am I to criticize?
10) Australia zoo
Pardon me while I throw up! Hands up how many Australian's know where Australia zoo is, or how many had ever heard of it prior to the advent of the Crocodile hunter series on TV? Talk about rank commercialism being behind this program on the travel channel, including this zoo and the owner's idiotic son was about as revolting as it could get. All it was trying to do was zero in on Steve Irwin's popularity with American audiences, nothing else. If you want to see Australian animals without any fuss or bother go to Taronga zoo in Sydney or Lone pine sanctuary - either one has wonderful displays of Koalas and you don't have to travel to the middle of nowhere to see them. Alternatively get out into the bush and REALLY see them - which do you think would rate higher?
The crocodile hunter
As an aside, let me make a note to all the many Americans who seem to have such a deep interest in the crocodile hunter, judging by the constant barrage of questions I receive regarding what I think of the program, of Steve Irwin, and whether I happen to know him personally!
I think I could safely state that to most Australian's Steve Irwin, and the program, are a complete joke and an insult to Australians as a whole, to our wildlife, and to the many fine naturalists in the country who have presented programs through the years that would teach you in a one hour segment more about our wildlife than this ridiculous daring-do piece of garbage. I think it would also be safe to say that the majority of Aussies happily and enthusiastically root for all the snakes and crocodiles he likes to play with to thrill his American money-makers.
The program was created specifically for a U.S. market, the idea being to present a kind of real life Crocodile Dundee character to an American audience who would hopefully lap it up. It's scary to consider that a generation of Americans will grow up thinking Australians walk around like a bunch of raving lunatics, eyes bulging and rolling about, arms flaying around in demented fashion, and our voices going up and down by the octave as we use archaic slang like 'crikey' that went out with our grandparents. The power's that be obviously said to dear old Steve "Listen buddy, we love all that crazy stuff you do with the animals, the alligator wrestling and getting bitten by snakes, but can you be a little more like Paul Hogan, you know, play up the real crazy aussie stuff and use all that weird slang from down under - Americans will love it!" Throw in an American wife to bridge the Pacific divide, a child called 'Bindi', and how can you miss?
Probably the thing that is most appalling is the incredibly moronic example the stupid theatrics with dangerous animals sets for young children. Saying 'kids, don't do this at home' is about as pointless as it comes - might as well say 'which of you little buggers is going to copy me first?' Screwing around with deadly snakes, or grabbing crocodiles by the tail, might look like fun on TV, but try living in Australia with a family of young children and hazardous creatures like that about and you might have a different perspective. Anyone who has lived outside of urban areas knows that deadly reptiles like brown snakes are a way of life, and in one particular home I lived in it wasn't a normal year if I didn't find at least 3 or 4 lurking about the house during the summer. Would you want your kids trying to play Crocodile hunter with them, or trying to feed meat to a large croc on a dare from friends?
If you want to see the genuine article there have been countless programs featuring bush experts through the years - two individuals that spring to mind are Harry Butler and Les Hiddins.
The former presented some wonderful 'In the wild' programs on the outback back in the 70's and 80's featuring the animals, the aboriginal people, the land - and how best to see them all. The episodes would take you on a trek to the outback, demonstrate how to travel through it, how to survive, what to do in emergencies - really fine programs presented by a dyed-in-the-wool 'bushy'.
Les Hiddins on the other hand is a former military officer who specialized in finding ways for Australian troops to survive off the land, and in building up his vast store of knowledge consulted the absolute experts on the matter, the aboriginal people. A trip through the bush with Les Hiddins (via his 'Bush tucker man' series) was an absolute treat with the regions he showed you, and the knowledge he imparted, of incredible interest.
Of course neither of the above play with crocodiles and snakes for amusement or the camera so maybe it wouldn't be sexy enough for Americans, yet you'd see and learn far more of what the Australian bush is really like from these stalwarts of the bush and watch the knowledge presented in a far less animated, idiotic, and cliché-ridden manner.