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Judy Bailey’s Australian outback adventure

Judy Bailey writes about her unusual adventures in the outback.

By Morgan Johnston
Australia was not high on my list of travel destinations. I had thought it a bit too close, too like home, with a few more gum trees and a lot more desert thrown in. I thought I'd "do" Australia when I was too old to handle long-haul flights. Big mistake!
I've just finished a trip around Australia from Perth to Darwin – the long way round – taking the road slightly less travelled by most New Zealanders for a new TV One series. What a revelation it has been.
It is, in fact, quite different to home. It is a land of big skies, big, ancient landscapes, big opportunities and big characters. Big seems to be a recurring theme as the journey continues. It's full of surprises and best of all, it's right on our doorstep.
Perth is a seven-hour flight from Auckland. It passes in a flash, with a couple of movies and lunch thrown in. As we approach the city, it seems as if we're about to fall off the edge of the world. Perth sits on a narrow green band of coastline, the vast west Australian desert behind it and the endless blue of the Indian Ocean ahead.
It's mid summer and hot – pushing 40ºC. Perth is the powerhouse of the Australian economy. At least 40% of the nation's wealth is generated here in the boardrooms of the big mining companies. The city has become a magnet for us Kiwis – we are lured here in search of the big bucks and the famous outdoorsy lifestyle. You get a real sense that this is a place that is always on the move.
From Perth, I head south down the coast to Margaret River – a region famous for its surfing and wine. As little as 40 years ago there weren't any vines here at all. Now they're everywhere, picture-postcard
perfect. So much of the joy of travel comes from the characters you meet along the way and I meet plenty on this journey.
Talk to almost anyone in Margaret River and you find, regardless of what they currently do, they originally came for the surfing. The Kiwi award-winning winemaker, the tour guide, even the chef who gave me a cooking lesson... brave man.
Tony Howell is responsible for the food at Cape Lodge. It was recently named one of the top-10 eateries in the world by the influential Condé Nast Traveller magazine. I'm a tiny bit intimidated, but he is a delight. None of the "Gordon Ramsays" about him. He can see I'm totally inept in the kitchen department and keeps up a cheery patter while steering me deftly away from the food.
That evening the crew and I are invited to work our way through an exquisite 10-course degustation menu. Each plate is a work of art. I am slightly disappointed though that nothing I made seems to have made it to the menu – can't imagine why.
The lighthouse keeper I meet at Cape Leeuwin is not a surfer. "I'm a lighthouse tragic," he solemnly informs me. "When I go on holidays around the world, I go to look at lighthouses." I can see why he's so enthusiastic. A lighthouse is a source of great mystery and romance, and I'm captivated by his fascinating stories.
The next leg of this part of the journey takes me to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia – a city often compared to Christchurch. It's very English – there are lots of historic stone buildings, broad avenues and spacious parks. We take some time out from the shoot here.
My director, Mark, is in heaven – Australia is playing India at the legendary Adelaide Oval. I'm not a big fan of cricket. I think it's a bit like watching paint dry, but I go to keep Mark company and find myself caught up in the atmosphere.
The Aussie crowd are getting right into it, showing no mercy to their hapless batsman who is having an off day. Mark patiently explains the finer points to me as we knock back a few of the local brews in the afternoon sun. I could be converted.

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