Australians are renowned for travelling overseas before exploring their own country.
In recent years I’ve tried to be less guilty of this. I’m only beginning to appreciate the incredibly diversity, unique characteristics and daunting challenges of my homeland and I’ll take every opportunity to further my education.
In mid 2013 fellow media mercenary Nathan Dyer invited me on part of an epic two-month journey on which he would cover more than 15,500km around Australia. As well as ongoing projects for RM Williams Outback Magazine, Nathan was compiling a new book on Australians with weird and wonderful pets, of which there is no shortage.
Nathan’s wife Anthea and baby daughter Queenie met him in Darwin to travel around the Top End, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. I joined him for the Melbourne to Darwin leg, three very humorous and dusty weeks of photography and tomfoolery.
The sales of the book, Animal Tales, have been impressive (obviously due to that amazing lighting assistant) and Breakfast program Sunrise featured Nathan and Anthea when they finally made it back to Melbourne. It’s a nice piece – click here to watch it.
Nathan found many of the pet owners by simply chatting to the local vet, or asking around at the pub, where we tended to get stuck for a good few hours afterwards.
We met some incredible people, unearthed a few inspiring stories, photographed places like The Flinders Ranges, Oodnadatta Track, Coober Pedy, The Devil’s Marbles and had countless other weird and wacky experiences totally unique to Australia.
My favourite pet was Stampy, the most docile saltwater crocodile in existence. Stampy’s owner is professional reptile wrangler Chris Peberdy, who rescued her as a hatchling from the grounds of a primary school eight years ago. He nursed her back to health and they now share a relationship of complete trust.
I knew from my days as a photographer with The NT News that you never handle an unrestrained croc, no matter how young or cute it looks.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as Chris tickled a completely relaxed Stampy under the chin like she was a pet cat, talked about taking her to friends’ barbecues and swimming with her in the backyard pool.
Unsurprisingly, Stampy and Chris have attracted a fair amount of further press – click here to read their amusing profile from The Weekend Australian.
Nathan and I also shot a lot of what we believe to be hilarious footage on the trip, so stay tuned for the Academy Award winning motion picture. It promises to set a new high-water mark for slapstick comedy and will be online as soon as I learn how to edit video properly.