Wherever you go, there's always an Aussie

Chris does not look happy. It's difficult to understand the long face. He lives in paradise, after all: a deserted island in French Polynesia. It's all palm trees up above, sand at your feet, clear blue ocean out to the horizon. His only chore for the day is to jump in his boat and head out to the reef, where he'll check out the surf before throwing a fishing line in the water and casually pulling out a couple of cricket bat-size tuna. Nice work if you can get it. Still, that frown won't turn upside down.

"Bloody 36-nil," he says, grimacing. "I went to bed; couldn't take any more of it."

Oh, right, the Sharks game. I'd forgotten Cronulla were playing overnight - it's easy to do when you're stranded in the middle of the south Pacific - but Chris is a dedicated Sharks fan, one who's paid a lot of money to have a satellite dish mounted on the thatched pandanus roof of the resort he owns; missing the game is never an option.

He sits at a table by the beach and sips his coffee, dark rings under his eyes the telltale sign of a late night in front of the telly. "Apparently, it ended up 40-6," he sighs. "So at least we won the last bit of the game."

You know what they say: you can take the boy out of the shire but you can't take the shire out of the boy. A million miles from Australia, in a different world, Chris has found a way to get his footy fix. Two days later and it's really on. The Sharks are a passion but State of Origin is life and death. There's time for fishing during the day, sure. And a quick scuba dive, too. But come midnight it's all state against state, mate against mate.

Chris's French Polynesian guests retire to bed at a reasonable hour but the hotel's small Australian contingent sits it out late into the night with a couple of beers and a pot of coffee before huddling around the TV to watch Jamie Soward boot the ball and get play under way in that far-off world that we all once inhabited.

"This game is being beamed live around the world," Rabs Warren boasts from the Channel Nine commentary box and for once you believe him.

That's not the ranting of some deluded footy nut - if we're watching the game under a thatched roof in French Polynesia, who knows where else they've got the Origin on? Fatty, Sterlo and the gang are probably talking to homesick Australians the world over. Because we are everywhere, us Aussies. It doesn't matter which part of the world you find yourself in, from the largest city to the smallest village, you can guarantee there will be an Australian somewhere close by.

This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how desperately you want to get away from said Australians. For those travellers in need of a little hit of Aussie culture - anything from a cold Foster's on a London walkabout to a TV with the Origin screening on a tiny south Pacific island - it can be handy to hear these familiar voices.


It's amazing where you find Australians and what you find them doing. You might think you're leaving Oz far behind when you get on that plane and set off on an adventure but your homeland will always catch up with you. In the strangest little places you'll find Aussie people doing Aussie things. I know - I've met them.

There's a tiny village in northern Thailand, a place of only a few hundred people in the middle of nowhere. The only way you'll find it is if you get lost. Should that happen, however, you'll see the strangest sight: a lone Westerner walking down the dusty street, proud in his Wallabies jersey. His name's Andrew. He lives there. He might watch more Muay Thai than rugby these days but he's still as Australian as they come.

Likewise in Addis Ababa, where I met an Aussie miner called Ben who lives in a stately old home in the suburbs and likes to fire up the barbecue when friends come over. Same in northern Scotland, in a tiny pub in the Highlands, where a Queenslander called Grant is probably still telling tall stories about drop bears to anyone who will listen.

And, of course, there's Chris, hidden in a far corner of the ocean on an island no bigger than a footy field itself, living like a Polynesian by day but gluing himself to the telly to watch his beloved Sharks and Blues by night.

That State of Origin night was a bit of a disaster - Queensland stole victory in the dying minutes, adding more disappointment to Chris's Cronulla woes.

The glum face was back but it wouldn't last. Tomorrow's another day, after all, with fish to be caught and surf to be ridden. And the Sharks are playing again soon.

What are some of the surprising places you've run into Australians while travelling?

Hope you're enjoying the Backpacker blog – there will be a new one published every Tuesday and Wednesday on the Fairfax Media websites. To contact me with any topic suggestions or personal abuse, visit my website, follow me on Twitter, or email me at bengroundwater@gmail.com.

Read Ben Groundwater's column on Sundays in the Sun-Herald.