Review | AUSTRALIA BY BUS by Steve Kaffen (Russia)


Australia by Bus
by Steve Kaffen (Russia 1994-96)
Independently published
313 pages
April 2024
Kindle Unlimited $4.99 (Kindle)

Reviewed by N. Waheed Nasser (Peace Corps Auditor 2002-06 & 2011-16)


Steve Kaffen (Russia)

In Australia by Bus, author Steve Kaffen states at the outset, “Bus travel is an ideal way to visit Australia,” and he proceeds to tell us why and how and to show us Australia: its cities, scenic highlights, and historic and cultural sites including those of the land’s indigenous groups. His events timing is right on: Sydney for New Year’s Eve, Melbourne for the Australian Open, Perth for its Perth Festival.  For the author, bus journeys are integral parts of the travel experience as riders “observe the passing scenery, local color and lifestyles and enjoy the photographic opportunities and the camaraderie of fellow passengers and drivers.”

On a personal note, I have been to Australia and visited a good number of the places that the author describes. I have to say that he saw things that I missed (It’s his gift), and I am looking forward to returning and filling in the gaps.

The author is well-qualified to guide us, having visited Australia numerous times, each with a component of bus travel of from two weeks to two months. Interestingly, two of the visits also had a work component, with the UN to monitor the independence referendum in East Timor and with the Peace Corps to conduct audits of nearby countries’ operations, and on two occasions, he arrived by ship.

I counted about 25 bus trips in the book. The longest stretch was through the vast interior of the Outback on the two-lane 1,700-mile Stuart Highway with a stop for the Aboriginal rock Uluru. It’s a busy drive for the two alternating drivers, who also pick up and deliver the mail and must watch out for Royal Flying Doctor Service planes that use the highway as a landing strip.

The photography is stunning, a book highlight, and his 500 original photos and descriptions chronicle the journey and can serve as a great travel planner. The photos that touched me the most were from his visit to the Wildlife Hospital, where a full house of rescued animals was recovering from the wildfires. The photos include an adorable baby koala wrapped in a blanket and, oddly enough, a turtle in an observation tank.

Three sections of the book, not part of the travel, stand out. The extensive Introduction includes a capsule tour of places and sites all around Australia. In “A Lifetime Affair with Buses,” the author describes with fact and humor his bus history, including experiences while writing Europe by Bus and some very funny experiences on Africa and Asia buses. In “Bus Thoughts,” the author begins, “We often do our best thinking in motion” and enumerates about 40 thoughts that he recorded while traveling on buses. Here are a few: “When traveling, it is important to experience what is, apart from any judgment of it.” And “A great way to visit a city is to get lost in it.”  Also, “Feel-good communication has its place. Sometimes a brief, pleasant connection is just what you want.” And one that I hadn’t considered but will when I book my next flight: “Which side of the bus to sit on? On a bus, just like on a train or plane, the shady side.” This makes perfect sense, as the non-glare side is more comfortable, more likely to have window shades up, and for Steve Kaffen, where the photography is best.

In conclusion, Australia by Bus is a wonderful book: a fun bus story, an enlightening memoir, and an ideal Australia planner and guide for the traveler to create and execute a memorable bus journey and for the reader to enjoy a grand trip in a fascinating land. I highly recommend it.


Reviewer Waheed Nasser served as an Auditor in the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General 2002-2006 and 2011-2016. A CPA, Waheed has also worked at USAID, the Special IGs for Afghanistan and Iraq Reconstruction, and the Department of the Army’s Internal Review Office in Saudi Arabia and Miami. Waheed is currently deployed for a three-year period in Wiesbaden, Germany in the same work capacity. He has three grown children and is an avid traveler and photographer.


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