Wicked places in Australia and Pacific
Adelaide has come up with its own solution to the declining religious commitment. The cosy city known as the "City of Churches" has a surprising high number of churches, but some do not serve the Almighty anymore. These have been taken over by a lovely diverse range of enterprises. You can find anything from a chemist over lingerie shop to night clubs in these nice grand old buildings. The stained glass with Christen motifs are often still in place which only makes shopping for cough medicine a bit more colourful.
Why would anyone live in the desert? In Coober Pedy, 850km north of Adelaide and 680km south of Alice Springs, the answer is opal, a colourful little gemstone. Since the first findings in the beginning of last century people have despised the harsh environment and settled down here in the middle of the outback. The surface is hot, burned and dusty so most residents have searched for cooler temperatures underground. Dugout homes, shops, bars and churches have been refurnished from old mines and you can even spend the night in one of the cave hotels. If you haven't seen enough weird things, you can visit the Great Barrier Fence, the dingo fence running the whole stretch from coast to coast adding up to about 5400km, just a bit out of town.
The Cook Islands is pretty fine place and unfortunately did the Sheraton Hotel Group think the same thing in early 1990s. In cooperation with the government they started to build what was suppose to be a five-star resort. When it was almost completed the project shipwrecked due to financial problems (and corruption, according to some rumors). Though they tried to resurrect the hotel several times it never got fully completed, but they got pretty close. The swimming pool is there and some rooms even have spa and fan installed. Today the ghost hotel lies abandoned and overgrown, and does apparently still account for half the national debt. If you have a taste for the bizarre and do not mind a bit of broken glass, it could be an opportunity to have a free night in an almost-complete Sheraton.
The John Frum cargo cult is a very strange religious movement. It all started in the 1930s when Vanuatu was still a colony and heavily influenced by Christian missionaries. A (fictional) character named John Frum appeared to some elders on Tanna island and encouraged them to reject the white man's oppression (Christianity, plantations, monogamy, etc.) and go back to their traditional customs that else had been banned by the missionaries. If they did, John Frum would return with an abundance of goodies. Luckily for the cult, they did not have to wait long for the islands of Vanuatu were used as military base by the Americans during the WWII. With them came a lot of nice cargo, just as John Frum had promised, and the US soldiers didn't mind sharing with the locals. Since then, the John Frum believers practice weird rituals like parading with bamboo "rifles", raising the flag of USA, worshiping the Red Cross - and less weird rituals like the weekly Friday night dancing - in the hope that John Frum will send a new wave of heavenly cargo.