G’day, mate!

059 G'Day Mate!_1G’day, mate. 🙂 This is the language visit card of Big Brother? And who is that Big Brother? Let me give you some clues.  It is one of the two countries that belong to the so called Down Under that is a collective name for two distant countries situated under the globe. It is not only a country but a whole southern continent with extremely hot weather but with heavy rains at the same time. Its capital is always mistaken with Sydney because of the world famous opera house there but in fact, it’s Canberra. It has a great diversity of wild animals like crocodiles, kangaroos and wild Dog Dingo. Last but not least it possesses desert central parts while its inhabitants live along a tiny sea coast to the east. Yes. 🙂 It’s the Big Brother as regards to New Zealand. It is situated “To the West of Eden” – the second book by Izabela Shopova.

059 G'Day Mate!_5

Sooo 🙂 Australia …. is similar to its Little Brother but it’s quite different from it at the same time. Let me give you two simple examples out of many others. Their coins are of the same size, with the image of the same queen but the animals depicted on them are different – New Zealand has kiwis and geckos on them while Australia proudly depicts kangaroos and snakes. On the other hand, both southern countries have one and the same emblematic cake which they are proud of – Pavlova dessert. It is a protein meringue-based cake which is principally grand but sometimes it could be smaller with tropical fruit on it. Both countries (and many others, by the way) discuss the origin of the cake that was named after Anna Palvova (a Russian ballet dancer) at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus the New Zealand capital – Wellington and Perth in Western Australia have always questioned the country parentage of the cake. The two cities prove the origins emphasizing especially on the usage of the tropical fruit, i.e. the NZ Pavlova is with slices of kiwis while the AU one is with mango.

Mango for the Aussies plays the same role as watermelon for the Bulgarians. Both fruits symbolize summer and summer fun, easiness and good friends, sun and sea. But mango is of greater significance to the Australian cultural tradition, lifestyle and culinary. The country is neither the biggest producer of mango nor the greatest exporter in the world. But, for sure, the fruit is highly consumed in salads, as a fresh juice or deeply frozen ice cream, desserts and cakes (as it was mentioned above) and so on and so on, on the southern continent.

Aside from mango, Australian markets, especially that in Adelaide on Saturday, are full of all types of known and unknown vegetables and fruit, meet, cakes and sweets, dishes and meals, herbs, cheese and yellow cheese, beer and wine, etc. from all over the world. It competes a great number of world famous food markets as well as it makes its visitors feel they have a very low food IQ because of the immense variety of food offered there.

The vast ‘terra australis incognita’ (or the unknown land of the South) was found, explored and conquered by the Europeans and mainly by the Brits like Captain James Cook, Matthew Flinders and Edward Gibbon Wakefield (exceptions are  Abel Tasman and Nicolas-Thomas Baudin). Typically for the British probably you would ask what the weather is like in Australia. First, it should be mentioned that if there was a sunny-weather contest, something like “Miss Sunny Weather”, the country-continent would be undoubtedly the winner with its 300 days of sun yearly. So far so good. But there are some particular places like Queensland and Brisbane, for example, where the classical weather has two “faces”, two “personalities” – that of Dr Jekyll and the other one of Mr Hyde. Dr Jekyll is present during daylight hours and the weather is fine, sunny and clear. There are pooh clouds in the light-blue sky and cool breeze all over. Birds sing everywhere especially in the morning hours and at noon. But the end of the world comes with Mr Hyde late in the evening and his black-grey clouds, flashes and thunderstorms, heavy rains and strong winds. Birds are substituted by frogs that reside everywhere in the gardens and even in people’s houses. And in the morning everything repeats again – the reign of the good Dr Jekyll and the night party of Mr Hyde. Sometimes this weather is diversified by the red dust storms and orange rains brought by strong winds from the Australian desert.

059 G'Day Mate!_2Yes, the central desert zone of Australia. It occupies almost half of the territory of the country. It’s in total contrast to the other parts of the southern continent both with its constant 40+ degrees Centigrade, red dust and native aborigines.

Usually the morning temperatures there are about 43 degrees and they increase to 50 during the day. The landscape is orange-red and seen from the Space the continent is in red. Wandering through central Australia one stumbles upon large red sandstone formations and rocks like Urulu and Kata Tjuta.  Kata Tjuta (or Mount Olga) translated from the native aboriginal language means “many heads” used to be the largest monolith on Earth. But because of the millions of years of erosion nowadays it ranks second after Uluru (or Ayers Rock). Both of them (and of course, all other sandstone formations, hills, trees, and river beds in the desert) are sacred to native aborigines and “tell” legends, myths and “contain” their history through their forms and shapes.

059 G'Day Mate!_2The Kings Canyon is worth mentioning as well. It’s another sacred and ritual aboriginal site that is about 300m high with an extremely steep climb known as the Heartbreak/Heart Attack Hill after which the Garden of Eden welcomes survivors and in the end the Bungle Bungle Range landform amazes with its distinctive sandstone domes and towers that are beehive-shaped. The whole Range is an ancient impact crater.    

Apart from the red rocks, some desert towns like Alice Springs (or just the Alice) house museums and other places where aboriginal artifacts and other sacred objects are kept. The town itself is situated at a distance of 350 km from the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and there are some peculiar facts about it. Once upon a time it used to be the capital of the today’s former central Australian state. All places, hotels, points of interests, streets, etc. bear the names Todd, Alice or Gap. The centre of the southern continent is somewhere in the town or around it depending on the types of measures. And there are two hospitals – one for men and one for women. It’s strange, isn’t it? Definitely, it is. The explanation of that fact is to be looked for in aborigines’ traditions of separating men from women into two different worlds.

Another world phenomenon in the desert is the Great Artesian Basin which is both the largest and deepest system of underground water wells that provides fresh water in water holes called billabongs in the central Australian desert. Just for the record, the depth of the basin is 1500m on average but in some places it is about 3000m deep.

And what’s the desert and Australian fauna as a whole? It’s diverse. Camels are about one million on the continent and they are wild and wander freely through the desert. They live in flocks and migrate on large areas and territories. Unfortunately, these camels are so wild that they often attack agricultural left buildings, farms, warehouses, etc. Kangaroos are the typical representatives of Australia and they are always associated with the continent as its emblem. Unfortunately, very often they are killed in the desert by passing-by Australian Roadtrains. Of course, the wild nature, in the desert especially, is home to the wild Dog Dingo, poisonous snakes and insects, crocodiles, night butterflies, ants and so on.   By the way, the types of ants in Australia are 1500 in number. Their size is between 1-30mm and many of the ant species are permanent companions of the Australians. They live with them in the cities and even termites devastate the wooden Victorian style houses in the country.

059 G'Day Mate!_4And finally how do the Aussies amuse themselves? They are fans of barbecue. It’s their cultural practice. It’s an integral part of their life that is associated with bright memories from their childhood and is a dream of very pensioner. It is also their Sunday ritual when they gather together with friends and relatives near the pool in the back yard. This Sunday idyll is based on the fragrant fume of the roast meat that is cooked by the host – it’s his greatest privilege. He is in an apron with a male logo or sign on it, shorts, with flip-flops and a hat on. His long and big instruments follow him everywhere. Guests sit on folding camping chairs around a folding camping table. The radio is on. Children cry out and run all the time.

kangarooAnd what about winter season holidays in summer? What would you say to be surrounded by Santa Clauses in white-red shorts, vests and flip-flops in the shopping centres from early October? And an artificial New Year’s Tree that is packed immediately after Christmas or one that is 5m high, decorated and with a star on the top, that’s placed in the middle of nothing, in the desert? Well, all this is quite strange for those who live in the northern hemisphere. But, surely, it’s stranger to them to celebrate Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, according to the Australian traditions influenced by the hot weather there during that period of time.

Here are some characteristics of Australian Christmas. There is a tropical storm and heavy rain, high level of humidity, fug and sweltering heat. The favourite place is around the air conditioners (not around the fireplace). People drink frozen cocktails instead of mulled wine. Christmas Eve’s official dinner is at candlelight and very romantic as there’s not electricity because of the storm.

Australian New Year is as exotic as Christmas. This is the period of time when the great relocation of people occurs. Most of them choose to celebrate it at the ocean and they are fully equipped with boats, jets, kayaks, bikes, surfs, small auto-fridges, etc. They move slowly along highways full of cars with trailers in direction of ocean cities where they will celebrate the New Year in swimsuits, with frozen cocktails in hands and on the beach. Others prefer to go to the Australian desert where they will have a “party” in the aboriginal mecca, surrounded by red rocks and sandstone formations.

In conclusion, if you’re already challenged by the southern continent, watch the short video about Australia here.

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