Australia rocks! Just let me put that out there. Of course, as an Australian, I'm pretty biased, but Australia is a fabulous country with so much to offer. It's a great place to live, has a pretty fantastic climate, and if you're a tourist, there is an enormous variety of things to do. This has a lot to do with the fact that we have such a diverse country. From one end to the other, if you were to go for a very VERY long walk, you'd come across mountains, deserts, rainforests, wetlands, bushland, farmland, small country towns, bustling cities and vast expanses of nothingness. There is literally something for everyone. You can ski in the winter if you head up into the High Country, go diving with the fish on the Great Barrier Reef, sip great wines in the Hunter or Barossa Valley, sample incredible locally grown food, swim off gorgeous golden beaches, check out our oldest convict built buildings around Tasmania, be amazed by the many moods and colours of Uluru in Central Australia or indulge in a bit of 'culture' at the Sydney Opera House or in Melbourne, the home of the Australian Ballet.
Tourists are truly spoilt for choice, and to top off all the great places and lists of things to do, there is also the weather. It can get a bit heaty during summer, (I admit it can sometimes get a little out of control) but some people adore the heat, which means that we are pretty fond of our outdoor activities and doing things like messing about with boats, swimming at the beach, going camping and, yes, having barbeques. We're pretty fond of those.
There are, however, a few misconceptions about Australia that some tourists seem to have, so to clear it all up for you I have made a little list.
1. We do not all keep kangaroos as pets. Nope. Sorry. Nor are they hopping everywhere down the main street of Melbourne, Sydney or any other capital city. You will, however, find them in the country. For example I hit a small grey kangaroo with my car here in Gippsland a few years ago. I didn't mean it of course. Kangaroos are ridiculously stupid and if they are on the side of the road and a car comes along they will hop along beside it in panic and then suddenly jump out in front of your car. I was very glad I had a 'nudge bar' on the front of my car. When we go up north to my in laws farm in Wakool (more remote country New South Wales) we see lots of kangaroos, and truth be told, they make good hunting. The other thing about kangaroos, despite them being on our National Coat of Arms, you can buy kangaroo meat in the supermarket. Yep, it's delicious.
2. Cork hats are not a fashion statement. Nor are they worn. Supposedly these are worn by 'bushmen' (or should I say 'bush people' to not be sexist??) and the corks are supposed to keep the flies away. I'm telling you now. NOTHING keeps the flies away. They are persistent little buggers that know exactly when you have your hands full.
3. We don't wear Akubra hats everywhere. Ok, so in the country you might see them a lot more often, but in the city no. This is me wearing mine while hanging out with my Dad's cows, but I usually wouldn't be wearing mine with a skirt. Farmers are quite partial to them, and you will see every single person at the saleyards wearing one, but on a farm and around 'farmy type' activities, they are very sensible. Below is a shot of me wearing my old one, which I still have, while showing cattle at The Melbourne Show, something I did a lot of a few years ago. Actually when I met my husband this is what I did for a living. Yes, weird, I know.
4. "Throw another shrimp on the barbie"....meaning throw another shrimp on the barbeque. This was an ad campaign that used to run in America quite a few years ago now with Paul Hogan chatting about the wonders of Down Under. We call them prawns and we're more likely to cook a sausage to death or burn the crap out of a piece of steak.
5. Snakes. Seventeen out of twenty-six of the worlds most venomous snakes are found in Australia. Having said that it is unlikely you will see one when visiting. The first time I ever saw a snake in the wild was when I was about 34 and I was driving out to my parent's farm. I nearly ran over a black snake. It was busy crossing the road and it was so long that it stretched from one side of the road to the other, so no wonder I nearly ran it over. However when I moved up north to Wakool I used to see snakes ALOT, and I even had a Brown Snake (highly venomous) in my garden. My poor sister in-law had one in her pantry, so the garden one was nothing...but this was my snake (after I introduced him to the shovel).... That's a toy truck by the way, not a real one, otherwise that is one BIG snake.
7. A koala is not a 'bear'. It might look cute and cuddly but it actually has some pretty nasty claws and it growls. Yes, I know, kind of like a grizzly bear, but this animal is not related to the 'bear' family. Nor is it related to the 'teddy bear' family. Here I am holding one on my honeymoon. He was nice and soft but this was where I experienced the nasty claws.
Anyway, I hope this hasn't put you off coming to our fabulous country. It really is one of the best countries in the world, even if I do say so myself.