The Kangaroo country – Australia
Australia Fast Facts
Country Name: Commonwealth of Australia
Largest Cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane
Currency: Australian dollars (AUD)
Population Density:6 people per sq. mi.
Climate: generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical
Tome Zone: 1. GMT + 10
2. GMT + 9.5
3. GMT + 8
Country code: +61
Australia or the Down under has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world that is also a continent by itself. Australia is a country of kangaroos, deserts, rainforests, beaches, beer and cricket. Much of this country’s character comes from its rugged natural beauty, from its diverse geography and the colourful people. From savannah grasslands to the majestic snowy mountains, Australia is vast and a wonderful country to live in. Australia’s various flora and fauna are unique to the region and so are the people.
It has been colonized by different cultures; it was a part of the British Empire for a long time before people from all over the world made an influx here. It has become a melting pot of different communities, ideas, and lifestyles. Whenever one thinks of Australia, one only thinks of half dressed Aussies gulping beer and cheering a sport. But that’s not the only thing that they do. The people in Australia are very hardworking, very sporty and one of the friendliest in the world. Internationally recognised as a ‘safe city’, Sydney for example has become a haven for tourists, students and business travellers who flock in hoards to study and work here.
The landscape of Australia consists of the huge mountains of the Great Dividing Range on the Eastern side and the Great Barrier Reef off the North east coast which runs for over a 2000 km stretch. Australia is surrounded by Indian Ocean on the Western side, while the South Pacific Seas cover it from the East. The Northern part or the world’s largest coral reef is housed in the Timur and the Arafura Sea, and the Southern Ocean majestically bounds the South.
The Mount Kosciuszko is considered to be the highest mountain in the mainland Australia though Mawson Peak is supposed to be the tallest at 9006 ft. Australia is an island which is housed in the smallest continent of the Earth, and it’s also the oldest and most eroded. The terra is very diverse given the immense area that this country has. Though most of Australia has a tropical climate it the terrain is studded with lakes, rivers, mountains, grassland, mangroves, and desert. Though the outback is dry and red, in the Snowy Mountains it snows like Switzerland.
Australia is the flattest continent which has the driest lands of Earth and most of the populated areas are around the South eastern coastline. The nearest countries are the Papua New Guinea and New Zealand which together are called Australasia. Though Australia is the size of the US, its population is only about 20 million. Though the lands are dry and arid, they hide vast mineral deposits in their fold. There are many types of trees and fauna found here, but Australia is identified with the Ostrich and the Eucalyptus trees.
Since Australia is so huge, the climate too varies from region to region. 40% of the Australia is covered with dry sandy dunes and only a few pockets are really lush and green. The Southern region is blessed with fertile land and has a temperate climate. The Western part is a completely dry desert with arid soil. It’s the Northern part that sees the true tropical climate. Rains are sparse in Australia and droughts can last for many seasons, Tornadoes and cyclones, like the bush fire, are a common phenomenon here. Cities like Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne have a pleasant summer, with temperatures between 25- 33 degrees, while it’s the Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef which are worth visiting in winters. Though snow is rare in Melbourne, the Great Dividing Range sees snow fall in the late August.
The Olden days
The first inhabitants of Australia were the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They had a unique culture and complex language. They probably were the first traders off this island. Europeans began to set foot on the Australian land only in the 16th century. The Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon was the first one to record the journey to Queensland, he was later followed by the Englishman called William Dampier. The new traders called it New Holland and it continued till the time James Cook set foot on the Eastern coast and claimed it for the British Empire.
On the advice of Joseph Banks, Britain decided to offload its convicts to New South Wales. The first set of ships brought in more than 1500 people, half of whom were convicts. The ships landed in Sydney on 26th Jan 1788 and today it’s celebrated as the Australia Day. Free settlers soon began to get attracted to the ‘new land’ and began to settle down along with the convicts. The gold rush of the 1850’s brought in immigrants in drove and populated Australia like never before. Aborigines were ruthlessly pushed out of their lands and the rich immigrants flush on gold, became the new owners of the land.
Dawn of a new era
Australia became a nation when the Commonwealth of Australia was formed through the federation of the six states under one constitution. Majority of the settlers at that time were the British, Scots and the Irish. The fathers of the new nation wanted a country that was based on the harmony and human rights.
Australia fought the two World Wars along with the British but at the end of the World War II it was America that became its ally for helping it defeat the Japanese.
The period between both the World Wars was tough on the country, the economy came down and unemployment became rampant. However it showed its resilience and began to show an upward rise by the mid 20th century. Australia began to prosper again by the year 1945 and post war era saw an influx of Europeans, most of them who were non British and helped the economy to rise even further.
There were plenty of changes in the socio political front as well. In 1972 the Labour party was elected only to be dismissed by the Governor General in 1975. This created a huge row. Labour party was defeated and the Liberal – National Coalition ruled till the year 1983. John Howard’s Coalition Govt ruled for a long time till they were defeated by the Labour party in 2007.
Getting into Australia
Since Australia is surrounded by water on all sides, the only way for a tourist to get there is by plane or by a boat. Most of the tourist will land in one of the main cities and then travel to the rest of the country. The Kingsford-Smith airport is the busiest one in Sydney; most people prefer to arrive at Sydney first.
Taking the distance into consideration, flying to Australia from Asia will take 7-11 hours, from US and Canada about 15 hours, from South America 16 hours, and from Johannesburg about 14 hours. Many visitors also prefer to arrive at Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth instead of Sydney.
Australia does not allow animal and vegetable imports and all the visitors have to go through a custom check for these. Very few make it to the list and it’s advisable to check with your travel agent before you decide to carry any food items. Visas are compulsory for all foreigners except for citizens of New Zealand.
Travelling within Australia is quite a challenge due to its mammoth size. To get from the East coast to the West coast the distance one needs to span is nearly 4000 kms, as much as the distance between London to Tehran. Australians households spend most of their money in travel costs.
Flights are probably the best way to travel around Australia. Takes less time and given the distance and empty stretches between the cities, it’s the safest as well. For certain route like Sydney- Melbourne-Brisbane, flights are available every 15 min. Qantas, Virgin Blue, Jet Star and many low cost carriers connect Australia by air. Prices vary on a daily basis and are pretty reasonable.
It is advisable to buy or rent a car to travel around the country. However do mark the routes before you leave because certain roads aren’t very populated and you may have to travel half a day to see the sign of any inhabitation. Carry enough food, water, fuel and spare tyre so that you are not caught in the middle of nowhere.
By Bus and Train
Australia’s train network is an amazing 40,000 kilometres and though it spans most of the country, it is slow moving and archaic. Travel by air is much cheaper but if you want to see the countryside and have plenty of time, then the rail travel can be undertaken. Grey hound buses operate very frequently and connect most states. However, long journeys can be uncomfortable because of the lack of leg space.
For people who want a hassle free travel, the organized tours in Australia are perhaps the best option. There is a deluge of operators who offer different packages and routes, since there so many of them; you should look around for discounts and cheaper rates.
Australia offers a surfeit of choices when it comes to its tourist attractions. From Aboriginal settlements to the happening Sydney, Australia is the land of plenty for every visitor. You can shop, go beach bumming, join hoards of crowds cheering their favourite cricket team, taste the wines or go wild life watching in the land of the kangaroos. As it is a sports fanatic country, there is unlimited action that goes on in the arena of sports. The proximity to the water allows you to go diving, fishing, snorkelling, cruising and surfing. Other popular sports that you can enjoy are soccer, beach volley, golf, skiing, ballooning, bungee jumping and whale watching.
Most tourists start their itinerary from Sydney itself as the city is highly popular and has a lot to offer to its visitors. The famous Sydney harbour and the Opera house are Sydney’s top attractions. You can sail and watch the dolphins at play or just chill out with a barbeque at the beach. Sydney is also wonderful for shopping and has many multi cuisine restaurants to tickle your taste buds. The famous Bondi beach is a hot favourite for everyone be it surfers or families with children. One can also climb the bridge at night at enjoy the breathtaking view all around.
Culturally yours Melbourne
Melbourne, the second largest city of Australia, is well known for its museums, galleries and sports. The people here are as crazy about sports as they are about music, art, movies and pubs. The city is home to some of the top sporting events like the Australia Grand Slam, Qantas Grand Prix and the Melbourne cup. The Macedon Ranges with its mineral springs and the Great Ocean Road are all near by. In fact many tourists swear by Melbourne rather than Sydney these days.
There are other cities as well such as Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Cairns which are worth visiting, but obviously you can’t see the whole of Australia within a short week’s travel. There are thousands of things one can see in Australia, a few of them are mentioned below:
The Barossa Valley is the wine city just one hour away from Adelaide. There are about 50 wineries here and you can end up with your nose in the wine glass if start trying all the variety here.
Kangaroo Island – Doesn’t have only kangaroos unlike its name, it’s a feast for the nature lovers as the island is home to seals, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, platypus and sea lions.
The Eyre Peninsula – a place where you can enjoy the water sports, as well as swim along with dolphins.
The Great Barrier Reef – It’s the largest reef in the world, with very diverse aquatic life. The abundance of fish and coral and their colourful world makes this place a diving heaven.
Daintree: It is the largest wet tropical rainforest found in Australia and is listed as a World Heritage site. It hasn’t changed much from the ancient times and due to that the beauty of the virgin forest remains unsurpassed.
The Gold Coast – is Australia’s Florida. Popular with families and old folks alike, this stretch of beaches offers relaxation and due to its warm weather. It is another great place for surfing.
Currumbin Sanctuary – is a few hours drive from the Gold coast and offers a chance to pet and feed local animals like the kangaroos, wallabies and birds.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) – It is a single rock made up of sandstone that changes colour throughout the day. Though the height of the rock is nearly 1200 feet, tourists routinely enjoy climbing to the top of it.
Western Australia's Diving and Marine Life – Giant whale sharks visit Western Australia between March and June every year. People from all over the world flock here to dive and swim along with these huge creatures, some of them are about 12 meters long.
Australia is like a good quality champagne, once you taste it, you want some more, once is never enough, and the same holds true for this unique country called Australia.
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