“Crikey, Mate! Have a go at some Aussie ‘Bush Tucker’”
Here we are on the opposite side of the world . . . actually, the underside of the world, or what they call ‘down under’. Australia is an amazing place to visit, a land of contrasts, friendly people, unfriendly animals. No, really, the animals are quite lovely, most very different, but some of them are really ‘out to get you’. It seems that they are all poisonous or just plain dangerous to encounter, whether it’s snakes or bugs. But maybe that’s just my opinion. In contrast, some of Australia’s best features are friendly people, great wine, excellent coffee, and fantastic pastries.
A few years ago, we had a wonderful self organized tour, which included much of the country. Armed with a catalog of many short side trips of the best sights available, we were lucky to have a real Aussi expert travel agent who managed to put it all together in a wonderful trip that included all of the highlights we had selected. Included in that list of highlights was a visit to Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo island is a fairly small island (about 1700 square kilometres) and is the third largest of Australia’s islands. It is situated a short distance from Adelaide, a forty-five minute ferry ride from the mainland.
When we booked this as part of our overall Australia tour, we only had a partial idea of what we were about to experience. We were about to be amazed, surprised and absolutely delighted! We left our hotel in Adelaide one morning to catch a bus to catch the ferry that crosses over to the island. It was a little windy that morning, so many passengers were hanging on, trying their best to not spill their coffees, as the small ferry rocked and rolled its way across the straits. Being from the BC coast, we had little trouble adjusting to the trip. Arriving at the island side, we left the ferry and headed up the ramp, looking for a bus or some vehicle that was to take us on our tour. No buses were visible, and it seemed all of the other passengers had their rides arranged as the disappeared quickly. At the top of the ramp, two young men were standing by a new Toyota 4×4 vehicle, holding a sign which read “Kents, Ian & Diana”. Wow! That’s us!
It did not take long to find out the story behind this stroke of luck. To our surprise and delight, nobody else was booked on the tour that day, so we had these two guides all to ourselves. Usually there was only one, but a new tour guide was in training, so we had two for the both of us . . . one tour guide each! This tour was run by APT, Australian Pacific Tours, and our tour guides were naturalist Paul Barker and his assistant/trainee Mark Kelly. Wow, such luxury . . . how to spoil a tourist! Both of these young men were well educated and were experts on the geography and wildlife of the island. Not only that, they were a delight to travel with. They both knew their subjects intimately and were filled with lots of excellent details and anecdotes to make our trip not only educational but very pleasant as well.
Our first stop was Seal Bay, where the beach was covered dozens of Australian Sea Lions, small and large. We were cautioned not to go too close to them as they can get very mean. While we watched, two large males were challenging each other, trying for dominance over the harem scattered around. We continued our tour, this time into the interior, where we saw many little wallabies and large kangaroos. Our guides had access to some of the locked reserve areas, forested sections where the trees were filled with Koalas.
It was wonderful to be able to wander about, spotting Koalas napping on a branch or nibbling away at a eucalyptus snack.
As we drove or walked around the two naturalists would point out various birds or some weird vegetation. One bird was a rare, black cockatoo. Other birds included some Cape Barren Geese, Blue Fairy wrens, Scarlet Rosellas, a wedge-tailed Eagle and too many others to remember At one point, we came across an echidna, a cute little spiny creature that moves along with his long snout down, sensing insects under the ground which he digs up to eat. We saw one burrowing down, trying to get away from us. Later in the day, we found one that had been killed on the road and Paul carefully wrapped it up in a plastic bag to take back to a local biologist who was studying the animals.
Before we go any further, I must explain part of the title of this story . . . the “Australian Bush Tucker” part. As an amateur linguist of sorts, I find the English spoken in Australia fascinating. They have many words that are unique to Australia . . . sort of a dialect of their own. They even sell ‘phrase books’ and ‘Australian-English’ dictionaries. A few examples are : Women are all called ‘Shelaghs’, men are all ‘Bruce’, or just a bloke, ‘amber’ is a beer, ‘gander’ means to take a look at something, and ‘G’Day’ means Good Day, and is a universal greeting. ‘Tucker’ is food of all sorts. This brings us back to our story. “Bush Tucker” is what you live on if you’re travelling in the outback, or basically what you eat if you are out in the bush trying to survive. Of course, the Aborigines are experts at finding Bush Tucker as they have been doing it for thousands of years. They know how to find water or something else to drink or eat where most people would perish. One of the things that Aborigines do is they find a kind of moth larvae in a local bush called a ‘witchetty bush’. This little prize is called a ‘witchetty grub’, and can be several inched long . . . basically a huge caterpillar. A great source of protein and enough to keep you alive if the occasion calls for it.
I only mention this because during our tour, we stopped at a covered ‘picnic’ spot and the guides told us to go ‘walkabout’ and they would make us some vegamite sandwiches . . . not witchetty grubs, but something much nicer. More on that later.
. . . . to be continued . . .
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