In prep for our upcoming trip to Australia this summer we asked our friend Alistair McGuinness an “outback specialist” to give us quick course in being and speaking Australian.
On your way to Australia?
Think you know the language?
They speak English don’t they?
Well think again.
After 10 years in the country I have picked up some of the lingo (language).
Here is a few examples of what to expect.
How to Speak Australian
Bush tucker is the name given for natural food native to Australia (kangaroos, Emu, Lizard, berries etc.)
Boozer is another name for pub.
A bluey is the Australian term for a couple having an argument.
A Sheila is a name sometimes jokingly used for a woman
Stubby is what Australians call a bottle of beer
Yakka is a term used for work.
So if you hear an Australian say:
“I’ve just had a bluey with the Shiela about who does the hard Yakka round here. I’m off to the boozer for a few stubbies and on the way home will get me self some bush tucker.”
Then now you will know that he has just had a fight with his wife!
So apart from the language, what else is different?
The Beautiful Down Under
The coastline of Australia measures over 20,000 miles and with such a large land mass, it’s possible to follow the sun all year round, as you traverse the smallest continent in the world. But this takes time, effort and finances. Australia has long been marketed for its beach culture, balmy evening’s, and endless skies and many travellers flock to the outer perimeter to soak up the atmosphere. Sydney draws the crowds and rightly so. It boasts a stunning harbour and has two iconic attractions, the harbour bridge and the Opera House.
When my friend and his wife came to Australia from the UK, they opted for a full tour of Sydney and spent days exploring the coffee shops, beachside shopping parades and hidden coves. Mel was in her element amongst the trendy back streets but my best friend Steve craved adventure away from civilisation. Their holiday was in danger of losing its way, unless there were compromises.
This is how they came to be in the outback, the epicentre of ancient Australia. Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territories and I met them at the airport a few days later. Maybe it was the extreme humidity, or a touch of jet lag but I sensed a disparity between them as we made our way to the nearest hotel.
Within days, the wildness of the outback had captured their imaginations. The extreme humidity was somehow liberating, as they embraced the empty roads, red dirt and chance encounters with wildlife.
At river crossings they were warned about man eating crocodiles, at road stations they met local characters who shared numerous tales about life in the bush.
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Most that venture into the heartland, do so in air conditioned comfort and find themselves in an ancient world of shimmering deserts and lonely roads. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is the magnetic attraction that draws visitors from every part of the globe, but to really feel the outback you need to ditch the air conditioned coach with its multi lingual coach driver and “Go Walkabout.”
Walkabout is a term used by Australians to describe the spiritual journey undertaken by adolescent Aboriginals to earn their rite of passage into manhood, in which the youngsters would spend up to six months alone in the wilderness.
Walkabouts still occur in Australia, although these days, most are done in four wheel drive and are enjoyed by anyone who loves adventure!
Before you are tempted to stop the air conditioned bus, grab your bags and romantically trek into the outback then stop right now!
The Australian interior can be a dangerous environment, with extreme temperatures and the vast red centre can easily lure you into danger. Each summer there are reports of missing travellers, disoriented explorers and lost gold prospectors. Some are unlucky and succumb to dehydration and each year there are deaths.
If you are considering travelling into the interior, then preparation is critical. If you want to see the real Australia, not its coffee strips, shopping malls and drive through bottle shops then consider going walkabout with an Aborigine.
Steve and Mel found an aboriginal guide called Patsy, who lives in Kakadu National Park and offered to take them on walkabout. Within hours of meeting, they were walking across ancient game trails, hunting for their dinner.
Patsy gave each of them a long wooden stick and explained where to look for tortoises and how to poke under the moist earth then listen for the sound as the pole hit a shell. She was a natural provider and while they squelched and poked in the mud she successfully probed and oozed two hibernating tortoises from the soft earth and handed them to Steve.
I was standing nearby and overheard their conversation.
“Hey mister. Hold please.”
Steve took hold of the tortoise and stroked the gnarly neck affectionately.
“No time to stroke the tortoise mister. Your wife is hungry, so break the neck and then we eat.”
Patsy walked away, in search of more bush tucker. Steve’s children watched in awe as he killed their dinner. His wife saw this man in a new light. He was now a hunter!
There wasn’t anything else on the menu and no restaurant for hundreds of miles. The dissected geese was wrapped in green leaves and paperbark from nearby tree, then roasted on rocks that had been heated in the fire.
At sunset, a herd of wild buffalo trampled past our camp while we devoured the turtle and magpie. For desert, Patsy took Steve and Mel to a nearby tree, rolled her hand along the smooth trunk and collected a palm full of ants. She crushed them into a ball and ate the lot. “Come taste.” She laughed. “Lemon ants”
By sunset they sat in silence by the fire and watched the last of the buffalo disappear into the wilderness and the friction that I sensed at Darwin airport melted away.
Australia is a mystical place, filled with intrigue. Its cities are modern, its outback towns friendly and the beaches are some of the best in the world.
I hope you find the Australia you are looking for and if you do have a bluey with your partner, I suggest taking a romantic stroll onto the Opera House foreshore and enjoying an outdoor picnic of fresh prawns, washed down with a chilled bottle of white wine.
My adventure travel book is called Round the Bend