About Kelli Mutchler
Kelli Mutchler left a small, Midwest American town to prove that Yanks can, and do, chose alternative lifestyles. On the road for five years now, Kelli has tried news reporting and waitressing, bungy jumping and English teaching. Currently working with Burmese women refugees in Thailand, she hopes to pursue a MA in Global Development. Opportunities and scenes for international travel are encouraged on her blog, www.toomutchforwords.com.
Latest Posts by Kelli Mutchler
Smear your cheeks with red, white and blue paint. Crack open a Coopers Ale and line up a backyard cricket pitch. Flaunt your Southern Cross constellation tattoo under a sweltering summer sun. Yes, you can even chuck some shrimp on the proverbial “barbie”.
Whatever you do to celebrate Australia Day, be sure of what you’re celebrating.
January 26th commemorated the arrival of the First Fleet – ships carrying British settlers, soldiers and convicts – into Sydney harbor in 1788. While Aussies around the world will recognize the national holiday with outdoor festivities and that quintessential Down Under optimism, the event also has a fair crowd of protestors.
Like Columbus Day in the United States, Australia Day has been challenged as a racist, inconsiderate reflection of imperial colonization that ignores the indigenous peoples who suffered after the arrival of – or ‘discovery’ by – Europeans.
Our traditions define our national identity; so, before you tie a flag around your shoulders, here are six other thought-provoking ways to prepare.
- LEARN: As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, places have a way of changing history. Before you make an opinion about the political correctness of Australia Day, pick up the facts from an unbiased source, such as The Australia Day National Network.
- READ: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Tony Horwitz. If the bold Englishman, Cook, had not landed on the world’s largest island in 1770, we might be partying for different reasons today. Latitudes cleverly combines historical analysis of Cook’s original ocean voyages with Horwitz’s own modern travels through the places Cook landed. Observations about Cook’s relatively humane treatment of indigenous peoples, and the twists in his current reputation, are especially relevant to Australia Day.
- WATCH: Rap News 1, with Ken Oathcarn. I’ll let you decide if Ken is being objectively critical of the national holiday, or simply deceptively self-deprecating. Well-written rap verse asks “What, exactly, are you celebrating?” The development of a great nation, or genocide and colonization? And is it possible to applaud a history that involves both?
- LISTEN: Triple J’s Hottest 100. Show your support for another side of Aussie culture: its flourishing music scene. Over 40% of the artists to earn credit for the 100 greatest songs of 2013 are Australian. The annual list, voted on entirely by listeners and broadcast live on Jan. 26th, has become a more recent addition to the yearly occasion.
- CONSIDER: Australian of the Year Awards. A handful of individuals are nominated and chosen as nation-wide role models, people who “make us proud to be Australian.” From singer-songwriters to athletes and educators, this year’s winners have been especially recognized as instigating change on Aboriginal rights issues.
- EAT: And finally, because the bbq is still a central point of the holiday, how about stretching your taste buds beyond grilled sausages and trying a few of the lesser-known dishes, like lammingtons, that you can only find in this Great Southern Land.
After all, that’s where you’ll find me on Australia Day: applying sun cream in a city park, hoping to integrate the country’s unique beauty and contentious history with a lazy sky above me, and a wallaby burger in one hand.
Top photo Australia Day fireworks in Perth, Western Australia. Image courtesy of Creative Commons Google Images.
Each year, four international tennis championships – called Grand Slams – are held around the world, to determine the sports’ top athletes. Through January 26, 2014, Melbourne will hold the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific, the Australian Open.
Held at the Melbourne Park, matches are scheduled for both day and night sessions. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone or agent. Prices vary depending on the match session. Ticket holders can ride public transportation to and from the Parks’ arena, free of charge, during the Open.
Though tickets are coveted by the half million sports fans who will attend, the Open is also an excuse for one big city party. Matches are shown live on big screens in downtown’s Federation Square, with themed parties, sponsored beverage booths and entertainment lasting well after the final shot.
Tasmania may be too far off the map for many travelers; but, while it basks in the summer of the Southern Hemisphere, this Australian state is holding one of the country’s best and biggest food festivals. From local cuisines and wines to regional artists and entertainers, Festivale 2014 will highlight all that is unique – and edible – to the island.
Called “Tassie” by its many proud residents, the state is renowned for fresh seafood, micro-brewed beer, fruits and cheeses. Cider experts, celebrity chefs and international buskers add prestige to the event’s world-famous tastes.
During the three-day festival, held in Launceston’s City Park, visitors can sample home-grown produce such as marine farmed Pacific oysters, cloth-strained aged chedders, east coast pinot gris, and cherry ciders. Over 100 wines from 23 Tasmanian wineries will compete for Festivale’s top wine awards.
Festivale runs from Friday, February 7 – Sunday, 9th, with three-day tickets selling online for $39.00. Tickets may also be purchased at the gate, upon entry.
Places have a way of changing history.
200 years ago, the chalice-shaped inlet of Wineglass Bay oozed with the blood of butchered whales, turning the peaceful waters into a glass of Merlot and invoking its descriptive name.
But today, as tourism draws ever-increasing numbers to Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, this gruesome truth has been swapped with a more romantic story. Modern visitors are awed by the view from Wineglass Lookout, and assured that the pristine stretch of shoreline is merely titled after its elegant, natural shape.
Considered one of the world’s top 10 beaches, Wineglass is a haven. Regardless of how many tourists crowd the platform overlooking its milk-white sands, the beach creates an eternal sense of discovery. To trek down and strip off your socks is to reenact the original exploration by French seafarer, Nicholas Baudin.
And watching vigilantly over every person and plant are the Hazards. These five mountainous brothers protect Wineglass from the population of nearby Coles Bay, presenting a rocky obstacle for hikers and day-trippers.
Declared a national park in 1916, Freycinet is one of the first federally-protected wildlife regions in Tasmania. Australia’s endemic creatures haunt its underbrush: wallabies, striped skinks and venomous tiger snakes, rosellas and oystercatchers and kookaburras. Dolphins and tentative Humpbacks ride the waves. Perhaps they remember Wineglass’ past better than we do?
At Friendly Beaches, the sand squeaks in surprise at my body weight. I am continually caught by the distinctive colors of this shoreline: the fervent reds of the lichen, the Kelly-green turf grass, the pale granules beneath my feet. Though initial European explorers described Aboriginal fires along the coast, it is now the bright orange moss that inspires the same flaming description.
My boyfriend and I like to come here after work, to stand over the red rocks and watch the tide wash around our ankles. When the sun hits the water at just the right angle, the sea glitters with strips of turquoise and sapphire. Yet the weather is a fickle lover, ready at any moment to scorn our presence. Give her ten minutes, and heavy clouds flood the sky. The water, once again, becomes a vast sheet of grey.
Four months ago, I wrote “This is the closest I’ve ever lived to the ocean.” The distance between our bedroom and the South Australian coast could be measured in a 30-minute drive.
Now, that claim has been shattered. The distance between our kitchen and Wineglass Bay can be measured in seconds. This is my new backyard, a place that has already changed my own history.
In 2002, Kaikoura, New Zealand, became the world’s first Green Globe certified community. Previously known for the pods of dusky dolphins that cruise the nearby coastline, visitors now flock to this South Island town for the beautiful, environmentally proactive experience at Hapuku Lodge.
Sustainability and conservation are two concepts dear to Kiwi hearts, and guests will discover from the moment of their arrival that Hapuku is less about high prices and more about comfortable, native hospitality – with a green twist.
The Lodge itself, from the youthful tree house rooms to the furniture within them, was predominately hand-made and locally-sourced. Ingredients in the kitchen are regionally-produced, or grown in the chef’s own, organic, garden. All waste is composted.
Hapuku encourages guests to explore and appreciate the area’s unique, indigenous flora, and is responsible for replanting over 11,500 native plants and trees – one for every guest night at the lodge.
Perhaps the best immersion opportunity is a night in Hapuku’s tree house rooms, towering 30 feet from the ground in the branches of New Zealand’s Manuka trees.
From either the one or two-story leafy accommodation, guests can see the Kaikoura coastline – and maybe even spot some passing sea life!
Seal swimming, sea kayaking, deep sea fishing and albatross encounters are just a few of the marine activities guests can participate in. Nearby attractions also include Maori culture tours, wine tours and night sky tours, as well as hiking, biking and golfing.
For rates and reservations, contact Hapuku Lodge online.
Australia may be the world’s biggest island, but citizens of its six states and two territories will tell you how different each region is. Along its coastline, hundred of smaller islands offer guests the opportunity to dive into the country’s unique land and sea life, while getting a glimpse of its distinctive local customs and communities. Accommodation at any of these five resorts will highlight a special part of Aussie hospitality:
1. Hotel Rottnest, Rottnest Island, Western Australia - “Rotto”, as the locals call it, is a small community located off of Perth and Freemantle. First inhabited over 6,500 years ago, the island’s blend of Aboriginal and European history makes it an ‘A’ Class Reserve. Guests must pay an entry fee to this protected site, which is included in the cost of a ferry from the mainland. Once on the island, guests can swim and snorkel in its clear waters or wander the walking trails in search of the indigenous quokka. This cute marsupial inspired Hotel Rottnest’s nickname, the “Quokka Arms.” Bookings for a room with a sea view over Thompson Bay begin around 300 AUD, with the option to add on a bottle of Australian wine as a welcoming beverage.
2. Kangaroo Island Seafront Resort, Kangaroo Island, South Australia - Over 4,000 Australians call Kangaroo Island, or “KI”, home; so, visitors will be surprised by a thriving social, cultural and entertainment community in the islands main towns. Due to its size and relative isolation from the mainland, Kangaroo Island is also home to a range of unique flora and fauna – from Tammar wallabies to koalas and sea lions – and over one-third of the island is Conservation or National Park land. Kangaroo Island Seafront Resort is built in Penneshaw, with 12 seafront rooms booking at a rate of 245 AUD a night. Guests can take in the panoramic view from their private balcony, join an eco-tour to learn more about the island’s unusual wildlife or sample the local delicacies: King George whiting, sheep’s cheeses, honey and a range of experimental wines.
3. Qualia, Hamilton Island, Queensland - The Whitsundays are a string of 74 tropical islands scattered along the Great Barrier Reef. Besides the distinction of being part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Qualia has the additional recognition of being ”Best Resort in the World for 2012″ by the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards. The luxury resort’s name is Latin for “a collection of deeper sensory images”, something guests will find as they relax under a drenching yellow sun, or swim in perfect indigo waters. With exclusive access to Pebble Beach, guests can enjoy some of the island’s best snorkeling, swimming and tanning spots. If that’s not enough isolation, the resort offers boat drop-offs to private beaches on other nearby islands, as well as personal use of kayaks and catamarans. The spa also uses a range of natural Australian products to rejuvenate guests. Rates begin at 975 AUD for a room in the Leeward Pavilion and range up to 3650 for booking the hidden Beach House.
4. Crab Claw Island Resort, Crab Craw Island, Northern Territory - Territorians are proud of their no-frills state, settled by remote Aboriginal communities, cattle stations and Outback pioneers. Crab Claw may not have the pretty name or popularity of a Whitsunday island, but it offers guests a chance to experience a different side of Australian resort hospitality. Elevated cabins connect to a stilted restaurant by forested walkways. Enjoy menu meals in the open dining area; or, for those with a lucky fishing rod, the chef will prepare your own catch for dinner. Surrounded by nature, guests can fish, go mud crabbing, bush walking or bird watching from their private room balconies. Accommodation choices include a beach-front cabin, or hideaway retreat cabin in the palm garden. Contact the resort directly for booking inquiries and quotes.
5. Arajilla Resort, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales - Natural relaxation is the concept surrounding this eco-sensitive spa and resort. With limited wifi availability and abundant environmental distractions, Arajilla is a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. 14 types of seabirds migrate here to breed, and the island is home to over 130 species, including the endangered Lord Howe Island woodhen. If guests prefer the sea to the sky, they can participate in fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming activities. Accommodation for tourists is limited by the island’s 400 beds, making it a stay even more exclusive. Yoga courses, spa treatments, picnic baskets and bicycles are a just a few of the guest benefits. Arajailla is family owned and operated, with off-peak reservations starting at 615 AUD.
To look at the frozen bloody stump that once propelled Australia’s icon across the Outback is to seriously consider vegetarianism.
And that’s a dramatic statement, given my current location. Down here in rural South Australia, scotch fillet and beef schnitzel are the most popular items on the Nundroo Roadhouse menu. Chips are considered a vegetable, and vegan is a term I have yet to hear.
With over 29 million cows in the country, it is easy to see why certified Aussie Angus steak dominates the palate. Ranching is a massive and proud industry; yet, by current environmental standards, we should be eating more kangaroo. Roaming “The Centre” in uncountable numbers, ‘roos produce less methane, graze more sustainably and cause less ground damage than their bovine neighbors.
Aboriginals have been eating them for years. The indigenous cooking method roasts the tail over a fire, or hot coals, until all fur is burned off. But the lingering stench, I was warned, would turn a foreigner’s hunger off.
So Chef Ceaser skinned ours first, carefully removed the sinew and turned it into a sweet and sour soup.
The result tasted like Australia itself: a solid broth with an infusion of ethnic spices, and a kick as strong as that from the feet of a giant Red ‘roo. Distinctive and powerful.
“Bush tucker” – food that is found and/or eaten in Australia’s remote locations – has just recently made an appearance in most big-city restaurants. From Witchetty Gub to quandong pie, what’s the wildest dish you’ve eaten in Oz?
The Berkeley River Lodge gives new meaning to the concept of “Outback Australia.” Perched on the dunes of the Kimberley region’s northern coast, the resort is so remote that it can only be reached by sea or land.
Surrounded by untouched bush wilderness, guests wake up to native birdcalls and a sunrise over the East Timor Sea. Each daily activity is an adventure, whether guests choose to Heli-fish along the Berkeley River, explore clear water gorges, or take a helicopter tour over the Kimberley. Stroll the beach to witness dugongs, dolphins and turtles; or, take a guided tour to some of the world’s oldest Aboriginal rock art.
Further highlighting Berkeley River Lodge’s unique location, the Dunes Restaurant’s multi-course degustation menus feature Australian food, or ‘tucker’: from New South Wales Angus steak to Tasmanian salmon, regional cheeses and national wines.
Rates begin at 1,075 AUD (Australian Dollars) for a single traveler or 825 for a twin share. Packages can be arranged for 3,4 and 7 night-stays, including a scenic float plane transfer to the Lodge.
The Berkeley River Lodge is a recent winner of the Western Australia tourism award for New Tourism Development. Closing for the summer on November 30, 2013, the resort will reopen on March 1, 2014.