Australian Medley - A photo essay - Part-II

by S.Parthasarathy

Amritha (my wife), Rukmani (my wife's elder sister), Hema (my wife's younger sister) and I left India on 22nd November 2009 on a trip of Singapore for 3 days and Sydney for 51 days and returned to India on 16th January 2010. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. In the first part in the form of a photo essay, you read about my experiences (as well as the others who were with me) under three topics, viz., . Water (how I went snorkelling for the first time in my life), Up above the ground (my first helicopter ride and my first toboggan ride) and Mountains and hills. Read on for the remaining topics...

Fauna

According to Wikipedia, 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit Australia are endemic to Australia. This high level of endemism which has not been found in any other country has been attributed to the continent's long geographic isolation and other factors. Among Australia’s best-known animals are the kangaroo, koala, echidna, dingo, platypus, wallaby and wombat. Did you know that there are 55 different species of kangaroos and wallabies? I didn't also know that earlier. Incidentally wallaby is similar to kangaroo, but is smaller in size. We reached Australia on 26th November and first sighted a kangaroo (or wallaby) on 29th November on way to Jenolan caves. But it was from a moving vehicle. We next saw a kanagaroo only on 4th December in Cairns, that too from a distance. We had a somewhat closer look on 20th December when we spotted kangaroos (or wallabies) in Penrose Park. But we had to wait almost a month till 23rd December to really see all animals at close range when we visited Featherdale Wildlife Park. We saw echidna which is a smaller version of porcupine: wombat which is more than three times the biggest bandicoot that you can see in India: Tasmanian Devil which is a carnivorous marsupial (animal having a pouch for its baby): Flying fox which is a type of bat. We could also take our photographs with kangaroo, wallaby and koala. We saw a lot of animals, reptiles and birds in Featherdale Park as well as Tarronga zoo. A peacock danced for us in Featherdale. We saw Cassawary, a native bird of Australia in Cairns (and little Keshav didn't like it when I called it Keshavari). We cherish our seeing two other types of fauna that we saw in Australia. The first was Alpaca, which is native to South America. But we saw them in Australia when we visited an Alpaca farm maintained by a friend of my brother-in-law. Alpacas have the features of different animals like goat, camel, horse etc. I can say with certainty that God appointed a committee to make a horse and a goat. The results were a camel and an alpaca. Later God disbanded the Committee and He started making animals Himself. Whenever we think of Alpacas, we remember the cute and musical way in which little Shriya would say Alpacas. The second type of fauna that enchanted us was the little or Fairy penguins known for their famous parade in Philip Island near Melbourne. We were waiting with bated breath from 8.30 PM onwards. The penguins did not disappoint us and lots of them came back from work in the sea from 9.15 PM onwards. Their walk, noises and the antics of the young penguins that came out from the burrows to greet them were all very interesting and the whole experience was ethereal. The last show that we saw in our 56-day tour was the bird show in Tarronga zoo on 15th January 2010. Interestingly our first show of the tour was also a bird show in Jurong Bird Park in Singapore on 23rd November 2009. Another thing we noticed was that every animal in Australia is bigger. Nitya's Sydney cats are more than three times the size of Hema's Chennai cats.


Photos of Fauna in Australia. Click on each photo to enlarge

Indian community

Australia has a sizeable Indian community. A quick research (?) in google shows that the first Indians to come to Australia in large numbers were sikhs that came to man the banana plantations in Coffs Harbour. Today the town Woolgoolga near Coffs Harbour has a large number of rich sikhs who are plantation owners. There are two Gurudwaras, in one of which we had our lunch when we went to Coffs Harbour. The next to come in large numbers were the Anglo-Indians. After the Vietnam war, Australia abolished its White Australia policy, after which Indians have been migrating to Australia from the 80s. My brother-in-law moved to Australia in 1995. After 1983, a large number of Tamils from Sri lanka moved to Australia. When trouble erupted in Fiji after the military coup of 1987, a number of Fiji Indians moved to Australia. From the 90s, a large number of students have been coming to Australia. Thanks to the demand and thanks to the entrepreneurship and the family support of Indians, they are generally prosperous and hence envied which partly explains the attacks on them. They are also mostly well-behaved. My brother-in-law had sent me a letter written by an Australian to Sydney Morning Herald after A.R.Rahman's concert in Sydney. I am reproducing it here.

Way to go
While the A.R. Rahman concert at Parramatta Park on Saturday night was outstanding in itself, the behaviour of the predominantly Indian crowd was incredible.
I have never been to a large-scale event and seen so many people enjoying themselves so much without the help of any alcohol. The bar sales must have been the lowest for any Sydney Festival event. It was a truly all-ages night, but to see groups of young men and women having a great night out without the need to drink was a delight to behold.
Having witnessed the horrors of New Year's Eve drunkenness for so many years, I think some young people could certainly learn a few lessons from their Indian peers.
Claire Hanley McMahons Point


We saw temples, Indian shops and restaurants wherever we went. In Blacktown where my brother-in-law resides, we found over a dozen Indian families keeping excellent relations. They help each other out whenever possible. Mr.Raman had taken us in hs car on three occasions when another car was needed. Om Shakti Ashram serves as a focal point for all these families. Though I personally do not visit any Ashram or Godman, I was happy that this Ashram has been able to bring unity among the generally aloof Indian community. (In fact, Charles (Jennings) became a family friend of my brother-in-law thanks to the Ashram. Charles, like Mr.Raman has taken us out on a number of occasions including a drive to Coffs Harbour, which is more than 500 kms away.) And like their counterparts in USA, Indians in Australia are more religious and culturally-oriented than Indians in India. We attended a Bhajan in a house which was attended by over 60 persons. We were told that the attendance was less as people have gone to India during the vacation and would have otherwise touched 150. The Siva-Vishnu temple that we visited on 29th November was also crowded. The Puja room in my brother-in-law's house is quite impressive. My brother-in-law and his wife performed my mother-in-law's Srardham in a very orthodox manner engaging a Iyengar priest. The same evening, all the ladies enthusiastically celebrated Karthigai Deepam. On 15th January, Kanu was celebrated by all the ladies with great gusto. And I think my brother-in-law's family is not an exception. All Indian families celebrate every festival with fervour. It is also heartening to see the younger generation of Indians very active in the cultural and religious fields. Overall I felt happy with the way the Indian community is living in Blacktown, which I hope is representative of the whole of Australia.


Photos of Indians in Australia. Click on each photo to enlarge

Shopping

For a long time in India, leaflets are distributed with newspapers advertising shops or products. In India, we have moved to supplements in newspapers. But distributing catalogues to houses has not yet become a normal practice in India (the only catalogue that I got in my house in India was that Kroma, Tata's electronic goods store). But in Australia, almost all the major stores distribute their catalogues every week. And since we were there during Christmas, the numbers and pages of catalogues were much more than normal. The catalogues kept Hema and Rukku (my sisters-in-law) quite busy as they used to go through each and every item before zooming on a likely candidate for purchase. Some of the well-known stores in Australia are Woolworth, Aldi, Myer, David Jones, Target, Kmart, Big W, Harvey Jones etc. We have visited Westpoint in Blacktown and Westfield in Parramatta which are huge malls containing almost all the major stores. But we found the best value for money at Aldi. Aldi introduces new items with special prices on every Thursday and so we visited the store on as many Thursdays as possible and picked up really good bargains. AldiWherever we saw the sign of Aldi store, we would tease Hema and ask her whether she wanted to vsit it or pick up a catalogue. But the best places for budget shopping in Sydney were the Flemington market and Parklea market. The former is open only on Saturdays and Sundays and has a vegetable/fruit market as well as a flea market. I bought a Microsoft Webcam in original packing for 25A$ in Flemington against its normal cost of 50 A$. (It is still working well.) We bought a lot of other items in Flemington market. Parklea is another good market for bargain hunters and we bought many small items here. There are also many small shops (like street markets) in Chinatown and Parramatta.


Photos of Markets in Australia. Click on each photo to enlarge

Stop,Revive & Survive

All developed countries care a lot about road safety, but I think Australia is obsessed with road safety. Though USA and Europe also have rest areas for drivers, I found that in Australia, you have them every 20 or 25 kms. The rest areas have tables/chairs for eating and toilets. They are generally very well-maintained. There are a lot of road signs that exhort drivers to 'stop, revive and survive'. So whenever we went out, we used to carry all the food in the boot of the car and we could eat at the right time as we were never far away from a rest area. And another unique Aussie feature are the driver reviver stations, where everyone is served coffee/tea and biscuits. These are manned by volunteers from Lions' Club or similar organisations. You can make cash donations which are optional. Of course these are not found every 20-25 kms. But you can come across one every hour (about 75 kms). When we stopped at one on way to Coffs Harbour, most of us opted for coffee, which was undrinkable for us. Raghu who opted for tea praised it. So we quietly dropped the coffee cups in the litter bin and picked up tea. We were also amazed by the cleanliness of the portable toilets and the sincerity of the lady who was cleaning them.

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Photos of Stop, Revive and Survive. Click on each photo to enlarge

Construction of Houses

Australia has the highest percentage of home-owners in the world which is perhaps not surprising. One of the important resources for houses,viz., land is available in plenty. A comparison of the size and population of Australia with India is very revealing.
Country                                                              Area (miilion sq.kms Population (millions) Population Density (millions per sq.kms)
India        3.287 1148 349.2
Australia 8.468 31.3 3.7

The density of population in Australia is almost 1 % of that in India. Because of the easy availability of land, it is rare to see multi-storeyed residential blocks. Most houses are single or at the most double-storeyed. The main material of construction is treated wood. The number of houses made of bricks and mortar is quite low. An interesting feature for a home-buyer is the display home. Every builder has a big area in which the houses in different stages of construction including the fully finished ones are displayed. Every item of raw material that goes in the making of the house - wood, cement, sand, stones, electric conduits, switches, water pipes, in fact every single item is displayed. So the customer knows beforehand what would go into the making of the house. We visited a display home site which was interesting. The civic authorities in Australia are very strict. Permission for construction can be obtained only after proper fencing as well as the installation of portable toilets for the construction workers are in place. I asked my brother-in-law whether termite problem exists because of the usage of wood. He said that anti-termite treatment is regularly done and that the houses are guaranteed for a hundred years.


Photos of Construction of houses in Australia. Click on each photo to enlarge

Weather

"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." This statement attributed to Mark Twain (though it was written by someone else) highlights that all of us love to talk about the weather. Our strongest memory of Melbourne is the heat wave that we faced while coming out of the airport. Since we mostly stayed in Sydney, we did not feel the heat. Sydney's temperature seldom went above 300C during our stay. We also had rain on a few occasions. When we went to Jenolan caves, we forgot to look up the temperature there in the Net and were caught totally unprepared for the rain, wind and cold and had to cut our visit short. Even on days that were hot, we found the nights in Sydney to be cooler. On 12th Jan when we got off the flight in Melboourne, we felt we were being roasted. Later we learnt it was 430C. But the very next day, we were shivering in 180C in the rain, wind and cold when we visited the Great Ocean Road. You can gather that there is a wide variation in weather in Australia from day to day. Australia is also said to be affected by the depletion in ozone layer. I read that the cases of skin cancer are very high in Australia and experts are unable to say whether this is due to ultra-violet radiation or the fact that Australians by nature are outdoor types and expose their bodies to the sun much more than any other nationals. As a result, the sale of sunscreen lotions and other similar products in Australia are among the highest in the world. Rukku would not step out of the house in the afternoon without applying sunscreen cream. In fact, there is a clause in Australia's IRS (Income Tax) which reads thus.
17.8 Does the nature of your employment require you to work in an environment that exposes you to sun and ultra violet radiation? (Sun Protection Products)
If Yes, you may be able to claim the costs of sunscreen lotions, hats and sunglasses. Please provide details of expenses incurred. If you have not kept receipts you can make a reasonable estimate of up to $85.00.

No wonder sunscreen products sell well!

In Conclusion

'Were you not bored in the nearly two months that you spent in Sydney?' was a common question to me and Amritha. When we look back, we realise that at no time we found time hanging heavily on us. Firstly we were 12 of us including two kids for the first two weeks that time just flew. Secondly we were frequently travelling. Out of the 52 days, we spent 10 days outside Sydney (4 days in Cairns, 3 days each in Coffs Harbour and Melbourne). Even in the remaining time, we travelled to a lot to places in and around Sydney as well as Canberra and Bowral. Our typical day would start with treadmill and walk by my wife and sisters-in-law and Sydney Morning Heraldreading Sydney Morning Herald for me. The Newspaper is very securely packed as a roll in cellophne paper and delivered by a person driving a car. It used to take a couple of minutes for us to open it. The paper carried a cryptic crossword of good quality and had two Sudokus, Kenken (another number puzzle), jumble etc. Once a week it carried a Samurai Sudoku (which is a 5-in-1 Sudoku). I was also regularly reading the Hindu, Times, Daily Thanthi and a few other Indian Newspapers on the Net. My brother-in-law and niece together have a good collection of Tamil and English books. He also has a e-book reader that has over 400 books. My wife and sister-in-law used to read the e-books regularly. I forgot to mention under Fauna that there are a lot of flies in Australia in summer. So I used to tell my wife and sister-in-law who used to have a paper book in hand while reading the e-book ,'ஒரு கைல e-book, இன்னொரு கைல ஈ ஓட்றதக்கு ஒரு book'. Of course my sisters-in-law had the store catalogues to read as well. All of us would help in household chores like cooking, washing utensils, sweeping, mopping and vacuum-cleaning the house, washing the clothes, shopping etc. We could help in the mowing of lawn just once. My wife and sisters-in-law cleaned the lawn a few times. Another important activity was cooking and packing for all our outdoor trips.

My brother-in-law has a 55" TV and a very large collection of old Tamil and Hindi movies. The DVDs of new ones reach Sydney from Singapore within a week of release and are available in Indian stores for 2 A$. We saw over a dozen movies. We were also talking regularly to our close relatives in India and USA thanks to Skype. And invariably, the day would end with all of us playing Mail, a game of cards which is our family game. In the 51 days that we stayed in Australia, we played 52 games of Mail. With an average of 20 deals per game, it came to more than 1000 deals.

Above all, we cherish the trip for the people who made our stay memorable. I do not think I have met a more gracious hostess than Chandra, my sister-in-law. She was managing the kitchen, taking care of us, taking care of the Ashram's needs and going to the office which was super-human. Raghavan, my brother-in-law and Chandra had planned our trips meticulously so that nothing went wrong though we went out very often. Vidya and Nitya, my nieces were also working, but walked the extra mile to keep us happy. Vidya had also driven her car with us to Canberra as well as Darling Harbour. Nitya had driven us to a number of places in and around Sydney. We cannot also adequately thank Charles, Raman, Asha and Hari who went out of their way to help us. There are many others, but I would like to mention two persons. Chris, a taxi driver in Melbourne who picked us from the airport to the hotel on 13th Jan and from the hotel to airport on 15th Jan. He was a good conversationalist and an extremely interesting person. Another was the coach driver who took us on the Great Ocean Road Tour in Melbourne. He was an ideal tour guide combining professionalism with entertainment.

I am never tired of saying that life consists of experiences and memories. We had very good experiences in Australia and shall always have fond memories of it. Will we ever go back? Who knows? But one thing is certain. The magic of this family reunion in 2009 in Australia can never be recaptured.


Photos of People and others in Australia. Click on each photo to enlarge

S.Parthasarathy
April 2010




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