Touring Australia - What to Expect Part 2.
collage of Australian images

Australia is still regarded as one of the safest countries to visit with great weather, a multitude of unique sights and a vast range of experiences on offer. More people than ever before are taking to the highways - land surfing from one tourist hot spot to the next and camping or finding casual accommodation one night at a time. We've put together a bit of a primer to help get you off on the right foot.

Food

Major cities and towns are a diverse mix of cultures and ethnic groups and it's possible to buy just about any spice, fruit or ingredient used in any cuisine anywhere. From the most delicate middle east pastries to a Tibetan curry and just about any style of fast food you can imagine.

Leave these cities and head for the open road and your choice begins to thin out.

Without good planning or basic cooking and storage facilities you may end up existing on a diet of greasy roadhouse food.

Australia is huge and sparsely populated. The further north you travel the smaller your dining choice becomes. We've yet to encounter a well made cup of coffee north of Cairns or Broome and that includes Darwin. We're talking about true Italian cafe style espresso, properly made with fresh, decent beans.

The southern regions are more densely populated and cafes, restaurants and supermarkets are plentiful. The northern regions are remote with much fresh food arriving on long distance trucks.

Most towns that support a population of a hundred or more people will probably have a supermarket or some sort of convenience store where you can grab some meat, basic vegetables and an assortment of dried goods.

When travelling in remote regions our advice is to 'get it while you can'. If you come across some good looking fruit or vegetables - grab them if you're unsure about what's down the road

If you're travelling without refrigeration or cooking facilities then the classic bush pub will usually serve up a reasonable steak, chips and salad and other basic pub fare.

We have a more detailed look at stocking up on supplies at Touring Australia and Fresh Food.

Drinking the Water

Australia has stringent guidelines for supplying clean and reasonable tasting drinking water. If you are using water from a tap inside a house or establishment you can be confident that the supply won't give you dysentery, cholera or any other nasty surprises. External taps are a different proposition and may be connected to a bore water supply where the water is murky and odorous - OK to bathe in but unpleasant to drink.

The taste of local water changes from place to place - depending on supply. You may find that the water smells chlorinated or has a metallic tinge to the taste. Choosing tap water over bottled is personal taste and most Australians live their entire lives consuming the water direct from their local supply.

The Animals, Insects and Reptiles

Contrary to popular belief Australia is not over run by vicious, dangerous, biting animals and insects. Death or injury caused by animals is extremely low.

To quote from the article 'Dangerous Australian Animals' - "Most Australian’s manage to get through their whole lives apparently surrounded by the world’s deadliest creatures. Yet ask any one of them and the chances are most people won’t know anyone who has had a life threatening encounter with a shark, crocodile, sea snake or stonefish. Many learned to swim in the ocean and the worst they ever got was a mild scrape from a passing ‘stinger’. Farm kids dodged snakes and spiders by the thousands and the people that chose not to swim in or camp beside crocodile infested waters - did not get eaten by crocodiles."

The insects can be annoying - the flies in particular. Midges and sandflies can cause irritation in certain locations and spiders or snakes may lurk under logs or debris. In general, make plenty of noise as you move through the bush. This alerts any reptiles and gives them the chance to get out of the way - which is all they want to do. Be careful when moving logs etc. and check for anything hiding underneath and you'll be fine.

Most Australian animals are marsupials and nocturnal meaning there's not a lot of daytime wildlife unless you go looking for it. Wandering around the bush at night with a torch will reveal far more than you're likely to see in the daytime.

Birdlife is usually prevalent wherever there is water while kangaroos and emus line most rural roads. Kangaroos are so thick on the ground they present a constant hazard on rural and outback roads.

Other roadside encounters may include feral camels, donkeys or pigs, livestock and wild horses

The ocean holds far more threats than the land but it is still a safe place to swim and recreate. Waters that host risks like jellyfish, stingers, and crocodiles are usually well signposted. Shark attack is rare and most beaches are perfectly safe to swim or surf.

Inland waters contain no real animal risks apart from saltwater crocodiles in the north.

Australia seems to have developed a 'cotton wool' culture of alerting people to every potential danger or mishap. You are unlikely to encounter marine hazards without being forewarned.

The Weather and Natural Disasters

Yes, it can get incredibly hot. It can also get incredibly cold. It's possible to surf in summer temperatures in Queensland in the morning, board a plane and be snow-skiing in New South Wales by lunch time.

Australia is regarded as a 'hot' country and places like Western Australia's Pilbara region can reach temperatures of 45 degrees C every day for weeks. The offset is that the region enjoys a fantastic winter. Residents in places like this have no real need to even own jumpers or windcheaters.

The Best Time to Travel takes a look at the season's and the regions.

Australia doesn't really suffer any regular major catastrophes. Cyclones are a fact of life for citizens in the north of the country but modern weather forecasting and good planning infrastructure and communication systems has made the threat manageable.

Flooding is another seasonal hazard for those in tropical zones but for most people a major flood occurs only once or twice in a lifetime.

The ground gives the odd rattle every couple of years with the promise of an earth tremor but without a truly destructive fault line underneath us earthquakes aren't an issue.

Australia has two active volcanos but both lie off the coast and present no threat. Landslides and Tsunamis aren't an issue. Which leaves bushfires.

Bushfires are a real issue in Australia. The native eucalyptus trees are brimming with flammable oils and a hot, dry, windy environment creates perfect conditions for scrubland and forest fires.

Cigarettes need to be carefully extinguished, fires need to be thoroughly put out and caution needs to be taken when using hot machinery in dry wooded areas.

Apart from these things the biggest natural hazard is being struck by lightning on a golf course.


Next - Part 3. Getting Around, The Roads and Accommodation ►

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