Q’s オーストラリアレポート

Melbourne is Free!

Beach1

As I write this, Victoria has had its 10th day of zero cases of coronavirus and zero deaths from the virus. After 15 weeks of strict lockdown, restrictions have eased, and life is returning to ‘normal’ for now. Congratulations Melbourne!

cup

Many people are still cautious, but others have gone out and started to celebrate. Last weekend was the Melbourne Cup long weekend and many people got together in small groups to watch the race and bet on the horses. The racetrack was closed to spectators.

Police1

A lot of other people hit the beaches to enjoy the nice weather we have had lately. There are still strict rules about wearing masks and social distancing, so the police were out to enforce them. Understandably, some are anxious about seeing so many people close to each other.

kmart1

Bars and restaurants are now allowed to serve customers again! However, they are at reduced capacity, and spacing must follow special spacing guidelines. Department stores, like Kmart, were extremely crowded after having been closed for so long.

Australian Insects

ulysses

The Ulysses Butterfly is a swallowtail butterfly found in and around Australia. They are also known as the Mountain Blue Butterfly or the Blue Emperor. They can have a wingspan of up to 13 cm. Males are attracted to the colour blue and will fly towards anything blue from 30 metres away.

basker

The Red Baron dragonfly is bright red and usually found living around lagoons and ponds in Australia and New Guinea. Using its four long, horizontal wings it can reach fly up to 35 miles an hour and fly just as gracefully backward by lifting off vertically, helicopter style. Its compound eyes are so large they nearly touch, and each one is made up of about 28,000 single eyes, called ommatidia.

jewel bug

Australia has many colourful jewel beetles. In the past their attractive shells have been used as jewellery or in religious ceremonies. Their colours do not come from pigments but are due to light diffraction by the microscopic structure of their shells. Amazingly, they can greatly delay their larval development in bad environmental conditions for over 25 years! The single longest delayed emergence was a record 51 years.

stick insect

The Giant Prickly Stick Insect is a large stick insect that can grow up to 15 cm long. The males are smaller than females but have long wings and can fly. Stick insects are nocturnal and docile by nature. They eat the leaves of blackberry, raspberry, oak, rose, hazel, and eucalyptus. They have an amazing defence strategy: they will curl up their tail to mimic a scorpion to bluff off predators when threatened.

Rock Climbing in Victoria

Mt Arapiles 1 VIC

Many Australians enjoy both sport and the outdoors. Rock climbing combines these and is therefore a popular pastime. While the state of Victoria may not have the beaches of Queensland, or the desert landscapes of Central Australia, some might say it has the best rock climbing terrain in Australia. One of the most famous areas is Mt Arapiles in the Wimmera plains. The plains are a beautiful nature conservation area, with 14% of Victoria’s flora species represented around Mt Arapiles alone. More than 3000 routes have been established on the many cliffs, crags and pinnacles, with something suitable for all levels of experience.

Mt Buffalo VIC

Mount Buffalo is also a much loved climbing destination. It is home to lots of interesting Australian wildlife and 550 species of native plants, including plants found nowhere else on Earth, such as the Buffalo Sallee tree. There are lakes, twisted Snow Gum forests and The Horn, the highest point in Mount Buffalo National Park at 1,723m. The huge area is known for it’s changable weather, which includes snow in winter, and a great variety of climbing experience can be found.

The Grampians

The Grampians

Perhaps the most famous climbing area in Victoria, the Grampians National Park is huge, breathtaking and a popular destination for climbers. In addition to all sorts of beautiful flora and fauna, this region is home many ancient Aboriginal rock art paintings and shelters. In order to protect the environment, many of the most famous rock-climbing areas have been permanently closed in recent years.

Mt Arapiles 2 Vic

Some other great places you might check out if your are interested in rock climbing are:

  • Cathedral Range State Park.
  • Wilsons Promontory National Park.
  • Croajingolong National Park.
  • You Yangs Regional Park – just outside Melbourne!
  • Bush Tucker

    bush tucker

    Bush tucker, also called bushfood, is any food native to Australia and eaten by the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Animal native foods include kangaroo, emu, witchetty grubs and crocodile. Plant foods include fruits such as quandong, kutjera, spices such as lemon myrtle, and vegetables such as warrigal greens and native yams.

    kangaroo steak

    Since the 1970s, there has been increasing interest in the taste and health benefits of native foods by non-Indigenous Australians, and the bushfood industry has grown enormously. One example is kangaroo meat, which has been available in supermarkets since the 1980s and is still gaining popularity.

    witchetty grub

    “Witchetty grubs” are what Australians call the large moth larvae that feed on the sap from the roots of the witchetty bush found mostly in The Northern Territory. They were traditionally eaten by Aborigines in that region, often roasted in coals or over a fire. Some people say they have a nutty flavour.

    finger lime

    The most well-known of Australia’s six species of native citrus, finger limes are considered a gourmet bushfood and are sought after by top restaurants around the world. They grow in the rainforests of south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales. The slender, finger-like fruit is 6 to 12 centimetres long and comes in a range of colours including black, green, red, pink, and yellow.

    Empty streets, new hope – Coronavirus in Australia update

    Corona Graph May

    The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Australia was identified on 25 January 2020, in Victoria, when a man who had returned from Wuhan, China, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Australian borders were closed to all non-residents on 20 March. Social distancing rules were imposed on 21 March and state governments started to close “non-essential” services. “Non-essential services” included social gathering venues such as pubs and clubs but unlike many other countries did not include most business operations such as construction, manufacturing and many retail categories.

    Beach

    Since I last posted on this blog, things initially got worse, but have now gotten a lot better. The infection curve has flattened out and the virus seems mostly under control. There have been a few worrying clusters popping up here and there, but these are being closely monitored with extra testing, contact tracing and quarantines. Still, the streets are mostly empty – very different to before Coronavirus.

    Animal

    Now there is new hope though, as the federal and state governments have started easing restrictions. My state, Victoria, released new rules 2 days ago. Basically, 5 people can now visit your house, you can go outdoors in groups of 10 for things like sport, weddings and funerals (you must still try to maintain physical distancing).

    Alley

    While you can drive as far as you like to go for a surf or a hike, you are not allowed to stay overnight. “AirBnb will not be taking bookings. There will not be bookings at hotels,” the State Premier Daniel Andrews said. “Camping will not be allowed.” Shopping is still only for essentials, not entertainment, so the streets are still quiet. Hopefully, the situation will continue to improve.

    Coronavirus in Australia

    graph

    Just like most other countries, Australia is now struggling to contain the outbreak of the corona virus /COVID-19. The government is recommending social isolation and has closed the border to all non-citizens and non-residents. Most public events have been cancelled, sports events are being held without spectators if at all, and live TV shows are recorded without audiences. At this point, Australia has more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The number is increasing quickly. Everyone is hoping that the strict measures put in place will flatten the contagion curve, but it is not looking good.

    street

    Where possible, people are now working from home. Because most people are trying to stay indoors as much as they can, many usually crowded tourist sites, cafes and restaurants are closed, quiet or empty. Many people employed in these industries are worried about their jobs and the government is being asked to assist.

    shelves

    Unfortunately, there has been some panic buying and many supermarkets have some empty shelves. Things like toilet paper have sold out due to bulk buying, even though it is produced domestically and supply was not expected to be affected by the virus. Delivery and pickup services at super markets have stopped due to over-demand. Opening hours have been significantly reduced to allow supermarket staff time to disinfect stores and restock shelves.

    masks

    Life in Australia is changing in many ways as a result of the outbreak. These days it is not unusual to see people wearing masks outdoors and on public transport. It is still far from as common as it is in Japan, but it is something I thought I would never see here.

    Animals of Australia #2

    Australia is home to many interesting animals. Let’s have a look at 4 more.

    echidna

    Echidna’s have spines like a porcupine, a beak like a bird, a pouch like a kangaroo, and lay eggs like a reptile. Also known as spiny anteaters, they’re small, solitary mammals native to Australia and New Guinea. They eat ants, worms and insect larvae using their long sticky tongues. Their spines are actually modified hairs and they also have the lowest body temperature of any mammal, 32°C. Echidnas are powerful diggers and despite their appearance, are capable swimmers.

    platypus

    The platypus is famous for its strange appearance. It is duck-billed, has a beaver-like tail, lays eggs, has otter-like fur and webbed feet. They are only found in small rivers and streams in in eastern Australia. Platypuses and echidnas are related and are the only two mammals in the world that lay eggs instead of giving birth. Male platypus have a back foot ankle spur which contains a venom that is powerful enough to kill small animals like dogs. Also, platypuses close their eyes and ears when under water and then dig up muddy river beds with their bills, detecting the electric fields of their prey by using their sense of electroreception!

    wombat

    Wombats are small marsupials that look like a cross between a bear, a pig and a gopher. They can’t climb trees like their closest living relative, the koala, but they are good swimmers, and can run up to 40 kph. They are built for digging, and like other marsupials, they have a pouch. However, wombat’s pouches are backwards and their poop is cube-shaped! Wombats live in burrows, which consist of many tunnels and sleeping chambers. Some tunnels can reach up to 200 meters in length. Wombats are herbivores, which means they only eat vegetation. They get most of their water from the foods they eat and can live years without drinking water.

    emu

    Emus are the second largest bird in the world, just behind the ostrich. They can grow up to 2m tall and are covered in soft fluffy feathers. Emus can’t fly, but they can run up to 50 kph using their powerful legs. Their powerful kick is also handy for keeping predators at bay. They have two sets of eyelids, one for blinking and the other for keeping the dust out. Emus lay their eggs in large ground nests, after which the male emus incubate them for about seven weeks without drinking, feeding, defecating, or leaving the nest! Some people farm emus for their meat and eggs – one emu egg can make an omelette big enough to feed 4-6 adults.

    Fire map

    While not as common as in Japan, Australia too has its share of natural disasters. Currently, there a great many bush fires burning here, especially on the East Coast. Some of them are so big that they can’t be bought under control, and firefighters must wait until conditions change before they can deal with them.

    Danger sign

    There are many factors that increase the risk of and intensity of fires. Long droughts, the amount of dry vegetation, wind and extreme heat during heat waves are some examples. When many of of these factors align the chance of fires occurring is very high. Signs displaying the current fire danger can be seen all over the country.

    Smoke

    Smoke can be seen and smelt even in places that are a long way from the fires. The smoke is unpleasant, can cause health problems and interferes with flights. Sometimes it can be seen from space. This happens most years, but this year it feels worse, and the smoke seems to be everywhere.

    Fire

    Firefighters from places like New Zealand, Canada and the USA flew over to Australia to help. Australia often sends fire fighters to these countries to assist when they need help. Many people think that due to global warming there will be more fires in the future and that they will be even more destructive.

    Historic Theatres in Melbourne

    For those who love to see shows at the theatre, there are many great venues in Melbourne, both new and old. Four of the most famous, old-style theatres are the Forum Theatre, The Princess Theatre, The Palais Theatre and Mer Majesty’s Theatre.

    Forum Theatre

    The Forum Theatre (originally called The State Theatre) was Built in 1929. At that time it had the largest seating capacity in Australia, holding 3,371 people. Like the other Theatres in this post, it is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. It has been owned by different people over the years and was both a cinema and church for a time. It has hosted famous acts like Oasis, Madonna, Katy Perry and parts of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

    Princess Theatre

    The Princess Theatre is a 1488-seat theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District, and is the oldest continuous entertainment site on mainland Australia. It is also listed by the National Trust of Australia. It opened in 1854 and then re-opened on 18 December 1886 after renovations. It had Australia’s first sliding or retractable roof and ceiling which provided ventilation from the auditorium. The theatre has hosted many famous musicals over the years and is currently showing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There have also been several reported ghost sightings.

    Palais Theatre

    The Palais Theatre (originally called Palais Pictures) is an historic Picture Palace located in the suburb of St Kilda. Replacing an earlier cinema of the same name destroyed in a fire, the new theatre opened in 1927. With a capacity of nearly 3,000 people, it is currently the largest seated theatre in Australia. Next to the beach, Luna park and the famous Acland Street restaurants, it is very popular with locals and tourists alike. The Melbourne Film Festival was based at the Palais from 1962 until 1982. Over the years it has hosted many famous international bands, ballets and film premiers.

    Her Majesty's Theatre

    Her Majesty’s Theatre is a 1,700 seat theatre also in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District. Built in 1886, it is classified by the National Trust of Australia. The legendary Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, captivated Australian crowds at performances in 1926 and 1929. It is said this led to the creation of the Australian dessert ‘Pavlova’ which I have blogged about previously.

    Phillip Island

    wool

    Phillip Island is a popular tourist destination about 140 km south-southeast of Melbourne, Victoria. The island was named after Governor Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, by explorer and seaman George Bass, who sailed in an open whale boat, arriving from Sydney on 5 January 1798.

    bridge

    The island’s permanent population is about 10,000. During the summer, the population swells to over 40,000 people. The only road to the island is a 640 m concrete bridge that connects the mainland town San Remo with the island town Newhaven.

    Penguin Parade

    Phillip Island is probably most famous for its colony of fairy penguins which are the world’s smallest penguins. Depending on the season, 300 to 750 of them come ashore at Summerland Beach at sunset after swimming 15-50km a day to fish. The penguins tumble ashore to waddle up beach tracks to their burrows in sand dunes, stopping along the way to preen.

    track

    The Island is also well-known for its international race track which hosts world-championship 500cc and Superbike events and national touring car races. The track is set amidst some picturesque farmland, which is not surprising as 60% of the island is devoted to the grazing of sheep and cattle.

    seals

    There is a lot of wildlife present on the island like kangaroos, koalas etc. Something a bit more unusual can be seen at Seal Rocks, at the western end of the island. Seal Rocks hosts the largest colony of fur seals in Australia – about 16,000 of them! Tourists are able to take a cruise which takes them very close to the seals.