Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Day in the Green - and why you shouldn't put off that trip to Australia!


After the gloom and doom, it's lovely to see a bit of green

Thank Goodness it’s raining today! Let’s hope it puts all the fires out and clears some of the smoke plaguing our towns and cities. Even Hobart has had a haze for days, although it was nowhere near the fires. What I really wanted to tell you about was the fantastic day we had at Mt. Field National Park on Tuesday – clear skies, perfect weather,  live music and some great activities. Highlights included  learning to twine and a bit about Tasmanian Aboriginal history from Tash, one of the rangers, and the song - writing workshop with folk/pop group the Belle Miners.*


Ranger Ingrid tells us devilish tales

It was a salutory reminder that although some parts of Australia have been severely damaged – yes, our Alpine ski fields may be out for a time, also Kangaroo Island, most of the country’s other popular tourist destinations are still looking good.  In fact, if you really want to help Australia beyond short term relief, then please come and visit. This is really important, not the least because before the fires, tourism was contributing almost as much as coal to our economy ($47 billion vs $48 billion) and it provided employment for over 924,600 people directly and indirectly (2016 -2017), whereas coal mining only employs around 38,100 people (ABS 2017 -2018) contrary to the 54,000 or 200,000)  claimed by some.  Furthermore, like mining, much of this employment occurs in rural and regional Australia which needed help even before the fires.

A wandering Platypus comes by and so does a real wallaby just to prove that the wildlife is still OK here


Unfortunately tourism alone can't be a complete panacea while it depends so heavily on fossil fuels, but it is on the whole more sustainable than mining, particularly if those tourists were largely domestic and used trains or other mass transit (Tesla buses?) that ran on renewables. Perhaps some of the $29 billion currently being given to prop up coal mining could be diverted to this end or even some of the $100 million given away to wealthy sports clubs in marginal seats just before the 2019 election. 



It was a great day for shut -ins too with elderly folk and people in wheelchairs enjoying the music and a barbecue

So far it's been estimated that tourist operators have lost around one billion in forward bookings, so what I am saying is, don’t cancel your holiday, but be prepared to go a little further than Sydney or Canberra. You can still visit places like Uluru, Kakadu and almost anywhere north of Brisbane such as Cairns or the Daintree Rainforest. You could take a leisurely trip from one end of Australia to the other on the Ghan, or travel across the Nullarbor with the Indian – Pacific. You can still cruise the Kimberley or Sail the Whitsundays. A paddle -steamer cruise on the Murray River would be nice, especially as they are currently offering 40% off. Or you could visit Alice Springs, listen to Aboriginal Dreamtime stories or, if you prefer city lights, go for multicultural Melbourne with its lively Art scene, Casino and historic Victoria Market. If you didn’t want go far from town, you could visit delightful Daylesford with its spas and hot springs or rip  -roaring gold mining towns like Ballarat, Bendigo or Castlemaine. The scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road is another perennial favourite.  For other places in Australia you might not have heard about, check out Atlas Obscura’s pages.

Most places in Tasmania are fine, except perhaps parts of the East Coast and it’s a good chance to discover some of the less well –known attractions like Stanley in the state’s North West, or Mt. Field with its beautiful waterfalls and wildlife. What a shame we have let the fabulous train line to it fall into rack and ruin.  If I had the money to invest, I would resurrect that right now, and speaking of resurrection, the Tahune Airwalk which was burnt out last summer, reopened three days ago.

Ranger Tash demonstrating the Aboriginal art of twining and telling us about Aboriginal culture in Tasmania

Meanwhile, let’s not forget those places which have been burnt out this year. As soon as it’s safe to do so, they will need all the help they can get. Not only should you visit if you can, but perhaps you could join a group like BlazeAid and play an active role in their recovery.  Conservation Volunteers Australia will no doubt welcome help with replanting too as soon as the immediate emergency is over.


Should there still be any doubters among you, who think that the recent fires have nothing to do with climate change or human activity, you will be pleased to know that I am working on a special tour itinerary for you.
 
 
* The Belle Miners are holding a number of similar workshops around the state and the country including some for voice development. The next one will be at Mole Creek on the 18th of January and there will be another one at Maria Island on the 22nd. Please see their Facebook Page for other dates and more details.

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