Culture Trip Edition: Ode to the Aussie (Oi, Oi, Oi!) 3/3

The State of Club Tropic-Australiana: ‘Drinks are free. Fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone’

By Gisele Weishan | Magazine | March 15, 2023

Cover Illustration: On the road from NSW to QLD. Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer

In the last part of her series, Magazine writer Gisele Weishan introduces us to a few fascinating islands and a brief description of Australia’s culture.

Australia is a country that demands to be driven across, and this is especially true when making your way through Queensland. Aside from providing a better view of the country, having a car is helpful to attend one (or several) of the many multi-day music festivals Queensland has to offer, notable ones including Elements Festival, Mushroom Valley Festival or Rabbits Eat Lettuce Festival.

“Travels from New South Wales to Queensland. When choosing a mode of transport to travel across Australia, driving is best. If only to see all the country really has to offer and fulfil your ‘van life’ fantasies, or conversely to Mad Max across it behind the wheel of a massive four-wheel drive. Either or.” Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer
“An early start to catch the ferry over to Fraser Island from the mainland, but well worth the view.” Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer
“The path to wonder and awe incarnate awaits…” Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer

Fraser Island

K’gari (the Butchulla place name for Fraser Island), is a special place in the culture of the Butchalla people, and lakes are an integral part of their dreaming. Butchulla people want their messages—of care and respect for the land—to reach all people visiting the island. 

Located just off the coast from Queensland, Fraser Island is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also the largest sand island on earth. Driving across 75 Mile Beach with two girlfriends, having seven nationalities between us, and all of us arguably very short people, we took turns behind the wheel of a big yellow four-wheel drive we had rented and ferried over to the island. Bolstered high in the driver’s seat behind the power of a roaring engine, we all immediately felt like Mad Max incarnate. Equal parts gleeful giggles and awe as we wrestled with the wheel to stay on a straight course in the sand tracks of cars that had driven through before us. Taking in the roaring scenery untouched by roads and barely any signposting, sand dunes towering over us on one side, and ocean waves lapping at the other. 75 Mile Beach is just one of the wonderous things to see on Fraser Island; from whale watching to white sands, shipwrecks to stargazing, a few days driving across the island will surely provide some unforgettable experiences. 

A stop at Lake Mackenzie, a ‘perched’ lake – meaning it contains only rainwater and is not fed by streams and does not flow to the ocean, offers a gradient of crystal clear blues and greens set against sand of pure white silica to swim in. Eli Creek, which forms a lazy river through the rainforest and sand dunes, offers a place to while away the afternoon heat floating along under paperback trees. The Champagne Pools earn their name from the ocean bubbles that pour in over the rocks. Because sharks and jellyfish are common on Fraser Island, it is not safe to swim at its beaches, making the Pools one of the few safe places to swim in salt water on the island. Overall, it is in places such as these, in which you are able to see the bare bones of the world, that the wonders of nature are never more apparent, and life feels so much bigger than any of the parts you could possibly add to it. 

I think the Aussie go-with-the-flow attitude largely stems from the environment those within find themselves surrounded by day-to-day. Because, when faced with the enormity of such natural feats, which stand as the past prologue and future tense of our histories, whether they include us or not, other inhibitions seem to just pale in comparison. To put it mildly, there are some places that are there simply to exist, to be admired, to be shared, and this is, in my humblest opinion, one of those places. 

Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsundays and the neighboring coastal fringe are the traditional home of the Ngaro Aboriginal people.

After an overnight bus ride on the mainland of Rainbow Beach, I arrived in the small port town of Airlie Beach. This hub serves as the gateway to the 74 Whitsunday Islands, most of which are uninhabited and, as designated national parks, are teeming with wild flora and fauna, as well as beautiful secluded beaches known for their turquoise waters and stark white sands. 

Working as a cook on a tourist catamaran, I sailed around these islands for days or weeks at a time. There is nothing quite like waking up at the crack of dawn and seeing the sun rise in pinkish hues over the clear seas, surrounded only by the patches of rugged wilderness dotted within it. Party boats and other sailing trips offer the exploration of more remote places in the area, including some ideal snorkelling spots to dive amongst vast arrays of multi-coloured sea creatures. In this regard, be prepared to add a wetsuit to your wardrobe if visiting during Stinger season (late October to May), as the Whitsundays are also home to the infamous box jellyfish and the much smaller and almost impossible-to-see Irukandji. 

However, the Whitsundays are definitely not an area to be missed, if only for them being part of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system which is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world alongside the likes of Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon and the Aurora Borealis. The reef has unfortunately been harmed over the years by toxic coastal pollution, overfishing, unsustainable tourism and most notably by coral bleaching and ocean acidification catalysed by climate change. The tenured sailors I worked with had seen the reef prosper just as little as a few decades back, and spoke of its unfortunate degradation over the years. However, in line with more recent governmental plans for the protection and preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, efforts have been implemented to ensure better ecotourism practices alongside initiatives like Eye on the Reef to minimise these and focus on the sustainability of these beautiful surroundings. 

From sailing across the islands to flying over Heart Reef, from taking in the beauty at Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island to making the trail to Peek Passage to get a full view of the whole chain of islands, this place will make you feel as though you have stepped into a postcard-perfect world of natural splendour.

View from the Hill Inlet Outlook on Whitsunday Island. Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer
Welcome to Whitsunday Island. Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer

Australian Culture, in a Nutshell

Defining a nation’s culture is a largely subjective thing based on personal experiences, and to get a true full-view of it you would probably need to compile a dataset from an array of different Australians or even just go there yourself to see what it’s all about. But for me, at least, Aussie culture can be summed up with two little words you’ll hear a lot of if you visit: ‘No worries’

To me, Australia is overarchingly home to a certain go-with-the-flow attitude and welcoming atmosphere. This opinion is also based on coming from an immigrant family, growing up on my grandparents’ stories of being able to overcome adversity, raise a family and seek new opportunities in this place. As well as the stories of other friends’ families who fled the Vietnam War or came to Australia for one of many reasons other than conflict. Not to say that discrimination is a thing that doesn’t exist in Australia, having heard stories of it amongst the others as well. But to say that my particular love for the country’s culture and what makes its character so rich is the fact that Australia is a place imbued with the lifeblood of the many immigrants, backpackers and diverse communities who have made it their home over the decades, who have added their own traditions and rich cultures to make Australia more than just the sum of its parts. 

Indeed, I count myself as very lucky to have grown up and lived across such a vast country, one with much left to still be explored, and I think most would count themselves as very lucky to get the chance to see it. I hope you do. 

Gisele Weishan is a university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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