Saturday, 30 August 2008

Old meets new down under

Down under the Silk Route there's a place where old meets new. Rather like ShopCurious, where unusual and vintage curiosities are to be found side by side with the latest technology in the form of that great modern invention, the internet. At ShopCurious, we simply love combining the old, new, quirky and classic in an eclectic melange of unique and beautiful things. We've got stylish antipodean vintage silk scarves, for instance, that each have a story to tell. So let's continue our journey - which seems to be getting curiouser and curiouser...

Let's start at The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world - even larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing that's visible from space. The reef is breathtakingly beautiful, with an abundance of marine life, comprising of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays, hundreds of picturesque tropcial islands and some of the world's most beautiful beaches.

Possibly one of the quirkier things to be found in Australia is that distinctively individual creature, the duck billed platypus: a mammal that has a duck's bill, webbed feet, a furry body and lays eggs. One of the few mammal-like things about these oddbods is that they swim with their eyes closed, otherwise they're essentially underwater cats with a double layer of fur so they never get wet. How curiously clever is that?

Let's make a quick detour to Papua New Guinea, which is a perfect place for a spot of twitching (Brit term for bird-watching). The tropical rainforest is the most wonderful habitat for a wide variety of extraordinary birds, including the world's smallest parrot and 38 of the 43 known speices of birds of paradise.

Many tribal groups in the region use bird plumes to decorate their traditional costumes and head-dresses - making for a very original fashion statement. Some of the more curious birds include kokomos (hornbills), palm cockatoos and Papua New Guinea's largest bird, the giant cassowary.

There's also the land of the kiwi, New Zealand, to consider if you're travelling south of the equator. 200 million years ago, New Zealand was part of a big continent called Gondwana, which later split apart into the continents of the world as we know them today. New Zealand is a bit like the lost bit of a jigsaw, which remained cut off from the rest of the world. Because of its isolation and lack of land mammals, New Zealand became a land filled with unique animals, ancient frogs with no tadpoles, insects as big as mice and birds that couldn't fly. 85% of New Zealand's flowers are endemic (that means they're unique to New Zealand).

Of course, like most of the people down under, the Kiwis will put on a bit of a show for the tourists (see right) - or are they actually trying to scare us away? Anyway, I'm just about ready to be heading off back to Europe. Better be eco-friendly and remember to offset the carbon emissions from the air miles...

Will you?

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