Monday, October 24, 2005

Queensland's climate allows nudists, and tourists, to enjoy it all year

By JOHN BORDSEN - The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
October 25, 2005

What's it like to live in a far-off place most of us see only on a vacation? Foreign Correspondence is an interview with someone who lives in a spot you may want to visit.

Les Rootsey, 55, is publisher of Australian Naturist, a magazine about nudist camps and resorts in Australia. He is based in Runaway Bay, Queensland, on that country's Gold Coast.

Q. Queensland is closer to the equator than most other parts of Australia. Does the warmer climate make nudism more popular?

A. We're midway up Australia's east coast, where Queensland is the northernmost state. Yes, it is warmer - subtropical is the best way to describe the climate. I just came back from visiting Florida; the climate here is similar to the Miami area.

And that makes naturism more attractive year-round. You can enjoy this lifestyle throughout the year. Australia's southern states tend to get quite cold during our winter, so they're not year-round in those areas.

Q. What's the Gold Coast like?

A. Again, similar to Miami, but smaller. High-rise buildings and lots of tourism. Long stretches of white, sandy beaches. It goes for about 50 km - about 30 miles. Brisbane is on the northern end of this.

Like Miami, it is a major tourist area. We get a lot of international tourists - from Asia, the European continent and, of course, New Zealand, which is our neighbor.

Q. Is that who goes to your nudist resorts?

A. Many do come here for nudism, but it's mainly Europeans. Asians aren't into it. Naturism started in Germany, originally.

Naturists tend to be similar types of people worldwide. There's little different among them except the way they speak.

Q. How would you compare or contrast nudism in the U.S. versus Australia?

A. Philosophically, there's no difference; the large proportion of Americans who practice naturism are similar to those in Australia. Aside from there being the "Moral Majority" in the U.S., which we don't have here, there are strong similarities.

There are demographic similarities. The majority are 40-plus, with fewer being younger than their 40s. From what I noticed in the U.S., there's not a large black population of naturists. There aren't a lot of aboriginal Australians in the scene here.

The nudist parks are similar, though we don't have them to quite the extent you do. We don't have the large population to support places like Caliente or Paradise Lakes, in Florida. No places like that. We have resorts, but nothing like those places in terms of quality.

Q. Are they on the coast? In the States these resorts tend to be a bit out of the way.

A. Eighty percent of Australians live near the coast; naturists are there, as well. But out of the way? Yes, that's how it is here.

There are no resorts directly on the coast of Queensland because land costs so much. That's where everyone wants to live. It's economically unviable to establish a nudist resort on the actual coast, so the resorts are inland just a ways. You can't go too far inland because you hit the desert very quickly.

Q. Are clothing-optional beaches popular?

A. There are quite a few of them - proportionately, basically the same as you have in the United States. The quality is about the same, but our beaches are prettier. Our beaches are sandier and mostly have better surf conditions. In the U.S., beaches tend to have darker sand that's grainier.

Q. Is there a surfing season?

A. It's year-round, but surfers tend to travel toward warmer climates. As a result there's a seasonal shift, depending on water temperature.

Q. Australia has scorpions. Now, if you're not wearing anything on your feet or legs. ...

A. I've never seen one in my life, and I've been here 55 years. Unless you're in the desert, you won't encounter them.

Q. What about other animal life in Queensland?

A. There are a lot of kangaroos and wallabies. Koala bears. Echidnas - they're like a little anteater. All the typical Australian marsupials are around here. Anything dangerous? Snakes. But unless you go looking for them, you won't encounter them. They tend to be shy creatures.

Q. How far inland do you go before you hit ... nothing?

A. No habitation? First you reach the Great Dividing Range, which reaches down the whole length of Australia. Once across to the other side - about 100 km (about 62 miles) from the coast - it tends to be less populated. You see more and more of a desert type of climate; vegetation gradually depletes. And once you're in the middle of Australia, there's just sand hills and no habitation.

But lots of people travel in there. One of Australia's big attractions is Ayers Rock. And Alice Springs is in the middle of the continent. It's a desert-oasis type of place.

Q. Isn't Ayers Rock now called by a native name?

A. Yes, but Ayers Rock is what it's better known as. Only changed it to the Aboriginal name of Uluru about 10 years ago. Because of land rights, they've taken control of that area.

Q. When you were in the States, did you see what we call Australian steakhouses?

A. Yes, and I was surprised. We have steakhouses, but they're not Australian named. Foster's beer isn't sold much here. I don't even know if it's brewed in Australia any more. It went out of favor and other beers took its place. The big-selling beer is a brand called VB, which is short for Victorian Bitter.

Q. What about the blooming onion? Got those?

A. Nothing by that name. I was at one Australian steakhouse in America and didn't recognize it as being Australian or having anything that necessarily caters to our national taste buds.



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