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Burnie, bogans and a burger bargain.

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 21 April 2010 | Views [1643]

Me and the famous veggie burger on a beach just outside of Penguin

Me and the famous veggie burger on a beach just outside of Penguin

With time expiring on my tenure in Tasmania, it seemed appropriate to take in a bit more of the state before I left. The North Western town of Burnie would probably not feature on any sane persons list of tourist destinations, and had it not been for a friend that lived there, I doubt it would have goten a mention on my list either. Being at the opposite end of the state to Hobart, the bus trip there offered just as much interest as what the town itself did.

Not to speak badly of the town, as there was nothing negative to say about the place. Unfortunately, as a small town in outback Tasmania, it had nothing special of which to speak of positively either. The winding approach along the coast line was scenic, but not spectacular, as were the views of Bass strait offered by the houses spread across the hills of Upper Burnie. Such benefits were counter balanced by the fact some locals thought Upper Burnie had a higher bogan ratio than the rest of the town. I may sound judgemental saying this, but as an outsider, I found it hard to distinguish between bogan numbers in Upper and Lower Burnie, as well as between Burnie and well, most of the state. A large percentage of the population seem proud of the distinction whether by acquiescence to the label or by so thoroughly exemplifying the classification as to defy repudiation. Even those violently opposed to such a slanderous term often confess to tendencies that they consider proof of inherent boganess.

I mean no real disrespect when I apply such a label as it is no secret that I was raised in a more bogan-like suburb of Melbourne. Travelling so extensively may have cured me, or merely repressed my inner bogan, enough so that I can see some difference between myself and the bogans I am currently referring to.

Tasmanians by and large laugh off the jokes from the mainland folk about inbreeding and the scars left over from having their second head removed, but the term 'bogan' fails to garner the same degree of acceptance unless it playfully comes from one of their own. The bus ride to Burnie was blighted by a collection of the extreme end of stereotypical bogan kids. All sported teeth like a badly shuffled deck of cards, half cut hairstyles with shaved bits here and long bits there, multiple facial piercings in awkward places that no professional would accept responsibility for, clothes comfortable enough to match every occasion but not appropriately, and a contradictory glare of vacant intensity punctuated by outbursts of profanities that often include a reference or two to hotted up cars, AC/DC or some girl named 'Shazza'. (I 'hotted up' my first car by using my apprentice signwriting skills to give it a new paint job and rendering it significantly less valuable, AC/DC was the first band I saw in concert, and I've kissed a girl who was playfully called 'Shazza' by her friends!) They openly mocked me for my obvious non-locality and their snarls indicated they may have just been envious of my coordinated outfit, my lack of arousal at family reunions or my full set of teeth.

Expeditions to Boat Harbour and Penguin revealed there was more to do in this part of the country than making jokes about the familial nature of the gene pool. Both had beautiful beaches that required only my footprints for validation. Penguin ended up winning on points, not by the overwhelming number of penguin effigies that adorned the streets and shop facades, but for offering the cheapest veggie burger I have come across in a developed country. This in a state largely defined by the inflated cost of absolutely everything. For $3.50 I was presented with a white sandwich roll with mayonnaise, lettuce and a store brought patty deeply fried to artery clogging perfection. Hardly worth handing out a Michelin star for, but an amazing bargain irrespective of its counter-productiveness as a source of nutrition. When the purveyor of grease charged me 50 cents for a thimble of sauce to go with my chips, it became obvious that any financial shortfall from the annual sale of a veggie burger was made up for with the necessary addition of sauce to everything else the shop sold.

And while I could harp on about the cultural significance of a cheap burger and its impact upon a small community, I did so at such length on the day that I lack the enthusiasm to repeat myself for anyone's interest other than my own. Tasmania's own burger King, nay Emporer, may appreciate the free publicity as each burger sold would bring him closer to being able to afford another fibreglass penguin for his shop roof.

Tags: beaches, food, people

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