Bolivia. Australia. Aside from 'B' following 'A' in the alphabet, you would be forgiven for thinking that these two contrasting countries have no further similarities. There are indeed countless ways in which these two nations differ - size, language and the presence of a coastline to name a few - but you may be surprised to discover that there are in fact some fantastic ways that the country with the highest capital city in the world compares with the 'Land Down Under'.
1. Salt, salt and more salt
Quite possibly the biggest natural draw card in South America and one that hundreds of thousands of tourists travel to Bolivia each year to experience, the Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flat) is the largest of it's kind in the world and truly is spectacular. Australia, however, is actually not far behind.
Lake Eyre is spread across northern South Australia, and on the rare occasion that it fills, is the largest lake in Australia. When the lake is full, it has the same salinity level as the sea, but as the lake dries up and the water evaporates, salinity increases. It then resembles a dry, endless, salty desert, similar to what you would experience in the Salar.
Also similar in size (10,500km2 for the Salar, 9,500km2 for Lake Eyre) and each home to a key large bird species in its respective country (flamingos in Bolivia, pelicans in Australia), it's fair to say neither country will be experiencing a sodium shortage anytime soon!
2. Cute, cuddly (and delicious) coat of arms
Both Bolivia and Australia have very prominent and globally recognized national animals which also each appear on each countries' respective coat of arms - the llama for Bolivia, and the kangaroo for Australia. But did you know that both animals are also considered quite the food staple?
More common in the western and north western Altiplano regions of Bolivia, it's not uncommon to find llama on the menu in a restaurant in La Paz or El Alto, or even in the numerous small towns and villages that line the banks of the giant freshwater Lake Titicaca. Al dente llama ravioli anyone?
Similarly in Australia, kangaroo is considered a great source of red meat for human consumption. From large, mainstream supermarkets to premium, upmarket restaurants, kangaroo meat has only grown in both demand and popularity over the past 20 years. Gourmet kangaroo sausages anyone?
3. Rich indigenous history, both past and present
While current indigenous Bolivians (Quechua and Aymara) significantly take the title over those from Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island) when it comes to percentage of the current total population (62% in Bolivia, 2.8% in Australia), Aboriginals have in fact been around for significantly longer, dating back to 50,000 BC compared to 1,500 BC for the first indigenous Bolivians.
Both indigenous Bolivians and Australians speak a large number of recognized languages in present day life, with 37 languages recognized in Bolivia and 45 in Australia, and each indigenous culture has it's own national flag. Indigenous rights are highly regarded and protected in both Bolivia and Australia, and each country has at least one prominent indigenous figure featuring on their national currency.
Both indigenous Bolivians and Australians have also made a name for themselves on the world stage. The current Bolivian president, Evo Morales, is indigenous and of Aymara descent, while many indigenous Australians have been prominent international figures across music, acting and sport.
4. Twin trees
While plant species are not something that Bolivia and Australia have largely in common, there are in fact three unique plants either endemic or native to Australia that have, incredibly, found their way to the Bolivian outdoors.
5. Wine that will take your breath away. Literally.
On the global wine market and also naturally due to the amount it produces, Australia is a leading producer of some of the worlds best vinos. Regions such as the Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Margaret River and Yarra Valley will sound familiar to anyone with a knowledge of Aussie wine, however Bolivia too has a unique and steadily growing wine industry.
Bolivian grapes, however, are grown at altitudes of between 1,600m and 3,000m above sea level, making Bolivia the highest wine producing region in the world.
Predominately grown in and around the southern city of Tarija, French-style grape varietals are all the rage here, with Tannat, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc common sightings in liquor stores and supermarkets. And with the average bottle priced at between just $5 and $10, it puts up an argument as some of the best value vino in the world today.
As a proud Australian currently living in Bolivia for over 12 months now, I bare witness each day to how these two countries differ in so many ways. I am, however, consistently impressed and amazed with some of the similarities I see and experience, highlighting that the world really is a small place, and you just never know what you will discover around the next corner.
Written by Steve Connors
Comments will be approved before showing up.