The traditional custodians of this very beautiful part of Australia, the Mirnang people, tell the following story about this place.
Two Mirnang brothers had their differences and were fighting over a young woman. The elders became tired of their squabbling and sent them to a place near The Gap.
They made one stand on one side of The Gap and one on the other side. One brother was good at throwing spears, while the other was good at throwing boomerangs. As the first brother threw a boomerang, the second threw his spear.
The first brother was struck by the spear. The other brother was struck in the back by the boomerang. Both warriors fell into the water.
The brother who was struck in the back by a boomerang turned into a shark. The fin on the shark is the boomerang. The brother who was hit by the spear turned into a stingray.
Dreamtime stories told by the Traditional Custodians are a wonderful way of gaining a better appreciation and understanding of our land and Janet and I seek them out wherever we travel in this great country of ours…
This story is recounted on a story board at The Gap and was made available by the sons of Norngen…
Photo’s: Baz – The Landy & Janet-Planet, South West, West Australia…
PS: And yes, it is a long way from our usual travel in the Australian Outback…!
Hamlin Bay, nestled south of the Margaret River, beautifully showcases the dramatic and beautiful southern West Australian coastline.
Today, Hamlin Bay is a mecca for holidaymakers who come to fish and surf in this picturesque area, perhaps in between visiting many of the wineries of the Margaret River Region.
In days gone by Hamlin Bay was a port from which Karri trees, harvested from the forests close by, were exported to destinations all over the world, including England, India, and South Africa. And it is worth mentioning that many streets of London are still paved with Karri from the forests in the area.
And the tall forests of Karri trees, standing proud, is a sight to behold as you tour the area.
One of the great things about Hamlin Bay are the stingray’s that abound. These gracious creatures of the sea swim alongside the waters edge as you stroll along the beach – truly a sight to behold…!
If you are ever in the area, this is a place not to be missed.
Photo’s: Baz-The Landy & Janet-Planet, Hamlin Bay, West Australia
Travelling around this great country we frequently come across great examples of the pioneering determination of our early European settlers.
The rabbit-proof fence, which was built in the early 1900s, showcases this pioneering spirit and determination and as we tour the wheat-belt region of West Australia we have seen a number of examples of the fence.
The fence was built in three-stages, commencing in 1901 and finished in 1907, and was once the longest fence in the world.
A farmer, in the State of Victoria, imported 24 rabbits from England in 1859 to breed on his property for hunting. Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time, but before long they had reached plague proportions – action was needed to stop the spread of the furry creatures.
Integral to the design of the fence were the “traps” that were erected approximately 5-miles apart along the fence line. They were 12 feet long, 7 feet wide and 3 feet high and entirely enclosed in rabbit netting.
At each end and up against the main fence wire netting funnels lead into the trap. Leading out from the funnels at each end of the trap – and at an angle of 45 degrees to the main fence were two wing fences.
The stray rabbits running along the fence would get caught in between the wing and the yard trap, move through the funnel of wire into the trap and couldn’t escape…!
Needless to say I suspect many of the trapped rabbits made their way into some very delicious stews!
Photos: Baz – The Landy, and Janet-Planet, on tour in West Australia
Now let me repent for just a moment, we haven’t disappeared into the wilderness over these past couple of months, although you might be forgiven thinking so given our absence from these pages.
TomO, the Crown Prince, has been finishing his final year of High School and sitting his High School Certificate (HSC) and University entrance exams, (oh please, don’t start me on that topic) so that’s where our focus has been. Mind you he has managed this intense period extremely well and hasn’t been too stressed about it.
TomO – First day of school
TomO – the Diver
TomO – The Army Cadet
TomO – Final day of school
Maybe he has been a little too relaxed, but hey, that’s not a bad way to live your life…!
Anyway, that is all behind us, and importantly, behind TomO as he sets his sights on a “gap year” before commencing his Undergraduate Degree at University; a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History, his favourite topic.
And rest assured, we haven’t wasted too much time getting (back) Out and About in this great country of ours, and last week we took the opportunity to spend some time on Sydney’s northern beaches, kayaking, hiking, and cycling…
Whilst we are quite accustomed to travelling many thousand’s of kilometres exploring our fabulous country, this trip was about 40-kilometres each way – mind you, we’ve always said there is plenty to see in your own backyard if you just take the time to look, so we lived to that motto as we enjoyed a camp lakeside at Narrabeen Lagoon.
Next week we are off to Scottsdale Reserve, situated south of Canberra, to do some volunteer work on this conservation property owned and managed by Bush Heritage Australia…
But hey, about this graduation from work thing I embarked on early last year. Crikey, let me tell you, do it if you can, life’s too short to contemplate what could have been…
One of the things I have come to appreciate is time – you don’t need to do everything at a break-neck speed, no work deadlines to be met, sleep in, if that’s what is needed or get up for a walk or a row up in the “shed” in the pre-dawn magic.
No rules, and strewth, you’re right, wouldn’t be “dead for quids”.
And Janet is itching to be Out and About, and she put the call out for me to “pack the TVAN Baz” and let’s head off down the driveway for some adventure in the Aussie Outback – yep, no encouragement needed on that one from me.
Speaking of which, we will cross the Australian Continent in December as we head to the West Coast for a couple of months…
We’ll have cameras at the ready to capture the landscapes of this great country of ours and we’ll be sure to share them..
Yeah, this “graduation from work” thing is working out swimmingly.
Isn’t that the beauty of life, ever evolving as we weave our own tapestry; a mosaic of our lives taking turns that one could not even imagine just a few years ago…
This week I am heading down to Scottsdale Reserve, a property owned by the conservation group Bush Heritage Australia to assist in a scientific study. Situated about 80 kilometres south of Canberra, Scottsdale borders Australia’s Alpine region and the mighty Murrumbidgee River runs through the reserve.
Each year a count is undertaken of the platypus population on this stretch of the river and involves sitting on the riverbank at dawn and dusk to “spy” this shy and unique mammal. And yes, it will be cold with minimum temperatures forecast to be as low as -7 degrees next week so I’ll be sure to pack my Driz-a-bone to keep me warm and the frost at bay…
So what took me from currency trader to counting platypus?
Well a love of the bush, the outdoors has always been my thing so it is no surprise that like a vortex the bush sucked me in once I“graduated from work”.
And hey, you’ll hear no complaints from me on how my tapestry; my mosaic is working out.
Sitting on a river bank counting platypus is timeless and without a doubt better for the soul than sitting in a trading room where fortunes are won and lost in the blink of an eye as currencies flirt with each other on world markets.
That isn’t to say trading currencies wasn’t fun, after all I did it with some great people who have become lifelong friends, but counting platypus is more appealing and far less stressful than staring at a computer monitor with one eye on the clock, counting down the hours, minutes to the end of the trading session.
By the way, what day did you say it was…?
(Just kidding, of course I know what day it is – a great one!)
Whether you are a Sydneysider or visitor to our fine city, if you are looking for a hidden gem overlooking the magnificent Sydney Harbour then this is the place for you…
The picturesque Ball’s Head Reserve situated on the Waverton Peninsular.
Covered in native trees the reserve has a number of walking tracks that meander around the headland taking you past the “Ball’s Head Coal Loader” which is situated alongside the Naval Base HMAS Waterhen.
The “Loader” was built in the early 1900s to supply Steamships with coal to use as fuel…
Mind you, it wasn’t without controversy, and our famous poet, Henry Lawson, wrote about it in his poem “The Sacrifice of Ball’s Head” in 1916.
Lawson, who lived in the area at the time, lamented the loss of the bushland to the ugly looking loader, spewing out its ugly “brown rocks” in such a beautiful setting. These days’ picnickers and hikers, who can enjoy this magnificent vista a stone’s throw from the urban chaos that is Sydney, have reclaimed the area…
We often travel thousand’s of kilometres into our colourful outback looking for those little gems of places just off the “beaten track” – but sometimes you don’t need to look much further than your own backyard; just scratch the surface and you never know what you will find.
And hey, Janet and I are pleased to say, just like Henry suggests in his poem, Ball’s Head is a great place to spend a glorious day.
Photos: Baz – The Landy
“The Sacrifice of Ball’s Head” by Henry Lawson
They’re taking it, the shipping push,
As all the rest must go —
The only spot of cliff and bush
That harbour people know.
The spirit of the past is dead
North Sydney has no soul —
The State is cutting down Ball’s Head.
To make a wharf for coal.
Where picnic parties used to go
To spend a glorious day,
With all the scenery of a coast
And not a cent to pay.
The deep cool tangle shall be cleared
To make the glaring roads
And motor lorries jolt and grind
And drag their sordid loads.
And strings of grimy trucks shall run
In everlasting trains
And on the cliffs where wild trees are
Shall stand the soulless cranes,
To dump their grimy loads below,
Where great brown rocks are grand;
And the deep grass and wild flowers grow —
And boating couples land.
No more shall poorer families
Give “Grandma” and “Grandad”
A glimpse of nature’s mysteries
To make their old hearts glad.
No more our eyes shall be relieved
In the city’s garish day —
A sordid crime has been achieved!
And none has aught to say.
Now that Janet and I have finished the house painting I’m heading back into the “bush” next week for a few days to do some volunteering work with Bush Heritage Australia.
Oh, yeah sorry, that’s where we’ve been over the past few weeks, up and down ladders with tins of paint and a brush…
And for sure, whilst it was great to be giving our 100-year old California Bungalow, “Dinsmore” a coat of paint, we would much rather have been Out & About in this great country of ours capturing those wonderful vista’s that the Australia Outback is renown for in photographs…
So it will be great to be “back in the bush”…
I’ll be at Scottsdale Reserve, which is situated about 80 kilometre’s south of Australia’s Capital, Canberra. The Reserve is home to a remnant of Australia’s last ice age, the Silver-leafed Mountain Gum. Adapted to a time when this part of the world was much drier and colder, just ten populations of this little Mallee tree are thought to exist in Australia, and it’s vulnerable to extinction.
Currently, the area is exposed to drought conditions, so I’ll be spending my time watering trees recently planted.
Um, and yes, freezing cold down that way, so I’m packing some thermals…!
The origin of the Sturt Desert Pea, a magnificent Australian wildflower, is told by Aboriginal people in the following way…
A wonderful story that comes to mind each time Janet and I see this beautiful flower in the Australian Outback.
“A young and beautiful maiden was promised in “The Dreamtime” to a warrior who made a cloak of red parrot feathers. From a distance she would follow her lover in the tribal wars, faithfully roaming the trackless wastes to be near him.
Drought years brought famine to the tribe and the young warrior was one who went far afield in search of food.
During his absence the maiden kept lonely vigil, refusing to leave the place of farewell after the tribe had moved on. Their last view of her was of a red cloak surrounding her black head as she knelt on the ground.
Blue skies, the earthen coloured red soil of the Australian Outback, sunsets to dream of and three weeks in the Corner Country was an opportunity far too good to pass up.
So I didn’t..!
With my customised touring vehicle loaded with supplies and TVAN Firetail camper trailer in tow I headed to the far west corner of New South Wales – “The Corner Country”.
After two days and 1,300 kilometres of travel along bitumen and dirt roads I arrived at Milparinka, a ghost town just to the south of Tibooburra, the town that is often the hottest place in the state during our long summer months.
Now it would be easy to miss this gem of a town as you make your way north to Tibooburra, or south to Broken Hill along the Silver City Highway as it is off the main highway. But a detour to Milparinka, whose history is steeped in a gold discovery, is well worth the effort.
The Corner Country has been a favourite of Janet and mine for as long as we have been touring the Australian Outback. So when the opportunity came along to spend three weeks as resident Information Person and caretaker at the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association I jumped at it…
The area’s first recorded exposure to European’s was in 1845 when Captain Charles Sturt mounted his exploration of the interior expedition in search of an inland sea. He found anything but a vast ocean of water, but his journey into the region opened the way for pastoralists’ who began arriving from the 1860’s onwards.
The environment is harsh and unforgiving, even to this day, especially with an annual rainfall averaging less than 5 inches per year. The tenacity of Sturt, and perhaps those who have followed in his footsteps are best summed up by this note in his journal…
“I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than have yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expense”…
It was near to the current township of Milparinka that a station hand, John Thompson, discovered a couple of nuggets of gold whilst herding sheep on Mt Poole Station in 1880.
This discovery led to a “gold rush” with hopeful miners and prospectors making an arduous journey over an unforgiving land. They had no idea of just how harsh this environment was, and that water and eventually provisions were in short supply. As was the case on Australia’s early goldfields, many perished from disease; some were successful, but most left with little more than the shirts on their back.
Often, those that were most successful were the business’s that thrived on supporting the miners, especially the “sly grog shops” and “pubs”. And it is worth noting, in 1882 water was in such scarce supply that a whiskey and water cost substantially more than a whiskey “straight-up” – such was the value of that most basic of precious commodities, water…!
The township of Milparinka was first surveyed in 1881 and finally chartered in 1883, but its population peaked around this time as the “gold rush” was short-lived. However, the town continued to support a core group of residents and there were many sand stone buildings constructed from stone quarried locally.
Amongst these was the Police Barracks built in 1884 and later; the James Barnett designed Courthouse in 1896. James Barnett, the Architect for the Colony of New South Wales, designed many buildings, including the magnificent Post Office that stands proudly in Sydney’s Martin Place today.
By the 1930’s the police administration and court functions had moved north to the township of Tibooburra, or “The Granites” as it was referred to at the time and many of the old buildings fell into disrepair, some crumbling back to the earth either through lack of maintenance or vandalism.
But a community initiative in the 1980’s halted the destruction of the Courthouse and surrounding buildings, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association brought them back to life and re-opened the Courthouse as the local Historical Centre.
The Association is actively looking to preserve the couple of remaining buildings that are in disrepair and in early 2018 purchased the old Post Office with a view to bringing it “back to life”.
The one remaining business in town is the Albert Hotel, which has been closed at various times, but I’m pleased to say is once again serving cold beer and fine pub style meals to the passing tourists. Much the same as 130 years ago when George Blore built the pub…
Sitting on the verandah of the Albert Hotel, beer in hand, is a great way to spend time reflecting on the beauty of this ancient land, its landscape and people, as the sun casts a golden hue over the surrounding Grey Ranges making way for an inky black sky that promises to showcase the “Milky Way” in all its glory…
So next time you are heading along the Silver City Highway and see the signpost to Milparinka, be sure to take time out to visit this “glimpse of the past” if only to quench your thirst as early travellers did…
Who knows, you might even hear “whispers from the past” as you walk around the old buildings, the sounds of laughter from long ago drifting on the breeze…
I’m confident if you scratch the surface of this town that time forgot you’ll be rewarded with something more valuable than just a nugget of gold; an experience that is golden…
Photo’s: Baz – The Landy, Milparinka, Outback Australia…