Photo: Baz – The Landy, Gibson Desert, Outback Australia
Wow, 7-weeks in the Australian Outback, travelling this wonderful country of ours in a customised four-wheel drive may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but hey, for the adventurous, you’d love it…
And for the less adventurous amongst us, crikey, come on get on board, it is about time you got out of your comfort zone and gave it a go.
My recent adventure into the deserts of Western Australia involved a return journey of over 10,000 kilometres into some of the world’s most inhospitable country, crossing vibrant red sand dunes where no roads or tracks exist…
But don’t be put off by the remoteness and harshness of the Australian Outback as the rewards for the traveller, the adventurer, is a landscape more bio-diverse and fragile than the Amazon rainforest.
The contrasting beauty of a rugged landscape, the colours that you will see can never be replicated in a painting or photograph, but the memory of a setting sun, the golden hue it creates as it gently slips below the distant horizon will imprint a lasting memory that will have you longing to return to this place…
My journey took me across Australia’s interior on a quest to assist a group of like minded people construct a shelter and other buildings for the Birriliburu people, the Traditional Owners of the Little Sandy Desert and Gibson Desert region of Australia…
Mind you, it is also about the journey and there was plenty of opportunity for me to explore and photograph other parts of the Australian Outback as I made my way westward…
Now let me say, shovelling sand and gravel into a cement mixer, on a clay pan and under a scorching sun is hard work and won’t necessarily count as a highlight of the trip. But the opportunity to spend time with the elders of the Birriliburu mob in their country, on their lands, was well worth the discomfort – it will leave a lasting impact on my life!
Crikey, don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasure to assist, I’m just complaining about those aching muscles that were antagonised in the process…
Amongst the aboriginal people I spent time with were a number of elders who were born to nomadic parents in the desert, first generation desert people who lived, hunted and sheltered on the very lands we were on and without any contact with Australian’s of European descent.
One of the elders, Geoffrey Stewart, was born to parents Warri and Yatungka, a couple who engaged in forbidden love under tribal laws and whose story is recounted in the book “Last of the Nomads”.
Another, Georgina “Dadina” Brown, took us to the place where she and her family were discovered by Stan Gratte, an historical enthusiast, in 1976. At the time Stan was retracing the route of a 19th century explorer.
Georgina is an accomplished artist with work on display in the Australian National Gallery and her story is recounted in the book Born in the Desert – The Land and travels of a last Australian Nomad.
All were willing to share their country with us, showing where they roamed the desert with their families and explaining how they captured food and travelled from rock-hole to rock-hole to find water.
Geoffrey shared some “Dreamtime Stories” and permitted us to view some magnificent rock art located in a gorge not too far from where we were based in the desert.
I have been travelling Australia’s vast outback region for many years and have always recognised it has a “spiritual beauty” to it. But this trip has been special in a way that I never thought possible and has helped me view life through a different lens, putting a different perspective on life…
We live in a society that insists we plan our lives away, where we have an insatiable appetite for instant gratification, and need the latest gadgets, where we are able to visit a supermarket for our daily food needs with little thought as to how it arrived there…
It was refreshing to observe another perspective on life from people whose ancestors’ have inhabited our sunburnt country for over 40,000 years – a people whose philosophy of living in harmony with the environment is the pathway to ensuring a sustainable existence.
No, not necessarily an easy one, that’s for sure!
Most importantly, this trip and time spent on country with the Birriliburu mob has reinforced something that modern day living often has us overlook and that is the only moment you can live in is the one you are in.
Such is the life of a desert dweller…
Baz – The Landy
As a footnote:
The Birriliburu Lands are an Indigenous Protected Area not open to the general public. I visited at the kind invitation of the Elders of the Birriliburu People.
Incredibly rugged and tough; yet exceptionally colourful and beautiful…
No, not me you silly billy, I am referring to the Australian Outback.
I am, slowly, with great emphasis on slowly, making my way home, after my journey across Australia and into country with the Birriliburu People, traditional owners of much of the Gibson and Little Sandy Desert region of Australia…
My time on country with the Birriliburu Mob has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to sharing the experience with you, but for now, let me share some photographs of our magnificent Sunburnt Land – our island continent that time forgot!
Photos: Baz – The Landy
Footnote: My travel into the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area was at the invitation of the Elders and Traditional Owners; access is not generally granted.
“A Yarn Around the Camp Fire” is an opportunity for you to take a front-seat ride in “The Landy” as it heads into some of the most remote parts of Australia, for that matter – the world.
After all, Australia’s remote location on the globe is matched equally by the remoteness of its sparsely populated outback…
It will be a journey that will take us across our sunburnt land towards Uluru and beyond to the Central Deserts of Western Australia…
We’ll travel to a place where time has forgotten, where the hot scorching sun parches a landscape that is as beautiful as it is rugged. A country inhabited over the millennia by Australian Aborigines and crossed in more contemporary times by explorers’ who challenged themselves to discover what was in the Australian interior.
You will get a camp fire view of the setting sun as it slips gently below an orange tainted horizon, and if you are an early bird, watch a rising sun cast its first rays of light over the windswept land, a mug of piping hot tea in hand.
But for sure, you’ll get to experience the teeth shattering corrugations of the Great Central Road as “The Landy” makes its way westward, and at day’s end, quietly slip into a deep slumber under “The Milky Way”.
During the next few weeks “The Landy” will cover over 10,000-kilometres across a landscape that will transport me from the urban living of Australia’s largest city, Sydney, across the Australian Bush and into the vibrant and colourful Australian Outback.
Now perhaps there will be some who are thinking, is this city slicker meets the outback?
Crikey, who knows…
Mind you, I’m as comfortable in the outback as I am crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the daily commute to the office, having travelled to many remote parts over the years flying light aircraft or driving “The Landy” – our mode of transport that has morphed as time advanced.
Okay, I do agree, the good old ‘Fender hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years, seemingly, so we’ll just say I use the term “morphed” sparingly.
And despite the opportunity to view the magnificent Sydney Harbour each day, I won’t miss that daily dodgem car run!
But I am digressing…
Along the way I will be travelling with a group of like-minded people, sharing a few laughs around the camp fire and I’m sure, fixing almost as many punctured tyres as there are flies buzzing around. Importantly, I will be spending time with the Traditional Owners and Elders of the Birriliburu Country to assist them in building some “back to country” infrastructure.
Our travel will be along remote tracks that are covered in spinifex grass and frequently travelling where no tracks exist, where a never ending blue sky caresses the ochre-red earth on a faraway horizon.
And don’t go worrying if you haven’t heard from me for a while, rest assured, I’ll be around the camp fire at day’s end, recounting, laughing, and dreaming!
Whilst we live in a modern society with plenty of gadgets to keep us all in contact, sometimes they just don’t work in the Australian Outback – well that is what I told my boss anyway, so best I continue to run with that story…
I’ll welcome your company in the front seat of “The Landy” as the journey unfolds and don’t worry about long lapses of silence, it’s okay – the sounds of the Australian Outback will more than compensate for the lack of chatter!
And if you are stuck at home in-the-armchair, be sure to drop by every so often, I’ll be updating the blog as the journey unfolds and you can check out where I am as “The Landy” rolls along the bulldust by simply clicking on the “Map – Where is The Landy” tab at the top of the page.
Anyway it is almost time to get under way, so buckle yourself in and give Mrs Landy and the Crown Prince, TomO, a wave good-bye…
Photos: Baz – The Landy
In three weeks I depart for the desert areas of Central and Western Australia to travel into some of the most remote and inhospitable areas Australia has to offer.
“The Landy” will be pointed westward on what will be an epic journey taking six weeks to complete and covering over 10,000 kilometres in distance.
Travelling with a small group of like-minded people we will make our way towards the Gibson Desert in Western Australia where we will be assisting traditional landowners built some infrastructure, including shelters to use when they visit this remote part of Australia.
I have always been fascinated by Aboriginal Culture and the Australian Aborigines have a rich heritage and association with our great sunburnt country that dates over 40,000 years. Mind you, it was only in the late 1970s that an old couple, Warri and Yatungka, came in from the desert not too far from where we will be travelling, having lived a traditional lifestyle with no European contact.
You can read more about their remarkable story in the book “The Last of the Nomads” by WJ Peasley.
Our travel will be along remote tracks that are covered in spinifex grass, and much of it will be in areas where no tracks or roads exist. In fact, our main role is to mark a route into the area where the infrastructure is to be built enabling a group of people from Track-Care in Western Australia, who will be towing trailers with the construction equipment, an easier run into the region.
Whilst in the region we intend to do some off-track exploring of the travel route of some of Australia’s early explorers, and more specifically, the Calvert Scientific Exploring Expedition of 1896-1897.
Our small team is being expertly led by someone who has travelled extensively in the region over the past decade and it is due to his experience and familiarity with the region that he has been called upon by the Central Desert Native Title Services and Track-Care to assist in this undertaking.
As you would expect there is a reasonable amount of planning that goes into this type of expedition, including water and food supply, as well as vehicle preparation.
The typical choice of vehicle, and one well suited for Australia’s harsh outback, is the Toyota Landcruiser in its various forms. “The Landy” has been specifically modified, including upgraded suspension, specific tyres, and additional fuel tanks, to enable long-range travel in the outback.
On this trip I will be carrying 400 litres of fuel for the remote area work we will be undertaking, which will total near to 2,000 kilometres, and will consume a total of around 2,000 litres on the trip by the time “The Landy” arrives back home in Sydney.
So be sure to drop by every so often to “Check out Where I’m travelling” (on the tab at the top of the page) and I will update on the adventure as communications permit!
Cheers, Baz – The Landy
The opportunity to visit an extremely remote and arid part of Australia came my way recently, an opportunity to spend time in country with a group of traditional landowners and aboriginal elders deep in the Gibson Desert region of Western Australia.
In less than a month “The Landy” will be pointed westward crossing sand dunes and making tracks as our small convoy travels deep into the desert.
We will make tracks where no other European Australian’s have previously been as much of this trip will be completely across country, no roads or tracks to follow.
It was less than 40 years ago that an elderly couple came in from this desert region after living a nomadic life with no European contact at all. Their’s is a remarkable story and told in a book “The Last of the Nomads” by WJ Peasley.
I vowed to visit this area one day…
And whilst I have had a sojurn from “The Landy Blog” over the past couple of months I look forward to sharing the stories and photographs as the trip unfolds…
Photos: Baz – The Landy…
A highlight of our recent trip into the Western Deserts, which took us across The Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts in the Australian Outback, was a visit to Maralinga Village.
Many Australian’s will remember Maralinga as being at the centre of the British Atomic testing program conducted in Australia during the 1950’s, such is life in the colonies, although perhaps it is only in more recent history that much of what transpired at Maralinga has been fully understood by the general public.
You might even recall the alternative Australian rock band, Midnight Oil, wrote a song about it, but perhaps that depends on either your age or maybe your taste in music…
We had not previously travelled the Anne Beadell Highway, the track that traverses The Great Victoria Desert, but were informed that the far eastern section from Coober Pedy, the usual starting point, to Emu Junction had some of the worst road corrugations one could ever find, and the crossing experience from a scenery perspective would not be diminished by avoiding this section.
And I should clarify that the term highway is used in a very loose sense. It is little more than an extremely remote sandy track that winds its way across a large part of Australia and not the place for a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive.
With this in mind and a strong desire to visit the very place where the bombs were detonated we headed to Maralinga. Passing by the small community and pub at Kingoonya we made our way west on another access road avoiding some of those bad corrugations, at least for a short time!
Kingoonya is typical of the very places we like to visit as usually the small populations are overrun by interesting characters! Kingoonya was no exception and we’ll be sure to spend more time there on future travel in the region…
Robin Matthews, the care-taker of the now moth-balled Maralinga Village gave us a great welcome, meeting us at the locked gate that gives access before settling us into a camping spot nearby to a “donga” we could shower in.
It is worth a walk around the small village and even a climb to the top of the water tower for a commanding view of the immediate facility and beyond. Mind you, it might be worth noting that if you want the commanding view gained by climbing a steel ladder to the top, do it sooner rather than later, as the Occupational Health and Safety team masquerading as the “fun police” might put a stop to that eventually.
Being a family of climbers and mountaineers, we relished the chance!
Robin has a strong connection to the area and the Maralinga Tjarutja (jar-u-ja) people and was able to relate in a sensitive way the impact the testing has had on the traditional landowners, many of whom live in the nearby community of Oak Valley.
Our tour of the forward area included visits to many of the actual testing sites referred to as “ground zero” and Robin was able to tell us much about how the tests were completed, and even where people stood to observe the tests. For all intended purposes these people were “human guinea pigs” drawn from the ranks of the military. Volunteers was the way it was described…
A visit to the air strip showed just how big this facility was and the focal point where service personnel were flown in and out of the area from England under a cloak of secrecy. The strip, measuring approximately two-and-a-half kilometres in length, was the distance the “human guinea pigs” stood from ground zero in one of the tests.
Some of these people, many of whom were from England survived to live a long life, others died within a couple of years. But it is reported that health impacts have secreted its way into their offspring with devastating results.
Similarly, it has had health impacts for the Tjarutja people who now mostly avoid the area due to superstition. As Robin explained, for the traditional owners it would be like living in a cemetery.
We spent a great day with Robin and towards its end we headed north along the Emu Road to a bush camp before continuing our journey to Emu Junction and across the Anne Beadell Highway to Laverton in Western Australia.
A visit to an Atomic Bomb test site might not be everyone’s cup of tea or ideal holiday destination, and you are unlikely to leave with a healthy glow that a holiday in the islands might provide, but it enabled us to better understand a part of Australia’s more recent history and involvement in the nuclear arms race. And this was enhanced by a character you’d be happy to call a mate, Robin Matthews.
If you are travelling that way and have a curiosity of Australia’s involvement in the “nuclear arms race” or perhaps just to draw some dots to the work that one of Australia’s more experienced contemporary bushman, Len Beadell, undertook in this region by building many of the roads, be sure to give Robin a call, I am confident you’ll enjoy the experience.