Surviving an Atomic Bomb!

In 1956 the British Government built an atomic bomb testing site in the South Australian outback with assistance from the Australian Government of the day…

We discovered these beautiful flowers growing at “ground zero”…   Don’t they demonstrate the tenacity of nature by defiantly shining through in spite of the brutal treatment this wonderful landscape was subjected to?

You can read more about the area in our blog titled “An Atomic Blast (In the Outback)”.

Photos: Janet Planet – Maralinga, South Australia

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Suitable only for Masochists and Israeli Paratroopers

Stretching between the villages of Salamaua and Wau in the island Nation of Papua New Guinea is a long-forgotten second world war track called “The Black Cat Track”.

It has it all…dangerous river crossings, swamps, cliffs, precarious rock-ledges, venomous snakes, and leeches that will suck the blood from your veins after the malaria carrying mosquito’s have finished with you…

The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the Black Cat Track as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli Paratroopers”.

This region of Papua New Guinea has some of the most spectacular jungle scenery on the planet and is the habitat of the country’s national emblem, the superbly beautiful Bird of Paradise.

I had to postpone a trek along the Black Cat Track a few years back due to civil unrest in the region, something it has been prone to from time-to-time, but I have been anxious to undertake this adventure and revisit a country Janet-Planet (Mrs Landy) and I lived in as newly weds many years ago…

Grey's Peak

And whilst I have not given up on my desire to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas, the earthquake and tragic devastation it caused to Nepal and its people earlier this year has added a layer of complexity to that ambition!

But crikey, I need to “feed the rat” with adventure and an opportunity has arisen to join a trek along the Black Cat Track in May 2016 with a group of  Papua New Guinean Nationals – “Legends” as they are rightly referred to and ably led by Aidan Grimes.

Co-incidentally, it will be almost 10-years to the day that I walked the Kokoda Track with Aidan, a veteran of 100 traverses of the Kokoda Track; a track that is synonymous with Papua New Guinea and the battles fought by our brave and courageous “diggers” during World War Two.

It will make a change to the Australian Outback and snow covered mountain peaks…

What an adventure, hey!

So strap on your backpack and get your hiking boots out…there is plenty of training to be done…

Baz – The Landy

Such is the life of a desert dweller…

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…

Sand Dune Crossing

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…

Outback Australia

 

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. 

Australian Wildlife – The Dingo…

The Australian Dingo

The Australian Dingo, at home in the Australian Outback

Photographed in the Channel Country, far Western Queensland.

You’ve just got to love the landscape, the flora and fauna, that makes the Australian Outback what it is!

photo: Baz – The Landy

Romance – In the South Pacific

Ratua Island

If sipping a cocktail as the sun gently slides below the water and warm balmy nights fanned by a cooling breeze excite you, then Ratua Private Island is the place for you.

 We’ve not long returned from a week on this tropical island paradise where Janet-Planet, TomO and I swam with turtles and lazed in warm turquoise coloured waters, fringed by white sandy beaches and coconut trees.

I even had an encounter with a wonderful marine mammal, a dugong, whilst out on a stand-up-paddle board as the sun was spreading its last rays of light on the day…

The dugong pictured is most likely the same one I saw and was photographed by another guest on the island.

Ratua Island

Yes, it is a long way from the mountains and the Australian Outback, but hey, as long as you are with the ones you love…

And what makes it even more special to visit is its French owner donates all profits to a foundation he set up to fund the education of the children of the surrounding islands.

Photos: Baz – The Landy, and the Dugong courtesy of “Jim” who photographed it during our stay…