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Sunday, 30 October 2011

THE ABORIGINAL WORLD AND THE CALL OF THE WILD LIFE

 I drove a few kilometres from the campground to the Brambuk Cultural Centre – an Aboriginal complex of Info Centre, CafĂ©, gift shop, cultural display of photos and text depicting the two indigenous groups that lived here before European settlers came. There was a separate building also with photos, text and videos showing the history of the indigenous people since the coming of European settlers.
I left the Centre and drove along Mount Zero Road again further than the first time when I drove to the quarry. The corrugations were so bad, every nut and bolt in the Subaru must have been put to the test, not to mention my teeth. I drove slowly and tried to keep one set of wheels off the road which was the only place there were no corrugations.
At one stage I straddled a stumpy tail lizard crossing the road at the mind blowing speed of a snail on a bad day.
At another time, I stopped the car just in time to avoid running over a snake. It was about one and a half metres long and beautiful.  I backed up and sat and watched it glide across the road like a ribbon of brown silk in the sunshine.
Further on, an emu crossed the road, trotting confidently across in front of me, fully confident that this was its territory.  Not long after, I rounded a curve to see a kangaroo sitting in the middle of the road watching me approach. Finally, it turned and hopped along the road with me following and eventually it veered off into the bush.
Some kilometres further on, I turned off the road to a car park, left the Subaru and took a gently sloping path up the mountain to see the rock art of Gurgan Manja. The path got steeper and the ground underfoot turned from sand to rock. 




The climb was not difficult and I reached the rocky overhang which was securely protected from vandals by a solid mesh fence. Incongruous in the ancient bush setting but sadly necessary. The rock art consisted mainly of small red hand prints and, while not in any way spectacular to look at, was an electrifying glimpse into a very distant past.


There are several rock art sites in the Grampians, five of them being open to the public.
From Guran Manja, I found a six-kilometre short cut to the Western Highway and drove a much longer route back to camp to avoid the bone-shaking experience of returning along Mount Zero Road.
The next day, I drove along the edge of the now full Lake Bellfield Reservoir, turned into a bush road, parked and headed along the track to see Silverband Falls. The sign at the beginning of the track said it was an easy walk with some “rock hopping” and much flood damage.
And so it was. The rock hopping turned out to be some thoughtfully-placed flat boulders across the creek so no feet got wet in the process. The flood damage consisted of the debris of enormous uprooted trees and boulders washed along the creek bed. A walking track had been constructed through the rubble so it was still possible to reach the falls. They were aptly named as they are a delicate single silver band of falling water.

Before the flood of January 2011


After the flood


After the flood

Silverband Falls, Grampians

The Grampians and the people who live there have made a remarkable recovery from the floods of January. There are still several roads that are closed due to rock slides, but the clean up has been amazing. While the flooding of parts of Victoria was overshadowed by the enormity of the simultaneous floods in Queensland, the damage is equally devastating to the individuals involved. The recovery is inspiring.
The Grampians are still teaming with wildlife. Check out the Halls Gap Floor Show on a previous post. The Tardis was often surrounded by Kangaroos and visited by parrots and cockatoos and other birds.

Just dropped in



Mother with joey in her pouch

Just brilliant

Saturday, 22 October 2011

HALLS GAP FLOOR SHOW

Halls Gap Floor Show
The entire A Van gathering descended on the Halls Gap Pub for dinner one night. It was worth it for the floor show.
We sat in the pub’s main dining area looking through an entire wall of glass at a billabong, green paddocks, gum trees, towering rocks of the Grampians and a herd of grazing grey kangaroos. It was not quite dusk when the floor show began. A herd of black cattle emerged from the trees – enter stage left –  slowly grazing but steadily advancing.
One or two kangaroos lifted their heads, stood up and one by one began to retreat round the billabong to our right. One braver than the others, stood its ground and lunged at the approaching cattle. There was a scuffle and the kangaroo hopped defiantly through the entire herd followed by two or three others. They stopped at the tail of the herd and went back to eating.
The cattle continued to graze, moving steadily round the billabong with the main body of the kangaroos moving backwards ahead of them, also still grazing. It was like a carefully choreographed performance, slow and deliberate. Round the billabong in a ritualistic sort of dance until the cattle reached the place where they had entered the scene. Here they headed for home – exit stage left – and the kangaroos went back to grazing where we had first seen them. It was as though it had never happened.
We too went back to eating and the meal was excellent.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

NOT FERAL BUT DEFINITELY WILD

After our coffee at the mini golf course, I drove Maureen and Nancy along Mt Zero Road to Heatherlie Quarry. Since the 1880s, the beautiful Grampians sandstone had been quarried. Equipment was hauled in and rock hauled out by teams of bullocks straining through sandy terrain in the dry weather and bogging down in the wet.
The site for a village to house the workers was surveyed but never built. A school house was brought in for the workers’ children but never use and was removed to another site a year later. Walking through the bush along a sandy track, you come upon "road signs" indicating which roads had been intended for that section.
At the quarry’s edge there are still the remains of the machinery used to power the drills, and bits of the railway line that replaced the bullocks. The rock from the quarry was still being used to repair historic buildings including the Melbourne Town Hall, up to the 1980s.

From the internet I learned that: "The high quality building stone was used in more than twenty well known buildings in Melbourne, including Parliament House and the Town Hall. During the 1880s the quarry was in full production A tramway was built from Stawell to carry the stone to the main railway line and up to one hundred men were employed. When the demand for stone eventually declined and it closed in 1938." Nowadays stone can only be taken from the quarry to repair historic.

Jeez! You can tell I didn't write that!
Walking from the road into the quarry was a delight. The wildflowers were everywhere –white ti tree blossoms, red grevillea, purple flowers like tiny stars, miniature pink orchids, single and perfect, pea flowers of many colours, golden daisy-like blossoms, banksias of several sorts and brilliant orange fungus on the stark black trunks of burnt out trees. I Have tried to identify them from a brochure but if you know thenames or I've got it wrong, please let me know. 8)
 



Tinsel Lily


Orange fungus on burnt out tree


Pink Sun Lily



This area has been devastated by bush fire many times, the most recent being  the 2009 Black Saturday fires. Throughout the regenerated forest, are the tall black silhouettes of the trees that didn’t make it back. Surrounding them are the thick green of those that did and the wildflowers seemed even brighter with the dark contrast. A tribute to Nature’s determination. And throughout the forest, tall and stately, covered in white blossom are the re-named grass trees.


Desert Baekea


Monday, 17 October 2011

GRAMPIANS NATIONAL PARK (GARIWERD)

14 October 2011 THE GRAMPIANS
When I arrived in the Grampians, I immediately fell in love – with the mountains, the trees, the birds, the wildflowers and the tranquillity.
The drive from Melton to Halls Gap was beautiful and the first glimpse of the Grampians was breathtaking. Driving through the brilliant green countryside that would make the Emerald Isle – well – greener with envy – contrasted with the buttery golden fields of canola, what more could I want? And then the Grampians emerged on the horizon to my left. Great folds of rock tilted up from the plain millions of years ago. Spectacular.

I drove through the town of Halls Gap with a silent promise to myself to return to explore, into the hills, the road curving between them, till I reached Takaru Bush Resort. Just perfect. Tall gums contrasting with graceful willows, green grassy camp sites, colourful parrots, masses of kangaroos and a rocky creek bed at the base of the mountain towering above the camp. Almost too much. I joined up with my fellow A Vanners who had arrived a day  or so earlier, set up the Tardis, and settled in.

I visited the mini-golf course but didn’t play. I was too busy enjoying the gardens. Totally beautiful.  A garden of delights with the mini-golf course winding unobtrusively through it like a natural stream. There were trees and shrubs with a variety of leaf colours and textures, and flowers and boulders and waterfalls.  I was running out of ooohs and aaahs!

Halls Gap Mini Golf course/garden

More Mini Golf course


There was also an art gallery on the premises with beautiful paintings ranging from traditional landscapes to highly imaginative cheerful wildlife renditions that made you feel happy just looking at them.
By the time, my friends, Maureen and Nancy, and I sat down for coffee  I felt I had already absorbed a feast.


Mini Golf Rules
The Grampians were originally named by Major Mitchell after a range of mountains in his native Scotland. In recent times, there has been a move to respect the earlier names given to places by the indigenous population so,  after some twenty years of to-ing and fro-ing and name-changing, they have settled on the name Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) though I notice some references still call it Grampians Gariwerd National Park.
There seems to be a very good relationship between Parks Victoria and the five Aboriginal Communities here. They run the park environmentally and financially as a partnership whereas previously it had been a dual system with a lot of duplication.

There's lots more but that's all for now. Do please post a comment if you are enjoying the blog. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 15 August 2011

THE LAST POST


I finally had to tear myself away from the lakeside, the ducks, the beautiful tropical trees and plants, and head south, homeward bound. 

Stayed another night in Byron Bay. I was going to stay in the same caravan park at Suffolk Beach because I had enjoyed it so much, but decided that exploring something new is always worth a try. I set Matilda (the GPS) for another caravan park in Byron Bay and, as she does sometimes, she went haywire and I ended up in a different place in a dead end street in the heart of Byron Bay, one block back from Johnson Street (the main street). And right at the dead end was a beautiful caravan park. I went in and said to the lady on reception, “I didn’t see your caravan park in my caravan book.” She nodded and said, “No, we don’t advertise. We have just the number of people we want.” 

It was a beaut spot with excellent facilities and a walk along a bush track and over the railway line into the main street.  I knew Edna, Bob and Kate were holidaying in Byron Bay so phoned them up and invited them round to the Tardis for happy hour. We went out to dinner after that – lovely meal, good wine, good conversation.

Next day, I headed off to Jill and Andy’s place at Valla, just north of Nambucca Heads. Another lovely evening of eating, drinking and catching up. 

Onward to Port Macquarie where I booked in for three nights. Jenny and Gil live up in the mountain behind Port Macquarie at Comboyne, so I left the Tardis in the caravan park and spent  a lovely evening with them on their property. More wining, dining and conversation. Jenny cooked this simply delicious chicken dish for dinner. So good, I took down the recipe. 

From Port Macquarie, to Stockton, to a caravan park I had stayed in on the beach on another trip. It’s here I said goodbye to the ocean and headed inland for home. Instant climate change 65 kilometres north of Goulburn. From sunshine and warmth, I was confronted with a grey leaden blanket of cloud, the  temperature dropped almost ten degrees and down came the rain. 

I pulled into a fairly ordinary caravan park in Goulburn, no grass just dirt which by this stage was slippery mud. At least the sites were drive-through so I was able to leave the Tardis hitched to the car for a quick getaway. Nearly drowned setting up camp though in the pouring rain. Next morning, the birds were singing and the sun was shining.

I gathered momentum and reached Albury. Here I had a delightful two nights with a couple camped near me, we shared our wine and nibbles and solved most of the world’s problems. 

Finally, into Victoria, I ignored Matilda’s insistence to use the freeways and cut across country. She finally gave up on the “perform a U Turn when possible” and got with the program - a last pleasant drive through the hills and small towns. 

Home looked very sweet indeed as, with a flourish, I opened the garage door with my newly installed remote control. I had a wonderful time but it’s always good to come home again. I had a beautiful roast dinner with Kristel, Dan and little Bella and Cooper. Lovely to see them again. I had travelled 5,800 kilometres, met a lot of wonderful people, had a lot of fun, learnt new things and gained no weight. The latter more by good luck than good management.

I'd love you to leave a comment at the end of this post particularly if you haven't done so yet. Let me know what you thought of your vicarious travels with me. Just click on the number of comments shown below and this should take you to a page to write your own comment. I look forward to reading your comment.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

THE LADY OF THE LAKE

I spent a very relaxed five days in Maroochydor on the river.I had intended to go to Rainbow Beach but met with full house messages when I phoned the caravan parks there.  When I phoned a park in Maroochydor to see if they had any sites free, they said yes but it was at the back of the park near the lake and I'd be on grass rather than having a cement slab. I nearly fell about laughing. They were apologizing and I thought it was idyllic. Which it turned out to be. So here are a few photos.

Camped on the grass near the trees and lake

Looking into the lake near the Tardis

Looking across the lake with ducks swimming and the Tardis on the far bank among the trees to the left.


One of the many ducks on the lake but this one wans't black like the others. They don't show in the phto but there were enormous fish gliding past in the clear water.

The lake at my doorstep

A magical place

The view from my door




Sunday, 7 August 2011

HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS


Driving along the Pacific Highway, dreadful road, one lane each way, when I saw a man in the middle of the road waving his arms, trying to get the cars to stop. He was tall, had long fair hair and beard and bare feet. Just substitute the shirt and shorts for possum skins and he could have been William Buckley after 32 years living with the Aborigines.

 I wasn't in a position to take a photo of him so here's a picture of William Buckley instead so you'll have a good idea.

William Buckley in 1835

The cars ahead of me were skirting around him and driving on. I thought perhaps he needed help so I wound down the window and stopped.

“What’s the matter?” I called out to him as he came up to me.

“There’s a major accident on the road up ahead. Lots of cars involved. If you turn off at this road to the left you can skirt round it and get back on the highway,” he told me.

“Thanks for your help,” I said as he continued on trying to stop the approaching cars. 

The road he had pointed to had cars coming in and out of it so it wasn’t isolated. I took him at his word and turned down it. As I drove around the back of a small town, I could see across the paddick, dozens of cars, flashing lights and smoke pouring out of the chaos. I would have been there for hours ‘cause there is no way I could have turned the Tardis round once I had got into the line of cars. I guess the motorists who had dodged the wild white man were wishing they had stopped and listened. I said a silent thank you to him and made a mental note about judging book covers and books. The road brought me back on to the highway just on the other side of the accident and I was able to continue on my way.

About 20 km further on I joined a line of cars behind a ute towing a caravan. One by one cars managed to pass it when the occasional passing lane came up. When we would get to a passing lane the blighter would speed up so it wasn’t easy.  Finally, I was the one right behind the van; we reached a passing lane and the driver sped up again. I had had enough of it by then so I planted my foot and sailed past. As I did, I took a quick look to see what sort of an idiot drove like that. It was a young man busily keying in a text message on his mobile phone. I was glad to have him behind me.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Kilkivan Bush Camp

I’d never heard of Kilkivan but its claim to fame is the Great Horse Ride, held annually round Easter. They have over a thousand horses, riders and horse-drawn vehicles participate.  After the ride, there’s a grand parade, lots of celebrating and fun. Sadly it was cancelled this year because of the flood but was rescheduled for later this year. Now it’s been cancelled again because of the Hendra Virus which is killing horses and is dangerous to other domestic animals and humans. So the next Great Ride is now schedules for 31 March 2012.There’s a statue of a horseman in front of the town library to commemorate the ride. 



Our A Van gathering was held a couple of kilometres south of Kilkivan and five kilometres off the main road into the bush. Absolutely beautiful. A creek flowed through the area. Birds sang and called to each other. The trees were tall and straight.

Organiser Lindsay made me very welcome and he and co-host Jocelyn did a magnificent job of organising the event. I met some wonderful people and it was just a great time together.

 



The young couple running the bush camp, Antonia and Ralph, were delightful. They provided firewood for campfires, cooked a three-course feast for us in camp ovens and Ralph entertained us singing and accompanying himself on guitar after dinner. He even invited me to play and sing. 

Ralph and his camp ovens cooking up a feast - beef and pork
 
On Sunday morning they cooked pancakes for us and served them with honey, maple syrup, butter, whipped cream or jam. As many as you could eat. Ralph said, ”You eat them. We’ll keep them coming”.

We also went for a drive in the Mudlo National Park.
Elain, me and Ismay

Not far from the camp is the Prophet Mine run by John Parsons. We walked up to the mine and John and his son Johnno, took us on a tour and told us all about their work there. It’s not actually a mine. John is re-working the tailings and leftovers from a previous miner. He’s producing and selling gravel for roadworks, stone for building and decorative walls, topsoil for gardening and gold. He has set up a system for separating these various items from the mountains of rubble left by the previous miner.

John Parsons at the Prophet Mine
John and his son demonstrating with a couple of thousand dollars worth of gold


But what blew my mind was the revolutionary discovery he has been involved in with geologists and academics here in Australia and overseas. The microbiological process that reproduces gold. No, it’s not alchemy although it appears the alchemists may have been on to something. They have discovered nano-organisms that produce metals as part of their survival techniques. These discoveries may prove very beneficial in medicine as well as changing the way we view the Universe.  It appears possible that the whole Universe is organic in Nature. Now that’s pretty overwhelming. This is amazing stuff and no it’s not pie in the sky.  I suspect it went over the heads of most of John’s audience. I know I haven’t explained it very well but it is now documented in a number of highly reputable scientific journals. This visit to Prophet Mine was the highlight of my travels so far.

Meanwhile, back in the bush, I walked, read, wrote, chatted, ate, drank and sang. There’s nothing like a campfire to relax and soothe you. 

Just sit and gaze into it


Ismay even produced fresh strawberries and melted chocolate to dip them in. How civilised is that?

Ismay  serving fondu strawberries round the campfire


Ismay even had a go at baking scones in her camp oven. We took turns shaking the cream. Yes, shaken not whipped.

Bill shaking the cream, scones on the fire, Ismay in the background
Ismay and Bill with scones
 

Making music with Jack and Denise

One of the older men had been feeling low all weekend but on the last day he said he felt better and he got out his banjo. He and I had a great jam session and he really perked up. There’s nothing like music to raise your vibrations!!




Sadly the time to leave inevitably arrived. We said goodbye and headed home. Me – I’m heading south with over 2,000 kilometres to go.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

MORE ON MUDJIMBA


I had arranged to meet another woman from the A Van Club who also travels alone, and she lives in Mudjimba. I contacted Ismay and invited her out to dinner. We had lots to talk about and a lovely evening. We had also arranged to travel together (tagalong) to a “meet” of a newly formed branch of the A Van Club, who were meeting in Kilkivan, west of Gympie, for a bush camping weekend. That was great but we’ll get to that later. Also attending that “meet” were members of the newly formed single travellers group, lovingly known as the STGs. I just hoped it wasn’t something catching.

So Ismay and I set out with our vans, headed for Kilkivan. Kilkivan is a really interesting town in several ways as I was to discover. On the way, Ismay stopped at a lookout over the ocean near Coolum s I could take some photos. 

Veronica & Ismay at Coolum

There, quite by coincidence,  was an elderly couple that Ismay knew.
Spitfire pilot and truck driver
 
We got talking and I  learnt that he was a spitfire pilot in World War 2 for the RAF and she drove trucks for the RAF. I talked to her about the wonderful women who actually flew the planes to deliver them to the fighter pilots. I had seen a documentary film called “Spitfire Women” about these female pilots. They had to be able to fly every sort of plane because they had to deliver anything that needed delivery. One woman landed the bomber she had delivered and stepped out of the plane to be greeted cheerily with the question “Where’s the pilot?” When she told them she was the pilot, they just laughed and climbed on board looking for the male pilot, thinking it was a joke. But these amazing women flew the planes to the places they were needed and many of them died in the service.  Sadly, their story and their contribution is largely forgotten.

From that chance meeting at the lookout, Ismay and I continued on our way to the bush camp at Kilkivan. And there I had a great five days in the bush with some lovely people. More on that in my next….