out back

Weekly Photo Challenge : Infinite

In the Australian Outback the road appears to stretch to infinity. The traffic approaches as if rising from a mirage as it floats across the endless Mitchel grass plains.

In 2012 we travelled through the outback to the Northern Territory. After years of drought two good seasons of rain had produced lush pasture, hay making was in progress, we saw the outback at its best. Now a year later it is once more in the grip of drought with no rain for almost a year since we travelled through.

The Matilda Highway

The Matilda Highway

Vehicles floating towards us in a mirage

Vehicles floating towards us in a mirage

That winter we travelled to the Northern Territory to explore Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is considered a living cultural landscape. The Bininj  Mungguy Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for more than 50,000 years. Their deep spiritual connection to the land dates back to  the Creation and has always been an important part of the Kakadu story.

The Aboriginals are the oldest living culture still in existence and their dream time stories say they stretch back to the beginning of creation, into the mists of infinity.

I felt privileged to have the opportunity to explore Kakadu. I felt it had an aura of the ancient Traditional Owners still lingering in the rock art and the tracks and bill-a-bongs that so many years ago the tribes had followed.  Aboriginal people were traditionally hunter-gatherers and moved regularly to   places where resources were plentiful. There were no permanent settlements, but   favoured camping areas were used for many, many generations. Among the temporary   dwellings the people used were stringy-bark and paperbark shelters near   billabongs, wet-season huts built on stilts on the floodplains, and rock   shelters in the stone country.

Arnhem Land, going back into the mists of time

In the distance, looming over Kakadu, Arnhem Land is a place the present day Aboriginal calls his traditional home, a permit is needed for non-aboriginal people to visit here, it is like going back into the mists of time.

We walk along the tracks that the tribes have walked along for thousands of years

We walk along the tracks that the tribes have walked along for thousands of years

We rest near a bill-a-bong and appreciate the beauty and reflections in the fresh water

We rest near a bill-a-bong and appreciate the beauty and reflections in the fresh water

Be ever watchful as the crocodile is also a predator that has been around for thousands of years and will be waiting for the unwary

Be ever watchful as the crocodile is also a predator that has been around for thousands of years and will be waiting for the unwary

The track winds through the rocks formed when the world was young

The track winds through the rocks formed when the world was young

The roots of an ancient gum tree have slowly over many years worked through the rock and clung to life in the surrounding rock

The roots of an ancient gum tree have slowly, over many years, worked through the rock and clung to life in the surrounding rock

When the storms rage and the lightening flashes across the sky and the violent tropical rain falls we can shelter under the ancient rock outcrops, safe and secure till the storm passes

When the storms rage and the lightning flashes across the sky and the violent tropical rain falls the tribes can shelter under the ancient rock outcrops, safe and secure till the storm passes. Stories can be told of the culture passed down from generation to generation. Drawings immortalise the creatures the ancestors saw and hunted

The lightening man, a spirit to be feared

The lightening man, a spirit to be feared

The rainbow serpent who created all things

The rainbow serpent who created all things

Kakadu

Then the sun shines once more and the tribe moves on

Then the sun shines once more and the tribe moves on

Kakadu

Yes Kakadu is a very special place, a spiritual country of beauty. I feel privileged to have spent 6 days discovering it and learning more about the Traditional Owners that have lived here for so long. I hope that their culture and stories can remain into infinity and not forgotten.

Advertisements
Categories: aboriginal history, Aboriginal rock art, Australia, infinity, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, out back, photos, post-a-week, travel, Weekly photo challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The warm, balmy tropical winter weather of Northern Territory, we love it…

The climate is now tropical, a warm 30-32 degrees during the day and only drops to approx 16-17 at night. The sun shines from a clear blue sky. I have stowed away the oil heater and brought out the fan. Jack has discarded his thermals and wooly socks and I have dug out the summer shorts and tops from the bottom box, putting away the jackets, track pants and sweaters. It is now summer on the road and what we have travelled north to find.

I decided that now we do not need power to run a heater, an absolute necessity through the central desert areas when night-time temperatures can drop to 3-4 degrees, we can stay on unpowered campgrounds. So 3 days ago, when we left Katherine, we did a 20 kilometre side trip to Edith Falls National Park.

We arrived at midday and, oh dear, the swarms of people, the car park was crammed, the swimming hole was full of high-spirited, i.e. rowdy, children. We looked at each other, not our scene. So we decided to have lunch and a cuppa, then move on. Then I realised it was a public holiday; picnic day.(not sure what the significance of this holiday is). Feeling more relaxed after a sandwich and coffee we rationalized they will all be back at work and school tomorrow.So we decided we are here now we may as well walk up to the top pool and waterfall and stay the night.

Looks easy on the map…

There are a series of pools joined by cascading waterfalls. The bottom pool, where all the children are playing, is just behind the campground. A 2.6 kilometre round walk takes you up the escarpment to the top pool. a further 8 kilometre trek takes you to the headwaters. We opt for the 2.6 round walk to the top pool

What goes up must come down…

Our fitness levels are not as good as previous years so it is a leisurely, ie slow amble, to the top pool. Lots of steps and rough ground and lots of photo stops!!!! The destination was well worth the journey.

Looking down to the bottom pool from the top pool

Edith falls

After slowly lowering the hot body into the clear, fresh plunge pool below the waterfall and the accompanying gasp, it was blissfully refreshing. Not many people in this pool and only a couple of children.

Jack jumps in I take the photo then follow him

We arrive back at camp as the sun sets, turning the rocks of the escarpment to a molten gold colour.

With glass of wine in hand, feeling so relaxed,we watch the stars appear and the sky turn to velvet. The car park is now empty, all the day-trippers have gone home. It is so quiet we can just hear the distant murmur of the waterfalls.

Next morning we almost have the campground to ourselves. So for the first time this trip we set up the solar panel and decide to stay another day.

Evening reflections in the river

Escarpment reflections

Kapok flowers dance like butterflies in the bush

Grevillea native flower

Beautiful arial perspective

Smoke haze at sunset

The next day we walked part way up the escarpment to watch the sunset. It had an ethereal, mystic look as this time of the year, winter, is “cold burn” time. It is a method of management and control in the bush lands. It has been used for thousands of years by the Aboriginal traditional owners to keep undergrowth down and help prevent summer bush fires and also creates new growth which brought the wild life into their areas for food. Many of the native Australian plants actually need fire to open seed cases and start new plants growing. A very complex system. It is known as patch work burning and the air has a hazy smokey atmosphere most of the time. It is now used by National Park management too.

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, camping australia, Northern Territory, out back, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

The outback goes on forever

Barkly Highway, the outback way

As we drive along this Outback way I look out across the plains that stretch to the horizon. I look ahead at the bitumen strip and look in the rear vision mirror as the road unfurls behind us. For many of the miles we are on our own. Mile after mile with no other vehicle in sight. Then a small dot appears on the horizon. It seems to float as though it is a mirage till it flashes passed then disappears in a heat haze behind us. A quick wave of acknowledgement then gone.

I think about the explorers, those brave and driven men, that had a passion to find out what was in the centre of this huge and forbidding land. No track to follow, not knowing what lay ahead, where the next water-hole was. They blazed a trail, then went back to tell of the vast grassland plains they had seen.

I think of the pioneers, full of hope and ambition to carve a living from this alien land. The struggle to bring their stock and possessions into this wilderness of unknown plants and animals and indigenous people who lived such a different lifestyle. How brave they were.

Information boards put up at rest areas tell the stories of the pioneers struggle to survive. We are following the drovers way and do a detour into Newcastle Waters. This was a major meeting point of 3 main droving routes during this period of Australian history. The sweet waters of this place never dried up and a bustling settlement developed.

The large watering hole at Newcastle Waters

The drovers could relax for a day, visit the pubs, meet up with buddies, before moving on with the stock, well watered and ready for the next stage of the perilous journey..

Now it is almost a ghost town. The pub, Junction Hotel, is an empty, dusty barn of a place, but something is happening here. There are signs of work going on around it. The power is on. A fridge is standing in a corner, in the kitchen remnants of a meal lie around. Last time we came through in 2010, it was derelict. No signs of life. We look around to find some one we can question about the changes. But no one is here, just tents behind in the dusty back yard. We can only speculate. Are they changing it into a camp-ground? Are they going to “do-up” the hotel? We wander over to Jones’ Store. It is a museum but not your pristine state of the art place, this has been left as it was. Dust has settled every where, saddle bags with the stuffing hanging out are placed around the walls, and old wood burning stove has rusty saucepans sitting on it. Old, disintegrating lace curtains flutter at the open windows. It has character and a sadness about it. Information boards are around the walls telling the history of the building and stories of the people who owned and operated it. It is heritage listed. Amazingly it seemed exactly the same as 2 years ago. Although it is open and no one lives around it all the old artifacts still seem to be there and no destruction or graffiti apart from the ravages of time.

Jones store now a museum

Living area back of Jones Store

Jones store

Old saddle bags

It is lunchtime and across from the small school-house (that seems to be in use, there is a working cattle station along the road so we assume they will be the children from those workers and managers of the station) is a grassed area with an eight foot tall bronze sculpture of a horse-tailer. We were told at the Drovers shed in Camooweal that he is depicted with the saddle bags that are to be put on a pack-horse and they must be both even weight with 50 pound in each and that is an essential part of the drovers life to take care of the horses.

So we make a sandwich, have a cuppa from the thermos and travel on, with my head full of stories from the droving days…

8 foot tall sculpture, monument to the drovers

 

 

Categories: australian travel, droving, Ghost town, old derelict buildings, out back, outback, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Across the border…

Crossing the border into Northern Territory

This is the border crossing from Queensland into Northern Territory. The Territorians have had a reputation in the past of being lawless larrikin. This is a vast open plain and a flat landscape that seems to stretch forever in all directions. The sky is a flawless blue arc. This is cattle station country with acreage of many stations being bigger than some European countries. Alexandria Station is one such property the road dissects. It is 17,500 square miles or 4.3 million acres. I find it hard to visualize these figures. I learnt these statistics at the Drover Shed.

With the exception of a large 10 kilometre stretch of road works, the roads are in good condition and flat, the speed limit is 130 K/hr. The vehicles are few and far between and most drivers give a friendly salute, tip of the finger or wave of the hand.

Barkly Highway stretches forever

I feel very small when I look around the landscape. With the haunting melody from the theme of “The Godfather” and then John Williams superb classical guitar music playing the miles float away under our wheels. Every 60 to 70 kilometres there is a rest area to stop, stretch your legs, use the toilets, have a cuppa, maybe chat with another traveller if is some one is also stopped.

This is classic outback country, nothing for miles just you and the road and occasionally a herd of cows. Suddenly, way in the distance I see something different. I cannot quite make it out. As we draw closer I recognise a bike, a recliner bike, with a bright orange flag and a fit young fellow taking on the great round Australia bike ride. We stop and Jack takes a photo and we chat for a while. Igor Bilek is a man with a dream. It was very interesting talking to him and he also has a blog site. www.igorbilek.com It is worth having a look at. I really admire people who just get up and do it.

Igor Bilek on his reclining bike riding around Australia

Nearly 300 kilometres and we reach Barkly Homestead, our home for 2 days and where we saw the budgies. Unbelievably it has internet connection. ( 2 years ago when we travelled this way internet was very hit and miss, how times have changed!!) So now I am caught up with my blog journey notes and tomorrow we head another 200 kilometres before we meet up with the great Stuart Highway that goes from top to bottom of the continent.

 

Categories: Australia, australian travel, Northern Territory, out back, photos | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

The Drovers Shed

Ride ’em cowboy…

Two years ago almost to the day we passed through Camooweal. The highlight back then was the Drovers Shed. So we went to visit it again.

This is a wonderful achievement of a group of dedicated and passionate people who could see the legend and stories of the drovers and their life-style disappearing as the men and women that lived that legend died. So in 2002 they started tracing the people still left from that era, recording their stories, collecting the equipment they used and raising money to preserve it all.

Their creation is “The Drovers Shed”, a large corrugated iron barn, 1 kilometre east of Camooweal, set in the heart of droving territory, among the huge cattle stations.

They do not charge admission, a donation is all they suggest and a donation box is located at the entrance door.

Battered and sweat stained Akubras

 

It is like entering another world and era. There are well-worn saddles scattered about. The pack saddles and camp ovens are around the imitation camp fire. Hanging on a branch are battered, sweat-soaked Akubras and raw hide whips. The swags and camp cart stand waiting to be used. Along the walls are large information boards with photos, diagrams and history of the droving era.

A life-size mural is around another wall and it shows a mob of cattle settled for the night with the cook preparing the meal. In front is the imitation fire and pack saddles laid ready for the morning.

Mural of the mob settled for the night and the cook preparing the evening meal

 

Along another wall is a large as life photo of a crowd watching a rodeo, and the life-size bull you can climb on, if you dare…

But the real highlight, what makes this so special, is you are given a one hour tour of the exhibits and shed by a genuine living legend, a man who started droving when he was 18 and lived the life of a drover for more than 20 years. He explained what the equipment was and told stories and anecdotes of the men and women he drove the huge mobs of cattle with. Average number of cattle would be 1200 to 1500 in one mob. 8 people would move that number over huge distances averaging 14 kilometres a day. Old style droving finished in the 1960’s when the roads were improved through the outback, and road trains took over the job of moving cattle.

The last place we go is into a separate room that is the gallery. This is a very special art gallery of portraits of all the drovers that are still living. Beautifully drawn in pastel. Some have since died but their stories have been recorded. Also many news paper articles of relevance.

This is a very special place and is made that way by the passion and dedication of the people who have spent many hours tracking down all these objects and telling the stories of an era that is uniquely Australian and that shaped our nation.

Eric telling us stories about droving

 

 

Categories: australian travel, drovers shed, droving, out back, travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Huge flock of budgies in the outback

I just had to share this amazing experience with you.

As we had breakfast this morning I heard, then saw thousands of birds swarming like bees above us. I grabbed the camera. It was hard to follow and focus on them they moved so fast. They were budgies, those cute little pet birds you see in a cage, turning and swirling around then dropping onto a small puddle of water before soaring away again. Then I saw a hawk diving in among them. It was his breakfast time too…

I was entranced and stood watching for almost 20 minutes before they finally disappeared over the horizon.

We were going to move on today but as there is WiFi connection here we will stay another night to catch up with emails, blogs etc.

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, travel, video | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Last day in Queensland

After our stay in the ghost town it was back onto the Barkly Highway and heading for Mt Isa. The Isa is the mining and mineral capital of Queensland. It is pumping money into the economy 24/7 and it is also the FIFO work force that keeps it going. I have heard that approx 70% of the mining workforce do not live in the Isa but have families and homes all over Australia, consequently “fly in, fly out”. It is not tourist friendly most of the caravan parks now cater for the workers with very few sites for tourists and also they are very expensive. So we just stop to stock up on groceries and keep going.

Mineral mountains, actually old eroded hills

 

Sparkling mica crystals in the rocks when the sun catches it.

 

Termite town

The termites build these hills and they go well underground. Cities of millions of busy little creatures.

Road train on the Barkly Highway

These are the Kings of the road and this is only a small one. Quite often they will have 4 trailers on.

Curious cows

 

After passing through Mt Isa it is now pastoral country again and these are the type of cattle that the road trains are carrying. We are in Camooweal tonight and this was droving country. We will be following the old droving trails and learning about the life and times of the droving legends.

Windmills bringing water up from the artesian water table

The stock can only survive if it has water and until the discovery of a huge underground artesian lake, 4000 feet under ground, the squatters could only rely on the rainfall, which was very unreliable. Now you see these huge windmills dotted around bringing up a reliable source of water for the stock.

Tomorrow we will cross the border into Northern Territory. I think the internet connection will then be unreliable. We will also be doing more freedom camping so it may be a while before I can up-date the posts….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: australian travel, mining, Mt Isa, out back, photos | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Last brush with Banjo

Track through the Mitchell grass to the Combo waterhole

We had 6 very interesting days in Winton but it is now time to get on the road again. The road is heading north/west and the weather is warmer. Tonight I plan to stop at an old outback pub called “Blue Heeler”, another pub Banjo Patterson frequented, he certainly enjoyed outback life, his poems capture that outback spirit and the characters he met.

One more iconic place to visit is just before we reach “Blue Heeler”. 6 kilometres drive down a narrow dirt track takes us to the start of the 2 kilometre walk to the famous billabong featured in “Waltzing Matilda”. The track winds through lush stands of Mitchell grass across the braided channels of the Diamantina river. It was interesting to see the influence of the chinese again in this area where they had built stone overflows to hold back the river after heavy rain and create waterholes. These were built over 100 years ago, by hand, each stone put in place one at a time, and still working today creating waterholes for the stock.

Stone overflows on the Diamantina River

We crossed 4 of these overflows. It was a well-defined path and approx an hours walk past the coolibah trees. There are a lot of young saplings growing, a sign that it has been a good rainfall this past season. Also the lushness of the grass. The rain mainly falls in summer, winter is a dry season,a good year can be 400ml but all in a short time so it can be flood then dry for months so these overflows are very important.

Finally we reach the billabong, Combo waterhole. This is where the swagman drowned and not be taken by the troopers and put in prison. The water is clay coloured and though this is a favourite picnic and swimming spot for local people I would not like a dip in these muddy waters. We stood and listened but the ghost didn’t talk to us!!!!!

The billabong in the song Waltzing Matilda

Jack sitting under a coolibah tree at the billabong

Picnic party at the Combo waterhole 1800’s

An hours walk back to our Matilda patiently waiting in the car park and on to the “Blue Heeler”. The caravan park is behind the pub and rather dusty but the amenities are clean with good hot water. It is Sunday night, so time to have a Sunday night dinner in the pub. Amazingly the dining room is crowded. We find out why when we order the roast of the day. It is buffet style, help yourself to as much as you can eat. Truckies love this type of meal, so do we…..

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, Pubs, travel, Waltzing Matilda | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

River gum drive

Gum tree at Surprise creek

This area of the outback is steeped in history. The river gum drive takes you on a 50 kilometre round journey back through time and across different landscapes as it takes you through Bladensberg National Park. It is via a dirt track which in the wet would be impassable for Matilda, but it has been dry for 6 weeks now and recently been graded and the road was good.

Just before the park entry is an old dam with collapsed walls, this was where chinese gardeners grew fruit and vegetables for the district. Looking at the hard unforgiving soil and the dry climate it is hard to believe that any thing could grow here. The chinese in early pioneering days were immigrants that kept to themselves. Used to hard work they quietly got on with creating their gardens.

Memorial cairn to the striking shearers 1894

In the 1800’s this was sheep grazing country and wool was king. The shearing gangs would move from shed to shed working in appalling conditions for very low pay. In the mid 1890’s they decided to strike for better pay and conditions. The area around Winton was one of the main strike districts. A number of shearing sheds were set on fire and troopers were sent in to maintain martial law. The shearers moved out-of-town and 500 of them set up camp in the area around this cairn. It is bleak and desolate country, I can only imagine the hardships that must’ve been suffered. This was the start of the labour movement and I read an information board in a pub that eventually the shearers and squatters (landowners) decided that they didn’t want to start a civil war and shoot fellow country men, so they got together over a drink in the pub and sorted out their differences. Eventually conditions did improve.

Spinifex country

Another 10 kilometres along the track and the landscape changes dramatically. Gone is the Mitchell grass plains and the ground becomes hard and stony, and is covered in the tough, spiky spinifex grass.

This is the site of another very sad part of Australian history. An aboriginal man murdered a teamster. The police, with the help of black trackers, followed the man through this area. Eventually they followed him to Skull Hole. They then ordered the black trackers to massacre the tribe, men, women and children. This is not the only massacre of whole tribes in the early days of European settlement, but until recently it was a part of history that had been covered up and denied.

Skull Hole Bladensberg National Park

Among these rocks are caves and the aboriginals would’ve been hunted down and shot like animals as they cowered in these caves. The aboriginal people had been in Australia for over 40,000 years, they lived with the land and with-out their help the explorers could never survive in this harsh and unforgiving country, but seldom was reference made to the help they received from the native people. The settlers and pioneers also relied on them for labour and their knowledge of the land.

Ghost gum on the banks of Surprise Creek

Finally we stopped on the banks of Surprise Creek, under a beautiful ghost gum, at a popular place for swimming and picnics and had a sandwich and cuppa and reflected on a very interesting drive.

Categories: aboriginal history, australian travel, Bladensberg NP, National Parks, out back, travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Waltzing Matilda

Matilda Highway

We are travelling on the Matilda Highway, through Matilda County,in Matilda, our old van. This outback highway is a well maintained bitumen ribbon stretching endlessly to the horizon through the vast plains of silver-gold Mitchell grass. Cattle are dotted across the plains with the occasional stunted gum tree. The sun beats down from a cloudless blue sky and road-trains pulling 3-4 trailers filled with cattle for the market, roar by in both directions. These are the drovers of the present day. The aroma of their cargo envelopes us as they zoom past, splattering Matilda as we chug along in their wake.

The modern-day explorer in 4 WD pulling a caravan also passes us, they fuel the income of the new trade in the outback of tourism.

Tourism in this area is based on a song: “Waltzing Matilda”.

I wonder how many of my blogging friends and readers have heard of this song. It is known world wide as the unofficial anthem of Australia.

It is the story of the swagman who drowned in the bill-a-bong when confronted by the troopers. Banjoe Patterson, the prolific poet and lawyer composed it in 1895 when he was staying at Winton. He based it on the shearers strike and stories he had heard in the district. Winton now has the “Matilda Centre“, the only museum in the world devoted to a song, it also tells and shows pictures of lives of the pioneers and settlers of that time. It is an interesting museum with interactive displays and dioramas showing the Billabong with the swagman and troopers creating the atmosphere around the waterhole.

The song was first performed at the North Gregory Hotel in 1895. The hotel has been rebuilt over the years due to fire, but is still a thriving old pub. We went for an evening’s entertainment to hear and join in with Helen in a sing-a-long of favourite old tunes from the 1950’s and 60’s. Then she told us the story of Waltzing Matilda and sang the original version followed by the modern more up-beat version. For a gold coin donation it was a good night out. Then of course we finished the night off with a roast dinner in the Hotel dining room. The dining room was full with most of the patrons being grey nomads….

North Gregory Hotel

Sing-a-long with Helen

Roast lamb dinner, $10 special at the North Gregory Hotel.

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, Pubs, travel, Waltzing Matilda, Winton | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

poppytump@no4

photography, sketching and ...

wordsandimages

here, there and other places

Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta

Books, Fun and Stuff That Comes Into My Head

The Eternal Traveller

Remembering past journeys, recording current trips and planning for the next one!

Womanseyeview's Blog

Nothing profound and a few of my photos

P.A. Moed

Creative Exploration in Words and Pictures

snippetsandsnaps

Potato Point and beyond

priorhouse blog

Photos, art - and a little bit of LIT.

Life is great

Despite its troubles

Badfish & Chips Cafe

Travel photos, memoirs & letters home...from anywhere in the world

Circadianreflections Blog

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” ― Eudora Welty

The Day After

Musings, Photography, Writing, and More

Andrew's View of the Week

Andrew's view of the world in poetry, prose, and picture

musingsofafrequentflyingscientist.wordpress.com/

musings of a frequent flying scientist

Zimmerbitch

age is just a (biggish) number

%d bloggers like this: