On January 25th we began our trip, crossing the Brisbane river and heading south on the Bruce Highway.  We wandered down the east coast of Australia, visiting friends along the way and admiring some of our beautiful beaches.  And we have got some lovely beaches. When we reached the Newcastle area we stopped for a while, partly to see as many of my old friends as possible (I used to work in Newcastle), and to do some minor renovations on my rental house.  And then we went into Sydney itself, not a bad city as cities go.

The IMAX theatre at Darling Harbour was showing “Avatar,” an amazing movie with incredible effects. 

We travelled south again, along the east coast of New South Wales, then headed inland.  Australia likes big monuments, and in various places you can see the Big Pineapple, Big Prawn, Big Banana, Big Mango, Big Koala…and here is the Big Merino:

 

In Holbrook NSW, well inland, it amused and amazed us to see this submarine.  It seems the widow of the captain donated a large sum of money to see it installed there as a tourist attraction.

Going further south, we drove through a lot of beautiful mountains, passing through picturesque and historic towns and camping in bush areas.

Near Fall’s Creek we came across a ghostly reminder of terrible fires which swept the area several years ago, destroying thousands of acres of bushland.

 We finally reached Melbourne, and prepared for our crossing to Tasmania.  After a somewhat tense drive through a pre-dawn foggy city, with only a four inch square fourteen-year-old map of central Melbourne and a sketchy diagram from our hosts the previous night, I vowed to give Bob and myself a new GPS for our birthdays!

We did make it to the Spirit of Tasmania in time, and the day was blue and sunny for the twelve hour crossing.  Bob said he didn’t get his money’s worth—it was too calm.

The ferry to Tasmania arrives in the northern city of Davenport.  We spent a few days visiting friends, and also a little sightseeing.  These life-sized figures are made of paper maché.  Note the little dog—he has stolen the lady’s shoe!

Finally we made it down to southern Tasmania, where Bob discovered a “Men’s Shed”.  This is a fairly new development in Australian towns.  Sponsored by local governments, Men’s Sheds give the guys (and the occasional lady) a place to hang out and learn new skills and teach others.  Here are a couple of backpackers from Europe who actually stayed in the men’s shed here, and the young chap learned to play the didgeridoo (this one is for James!):

How about that—didgeridoo AND guitar together!

Of course we wanted to get over to Bruny Island again, and were awed yet again with its beauty.

 

And of course we wanted to check out our land again.  On the 8 acres at Davis Road, everything had grown wild since the unusually heavy rains of the previous year and the dam was quite overgrown.  The geese don’t mind!

We launched into cut-and-paste mode, getting rid of huge quantities of prickly gorse, thistles and other weeds, and cutting small shrubs and trees that were crowding the dam and dam wall. 

The bulrushes…well, we wanted them out too but the man with the excavator didn’t call back and we ran out of time.  Next visit, we’ll get the bulrushes too!

The view from the top of the property is pretty, if not spectacular.  We got on with the job of clearing the “weeds of national significance,” moved a lot of rocks from the ground, and had the grass slashed.

Many a night we crawled into bed exhausted, and needed a day off occasionally to let tired and sore muscles and joints recover.

They warned us that tiger snakes would be around the dam vegetation, and would be aggressive since it was their mating season.  But we didn’t see one!  Just as well because they are quite deadly.

The neighbours on the upper end are reclusive.  Their house is forbidding in appearance.  Bob calls it the "Halloween House”!  Purple, black and orange are their colours

We also visited our other two properties on Bruny Island.  Our seven acre bush lot is just around the corner from Davis Road and is an unassuming lot which we choose to leave pretty much alone.  However it is wonderful for camping on.    J

My favourite lot is the third of an acre on the northern tip of the island, at Dennes Point.  We did some clearing too, here this year but next year I will bring a chainsaw.

                      

It is a quiet and lovely haven here,with amazing views across the channel towards Hobart.   A footpath leads down the hill to the lovely white beach:

The village centre now has a café, restrooms, a small corner shop and a gift shop for tourists.  

On our bush block one night, we were astonished to see a couple of bright glowing objects in the darkness.  Further investigation showed them to be mushrooms!  They continued to glow every night we were in the area.  “Fox fire,” so Mr “P” says.

 After seven weeks in Tasmania it was time to move on.  Another ferry trip to Melbourne, and then we headed west.  South Australia has been in the grip of severe drought for a long time, but while we were in the Barossa Valley (those who drink wine will recognize the name) they had rain, and it was cause for celebration indeed.

As we go along we try to do some bush walking to keep fit as well as to see what is “out there”.  This was Mount Wudinna, a rather imposing rock which is supposed to be second only to Ayers Rock (Uluru as the aborigines call it).

The view from the top is pretty good too, although it was a bit overcast while we were climbing.

There is a lot of wide open space in Australia, and we must have crossed a lot of it this year!  As we drew closer to the famed Nullarbor Plains (meaning “no trees”) the roads began to get monotonously straight.  This area at least had hills:

 

We chose secluded campsites each night.

Soon we were on the Nullarbor.  One lane in each direction, traffic fairly well-spaced.

Much of the traffic was large transports or “road trains,” with the equivalent of two and sometimes three large containers in tow.  Weighing a hundred tonnes or more, they make their presence felt on the road.  This is serious long-distance transport.

We suffered a flat tyre shortly after entering the Nullarbor.  At every stop we tried to get a replacement but to no avail.  We got to Norseman, on the other side of the great desert, before we found a shop that changed our tyre.  Over a thousand kilometers.

The road passes close to the Bunda Cliffs along the Great Australian Bight.  We drove in to several viewing points and were awed by the sight.  The edges are crumbling and in some places you can see pieces separating and ready to fall.

There are some interesting signs along the Nullarbor:

 There are no actual trees only bushes and low growing shrubs.  Even the aborigines did not live here.  The area is too harsh to live, being quite hot during the days and cold at night, with not much in the way of wildlife.

 We saw a few other travelers along the way.  One of them had this message on his spare tyre:

That says it all!

The longest piece of straight road in Australia (and maybe the world) is this bit, west of Caiguna roadhouse.

The ninety-mile straight road has a golf course, which can be played as you travel along.  And it's the longest golf course in the world!  You buy a card at the start and work your way across, playing at each recognized stop.

In the roadhouse at Balladonia there’s a small museum, in which you can read about and see pieces of Skylab, which crashed in the Nullarbor in 1979, to the embarrassment of the USA.

The first person to find a piece of the spacecraft was offered a $10,000 reward.  A shy young bushman collected it, and flew to the USA to receive his cheque.

In another museum we visited in Esperance, we read that the Aussies sent the USA a bill (tongue in cheek) for littering!

At our last bush camp along the Nullarbor, we met some new friends.

Beautiful Western Australia.  Even the trees are different.  This is a"gimlet" tree.  The Gimlets and salmon gums look fabulous against the red dirt of the West.

Another lovely bush camp.

Some of our most beautiful camp sites were in the countryside around Norseman and up to Kalgoorlie.  We can see why people love it here.  My father came out here every year to prospect for gold with his friends.

Endless tracks leading to wonderful places for camping.  And there is lots of firewood!

We found it very interesting in the gold country…and there we were, without metal detectors or panning equipment.  I spent a little time looking around carefully for gold nuggets every time we camped, but I imagine there are not many around nowadays.  You have to go out into the desert more to strike it rich.  Many have caught the gold fever and died poor, though.

 We were very impressed with the Super Pit, near Kalgoorlie.  This is only one section of it.  It lies in what is called the “Golden Mile”. 

During the 1980s Alan Bond began to buy up small leases within the area, trying to make one big company and one big pit so he could get gold extracted at a much lower cost.  Open cut mining seemed to be the way to go, combining all the existing shaft mines. 

Alan Bond failed, but in 1989 the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Pty Ltd was formed to manage assets and operations of the joint venture partners.  The Golden Mile has produced 50 million ounces of gold since the first nugget was discovered, and has a very high yield per tonne.  The pit will eventually stretch 3.8 kms long, 1.35 kms wide and more than 500 metres deep.

Kalgoorlie is a grand little town, with some beautiful old buildings.  It is the gateway to the gold country here in WA.

 They also have an interesting museum, with around 4 million dollars worth of gold in bars and nuggets in the basement.  Very impressive!

 In the museum are many other interesting things.  How would you like to ride this bicycle from the early gold prospecting days?  People were inventive then!  It might have been a bit uncomfortable, though.  There were pieces of tin tacked around the wheels as “tyres”.

One of the amazing things we saw in Western Australia was the water supply to the goldfields.  It was completed in 1903, the brainchild of Irish-born engineer C Y O’Connor. 

With the gold rush and no water supply, things were desperate.  The water supply scheme proposed by O’Connor comprised a reservoir near to Perth, eight steam-driven pumping stations, and 566 kilometres of steel pipeline supplying 23000 kilolitres of water daily to the arid goldfields. 

Nowhere else in the world had so much water been pumped so far.  The system was later extended to service the central and northeast wheatbelt.  Bob tastes the water at the reservoir in Kalgoorlie.

 We followed the pipeline all the way from start to finish.  It runs along the roadway.  Above ground, it can be serviced more easily and leaks are quickly fixed.

The eight pump station sites can be visited, some are museums, but now the pumps are run by electricity rather than steam.

We made a few side trips off the main highway.  Guess what this is? A salt lake!

 We climbed a nearby rocky mountain to get a good viewpoint, but the flies were worse than we’d seen anywhere so far.  Had to wear a laundry bag over our heads to keep them off! 

Beautiful red and yellow brush, soft to the touch.

 Have you heard of the rabbit proof fence?  There is a movie about the aboriginal girls who walked hundreds of miles to go home , along the rabbit proof fence, after the Australian government took them from their families and put them in a camp for half-caste aboriginal kids.  The “Stolen Generation” was a blot on our society.  The fence no longer keeps rabbits out (I think they gave up on that!) but it was the longest fence in the world.

 One of the many steam pumps that were housed in the pump stations along the water line to the goldfields:

At the last pumping station, near the weir where the water came from for the pipeline to the goldfields.

 C Y O’Connor was a brilliant engineer.  His name is associated with many large engineering projects around Western Australia, but the greatest feat credited to him was the pipeline. 

However this project was so intensely controversial, that it put immense pressure on O’Connor.  Just before the water was turned on, the premier of the state, who had been his greatest supporter, left the state to join the federal government, and one of the bitterest opponents of O'Connor's water scheme took his place as premier. 

A Royal Commission into the project was forthcoming, and with nobody to lean on, O’Connor became very depressed.  He knew the project would work, and the preliminary tests had been successful, but finally he rode his horse out into the surf and shot himself. 

This website gives more information about the engineer C Y O’Connor:

http://www.westaustralianvista.com/c-y-oconnor.html

Bush camping is easy in Western Australia.  We tried to find level ground and usually places where Bob could have a campfire.  Sometimes there were bushwalks.

These “blackboys” are very old.  They take hundreds of years to grow.  Nowadays the term “blackboy” is politically incorrect, so the name has been changed to “grasstree”.

We looked up a cousin of mine in Perth, and spent a delightful day with them.  Shane and his wife Marie have a lively son, Jack, who also kept us entertained. 

They took us on a long tour around Perth and Fremantle, beautiful cities.

 

Perth captures the hearts of many visitors.  There is really something for everyone.

Rottnest Island is a short ferry ride from Fremantle.  We decided to spend a day over there, and rented bicycles, as there are few cars on the island.

This is a QUOKKA!  These small marsupials are prolific on Rottnest, hence the name—The early Dutch explorers thought they were rats, and called the island “Rottnest” or Rat’s nest!  These little fellas are very tame, although signs everywhere say “DON’T FEED THE QUOKKAS”.

It is easy to see how so many ships were wrecked around Rottnest Island in the early days. 

 We were glad we chose the bikes with gears!

 We didn’t fancy swimming at this beach.

 Milko!

Back on mainland Western Australia.

That was the two-kilometre-long jetty at Busselton.

If only people were as nice to each other:

The southern tip of Western Australia, Cape Leeuwin:

Nearby is an old water wheel, frozen in time.

On to the giant trees of the southern part of WA.

Jarrah—red wood, hard, rough grey bark. 

 

Karri—light-coloured trunks, red peeling bark.

Tingle—red or yellow, sometimes trunks are buttressed.

There is a popular treetop walk, amongst the Tingle forest.  High up in the canopy, it’s hypnotizing.  The steel walkway is cleverly designed to minimize its visual impact and to gently sway as the trees do.

Many of these huge trees are 400 to 500 years old.  Foresight of some of our pioneers saw the preservation of large areas of these trees, so they were not destroyed.

In years gone by, some of these huge trees were made into fire towers—the very top was lopped, and a viewing platform was built.  Every day the fire watcher would climb the pegs around the trunk to the highest level and watch for bush fires.  There are still some of these climbing trees, and anyone who is brave enough can climb up!  Bob climbed to the first level of this one but decided against going to the highest level.

The bushwalks here are awesome. 

Some trunks are hollow, from attack by fire or insects.

The forests are cool, a wonderful retreat in the summertime.  We were there as the summer was waning, which meant fewer tourists.

Ring-necked parrot.

Bob tests the stocks in Albany.  Shall we leave him there for a while?!

We saw very few wildflowers in Western Australia, but this is the state which literally explodes with flowers during the Springtime.  We’ll have to go back in September/October some year to get the full effect of the show.

The last whaling ship in Australia.  There’s a museum now in the last whaling station, and guides explain the full whaling operation as you walk through.  Four of the large silos used to store whale oil have been turned into theatres, where you watch movies.   This is the Cheyne IV, the last whaler in Australia:

Through the porthole of the Cheyne IV.:

On to the Stirling Ranges.

Weather was threatening so we decided to leave climbing the highest peak until another year.

Back to Norseman, where the town is named after the horse which pawed up a golden nugget, thus starting the gold rush.

From here it was a long way east again, across the Nullarbor.

More bush camping.  Bob, why are you wearing that thing on your head?

To keep the flies off, of course!

The bush was beautiful.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service uses a widened section of the two-lane highway in cases of emergency.

Some people get bored, crossing the Nullarbor.

 At last we reached the other side and made our way through the outback, towards Queensland.  We spotted this little fellow on one of our pit stops in the middle of nowhere.  A mouse spider, similar to a funnelweb and NOT to be messed with.  fatal bite unless treated quickly.  Fortunately they don't live in populated areas, and are not aggressive.

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow...

 The outback was flourishing, due to recent heavy rains. 

And more was coming.

 Australia is having a good year!  And so are we.  Thanks for joining us on our long trip.

THE END

 

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