Travelling – From tropical coast to dry inland

Outback drought 1

Thousands of mangled kangaroo carcasses litter the roadside – some desiccated fur and bleached bones, others fresh and being devoured by ravens and raptors. A ghastly sight, but not much is wasted.

Mobs of kangaroos suffer the midday sun, searching out a morsel of grass worth eating. As brutal as it might sound, motorists unintentionally running the roos down are doing them and their kind a favour. The drought is harsh.

Creeks are bone-dry, rivers reduced to chains of stagnant puddles, farm dams are not much better. Emus wander aimlessly across abandoned paddocks, camouflaged against the grey bushland.

Outback drought 2

Acacias are beginning to bloom – today is national Wattle Day. Occasional thickets of cypress and weeping wilga share the landscape with the wattle and eucalypts. Hundreds of kilometres of the grey semi-arid vegetation and dusty earth becomes monotonous, so we pull over to rest and watch the birdlife. It’s only when you stop and take the time to observe the land that the birds reveal themselves.

Bowra 03 Varied Sittella
Varied Sittella
Bowra 14 White-plumed HE
White-plumed Honeyeaters

We left the tropical Queensland coast and mountains behind a few days ago. Instead of sandy beaches lined with palms, we now have sandy plains, bull dust swirling as a willy-willy whips up the bare ground, and scrub struggling to survive.

The further west we travel, the less traffic we encounter. An occasional caravanner dodging road-kill, like us, and road trains ploughing through them. Australia is a vast and diverse country and I feel fortunate to travel in comfort and safety, and although the scenery is dull in colour and sparse in density, there is beauty all around for those who appreciate the details of nature.

Outback drought 3

A storm on the beach

With just enough light to find my way along the track, I headed to the beach at dawn. What a contrast to yesterday’s scene. An enormous bank of cloud towered above the outlying  islands. Black and threatening. Lightning flashed, and rain was falling way out at sea.

Again, I sat on a pillow  of sea-grass, watching the weather spectacle unfold, feeling blessed for this special encounter. A swathe of rain moved closer to shore, so I took a brisk walk off the beach, to be taken by surprise at the speed the rain arrived. On impulse, I popped into the beach-side restaurant for breakfast. I would weather the storm, dry and comfortable. From a window seat I enjoyed the changing patterns and colours of the sky.

Eerie muted yellow light filtered out as the sun rose. The rain didn’t amount to much, but the impromptu omelette and mushrooms was delicious.

I soaked up all the blessings of the moment.

Storm Albany 2


Travelling – The tranquillity of The Coorong

Coorong 03

Two ferry crossings, samphire/farming/lake scenery and a short stretch of corrugated track took us to Long Point on The Coorong (southern coast of South Australia). Grey sky didn’t detract from the absolute tranquillity of this special place.

Pelicans, terns and water-fowl preened themselves as they perched on exposed rocks. Watching birds preening is such a charming sight. They all have their own specialised techniques of cleaning and smoothing feathers, drawing oils down the precious plumes so that everything works perfectly. Then with heads tucked under wings, they become statues.

A lone seal basked on the jetty in the practically non-existent late autumn sun, standing to attention as I approached. The huge animal plopped into the water with barely a splash.

It was the most delightful, laugh-out-loud experience to witness the sleek and agile seal bath and play. Both front flippers rubbed the face with attention to detail that any mother would applaud, then rolled over and over, rubbed its belly, and finally lay on its back with flippers waving in the air like semaphore flags. And then it appeared to just zone out as it floated, arms on belly, eyes closed.

coorong 02 seal

I could hear the faint crash of surf, hidden on the far side of the dunes. The occasional cry of gulls was the only other sound across the expanse of glassy water. Harmony – that’s what it felt like, with human and nature as one.

Rippling water announced the seal’s return to the jetty. After one final wipe of the nose and rub of the belly, it  hauled itself onto the step, took a breather, then dragged its bulk onto the platform, where it promptly settled down to snooze.

A cold wind whipped up and drizzling rain moved across the sand hills towards us. We’d had the best the morning had to offer, so we took to the road again, finding a lakeside restaurant with a pleasant sheltered garden eatery, and ordered a Sunday roast lunch and pot of tea. More special memories.

coorong 01

Travelling – Indigo ranges and orange ridges

Flinders scenery 01

Exploring the Flinders Ranges (South Australia) has been a memorable experience. Naturally steering clear of crowds where ever we go, we’ve avoided the touristy places, opting instead to venture onto side roads.

‘Stunning’ might well be an overused description, but the scenery of the Flinders deserves every bit of ‘stunning’, ‘breath-taking’, ‘magnificent’ and more.

Flinders scenery 03

Indigo ranges, with scissor-sharp peaks piercing the sky, stretch off into the distance, parallel with the road. And turning to look in the other direction, naked ochre-orange ridges of rock make an equally impressive statement. Green mounds dotted with low growing native shrubs form a repetitive rolling pattern from the roadside to meet the high country.

Flinders scenery 02

And then the scene is dissected by dry rocky riverbeds, twisting around the base of hills, lined with massive River Red Gums. The trees spread out onto the floodplains, in brilliant contrast to the solid colour of the mountain backdrop.

Tired fences of leaning and splintering cypress posts, rusty wire and torn chicken mesh no longer keep stock contained, but they have a rustic character befitting of the ancient mountains. Historic rock and mortar buildings stand in ruin, a testament to pioneer farmers long gone. I marvel at the workmanship, still evident.

Flinders scenery 04

And then we boil the billy for a cuppa in the shade of a giant eucalypt, sit and watch the Red-capped Robins and Yellow-rumped Thornbills chattering amongst themselves and the rest of the local bird population that seems to have come to greet us.

The sunset to end our day of roaming through the Flinders was simply magic – a sky on fire. And then the blackness of a starlit heaven moved in to bid us goodnight.

Flinders scenery 05

Travelling – Dry riverbeds and magnificent trees

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 1

Kangaroos watched me cautiously, swivelling their ears to catch every sound. Unseen birds betrayed their presence as spikes of grass twitched in the early morning stillness – gatherers of seed and insects going about their business apparently oblivious to the intrusion. But the wildlife rarely bother too much as I quietly observe their habits and habitat. I always feel privileged to have access to the natural environment of wild creatures.

Perhaps I’ve never taken enough notice of  photos and information on the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, but I didn’t expect to find spectacular trees. Beautiful River Red Gums, massive in girth and height, line all the dry watercourses. Not an odd tree here and there, but great numbers.

White is the primary colour of the trunks – gleaming white splashed with all shades of earthy colours you could imagine. Dense, drooping canopies of slender blue/green leaves are heavy with flower buds. Is it any wonder that artists flock to these trees. When they are ready to burst into bloom, surely the birds will flock to them too.

Although all the waterways are now dry, the evidence of swift and deep rushing water is everywhere. Flood debris lays in piles against any obstacle that hindered the waters flow. But most astounding are the huge logs that have gouged holes in mature eucalypts lining the creeks. More than holes, some trees have been broken open and completely hollowed out, but still they live on. Nature is remarkable in its violence, and its resilience. I can not help but be impressed by the stories being told by the grand old trees.

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 3

I sit in the riverbed, write about my surroundings and of how I am emotionally moved by the sheer magnificence of nature. This is a gravel riverbed, others are rocky. Emus and kangaroos have left their footprints as their weight has cracked the mud crust, and there are tiny unidentifiable tracks accompanying them. Mother Nature’s animals live in harmony, as all life should be.

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 2

Travelling – a Steam train and quandong treats

Pichi Richi Railway steam train south australia

Rain has recently turned the southern Flinders Ranges (South Australia) green – a lush green contrasting with warm earthy tones of sand and rock. A beautiful landscape of craggy hills, silver-grey eucalypts and tall tussocks of desert grasses slid by like a slow-motion move as the steam train chugged along at a snail’s pace.

Narrow-gauge rail carried the restored historic Pichi Richi train from Quorn to Woolshed Flat and back again. A single row of upholstered bench seats flanked each side of the carriage, meaning everyone got a window seat. The chilly autumn breeze on my face was fresh and filled with everything I love about nature’s breath, along with the odd speck of soot from the engine.

Our car attendant was a witty, bushy-haired senior high-school student. He warned us that he was not a train fanatic, and pleaded with passengers to keep the questions easy. My guess is that he volunteers on the train rides simply because he loves people and life. He was an absolute delight.

Back in town after our fun-filled, yet relaxing train ride, we browsed a second-hand book store heavy with the wonderful smell of old books. Of course I bought one. Then we sampled one of the local quaint cafes, treating ourselves to a slice of  homemade quandong cheesecake with a generous dollop of quandong syrup, and obligatory scoop of ice-cream. Delicious!

Quandong (sometimes known as native peach) is a locally produced native ‘bush food’, and locals showcase the product. We’ve been trying out local produce as we trip around the country, and surely that’s one of the pleasures of travel.

As I sit outdoors back at the caravan park to write, the familiar scent of wattle fills the air. Together we recall the favourite parts of our day and chuckle about the humour of the young lad who obviously loves life and community.

Pichi Richi steam train Quorn Flinders Ra