Travelling – Raw power and subtle beauty of coastal Outback

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A raptor perches on its monstrous nest protecting its offspring from spray as a backdrop of waves bounce with a thunderous roar, just metres from reach. Its mate returns to relieve her from nest duties, food in claws for their young.

‘Powerful’. That would be the word that dominates. Raw, uncontrollable power of the sea. Mountains of white spray bursting from the ocean, exploding, reaching high into the blueness of the sky for a brief moment of splendor, only to collapse at the feet of the jagged rocky coastline into a churning whirlpool. Repeat. I watched the awesome sight in absolute wonder.

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Coastal Outback north of Carnarvon (Western Australia) was a change from the wildflower-dusted inland we’d been exploring. Harsh, but with a discernible serenity. Hard, but with a subtle softness. Captivating beauty.

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The people who historically attempted to tame and farm this land held a misplaced vision. This is wild land. It belongs to Nature alone.

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No grazing stock in sight, decommissioned windmills taken over by nesting ravens – the station now hosts tourists: game fishing, surfing, diving and camping. I feel privileged to have access to this magnificent stretch of coastal outback.

Looking for shade to sit and make a cuppa, there were no trees, only low acacia woodland, saltbush and samphire, and mounds of dead and broken shrubbery. The Outback. But we found a patch of shade by a wet saltpan, made a cup of tea and enjoyed watching Red-capped Plovers dart in random zig-zagging patterns through the shallow pools. Intense red sand contrasted brilliantly against the shimmering patches of moisture and the blue desert sky.

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Songs of Pied Honey-eaters and Blue-winged Fairy-wrens entertained us. Such delicate creatures make their home in harsh and unforgiving country. And we are reminded of the harshness by bleached bones of a beast lying alone on the silent sand. Today there is water. Yesterday and tomorrow are different stories again.

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Travelling – Much beauty in the details

Swollen buds waiting for springtime warmth, when they’ll burst into bloom. Wattle, not so patient, boasting golden fluff-balls already. Bold. Moss, greener than green. Spongy, adorned with undefined plant pits and pieces. And lichen, growing in ever-widening circles on rock faces. Fascinating. There are little niches for every life-form.

Purple spots on tiny white petals, hugging the mossy surface. I call them Snowdrops. My mother named them, and it stuck. Delicate, exquisite miniature bronzed insect-snatching tentacles of Sundews climbing to the light. Dots of sticky ‘dew’ on each lethal hair.

Details. Little things.

A bulging half-moon hangs in the blueness, unwilling to fade as you would expect it should by mid-morning. Tiny parcels of beauty everywhere, only needing appreciative eyes to unwrap them. I see them. All the natural gems nestling among the rocks and shrubs, hiding, but obvious to the grateful nature-lover.

Dull minds with eyes only for material gizmos and modernism will miss these treasures. Pity, for the more humans aware of the value of intricate and specialised eco-systems, the more our planet home will be preserved. But I don’t let that thought spoil my morning in the bush. My spirit is lifted.

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Travelling – Talking to the Universe

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I don’t need a special place to talk to the Universe, but sometimes I want a special place. Not a temple, not a mountain sanctuary or ethereal shrine. Just a private little spot surrounded by nature. A sacred hushed nook where I can connect to all around me without man-made dynamics bouncing off the walls, stifling the communication.

Devoting myself physically and emotionally to an infirm and unhinged friend has taken it’s toll. My heart is heavy. My spirit dull. I once thought my vocation lay in volunteering at a hospital or other care facility. NO. I’ll find my place caring for the land instead. But today I’m intent on talking to the Universe. I need inspiration and encouragement.

A break in the rain. A lull in the wind. I strode into the bush with purpose, fizzing with excitement.

Confronted with a massive granite outcrop, towering over me and curling over like a breaker in the surf, I just stood open-mouthed in awe. Stained by running and dripping water for millennia, ochre and black vertical bands shone in the midday sun. Not a famous rock. Nothing advertised as a tourist must-see. An off-shoot from a muddy rural road. Way out in the back blocks from Mukinbudin (yes, Muck-in-budd-in).

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Following a sort-of trail, over fallen logs, under dangling branches, I came by a small, damp, green alcove that had my name on it.  Only metres from the rock-face, a wattle tree blooming, twiggy saplings at the back, and totally devoid of anything remotely human. Solitude, except for the sweet songs of robins and fantails.

I cupped my hands and drank rainwater from a hole in the rock. Earthy. Refreshing. The sun shone from a blue, blue sky. Two magnificent eagles glided overhead.

Flat stones lying at the base of the outcrop begged to form a circle for my meditation. And, meditate, I did. And pray.  Asking for some semblance of sense of stuff clogging up my head. Ask, and you shall receive. A spark has been lit.

Sprinkles of rain. A stiff breeze whipping cold around me. Time to leave. I left my rocky circle as a gift to whoever might be inspired to use it in the future. It’s only a little meander off the walking trail. I wonder, in a year, will my circle still remain in tact?

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Travelling – The incredible beauty of solitude and nature

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tranquil expanse of water, stretching into the sky, glittering in the sunshine as it merges with the horizon. Slow moving rippling light is reflected from the water surface to the underside of bleached paperbark limbs reaching over the inlet, branches dangling into the water.

Whirring wings of honeyeaters and chirping chatter of fairywrens. Nature’s music. The sky is blue, the earth is damp.

Solitude. No-one else’s energy or thoughts to deflect – just nature emitting nurturing energy. As I rest in the shade, Mother Earth’s chilly fingertips brush my neck and bare arms, and I shiver involuntarily.

Alone with nature – four elements of earth, fire, air, water – all speak to my senses. Although it’s a ‘place’ I’m sitting at and admiring, it’s more than a ‘place’. It’s a part of everything that the universe encompasses – and I’m a part of all that.

A special moment where the birds jump about my feet – unthreatened by my presence because my energy is totally loving and giving. I want nothing from them, just the privilege of sharing their company and space.  I shift to sit in the sun and let the fire in the sky warm my back.

When you’re aware of the absolute perfection of solitude and when you feel overwhelming gratitude for the nurturing hand of Mother Nature, clarity trickles over your being, and you know that everything that you have in this moment is all that you need.  There is no temptation to think of the past or the future and all the angst it might hold for you.

Thoughts disappear as I embrace the incredible beauty of solitude and nature.

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Travelling – Vineyards and orchards, Mallee and saltbush

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Dry, dusty inland Australia – the sky belongs to raptors and ravens. The land ‘belongs’ to humans to do with as ‘they’ see fit.

I don’t agree that particularly thirsty crops like cotton and rice have a place in Australian agriculture, but, I do appreciate the expertise, employment, and economic value and sense of pride that goes with these industries in rural communities. Travelling west from Hay in the Riverina, vast paddocks of cotton spread across the landscape, giving way to even bigger paddocks of wheat stubble. Not a tree in sight. Wait. There’s one. Just imagine the noisy scuffles in those branches when the whole bird kingdom feels the urge to nest at once.

Murrumbidgee River irrigation gives way to Murray River irrigation as we drive into the Riverland district of Renmark and Berri. Acres of quality vineyards and citrus orchards butt up to parched Mallee and saltbush country. The strategic placement of dripping water produces lush and bountiful fruit crops, not a drop goes elsewhere.

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Citrus orchards butt right up to parched natural Mallee and saltbush country

The might River Murray, according to records, is apparently nowhere as mighty as it once was. Over use and mis-use. I can’t verify that, but to my eyes, the Murray is still a splendid river, running wide and clean, lined with grand River Red Gums and weeping Willows. But I am just an on-looker.

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And, I was overjoyed to see for myself that water is being allocated to maintain wetlands vital to water-birds’ health and wellbeing. What progress it is to see Murray River water diverted into wetlands surrounded by saltbush and sun-baked earth. Governmental view of environmental needs is finally making some slim changes that evoke hope.

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As we prepare to leave the Murray River, I feel sure we won’t find another that can stand anywhere near its grandeur until we trip around Australia and find ourselves back here.

 

Travelling – Observing the behaviour of shore birds

0218 Osprey catches long tom bait from fisherman - Crowdy Head Harbour 20 Mar 2018 Day 30 - Copy

Shorebirds can be difficult to identify by a shorebird-novice like me. But for someone who appreciates the nuances of animal behaviour, they can be endlessly entertaining, even without names.

Cudgeon Creek estuary at Hastings Point on the north coast of NSW proved to be a great place to watch the comings and goings of sand dwelling birds – our first stop on our around Australia caravanning trip.

Other sand flats and rock walls gave up surprise encounters with fascinating birds too. Like the Osprey, a raptor that generally preys on water-dwelling creatures, but is not immune to opportunism created by humans. I watched a woman catch a garfish and secure it to a bigger fishing rod in the hope of tempting a table fish to her hook. But the Osprey had its name on that garfish. It swooped to steel the live bait from the line and flew off to feed on it from a high perch. Brilliant!

And bath time always provides plenty of amusing antics. Crested terns scooped water up with their bent wings, splashing like children for longer than necessary. They all bath differently. Ospreys stand alone in the shallowest of water, tentatively dipping headfirst, throwing water onto their back, with its mate on patrol in a nearby tree.

A Mangrove Heron skulks among the rock-pools searching out tiny fish, freezing like a statue, then thrusting its bill into the water at such speed that I always miss the catch. The heron did not miss.

Birds with long straight bills like straws, others curved downwards, poking and prodding the sand for morsels of food – birds that have flown halfway around the world. How is that possible? Incredible.

Yes, the bird world is breathtakingly amazing.

Travelling – A garden to tell the world about

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Grand. Awesome. Immaculately groomed tropical plant collections from here and other tropical countries, obviously lovingly and expertly maintained.

Flecker Botanic Gardens, Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia. I’ve explored arid-lands botanic gardens, high-country botanic gardens, city and country, native and exotic, and always immersed myself in the beauty and fascination of the plants displayed. But really, this tropical garden tops them all.

Amazing ferns and palms are features. Stunning foliage plants. Mysterious carnivorous plants. Gorgeous blooms and odd seed capsules. Relatives of the grotesquely beautiful Corpse flower. Bromeliads, gingers, bamboos, and creepers. Orchids and strange fruit trees. Lush lawns and waterways. And tucked away in little leafy nooks are seats (themselves works of art) for contemplation and rest.

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What a truly inspiring piece of natural paradise. After wandering in wonderment, and sitting in silence, we enjoyed delicious food at the outdoor cafe. And then it rained, as it does in the tropics.

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