Travelling – Vineyards and orchards, Mallee and saltbush

Blog tractor ploughing dust dry country Riverland

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.

Blog citrus orchard Riverland next to mallee and saltbush country
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.

Blog Murray River

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.

Blog wetlands birds Murray River National Park

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 – The spiritual experience that was Crystal Castle

046 Crystal Castle - Copy

Sharing something special with someone special, makes that something special all the more special.

My daughter and I spent the day at Crystal Castle on the north coast hinterland of NSW, and it’s hard to find a word to describe the experience – beautiful first and foremost, absolutely splendid plants adorning a misty mountain setting surrounded by natural rainforest. And crystals; stunning huge and ancient crystals on paths and clearings. Mossy stone statues, bamboo groves, sacred spaces. Seats amongst the garden for solitude. A truly special place.

We started the day taking part in a ritual offering to deities that are ‘simply’ universal energy. It was moving and enlightening. After tea and cake in the cafe overlooking the forested slopes, we wandered at leisure, taking in the beauty and abundant positive energy.

Group meditation with the hauntingly soothing sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, and a crystal workshop, delicious vegetarian food, and peace and quiet. We both took away wonderful memories, love and warmth, and a new perspective on some very old traditions.

 

053 Crystal Castle - mandala that the meditation class made, including Gaye and Tracy - Copy

Caravanning around Australia in 2018

Blog 001 Leaving Maryborough w van 19 Feb 2018

Settling into retirement in a new location has been tougher than we imagined. After 3 years, we’re still struggling, probably more now than initially.

Joining the Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay, with weekly outings amongst gentle, accepting people with like interests has been our saviour. But the time feels right to realise our dream of caravanning around Australia, so we’re heading off on an adventure – for 9, 10, 12 months, or, maybe we’ll forget to come home. As long as we can get our prescribed medications, we  have no commitments.

I need to re-connect with my self, and with nature. Wandering around the bush and deserted beaches will provide the unpolluted energy I need for reflection: joining the dots. And spending time at length amongst nature with my Old Mate is what we need as a couple. Day 1 has ended with a picnic tea by the beach in the shade, watching birds and enjoying the breeze after a long day travelling.

Blog 002 Hastings Point 12 Feb 2018

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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Travelling – An impressive spider catches a bird in the rainforest

Golden Orb spider huge queensland rainforest caught bird in web

She was hanging in the garden in a huge web tinged with gold. A BIG spider. A scarily BIG spider.  I first saw her while I was having breakfast outdoors. She darted to the bottom of the web pouncing on a brilliant blue butterfly. The butterfly escaped, and Mrs spider returned to the centre of her web, awaiting another hapless insect.

How do I know it was Mrs? Because in the spider kingdom, the female is usually hundreds of times larger than the male. At a close inspection, two tiny spiders were hanging out in the outskirts of the web, presumably waiting for a chance to impregnate the impressive mama, and probably get eaten in the process. It’s tough being a male spider.

During a late afternoon tropical shower, a dove flew through the web, leaving half the silky net in tatters. And then to make matters worse for the spider, the clumsy bird flew straight back again, almost taking out the spider.

More rain through the night, and when I checked out the spider in the garden, I was amazed to find a finch caught in the web. Now, the finch was only a little smaller than a House Sparrow, so that’s really some achievement for the spider’s silk – known to be stronger than steel of equal size. Nature is awesome.

The bird was still alive, and the spider showed no interest in the potential meal, so the owner of the Park rescued the bird and carefully plucked off all the silk fibres connected to its wings and legs. After a stumble, the bird flew off.

Bird caught in spider web queensland rainforest 2
I’ve turned this photo on it’s side so that the spider and captured bird are both more clear

This is what I love about nature. All the little details. All the daily behaviour and mystery. And that’s why I notice Mother Nature’s subtle, yet wondrous stories. Because I don’t just look, I experience. Yes, nature is awesome.

Bird caught in spider web queensland rainforest 1

 

Travelling – The beach of the balancing stones

Balancing stones beach cairns 1

It’s like the peace hidden and lying in wait in every person’s heart has emerged, just for a few moments. I wonder if they felt it? And I wonder if they experienced a connection with the other travellers they wandered amongst? And I wonder if any person leaving the beach was changed forever?

There are no directional signs, and it’s not an official tourist attraction, yet the beach is obviously visited by thousands of travellers who contribute to the impromptu art. Balancing towers of rocks and stones against a backdrop of tropical ocean, on the road from Port Douglas in far north Queensland to Cairns. I guess it’s rather unique.

Just picture: all cultures, all religions and all faiths, all political persuasions, all sexual orientations, and a full spectrum of social standings mingling, admiring, and feeling part of something simple that is also something special. And knowing that this simple natural expression of cross-cultural creativity is special. Boundaries have been crossed and walls have come down, and everyone is part of a whole. There are no officials telling dark-skinned people to go there or rich people to go here or heterosexuals to go there. Every person is equal and one with everyone else. A celebration of humanity. That’s how the world should be.

I’m disappointed to find, a few months later, that most of the stone stacks are gone. It doesn’t appear to be an act of wanton destruction by humans, but rather, I think Mother Earth has claimed the stones with boisterous stormy seas. More towers of balancing stones are starting replace those washed away, and I hope the process will be repeated so that people from all over the world and from all walks of life can once again leave their positive energy and creativity for all to enjoy.

I sat on the beach this morning amongst the new art pieces to write, imagining cultures mixing, and all going away with a smile in their hearts.

Balancing stones beach cairns 2