Monday, March 24, 2008

Of droughts and flooded plains....

Storm clouds gathering at sunset.

As the sun began to set, a whistling kite plucked a fish from the river , and storm clouds began to gather to the west. I thought about this country. There are only two seasons- Wet or Dry. Australia is a sunburnt country , a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooded plains... On this trip we would experience both.

View of Mungo through the screened enclosure.

As the wind came up, heavy splotches of rain began to fall, the ancient river gums, gave off a heady mixture of eucalyptus oil and honey fragrance. It was stunning. I felt small. It was the outback.
The trip took us from Kurrajong, Orange, Hillston to Willandra National Park. Then pushing further west to Ivanhoe and on to Mungo National Park. Following on to the old river port of Pooncarrie and then Kinchega. Home again via Wilcannia.

Each park is unique. Yet each park is linked with a common thread of boom times and bust, of flood and drought, of environmental disaster and of ancient discoveries.

Washed out road.

As we travelled we enjoyed the wild life spotting and saw:-emu, wedge tail eagle, galah and apostle bird as well as the usual white winged chuffs. The land looked rich, with dramatic greens contrasting with vivid red soils.

A lazy young goanna defied us until I set chase......

Goanna on its toes about to run!
Each park had its own wildlife . At Willandra we saw a Red Capped Robin and Grey Shrike Thrush. Mungo featured Wedge Tailed Eagles and Major Mitchells. Whilst Kinchega featured Whistling Kites and Red Tail Cockatoos. All unique, all beautiful. The Whistling kite, caught the fish right where we were camped. Casually.

The roads are harsh, whilst a small vehicle would cope, certainly a stronger vehicle is advisable. In one section all the lids of the salt, pepper and coffee vibrated off!! It was important, at the end of the day to ensure that the beer was at room temperature (which out here is 30c!!)

Maalie on a previous trip into the desert

I sat and quietly reflected on my friends need for room temperature beer! Ha!

Maalie this VB is for you.

Each night a log fire was prepared by David and enjoyed by all!

The drive out to Wilcannia was to prove a challenge. 150k of "dry condition road only". The day was sunny and the road was firm and undamaged by the rain. We pushed 50k until we were met by a sign which said the bridge was closed (unsafe). The road authority had pushed a side track through the creek below. Under normal conditions, passable. Today a flash flood had made the creek a metre high- Impassable.

Flooded road ways and creeks.

I decided to walk the bridge and check its safety. It had a 5 tonne limit and the Landcruiser is 3.5 tonne. However once on the other side I was greeted by a sheet of running water 100m wide. In order to check depth and the ground underneath I walked across. At about 40cm in the deepest part I deemed it safe, although a challenge to cross.

However, we had a further 85kms of mud and water! the road was completely water logged and the vehicle simply sank to the axles, moving forward slowly whilst throwing clods of black soil high into the air. It was a fine balance between forward momentum, engine revs, and the correct gearing.

After 2 hours we had crossed the worst road conditions I had experienced.

Troopie awaiting the truck wash

It was a great trip.
Fortunatly, the Troopie will be washed and cleaned by our detailing staff and not by me!

Bird list:-Emu, Wedged Tail Eagle, Galah, Apostle Bird, White Winged Chough, Nankeen Kestrel, Black Kite, Magpie, Pied Butcher bird, Pee-wee, Western Warbler, Rufus Whistler, Brown Thornbill, Southern White Face, Grey Shrike Thrush, Yellow Rumped Thornbill,, Red Capped Robin, Little Raven, Australian Raven, Red Rumped Parrot, Little Friar Bird, Coot, Australian Pratincol, House Sparrow, Crested Pigeon, Spiney Cheeked Wattlebird, Mulga Parrot, Common Bronze Wing, Yellow Throated Minor, Willy Wagtail, Major Mitchell, Cockatiel, Diamond Dove, Blue Winged Parrot, Western Warbler, Ring Necked Parrot (Mallie form), Fork Tailed Swift, Ausralian Pelican, White Faced Heron, Whistling Kite, Welcome Swallow, Red Tail Cockatoo, Black Kite, White Plumed Honey Easter, Red Legged Doteril, Royal Ibis, Little Eagle.


  1. There were also grey Kangaroos and goats and a lot more birds too! and thousands of bush flies!

  2. You were not kidding - the similarities in our terrains are amazing, especially the either drought or mud conditions and being met by tea-coloured unpassable streams!
    I'm with Maalie - nothing like a good 'shelfer' after a drive like that one.
    But aren't you spoiled, not having to clean the mud off the Trooper.

  3. Fantastic adventure mate! Excellent bird list too. And thanks for the beer!

    Tasmania, here we come. I just need to check out a couple of dates.

  4. You are a wonderful writer Simon, your descriptive prose allowed me to smell, breath and taste this wonderful land you live in. Sounds as though you had quite an adventure. Welcome back.

  5. Hey what a trip!
    Are they your feet that peep saucily out on some of the photos?

    What is emu oil? We get it here in health food shops, but can't believe it is actually made from squashed emus, or even road killed emus. Being a veggie I am wary of trying it out.

    Beer at 30 degrees. Mmmmm ...

  6. Why dost thou cook yon can of VB, yon colonist of Great Britain?

  7. Hey, scientists have discovered a food that diminishes a woman's sex drive by 90%. It's called a Wedding Cake.

  8. Wow that was quite some adventure! In the face of such an expanse of muddy water, in the midst of such temperatures.... I think I would have wanted to panic!!
    Just re=packed my thermals for where I am about to head... photos I have seen of recent snow have been very impressive.

  9. Lin- yes amazing for real! ANd yes I am fortunate to have employees who will clean it!

    Maalie- ahahaha! yes a great trip very rough, a lot rougher on the roads because of the rain. Tasmania is looking good.

    Shrinky- BIG thank you! I am glad I could at least convey soe of the sights and smells...

    Lorenzo- yes they are my feet in my outback safety sandels!

    Emu oil is specifically harvested from road kill emus. They are like BIG chooks and about as dumb.

    Viking- We drink beer cold here, but since travelling with Maalie and Also TCA I am not game enough to show a cold beer... Hahahaha!

    Kiwi- some of the passengers kept their eyes shut for about 80km!

  10. Looks good mate, but where's OUR beer?

    Did nyou take your bike?

  11. Welcome back after the worst road conditions you've experienced - wow! Impressive bird list and then more! Emu oil is very good for arthritis, made from the oil of feathers off live emu's backs ;)

  12. TCA! sorry. I will warm 2 up next time!

    Anony:- is it really good for arthritis? I should try it.

  13. TCA- re bikes.. No we did not take bikes. The roads are too rough. With hundreds of km of corragations the bikes would become damaged, even using proper Thule carriers.
    Would love to try one day though.

  14. Australian Aboriginals have been using emu oil in an ointment for centuries but only gives temporary relief from pain. Would work for stained joints after bike riding also! Mixed with wintergreen, peppermint and eucalyptus oil ... :)

  15. So Anon. does the emu oil only come from the feathers? Does any come from the flesh?

  16. Lorenzo, if it's anything like maalie (fulmar) oil you chop up the whole thing, boil it in a cauldron and skim off the oil which floats to the surface, just like what you do with a casserole. The feathers are virtually pure keratin (protein) - no oil there.

  17. did you know they are SO dumb, that, when you are travelling be sure they do not deliberatly run into your car!

  18. Okay, they told us the oil came from the feathers on the farm because my kids asked :O The aboriginals hung the birds from trees to collect the oil or directly wrapped skin to skin. Emu oil is now a by-product from the emu being processed for its meat... the oil is supposed to penetrate all seven layers of skin!

  19. QUICK delete my astonishing information before Lorenzo the Vegetarian sees it Simon!!!

  20. Emu oil comes from the fat of an emu. I can imagine that a dead emu hung up in the sun would leak oil that might appear to come from the feathers.

  21. Thanks for the edifying remarks Anon! Oh dear! No more emu oil then!

    It's strictly evening primrose oil from now on!

  22. Glad you saw the Apostle Birds, they are one of my favourites. They go around in twelves, you know, just to remind us of the Last Supper and its importance to us all.

    Don't take offence if I point out that the other bird is actually spelled Chough! LOL!

  23. As you know, this is a subject close to my heart. I like the pic of Maalie, btw. You are cruel..

  24. an interesting post, simon.
    you have a way with words.

  25. Love it Simon, just love it!

    My Mum is DESPERATE for more emu oil, she loves the relief it does for her cracked feet. I bought for her once in a tub of thick cream but can't seem to find the same in NZ. Maybe on my next trip to Oz. It's supposed to be very good relief for psorisis and exzema (sp?)

  26. check this out...

  27. Ellee- yes I am! ;o)

    Nancy- thanks!
    Ju's- I will have a look for you too!

  28. jls. Tell you mum to leave the emu oil alone!! It is cruelty in a bottle. Be a veggie!
    There are some excellent creams on the market that GUARANTEE to deal with dry, cracked feet within two weeks of using.

  29. I agree Lorenzo- I am a vegie but I also eat meat... ;o)

  30. On the market in NZ Lorenzo? Where? Point the way and I'll buy one.