Sunday, January 27, 2008

Willandra National Park. Pt2.

The Willandra homestead.

Situated approximately 750km west of Sydney, Willandra NP is another example of a working sheep station that began in the 1880's and survived through to the late 1960's. Like Kinchega, Mungo, Mt Wood and Wilga, its contribution to our national identity and our prosperity made this trip one to be remembered, especially on Australia day.

At its peak it covered 1760sq klms of flood plain, and 90,000 sheep were sheared in a season. The 1920's and 1930's represented its "hay day" with peak production in those years.. In 1912 Vickary Partnership purchased the lease and in 1918 built the beautiful homestead, which still exists today, (see above).

A severe drought just after WW2 began the decline, and by the late 1960's, (even with 22 employees), the property was purchased by Dalgety who did not renew the lease. It was finished. In 1972 NSW National Parks took over the property and in 1997 the homestead was beautifully restored. It was fortunate- in the late 1960's it as to be demolished but the pastoral company did not have enough money.


The drive to Willandra does not look difficult on the map. Tar all the way to Lake Cargelligo, then patches of tar and dirt to Hillston. A final push of about 65klm to the National park is all that's required.

The typical road.

Here is the point- On our trip, (in 06), to the outback, Maalie asked me why I always carried 2 spare tyres... for this reason- The very time I did not carry one we experienced a blow out. Roads here are rough and tough. Even though the vehicle weighs 3.5 tonnes, it was only a few minutes before we were on our way again. The point is this- we did not see anyone and the road was littered with blown tyres. Also, being the long weekend, NO tyre repairers were open. It's a lesson learned- Carry 2 spares even if you think its an "easy" trip or you could be camping beside the road and not where you want.

The Landscape? Flat flood plain from horizon to horizon. Very few trees. Just evidence that, if it rained, you would be stuck. The Willandra creek runs into the Lachlan river, and evidence of recent rain could be seen. It's quite agoraphobic!

From the flat land, devoid of trees and form, suddenly we are greeted by buildings and trees! We had arrived. The homestead is simply beautiful. Green lawns, established gardens and trees all backing onto a lagoon, emerge from what seems no-where.

We drove on to the camp sites. Soon the troopie was set up with kitchen and sleeping facilities. The camping areas backs on to the outer area of the swamps and will the rain you could smell the decay in the air.

Once set up , we set off along one of the walks which follows the banks of the creek. We were soon greeted by Whistling Kite, Wedge tail Eagle, Brown Thornbill and Grey Fantail. A Shingle back lizard sunbaked close to evidence of feral animals. The skull of a feral pig caught our attention, as too did the remains of goats and fox. Kangaroos hopped away lazily whilst emus did their usual "stupid" running away.

In the right season up to 170 species of bird can be seen on this lagoon and creek. Its clearly an oasis in a bland, hot and dry land.

The camp.

On returning to our campsite a bbq dinner and a coopers pale ale was had as we sat watching the sun set. It was simply beautiful. We discussed just how tough the men and women were to "tame" this land. But rather reduce it from salt bush and tree to weed and desolation. They did not know and its that simple. It was still hot as the sun disappeared.

The walk.

Soon we had a camp fire going as owls and bats flew overhead, and a beautiful moon appeared through the trees.

The moon.

It was a reflective mood as the ale flowed and I recalled my grandfather and his brother who worked and managed Stations such as this. frankly I would rather spend Australia day here than spend it amongst the crowds in Sydney.

Decayed bridged.

Birds seen:- Whipbird, Bell Minor, Australian Magpie, Pee Wee, Soldier bird, Little raven, Australian raven, White Winged Chuff, House Sparrow, Willy Wagtail, Welcome Swallow, White Necked Heron, Great Egret, Wedge Tailed Eagle, Australian Pelican, Black Faced Wood Swallow, Plover, Nankeen Kestrel, Emu, Red Kneed Doterill, Black Chinned Honey Eater, Mallie Ring Necked Parrot, Brown Thornbill, Crested Pigeon, Whistling Kite, Black Kite, Azure Kingfisher, Pied Butcherbird, Grey Butcherbird. Apostle bird. White Browed Babbler.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Là où je suis née

Là où je suis née
Il n'y a pas de gare
Il n'y a pas de route
Même pas de trottoir

Là où je suis née
Il n'y a pas de phare
Il n'y a pas de train
Loin dans le brouillard

Oh je lis dans vos yeux
Que je ne peux pas compter sur vous
Mais j'y retournerai
J'irai seule c'est ma vie après tout

Là où je suis née
Il n'y a pas de gare
J'y vais en secret
Rien que de mémoire

Il y a des odeurs de lessive
De fleurs et c'est si doux
Il y a des cabanes dans les arbres
Et de l'amour surtout

Là où je suis née
Il n'y a pas de guerre
Et les hommes sont de toutes les couleurs

Oh je lis dans vos yeux
Que je ne peux pas compter sur vous
Mais j'y retournerai
J'ai oublié le chemin c'est tout

Sunday, January 20, 2008


With the weather in NSW being unsettled and floods in QLD, any chance to get outside and get some fresh air is taken with great enthusiasm. Rather than waffle I thought a few simple photos would do the trick.

Saturday poured with rain, so I did a road ride. Sunday was breezy and the temperature was perfect for a Mtn bike ride.

Placing feet in wet shoes does not feel the best. They were so wet I had to tie them to the bull bar of the troopie in an attempt to dry them out whilst driving!

It was a nice few hours. However, the swallowing of a couple of Australian bush flies, (which were in plague proportions), left a strange taste in the mouth! Why do they always attack when I am climbing some really steep hill, breathing hard, and at a point where I cannot take my hands off the handle bars.......??

(BTW:- I will be introducing a new email address and new phone number soon! I will keep my friends posted. My other blog "Ordinary Life" has been filed until I decide what to do with the next chapter)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bell, Hartley Vale, Mt York

Old Railway Viaduct

Having ridden 60k on my road bike yesterday, I thought a ride on the Mtn bike today was in order to get some blood running around the muscles... I chose a ride that I found interesting. Yet in the past I have never had time to explore this part of the mountains. Hartley Vale, Darling Causeway, Bell, Mt Victoria and Mt York all have an interesting history.

The view into HartleyVale

Like most areas of the mountains, they were either major routes to cross the Blue Mountains or they were parts of the shale mines that dotted the landscape.

Parking the troopie at Bell, ride south along the Darling causeway and you will come to a turn off to Hartley Vale, clearly marked. However, before descending into the valley, take the time to follow the old rail line that leads to a shale mine. The view on either side are spectacular. Double back and descend into the valley.

Remains of railway boiler.

The old Comet Inn and a few historic homes remain. I found the ride easy at this stage, before discovering, (for myself), the old Cox's Road, an ascent from the valley floor up to Mt York. Un daunted I rode towards my goal. It did not take long before I realised that it would be easier to carry the bike and walk up the old road. It was constructed in 1815 and was the only way off the Blue mountains before the current Victoria Pass was constructed. I pondered how the horses and people coped, as I struggled for breath in the heat.

Road into Hartley Vale.

The walk was difficult as the bike got stuck on fallen trees,I had little tread left on the bike shoes and the metal cleats slipped on the rocks. Undaunted I pressed on.

The views are simply beautiful even as the temperatures got to 38c. I finally arrived at the top. It was a-buzz with picnicers and rock climbers who all looked a bit amazed as I emerged from the bush.. the wrong way...(i.e. Bottom to top-not top to bottom).

Track across creeks.

The ride back to the car is about 15km of tar road. Pleasant and fast, amongst tall pine and beautiful gardens. However the heat and humidity, proved to be energy sapping, it was with great relief that I arrived back at the troopie, having explored this part of the Blue Mountains.

The walk up to the top...

I drove back home, tired but content that I had achieved something...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Birding In England.

Wherever you travel, whatever the weather conditions, there is always an oppertunity to spot wildlife, specifically birds. In the past I have always been too busy to have a good look around me. I was either running, riding or walking flat out to notice. Now it's a little different. I try to take the time to really look. Not just "tick" the destination but really to absorb it.

It can be done anywhere, your backyard, your walk to the shops or your drive to work or on holidays! In a city or in the country. It does not matter.

Our recent trip to the beautiful Duddon Estuary and Lakes District of England would proove again just how magical birding can be, and just how incredible our environment is.

With the help of Jims expert eye we spotted:-

01. Rook 02. Carrion Crow 03. Jackdaw 04. Magpie 05. Bullfinch 06. Robin 07. Black-headed Gull 08. Chaffinch 09. Blackbird 10. Coot 11. Mute Swan 12. Mistle Thrush 13. Mallard 14. Canada Goose 15. Tufted Duck 16. Jay 17. Lapwing 18. Grey Heron 19. Treecreeper 20. Herring Gull 21. Collared Dove 22. Buzzard 23. Wren 24. House Sparrow 25. Starling 26. Curlew 27. Great Tit 28. Snipe 29. Redshank 30. Twite 31. Stonechat 32. Bar-tailed Godwit33. Greylag Goose
34. Great Black-backed Gull 35. Dunlin 36. Goldcrest 37. Meadow Pipit 38. Kestrel 39. Lesser Black-backed Gull 40. Cormorant 41. Knot 42. Woodpigeon 43. Blue Tit 44. Goldfinch 45. Fieldfare 46. Moorehen 47. Dunnock 48. Shelduck 49. Turnstone 50. Grey Plover 51. Golden Plover 52. Skylark 53. Eider 54. Rock Pipit 55. Brent Goose 56. Goosander 57. Red-breasted Merganser 58. Great Crested Grebe 59. Pied Wagtail 60. Pheasant 61. Oystercatcher 62. Common Gull 63. Partridge

YEP!! 63 ... and we were just on holidays....

Of course a stop at the lake where Campbells Blue Bird ran the world speed record thrilled a "rev head like me", and even more birds were seen. The scenery EVERYWHERE is spectacular.

After a day of driving and "spotting" there is nothing better than delicious food in an English pub. An open fire always greeted us as too did an English Ale. I once wrote that English food is bland and stodgey. Well Iam glad I did.... because it seemed as if everyone was going out of their way to proove otherwise.

The King Prawns at the Black Dog pub were some of the best I have had anywhere, (yes I know! They are full of iron etc etc..... but you have gotta live!!). The barman seemed amused by my accent, then he confessed he had a fantastic trip to Aus, and thought all Aussies were wonderful... Of course I bought an extra pint.

So, if you are a traveller, walker, mountain bike rider, whatever your "thrill", buy a book, binoculars, take a deep breath and have a real look around. In the middle of winter, with ice and sleet all around you will be surprised what you will see.

That night I thought of the pheasant we dined on earlier. The best I had ever tasted.

So, my friends get out, take a deep breath and enjoy what exists around you!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Lets go boating!

Having returned from England (more postings about that trip soon), and with a new Zodiac in the shed it was time to try it on the river. So it was with much boyish enthusiasm we set off to try it out!

It's was a short drive to the Hawkesbury River and the Zodiac was set up in minutes. It was not long before it was humming at a nice pace.

The Hawkesbury river has a interesting history. Earliest farming was conducted by the first fleet in this region. Rich flood plains and easy river access all made this possible. In fact the earliest railway link was constructed to Windsor to get the produce to market. The Hawkesbury Valley was regarded as Sydney's "food basket."

Today the river banks still show some signs of those earlier pioneers. Old mooring posts, churches, grave yards, and historic buildings still exist if you look hard enough. Sadly, most farms now supply turf to the Sydney region, although a few orchids can still be seen.

What most people in Sydney don't realise is that the drinking water of the towns of Richmond and North Richmond comes from this river. Highly recycled, it is top quality and no-one would be aware that the river is the source. Most city dwellers seem reluctant to use/drink recycled water... yet here is the proof.

David took to the controls of the Zodiac like a professional, however I could not help be disappointed by the performance of the engine. It seemed slow. It was not until we got stuck in weeds, (which grew like grass just below the surface of the water), that we realised we had dragged a massive clump of the stuff for miles!

Removing this from around the propeller we were greeted by almost "drag car" like performance!! The bow lifted and we flew almost hovering above the water.

Whilst it was about trying the boat, we did get some good quality birding in. Sea Eagle, Darter, Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Australasian Grebe, White Faced Heron, Grey Teal and Moorhen were seen along the banks.

Lunch consisting of fresh fruit was had before we returned after several hours of fun in the sun.

A great day? The smile says it all!... Eh Dave?

Stay tuned for the next episode in the Lakes District Cumbria U.K.!