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Rain in the Rainforest

Square Perspectives Photo Challenge ~ Australian Landscapes #29

Destination: Goomburra Section, Main Range National Park, Queensland

Last November Queensland was in the middle of a crippling drought. So even though we were in a rainforest, we didn’t expect it to rain.

The sky looked ominous but we gave it no thought as we set off up the track to the Mount Castle Lookout.

We saw evidence of damaging storms which had passed through a few weeks before.

As we reached the lookout the sun broke through the thick layer of clouds, illuminating the sheer stony cliffs of Mount Castle.

Through the haze we could clearly see the domed tops of distant mountains – Greville, Moon, Barney and Maroon. But as we lingered, gazing out over the valley and the mountains, the mist enveloped us, bringing with it heavy rain.

The patter of raindrops joined the calls of birds hidden high in the trees, enhancing the beauty of the forest. We were drenched, but there was no inclination to hurry back along the track.

It’s not every day we get rained on in a rainforest!

 

While our travel plans are on hold I’m joining in every day with Becky’s July Square Perspectives Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme of perspective. My posts represent the definition of perspective as a vista – seeing something over distance or time. Also joining Jo’s Monday Walks.

Cloud Shapes

Square Perspectives Photo Challenge ~ Australian Landscapes #27

Destination: Granite Lookout, Washpool National Park, New South Wales

The information board at the Granite Picnic Area promised us sweeping views of the Gibraltar Ranges.

We walked for 400 metres on a track shaded by eucaplypt forest,

until we came to a natural granite platform on the edge of the range, 1065 metres above sea level.

The huge slab of granite was perfectly positioned to see over the hidden gully where Coombadjha Creek flowed to the tree covered mountains beyond.

After walking through the forest with its branches arching overhead, the open sky was a welcome change.

We got all we were promised and more.

 

While our travel plans are on hold I’m joining in every day with Becky’s July Square Perspectives Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme of perspective. My posts represent the definition of perspective as a vista – seeing something over distance or time. Also joining Jo’s Monday Walks.

A Walk In the Forest

Square Perspectives Photo Challenge ~ Australian Landscapes #25

Destination: Washpool National Park, New South Wales

The temperate rainforest at Washpool National Park is part of the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. The plants growing in the park now are the same species as those which grew here 550 million years ago, when Australia was part of the supercontinent Gondwana.

Come for a walk in the forest with me.

Ferns with ancient ancestry begin life on the forest floor, while larger tree ferns form umbrella-shaped shelter overhead.

Vines and aerial roots twist together, using tree trunks for support in their quest to reach the sky.

The clear water of Summit Creek flows around granite boulders strewn in its path, creating an ever-changing canvas of ripples and reflections.

The tallest trees compete for sunlight which filters down through the canopy, making shadowplay on the tracks below.

Before turning back, let’s rest a while. With its mossy coat, this bench might have been here since Gondwana.

 

While our travel plans are on hold I’m joining in every day with Becky’s July Square Perspectives Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme of perspective. My posts represent the definition of perspective as a vista – seeing something over distance or time. Also joining Jo’s Monday Walks.

A Walk to Remember

Square Perspectives Photo Challenge ~ Australian Landscapes #11

Destination: Newcastle, New South Wales

It’s hard to imagine that the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in Turkey and the multi-national mining company BHP would have anything in common, but the connection between the two goes all the way back to 1915.

The ANZAC forces, comprising troops from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, landed on the shore at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, in what was to be an eight month campaign with more than 8000 Australian casualties. In the same year BHP, which was founded as a mining company in the outback town of Broken Hill in 1885, opened their first steel works in Newcastle.

It was this connection between two Australian legends which led to the construction of the Newcastle Memorial Walk. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the 450 metre memorial walk passes over Strzelecki Headland, linking Bar Beach and King Edward Park. 64 tonnes of steel, manufactured and paid for by BHP, were used in the construction of the walkway.

Half way along the path, a bridge passes over the cliffs near the top of the headland. It is here the ANZACs are remembered. Striking silhouettes of servicemen and women line each side of the bridge.

Cut from steel, they are engraved with the names of 4000 regional families whose loved ones served during World War One. Steel plaques on the bridge tell the stories of their service.

The Memorial Walk is a permanent reminder of the sacrifices made in 1915.

 

While our travel plans are on hold I’m joining in every day with Becky’s July Square Perspectives Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme of perspective. My posts represent the definition of perspective as a vista – seeing something over distance or time. Also joining Jo’s Monday Walks.

Up, Down, Up

Square Perspectives Photo Challenge ~ Australian Landscapes #9

Destination: Tomaree Head, Shoal Bay, New South Wales

The sign said it was only a two kilometre walk, but it looked a long way up to the summit of Tomaree Head.

At first the track was easy going,

but soon the gentle incline was replaced by steps up to a cantilevered walkway leading through the trees and around the edge of the hill.

At the top our efforts were rewarded with expansive coastal views to the north and south.

Heading back downhill, we left the summit walk and turned onto another path. It led us up again to the Fort Tomaree gun emplacements, part of Australia’s coastal defences during the Second World War.

The guns were removed a long time ago, but the structures which housed them have been left behind.

It was easy to see why Tomaree Head was chosen as a strategic site. The views were spectacular.

 

While our travel plans are on hold I’m joining in every day with Becky’s July Square Perspectives Photo Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme of perspective. My posts represent the definition of perspective as a vista – seeing something over distance or time. Also joining Jo’s Monday Walks.

All or Nothing

Western Queensland Road Trip #18 St George

After seeing seeing little more than puddles in several outback rivers, the broad expanse of the Balonne River at St George was an unexpected surprise. Tall river gums lined the river banks and the almost cloudless sky above was reflected in the water flowing slowly towards the weir.

With the sun nearing the horizon we set off along the Riverbank Walkway, a two kilometre track on the town side of the river. As the shadows lengthened and the tree trunks glowed in the light of early evening, a little cruise boat carrying tourists passed by.

There were plenty of locals enjoying the river too, with cyclists, walkers and even two horseback riders on the track. We mentioned our surprise at the volume of water in the river to a lady walking her dog and she explained. “The dam wall upstream needs repairs so all the water has been let out of Lake Kajarabie into the river. It’s being held back by the weir, but the situation is very worrying. This is all the water we have. If it runs out, there is no more.”

Even before the sun had set over the water the moon rose into the clear night sky. We stayed until it was almost dark, taking in the beauty of the river and the bush.

The next day we drove out to Beardmore Dam to see for ourselves. That lady was right. The dam wall, which usually holds back up to 81 000 mega-litres of water, could clearly be seen and the lake was as dry as those rivers we’d seen elsewhere.

Like the people of St George, we could only hope that rain would fall again to replenish the river and the lake.

Post Script: After recent heavy rain in the St George area, Beardmore Dam filled in less than two weeks and is now at 99.98% capacity. The Balonne River broke its banks, reaching a peak of more than 12 metres but no homes in St George were inundated.

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Hills of Sand

Western Queensland Road Trip #14 Cunnamulla

In the heat of mid-morning there’s very little movement in the bush. Every now and then an unseen bird calls to its mate but it’s the constant hum of insects that dominates.

On the edge of town, a line of red sand hills rises up out of the trees. From a distance they don’t seem high, but the slope is steeper than it looks. Climbing up proves to be a challenge as the fine red sand moves constantly beneath our feet.

Once at the top our effort is rewarded. Cunnamulla’s buildings are just visible through the hardy mulga scrub and the Warrego River sparkles like a silver-backed serpent in the distance.

A small mob of kangaroos rests in a shady spot and they watch us watching them. They stop feeding on the sparse ground cover, lifting their heads to catch our scent. One seems to decide we’re no threat; he returns to his grazing and the others follow his lead.

For a while we copy the kangaroos, finding a cool place to sit and enjoy the view. And when it’s time to leave, the descent is much easier than going up.

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Small Town, Big Walk!

Western Queensland Road Trip #13 Eulo

With a population of just 48, the outback town of Eulo might be small in numbers but it has plenty of personality. And you can easily explore all the sights on foot, from one end of town to the other.

On the corner where the Adventure Way enters town and becomes Leo Street, you’re greeted by a giant lizard who’s seen better days. It’s a relic of the famous Eulo Lizard Races, held annually for 30 years up to 2000.

Nearby stands a memorial connected to the lizard races which, at first glance, appears quite ordinary. But the dedication to champion racing cockroach “Destructo” tells of his unfortunate demise at the peak of his career.

While lizards and cockroaches might reside in Eulo now, huge diprotodons, ancestors of today’s wombats and koalas, lived here during the Pleistocene Epoch up to 2.5 million years ago. The largest of Australia’s megafauna, the plant-eating diprotodon weighed as much as 2.8 tonnes.

The historic Eulo Police Cells are a reminder of days not so long ago. Built in 1923 to replace the original jail cells, which were destroyed by termites, these tiny rooms would have been uncomfortable for those unlucky to be imprisoned in the heat of summer.

Opposite the old police cells on Leo Street is the Eulo Queen Hotel, named for Isabel Robinson who moved to the town with her second husband Richard Robinson in 1886. Together they owned a general store and a butcher’s shop as well as the local hotel, and Isabel added to her fortune by acquiring opals from local miners. Her reputation as the Eulo Queen was enhanced by her habit of “entertaining” the hotel’s patrons while her husband conveniently looked the other way.

No such entertainment is available at the hotel today but enjoying a cool drink while seated on one of the hotel’s unique bar stools is a refreshing alternative.

Further along the street is an unusual structure you wouldn’t expect to find in the outback – an Anderson air raid shelter, built during the second World War to protect residents in case of attack by Japanese forces. The decision to build an air raid shelter was made by the government of the time, as Eulo was a crucial communication link between Darwin and Sydney. It was made long enough to fit up to 50 people, but luckily the need to protect the townspeople never eventuated.

The Japanese may never have attacked but there have been other times when Eulo’s residents have needed protection. When flooding rains come the Paroo River quickly breaks its banks, closing the highway and isolating those on either side. A modified truck has long been used to negotiate floodwaters, carrying both people and goods. Five years ago when the old flood truck was replaced with a modern version, it took up residence in a place of honour next to the store in recognition of its service to the community.

There’s no chance of the bridge over the river going underwater during the current prolonged drought.

Past the bridge, Leo Street once again becomes the Adventure Way and heads further west – time to stop walking and get back in your car!

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River Walk

Western Queensland Road Trip #11 Cunnamulla

For much of the day, the harsh light of the outback is almost blinding, bleaching the landscape of its colour. A few hours later, in the softer light of late afternoon, nature’s hues become richer and more mellow.

When we first see the Warrego River at Cunnamulla late in the day, we can’t help noting the contrast with the Maranoa River in Mitchell. After recent heavy rainfall further north, the river flows deep and full. It’s the perfect time to enjoy Riverwalk, a 1.6 km track beside the Warrego.

Surprisingly, the path leads at first away from the river to the flood plains beyond its banks. Floodwater still pools in some gullies, but where it has evaporated thick dark mud is all that remains.

Baked hard by the relentless heat of the sun, the mud shrinks as it dries leaving deep crazy-paved cracks overlaid with the tracks left by passing animals. Tiny specks of green remind us that water is all that is needed for life to regenerate.

In the quiet of this afternoon, there’s not a lot of wildlife around. A long-necked turtle, secure inside his shell, refuses to greet us and even the meat ants are nowhere to be seen around their huge mounded nest. If we banged hard enough they would rush out in defence of the nest, but that would be asking for trouble so we leave them in peace.

In this flat landscape even the slightest elevation gives a sense of distance. From a raised viewing platform, it’s easy to see where the flood plain gives way to the mulga scrub native to this part of western Queensland.

Eventually we arrive at the river bank. With the sun behind us and much lower in the sky, the shadows of the majestic red river gums along the bank stretch out over the water.

A lone pelican drifts lazily with the current while a large egret stands motionless, probably on the lookout for his dinner. A whistling kite soars gracefully overhead and, although we can hear the raucous calls of cockatoos settling in the trees, we see only a feather fallen to the ground.

We reach the end of the path as the sun sets. The sky begins to fade from blue to gold, before turning that fiery red typical of the end of day in the outback.

The sun drops below the horizon in minutes, but its glow remains for a time. The last rays of light burnish the river gums and light our way back across the bridge into town.

The river puts on one last display, creating a mirror image of the sky above before all the colour of the outback is lost in complete darkness.

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Outback History

Western Queensland Road Trip #7 Charleville

The small town of Charleville, established when the first hotel was built in 1865, now has a population of around 3,500 people. Despite its isolated location in outback Queensland, Charleville has a rich history full of intriguing personalities and interesting places.

The building now known as the Charleville Historic House Museum has stood on Alfred Street since 1887. Originally the town’s first bank, it was also a boarding house before being purchased by the local Historical Society in the 1970s.

In the main room, the vault once used by the bank to store money now holds precious documents and records. The museum is full to the brim with dozens of items once used in everyday life, while outside is a collection of vehicles and machines from bygone times.

Two more relics of the past stand proudly at the Graham Andrews Parklands on the Mitchell Highway.

The Steiger Vortex Guns are two of six built in 1902 in Brisbane on the orders of the Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge. He’d heard about the guns being used in Austria to prevent hailstorms in wine growing areas. By firing ammunition into clouds, storms were dispersed. Vibrations in the clouds also caused rain to fall and Clement hoped similar guns might be used to break a long running drought in outback Queensland. He brought his guns to Charleville and, on 26 September 1902, ten shots from each cannon were fired into the sky. Sadly the experiment was a failure – no rain fell in Charleville that day.

The Charleville base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located further along the Mitchell Highway at the airport. Founded by the Reverend John Flynn, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has provided medical care to those living in outback Australia since 1928.

At the Visitor Centre, videos explain the history of the service and dramatic recordings bring to life the first hand experiences of patients and their families. Displays of historic medical equipment and radio technology are compared with 21st century methods of health care in the outback.

The hangar used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service dates from 1943. It was built as part of the occupation of Charleville Airport by the United States 45th Air Base Group, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd and 65th Bomb Squadrons and the 8th Material Squadron during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1943 more than 3,500 US servicemen lived at the top secret site, which was used to store and maintain American B-17 Bombers. Most of the structures built to cater for the servicemen are long gone, but the foundations of mess halls and shower blocks remain as evidence of the war time activities in this remote posting.

Many of those American servicemen would have enjoyed themselves at the Saturday night dances at the Hotel Corones. Built by Greek migrant Harry Corones in the 1920s, the hotel was famous for its luxurious interiors – marble floors, beautiful furniture and a grand staircase leading to the first floor where the accommodation included ensuite bathrooms, a rare luxury otherwise not seen outside of Brisbane.

An afternoon tour of the hotel tells the story of Harry’s rise from penniless immigrant to successful business man and visionary. Visitors can order a drink at the bar, once the biggest in the southern hemisphere, and climb the silky oak staircase to the rooms where dignitaries including Princess Alexandra, performer Gracie Fields and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam have stayed. The tour ends in the dining room with an afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream.

A stroll along the Wadyanana Pathway on the banks of the Warrego River soon works off that delicious afternoon tea. Charleville is located on traditional Bidjara lands and the pathway, designed by local Bidjara residents, tells the story of Mundagudda, the Rainbow Serpent.

It’s also a timely reminder that this land was occupied long before that first hotel was built in 1865.

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