Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend

This weekend is a national (bank) holiday here in Australia. In celebration of the Queen’s birthday. We had planned to go to Melbourne but guess what?

That’s right! There has been another covid panic. Sparked by one so called “case”! Bloody hell! They “test” thousands of people and eventually find a “case”, then panic and put the city into lockdown – again!. But never a full explanation of these odd “cases” that they “test” for. Never. Did they die? Are they at death’s door? Probably not. In fact the disease is so bad that they have to test thousands (and by their own figures it can be 20-25,000) before they discover a single “case”. Then they have to tell that person that they “have covid”. More or less that’s how it goes. Hardly a terrible thing is it that they have to search really hard for someone who doesn’t know they have it…. Hmm… I always sceptical but these days even more so. Really pathetic. Words fail me…

At least it means that we won’t be spending any money in Victoria. Let them be! I never wanted to go – it was Dani’s mum – and at least she got the money back after cancelling the trip… That reminds me. I still have to write about the time we tried to enter Victoria during our outback trip. (I will do that in the next post)

Alternative Plans

This all meant that we needed to make alternative plans for the Queen’s birthday weekend. Here’s what we did…

Opera House via The Rocks

It is winter festival time at The Rocks. Basically the usual stuff going on but rebadged. At least we made it into the Endeavor Tap Room pub. they have plenty of their own brews plus enough guest ales.

Behind the scenes at the Endeavor Tap Rooms
My tasting paddle got the thumbs-up from Dani…

From there it was a short walk around Circular Quay to the Opera House. They had some special event on – apologies, I have forgotten what it was called/for – which involved projecting onto part of the famous tiled roof. Here are a couple of snippets of that light and sound show…

It would never have been my first choice but Dani and his mum enjoyed it…

On the way across the quay for the sound and light show…

Zig-Zag Line

The famous Knapsack Viaduct that was built for the original rail crossing of the Blue Mountains

The line literally zig-zagged its way up the steep mountain then crossed over the range to zig-zag its way down again to Lithgow on the western side of the Blue Mountains National Park. Part of that old zig-zag descent into Lithgow is still in operation as a tourist train. It was always closed (due to covid) whenever we were in that area. It is still closed and due to reopen late this year….

Blue Mountains

Blackheath market in a park at the cenotaph and Govett’s Leap. This is definitely one of the most spectacular places to in the Blue Mountains. The open canyon is truly magnificent and they actually call it The Grand Canyon. Plus there’s a decent waterfall… Again this area was closed off last time we came up here.

This area of the mountains is called the Grand Canyon
The falls at Govetts Leap

Cenotaph at Blackheath

We stopped at a town called Springwood. It is quite a lively little town with plenty of shops and places to eat. There is even a (relatively) large theatre. then I noticed this poster…

When did she move to Australia?

I never liked Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics – maybe the odd song. I didn’t realise she had moved over here? It’s all happening in the Blue Mountains eh? Then again… The poster is misleading. Other adverts stipulate that the act is a tribute act but the Annie Lennox poster did not. However, when you visit the theatre website it clearly says that it is a tribute act.

The modern Blue Mountains Theatre at Springwood
An older art gallery in the town, right next door to the theatre.

Winter is here…

Meanwhile, it is officially winter here. Has been since June 1st. And it is cold. I definitely thought autumn was much cooler than it was last year. Now, it turns out that a few days ago was the coldest day in Sydney since 1984. Towns inland have been covered in snow. Although a fair distance from here.

Film Review – Hot Rod

I thought I needed to review this relatively old film. Mainly because I have recently watched it with my son and he finds it as funny as I do. If you like daft movies. Really silly ones of the Bill & Ted kind, then you will love Hot Rod.

I first saw this film in the middle east, in Jordan of all places. It was on some film channel in the hotel. I thought it was hilarious. Its definitely on of those movies; you either get it or you don’t. And if you get it, then it really is hilarious. This film was made way back in 2007 when it was a box office flop. But it has since gained cult status (whatever the hell that means). I just thought it was (and still is) extremely funny. And now so does my son…

Most of the characters are supposed to be late teens/early twenties (I suppose) but are clearly played by older actors. Rod is played by Andy Samberg, his dorky (half) brother Kevin is played by Jorma Taccone, while another of Rod’s crew (Dave) is played by Bill Hader who should be recognisable. Rod’s mother is played by Sissy Spacek. She plays the role completely straight as if not in a comedy, and that works well. Rod’s stepdad Frank is played by Ian McShane while Isla Fisher plays Rod’s love interest Denise.

Plot

Rod is trying to be a stuntman doing jumps on his (crappy) Tomos moped/scooter. He believes his deceased dad was a great stuntman who worked with the legendary Evel Knievel (Rod has a photograph of his dad with Evel). He is brave but clearly hopeless as are his “crew”. Basically they are a bunch of losers but the type that you want to succeed.

Rod’s stepdad (Frank) is always mocking Rod’s stuntman efforts and continually beats him in fights. Rod is determined to prove his stepdad wrong and eventually beat him one day in a fight to prove that he is a man and deserving of his stepdad’s respect. That day seems a long way off. But then Frank becomes terminally ill and the only thing that can save him is a heart transplant which costs the conveniently round figure of $50,000.

Rod decides he will jump 15 school buses to raise the money and his team set about training Rod. At the same time they raise funds by doing small (and incredibly daft) stunts at kids  parties and public shows.

In an effort to help, Kevin makes a short documentary film of Rod’s work and they sell-out the local theatre. That turns sour however as people just laugh at Rod. In anger Rod smashes the projector (and a car windscreen n the bargain) which costs him all the monies they have raised so far. When all seems lost a local AM radio station steps in to sponsor the big jump and the event is back on.

No spoiler alert required as it is up to you to watch the movie and see what happens.

Critique.

Personally I can’t fault it. Dani is on the same wavelength. We laughed till we cried watching it recently. But I understand that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I give it 5 out of 5 simply because it makes me (and Dani) laugh. A lot!

The “Cool Beans” scene was apparently almost taken out – Samberg and Taccone repeating the phrase “cool beans” until it evolves into a kind of pseudo-rap. The scene was left in the film’s last test screening and it seems that the (test) audience scored it highly as one of their favourite bits. You will know it if you have already seen the movie. Or, when you see the film you will definitely remember that scene.

The movie soundtrack features songs by Swedish rock band Europe. And there was me (and I am sure plenty of others) thinking they only had one song! There is also a great scene featuring John Farnham’s You’re The Voice.

If you like movies like Bill & Ted, Wayne’s World or any daft Adam Sandler movie (which is most of them), then you will love Hot Rod. If not then, well… you will probably think it stinks. It’s hard to see anything in between. But watch it just in case. You never know.

In and Around Wentworth

We spent a few days in Wentworth as a good base to check out the Murray river area and also to visit the Mungo National Park. You can read the fist post on Wentworth here. There are several places worth visiting in and around Wentworth… Here are a few…

Wentworth Gaol

You can’t beat a good old gaol. At least that’s what Dani and his old dad think. Dani’s mum begs to differ. Wentworth gaol is a remarkably well preserved example of the earliest Australian designed gaols – along with Dubbo Gaol (which we have visited), Hay Gaol (see future posts) and Long Bay Gaol (which is not far from where we live in Sydney).

One of the punishments. Chained to this rock in the intense heat.

The gaol was built in 1879 and the design included a quadrangle, cell blocks (with ten male and two female cells), kitchen, hospital, storeroom, block, gaol warden’s residence and two observation towers. Next to the kitchen was the bathroom equipped with a bath and shower on a concrete base. The gaol even had a well-stocked library. It was run by three warders and there was as many as 18 prisoners locked up at any one time. That’s nothing compared to modern prisons eh? This was an impressive structure, all for (what today amounts to) only a handful of prisoners.

Prisoners would be chained to this tree stump with no shade.

Ah… we can dream…
Another piece of Ned Kelly history to fuel Dani’s interest.

In case you were wondering… No. Kelly was never held here. But that didn’t top the gaol shop selling all kinds of Kelly memorabilia. Like these metal plaques. Naturally Dani wanted one. Oh, go on then… I usually say “no” to most things he asks for (he is definitely not spoilt in that department) but now and again… Anyway I quite liked this piece.

Ned Kelly wall plaque. Quite artistic I thought…

Museum

Almost across the road from the gaol, the museum looked small – why wouldn’t it be for such a small town? But it was surprisingly interesting. As small as it was it was packed literally to the rafters with exhibits.

Small but well stocked museum

As far as the larger items go there was an old Fergie tractor (naturally) and a Model T Ford. The original mass produced motor car. I had never seen one in the flesh (so to peak). This one didn’t exactly look like those rolling off the production lines in the black and white movie reels though. It had been “pimped” some time ago…

My first Model ‘T’ Ford

This one was my absolute favourite though. The moustache teacup. I wonder if you could sell these now with all the young men insisting on sporting facial hair? I reckon you could. At least as a novelty, maybe a stocking filler Christmas present…

The moustache tea cup

Yes, they really did used to have these. Way back when those big Victorian/Edwardian curled up moustaches were in fashion. The idea being that only your lips get wet with the tea. Also in those days moustaches were waxed to hold them in the style of the day and the steam coming off the hot tea used to met the wax causing it to drip into the tea – Ugh!!! Amazingly these things would have been quite common and this one only dates back as far as the early years of the 2nd World War!. Personally I think it’s a great idea and would teach the young fellas of today a little about facial hygiene.

Perry Sandhills

The Perry Sandhills are large sand dunes located a few kilometres out of town. These dunes seem to appear out of nowhere. This place is some 400km from the sea and although the area is classed as outback it is not exactly desert. It has something to do with when the rivers ran higher and faster but it was so many years ago (they say) that I really can’t be arsed with the detail. They look great though. Named after the areas first land commissioner George Murray Perry these dunes have been used as a backdrop for films and adverts. You can also add this one to your list of FREE things to see and do…

Rivers and boats

With two large rivers converging in Wentworth the area is a playground for anyone with a boat. Whether that is for fishing, riding up and down the rivers or water sports like water-skiing/wake-boarding. There are also plenty of house boats, large and small. Some owned but mostly rented out for holidays on the Murray.

Most of the boat hire places were just across the Murray, in (or near) a much larger town called Mildura which is just up river and in the state of Victoria. Unfortunately at that time access into Victoria was limited due to some coronavirus “clusters” in the Sydney area. That said we did ty to cross over just to see if they really were stopping people enter. More on that farce to come…

Wine tasting.

With all this irrigation available there are plenty of farms growing all sorts of fruits. And of course grapes! The area has several vineyards and wine cellars. We visited one called Trentham Estates and sampled some great wines. In fact Dani’s mum was smooth-talked into becoming a “member”. Basically that means we bought six bottles (and received two free). You then have to order at least 6 bottles twice a year. They then throw in a couple of bottles. And they deliver for free – well, it’s included in the bottle price. Actually not bad. We have since placed one order and recently received them. Good wines at a reasonable price!

Mungo

We stayed a few days in Wentworth as a base to explore the area, and that included the place I was most interested in seeing on this whole outback adventure – Mungo National Park. Stay tuned for that one….

On to Wentworth

From the Broken Hill area we headed directly south on the B79 road – also known as the Silver City Highway. After a few hours of driving we arrived at Wentworth.

Wentworth

In 1830, while navigating the Murray, explorer Charles Sturt came across a river junction which he was convinced was the Darling. In the mid 1840’s it was a settlement known as McLeod’s Crossing”, named after the first white residents of the settlement. The arrival of the river steamers in 1853, saw the place grow with boats able to deal with the commercial aspirations of the outback areas.

For years Sydney was the only port in New South Wales to handle more cargo than Wentworth. The wealth that the steamers brought changed the face of the area and in 1857 the authorities began to establish a proper township. The town site was approved in 1859 and was named after the New South Wales explorer and politician William Charles Wentworth, on June 21, 1859.

Wentworth Wharf. The source of the town’s early wealth

Considering where it sits at the confluence of two important rivers you might expect that Wentworth would have grown to be a much larger town. In a way it is good that that never happened. My first impression was that it is a nice little town. Several pubs and places to eat. Art gallery and a friendly information office. The whole place had a genuinely friendly feel to it.

Captain John Egge statue on Wentworth wharf

His name may not suggest it but Captain John Egge was Chinese. Born in Shanghai in 1830 he lived in Wentworth form 1859 till his death in 1901. Egge was a pioneer paddle steamer captain and businessman. Exactly the type of man that put Wentworth on the map.

After seeing the Darling river in so many little outback towns and parklands we finally got to see where it finishes. By pouring into the mighty Murray River right here at Wentworth.

Where the two great rivers meet. Darling to the left, Murray to the right.

Murray River

The Murray forms the border between NSW and Victoria for much of its trajectory. In fact they say that the river belongs to NSW and you do not enter Victoria until you land on the southern river bank. The problem with that is that most river craft hire is located on the south bank – in Victoria! More on that one to come in a later post…

The Murray is Australia’s longest river – 2,508 km (1,558 miles). Its tributaries include five of the next six longest rivers in Australia (the Darling being one of them). The catchments of these rivers form the Murray-Darling basin, which covers about one-seventh the area of Australia and is the country’s most important irrigated region. The Murray starts off on the Australian Alps, then meanders northwest forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria and flows into South Australia.

The mighty Murray

A Little Tractor Tale

The Ferguson TE20 is an agricultural tractor designed by Harry Ferguson. By far his most successful design, It was manufactured from 1946 until 1956, and was commonly known as the Little Grey Fergie. Its strength and popularity lay in its small and versatile design. It was  lightweight, had great manoeuvrability and came with a series of easily fitted attachments.

Why am I telling you this? Well the town of Wentworth has a kind of love affair with this little tractor and this is why…

Full size Fergie tractor inside one of the town’s pubs

In 1956 the town of was in severe danger of extreme flooding. Higher than normal rainfall in the Darling-Murray basin combined with extreme rainfall in western Queensland led to floods moving down the Darling river and across the Murray. Areas were flooded that were located up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the normal path of the river were flooded.

The thing that prevented the town of Wentworth from being washed away in the floods was the work undertaken by a small fleet of the little grey Fergie tractors. Due to their manoeuvrability these little work-horses were able to get in and out of spaces where bigger tractors could not. The Fergies were used to build levee banks that ultimately saved the town.

The town of Wentworth, erected a statue (monument) in 1959 in honour of the Fergie TE20 tractor. It has to be said they could have made a better job of it…

Tractor or Tonka Toy?

In 1959 the Managing Director of Massey-Ferguson Australia unveiled a statue to commemorate the part that the Ferguson tractor played in saving the town form almost certain inundation in 1956.

The statue of the Fergie tractor that sits in Adelaide street near the town centre is actually quite funny. I was expecting a life sized statue but we got this….

The statue to honour the little Fergie tractor
Its true size in perspective. Funny or just silly?

It is no bigger than some toys. I actually thought they could have done better. And they did. In 1917 they erected another monument just outside town over the Darling river bridge in Fotherby Park. There they installed a real Fergie tractor stuck up on a pole for all to see. Now that’s more like it.

Full Fergie in Fortherby Park
A real tribute to the little Fergie

The town also holds a tractor rally every five years to celebrate the little Fergie.

 

Baked Tomatoes and Feta

It’s been a while since we did any cooking or easy recipes that you can do with kids. Here’s a very simple recipe me and Dani have recently prepared a couple of times. Well its not even a recipe really – you’ll soon see what I mean – but here goes…

Recipe (such as it is)

Pre heat oven to 180ºC.

Throw a bunch of mixed tomatoes and 250g block of Greek Feta cheese into a suitable oven proof dish. Pour over a little olive oil and sprinkle some salt.

It couldn’t be simpler. Zero prep time no mixing just throw it in.

Then throw it in oven for about 30 minutes. We also added a bunch of tomatoes on the vine too.

Bingo!!

Baked Tomatoes with Feta. Delicious…

It’s a makes for a great starter for sharing and tastes fantastic.

What could be easier eh? As you can see it really isn’t a recipe it’s just throwing two ingredients in the oven!

You may notice some onion in the mix there… That was only because there was half an onion lying in the fridge so I thought we should use it. In fact you could add other things to this simple Tomato and Feta dish but it’s great with just the two ingredients.

Kinchega Woolshed

During our time in the Kinchega National Park we visited a ‘must see’ attraction; the Kinchega Woolshed.

Now that may not seem very exciting eh?. A place where sheep were sheared? Yeah! It’s kind of what I thought too. But it was genuinely impressive for a number of reasons.

Historic Kinchega Woolshed

Historic Kinchega Woolshed

Woolsheds like this one (and there are quite a few dotted around the outback) were not just places where sheep were sheared. The whole thing was an efficient production line with the wool being packed, weighed and labelled before being shipped off. Some of the process was even semi-automated and the power required to do that was produced on site.

The woolshed from the visitors centre

Built in 1875 of corrugated iron and river red gum trees, the historic Kinchega Woolshed is a huge and incredibly well preserved classic piece of Australian pastoral heritage. During its 97 years of operation, six million sheep were sheared here. That is an amazing statistic to consider when you roam around this now silent, imposing building.

Yet again however, for me, it’s not even that. I just found myself wondering how they managed to do it all in such a remote and hostile setting. That never ceases to amaze me.

The shed was first built in 1875 and the sheep station was owned by the Hughes family from that time right up to the final shearing. At its height there were four shearing areas – or “boards” – meaning that up to 64 shearers could work at any one time.

Remains of one of the old steam engines

Every spring thousands of sheep would be rounded up and routed through this woolshed. Rounding up so many sheep spread out over such huge distances was itself a monumental task in those days. Most of the herding was done by the local aboriginal people. Even today these operations still cover vast areas. These sheep station workers really are a tough lot.

The Operation…

One way ticket from here for the sheep. The shed entrance ramp.

The sheep were first held in “sweating pens” then moved to “catching pens” – generally one for each shearing point. From there the shearers took the sheep one by one and removed the wool before throwing them down the exit chute into the counting pens outside.

Once inside the sheep were segregated into “sweating” pens
The shearing “boards” showing the overhead shafts powered the shears.
Like a shorn sheep. Dani out in one of the “counting pens”

The overhead shearing gear powered a set of shears at each shearing “board” station. The shears were known as the “handpiece” or “bogeye”. Over the years there were four methods of providing power to the shafts inside the shed. Steam engine, kerosine & diesel engine, petrol driven engine and finally directly by electricity. The overhead gear was modified to adapt to each change in technology.

Cutting, Baling and Weighing

Sorting, weighing and baling area.
This heritage building is wooden so needs a modern fire protection system.

The open plan area in what was the centre of the (original) building was where the wool was sorted into different grades. It was pressed, baled and weighed then labelled, ready to be sent to market. The finished bales of wool were then moved the short distance to the Darling river for transportation.

Self sufficient…

The whole set up was self sufficient with adequate water nearby and never a shortage of food on site. They would simply slaughter some of the animals.

The ‘killing shed’ where some animals were slaughtered to feed the workers

The workers were housed in barrack type buildings. These have recently been restored and used as accommodation for tourists, school parties etc…

The workers accommodation blocks have been restored.
Old woolshed office.

The end of the line…

The original building was almost twice the size. The place originally had a mirror image of the sorting and shearing section, with the middle bailing and weighing section common to both. As the shearing process became more efficient the west side of the shed was no longer required and no longer stands.

In March 1967 the final shearing took place and the workers loaded 500 bales of wool. The Hughes family held a ceremony where it was announced that the woolshed would be handed over to the NSW government as an historic place worth keeping for future generations. It was then that the final and six millionth sheep was shorn.

Old Kinchega Homestead?

By comparison I found the nearby Old Kinchega Homestead fairly disappointing. Long since abandoned and derelict to the ground there is very little to see which was a shame after visiting the woolshed.

A walkway takes you around the homestead ruins.

In fact it was so bad it was difficult to make out most of what was there before it became such a ruin. I am sure there are plenty of examples like this around the many other similarly remote locations in Australia.

Menindee and Kinchega National Park

Back in September 2020 when Dani and his old dad took the Outback Explorer train to Broken Hill we never got to see the last stop before arriving. By the time the train reached Menindee the sun had gone down and we saw nothing of that area. This time we were going to put that right.

The station we missed on our first visit this way…

Menindee – A Little History

The small town of Menindee sits on the Darling river about 110km south east of Broken Hill. It was the first town to be settled on the Darling river. The area also has several large lakes (some of which are dry) which when full form a huge oasis said to be 3.5 times the water of Sydney harbour .

The first Europeans arrived in 1835 when explorers were trying to plot the course of the Darling to its junction with the Murray river. By the mid 1840s large plots of land in the area were taken as pastoral land and farming began. The are then went through some troubled times with the local indigenous Barkindji people and the early settlers in regular conflict.

In 1859 a steam boat made a four day journey up the Darling from the Murray river. This proved that river trade was possible for Menindee and what was really just a stopover camp for explorers began to grow. In 1861 it was noted that the settlement had the following buildings:  a store, a hut used by the police and (the essential) public house. The population at that time was recorded as “about fifteen” which included women and children.

It never ceases to amaze me how and why anyone would want to go to such a new and remote place back then. There were no roads or recognisable tracks and the railway was not built until 1927. Apart from the conflict with the original locals the sheer remoteness and harsh environment that these people had to contend with is amazing. The fact that those early settlers (as in many parts of the country) managed to overcome the harsh conditions deserves a lot of respect.

In 1862 the (then) colonial government made it a “town” and ordered plots of land to be put up for sale. The town grew slowly from that point. By 1878 the town was recorded as having a public hospital, Catholic church, two good stores, a post and telegraph office, Court house, Police station with associated buildings and about twenty cottages. It also had four public-houses! Yes that’s right. Four pubs!

The town and the sheep farming continued to grow – thanks to the water supply from the Darling river – until the railway arrived in 1927 with the line from Sydney to Broken Hill crossing the Darling at Menindee. The line eventually continued across the continent. From being a settlement with only a river to link it to other small settlements, it was soon possible to reach Sydney and Perth by train from Menindee.

Trains

Not only did we get to see the last stop of our train journey last year but we managed to catch a freight train stopping at Menindee station. These things are huge with so many carriages it needs several locomotives to pull the thing.

Bridge over the Darling river.

Modern Menindee

The town while still small seems to be doing fine. There are still a couple of pubs and pretty much everything else a small town needs. The town is also the gateway to the Kinchega National Park. The river, the lakes and the National Park all combine to attract tourists. There are several caravan and camping grounds in the area but the scale of it all means that tourists can easily be lost in the peace and tranquillity of it all.

The mural on the side of the supermarket (or was it the museum?) depicting the town’s history from original people to the arrival of the railway.
Menindee Post Office

Dost Mahomet’s grave was just outside town. He was one of a handful of camel drivers brought over from Afghanistan especially for those long expeditions by the early European explorers. He ended up staying in Menindee and working in a bakery.

Dost Mahomet’s grave just outside the town.

The combined museum and tourist information office was worth a visit. Considering this is an outback farming community I was amazed to see some early forms of computer in the museum. The likes of which I had never seen.

Comptometer? I had never heard of it nor seen one.

This device was manufactured from as early as 1887 up to the mid 1970s and was the first commercially successful mechanical calculator.

Lakes

While solitude may be easy to find, some parts of the lakes are very popular with tourists and day visitors from the relatively nearby Broken Hill. Certain lake shorelines can get quite busy with people bringing their boats, jet-skis and BBQs with them. For a relatively large working town like Broken Hill, almost 400km from the sea, the Menindee lakes are a great playground for several water sports.

One of the Menindee lakes
This place is the closest thing to going to the beach in the outback.
Trees in the lakes make for an eerie sight.

Kinchega National Park

Crossing the Darling river to the south west of the town brings you into the Kinchega National Park. The meandering Darling river forms the eastern border of the park which covers over 44,000 hectares to the west of Menindee. As soon as you enter the park the roads turn to dirt roads but are easy enough to drive over when it is not raining.

With one of the lakes in the park called Emu Lake you would expect to see some of those flightless birds and sure enough you don’t have to wait long to spot them. We were lucky enough to see plenty.

Waiting for emus to cross the dirt road.
Odd creatures Emus. But they seem to thrive around here.

There are several options for stop-overs in the Kinchega National Park. You can pitch your tent on the banks of the Darling River or even stay in the Kinchega Shearers’ Quarters.

Camping areas are clearly designated here to keep the numbers in check
The Darling was fairly low when we were here.
The Darling river forms the Eastern boundary of the Park

A History of Sheep…

They say that no visit to Kinchega National Park is complete without exploring the beautiful, old buildings of Kinchega Station. The historic Kinchega Woolshed offers a glimpse into Australian pastoral history where in its heyday six million sheep were sheared. Now, a sheep shearing shed may not sound like much at first (certainly not to me initially) but believe me, it is impressive. And I am not easily impressed. The size, the history and the remoteness of this operation will definitely surprise you. At the height of its operations this place would have been amazing hive of activity with so many sheep being sheared.

Actually, I think this one deserves a separate post… Later…

 

Australia as a Safe Haven for Endangered Species

25th May – ‘The Australian Rhino Project’ Day

The other day (25th May) Dani’ school celebrated The Australian Rhino Project as well as raising funds. But what will those funds be spent on? Who gets the money?

Not long after I posted the article about Taronga zoo near Dubbo (back in December). If you missed that post you can read it here. Pay particular attention to what I wrote in the final paragraph. I still think that is a good idea. Read on… 

Extinct in the Wild – The Story of a Rhino Named Sudan

A few months ago Google used their doodle thing (that comes up on their home page on certain dates etc…) to show us all about a northern white rhino named ‘Sudan’. Apparently there are northern and southern sub-species of the white rhino (news to me but then I am no expert in rhino species – however for my true expertise see below).

It seems that Sudan was the name of the last male northern white rhino. He died two years ago of old age. At that time it left only two of that type of rhino left alive on the planet. Both females and both living under constant armed guard due to the threat from (local) poachers. Armed guard for f**k sake!  It’s truly pathetic.

Here’s what I do know…

What I am an expert in, is knowing full well that there is no way the Africans can protect these animals. Not a chance. The only chance these creatures have of avoiding extinction is to move them to a place where there is sufficient land for them to roam in the wild and hopefully increase their numbers. A land where such space could easily be procured as there is so much of it. A land where these animals can be safe without the need for a 24-hour armed guard. A land down-under actually! That’s right. Australia.

Giving money to charities and foundations that are supposedly trying to protect them – in Arica – is like pouring petrol on a fire. 

The Australian Rhino Project

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the cause is not a noble one. I do appreciate that they are at least trying to do something. But let’s be realistic. Their website says that their “mission” is as follows:

The Australian Rhino Project is a conservation organisation which is committed to working as part of the collective international fight to protect African rhinoceros from extinction. Together with our conservation partners, we aim to maintain a genetically diverse breeding crash of rhinos in Australasia that can act as an insurance population should the rhino become extinct in its African homeland.”

OK. Let’s be honest. This is a case of when not if the rhino becomes extinct in Africa. (Or as they say; “should the rhino become extinct in Africa”.) They go on to say:

Since the start of the project, the poaching epidemic has only increased in South Africa and the future of the rhino species continues to become more precarious.”

Yeah! No shit Sherlock! Does anyone think the poaching epidemic in Africa will subside? Ever? Of course not. But just keeping a few more rhinos in captivity (albeit in a spacious zoo) is not the answer. The answer, the only answer, is to make vast open space available for them in a safe country.

Here’s What We Can ALL Do…

I would urge anyone who is concerned about the future of endangered animals not to give money to the usual charities that claim to help them. Instead lobby those organisations suggesting to them that the only way to save those animals is to make a space for them in a safe country like Australia. Start your own online group to argue the case. Start your own charity even, to raise money to buy the land. But please don’t waste your money on round-the-clock armed guards. That is so obviously NOT the answer and never will be. At very best that method is only prolonging the inevitable. 

Contact your nearest zoo or endangered species charity to specifically ask why they are not shouting for that type of conservation policy. Get their angle on it and dig deep with probing questions. Africa cannot protect these animals. It’s that simple. Contact your local politicians too. They should be able to raise the matter at the highest level.

Pretending that African countries can do it is total bullshit. It is patronising in the extreme and let’s be honest; racist.

A country like Australia however can do something. Just look at how well non-indigenous animals have done in Australia, such as camels, goats and buffalo. Land issues are a big deal in Australia for sure, but this is different as it is not about humans. Surely Aboriginal Australians will appreciate the greater good in helping endangered species from another continent?  

And a new charity name?

Actually without realising it I have a created a new charity name. The title of this post no less. “Australia as a Safe Haven for Endangered Species” – ASHES. Maybe that sounds a bit too much like a cricket match but certainly catchy eh? But it is definitely apt, because if nothing is done, the rhinos will indeed be ashes. 

I will be forwarding this post to the Australian Rhino Project. If they respond I will make another post about it. But don’t hold your breath. I have met similar animal charities face to face in the past and believe me the results were not pretty. 

Return to Broken Hill

That sounds like a title for a Western movie eh? – ‘Return to Broken Hill’. Well, for Dani and myself it was a return. Dani’s mum never came with us when we went on our little adventure back in September of last year.  You can read about that trip here, here and here (plus the links to Silverton)…

It was quite strange really . Most places were open but it was just very quiet. Much quieter than our last visit to the town. As we have seen from other places in the outback, it seems that the height of summer is not the time people visit places like this. It made it seem less friendly somehow, it was just a little odd. It did however have advantages. If you wanted to take a photo without other tourists there was a much better chance of doing so.

Broken Hill centre. Not long after Christmas and daytime temperatures over 40 degrees

Covering old ground…

We returned to Silverton and saw a few new things. We did the tour of the line of lode again but this time with hardly any other people. Similarly with the Palace Hotel. It was empty when we called in there for a thirst quencher and something to eat. But it was a great opportunity to take better photos of the famous ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert‘ movie setting.

Last September the adjoining restaurant was packed and getting a table seemed like trying to get an audience with the Queen. But in summer it was quiet so we booked a table one day. It was eerily quiet and I have to say a bit disappointing. Odd isn’t it how places so often fail to live up to expectations.

Silverton – Again.

Classic Silverton outback scene

They could film another Mad Max movie here right away. Sets already made

Clever Christmas decorations in the summer heat

Less crowds means better pictures. No cars parked in front of the iconic Silverton Hotel

Pro Hart and Murals

We never visited the Pro Hart gallery on our first visit here. This time we did. “Pro” Hart – real name Kevin Charles – was (and still is) a very famous artist who was born in Broken Hill. The Pro Hart gallery is not free to enter but it is well worth it. The Rolls Royce car collection – the odd one that also doubled up as a canvas for the artist – are as famous as his paintings.

As famous for his Rolls Royce collection as his paintings.

Pro Hart’s gallery

Rolls Royce as a canvas. Artist: Pro Hart

The town also has many murals – which of course are free to look at. This time we saw more murals, some we didn’t see last time and some which we managed to get better photos of this time around.

Even the local radio station is decorated with a full mural

This one looks like a work in progress

Interesting mural on the side of a take-away

A better photo of this celebration of the Ghan train

With so much free art out on the streets it’s a wonder anyone bothers to open a gallery and pay for the premises.

Tourist-Free Photos!

Line of Lode Memorial. Free of tourists

We never saw these last time… Great idea.

These novelty chocolate sweets are self explanatory

And we were told there are no dingos in this part of the country.

Is the emu’s diet more varied or did they need to use up the white chocolate?

We stayed in a rented house which was a nice change from all the motels. Something we need to look into again on future road-trips. From here we visited Menindee and the Kinchega National Park. More on that to come…