Longest Fence in the World? The stories from the Rabbit Proof Fence, Western Australia.

I had not heard of the Rabbit Proof Fence until the movie of the same name was released in 2002. This, in turn, was based on the book, Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington, published in 1996. But the fence and the media are quite different stories.

As I took the ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ turnoff between Merredin and Coolgardie, it was with mixed emotions. What did it represent to me and to Australia?

oznor

A wide rest area enables you to read about the history of the fence, constructed between 1901 and 1907.  The construction took place in several sections and this part, finished in 1903, is the place where it started and is named No.1 Rabbit Proof Fence, as a consequence.

oznor

The claim that is the longest fence in the world is not true, as when it commenced in 1901 the longest fence already existed, in Queensland.  It is, however, the second.

cof

img_20171214_064427.jpg

When Australia was settled in the early 1800s, many Englishmen/women missed things from home and arranged to introduce them. Few of these were good for the country, although some, like sheep and wheat, were good for the development of a new nation. Well, rabbits were on the ‘bad idea’ list of imports, their purpose being to provide something to hunt for a Victorian grazier. They thrived in the place and spread quickly to the other eastern and southern states. What did they do? – not much. The following cartoon, appearing in 1880 in a NSW edition of Punch tells the story.

StateLibQld_1_197791_Stevenson's_wire_fence

By Contributor(s): Queensland figaro and punch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Within a few decades they made their way across the Nullarbor and were at the Western Australian border. Hence, the fence was built.

oznor

There are gates every 34 km for access and huts every 48 km, so that the Acting Chief Inspector of Rabbits and his team of 25 boundary riders could inspect and maintain the fence on bicycle, dray, horseback or camel. In terms of pest protection, it was successful until the early 1930s when drought brought as many as 100 000 emus to the fence line. The rabbits had declined due to droughts and the introduction of targeted disease, so the fence was realigned to protect agriculture from the emus and became known as the State Barrier Fence.

The longest fence in the world?

As an Australian, we have the vast distances to complete such a fence. We also have the second longest road in the world. The Dingo Fence, extending from South Australia to Queensland over 5600 km, was built to keep out the dingoes and wild dogs. In that, it has been fairly successful, but is not maintained as well as the Rabbit Proof Fence.

Dingo_fence_in_Australia

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=423904

A shameful part of Australian history is the Stolen Generation. They are the Indigenous people who were taken from their parents and families over a 70 year period, by government officials. Doris Polkington’s mother escaped from such a settlement with her sisters. The account was recorded in her novel, Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence. In order to get home, they followed the Rabbit Proof Fence for 1600 km, through desert, avoiding officials. The movie faced strong criticism and was confronting for many Australians, but it helped to reach the point where, in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appologised to the Aboriginal People of Australia for stealing their children and all that resulted. Rabbit Proof Fence is an extraordinary movie but I haven’t read the book.

An unbelievable story from the fence, is the one I read in Wikipedia, copied here verbatim:

In 1929, Arthur Upfield, an Australian writer who had previously worked on the construction of No. 1 Fence, began writing a fictional story which involved a way of disposing of a body in the desert. Before the book was published, stockman Snowy Rowles, an acquaintance of the writer’s, carried out at least two murders and disposed of the bodies using the method described in the book. The trial which followed in 1932 was one of the most sensational in the history of Western Australia. A book was published about the incident called Murder on the Rabbit Proof Fence: The Strange Case of Arthur Upfield and Snowy Rowles.[12] The incident is now referred to as the Murchison Murders.

A pause for critical thinking…

Safe travels, wherever you are going and whatever your goal. Take water and a hat. Every day we make history.

 

Millions of reasons not to ignore this Warning

 

As Australia drifted northward, 20-30 million years ago, it passed over one of the Earth’s hot spots, causing volcanic activity. Molten material formed the Mount Warning shield volcano and high rainfall created a myriad of streams and rivers which eroded the volcano into its present shape – one of the oldest calderas in the world. Fertile volcanic soil, high humidity and rainfall provided all the elements for the subtropical rainforest to thrive ( some of this reproduced, with permission, from the information board at Mt Warning). It is one of the Gondwana Rainforests and you are surrounded by ancient trees, dripping with moss. I think it is a good candidate for this week’s photo challenge: layered –  from the lava-rich soil, littered with decaying leaves making your ‘twisted’ way up to the tree tops, trickling over shades of green and brown.

WP_20151025_012

Tweed Heads has long conjured images of surf, sun and excitement. It’s nearness to the Queensland border and Coolangatta make it a popular holiday destination. But I had not known that the Tweed Valley, shared by both New South Wales and Queensland, was the site of an ancient volcano and that Numinbah Nature Reserve is at the base of this layered caldera?

WP_20151025_016WP_20151025_021WP_20151025_015

The Wollumbin National Park, formally Mt Warning National Park, was renamed in recent years to reflect the importance of the lava plug, that is Mt Warning, to the local Aboriginal People, including the Nganduwal, Galibal, Gidhabul, Bundjalung and Widjabal. Many of their Dreaming stories involve the monolith.

There are many walks to choose from and an information booth at the entrance to the park, giving detail, advice and options. We parked at the entrance to the park and walked to the Lyrebird track, which was quite short, but beautiful. The path was firm and bitumised in parts, and we crossed Breakfast Creek and made it to the lookout. If I visited again, I would do a longer walk, but the traditional owners prefer that people do not climb Warning.

I’m partial to walks through a rainforest  – it’s good for everyone, and everything, if we are careful where we tread and what we leave.

WP_20151025_003WP_20151025_006WP_20151025_008WP_20151025_027WP_20151025_030WP_20151025_033WP_20151025_037WP_20151025_038WP_20151025_039

There are excellent facilities – toilets and picnic areas. Take a hat, camera and water. Good walking shoes are not necessary on the Lyrebird trail but would be needed on others. Sunscreen and insecticide are useful, but remember the environment if you decide to dip in a limb.

 

 

Kununurra and surrounds

It just rolls off the tongue – kun-un-nur-ra. And we rolled into town in the very early hours of the morning, having awoken with the Western Australian sun at 5 am in Lake Argyle. It was a very quick and pretty drive to Kununnurra, at the edge of the Kimberley.

We had only planned to stay here one night and do a tour to the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park), but we were too late in the season and with temperatures over 38C the park was closed for another 4 weeks. Around the domes of the Bungle Bungle Ranges, the temperatures increase and it is extremely dangerous. Other travellers advised us to visit Mirima National Park, also known as the Little Bungles or Hidden Valley National Park, and Wyndham, with it’s  meeting of 5 rivers.

Pre-sunrise took us to Mirima and it has made me determined to see the larger version one day, as it was beautiful.  The area is of great cultural significance to the Miriuwung people, the original inhabitants. Apparently there are many examples of rock art in the park, but we didn’t see any on our trail.  There is a variety of paths and we took the medium difficulty, with stunning views and fascinating  sandstone formations.

 

A__5190A__150CA__AB91_3 1

A__7CA0A__FE7C

Wyndham and the 5 river lookout is much talked about, so we looked at the map and saw it wasn’t going to be directly on our future trail, but wasn’t far from Kununurra, either. It is a town that may have seen more prosperous times, as the huge port suggested an importance not borne out by the town. The lookout is quite good but I’m not sure it’s worth the trip. Stopping off at The Grotto on the way back was definitely worth it, but I’ll save that for another blog.

The Hoochery Distillery was very interesting and we sampled the rum and the food in a room with heavy wooden furniture, locally made. The licorice rum ran out last year so we sent off an order for more (and a bottle of the coffee/chocolate rum). Just down the road was the sandalwood factory and we learnt the history of the Ord River scheme, for which Kununnurra was established, and of the growth of the sandalwood business. Back to the caravan park where we caught clouds of green butterflies sipping from the sprinkler puddles.

Kununurra is one of two remote places where we met people who lived within  1 km of our home, in South Australia. Relatives say that is due to my area being one that people can’t get far enough from, but I just think it was luck. It is a big town, well-planned and serviced. I wouldn’t be sorry to live there for a bit.

Safe travels! Definitely take a hat and water and any detour that looks interesting.

Leliyn

Once called Edith Falls, Leliyn has returned to the name given it by the original owners, the Jawoyn people. It is connected to Nitmiluk Gorge (Katherine Gorge) and you can do the walk from one to the other. We didn’t, however ( I think it is 62 km – Jatbula Trail).

IMG_1886

Arriving from Litchfield, there was a variety of walks but we took the loop walk which takes about two hours (2.6 km) and is uphill from the kiosk and downhill from the top plunge pool and falls. I would call it easy, having done it in thongs (rubber-soled footwear), while it was 38C, but it has been described as challenging, so maybe check out more informed trekking information. The tracks are well-marked with benches for rests along the way. The views are pretty special, even at the end of the dry season.

IMG_1883IMG_1888IMG_1890IMG_1907IMG_1905IMG_1910

The rocks at the top falls are slippery, so be careful, but refreshing on a hot day. The water from the falls was ‘harder’ than at Wangi Falls (Litchfield National Park) despite being a quarter of the drop. I saw many people jump in, but if you can’t see the bottom, that could result in a broken leg or hypothermia if the water is very cold. Don’t swim alone for this reason and check the conditions at the kiosk .

The main pool and falls at the bottom can be enjoyed by the whole family, but it does get deep so encourage poor swimmers to stay close to the edge. It was amazing to swim within steep sandstone gorge walls, with paperbark and pandanus at the fringes.

IMG_1911IMG_1914

There is a popular campsite, with regular facilities and in the peak season it is first in first served. Peak is after the wet – March to September, when the falls flow thick and fast but trekking could be discouraged. The park is under joint management between the government and the traditional owners. Make sure someone knows that you are on a trek, and the kiosk is a good place to record this.

Take a hat and plenty of water, first aid kit for walkers and suitable walking shoes.

 

Litchfield National Park

An easy hour by car, south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, lies Litchfield National Park. Named after an early explorer, the region has been cared for by the Mak Mak Marranunggu, Werat and Waray Aboriginal people for thousands of years.

IMG_1801

The region was used for grazing and the mining of tin, copper and uranium. There are many falls to explore and some areas that have been developed to encourage tourists and visitors, with carparks, picnic areas, boardwalks and campgrounds. There are still natural trails and 4WD tracks for the adventure-seeking.

Berry Springs has 3 ‘pools’ that join if you want to ride downstream on a noodle. Not too deep and quite safe. The water is very clear near the edge – you can see fish. Wangi Falls is a surprise. You swim out to one of the waterfalls and get pounded by the downpour. The floor of the lagoon (?) begins as sandy and is dark in the centre, with twigs and debris. You would have to be able to tread water or swim maybe 60m unless you stay by the edge, and many do.

IMG_1813IMG_1822IMG_1826

Beautifully maintained, Wangi has unpowered sites but we chose not to stay here, as there was limited shade in the camping area. We stayed at Litchfield Tourist Park instead, on a grassed site amid beautiful flowers and unusual birdsong that defied description.

Rangers check daily to keep an eye on crocodiles and remove them from public swimming holes, but I would ask at the ranger station, too. I have read that you shouldn’t sit on bare ground in Litchfield, as scrub typhus is a possibility. So spread that towel on the ground and dry off in the heat!

IMG_1865

Take a hat, bathers/swimmers, water, first aid kit and shoes, but don’t miss it!

 

Kakadu National Park

 

In early October, with the temperature in the shade reaching 39.2C (approx 103F), we arrived in world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory of Australia. The road in was unremarkable (and very long) due to being near the end of the dry season.

Taking advice from other travellers, we camped at Cooinda Camping Ground and Caravan Park.

The Yellow River Cruise is world-renowned and if you are a bird lover you will be spoilt. You would also get your lens-full of crocodile pictures and some worthy screen savers. Many people do the sunrise and sunset cruise to get the benefit or the varying wildlife and colours. I was surprised at the buffalo and other animals on the banks and watching the interplay of creatures on or near the water was captivating.

IMG_1546IMG_1535IMG_1621IMG_1625IMG_1649IMG_1656IMG_1666IMG_1669IMG_1509IMG_1529IMG_1549IMG_1566

We also completed a walk at Nourlangie Rock that has two tracks from which to choose and saw interesting sandstone rock formations and well-preserved rock art. Apparently it is a part of the Arnhem Land escarpment.  The track is good and well-marked.

Ubirr Rock is a site that has an easy walking track and many examples of Aboriginal rock painting. Tours in other languages are available. If you can climb the steep sides (about 30 degree slope) to the top you can see an amazing 360 degree view of that region of Kakadu. Sunset walks are possible. I won’t include pictures of art, as I haven’t checked if that is permitted. Most rock art is sacred and Aboriginal people do not like it shown on media, without consent.

IMG_1760

IMG_1701IMG_1711IMG_1724IMG_1728IMG_1744IMG_1726IMG_1756

Near Cooinda, Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre is very informative and has artifacts and art you can buy. Bowali Visitor Centre was also impressive.

The facilities were very good, with a choice of pools and the visitor information centre had a great range of maps and options. There are good-sized campsites, outdoor BBQ areas, camp kitchens and restaurants. For those wanting more luxury, there are cabins and Cooinda Lodge. There is a wealth of information and they offer tours, transport and advice. There are many other motels and campsites in the National park. We spent 3 nights here.

Safe travels. Don’t swim alone and check with rangers before visiting water holes. Take water, your hat and good walking shoes.

Gawler

Approximately 50km north of Adelaide, in South Australia, lies the town of Gawler. Established in 1836, it was the only other town planned by Col. William Light (the other being Adelaide, the capital city of SA). Unlike the square plan of the capital, however, the city of Gawler has a triangular centre.

 

Arriving by train, my brother and I decided to do one of the walks available from the visitor centre, and ended up doing a mix of the Cultural Walk and the Church Hill Walk. The whole thing took us 2 hours, including a half hour lunch by the river and  a dash to the train for our return journey. There are many places to eat, but I can recommend Cafe on Jacob, with its homemade fare and warm atmosphere.

If one of Adelaide’s titles is ‘City of Churches’, then Gawler is a mini city. Church Hill has four churches, positioned almost squarely, and the history was very interesting, representing not only differences in faith but often language and trade.  Gawler was surrounded by mining, farming and industry. The lovely buildings and cottages nearby don’t all face the centres of worship, but it is impossible to walk the area and miss any. The old convent is near the Catholic Church and would make a great scene for a movie.

There is some very nice architecture, quaint buildings and, generally, a pleasant ambiance. The history on plaques or in the walking guides required a bit of reading time, but was well worth it.

The main street has altered over the years, with some of the charm of a big country town lost with progress. There remains many delightful buildings and it is still a point through which travellers make their way to the famous Barossa or Clare Valleys. Very decent hotels, cafes, bakeries and parks add to the value of a visit here. There are supermarkets, a cinema, outdoor pool and caravan park, all within easy reach of the train station so if you have to dash to get home it isn’t far. The one hour (approx) train journey from Adelaide will take you through suburbs, farmland and industry, as well as past schools, the football oval and the heritage Gawler train station. You actually get off at Gawler Central which is the last stop on the line.

Visit the Information Centre for maps, or go online to download them earlier. The original owners, the Kaurna (pronounced Garna) people, are located along the Adelaide plains and lived in the Gawler area for at least 40 000 years.

The river has flooded, with water lapping over the bridges in 1992, which is a lot of water, but generally it is a dry area.

Head off from here to Whispering Wall or one of the major wine regions. A very pleasant day trip.

Take water, hat and camera.

Safe travels.

CAIRNS and PORT DOUGLAS

The lure of the tropics – palm trees, waterfalls, rainforest, rapids… we all have our daydreams. Cairns, in the north of Queensland, Australia, can fulfill them all and more.

IMG_0620

Port Douglas 2012 099
mossman

IMG_0594

The colours will delight you, both above and under the water, for you cannot go to Cairns without doing a tour to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 wonders of the natural world. Rapidly deteriorating, you had better make tracks if you want to see it at all. We have noticed a decline in the state of rainforests, too, as global warming reduces the rainfall to the area. So get to the Daintree Rainforest on the next day.

 

There are activities for young families and older ones and, depending on the time of the year, plenty of beach or pool space. Tours to the Great Barrier Reef leave from Cairns or Port Douglas and accommodation is plentiful in both. When the children were younger, Cairns was a good spot to stay, as the Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort (part of the BIG4 group) was outstanding. It had transport, bouncing pillows, putt-putt golf, tennis, evening cinema, aqua aerobics, and the list goes on. It is a holiday in itself!

My preference, now, is to stay in Port Douglas, hiring a car if we fly in. The town is quaint and small, with most things accessible by walking about 30 minutes or less. Caravan parks, motels and hotels are plentiful and the scenery picturesque. The local beaches are good in the right season, but check where the rivers are, as crocs are prolific.

The Barrier Reef tours vary in length so do some research to see what you want. Most take a while to get out to the reef, so if you suffer sea sickness, take tablets or if it’s calm, sit out on the deck. You can enter the water using snorkelling gear, as a diver or in a glass-bottom boat and viewing ‘submarines’ often do a quick tour, enabling you to take dry photos and see the waterlife without swimming. There is entertainment, food and wetsuits and gear provided. The only thing you have to work on is not opening your mouth in a wide ‘Oh’ as the fish dart up to you, multi-coloured and -specied. At the time we went, Wally the Wrass was the favourite frequent visitor. A wrass is an extremely large black fish with over-wide lips, that doesn’t eat people. My photos do not do justice to what you will see and experience.

IMG_0802IMG_0793IMG_0788IMG_0714IMG_0787

I would recommend white water rafting for the ‘over 10’,  as it is exhilarating, reasonably priced and gives amazing views. I don’t have any photos, given the nature of the activity and my amateur status, but google the Tully River adventures. Quad bike trails are for anyone and can take you through some nice landscapes.

There is bungee jumping near the Daintree, but I prefer to do the walks through this world heritage site. You have to pass Mossman Gorge and there are beautiful, accessible walks and tracks, here. Both sites have excellent information facilities and at Daintree we opted for the audio tour. Incredibly lush scenery. You will find all sorts of odd seedpods, insects, fungi and wildlife. You can even test the waters in the Mossman River.

Port Douglas 2012 079
mossman
Port Douglas 2012 152
recycled enviro material
Port Douglas 2012 141
mossman
Port Douglas 2012 122
mossman
Port Douglas 2012 089
mossman was colder than I expected
Port Douglas 2012 155
mossman
Port Douglas 2012 149
mossman

Mossman Gorge has good walkways, suitable for wheelchairs and they use recycled material that will not have an adverse effect on the environment. It is non-slip as well, which is important in the tropics. The Daintree visitor centre is managed by the Aboriginal people of the area and they will let you know what areas are restricted so that the local people are respected.

IMG_0636
daintree
IMG_0638
daintree
IMG_0634
daintree
IMG_0654
visiting daintree

A visit to Kuranda by train and maybe the chair lift is very nice for some village charm and a taste of history. The train is an old steamer and passes through great areas, stopping to view a waterfall at Barron Gorge (I think). Relaxing and well-priced, it is a good way to see some of the thousands of species of flora.

There is plenty of colour to be had in the region and its plants.

 

We travelled there in 2005 and 2012 and it is time to go again! There are lovely stops by the water, such as Ellis Beach Bar and Grill, but do be careful, as crocodiles have been seen.

Safe travels. Take a hat and water and your swimming gear.

Dampier, Karratha and surrounds.

Why would you visit a mining area? Why not?

On the coast of the Pilbara region, Western Australia, lies the port of Dampier. It provides a small swimming spot for nearby residents and a large port for tankers moving salt, petrochemical, iron ore and natural gas. Rio Tinto is a big customer and Red Dog made the town famous.

IMG_2836

 

Despite being small, it plays a big part in the export game and for workers who have come to the mines it is another spot to cool off in the hot climate.  The beach is a pleasant stretch of sand and water with adequate shade. The movie Red Dog brought the local tale of a cattle dog who befriends miners to the cinemas, and the statue has perhaps received more visitors, since.

 

Heading for Karratha, you should take the turn off to look at the Woodside northwest shelf development project. Some great maths is available in the cross section of piping on display and you can look over at the extremely long train loading up with ore; it must be at least a kilometer long.

Across the road from the mining display is a track that leads to an Aboriginal rock art site in Deep Gorge. At the time we travelled, in October 2014, there were no signs or recognition or requests not to photograph. I have heard that the site is now a tourist spot and that the gorge has the largest collection of petroglyphs (rock art) in the world – some 300 000 of them!  I have also learned that the Burrup Peninsula, which holds Deep Gorge, has it in  Murujuga National Park. The path is slippery and rocky, but not too steep or difficult. The Yaburarra Aboriginal people ask that you do not tread on the art, but around it. I must say that the style and forms are only a very little like the art I have seen in Kakadu, and really look as if it is a record of travel and trade. Otherwise, it is almost Kiwi-like.

You don’t get progress without a cost, and there are many monuments in the area, to miners who lost their lives.

Big profits, big hauls and big machinery. Ben Hur to the power of ten. The story of the transportation of the transport is incredible.

We loved Karratha, as a central spot to explore the region. It has beautiful flora and nearby bays, such as Hearsons Cove or Honeymoon Cove Beach near Point Samson, via Wickham. There are rocks and views a-plenty, although a great deal of the rocks are red with iron. Karratha is a large town with big shopping centres, schools and all that you need. We stayed at the Karratha Caravan Park and with relatives, but there is no shortage of accommodation.

Nearby Roeburn has a sad but interesting history and a visit to the old gaol is a must. There is a large Aboriginal population in the town but the history reveals shocking mistreatment at the hands of white people. The information in the gaol and the artifacts are enthralling and a plant shop adjoins, with specimens that can withstand the climate.

A very interesting region.

Safe travels. Take water and a hat.