wild and woolly flowers

Before leaving on a holiday to Western Australia, people asked if I was going for the wildflowers. That was news to me!

But before the journey was over, I became adept at spotting flora.

Western Australia is renowned for its wildflowers, having the largest number of varieties in the world (1200) and there are some dramatic and worthwhile trails that enable you to catch them in the right season, which is generally September/October.

 

We stopped in all sorts of places, in 40C heat and 18C cool climate, crouched down in the dirt, hoping to avoid snakes and semi-trailers, and did our best. I have since tried to find the names of them all, but gave up after hours and files of pdf docs. So none get names, fearing calls of discrimination or stupidity – after all, some might be weeds, for all I know, and noxious.

So I have put together a photomontage of some of the flowering plants I saw in WA, Australia, from Karijini, Karratha, the Pilbara, the Coral Coast, Lesueur National Park, Kalbarri, Carnarvan, Geraldton, Perth’s King’s Park,  Margaret River, Esperance, and the random stops where we couldn’t be sure where we were.

I have tried to select a range to tempt you westward…

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Travel safe. Stop and see the flowers, with your hat and water.

 

 

 

 

Lakeside

For this week’s photo challenge – reflecting – I thought I’d share one of the many that I am able to catch on my evening walk, with my sister, at local Mawson Lakes, South Australia.

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A northern suburb, it is happily situated to catch the sunset, twice over. This shot faces the old farm house, a heritage building that existed before the swampy area was redesigned to catch storm water and create the Salisbury Wetlands.

The best ones are usually in Summer, when they foretell a hot day, following.

Nitmiluk Gorge/Katherine

We both loved Katherine, in the NT. It is beautiful, interesting and has hot springs where, in the afternoon when we visited, workers in their high-viz gear strolled down to the water’s edge, stripped off and immersed themselves in the warm, soothing waters.

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Nitmiluk Gorge, once called Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk National Park is breathtaking. We went in the dry season, where the boat did not travel so deep into the Gorge, but it was amazing. The colours, stories and culture were worth it. The park is managed by the Jawoyn Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government and the tour was led by a Jawoyn man, who shared cultural tales and understandings. Nitmiluk means land of the cicada dreaming.

One of the stories he told was of how his people used to fish: they would pick a plant that grew on the side of the river and throw it in the water. It de-oxygenated the water, causing the fish to float to the surface, where the Jawoyn people scooped up what they needed and then sent the children in to jump and splash about, thus oxygenating the water once more, so the rest of the fish were revitalised and swam off. Now that’s sustainability!

Another story was of a very old film, one of the first in which Aboriginal actors were used and spoke in their own language. It was called Jedda, was from 1955, and was partly filmed in the Gorge. As we passed a particularly beautiful and high cliff face, the guide said that it was there the final scene was filmed. I don’t want to spoil it, even though being so old you would probably find it appalling, but apparently they really jumped! The story was based on some accurate beliefs about inter-marriage (being forbidden) and typical tribal punishment (spearing in the thigh).

This cruise is a must. We went at the end of the dry, which means it is cut short but it was beautiful, interesting and the swim in the middle is amazing – even if you are all looking over your shoulder for any signs of  floating ‘sticks with eyes’. The crocodiles, we were assured, were not present at that time of the year, but we’ve all read about those tourists who found one …

Katherine is a big town with everything you need. The river is massive and when you visit the empty bed, it is hard to imagine that it frequently fills and floods the town in the wet season. Well, hard for someone who never sees that amount of rain.

The caravan park where we stayed was perfect. Pretty, wide, grassy, a great restaurant and pool, clean and spacious facilities, helpful staff – I’d recommend BIG4 Katherine Holiday Park. Loads of kookaburras.

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Take water, your hat and a camera.

Safe travels.

 

Finding solitude

Australia is such a big place that you will not find it hard to achieve some solitude, no matter what State you are in.

You may seek out the place, or it may loom up before you. Other creatures like solitude, too, and this week I decided to enter the photo challenge with just one example. It’s the kind that makes you cautious about solitude.

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travel safe.

Other rocks worth visiting #1 – ULURU

Situated in the Northern Territory, 450 km from Alice Springs,  lies one of the most famous, world-recognised icons of Australia – Uluru. Sacred to the Anangu Aboriginal people, it was once known as Ayers Rock, after Sir Henry Ayers, but was returned to its original name in the ‘80s, when such practices were widespread (and appropriate, too).

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The Rock, as it is colloquially known, is truly a wonder to behold. If you’ve seen it in pictures and think you know what you’re in for, you’ll be surprised. I won’t say too much on that, as that would spoil the effect of the real life experience, but if you thought the different colours you’ve seen were Photo Shop tricks, or creative manipulations, they aren’t. You can be at Uluru for an hour – and you’ll be there for longer, I think – and you will see different shades in the structure, the soil, the trees and quite possibly the sky.

Majestic, mysterious, ominous, it looms high above you as you circle it. Made of sandstone, the monolith is said to have begun forming over 500 million years ago! It is 348m above the ground (taller than the Eiffel Tower), has a circumference of 9.4km and descends 2.5km below the surface. Does my head in. At one time, I heard a rumour that it was a meteor from way back, but I do not hear that now, so maybe just a conjecture that was swept up in a whirly-whirly (they’re another story).

If you visit in the Summer, or wet season, from October to April (roughly) it can be very hot (up to 45C or more). There are moments of shade, but you should be prepared with water and a hat and take frequent stops. Never underestimate the need for plenty of water on hand.

Uluru was once climbed by all and sundry, but the custodians (the Anangu) would prefer that you do not, as it is a sacred site). When it is very hot, no climbing is allowed due to the danger it presents.

There are a great variety of surfaces and formations to view and some Aboriginal Art.

The ground is flat, but 9.4 km is a fair distance, punctuated by photo stops. You can hire bikes or take your own, to make the journey easier. There are stunning and unexpected waterways and the stories, on plaques along the way, tell of history and culture and are worth the brief read.

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There is an information centre with history, culture, facts and artifacts, along with locally made items.

When you’ve finished, gaze to the west and  see Kata TJuta – meaning many heads, in Pitjantjatjara. But I’ll do a separate post on that.

From the caravan park at Yulara, where you can get a cabin, motel room or campsite, you can get all the information you need and at sunrise and sunset, great views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

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There is a national parks fee for entering the area to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but it lasts for 2 days (at my last visit, last year).

Safe travels!

Stromatolites

An ancient micro-organism, said to be millions of years old, stromatolites were the surprise awaiting us in Western Australia.

Not far from Ningaloo Reef, in the North West, the detour from the main highway was worth it, as these clumps of what looked like rock one moment and a heap of bird droppings the next, were eerie nonetheless. A very comfortable boardwalk takes you over the formations so that they are not eroded by foot traffic. It is a short walk – maybe 1km – of flat terrain.

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As always, take water and a hat.

These are definitely for the Scientist in you, or maybe the casual Geographer. Australia has many significantly old geo-structures and these are right up there.

Safe travels!

 

Like a beach?

 

Most of the travel you will do in Australia is likely to involve beaches, unless you deliberately choose not to. Why? Because we are a country where the population hugs the coast.

If you looked at a heat map or any kind of graphic representation of the population IMG_4250distribution in Australia, you’d possibly think that you might rush over and buy your own big patch, or wonder why no-one invades. However, greater geographical information gathering should be done before boarding the longboat, to discover the vast expanse of desert and just the vast expanse.

Back to beaches – not every State and Territory boasts beautiful or competitive stretches of sand, wave and ocean, but they all have them, bar Canberra. There are surfing beaches, exploring beaches, even crocodile-infested beaches. Not all of them are always safe to swim in – the north eastern beaches have stingers (jelly fish that deliver a very nasty sting) in the Wet season, the southern beaches are very cold (Antarctica isn’t that far away) although better in Summer and many have treacherous currents and rips.

ALWAYS CONSULT THE LOCAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE SAFETY OF SWIMMING.

Some beaches look tantalisingly cool and wet on a stinking hot day, but the depth won’t cover your knee until you reach the ocean shelf and the bottom falls out from under you. Others disappear completely when the tide recedes and a score of crabbers trek across the sand with their rakes and buckets, getting their fill until the tide returns again.

The tropical fish of Queensland’s Barrier Reef or Western Australia’s Coral Bay are a must for your bucket list. It will be all you can do, to stop yourself from opening your mouth wide while under water, when you see the size, colour, quantity and proximity of the aquatic life. Many places have dolphins – in South Australia they are frequent visitors to our cold waters and love to surf the waves or try to join in your games sometimes.

Flat and endless, shouldered by cliffs, swampy, palm-dotted like your dream tropical island. We have them all and they’re waiting for you. Your sunsets will never be the same again.

Safe travels!