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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, WA

Coolgardie, gateway to the gold mining region, was a stretching stop on the way to Kalgoorlie, that proved to be very interesting. Seeped in history and with charming heritage buildings, Coolgardie lays claim to the first gold sighting in WA,1893, and has excellent facilities for a family stopping there for any length of time.cof

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an old township
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well-maintained automatic ? toilets
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The gardens, said to be ‘the lungs of the town’ in 1916, providing outdoor recreation
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gazebos and trees for shade
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delightful playground
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historic buildings

There was a discovery trail suggested outside the visitor centre, covering the Eastern Goldfields and promising history, geography, culture and exercise. Had we more time, we may have explored further, but headed for Kalgoorlie as our main destination.cofKalgoorlie is etched into Australia’s early mining and railway history and we thought it was worth seeing, at least once. We are glad we did, as the buildings are impressive, the museum informative and the sight-seeing within easy reach.

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centenary buildings

Parking at the visitor information centre (look for the yellow ‘i’ signpost), we received excellent advice about what could be seen in a day. The major sightseeing spots were within a 3km radius.

We started in the very building we were in and explored the City Hall, with its displays of World War I and II, sporting and local heroes and beautifully maintained dress circle.

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We walked the main street, Hannan Street, named after one of three men who found the first nugget, and admired the architecture while we looked for ECOmaniac where the owner recycles things into crafty objects. Very interesting wares. The old market place was a bright construction, well-restored.

There are mining monuments all around Australia, but the one to St Barbara in the main street of Kalgoorlie sent shivers down my spine – it connected me with the present and the past. My family tree goes back to a place in Poland where they mine coal. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners and she is revered in that region of Poland. It reminded me of the great distances travelled by people, to harsh environments, when a new country or mineral was discovered. This circlet tells the dramatic story of Barbara, betrayed by her own father and is just down the street from the Paddy Hannan statue.

 

We jumped in the car to Hannan’s North Tourist Mine, cofwhich was very informative and you’ll find modern-day mining trucks

as well as old machinery, recreated buildings, a miner’s tent with a recording of Paddy’s find, and even a gold panning area where you can keep what stones or gold you find. You find yourself realising that people will endure a great deal in the hope of making it rich, quick.

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The Chinese arch and garden of remembrance were a nice touch, to pay tribute to the many miners who came from China during the goldrushes.

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There are souvenirs and a cafe, as well as outdoor BBQs and tables and chairs in the shade.

A short drive from here is The Mt Charlotte reservoir and lookout. The site informs you of the woodland area and the 360 degree trail has information and photographs about the opening, at the turn of the twentieth century, of the water supply which was the only one for 200km. It is the head of the Golden Pipeline, designed to get fresh water to miners and stop the deaths caused by lack of water.

One claim to fame of Kalgoorlie is the Superpit – once the largest open cut gold mine in Australia (now beaten by another in WA) which has a stunning viewing platform. The mine produces a massive 28 tonnes of gold a year.

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Those massive trucks are at the bottom of the pit
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the viewing platform is very safe

Burt Street, one of the original features of Boulder, established first, was damaged by an earthquake in 2005. A stone’s throw from the Superpit, it has recently been restored to its original state, from the late 1800s. Charming and with a symmetry that blended with the colour scheme, it was very quiet and the locals said that it was hard to keep up business when school holidays were started, and summer coincided.  It’s a hot and dusty place and many people stay home or in the main street of Kalgoorlie to do their Christmas shopping. We had a very good free- trade coffee in Newton’s Espresso Bar.

So, were we in Boulder or Kalgoorlie? Both – the towns merged at the start of the 19th century to sustain growth and share the only water supply for over 200km.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder explored sufficiently, we made for a petrol station, filled up with diesel and made it to Norseman before sunset.

There is a railway line that connects Adelaide to Perth, via Kalgoorlie, the Indian Pacific. Most drivers crossing The Nullarbor do not go through Kalgoorlie, as there is a quicker way to Esperance and Perth.

Always, always take water and a hat. Go west young ones, and see the world!

Safe travels.

Tesselaar Tulips

While scrolling through my emails a few months ago, the BIG4 site had a beautiful photo that caught my eye. It was of a field of tulips, so I explored further and, before we knew it, we were on our way to Victoria, to see the Tesselaar Tulip Festival.

I’m not sure if thousands or millions is the correct power of ten to express the number of blooms and they are gasp-worthy in colour and formation. I’ll do a collage of pictures, but I really want to show each variety.

And there aren’t just tulips – add daffodils, renunculi, magnolia, camelias, azaleas, rhododendron… I’ve run out of my flower vocabulary. If you are ever in Australia in Spring and near Victoria, then be lured here. There is a fee to enter but it is a oncer.

 

The farm was started by a Dutch couple who came here in 1939, on their wedding day and on one of the last boats to leave Europe before WWII started. The beautiful blooms attracted a good deal of attention and people would stop and jump the fence, until finally the crowd was so large that the owners decided to charge a nominal admission. It is currently run by the grandson of the original owners. There are food stalls, souvenirs, coffee and a band was playing. Of course there are plants, but if you intend to travel interstate, we have strict laws in some Australian states about carrying plant matter – you can’t!

Found in Silvan, in the Yarra Ranges of Victoria, it is very near the Dandenong Ranges, whose fern-laden forests and renown gardens are certainly worth a visit. If you are into steam trains, then a ride on Puffing Billy is a must, sweeping you through rain forest, over farmland and past quaint towns.

We came from Healesville via Don Road, Launching Place, Woori Yallock and Seville and saw a variety of scenery, from towering trees to rich, volcanic farmland.

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A very pleasant way to spend a morning, we visited a winery on the way back and were home for lunch.

Safe travels! Take your hat, water and a camera.

Lake Mountain, Victoria

It’s mid-October which is Spring in Australia, and while in shorts we enjoyed 22C at the base, there were remnants of snow on Lake Mountain, Victoria, providing me with my very first view, although it had frozen over to ice.

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The drive here showcased many landscapes and sweeping views of mountain ranges. Traveling from Healesville along the well-maintained and signed Black Spur Scenic Drive, we were awed by the forest trees, reminiscent of Denmark and the tall trees of Western Australia.  The biggest difference was the multitude of towering tree ferns.

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Mountains sweep away to either side of you and in Winter, the Alpine resort is very busy with snow-goers. Several lookouts are provided along the way to enjoy the view.

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I don’t know if you have spotted it, but we saw an odd change in the landscape.  While some hillsides are green and thick with vegetation, others had these strange pelts of white sticks.  We walked to the summit (1433 m) but not the ridge lookout. From here, the sticks were obviously trees. If you enlarge the next picture you can see the ‘bristles’ on the top of other mountains in the distance.

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You can see over the Victorian Alps and the small town of Marysville nestled in the centre of the rolling hills. There was often vegetation at the base of the trunks, or strips of green revegetation along hills, but the ghostly silhouettes led us to inquire.

Gum trees need very high temperature/heat to germinate. The fires, that are not uncommon in Australia in Summer, serve to spread the growth of gum trees. However, in 2009, ferocious fires of an historic magnitude swept the area and Black Saturday was born. Destruction, of humans, environment and buildings, was on a scale never seen before and not since. Marysville was almost completely destroyed. People lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods.

New solar-operated signs now warn us of the danger of bushfire and we should heed them.

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I am aware that similar devastation has recently occurred in California and it is shocking for a country. People do band together and they rebuild and never forget. Things don’t return to how they were and we have to move with the difference.

The heat was so extreme on Black Saturday that the gum trees will probably never regenerate. Once the centre of Australia was rainforest and 500 000 years later it is desert. Lake Mountain will evolve and we can still enjoy its breathtaking scenery and charming villages.

Safe travels. Take note of bushfire signs.

Jurien Bay and Lesueur National Park

At the start of the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, along the Coral Coast, lies the tranquil town of Jurien Bay. Its lovely sandy shores, pontoon and modern jetty sit close to the Jurien Bay Tourist Park and is an easy drive to Lesueur National Park.

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With a population of around 1500 people, there is a shopping centre and basic resources, with parks and crayfishing (Western rock lobster) industry. Although it was known to the Dutch in the 1600s, it was first surveyed by Frenchman, Louis de Freycinet, in 1801 and settled by the English in 1850.  However, the town was not gazetted until the mid 1950s.

The original jetty was built in the mid 1800s around the growing farming community and a fishing interest developed from then. The new bridge was constructed in 2010/11, 8 years after the original was closed due to storm damage that made it unsafe.

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A short drive from Jurien Bay, along the Brand Highway, then Cockleshell Gully Road, is the Lesueur National Park. The Gully Road is dirt, but suitable for a 2-wheel drive, although be cautious after rain. Lesueur covers nearly 27 000 hectares, is known for its conservation efforts and is home to 10% of Western Australia’s known flora. With over 900 plants, it is also a popular location for wildflowers, for which Western Australia is renown.

We took the 18.5 km scenic drive, which is a ragged circle around the park, taking you along bitumen roads, in your car or on your bike, to the most scenic range in the park. We crossed creek beds, but they were dry, and stopped at lay-bys to take photos, being sure not to disturb any foliage or wildlife and not to leave the trails. Walks are also available and to ensure no contamination there are boot-cleaning stations. The photos are all of the wildflowers,  with a few grasstrees, but just a selection, as I featured many in my blog, Wild and Woolly Flowers. I don’t know the names of them all, so I won’t flaunt my ignorance by tagging some and not others.

 

If you have any questions about this region, let me know.

The area is within an hour of the Pinnacles, so you could fit it in with that visit!

Take a hat, water and your camera.

Safe Travels!

176 steps to see two oceans divided

Cape Leeuwin is where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, in Western Australia. You do not see any discernible line, or join, at the most south westerly point of mainland Australia. But you will see the lighthouse, and if you take the tour you can have some amazing views of the surrounding area, sometimes through the windows on the upward climb. It was one of these that prompted my entry in this week’s  Photo Challenge: Windows.

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With 176 steep steps spiraling upward, each time I got to a window I thought about the lighthouse keepers who had taken this flight, every night and every morning. Between 1895 and 1982 there were three keepers housed nearby.  With electrification, only one was present from then until 1990, when total automation began and no more keepers were needed. It is an impressive tower, 40m tall, with 2m thick walls at the base and 1m thick walls at the top; it stands out on the horizon as you approach. It is the tallest lighthouse in Western Australia.

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Leeuwin, Dutch for ‘lioness’, is the name of the ship from which sailors charted the coastline as early as 1622. After Australia had been claimed for Great Britain and Matthew Flinders was charting the island, he named the cape Leeuwin, acknowledging the early map makers whose work assisted him. I often ponder those early Dutch explorers and the opportunity lost to them, of colonising Australia.

Well-maintained boardwalks and trails enable you to look around the area and explore.

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Many have taken photos of the ‘divide’ of the two oceans, trying to see some line or separation. Certainly, the Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, is very cold and has northward currents. The Indian Ocean is warmer and has different currents, so you’d expect something to be visible at, or near, their joining and I have seen photos where the taker captures some turbulence. The following photo does not suggest anything out of the ordinary. In fact, rocks are sometimes blamed for any odd movement in the water.

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Margaret River forms the background region and there are other lighthouses – Hamelin and Cape Naturaliste being quite famous.  At least 12 ships were wrecked near Hamelin Bay. There are many walks, including a cape-to-cape walk that takes 6-7 days, walking 20-25km per day, which I am told has some stunning scenery and only a short spell of steep track. The region is renown for its wine and surf and is a great place to spend some time. We spent the remainder of the afternoon on nearby beaches, in forests and walking the coastline at Hamelin Bay.

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Mark it as an area to visit – an outermost point on the Globe. Take your hat, but tie it down firmly as it is very windy, particularly from the balcony at the top of the lighthouse.

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And if you venture up the spiral stairway, pause to look out the windows; you can choose between a couple of oceans or tranquil cemetery.

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Safe travels.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.