Saturday, April 18

Danger, Fire!!!

One of the risks that I didn't seriously consider when I planned my 'round Aussie drive was the chance of being caught up in bush fires.  As we all know, there is much bush in the Australian landscape, much of it can be tinder dry and bush fires as we know them can be extremely dangerous.

Unlike living in the city or near bush towns, way out in the outback the fires can run pretty much unchecked, though these days there are country firies, and of course helicopters and other fire emergency aircraft.

I did as I have mentioned in a previous post have a fire extinguisher, but it would have not been wise to tackling a bush fire with a piddling little fire extinguisher.  

I came across quite a few areas where bush fires had been - leaving acres of blackened trees and grass, and sometimes smoke from smouldering fires filled the air.  On several occasions, I had to drive close by fires.  Mostly these were not being fought by any fire fighters - they just burned without "supervision". 

On one occasion, I was able to take a few photos, without putting myself in danger.  I slowed down, prepared my camera, and took the photos through my car window, and then quickly moved past the fire area.  There were some spectacular sights, but as usual I considered my safety the priority, so have limited images.  Even as I opened the car window to shoot the vision, I could feel the awesome heat the fire created.

I remember reading something at New Norcia in Western Australia, how the aboriginals regularly created fires as part of their culture. They were "in control" of burn offs and would select areas on a regular basis to burn off - which got rid of the dead undergrowth and regenerated the grass and plants.

(This fire was in the Northern Territory - on my way from Lake Argyle to Katherine).

Wednesday, April 15

More Reminiscing

I often get asked, when folk here about my adventures around Australia - Did I get bored?  Did I feel safe? Driving so long on your own, how could you do it etc.  Read another post about Lake Argyle.

Let me explain what I planned, and for the most part did.  I had quite a few rules for myself.  I had daily limits of driving.  I didn't rush to leave in the morning - 9 am or thereabouts was fine by me, as I figured then that most of the kangaroos might have left the side of the roads by then, and as I didn't rush I could be, would be, more relaxed.

I had my laptop with me, and most nights I'd download some radio talks onto a USB, to listen to in the car.  I'd also select a few CD's.  I'd do any washing I needed to do soon after I arrived at the caravan park, (often around 3 pm), giving it plenty of time to dry late in the hot afternoon.  I would also organise my snacks.  I would nibble on nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit - and always bottled water.  I would buy my drinking water, not always sure that I could trust the local water.  In any case I felt that with bottled water, I was drinking "fresh" spring water.  My favourite radio interviewers were Richard Fidler and Margaret Throsby - both ABC folk.

Each night I would study the map, and made rough decisions about the distance I would travel, and where I might plan to stay.  I seldom phoned ahead to book accommodation, and I knew that calling into the local Visitor Information Centre, they could always help me find accommodation. That system only failed once, when I was in Carnarvon.  There was a major event on in town, and the only accommodation was in a crappy room in an old hotel.  Still, it was a bed, relatively clean and safe.

I didn't drive at night (except locally in the town, and rarely did that).- other than the night I returned from a sunset cruise.    I did not go to hotels etc at night for a drink, and I was careful who I befriended.  Single blokes in an adjacent cabin at Denham were friendly and gave me some fresh fish, but I refused to go drinking with them when they knocked on my door after 10 pm!!!

I stopped frequently to take photos - sometimes adding an hour or so to my day's travel.  Just awesome photography!!!

As I drove I would (a) listen to the local and international news on the ABC first thing in the morning, listen to one of the interviews, and often put on a CD with great old time music when I would sing and "dance".  Dance, you might ask?  I do this when driving - moving my upper body around and "singing" along with the music.  It somehow brightens me up, and after 30 minutes or so of crazy movements I feel refreshed.

I also stopped frequently.  Often pulling into roadside parking areas, just to get out and walk - after taking great care to see if anyone or anything is there.  Snakes?  Strange men?  I'd often grab the camera and take a short walk (not into the bush) and take a few photos.

Never at any time did I suffer from driving fatigue - except on my very last day when I overdid it to get back to Brisbane!!!

Arriving at my destination around mid afternoon was my goal most days - sometimes though I did have a longer drive and didn't get there until late afternoon.   I'd visit the Visitor Information Centres, to get local maps and information.

I had a rule that I would not stop for anyone - not an accident, or anything.  I had learned that some nasty people create "accidents" to get people to stop - and the helpers would then become the victims.  I did stop at an accident once.  As I passed a quadbike with two young boys on it, in a paddock a short distance from the road, I did do a "u turn" and go back to see if they were all right after it flipped!!!  I saw it happen so it wasn't contrived and they were two teens.  Luckily we were all safe and uninjured!!

I did carry a two-way radio, (which I seldom used and only then to listen in to truckies so that I had some idea of the road ahead), I did have a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and a visi vest.  None of the latter did I have to use.  I of course had a mobile phone and a dongle, so that most nights I could access the Internet.

I also carried a cooler - with ice bricks that I froze each night - to keep fruit, milk, water etc cold for the day.

I knew  when I set off that there was an element of vulnerability with doing what I had planned, but I took great care.  I did stop and get my car checked occasionally too, and always carried water, just in case.

Though, I can confess, that I did have a great sense of relief when I arrived back in Brisbane safely - even to buying a bottle of champagne some 150 kms from home, as I was determined to celebrate.

Silverton, New South Wales

Vineyard at McLaren Vale, South Australia

Old building at Gladstone, South Australia (I spent holidays in Gladstone when I was younger)

The Great Australian Bight

Walking above the treetops in WA.

Pinnacles in WA.

Would I do it again?   In a heartbeat!!!

Tuesday, April 14

I Broke One of My Rules!

Before I set off on my adventure around Australia I had several rules - one being not to drive at night. When I arrived at Fitzroy Crossing, I visited the Information Centre, and learned that there was a Sunset Cruise through Geikie Gorge that evening.  I couldn't book there, but learned that I had to go to the park at the Gorge to book.

First of all I had to find accommodation - which I did at the Caravan Park.  After putting my things in the cabin, I set off for Geike Gorge, which is about 20 kms from Fitzroy Crossing.  Silly me didn't realise that I would have to break one of my rules.  I didn't drive at night - except within a town.  Going on a sunset cruise, I would have to drive at night.  It just didn't enter my thought processes.

When I arrived at the Gorge there was some confusion.   Apparently there were two different groups which did the cruises.  While I waited I went for a walk through some amazing rock formations on the edge of the park.

Soon we boarded a small boat, with an indigenous man at the helm, who powered up the boat and we headed through the gorge. 

The rock formations were amazing - so much colour!  We slowly went along the side of the river on one side and eventually came back o the other side, as our guide explained quite a lot about the culture of the local indigenous people.  We clicked our cameras and looked in amazement at the scenes we passed.

The cruise took about 1 1/2 hours, and as we returned to the boarding spot, darkness was quickly descending on us.  Soon after I arrived at my car, it was pitch black for there were no lights way out there.  I realised then, that I would have to do the 20 kms in the dark!!!

Slowly I set off - with my headlights on high beam to give me as much light to help me see if any wildlife was on the road.  There certainly was.   The first beast to frighten me was a kangaroo, which jumped out in front of the car.  I easily missed it.  I slowed down.  I was doing about 60 kms an hour.  Slowly, with wide eyes scanning on both sides of the narrow road.  Then I big bull pushed out from the bush on the road.  I quickly braked and missed it.  My heart was beating wildly by this point.  I had probably driven about 2 kms. Only 18 more to go.  Would I make it?  Clearly I did of course but it was quite scary.

Another kangaroo rushed out of the bush and hopped along in the same direction I was driving.  It was so close I guessed he'd probably be missing some whiskers.  Still no damage to my car!!!

It felt like I had driven 100kms.  With my heart beating loudly I kept on driving.  Ofcourse I made it to the Caravan park safely.  Relieved.  

It was one of the nicest rooms I had experienced on my trip too.  Loved it, except for the noise.  There was a wild party going on in the bush behind the park.  I could hear loud voices, breaking of glass bottles and music for most of the night.  Still, I felt lucky.  I had seen a wonderful Gorge and had returned safely.

A Prison Tree?

On the way into Derby I found this so called "prison tree".  This Site of Significance is a Boab Tree with a hollow centre that may have beenused as a prison way back in the early history.

"The Boab Prison Tree, Derby is a large hollow Adansonia gregorii (Boab) tree just south of Derby, Western Australia. It is reputed to have been used in the 1890s as a lockup for indigenous Australian prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. It is now a tourist attraction.[1]
In fact, there is no evidence that the Derby Prison Tree was ever used for holding prisoners."   Wikipedia

Monday, April 13

Broome to Derby

Two years ago I was on the way back home to Brisbane, Queensland, but still in the north of Western Australia.

I spent some time in Broome, which I loved, wishing I had more money and time to do some of the many tourist destinations locally.  I did as much as I could - but mostly time was against me.  I had promised to be back in Brisbane by May 10th, (my daughter's birthday) and I had another 5000 kms to go!!

People often ask me if I got bored, and the answer is a definite NO.  Lonely yes, but not when I was driving.  It was when I arrived in a strange town, late in the afternoon or early evening that I would have liked some company.  I think most of the time when I was driving I was focussing on the road - hoping not to it any of the wildlife that was there - kangaroos, goats, cows, emus, etc and also looking for places to stop and take photos.  If I could have ridden a bike safely I might have done so - it would have been easy to pause often, as there were photo opportunities at every few hundred metres or less.  I'd have to quickly make a decision.  Is it safe to stop here?   Yes, no.  OK, yes, quickly grab the camera after I had stopped and quickly take some photos.

Broome was wonderful - below are some of the photos from there.

When I left Broome, I headed for Derby which was slightly off the main highway, but a must see place.  I had intended to stop at a tiny roadhouse (name missing from my memory at the moment), but I was thinking as I passed it and some distance before Derby, my warning light came on.  Low fuel!!!

It was too far to turn back, and I just had to hope that I was close enough to Derby!  I turned off the air conditioner, opened the windows a little, and slowed down a little too.  My heart was almost pumping from my mouth - as I concentrated on the road, my driving, and pondered my plan should my car just stop.

There was a BP servo as I approached Derby, and I drove around and parked behind a car, also filling up with fuel.  There were two ladies in the car, and they spoke to me.  "Were you running out of fuel too?"  We all laughed.  They were behind me - and they too had forgotten to stop and fill up earlier.  Luckily we both made it!!

Derby was most fascinating.  It is right at the point where a number of huge rivers join up.  It has huge tides, frequent crocodiles, and big ships come into the port.  There was a jetty one could drive around, and I did so.  Stopping to take photos.  Then I found my way to a hill with a lookout way above the port for extra ordinary views in all directions.

High over Derby

Thank goodness it was not real.!

Part of the huge jetty, which one can drive on!

Mud flats and murky water for crocs to hide in!


There is so much to see in these parts.  Deserves more time, but not for me this time.  Had to keep going!

Sunday, April 12

Women "Downtrodden"

I am slightly amused at the results of my posting about the violence against women, which was reported in the ABC news.  I wrote about it here. 

Not surprisingly, some women I have spoken to have also expressed concern about the violence - not just against women, but in general in Australia.  I have written to three Federal Politicians about it, and hope to speak with one this coming week.  Women are afraid, so they tell me, but I doubt if any will take action as I am doing.   You see, they are scared to do so, fearing that in some way it will invoke violence against them.

I have had interesting discussions with a number of women over the past few days and am getting quite an interesting picture.   It is as if they see no choice but to accept what is happening.  They choose not to go out at night, and often even in the day time feel as if they could be a target.

Men leering at them - often tradies where they are the passenger in a car/truck, and can eye off the women as the other bloke drives.

When I posted on Facebook, with a link to another story - this time about the decline of women in sports coverage in Australia, I had a negative response from a guy I know. He doesn't like it that women are now commentating on Cricket.  OMG!  What a joke that a man would find this difficult to comprehend!!!!

I note on the ABC site where the article about the lack of women in sports coverage, suggested that they need to wear more sexy clothes!!!  Sex rears its ugly head in a discussion which is not about sex, but gender. and gender equality!!  Women don't think things will ever change.  Though I note that many young people don't see or feel the things that older people talk about.  I am staggered at the number of women who claim to have been abused in some form or other, in and outside of marriage.  I have heard some horrific tales.

Each newspaper or news report on the television gives story after story of mostly men who have broken the law - be they speedsters, murderers, fraudsters, druggies or whatever.  I get the strong feeling that there is a huge percentage of people who choose to disregard any laws or rules.

I worked in Clean Up Australia only last month, and I note that many of the places we cleaned up are already covered with rubbish by ignorant litter bugs.  It does make me angry.

Mine at Kalgoorlie

(nothing to do with the text above :) )

Wednesday, April 8

Women in the World

I watched in horror on Monday night to the Four Corners Episode featuring the documentary made after the horrific brutal rape of a medical student in Delhi a couple of years ago.  It has been banned by the Indian government - but we can see the horrific brutality of that event, and learn about the treatment of women in that country.

This link will take you to the episode on ABC Television -

It is a pattern is to some degree common around the world.  Women are seen as second class citizens. Even in Australia there is  horrific stories of brutality against women - with thousands of cases of domestic violence against women.    There are so many stories.  Another to read is here.

While we don't have the culture of India and other countries in that region, we still have a horrific number of women being victims in domestic violence, and there are many stories of women who have been victims in other ways.  The number of men who are "unfaithful" to their wives is horrific. The statistics of use of prostitutes is alarming to us.  Many women don't know their men are visiting brothels on a regular basis, and if they find out, many women find themselves in a no win situation.

To leave one's husband is a very difficult thing to do.  I know about that - though I must add here, in case anyone that knows me might want to read more into this - infidelity was not an issue with me.  If my husband had visited brothels, I didn't know.

But I do know how challenging it is for a woman to leave a marriage.  It is one of the most difficult things I have had to do!

Still though - in most parts of the world women are not seen as equals to men.  I actually don't believe that we could ever be "equal" - in that our brains are different, and in most cases our bodily strength. But we have skills that could complement a man's - that as a team where both work as equals, it could be a very powerful team.  In some relationships this is the case - but there is this deep down belief by men that they should be the almighty powerful.

We frequently read of the way women are treated supposedly in the name of some religion - mostly in Africa or the Middle East.  The Taliban don't want women educated, and that is a common theme.  Once upon a time it was common worldwide.  Just ask any 75 years old woman.  Many were not educated or pulled out of school to let the boys be educated.

In my own school days, I was educated to be a wife and mother - Domestic Science, Sewing, and so forth - though I do believe that everyone should learn some of these skills, there was no encouragement for most women to achieve a better education.  Sure, opportunities were limited back then, but it was easy to get the feeling that you were not expected to achieve anything.  For just your gender.

Women now who are in their 70's, especially those who are on their own are also discriminated against.  I hear woeful stories, about women whose husbands were unfaithful, denied them access to bank accounts or money, or who "ruled the roost" - in a manner which was very much the culture of previous generations where the man was supposed to be the head of the household.

My belief is that there should be much discussion about relationships, marriage, expectations, family dynamics and much more.  I  think the Women's lobby groups around the world have a lot more to do.  I don't see men standing up against domestic violence or concerned about the treatment of women.

Many of my peers are very unhappy with the way things are headed.  Rant over for today.

Later.   I am not the only woman who feels concerned about this.  I found this story in the Brisbane Courier Mail this morning. Read it here.