NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!


Only in OZ #15 - Musical Fence, Winton, Queensland

The Musical Fence, Winton, Queensland
 Here we are in sunny Winton.  Well ... it was sunny on our previous visit in June 2009 - and it was sunny the day we first arrived earlier in June 2011, but a couple of days down the track and unseasonal rain has forced us indoors and off the roads, which are blocked in several directions.  Looks like my Rainbow won't be working its magic this time ...

So what better way to pass the time than to pay tribute to a brighter, happier Winton?!  Which, in addition to the Musical Fence above, is also home to the World's Largest Deckchair - a dubious honour indeed, yet one shared by no one else in the world!  But I digress ...

Designed by OZ musician/composer Graeme Leak and opened in July 2003, Winton's Musical Fence is the first permanent musical fence installation in the world which makes it all the more amazing that ANYONE can drop in at ANY TIME and play away on what is, in effect, a giant 5-string guitar!  Fence management has thoughtfully provided a grab-bag of junk-yard 'instruments' for accompaniment, I guess so amateur musicians don't embarass themselves with a solo performance ...

It's also been thoughtfully located in the industrial estate, a little way out of town!

Like Cooktown's Musical Ship further north, the fence attracts music lovers, talented musicians and the non-musical alike.  So don't be surprised if the sounds you hear don't always fall under the traditional definition of 'music' - 'noise', 'din', 'cacophony' and 'atonal' are words that immediately spring to mind.

But who am I to judge?  And who cares when making music is this much fun AND an opportunity for an experience not many others in the world have had??

And far, far better way out here in the Outback where no one can hear you scream ...

Other 'music-making' implements used to accompany the fence ...
Stay dry!

And while you ARE staying dry, check out my interview on Jidhu's blog, Reflections, to be posted 30/6/11!


OZ Top Spot #9 - Devils Marbles, Northern Territory

Devils Marbles, Northern Territory
To go from the bizarrely sensational Wycliffe Well, UFO capital of Australia (if not the world!), to the magnificent grandeur of the Northern Territory's Devils Marbles is to go from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Devils Marbles at Sunset
A few hours on the road north from Alice Springs, exploring the weird and wonderful Wycliffe Well after parking in the Elvis campsite, then a few kilometres north to see the Devils Marbles by sunset gets pretty close to a day that can't be topped! Actually, yes it can – a meal at the Galaxy auditorium back at Wycliffe Well followed by the first episode of a new Dr Who series rounded the day off nicely … but I digress.

If you can fight your way through the other sunset photographers (well … god gave you elbows, right?), the Devils Marbles give amateur photographers (yes, that's me!) with an unparalleled chance to take shots that look like they were taken by someone else good. It's one of those sadly all too rare places where it's almost impossible to take a bad photo.

Wisps of cloud during our first visit in May 2008 gave the sunset panorama an oil-painting quality – and against the unbelievable colours of the rock as the sun went down, the white cloud against blue sky was breath taking.
Devils Marbles at Sunrise

Our second visit a couple of months later was at sunrise, with a perfectly blue sky and distinctly different light - and I also rediscovered the public toilets that then became a favourite, immortalised forever on this very blog …
Known as Karlu Karlu*, and sacred to local Aborginals, the site was returned to the traditional owners in October 2008. The conservation reserve is accessible to day visitors, but hell! Stay in the campground, with those FAAAAABULOUS public toilets, for a chance to take both sunset AND sunrise shots!

But how did they come to be here in the first place??  Glad you asked!!

The Devils Marbles were originally rectangular blocks caused by molten rock cooling under a sandstone layer. As the sandstone eroded, water, wind and sand formed the rocks into the shape with the smallest possible surface area – the sphere. 

And here we see in action the great divide between science and art – this explanation seems just a little too prosaic for a place so magical, doesn't it??

Sunset again ...

Perhaps that's why the Aboriginal Dreaming story of the Rainbow Serpent, who after creating the earth, returned to a place where the rainbow meets the earth. The Rainbow Serpents fossilised eggs have now become what we know as Karlu Karlu* or the Devils Marbles.

Now – isn't that a far more satisfying explanation?

* translation = 'round boulders'


Aussie Outdoor Art #1 - Blackall, Queensland

The Australian landscape has provided the inspiration behind many creative and artistic endeavours.

Some, for example, use their powers for good, and write poetry, books or music.

Others, on the other hand, produce blog posts about Australia's Scenic Public Toilets.

BUT … there are those who capture the essence of OZ by creating artistic installations that reflect and define the local landscape.

Central western Queensland's Blackall harnessed this creativity in 2007 when metal sculptor Richard Moffatt created three art works as resident artist at the local festival.

'Eagles Nest', down by the Barcoo river, is a self-explanatory representation of Wedge-tailed Eagle – or 'Wedgie' - Australia's largest raptor. Travellers are more likely to see this magnificent bird on the side of the road helping itself to some fresh roadkill – or soaring high above on the thermals looking for its next meal. Anecdotal evidence even blames the Wedgie for newborn lamb disappearances! Which of course casts it in the role of enemy.

So this sculpture depicting it in a parenting role shows a more accessible aspect of the Wedgie's character – even if this trait isn't always one readily accepted by a farming community.

My psychic powers are not yet strong enough to divine the artist's true intent – but isn't there something universal about depicting a foe in a more friendly light?

Or is that just me??


Red's Aussie Rainbow OR Colours of OZ!

Having trouble staying damp? Rivers running dry?? Rain dances not working???

Who're you going to call????

Droughtbusters! That's us!! Not sure how it works, but the drought often breaks in places having a bit of a dry spell not long after our arrival. I guess it's a gift ...

But it's not all sunshine and Starbucks on the road – days of damp, gloom and drizzle can be depressing … so to cheer myself up here at Bowra Sanctuary, where we seem to have rained ourselves in, I've made myself (and you!) an Aussie Rainbow.

My computer skill level, best described as 'technophobic', means it's not curved like a real rainbow but each colour reminds me of an aspect of Australia – and that good times will come again.

Can you guess what each colour shows??

Having trouble? The photos from which each colour is taken are below for your reference!!

No peeking!!

You're not cheating, are you??!!

OK then ….

Lake Pamamaroo, Menindee Lakes, NSW
Red: Sunset at Lake Pamamaroo* (western NSW) a couple of weeks ago. But what's redder – this or my banner photo (dunes near Cooper's Creek)?? I chose this one – but it could have gone either way!!

Big Orange, Berri SA in happier times!
 Orange: Berri's Big Orange (Riverland, SA)* is no longer open to the public, meaning you'll save those dollars you'd otherwise have spent on such ephemera as big orange pens, riverland rulers and the like. No, it's not one of Australia's natural wonders – but Big Things ARE a part of our national psyche!!

Wattles, York Peninsula, SA
Yellow: This wattle lining the side of a Yorke Peninsula road in South Australia is one of many examples of this iconic Aussie flower! Golden wattle is the official Australian floral emblem – but other varieties can be just as spectacular!

Tyto Wetlands, Ingham, QLD
Green: The Tyto wetlands, Ingham, QLD were so green they hurt my eyes. This pre-cyclone Yasi shot shows them at their peak – I'm not sure how much storm damage they suffered.

Offshore, Troubridge Island
Blue: Troubridge Island is one of my favourite places – the glorious autumn day we arrived for a 2 night stay showed the island at its best, with water clarity to rival anything in the more tropical north.

Stormy Sky, Thargomindah, QLD
Indigo: Amazingly, these storm clouds at Thargomindah (western QLD) didn't result in any rain - well, not at Thargomindah, anyway!!! Click HERE to see why the Thargomindans fly the Aussie, British and French flags!

Salvation Jane, Dutchman's Stern, Flinders Ranges SA
Violet: Yes, Salvation Jane (aka Paterson's Curse) is a weed and a pest. But almost nothing beats the spectacle of a field in full flower. Agree??
And … to top it off, the rainbow's magic worked – because this morning I awoke to this!!

Bowra Sanctuary Sunrise
*Pix by Pilchard
PS  Apologies to all my followers - indifferent internet access means I haven't visited many of your blogs in recent times.  I hope to catch up real soon!!


Aussie ABC - E is for Emu!

Emus near Quilpie, Outback Queensland
The Australian emu*(Dromaius novaehollandiae**) is arguably the most highly evolved bird on the planet.  Or perhaps even in the universe!

But whether or not you agree may well depend on your gender ...

After mating, the female emu sticks around just long enough to lay the eggs, with the male in attendance night and day.  Then she's off to the fleshpots of emu-land to repeat the experience, sometimes mating several times a season!  Her offspring will never see her - unless by accident, of course!

The mail emu incubates the eggs by sitting on them for eight weeks - and sacrifices himself by neither eating nor drinking during this time.  Then he raises the newly-hatched chicks to adulthood - for at least 6 months, although often until the next breeding season.

That's Dad, not Mum with these emu chicks in South Australia's Flinders Ranges!
So images like this show DAD with the chicks, Mum being long gone and likely to have spawned at least one more family by the time the chicks are this size!

A deadly beak, and even deadlier scimitar-like toe-nail protect the emu from its natural predators like the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) - but also gives them their legendary disregard for fences thus triggering a new predator, the Human (homo sapiens, sub-species farmer).

And while it can't outdo the ostrich for size, it IS the second largest bird in the world (by height) at up to 2 metres (6.6 feet) - so it can be disconcerting to have one hovering around your barbie waiting for a snag***, or sticking it's head through your open car window!!  Well, they ARE known for their curiosity ...

Emu chicks in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia
 So how to rid yourself of unwanted emu attention?  Waving something white at them may well be an urban myth, but it worked for us while bird-watching at Bowra Sanctuary in south-western Queensland.  Do NOT, however, rely on this method to repel their advances, as other factors (such as eau-de-campfire) may have also been in play ...

It's not clear whether the emu depicted as a co-supporter of the Australian Coat of Arms (along with the kangaroo) is a female!  But it may well be, as many of it's peculiar behavioural characteristics seem to have been adopted to a certain degree by successive governments ...

Gender may be less of a factor in whether or not you agree with THAT!

*  Pronounced 'EEM - you'
**  According to Wikipedia, this means 'fast footed New Hollander' (New Holland being, of course, the name by which Australia was first identified on maps after discovery by Abel Tasman in 1644)
***  Translation - '... your Barbecue waiting for a sausage'


Only in OZ #14 - Tractor Monument, Wentworth, New South Wales

TE20 Harry Ferguson Tractor Monument, Wentworth
 In a parallel universe, the Australian government and public service pantheon would have been well placed to see first hand the effects of 'policies' governing the Murray Darling Basin in the capital Wentworth, at the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers.

BUT … while iconic Wentworth, once busiest inland port in the country, was one of several locations considered as potential Australian capital sites post Federation, it lost out to Canberra.  Australia thereby forever losing the opportunity to take the capital to the people … But I digress!

'Grey Fergie', Wentworth NSW

So, instead of a monument to forward-thinking AND acting (!!) politicians who developed an effective long term management strategy for regulating the Basin (yes, I'm still in that parallel universe!), Wentworth's monument is dedicated to the TE20 Harry Ferguson tractor.

The first monument to a tractor in the WORLD, it commemorates the vital part played by the 'grey Fergie' in protecting the town from destruction by the extraordinary 1956 flood that devastated downstream South Australian towns.

With their town under threat as floodwaters from both rivers headed straight for it, Wentworthians erected massive levee banks and stared the river down.

And at the forefront of this pre-emptive strike?
 The TE20 Harry Ferguson tractor, of course!! An actual 'grey Fergie' tractor greets visitors entering the town across the river – a much more showy monument to this humble farming implement than the small bronze cast of the original.

First Tractor Monument in the world!

But the first monument has its own significance – the height of its rock cairn matches the height the floodwater would have reached had the levee banks not been in place! As this unflattering shot (conveniently smaller than all others) shows …

Maybe it was just as well the Aussie capital wasn't Wentworth in 1956. With so many past and recent examples that demonstrate bureaucratic innovation, efficiency, flexibility and responsiveness to change, the only obstacle to the machinery of government working with the locals to save the nations capital would have been an oversupply of ideas, funding and volunteers.

But there I go … back into that parallel universe again!!

'Grey Fergie' Monument wording

*All pix by Pilchard


Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #15 - Lord Howe Island, New South Wales

The View from the Loo, Lord Howe Island

You can blame the public amenities block at Kata Tjuta, near Uluru in the Northern Territory for my obsession with the odd juxtapositioning of Australia's most spectacular scenery with the often mundane conveniences that service its admirers.  The view from this loo MUST be the best in Australia, I thought.

So I captured it on film.  And it remained my personal favourite until I saw the amenities at the Devil's Marbles, also in the Northern Territory.

Then, I visited Rainbow Valley (yep - also Northern Territory) - but although nearly too close to call, it didn't quite topple the Devil's Marbles as top loo view in OZ.  Still, the top three Scenic Public Toilets were in the Northern Territory, despite a strong showing from South Australia's Yorke Peninsula ( #5#6, #11 and a scattering of other state representation.

But now the time has come.  The Northern Territory has been supplanted by New South Wales, with this outsider from its magnificent off-shore island, Lord Howe Island!

AND ... just to prove this IS the view from the loo!

SO ... drumroll please ... here's my NEW favourite!  Why?  For the absolute jaw-droppingly awesomely superbly magnificent panorama, of course!  So great, in fact, you could sit there all day!

But don't take my word for it - check out the other contenders

Go on, check them out.  I'll wait ...

So am I right?

Yeah, I'm right, aren't I?!?!?!


Weird Stuff #6 - Little Topar, New South Wales

The 5 hour* drive between Broken Hill and Cobar in western New South Wales generally scores a pretty high 'tedious' rating.  Unrelieved except for the township of Wilcannia on the Darling river and a couple of roadhouses, the scenery is mainly dusty, dry and desolate, like this picture taken near Broken Hill about 13 years ago.

Near Silverton, Broken Hill NSW
But the wet spell that's afflicted most of Australia hasn't left the outback unscathed.  In the last couple of years, the drive has become downright fascinating with blooming wildflowers, new growth spurts and so much greenery it's almost difficult to play 'spot the feral goat'!

Then in October 2010, as we neared Little Topar, the last roadhouse before Broken Hill, we saw a lake where we'd never seen a lake before!

Lake in the desert at Little Topar
 Amazing - especially given our previous experience had been a hot and dusty 43 degrees (C) the year before.  But then, as we again drove past in April 2011, this body of water so far from the sea took a more sinister turn ...

What's in the water at Little Topar??

NOW the Little Toparians have a REAL tourist attraction!!   But is a white pointer this far inland a world first?  Or are the Little Toparians developing an entry into a future '101 uses for corrugated iron' booklet??

YOU decide!!

*Less if you're speeding!!
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