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

Monday

Only in OZ #17 - Ned Kelly Tribute, Jerilderie, NSW

Ned Kelly Tribute - Jerilderie NSW
Whether or not you consider Aussie bushranger and icon Ned Kelly a national hero or national disgrace probably depends on which version of history you've been told. But whatever your views, there's no denying Ned's reincarnation as both cultural icon - and tourist drawcard!

From inspiring the first feature film ever made (more recent remakes star Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger), numerous songs, and novels including Peter Carey's Booker Prize winning 'True History of the Kelly Gang', AND giving his name to an Aussie bakery pie (with various ingredients) Ned Kelly's name is big business.


Ned Kelly Silhouette - a pale imitation of Bread Tin Ned!
 But how can you make the legend work for you if you live in Jerilderie, and you want to divert tourists from 'Kelly Country' and the epicentre of 'Ned' hysteria, Victoria's Glenrowan??

You construct an 8 ft high statue of Ned out of bread tins, of course!

If you were already thinking this - and why wouldn't you be? – it's my sad duty to inform you that you've been beaten to the punch by the Jerilderie Bakery. MUCH more striking than the numerous bushranger cut-outs scattered through Jerilderie's main streets that telegraph its bushranger credentials, this innovative and tasteful tribute is quite possibly the only one of its kind in the world*!


Those eyes!
But Jerilderie's connection with the elusive Ned is far from tenuous. In 1879, Jerilderie was 'visited' by the Kelly Gang - the only town in New South Wales to be so honoured!

In an event lasting several days, the gang cut the telegraph line, locked the policemen in the cells, held up the bank and destroyed mortgage documents – all without injury or death!

But all this excitement was merely a distraction from the primary reason for visiting Jerilderie. Ned intended to publish an account of his life – now known as the 'Jerilderie Letter' – at the town's printing press.

It's ironic that Jerilderie's livelihood doesn't actually depend on Ned's legacy – its position in the Southern Riverina, varied industry base, rich heritage and natural attractions make it a tourist drawcard in its own right.

While Ned's manifesto wasn't printed, and in fact remained hidden until 1930, Jerilderie gets the benefit of his intent to publish - thereby earning a unique place on the Ned Kelly tourist trail.

Bread Tin Body Armour - would it have saved Ned Kelly??
 But maybe Ned's legacy can be found at the Jerilderie Bakery where the class divide is impossible to maintain when eating under the watchful gaze of 'Bread Tin Ned'!  It's also virtually impossible to maintain a straight face ...

And hard though it'll be, please try to contain your jealousy that I've had this experience, and you probably haven't. 

Although you can always fix that!!


*Please correct me if I'm wrong!


Thursday

My Perfect Moment - Cobar, New South Wales

The silence intensified the colours.

Cool greys melded with ochre, rust and purple; rock layers folded and blended in harmonious tranquillity as evening shadows lengthened.

Then ringing from the rocks and echoing around us, a wild, sad cry. Again and again, the air reverberated with a sound so pure and perfect unshed tears brightened my gaze.

Falco peregrinus, Peregrine Falcon and with dive speed recorded at 389 kph (242 mph), the fastest creature on earth!

Soaring above our lookout perch, then far below into the pit.

Circling high, then plunging down the sheer rock wall to perch on its cliff-edge nest. And all the while, that free and savage cry. Safe from predators, afraid of nothing, for nothing could conquer this man-made citadel.

Then, slowly emerging from the cave mouth 150 metres below us, a car. Its smallness offset by the gloriously coloured immense cliff face as it climbed the winding road, while the falcon soared above, shrieking a challenge.


Then both were gone, leaving us alone with the silence.


And a perfect moment at Cobar's open-cut mine!

Visit Our World Tuesday for more fabulous and inspiring ways to look at the world from new perspectives ... Enjoy!!

Sunday

OZ Top Spot #10 - Cawnpore Lookout, Middleton, Queensland

 
View from Cawnpore Lookout, Queensland
  
Watching people do things you just KNOW they're going to regret is one of life's guilty pleasures. Even more so when there's a cruel laugh to be had at their expense – without their knowing! 

So the staggering 360° view from the top level of western Queensland's Cawnpore Lookout didn't completely distract us from the horrifying sight of a pair of Grey Nomads negotiating the left fork of the incredibly steep, rocky and dusty road to the first level lookout in their old camper!

Cawnpore Lookout - track to first level

Visually daunting, even the less threatening right fork of this track can be an insurmountable hurdle – and the reason many visitors leave their vehicles (and sometimes spouses!) below in the car park.  Even climbing the track can be too much, let alone driving it!!

But, wheels spinning hard to gain traction on the loose rock and rubble, and engine wildly revving to keep the vehicle from sliding back down the hill, the Grey Nomads slowly inched (should I say 'centimetred'?!) higher and higher up the track's dodgy left fork! 
  
Track to top lookout, Cawnpore Lookout
The view over the Lilleyvale Hills from Cawnpore Lookout is unique in Australia – and almost the world, with rock formations like these only found in one other place in South America. So it's well worth the walk up the track to the first level – and even more worth walking the steep, slippery, rough goat-track to the 2nd level where the unbelievably magnificent panorama has an other-worldly quality tempting to even amateur photographers …
Mesa at Cawnpore Lookout
So if for whatever reason you happen to be 45 km west of Middleton on the road between Winton and Boulia - or anywhere nearby - don't be tempted to drive by!  Do yourself a favour and STOP!!

Yet another Cawnpore Lookout view!
 And you might even get to see a red-faced Grey Nomad couple carefully reversing their camper back down the treacherous slope to the carpark!!

And ... just in case you haven't had enough of Cawnpore Lookout - here's another view!!

Monday

Return to Green Island - via Cairns, Far North Queensland

Green Island from the Jetty
Although it was 20 LOOOONG years since our last Green Island visit, Pilchard's first action on our return just MAY have been a little bit extreme.

I mean, propelling a perfectly good hat into the sea wasn't some kind of superstitious ritual, was it? Did he perhaps think it meant we wouldn't have to wait another 20 years before our next visit??

But the capricious gust of wind that had plucked the hat from Pilchard's head and flung it into the depths where it sank like a stone was pure accident. AND embarrassing. From the frenzied clicking and suppressed giggles behind us, I strongly suspected the whole episode had been captured on film ...

Our return to Green Island wasn't going well ...

The Beach from the Rainforest Boardwalk
 The 12 hectare rainforest-covered coral cay - known as the Green Island Recreation Area - is one of the most popular and accessible tourist destinations in the Great Barrier Reef, a short 27 km (~17 miles) boat trip from Far North Queensland's Cairns.
Estimated to be several thousand years old, post-colonial plunder and exploitation have threatened the island's continued existence since its charting and naming by Captain James Cook in 1770. But luckily, the multi-layered protection that several regulatory authorities jointly brings will prevent further structural, environmental and biological damage, given the accountability and harmony so often seen in competing bureaucracies. Right???

But changes to the island landscape since 1770 are far greater than those observed by Pilchard and I after our 20-year hiatus! Green Island's new (to us!) interpretive boardwalk charts the effects of human interaction – and the changing demands for its resources.

From Guru-Gulu Gungandji Indigenous people's hunting and initiation ceremony site to present day recreation area of reef, resort and National Park has been a long and bumpy road for this beautiful spot.

'Plunder' and 'pillage' the1800's themes, the island was exploited trashed cleared by bĂȘche de mer fishermen who had no use for pristine rainforest and reef while involved in this labour-intensive industry. But in the 100+ years since the processing plant, living quarters and gardens replaced the forest, it's grown back completely – with 134 charted plant species today. During this time drunken 'picnic' parties, like those described in this postcard facsimile, decimated island resources with activities including, but not exclusive to dynamiting fish, shooting birds and souveniring coral! In what the unkind may describe as 'poetic justice', one local character's arm was amputated after a nasty accident with the dynamite while 'fishing'! Could this have been the rise of the notorious Aussie 'yobbo'**??

Green Island Beach

In an almost complete turnaround, the island's potential for tourism was exploited developed in the 1900's complete with world firsts - including glass bottomed boats for underwater viewing, films of life on the Barrier Reef and Cassius, the largest crocodile (5.5m or 18') in captivity in the only crocodile farm - Marineland Melanesia - on a coral cay. If that's important.
And now, around 300,000 tourists visit Green Island each year, continuing to exploit its resources, albeit more sustainably. In theory, anyway – imagine the impact of so many on the beaches, coral reefs, walks and wildlife.

The Sea from the Esplanade - Green Island

But the multi-layered management model would have changed all this for the better, right? Well … look at what's changed in the last 20 years – do the changes contribute to island sustainability? Or are they just cosmetic? You decide!!

20 years ago, you got a Green Island cruise or day-trip – now it's a Green Island 'Eco-Adventure', although weirdly, most activities haven't changed … and neither has the snorkelling equipment!!! How jealous would my friends have been in the early 90's to hear about my Eco-Adventure!!

20 years ago, visitors could cross the island on a dirt track through the centre, and the only restricted areas were the resort grounds, and crocodile farm (as if you needed to be told that!!). Now, a boardwalk follows the beach, leaving the centre free from human activity. Oddly, the 'walk' from one side to the other is now marketed as a 'self-guided tour'!

Buff-banded Rail

20 years ago, Emerald doves wandered the forest floor – but now, after a successful rat eradication program, large numbers of Buff-banded Rail aggressively hunt and gather from the main food court – and appear to be the only ground-based fauna. Like house-guests from hell, they bathe (and defecate) in the pool, snatch food from unwitting tourists, and hog the best sunbathing spots. In a strange zoological reversal, tourists unable to fend them off are invited to eat in a wire mesh enclosure (aka 'cage') the birds can't enter …  The attractively marked Buff-banded Rail normally shuns human contact, so getting a close look at one isn't that easy. But now? I don't care if I never see another one ...

20 years ago you were left to your own devices upon arrival on the island – now, there are warnings for the aged. Apparently a high risk group, tourists aged 50+ (aka 'old') are encouraged to alert the lifeguard when entering the water in case the exertion is too much. Although the only danger I faced was from Pilchard himself when I offered to tell the lifeguard that he was about to go snorkelling.

Rocks at Low Tide, Green Island
But these are minor points in the context of the magnificent beauty of the natural attractions. Broad white beaches. Water so clear and blue you could spot a hat through it. Superb corals, giant clams and fish. Lush, green rainforest. Ample birdwatching opportunities. Turtle spotting. And the ultimate? Whale watching!!

Sitting on a shady beach after the trauma of keeping our reef fish wraps and chips** from the hovering anxiety of a brace of Buff-banded Rail, we watched a pod of whates frolicking for a good 30 minutes before they moved out of sight. Then, another pod was spotted from the return ferry. Happily not required for scientific testing that day, the whales were free to cavort for the Aussie, American, French and Japanese photographers lucky enough - and thrilled - to capture them on film.

A stunning end to a fabulous day, our return to Green Island had certainly picked up from its inauspicious beginning.


Cairns from the Green Island Ferry

SO … will we return? Hell, yes! After all, we've got Pilchard's hat to look for …

* Yobbo = Aussie term of endearment for people (usually blokes) who indulge in 'exuberant' behaviour, usually taking the format of alcohol-fuelled best mate bonding sessions involving various combinations of camping, fishing, barbecues, hunting and cruising.

** Chips = fries

Sunday

Only in OZ #16 - Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, Far North Queensland

Mosaic Cane Toad at Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, QLD
Well, the government was never going to do it – and it probably didn't occur to anyone else. So when casting about for something other than its 100 year sugar milling history to put it on the map, Gordonvale, deep in the wet tropics of Queensland's far north, didn't have to fight too hard for the right to immortalize what is arguably Australia's worst environmental disaster.

As one of the original 1935 Bufo Marinus (aka 'Cane Toad') release sites, Gordonvale's sugar industry was under threat from pests including the cane beetle. So it was well placed to observe the effects of Cane Toad introduction and their subsequent, and somewhat successful takeover bid for Australian environmental supremacy.

Entrance to Cane Toad World, Gordonvale, QLD
While there's no doubt the government 'experts' meant well, the simple hypothesis that sounded so viable on paper (ie Bufo Marinus = cane beetle predator, SO introduction to OZ = cane beetle eradication = healthy sugar industry) just didn't work in reality.

Why not?

Well … place a toxic toad - with no local natural predators and so spoilt for dietary choices it almost completely ignores the cane beetle - into Australian conditions, near ideal for adaptation and invasion?

HHHMMMmmm... what's wrong with this picture??

Then add in a significant reduction in native species that feed on toads and tadpoles. Oh, and bufotenin, a chemical secreted by the toad? It's a Class 1 drug – although toad licking as a form of ingestion may be a bit extreme ...

Cane Toads (complete with tongue) in Cane Toad World playground

From the original 1935 release of 102 Hawaiian toads, numbers in Australia are now thought to exceed 200 million! So apart from a weird line of novelty gift products, controversial use in informal sports, and a cult-status documentary about the cane toad invasion, what does a nation like OZ do with a predator like Bufo Marinus?
Give it its very own Cane Toad World, of course!

But suppress those visions of being photographed with a cane toad, the Big Cane Toad, cane toad rides and cane toads in song!

Cane Toad World currently consists of the cane toad story in mosaic mural and a cane toad themed playground.  Just a little bit anticlimactic … unless, of course, it's still in development!
A mosaic history of Cane Toads in Australia - at Cane Toad World!

But on another level, the mosaic unashamedly exposes the ongoing problems caused by the Bufo Marinus invasion and is therefore a caustic comment on government 'expertise' and 'accountability', implementing untested environmental solutions and the ongoing effects of such decisions on ordinary people.

So its really just as well we've introduced effective risk analysis methodologies, implementation guidelines, effective monitoring mechanisms and accountability frameworks so we're not destined to repeat past mistakes, isn't it?

Or we might be left with another infamous Aussie icon like the Cane Toad ...
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