Until I travel to mainland Australia again, seeking to discover more about the land and sea, no new blog posts will be added to this site.
But I have a treat waiting for you TODAY – go here to begin the story of my visit to a small part of southwest Tasmania. On that site continuing at the rate of one each day, new blog posts will be published – the topic is my reconnaissance trip lasting two and a half days travelling into the wilderness west of Hobart into remote south western Tasmania. I travelled to the flooded Lake Pedder, visited the mighty Gordon Dam, walked around some stunning country, and was amazed at the variety in the landscape. The new blog posts offer a visual feast.
Therefore I recommend you visit www.tasmaniandiscoveries.wordpress.com, add your email address into Follow Me and then each new blog post will land in your email inbox on a daily basis. Here are a few photos to whet your appetite for more – this is truly an astounding part of Tasmania.
From the Kata Tjuta sunrise viewing area we continued westwards.
When we reached a T junction the bus turned left/north towards the Valley of the Winds. Walpa Gorge was the later second stop further ahead.
What were my plans? After extensive pre-trip research I knew that the Valley of Winds offered a range of walks the longest being a 7 plus km hike. In addition I knew there were lookouts to climb. You can read further details here and here and here. Before leaving Tasmania I planned to walk all the options plus walk into the Walpa Gorge. However, once in central Australia, I changed my mind. I knew the rising temperatures and my perpetually sore feet made any choice to walk in the Valley of Winds unwise. I decided to walk in the Walpa Gorge only.
At the Valley of Winds bus stop, a few people left the bus ready to undertake various walks with the expectation they would be collected early in the afternoon. I was fortunate that my bus driver was an ex APT tour guide still holding his accreditation (he had lost his job after lifting visitors’ heavy luggage and damaging his back). He was a superb source of information. Before the walkers departed for the Valley of Winds tracks, I listened as the driver provided useful background and safety information.
The Valley of the Winds is stony, rugged and isolated. From a variety of sources over the few days while I was in the area, I heard stories of people with bloody fingers from trying to grab almost smooth rocks as they clambered up and over near vertical rocks on the ‘track’. I heard stories of people who did not take any water or sufficient water even in mild weather – and being found at the last minute with severe heat exhaustion, dehydration and in a very fragile state. Some tracks, and those around Uluru are officially closed once the temperature reaches 36 degrees – but I think that is too extreme when the time a person will be out in that environment without shelter; surely it will be too long for the body to cope safely. In the case of the Valley of Winds the time between drop off and collection is around 5 hours yet the advice (drink one litre per hour) and warnings of signs, brochures and the words of bus drivers are often not heeded.
Four of us stayed on the bus ready to be driven to the Walpa Gorge carpark.
After leaving Almaden, we drove 30 kms eastwards through the town of Petford, then a further 30 kms to and through Dimbulah.
Between 1978 and 1999 the town of Petford was the centre for an experiment to help disadvantaged youth. The Petford Training Farm operated as a camp for troubled indigenous youth. The primary activity was to educate Aboriginal youths about horse riding and horse care.
In the 19th century, Dimbulah provided a gateway to the Hodgkinson gold fields.
During that time wheelbarrow moves between various sites in the district were commonplace. In the 1950s tobacco was a mainstay of local agriculture. Since then, alternate crops such as ti-tree, mango plantations, native trees, sugarcane and coffee plantations have been introduced. We noticed the greening of the landscape the further we travelled east, indicating the existence of more reliable water sources for irrigation.
South of Petford and Dimbulah sits the town of Irvinebank where Peter’s grandmother Doreen was born. Unfortunately, we did not have time to travel there.
Approximately 50 kms later and before reaching the township of Mareeba, Peter took a detour and sought out the Skybury coffee plantation, complete with café and publically accessible coffee Roaster. The Skybury Tropical Plantations company has been in the coffee production business for 30 years and grows Arabica coffee with supplemental income from crops of sweet red papaya (pawpaws) and bananas.
Perched on the top of part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, I had sweeping panoramic views of the wider landscape from the beautiful contemporary wooden structure which houses a large café, a retail outlet and the equipment and machinery for roasting the coffee beans. All very interesting.
We learnt that another rocky outcrop contained overhangs with paintings by aboriginal people, and since this was something I was keen to see, we followed our map to Balancing Rock with the Wullumba Art Site nearby.
From the carpark, Peter headed off along the path seeking the Balancing Rock.
Eventually he saw the following (Photo by Ludo Kuipers, Fri Jul 02, 2010)
Meanwhile I took in my surroundings. Dramatic in their own way.
Later we walked to the Wullumba Art Site.
The colourful rocky karsts filled the view beside the pathway.
Then suddenly we stood before an overhang under which ochre paintings had been added. These paintings appeared not to have been retouched in some time, and either seemed washed out or almost absent. The lack of clarity and boldness of paint may explain why some tourists shrugged their shoulders and exclaimed it was a waste of time to visit these. It may also explain why fewer tourists make the trip out to Mungana to look at the paintings in the Archways cave – perhaps they worked on the erroneous assumption that those would be as faded as these.
By contrast, I relished the opportunity to look at these indistinct ochre drawings, and to use my time to think about the reasons why Australia’s aboriginal communities have traditionally painted cave walls, and to think about the persisting value of the paintings and of the knowledge which many indigenous people still hold. I have so much more to learn to understand the specific ideas being communicated here.
A scientific study by the Australian Museum has determined the paintings in the Chillagoe are relatively recent being less than 3500 years old. You can read more here.