Brumbies Of The High Country

Of all of the places that I have been in Australia, my favourite place would have to be in the high country of the Monaro and the Snowy Mountains.  At this altitude, the winters are given to snow and ice and those that come, come with their skis and snowboards to play in the wintery snowfields. But for me, the best of the seasons is the summer when the grass grows long and the rolling hills appear to ripple as the wind blows the waving grass across the slopes.
A pair of wild brumbies rest on a metal hardstand in the high country of the Snowy Mountains
This place is the home of bands of wild horses or brumbies, made famous by Banjo Patterson in his ballad of The Man From Snowy River.  They are not native to the area and are descended from escaped horses that the European settlers brought with them two hundred or so years ago. They have done well in this hard country and their very success has caused them to be culled to keep their numbers in check.  In the early years, before motor transport, they would have been a pool of stock for working horses to be broken from.  Today, there is no demand and so their numbers swell to levels that the land cannot sustain.
Curiosity overcomes fear for this brumby who wanted to check out the stranger standing taking photos. Fear eventually returned and he suddenly turned and galloped away.

I camped up in this country a couple of years ago with my son and his partner.  We drove up from Canberra and through the rolling landscape in the middle of summer.  The grass was long and glistened in the wind as we drove by.  In the distance, the hills took on a blueish tinge and the tarmac shimmered in the heat of the day.  We stopped off at one of two slab timber huts that was built around the beginning of the twentieth century; a lonesome looking place where it’s the owner, a man named David Bradshaw, had lived alone for some twenty-eight years before succumbing to the elements at the ripe old age of seventy-nine

Bradshaw’s Hut is one of two slab and shingle farm huts that have survived from the turn of the twentieth century. David Bradshaw lived in this hut for 28 years before, at the age of 79 he died of exposure on his way home from visiting his brother who lived nearby

The inside of the hut was bare and spartan.  It seemed a bleak place to live life alone for all of those years; He never took a wife and died childless. I often think of how easy we have life these days with all of the modern conveniences and how raw they lived back in the day.

The inside of Bradshaw’s Hut shows the meagre way of life for the settlers who farmed the area in the early days.

 

While the climate was harsh it did provide good summer pastures for the cattle and sheep that the settlers had brought with them.  Previous to that the soil had only felt the pads of paw-footed animals.  Cloven hooves compacted the soil far greater than the light tread of the wombat and kangaroo

An isolated lifestyle in a hut in the middle of the mountains was maybe commonplace in earlier times. A very foreign existence to the lives we live in Australia today
In summer wildflowers grow across the high plains bringing colour to contrast the green of the pastures. Many of these flowers grow on woody stems that I guess gives them some strength to ward off the cool winds that blow across these acres
In Summer wildflowers add a bright touch to the alpine landscape. In the harsh conditions, they seem to grow on woody stems among the tall summer grasses

 

One of many lake systems found in the National Parks of the Snowy Mountain high country

We pitched our tents high on a ridge above one of the many lakes that have been formed to provide water to the Snowy River Hydro Scheme.  These are deep and cold and are stocked with trout from the trout hatcheries in the area.  Clearly a draw for the many fly and spin fishermen keen to get away for a few days of fishing

Although these horses are not a native part of the landscape here, they have cemented their place in the history that goes with the land. Their success in establishing themselves has led to, often controversial, culling to keep their numbers in check. Even for those who are not horse people, it is hard not to wonder at the beauty of these magnificent animals in this wild space.

Plants at this altitude suffer from the harsh conditions that they face all year round; in winter it is snow and ice while the summer brings high temperatures and little rain.  As a result, the shrubs are scrubby low growing woody things and the trees that do grow here often have that tortured shape crafted by the wind and cold. Here in the national park the grasses had dried out and gone to seed.  It seemed shorter than that which can be seen blowing in the wind as one drove up the Monaro Hiway. Lichens grow well in this climate, clinging as they do to a range of hosts from rocks to tree branches.

At this altitude and temperature, lichens gain a stronghold on any surface they can. These scrubby shrubs may be benefiting from the protection the lichens would give them from the cold winds.

I woke early after a sleep interrupted by a squalling storm that threatened to flatten my tent, despite being tucked among large boulders.  The sun had come up watery but soon had burned off any effects of the night before and the warmth was pleasant on my back as I took a walk around the hills behind the camp. It seems that the animal life that can be seen up here was made up of those that had been introduced as the only other species I saw was rabbits.  Again these little guys have made the most of the wild country and have established large warrens all about the banks and mounds.

Rabbits are another introduced animal that lives well in this high country. The ground is pocked with their warrens and sometimes the ground seems to move when their numbers get high. This guy was alone on this day, soaking up the warmth from the morning sun’s rays as I walked by.

A flock of Yellow Crested Cockatoos, with their raucous calls, were checking out the ground for some early morning sustenance. As I came close they flew off with even louder calls as if in the indignation of my presence.

You will find these iconic parrots everywhere in Australia. There was quite a flock of them flying about on my early morning walk.
A mare and her foal graze peacefully near the water’s edge as the sun comes up over the mountain ranges. The lakes are deep and cold and reflect deep blue in the morning light.

I came across several brumbies as I made my way across the hills. I also discovered a crisscrossing of trails all over the hills where the brumbies had created single file bare-earth tracks as they made their way to and from their favoured feeding grounds

The ground is crisscrossed with bare dirt trails made by the relentless travels of the brumbies as they traverse from one feeding ground to the next. They go single file, each wearing away the grass with their hooves and packing the soil so hard that the grass cannot get a foothold again
This beautiful landscape was made for those who love to go about in their 4WDs. The baron rocky plains backdropped by the blue hills and cut through with shimmering lakes makes this place an awesome world to get away from it all

 

Here in the high country, life is controlled by the harsh winters and hot dry summers. Plants are stunted and sparse on the ground. Trees do not grow tall and are often bent and twisted in the winds that blow thru here. It is a different landscape than what you will find on the low plains but it is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful country that Australia has to offer

 

The Rocks Of Sydney

One of the oldest places you’ll find in Sydney is The Rocks, situated almost beneath the Sydney harbour. It is a warren of streets and alleys that border the old warehouses near Circular Key. While much of it has been modernised there is still an old world charm about the place and it is easy to imagine the folks of early Sydney going about their daily business.

I decided to spend some time looking around and my first stop was in the park by the ferry terminal. Here crowds wandered along, many checking out the huge cruise ship that was tied up at the terminal. Signs alluded to an afternoon departure and many of the crowd towed wheeled suitcases as they made their way to the customs checkpoint.

I spotted an elderly gent sitting doing a crosword. The lines of age told a story of character but I didn’t realise when I took the photo that this was Mr Graham Courtney. I discovered, after talking with another busker, that Mr Courtney could be found doing gigs almost every day along the promenade and had been for years. The fact that he is an octogenarian seemed to slow him down not a bit.

What Chord Am I

Along the concourse folk took a few moments to stand and watch the buskers who entertained for whatever donations they were able to encourage from the pockets of the punters. I was intrigued with a suitcase that was sitting unattended on the sidewalk. Not a suspicious item in an obvious way but intriguing because it was set up as a makeshift drum. A young lady sitting nearby told me that her boyfriend was the owner and sure enough a young chap approached and began to tune up his guitar ready for a new set.

 

Sounds Of OperaWhen I asked his girlfriend, Carolin, if he was any good, she replied that he had an unusual style but that, yes, in her opinion, he was very good. I decided to stay and asked if I could take some photos for my blog. Unfortunately, I only had a few spare coin in my wallet as I don’t tend to carry cash at all, but I emptied them out for the privilege of taking a photo.

 

Followers.jpg

We started to talk about the way people disrespect the buskers on the street by taking a photo on their ever handy phone camera without ever bothering to contribute to the entertainment being given by the busker. To me, this is the height of rudeness. These people, would think nothing of spending eighty or more dollars to go to a gig by a famous band, when the gig is right there in front of them.

 

 

Different-Drum.jpg

As it turned out, Jack Dawson was incredibly good. His style was different but the sound addictive. Sitting, as he was, on the old suitcase, thumping out percussion in time to the rhythm of the guitar he soon drew quite a crowd. Jack does a lot of original songs and his CD was available for purchase as well as information to purchase on line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thoroughly recommend this too you if you get a chance to listen
Find him on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/JackDawsonMusic/ or online a JackDawsonMusic.com.

From here I wandered further along the concourse and came across another crowd of people taking in yet another display of street talent. This time it was Emma Mohsen, a contortionist with a bit of humour. I first saw her in a very compromised position with Col from London who was lifting her up while she held her legs firmly wrapped around behind her neck

Strange Contortions
Emma Mohseni contortioist with Cole from London

Impossible It Seems
Emma , Col and Sam About to do the impossible

For her next trick, she called on Sam from Sydney to assist. She brought out a narrow frame with a very small glass box at the top. She explained that she intended to fold her body inside and shut the door. After some instructions to her volunteer crew she climbed on the back of Sam and proceeded to do exactly what she had said she would.

In no time she was firmly locked inside the glass structure still exhorting all and sundry to add to her donation box.

Emma has curled herself into an imposibly small glass boxIn no time she was firmly locked inside the glass structure still exhorting all and sundry to add to her donation box.

Moving on passed the wharf I came to the base of  the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  This icon of Sydney was opened way back in 1932 and is the sixth longest arch bridge in the world.  At its highest point it is 134 metres and until as late as 2012 was the widest long-spanning bridge in the world.

Poser
Ehsan and Rashid from Iran take a moment to pose in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

This is a place where tourist from all corners of the world stop to take a memory of their time in Sydney.   Ehsan and Rashid from Iran were two such people and I stopped to chat a moment and take a photo on their own camera so that they could both be in it together.

One of the things about travelling is that one can rarely get a photo of everyone in the party without resorting to the dreaded selfie. Offering to take the photo is a great way to strike up a conversation and get to know more about the fellow travellers we share this world with.

 

 

 

 

 

The Opera HouseFrom From here the other icon that sits beside Sydney Cove, The Sydney Opera House can be seen across the water.  The angle here gives one a good view of the famous sails that make up its profile

Factory Walls
The old faceless buildings that were once the warehouses at the Rocks in downtown Sydney still stand strong after almost two centuries

PancakesThe Rocks is as old as Sydney itself, established at the time of the first European settlement. Prior to this was Tallawoladah and the home of the Cadigal people. From the outset of European influence it gained a reputation as a slum and was frequented by convicts and prostitutes pretty much until the 1870’s

Sandstone Walls
The sandstone blocks that were used to build the warehouses and shops at The Rocks are still standing today

The buildings were made of Sandstone and that influence is still apparent to this day.  The style of architecture was fairly drab.  Tall straight and as featureless as a row of factories, they dominated the narrow alleys that criss-crossed the town.High Walls

Tall Sheds, Narrow Alleys

Today, the Rocks has been reinvented as a tourist mecca with the obligatory market stalls that can be found both inside the sandstone buildings as well as under marques along the narrow streets.  Selling all the usual fare that markets the world over do along with a share of Australiana to provide the tourists with a suitable memento of there journeysThe MarketMarket Sails

 

And so my wanderings through the tourist mecca of Sydney came to an end and I attempted to find a bus that would take me to Glebe where I was to meet up with a friend.  Not such an easy task and I soon decided that I would be far quicker to catch an Uber Car which, as has been my experience so far arrived in but a couple of minutes and I was soon on my way. Jack, my driver, had a great chat as we crossed the few kilometres to my destination.  Still new to the job, he had a good knowledge of the city and with his pleasant personality I am sure he will do well in the job.  The car was immaculate and at the end of the ride, Jack took some time to help me find the best place to set down, seeing I was a little unsure of my bearings.  Thank you Jack..

A little something I wrote for the festive season with some random photos from the year

Merry Christmas to you..and I’m sorry it’s late

But at last I have finally caught up with this date

It is not something huge, for me in my life

]With family scattered and not having a wife

Fishing off one of the jettys along the Noosa River

I started with coffee at breaking of dawn

Getting news for my blog on this year’s Christmas morn

I was up on the river just near Noosa Sound

Just to drink Old Salt Coffee with rain tumbling down

Rhian and Rhiana creating coffee for the hoards Christmas morning

Then later I took a phone call from son one

Seems he’d had a big night and his head was undone

Some news of concern at the place he did stay

Super typhoon Nock-ten would be landing that day

Aline carefull descends the cliff face at Mt Tinbeerwha during her abseiling course with The Outdoor Education Consultants

Then later a call  this time son number two

And we chatted of things in his life that were new

Then a friend not believing I am happy just me

Insisted that I go around there for tea

Well formed steps help the traveller along the way

Alas there was eating…  ham, jellies and such

By the end of it all I had ate much too much

After Family Feud and then Pictionary

I headed on home and sleep overcame me

Blue Dragonfly on my walk near Kondilla Falls

So that was my Christmas, but what of your own?

Was it big celebrations? Another year flown?

Did you spend the day cooking, preparing the food

Or was it a day spent in lazier mood.

Coolum Hotel, Good Music and Nadia Colbourn

Or maybe some time you spent walking the beach

Your phone in your hand and your arm you’d out reached

To take just one selfie, your record of fame

So in years to come you can think “Oh how lame!”.

A kayak and a paddle board went for a morning swim

And so as I said in my opening line

I wish you good Christmas and good happy times

And as good that in two oh one six it has been

I wish you the best in two oh seventeen 

A Room With A View…. Maroochy River

One Of The Great Australian Walks… Kondalilla Falls National Park

Park Track entranceIn the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast lies a range of mountains….. Well, hills really, called the Blackall Ranges.  They run from South to North and are dotted with some great walks of all grades.

Today I walked the Kondalilla Falls Circuit track from the top to the bottom and back.  These falls are a part of the Kondalilla National Park and form a part of the Great Australian Walking tracks.

The carpark is really just a large cul-d-sac at the end of the street and from there, one heads down to a grassy area dotted with barbecue facilities and table/chair benches.  There are also toilet facilities here which it is wise to take advantage of as there are non further down.

Bridge Over No WaterFrom the bottom of this area a sealed track take you down a few hundred metres to a small bridge.  This is wheelchair friendly but the bridge is as far as you go.  There are stairs at the other side which would make it difficult

 

 

 

 

 

Here there is a fork in the path.  The left leads down to the top of the falls and is perhaps the easier track to take.  It is also a part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track. The right fork, a part of Kondalilla Falls Circuit, also leads to the falls but is perhaps a steeper path, although easy enough to traverse.

The TrackI took the right fork, and would recommend this, as the return journey is easier if you come back the other way.  The track wanders through rain forest and you will see Piccabeen Palms and Bunya Pines growing along the way.  You may also see some examples of Pink Ash trees which grow in some interesting shapes.

There are some spectacular views all along the track down to the falls
There are some spectacular views all along the track down to the falls

This couple take a moment to rest on one of the many benches along the track. This one is set at the top of the steepest part of the track when headingback to the carpark
This couple take a moment to rest on one of the many benches along the track. This one is set at the top of the steepest part of the track when heading back to the carpark

Just above the top of the falls, these two tracks merge before you head down a series of steps to come out at the top of the falls.  Here I met a couple who were resting after the long slog back up the side of the hill from the falls.  We chatted for a while about the effects of climate change on the forest before we each continued our respective journeys

The PoolAt the bottom of the next section is the top of the falls and there is a popular swimming hole, just before the water tumbles over the cliff.  There is space here to eat a picnic lunch or relax in the sun on the flat rocks around the pool.

The Road To The BottomFor many, this is the end of the trail but I headed down the side of the cliff face following the well formed Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track to the bottom..  Along the way there is a look out where you can see the whole of the falls although on this day, after a long dry spell, there was no water to be seen tumbling down the cliff face.

The Falls

_-2Peaceful TranquilityAt the bottom, the creek bed is strewn with huge boulders and here and there are small rock pools which are home to the beautiful dragonflies that hunt here.Poise

Fellow Travellers
Fellow travellers cross a bridge just below where I was photographing the dragonflies

Heading on I came to another fork.  It is here that the Kondalilla Circuit branches off and returns via an easier grade to the top of the falls.  There is a saying that what goes up, must come down.  In the this case the reverse applied and, having made my way all the way down from the car park, I now had the climb back up to the top.

The track forks off towards Baroon Pocket Dam to the right. The left path takes you back to the falls
The track forks off towards Baroon Pocket Dam to the right. The left path takes you back to the falls

The route is around 4.7 kms and doing it the way I did, the return journey was just a little easier.  Even so it pays to carry plenty of water as the hard bit is at the end.  I had two water bottles and had just opened my second when I started my climb.  It slipped from my hand and split open on a rock and I watched as it all soaked away into the dry soil.

This massive tree has come down across the track enforcing a climb over the roots to gt back to the track
This massive tree has come down across the track enforcing a climb over the roots to get back to the track

Heaven Set

Giving Ground

A Forest View
There are some stunning views from all along the track

The Pool Again
Back at the pool at the top of the Falls

Well formed steps help the traveller along the way
Well formed steps help the traveller along the way

From the top of the falls there is a section of over 100 stairs and this is perhaps the most punishing part of the trek.  Without water, I was in trouble by the time I reached the top and was thankful that the path had levelled out somewhat for the walk back to the bar-b-que area.  The real kicker for me was the short walk from there to the car park.  I was dehydrated badly and the track seemed almost too steep to tackle.

 

 

A Long way to the End
This massive tree had fallen across the track, The track had been cleared but this trunk is left to nature to return to the soil over time

 

Board Walk
Boardwalks along the way make the track an easier traverse

 

A short drive down the road to Mapleton and I thankfully pulled in to a service station to top up my water levels, the first bottle barely touching the sides as it went down

All said and done, it was a great walk and I recommend it to anyone with an afternoon on their hands and wondering what to do with it.  Just head up the Blackall Range from Nambour or Landsborough and you will find the turn off at Flaxton.