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

 

Watching the sky

 

Just a brief post to talk about what I saw in sky this morning.  A friend sent me a link about a celestial event taking place in our skies at the moment.  Well actually there are two events: one, the its Aquariid meteor shower and, two, the Comet Swan.  This is the biggest comet we have had for some time and as it is unlikely to visit again for a few thousand years, I thought I’d get up and have a look.

After a restless night, I dragged myself out and down to the beach.  There are few street lights in the village and so light pollution was never going to be an issue.

I set up the gear and watched and waited.  At around 5:00am I noticed a fast moving light in the sky.  Thinking that its was a satellite I aimed the camera around to pick up a shot.  It was then that I noticed another, and another, and another.  Pretty soon there were around ten or more all following the same trajectory across the heavens.  Too high and fast for a plane, but too low to be on the same altitude as the space station.

To make it even more interesting, these lights seemed to just pop out of the night sky at exactly the same place like emerging from a worm hole in the sky.  WEIRD!!!

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Light lines that follow the path of the Space Ex satellites as they raced across the sky

By the time it was all over, there must have been almost fifty of these lights which headed north by north east and disappeared from view  far to the north.

As the sun began to taint the darkness of the sky with a dirty orange haze, the temperature dropped what seemed a dozen degrees.  The dawn arrives very slowly at the lower latitudes and the sky took on a golden hue at a snail pace while the cold began to seep into every joint.  I had decided to take a time lapse of the day’s awakening but as time dragged on I soon came to regret the decision.  My feet were the first to suffer as they quietly stopped letting me know they were still attached.  Next came the shins with feeling that a slight tap  with a hammer would shatter them like glass.  I took to jumping up and down on the sand until I noticed a watcher on the lookout above the beach, no doubt wondering if she should call for the men in white coats.

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The answer came later that day after talking with my son.  We ruled out planes and space stations and were reluctant to go down the road of UFO’s but with the lack of other evidence there were few other options.

Then a breakthrough in a post from a news outlet in South Carolina who had also seen a photo in a similar vein.  It turns out that Space Ex have a huge number of satellites racing around the world bringing us all a broadband service.  This morning they just happened across my patch of sky

www.foxcarolina.com/news/seeing-lights-in-the-sky-have-no-fear-the-spacex-starlink-satellites-are-visible-tonight/article_90fe24d6-7df7-11ea-bb71-43596173dadb.amp.html

 

 

Photo of the week – Australian Birdwing

Australian Birdwing
Sipper Time

On a recent trip to Cairns in North Queensland, I took a trip up to Kuranda in the hinterland behind Cairns. One of the attractions is the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary where thousands of these beautiful creatures flutter about a huge enclosure for the public’s pleasure.

This Australian Birdwing Butterfly is just one of many species that can be seen. The sanctuary offers education on the life cycle and habitat of butterflies as well as a breeding facility.

Have you been to the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary: what did you think of it. Please feel free to leave a comment below……..

Taking Time Out

After spending the last four years as a Trainer/Assessor, my voice has finally gone from a sexy growl to a downright rasp. Time then to take stock at what is important in the work/life balance and so have decided to tip the scales more in favour of the life scale. To that end, I have taken a few months off to rejuvenate and headed south to a little village on the NSW South Coast. I am house sitting for a relative who is away for a bit so it has worked out nicely.

Now I would tell you the name of the village but no one here is keen to see the crowds that exposure would bring. Suffice to say, it is a sleepy little village that somehow managed to survive the fires that ravaged this part of the coast earlier this summer. Surrounded by burned out National Parks, this village is nestled in a small oasis of bush where the native fauna and flora can recuperate peacefully as they rebuild their numbers. The fire ground is starting to show signs of life although there are many places where there seems to be little green showing through.

Waking early when there is little that needs urgent attention seems so much easier and, to make the most of the day, the lake calls for a spot of fishing. The choice here is to fish the shore, paddle the kayak about or perhaps take a surf caster to the ocean to try for a tailor or two.

The easy option is always fishing the lake shore where this morning it yielded two nice flathead; not big, but big enough for the pan.

Now it doesn’t come much fresher than hooked at 0730, on the barbecue at 0830, and eaten before 0900.

And so it would seem that the work balance is fading fast as an appealing option for this traveller. Maybe it is time to get serious about seeing what there is in this world. Please leave me a “Like” as that is what it takes to get a blog like this off the ground. Would love to hear comments you may have about your travel experiences.