At last we have come to the end of the journey. We are finishing in one of my favourite places, the Kimberley.
Zebedee Springs is part of El Questro Station. For as little as $2,989 per room per night you can stay at the Cliff Side Retreats.
The freestanding Cliff Side Retreats are situated at the edge of a sheer escarpment overlooking the wild and natural beauty of the Kimberley. Uninterrupted views of the Chamberlain Gorge can be enjoyed from your luxurious feather topped bed. Secluded by high stone garden walls your privacy is assured as you enjoy the free-standing outdoor bath.
Or, for $20 a night you can stay here.
We left the Lotus in Kununurra at the Hidden Valley Caravan Park and drove the Prado into El Questro. The bitumen lasted until the entrance gate and then the road became rough and corrugated. There were some creek crossings to negotiate.
After setting up our tent we grabbed our swimmers and wandered down to a lovely pool formed by a weir on the river. On our way we came across two little girls who were jumping in and out of the water. I asked if there were any crocodiles. “Only freshies”, the older one told me seriously. “But they won’t bite you unless you jump on them.”
The evening was spent by the campfire listening to a folk singer before we retired early, ready for a big day ahead.
Zebedee Springs was our first destination. We had heard it could become crowded so were up at 5.30am and on the road so early the gates were still shut when we arrived. Places are never quite as expected and so the walk to the springs was much longer than I thought it would be. The pools were also smaller than I imagined but the water was warm and we each sat in a pool enjoying the heat.
More and more people arrived and the pools filled up. The sign in the car park said, “If the car park is full, so are the springs. Come back another time.”
After dragging ourselves away we drove to El Questro Gorge where we ate breakfast in the car park. It was a two hour return walk to the halfway point where there was a refreshing pool to swim in. The scenery on the walk was spectacular.
Back across three river crossing and we were home again in our camp. Another swim in the river kept us cool until evening. We booked a cruise on the Chamberlain Gorge for the next afternoon and retired early, exhausted after an active day.
The road to Moonshine Gorge was only opened the day before so we let the tyres down to 30 and followed the El Questro Gorge Road until the turnoff. The next 4.5 kilometres seemed like 20. Sand, rocks, water crossings and steep bits kept John busy. When we arrived there were five other cars parked but no-one was keen to go for a swim. The lagoon and cliffs were spectacular but the resident freshie had left his tail tracks on the beach.
Around 2 oclock we drove to the jetty. The road was rough and steep in parts. However others we spoke to didn’t think it was too bad. Everyone seems to be an experienced four wheel driver and all had a strong opinion about something. We saw the upmarket accommodation perched high on a cliff overlooking the Gorge. That’s as close as we got because the cruise boat didn’t go underneath it.
The Gorge was quite interesting. We searched the rugged cliffs for wildlife to no avail but the fish feed provided lots of entertainment as the archer fish squirted us when we held pellets above the water. We also saw catfish and a couple of very large barramundi. Glasses of bubbly were produced along with orange juice and fresh fruit.
On our last morning we packed up and were away by 8 oclock. We thought we would drive along the Gibb River Road until we reached the famous and much photographed crossing of the Pentecost River. For five kilometres the road was so rough and the stones so sharp we were worried about our tyres, having only one spare. We came across a Prado with a flat tyre, towing a Lotus Off Grid Van. That was enough for us and we turned around.
On the way back to Kununurra we called into another part of El Questro, Emma Gorge. In a very civilized manner, the cafe at the entrance offered coffee and scones. We then set off on the two hour return walk to Emma Gorge. At the turnaround point we had a blissfully cool swim under a waterfall before heading back to the car park.
Arriving at the caravan park sometime later we met up with our Lotus which we now called “The Palace”. Manoeuvring her into a powered site we enjoyed the luxury of our own bathroom, washing machine and comfy bed.
So ends the A to Z of our caravan trips around Australia. I had to leave out so many places and it was really hard to find a story to go with some letters but I got there. I hope if you haven’t been to Australia you have been inspired to visit at least some of the places I have written about. Even if you are Australian there may be somewhere you haven’t yet been featured in this A to Z. Happy travelling everyone and I hope to see you next year.
Before I begin let us go back to P for Point Nepean.I mentioned that the German ship “SS Pfalz “ had a cannon fired across its bows as it tried to escape Port Phillip Bay after the declaration of World War 1.The captain decided discretion was the better part of valour and turned around.The crew was free to roam Melbourne and report to the police once a week.Alas the good times could not last and they were all interned in Prisoner of War Camps.
Now here is the Y for Yerrinbool connection.It was my birthday and there is nothing I like more than a day in the Southern Highlands, checking on my old home in Yerrinbool (see picture of the Curry Apple Orchard at top of page), eating out at one of the many restaurants or cafes and just breathing the fresh mountain air.
I’m afraid the “Waterhole” where I grew up is just a shadow of its former self, but the highland air remains unchanged so it was with some enthusiasm we drove to Berrima where I wanted to visit a particular museum.
I had heard that this was where some of the men on the “SS Pfalz” had been sent and that the museum was dedicated to their story.
In March 1915 the first group of internees arrived at Berrima, walking from the Moss Vale Railway Station.Although the weather would still have been quite mild (Autumn) there was no furniture in Berrima Gaol which had been empty for six years.The luggage hadn’t arrived but there were basic sleeping materials and food they had to cook themselves.The men were understandably depressed and called the gaol Ahnenschloss (Castle Forboding).
There was considerable inequality depending on the internees circumstances. Those from the German Australian Line were allocated beds from the company store.Some were receiving a salary from Germany and were able to order beds from furniture stores.Most had to build furniture from timber found in the forest.
The Berrima winter is very cold so the cells in the sandstone gaol were freezing once the cold weather set in.Built for 140 prisoners, Berrima gaol was already overcrowded by 1915 with 200 internees,By 2018 it had 300.
While you might think a prisoner of war camp would be a place of misery and deprivation it would seem that life was not all bad for the internees at Berrima.The day to day management of the camp was left to a Camp Committee consisting of ship’s captains, officers and seamen.
The largely German committee organised gymnastics, wrestling, football, swimming and athletics to promote health and fitness.Sporting areas and vegetable gardens were constructed.A commercially run camp canteen raised money for purchase of seeds, renting of ground for gardens, adding to the camp orchestra and buying German delicacies from Sydney. Classes were run by those with skills in theatre, music, carpentry, joinery, shorthand, photography, sketching and painting.Education classes in English were popular as all letters sent home had to be written in English.
The captains gave classes on navigation and marine skills to juniors who wished to take examinations after the war. Crystal radios were made in wireless courses enabling the internees to know the latest world news.
The skills of the internees knew no bounds.They designed a water supply from the river and installed a generator for power long before the village had electricity.
There were a number of families interned in Berrima as well.They had been living in Australia before the war and many were shore-based employees of the German shipping companies.They asked their Australian friends for books and as a result the library was well stocked.
Five families sought to be close to husbands and fathers in the camp. The house you see below was shared by two families. The only downside was it had been previously occupied by soldiers and required considerable work to get it to a suitable state of cleanliness
Frau Hurtzig wrote in her diary, “I pray never again to have to clean up after a mob of soldiers”.
The most interesting effect on the environment made by the internees was the damning of the Wingecarribee River, the building of a bridge and numerous huts and gardens around it forming a “Pleasure Garden”.
Canoes were made out of hollow trees and races and regattas formed entertainment for the men and families.
The fame of the German’s work spread far and wide so that they were responsible for Berrima’s first tourist industry.Not all tourists were friendly so the internees chose to erect a high barbed wire fence enclosing 17.5 acreson the left bank of the river known as “The Compound”.The right bank was free for the tourists.Villas and huts were supposed to be built only within the compound but spread beyond.
I was fascinated by the huts.The men were only allowed to use them by day but they would have provided some peace and tranquillity in a trying time. If you had to be in a prison camp then this one sounds like it would be the one to choose.
When the war ended the internees were keen to go home but were kept waiting until Germany signed the Peace Treaty in June 1919.On the day they departed the Berrima Guard took the head and rear of the column and the band struck up Mussi’ denn, muss i’ denn aus Städlein (Now, now must I from this little town). At the Surveyor General Hotel the procession stopped and the men gave three cheers before marching to Moss Vale Railway Station.
The train took the internees directly to Pyrmont Wharf in Sydney. There the 950 internees from Berrima and Holsworthy and 200 men, women and children deported from other parts of Australia, boarded the SS Ypiranga bound forGermany.
What has Pandora’s Box got to do with Townsville? Filling in a few hours one afternoon on a trip up north we visited the Museum of Tropical Queensland and discovered the gripping story of the HMS Pandora and the significance of the Box.
Most people have heard the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty when Fletcher Christian and his followers put the irascible William Bligh and eighteen supporters adrift in the ship’s open launch. Against all odds Bligh and his men sailed 6,701 km to Timor (now part of Indonesia), losing only one man in a fight with hostile natives in Tofua.
Meanwhile Fletcher Christian left sixteen mutineers in Tahiti who wished to part company with him. Before he left he married Maimiti, the daughter of one of the local chiefs, on 16 June 1789. The remaining nine mutineers, six Tahitian men and eleven Tahitian women went with him to start a new life on the remote island of Pitcairn, hoping they would never be found by the British authorities.
Their hiding place was not discovered until 1808 when the New England sealer Topaz (Captain Mayhew Folger) came upon the tiny uncharted island. By then, all of the mutineers but one were dead, most having died under violent circumstances. John Adams was the sole surviving mutineer and had renamed himself Alexander Smith.
Britain did not allow mutineers to go unpunished so as soon as Bligh returned to England plans were made to capture the missing men. The HMS Pandora sailed from the Solent on 7 November 1790, commanded by Captain Edward Edwards and manned by a crew of 134 men.
Of the 16 crew members in Tahiti, four had remained loyal to Bligh but could not fit in the open boat and so had been left on the Bounty. He had recorded their names and assured them he would testify to their innocence. Two others had died violently so 14 were rounded up when Edwards arrived in Tahiti. These fourteen men were locked up in a makeshift prison cell, measuring eleven-by-eighteen feet, on the Pandora’s quarter-deck, which they called Pandora’s Box. Those who had remained loyal were treated exactly the same as the others.
On 8 May 1791, the Pandora began its search for the remaining mutineers. It visited many islands in the south-West Pacific without finding any trace of the Bounty or its crew.
At this time there was a fledgling three-year-old settlement in Sydney, New South Wales, but the HMS Pandora was much further north when it ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef. Can you imagine the terror of those in Pandora’s Box as the ship went down? Four of the mutineers drowned as well as 31 crew. That all of the prisoners escaped from the Box was thanks to a last-minute release from a crewman, William Moulter. A Cay was renamed Moulter Cay in 1984 in recognition of his humane deed. Four prisoners did not make it to shore, however.
What about those four men who had wanted to go with Bligh but couldn’t? Well, they survived the shipwreck but spent the next two nights on a small treeless sand cay. Fortunately, there were four open boats rescued from the wreck on which they made their way to Kupang and then to Batavia.
The ten remaining mutineers must have wondered what lay ahead as they travelled by ship back to England. The court-martial began on the morning of September 12, 1792, in the captain’s great cabin of Lord Hood’s ship, the Duke, moored in Portsmouth Harbour. Of the ten, the four detained against their will were exonerated and given a pardon. The other six were sentenced to be hanged but three more escaped the noose, two receiving pardons and one getting off on a technicality.
Three men, Burkett, Millward and Ellison were hanged at the yardarm aboard the Brunswick in Portsmouth Harbour.
The wreck of the Pandora lay peacefully under the water until it was discovered by several competing explorers on 15 November 1977, Ben Cropp, Steve Domm and John Heyer. After the wreck site was located it was immediately declared a protected site under the Australian Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
I was totally enthralled with the artefacts and the story that went with them on my visit to the museum in the year 2000. There had been nine excavations of the site between 1983 and 1999 and much has been discovered about life on board ship in the 18th Century. There is still much to excavate from the site as it is in deep water and difficult to access. It is extremely well preserved and 30% of the hull is intact.
What happened to the people on Pitcairn Island is another gripping story but as we can’t visit it in our caravan regretfully I will leave it out of this A to Z.
In 2013 we travelled with friends Paul and Barbara around the Eastern Half of Australia. In mid-May we left the caravans for a week at Airlie Beach to sail on a catamaran. Anyone who tells you sailing on the Whitsundays is relaxing hasn’t done it. We began with the most gruelling day of training and navigating you can imagine.
Monday: The day began well. The maxi taxi arrived on time and transported us and assorted shopping and clothes bags to Abel Point Marina.
It took two trolleys to take all our luggage but we wheeled them along the pontoons between magnificent boats feeling like proper sailors. Geoff, our instructor, arrived earlier than expected. He began by ordering us to clear the cabin of all the bags we had just carried in without introducing himself or asking our names.
Geoff proved to be more of a character than we first imagined. His knowledge of sailing in the Whitsundays was superb and a sense of humour glimmered through his gruff exterior after a while. He had a way with words as in, “If you don’t see turtles in that bay then your eyes are painted on”.
I was amazed at how complicated everything was on the boat. For example, dropping the anchor looked simple. Just press a button. However, a yoke had to be attached after a certain amount of chain went out and removed when it came back in. This is because it is a catamaran and otherwise it swings around too much under anchor. We put up the mainsail and the furling genoa, examined the tender and how to put it in the water and start the motor. We learnt how to use the radio on which we have to contact base twice a day. The toilet is so complicated it requires considerable courage to use it. Hold lever on right five seconds, hold lever on left ten seconds, push arm at ninety degrees in a harbour, open when at sea.
Geoff finally left us at 1 o’clock although by this stage we offered to feed him for a week if he stayed with us, so confused were we with all the information we had been given. Boat instructions were mixed with warnings about box jellyfish, cone shells, stingers with four tentacles, butterfly cod! Barbara has decided only to enter the water in a pool at Hamilton Island and I can see her point of view.
Full marks to John and Paul. They steered our huge boat across the water in strong winds and arrived at Nara Inlet where Barbara and I performed the dropping of the anchor ceremony followed by opening the champagne. The water is a lovely colour despite grey skies and the surrounding hills are covered in hoop pine trees. I’m looking forward to seeing it in the morning.
We informed base of our arrival at Nara Inlet and were amused to pick up a message from an American boatie asking how to cook crocodile. Someone suggested boiling up a heap of oil and throwing it in. The woman at base asked what part of the crocodile it was. Apparently, it was a “filet” from the tail and had been obtained from a butcher’s shop in Airlie and not on the end of a fishing line. The best recipe was to smear with butter and cook on the BBQ.
Tuesday: Today dawned cloudy, wet, sunny and windy, all together or in rapid succession. We dropped the tender into the water and clambered in with our backpacks and cameras. The Yamaha 6 started first kick and we were off to dry land to visit the Aboriginal cave at the top of a series of stone steps. The Ngaro people didn’t live permanently on Hook Island once the sea levels rose but visited there in their broad, seaworthy canoes, still a hazardous journey in most conditions. The paintings we saw in the cave, now fenced off from intruders, showed two hatched oval shapes which could have been turtles or nuts from the pandanus palm.
The exercise climbing to the cave was good for us boat bound people. We shared the walk with at least a dozen others arriving in tenders from other boats. The wind was coming up so we decided to motor to Butterfly Bay. Pulling up the anchor was a rather stressful as the chain kept looping under the pulley and as a result had to be pulled away by hand, a muddy job. When we stopped for lunch at Stonehaven Bay we found a free mooring, hooked it with a boat hook and attached it to the boat, a much easier way to stay in one place than anchoring. Everyone decided to stay for the rest of the day as the wind was blowing, the rain was squalling and we had all had interrupted sleep the night before. I finished reading my book while the others had a nap. We are planning an early start tomorrow and may even make Whitehaven Beach if the weather conditions are right.
Wednesday: It was an early start at 5.45am as we planned to motor around to the eastern side of Hook Island before the tide turned. The boat was crashing into quite large waves and more than one of us was looking a bit green around the gills. John decided we should turn around and sail to Cid Harbour between Cid Island and Whitsunday Island. This proved to be a very wise decision as we hoisted the sails for the first time, tacking into the wind in a sou-easterly gusting to 18 knots. We reached a speed of 7.9 knots while the boat remained flat and smooth. Barbara and I even made coffee and crumpets while sailing!
After a long and enjoyable sail, with the weather improving by the minute, we reached Cid Harbour. Dropping the anchor was a simple task we thought as we had done it before. However, with the chain half out the remote control stopped working. The windlass trip switch had activated. Geoff had given me instructions on how to deactivate this above the port engine compartment. I tried but failed as it was necessary to put your head in the engine well while running the engine, depressing a red switch and pushing up a black lever. Paul was able to do it and again the chain was running freely. I was annoyed with myself for failing this simple task.
The water looked lovely although it was deep and dark green. John, Paul and I jumped off the boat for a brief swim and found it very refreshing. Afterwards, John and I took the rubber ducky ashore and explored Sawmill Beach. There used to be a sawmill there milling the hoop pines until the trees were too few to be viable. Now they proliferate on the hillsides once more. There is a four-hour walk to the top of Whitsunday Island or a one hour walk to Dugong Beach. While we ventured a little way up the track the tide was receding rapidly. The rubber ducky had been left some distance from shore but was already half out of the water. We quickly dragged it back into deeper water and returned to the boat for a rest and a read.
Thursday: We could hardly believe it when we woke to sunlight streaming through the cabin windows. There was a feeling of expectancy as we motored towards Hamilton Island as we had not seen civilisation for some time. We turned the radio to Channel 68 and called up Hamilton who answered promptly and asked us to enter the harbour and wait by the white marker, putting our fenders over the port side. A small boat came up alongside and directed us to our position at the end of one of the jetties. Soon we were plugged into electricity and water with a view of all boats entering and leaving the harbour.
After a reconnoitre of the marina area we had lunch on board before grabbing swimmers and cameras and catching the shuttle bus to the resort side of the island. We all enjoyed a swim in the large resort pool followed by another swim in the sea at Catseye Beach. I thought for a while how nice it would be to spend a week here but was happy to return to our boat, watching the setting sun from the cockpit, cold white wine in hand, before showering and heading out for dinner.
Friday: The day dawned bright and sunny with just a few tiny clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. We planned to leave early but found the battery on the boat was still below 12 even though we had been plugged into power all night. Eventually, John flicked a switch deep in an engine well and the battery started charging. We decided to delay our departure to get as full a charge as possible so headed off for coffee and some fresh bread. Finally, at 10.30am, we were ready to go so called up Hamilton on the radio and requested a boatman to release the shorelines. Soon we were on the open water, heading for Whitehaven Beach. The big challenge was Solway Passage, known by some as the “washing machine”. The strong tides and prevailing wind churn the water into whirlpools and eddies that make steering the boat quite difficult. Also, there are shoals and submerged rocks to watch out for but having a sat nav next to the steering wheel is a big help. The charts on the chart table and the book, “100 Magic Miles” are also well used.
Gradually, as we cleared Solway Passage, the crescent of Whitehaven Beach appeared. With a backdrop of rugged islands and clear blue sky, the scenery was breathtaking. We dropped anchor without mishap and wasted no time changing into swimmers, jumping into the tender and motoring the short distance to the beach. The water was cold at first but lovely and refreshing. Eventually, we headed back to the boat for lunch and amused ourselves with sunbaking, reading or watching the other boats loading and unloading their passengers.
John and I took the tender into the beach and went for a short walk along the shore. The sun was setting but groups were arriving and setting up camp. The beach is so long that one can still have complete privacy despite the day trippers.
Saturday: At about 2.00 am the tide turned and the wind strengthened. The many and varied noises on and around the boat were not conducive to a good night’s sleep so we were rather bleary-eyed when we woke in the morning. Again we had a cloudless day but the wind was gusting around 20 knots and we raised the cantankerous anchor chain with some difficulty.
With only the headsail up we sailed north with Whitsunday Island on our port and with wind gusts of 25 knots. Looking out the stern I noticed something strange. A rubber ducky was floating a hundred metres behind us. It took seconds before I realised it was ours. Oooooops!!!!!!
“Drop the sail, start the engines, someone… don’t take your eyes off the boat”.
We turned around and were able to capture it with a boathook. The tow rope (in nautical terms, the painter) had snapped clean in the middle. With the tender winched up out of the water, we congratulated ourselves on a narrow escape from disaster.
Between Border Island and Whitsunday Island, there was a cry from John, “Whale ahead!”. We watched fascinated as the humpback breached and blew, travelling at great speed in a southerly direction past our boat. They are usually spotted in this area between May and September.
By this time the waves were huge and we surfed down each one as if we were on a surfboard. It was with great relief we rounded Pinnacle Point, with its tricky currents and big seas, into the comparative quiet of a mooring in Maureen’s Bay, just next to Butterfly Bay. Although the shore looks interesting with rock caves and pale yellow strips of coral beach we opted to stay on board, eat bacon and eggs for lunch and read, rest and write this afternoon. There is only so much excitement one can take in one day! This is also a good snorkelling spot and a number of tenders from other boats have taken stinger suited people to the dive spots. We have wimped out and decided to think about it tomorrow when/if the wind has dropped.
Sunday: Because today was the last whole day of our sailing holiday it was generally agreed that it should be spent sailing. The wind had dropped since yesterday so we raised the sails early in the day in case it became stronger later on. We motored out of Maureen’s Cove and took a peek into Butterfly Bay where we saw some spare moorings and about five yachts. Moorings are a mixed blessing. In a catamaran the mooring moves in between the hulls and bangs on the sides, making sleep impossible for the occupants. I even googled the best way to moor a catamaran and the consensus seems to be that it is better to anchor.
Around the top of Hayman Island we sailed, past Blue Pearl Bay where we snorkelled from Ragamuffin on an earlier day trip and then south, with several long tacks, to Bauer Bay off the South Molle Island Resort. The instruments showed the wind was blowing up to 27 knots and we were flying along at 8.1 knots. John and Paul were ready to break the rules and have a beer at lunchtime after their marathon sail. We ate leftover rissoles in wraps and the remaining salad.
At our 9.30 am schedule with Cumberland Yachts I asked about mooring at South Molle Island. Apparently, the resort is really run down and not even open for business at weekends. We were told there would be nobody there to take our money if we did try to pay so we have picked up a mooring in a peaceful, beautiful bay and hopefully will have a good night’s sleep.
Monday: It was an early start for us as the rising sun hit the tops of South Molle’s craggy peaks. We had to arrive at Abel Point Marina by ten o’clock and didn’t want to be late. As it turned out we were not the first and had to motor in circles near the entrance to the Cumberland Yacht base. A man came out in his rubber ducky to direct the boat into the marina. We were all impressed with his driving skills maneuvering what is basically a square bus into a parking bay. We unloaded all our luggage, leftover food and empty bottles into two trolleys, called a maxi taxi and were soon back at Island Gateway Caravan Park. Looking across the blue waters of Whitsunday Passage from our taxi I felt sad to think our time on Skedaddle was over but had already started looking forward to the next stage of our journey.
Footnote: The term Whitsunday is a misnomer as it is based on Captain Cook’s date for the naming of Whitsunday Passage, or as Cook spelled it in his HMS Endeavour journal, Whitsunday’s Passage. Based on his 1770 journal date, Cook believed that the passage was discovered on Whitsunday, the Sunday of the feast of Whitsun—Pentecost in the Christian liturgical year—which is observed 7 weeks after Easter. As the International Date Line had not yet been established, the day of discovery was actually Whit Monday. Wikipedia.
If you are very rich you can stay at the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley for $2,500 a night. If you are like the rest of us you can drive a little further along the valley to Newnes and stay for free. That is if you have a tent, camper trailer or caravan. It’s not quite the same experience but quite a bit cheaper.
In 2008, John’s brother Jim suggested that we take our vans to the valley. Mutual friends hired a camper trailer to see if they liked the lifestyle. We followed a winding and steep road down to our campground on the other side of the Wolgan River at Newnes. Jim told us there was a ruined oil shale mine and a glow-worm cave, so we were keen to explore the area.
On the first night, we sat around the crackling fire eating curry provided by our camper trailer friends. The plan was that we would each provide a meal for the group and on the fourth night eat whatever was left.
It wasn’t long before we made the acquaintance of a local inhabitant named Dave*. He arrived at the camp asking if we had seen his cat. She was about to give birth and he wanted to find the kittens. He also said if we wanted any wood we could take some from his land. He told us he used to be a tram driver, his wife had left him and he lived alone with his cats.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. Four of us set off along the old railway track where Shay locomotives used to haul shale and oil wagons out of the valley, a climb of 2200 feet (670 metres). The track is cut into the cliffs above the valley, an enormous project in its day, which only took 13 months to complete. There are washed out gullies which make the track challenging in parts, and it is all uphill!
Finally at the end of a canyon is the tunnel, which is 400 metres long and curves slightly so that in the middle it is pitch black. The roof of the cave twinkles as the glowworms do their thing.
Once through the tunnel, we came to a turnoff to the Pagoda Track which is named after the rock formations in the area. This joins the Old Coach Road, which used to be the main road to Newnes. It is narrow with a steep drop off on the right-hand side. I wouldn’t like to be riding a coach down there.
The afternoon was spent preparing dinner. It was our turn and we were cooking roast lamb in a camp oven on the coals of the fire. We managed to shower in our portable change tent using the solar shower and even fitted in a bit of bush golf which was great fun.
Jim was keen to get some more wood for the fire so we drove up a track, passing Dave who was carrying an axe. He hopped on our running board and directed us to his home.
I have never seen so many cats. It reminded me of a book I had bought for my children called Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. They were clambering over Dave’s shack, his cars (there were a few scattered around the block) and his refrigerator which faced the open air. He said he drove into Lithgow once a fortnight to buy cat food. Before we left he offered us three kittens to keep but we beat a hasty retreat, thanking him profusely but saying we couldn’t possibly look after them.
Back at the camp a mother duck waddled by with her ducklings in tow. How would they survive the ravages of Dave’s cats?
There was still much to see in Newnes. The Newnes Hotel could also be called “The Pub with no Beer”. Can you imagine, when it was built in 1907, the hundreds of thirsty miners and construction workers who swarmed in its doors? It was only a temporary building and plans were drawn for a grand three-story hotel but it was never built as the town collapsed in 1912 after the Commonwealth Oil Corporation went into receivership.
Somehow the pub survived over the years with bottled beer only, available to weekend campers and day-trippers. A huge flood caused the undermining of the foundations of the hotel so that it was threatened with collapse. Over 200 people rallied together and formed “The Friends of the Newnes Hotel”. Over a period of three days in 1987 men, women and children removed the roof, dismantled the walls and re-erected the building on higher ground. The best party seen in Newnes for 80 years followed its completion.
Alas, two years later the liquor license was sold and the porcelain handled beer siphons and pub mirror removed. It is now a General Store full of memorabilia of its former glory days.
In 1911 there were 1652 people in Newnes. There was a general store, news agency, hairdressing salon, a school, churches, two butcher’s shops, a livery stable, hop saloon, billiard hall, Post Office and Police Station. Newnes Oil Refinery came on stream in June 1911 but after only four months was beset by technical and labour problems. The Scottish Retorts were unsuitable for the type of shale being mined and a series of industrial disputes compounded the problems. The Commonwealth Oil Corporation went into receivership in January 1912.
As it is ANZAC Day I hoped to find some references to WW1. Probably some of the miners went off to war but it did have an effect on the flagging town’s fortunes. The company assets were sold to John Fell and Company, a firm of lubricating oil refiners and blenders. The Oil Shale Industry in Newnes was revived in 1913 and market demands caused by Australia’s involvement in the Great War enabled the company to prosper.
After the war, the town declined but in 1931 a last, doomed attempt was made to reopen the oil works. From then on a deliberate removal of remaining buildings took place. Now there is practically nothing left of the town. Only the hotel and the industrial ruins remain.
A short walk to the Ruins carpark from our campground led us to the walking track which zigzags across the large steep site. There are old coke ovens, paraffin sheds, oil washing tanks and unique beehive kilns. The oil-shale rock at Newnes, Torbanite, contained about 350 litres of shale oil per tonne, which is quite a high grade for oil shale. Torbanite was mined and processed into a range of oil products including crude oil and blue oil as well as paraffin for candles, benzene (motor spirit), naphtha and kerosene and various grades of lubricating oils and greases. Coke was produced and used on-site and was marketed in Lithgow as well.
Now Newnes is part of the Wollemi National Park which contains the only known living wild specimens of the Wollemi Pine, a species thought to have become extinct on the mainland approximately thirty million years ago but discovered alive in three small stands in 1994.
Unlike the Wollemi Pine, the village of Newnes lasted for less than 50 years.
*Not his real name
I found a Newnes connection with WW1. Probably Francis and his parents moved to Wollongong to find work in the coal mines.
Francis Horatio Faddy was born April 2 1894 in Sydney to Francis Horace and Eda Linda Faddy. He was educated at Newnes NSW and was living in Wollongong during the outbreak of World War I.
He was wounded at ‘Chess Board’ in front of Popes Hill at Gallipoli on May 3rd 1915, after his head and throat wounds were bandaged he returned to the front line. After some time he was sent back to the aid station. He was never seen again.He was 21 at the time of his death.
He was the Signals Officer for the 13th Battalion and is remembered in their history “… wonderful esprit de corps (a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty), that the 13th Signallers were more famous for than any other similar unit in the A.I.F.”
I was always fascinated by the Undara Lava Tubes. Way up in far north Queensland they seemed remote and inaccessible but in 2013 we explored the Eastern side of Australia with some friends and finally discovered what all the fuss was about. So what exactly is a lava tube? When a volcano erupts it spews forth lava which flows across the land. If that lava flows into a valley it becomes a river of molten rock. The lava flow (which is just red-hot basalt) cools and becomes solid on the outside while the inside is still molten and keeps flowing. The Undara Lava Tubes were created about 190,000 years ago when 23 cubic kilometres of lava flowed into a river bed and kept flowing for 160km, making it the world’s longest lava flow from a single volcano.
The Undara Experience is the brainchild of Gerry Collins, whose family have grazed cattle here since 1862.In 1987 Gerry believed the best way to protect the Lava Tubes located on his family property was to develop a managed, sustainable visitor experience.A successful application was made to the government to turn the area into a National Park and to set up a lodge facility from which tours to the lava tubes could be undertaken.Eleven decommissioned railway carriages were brought to the site and restored to provide eco-accommodation for visitors in 1990. Now, of course, there is a camping ground as well for those with their own accommodation.
Gerry’s son Bram Collins, is the Managing Director of the Undarra Experience.He grew up with the lava tubes for an adventure playground and with the Ewamian children as his playmates.
This is an edited extract from my diary at the time.
20th June, 2013
After a late start at 9 o’clock we drove the 341 kilometres to Undara. We had plenty to keep us occupied straddling road kill and the fat black crows hovering above it. We identified wallabies, kangaroos, rabbits, cats, cows and even a deer. There were large mobs of wallabies and kangaroos on the side of the road. We had to slow to a halt as one hopped across in front if us. We also kept our ears glued to the UHF radio on Channel 40 as signs along the road warned us to listen for oncoming road trains and get off the road until they passed. Fortunately we didn’t see too many. Massive road trains with five trailers drive down the middle of the narrow roads and don’t stop for anyone. There are Call Point numbers every few kilometres where the truck drivers are supposed to state their position on the radio but we didn’t hear any.
It was about 2 o’clock when we arrived at Undara. The first thing we did after check in was to book tours for tomorrow. I have booked a four hour tour which covers several lava tubes while our friends are going on a two hour tour. I can hear rain on the roof so hope it is fine tomorrow. Undara is supposed to have 300 fine days a year so let’s hope we get one of them
Tonight we walked down to the camp fire at 8 o’clock to listen to one of the Savannah Guides give a talk on his travels. He and his wife have been touring Australia for ten years, picking up work, mainly at Caravan Parks. He gave a slide show presentation, showing us many of the places we plan to visit including Adel’s Grove, Lawn Hill and Edith Falls. He also showed a lot of Western Australia including the Horizontal Waterfalls and Bungle Bungles. Maybe next year?
21st June, 2013
Today dawned cloudy and cool but it was really a comfortable temperature. It reached about 22 degrees at the hottest part with a bit of sun peeping through thin cloud. Of course the fact we were going to be underground made the weather less important.
At 8 o’clock we all stood around waiting for our tour to begin. The two hour “strenuous” tour departed with our friends in a group of 19. Our group consisted of ourselves and two others, Wilma and Tom. We found they had just sailed the Whitsundays on a catamaran for a week with two friends.While we were comparing notes we were driven to a lookout where we observed all the extinct volcanoes in the area.
The first cave we visited had a Japanese name (Mogoshi) meaning pretty as the sun shining into it made it look very attractive.
Next was the Dome Cave which was a little tricky to climb into but much more enclosed than the previous one.
The Wind Cave was our next port of call with passages leading in several directions.
All were formed when lava flowed through, the roof hardened and the cave emptied out. The two hour tour did the same caves as us so far but at this stage drove back to camp.
We visited the Settlers Camp, a reconstructed hut, where we had scones, jam and cream with tea or coffee. The final cave was the Road Cave, which was the first to be discovered when a now unused road was being built. The entrance has been modified to allow disabled people to enter. It has boardwalks and a travelator to bring people in wheelchairs to the cave level. It was quite a spectacular cave, with what looked like human art works on the walls. We could make out horses, mermaids, a man with a dog and many other shapes.
These have all been made from the calcium deposits on the walls and were much more varied than in the other caves. Whether the four hour tour is that much better than the two hour I can’t say but either one is a must do. The best thing about our group was the small number of people which allowed us to get to know our guide Chris quite well. He spoke tonight around the camp fire so John and I went along as it was about birds and animals of the area. We came away still unsure of the difference between a crow and a raven but much more aware of the birds to look out for tomorrow. Chris also told us the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo and I was surprised it was not size that matters! Wallabies tend to have markings on their face and have a different tail to a kangaroos. Then there are the potteroos. I can add one of those to our list of road kill we saw yesterday.
This afternoon I climbed a pile of rocks I have nicknamed Telstra Hill. I was able to upload the blog, make some phone calls and send some emails. John and I went on one of the local walks to the Bluff and circled back to the camp. We had to follow little blue markers but came across a couple who were retracing their steps as they were lost and worried they wouldn’t get back to base before dark. Anyway we kept going and arrived home in time to sign off the sheet designed to keep us all from being lost in the bush and never heard of again.
After our experience on the eastern end of the Gibb River Road (see Z for Zebedee Springs), our enthusiasm for rough rocky roads was waning. For some people bouncing along on sharp stones and corrugations, creating clouds of dust, is a dream come true but for us, the bitumen is the preferred highway.
As we drove into Derby we discussed the options. One was to leave the van in the caravan park and take the tent to Windjana Gorge, as we had done at El Questro. John’s brother had done the same thing a few years previously and had spent much of his time driving back to Derby to replace the tyres he had wrecked.
The option of taking a day tour to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek started to look appealing. We read the following advertisement for Windjana Tours and were impressed.
Let us take you on a culturally insightful journey through the heart of Windjana Gorge as your local Bunuba guide Dillon Andrews from Bungoolee Tours reveals a side of this spiritual place few get to experience. Then, journey deep beneath the limestone of the Napier Range and relive the real Legend of Jandamarra with Dillon and discover the secrets of Tunnel Creek and its spiritual significance to the Bunuba people.
I must admit we had not been on any Aboriginal guided tours before as we tend to save money and do our own thing but I had high hopes that this would deliver more than we would experience on our own.
Looking at my diary entry for that day I wrote.
“Wow, what a day it was!
We were picked up at 8.10am in a seriously four-wheel drive bus. First stop was a 1500-year-old Boab tree with a mass of feathers beside it. We thought they were emu feathers because of the box. Our guide explained they were the feathers of a bustard which had been shot for food and plucked on site by the local people.
We were off the bitumen and onto the corrugations but the bus flew along the top of them at 100 km per hour. Turning off the Gibb onto the Windjana Gorge Road we arrived at the Gorge for coffee and biscuits.
We walked in single file through a crevice in the rock which opened onto a wide, sandy path. The walls were studded with fossils and the river was full of crocodiles. Definitely no swimming for us today.
Our guide told us the story of Jandamarra who led his people from captivity to the cave at Tunnel Creek. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful and the tragic story in this setting was all the more devastating. Back on the bus, we drove to the ruined police station where Jandamarra freed his people. At Tunnel Creek, we heard the tragic end to the story as we walked in semi-darkness through a water-filled cave. Afternoon tea was waiting for us when we returned. It was a long trip home but the sunset was spellbinding.
I will try to summarise the story of Jandamarra in a few words but told by Dillon, the story was moving, tragic and yet still humorous in parts.
Although Jandamarra was born into the Bunuba tribe he grew up on Lennard River Station where he learnt to ride horses, shear sheep and use firearms. He spoke English confidently and was called “Pigeon” because he was small, fleet-footed, cheeky and likable. At 15 he returned to his traditional land for initiation and became a skilful hunter. The arrival of sheep in the area was seen a bounteous gift for the hunters and soon Jandamarra was arrested for killing sheep. Charges were dropped after he agreed to serve the police by caring for their horses. He returned to Lennard River and then to the mountains where he violated Bunuba law (over a woman maybe?). Leaving his tribe in a hurry he worked at Lillimooloora Station, forming a close friendship with a stockman, Bill Richardson. Richardson joined the Police Force and Jandamarra followed him as a tracker. They were assigned to an abandoned farmhouse 113 km from Derby where Jandamarra helped locate and capture Bunuba warriors.
The turning point came when sixteen Aboriginal prisoners were chained up outside the police station. What happened next was horrifying. Suddenly he turned on his friend, shot and killed him as he slept, and then released the prisoners. Maybe he was offered forgiveness for his tribal transgressions. The prisoners told him that the invasion by Europeans would mean the end of their way of life. He must release them if he was a true Bunuba man. What a dilemma for a man who had grown up in two cultures!
From then on he was an outlaw. Fifty ochre-painted warriors fought the white settlers in the major battle of Windjana Gorge on 16 November 1894. We looked at the cliffs on the other side of the river where Jandamarra sat in a small cave firing on the enemy. He hoped to repel the white invaders by accumulating enough weapons for an Aboriginal army. Severely wounded he escaped and spent two years hiding from the police. Although he caused his people great suffering, they credited him with supernatural powers.
Crocodiles in WG
At Tunnel Creek we imagined him leading his people into the cave. Troopers camped outside, expecting to force the people out when food ran low. As the caves opened at the other end the people escaped.
Finally, Jandamarra was shot at Tunnel Creek by another tracker, Minko Mick. You might wonder why Minko would side with the whites to shoot Jandamarra. Dillon told us his children were taken by police and he was told they would be killed if he didn’t comply with their wishes.
Jandamarra has become a legend in a similar way to Ned Kelly. They both fought against the repression of their people by a stronger power. They both lost their lives doing so, and in Jandamarra’s case, his people lost their way of life forever.