Back to thoughts of old England with the Rose Gardens at Cowra in the central west of NSW.
Cowra is more particularly known for its Japanese Garden. Cowra was the site of a POW camp during World War II. The Japanese inmates staged a mass suicide breakout where some hundreds were killed. In 1960 the Japanese Government were considering the repatriation of their war dead to Japan, however they were so impressed with the way the local people managed the graves they decided to bring all their war dead from other parts of Australia to be re-buried at Cowra. The building of a beautiful Japanese Garden came about as a direct extension of the cemetery. It is closed on Christmas Day so no pictures this time.
Now to prove just how different Christmas in Australia can be from the cold northern hemisphere when we wish -- we packed up camp on Christmas morning and kept on driving, choosing to stop for a lunch of cold meat and salads at a roadside rest area just outside the town of Young. This was our view.
It was hot and dry but a nice breeze sprung up to ease us through a lovely peaceful and memorable celebration.
Musing: From A Bush Christmasby C. J. Dennis "Dad and the boys have nought to do, Except a stray odd job or two. Along the fence or in the yard, "It ain't a day for workin' hard." Says Dad. "One day a year don't matter much." And then dishevelled, hot and red, Mum, thro' the doorway puts her head And says, "This Christmas cooking, My! The sun's near fit for cooking by." Upon her word she never did see such.
"Your fault," says Dad, "you know it is. Plum puddin'! on a day like this, And roasted turkeys! Spare me days, I can't get over women's ways. In climates such as this the thing's all wrong. A bit of cold corned beef an' bread Would do us very well instead." Then Rogan said, "You're right; it's hot. It makes a feller drink a lot." And Dad gets up and says, "Well, come along."
I gave my husband a thick book on the history of Australian Art for Christmas. It documents just how long it took the artists to paint what they actually saw -- at the hands of early artists our wild Australian landscapes looked like rolling green English countryside.
Today's photo has "that look" so I have referenced words from the poem describing England. It was Christmas Eve. We were camped by the Tumut River in the Snowy Mountains of NSW. A shady spot planted with exotic trees from the "old world" and with the soft burble of a swiftly flowing stream. Bliss after a hot afternoon drive.
But the old world dies slowly, a hot roast for Christmas dinner followed by plum pudding is one of those traditions that just won't die. Knowing we were going to be on the move on Christmas Day we settled for having our traditional hot meal on Christmas Eve this year.
On this day we passed through more dry country before passing through Batlow, famous for its apples as well as cherry and stone fruit orchards. The white sections are the nets over the orchard trees to protect them from birds and weather damage.
Today is Australia Day. What a wonderful diverse land we live in.
Musing: Advance Australia Fair, composed by Peter Dodds McCormick in 1878 officially became Australia's National Anthem in 1984, replacing God Save the Queen. Most people of my era don't remember the words very well. "Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free; We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea; Our land abounds in nature’s gifts Of beauty rich and rare; In history’s page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross We’ll toil with hearts and hands; To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands; For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair."
"When sick at heart, around us, We see the cattle die"
These cattle are not dying but the poem reminds us that dry times can be very harsh in the country.
Musing: The Plains by A B Banjo Paterson "A land, as far as the eye can see, where the waving grasses grow Or the plains are blackened and burnt and bare, where the false mirages go Like shifting symbols of hope deferred - land where you never know.
Land of the plenty or land of want, where the grey Companions dance, Feast or famine, or hope or fear, and in all things land of chance, Where Nature pampers or Nature slays, in her ruthless, red, romance.
And we catch a sound of a fairy's song, as the wind goes whipping by, Or a scent like incense drifts along from the herbage ripe and dry - Or the dust storms dance on their ballroom floor, where the bones of the cattle lie."
And if you are in any doubt as to the extent of the drought, this is Lake Hume, A huge man-made reservoir on the Murray River. When we were last here around 10 years ago we camped beside a cool blue water playground. Now it is at just 24% capacity and has been lower.
The town of Tallangatta was moved in the 1950s before it was inundated by water. When the water was at its lowest in 1997 the old town came back briefly into view.
We picked our way down the mountain through the fog which eventually lifted at the same time as the trees grew taller and the snow poles marking the edge of the road grew shorter. Simultaneously the temperature rose to a very warm 30C by the time we reached the valley below.
This is what I think of as gold and blue country ... we are now in the dryer inland where the grassland plains dry gold in the heat and blue mountains frame the scene.
The Mountain sat upon the Plain by Emily Dickinson "The Mountain sat upon the Plain In his tremendous Chair -- His observation omnifold, His inquest, everywhere --
The Seasons played around his knees Like Children round a sire -- Grandfather of the Days is He Of Dawn, the Ancestor --"
The burnt out forests go on for miles and miles but the tree in the foreground has its canopy. This was a rare glimpse through dense fog, a windy area that blew the clouds away.
Musing: Mountain Bushfire by Kenneth Ivo Mackenzie "Full moon. The brazen eye of midnight scans the black and swollen mountains oozing fire high over the indifference of the sleeping plains hazed with the perfumed smoke of death and fear under the radiant zenith. It is not far from here to the wild flags of havoc flying out of the doomed and bannered trees before the west wind, hilarious hunter plying nets and whips of flame, the trumpet playing a ghastly fanfare."
Actually the poem says "The stark white ring-barked forests, all tragic to the moon" but this white snow gum forest is not ring-barked, nor is it their normal healthy white ... this is the result of the bushfires that swept through the region in 2003. They are reshooting from the base and will recover but it will be a slow process.
At this altitude snow gums grow low and are usually twisted into fantastic shapes. The stuff of many awesome photographs, typically in the snow.
Musing: From The Snow Gum by Douglas Stewart "It is the snow-gum silently, In noon’s blue and the silvery Flowering of light on snow. Performing its slow miracle Where upon drift and icicle Perfect lies its shadow."
Aren't our birds wonderful? This a Gang-gang cockatoo, spotted at Mount Hotham.
Musing: From Gang-gang Cockatoos by Peter Skrzynecki "Calling to each other in soft creaky voices through long shadows and out of sight -- the red heads and crests of feathery blossoms carried along by waves of morning light."
Next we climbed higher to the ski resort of Mount Hotham (no snow at this time of year). Usually you can see mountains forever from this spot but it was a misty day.
When I take in this alpine landscape and the slow drive to get there, I have great respect for my ancestors ... they walked over these mountains to Omeo. It took them months with a family of young children in tow, and it would have been mightly chilly at times. For us it was a cool 10C on this misty summer morning.
From the coast we began to climb into the High Country. The Alpine Way is gorgeous with a rocky creek bubbling beside the road. The mountains are high by Australian standards and more pointed than those here in the Blue Mountains, some cleared, so again the brilliant green of grassland.
"All you who have not loved her, you will not understand". This is the small town of Omeo, nothing special to most but special to me because my Mother was born here. Her grandparents and her great grandmother (my great-great grandmother) are buried here. Her forebears were part of this little town back in the early days droving sheep and cattle to the high plains for summer pasture. Others followed the lure of gold. And for others the 1890s depression pushed them out of the city into this remote bush town.
The nearby gold town Sunnyside where my grandmother was born is no longer there, not even a ghost town is left. It is now silent, just a rough track through the tall mountain ash forest.
Musing: From The Roaring Days by Henry Lawson "And when the cheery camp-fire Explored the bush with gleams, The camping-grounds were crowded With caravans of teams; Then home the jests were driven, And good old songs were sung, And choruses were given The strength of heart and lung. Oh, they were lion-hearted Who gave our country birth! Oh, they were of the stoutest sons From all the lands on earth!
Ah, then our hearts were bolder, And if Dame Fortune frowned Our swags we'd lightly shoulder And tramp to other ground. But golden days are vanished, And altered is the scene; The diggings are deserted, The camping-grounds are green; The flaunting flag of progress Is in the West unfurled, The mighty bush with iron rails Is tethered to the world."
We swung out to the coast one last time at Lakes Entrance where a network of inland waterways known as the Gippsland Lakes meets the sea. Our last glimpse of the coastline.
The truth is, as much as I enjoyed my sojourn by the sea, I was looking forward to the still heat of the inland, away from the constant swoosh of the waves and the persistent flapping from the sea breeze. My friend Peter says there are "saltwater" people and "freshwater" people -- no guesses as to where I fit.
From Breath by Tim Winton
"When I asked if I could just ride out to the rivermouth with Loonie he shook his head. Too rough, too far, no way. But I wanted to swim where I could see the bottom, to be where those long creaming breakers trundled in from the south so I could dive down and see them pass overhead. I hankered after the sea as I'd never done for anything else before. I'd always been a compliant, respectful child and until that point I was usually content. But being denied access to the ocean was intolerable"
This old bridge across the floodplain of the Snowy River shows what a mighty river it once was. The engineering marvel of the 1950s and 60s, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, dammed the waters in the catchment. Today just 20% of the flow goes down the river bed towards the sea.
Reminds me of the 1960s when people from the town made the great journey south from Queensland to the "Snowies". On their return we were subjected to a very long and boring slide night where we saw every detail. Mmmmm ... are photo blogs the slide nights of today?
From the Man from Snowy River by Banjo Paterson "He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet, He cleared the fallen timber in his stride, And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat -- It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride. Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground, Down the hillside at a racing pace he went; And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound, At the bottom of that terrible descent."
We crossed the border into Victoria cruising down a lovely timbered road before breaking into the rich dairy country of Gippsland. It is wonderful to see the land green after more than 10 years of very dry weather. But most of the state of Victoria is still drought declared.
Musing: The Pasture by Robert Frost "I'm going out to clean the pasture spring; I'll only stop to rake the leaves away (And wait to watch the water clear, I may): I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.
I'm going out to fetch the little calf That's standing by the mother. It's so young, It totters when she licks it with her tongue. I sha'n't be gone long. You come too."
Eden is the home of fishing fleets. In the past there was whaling too but these days whale watching is the go but not at this time of year, they have just finished their migration.
Musing: From Whales Weep Not! by D.H. Lawrence "They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.
All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs. The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of the sea!
... And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale- tender young and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of the beginning and the end.
And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat encircling their huddled monsters of love. And all this happens in the sea, in the salt where God is also love, but without words: and Aphrodite is the wife of whales most happy, happy she!
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea."
As we drove south for 300-400 kms to Eden the water sparkled blue and emerald green fields reached down the the sea. I guess there is a reason why they call this the Sapphire Coast.
Musing: From Lord Let Me Live by Robert Service "Lord, let me live, that more and more Your wonder world I may adore; With every dawn to grow and grow Alive to graciousness aglow; And every eve in beauty see Reason for rhapsody.
Lord, let me bide, that I may prove The buoyant brightness of my love For sapphire sea and lyric sky And buttercup and butterfly; And glory in the golden thought Of rapture You have wrought."
The steady soaking rain. We are moving off tomorrow.
Like Rain it sounded till it curved by Emily Dickinson "Like Rain it sounded till it curved And then I new 'twas Wind -- It walked as wet as any Wave But swept as dry as sand -- When it had pushed itself away To some remotest Plain A coming as of Hosts was heard It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools It warbled in the Road -- It pulled the spigot from the Hills And let the Floods abroad -- It loosened acres, lifted seas The sites of Centres stirred Then like Elijah rode away Upon a Wheel of Cloud."
Mostly there was sunshine but sometimes rain. The long drought is still too close a memory for us to not welcome rain even on holiday. We are still at Shellharbour here, you can see the steelworks at Port Kembla in the distance.
Musing: From The Storm by Theodore Roethke "Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell, The waves not yet high, but even, Coming closer and closer upon each other; A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea, Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot, The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending, Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness."
After a week at the beach we headed off on a 2,000 km road tour hugging the coastline for a while, then turning inland to green pastures, up Australia's highest mountains (not very high), through the dry country to the west and eventually swinging our way back home.
I love the diversity of our landscape -- and as it does for many Australians brings to mind My Countryby Dorothea Mackellar, a poem she wrote 100 years ago in England when she was feeling homesick, contrasting the countryside around her with the landscape of home.
Please click the link to read the full poem ... I will be selecting images that match it, in the order of our tour, not the poem itself.
By the way, sparrows are an import from England that thrive here.
From My Countryby Dorothea Mackellar "I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains."
"It is a beauteous evening, calm and free; The holy time is quiet as a nun Breathless with adoration; the broad sun Is sinking down in its tranquillity; The gentleness of heaven is on the sea: Listen! the mighty Being is awake, And doth with his eternal motion make A sound like thunder -everlastingly."
I recevied Tim Winton's new book Breath for Christmas. He's a mavelous writer and they say its his best book yet, so will be a real treat. Here's a sample of what I have to look forward to. "I will always remember my first wave that morning. The smells of paraffin wax and brine and peppy scrub. The way the swell rose beneath me like a body drawing in air. How the wave drew me forward and I sprang to my feet, skating with the wind of momentum in my ears. I leant across the wall of the upstanding water and the board came with me as though it was part of my body and mind. The blur of spray. The billion shards of light. I remember the solitary watching figure on the beach and the flash of Loonie’s smile as I flew by; I was intoxicated. And though I’ve lived to be an old man with my own share of happiness for all the mess I made, I still judge every joyous moment, every victory and revelation against those few seconds of living.”
Around the corner the rocks give way to a sandy beach.
Musing: From Sea Fever by John Mansfield "I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying."
I have long admired the work of fellow bloggers in capturing the essence of the sea -- Peter at Sunshine Coast Daily and Lucy at Bermuda Daily Photo. I wanted so much to get some of their magic but the seaside remains an alien space that defeats me most of the time. Over the next week I'll show you what I managed.
From The Surferby Judith Wright "Take the big roller’s shoulder, speed and serve; come to the long beach home like a gull diving."
We've been wayfaring again at last and in gorgeous summer weather. The first week was given over entirely to rest at Shellharbour which about 100kms south of Sydney. We had a delightful spot right on the water, just the place for me to try to learn how to photograph the sea splashing on the rocks.
The trees are Norfolk Island pines, which are not native to Australia (they come from Norfolk Island) but appear just about everywhere at the beach. Musing: I filled in time reading several books on Australian History while on holiday. In 1788 The Brutal Truth about the First Fleet by David Hill there is info about the first white settlement of Norfolk Island as well as Australia. "[Govenor] Phillip's instructions, signed by King George III, had explicitly called for early settlement of Norfolk Island [as well as Australia]... The British wanted to secure the island, which had been noted by Cook on his voyage eighteen years earlier, as part of the empire. It was believed it could produce a superior hemp or flax for sails and canvas -- both vital for the Royal Navy." The flax turned out to be a dud but the trees weren't.