• Glen Innes to Armidale,August 1th

    Glen Innes is a really nice town. The celticness of it makes Tim grumble a bit (as a half-Irishmen he feels that he has a right to frown at everything that is not originally Celtic), but it made me laugh. We had an interesting discussion comparing the Celts with the Aboriginals; both the indigenous population of areas that were conquered and oppressed, mainly surviving in the regions that were less important for the economic prosperity of the conquerors and both having to fight to keep the old traditions, culture and language alive.

    Of course the discussion continued talking about merging cultures; how should you do it if you are the foreigner/conqueror/immigrant and what can you expect from people coming to live in your own region. The Celtic Aussies apparently feel no need to be assimilated and feel that they can be very Australian and still be proud of their Celtic roots. They even make it into an economic asset! A healthy attitude as far as I am concerned.

    In Glen Innes as well as in Tenterfield you can see that these are older towns. The centres have a lot of houses that are build in a more ‘European’ style, often with proud displays of the year they were build. Tenterfield is actually the place where Sir Henry Parkes gave the ‘Tenterfield speech’ in 1889 that eventually led to the Australian Federation in 1901 (as Tim mentioned in his post).

    Between Tenterfield and Glen Innes (where we slept last night) we encountered the ‘Bluff Rock’. A huge granite boulder near the top of a mountain, where in 1844 a tribe of Aboriginals were thrown down by locals after killing a shepherd.

    One of the locals. Eduard Irby, wrote in his diary about the events:
    β€œThe blacks saw us coming and hid themselves among the rocks. One in his haste dropped poor Robinson’s coat so we knew we were onto the right tribe. If they had taken their heels they might have got away, instead of doing so, they got their fighting men to attack us. So we punished them severely and proved our superiority to them.”

    In our holiday camp we actually saw a wallaby foraging between the rocks. I assume it was a brush-tailed rock wallaby, since it seemed to be quite fond of the big boulders on the camp site. If you really see them, you notice that they actually have a head that’s very different from a kangaroo head, and ears that are a lot smaller.

    When we got up this morning we first toured through Glen Innes again, since it really has nice buildings to look at. Difficult to photograph though, since they put the coloured lights right in the middle of the street so they would always be in your picture.

    Afterwards we drove to Guyra and headed off to the east there, to see some falls. The Ebor Falls were quite beautiful, and since they are fed by a spring there was enough water. The Wollomombie Falls however depend on the rain fall and it has been quite dry the last weeks. So that turned out to be a search for the remaining bit of fall. The granite walls it cascades from are still very imposing though, and the Wollomombie Gorge a few hundred meter further showed this valley with enormous granite walls that made you feel quite small – and caused some vertigo too.

    We are now landed in Armidale, where we will spend the night. Tomorrow we aim to have lunch in Gunnedah, koala capital of Australia, and we want to sleep in the Warrumbungle National Park. The next day, August 3d, we will hop over to Dubbo where we will stay two nights to explore the zoo. The current planning is to visit Wellington, where they have caves, on the 5th on our way to Bateau Bay where we hope to arrive the 7th and hopefully can meet again with my aunts. The 8th we go to Sydney and I will try to arrange to have dinner with the relatives there, and the 9th we will fly home again. Of course we might change the planning on the spot if circumstances warrant that, but it is nice to have a general idea about where and when we want to be this last week.

  • Hervey Bay, July 29th

    Yesterday we had a very idyllic day. The weather was great; sunny and 25 degrees, and our trip on the glass bottom boat took us via an encounter with a troop of dolphins to an idyllic little island where we searched for nice shells. In my case for nice shells to look at, in the case of the males of the family for shells to eat. We both succeeded (I even found a complete fish, apparently washed ashore short after dying and drying out in the sun) and the skipper fired up the BBQ for their ‘pipis’ and the steaks and sausages he had brought for the buffet. Salad, melon, glass of wine and a steak sandwich made for a great lunch.

    In the early afternoon we sailed on to see a bit of the Coral Reef. That is so beautiful; all the weird coral plants with their different shapes and colours. Though you cannot see the colours as brightly as when you dive, some of the coral was almost fluorescent.

    The water was pretty cold, so only Tim was brave enough to actually go and snorkel around for a bit. The boys thought they would too, but the cold water scared them off to much.

    Back home we did a necessary bit of laundry and walked a bit along the Esplanade here to see the see. Since Tim nor I felt like cooking we went for fish and chips – the boys didn’t mind at all.

    Today we had to get up early, since we were picked up at 07.55 for our one-day-safari to Fraser Island (or K’Gari as the aboriginals call it). Fraser island is the biggest sand-island in the world and when you are there it is really incredible how lush and green the island is, and how high the trees (especially in the rainforest part) can get. There is an enormous variety in plants and trees; the guide told all but I must admit that I have forgotten a large portion of it already. It didn’t help that most of the tour was done by four-wheel-drive bus. On the island you can only drive four-wheel-drive vehicles and once you’ve been on it you understand why that is; it is all sand-tracks and I actually felt that it might have been a good idea to take our seasick-pills before this bus ride too. I made a small video and I might see if I can upload that, to give everybody an impression of what it feels like. Just imagine that you have that for almost two hours…

    The island is called after James and Eliza Fraser, captain and his wife, who survived a shipwreck and landed on the island where they were found by aboriginals. James died, Elisa was rescued after a few months, returned to England and wrote a best-seller about her adventures. There are many variations on what exactly happened, and quite a few seem to be invented by Eliza, but these are the facts everybody agrees upon.

    Though it is nice to see so much of the island in such a short time, it also reminded us why we don’t like doing organized bus-tours. You live by the schedule; after the designated number of minutes you have to go to the bus again and drive to the next destination. No time to really feel the place and a lot less walking than we anticipated. But it is still worthwhile to do, to get a good impression of what the island is like.

    They also offered flights in little aeroplanes, to get a good overview of the island. I couldn’t resist the temptation and took a flight. It is hard to make pictures, so there aren’t many. But you can see how green the island is, and that there are still some really nice lakes in it. All fresh water lakes by the way, even the ones quite close to the beach. And we managed to spot another whale!

    After a long and tiring day we were dropped of at our caravan park. Tomorrow we begin our descend to the south again; in 11 days we will fly home from Sydney (Thursday the 9th) and I would like to see my relatives before we depart. So we aim to be at Bateau Bay around the 7th and in Sydney around the 9th, but don’t know for sure if we can make that and still have a nice holiday drive. We’ll see. Tomorrow we will probably aim for mount Cougar, just above the NSW/Queensland border.