Journey To Enjoy
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Spring Weather in Kangaroo Island
Adelaide Interlude Three
Adelaide to Melbourne
Klara and I arrived in Adelaide on a sunny afternoon. A
friend picked us up from the airport and whisked us to the beaches of Glenelg
and Henley. A chilly wind blew from the azure ocean, reminding us that spring in
Southern Australia does not differ much from that in Wellington, our New Zealand
hometown – at least not in coastal areas! Despite this similarity, I was dazed
by the rapid geographical change across two thousand kilometres of Tasman Sea.
Then the city embraced us with wide streets, green parks, tidy architectural
relics and stylish modern buildings. We checked in at the Adelaide Central Youth
“Drop the word ‘youth’. Just call it a hostel!
There are too many old fogies!” somebody had written into the visitors’
“At least, the oldies don’t steal your food!”
somebody else had replied.
We were not surprised about this hostel’s popularity
with travellers of all ages. It was clean and tidy, offered everything a
traveller needs, abounded with valuable information, and was run by friendly
staff. We chose it as our headquarters for organising, starting and finishing
our trips. Adelaide is known for its culture, history, food, and wine. We
started with the wine.
For wine tasting, the Barossa Valley is arguably best
known. The name is a misspelling of Barrosa in Spain and I wouldn’t call it a
valley. From Mengler’s Hill Lookout it presents itself as a rolling plain
dotted with vineyards, about sixty of them. Obviously, we were unable to visit
more than four and that was enough to make us happy.
The area’s modest Lutheran churches and old cottages
remind of the original settlement in the 1840-ies. Religious refugees from
Prussia and Silesia brought with them vines that happened to be excellently
suited to climate and soil. Many places initially bore German names that had to
be anglicised as a result of World War I.
has lured back some of the old names, though not necessarily in the Barossa. A
good example is Hahndorf, east of the Adelaide Hills. The little picturesque
village thrives on its German heritage. It may help that it was the home of Hans
Heysen (1877 – 1968) whose paintings and drawings we admired in the Hahndorf
Academy, at a later date. He immigrated from Germany at the age of seven, became
South Australia’s best-known landscape painter and was knighted. He was also
honoured by naming after him one of the world’s great long-distance walks: the
Heysen Trail. It extends over 1200 kilometres from Cape Jervis at the tip of the
Fleurieu Peninsula to the Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. We would
cross this trail a few times on our first safari.
The name Wilpena Pound had long fascinated me. The word
pound had brought to my mind a confined enclosure like a pen, a coop, a kennel,
or even a cage. Now we flew over it in a light plane, four passengers and the
pilot. We could have looked down on an alien landscape. With tilts of our wings
the cliffs reared forbiddingly, as if they were to empty the bowl they rise
from. In a long swoop, we took in the expanse of this basin, huge and yet
diminutive within the vastness of the Australian Outback.
The Pound covers more than 80 km2 and is 11
km wide. Although it looks like a crater, its origin is neither meteoric nor
volcanic. It was a gigantic dome pushed up by tectonic forces 650 million years
ago. When it collapsed, it left a rim of Himalayan proportions. Erosion has
trimmed these massive mountains to a crown of cracked and weathered quartzite
peaks, most of them not higher than 500m, but still guarding the interior by
towering steeply above the surrounding plains.
There is only one easy way into the Pound, along
Wilpena Creek, and that’s why early settlers used the Pound indeed as a sheep
run, no fences needed. The original vegetation died. Now the Pound is part of
the Flinders Ranges National Park and seems to regain some of its original
appearance. We were there in spring and the Pound had burst into bloom with the
delicate yellow of wattle trees. We descended far enough to follow speeding emus
and skipping kangaroos, then gaining height, swept over yawing rock faces,
bleaching in midday sun, spitting out rare shadows, but hiding their prowess to
display a multitude of colours at dawn and dusk. In a last long round we dived
past the guardian cliffs down to the airstrip in the plains to rejoin our guide
We were five in his party. Colleen and Rachel from the
UK, Anita from Switzerland, and Klara and myself from New Zealand. We had
travelled on a regular bus from Adelaide 300km north to Port Augusta. Pete had
picked us up and taken to his hostel in Quorn. The following day we had left
early and, driving through rural stations, as the immense Australian land
holdings are called, we had made our way towards the Flinders Ranges. The
countryside had still been reeking of spring, although the early wild flowers
had gone. Now and then we had passed profusions of blue flowers, nicknamed
“Peterson’s Curse” for their poison and awesome powers of proliferation.
Much more rarely had the red beaks of Sturt Desert Pea glowed between brush and
rocks. In Buckaringa Gorge we had spied on the rare yellow-footed rock
wallabies. From rocky knobs we had sampled incredibly far-reaching views.
Now we wanted to explore the Pound from ground level.
We followed Wilpena Creek that had shrunk to a chain of small dirty-yellow
pools, but vividly showed off the consequences of a recent flash flood. Large
gum trees lay slain across the creek bed, toppled across each other, their
broken limbs spun into entangled meshes. Vapours of eucalypt oil hung in the air
and swarms of flies vied for drinks from the sweat that glistened on our skins.
I took off my tank top and let it dangle from my head.
Not far from the place where the gorge widens into the
Pound, there is the homestead of the Hill family, the last grazers, now a
historic place. The house sits in splendid isolation on a clearing
surrounded by sparse gum forest and carpets of grass and flowers. Carved from a
rock, two aborigines point the way to the Wangarra Lookouts. From there, the
panorama of the basin was unobstructed and very different from the aerial views,
boldly immediate, as if it were to tell us: “Come for a hike, but beware, I
may be larger, drier and hotter than you think.” We would not have had time
anyway. Pete wanted to take us to
the Chambers Gorge for a bush camp.
between Flinders and Gammon Ranges National Parks sits Mt Chambers (409 m)
keeping watch over its namesake gorge. Like most outback gorges, the entrance is
a sprawling flood plain of sand and shingle interspersed with scrub and gums
tenaciously anchoring themselves in the ground. Embracing rocks with their
roots, trees gazed at their mirror images in puddles gold-plated by the setting
Our 4WD lurched over naked slabs, ground through sand
and splashed through forlorn rivulets. Pete stopped the car on a flat shingle
bank, a long way up the gorge. “A good spot for climbing Mt Chambers to watch
the sunrise tomorrow,” he explained.
“Shall we first put up the tents?” Klara asked.
Pete snorted: “Tents? They are for campers. We’ve
got swags, the real stuff!”
“I know, swags are kind of sacs that you roll out to
sleep in, but won’t we feel the gravel poking through?” I sensed an edge in
Pete chucked a swag in her direction. “Just open this
one and check it out. You’ll find a pad inside. The handy thing is, we don’t
need to mess with any pegs, poles, or strings. We can get a fire going and start
We all gave Pete a hand, but I don’t think we should
take credit for the resulting great meal of tender roast beef and crispy
vegetables. Darkness had snuck into the gorge. We sat around the fire, munching
and sipping wine. Outback nights fall quickly and can be pitch black. Soon the
stars blinked dazzlingly between branches and rocky walls.
We left our campsite and stumbled further up the
riverbed. Eventually, it narrowed, squeezed by bluffs. Boulders tried to block
it. Unexpectedly, it widened again and Pete pointed his torch at a rock face.
“Look at these paintings. The aborigines would have done them thousands of
Anita climbed up to a ledge right under the ancient
works of art and caught the cameras we handed her. For fractions of seconds the
pictures lit up, flushed out from the darkness. Then we lay down on sandy ground
and looked up to the stars.
Back at camp, Pete pulled out a book of aboriginal
legends. “D’you know that the stars of the Southern Cross are Mululu and his
daughters?” he asked and read out:
“Mululu was the chief of the Kanda tribe. He loved
his four daughters but missed having a son. When he grew old, he called his
daughters together to talk about their future. He told them that he expected to
die soon and was worried that they didn’t have a brother to protect them from
the spite and jealousies of other women or from being forced into marriages with
men they disliked. So he wanted them to leave the earth when he died and to meet
him in the sky. He then explained that spirits of the night had led him to a
powerful medicine man called Conduk; he would help them.
After their father’s death, the daughters set out to
find Conduk. They had to travel many days north to reach his camp where they
recognised him by the long thick beard father had described. Beside the medicine
man they saw a huge pile of silver-grey rope which he had plaited from the hairs
of his beard. One end of the rope reached up into the sky.
The girls were terrified to learn that the rope was
their only means of reaching their father again, but with Conduk’s guidance
and reassurance they were able to climb to its very top where their father was
waiting. Now they are the four bright stars of the Southern Cross. Nearby,
caring for them, is another bright star, Centaurus, their father.”
The night was dry, not as cold as I had expected, but
seemed rather short.
“Joe, get up! We’ve got to go!” I heard Pete’s
voice out of the ash-grey dawn.
I wriggled in my swag. “Sorry, I’ve decided to keep
Klara company. She wants to see the rock drawings in the morning sun.”
Pete seemed a bit disappointed but soon left together
with Anita and Colleen. Rachel had decided to stay behind as well, to spend a
relaxing morning in and around our camp.
Beams of the still hidden sun ignited the walls and
large boulders in the gorge, first at the top. Then the red, ochre and yellow
colours flickered down, jumping from ledge to ledge, across obstinately dark
crevasses and kept on dancing until the rising day bleached them into
submission. However, the circles and lines, the animals with their x-rayed
bodies, the spindly representations of humans and spirits that crowded the
aboriginal gallery still stood out, trying to tell us their story.
Anita told a different tale. Though
the climb had been steep and hard, they had reached the summit of Mt.Chambers
just when the sun was shooting fiery arrows from below an orange horizon into
the cloud patterned sky, washing the fluffy edges of the inky swabs glisteningly
white. Slowly, the farthest mountain ranges turned purple, while the plains in
front were still sleeping in darkness. Then the tops of nearby hills lit up and
the floodgates of daylight opened.
FROM BARRARANNA TO BRACHINA GORGE
Gorge was already “populated”. There was a man, a fly net dangling from his
hat, resting on a boulder and looking out over the water hole below. A woman,
apparently his companion, was ambling through the shrubs and trees along the
you want to have a swim, you better wait for these people to leave,” Pete
whispered, “the National Park service discourages swimming here. We’ve got
time till lunch. Explore and enjoy.”
is something about the outback gorges that grips me. Rugged and massive, eroded
and broken, silent and venerable, they display their ancient history. They may
still come to life with roaring floods but, most of the time, they slumber,
brooding in the relentless sun, barely fanned by cooling winds.
two sides, colossal walls shot high up and contained a series of pools connected
to each other. Straight ahead a lower rocky barrier was broken, chipped, and
splintered. Occasional floods had eaten out a wide ravine, now baked dry. I
forded the water at a row of natural stepping-stones and climbed through thorny
bushes and broken rocks into the gap. The air there sat still, perfumed by
parching vegetation. Only the occasional humming of insects or calling of a bird
broke the uncanny silence. I turned back when the heat threatened to consume me.
man with the fly net still had not moved. His more energetic companion was
coming back from one of her strolls, clambering along the water’s edge on
rocks that sloped moderately enough to allow access to the lower parts of the
gorge. “Take care. Don’t slip!” she called out, when she saw me heading in
her direction. I believed her. Where broken branches and mud-caked rock made
progress risky, I took my sandals off and carried on barefoot. Rounding a
corner, the watercourse widened, forming a beautiful deep rock pool. I
undressed, put my swim goggles on and carefully dived into the pleasantly warm
water, looking out for snags that often lurk under the surface and can injure or
Gorge is only one of the picturesque places in the Arkaroola-Mt.Painter
Sanctuary and was the northernmost point of our excursion. Four-wheel-drive
“Ridge top” trips take tourists from the Arkaroola Resort through the wild
mountain scenery. We did our own, bouncing up slopes so steep that the rocky
paths seemed to lead straight into the sky. When the vehicle jolted to a halt,
vistas instantly unfolded, vast, pastel-coloured and – empty.
setting sun cast its evening gold on the Prairie Hotel at Parachilna where we
stopped to have a look at the historic bar and sample its drinks. The restaurant
serves award-winning camel, ‘roo, and emu dishes. However, I doubt, whether
they would be any better than the bush “barbie” (BBQ) with skilfully spiced
tender kangaroo steak that Pete put on after we had settled into our campsite in
Brachina Gorge. Colleen got a lesson in how to make a genuine Australian
“damper” as our dessert. This is a far cry from “anything that deadens or
depresses” as explained in some dictionaries. It’s a loaf made from flour
and water and baked in a camp oven. As a special treat, Pete shoved chocolate
in. Then we left it to its fate, expecting it to be baked by the time we would
return, and wandered into the night black gorge.
and I had been discussing the unimaginable age of the local quartzite. We had
been unsure whether or not 550 million years ago life existed on earth or not.
The answer was awaiting us in this gorge on explanatory signs near a geological
site. Not only did life exist, but it was already multicellular! One of the most
significant events in the history of life on earth is recorded in a thin band of
sandstone outcropping in this gorge. Fossils preserved in the Rawnsley Quartzite
are the first evidence of “metazoans” on Earth. Many of them were similar to
modern segmented worms, sea pens and jellyfish. These soft-bodied organisms
lived on the shallow sea floor. Storms smothered them beneath sand that
enveloped them and, over eons, turned them into rock. They live on as
impressions on the bottom of sandstone slabs. Their imprints became eerily vivid
in the light of our torches.
said good-bye to the Flinders Ranges from the most prominent hill on the way
back to Quorn. Mount Arden is 844 metres high, but seems higher because of its
commanding position and the long, steep, and bumpy access track. Its round top
offered plenty of space for our 4WD next to some antennas and a tin shed. There
would even be room for three, four vehicles more, but that would mean crowding
it and obstructing the amazing view. It was virtually possible to stay in one
place and, turning round, take in a 360-degree panorama.
seemed a long time ago since we had left Brachina Gorge and yet, it had been
only this morning. We had wended our way through canyons and over ridges. We had
hiked to see more aboriginal paintings at Arkaroo Rock. We had deviated
considerably to cross the farmland that surrounds the mound.
looked back north towards the Flinders Ranges which had shrunk in this seemingly
boundless land to a minor feature, almost hiding behind the preposterous, dull
hillocks in the foreground. In the east, the track that had taken us here was
snaking over hills and dales with almost impossible contortions. In the west,
the salty expanse of “Lake” Torrens glistened. To the south, we could just
about see Quorn, both starting point and journey’s end.
Klara and I stepped into the South Australian Art Gallery on Adelaide’s
stately North Terrace, we could not but overhear an elegant elderly lady talking
to a small group of people. She was one of the voluntary museum guides and what
she said beguiled us. We followed her, accepting her choice of show pieces, but
felt frustrated by having to pass by so many of the beautiful paintings,
sculptures and elaborate items crafted from silver. We would visit the Gallery
two more times with undiminished pleasure.
museum that attracted us more than once was the South Australian museum with a
great collection of aboriginal artefacts, displays of South Australian fauna,
flora, and geology, as well as a fascinating exhibition about the work of Sir
Douglas Mawson who lectured at the University of Adelaide from 1905 to 1952. His
scientific curiosity took him from the hot Australian outback to the frozen
Antarctic, showing that the Southern Ocean, despite its vastness and ferocity,
more links than separates these two continents.
Weather in Kangaroo Island
reckon, you’re after the Leafy Sea Dragons,” our guide Jason declared,
knowingly. I had told him, I’d like to include a dive in our safari. They are
spectacular creatures, these little dragon-like seahorses. With their light
brown leafy bodies they are almost indistinguishable from seaweeds. They allure
divers into their marine habitats around Kangaroo Island. Of course, I had many
other attractions in mind, like swimming with fur seals, besides, I had imagined
semi-tropical waters. Now our little group was huddling together in a motorboat
that battled through raging waves, occasionally dowsing us with chilly water. At
every jump of the boat boiling clouds winked through the spray washed plastic
windows of the tarpaulin.
Only a few hours before, we had stood on the huge
granite boulders of the famous Bluff near Victor Harbour and looked at turquoise
seas and sandy beaches under a sunny sky. Then we had crossed the southern tip
of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula to Cape Jervis and boarded the launch
we were on now. The weather had changed dramatically, as if reminding us that we
were going south, one step closer to Antarctica. Though thousands of kilometres
away, there is nothing in between this icy continent and Southern Australia but
“You may be the only patron for
diving,” Jason warned me. “It’s up to you, but if you shouldn’t go for
it, you won’t be disappointed with the tour.” I nodded. We were already
looking forward to making close acquaintance with one kind of famous residents
the very evening.
From the Cape to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island it is
only 13 kilometres. It seemed farther. Crossing this narrow bit of water by
regular ferry service is not even cheap and so this large island of 4500 square
kilometres with remarkable coastal rocks and sheltered beaches, forests and
paddocks, red soil and white sand hills has remained quiet. The island’s
comparative isolation has also protected a large variety of birds, land and sea
creatures. Thirty percent of it is now National Park.
The island owes its name to English explorer Matthew
Flinders. Allegedly, he and his crew enjoyed a feast of fresh kangaroo meat
there. There are also many French place names. Coming from the West, French
explorer Nicholas Baudin had started the first thorough survey of the island
coast, almost at the same time as Flinders who came from the East. Eventually,
the two geographers met up and swapped notes, gallantly ignoring the fact that
their mother countries were actually at war with each other. The historic
meeting took place in 1802, in a bay at what is now Victor Harbour.
Our small group consisted of visitors from the UK,
continental Europe, an Australian woman, as well as Klara and myself. When our
little boat tied up in a small cove near Penneshaw, we formed a chain to quickly
get our packs, sleeping bags, food, cooking and eating utensils on land and to
the trailer of a waiting landrover. Achim, a young German engineer, instructed
Klara, how best to stow things, advice she did not accept kindly.
We checked into the Penneshaw Youth Hostel and eagerly
awaited nightfall. Then a wide stretch of beach comes alive with Little Blue
Penguins that have waddled home from the sea. They flap and shuffle about in and
around their burrows, squawking and spreading their unmistakable odour.
Boardwalks and dim lights allow sightseers to watch the little fellows without
Willoughby lighthouse has lost its human touch. Long gone are its keepers and
their quarters have been turned into tourist flats. I understood that the
Cape’s wild if windblown beauty can keep visitors spellbound for more than a
day. The surroundings resemble an imaginative rock garden with flowers of many
colours, herbs, and grasses peeping out from gaps and cracks. The cliffs of the
Cape rise tall out of the sea that perpetually smashes into steep walls, caves
and caverns, shattering its crystal blue waves into frothy white shards that
float off just to reassemble. We balanced on the rocky verges of the promontory,
not tiring of watching the spectacle below.
As we were driving away from the coast, the wind
subsided, the landscape lay quiet. Paddocks and low forest took their turns. A
lagoon lined with Australian swamp oaks licked far inland. Crossing the island
to the northern shore, we saw no settlements before arriving at the little
seaside town of Kingscote. Founded in 1836, it is the oldest town in South
Australia, and the first free settlement in all of Australia. However, dogged by
the lack of water and building materials, it was abandoned just four years later
in favour of Adelaide.
We picnicked near the historic
courthouse and a jail as small as a tool shed. Rapacious seagulls threatened to
steal our food and, soon enough, Sally, a young woman from England, cried out
when she lost a slice of nice ham straight out of her fist. I must not repeat
what Kenneth, her companion, shouted in the direction of the cheeky bird.
We left the small place to its unruffled business and,
driving inland, stopped at a honey farm where we took samples from an array of
small jars, experiencing variations of the descriptive “sweet”. The bees are
said to be unique in the world. They arrived in 1881 from the Italian province
of Liguria. Since then, no other breeds of bee have been introduced to the
island and all present-day bees descend from the original twelve hives. Ligurian
bees are appreciated for their gentle nature and golden colour. These features,
as well as the purity of their genes make them invaluable for breeding. Since
1931, importation of bees and bee-keeping equipment to the island has been
illegal. This became particularly important after the identification of Foul
Brood Disease on the mainland.
Licking honey icecream, we piled into our car and
continued our trip. At Seal Bay we greeted the southern coastline a second time,
but instead of towering cliffs we found a wide sandy beach where Australian sea
lions enjoy a lazy life under the watchful eyes of park rangers. The animals
don’t mind strolling visitors, as long as they don’t come close. Occasional
sparring matches of annoyed males clearly demonstrate readiness to defend
We dropped most of our gear off in a lone cottage on
farmland and Jason stacked sand boards into our 4WD vehicle. Our goal was an
area of steep sand hills, appropriately called Little Sahara.
“Why haven’t you got snowboards?” I asked,
“You couldn’t use them on sand.”
“On the sand hills in Namibia, we used real snowboard
equipment and technique,” I insisted.
Jason shrugged his shoulders. “Just wait and see!”
The sand hills in Little Sahara were steep and not
higher than 30 - 50 metres. We left our landrover at the end of the track and
trudged through shrub-studded sandy ground towards one of the hills. Under one
of the shrubs we spied a bundle of brownish spikes. We were lucky. It was an
Echidna, a Spiny Anteater, an egg-laying mammal, one of Australia’s most
unusual animals. It eats insects and earthworms and when threatened quickly
burrows in the ground or curls up.
At the foot of the hill, Klara and Joan, a woman from
Sydney, retired in the shade of a tree, cameras ready. Obliquely, a tired sun
cast its rays through a misty sky, washing the sand almost white. The air was
still and very warm. We would end up stripping down to shorts or bikinis, as
appropriate. I found the climb increasingly difficult, as the slope steepened.
Every step also meant sliding back.
When we all had gathered at the top, Jason explained
how to sit on the board, pointing it straight down. I expected high-speed rides.
Riding snowboards down the Namibian sand hills had been fast, despite doing
turns and garlands. Not so here. Brigitte, the girl from France, even got stuck
in the middle of the slope. I could not believe it until I was actually on one
of the boards, trying to gain speed. Klara would get disappointing shots.
I felt that the sand of Little Sahara was heavy and
sluggish like snow that warm weather has turned into porridge, is difficult to
handle and can even break bones. The Namibian sand had flowed easily, perhaps
because of its uniform, slightly coarser grain. Nevertheless, after some
practice runs Achim and Mark, a guy from Switzerland, succeeded in standing up
on the boards while sliding down, though in a straight line and slowly.
“Why don’t you wax the boards?” I asked Jason.
Back at the farm cottage, large sheets of shadow
unfurled over paddocks and floated from treetops. We fanned out to gather
firewood or to stalk kangaroos that nibbled at foliage. They never lingered
enough to allow close-up photo shots.
Klara inspected the bunks and decided she would sleep
“There are no swags to sleep in,” I cautioned,
“what if it rains?”
“It won’t rain and I’ve got my sleeping bag,”
was the bold answer.
The cottage also boasted a rusty bathtub with hot water
trickling from a shower nozzle. Not even Klara spurned this facility.
For dinner, Jason treated us to kangaroo steak and
vegetables that we ate sitting around a blazing campfire. We chatted until the
fire died down. Klara yanked a mattress from one of the bunks and went searching
for a spot “away from snakes and spiders”.
WILDLIFE AND WILD ROCKS
dreamt I heard the sound of “pitter-patter” on the iron roof of the cottage.
First, I was too drowsy to wake completely, but then I heard it more clearly:
“pitter-patter, pitter-patter”. It was raining. I thought of Klara, dragged
myself out of my sleeping bag and went to see whether she was all right. I found
her already sheltering under the porch.
Daylight came with strings of water spilling from the
edges of the cottage roof. The quad bikes destined for a morning jaunt around
the farm cowered glumly in a corner of the yard. Nobody gave them a look. We
lingered over our breakfast, packed up and drove off looking for koalas.
We found them sleeping in the rain
drenched gum trees of the Hanson Bay Sanctuary. Koalas are safe here, but need
to be contained elsewhere. Not native to the island, they devastate the big
river gums through overeating. The mildly toxic leaves of these eucalypts are
their only diet and low in nutrients. Besides, the koala digestive processes are
slow. So the animals lack energy and need about fifteen hours of sleep a day. We
strolled through an alley of tall trees, discovering quite a few of these
winsome furry marsupials perched in the forks of higher branches. One had
settled down close enough to act as a photo model. It even made the odd move,
very slowly, while watching us with sleepy eyes.
We continued our trip into the extensive Flinders Chase
National Park that takes in the island’s western end, 33,000 hectares of it.
The lighthouse at Cap du Couedic watches over a wild spectacular coast. The sea
moved back and forth, up and down, a steely sheet patterned grey and black,
mimicking the tussle of the rain clouds before pounding the rugged cliffs. It
was at its eternal work, sculpting out of the shore bizarre, giant works of art.
One of them is the great Admiral’s Arch. Wooden stairs and walkways guide
visitors across it and down one side. The arch appeared almost black against the
enormous backlit window it framed. A large slab rested at the bottom, its smooth
surface glistening in the rain. New Zealand fur seals basked there, looking nude
with their wet shiny skin. Yet, they carry more fur than the Australian sea
“I don’t think we’ll be going for a swim,” I
pondered, turning to Jason.
“We don’t usually take visitors swimming at this
time of the year,” he agreed. Then he added, jovially: “but there are
sometimes hardy types that insist....By the way, you might not even want to have
your dive. Our office in Adelaide has let me know that the weather is
deteriorating and we’ll be lucky to make the trip back by boat today.”
A short ride down the coast lies a group of granite
boulders aptly called the “Remarkables”. I was still busy taking photos of
this unusual sight from afar, when I saw Sally and Kenneth already coming back,
snuggled into their parkas. Others followed. I hurried up the granite hump. The
megaliths loomed above and around me. The gloomy day gave them a touch of
awesome magic and the space in between them was filled with mystery. I walked
about spellbound. Then I heard Klara shouting: “Joe, you’ve got to come.
It’s time to leave!”
In a shelter near the Park Headquarters we gave Jason a
hand with preparing a barbeque lunch. A wet kangaroo arrived, begging for
morsels. I struck up a conversation with Brigitte, as I had many times before,
prompting her to practice her English.
“What did you like best on this trip?”
She gave me a charming smile. “Yes, I like.”
“You’ve got to say a bit more. Talk about what you
Kenneth overheard us. “I’ll be happy when this tour
will be over,” he said, morosely.
We returned to Penneshaw via American River, a small
settlement that has little in common with America, apart from the fact that
American sealers had built a boat here in 1804.
In the small cove where we had stepped ashore two days
earlier a strong motorboat was tugging at its moorings. We threw our baggage on
“We’ll make the crossing. Don’t worry,” the
When Australia commemorated
its bicentenary in 1988, award winning South Australian architect Guy Maron came
up with a futuristic structure. It is a conservatory that resembles an elongated
pyramid and is set amidst tall trees in the Botanical Gardens. We chanced upon
it walking there on a beautiful morning full of spring colours and scents. The
building houses a tropical rain forest complete with birds and fish in ponds.
Its size made us forget that we were in an artificial environment.
Adelaide’s history doesn’t go back 200 years. It
was only in 1836 that the first English settlers landed at Holdfast Bay. Colonel
William Light chose a site ten kilometres inland for the state capital and is
credited with its far-sighted layout. Many migrants followed and forged the
colourful ethnic mixture that is most obvious in Adelaide’s Central Market.
The Migration Museum tells their story. Located in the beautifully restored and
upgraded buildings of the Destitute Asylum, it is itself a symbol of South
Australia’s path to prosperity.
The original inhabitants of Australia had nothing to
celebrate. They were hunted down, died of introduced diseases and loss of their
ancestral land led to cultural demise. Even until modern times, they were
considered subhuman, categorised under native fauna, and had no voting rights.
Fortunately, this has changed. Australians are rediscovering aboriginal culture
and, to a degree, are even supporting it. In the State Library we admired a
beautifully woven carpet with aboriginal motifs, covering an entire hall. In the
National Institute of Aboriginal Arts, Tandanya, we watched enactments of
aboriginal life and attended aboriginal theatre and didgeridoo performances.
Next to the railway station we descended into a sunken garden; its semicircular
walls were laid out with aboriginal mosaics. Next to it we discovered a small
aboriginal art gallery that had opened only recently.
left the afternoon rush hour bustle of Adelaide, in brilliant weather, under
blue South Australian sky, pleasant temperate air falling from it. The rural
countryside is flat, lush green with grass or beige with fields of grain, dotted
with gum trees that remind us that we’re in Australia and not in the plains of
Europe. Settlements are rare, but may surprise with decorative stone buildings
dating from the 19th century.
Low on the horizon, the sun casts long shadows wherever
something happens to stand in the way of its beams. Every tree has its own shape
like a separate work of art. Now and then, Australian windmills - that pump
water from the aquifers - turn their little wheels whose tails follow the path
of the wind.
The dwellings in the little villages are modest, close
together; the solitary farmhouses aren’t much larger either. Rural life is
simple, in contrast to the City, where much has been embellished or created in
the past few decades.
Nude hills take on the same shades
in the sinking sun like in New Zealand. Groups of trees gather thirstily at the
gentle beach of a wide pond. Sheep laze in paddocks. Trees marching in rows give
away the bed of a lost stream. A pipeline follows the road, taking water to
drier places. We pass the odd derelict building, bared of its roof and nibbled
at by poachers of building materials.
A range of blue-grey mountains waxes from the horizon
into the pastel sky and contrasts with the light hues of the plains. Fields of
grain turn to gold and trees shroud their tops in mystery. A crowd of buildings
heralds Burra, the historic copper mining town. Signs flare up in golden evening
sheen. The town is quiet. Gone is its boom sparked off by shepherds who
discovered copper ore in 1845. Soon after, Burra reached twice the size of
contemporary Brisbane. Desperate for housing, miners dug caves into the steep
banks of the Burra Creek. When floods swept cave denizens to their deaths, the
mining company built houses for their workers, a first in Australia. The copper
era lasted only thirty years but brought wealth and ambitious administrative
buildings to Adelaide.
Behind Burra the sun finally vanishes behind hills that
draw a wavy orange line across the sky into which lone trees paste their
delicate crowns. Like in an aboriginal painting, dark pastel hues run across the
downs. Slowly, the land ahead drowns in darkness. We drive into the night.
turned off my tape recorder and put it away.
“What were you recording?” The driver asked, his
head slightly askance. Klara and I were the only passengers in the small bus on
its regular service from Adelaide to Broken Hill.
“I was describing what I saw, but now it’s got too
“Visiting Broken Hill the first time? OK, you
realise, it’s not just a remote mining town. Many good artists have settled
there, painters, sculptors, silver smiths. And we’ve got great history.
D’you want to hear some interesting bits?
Well, there was this German, Charles Rasp, who came to
Victoria as a young man. It was 1869, the year when they found the
record-breaking gold nugget. It weighed 72 kg and would be worth four million
dollars in our money, I’m told. Guess what that did to prospecting!
Now, Rasp was not a prospector. He wasn’t a geologist
nor a miner either, just a boundary rider. But he was smart and observant. He
got himself a copy of the “Prospector’s Guide” which he used to study the
conditions around various silver mines in the district. When his duties led him
to a rocky outcrop known as the “Broken Hill”, the insight he had gained
made him suspect that the outcrop contained tin oxide.
In 1883, Rasp engaged two dam-sinkers to peg out with
him a mineral lease at Broken Hill and soon after formed a syndicate together
with them and four other men: the station manager on whose property the lease
had been pegged, a sheep overseer, a storekeeper, and a station hand. The men
agreed to put £ 70 each towards the mining venture.
Little more than a year later, contractors struck
silver chloride that assayed thousands of ounces to the ton. The Broken Hill
Proprietary Limited company was formed and by the end of 1885 had produced
thousands of tons of ore worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Charles had it made. He married
Agnes, a pretty German girl employed at an Adelaide coffee shop. They took a
long trip to Europe and, upon their return, bought a gracious mansion in
Adelaide. By 1890, the Rasp share holding was valued at £ 1¼ million, which
allowed the couple to lead a life of travelling and social entertainment.
Charles continued to follow his mining interests and became director of several
mining companies. He died from a heart attack in 1907. He was only 61.”
“What happened to his wife?”
“Agnes went to Germany and married a count before the
outbreak of World War I. Her husband died during the war. Agnes returned to
Adelaide in 1920 a countess, but her marriage had made her an enemy alien and
the Australian Government had confiscated her assets. Only by a special Act of
Parliament did she regain most of her possessions. She died in 1936, at the age
of 79 years.”
“Isn’t it? Our “Line of
Lode” proved to be one of the world’s richest lead-zinc-silver ore bodies
and has generated already one hundred billion dollars, making Broken Hill a
wealthy town. You’ll see some fine buildings there. I guess it may have
contributed more to the Australian economy than any other place in the nation.
By the way, do you guys have any fruit on you? We’re
just about to arrive at the New South Wales border and you’d need to hand them
Klara passed on to the driver a bag with refuse that
included the core of an apple. All this was gracefully accepted by the health
official at the border.
sunshine filled the wide avenues of Broken Hill already in the morning.
Dominating the town is its famous hill visible from everywhere. It resembles a
pile of brown rubble and is crowned by what looked to me like rusty
contraptions. It’s a landmark that contrasts starkly with the well-maintained,
pretty municipal buildings that give the town a well-to-do and historic
We followed the signs of the “heritage walk” round
the centre of the town. We were captivated by the railway museum which not only
boasts a rich collection of historic engines, carriages, and rail traffic
paraphernalia, but also contains a valuable collection of historic medical
equipment. Given the museum’s location, it may not surprise that it is also
jam-packed with spectacular minerals. However, the exotic appearance of the
“Hill of Rubble” lured us soon enough to its flat top and to BHP’s
The road up the hill is good and not steep, but
completely devoid of shelter. We did not feel like being toasted by the early
afternoon sun and called a taxi. The view from the mine reveals the total
isolation of the town. The desert reaches right into the built-up area and from
there to the distant horizon where land and sky merge in fine mauve mist. Even
in the glare of the day, the earth showed colours, soft shades of cream, tan,
peach, lavender, bashfully gentle until dusk when they turn to yellow, brown,
orange and purple.
“That’s why we’ve got so many buggers here that
splash paint on canvass,” our guide-to-be Don said, before he packed us into a
cage that would slip us down the mineshaft. “What good are the colours on a
scrap of material? They’re already here, all around us. I’ve lived here all
my life, been down south a few times, got bored with all that green, just
stinking green, no other colour!”
I smiled at Klara. She
looked funny in a well-worn overcoat, helmet with headlamp down to her ears,
weighed down by a heavy battery belted to her waist. “Don’t laugh, you look
hilarious yourself,” she snickered.
We descended 130 m to the bottom where Don sent a
signal to the surface by yanking a string that rang a bell inaudible to us down
here. We then squeezed and crawled through drives and stopes. The original
mining and transporting equipment was still in working order and Don explained
the old mining methods.
“That was all we needed to get the job done,” he
scoffed, “now it’s different with all the stinking modern crap. The miners
sit in air-conditioned cabins drinking cups of tea while the machines do the
“I have a feeling you envy ‘all the stinking modern
crap’,” I teased him.
Don doubled over laughing. “Cheeky bugger!” Then,
turning serious, he added: “the company now does everything with just a few
people; not many miners have kept their jobs.”
Klara and I returned to our hostel just in time for an
excursion to another hill not far from the town. Sculptors from all over the
world had gathered here in 1993 for a “Sculpting Symposium”. The City
Council had funded the transport of 52 tonnes of Wilcannia sandstone from far
away to the level top of the hill. When it became apparent that ordinary chisels
failed to dent the highly accreted boulders, former miners came to the rescue,
resurrecting old tungsten carbide tools.
Twelve huge sculptures now grace the site, turning on
their magic at every sunset. Then light and shadow play on the rough-hewn
shapes, acting out the artist’s ideas. The surroundings change into a
kaleidoscope of colours and shapes. Sculptor Dr Ahmad al Ahmad put it
“The Symposium is a necklace for a maiden – the
maiden being the incredibly beautiful desert landscape around the mountain.”
GHOST TOWN TURNED “ARTY”
km northwest of Broken Hill lies Silverton, the first mining town in this area.
In 1889, its silver mines closed, everyone moved to Broken Hill and only the
ghosts of the past haunted the slowly decaying buildings. Perhaps there was one
exception: the Silverton Hotel. Australian pubs are the first to spring up in
new places and the last to die. This one was brought to life and fame by the
movie industry. So were the little church and one of the cottages.
Keen to see this place, we joined Will who had bought a
large 4WD when he had retired as a miner and now shows car-less visitors round.
He first stopped at a wreck of a railway ore-truck. “This is a historic
place,” he stated.
It must have been the strangest place touched by the
First World War and it happened on New Years Day 1915. A crowd of picnickers
from a local club had set out in an ore train of the Silverton Tramway. They had
only gone about two miles when they noticed an ice-cream cart flying the Turkish
flag and two men with rifles. Shots rang out. A young man, a woman, and a
horseman riding beside the train were killed. Others were wounded. The train
sped out of shooting distance, but the attackers caused further chaos nearby
before police overpowered them. They were identified as the local butcher and an
ice-cream vendor, both of Turkish nationality.
Further away from the town, Will pointed out
re-vegetation schemes, using native shrubs.
“During the early years, Broken Hill was not only
known for its mineral wealth, but also for its dust storms and poor living
conditions,” he explained. “The vegetation around the town disappeared in
the mines and smelters that, in turn, belched noxious fumes into the streets.
The bare soil fed dust storms that had been bad enough before, without human
“Water is still scarce, isn’t it?” I asked.
Will nodded. “Yes, later in the day I’ll take you
to the Umberumberka Reservoir. You’ll see only sludge at its bottom. However,
we’re not too badly off, nowadays. Towards the end of the nineteenth century,
shortage of fresh food and water even caused disease. A typhoid epidemic in 1888
killed more than a hundred people. Three years later, a private company built a
reservoir and reticulation systems. By then, Broken Hill, with 21,000
inhabitants, was the third largest town in New South Wales. Progress continued.
Schools, a technical college, the town hall, post offices and a gaol were built.
Timber-and-iron buildings were reconstructed in brick and stone. Recreation
reserves were developed for the public to enjoy. We still carry on this good
work and tourism thrives.”
Silverton did not meet my ideas of a ghost town. Apart
from a few ruins, there was just an enormous open space where the settlement had
been. Widely spaced out, there were some restored houses, well maintained –
and worth inspecting. They were galleries with displays of paintings and
artefacts of their owners. I believe the present day population of Silverton is
about one hundred and I would be surprised, if they weren’t all artists, not
counting the publicans.
Klara and I returned to Broken Hill
with time to spare for looking at art works before having to depart. The town
hosts a plethora of art galleries, large and small. “Silver City” claims to
be home of the world’s largest acrylic painting on canvass. It is 12 m high
and 100 m long. In the “Silver Mine” we watched the smelting, casting and
designing of local silver jewellery. One item has stayed with us lest we forget.
Klara boarded the bus with a delicate necklace of semi-precious stones set in
Perhaps Don, the miner, was
right about the dominance of green in the South. No place in Adelaide is far
from the parks that girdle the city. We strolled through the gardens that follow
the banks of the river Torrens. Not far from the intersection of North Terrace
and King William Street, we climbed up to a group of impressive modern edifices:
the Festival Centre, the Playhouse and the Convention Centre. They are connected
with flights of stairs and promenades decorated with modern sculptures.
are alternatives to such cultural and artificial landscapes in the Adelaide
Hills and they are accessible by public transport. We took a bus to the nearest
one, the Morialta Conservation Park and hiked through Eucalypt forest. Rocky
walls rose next to us until they joined, forming an amphitheatre. From its top
rungs jumped a waterfall. Tracks connect the park with others and even lead up
to Mount Lofty, with 727m the highest peak in the Hills. We would have liked to
climb to the summit, but our time in Adelaide was all but over.
Adelaide to Melbourne
driving towards the Murray River. It flows from the Great Dividing Range in
north-eastern Victoria to Encounter Bay in South Australia, more than 2700 km,
making it the longest river in Australia and the third-longest river in the
world.” Paul, our guide and driver, rattled this off into his microphone.
jabber in our minibus continued throughout Paul’s explanation. Most passengers
were from Japan, three were Chinese.
your Japanese, Paul,” I shouted. “Or Chinese? It seems that Klara and I are
the only ones who know what you’re talking about.”
shrugged his shoulders and carried on, slowly, emphasising every word.
this! river! is! the Murray!”
looked ahead. In the meantime, the stretch of tawny water before us had widened
considerably within its low banks.
Livah Mullee!” Ju, a young lively Japanese exclaimed.
it is! the mighty! Murray! It forms
most of the border between Victoria and New South Wales! Before roads and
railways crossed the land, paddle-steamers used to carry supplies to remote
sheep stations and homesteads, returning laden with wool!”
is bolder?” Tai, a slender woman from mainland China asked, surprised.
the border is a lot further east! The last stretch of the river lies entirely in
and I reminisced. Only two weeks ago, we had been taking in the riverine scenery
and its peace, though not on a paddle-steamer, but on a small sightseeing boat.
Behind the serenity hide problems. The graceful willows lacing the banks are now
considered weeds, because of their proliferous growth. They had been planted to
help navigation. Of concern is also the increasing salinity of the river on its
long journey during which it is almost bled to death by thirsty communities and
picked up the microphone again: “We’ll cross into Victoria just a few
kilometres after Bordertown. This is a pleasant little place to have our lunch.
It’s now mainly known for its albino kangaroos and a bust of Bob Hawke, a
former prime minister of Australia who was born there. During the gold rush the
town played a major role. A lot of gold changed hands here and not always
legally. In the afternoon, we’ll reach the Grampian Mountains; they have a few
surprises in store.”
attract visitors. Tumbling down from great heights, water shows its power. We
feel how it shapes the landscape, though unable to fully grasp the time scale. A
good place to stare at water’s destructive and, at the same time, creative
force are the Mackenzie Falls in the Grampians, maybe because these mountains
are already worn and broken, showing their great age. Relentlessly, the Falls
are ripping into the weathered rocks, imperceptibly eating it away.
waterfalls may be bigger and higher than the Mackenzie Falls, but the scenery
here is unique. We descended on well laid out paths and stairs, following the
course of the water from the top to the bottom. At every turn, on every level,
the views were different. There were liquid veils, drapes of pearls, thundering
chutes, lively cascades, churning rock pools, fluid sheets glistening like
smooth skin on stone, water dancing in crevasses, spray hanging in the air. All
this watery action took place among greenery that blanketed slopes, was sticking
out or even hanging over. Fronds, blades, and leafy twigs stirred in the breeze
whipped up by the rushing water. The setting sun ignited the colours latent in
the rocky walls, casually tinting some bouncy waves.
mood of the dying evening turned sombre when we left the Falls and hiked across
a high plain towards the Devil’s Jaws.
I walk here in fog and drizzle,” Paul said, “we’re lucky today.”
stunted vegetation flowed gently towards a leaden lake that fingered into a
range of distant hills. We crossed a stand of mangy trees and suddenly found
ourselves at the verge of the plateau that nose dived here thousands of feet,
opening up stunning vistas of dark plains, a lake shrunk to a grey watery line,
and misty ranges touching the cloudy sky. Jutting out from our vantage point
were huge rocky jaws, gaping as if ready to swallow some of the scenery.
night we stayed in a pleasant wilderness lodge near a hill called Asses Ears. We
sat down to a three course dinner, played pool and then retreated into the night
to enjoy the intense sparkle of the stars that had by now pushed away their
shrouds. Klara and I walked out into a paddock to dodge obstructing trees, when
spectres darker than the night closed in on us. They snorted.
Klara cried out and disappeared over a fence.
Pinnacles afford another far-reaching lookout. Breathtaking it may be, but it
pales compared with the climb to get to it. Almost straight away, the track
leads into a most unusual narrow gorge. The walls and cliffs are not rough and
jagged, but smooth, almost polished, though layered and riven. In places, a
stream washes the stony track, but only at first. Then huge boulders thrust it
up and about, so that it needs steel barriers and strong rungs. Further up, the
water rushes, faint and invisible, in the chasm’s bowels that might as well be
bottomless. Eventually, the rift in the mountain widens to grant room to pretty
little oases of woodland. Walls form roofs to give shelter.
this changes near the top, reminding hikers of the mountain’s forbidding
nature. A near vertical ladder allowed us to descend into the throat of a narrow
gap aptly called the “Silent Street.” It spat us out not far from the
summit. Ju scaled one of the weathered crags at the dizzying precipice and
called for a photo. Young Tai arrived, out of breath. Shaking her head, she
muttered to me: “You so old and so fast!”
Tai,” I retorted, “I’m not old, just old-er than you and I’m not
fast, just faster!”
scanned the spectacular landscape at my feet and began to understand what Paul
meant when he promised us a beautiful ride from the Grampians to the shores of
the Great Ocean.
VOLCANO AS A REFUGE
off the Great Ocean Road between Port Fairy and Warrnambool, there is Tower
Hill. This is neither a hill, nor is it particularly high: it is an almost
perfectly round crater that violently exploded into existence about 30,000 years
ago when basaltic magma welled up hitting the subterranean water table. The
crater then filled with water that still gathers and vanishes depending on the
amount of rainfall. Although Tower Hill became Victoria’s first National Park
in 1892, grazing, crop growing, quarrying and rubbish dumping continued until
the crater, its hillocks and islands were stripped bare and little wildlife
process of destruction has been reversed. The Park’s visitor centre displays
the copy of a painting that helped in the recreation of the original vegetation.
It was painted in 1855 by Austrian-born Eugene von Guerard who still saw the
crater in its original beauty with trees like manna gum, blackwood, black
wattle, swamp gum and drooping sheoak.
of Tower Hill has given many animals refuge and habitats. If we hadn’t already
seen koalas, emus, and kangaroos, we would have found plenty of them here, in
addition to magpie geese, echidnas, possums, and water birds.
Great Ocean Road traces about 400 kilometres of Australia’s coastline, strong
contours of a landmass that abruptly breaks off and plunges into the Southern
Ocean. While the interior weathers at geological snails pace, the coast is
alive, rejuvenating itself with the sculpting force of the sea.
coast’s limestone cliffs formed 10 to 20 million years ago, building up from
the skeletons of tiny marine animals, later to be compressed into stone. Only
about 7000 years ago they rose from the sea and erosion began.
stopped at the “Bay of Islands” that has nothing in common with its New
Zealand namesake. The “islands” here are stacks of rock that have persevered
while their surroundings have been ravished by the greedy waves. These islets
are not immune to further attacks; eventually they topple and die. The shoreline
cliffs give birth to new islets that start off as caves and arches. This may
take many years. However, some changes may happen while humans are watching.
I’ll show you the London Bridge,” Paul announced.
Bridge is falling down, falling down,” Klara sang.
stayed serious. “It has fallen down, in 1990.” he stated wryly. “Half an
hour before that I had strolled over it with one of my groups.”
stared at him incredulously, but he was not joking. So I tried to make sure our
Japanese and Chinese friends had understood as well.
was hurt, but a couple that had been at the far end of the natural bridge had to
be rescued by helicopter. They must have been extremely embarrassed when they
suddenly found themselves in the centre of media interest. They had picked this
remote spot so that their romantic encounter would remain secret.”
that incident, visitor safety has been reconsidered and many places along the
coast that were freely accessible have been fenced off. However, I found access
paths, boardwalks and stairs well planned, laid out, and maintained.
Supplementary scrambling for more thrilling views seemed unnecessary.
clouds prematurely dimmed the late afternoon when we arrived at Loch Ard Gorge,
named after an iron-hulled clipper, the most famous wreck at the Shipwreck Coast
that extends from Port Fairy in the west to Cape Otway in the east. This was a
notoriously dangerous stretch of water in the days of the sailing ships, due to
hidden reefs and frequent heavy fog. More than eighty vessels came to grief on
this 120 km stretch in just 40 years.
Loch Ard foundered off Muttonbird Island on the final night of its voyage from
England in 1878. Only two people escaped the fury of the sea. One of them was
the ship’s apprentice who rescued a woman whose cries for help he heard
nearby. They were both very young, the same age, but no romance followed. Eva
cursed the land that had taken away all her family and returned to Ireland. Tom
climbed down the stairs to the cove where Tom and Eva had crawled ashore and
looked into the cave where they had sheltered. The following morning, we would
also visit the place where Tom had scaled the forbidding cliffs to get help. Now
there are stairs, called Gibson’s Steps after the man who had come to the
best-known natural towers of the Shipwreck Coast are the “Twelve Apostles”.
We had seen pictures of them, but the morning of our visit added several
dimensions. Grey mist washed these limestone stacks, more guardians than
apostles, standing defiantly in the waves as a silent group, looking out to the
sea as if ready to fight. Smell of sea and earth filled our noses. Moist air
touched our faces. Thunder from exploding waves rumbled below. No picture, not
even a film can compete with such a multi-sensual experience.
Cape Otway National Park, we left the Shipwreck Coast and walked into dense rain
forest that thrives in this area of rich volcanic soils and high rainfalls.
Despite intensive logging before it became a national park, massive trees still
remain. Some mountain ashes soar over 100 metres with trunks up to six metres in
diameter. Ancient myrtle beeches, some estimated to be 2000 years old, have
twisted and turned themselves into extraordinary shapes. Tree ferns throng in
between. Mosses and lichens have created drapes and wraps.
Apollo Bay we reached the last leg of our journey, a stretch of coast that is
popular with surfers and campers. Small townships boast pretty holiday homes of
Melbournites. Near Eastern View we passed under a large wooden arch that
commemorates the construction of the Great Ocean Road in 1919. Progress was
extremely slow and arduous, especially for the thousands of returned service men
debilitated by the war or unaccustomed to this sort of work, using picks,
shovels and crowbars.
Torquay has become the
commercial hub of the surf culture. We looked down on nearby Bells Beach,
Victoria’s surfing Mecca, where large waves were dotted with surfboards. It
was our last stop before continuing to industrial Geelong that appeared to us
like an extended arm of Melbourne, our destination.
Flinders Railway Station has a hypermodern neighbour the size of an entire city
block: “Federation Square”. I understand that it is the Australian
Federation the name honours, yet it sounds to me drab and colourless when I
think of the daring and exciting creation of shapes, hues, and patterns that
force light to perform a repertoire of dances depending on daytime and weather.
“Federation Square” opened in October 2002 and its
development is hailed as one of the most complex and ambitious construction
projects ever undertaken in Australia. It is dedicated to the fine arts,
hospitality, and vibrant events. Klara and I became especially enchanted by the
Ian Potter Centre that splendidly displays Australian art. The former National
Gallery of Victoria on Southbank has been renovated, but with emphasis on
strolled in and out of the breathtaking structures of “Federation Square”,
enjoyed the nearby bustle of the city and the view of the dreamy Yarra River. We
crossed over to the Alexandra and Victoria Gardens on Southbank. The rains had
stopped, the air was still cool, but sunshine touched us with gentle warmth.
Tomorrow we would take a tram to the St Kilda beaches as our last outing before
flying back to New Zealand.
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