Destinations

Wagga Wagga dawn Wagga Wagga dawn

This foggy, frosty early-morning scene belies tragedy hidden in clear view.

March 5 2012, will be remembered as the night almost 9000 residents of Wagga Wagga were forced from their homes by the worst flood since 1853 — nearly 160 years ago.

Fortunately the city’s levee held and two months later its citizens’ lives have basically returned to normal.

However, the surrounding districts have hundreds of kilometres of fences swaddled in dead grasses and branches as a result of the recent floods. The slowly rotting debris has to be removed to save the fences from rusting and a small corps of volunteers is working to help the local farmers.

It is a daunting task. A strong team of four on a good day might manage to knock the debris off less than a kilometre of fencing.

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Finding an overnight campsite in any city can be a bit of a problem, but I’m lucky that I have a fairly regular spot in Hobart right outside a friend’s house.

Naturally I operate in stealth mode … curtains drawn and no lights after sunset.

Normally a fairly quiet spot, it becomes a bit hectic nearer Xmas and this is what greeted me this morning. The butcher and the delivery man were having a loud joke-filled conversation which woke me.

Of course, the jokes might have had something to do with the angle of the delivery truck too.

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Revisited a favourite pub yesterday in Hobart — The Crescent — and had a lively session with some old friends (and don’t they look like everyone’s grumpy grandpa?).

They were in a nostalgic mood, tuning in to YouTube for some jazz classics — on an iPad which Dave, the pub owner, had commandeered so that he could watch while he served.

The pub also has a lot of books under the counter, some of which can be seen above. They’re not for lending, they’re a superb tool for settling pub arguments, and like all good pubs a lot of lively discussion takes place.

The library does wonders to settle bombast and prejudice. Somehow using the iPad to Google the facts would seem out of place in The Crescent.

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Just spent a few days blobbing at Stanton, a lovely bed-and-breakfast establishment at Magra, north of New Norfolk … and yes, I camped as usual in Madam Plush.

However, mine host Mark, has decided he has had enough of ‘clients’ and decided to return the property to being a homestead, and a major transformation has begun in earnest.

Martin and Adele, his live-in boarders are both keen gardeners, and together they have begun to revive the veggie gardens of yore, the neglected orchard, and introduced chooks and a horse.

I’ll have more to report when I return for a working bee in a few weeks time.

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This splendid wall of green overlooking the Meander River at Deloraine was taken through the back window of Madam Plush early this morning.

With office views like this, and the gradual return of energy following the traumas of the medical dramas earlier this year, I am beginning to feel rather restless.

A lot of ideas have been simmering through the fog of surgery and recovery, and I’m looking forward to some new creative adventures.

It could be interesting …

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Despite its ominous name Dead River Beach is a delightful, peaceful campsite on the Victorian side of the Murray River.

It is a popular stopover for river travellers — lone kayakers, groups of schoolchildren on rafts, motley convoys of river craft travelling together, and the usual hoon or two in a beer-fuelled tinny.

Behind the campsite was a small brackish pond where one evening I spotted a pair of wild ducks and their dozen young. Unfortunately I ran out of ‘film’ on my digital camera at the crucial moment and captured this less than ideal exposure of the family outing.

Two days later the adults were back, but without any of their brood, likely taken by foxes.

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Thought I’d head off about noon today, but was cut off at the pass.

One by one, from mid-morning on, an amazingly eclectic collection of classic and vintage cars began to surround my Mt Franklin campsite.

One that caught my eye was the 1927 Double-T Ford truck, above, that came from Kyneton. It started its working life trucking fruit at Harcourt.

There are about four dozen so far, and they’re lovely. Spotlessly clean and polished, and lovingly restored, they indeed evoke fond memories of a different era.

Madam Plush has even been sharing in the glory as the other campers flock over to view them.

Of course, my fickle friends, the Guinea fowl, immediately made a beeline to a 1950s Studebaker and preened themselves in its mirror-bright hubcaps.

And more trophy cars …

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I slept in a volcano last night — a first. Admittedly is was dormant, and had been for millions of years.

This nearby copse of deciduous trees, above, belied the dormancy with its skeletal white trunks and carpet of white, bleached leaves discarded last Autumn.

Mt Franklin is just north of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, popular Victorian holiday spots for the many goldminers that worked the digging in surrounding areas more than a century ago.

With the gold long gone, the two townships now mine the tourists instead.

Technically, according to Parks Victoria, Mt Franklin is a ‘prominent, conical scoria cone with deep crater open via a narrow breach in the rim on the southeastern side’.

On arrival, after an easy drive up, I had my pick of campsites as the only vehicle there.

With that sorted I soon settled in, with my only company three cheeky and obviously spoilt Guinea fowl begging for tidbits. I buried thoughts of the lovely Guinea fowl curry recipe I enjoyed on trips through Southern Africa.

They were fickle though. Just on sunset a popup camper-trailer arrived to set up camp on the other side of the volcano’s bowl and they soon scarpered over there.

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Roaring Beach on the Tasman Peninsula deserves its vocal reputation on days like this when strong southerly gales combine with southwesterly swells to send wave after wave crashing to shore.

It produces a tumultuous white carpet, beautiful to watch, yet awe-inspiring at the same time.

And the roar is constant, magnified by the cove’s unique acoustics.

Roaring Beach changes mood endlessly as the video below (recorded on my iPad 2 the day before I took the photograph above) demonstrates.

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Here are three good reasons for wanting to head north before June.

All were taken in Tasmania in June.

That’s London Lakes in the Central Highlands above, and Lake Dobson in Mt Field National Park, below.

Mt Field

And here’s what my windscreen looked like several days in a row last June.

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The white quartz flank of New Harbour Point juts through the wild breakers stretching hundreds of metres out to sea.

A setting sun gilds its reflective canvas, throwing it into cheerful contrast with the grey hulk of De Witt Island and the bleak swells queuing up for their death dance on Hidden Beach.

For nine days the sun has hibernated deep in cloud cover and now its sweeps across the storm-washed beach and out to sea over the frothing wavecrests which have welded together in a turmoil of foam.

On the beach the noise is numbing, not unlike the roar of a steam locomotive at full bore — going nowhere.

That was the opening paragraph of the Tasmanian chapter of my book: Australia the Beautiful — Wilderness [Weldon, Ure Smith].

For the remaining two weeks of my journey through the bottom fringe of the Southwest National Park, the weather was a little kinder.

Click the link below for a small portfolio which hopefully gives a taste of the wild diversity and beauty of this, one of Australia’s last wildernesses. Allan Moult

Explore the South West Wilderness portfolio.

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Earlier this day my friend Jim Hill had caught a beautifully-conditioned four-and-a-half pounder [sounds better than kilograms] which he passed on to my small group of fellow travellers.

That caught everyone’s attention, including these curious swans, and various passers-by, all hoping to see another epic battle. It was not to be.

But the next day, while smoking his generous offering, Jim upped the ante and hooked a five-pounder — a record brown trout for Lake Dulverton at Oatlands.

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Welcome to the first of a new series of mini-portfolios of worldwide destinations salvaged from a repository of nearly 90,000 colour transparencies filed away in six filing cabinets at a long-suffering friend’s home.

They’re the carefully-culled selection of a four-decades’ long career as a freelance writer/photographer.

Below is a small selection taken on assignment in the Fitzgerald River National Park in southern Western Australia.

The 250,000 hectare park is about 300km east of Albany.

Click here to see the gallery

It is a harsh environment encompassing a bleak landscape of spongolite cliffs honeycombed by the elements; scraggly dry streambeds outline with salt tidemarks; bronze-toned granite flecked with red flashes of weathered flaking rock; a coastal barrier of sand dunes as white as snow; broad valleys carpeted with low scrub, paperbark, rough mallee and wiry melaleucas; and three low ranges each topped with a small barren summit named Barren.

The three peaks — West, Mid and East Mount Barren — are remnant islands, once barely 90 metres about sea level.

Their existence is responsible for the botanical abundance found in the threatened boundaries of the National Park,

While still islands in an ancient sea, they provided refuge for the fertile flotsam of the plant world seeking anchor during the mammoth upheavals of the Proterozoic period some 3000 million years ago.

This was the age of Gondwanaland, the super continent formed when the world’s land masses were one and the fertile Fitzgerald River area was joined to Antarctica.

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