Archive for June, 2016

Heading west out to red desert country – WRONG – the red desert has turned green, and that is not a political statement. Plenty of rain and the country looks like parts of England and Scotland, well almost. Those who have been to Silverton will probably remember the vista from the Mundi Mundi look-out – ochre red soil, blazingly blue sky and the curvature of the earth clearly visible.  Not on our visit, it was green with grey skies. . .

Broken Hill - Green Desert from Mundi Mundi look-out 01 - 21 June 2016

. . . and there were plenty of very big puddles to get lost in.

Little Topar - Mud - 19 June 2016

We did however get to do some cycling, and got into conversation with a Broken Hill lady cyclist who organizes an annual Big Bike Ride for riders from all parts of Australia.  This year the ride was to be over 800km all on back country dirt roads.  We quickly ended the conversation and promptly rode into town for coffee and cake.

Broken Hill - Faye at Silver City Hwy sign - 22 June 2016

Wilcannia, another sad town like Bourke, where everything is either shuttered, protected with high fences and barbed wire or closed completely – an indigenous youth problem that the community is struggling to deal with. Despite this, the town is in a fighting mood and the bridge over the Darling, the main route to Broken Hill, is being blockaded in a series of rolling closures of 20 minutes each day. Even with all the rain the Darling River is almost dry due to the excessive water taken by cotton farmers upstream in Queensland, especially at Cubbie station now 80% Chinese owned.  Good On Ya Wilcannia, we support your efforts to save the river.

Wilcannia - Darling River Bridge Blockade - 17 June 2016

White Cliffs was nothing like I imagined – I thought it was flat country but has several hills that actually have whitish cliffs – it figures I guess. The Hills, one called Turley Hill, have dugout homes built into the cliff faces – and have interesting addresses.

White Cliffs - Dugout Home 04 - 18 June 2016

Peterborough is a former large regional railway maintenance centre and has four Locos that standing at each of the main roads coming into Peterborough – we did a 14km walk that visited each loco – its amazing what strange things we do while travelling.

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Petersborough turned on the cold – not quite snow but close enough.

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. . . and finally this week to Port Augusta, gateway to the Flinders Ranges and Wilpena pound.  At the moment there are warnings posted of slow moving military vehicles going to the El Alamein Army Base – we have seen dozens of large trucks, 4WD’s, Chinook helicopter shuttles and containers on low loader trucks – the Base has a double width high fence with razor wire and lighting – now what’s that all about ? surely not a Brexit contingency force !

Hopefully the weather will be warmer for a cycle ride tomorrow on the paths that traverse Port Augusta and take us to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not often surprised when doing a routine task but something out of the ordinary really set me off to do further research while in Broken Hill this past week.

Commonwealth War Graves are easily identified by their unique shape in pure white marble, just a plain grave but with a distinctive headstone clearly visible from almost anywhere in a cemetery.  While staying at Broken Hill I happened to look over the corrugated fence at the rear of the caravan park to find we were next to a cemetery – and standing head and shoulders above all was one white marble headstone – almost saying “look at me”, which I duly did.  Has anyone ever seen a War Grave like this before ? – even the bottom inscription is interesting “Beneath this emblem rests a Husband, Father, Soldier and Man” – mostly the inscriptions are unemotional like “His Duty Nobly Done”, while this speaks of love, respect and tragic loss.

Broken Hill - SX30556 LEHMAN 03 - 22 June 2016

Broken Hill - SX30556 LEHMAN 02 - 22 June 2016

So who was SX35506 G V LEHMAN and why such special burial treatment ?

His service records reveal that his name was Gordon Victor LEHMAN, born 28 June 1914 in Broken Hill, and living in Whyman St, Broken Hill when he enlisted in February 1943.  More interesting however are three consecutive entires,

24-3-1944 Son Born

25-3-1944 Married, next of kin now wife Joyce Laurel Lehman of 296 Iodide St, Broken Hill

11-5-1944 Accidently killed (train collision)

Well, given my transport background, that was just too much of research challenge to let pass by.  My search found that the accident occurred at a place called Copley (formerly Leigh Creek), a small town on the old Ghan rail route that wound its way across flood prone land up through Hawker, Lyndhurst, Oodnadatta and eventually to Alice Springs, where the line terminated in those days.

According to the Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub and Wikipedia :

“On 11 May 1944, a military train was hit from behind by a goods train in Copley, 604 km north of Adelaide. Four servicemen were killed and 27 others were injured; two seriously. The 16 carriage train had several hundred servicemen aboard and had departed Terowie in South Australia’s Mid North for an undisclosed northern destination. The locomotive struggled to haul the carriages and laden trucks. It made several attempts to get over Quarry Hill and eventually made it, however it had to stop shortly after due to injector trouble. The loco was low on water, and uncoupled from the train to ‘run light’ to the nearest watering spot and refill. While it was away, the goods train entered the same section of track and struck the rear of the troop train. The guard saw the headlights of the rear approaching train and attempted to halt the train but to no avail. Despite the driver of the goods train applying the brakes the crash occurred impacting most severely on carriages 15 and 16.Only the fact that many troops were lying down saved them from serious injury and decapitation, as the tops of several carriages were shorn off in the impact.”

Chilling reading and no doubt a tragic shock for his family and new wife, Joyce, who had grown up in Kogarah, a coastal Sydney suburb, and was now a widow in hot dusty Broken Hill.  Had Gordon Victors family ín Broken Hill comforted and cared for Joyce after the accident ? Did his son grow up and stay in Broken Hill – questions not answered in the records – these will remain a mystery and speculated on by casual observers. One clue remains at least about the sons name – a grave vase simply marked “From Joyce and Paul” – is this the son born weeks before Gordon Victor departed for an undisclosed northern destination ?

Broken Hill - SX30556 LEHMAN 01 - 22 June 2016

 

Last time we were in Cobar it was so wet that many of the gravel roads were closed – meaning we couldn’t get out to see the Aboriginal rock art sites at Mount Grenfell. This year the weather Gods have been kind, its a warm 20 deg C, clear skies and no wind, although about a week ago there was heavy rain and flooding.  All that water meant the normally dry red stony landscape was a’blooming with a green tinge – short grass over everything – just beautiful. The road to Mount Grenfell was pretty rough but not boggy. The rock art was interesting but the setting was spectacular – a series of semi permanent clear water pools running down several gullies from Mount Grenfell with a very long sandstone ridge overlooking the pools. The caves were under the sandstone overhangs – and you could just imagine a group of aboriginals sitting there overlooking the pools and making art on the cave walls. Kangaroos graze near the pools, so there was food, water and shelter – sort of a Garden of Eden surrounded by flat stony dry country. We followed the Ngiyampaa Walkabout track up to the top of Mount Grenfell – a 5km circuit – worth the effort if you are out this way.

Here are two pics from Mount Grenfell

 Mt Grenfell Historical Site - Aboriginal rock art 05 - 15 June 2016            Mt Grenfell Historical Site - Waterholes 02 - 15 June 2016

 

Cobar Caravan Park is also looking sub tropical after the recent downpours

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Pic of  Days 2 – 4

No sunny skies yet, buts its not raining as we take another short hop from Cowra to Dubbo – where we will stay put over the Queens Birthday Long Weekend. Like Cowra we have visited Dubbo a few times so didn’t want to see the Western Plains Zoo – so we sought out the sites less travelled.  Couple of short walks along the Macquarie River and around the town, plus a longer walk to the Japanese Gardens – nearly every town seems to have one of these, are they a status symbol ?

Dubbo has constructed a few good cycling paths – out to the Zoo, to Dundullimal Homestead and along the Macquarie River – worth a ride if you bring your bikes.

Smashed the side wing mirror on our ute (tree jumped out as I was reversing) but a local glazier fixed us up good as new for $40.

3 Pics for these 3 days :

Our odometer as we pull into Dubbo

Canowindra enroute to Dubbo - clicked over 77777 km - 10 June 2016

 

The Zen Garden in the Dubbo Japanese Gardens

 

Dubbo - Japanese Gardens 04 - 12 June 2016

 

and the artillery shell chain surrounding the Dubbo War Memorial

 

Dubbo - War Memorial Artillery shell chain fencing - 13 June 2016    Dubbo - War Memorial Artillery shell chain fencing detail - 13 June 2016

 

Oh and just for good measure – the two caravanners on their bikes

 

Dubbo - Faye on Tracker Riley Cycleway - 13 June 2016      Dubbo - Tony on the ride - 13 June 2016

Pic of the Day – Day 1
You all know what its like – I keep thinking “have I forgotten something” before setting off – and after a few kilometres all those worries disappear. It was raining when we left but in China that’s good luck – hope it applies to Cowra as well. Cowra is just a stop-over this time, but the Japanese Gardens, POW Camp and Cherry Blossoms are worth many a visit – but alas Neila’s one of the few Chef Hat restaurants in country NSW has closed after about 10 years – wonderful, innovative food from fresh local produce.
Pic today is the flood level indicator underneath the Lachlan River Bridge – at these heights the caravan park would be a very deep swimming pool – but thankfully it was only damp on 9 June 2016.

Cowra - Flood Levels - June 2016