Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Time speeds. Memory trails behind

Saturday October 14, (More than 2 weeks ago, alas)

I'm so far behind on the continuing adventures of Lynn and Wendy that I hardly know where to begin. Many days ago I posted this picture as a teaser about our trip to Hyden and Wave Rock. Unfortunately there were no scrambled eggs involved nor teeter totters, nor even brains of child geniuses scrambled by using teeter totters. There were some rather intriguing aspects nonetheless. This is the picture of the dog cemetery outside of Corrigin. We had borrowed a car and headed due east and stopped at a few places listed in a tattered and slim little guide book I had found buried beneath the stack of gigantic tomes of truly notable Australian landmarks. Ordinarily that would make this trip sound like the beginning of some scary horror movie where everything went wrong and we were attacked by an alien intelligence trying to spread their spores among the cultured people of Western Australia. On the contrary,however, it was neither a scary nor boring event that resulted. This little book had more obscure and strangely more interesting destinations than some of the famous standards and in fact we enjoyed all the novel little items that they had listed as being of interest for people on the way to the big rock.

The cemetery has regular grave stones and memorials to beloved companion animals and also a big sign noting that one must get permission to bury one's animal there.

Just past the dog cemetery is also a wild flower drive.

Although the terrain here was much less lush than in other places we had been, there was still quite a variety of blossoms to be found.

The drive was poorly marked and a bit confusing, but still worth the time spent.

Here you see a few of the flower varieties. There were no massive displays of wall to wall blooms, but still some of the views were quite lovely.

We headed on to Hyden, which turned out to be a bit of a one horse town. We stopped at the cafe and bought sandwiches with salad and these turned out to have beets and raw carrots and thus seemed rather strange to us. Then we decided to go to the cave with aboriginal paintings in it first and do a loop bringing us round to wave rock at the end of our drive. The landscapes were a bit different from what we had seen before.

They were rocky and also had a painted desert sort of appearance almost like some of the sand pit areas of Yellowstone National Park in the States.

The exterior to the cave which was probably used for ritual purposes, is what you see above. There were many different paintings, mostly of hands to be found in the very shallow cave.

There was also a drawing of a serpent...

...and hand prints done in a couple of different styles

I took this picture to give a sense of place for this part of Australia...

...and this one because Don was so taken by the trees that he felt resembled the trees found on the African Veldt.

Mom explained to me that the trees she had seen in Kenya were much shorter than their Australian counterparts. Nonetheless, the openness of the land and the flatness of the area made the colors of the earth even more impressive.

It was hard not to think there must be geysers around there somewhere.

We got to the parking area for Wave Rock and discovered this kind of brushy area.

There was a boardwalk that lead into the bush and then sand trails that led to the massive rock formation.

It is quite an impressive rock some 100 meters long with the stain of chemicals sweeping downward from the top making it truly resemble a huge stone wave.

The images of it in the books seem to imply it rises out of the desert monolithically, but actually there is quite a lot of brush and tree growth in the area.

There are trails to other rock formations - holes and the Hippo's mouth, but wave Rock is really the most impressive, both in terms of color variations

...and size.

The Hippo's Mouth does indeed look like a gigantic hippo's jaw, but it neither photographs well, nor impresses in the same way. Here is one last look at the landscape we left behind when we turned around to head home and dodge kangaroos.

Do I need to say that we got lost again on the way home? (All roads lead away from Fremantle and none seem to return.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Personal Time

Sometimes you just need a day for yourself! (smile)

n.b.(By the way the previous sketches are for the most part not mine, but my mother's.( She is the real artist on this trip.) Sometimes I think my language made this unclear. The above mess, however, can be blamed on no one but myself.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

In Memoriam

I am very sad today. It is Don's and my wedding anniversary and we are apart, on opposite sides of the globe, in opposite hemispheres. This, however, is a minor pain compared to the news I have just received that one of our cats has passed away on this day. He was a wonderful cat that chose us from his place in the back of a cage at the animal shelter, a proud strong cat who loved to hunt and to lie in the grass in the sun. He had been named Snuffy by his previous owner and we adopted him as an older cat when he made it clear to Don in no uncertain terms that he and not the little orange cat that I had wanted to adopt was to come home with us immediately. Just before we left for Australia, we learned Snuffy was suffering with liver disease and we were very happy that he remained strong and moderately healthy for Don's return. Don has done a wonderful job of caring for him during his last days. We miss him terribly.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fremantle Prison Again

One thing Mom had not yet seen was Fremantle Prison, so, about a week ago we decided to head to the prison and take the regular day tour. You may remember that early in the semester I accompnied the students on the ghost tour and I was interested to see the place in the daylight and try to decide which tour would be the most interesting. (Also I wanted to see the exhibit on the Fenian escape - which I was only able to visit for a short time, because of the schedules of the tours.)

The prison is an impressive sight in the day time: White and massive and on a hill so as to be conspicuous.

Fremantle was never a penal colony like the Eastern cities, so they did not have significant prisoner populations until after the 1850s when the city started begging for prisoners to use as cheap labor. These are buildings that now house the toilet facilities.

Once beyond the black iron gate, one has a nice view of the front yard.

Here you see the interior of the cell block from the ground floor. The metal netting was added late in the prison's history to help prevent suicides (and it took years after the particular suicide that motivated this to get anything in place.)

Here is a kitchen - on the ghost tour we heard about a cook who was murdered in the kitchen.

The yards for the prisoners have guard towers overlooking them.

In some yards they let the prisoners paint on the walls when they knew they would be closing the prison.

We could see the prison better during the day tour and the tour was much more factual than what we heard from our previous guide (but of course the atmosphere was not as intense either.)

There was a major fire which destroyed the hardwood timbers in the ceiling and the roof and so most of the original jarrah wood had to be replaced in one side of the cell block. (Here is a photo posted on the wall fromt he time after the fire.)

It must have been awful to be locked inside and see the bright daylight outside filtered through the bars and completely inaccessible.

The cells were very small (especially in the early years of the prison when prisoners slept in hammocks. On the ground floor we have examples of the changes over the years. The rooms get larger and eventually there is actual furniture. This however necessitated a change in the ways the doors would open, since furniture alsomeant objects to pile up and inhibit the opening of a door that swings to the inside.)

This is the flogging triangle. The cat-of-nine-tails was the usual form of punishment. We heard grizzly descriptions of its use and abuse.

Here you see a door into the cell for giving food.

These are the doors to death row cells. Cell number one was the cell for holding before the person was taken to the gallows.

We enjoyed the tour and decided we would come back for the Great escapes tour on another day when we were not so tired.
On the way out we noticed this tree with its amazingly contorted branches.

Then it was home to rest up from all that walking.

I think after seeing both tours that I enjoyed the ghost tour more. We heard more personal stories about individual prisoners like Moondyne Joe (a bit of a legend in these parts) although I worry about the facticity of the night tour. I also did not really need the people jumping out of cells at us - but did enjoy the spookiness and atmosphere of the darkness.

Back To See a Banksia

In the Stirling Range we set out to find wild flowers and although we were disappointed not to see masses of flowers the way we had seen them in other settings, we did manage to see a few flowers here and there.

The setting was much more open and the sun hot and thus the area seemed quite severe. We saw familiar plants, banksias and grevilleae, but nothing that really looked like the famous bellflowers of the region.

On our 13 km (roughtly 1/3 of the 43 of the prescribed the drive) we saw none of the orchids we sought, but it was still with great reluctance that we turned around and headed back to Mt. Barker. We really wanted to seethose orchids, but we had to turn around or we might not make it to the Banksia farm in time to see the banksias.

When we arrived at the Banksia farm (which (hooray!) I found relatively easily despite the fact that the town had been re-routed a bit with all its cement curbing (making one feel like one was stuck in a tube and could not escape)), we discovered that a Japanese tour had not only taken over the Cafe where we had hoped to eat, but also booked the only guided tour for the time we would be there. Thus although we had intended to go for the fancy-schmancy, super-duper tour, we ended up taking the el cheapo version of self-guided tour, because there was no one available to inform us.

I did the best I could in being Ersatz Tour leader after we had a basic intro by a friend of Kevin's who helped out when they were busy. After loooking at the seed pods and being reminded of propagation and the many different appearances of the flowers, leaves and seeds, we headed out to the garden. Once again I was low on film, so I could not go wild taking pictures, but the vista from the back porch is so lovely that I had to snap it. Here you see the red algae of the pond and the Stirling mountains in the back ground

This is the honey banksia that produces the sweet nectar.

Midway through we were so tired and hungry that we went back to the cafe for lasagna or quiche and carrot cake. The Japanese were well into the middle of their tour, so we sat alone and talked, and watched a hawk making lazy circles... oh, OK, (lahoma?)... it was really a black shouldered Kite, but it was interesting to watch as it looked for rodents in the field.

We spent a long time trying to find this banksia that sends up shoots from underground...

And I think this is the old man banksia that starts of whiskery soft and gets stiffer and less cuddly as it gets older. Hmmm...

The honey eaters were loud and bustling and really enjoyed this bird bath as water source. There are two on the bird bath in this picture although they are very hard to see.

We had to drive through the whole place a second time because we wanted to check out the rare blue (silver) banksia behind the gate.

Amazingly that was our last tourist stop of the trip.

The remainder of the evening was spent getting home. We were pleased to get to see some of the landscape on the way home, but all too soon it got dark and we were tense from kangaroo patrol. The most horrible thing about the trip home was that not once, but twice birds flew straight into the car and died what I imagine to be grizzly, mangled, deaths. The first time I actually had to get out and remove the corpse form the radiator. This was so terribly distressing to me that I could not even bear to look and see what kind of bird it was that I had hit. Later a second bird kamikazed into the car. Both times I was travelling much slower than the speed limit and had no control of the situation. It ws an ineffably awful experience. As we got closer to Fremantle it was dark but we could see parts of Dryandra and Arluen(?) forests and we knew we wanted to come back and see them in the light. The way home was hopelessly complicated and we bobbed and turned and the last 20 kilometers seemed to take as long as the first 300. Fremantle is clearly a plce to leave, but not to return to.

We got home, unloaded the car and collapsed! it had been a long wonderful trip, but we were very glad to be back to our own beds, the washing machine and 100+ channel cable TV.

Up the Porongorups

October 5, 2006 (middle half)
(Remember you can click on most images to enlarge them).

We really did like our little cabin in the woods in the Porongorups. I did a morning walk while Mom slept in a bit and met a dog and saw lots of birds, none of whom wanted to be photographed. The back yard had a sensual mist in the morning and as the day grew the sheep came in to the field behind the house.

The cabin itself was decorated in a primitive kind of style, complete with papier mache frame on the mirror which looked like it was simply glopped on and then painted in a quick effort with bright blue paint (and some starlike flowers in yellow). There were several childlike paintings of flowers and with the bright colored bedding. I got to sleep in the bunk bed. Oh boy! The place was very cheerful. We even had satellite TV with 4 or so stations. The refrigerator in our cabin had a lovely cartoony map of the area with a list of the names of the peaks of the not too forbidding mountains nearby.

The park was only a block away, so after breakfast and packing up we headed to the Porongorup (just say Prongrup) National Park. This is not a park with a Nature Center or a lot of Ranger help and since it is mostly mountain hiking we decided to just pause briefly (don't we always decide this?) but of course we found more than we expected.

We stopped first at the Tree in the Rock site and both went to see the Tree in the Rock - a very large tree that managed to sprout and somehow sustain itself in a gigantic rock. The walk there was surprisingly short and of course just as we arrived at the parking place a whole bus load of Aussie tourists also unloaded with their walking sticks and back packs. Some were older, but it was clear that they were planning on doing some serious hiking and it looked like a fun outing. They all headed off to the Tree at the Rock at the same time as we did, but they moved faster than us and did not return as they had plans to climb one or more of the mountains that lay further along the path.

That picture above makes the whole thing look quite unimpressive and uninteresting really, but if you take a look at this next photo and see that little figure (Mom) standing next to the rock, the magnitude of the experience becomes a little bit clearer.

Wendy left Mom with all kinds of birds

to do some sketching

while she did the heritage trail which was short and mostly uninteresting. I did see this nice fungus ...

and also this termite hill.

I was not satisfied with the walk, so I decided to go a little ways up the trail that the hikers had followed past the tree in the rock.

I could hear the birds but never managed to see one except for a single bluebird that was brown and blue/green and not the ususal one we had seen in Pemberton. I kept climbing - noting that there were permanent climbing ropes installed and that I might have to stop anytime.

The view from close to the top of Nancy peak was lovely although a bit obscured by trees and then I knew I needed to race down to Mom who had been waiting patiently. (It is a mountain in the middle of the map if you click on the picture it will enlarge and you can read the names.)

We packed up and decided to head to the Stirling Range next.

These were larger mountains and we set a goal of driving on an unsealed road to look for the orchids and bell flowers.

We got ever closer as the little rental car plugged on up the hills and enjoyed the views of the mountains and hills and the yellow fields of canola nearby. (Which did not make it into the photos because the photographer was busy shifting gears.