Fremantle and finding the convict streak in me

There were around 167,000 convicts transported to Australia from the UK and now Republic of Ireland

My Great Grandfather and his brother were two of them.

Driven by the horrors and starvation of the Irish Famine, they resorted to stealing cattle and were sentenced to transportation to Australia for 10 years.

They arrived by ship in Fremantle in 1853 after a long and torturous voyage.

The gates of Fremantle Gaol greeted them. Built by convict slave labour to incarcerate convicts. Its a World Heritage Site along other buildings built by convict labour.

So I thought I should visit the spirit of my forebears

A wing of the old Fremantle Gaol has been turned into hostel accomodation. I booked a cell.

A double cell in fact as the wall between every second cell was knocked out to allow enough room to fit a modern single bed in.

So did my spirit mingle with my Great grand father’s? Well I don’t know but thoughts of him and his story of marrying and moving east as a frontier pioneer have certainly permeated my mind. Since I was in Fremantle.

The Round House a prison fort was the first public building in the new Swan River Settlement later to become Perth.

The Fremantle Gaol soon followed as a major public building.

Fremantle is now a major port city of many beautiful historic building

But in 1853 the sight would have been very different for the 309 convicts who arrived with my Great grandfather.

After 110 days sailing from England on a putrid sailing vessel, where 10 convicts had died on voyage, the land that greeted them was dry brown and barren compared to Ireland.

But their home had been gripped with famine since 1845. During ‘The Famine’ its estimated 1 million Irish people died from hunger or disease related to malnutrition and another 1 million migrated to America, Australia and other destinations to escape starvation and British brutality.

For some of the convicts, the sight of the Australian landscape must have been frightening for others a lucky escape from a desperate life.

Their ship arrived in September, the start of Spring in Australia but where they came from the start of Autumn and the cold wet months of Winter. Did they even know that the next months would be hot and dry. Hotter than they had ever experienced.

My Great grandfather was convicted at the age of 20. Since 15 he had only known hunger. After being imprisoned for two years he was transported and at 22 he landed in the Great Southern Land.

So dear friends and followers now that I’m back in Melbourne and can publish from a laptop rather than a smartphone. I will take you, in the next few posts, from Fremantle on the trek of an Irish/ Australian convict pioneer as he and his family moved east with the expanding frontier of the Western Australian Colony in the second half of the 1800s.

Time to test and set up the new bike – 2

A mob of sheep being hearded along the road side to confirm you are in rural Austratralia

That you are in the mid west of NSW

I waited till it was clear to skirt around the outside of the mob and the sheep dogs and farmer skilfully hearded the sheep into the selected paddock

You also know you are in mid west NSW when you set up tent in the back of the Premer Hotel and enjoy the hospitality and a few Schooners of Old.

But the purpose of the trip north was not to enjoy the mustering of sheep or the taste of a Tooheys old but to test the Steinbock’s comfort for long touring and to test its ability on some of my favourite riding roads. Also to test it on trails I had been reluctant on which to ride the mighty breva.

The Steinbock handled the beautiful roads of the Coffs Coast area of NSW with aplomb taking the beautiful Waterfall Way and its surrounding roads in its stride. AA full tick of approval indeed

But the real test was the Armidale to Kempsey back road that included 127 km of varying road surfaces through national parks and beautiful farming land. (see map above)

What a ride! I also became very aware of how tiring riding on trails iy is compares to road riding.

In the highlands south west of Kempsey are the beautiful Ellenborough Falls. The longest single drop falls in NSW

From to falls east there is there is the Flying Fox Refuge in Wingham on the Manning River

Not far from the coast and its beautiful beaches

The Motorcycle Museum at Nabiac is emblematic of the biker culture in this part Australia

And a travelling piecemeal adventurer can find like souls – lovers of bikes and boats

The test was complete and the ride back to Melbourne was direct and purposeful

As I write Melbourne and Victoria are in a circuit breaking lockdown.

Hopefully, these actions curtail the current outbreak of Covid 19 and I will soon be on my adventure to Central Australia via the Oodnadatta Track.

Stay tuned for updates!

A little walk in an old wild place

There is something about escaping to an old growth forest

A wild place

On a hot summers day and the beaches are crowded

There is something special about the cool air of a mountain

and a shade walk in an old growth forest

The view from the look out at the summit Mount Donnna Buang is a panorama across the top of Melbourne’s Yarra Ranges.

The summit walks are amongst alpine forests

Ghost gums and snow gums well spaced with low ferns and scrub

Even the remnants of an old alpine hut can be found.

Half way down the mountain the transition from alpine forest to temperate rain forest is complete

Giant mountain ash dominate the forest, along with myrtle beech

Along the gullies and waterways the tree ferns spread the wing like fronds

Parks Victoria provide some fantastic interpretation in Victoria’s parks. These two pieces I particularly liked.

Moonrise Sunset

There is a little place I go

A peaceful place that juts all so slightly, out into the bay

At the right time of the year

On the the night of a full moon

On a still cloudless night

When the water of the bay is smooth like the surface of a mirror

I can watch the moonrise

I can watch the sunset

Simultaneously

Look to the east and the moon makes its ascent

At first pale in the twilight

She creeps higher and higher slowly asserting her power over the night sky

Its her night

Once a month she fills the sky

As she rises its as if she is pushing the big red globe of the sun below the horizon

The sun as if in anger fills the sky with orange red

As if unwilling to leave the sky stage for the moons solo performance

Casting a pinkish reflected glow in the moons direction

But the suns end is inevitable

Soon the moon dominates the sky

less pale, more bright

casting her silver beam across the water.

The vapour pale of a jet

A rare sight in the Melbourne lockdown

Like a knife slash across the sunset sky.

Its a warm evening

Early spring

The first full moon of the spring equinox here in the southern hemisphere

I cycle around the peninsula

To catch the moon as she reaches her full glory

Spirit of Tasmania leaving port under a full moon

And there she is filling the sky with her soft silver light

Her glow sparkling on the water.

Lockdown Reflections 5 – Lake Nakuru – Kenya

Looking down from Baboon Cliff you can see why it is famous for its flamingos as the thick line of pink runs along the shoreline.

Lake Nakura sits in the south west of Kenya and is one of the many Rift Valley Lakes such as the Ethiopian lakes in my previous post.

But it’s when you get down to the lake edge that you really appreciate the beauty and number of the flamingos at Lake Nakuru.

Though the Flamingos are the main attraction as a RAMSAR site the birdlife is extensive. With:

Eagles

Marabou Stork

African Pelicans

And sitting by the Rhino’s ear the Oxpecker

The Oxpecker is the Rhino’s best mate. The bright eyed warning siren for the sleeping short sighted rhino. The Oxpecker keeps an eye out for the rhino’s predators as it feeds on the parasites in the Rhino’s hard hide.

The muddy shores of the lake is also a welcome home fpt Water Buffalo

In the forests surrounding the lake the are baboons;

Rothschild giraffes;

Waterbuck;

and cute little Deseys.

Lake Nakura is about 160km WNW of Nairobi.

This visit was over 15 years ago and from what I have read the park has been enlarged. It certainly a place that stays in one’s mind.