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.

Sailing Ships upon the Sea

1988 Hobart to Sydney Tall Ship Race

There is a certain romanticism of billowing sails carrying great ships across the sea

Distant shores unexplored

Harnessing the power of the wind

The power to cross vast oceans

The clouds of billowing sails

Masts reaching for the sky.

Ships from all parts of the world

Oman and the exotic east

The new world of the Americas

The old continents of Europe and Africa

These sailing giants covered the globe

As a young man I read and read Joseph Conrad and dreamt of the sea

My mind full of imaginary adventures in distant and exotic ports

The exotic ports of the trade winds in Lord Jim

The loneliness of being at sea and the weight of command in The Secret Sharer

The power of the weather and the sea in Typhoon

To be amongst the tall ships and the sailing tales of the crew

To sail away

Tech Note

These images were captured during the 1988 Hobart to Sydney Tall Ship Race on colour transparencies. I have rephotographed these with my digital camera using an Emora slide copier extension tube attached to the my camera lens.

Travel Vaccines and reflections of Africa – The Simien and Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

 

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If you have travelled to Africa it is most likely you would have been required to have a yellow fever vaccination – still required in many countries

I got my Yellow Card, proof of vaccination 20 years ago on my first trip to the African Continent.

Being in the Melbourne, Australia COVID 19 lockdown it is a good chance to reflect on the need for vaccination and travel and the relationship between the two.

The Simien Mountains

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The Simien Mountains are a World Heritage alpine area in the North of Ethiopia

Its also called the water tower of East Africa providing the source for the Blue Nile

The Blue Nile provides 80% of the water that reaches Egypt, flowing through Sudan where it meets with the White Nile to form the Nile River

 

With peaks up to 4,550 metres within the vast sprawling alpine range

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A range of deep gorges, rugged peaks and waterfalls plummeting thousands of metres

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The Simiens have unique flora and fauna

Such as the Giant Lobelia

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The endemic Gelada (or bleeding heart baboon) and Olive baboons

And if you look closely a Walia Ibex

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It was a three night trek through the Simiens

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Camping in the Alps

Amazing sunsets and the high plateau

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And watching the moon rise over the cliff tops from the gorges

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The Bale Mountains

The Simien Mountains are in the North East of Ethiopia and the Bale Mountains in the South East

Almost bookends at each end of the Ethiopian Central Highlands

The Simiens in the Amhara Region and the Bale in the Oromia Region

The Bale Mountains are drier less dramatic that the northern bookend

These mountains are the catchment for the Jubba River system

Which flows across Ethiopia and Somalia to the Indian Ocean

The Bale Mountains are more easily accessed than the Simiens

Far better for catching sightings of the Ethiopian Wolf

And the amazing bird life

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Also In the Bale Provence toward the Somalian Border is are the Sof Omar Caves

Its well over a decade since I travelled in these mountains with my family.

And yes a vaccine for Yellow Fever was compulsory

Maybe compulsory vaccinations will be more widespread for travellers in the future given COVID-19

Not Travelling in the time of Coronavirus- Melbourne lock down clips my wings

The second Melbourne, Australia lock down has just been implemented

After being in and out of lock downs in Spain and England and quarantine in a Melbourne Hotel, this second lockdown in Melbourne has finally anchored me.

 

Famous landmarks of the usually bustling city cast with an almost ghostly quietness

Even the usually bustling Victoria Market with its colourful displays of produce, like the life has been sucked out of its ancient stalls and sheds

 

No queuing four deep at my favourite stall

Chance meeting with someone I hadn’t seen for a while

Little is left to chance in the time of coronavirus

At the eastern end of the city

The Monuments, the Shrine of Remembrance  and the Old Observatory along with Gardens and the floral clock stand alone

 

In the lanes and alleyways of the inner city

Usually vibrant

The graffiti almost mocks the quiet desolation

 

The next 6 weeks (the length of this lockdown) will be a time and thought of what has been and what will be.

Something different to share over the coming weeks.

Travelling in the time of Coronavirus 7 – Quarantine in Australia

Back in Australia and in mandatory quarantine

14 days seems easy but not for a wanderer

Caught in a gilded cage

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Moonrise over Melbourne

A room with a view

Five star

But maybe its just Welcome to Hotel Coronafornia

‘We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave’

Its all part of the war on Covid 19

The WAR

I have a song by War playing in my head.

‘Four Cornered Room’

The refrain

‘As I sit in my four corned room’

And though this cage is nicely gilded

For me

Luxury is no substitute for liberty

My home on my travels for the last half dozen years

In Australia and Europe

Has been my little tent

And the amazing places we have visited

Which have included:

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Route Napoleon, France

Garvov, Romania

St Leon sur Vezere, France

Picos de Europa, Spain

Hirtshals, Denmark

Snowy Mountains, Australia

The Coorong, Australia

Daintree Rainforest, Australia

So as I sit in my four cornered room

In a gilded cage of 5 star luxury

I know nothing can compensate for the loss of freedom of movement

Though confinement is hard I have passed 7 days of the 14 in quarantine

The light is bright at the end of the confinement tunnel

And life will slowly return to normal

As I write this cannot help but reflect on how cruelly Australia is treating refugees it holds in indefinite detention

In terrible and dangerous conditions.

Their only crime escaping tyranny in search of liberty 

Australia has certainly become a world leader in confining people

Travelling in the time of Coronavirus 6- Tides and Time

Low tide and high tide Rye Harbour

As humanity sits in lockdown

Seemingly hibernating

Time standing still the world and tides rise and fall

River entrance low and high tide

And for many life goes on almost unabated

The fisherman returning of the flood tide after another night alone on the Celtic Sea

The flood tide filling the river and spreading out over the salt marsh

For the fisherman every night is social distance

Alone with on the end less waves, the sky and sea birds for companionship

The tides of time go on ebbing and flowing like the water round the old wreck

Ebbing and flowing in time less motion

Last night over the Celtic Sea the Easter Pink Supermoon rose

In a sort of bright isolated orb in the darkness

Casting it’s beam like a stream of rose gold

Like it has for millenea.

Rye Harbour pier low and high tide

And the tides keep turning