The Murray and Darling rivers converge at Wentworth. These rivers form the Murray – Darling Basin which is an area important for both food production and environmental diversity.
The Murray starts in the Australian Alps near Mount Kosciusko fed by snow melt and Alpine rain. The Darling is fed by the monsoons of northern Australia. In the photo you can see the muddy water of the Darling in the foreground as it mergers into blue water of the Murray.
I camped 20km down stream of the rivers junction on the banks of the Murray.
Beside the Murray River as it slowly rolls south west to the Southern Ocean around 500km away.
In many ways the Murray forms the southern boundary of the Outback or at least the southern east corner of the hot dry lands that are the outback.
I had ridden up from a cultural holiday in Adelaide and this was the first stop on the edge of the outback that would lead me to Mungo National Park (my next stop) then up the Darling to Bourke (previous post).
Leaving the banks of the Murray it was onto the dirt roads to get out to Mungo National Park – A World Heritage area.
It was hot and I was happy to set up my tent under a shady tree
The Park was once sheep station and the old shearing shed a relic of those times.
Mungo National Park has both colonial and aboriginal history. The colonial history goes back a century or so. The aboriginal history is an over 46,000 years continual association with the land.
This long association was confirmed with the finding of the remains Mungo Man and Mungo Lady. These remains that have been dated as 46,000 years old. These are the oldest homosapian remains found on the Australian Continent. These are also some of the oldest examples of ritualistic burial any where in the world. If you want more information follow this link: https://learn.culturalinfusion.org.au/story-of-mungo-man-and-mungo-lady/
Another feature of Lake Mungo is the sand dunes that stretch for 135km across the horizon like the walls of China, but nature made.
Areas of dunes are called Lunettes because of the luna type landscape. But in these dunes are artefacts tens of thousands of years old.
At sunset the dunes tale on a redish hue as the sun burns the sky orange and red.
That night I slept with wonderment of the place and what a tiny spec modern humanity is on the universe while sleeping under the milky way.
In the morning I did a tour of the dunes with an aboriginal ranger. As part of the tour I help artefacts 10,000 years old and heard stories of the land, this place that had been passed down from generation to generation in the oldest continuous culture in the world. Stories and rituals that had their origin back 46,000 years ago.
As I left Lake Mungo there was a Sand Goanna on the side of the road.
I thought it was wishing me a fond farewell but, looking back, I think that it was a sign that the 350+km of dirt road I had before me to get to Bourke was going to be a difficult and sandy ride.
Budj Bim in Western Victoria and the Cooring in south Eatern South Australia are beautiful and spiritual places. Particularly spiritual for the Australian Aboriginal people who have occupied and cared for the land for 10,000 years.
The purpose of the trip was to meet up with friends from Adelaide at Kingston SE which sits at the southern end of the Coorong. It also claims to be the lobster capital of Australia!
Budj Bim National Park was a stop on route.
The campground is noted for its families of koalas. Beautiful to see but their growling and grunting through the night makes sleeping a challenge!
The park is set around an old volcano. In the park there are small lava tubes and lava canals you can explore as you walk around the old crater.
The basalt rock covers the local most of the local landscape. On the road out to Tae Rak (Lake Condah) there is Tumuli (lava blisters). Unique basalt rock blisters dotted on the landscape.
Tae rak (Lake Condah) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tae Rak incorporates the oldest aquaculture farm in the world. An Eel farm that has operated for 6500 years
Due to recent heavy rains the lake was full of water and the still day meant the water was mirror smooth
At the cultural centre I joined a cultural tour with an aboriginal guide.
It’s about a half day ride from Budj Bim to Kingston SE and the Southern Ocean and an extra special sunset.
The Coorong is formed as the estuary of the Murray River (Australia’s longest river) where is flows into the Southern Ocean.
The Coorong is a series of lakes running south for 200km from the Mouth of the Murray. The lakes are separated from the ocean by high sand dunes.
The lakes vary from almost dry saline ponds to deep expanses of water brimming with wild life.
Climbing over the dunes the Southern Ocean is wild and cold and pretty much deserted.
Of course I could resist taking a dip in the cold ocean.
The Coorong was the setting for the famous Australian movie Storm Boy. Also in the documentary Wash My Soul that examines the life and music of Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach there is stunning cinema photography of the Coorong.
Dotted around the lakes are reminders of colonial settlement like the well dug by Chinese immigrants as they made the long walk from South Australia to the Victorian goldfields in the early 1800s.
In my 2022 travels this was my December trip. There was lots of water in the Coorong which was beautiful. The big flood waters that fell in NSW and Victoria in November are still yet to reach the Coorong and the Ocean. Maybe another visit in the next month or so to see the lakes in flood is on the cards.
A bit like opposite ends of road touring in Australia. The BMW adventure bike and my friend’s EV.
But at low tine the intricate stonework of the traps are revealed.
And a trip to this area is not complete without a ride in the mountain rainforest.
Unfortunately the changeable and wild weather that has been happening on Australia’s east coast cut my time and I had to come back to Melbourne early.
As I had a swim this afternoon this tern was flying overhead.
Its soon time for me to fly
In a couple of weeks its across the world to England to see my sister, collect my Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 stored there and then head across Spain to Morocco to recommence the journey of adventure there, which was cut short by pandemic in 2020.
Well readers you can see why this blog is called a discontinuous narrative as I bounce back a few posts and rejoin the tale of my Great Grand Father Edmund Cahill and his pioneering life in Western Australia.
The rolling hills around York and a ready water supply from the Avon River made the area favourable for grazing and by 1851 convicts, like Edmund, were sent to the area to expand the settlements and to colonise the lands.
Convicts built new settlements like Toodyay 64 km, north of York, where the old mill and hotel show its early prosperity. Northam become the major town in the district when the trainline to the gold towns further west was routed through it.
Settlements like Greenhills have all but disappeared with only the old pub left.
Others like Beverly have reborn as areas of tourism and art.
As settlement spread more and more the Ngoongar Aboriginal people were displaced. But they never ceded their land.
In the 1847 Spanish monks had established a monastical village, New Norcia as a base for missionary activities in Western Australia. It was here the many aboriginal children stolen from their parents were trained as maids and servants and deprived of their own ancient culture.
In Northam the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Cultural Centre provides in its building the story of dispossession, the frontier wars and the families broken and the children taken away.
The treatment of the Australian Aborigines, the disrespect for and destruction of their culture, is in my view marks the worst aspect of European colonisation. It was a brutal destruction. I think there is nothing more emblematic of the destruction of the culture than the stealing of Aboriginal children form their parents, a process that was undertaken in Australia for 100 years from 1869 -1969 as part of the policy of Australian Governments.
Despite it all this, below is the last piece a visitor reads before leaving the centre.
Edmund and his brother were most likely part of this dispossession as they successfully farmed their land. Young Irish convicts themselves stolen from their family and land, having been driven to stealing by the famine and the seizing of crops and livestock by the English overlords . Transported from their homeland that had been struck by famine and forced on a long dangerous voyage to the hot dry strange land.
They also pined for home. The Tipperary School in York an example of the Irish calling out to home.
But for Edmund, his wife Bridget and family, success in farming wasn’t enough and when in 1887 gold was found nearly 300 km west of York followed the gold rush to the new settlement of Southern Cross. In Southern Cross there is a monument to the pioneers. The Shovel and Pick representing the miners and the Scythe and Rake representing the farmers.
In moving to Southern Cross they really did start a new life. Edmund changed his name to Edward and claimed to be 10 years younger than his age. Why he did this is unclear. Whether it was to escape his convict past or to make himself available for a position suitable for a younger man or some other reason, Im left to guess. Its a sign of the times that a man who was prominent in society could make such a change.
Edward lived in Southern Cross until his passing on 24 April 1895 at the reported aged of 55. (but he was born in Ireland in 1830 so really 65). On the edge of Southern Cross there is a list of those who were buried in the original cemetery (now destroyed)
In the Southern Cross Museum I found a transcript of Edmund/Edward’s obituary which had been posted in the Southern Cross Herald. It states he was ‘one of the first residents of the town’, ‘was held in high esteem’ and ‘was a former resident of York’.
But the family had contracted gold fever and following Edmunds death Bridget and her two youngest children, Patrick (My Grandfather) and Michael with their families headed further east, to the edge of the desert, chasing gold that had been found in and around Kalgoorlie. That’s a tale for another time.
In my journey through Australia last year I was determined to make myself open to Australian Aboriginal culture and through that make my own connection to the land. It has been an experience that has affected my greatly and has allowed me to at least have some understanding of aboriginal connection to the land and how beautiful and powerful that is.
Seeking out my family history at the same time allowed me to feel the longing for their homeland my fore bares felt and to some small extent maybe I do. Maybe its my once ginger hair which is part of the Celtic gene that makes me feel that way.
I have travelled to Ireland twice and will likely return again. On my last visit there, (look for Ireland in the drop down menus) I was in a pub in Bantry. I had just finished a pint of Guinness when another was plonked in front of me. I looked up at the barman and was about to speak when he said – ‘the boss said you have an Irish head on ya, this ones on the house’ – says it all really!