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.

Jewels in the South of Western Australia-Denmark and Esperence/Cape Le Grand

After months in the hot tropics of northern Australia and the arid dry coast of central Western Australia arriving in the cool damp southern parts of the state was a sharp change of environment.

The area was cool and moist with rain never far off and a swim in the Southern Ocean is nothing short of bracing.

The landscape around the river and lake is quite beautiful.

But for my the highlight was walking through the coastal forest of Black Butt, Paper Bark and Melaleuca trees.

With the colour of wildflowers and moss sprinkled through

Around 350km east of Denmark is the city of Esperance with the Cape Le Grand National Park near by.

The coast at Cape Le Grand is wild in natural beauty etched by the wind and water.

It’s the quartz in the granite rock formations that makes the sand the whitest in Australia.

In an environment like this I could not help but scale a peak

Or take a dip in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.

Cape le Grand was such a peaceful beautiful place.

A mother kangaroo happy to show off her baby joey.

Maybe we should all pause a time and think about the beauty of the natural world because it is nature that sustains us.

Maybe can all stand up like the people of little Denmark did in the lead up the World Climate Change Conference and say We Can Do It by cherishing our natural world.

The wild flower trail of Western Australia

Moving inland from Kalbarri I hit the inland wild flower trail.

Wild flowers in Western Australia (WA) are unique and can be found from Kalbarri to Esperance. 1200km of colour! Some flowers and shrubs are unique to a region other more wide spread.

These wreath flowers, are regionally unique to the the northern section of the wildflower trail.

I found these wreath flowers in Perenjori.

Out near the rabbit proof fence made famous by the movie of the same name. A movie based on the plight of aboriginal children stolen from their families.

The Kangaroo Paw is another endemic plant of the state.

Then there are the native orchids, orchids with spidery antenae and other with thick petals like cow lips.

And oh the Banskia candles

Gevillia, daisies, lillies, colourful flowers in the scrub. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of these beautiful wild flowers that I could fill a hundred blogs.

Lost in their beauty as I travelled thousands of kilometres in many ways awe struck by these onders of nature.

So I will finish with a selection of nature colour.

Kalbarri coastal cliffs and beaches

The coastal cliffs of Kabarri are steep and dramatic

With some spectacular rock formations and secluded beaches.

A rugged terrain where a wild goat can safely find a cave to hide away in.

Given I have adopted for my BMW motorbike the German name for goat, Steinbock, it was appropriate I spotted this old Billy Goat resting in his cave.

Closer to the river mouth the cliffs drop away but the sandstone rock ledgers provide a barrier against the surf.

Making calm rockholes for swimming. Suitable for fish and human.

I see fish and fish see me!

The river estuary is a perfect spot to catch the pelicans on the wing at dusk.

The setting sun

And the equinoctial full moon rising on my last night in Kalbarri.

Kalbarri and its National Park

The town of Kalbarri sits at the point where the Murchison River meets the sea.

The Kabarri National Park has two parts to it. The area around the Murchison River Gorge and the Coastal cliffs.

I spent most of my time at the Gorge so let me start there.

The Skywalk over the gorge is definitely a highlight of the Kalbarri National Park.

The views from the Skywalk are definitely spectacular and this is by far the most accessible part of the Gorge.

Not too far from the Skywalk is Natures Window, a remarkable rock formation on a ledge overlooking the Gorge.

Of course such a rock formation invites a photo in the window !

Further on from.the Natures Window there was another lookout that looked out over the Murchison River.

Beautiful views but even better there was a steep track down into the Gorge.

The track down followed the path of a pretty much dry waterfall and was quite steep.and narrow in places.

It was beautiful down in the Gore, the river water flowing and cool and yes I did go for a swim but I will spare your dear readers an inwater selfie for now!

That night back in Kalbarri I found out that there was better access to the river further inland. That was the next days hike.

At the point the Gorge was less steep and lower but the rock formation amazingly coloured and carved by the river, which has beaches and broad deep swimming holes.

And yes how could I not resist a swim.

Hiking a little further up the river I came upon a family of black swans.

Mother, father and 5 little cygnets not long out of the nest by the size of them.

The black swan is the symbol of Western Australia and a definite sign that I was now in the more temperate parts of Australia as the Swan lives in the cooler southern parts of the continent.

Murchison Gorge was another of the amazing rivers that flow through the arid parts of Australia.

A reminder that water is life. Water is our most precious resource.