Apart from this blog, I write The Bobby Dazzler Newsletter (BDN) which is mostly about the Australian Outback, but sometimes wanders off the Outback track a bit. It comes out by email every two months, and produces some interesting responses, so I decided to start this blog where these responses could be discussed, plus other odds and ends which don’t fit into the newsletter. There are now more than 200 articles (“posts”) below, most of which have not appeared in the Newsletter.

Please feel free to add a comment to any of the posts, and also to suggest new topics which may be of interest (by adding a comment to this post). By the way, you don’t have to use your real name.

To subscribe to the Newsletter, and for more details about how to use this blog, click on “About this Blog” above.

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A Road Trip from Sydney to Uluru – Day 1

Before I stopped doing regular Bobby Dazzler trips, I was a bit reticent about giving a detailed account of my itineraries for fear that lots of people would start using them, and the splendid isolation of travelling on lonely Outback roads would be lost. I probably needn’t have worried.

Anyway, there’s no longer need for that concern, so here are a few of my Sydney to Uluru secrets – feel free to take advantage of them. Bear in mind that there are all manner of options and alternatives that might make the trip more enjoyable for your particular set of circumstances, personnel and interests. I am writing about a trip for four adults in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

For readers who have no expectations of ever getting to Australia, this account may be the closest you’ll get to ever doing a road trip to Uluru. Enjoy!

Day 1: Sydney to Parkes (370 km)

I’ve found it helpful to make the first day a bit leisurely, to allow time for picking up passengers, packing the car, etc. We follow the Great Western Highway (A32) as far as Orange. If passengers are for any reason unfamiliar with the route we are taking, they will probably enjoy some detours along the way, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains (first crossed by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in 1813, maximum height about 1200 metres) being a must. Echo Point on a fine day is breath-taking, and riding the Scenic Railway likewise (but maybe daunting for some). Unfortunately “The Edge”, a famous giant-screen movie about the Blue Mountains, which was for many years screened every day in Katoomba, is no longer showing.

Blackheath’s a good spot for morning tea – turn right into the main street, and try the Victory Theatre Antique Centre and Café (the collection of antiques and all manner of old things is enormous!) Also “Trains, Planes & Automobiles” if you’ve got any interest in toys, especially toy trains, is a fascinating shop. And just 2.5km out of the town is the famous Govett’s Leap — not to be missed. “A story, almost certainly apocryphal, recounts how a bushranger named Govett was being pursued by the police. Determined not to be taken alive, Govett spurred his horse over the cliff and dropped 450 m to his death on the rocks below.”

Govetts Leap

Back on the highway, just as you approach the steep descent of the Victoria Pass, there’s a dirt road turnoff on the left to a lookout – well worth a squiz at the spectacular views.

Then on across the Central Tablelands of NSW to Bathurst, the oldest inland town in Australia, and site of the famous Mt Panorama motor racetrack. (If you’re a petrol-head, you can drive around it when there are no races on.) Turn left into William Street, the main street, where there are some attractive old buildings, then right into Russell St to see the magnificent Court House. And did you know that in 1836, Charles Darwin was visiting Australia, and “hired a man & two horses to take [him] to Bathurst…to get a general idea of the country”? Even today, by the time we reach Bathurst, city dwellers are starting to feel they’ve shaken off the urban shackles. Continue on Russell St to rejoin the Highway.

It’s a pleasant run through gold-fields country (see the evidence in the village of Lucknow) from there to Orange, which is maybe time for a lunch stop – plenty of options available. (Maybe get some take-away food, and eat it in the beautiful Cook Park in the main street.) It’s worth taking a run through a few of the side streets (particularly on the northern side of the main street) to see some very elegant old country houses. Just as you’re leaving the town, veer left off the highway onto the Escort Way, then 27 km later, turn right onto Henry Parkes Way. You’ll notice at that junction a stone monument marking a significant point for Sir Thomas Mitchell’s early exploratory expeditions.

Mitchell monument

The inscription reads:

From this vicinity Sir Thomas Mitchell`s Second Expedition proceeded on April 7, 1835 to the Darling River,
His Third Expedition on March 19, 1836 to Australia Felix (Western Victoria),
And his Fourth Expedition on December 15, 1845 to Tropical Australia (Central Queensland).

As you pass through Manildra, you’ll become aware you’re now in wheat country – the silos totally dominate the town!

Parkes is a pleasant country town, named after Sir Henry Parkes, the “Father of Federation”, whose statue graces the main street. If you need to book accommodation, I recommend the Clarinda Motel, 72 Clarinda St, on your left as you’re coming into town. The phone number is (02) 6862 1655. For your evening meal, there are a number of dining options in town, but we often go to the Parkes Leagues Club in the main street.

Although Day 1 has not even taken us off the bitumen, most people find it an interesting and enjoyable start. Tomorrow we hit some dirt roads on the Western Plains, so get a good night’s sleep, and be ready for adventure.

To be continued.

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Try Some Exploring

This blog has been running for more than six years, and contains more than 220 posts (articles), mostly about the Australian Outback. If you haven’t been a regular reader, I can tell you it would take you quite a while to scan through them all.

But if you’d like to get a feeling for some of the interesting material the blog contains, why not try using the “Search for a subject” facility in the column on the right to find things. For example, click in the Search box, then type “boab” and then click on “Search”, and you’ll find an article about the mysterious boab trees found in the Kimberley region of north-west Australia.

Here are some other suggestions to get you interested:

  1. Search for “anzac biscuits”. Did you know that Australia has a national biscuit? And why it’s called “anzac”?
  2. Search for “Len Beadell”, and find out about the last Australian explorer.
  3. Search for “dunedoo”, and discover a town that wanted to create a surprising “big thing”.
  4. Search for “betoota”, and find out about a town with an unusual population.
  5. Search for “outbackistan” – one of the least known of the “stans”.
  6. Search for “dog fence”, and read about why Australia built the world’s longest fence to try to keep the dogs out.
  7. Search for “Ogden Nash”, and find out why he gets mentioned in a blog about the Outback.
  8. Search for “greatest drover”. Do you know who is regarded as the holder of this title in Australia?
  9. Search for “Eddie Mabo”, and read about an unusual angle on the court case which made Eddie Mabo a household name in Australia.
  10. Search for “speewah”. Whereabouts in Australia would you expect to find it?

And there are dozens of other things you could read about:   bulldust, yuppies, bunyips, Mario’s Palace, bush retread, Clancy@TheOverflow, quandongs, willy willy, Talc Alf, brolgas, gibbers, bower birds, poetry wars, emu whispering, Lasseter, glamping, The Big Worm, brolgas, Outback Wave …….

Why not take half an hour and find out a few things you didn’t know about the Australian Outback?

And to be notified by email every time there’s a new post, just click on “Follow Blog via Email” in the panel on the right, and supply your email address.

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Outback Oddities #1

camel carrying pianola 2

The first camels were brought to Australia in 1840, but a total of only seven prior to 1860, when 24 were brought to be used in the Burke and Wills Expedition. Nearly all the camels brought here have been dromedaries, ie. the single-humped kind.

There were used by exploring parties, and, as remote areas started to be settled by non-indigenous people, for transporting goods before the advent of trains and trucks. As you can imagine, a heavily loaded camel does not travel at 100 miles an hour, and hence a lengthy trip could take many days. The camels would have to be unloaded each evening, and then reloaded the following morning to resume the trip.

And when the load included a piano, this was no easy matter! Imagine the scene: the camel is comfortably sitting down on its haunches after a pleasant night’s sleep, when three or four blokes manoeuvre the piano crate over next to it, tie it onto the camel, and then start making noises in camel talk which mean “Come on, get up, you lazy brute. It’s time to go.” “Easier said than done” thinks the camel. I’m glad I wasn’t born a camel!

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Big Living Things

Earlier this year, my daughter Kate walked the Bibbulmun Track, a 1000-kilometre walking track stretching through the forest from Kalamunda, an eastern suburb of Perth, to Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. It took her 63 days. She wrote about her experience in this month’s issue of the “Bobby Dazzler Newsletter”. If you’d like a free email subscription to the six-issues-a-year newsletter – which is mainly about the Australian Outback – just email me at brennan@bba.com.au. Mention Kate, and I’ll make sure you get a copy of the issue about Kate’s adventure.

big tree

The “Bibb” as the track is called takes you through some of the mighty forest lands of south-west Western Australia, home of the jarrah and karri trees, among the world’s tallest trees.

The picture above shows Kate and a burnt out karri tree. Karris (eucalyptus diversicolor) can grow to over 90 metres (300 feet). The jarrah (eucalyptus marginata) manages only about 45 metres (147 feet), but its timber is regarded as one of the best general purpose hardwoods in the world. The figure of the man standing beside the jarrah tree gives you an idea of its height. It is claimed that jarrah wood contains a high level of alcohol – which can somehow be extracted. Australian bush poet Dryblower Murphy wrote a poem called “Comeanavajarrah”.

jarrah tree 2

Construction of the railway line from Port Augusta to the north (which began in 1878) used some one and a half million karri and jarrah sleepers from Western Australia. Some of them can still be seen beside the long abandoned line.

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Just a Decade Ago

This has nothing in particular to do with the Outback, but I thought it was worth drawing attention to the fact that today marks exactly ten years since the first Apple iPhone was sold in 2007.

There were of course already other mobile phones in use — some almost as big as a house brick — with brand names such as Blackberry and Nokia.

iPhone and Jobs

But the iPhone was different. Steve Jobs likened it to an iPod together with a touch screen, a revolutionary phone, and an internet connection capability. A “smart phone” indeed!

It had no games, no GPS, no front camera, no flash. Imagine — you could not take a video, or a selfie! There was no Facebook! And now, just ten years later, any teenager in the land who had to get by with the original iPhone would feel massively disadvantaged.

Have smart phones made the world a better place? Have we become better communicators, or worse? Would you feel lost without your smart phone? Please share your thoughts in a comment.


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Under the Influence

A recent post on this blog titled “Big is Beautiful?” (June 2) led to some interesting points being made in the comments from various readers. I suspect that not all readers bother looking at the comments (which can be viewed by clicking on the place right at the bottom of a post where it says for example “7 comments”). Sometimes there are real gems to be found there.

I had mentioned that most people can recall books which have been influential at particular stages of their life, and readers responded with their own influential books. Here’s a list of the books they told us about:

As children:

The “Just William” books by Richmal Crompton. These were a favourite of mine. I have to confess that I have just discovered in the process of writing these notes, that Richmal Crompton was a woman! I had just assumed that a person who wrote many books about schoolboys and their exploits, and who had a name like “Richmal”, was a man. Her first book in the series, titled “Just William”, gets 4½ stars on Amazon.

Reach for the Sky” by Paul Brickhill is the story of Douglas Bader, the legless hero of the Battle of Britain. Reader Ken Hungerford particularly remembers Bader quoting the saying “Rules were made for the obedience of fools and guidance of wise men”. 4½ stars on Amazon.

My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. About a city boy who runs away from home to live alone in a hollowed-out tree in the mountains. 4½ stars on Amazon.

As adults:

Small is Beautiful” by E F Schumacher. Subtitled “Economics as if People Mattered”, and, although first published in 1973, is still very relevant for today’s world. 4½ stars on Amazon.

A Fortunate Life” by A B Facey. The classic autobiography of an Australian who faced enormous hardship, but continued to regard himself as “fortunate”. 5 stars on Amazon.

The Dunny Man” by John D Gardner. Subtitled “Taking Care of Business”, this is the story of the men who provided this important service in Australia until less than 50 years ago. Described by reader Richard Kessling as not so much influential as “diverting”. Not stocked by Amazon.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder. This novel is a classic enquiry into the “why” of events involving human tragedy. 4 stars on Amazon.

Germinal” by Émile Zola. This novel is centred around the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanity’s capacity for compassion and hope. 4½ stars on Amazon.

Interesting I think that the predominant theme in most of these books is not the “cheerful Charlie” side of life, but rather the difficulties and hardships that many experience. Maybe that’s what inspires people, and influences them to strive to do their best in spite of the roadblocks put in their way. As someone said, “Aim for the stars. Even if you don’t make it, you may land on a mountain top.”

How about telling us (in a comment) about one or more books which have been particularly influential in your life? Your fellow readers will be grateful (in a world where there are literally millions of books to choose from) for some clues about which ones to read in the limited time available.

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Any Kangatarians Here?

Need something to talk about at the next cocktail party? How about trying this line:

            “Anyone here a kangatarian?”

Of course, you’ll need to know what a kangatarian is, and that’s where Bobby Dazzler’s Blog comes to your aid. A kangatarian is a person who will not eat meat except for kangaroo meat. You could say it’s a vegetarian who will also eat kangaroo meat.

I came across this when the Australian National University in conjunction with Oxford University Press (Oz & NZ division) announced that the “Oxford Word of the Month” for June is indeed “kangatarian”. And that both “kangatarian” and “kangatarianism” are being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary. Pretty exciting stuff – unless you’re a kangaroo.

They tell us that “some of the appeal of eating kangaroo meat in preference to other meat is because it is thought to be healthier (it is a naturally lean meat), but kangatarians chiefly find the diet appealing on environmental grounds, because it does not rely on large-scale husbandry practices as other meat production does. Attempts to encourage a reluctant Australian public to eat more kangaroo meat, however, would probably entail the adoption of some of these practices.”

Kangaroo meat

Kangaroo meat is available in many Australian supermarkets, and is generally cheaper than beef.

I can remember having trouble convincing some overseas visitors that there is such a thing as kangaroo tail soup, and I take this opportunity to present convincing evidence that there is. Just try doing a Google search on “kangaroo tail soup recipe” or “canned kangaroo tail soup”.

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