Author Archives: outbackgirl

Burnt to a Crisp – But Alive Thanks to the RFDS

19 Dec 17
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The following experience has been very kindly written and submitted by Jay Mckinlay of ‘The Travelling Housesitters’. All about the amazing Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).

RFDS plane. Courtesy WikiMedia Creative Commons – Share Alike 3.0 Australia License. Att: Bidgee

My name is Jay. I am a 28 year old New Zealander who has spent the most part of the past nine years slowly travelling around the world, experiencing different countries, cultures and working different jobs. Many, many different jobs.

One particular job was working on a farm smack bang in the middle of southern Western Australia. The nearest town, Ravensthorpe, was about 80 kilometres away. I was living and travelling with my friend Cam, from back in New Zealand. We had met up on the Gold Coast a few months previously to starting this job. This is where I had my experience with the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

It was Monday April 16th. The boss had gone away on a long awaited family holiday up north in the Pilbara, before the seeding season started. We had a decent list of work to get through over the next two weeks and were eager to get started making our way through the list. There was a lot of general clean up and farm maintenance to do. One job stood out and looked like a lot of fun. Knocking down and burning off some trees that were in the middle of one of the paddocks.

We jumped in the truck and loader and made the 30 minute drive over to paddock number 17 where the trees needed to be taken care of. I got in the loader and started taking down the trees and scraping them into a pile and Cam got the petrol/diesel mix ready to doust on the fire to get it going. Without any hiccup we lit the first pile and the stack of trees erupted into flame and burned away.

The fire with machinery in background

‘After the first stack was alight we worked away at the second pile, using the same process again. However, this time I didn’t see Cam doust the pile in the petrol/diesel mix. Boy-o-boy was I wrong! Just as I struck the match, I noticed on the tree that branches were dripping with the deadly mix. 

Just as I struck the match I heard Cam yelling out – but it was too late. All around me erupted into a big fireball. I was shot back two or three metres where I blacked out for a second before coming to – I was screaming and rolling around on the hard and sharp stubble of last year’s crops. 

Listen people – at school, when they teach you to STOP, DROP AND ROLL, they are not joking – this method is extremely effective for putting yourself out.

I was burnt to a crisp. My face, my chest, right arm, my back and right leg were in agony. Being a summer’s day in Western Australia, it was 40 odd degrees celsius and we were only wearing work boots, work shorts and sunglasses. So everything was exposed and ready for a roasting.

‘Cam came running over to me. At this point I was still in agony, shock and very unsure about what had just happened. The pain was almost too much to handle. I couldn’t think, talk or even start to fathom what to do.

‘Cam, being the quick thinker that he is, doused his t-shirt with our drinking water and told me to hold that on my face, which was, at this point, felt like it was half gone. We jumped back into the work truck and Cam drove the old girl as fast as humanly possible back tot he farm house. Neither of us had ever experienced burns before and we had no idea what to do. Cam suggested we turn the shower on and I sat in there while he phoned the local hospital, which was about an hour and a half drive away. They advised they would send an ambulance but it would be at least an hour. 

This was not an option – we told the hospital we were driving there – NOW.

Next minute, we had a couple of ice packs on my face and we were driving the boss’ new work ute 200 kilometres per hour down state highway 40, towards Ravensthorpe.

Updating the hospital on my condition along the way, we reached the hospital in record time. Running inside I started yelling: “I’m the guy with the burns. I need some help!” They quickly checked me out and put me back in a cold shower. By this time I had come out of shock and could string a sentence together and almost think straight. After an hour in the shower I was advised I needed to get out of the shower, in case hypothermia set in (even though it still felt like I was on fire).

‘The doctor gave me a thorough check out and explained to me there was a plane flying in from Perth and I would be getting picked up in about four hours. I asked if they could just give me some burn cream and send me home. This was met with a very serious: “No, Jayden, your condition is actually quite serious. You are going to need surgery.”  My heart sank. I was in so much pain and running on so much adrenalin I was unaware of my current state. 40% of my body was badly burned. I really did need some help.

The good news was that there was some morphine on the way for me. Finally, the four hours of agony were about to come to an end. The next couple of hours went by fast with the help of the pain relief. I was advised that there was an ambulance outside and it was to take me to a road about 30 minutes away where the RFDS could land the plane to take me to Royal Perth Hospital.

Wrapped up in bandages and nearly ready to go

‘I was wrapped up in bandages and set off in the ambulance. The ride was over in no time. We parked up the side of the road and after about five minutes I could hear a plane. The plane landed on the dirt road and came to a stop next to the ambulance. By this stage, details get a little vague as the morphine was doing its job really, really well.

‘I was loaded into the plane and was advised I would be landing in Perth in about one and a half hours, where another ambulance would be collecting me and taking me to the Royal Perth Hospital’s Burns Unit. The best in the southern hemisphere.

Right hand after surgery.

We took off on the bumpy dirt road and we were shortly enroute to Perth. I know I was chatting away to the doctor that was in the back with me – however, I could not tell you what I was saying. About 40 minutes into the flight I was informed we would be making a detour – there was an older gentleman who had had a car accident and was in desperate need of being collected. As I was now happily in my little morphine world I thought this was great! More flying time! We collected the gentleman and were back enroute. The rest of the flight went without any further delays and we landed at Perth airport and I was whisked away to the Royal Perth Hospital where I was greeted by my dad. Who, coincidentally, had flown into Perth from New Zealand that evening, for work up north. It still amazes me how things work out and he was there for me.

Right side after surgery

‘Now fast forward five years. I am all recovered from the accident. The work that was done on my face by Fiona Stanley was nothing short of remarkable. To this date, you cannot tell that I was ever burned. All the bills from the ambulances, plane, surgery and four weeks in hospital added up to around $AU500,000.00. I like to claim I am a half-million-dollar man! Now I don’t want to get deep and sound cliche, but having an experience such as this has made me appreciate everything in my life. It has also made me want to keep travelling, exploring and doing what I love.

‘Right now, I am writing this from the international departures terminal five at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, waiting to board a flight to Bangkok. I am travelling with my partner, Brittnay. Together we form ‘The Travelling Housesitters’ and we travel the world pet sitting, exploring and having fun.’







Thank you so much for this, Jay. A fascinating read and giving the world a bit of an idea of how medical emergencies can be treated in Australia’s rural and remote areas.







And Then We Were In Newman

31 Jul 17
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Finally, we reached Newman. Not sure what I was expecting but, as with all the outback towns I have visited or passed through – I was very pleasantly surprised. Newman is a lovely mining town in the Pilbara region of outback Western Australia. After checking into our accommodation, we found some lunch and then I tried to contact Paul Foster (aka Ole GrandDad). No luck at that stage.

Up early next morning – after a yummy breakfast, I tried Old GrandDad again – success! What a lovely person he sounded to be – both Steve and I were impressed and were really looking forward to meeting him – and not just for his ice-cream! Off we went – and got completely lost – again. Paul does live slightly out of town in a very pretty spot. We finally found him and he proved to be even nicer than we expected. We had several cuppas, lots of chat and laughter and then – finally – turned to discussing the interview for next morning. 

Paul (Old GrandDad) himself.


Between them, Paul and Steve decided that our actual location for filming should be on top of a small but steep hill just behind Paul’s house. We climbed this (the hill, not the house) and the view was spectacular. We settled on this location and returned to the house where Ole GrandDad started up his van and ice-cream maker and gave us one each. Yummy! These in hand, he showed us the very impressive Newman Speedway Track, for which he acts as caretaker. Then, once we had sorted out all the technicalities for the interview, along with another cuppa, Paul took us on a fantabulous guided tour of his town. One of the first stops was the lookout over Newman and surrounds. Another spectacular view. I was drinking it all in when an almighty explosion scared the living daylights out of me. My immediate reaction was to look at the sky to find the thunderstorm which hadn’t been forecast. No sign of one, strangely enough. And then I looked at everyone else up there – Paul, Steve and a few others. Why was I the only one who seemed to be reeling from this huge explosion – and looking for the thunder clouds? I sure as heck didn’t imagine it – or did I? Could I have? But no. Seeing my confusion, Paul pointed to a red dust cloud which was forming near the mines. Ahhh – a blast. While it did scare the living daylights out of me, I was also thrilled to have heard and seen it during our first visit to Newman. Something I wouldn’t normally see nor hear. Paul showed us quite a lot more of Newman, including the Tourist Centre – which, again, more than exceeded my expectations. We were introduced to some of the staff, all of whom were friends of Paul’s. Actually, I think most of the population of Newman and surrounds are friends of Paul’s. We also drove out to see Opthalmia Dam which is Newman’s source of water for swimming in and for drinking, I think. Maybe not for drinking.

After this, it was time to return home – to Paul’s home, so we could grab our car, leave him in peace and head back to our motel – after a final cuppa and final arrangements for filming the next morning. It was a fantabulous day and I cannot thank Ole GrandDad enough – for everything. 

Setting up for Ole GrandDad’s interview

Bright and early next morning, after another yummy breakfast, off we set. Up to Paul’s again – it was a bit colder that morning and there was a bit of a wind, so we decided against the hill after all and settled on filming next to Paul’s house, with the mine in the background. Paul and I settled into our respective chairs while Steve set everything up. Some time later, interview over, believe it or not, there was another blast. Again I looked skyward and again realised it was not a thunderstorm at all. But no dust this time – or should I say, there was but it took its time to appear. My only disappointment was with the timing of this blast – I really wish it had happened during the interview. I would have loved to have captured it. Darnit! Never mind. 

Ice-creams all round!

We then followed Paul down into Newman, stopping in front of one of the houses. We wanted to film Ole GrandDad in action, serving his ice-creams to the public. The previous afternoon, Paul had contacted the wonderful Willis family to organise this so as soon as we arrived, the family appeared in their front yard with the three older children wasting no time in getting to the van. Steve quickly set up his camera and got some wonderful footage – then it was time for ice-creams all around and a chat before we all headed our separate ways.

This is all adding to this enormous learning curve that I have been on since 2011, when the idea of writing ‘Red Dust Dreams’ started to form. While at that very early stage, I had absolutely no thoughts of doing anything more than writing the book (I had not even thought beyond the end of the research trips. I figured something would happen at the very end – but I didn’t really ‘click’ properly about what exactly it would be…publication? Naaah…). All I could think about was getting out into the outback and loving it – which I did. The idea of making a documentary was suggested when I was in the NT – but again, didn’t really gel until I was back at home in the west. As time has moved on and with the doco finally underway and changing repeatedly – so the idea of the YouTube channel was suggested. Again – that learning curve. Most of the technical/internet side of this entire project has been self-taught as a lot of it has occurred between stations – when I have been out of range, suddenly finding myself in positions where I had to learn very quickly – and no-one to turn to for help. While some of it has proved to be the biggest challenge – I have done it! 

I had absolutely no idea how to start up a YouTube channel – yes, I have watched videos and looked at instructional websites, or vice versa – but much of it I haven’t really understood or hasn’t been tailored to exactly what I have been looking for – so, again – largely self-taught. Still a long way to go – but I am getting there. And this last part of the full project – the fashion website in the USA. These people contacted me a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would be interested in collaborating. No charge to me and it’s a very worthy cause. It’s also another wonderful way to further showcase our spectacular outback and all we have to offer, to the rest of the world. It is also given me the chance to resurrect my art – I used to love drawing, but apart from decorating children’s clothing in my late 20s – for a very short time, I haven’t used my art for years. But – now – here’s my chance. I am sketching and colouring some of our beautiful fauna and flora. These will then be photographed and submitted to the fashion site. I do also plan to make videos of them to put on the YouTube channel and also put them on the website. And this blog. 

As for the book – well, I am pretty  happy with progress thus far. It was a finalist in the 2017 International Book Awards and yesterday, I received my first full, official review. Four stars, out of five. Not bad. I am still reeling from all this. Just so much happening – all of it so good. I still feel I am ageing backwards – most of the time. When in fact, I am zooming toward my 62nd birthday.

Life is GOOD.

But – I digress. Back to the doco quickly. After we left Ole GrandDad and the Willis family, we returned to our motel to get stuck into emails and other ‘work’ related things, before leaving Newman altogether early next morning. We have already decided that we will be returning – as part of doco 4 in October, 2018, before heading over to Port Hedland and up to the Kimberley. We had a good trip back to Meekatharra – passing signs to stations, all of which bore familiar names. Just love the outback – cannot get enough of our country. Once back in Meeka, we ventured out for a yummy counter meal at one of their pubs – nothing like mixing with the locals. Loved every nano-second. 

We had already decided that we wanted to stop in Cue for a while to take photos – what character that town has! I wanted to find out how to get out to Big Bell and also who I had to approach about permission to film etc. The other thing I really wanted to see again was the Masonic Lodge. The most amazing building. Perfect horror movie stuff. Again I need to find out if we need permission to film it, outside and in, if possible. I did visit the Council Offices quickly and was given a map, showing Big Bell as well as the multitude of other ghost towns, all from the early mining booms, in the area. Soooo much to see.

When I think of how much I have yet to see in our outback – it is slightly overwhelming. But all I want to do is get back out there. Yes, I saw a lot during my research trips and am now seeing more through the documentary – but there is always – always – more to see and I plan to continue this for as long as I possibly can.

Next trip is a quick one up to Mt Magnet – I have accepted a lovely invitation to talk at the Astro Rocks Festival in August (25th and 26th) so I am really looking forward to that. Then I have a one day coach tour to Wave Rock. 



First Part of the Doco – Our Trip to Newman

10 Jul 17
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Again I cannot help but think how amazing our outback is. And what a way to see it – going out, interviewing, photographing and filming everything and everyone – well, OK, maybe not everything and everyone – we are having to be a bit more ‘picky’ in order to fit everything in. This last trip, which was the first of our documentary trips, was yet another one which was beyond expectations. We drove (or should I say, Steve drove) up to Meekatharra for the first night, sleeping in dongas, then out to Mt Augustus for the second and third nights. We had planned to do a lot of scenic filming but this trip ended up more as a reconnaissance trip than anything else. I guess it was a bit like my very first research trip – while I did achieve all that I planned to on that first research trip, it was also very much part of the mammoth learning curve that continued throughout and still does. 

Our second day saw us heading west out to Mt Augustus Park, Station and Rock. Like most of these roads, there are so many interesting things – all I wanted to do was take photos. We eventually reached Mt Augustus and had two nights there. We had planned to film the rock itself – but the learning curve came into play again and we decided to film with the drone that Steve recently purchased. It has now been slotted in to be included in Doco 4 – giving me a chance to contact the relevant people to gain the necessary authorisation for doing this. We took heaps of photos, walked a lot and discussed our next visit to Mt Augustus instead.

The road to – where??

We left the station on Friday, 30th June, to return to Meekatharra. But somehow we took the wrong road – we were on the right one when we first left the station, but there must have been a choice early in the piece – and we took the wrong one. Neither of us can actually recall seeing a sign post of any sort – getting out to Mt Augustus was easy – the road was well sign posted. But coming back didn’t seem to be quite so straight forward. The further we drove, the more I tried to see familiar things – like the Indigenous community which is near Mt Augustus, followed by the Landor Race Track and Mt Gould. But none of these things came up. Looking at my map, I found the road we had actually taken – which did take us about 75 ks out of our way – although the road did also seem to be well used. Naturally, we also passed sign posts pointing to other stations in the area and most of these appeared on the map – but not on the road we should have been on. 

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Camel Profile: near Silverton, NSW. Category: Camelus.

Being on the wrong road – and, let’s face it – pretty lost – usually would not have worried me. Indeed, I would have seen it as another challenge – part of this huge learning curve. And I normally would not have wanted to see the blacktop road at all – at least not until was ready to, as this would have marked the road back to civilisation – and I usually do not want that. Not at all. But this time – this time, I did. We did take several other wrong turns on our way back to Meeka. I will say that all, or most, of the stations out there, were well signed – and this obviously helped to get us back to Meeka in one piece. At one stage, when we did realize we were on the wrong road, we were wondering whether to retrace our steps back to Mt Augustus, or try to work our way across country to rejoin the correct road. We decided on the latter – fail. At that stage – actually, at every stage while we were out there, I am so glad we had our 4WD (hired). Some of the roads we found in an effort to try the cross-country route were nothing more than bull-dust – and plenty of it. Some had water in them, others were just mud. We would have become completely bogged and stuck had we had anything but the 4WD. Ironically, these are roads that I normally absolutely love – but not that day!  But there’s always a positive – sometimes it doesn’t seem so at the time, but in retrospect, there is usually one. So, while it really didn’t seem so when we were out there, in retrospect, for me at least, there were several. I have traveled around the outback of most of our states in Australia but had yet to see a real dingo in real life – and I know they are a terror in the outback, I really did want to see one. But during my research trips, not one came near us. I am sure there must have been some in the distance at times, but I was probably looking the wrong way. So, it took our first doco trip – and one ran across the road in front of us on our way back from Mt Augustus. Right there, right in front of us, as brazenly as can be! And then, a bit further on and we saw a camel. It was running along beside us! Looking forward to the possibility of seeing a lot more as we progress through the making of the documentary. Not so much dingoes or wild dogs – I’ve seen one in real life now – happy not to see any more. Particularly as I am very aware of how much damage they do.

Anyway, after that we decided to stop trying these side roads and stuck to the one we were following. It did eventually take us back to the Great Northern Highway. And yes, for the first time ever I think, I was actually relieved to see the blacktop. 

Dongas on Mt Augustus (new ones have since been installed)

So we finally made it back to Meekatharra. After a yummy counter meal at one of the local pubs, we settled down in our respective dongas and had a good night’s sleep. An early start next morning saw us grabbing coffee from one of the local service stations, before heading north to Newman.

The drive up to Newman was as interesting as all the other drives I have done around the outback of this wonderful nation. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn as well as the 23rd Parallel and signs to stations, most of which bore familiar names and were usually a couple of hundred kilometres away. 

More about Newman and the rest of this first part of the doco next blog.

Dawson’s Burrowing Bees. These were on a road near Mt Augustus.


Something weird happened to me recently – and really made me think…

20 Jun 17
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Where was this when I needed it??

Actually – where was anything that horrible day? 

It didn’t start out as a horrible day. It started out as a really lovely day. It was a Thursday – the day I have lunch with my eldest daughter and my grandson. And it is a day that I always look forward to.

However, this particular Thursday – it turned out that our power was being maintained in the area and it was therefore turned off. While that in itself could usually have been very inconvenient, I thought it was good timing. I had already made the meal for my daughter and son in law for that night and while I could not use the computer, the absence of the power gave me the excuse that I could spend more time doing other things. Like reading. Ok, I really needed the light on and I went to switch it on – nothing happened – and then I remembered. So much for that. 

Now, as it turned out, that particular Thursday was also an exceptionally sad one. One of our nephews, only in his 20s – so young and such a tragic waste – lost his battle against cancer. His father, my brother, had been keeping me right up to date all day and his final call came through while I was driving home, so went to voicemail. Obviously, first thing I did when I reached home – was to return his call. Went to use my mobile. Darn. It had turned itself off as it needed to be recharged. So over to the landline – but that’s connected to the power so wasn’t working either. 

It was a really weird feeling. I stopped and just looked around – the fridge wasn’t humming, nor was the aquarium filter – nothing was. In fact, if not for the never-ending drone of distant traffic – it was completely silent. While I was trying to work out how to contact my brother, I thought I could send him an email. Nope. That relied on electricity too – didn’t everything? I have been warned of the dangers of being electrocuted when using the mobile when it is charging but I decided this was a chance I needed to take – until I realized that while the mobile was hooked in, nothing was happening. It needed power – duuuhhhrrr. In hindsight I realized that I could have visited one of our neighbours – or recharged my mobile in the car. But wasn’t thinking clearly enough for either. 

South Australia…


My thoughts then became slightly more erratic – or should I say, more erratic than normal. They turned to our emergency services – and what would happen if I had needed one? How could I contact them? And this is why I have included this post in this blog. As with just about everything I think about and do these days, my mind zoomed out to the outback and I began thinking about how those people would handle this situation. I could not help but compare – and while there was really nothing to compare, my mind still went into overdrive. Many are now connected to the mains for their power, but still have auxiliary power for emergencies and other times. So most of those stations people probably would have been fine – as I was, once I stopped worrying and started thinking logically.

My main concern was to contact my brother, first and foremost – and then my husband and daughters, to bring them all up to date. But it seemed I wasn’t going to be able to do this from home, so hopped back into my car and returned to my eldest daughter’s home.

Our power was turned on again around 5 or 6 pm that evening. We only lost it for a day and had been completely warned about it – WesternPower was only doing its job. But I could only think – why today? But it certainly did get me thinking about the people of the outback – as usual.



Book’s finished – now for the launch and the documentary and…

13 Jan 17
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The book is now finished and very close to publication. Plans for the launch are underway. So are plans for the documentary, which promises to be brilliant, all going well. And then I am looking at a new online business venture, also relating to the outback. Actually, something exciting seems to pop up almost daily at the moment. I recently responded to something, fully expecting to be ignored – so was very surprised when I received a very quick reply from these people, showing interest. Nothing more being said here – all will be revealed in time. 

I have mentioned more than once that, with the book now finished and almost published, I have been feeling a tad surreal – or something. At one stage I was actually feeling a bit worried – what I was going to do after the proposed documentary is released. What then? I really wanted to continue in this vein – somehow. Well, I do now seem to have something to go on with – something that is very exciting. Again, more about this when I can start to really plan it. And to add to this last idea another thought occurred to me this morning. Ideas just keep coming to me at the moment – and I have no plans to stop. Ever.

But for now, the marketing starts with a vengeance, also organizing the launch and the documentary. All of these are massive – making out the guest list for the launch – had as much trouble putting on the brakes as I did with the actual book. And I haven’t finished it yet – the launch list that is. We have to find an appropriate venue and at this stage, Maitland Hill, the same Indigenous artist whose interview/article appears in the book, is painting a special series of his wonderful artworks to be displayed at the launch – and not only that, there will be the opportunity for guests to purchase. Entertainment has also been organised – I hope. The lovely Indigenous duet, ‘The Merindas’ – will be performing – I hope. Lots’n’lots more to organize and we are slowly but surely getting there.

And the documentary. Wow – if we can pull this off it should be brilliant. Only two of us involved now – Steve Fitzgibbon, of ‘Media Productions – Australia’  and me! Hoping we might still snag a sponsored 4WD, we plan to drive up north, through the middle of WA, visiting two stations en route, then to Port Hedland. Up to the Kimberley, visiting Broome and Derby before turning east and driving across to the NT, visiting and filming different towns and highlights along the way. In the NT we visit a station south west of Katherine – the owners here have given us permission to film their children in class, being taught through the School of the Air. I was also permitted to do this on one of the stations in Qld and some of these images have been included in the book and in a few other places. A couple of nights here before heading south toward Alice Springs but before we actually reach the Alice, we are due to turn east, heading out to another station and also to Gem Tree Caravan Park. After this, we do go back to the Alice – the idea being to grab a couple of days of R&R, but there is so much to look at around the town, methinks we will finish up dashing all over the place, filming as much as we can.

Once we have finished there, heading south again, but ‘zooming’ (or as much as you can in the outback…) west out to visit Uluru and the Olgas for a couple of days. Then back, turning south again and down into South Australia. Here we get onto the Oodnadatta Track and head east, across to Marree, then turn north and up to Birdsville,  for its Big Red Bash 2017 where we hope to interview as many of the entertainers as possible, along with the founder  of this extraordinary event, Greg Donovan and also the owners of the station on which it is held. Greg founded the Big Red Bash as a fundraiser for Diabetes 1 – his son was diagnosed with this as well as Coeliac Disease simultaneously. 

After this, we head back down into the northern part of the Flinders Ranges to Wilpena Pound for a day, before (hopefully – as yet unconfirmed) spend a day or two on my own old family station, Pitcairn. Then up to Roxby Downs, where we plan to film an interview with RoxFMs manager and I believe he in turn, wishes to interview me. After this, we plan to head back to Port Augusta and film a visit to the School of the Air base there – then finally turn west and head back home to Perth. 

After all this, once we settle back into life at home, most ‘normal’ people would be content to stay put for a while. But not me – I doubt it anyway. Still so much of the outback to see – and setting up the aforementioned online business – which does involve traveling – in the outback, naturally.




The End Is In Sight – But There Is A Future…

30 Dec 16
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Five years ‘down the track’ and ‘Red Dust Dreams’ has finally gone to publication and I am looking at trying to organize a major launch for it, while also ‘working’ on plans for the documentary of the same name. I also plan to return to the work force on a part time basis in 2017 (preferably a job based at home which involves lots’n’lots of writing), I am involved with quite a few community groups and I have plans to start an online business. Then there are my mother and grandmother duties along with much more. And all so good.

Have to say that I do feel a tad ‘odd’, though. Sort of surreal – in the nicest possible way. I have thrived on doing the research for this book – such an amazing way to travel the nation and see the outback – going well off the beaten track has taken me to places that I had only ever heard about. I have now seen a lot of that huge expanse that is most of the landmass that is Australia – but there is always more to see. Much more.

It has been the most wonderful learning curve too. Every day I learned many new things – some good, some not so good. I also met some fantastic people, both those on the stations as well as those who are participating but live in the cities or other nations. Have had some incredible experiences – again some good and some I would rather forget. Have also ticked some items off my bucket list. I have finally seen crocodiles in the wild (both freshies – croc-speak for freshwater crocodiles – these are the ‘safer’ ones as well as saltwater – these are deadly). I finally flew in a small plane (ok it was still a commercial flight but the smallest plane I have been in) and a helicopter – LOVE this last one.

Old chimney stack

Old chimney stack

Conducting the research has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. One aspect that I have tried to help to capture both through the book – and hope to continue with the documentary – is some of our outback history, some of which is currently in very real danger of being completely lost. Everywhere I traveled I saw old chimney stacks, the only reminders of homes from days gone by. There were also some ruins of houses in some areas but it was these chimney stacks that are to be seen everywhere. What stories they could tell.

Something really good which seems to have been triggered through doing this is that it has inspired some of the stations people as well as a few of the retired pastoralists to record their own histories, both of their own lives and those of their families as well as the station. All recording history, which as I say, has been in danger of being lost and gone forever.

There are also many aspects which have surprised me during my travels. One of these seemed to be the different ‘language’ between some of the states. Or maybe it is pure ignorance on my part. What I have grown up to know as one thing seems to have quite a different name in other places. For instance, I have always known a dam (water being stored – if there’s enough water – in a large hole in the ground which has been dug out by a grader and is surrounded by very hard dirt banks) is called a ‘turkey’s nest’ in at least one other state. This was explained to me but for the life of me I cannot remember the difference. It will always be a dam to me. ‘Ramp’ is another one. I have grown up knowing them as ramps and not ‘grids’ as they are known in some other states and are actually becoming known increasingly nationwide and grids. Probably a lot more if I really think about it but one last one is a ‘drop and drag’ gate. We have them on Pitcairn and they could possibly be called this but I have never actually known the name for them – so now I do say ‘drop and drag’. They are quite common on rural and remote property nationwide. Most wire gates are encased in metal, making opening and closing easy, the ‘drop and drags’, while still made of wire, they are not encased so can cause quite a challenge to close and open.

Many doors have opened for me and I have met many other people that I never thought I would meet. It really is the most extraordinary road and one I continue to enjoy.

Thank you.

The Outback is Beautiful – But you Need to Prepare. It Can Save Your Life

21 Aug 16
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Make no mistake! The mighty outback of Australia is very beautiful, spectacular, stunning – and can be deadly. So if you want to see it for yourself (and who wouldn’t…) – PLEASE PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE! This cannot be stressed enough and is so easily done. Correct and basic preparation/homework and does save lives.
There are lots’n’lots of things you can do to try to ensure your own safety and wellbeing – some are listed below and are from my own experiences – but there are a heck of a lot more than are mentioned below. Armed with as much knowledge as possible and the correct and basic preparation (much of which is pure common sense) your outback adventure could turn out to be one of the best trips you have ever made.
Among these, but worthy of being mentioned separately as well – find out the best and most reliable form of communication that can be used effectively in even the most remote areas. On the whole, mobiles are useless in the outback, irrespective of who you are with – although Telstra does seem to be better out there than others – but it is still useless in the very remote areas away from towns. A VHF radio is one of the best forms of communication – combined with at least one emergency long distance channel (Channel 5 and/or Channel 35). Please also bear in mind that there are penalties in place for general misuse of any emergency channels – also for interfering with an emergency call.


If driving alone or even with a friend or two:

*   Make absolutely sure your vehicle is in top-notch condition. Organise a really thorough service, naturally including everything throughout the engine – the petrol, water, oil, tyres (including the spare obviously) and anything else you can think of prior to departure and do explain to the people who service it about what you are doing, where you are going etc;
*   Try to get some basic mechanical knowledge;
*   Take certain tools with you, as well as a good first aid kit; ring and open spanners, high-jack, insulating tape, lubricating spray, screwdrivers, wire, an extra fan belt, set of hoses, radiator hose, spare bulbs, fuses etc;
*   Carry an extra jerry-can of petrol. When travelling, check your tyres, including that spare, regularly and always top up your fuel when you can, even if it literally is only a top up. It might be hours before you next get the chance;
*   ALWAYS take plenty of water – this cannot be stressed enough. Both personal drinking water as well as for the car;
*    Take plenty of sunscreen (SPF 50+ at least). Those UV rays are deadly. Make sure you keep soaking yourself in the sunscreen;
*    Take good sunglasses and equally good insect repellent – preferably a roll-on one;
*    Take a good torch and extra batteries;
*    Dress sensibly. Closed shoes (riding boots are best or sandshoes), long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Also always wear a good hat outdoors – preferably with a good, wide brim. Again, that sun can be a killer – Australia is also home to many very poisonous snakes that are not necessarily easily seen when walking along so adequate protection is essential;
*    ALWAYS notify the people at your destination what time you are leaving and the route you are taking, including your starting point. The people at your destination will then have some idea of your estimated time of arrival, even if you don’t know;
*    Always watch for animals on the road. Both road-kill as well as animals that decide to wander across just as you are coming – which they will do and chances are high that they might decide that the road is nice and warm – a good place to settle!
*    Always drive with your headlights ON, day and night;
*   Plan frequent stops – fatique does kill;
*   Avoid driving on wet road, if possible. Fines are in place for driving on closed roads and these are usually signposted;
*   Most roads and tracks in the outback do pass through private properties (stations). Please stay on designated roads and respect any notices expressing the wishes and warnings of the station owners;
*    When meeting oncoming traffic, try to slow down slightly and veer over to the left side – the oncoming traffic should do this too;
*   If you do break down, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE. This should really be common sense – just think about it. When searchers begin looking for you – and they will do this provided you have followed these basic preparations, it is a lot easier to spot a vehicle than it is to spot a lone body – or even a couple of bodies;
*   Upon arrival at your destination, do let those know at your starting point that you have arrived safely. If there is no-one there then let your family or a reliable friend or relative or some person of authority, know.

Again please make sure you do your homework. While the above is from my own experience, there is a lot more that you can do and learn to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible. It’s all on the net.

 If travelling by public transport and planning to stay overnight at your destination, there are some more points to bear in mind. While not essential, they could certainly make your trip safer and more enjoyable. Again, these are derived from my own experience.
As we all know, coaches, trains, planes and the like travel to schedules and these very often involve passing through the smaller rural and remote towns in the very early hours of the morning. Not a great time to find yourself stranded after being dropped off and watching your transport disappear into the night. It’s actually a very scary feeling. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that! But a few pre-arranged plans could make all the difference.

*  Try to pick a coach or train which is not scheduled to arrive at your destination in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning – although sometimes this is unavoidable. 
*  Obviously the best idea is to try to ensure that someone (from your destination, preferably) is there to meet you but sometimes this is not possible, or something happens, or people do forget – in which case, it is important to contact the people at your destination to remind them of your arrival and again try to ensure that someone is able to meet your transport;
*   If you do not have a choice in the above, try to make sure you pre-arrange with your accommodation to have your room key left out for you, preferably somewhere you can find it easily (in the dark if necessary – or – remember that torch mentioned above) – but hopefully no-one else can;
*   Also that said accommodation is either very near to the place where the transport will drop you off or that you have checked out taxi services in the town and have taken note of the relevant telephone number. It is not a pleasant feeling being dropped off late at night or in the very early hours of the morning, complete with luggage and trying to haul it behind you as you walk the streets trying to find your accommodation;
*   If there isn’t any accommodation, try to find an all night business – a service station, police station, hospital – anything;
*   Again, upon arrival, make sure you contact home, or a friend or relative, to let them know you have arrived safely;
*  Packing all the personal effects mentioned above applies here too.

As mentioned, there is a lot more that can be done and researched and prepared for a trip to the outback and this can be gleaned through the internet. The above is mainly based on my own experience and things that I have learned and heard about.

I think it is also relevant to provide a couple of examples. First scenario applies to both transport and accommodation and occurred during my very first research trip. I thought I had organised everything perfectly, but I realise now I had done everything but. You can do it a heck of a lot better and more safely than I did. Knowing that I would be arriving in one town very late at night and then departing again, on a different coach and in a different direction, in the early hours of the following morning, I did book into a motel hoping that I might get a nap or at least be able to freshen up. Unfortunately, the coach was late leaving its departure point and while the driver tried, she was not able to make up that time. Our ETA at our destination was about 11.30 pm. We clocked in at 12.30 pm. I had to catch my next coach at 4 am. Once we had arrived, I began the search for a taxi and ended up sharing one which was absolutely fine – I was lucky. I was dropped at my motel and was very relieved to see that it was lit up – thinking that meant the office was still open or they were expecting me – which they were. The taxi vanished into the night and I found that I could not get in – office door was locked. I could not access anything – and strangely enough, everyone was asleep. So there I was, a stranger in town who ended up sitting on one of the lovely chairs on the front veranda, cuddled up to my luggage. Thankfully it wasn’t a cold night but it was a Friday and this motel was situated on a corner – there had obviously been a lot of people out and about and quite a few staggered up the road and past the entry. I tried to shrink back into the shadows and not be seen. Either it worked or I had given myself too much credit and no-one was remotely interested. A valuable lesson learned.

The second scenario occurred in Qld. We were well into station country after leaving Cairns and heading west. The coach pulled up at a dirt road that led off the blacktop in a ‘T’ junction. There was nothing there apart from a little tin lean-to thingy. Couldn’t call it a shed – was possibly where mail, the newspapers and milk were left for some stations. It also seemed to be the drop off point for a young backpacker who had also been on the bus. It is not the responsibility of the coach drivers to ensure that their passengers are safe after drop off – the drivers have done their bit by then – but I think every driver that I had (across the nation and there were quite a few of them) acted above and beyond the call of duty when feeling that they couldn’t just leave these young backpackers there – stranded – when there was absolutely no-one and nothing in sight. No human, animal, car, house – nothing. Just the sort of scene that I love but for this girl – not good. I understand she was due to go out to one of the stations, presumably to work and she had arranged for someone to meet her. She was wearing thongs, a singlet top and very short shorts. No sunscreen oil, no hat, no sunglasses, nothing. No protection whatsoever. She took out her mobile and tried to make a call – surprise, surprise – no signal. Her ‘lift’ had either forgotten or was very late. The driver tried to use his two way to ask someone to either ring the station or come to take the girl somewhere safe – he also offered to take her on to the next town, which was a good couple of hours away. She declined, saying she was sure the people would turn up and she would be fine. The driver had to get moving. I have no idea what happened but did find myself listening to the news that night hoping that I would not hear an item about yet another young disappearing backpacker. 

So – again – PLEASE, I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring you do your homework, research and PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE before heading into the outback. Really just a few common sense pointers and you should be able to have the most memorable trip – in all the right ways. But – again – do not just rely on this info – go to the net and start googling.

Thank you and enjoy.

This is IT!

18 Jul 16
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I’m quite gobsmacked. At myself! Doing what I have been doing for the last few years is, to me, sure proof that age can be irrelevant – you can pretty well do anything you want to do, regardless of your age. Yes, there would be limitations to that – legal and health issues would come into it. But for me – at the ripe young age of 55 (I think it was – I am now 60) I had an idea – a lightbulb moment I like to call it – a window of opportunity where I realised I could FINALLY combine two of my passions – writing and the outback. It seemed like a true light-bulb moment at the time – but, I guess I never really thought I would actually go through with it – and have such a book published. But – guess what – that is exactly what is about to happen and I don’t think anyone is more surprised than I am. 

(Sorry – not quite sure what happened to the first paragraph, apart from me trying to be ‘smart’ and experimenting a bit. Won’t do that again. Hopefully you can read it enough – the rest is better, I think)
It’s been going on for about four years now and has had many ‘working titles’ attached to it, some non-repeatable. But we have finished up with the official title of ‘Red Dust Dreams’. And what a journey it has been and continues to be – so much so that I have had trouble putting on the brakes. I continue to absolutely thrive on it – on everything about it – the research which has been incredible – meeting and interviewing and getting to know heaps of wonderful people and – and – the list is endless. And what a way to see the nation – so off the beaten track. Much of my transport was by coach – letting someone else drive and do all the worrying while I sat and enjoyed the passing scenery.

Dad’s book ‘The Sawers from Pitcairn’ was the official trigger for this book. Actually, that’s only partly true. It certainly helped but my passion/addiction for writing and for the mighty outback probably had something to do with it. This, along with a long held curiosity about the lack of knowledge and education – and interest – that many (not all) people in urban Australia and overseas seem to have about this great expanse. For example, ask many in the city about education in the outback – a lot will suggest that schools in country towns are not a lot different to those in the cities. I guess so – I don’t know much about schools in country towns either. But that’s not what I am talking about. This is about education on the stations out there – the way education is conducted on properties that are kilometres, sometimes hundreds, from the nearest public school. These children have to be educated too – but how? Some of those in the urban areas did think about it when I put it to them – but overall it went into the ‘too hard’ basket. And then – where does meat come from? Well, obviously the butcher – hang on, try the meat section in the supermarket. And milk? Again the supermarket, but from a different big fridge and it comes in a plastic or cardboard container and – hey – it comes in different flavours. Power? Fuel? Shopping? Ok, they’re lost. Don’t even bother with the too hard basket.

A combination of the lot saw me take this on – the biggest challenge of my life so far (after marriage and motherhood) – and one that I am absolutely thriving on. I feel I am ageing backwards on the whole – I began in my mid-50s and am now heading toward 61. Proving that on the whole age is no barrier. Nor is gender. Not in many things.

Termite Hill, Exmouth

Once I had decided to write this book (working titles were ‘The Stations Book’ or ‘The Book on Stations’), now officially titled ‘Red Dust Dreams’, it was a matter of – where to start? I really needed a list of sheep and cattle stations throughout Australia. So I turned to GOOGLE. And kept turning to GOOGLE for a good few weeks (on and off – between other things) – I tried looking up ‘property’ – and founds heaps of real estate around the world. ‘Stations’ – I learned a lot more about 90% of the railway and coach stations around the world – and petrol stations. ‘Station Stays’ – more farm stays were revealed than anything and while that is all rural, it was not what I was looking for. ‘Landholdings’ – and a heap more until the computer got sick of me and started making its own suggestions. First was ‘entities’. Huh? ‘Entities’? Ok. I’ll try anything once. So I did – BINGO – lists of rural and remote properties nationwide. YES. After printing off most of it, I then looked at each state in turn – mainly going by the postcodes. The higher – or lower, depending which way you look at it, but number (ie 6150 was definitely suburban, whereas 6750 meant outback – not rural, but remote, in most states). Next I went through the stations bearing the relevant codes – choosing ones that were not (at that stage) station stays nor company owned. However, like some other aspects, this has changed as we have progressed along this road and now there are several station stays involved.

I have never strayed from the original focus for ‘Red Dust Dreams ‘ – the domestic side of life out there. Nor the aim – which is and always has been to try to help raise awareness about that sort of life, educating people about it, helping tourism – and as much else as possible. 


Next was to send an introductory and explanatory letter to the chosen stations, along with a form for the interested ones to complete and return to me in the provided SSAE. About 20-30 were issued per state – Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT are not included because, while some do have stations, normally these are too small to be considered isolated and overall, their rainfall is much higher than in the outback. Most are near enough to towns for the children to attend their local schools and not have to rely on home-schooling (unless through choice), people can socialise and shop easily. Emergency services are more accessible. Neighbours are generally within sight from somewhere on each property. All these being aspects that those in the more remote and isolated parts of Australia do not have. Anyway – back to the letters. Many of these were ignored, which was expected but initially about four stations per state responded positively.

I then set about organising the research trips, state by state. This involved flying to the capital city in each state, then travelling by coach (normally) to the first town and, hopefully, meeting someone from each station there. On the whole I would stay for two nights and one day, mainly taking heaps of photographs and also chatting to the owners/managers and their families and staff, for those who had staff. Doing this, I worked my way around SA and NSW together, followed by Qld a few months later, a quick visit back to SA, zooming over the border to Broken Hill and then back up through the NT to Darwin. And finishing off with four trips to cover the stations in WA. For the first one, I went by train up to Kalgoorlie, hired a car there to get out to the station and back and then coached back to Perth. For the second, I drove my own car up to Exmouth and back. I was meant to visit a couple of stations east of Carnarvon but I came down with a virus of some sort and then my little car went out in sympathy. So I finished up completely missing those stations and hightailing it home instead! The third trip was to coach up to Broome, then my eldest daughter accompanied me out to a station in the Kimberley – then back to Broome and coached home again. Finally, I actually joined a coach tour to Mt Augustus – fabulous fun – and back again.

Most of these stations are now involved – all but three I did manage to visit and these three are coming on board by email. All told, there are two in SA., three in NSW., eight in Qld., one in the NT and five in WA. Also included are interviews and photos about the participating retired pastoralists, backpackers, shearers, an Optometrist, Dental Nurse, an explosives expert who has and does work in the outback, a rock star who has toured in the outback of WA (and has just been nominated for a Grammy), two Indigenous people, three governesses, travellers, two authors and more. Aspects in the book include entertainment, employment, education, communication, loneliness, isolation, health issues, shopping, transport, infrastructure, holidays (what holidays?), even down to the nitty gritty such as sewerage and treatment and maintenance of same. 

Hopefully, it will be an interesting read, fun and educational. Not all good, not all bad – just true and factual. And we are also hoping to make a documentary once the book is published – this will provide a visual presentation of the written word while also showing how the content for such a book is collected.

And now I have been nominated for two awards for my efforts – and have begun doing the occasional media interview. All very welcome.


The Final Research Trip is Over – But There is Still Lots ‘n Lots of the Outback to See…

23 Aug 15
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Sadly my final research trip has finished. It’s all over. But there is still just so much of the outback to see. I have been home for all of two days now and have already started checking out coach tours for the Gibb River Road, the NT., Cape York and – well, lots’n’lots more. Yes, I have covered a heck of a lot of our mighty outback of SA., NSW., Qld., NT and now WA but I feel I have only had a ‘taste’ of all that can be seen and experienced. Once the book is ‘safely out’ I am looking forward to seeing all the above over the coming couple of years.

Speaking of coach tours, I do thank the wonderful Casey Australia Tours, particularly our own crew, Barry, our driver and jack-of-all-trades and Jaye, our guide and jill-of-all-trades for, well, everything. I cannot single anything out as it was all just so good. So much fun. I am hoping to travel with them again for all or most of the above-mentioned trips. Beware. Be very ware!

But, for now and for the book, the research trips are all over. This final trip, up to Mt Augustus, lasted just five days. But they were some of the best five days I can remember – apart from all the other research trips spanning the nation. I have now travelled by air, by coach (but this was the first actual coach tour that I have done), by train and then hired a car to drive myself and I have also driven my own car. And for my very last trip I decided that a full coach tour would be the way to go. And it was. Just so good. So many amazing memories and my travelling companions were a lot of fun – lots of laughs and a good time seemed to be had by all (or most) on board. Our agenda was absolutely jam packed – so much so that my actual reason for travelling at all – to meet and chat with/interview the owners of the station – didn’t happen. No-one was at fault. As does happen with stations, the owner was helping to muster on another station at the time of my visit and as always at such times, he was working very long hours. The other ‘problem’ was that, as mentioned, we had a lot crammed in and I didn’t want to miss any of it!


Mt Augustus, provided they are still interested in being included in the book, will now be covered by email, so they won’t miss out.

Our tour included visiting (or driving through) New Norcia (where we had our first morning tea from our mobile kitchen – see image), Dalwallinu, Wubin, Payne’s Find, Mt Magnet and Cue – our first night was spent in the pub in this last town. All these places were new to me so yet more fantastic sights to see. We had lunch at Meekatharra on the first day – and we also pre-ordered our lunch there for the Wednesday, when we were due to return. We were also advised to stock up on anything we might need while out at Mt Augustus as this was our last ‘town stop’ before turning west onto gravel roads, heading to the station.

Off we went again, through to Mt Gould Police Station and lockup, where we had afternoon tea, provided by Casey’s and which came from our mobile kitchen – which was housed in the trailer we were pulling behind us. I had never seen such a set up; this kitchen had everything. Food, drinks, more food, cooking equipment, food, cleaning equipment, food, tables and chairs, food, eating implements – oh and did I mention food and drinks? In other words, they were prepared for anything and everything. 

After lunch we were on our way again. A quick break at the Murchison River before stopping for afternoon tea at the Landor Station Race Track, famous for its outback race meetings organised by the East Gascoyne Race Club. An amazing place. Another outback race venue that, to me, really does give the Melbourne Cup, a run for its money.
Off to Mt Augustus. Our accommodation was in the form of dongas here! I’ve read about these and did see some on another station in WA, but sleeping in them was yet another first for me! We had two nights here. I even shared mine with a lizard – it was on the wall when I entered, then hid and stayed that way for the duration. We also shared our bathroom with small frogs – all part of the fun.
Next day, it was time to see some of the sights on the station, at the rock itself and in the national park. What a place! First we visited Edney Spring, followed by Flinstone Rock. And then a quick dip (for a few) in Cattle Pool or a walk along the bank of the Lyons River. We saw and heard hundreds of wild budgies here – really lovely. After lunch we were given a bit of ‘free’ time so this was when I tried to do what I was supposed to be doing – meeting the owners – but not to be. Later in the afternoon we visited Emu Hill Lookout which offers a superb view of Mt Augustus, the rock itself, particularly beautiful at sunset. However, it was very overcast for our visit but what colours we did see were really lovely.

Another early start next morning and we were on our way home. However, it seemed there was more to see, including the magnificent Walga Rock – and there we were extremely lucky in that the wildflowers had put on the most spectacular display – just for us. So beautiful, particularly backed by the rock. 

Onto our ‘last supper’ – a BBQ in front of the ruins of the old pub in the ghost town of Big Bell, before heading back to Cue and our hotel. At the end of the next day we were due to arrive home, but it seemed Jaye and Barry had other ideas with yet more things to show us – I loved all of it. First of these stops was at the Joker’s Tunnel – there was a bit of a walk/stumble to reach it but then most of us went through, in single file and in the pitch black. Making a heck of a lot of noise, laughing a lot and scaring the wits out of a bat which I understand took off out of the tunnel in a heck of a hurry. Goodness knows what else there was – but no snakes as far as I know and in this case, I think ignorance might have been bliss! Our very last couple of stops were one for photos when we passed through more superb wildflowers and this is also where we saw the superb Wreath Flower. The second and last stop was for lunch in Morawa. 

From there we made our way back to Perth via some true back roads – I loved every bit of it. We saw the very distinct line separating the stations from the farming land.

Jaye and Barry are to be congratulated for their efforts (is that a word??). They are both wonderful people who proved themselves to be extremely capable. Thanks guys. I do look forward to seeing you on future trips. Again – beware. Be very ware.

I remain hopeful that Mt Augusta will still participate in the book but if not, there is a lot more detail to most of the above that should be included and will be. But that’s in the book.




I’ve Been to the Kimberley – At Last!!

26 Jul 15
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 Well, OK – into the western edge of it, but enough to get just a glimpse of how spectacular it is. I continue to travel throughout our great outback and the further I go, the more I love it. There is just so much to see and learn out there – at this stage, I have completely lost interest in travelling overseas and all I want to see is the outback. I am sure I will regain that overseas interest one day but for the moment, there is just so much more of my own backyard that I want to see and experience.


 The spectacular Windjana Gorge


Yes, the end is in sight but I have postponed publication to the first half of next year (2016) and I am starting to feel the heeby-jeebies (otherwise known as withdrawals). It’s been the most amazing ‘project’ – when the seed was planted three or four years ago, I honestly did not think I would actually act on it. But here I am. And I am jolly proud of my efforts to date. I admit that I am getting close to turning the big 6 – 0 but do not feel that I am slowing down at all. At least, not overall. I also continue to make some of the most amazing friends as I travel on this road. 
I have actually been on two more wonderful trips since my last post. The first was up to Exmouth – after the success of the little Hyundai that I hired to take me out to Wonganoo Station, north east of Leonora, I decided my own little car should be able to take me on the next trip – up to Exmouth, back to Carnarvon, turning east to visit two stations between Carnarvon and Mullewa, before heading back to Geraldton, via Northampton – and finally home. This was the idea anyway. Unfortunately, while in Exmouth I managed to pick up some sort of virus which took hold in Carnarvon. The planned two nights there stretched into four – and not to be outdone, my car picked up its own virus and I had to cancel the stations visits – which kind of partly defeated the purpose of the trip. But I still did manage to visit two couples which was really lovely. One was in Northampton, the second in Geraldton.

I was incredibly disappointed about not being able to visit these stations but just did not feel I could trust my little car out there after all and I was also not sure whether I was contagious or not. Between these two stations I was also planning to spend a couple of nights at the Murchison Settlement, which would have given me a different perspective again – but not to be. Anyway, while one of those two stations does appear to have pulled out, the second has come onboard by email and they were very quick and efficient to do so, including images. And another station in WA has also come onboard since, also by email. My thanks to you both.


The Coast Near Exmouth

After this trip I was back in Perth for less than a week before I boarded a coach to head north again. This next trip took two nights and a day and was a great way to see the countryside between Carnarvon and Broome, which I had only flown over previously. Travelling overnight meant that I did miss some of the sights but I’ll never forget the approach to Port Hedland, both from the north and the south. I had been told it is big – but those lights seemed to stretch forever. The only other time I can remember seeing lights like that was when I flew into Singapore on my 24th birthday – there seemed to be an enormous number of lights! Maybe because there were. Anyway, we had to drop off and collect passengers in Port Hedland – that seemed to happen in a couple of different spots so I did see quite a lot of the city. And it really is big. I really would love to visit it during the day time. Just another addition for my bucket list for our outback.

Our arrival in Broome was a tad later than scheduled. Rob was there to meet me which was lovely. We went straight to breaky then back to her place briefly so she could pack and prepare the car (she was coming with me – or maybe I was going with her) and also so I could say hello to Guaco, my grand-parrot. Really lovely to see them both. We were soon on our way again, heading north toward Derby but turning east onto the Gibb River Road shortly before we actually entered Derby. But Rob had a lovely surprise for me – she had told me about this but nothing really prepared me for the art at the amazing Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre. As the name suggests, it is completely devoted to just that – Aboriginal art and culture. And I guess this has helped cement my deep and total respect and admiration for the art that our Indigenous people can produce. The colours are spectacular – every piece has a story behind it. I really could not get enough of it.


Then we moved onto Birdwood Downs Company Station, which is an ecological demonstration project, American owned and founded in 1978. It is run primarily on voluntary basis and most of the staff we met are WWOOFERS (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). Mostly young people from other nations, all really lovely and a lot of fun. Hans Leenaarts, the Director and Business Manager, our wonderful host, took us on one of their Ecological Tours which was absolutely fascinating. It took in both a homestead and a station tour – all so interesting. Yet another station that I could not get enough of. It is also a station stay property with the accommodation being mainly in the form of Savannah Bungalows – two rows of them. Lots of fun.There is also a dormitory to cater for excess guests and/or staff as well as a camping ground. They’ve got everything! Even their own man-made rainforest, right outside the homestead front door. It has three paths leading through it – the pic shows one of these. They are just so cool and lovely to walk through. Except they do have spiders (yes, my fear coming to the fore yet again) up there and I was just a little concerned when walking along these paths at night that I might walk right through a web. It didn’t happen but that fear was ever present – not that it actually stopped me from going through – too lovely not to. I was very very careful and jumped every time there was the slightest movement! We did have an unwanted visitor in the shower though – in the form of a rather large Huntsman. It was sitting/standing on the wall next to the taps and I could have sworn it waved one of its spindly legs at me – but now I feel very proud that I did manage to have a shower with it watching me (I’m sure it was – I was certainly watching IT) but did find it a tad difficult trying to wash my hair while keeping one eye on it. I fully expected it to jump on me. It didn’t and next time I went into the ablutions block it had disappeared.


Rob and I were also invited to join Hans and the staff on a marsh camp/party on our first night there. While I was very dubious at first at the thought of camping, Hans had assured us that if we did not want to stay the night, he would bring us back to the station. That was a

terribly generous gesture but I am proud and very thankful to say we both stayed and had the best time. Watching those magnificent clear night skies up there – you could almost touch the stars. How can you beat that? Absolutely superb.

And on the second afternoon, some visitors arrived. From Radio Goolarri 99.7 FM they were there to interview Hans. But someone mentioned that we were also there to conduct interviews and I found myself being questioned about this. Never one to lose the chance to expose the book, I agreed to be interviewed. That was exciting and completely unexpected. 

We left Birdwood very early on our third morning there and Rob had another surprise for me. Although she had told me but nothing actually prepared me for the experiences themselves. We drove further east along the Gibb River Road, slightly further into the Kimberley and then turned off to visit the mighty Windjana Gorge – and I FINALLY saw freshies in reality for the first time (‘freshies’ being croc-speak for freshwater crocodiles – the ‘safe’ ones). I loved it. That was just so exciting and Windjana Gorge really needs to be seen to be believed. It is spectacular. After that we visited Tunnel Creek, a few kilometres further south. This was also excellent. But did present rather more of a challenge to get through – it is a ‘tunnel’ after all and does pass through a large range. We had to climb, stumble, half-swim, stumble, sortof walk and did I mention stumble – through the pitch black for this one. Rob had brought two of those thingies with lights (pointing forward for preference) on them that you wear around your head – similar to a miner’s helmet I suppose, but without the actual helmet. There were lots’n’lots’n’lots of rocks, big and small. And even one freshy. Not that I really saw it – but apparently if you looked directly at it you could see two eyes watching you – a tad eerie but I was busy keeping a very close eye on a Huntsman which was perched on a rock in the middle of the water! We eventually reached the end of the tunnel, had a look around – absolutely fascinating to say nothing of beautiful and then turned and retraced our steps back to the start. I hadn’t been sure what to wear for this and was trying to figure out what would be most suitable for doing the above. I finished up not doing anything – not even bothering to roll my jeans up. My sandshoes stayed on but I did take my sox off. And so I got drenched and squished everywhere! All part of the fun.

Once back at the car, we had a light picnic lunch which Rob had very thoughtfully and sensibly provided (thank goodness – I hadn’t even thought about it). After this we drove on to see the ruins of the old police station a bit further south. Again fascinating. Then we saw an old mine site before turning right into the Great Northern Highway and heading west toward Broome. Kimberley is also the only area (that I know of) in Australia that has Boab trees (don’t quote me on that one), which are really interesting. Amazing shapes. There are descriptions and stories about many of the things mentioned in these blogs in the book itself.




Fish and chips for dinner that night and Rob was able to be with me on the Monday – she had the day off. We met her friend for lunch and then visited the wonderful Short Street Gallery, featuring Indigenous art as well as some lovely skin care products (Rohr Remedy) before going to see the warehouse where the art work for the above gallery is stored. It is absolutely jam packed with the most superb works – we purchased a beautiful piece for Rob’s 30th birthday. We also did some shopping, visited the Indigenous Magabala Bookshop where we both bought probably a lot more than we should have. 

Unfortunately Rob had to return to work the next day so I spent  my last few days walking, ‘working’ (on the book), bonding with my grand-parrot and just enjoying life. As I had use of Rob’s car, I spent my last day there trying to find my way around Broome. A few wrong turns – quite a few wrong turns – I even found myself out at the port. Not quite sure how but the colour of that water – just superb. I had a great time getting completely lost in Broome – I had a great time in Broome full stop.
Some very exciting news – something that I was beginning to think just wasn’t going to happen. Thanks largely to the ICPA (Isolated Children’s and Parents’ Association) as well as the School of the Air (or Distance Education) I am now receiving quite a lot of entries for both the cover design and title. Really pleased about that. There is also now a deadline: August 15th.
I have to admit that upon returning to Perth after the Broome and Kimberley trip, once I had seen my family, home, pets and car – all I could think of was why on earth do I live in Perth and not in Broome or somewhere in the outback? It was all I could do not to catch the next flight, bus, train or whatever north or east.
But in a few weeks I am off on the very final research trip for the book – to Mt Augustus. Really looking forward to it as I have every other area of our outback.


Western Australia – You’re Next!

30 Apr 15
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Believe it or not – the book on stations, or the stations book, or Red Dust Dreams – is finally looking like heading toward publication.  I have slotted that in for the end of 2015!  All images for the participating stations to date have been issued, except WA – and some have already been edited by those station owners and returned to me.  Thank you so much.  Also for the suggestions/thoughts/comments which continue to come through – all very welcome.  And the texts are gradually being completed and also sent out – still working on those.  A couple have already been edited by their respective stations and returned.  Cheryl has also begun the major editing.  

Also slowly but surely finalising interviews with the wonderful group of retired pastoralists whom are participating – and a lot of others.  The list continues – but my editors are putting the brakes on for me – badly needed.  We have our stations people, retired pastoralists, Indigenous people, backpackers, bikies, some who live in the cities but regularly work in the outback, shearers, truckies – and more.

Unfortunately at this stage, it does seem that the cover design and title for the book will be decided between my family and friends – and not by the families and students of the School of the Air after all.  I have tried to issue details of the competition to all bases nationwide, but to date, I have not had a lot of response.  I have also now had to issue a deadline.  I have not given up but am looking at Plans B and C just in case.  I also remain in hope that the ICPA might be able to help with this.  If necessary, I will turn to the participating stations themselves for help with this – and then, in a final fit of hope, turn to family and friends, as mentioned.  


But now and at last – it’s WA’s turn and the first of four trips here has already been undertaken.  My sincere thanks to Kathy and Malcolm Boladeras of Wonganoo Station, some hours north east of Kalgoorlie, for showing me some more of this amazing country hospitality recently.  This was the first time I had driven myself (hired my trusty little Hyundai in Kalgoorlie) and loved every bit of it.  Saw much of the station, thanks to Kathy’s tour – even three camels in the distance and countless goannas – and a snake put in a special appearance by slithering across the road in front of us.  I see and learn something new with each and every station visit – this time it was the camels and goannas.  The Boladeras’ even have a donga which I have read about in the past, but never seen.  And a great undercover entertainment area called a Spinifex Shed (or coolhouse) which is based on the Coolgarie Safe concept of water running down over the spinifex.

Four more stations here to cover and I start these with two which are between Exmouth and Geraldton.  Driving myself again, in my own little Yaris.  Then I am back in town for a week before catching a coach up to Broome and out to a station stay property in the Kimberley.  Very excited as my daughter will be joining me on this one and I will be spending a few days with her in Broome before heading south again.  After that, back again for about a month before my very final trip – a coach tour to Mt Augustus.  Two new stations coming in by email from WA, joining several others also coming on board by email, in other states.

And that’s it.  Finito.  I do have a mammoth amount of writing to do in between all these trips still – but continue to love every bit of it. 






Queen of the Desert

18 Aug 14

Hello again.  Just thought you might like to see a pretty famous shoe – belonging to ‘Priscilla – Queen of the Desert’, no less.  I suppose the other one does too – actually, I don’t think there is another one.  For those who have seen the film, it’s the one that sat on top of the bus.  On this occasion, however, it was sitting on the stage at the Broken Hill Agfair in May this year.  Just thought you might all be interested.


Ok – now we are on countdown – or should I say, we are trying to be on countdown to the WA research trip.  Most of you should know by now that we are also trying to cover this final trip with a documentary – called ‘Red Dust Dreams’, surprisingly enough.  And the film crew?  ‘Red Dust Dreamers’.
Making a documentary to cover the research for the book is something that never occurred to me.  Until I did the research on the NT recently and several people there told me that what I am doing – both the book itself and the research trips and all involved therein – is fascinating.  Well – I already knew that – but it was lovely to hear others say it to me.  Those same people then asked why it isn’t all being covered with a documentary.  I agreed – sort of – but also thought it’s a bit late for that.  Most of the nation has already been covered.

Once back home I began thinking – the seed had been planted and was growing.  Yes, it was too late for the rest of the nation – but then, given the amount it is costing anyway – it just would not have been a viable proposition.  But we still had the WA stations to cover – so why not!  Having absolutely no idea where or how to start I began contacting film and documentary makers, mainly interstate for some reason.  Some just ignored me but those who were good enough to respond, lost interest very quickly when I explained that it concerns the outback.  Then I turned to home – and the first that came to mind and should have been the first and only one from the beginning – was/is MOVING IMAGES AND TV PRODUCTIONS the business belonging to TV cameraman, Steve Fitzgibbon and his wife, Sue.  Steve had worked with one of my daughters, Fiona, when she was doing an internship as a journalist at Perth’s WTV and he was also good enough to come and film me doing a spiel at one stage.  So – I contacted him and he is now onboard, followed by our second cameraman, Christian Niddrie (of REVELATION PICTURES, Fiona and Warren Masilamony, our editor.  We are now looking at employing a PR professional to join our crew.

Please bear in mind that while the documentary will only cover the WA stations, as most of you know, the rest of the nation has already been covered and there are a lot more participating stations involved.  With the permission of said stations I will be including as much info and as many images as possible about each and every one, including some ‘touristy’ info.  My thanks to those stations that have already responded so positively to this.
The purpose for ‘Red Dust Dreams’ the documentary, is two-fold – actually it’s more than that – it’s quite a few-fold.  The original intention of the book and hence the doco was and still is to help raise the image of the people of outback Australia, to try to help educate those in urban Australia and the rest of the world about how the people out there live, some simply surviving on a daily basis.  We are focussing more on the domestic side of life, rather than the business side – except for those stations that have moved over to tourism.  Life is hard out there – make no mistake – but most of those in urban Australia just do not understand.  We are hoping both the book and the doco will help with that understanding.  The doco will provide a more visual experience to accompany the written journey through the outback and into the lives of some of these remote families and communities.  It will also provide a more behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the book, including how the author integrates into that lifestyle and how research is conducted to gather the mass of information required.  

We also want to capture and share the beauty of the outback, the spectacular scenery that is unique to our outback – which can only be caught on film.  We are also planning to interview, photograph and film some of the locals in the towns we will be travelling through (Kalgoorlie, Leinster and first station, Mt Magnet, Mullewa and second station, Geraldton, Northampton and third station, perhaps Kalbarri, fourth and fifth stations, Denham, Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Exmouth and sixth station, Dampier, Karratha, Pt Hedland, Broome, Derby and seventh station, Newman, Meekatharra and hopefully Mt Augustus) – yup – just a few places and we might not be able to visit all of them but the main ones should be included.  Much of this is also being done in the name of helping to increase WA’s tourism, along with generally just trying to help spread light on this amazing and largely unknown remote culture. 

Aspects included will be entertainment, transport, employment, education (showing the rest of the world how the children of the outback learn), infrastructure, transport, communication, shopping, mail, tourism, affects of social media, health – and so much more.

And what are we doing?  Along with two of my ‘crew’ I plan to hire a 4WD and drive out to Kalgoorlie, then follow the route outlined above to each of the seven participating stations and a few other tourist spots.  I will be filmed meeting, interviewing and photographing the stations owers/managers and their families, staff members and some key local townspeople as mentioned.

‘Red Dust Dreamers’ consists of moi, author and Behind-the-Scenes Production Co-Ordinator; Steve Fitzgibbon – Producer/Production Manager, Sound, Camera Operator; Christian Niddrie – Film Director, Production Assistant, Lighting, 2nd Camera Operator; Warren – Film Editor, Media Packages and Broadcast Sales and Fiona – Script Writer and Voice Over.  We are also looking into employing a professional PR person at the moment too.  Yes, they are all professionals and I could try to do the lot by myself – but that just wouldn’t work and I don’t want anything but the best for our outback.  Steve and Christian will be joining me on the roadtrip.


However, money keeps coming into it – rearing its ugly head. Very little happens in the world without it and Red Dust Dreams, the documentary, is no different.  Trying to raise the amount required to fund such a roadtrip is proving to be just a bit of a challenge.  I had originally planned to cover the WA stations with one of my usual research trips in August (as in NOW) but, then I put it back to October, but despite all our efforts at trying to raise said funds, unless we receive a huge injection of funds in the next six weeks or so, I am now pretty well confirming that it will occur in May next year.  The book will be published next year too.  To help raise these vital funds, we would be extremely grateful if you would visit our crowfunding campaign site and donate a teensy bit of money – or even a lot.

For more info on our trip and to see me (this crazy woman) live on camera (getting a taste for the trip itself) please do click on our crowdfunding campaign and help us by sharing and spreading the word about our trip and to try to raise those funds.  We are also trying to contact as many relevant businesses and companies as possible around the nation to gain interest in sponsorship.

For tips on travelling in the outback generally – and particularly if you are a crazy middle aged female who has, up to now, insisted on travelling throughout the outback by herself, please visit our special FaceBook page.

Thank you.  See you all next post.





Crocodiles and RFDS Ball

31 May 14
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Hello again.  I have just returned from another amazing trip – to Adelaide, up to Broken Hill, back to Adelaide, up to the Alice and then up to Darwin.  Still the best way to see the best part of the nation in my opinion – the outback by coach.  The amazing Greyhound drivers once again transported me safely up the Stuart Highway, delivering me into the Alice for a day, enroute to Darwin.  My thanks to them all – in Qld as well – and to Dee Gurd, the supervisor in Adelaide who bent over backwards to help me.

This trip actually gave me the opportunity to tick off a couple of the items from my bucket-list.  First, flying in a smallish aircraft – I grabbed this chance from Adelaide up to Broken Hill.  And it didn’t disappoint – it was fabulous.  Unexpectedly I also found myself being able to fly on/in a helicopter – at last!!  Better than I’d ever imagined and cannot wait to go again.

Up in the Hill, due to a misunderstanding at my accommodation, I actually spent the first night with the wonderful Mary and Peter Beven.  Not quite sure what I would have done without them to be honest – the Agfair was on the same weekend and all accommodation had been booked out a long time in advance.  Never mind.  It all finally worked out.  I managed to work on the book while there, as well as spending some hours on the Saturday at the Agfair. I also attended the annual RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) ball – what a fantastic night!  Also included was a look around the amazing Silverton, the Hill itself – and I even managed to meet the hugely talented outback artist and one of the ‘Brushmen of the Bush’ Jack Absalom – a lovely gentleman even if I had no idea who he was at first.  And finally the Beven family station, Sturt’s Meadows.  There were many other highlights too – all will be mentioned and expanded on in the book.

Back down the Barrier Highway, through more very familiar countryside as we passed through Mannahill, Yunta, Oodlawirra, to my next stop at Terowie, where I was staying with the fantastic Jacki and Peter Mattey on Franklyn Station, which is next door to Pitcairn.  A wonderful day there included a tour of their numerous properties around Terowie – although I used to live in the area I had never before seen any of this countryside – another first for me.  This tour included something rather – unusual…no other way to explain it.  I had never seen anything like it before and am quite sure I’ll not see anything like it again.  On Thursday we drove down to Adelaide, again passing through very familiar countryside.  I left the Matteys on the Saturday and spent a further couple of days in Adelaide before catching that wonderful Greyhound for the trip up north.

My fleeting visit to the Alice was terrific and I have two more locals coming onboard from there, all of which is wonderful.  On the Friday evening, I caught the next and final coach up to Darwin. This entire trip passes through many stations which I found absolutely fascinating and am trying to find a map showing them all.  One of these stations is Erldunda, which is now a superb roadhouse and tourist centre while all remaining part of the working station that is Erldunda and which used to belong to very good friends of my family’s.  

And into Darwin.  Still my favourite capital city – so like a big country town.  I had a lovely view from my hotel room and again managed to get a lot of work done while also having a few lovely walks around the CBD – and – here is where I was able to tick that third item off my bucket list.  Seeing crocodiles in the wild.  And I would not have missed it.  Nor the entire day out. 

Time to come home – I flew back to Perth on the Tuesday.  Now to continue with the actual writing of the book.  And catching up with all the wonderful retired pastoralists again – starting to finalise it all. 

As with each trip, I have had some amazing and many very – eye-opening – experiences, some of which will be mentioned in the book – others will remain forevermore silent.  

In August, I plan to cover the WA stations, the final state.  Unfortunately, for various reasons, I have not been able to physically visit every participating station, but all of them will still be included, provided they wish to.   They will be done by email.  The comp details for the cover design and title for the book have now been issued to all, or most, School of the Air – or Distance Education, bases nationwide so that is underway.  And I have finally begun sending out those promised copies of Dad’s book, ‘The Sawers From Pitcairn’.

As for that ‘something different’ and unusual eluded to on Franklyn station – well, you’ll just have to wait to read all about it in the book.

Annual RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) Ball



More Research…

18 Apr 14
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Rain Gauge – Rarely anything in them.

Hi all – apologies for the silence but while I have been very busy since I returned to Perth after the Qld part of the research trips in September, I haven’t been on any further trips – apart from a really lovely day up to visit some of our retired pastoralists out of New Norcia. 

The rain gauge shown here is typical of those on most stations – and usually completely empty apart from old cobwebs etc. – and dust.  Always and forever dust.

After returning to Perth from my last amazing trip criss-crossing Qld, I have been busy working on the book – it is winding down – or up – now and while 2013 did not end on the most positive note, nor has 2014 begun very positively – except for the announcement from our eldest daughter and her now-fiance of their engagement and the graduation, with honours, of our second daughter – both superb news – we are getting there.  Onward and upward.  All good.

I am starting to finalise the interviews and photographs for the retired pastoralists and for a number of other people who are coming onboard.  I am still getting ‘newies’ joining in on a regular basis – now have some CWA members and shearers along with a piano tuner (I hope – still to be confirmed) who used to travel to the stations between Darwin and Alice Springs.  Also a few backpackers.   I am still following up leads for a number of others too.

And I am just preparing to head off on the next part of the research trips – heading to Adelaide again – flying up to Broken Hill to visit another couple of retired pastoralists who have been wonderful enough to organise this particular visit – and their family station which, for various reasons, I was unable to include on my first trip through NSW and SA – back down to visit another station which is actually a neighbour of my own childhood home, ‘Pitcairn’, then back to Adelaide for a couple of days before catching another wonderful Greyhound coach up to Alice Springs, visiting another station there before heading right up to spend a couple of days in Darwin – and then finally flying direct back to Perth.

I believe my visit to Broken Hill actually coincides with a couple of major annual events – the Agfair which runs for a couple of days – hoping to meet lots’n’lots of people and get lots’n’lots of photos.  The second event is the annual ball for the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Services).  Both of which should be fantastic.  Also a political dinner – all of which I am looking immensely forward to.

Back to Perth and I will be plunging heavily into the writing and organising of our book.  This will also be the time I will finally try to contact a the people whose details have been very generously provided to me by a lot of the station people I have already met.

The actual research trips should be completed sometime in August of this year when I plan to drive up the WA coast, visiting all participating stations en route.  I know there are still a few stations in both NSW and Qld that, for various reasons, I was unable to visit – hopefully I will still be able to cover these by email.  A couple of them have already emailed a lot of images, which is terrific – and I do have quite a lot of information from most of them already.  I will be contacting all stations which have missed the actual visits.

Also now starting to get the competition details for the cover design and title for the book out to all the SotA bases nationwide.  Really looking forward to seeing the entries for both parts of the competition.

Still loving this all so much and meeting the most amazing people.  

Next posting should come from somewhere in SA, NSW or the NT.  Stay tuned……

Distance Education or School of the Air – class in action!!

The Rest of Qld

28 Nov 13
We are now into November and seem to be in an awful hurry to reach Christmas.  I’M not in a hurry but the rest of the world seems to be!  And I appear to have been somewhat remiss in that I have neglected to finish the rest of the Qld part of the blog.  It continued to be absolutely fantastic.  

Before I plunge into this blog (which is well overdue anyway – a bit longer shouldn’t hurt) I do need to thank the people on those stations in the NT and WA who responded to my email of a few weeks ago, apologising for the length of time it is taking me to cover the research for our book.  Most of these people have been lovely enough to respond telling me that they understand and are still interested in participating – so they are still very definitely ‘in’ for next year.  There are still two stations in SA and one in NSW to cover yet.  During my research trips I have also been given heaps of info and contact details for various people – as yet I have not contacted many but will be doing so.  This includes those amazing retired pastoralists who are, or were, joining in.  I had hoped to do most of this contacting when I returned from Qld but a few – unexpected – things have happened which have caused more than a few hiccups.  

But this book is far too important to me – and I believe to all those that I have already met throughout our mighty outback – I also thank those of you who have contacted me to offer the most amazing encouragement and support.  All phone calls etc are on my list and those people will be contacted early in the new year, including all the retirees.

So onward and upward.

After leaving Tori and Alex I caught the overnight coach through to Brisbane.  Stayed there for one night before heading all the way up to the coast to Cairns.  What a trip!  Have to take my hat off to Greyhound – they do the best job.  That trip turned into a bit of an adventure – all good but all will be revealed in the book.  I had three nights in Cairns which I did enjoy, have to admit – but was more than ready to head bush again once that time came.  Usually I make the most of these ‘town stops’ to play catchup – get a blog out if I can, upload and register all photos, make phone calls, whatever.  But none of this happened this time.  The net wasn’t working in my room and my mobile decided to go on strike.  Camera wasn’t very happy either.

An early start on Friday 20th September saw me heading inland again.  Cairns would be one of the most stunning places to enter and leave, both by air and road.  Winding up to the Atherton Tablelands provides spectacular views back across Cairns, hills and the water – out to the Great Barrier Reef and some of the islands therein.  Can’t fault it.  And cannot equal it either.  Arrived in Georgetown a couple of hours later – actually have two stations there – and another one enroute to Georgetown – but for many reasons, two are now possibly being covered by email (they will not be missed out, just have to figure out the best way to bring them in).  Tragically there was a fatal light plane crash which occurred while I was travelling further south – I did at the time, vaguely wonder whether any of ‘my stations’ would be affected.  But then I figured – this is part of the mighty outback of Australia I am writing about.  So – YES – of COURSE some of ‘my stations’ were affected – direct for a few – as in the deceased were actually relations or extremely close friends for some.  Remembering that most of these remote areas in our great nation are very close-knit, yes this certainly did affect people, far and wide.

And because of this some of my plans had last minute changes – but this is all part of the learning process and adventure, as far as I am concerned – just a very sad reason.  I finished up spending a couple of nights in a lovely little motel in Georgetown itself but Saturday night was spent on the HUGE Abingdon Downs Station, some hours north of Georgetown. As previously mentioned, it is the ‘engine room’ of the Keough Cattle Company and as it turned out, I wouldn’t have missed Abingdon if I was paid to.  It is 1.1 million acres small – naturally cattle country, even has crocodiles (STILL didn’t see one though), cane toads (almost stepped on one) and just so much more.  Absolutely wonderful.  Even a gorgeous little foal was born – just for me! – or so I like to think!!  My hosts, Anita and Campbell had asked all their staff and several other property owners from around the area, to a lovely BBQ in the evening.  While tinged with sadness – overall a good time was had by all – well by me anyway.

Dam – or Turkey’s Nest

But – oh-so-dry.  Travelling west from Cairns, the countryside does vary hugely but the one common fact – it is DRY.  I found it to be absolutely fascinating – AND beautiful.  While many of the city folk that I talked to during this trip said they had also been out to different places in the outback of Qld, they all had the same opinion.  That it’s very boring with nothing to offer.  

But what so many do not seem realise, or care about, is that there are people out there – people who literally are struggling to survive.  On chatting with many of the actual station people I found that those who have lived out there for most of their lives – do not see a future.  How incredibly tragic.  And when they explain this feeling – I can understand.  The reasons for this feeling – not going into here – but some do make my blood boil.

There was one more station on this trip that I did visit, briefly.  I did not stay overnight but did visit the house and took many photos (by the way my camera is playing up so while I do have heaps of photos, they are all coming up as pretty flowers – which is lovely, but not what I want – this will be corrected the next posting – I hope).  But again lovely people, another very different homestead and surrounds – they all vary so much, so hugely and this fascinates me in itself.

This last property, Old Glenore Station, belongs to Marg and John Beard.  Again a lot of photos were taken, including their lagoon – another which is inhabited by those elusive crocs.  All I wanted was one pic – one pic – and nothing more – but – oooooh no – they stayed well and truly out of sight.  Still, it is their habitat and not mine so I didn’t intrude any further – didn’t get any pics of any – but I didn’t get eaten either and am still alive to tell the tale!!  After asking John a few questions Marg took me back to my motel.  Next day I headed further west out to Karumba.

Karumba was my last outback stay for this trip.  Karumba Point to be exact – and what a finale.  What a gem of a place.  It truly is where the outback meets the sea – right on the Gulf of Carpentaria.  It ranks at the top of my list of favourite places in Australia now.  But it was also my last hope at seeing a croc in the wild – and that vanished at dawn on my third morning there, when I left and returned to Cairns.  Ah well.  

There were a few aspects about Qld particularly that left me rather stunned – in the best way.  Or maybe I just hadn’t noticed this previously – but as I travelled deeper into the outback, I noticed that every station, irrespective of how remote it was/is, was well signposted on the main roads.  I would have said that meant it’s not easy to become lost – but I know that it is.  All these signposts are very neat and tidy – or those that I saw were.  Very easy to read.  Once you leave the main road and head off into the blue horizon might have been a different matter – but certainly those signposts told their own stories.  

And there was/is one other thing that ‘hit’ from the very first station in Qld.  Not going to tell you about it now – but it is/was something that I found that many of ‘my’ stations appeared to have in common.  Apart from the continual struggle to survive and all associated therein, that is.  Not sure that I actually liked the idea or not.  This aspect actually scared me – terrified me in fact – but also caused the deepest fascination and desire to know more.  And no, it is not spiders. 

All will be revealed in our book.

The further west and away from civilisation that I headed the more the terrain amazed me.  I do love water, I do love lush green grass and general growth, hills and mountains – but the further I ventured into our mighty outback – the more I know that this is the land I love.  They desperately need water, yes – but it is and always will be the most magnificent place on earth to me.

What a FANtastic Adventure This is

15 Sep 13
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What a brilliant way to see Australia!  And well off the beaten track.  I am enjoying this just so much – tiring yes but I would not miss any of it for anything.

I am now over half way through the Qld leg of the research trips for our book on stations.  The first couple of weeks were nothing short of wonderful – five very different stations in their individual ways (although mostly cattle and all in this rotten ongoing drought), along with homesteads and owners/managers.  A new station came onboard literally a couple of weeks prior to my flight to Brisbane and yet another has joined in since then.  More are talking about it.  Unfortunately, at the ‘eleventh’ hour a couple did have to pull out of the actual physical visits but remain very much a part of the book – will all be covered by email etc instead or – however.  They will not be missed out.

I cannot thank these wonderful and amazing station people enough for their hospitality, friendship and support for both the book and for me.  They are all bending over backwards in their efforts to support the book.  

To add to the excitement, it seemed that most towns between Mt Isa and Brisbane have a claim to fame.  The first of these is the famous ‘Walkabout-Creek-Pub’ made famous by the ‘Crocodile Dundee‘ movie.  I could almost see Linda, Hoges and friends walking over the verandah.  Sadly, as these coaches are there to serve their passengers for one purpose, to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ safely and on time, I could not ask the wonderful driver to stop for photos.  Another famous town is Winton, home of our wonderful song ‘Waltzing Matilda’.  Then of course came Longreach, home of Qantas – which I had known but had completely forgotten, probably because I was still recovering from Walkabout Creek.  But lo and behold, talk about reality – there, right beside the road was a Qantas jumbo!  I would have loved to have a good look at the cockpit but that time restraint came into play again.  As each town came into view, I kept wondering what this one would be famous for – and then getting angry with myself because I felt I should have known.  Even little Tambo, which I am told (and should have known) that is the site of the first Qantas crash.  Hmmmm…..I fly with Qantas all the time.

There were more towns with their claims to fame as we travelled further down the track toward Brisbane but this was an overnight trip so I didn’t see a lot.  Not that I slept well – but it was dark. Then on our way from Brisbane up the coast to Cairns, our first tea break was at ‘Matilda’ – and there was Matilda in full bloom – the kangaroo made famous at the Commonwealth Games some years ago.  Might have made an appearance at the Olympics in Sydney, too.  From then on, I saw the big pineapple, the big mango, several big birds and lots of other big things.  I gave up listing them but all were worth seeing.

The stations that I have had the absolute pleasure to visit in Qld (and the other two states thus far) were all equally wonderful and all had their own tales to tell – well, maybe not the stations themselves, but the people did.  I continue to meet some of the most unique people, making some lifelong friends as I travel.

Number one for the Qld leg, was ‘Bluff Downs’, the home of Rhonda Smith and which was my first taste of a ‘Queenslander’ – and absolutely beautiful.  One very proud home owner is Rhonda, apart from being a superb host (as they all were) and rightfully so.  The second, ‘Ulcanbah’, the home of the Hollingsworth Brothers and families, is also a true Queenslander, under renovation.  More unforgettable hospitality and friendship – even managed to sit in on a School of the Air (now known as Distance Education, I think) in action.  Absolutely amazing.  As I watched I was taken back a ‘few’ years to my own SotA days – oh-so-different.   I even unintentionally found myself becoming part of one lesson – I was trying to make a landline phone call and became part of a lesson in progress instead.  All part of the fun.  

Third station was ‘Torquay’, home of Beryl Hunter, station owner and authoress.  Beryl has even been good enough to give me a copy of her book, which I am looking forward to reading.  As has happened all along this ‘learning curve’ I found myself with a couple of new perspectives for the book – I was there for three nights (little mistake in dates) instead of the normal two.  So the first was spent in ‘Torquay’s’ ‘Queenslander’, the second in their town house in Hughenden and the third – in the Hughenden hotel/motel.   I was able to briefly meet Beryl’s outgoing caretaker, Garry Greenwood, who was about to leave on a nationwide trip with his lovely wife, Wendy.  Garry and I had quite a chat (he was a cameraman for one of the major networks in a ‘past life’ and is also an author/writer) and we hope to work in conjunction with each other in the future. Hughenden is also where I did have a short chance to put my feet up and watch a tiny bit of TV (having seen very little – no loss).  But this just happened to occur on the 7th – yup – election day.  The TV only had one channel – or should I say, it actually had a large number working – but all airing the same thing.  No prizes for guessing – election coverage from go to wo!  Could have done without that and I know I could have turned it off – pretty simple really.  But curiosity did get the better of me and I watched it, in between catching up on registering photos etc for the book.  Anyway, the result?  Well, let’s just say that given the reaction of these true country folk after the event – my support and loyalties have only been cemented.  Enough said.

Fourth station (as it has turned out) for this stretch was ‘Judith Royl, home to Barry Keough, of Keough Cattle Company Pty Ltd.  Apart from this station, there are five others in this company and two of them have now also come onboard.  Again a wonderful time at ‘Judith Royl’ – I even met the mail man, Arthur Crapp.  He is not your ‘regular’ mail man and more about him, including a pic, will be in the book.  I also met one of Barry’s daughters, Leigh – and her family who live on ‘Windsor Park’, a neighbour of ‘Judith Royl’s’.  Quite a few members of Barry’s family now appear to be coming onboard, in some way or other.  While his wife does not live on the station, I did have a quick telephone chat to her – she does the most amazing bark paintings.  Hope to have further chats in the future.  The other member who spoke with and we also plan to work with each other, is Klancie, a singer of growing repute – she actually made it to the final six in ‘Idol’ some years ago.  I believe she has an amazing voice (as does her mother) and we have established contact by email. 

The next station I cover is ‘Abingdon Downs’, a huge property north of Georgetown, out of Cairns.  It is managed by Barry’s son, Campbell and is the powerhouse of the Keough Cattle Company.  There is one more after that, ‘Old Glenore’, the Beard’s property out of Normanton.  Again there are a couple more on this part but both are now being covered by email.

My last station on the first part of this trip was ‘Lumeah’, home of Tori Carroll and partner Alex. Finally, I have seen wild pigs (they are BIG), deer, camels, dingoes (albeit from afar), many different birds and of course, the inevitable million or so kangaroos, emus and rabbits.  Probably a lot more.   Even a snake – well I didn’t actually see it, but sure as heck knew about it.  This was on ‘Lumeah’ – my host, Alex, found it curled up in a sack full of fodder for their domestic animals, in a back shed.  A sack, I might add, that both Tori and Alex delve a hand into regularly to feed their animals. Gives me the shudders.  We had just returned from another wonderful trip around the station looking at things (getting photos etc) when Alex suddenly screamed blue murder – to Tori and me it could only mean one thing – SNAKE.  The ensuing scene?  Alex ran off trying to find something to grab it, Tori running around madly grabbing Roger the Jack Russell and speeding up the nearest, highest object (which happened to be an old couch) while I ran around trying to get positions for great photos while hoping to stay out of the way for one angry snake.  Guess it was a good way of cleaning out the little shed – the snake didn’t show itself again (sensible thing) but there were endless hiding places, most of which have been removed now.  I do take my hat off to Alex for that effort.  

Sadly, dingoes are prevalent in the areas I have visited and evidence of their destruction is clear in many places on these stations – other animals having been caught and brought down – some not killed but just left to die a very slow and painful death.  Koalas have all but been wiped out up here – not thanks to humans, nor fires, nor floods – but dingoes.  Enough said.The adventure and excitement just doesn’t cease – and nor should it.  

And I continue to absolutely thrive on it.




What? No Water? No Power?

10 Jul 13
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It’s dark and you want the light on.  You flick the switch.  Hey presto – light.  Or – if it doesn’t switch on, you are a tad frustrated.  It means one of several things – you haven’t paid the power bill, or there’s a blackout for some reason – or the globe’s gone.  Whatever, you are frustrated – because you have taken it for granted that by flicking that swtich – light naturally comes on.  Same with a tap – you want water, you turn the tap on.  Again – magic.  Water pours out.  You turn the tap one way, the water warms up.  Turn it the other, it cools down.  Turn the tap off – the water stops.  But again – you’ve taken it for granted that there will be water coming through that tap.  And if neither the light switch works or water does not come through that tap, you are not happy – over to the telephone to ring for help.  Dial the right number and your call will go through.  Again, taken for granted.  Later you want to go to the shop – just up the road.  You get into the car, naturally expecting that the engine will start with the turn of the key.  And it if doesn’t – that temper isn’t improving but nothing for it except to ring the local automobile club or garage and get help as quickly as possible.

Later on, as you are preparing for dinner in the evening, after a hard day at the office or doing whatever you’ve been doing – suddenly visitors arrive unannounced.  Looks like they’re here for dinner too – you put on a brave smile and throw on a bit of extra for them – or if you haven’t got that extra, quickly call someone to grab whatever’s needed from the shop.  Or – if worst comes to worst – one of the many takeaway places or nearby restaurants to the rescue.

All inconvenient?  Absolutely.  BUT at least such services and utilities are nearby and are convenient – along with all the emergency services.

Now, we are talking about populated areas.  And the story could not be more different hundreds, sometimes thousands of kilometres away – in the outback.  In Australia anyway.  The people, particularly the women, out there do it tough – make no mistake.  They are unique – they literally struggle on a daily basis – simply to survive.  Against almost insurmountable odds – both natural and human.  It seems that no matter which way they turn, they hit another brick wall.  It’s almost more normal for their taps not to produce anything more than a billow of red dust – because there isn’t any water – these people are usually in drought conditions.  As for the light – well, in many cases, while a lot of these areas are now connected to the ‘mains’, there are still a lot that aren’t and they have to rely on their own generators.  So if the light falters – the globe might have gone but it usually does mean that the generator needs to be restarted – and sometimes this has happened because it needs to be refuelled.  No hopping down to the nearest petrol station out here – it means another long trip into the nearest town or depot to restock fuel.  Communication out there has come a long way and telephones are pretty good now – but even then, if you have to call for help – it’s a long time coming, if ever.  Distances are too big.

This is the mighty outback of Australia – and its people.  Many of the men have been born in country hospitals (some on the stations themselves) and have spent their entire lives out there – bar perhaps a few years at boarding school, having been educated for their primary years by the School of the Air and, in its way, correspondence.  But that’s about it.  As for the women, a great many of them have originated from either capital cities, or country towns – some from farms and others again from foreign shores – all to live in that pure isolation out there.  These are those amazing women, young and old, who have to learn very quickly to adapt.  Some do.  Some don’t.  The allure, novelty and romance of the outback soon wears off and some find that the isolation and loneliness is just too much for them.  They find that they cannot handle it after all.  Many go out there to work as governesses and marry one of their employer’s neighbours or another local.

But such is the life in the outback.  And it applies to every age – from newborns through to those wonderful elderly people who possibly should have retired but love it too much and refuse to move away.




Qld – Here I Come – Beware – Be Very Ware

08 Jul 13
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Arrangements for the Qld leg of the research trips for our book are well underway – and again – I am really looking forward to it. 

Before I continue, a big welcome to the new stations which have come onboard, along with a lot of people who have visited stations – and towns in the outback – for holidays/work and have come from other properties, towns, cities and/or other nations. Having spoken with some of these people, face to face when I passed through Blinman, Broken Hill and Cobar – their feelings about the outback and their visits/lives out there are really interesting.  There are so many people coming onboard who I will be contacting by email or phone that I am now putting together a template to send to all of them.  Hopefully, it will be the easiest and safest way to make sure that everyone who wants to participate is definitely included.  

I am able to include some of the new stations in my ‘station visits’ but the rest will now be covered by mail, phone and email.  But rest assured, you will all be included – even if it takes me a while.

At the end of the SA/NSW leg I flew home from Sydney and threw myself into organising the re-visiting of many of our wonderful retired pastoralists.  This is now underway – but instead of ‘formally’ interviewing all these people, I am simply asking them a few questions and taking their photographs and obviously giving them a chance to ask me whatever they like.  I had originally sent all those who had agreed to participate in the book, one of the station packages which included a special questionnaire, put together for the retirees themselves.  Many completed these and returned them quickly which is fantastic – and I have met a lot of these people and been given an amazing amount of information about their lives and histories as well as histories of their stations.  All just so interesting.  

I still have two (maybe three) stations in the Northern Territory which I hope to visit sometime in November.  At this stage, not sure when I will begin the WA stations – had hoped for the end of this year but I plan to cover them in a couple of stages and it might be early next year.  Remembering all the time that I am a ‘lone soldier’ doing this.

My trip to Qld commences when I fly to Townsville, via Brisbane, at the end of August.  I then take a coach west to Mt Isa, stopping for one

Witchetty Grubs

or two days at six stations en route (all going well), then back down to Brisbane, stopping at one station.  From Brisbane I travel by coach up the coast, through Townsville, stopping at Australia Zoo briefly (relying on memory here) before arriving at Cairns.  Another coach takes me from there out to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria.  I have three further stations along that route.  Spend a day or two in Karumba before returning direct to Cairns and finally flying home, at the beginning of October.  Yes, it’s a tight schedule – also a challenging one and I continue to thrive on all this.

As I travel along this amazing road, new aspects/suggestions/thoughts are forever being put to me.  Not long after I returned to Perth from the SA/NSW leg, I was interviewed (at 2.30 am one Saturday…AAAAGGHHH) by The Social Network Station in the USA.   The purpose of this was to be questioned about the impact of the internet and social media on the people in the outback.  I managed to speak with quite a few people about this, during that first leg and the answers were very interesting – and varied.  Coming from different generations too.  But from what I have heard the people in the USA seem to have somewhat of a fascination for our mighty outback and I have been sent more questions – all about the outback – things that I had never thought about – and completely unrelated to the ‘net and social media.  But all so wonderful.   There is interest there and I will make use of this opportunity for all it is worth.

And as is well known by now, I will do almost anything to help expose this book – to help these amazing people and our mighty outback.

Stay tuned.






Home Again – Now for the Homework – and Preparations for the Qld Leg

25 May 13
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Home again.  The first leg of the research trips for our book is over – sort of.  Actually, it is nothing like being fully complete – but the travelling part is behind me – for this part – I think.  Prior to embarking on this trip I had established contact with yet more people – for both the book and for other reasons but have been provided with heaps more contacts – for stations and/or people who have been living in the outback, throughout SA, NSW, WA and a couple in the NT.  I will be contacting all of these people, along with re-visiting the participating retired pastoralists, in the coming weeks.  Suggestions/thoughts/ideas continue to pour in as does info about stations and their histories – from all over the place.  All so good.

Before I continue, though – I have been extremely remiss (probably more than once and I am sure it will happen again) in that I did not mention the famous Blinman Pub Pizza Night, which Sally Henery took me along to on the Friday night I was at Alpana Station.  These yummy pizzas are made by the pub owners and staff on the spot – and are nothing short of sensational.  Believe me – this statement – coming from moi – is quite something – as most who know me well also know that I am not a ‘pizza person’ – having ‘out-pizzad’ (is that a word?) myself in my twenties – but even I couldn’t resist those of the pub.  And the variety – fantastic.  That was also the time of my reunion with Mary Fisher – and meeting many other people, most of whom are coming onboard.

After leaving Julie and Justin McClure of Kallara Station, north of Cobar, I spent a couple of days in the town itself – the intention being to contact the owner of another station, south of Cobar – but sadly, I was unable to reach him.  He will not be missed out though – as with so many others which are now coming onboard, our contact will be by mail and telephone – and email where possible.  Instead, I did have the opportunity to have a chat with Sharon Harland and staff of The Cobar Weekly, before visiting the Cobar Primary School to take photos.  Sharon has also put me into contact with another talented young lady – the girl who sang the national anthem at the Cobar Races – and, who, I believe, is a truck driver at the mines, when not singing.  There will be more about her later (I hope) – and a photo in the book.  The Principal of the primary school has been wonderful enough to throw his support behind our book – he showed me around the school and gave me (almost) free reign to photograph – and photograph I did.  The libararian was also wonderful enough to lend me a book about the history of the school, which I will be returning as soon as I can.  I also met a couple of teachers who have come from the city or other areas and now teaching ‘out there’ – they will all be coming onboard, hopefully.  All have such interesting stories to tell. 

Moving on from Cobar, north east to Dubbo and then turning north to my next property, Uralla, out of Coonamble.  Home to Marg and Charlie Beck, with one son, Ant, also living and working at home. More amazing hospitality, dished out by the bucketload – by country people – will it never end?  I hope not.  Marg and Charlie, like Sally and the McClures before them, were nothing short of FANtastic.  On my first day there they took me for a wonderful drive to Baradine, dropping into the Pilliga Forest information centre – absolutely fascinating – then onto Coonabarabran before going into the mighty Warrumbungle Ranges – I saw first hand the absolute devastation caused by those nightmare fires which swept through earlier this year.  How awful for those people.  Miraculously, the observatory was left unscathed – how is beyond me – but it was.  The views – again – spectacular.  Marg had asked me if I like ‘rustic’ buildings.  I do.  The next day, we drove out to another of the Beck’s properties around Coonamble.  And here were those rustic buildings – on seeing them for the first time – I was speechless.  For those who know me – this is a rarity, although is becoming more common as these trips continue.  Rustic?  Absolutely.  And something more – again, I just couldn’t get enough.  Marg was more than spot on with her description.  More photos – heaps’n’heaps of them but do not feel I caught the true ‘spirit’ of the buildings.  Judge for yourselves, in the book.  

My absolute heartfelt thanks to Marg, Charlie and Ant for their wonderful hospitality and – everything.  Again also to Sally Henery and Julie and Justin McClure.  You are all – wonderful.  Simple words really cannot describe how I have felt throughout this first trip.  

Just a little aside here – it might be noticed that there is not a photo of the actual house on Uralla, the Beck’s main property, whereas the houses on both Alpana and Kallara have been included – the reason being that both the latter are stations which have moved over to include tourism – something which more and more properties in Australia are being forced to do – simply in order to survive. It is not an easy life out there and they’re not exactly getting any help.  However, Uralla does continue to be a working property only – but not without struggling.  Some more photos will be included in the book.  

By the way – I returned home and found that I have actually lost a bit of weight!  Not through lack of eating – believe me I have never been fed so well, or so much, or so healthily – throughout the journey – all the best home cooked country food and piles of it.  I also did a lot of walking while away – which would have helped – but I think the major cause of my weight loss – or should I say – lack of weight gain would be – no junk food.  No take away.  Just good wholesome food – oh – also some superb home made chocky – and those pizzas.  But otherwise – need I say more?

The final part of this first research trip was a quick visit to Sydney before flying home to Perth – and my family.


Next stop – watch out Qld.  Three to four weeks up there – really looking forward to that too.

Read all about – everything – in the book.


This Amazing Adventure Continues – and I can’t get enough

14 May 13
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The adventure certainly does continue.  I am now in Cobar, somewhere near the middle of NSW.  

Sally Henery was lovely enough to drive me from  Alpana Station to Port Augusta so I could visit my own old SotA base there.  And I did.  However I had been unable to contact that SotA for a few reasons (none to do with anyone at the base), to warn them of my impending visit – so I was not expected.  But I did meet the Vice Principal who was wonderful in taking a few minutes to quickly show me a lesson in progress – via the internet.  A far cry from the ‘old’ SotA days.  She also gave me her contact details so I am now able to keep them up to date about the cover design and title competition and SA’s isolated families will be included with all the others nationwide.  

Down to Adelaide for a busy couple of days, meeting people and I did manage to catch up very quickly with one of my brothers and sister-in-law.  On my way yet again, heading north east toward Pitcairn – and then straight past it.  Countryside and towns all very familiar.  We were actually an hour late leaving Adelaide (very annoying reason for this which might – or not – eventually be revealed) and were unable to completely make up that time, while also trying to avoid kangaroos in the latter part of the trip.  But full marks to our brilliant driver, Mitch, for her efforts.  Our ETA in Broken Hill was 11.25 pm but instead we lopped in at sometime after midnight.  All the other passengers had homes to go to up there – but not me.  Oooooh no, I had to be different and believe me – that’s not a good idea when you’re in an unfamiliar town at that hour of the morning.  I have been to The Hill before, many years ago, but my memories are not strong.  I didn’t recognise a thing after the ‘Welcome to Broken Hill’ sign.  My next coach was due to leave at 3.30 am – so, as can be guessed, not a lot of sleep was enjoyed.  None in fact – I didn’t get to bed.  I did have everything organised – or so I thought – but therein lies another story.

Anyway, I caught that 3.30 am coach and arrived in Cobar on time at 9.25 am.  Following instructions I found my way to the local race course in time to see preparations in full swing,  for the Cobar Miners Race Club Annual Race Meeting.  Now, to say this event was a vision to behold – just amazing.  Absolutely and truly amazing.  The bright colours, the sheer professionalism, the atmosphere, food and drink etc.  Huh?  This was an outback race meeting?  Not the Melbourne Cup?  The fashions were straight out of a magazine for goodness sake – and they were easily equal to or better than those of any city meeting – including the hair styles – perfect.  Sharon Harland, Editor of The Cobar Weekly did suggest that I should pack appropriate attire for this event, including a fascinator – and I did.  Not the fascinator but the rest was there – in my case and there it stayed.  By the time I reached the race-course at first I was a tad beyond worrying about how I looked.  Then I was just too darned excited and happy to be there – so, yes, I stood out like a sore thumb – also because I am not a local.  Sharon’s suggestion should have ‘warned’ me – but I honestly don’t think anyone could have prepared me for that event.  These people know how to do it in style. I did get some wonderful photos, even if I do say so myself.  Including one of the Mayor.  Poor lady – but such a gracious person and her outfit – wow.  I’ll never forget her – but hope she might forget me.  The day and event itself – also unforgettable.



Finally – out to my next station.  Kallara Station.  Home to another amazing couple, Julie and Justin McClure – and family, all away at school.  Julie’s Uncle Max had attended the races and was good enough to drive me out after the day was over.  My thanks to you, Max.  Julie and Justin – like Sally Henery (I didn’t meet her husband David – he was away for my visit) – are powerhouses of energy and information.  So warm and welcoming, bubbly, that fantastic outback sense of humour – and could not have been more supportive with information.  These women leave me lost for words.  The men too and in many cases these stations have been in their families for at least a couple of generations – anyway it will all be covered in the book.  Needless to say, there is no way that I could do what they do – live out there and all that goes with it.  My hat goes off to all of them.

I had a wonderful time on Kallara, being made to feel completely at home.  Took heaps of photos, had a ball.  Yesterday morning, when it was actually drizzling, one of the workers dropped me back into Cobar on his way home to Dubbo.  My thanks to him for that.  

I continue to meet many, many locals as well as those on the actual stations and getting heaps of photos – some of which will not be included – but many will.  As time is against me for this trip, particularly as I am being swamped with information, I have more or less settled into a ‘routine’ – in that I am making a point of meeting people as I can and if they have a story to tell which is in any way relevant at all, I introduce and explain myself, give them a business card (thank goodness I brought heaps), take a photo if necessary and contact details, mentioning that I will be in contact again once I have returned home.  This includes those on the stations themselves.

I am starting to have people actually approach me – this is a new world to me.

Next stop, Coonamble and my last station for this trip.  

I continue to absolutely thrive on this and looking forward to the next leg, Qld.

Sally Henery did mention that she could see how much I was and am loving doing this – that I am in my element – Sally doesn’t think I’ll ever finish this book because I am enjoying the research just a bit too much – and she could well be right.  

But it will be published – somehow – sometime.