Flowers One




I received a comment about wild flowers. This year has been very wet in Western Australia, making for some magnificent displays, both in public gardens and in the wild. Flowers always incite me to photography, with the challenge to capture not only colour but pattern, texture and environment. In fact every sense except smell.

So I am going to put up some floral posts. Some of these image have already appeared on Face Book, but this blog allows them to be displayed in a larger, better format.

These first pictures come from the Araluen Gardens during their Tulip week.


An Early End – a New Plan

Farewell Mal

Mal’s red hair was gone but his spirit was strong ,back in June when we visited him before our trip.

On Monday 11th we farewelled our brother-in-law Malcolm Stuart at the Tumbarumba Presbyterian Church and the cemetery. The funeral filled the church and its hall to overflow – Mal was a big man, well-loved by his family and friends and widely respected within this rural community. In his life he had an enormous impact on so many people. As his son reported in the eulogy Mal loved to talk with people – wherever he was, whoever they were and about a wide range of interests. We will all miss him greatly.

Robyn Stuart with a small part of  Malcolm’s large family after the funeral when we had a chance to remember how Mal had influenced all our lives


Every trip, like a good story, needs a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s nice if the end has potential – hope.

The germination of our trip was long and slow. When we travelled through Central Australia more than thirty years ago, camping in tents with two very young children, we said on return that we wanted to see the West but it would need to wait. The actual planning probably took 2 years, gradually building momentum as departure got closer. This blog covered the month before we left until now.

The middle I think was our time after we left the Eastern States. We had previously travelled extensively in the East,  South Australia and the Northern Territory so it was Western Australia and the Kimberley that was so new, a landscape beautiful in an almost alien way, best described by Mary Durack.

If one were to paint this country in it’s true colours,I doubt it would ever be believed. It would be said at least that the artist exaggerated greatly,for never have I seen such richness and variety of hue as in these ranges.”

The distances were enormous, the populations scattered and small without the influx bought into the Pilbarra by the mining boom in minerals and oil and my favourite town of all would have to be Broome. As Ernie Dingo and Missy Higgins sing in Bran Nui Dai ” Soon I’ll be dreaming in Broome” “.

Our trip really ended in Tumbarumba with Mal’s funeral.  We may not end up getting home for five or six weeks, but we have neither the time nor the heart to drive back across the Nullabor and complete what we had planned – Perth to Esperance through what is reputed to be some of the most beautiful countryside in our country.

We will be back, however. Maybe next year or the one after  …. there will be a gap but stay tuned for the next instalment


  • We travelled for 101 days – 14 weeks and 3 days
  • We travelled for 16, 600 km – mostly towing the caravan at an average speed of 75 km but attempting to cruise at 90 kph on country roads.
  • We used  about 1070 litres of fuel paying up to $1.80 per litre. When travelling it sometimes cost $150 per day
  • We made seventeen different tours starting with a winery tour in Mudgee  and ending with our sailing with Dugongs at Shark Bay. We found the tour guides to be always informative and passionate about where they live even if they had taken the same tour with similar tourists a thousand times before
  • We took advantage of volunteers wherever possible
  • We spoke to our fellow travellers regularly – they were better than any written travel guides. Through such conversations we decided to stay in Lake Argyll and Coral Bay which were highlights of our trip.
  • Australia is an amazing country – if you possibly can – get out there and see it!


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Trip from West to East

A Fast Trip Across a Large Continent

The illness to our brother-in-law Malcolm Stuart meant a dash from Perth to Tumbarumba in the Snowy Mountains in NSW a distance of nearly 3,600 km. We left at Dawn on Tuesday with the intent to drive during the daylight hours as far as possible each day, stay wherever we could and get to Tumbarumba by Saturday afternoon.

The first two nights we free camped on roadside stops at Fraser Range Area, 80 km past the Norseman turnoff (the first picture) and then at the 222 km Peg Camps Rest Area 222 km West of the Eucla border between Western Australia and South Australia (the second picture). Free camping meant that we could drive further and get away earlier in the morning. We will do more of this on any further trips. You can manage a couple of nights with a bucket wash instead of a shower!




At Eucla, fueling after the border quarantine post, we got a mobile call to tell us that Malcolm had died, in Tumbarumba Hospital, with his wife and children with him. This did not change our intention to continue to be there as soon as possible.



Considering how long we were driving, towing the van, the trip went very smoothly, with stops at the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park at Wilminton (just past Port Augusta, now in South Australia) and at Balranald the next night. Having used all our prepared meals we ate out both nights. On this trip we have travelled through every State and Territory on the Australia mainland – sorry Tasmania, left out again!

We arrived in Tumbarumba on Saturday at 3.30 pm, having travelled via the Hay Plains and Wagga Wagga – our shortest days driving at 550 km.



Perth is the hometown of my mother and I was looking forward to seeing it for the first time. Unfortunately, while in Geraldton, we heard that Julie’s brother-in-law, Malcolm Stuart, was in hospital and doing very badly in his battle with lymphatic cancer. Our projected nine days was shortened to three when we decided that it was too late in the season to fly back and forth and resume the trip and we should travel in haste to Tumbarumba.

On our first day, Sunday, after visiting the Allnations Presbyterian Church, we spent the afternoon in the famous Kings Park. The opening image shows the city skyline as seen from Kings Park. The city of Perth is certainly the first metropolis we have seen since Sydney with skyscaping builders everywhere.

Our other priority was to visit my mother’s friend, Doreen Walters and say hello. Doreen is my mother’s age – late 80’s – and has been in regular letter or phone contact with Mum since 1942. I find such a long distance friendship (Doreen worked all around the world before retiring to Perth) absolutely amazing. Speaking to Doreen the shared esteem, affection and shared experiences they have had for 68 years since they were both only 20 years old is obvious.

Doreen and Julie at Doreen’s home at Scarborough


Our next post will be on the way home.

Geraldton – Wind, Museum and War Memorial


Geraldton is the fourth biggest city in Western Australia and according to the lady in the caravan park, the third windiest city – not sure whether in Australia or on earth but we are quite prepared to believe it.


In the background is the Port and city of Geraldton  in the foreground the Chapman River flows through the reserve adjoining the caravan park.

The two highlights of our day in Geraldton were the visit to the museum where there was an amazing display on the shipwrecks along the disastrous coast  and our time with a volunteer guide at the Memorial to HMAS Sydney overlooking the harbour.


The mutual sinking of the Sydney and the German  auxiliary Cruiser Kormoran on the 19th November 1941 with the complete loss of the 645 crewman on the Sydney, while 318 of the 399 personnel from Kormoran survived to become prisoners of War in Australia. This was Australia’s greatest ever naval disaster.


The memorial is in four parts – the huge standing stele,  the size of the bow of the HMAS Sydney stands in front of  The “Dome of Souls” structure, comprising a stainless steel dome, made up of 645 silver gulfs, representing the sailors lost at sea, a polished bronze propeller altar in the centre of a granite ceremonial area and an “Eternal Flame” that hangs above the altar.


The memorial wall lists the names of all lost, alphabetically giving rank and state of origin. I know there were four civilians on board working in the ship canteen but I am intrigued by Percy Skewes, enlisted in the RAN from Queensland with the rank/position of School Master.


The most touching part of the memorial for us is the sculpture of the waiting woman, dressed in the style of the 1940’s and given an age where she could be either mother or wife watching and waiting for the return of the Sydney, lost nearly 3 km down and 150 km to the West of Geraldton, where it had berthed for recreational leave only four weeks previously.

Kings in Grass Castles

The Duracks and the East Kimberley

During our stay two months ago at Lake Argyll and Kununurra we could not help but be impressed by the stamp the Durack family had placed on the entire East Kimberly area. After all it was the last week before a Federal election and we were in the electorate of Durack (Australia’s biggest – might be the world’s largest).

Nestled amidst the gullies and dwarfed by the landscape sits the homestead from Argyll Downs, relocated here before the flooding of the property by the damming of the Ord River to form Lake Argyll

We hiked across the stony gullies and ridges to visit the Argyle Downs homestead, relocated to the bank of the Lake Argyll when the Ord River Dam flooded the enormous property, which was the gem in the Durack cattle empire. I photographed the homestead and the graveyard, little realising the impact that these viewings would have on me over the next two months.

I purchased a small paperback “Pilgrimage – a journey through the life and writings of Mary Durack” compiled by the daughters of Dame Mary, and so much enjoyed the poetry , short stories and newspaper writing that I downloaded the audiobook of “Kings in Grass Castles”. Over the next 8 weeks, listening to an hour each day of driving we were enthralled by this story of her family and the history of squatting in three states and the Northern Territory.


The wide verandahs and stonework, built by Patsy Durack show the character of the building designed for the oppressive climate of the East Kimberly

It chronicles three generations of the Durack families travels from famine-bound Ireland, through servitude in NSW to owning property first near Goulburn, then droving their cattle via unmapped trails to Coopers Creek in Queensland. Finally, in Patsy Durack’s old age (Mary’s Grandfather), to be amongst the first white people to settle in the East Kimberly. They squatted on million’s of hectares of properties South of Wyndham to across near Hall’s Creek – the top of Australia.


Handmade furniture transported by cart from Goulburn NSW, used for twenty years at Coopers Creek in Queensland and then bought across the trackless paths used by the cattle driven from Queensland to the unexplored grassy plains of the Kimberley

Listening to this story gave me such an admiration for this generation of pioneers and the sacrifices they made to settle this amazing land. They were seen by those in the settled southern regions as land hungry, rapacious squatters – rich men. In reality they fought drought, flood, disease, loneliness with none of the comforts of wealth. Months, sometimes years in the saddle droving cattle into places which  had never even been explored. Within three generations their Castles of Grass were lost to drought, disease, the tyranny of distance and the vagaries of the early developing Australian economy.


Here lies PUMPKIN (member of the Boontamurra tribe of Coopers Creek) who from boyhood served Patrick Durack of Thylungra, Western Queensland, following his sons to the West in 1887 and rendered faithful friendship and devotion to the day of his death in 1908. Erected to his memory by MP Durack 1950


The most significant personal learning was about the complexities of the relationships between white settlers and the aboriginal people in the places they lived and the controversy this issue raised between different settlers and between people in the settled southern areas and the wild northern areas as to how to deal with the violence between the indigenous “owners” of the land and the new comers with technology like rifles and horses to wreak havoc on those who dared spear their cattle or repel their advances.

The story of Pumpkin, told in brief on his tombstone showed a better way. Pumpkin was buried with Patsy Durack’s religious medals, the most significant gift this deeply religious Irishman could leave him and wearing the gold watch given to the man Patsy described as his best and most faithful friend – a full-blooded aboriginal man.

You are the earth, Your face the face of ages,

Not of one birth, But of a timeless changing;

From soil to seed, from bird to beast

From rock to river and from sea to sky

Since lofe began your cycle has not ceased

And while your country lives you do not die

Mary Durack – 1936 “To an Ord River Aborigine – On His Walkabout”




Flowers, Flies, Gorges, and Waves


Kalbarri is close enough to Perth to be a popular beach side holiday destination.  Having been told it is a beautiful spot we prolonged our coast hugging and visited for two days.  It is indeed beautiful and again different from anywhere else we had been.  Well worth the visit.  There were four things that struck me.

Wildflowers abound on the 80 k drive in off the highway.  Photos of these can be seen in the previous post.


The picture says it all.  There were more little black flies in Kalbarri than one could imagine. For those who remember, they were vastly more prolific than the numbers at any afternoon BBQ held outside at Allworth.  Not even the strong coastal winds impacted on their ability to fly.



Seeing gorges was a surprise.  Although these were impressive they lacked the wow factor of those seen in Karajini National Park .


This was the first time we had seen real waves along the Western Australian coast