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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Travels

More about Menindee

After reading my last, rather gloomy post you may wonder why I continue to go back to that arid outback land. After this year it’s a good question.

There are a few answers…..

  • Beckler’s Botanical Bounty is an interesting, and important, project. When the rains come plants will grow, and we will be able to see what has survived, what may take longer to bounce back. We will collect more so that the Herbarium has material over a range of conditions for scientific research.
  • There’s the camaraderie of the artists, friends who share a similar passion.
  • There are friends in Menindee too. It’s a little town, but has a strength and resilience.
  • The Fella and I have caravanning adventures around these trips, to the Flinders Ranges, the Coorong and places along the Murray River.
  • I learn so much, about botany, environmental connections, about geology and geography, and people.

But the main answer is not as easy to encapsulate. It is as far away from the city as it is possible to be; physically and more important, spiritually. It is Big Sky country, stretching as far as you can see, with the blue sky arching overhead.

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This photo was taken in 2016. No where near as green now, but the horizon still stretches away.

And the clouds will take your breath away.

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There is peace. I was going to write “quiet”, but the raucous galahs woke me up at sunrise every morning. However, you get my point.¬†For over a week I can be in a place with no traffic, no TV, no radio but very good coffee! At night it seems like just the kangaroos and me are still awake.

At night the stars stretch across the sky. I miss them back in the city.

But the real magic of the place is morning and evening. My Mum taught me to love the light of those times. It is soft and pink and glowing, or yellow and pink and brash, but always beautiful.

There must be hundreds of photos of sunsets at Copi Hollow, the lake we camp beside, and I have at least half of them!

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And the morning light, when a fresh, new day is appearing, and anything is possible.

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It’s an ancient land, a powerful land, that gets into my soul and makes me want to return.

Another thing….

You can tell from my last post that I found the effect of the drought very distressing. But I can return to the comfort of the big city, with water on tap and no stock to water and feed. People living in those places cannot escape the conditions, and I admire their courage and determination to stay. But they need help. Below are some organisations that were suggested to me by people in Menindee. If you wish to donate, there are many fine organisations helping those in need. These ones may reach a little closer to Menindee.

You may have heard of the iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service. They do more than fly patients from remote locations to hospitals, although that is a vital service. Their mental health services would be very necessary in these times, and maybe a reason to donate.

The Country Women’s Association is another iconic organisation of the bush. They are famous for their scones, but they also provide disaster relief. Families can apply for help with household bill, schooling needs and so on.

Lastly, the TAFE in Menindee was fundraising for Buy a Bale. You can choose to buy hay for stock, water, fuel for transportation or even hampers from local supermarkets for farming families.

(A donation or not, to these organisations or not, is entirely up to you. Thank you for even considering.)

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Soon I will write about some arty things I have been up to. In the mean time you can subscribe to my fortnightly Letter from my Studio, and find out more about my art. You get a free feather drawing too!

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Categories
Travels

Arkaroola

The Fella and I left Menindee, stocked up at the supermarket in Broken Hill, and headed into South Australia. Our plan was to get up to the northern part of the Flinders Ranges, to a remote area, Arkaroola.

We stayed one night in Copley, and watched the coal train go through. It has 161 trucks — I know, because I counted them! — and is 2.8 km long. It travels from Port Augusta to the mine and back each day.

The road into Arkaroola was great, through dry creek beds, around windy corners and over crests. Like everyone we arrived dripping with dust, set up camp in the camping ground and got our bearings.

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This is not a traditionally beautiful place. It is rugged, hostile, dry, stony but also majestic, ancient, and gets into your soul. It is the bones of the earth laid bare. The Ranges glow in the morning and evening light, and the stark light of mid-day reveals all the fissures and faces.

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(Peter McDonald lives in the Ranges and superbly photographs all their beauty. You can see his images on his blog, The Sentimental Bloke. Much better than my snaps!)

Also, Arkaroola was alive with colour from plants flowering after recent rains. These were no meek little ground hugging plants either. There were large bushes of yellow sida and senna, purple flowers of the bush tomatoes and the creams and reds of eremophilas.

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Arakaroola is a privately owned wilderness area. It was bought in 1967 by Reg and Griselda Spriggs. It had been a struggling sheep station before that. Reg Spriggs had come up as a geologist student with his professor, the famous Sir Douglas Mawson, and like Mawson, had fallen in love with the area.

Griselda Spriggs, an intrepid woman, describes Arkaroola in her autobiography, “Dune is a four letter word”:

We climbed a ridge and looked northwards across the most breathtaking outback scenery I had ever seen: contorted regiments of rock, phalanxes of folded hills plunging into chasms, and creekbeds strewn with boulders and populated by giant river red gums, their bases still wrapped in the detritus of the last flood, so long ago now the litter was dry fuel for fire. We were in a mountain wilderness that had been forced high above the surrounding plains by continent-shaping forces long before mankind started counting time.

Eradication of feral animals was an important part of returning this stunning land back to its natural state, and the proliferation of plants shows the success of their programme. The Arkaroola website, linked at the beginning of this post, has more interesting information. Griselda Sprigg’s book is also a fascinating read of an amazing woman. Read it if it comes your way. Next time I want to tell you about the Ridge Top Tour.