Riverina Reconnoitre

Reconnoitre, a verb meaning to inspect, observe, or survey in order to gain information.

Well, maybe that isn’t exactly correct as to what we were doing over the weekend just gone, but both of the words in the title start with ‘R’ and the general idea is there, so it’s close enough!

We live in the southern Riverina, and as it was school holidays, and I didn’t have to work on the Friday the wife, Miss 10, and myself travelled to town of Young about 3 hours drive north and spent the weekend there.


Today Young is known as the Cherry Capital of Australia (hence the big sign [above] located in the railway station precinct). Young owes it original existence to that yellow precious metal, Gold, which was reported to have been found there in 1860. At the time it was known as Lambing Flat because it was a place were lambing took place before the discovery of gold. The town grew quickly in the next few years and with it the trappings and facilities of civilisation arrived – the newspaper, Post Office, court house, National School, the first race meeting (which seemed to benefit the bushranger Frank Gardiner more than anyone else), the hospital, Cobb and Co coach service, and telegraph line, along with a number of churches and a flour mill. Eventually the railway, that most excellent of transportation modes, arrived.

But the history of Young also has a dark side, as does the history of many towns – the ugly spectre of racism. In the various Australian gold rushes it was not only the anglo-saxons that arrived at the diggings in large numbers. The Chinese were also a major ethnic group evident in the gold fields. Young was no exception. And in 1861, there was the first anti-Chinese riot. The various anti-Chinese riots occuring on the gold fields of Australia eventualy influenced the introduction of the infamous “White Australia Policy”. But the Chinese and indeed many other races have contributed to Australia’s development in major ways. The Chinese, for example, often developed market gardens in and around the towns where they settled, and were also willing to search for gold in areas where other’s thought it unprofitable.

Today, the town of Young recognises and embraces the influence of the Chinese on it, in the form of the Chinese Tribute Garden a few kilometres out of town and the annual Lambing Flat Chinese Festival. The gardens have been establised “in recognition of the contribution of the Chinese community to the settlement of Young in the 1860’s and to the ongoing contributions of the Chinese people to Australia as a Nation” – a far (and vastly improved) cry from the general feeling in the 1860’s!

After attending church on Sabbath morning and experiencing country hospitality we drove out to Tout’s Lookout, where we had a great view of the surrounding valleys and hills, and a chance to try some ‘trick’ photography using the panorama setting on my camera.

The next day saw us back in the car heading towards home. Rebecca and Eliana ‘enjoyed’ some back-to-school shopping, while I decided that retail therapy was not for me so I went for a nearly 10km hike along a section of the Wiradjuri Trail which circumnavigates the town of Wagga Wagga.

The Wiradjuri were the largest indigenous people group in New South Wales that were united by a common language, with strong ties of kinship, and were hunter / fisher / gatherers throughout central area of the state. The tribal area of the Wiradjuri has been described as the “land of the 3 rivers”, those rivers today being known as the Lachlan, Macquarie and Murrumbidgee rivers. A fourth river, the Murray, was the southern boundary of the tribal area.

And the holidays continue…

This is a follow-on from my previous post. Photos will be added in a future post.

Last Thursday and Friday the weather was rather inclement – thunderstorms, quite a lot of rain, high winds. So my base for those few days was my parents-in-law’s house. I pondered what to do over those two days, especially regarding my bike, which really needed some repairs to get it back to workable condition after the failure of the aforementioned vital part failure. The component on the rear derailer that had failed was beyond my ability to fix, so I decided that I would take the bike by car to the nearest bike shop some 50km away. The bike mechanic estimated the repairs would not be able to be done for a few days due to his workload and would be about $150. That blew the budget for the holiday out of the ballpark, but couldn’t be helped.

Over the Thursday and Friday I found some contentment reading a book about Martians and Venusians. If you have read such a book you will know that one I am talking about. On Friday the (whole) family arrived for the weekend. Sabbath was spent having a bible-study and lunch at the house of one of Rebecca’s aunties, and the afternoon around the in-laws house, and walking along the River Trail at Wahgunyah. Quite a pleasant way to spend a Sabbath.

Sunday dawned a little overcast but otherwise pleasant, so I borrowed a bike from the in-laws, and went for a ride. This ride was a mix of asphalt road, farm track, bike trail and rail trail, and by the time I had returned I had ridden around 32km but no where near the amount of climbing I had done during the earlier days in the week. Then in the evening once we got home I wanted to go for a ride but there were only two bikes I could use – a 20″ rimmed K-Rock foldable bike, and a $20 26″ Mountain Bike which I purchased while in Geelong back in February. The Mountain Bike had a rear flat tyre and as I couldn’t be bothered fixing it I opted for the K-Rock. This bike was aquired from my father-in-law to take to Nowra when I had to go here for week for work back in May as it as the only bike I could take on the CountryLink XPT train for free. While I was there in Nowra the rear brake assembly failed so I replaced it while there. The bike itself is quite tough but not designed for rough surfaces and with those 20″ rims it gives the impression of not being able to go very fast. So I trundled off on this 6 speed wonder. At least I thought I was trundling (ie, not going very fast), but when I got back and synced my ride to Strava I noticed the average speed was the fastest average speed of any ride I have done for quite some time. That little 6 speed low-geared ‘morris mini’ of the cycling world turned out to be a great bike on the 20 or so km ride, and I even got a KOM on one of the segments towards the end of the ride!

Today, Monday, dawned and started with an aborted ride along the road near the house. The weather forecast for the day was for 30 degrees celsius, clear skies – seemed like too good a day to waste. When looking through the garage I found a rim and mountain bike tyre that still had air in it (which meant there was no puncture in it) that had the same number of gears and was the same size as the one on the mountain bike that was flat so I swapped them and headed to Wagga Wagga to explore some mountain bike trails there at the Pomingalarna and Silvalite reserves, and along the Kapooka Bikeway. This was the first time I had ever really done any riding on trails designed for mountain bikes, and it proved a lot of fun. The $20 mountain bike worked great and I had a great couple of hours exploring the aforementioned reserves, then headed home for some lunch and a relaxing afternoon.

The Rock, and a hard place

Whenever family visits us, it’s always a good ‘excuse’ to see some places we haven’t seen yet. A month or so ago, we travelled between our home and the town of Wagga Wagga, and we went through the township called The Rock. As Mum has been visiting, we decided to spend Sabbath out in the Aussie bush, or as we have heard it called ‘the church with the blue roof’.

So we packed a lunch and drove out to the The Rock, about 45 minutes from where live. The township called The Rock is a named that because of a big rock face and mountain that overlooks the town and the plains surrounding it. The rockface and mountain is now part of a nature reserve, and has a walking track up to the top of the the rock face.

Called ‘Kengal’ by the local Aboriginal tribes, such an imposing feature would probably have had spiritual significance as well as being an important landmark. It is believed that the area was an important site for initiation ceremonies where boys become men. Apparently this involved the removal of the boy’s front teeth. The name of a nearby creek, Yerong Creek, is believed to be derived from the Aboriginal word ‘yirran’ or ‘irang’ which means teeth. It seems that mountains and high places often have spiritual significance attached to them. For example, Noah’s ark rested in a mountain after the Deluge, Moses was given the 10 Commandments on a mountain, and Elijah challenged people to believe in the God is Israel by a miracle on a mountain.

After lunch, 3 of our group decided to go home and the other 3 (Mum, Jesse and I) went for a walk, our aim being to get to the top of the rockface. The rockface and mountain seems to be very similar to ones we have seen in another mountain range called the Grampians in western Victoria, and elsewhere in our travels around eastern Australia. I wonder about the conventional ‘wisdom’ that says that these things took millions of years to form. The jagged nature of these types of hills, the split and jagged rocks and stark contrast in elevation seems to suggestto me more violent cataclysmic relatively short events rather than long drawn out erosion-type events we are led to believe.

One feature that I found of interest in the Rock Nature Reserve was the lack of undergrowth. And it’s no wonder there isn;t much undergrowth as there seems to be very little soil for vegetation to grown in.

Typical ‘soil’ in the nature reserve. Which isn’t really soil at all, but comprises mostly of small rocks of various sizes.

It seems that the closer to the rockface and mountain one gets the more rocky the ‘soil’ becomes. As can be seen in the photo above, not much grows there except for some hardy and somewhat short gum trees and native pine trees, and some grasess. Right up near the base of the rockface itself is one possible exception to this. Along the base of the rockface, there is a fairly large and thriving colony of Woolly Ragwort. This plant can only be found at the base rock faces, and is apparently a threatened species. Unlike many other Australia species which tend to have small or hard leaves to save water, the Woolly Ragwort’s leaves are ‘woolly’ (hence their name) which is an insulating layer which helps to conserve water.

Woolly Ragwort flowers

Woolly Ragwort colony along the rock face. Further along the walk there were much larger groups, but this photo shows them along the bottom of the rock face

Part way along the walk, before we reached the base of the rock face, Mum and Jesse decide they couldn’t make it any further, so I continued by myself, hoping to reach the top. Not far from the top the landscape was getting a lot more rocky and jagged and I felt that as I was alone it would be wiser to turn back rather than risk an injury while up near the top by myself. But before I turned back I took a few photos of the view.

Along the walk between where Mum and Jesse waited patiently for me to return and where I decided to turn back there are some interesting rock formations…

After I got back to Mum and Jesse, we walked back along the track towards the car park and part way along we saw a goanna / monitor / lizard (I am not sure which it is).

This goanna / monitor / lizard would have been about 1 – 1.5 metres in length from head to tail, and was trying to blend in. He almost succeeded! There was also evidence of other wildlife. Dragon flies were in abundance, especially near the top of the rock face. The seemingly ever present butterflies could also be seen…

And there was plenty of interesting plant life, an example of which can be seen below.

So even though there was not much undergrowth to be seen along most of the walk, there was still an abundance of life – various birds, plants that cling to life in the most unlikely places, insects in abundance, trees that overcome the lack of soil. Somehow the lack of undergrowth seems to be a contradiction to the abundance of other sorts of life, and yet that contradiction is so common in the Aussie bush.


The time capsule has been opened!

That’s what it feels like. After about 10 years I finished the film that was in the Pentax P30 and got the film developed. And so here a few of the photos, firstly a birthday cake from about 10 years ago.

We suspect this is Jesse’s 5th birthday cake, caken in Carisbrook in 2003. There was also a couple of photos from the house where we lived in Carisbrook, Victoria. The next photo shows Jesse today, with unruly hair and the ever present MP3 player, taken in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, a few days ago.

While in Wagga Wagga I spotted (actually it wasn’t that hard to see!) a very large almnost derelict looking building, labelled Murrumbidgee Flour Store., My guess is that it was flour mill / warehouse. It was adjacent to the railway, which suggests that at some time or other it was servrd by the railway.

And almost opposite it was a ‘plane on a stick’ – obviously hinting at some sort of link between the armed forces and the township of Wagga.

So there you have it – a 10 year old film, with photos on it spanning almost 10 years. And the P30 camera, with 10 year old batteries, still takes decent looking photos.