Australia: Beyond the Books

Camped under an old gum tree in Kalbarri

During our travels we always look for a book exchange. Almost every campground has one. In this manner we picked up some interesting reading.
1] Who Am I by Robert Bernard Taylor
This book was an eye opener to me. I don’t think I was aware of the fact that Britain sent thousands of young children from orphanages to live in Australia. Similar to the criminals that were sent earlier, they loaded ships with children to “get a better life” in the colony. Robert was about 6 years old and promised an education in Australia. However, many of these children ended up doing slave labor, like the author of the book who spent six years in a Catholic Boys Home where the children were terribly abused and used to built buildings and do farm work, trapping rabbits etc. rather than receive an education.
The book was very interesting to read, even more so because Robert Taylor ended up educating himself and becoming a pioneering park ranger, working in many of the national parks we became familiar with on this trip. 

This book mentions another book called Empty Cradles, on the topic of child migrants.

2] Nomads At Large by Monty Dwyer, an Australia radio personality who traveled and interviwed seniors known as grey nomads. This book opened our eyes to the vast numbers of retirees who all buy campers and start traveling around the country, changing the economy of many places.

3] The Salvado Memoirs, a historical account of Australia from a particular Catholic mission in the mid 1800’s with the emphasize on aboriginal information.  It is a biography of a Benedictine priest who ended up being a bishop and who established one of the first missions. The book gives amazing details on customs and language of the aboriginal people. We will probably bring this book back with us so you might want to borrow it!

4] LOVE a book I picked up called My Place by Sally Morgan. It’s labeled as an Australian classic, her biography about being part aboriginal and what it meant to her and her family. Fascinating story, well written.

5] Tanami, by Kieran Kelly. A good read about two guys who walk across this Australian desert with 5 camels. A tough journey combined with interesting history and good storytelling. Kelly picks up where two historic explorers left off, and successfully completes an unfinished trek through Australia’s hottest place.

Kees is speeding through several John Grishams and I just picked up a copy of The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl.

During the last few days we have spent time in towns like Denham and Kalbarri. We are blown away (literally) by the strong storm winds along the west coast. At first we thought it was just a windy day. And a stormy night. But it got worse and people said “Oh, the whole west coast is like this.” We can’t sit outside. Our chairs are blown away all the time. It’s tough to hike in this wind and the flies seem to have developed special techniques because they are NOT blown away by it.Seems like every town here has a memorial, some statute or memento about a historic Dutch ship that hit the coast and perished here, three or four hundred years ago. There’s a whole slew: the Batavia, the Zuytdorp, and more. One plague said, and I quote “It is not clear why the ship perished. Perhaps the captain miscalculate the turn toward Batavia in the Indies.” And I am thinking ‘No way! Those Dutch sailors were the best in the world at that time. They made it all the way around the world. It was the darn storms off this coast that blew them onto the rocks!”

Shell Beach


Pink Lakes and Yellow Pinnacles

 On the way to Geraldton we drove passed Pink Lake. The water is pink because of a microbe releasing beta carotine in the water.


Geraldton was the first regular city since leaving Darwin, several thousand kilometers ago. It was very nicely laid out, with large boulevards and a great waterfront. We’ve noticed in a lot of towns here that the waterfront is preserved as park, often with playgrounds and public beaches. It’s so much nicer than walking along private hotels and restaurants and not being able to get to the shore.
It was Kees’ birthday so we had dinner in a lovely place with view on the water. The library had good, free!, internet access so we got caught up on emails and work.

Now we are staying in Cervantes, right by the beach. Today we drove Nambung National Park to see the Pinnacles. We were curious to see these since they seem an Australian landmark. They are depicted on the cover of an Australian book we have at home. I always wonder what it would be like to be the first to come across a place like this. Normal scrubby desert and then, bang, bright yellow sand with thousands of stone pillars. 
Scientists are not sure if they are stone (shell and sand) structures around which the soil has eroded. Or if they are fossilized wood. I would have thought it’d be easy to determine that, but apparently not. But, whatever it is, it looks cool to be surrounded by these pillars. We walked almost 4 KM among them. In the heat. So now I need a swim…

New Norcia, a Monastic Village

New Norcia college

In 1846 a Spanish monk made his way to the new world after having been given the task by the pope of establishing a monastry in Western Australia and converting Aborigines to Christianity.
Dom Salvado had a somewhat unique view for the time. He did not try to convert and preach very hard but worked with the native populatin to win their trust. He appreciated the wisdom of the native population and made friends with them. Salvado eventually founded a small town in the Australian bush. New Norcia is a Benedictine monastic town. Separated from the Catholic church, these monks live in the town permanently and actively work to earn their own living. They grow and press olives, have a beautiful bakery and make a renowned wine and beer. It’s like a small Spanish town in the Australian bush country, with old mission buildings and palm trees.

Church at New Norcia

We took a tour of  the churches and several other buildings now used by educational institutions for retreats, etc. You can even spend the night in the monastary. If we weren’t running out of time, we would have stayed and experienced that. A night’s stay includes a small room, and three meals a day with the monks, time for meditation and prayer and just quiet time to relax and reflect. Salvado made several trips back to Europe to raise funds for the small village. By 1900 on his 8th trip he passed away in Rome and was eventually burried in New Norcia.

New Norcia stain glass window

We opted to continue staying with our new Australian friends!
It was lovely to meet Australian people. We spent a few days with them and the last night they invited many of their friends for a little party. Wonderful to spend the evening with such friendly, jovial Aussies. They have a very admirable tight-knit community and take pride in building their own facilities like tennis courts, playing fields, a recreation hall and library.

On Wednesday we stopped at Yanchep National Park and, finally, saw koalas! They are so cute, clinging to the tree in their sleepy positions. They look as if they will crash to the ground if they let go. They’d move to a more comfortable fork in a tree, once in a while.

After that we found a lovely spot in Yanchep’s caravan park for our very last night in the camper! Exciting to now embark on our next adventure: a ten day hike from Cape Leeuwin to Cape Naturaliste in the south of Western Australia. Stay tuned for this adventure! 

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