Around Australia: reacquainting myself with Melbourne


When I was in Melbourne in 2004 I was living out of town or in one of the suburbs north of the river and working at a university campus in the west of the city. On this visit, I decided to stay in the centre. We spent our first day just wandering around. Very close to our hotel was a Pop-Up Bookshop selling off their stock. The Department stores are all full of dresses and hats for the Melbourne Cup and racing season. Christmas puddings, mince pies and Christmas cards are appearing, and a fake reindeer was being carried over to Federation Square. Up the hill, Flagstaff Gardens is one of the oldest gardens in the city. I had noticed there and at other places, trees are wrapped in metal around the trunk. This may be to prevent non-native creatures climbing up and attacking native wildlife. Some people there were having a morning Tai Chi session. Down the hill a little, near the courthouse we saw a long queue of lawyers in their robes and others waiting to get in. We have always thought our courts have short hours (10-4 usually) but this was 10.25 and the queue was not moving quickly. Back on Flinders Street, Hosier Street is well-known for street art.

but there are numerous other examples around the city. At the Birrarung Marr by the river there are a number of sculptures including this one entitled ‘Angel’ by Deborah Halpern in 1988.

There were a few birds on the river, mainly ducks and gulls but this Little Pied Cormorant, one of Australia’s most common water birds, was sitting on the bank.

The National Gallery of Victoria has a good selection of work by local artists up to the present day. There was a large exhibition entitle ‘Polyverse’ by LA-based and Melbourne-born artist Polly Borland who works in Cibachrome photography and tapestry.

In the 19th and 20th century gallery I particularly liked this almost impressionistic landscape by Sidney Long in 1905

and this painting Echuca Landscape by Fred Williams in 1962.

We had dinner with some friends in the evening. The following morning, we walked up Elizabeth Street to the Queen Victoria Market. It is the largest in the southern hemisphere and you can certainly get most of the food you would need here as well as many other things. Near our hotel on Flinders Street is the remains of an old bookshop which has certainly been liberated.

Fortunately, on the opposite side of the street is City Basement Books which is a great place for good quality secondhand books. The afternoon was spent on a two-hour cruise along the Yarra River. The first hour’s journey was under some of the low bridges in the city centre that can only be sailed under at low tide and out to the port.


After a lot of driving it was very relaxing to have someone else doing the driving and navigation while we just relaxed and watched the city float by. A lot of new buildings have been constructed along the harbourside since I was last here and Federation Square looks quite different.

The second hour is spent going in the opposite direction upstream, past the stadia, botanic gardens and up as far as Herring Island.

On our return to the berth near Federation Square, dozens of rowers and canoeists were on the river making it very tricky for our skipper to turn around and get into position at the berth.

After sunset the city centre looks good at night.

This is Flinders Station:

I particularly liked the poster on the front of St Patrick’s Cathedral ‘Let us Fully Welcome Refugees’.

Tomorrow we must leave and complete the last few days of our journey.

Around Australia: Geraldton to the Turquoise Coast


A couple of nights in Geraldton provided a break from long drives and time to re-supply. James was waiting outside the barber with three other guys before he opened at 8.30am. There only seem to be two in the city that we could find. He had a chat with the barber while his hair was being cut and mentioned the observation that he thought beards were more common in Australia than the UK. The barber agreed and noted that the hipster vogue for beards was keeping him in business as many guys wanted them professionally trimmed. The next stop was the Western Australian Museum which is well worth a visit. It covers the areas archaeology, natural history, settlement, the experience of the indigenous people, later migration and shipwrecks that have occurred along the coast. Admission is by donation. Nearby was a café overlooking the marina which was an ideal coffee top-up and a little further on past the main shopping street, a pop-up secondhand bookshop in which I found a book about the River Road in Louisiana: the southern part of the Great River Road we would like to drive at some point. Continuing along Marine Terrace eventually takes you past the port where the grain is loaded onto ships to Point Moore Lighthouse and beach. The lighthouse is Australia’s oldest and has been operational since 1878.

We had a walk along the beach and near the vehicle access was an osprey nest with three youngsters in it.

The road carries on around the point and back into town where we looked in the impressive Cathedral of St Francis Xavier. It was built in stages from the first part in 1918. A shortage of funds and artistic conflict delayed work until 1926 and was eventually completed in 1936.


The Anglican Cathedral is a little further up the avenue but is an unattractive 1960s-style concrete building. In front of the Queens Park Theatre is what from the road I thought was a sculpture but is in fact a sundial. The Iris Sundial was a gift to the city by the artist Bill Newbold who named it after his wife. A plate in front explains how it works. We tested it and found it to be accurate with date and time. Newbold took to designing sundials after he retired from the fishing industry and there are others around the city.

The following morning, we were back on Highway One referred to as the Brand Highway in these parts. We reached the twin seaside towns of Dongara and Port Denison at coffee time and found the Seaspray café down by the beach. It was well-signposted from the highway. There was a comfortable sofa, good coffee and various, home-made jams, art works and succulent arrangements for sale. The tide was in so there was not much beach to walk on and the only information board on local species was for fish. Fishing is a very popular hobby around here. On the way out, we passed the turn-off for Port Denison where this red fellow symbolises how important crayfishing is for the local industry.

Highway 60, known as the Indian Ocean Drive diverts from Highway One and continues through several coastal communities. We had not gone far when I spotted the turn-off for the Grigson Lookout. It is named after a pioneer whose family have farmed here for several generations. There are 360 degree views over the salt lakes, the gypsum and sand mines and towards the coast. Having thought some of the landscapes we travelled through a while back resembled parts of Utah near the Great Salt Lake, I was intrigued to see Salt Lakes here. This is the Australian equivalent of a trig point at 30m altitude.

This part of the west coast is knwown as the Turquoise Coast and Jurien Bay is the largest town. We found parking near the pier and beach and ate our lunch spot observed by some noisy gulls. There were only four watching us but as we passed the picnic tables later and another couple were eating. Word had got out and there were around twenty gulls. It reminded me of this notice spotted in Fremantle seven years ago:

Robinson Island is known to have rare Australian sea lions and at this time of year migrating cetaceans can sometimes be seen offshore. So far, we have not seen any despite scanning the ocean whenever we have the opportunity. We reached Cervantes and settled into our motel. The next few days will be devoted to visiting the Desert of Pinnacles and then visiting relatives and friends in Perth for a few days.

Around Australia: Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing


Before leaving Halls Creek this morning, I got a photograph of the cows on top of the local supermarket. I had noticed them the day before, but it was too busy to get a parking spot. The cows are testament to how important the beef industry is to the local area. The town holds a rodeo every July. Wikipedia said that in 2016 a mining company was exploring setting up in the area to mine iron ore. A population explosion was expected, and several stores and fast food businesses were planning to come to Halls Creek. There is no obvious evidence in town two years later, that this has happened. We did pass a small mine west of town on the highway but too quickly to see who or what it was. Halls Creek is on the edge of the desert and much of the land alongside the road is flat grassland with a few bushes or trees. Later on, some rocks did appear near the road and other escarpments were visible on the horizon.

Our destination was Fitzroy Crossing. The Fitzroy River (known as raparapa to the indigenous community who have inhabited the area for 40,000 years) has one of Australia’s largest catchment areas: 90,000 square kilometres. It has 20 tributaries and the water can rise up to 26 metres over the old crossing in the wet season. The area has flooded numerous times in the past and the town of Fitzroy Crossing was founded to enable an adequate crossing to be constructed. The first bridge was built in 1935 and the modern one in 1970. Today there was only a little water in the river but as it was hot, some of the locals were swimming.

Before checking into our hotel, we drove up to Geikie Gorge which is accessible with 2WD although one stretch has some pretty bad pot holes. One company and the parks service run river cruises in the gorge but today these were limited to 8am and 4pm which did not really fit in with our schedule. At other times they are hourly. There are some walking trails but as the temperature was the highest it has been so far on the trip at 39 degrees, we limited ourselves to a couple of the shorter ones and a peep over the water at a boat ramp.

I did solve one mystery here. The Kapok Bush (Cochlospermum fraseri) grows in the gorge. I had seen the yellow flowers on bushes and wondered what they were but had not seen any close up. Here, there was also an explanatory notice. The flowers turn into a pod which later splits to reveal the kapok. The indigenous Bunuba people (who call the plant Wanggu), weave the kapok with human hair to make thick belts called wanala. They also eat the tubers.


At the hotel I solved another mystery. On the east coast we had seen bushes or small trees in gardens and parks completely devoid of leaves, but the top of the branches had been pruned. Further north leaves and flowers have opened and they turned out to be rhododendrons. As a result of the flooding the town Fitzroy Crossing moved a little further away from the river. Our hotel had photographs of the most recent devastating flood in 2011 in the restaurant. Fitzroy Crossing has the oldest pub in the Kimberley Region dating from 1897: The Crossing Inn. It is still right down on the river bank as is the Pioneer Cemetery. The Inn has some indigenous art on display.

In the last couple of days, we have driven 220 and 215 miles bringing the total to 5541 miles.

Around Australia: From the outback to the city and the ocean


Having spent a few days in the outback it was time today to return to the city and the ocean. Our motel was just off the highway in Katherine, so we were on our way fairly quickly. Highway One was fairly quiet although we did see our first four tanker road train and there were the inevitable roadworks. Our coffee stop was in Pine Creek at a café where a cat was sitting outside the door ready to greet us. Further on in the town is a railway museum. It was closed when we passed by, but I had a brief look around. Inevitably the gold rush was the reason the railway opened in 1889. It was extended to Katherine in 1917 but never got as far as Alice Springs. When a nearby mine closed in 1976 the railway closed. In 2004 the Darwin to Adelaide line opened which we must do at some point.

There are a couple of locomotives in a shed. As it was closed I had to take photographs through the wire enclosure.

We continued north into a more rocky and hilly landscape. Just after Hayes Creek, the option to divert via the Dorat Road to Adelaide River where it rejoins Highway One. It was even quieter and the termite mounds even bigger. Some were almost 3 metres tall.

We saw some kangaroos grazing in the bush but all too soon we were back on the main road. A sign to a place called ‘Tortilla Flats’ raised a smile. After Mount Dam the water pipe ran alongside the road. Bad signage nearer Darwin meant that we missed our exit but third time lucky we were on the correct road and off to the airport to dump the rental car. Some bizarre rules mean that we could not keep the same car all the way around according to the offices in the UK and Sydney. The woman in the Darwin office thought that we could have had a rolling contract. Anyway, it is pleasant to be car-less for a day and hopefully we can re-negotiate the fee we are being charged which is for those dropping off at a different destination. Whichever car we have, it will be returned to Sydney where we started. One bit of good news is that when we checked into our hotel, we got upgraded to a suite with an ocean view! The following morning, en route to the Botanic Garden, I spotted an Avis office in town. While James went in to switch the car pick up to that office I explored the Catholic Cathedral opposite.


We walked the just under two miles to the Gardens and enjoyed being back in a green oasis after the dry outback.

Unlike the last one we visited, the epiphytic greenhouse was open and gave me some ideas to try with my orchids and some of my succulents if they have survived my absence. After a cold drink at the cafe it was time to walk a little further to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. One of the exhibitions was 66 out of the 300 entries for the Telstra National and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. There were other galleries of art work and I particularly liked some of the linocuts and wood engravings and hope that these will inspire me to get back to my art over the winter.


There were other very colourful works as well as galleries devoted to the geology and natural history, Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974 which I remember being reported on the TV and some early 20th century history of the Territory. After walking back to the hotel (with a diversion to a cold beer) it was time to relax with the AC on. Later on we found Darwin’s bookshop: Readback Books and Aboriginal Art Gallery. As usual when travelling I have to restrict myself and we bought one novel which we can leave behind when finished. I overheard the proprietor telling another customer that her main business was the art gallery and the books were a hobby. Sunset is later up here but it was so cloudy little could be seen. Today was the autumn equinox and a full moon. However, we could not see the moon for cloud so here is last night’s almost full one.

Around Australia: Tennant Creek to Katherine


We spent one night in Tennant Creek in a motel at the edge of town. The town was originally built around gold mining but that was short-lived. Around half of the town’s population are of indigenous descent. Unfortunately, it has most often been in the news due to crime and alcohol problems, the most recent horror being the rape of a two year old girl. I had not read about this before I arrived but had noticed the active police presence on the streets and it is the first motel we have stayed which had prominent notices about CCTV at the reception and about not letting people you don’t know into your room. Our experience was very positive, and I was glad to read in the Guardian about moves to solve some of the community problems. The restaurant in our motel was closed so we had our evening meal at the sports club. Most of them will allow people living more than 5km away and who have photo ID to register temporarily and use the bar and restaurant. It is also a good way to meet some locals. Tennant Creek does have a museum and art gallery devoted to indigenous art, but we did not have time to visit them. I did appreciate this street art.

In the morning we carried on northward on the Stuart Highway, passing a manganese mine and still in dry country with little wildlife to see as much of it is nocturnal. Further on, as vegetation started to appear, we passed a group of cows by the road and then an Australian Bustard. I still have not managed to get a photograph of one despite spotting a few. Dressed up termite mounds continue to be found along the highway. The craze started around five years ago and is mostly done by tourists. The first town we reached, Elliott, had a big sign on entry announcing all the facilities in the store including coffee. However, that was not on offer when we stopped. We had our lunch in the shade of a tree opposite the Daly Waters Pub, mobbed by a flock of Apostle Birds. The pub claims to be historic having had a licence since 1893 and the place Amy Johnson landed in 1930 having flown from the UK to Australia. Inside there are huge amounts of memorabilia from visitors.


Nearby is The Stuart tree. He or one of his party is said to have carved the letter S into the bark on his journey from Adelaide to Darwin. There is no written corroboration of this in his journals.

Nearby is the site of the old telegraph station. As we continued our journey to Katherine, the temperature rose to 38 degrees. In the evening the almost full moon was framed by palm trees.

The following morning we had arranged to go on a boat trip up Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. There are 13 gorges between Arnhem Land and the sea but boat trips only cover a few. We chose a two-hour cruise of the first two gorges but three hour and breakfast/sunset cruises are also available. Canoes can be hired and in the wet season power boats are used. Our cruise took us past 17 Mile Creek which flows into the river and is often used by the Jawoyn people for fishing

and then through the sandstone gorges:


There is a 400m walk between the first and second gorge where we boarded another boat. The path passes some rock art. There is a lot in Nitmiluk some only 150 years old, others thousands of years old. We saw one example:

Having cruised around the second gorge we returned to the first, keeping an eye out for freshwater crocodiles. Unfortunately, the water temperature is quite high at the moment so they do not need to lie on the rocks to get warm and we did not see any. Back at the Visitors’ Centre for refreshments I had a look at some of the local paintings on display and for sale. One local artist often works in the centre.

James also spotted this dragonfly sitting on a door. I have not identified him yet.

So for, the total mileage is 4,358 miles. We only drove 41 miles to the gorge and back today but the previous day’s total was 422 miles. Tomorrow we continue north to Darwin.

Around Australia: The Glass House Mountains


The Glass House Mountains acquired their current name because on 17th May 1770 Captain Cook (who was a Lieutenant at the time) noticed three hills and thought they resembled glass-making kilns in Yorkshire. Of course, they have been highly significant ancestral homes of the Jinibara and Kabi Kabi people for much longer. They request that the mountains are not climbed as they are sacred, but they remain popular with rock climbers and have been since the early 20th century. We arrived in the afternoon of our first night here and settled into our accommodation at the Ecolodge which sits under Mount Tibrogargan. We stayed in the restored 120 year old church building which was previously at Wivenhoe and re-located here when it closed in 1990. The owner bought a World War One settler block in 1982 and after acquiring the church began to plan the Eco-Lodge and opened in 2004. Breakfast is served in some renovated rail carriages with the birdsong all around.

There is so much to see and do here but with limited time we had to be selective. Fortunately, it remained dry, so we made our way to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve which is situated on Mountain View Road. The reserve is a remnant of rainforest which has survived the surrounding farming and there are circular trails around it.

The visitors’ centre has a display of birds and their calls. We heard many, had fleeting glimpses of some including a Roufous Fantail, Brush Turkey and others, all too fast to photograph. We also spotted some wallabies.

Back at the centre we had a coffee closely observed by a magpie and a Brush Turkey.


There is a lookout with views over the mountains

and an exhibition area which on this occasion had a selection of works by local artists based on the nightlife of the reserve. I had to look up what a reduction linocut was as I plan to do some more at some point. It is where all the colours are added using the same block. After coffee we drove down Old Glympian Road to the Glass House Mountains Lookout which has views from the opposite direction.

Then it was back to Mount Tibrogargan to walk one of the trails around the mountain.

There is also a summit path from here which is for experienced climbers only, but we saw a young couple head up it without any equipment at all. There are views of Mount Beerwah and Mount Coonowrin from the trail.

and of Tibrogargan itself.

When we got back to the car park and sat having our lunch at a picnic table we had a kookaburra try to steal some of it and other birds hovering hopefully. One managed to find a small sip of water on the table.



Our mileage today was only 74 making the total to date 989.

The Weeping Window comes to Stoke on Trent


Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies were first seen as part of Tom Piper’s installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London in 2014. This comprised of over 800,000 poppies. Since then, they have toured around the country from Southend on Sea to Orkney and many places in between. For some reason I had not managed to coincide with them at any point so when I heard that The Weeping Window would be nearer home, we decided to visit. The car park is on the site of a demolished factory and nearby there are derelict buildings along the Trent & Mersey Canal.

You can also get your supply of Staffordshire oatcakes at a nearby narrow boat.

Walking along the path to Middleport Pottery where the installation was sited, we passed a wall with ceramic mosaics.

Middleport is still a working pottery, making Burleigh ware and glimpses of moulds could be seen through some of the doors.


It is possible to have a tour of the factory if you wish. The pottery also holds workshops and other events. There is also a tea room, factory shops and galleries where some local artists and jewellers exhibit. The buildings are run by the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust and an upcoming project of theirs is to renovate some terraced houses in a nearby street and create space for workshops, offices, archives and a community centre. The terraced houses in the same street as the pottery have also been renovated.

The installation is part of a larger World War One Trail around the city entitled Stoke on Trent Remembers. Weeping Window continues here until September 16th and is free to visit. It moves to the Imperial War Museum in London afterwards and the other installation, The Wave will be at the Imperial War Museum of the North in Manchester. I might be planning some canal walks for next year.