Taking in the views of Mount French and beyond – Part Two

Mount French

Read Part One of Ian’s story here.

The sun kissed the remaining clouds on the horizon au revoir and a crystal clear night evolved with the constellations at their magical best. I was even inspired enough to leave the camera out on its tripod for an hour or so.

The next morning I started out early to attack the other side of the ridge. It was tricky making the descent off the plateau, but in about 10 minutes I was down and climbing up to the ridge. Had I not done the previous day’s walk I would have thought just how wonderful it was. There was no shortage of caves and odd shapes in the fragile sandstone but there wasn’t quite as much colour as yesterday.

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Still, it was special just to be there, to have the place on your own, to listen to the sound of nature, to walk past the delicate wildflowers, to know that no-one would be here for some time, if at all. It cleanses the mind and lifts the spirit in a way nothing else can.

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The following days at Blackdown Tablelands and Carnarvon flew by and I was gliding along the nothingness of the Winton to Boulia stretch, leaving the dead kangaroos behind, and they had been there in their thousands, wretched carcasses smashed by the nightly procession of road trains, then they’d suddenly ceased. A change in vegetation, a change in soil, a change in the landscape overall and the fauna had changed to insect level.

Aurora Bluetail

The bleakness here makes the Nullarbor look like a rainforest, the hardy Mitchell grass fighting a battle for survival on a plain so devoid of geological features that when some hills eventually do come into view, albeit on a far horizon, it’s almost like seeing Mount Everest and they attract your attention for ages until there’s another range, so called, in front of you. I say “so called” because just about anywhere else on the planet its height would fail to register. Out here its ripples garner your eyesight and the possibility I might have a reason to stop and snap a few shots raised my excitement level no end.

They have a name, Lilyvale Range is what they go by, though it seems either a misnomer or a joke, maybe both. There is no stream gurgling by the frogs croaking in the lily pond here, but there are some uprisings with, and it almost seemed impossible, after the previous desolation, bleached white eucalypts and the lawn of the apocalypse, aka spinifex.

I can’t wait to pull up and stretch my legs climbing the buttes and small mesas and I take the first opportunity. The spinifex looks like it’s been tossed there like chook food but the abstract artistic nature of the gum trees backed by the dark orange soil and cliff faces gives me a twitchy trigger finger. Sometimes I’m so overcome by their beauty I pause awhile before working out the angles for the best light and then, after nearly an hour, I’m sated, or so I think, because it isn’t long before I’m pulling up again, the attractant being different ochre colours and a fence so frail it was put there for art’s sake alone, for surely no animal could have been put off by its ramshackle nature.

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I spent another half hour here and then, just two kilometres down the road, there was a lookout, and people were there, both of which I hadn’t seen for some time. The lookout’s name was Cawnpore and here interpretive signs told how the Georgina Diamantina area was part of a massive catchment 3 times the size of England, it told of how the land came to be what it was today, it told nothing of the horrific siege of Cawnpore (India) in 1857 and the equally horrific retribution that followed.

I learnt here that the few convoys of caravans I had seen on the road were coming from the Birdsville Picnic Races, apparently there’d been an awful lot of them.

I wandered but a little here before trundling into Boulia, frightening some brolgas in the river as I shot some birds and then headed off towards Dajarra where I spent the night. It was a village I’d never heard of nor wanted to go to. I noticed there was something masquerading as a museum the next morning, it was bizarre.

The entry was permanently open and, inside, there were bottles and cans from bygone eras, Singer sewing machines, tobacco tins, painted woodcuts and, not to be missed, painted rabbit traps! Items were strewn around randomly in a scene reminiscent of a B-grade Hollywood movie.

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Barly Highway

Outside were abandoned tractors and radar dishes, to name but a few items in this weirdest of places. I left some money in the honesty box and moved out, past the schoolteacher’s car that had “Bringing hope to a young generation”. I know not from whence that hope might come, but I wish them well. Me, I was off to the Northern Territory.

Have you ventured to this part of the world? Let us know all about it in the comment section below.