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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

A small rural village in Queensland’s Samford Valley marks the site of our home. Here on Australia’s east coast, surrounded by two state forests and four rugged mountains, we enjoy exploring ways to engage with the beauty of our natural surroundings.

One favourite destination is a large mountain, Mount Glorious.  It rises to a height of 600 metres above sea level. In the oppressive heat of our high summer we often head to its crest and cooler temperature, where we spend a comfortable day.  Driving through the mountain’s splendid scenery we are always amazed at its abundance of native rain forest cover—mighty trees, tall palms, and numerous ferns. Flocks of tropical birds, white cockatoos, and brilliant parrots often fill the skies.

On a recent visit, a sign post entitled, The Westridge Outlook, caught our eye. Exiting onto a dirt road we followed this to a car park. Here a wide board walk, enclosed by a fence of metal railings stretched ahead. This walkway was built to encircle an immense rocky outcrop.

Strolling along we admired a mixed forest of grey gums, spotted gums and tall tallowwoods.  Long ago these original timber forests were harvested by timber cutters using only axes and cross-cut saws. The fallen trees were loaded onto wooden carts and pulled by a team of oxen to the nearest sawmill. Thankfully this deforestation was discontinued, and today its remains are protected as a reserve for public enjoyment.

Reaching the half-way mark, the boardwalk expanded into a large viewing area, to expose an open outlook. The rims of distant mountain ranges, shrouded in a blue haze, framed the horizon. We stood in awe at the view of Lake Wivenhoe, our main dam and water catchment area. The upper reaches of the Brisbane River snaked through the landscape, as the D’Aguilar State Forest spread its abundant natural beauty beneath us. It was a breathtaking sight.

   We finished our walk around the ancient rocky escarpment, to end at the point of our beginning. Hopefully other visitors will also discover this hidden treasure, and the magnificent views on offer at the Westridge Outlook.

 

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Whenever the yen for discovery returns, it is time to be off again on a road trip. By choosing to explore an unfamiliar back road or byway, delightful and unexpected surprises often result.

The Queensland road between Warwick and Toowoomba is always a busy highway. While searching for an alternate route, we discovered a 50 kilometre stretch taking us from Warwick to Allora. Since this lovely little town is only a stone’s throw away from Toowoomba, our newly found road, the Sunflower Way, beckoned.  At Warwick we entered it via Victoria Street, turned right into Rosehill Road, and followed the signs to Allora. This proved to be a perfect choice!

A patchwork countryside of ploughed black soil, green lucerne, and brick-red sorghum delighted us. But it was the fields of sunflowers in full bloom that provided a magnificent sight, even in late March at the end of the sunflower cycle. Drifts of golden fields stretched as far as we could see.

Sunflowers are majestic, towering over most people’s heads, and they grow best in full sunshine. The seeds are sold as a snack food or as a component of a bird seed package. Sunflower oil, extracted directly from the seeds, creates inexpensive cooking oil and is also an additive to biodiesel fuel. After the seeds have been processed, the remaining cake becomes healthy livestock feed.

The name, Sunflower (helianthus annuus), possesses only one large flower head, sitting atop a tall unbranched stem. It may have derived its name from the blooming yellow head, which resembles the sun.  A number of fields had already been harvested with their brilliant flower heads gone and the stalks standing alone–now solitary sentinels. They will finally whither and fall, waiting to be ploughed back into the soil as green manure. Thankfully enough fields remained in all their blazing glory to make our drive along the Sunflower Way a memorable one.

When we reached the township of Allora we explored its historic streets. Buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s featured, together with lovingly tended gardens and parks. The area also offers an opportunity to visit the heritage listed, ‘Glengallan Homestead.’ Our drive was a delightful way to finally reach our destination of Toowoomba. If you find yourself here in high summer, its radiant fields of gold will take your breath away. Yet in any season this back road is a beauty, so be sure to put it on your bucket list and make time to enjoy the Sunflower Way.

 

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Bush landscape

A two lane road stretches ahead, more than 526 kilometres long, with only 2 comfort stops and hot food to be found between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy—the opal mining centre of Australia. Empty fields of red, orange, and reddish brown soil are occasionally dotted with tufts of spinnifex grass and the ever present salt bush. Our timing was right on cue as we caught the salt bush in bloom, covered with myriads of tiny white flowers. Its sage green is now dusted with splashes of silver as the salt bush is bathed in sunlight. The colours here are intense. We are immersed in total silence.

Salt bush

Occasionally short, stubby acacia trees reach their maximum height of 3 metres. In this primal bushland when a tree loses its leaves, only the desiccated trunk and branches remain. These ghostly sentinels silently guard the vast, barren landscape until they collapse to litter the area. Underground water can also seep up to form a pond or small lake that evaporates quickly and becomes caked with salt crystals. Everything lies baking in the sun.

Dead trees and saltbush

Does this seem too monotonous to find enjoyable? When we leave the car for a leg stretch or a photograph, to tread upon the rocks and bones of this land, we are transported back to the beginning of time. Under a mesmerizingly beautiful and austere landscape that weaves its spell to draw us in, we understand we are intruders in this very ancient country on our earth.

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Flying Blind

From time to time I will publish a piece of flash fiction on my web. Enjoy the following short story. Next blog post on Wednesday, April 20th.

Flying Blind ,for the blog

   ‘This has been an absolute bugger of a weekend! Thirty-six hours without sleep, two days of tough negotiations and still no contract. Then I stupidly dropped my glasses down a flight of concrete stairs. When I collected them at the bottom, the frame was hopelessly bent and one lens was smashed. So here I am now—stumbling around—only able to see a metre in front of my face. Well at least I can go home and catch up on some sleep,’ I complained aloud.
Peter Bolcombe made his way to the airport departure desk, squinting as his suitcase moved safely through the check-out. Next he secured his boarding pass in his back pocket. Now his biggest problem was finding the correct departure gate; not a simple task when you can’t see very well. He walked for a long time trying in vain to find his way. ‘I’ve come too far or maybe taken a wrong turn. Better ask someone for help,’ Peter whispered to himself. Just then a small motorized travel buggy swerved out of his path.

‘Hey there, I almost hit you,’ called out an unfamiliar voice. ‘Watch out where you’re going!’
‘Sorry!’ Peter called back. ‘I’m travelling to Oakland, but I’m nearly blind and I think I’m lost.’
‘You’re in the wrong terminal,’ the driver answered. ‘You want the building beyond this one. I’m going that way so get in. I’ll drive you down there.’
Peter breathed a sigh of relief, but the driver sounded worried as he said, ‘I think your plane may have left. Let me call in and see if we can still make it.’ After a short, excited conversation he turned to Peter.
‘Buddy, you’re in luck. The plane was ready to go but they are holding it for you. I told them you were cleared for take-off and you are partially blind. They’ll have a wheelchair at the ready. As soon as you get aboard you’ll be off and in the air.’
‘Am I glad I met you,’ Peter answered. ‘Thanks so much for this.’
‘Not a problem. Take care and have a good trip.’
Moments later Peter was wheeled into a huge plane then strapped into his seat. His relief was so great he immediately began to relax, to doze and suddenly he dropped blissfully into the arms of Morpheus―deeply, totally and soundly asleep.

When Peter awoke everything seemed very strange. The entire plane was in darkness. All the passengers were wrapped in blankets, sound asleep. His Oakland flight should have taken only a few hours, but here on board it appeared to be very late at night. He caught sight of a stewardess and waved her over to him.
‘I’m confused,’ he whispered. ‘Where are we?’
‘We’ve just passed over the Fiji Islands and our pilot has changed now to his southerly flight pattern,’ she replied. ‘You’ve been sleeping soundly for nine hours. We couldn’t even wake you to check your boarding pass or to serve your dinner.’
‘Miss, I think I’ve boarded the wrong plane. I was travelling to my home in Oakland, California.’
‘Oh Mr. Bolcombe, I don’t know how to tell you this, but the plane we’re travelling on is heading for Auckland, New Zealand. We’ll be arriving there in another four hours.’
Peter spent the next few minutes in a complete daze. First he moved into denial and then a deep and terrible shock set in. Stunned and shaking he said aloud to himself, ‘Well here I am now, halfway around the world without my glasses, a ticket, my luggage, or a passport. This has been an absolute bugger of a weekend!’

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Shipwreck Coast cover for Amazon

My latest eBook, ‘The Shipwreck Coast – A Traveller’s Tale,’ was inspired by a road trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road. The powerful memories of many shipwrecks claimed there by the Great Southern Ocean, lingered for years to form the basis of this short novella.

The Blurb:

The Shipwreck Coast—claiming Antarctica as its nearest neighbour—borders part of Australia’s Great Southern Ocean. Turbulent seas, dense fogs, and underwater reefs make navigating this stretch of coastline one of the most dangerous on earth. During the years when clipper ships were celebrated as ‘Kings of the Seas,’ more than two hundred of these majestic vessels met their fate along this treacherous route.

One crew member, together with a female passenger travelling first class, survive the wreck of the Scottish clipper, the Loch Kyle. While each survivor has a different tale to tell, both stories share common threads of courage and endurance in the face of a total disaster.

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Two Reviews:

“As usual, Mary Mageau writes in her gentle style. She is able to convey scenes and to evoke the feelings connected with places and people. This story, set in the days of the racing clippers, commences in Scotland, moves to Ireland and thence to Australia. The outcome was not as anticipated – a delightful change from many historical novels!

Another to add to your list of books to be read if you enjoy accurate historical adventures.”
Margie Riley

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“The adept Mary Mageau has done it again, this time in a novella set in the time frame of the clipper ships. Mary takes this time in history and makes it come to life; a master at painting a picture for all to see, courtesy of her words. I lived this tale of a story based on the ill-fated Loch Kyle.”
Michele Doucette

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This book can be purchased from Amazon’s Kindle store in the USA by clicking on

The Shipwreck Coast

In Australia, visit Amazon then click on kindle books and  type in, The Shipwreck Coast.
Happy reading!

I have some health issues to settle so my next blog post will arrive on Thursday, August 19th.

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Image

 

the costal fringe
of green and blue
disappears
behind the gateway
to the outback

wheat, sorghum
and cotton stubble
glistens in the
autumn sun as
hawks patrol the skies

sunflowers
faces to the light
a last blaze of colour
in this dryland’s
barren outlook

rich brown soil
of the rural strip
surrenders
to brick red, burnt ochre
of the open range

beyond
and further out
in orange dust
a single cornstalk
displays its tassel

… days pass as we move through this desolate landscape of vast open spaces, carved into two parts by the road we travel on, a continuous ribbon drawing us straight ahead into its vanishing point, with only spinifex grass and saltbush lying between us and our destination.  

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