Crossing the Nullabor, 2014

Phew! The appropriate one-word summary of a journey across the Nullabor Plain. Our crossing was done from a Sunday to the following Saturday; i.e., seven straight days of driving, averaging something over 400 kilometres a day. There’s a lot to see on such a crossing, but as we had a week to do it in rather than a fortnight, most of it was observed rolling past. I should however, start at the beginning.

I was in ‘the west’ because I had a tale to tell about Captain Collet Barker; a presentation incorporating slides, a talk, and some songs. The venues were Albany in the south-west, where Barker had served as the Commandant of a rag-tag settlement for 16 months from 1829-31, and at Mount Barker, where a ‘mount’ and a town were named after him, a similar situation to the naming of a mountain and town in South Australia after the same man; the place where I make my home.

I had visited both places in 2006 as I researched Barker’s life, and thought it would be a fun challenge to take my presentation, which I have been fine-tuning for a couple of years, to the west, where they love their history, and then to ‘do’ the Nullabor on the way home. I had flown from Adelaide to Perth a couple of weeks before our return journey, and had my newly renovated 1989 Jackaroo shipped to Perth via the Indian Pacific train. Jan joined me, flying from Melbourne, where she had been with her son Skye, to celebrate his 40th birthday.

Perth was mild and sunny. Jan caught up with her cousin, a lonely lady in her late middle age who lives in isolation in a Perth suburb, and we met a niece of mine, Penny, and her fiancee Jim, at the Subiaco Pub, and went for pizzas afterwards, along with her workmates, who are all in the exploration side of the mining industry. Penny was working at the Granites Goldmine in the Tanami Desert when barely out of her teens, and has also worked in Botswana. She is a talented and beautiful lady, who juggles her career with the raising of two teen-aged children, at her house in Hobart Tasmania, while also living and working with Jim in Fremantle on the other side of the continent. Don’t know how she does it, but she do. They’re getting married in Freo in late December. Would be nice to make it.

A visit to King’s Park, the wonderful breathing space which overlooks the capital, and a journey to Fremantle (before realising Penny was in town) and a potter about Perth, and we were off to Mandura, 100ks south, to stay with Jan’s cousin, Ira. Husband Steve was in Kalgoorlie supervising a Karate tournament for the week-end (Steve is an accomplished teacher and exponent; a black belt I believe) so it was a pity not to catch up with him on this trip. We did, however have a pleasant evening with Luke, Ira’s son, and his wife Lisa and the newly born Isabelle. Ira’s daughter Elyse, partner Ryan, and son and daughter Taj and Em were also there.

On the Saturday I showed my presentation to Ira, sister Jenny, and Mum Iris, an eighty year old who still heads off into the bush in her camping van, and who is having a new house built in Mandura. It was limited to my laptop, but was a good run through to get the bugs out, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. A snack by the waters of Mandura in great company, and Sunday rolled around, with high winds and rain accompanying us on the 300k journey to Albany, where Ira and Steve had made their holiday house available to us for a week. We paused for a prize winning pie at the Mount Barker Bakery, eaten at the summit overlooking a cloudy wet day, before rolling into Albany in mid-afternoon.

The house is on Emu Point, the  headland leading out to the narrow entrance to Oyster Harbour.  From here it is an easy ten minute drive into Albany, on the road  skirting Mount Clarence, whilst providing spectacular views of King Georges Sound to the south. On Monday we  met with Malcolm Traill, curator of the Albany Museum, and did a test run with the equipment in preparation for the presentation the following Tuesday morning. I had met Malcolm in 2006 when he was in charge of the history section of the Albany Library.

On Tuesday morning I did my Barker presentation to a gathering of 87 people, many of whom are members of a historical group who meet weekly. They seemed to enjoy the talk, although I chose to drop the third song in my presentation as it went on for over an hour. Often when I do the talk I have a half-time break.

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