Traveling to reality: Australia Part 1
AUSTRALIA IS IN THE GRIP OF A TERRIBLE DROUGHT. A month ago, I took a trip that landed me right in the middle of this drought. Didn’t see a blade of green grass for two whole days. Sadly, just a lot of dead kangaroos.
A second trip was at the other end of the spectrum: north-east Queensland where the tropical forest and sugar-cane fields were totally green. And I saw a part of the Great Barrier Reef that is still very much alive. This will be another blog — Australia Part 2.
The current great Australian drought is shown on the map. Dark red splotches are the lowest rainfall EVER in the two-year period ending March 2019, and things have changed very little since then. The ridge of pink on the eastern edge of South Australia is where we were headed.
I had been in Australia in 2008 during a 10-year drought that included the area we drove to. This implies two terrible droughts within the space of about 10 years. There is a lot of talk about global warming by people in Australia. If you are living in it, it’s hard to deny it!
My brother, Clive, took us in his jeep about 6 hours north of Jamestown, in South Australia, where we were raised.
Scenes like this were quite common – kangaroo bones scattered about the withered landscape (Clive photo). The pictures below tell more of the story.
A 4-wheel adventure — Clive Palmer, commercial photographer, lives and works in the town of Jamestown.
The Gray Nomad near Mt Patawarta, which was our goal on the first day. We had climbed this striking mountain before (click HERE to see how that stunning hike went down, then hit back-arrow to get back into this blog).
We were stopped by a locked gate at Patawarta Gap. The sign implies that poison bait was set out to kill dingos, the Australian wild dogs which kill sheep. On a previous trip we ran across a female emu killed by a dingo, leaving 7 large eggs in a nest. It’s a harsh country! Click HERE to read that story (it’s the same link and same story as climbing Mt Patawarta above.)
We drove north further into the drought. Looking for Wilkawillina gorge, which was recently opened to tourists (Clive photo).
These dead feral goats were probably shot by Park Rangers, as they are not native to the area but they steal too much of the scarce water resource from the wallabies and ‘roos.
In the gorge we saw lots of kangaroo droppings and some bones. But no water until we found this – a kangaroo had used his paws to scoop out sand to find a trickle to drink. We saw many holes that were empty and dry…. it was heartbreaking.
This is a yellow-footed wallaby (Clive photo) and quite rare in the Flinders ranges. This beautiful creature was a first for me, and I found myself hoping he would somehow find the water that was a quarter mile further up the gorge.
We finally found small pools of water in the gorge in spite of the Park Rangers saying nearly all the gorges in the Flinders Ranges were bone dry.
We stayed at Wilpena Pound hotel that night. It’s the center of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. These are ring-neck parrots (you can see the yellow ring in the top parrot). Australia has a greater variety of parrots than any other country, and these ring-necks are some of the prettiest.
Next morning Clive got a nice shot of a medium-sized red kangaroo. Years ago at the hotel I had given a tame kangaroo a piece of my sandwich. But he had wanted more and reared up on his tail and scratched my leg with his big hind feet claws. He drew blood and I backed away fast while shielding my 85-year old dad from his advances. I was afraid he would knock dad over.
We visited an old copper mine in Blinman, not far from where we stayed. It was an immensely rich outcrop of copper ore discovered by a sheep-herder around 1860. He and some mates staked a claim and became insanely rich before selling to a British owner. It was a bit spooky on the tour, especially when they turned all the flashlights off. Sadly, the new owners became wealthy at the expense of the workers (and children) who toiled long hours for a pittance. The population peaked in 1868 at 1500. The tour, provided by volunteers in a town that has now only about 22 citizens, was first-class.
On our way home we encountered a huge wedge-tailed eagle, which is similar to a golden eagle of the USA (Clive photo). The roadkill of kangaroos provided plenty of food. The wedgie, as they are called over there, looks spectacular in flight (Clive photo).
POST-SCRIPT: Australia is a country that is experiencing the worst effects of global warming – two extensive and debilitating droughts in a space of 10 years. Kangaroos in the outback are dying like flies – and many have been driven into more populated areas, dangerous to cars and trucks, to find grass. This has posed a dilemma because as a protected species, you have to have a permit to shoot them.
Farmers and sheep ranchers have had to sell their sheep, but no-one wants to buy them while the drought is still on.
During the first drought, five cities built desalination plants to produce clean water from sea water. Then ironically the rains came, and the desal plants were not needed. Of course the press criticized the governments for wasting money. But they have had to eat their words now the second drought is on — these desal plants are up and running again, and saving cities from heavy water restrictions.
PS: I write blogs about a curious mix of topics: Science and Energy, and Inspiration and Hope, and Health and Hiking. Something for everyone!
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The Gray Nomad ….. Witness the cruelty of drought and reflect on global warming.
Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”
Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
[Book 1 Kings, chapter 18].