The Road Less Travelled
I spent the next few hours driving over the Gog Range to Mole Creek. Google said the route I took was marginally shorter, although it had highlighted the other one via Sheffield (C137). This was in fact excellent advice. The hills and bends are still hair -raising, but it is sealed all the way, whereas the C157 which I took South from Stoodley, was practically single lane, had crests and right -angled bends and was partially unsealed. Heaven help anyone towing a caravan over this route. Fortunately it does eventually join the C137.
What’s in a Name
Speaking of Heaven, the only place I passed was the little hamlet of Beulah whose biblical name means the Gates of Heaven or "My heaven and home forever more"according to another version. Apart from the shiny new fire station and hall, it looked as if it had seen better days. There were no shops or signs of life -just rusting car bodies in paddocks and houses with peeling paint. It’s name is thought to have been bestowed by one Austin Reuben, a member of the Christian Brethren. Other members of the faith named places in the area such as “Paradise,” "Promised Land” and “Garden of Eden.”
Having been persecuted in their native Scotland for their religious beliefs, it must certainly have seemed so. Beyond Beulah lay steep, wild and forested country and it was quite a relief to see the tamer, green rolling farmlands of Mayberry and Mole Creek come into view.
Caves and Glow Worms
Mole Creek is of course named for all its sinkholes and
caves which reminded early settlers of molehills. This is Karst (limestone) country
and its caves and sink holes are the result of rivers working tirelessly above
and below ground, so that you many never know when or where they will appear. There
are two large richly decorated caves which are open to the public here – Marakoopa and King Solomon’s – that
is, they have lots of stalactites and stalagmites and one even has glow worms.
Although run by Parks and Wildlife, you don’t need a Parks pass for these, but there are entrance fees for three different tours and you do need one to go elsewhere within this National Park. These caves are much more beautiful than some of the famous ones in I’ve seen in Europe.
Deb Hunter and her partner Jess, also run Wild Cave Tours here. Deb is one of the success stories
from our early days in Deloraine and she and her partner obviously take great pride in their Eco -friendly accreditation.
While I was checking the website about the Wild Cave Tours to make sure that they were still available, I discovered that Glow Worms are the 2023
Cave Animal of the year. Their story is quite fascinating and you can read
about it here, along with other places where you might be able to see them including New Zealand.
The Township of Mole Creek when I finally got there, was a lively place and proudly boasted of winning the Tidy Towns competition in 2017. I did a bit of shopping – only a bit – there wasn’t much to buy and it was much more expensive than Deloraine, but given the choice of spending it on petrol and driving the 50km there and back or paying high prices here, the latter was the better option. I then found myself a camping spot for the night and lit a fire in a fireplace.
Requiem for a Forgotten Australia
As I was boiling the billy for the washing up, I couldn’t help thinking of a Douglas Tainsh cartoon (1921 -2004) I’d once seen in the Australasian Post. It was about a Swagman called Cedric who wandered around outback Australia. In the one I'm thinking of, he’s camped somewhere and says to his mate, “Could you wait till I’ve made tea from the egg water, before you wash your socks in it.”
The modern version probably goes more like this.
At least there was no shortage of water here - too much on some occasions, but it made me smile all the same. Hardly anyone travels like that anymore, but that’s what people did before cars got the upper hand, and especially during the Depression. There were many more small farms then and more small communities where a person could get a few provisions in exchange for farm work.
Good Luck finding food or work these days and I’m sure that it wasn’t anywhere near as romantic as it looks now. I would not want to be carrying a traditional bedroll on my back as the swagmen did. No lightweight down sleeping bags for them. Their staples consisted of flour, sugar and tea, supplemented occasionally by a rabbit, fish or wallaby, or whatever they could exchange for their labour. After a hard day of felling trees, scrabbling for minerals, digging potatoes or building railways and roads, this would have seemed like easy street.
|[I'm not sure if it's legal to put this here. It's from this site. Will remove if necessary]|
If you don’t know what a billy is, it's an essential bit of camping equipment. An Australian invention, it's a lightweight metal pot – usually made of aluminium, with a handle and a lid and sometimes a spout.
Jaffle Iron - another bit of essential bush gear. I found this at an
old - fashioned country store - the sort that carries hardware and bits
of twine, along with cereal, milk and a few tins of baked beans|
Bushells recipe, Then you knead it into a thick round and bake it in the coals or better still, a camp oven– a big cast iron pot with legs and a lid, if you don’t want ash all over it.
Fancy pants might want to add cheese and herbs, olives and sundried tomatoes, or a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a bit of cinnamon and some sultanas. If you are making it at home, put it on a greased oven tray at 200°C for about 25 minutes. The damper is done when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Make Billy Tea to go with it by boiling your billy of water and
adding one teaspoon of tea per person
and one for the pot and then add a couple of gum leaves. Traditionally the billy was
then swung around the head but novices
should just put the lid on and let it steep for a minute, before serving it
strong, hot and sweet. There is an art to pouring from a billy without scalding
yourself or wasting the contents.
At dusk a big motor home pulled up, but the newcomers were largely self -contained and had no need of company or a fire. Away from the city lights and because it was such a clear night, I thought I might catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis. They’ve been particularly good this year, but a big full moon rose over the campground and put paid to that. A few pademelons came out to feed - a pademelon is a small rounded marsupial, and I could hear the mournful “Mopoke“ call of a Boobook Owl and then a Tawny Frogmouth.
|Pademelons - mother and daughter or son |
I’ve tried to capture the bird calls and night sounds on many occasions but without success. Here’s a much better version. Although this is a Southern Boobook not a Tasmanian Boobook, they sound very similar.
The Tawny Frogmouth looks similar to an owl and is also nocturnal, but is from a different genus and is a master of disguise. It looks very much like it was the role model for Sesame Street’s Grover, but they are in fact very endearing. You can learn more about them here.
|Pretending to be a tree branch is their thing but despite its grumpy appearance, the Tawny Frogmouth is very endearing. I've yet to see one, but I often hear them in the bush|
These river flats would also have been popular with Aboriginal people. They too would have been sitting around open fires and possibly under these gum trees. The Pallittoree People made their home in this area, holding corroborees and exchanging ochre with other tribes.
All too soon I was down to my last two sticks of firewood, so it was time to carefully
put the fire out. It’s good practice to keep a bucket of water handy for this and to
prevent any spread. Only light them on Non -fire danger days and in proper fireplaces, making sure that there isn't any combustible material around. Afterwards, separate any remaining burning wood until the flames die out. Then, even though it might look out, pour water all over the ashes and especially over any embers or charred wood. This means the fire won't start up again if a wind springs up.Wait a little while to make sure it's all out before you turn in for the night and you are unlikely to have any nasty surprises.