Night like an empire falls

or

Sydney to Ceduna return – Photo Essay (Part 3)

 

originally published at Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog for Water Under the Bridge: IPM 2015

Plushes Bend of Murray River at civil twilight

Plushes Bend of Murray River at civil twilight

 

Night like an empire falls

   to the civil reflection

of one twilight pelican

   dreamily shadow ghost rafting;

 

The spirit that once held me up,

   my love, remote tears of whisky

seen through a series of still frames

   on pixels of wine glass penumbras.

 

The wind slips in whispers

   that ripple the river,

and the last morning after

   the night before raindrops

cool, calm and collectedly

   bead leaves of lilies,

belying what we know already;

 

The strains in relief

   around all of those lily leaves

bear the same burden

   all rain beads are found under.

 

Water lilies at Plushes Bend of Murray River

Water lilies at Plushes Bend of Murray River


Sydney to Ceduna return – Photo Essay (Part 10)

I remember the previous evening I had watched with a sort of hypnotised wonderment as the sun set against the ranges in the east. I gradually became aware that I was looking in the wrong direction! I turned west expecting to see the real sunset over there, but the sky was a uniform white light, and the land was all cast in a silvery shadow. I found a winding path of sand through the carpets of stone, pebbles and grass tufts down to the water, stood between a couple of mangrove trees and took a picture of Vincent with where the sunset should be, made a few attempts at mangrove tree photography, then carefully worked my way back along the sand path all the while feeling as though I was out of bounds. I had reasoned that if I stayed on the sand I wouldn’t be disturbing anything important.
 
South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources say, “These long ridges may look like man-made structures formed from pebbles, but in fact these very distinctive flat-topped ridges are a natural phenomenon.” It does look like a manicured zen garden of sorts, doesn’t it?
 

Fitzgerald Bay Tidal Manicure

Fitzgerald Bay Tidal Manicure


 
When I woke to day 7, 26th December, the sun had already risen above the Southern Flinders Ranges and glared across Spencer Gulf at us with all of its unclouded might. A southeasterly guster was doing its best to blast the sand out from under the shingles. I ventured a short wander along the beach but was driven back by the wind to the shelter of Vincent. Cranked up my driving music and moved along.
 

 
Continued south from Fitzgerald Bay into Port Bonython proper and paused for a while to appreciate Point Lowly Lighthouse.
 

Point Lowly Lighthouse

Point Lowly Lighthouse


 
Somebody put the sign on the wrong building.
 
Lighthouse Keeper's Smoko Room?

Lighthouse Keeper’s Smoko Room?


 
The Point Lowly Cottages were also pretty cool, though not my preferred style of accommodation. They need wide verandahs, with canvas blinds to pull down against the powerful winds which I’m pretty sure don’t abate for long in this part of the world.
 
Point Lowly Cottages

Point Lowly Cottages


 
I wanted to get some photos of the gas-loading wharf and fractionation plant, but my shadow wouldn’t get out of the way, so I worked with what I had.
 
My new twitter avatar

My new twitter avatar


 
There was a large flock of birds in the distant south that I couldn’t make heads nor tails of, and a single gull swept by at one point. Without any further signs of life about it started to feel a bit touristy, so we slipped out for the road again. Next stop Whyalla…


Journal Flashback

May 2012. I had been between jobs since January of 2011, though at the time it was more like being between my last job and a dole cheque, of which the first one I was due to collect in Sydney in a week. As it turned out, the night I arrived in Sydney I got a phone call asking if I was still interested in that job I applied for in Melbourne. Hahahahaha!, went I. Yes, I shall turn around and go back. Hold on. It’d be better if you were in Sydney. When can you start?
 
I kept a written journal during that period, much of it while living comfortably enough from Vincent while we travelled all over the countryside, like the Leylands, like the Leylands. Most of it’s either bad or just embarrassing, like that last reference to the Leyland Brothers; I might burn it one day if I ever develop a reputation that I want to keep. Odd, then, that I’m about to put some pages of my bad and embarrassing journal online, you might think, but the internet won’t be around forever.
 
So, just for fun, here’s what my handwriting looked like on the page before I was on my way back to Sydney.
 
Job applications
 
And the next two pages I wrote while camping under some negligible moonlight by Nangudga Lake, Narooma.
 
That's not right
 
That's not right too
 
Not great stuff, but has some memories attached to it that might be worth keeping, and I’m surprised I lined the words up as well I did.


Sydney to Ceduna return – Photo Essay (Part 9)

I guess I should open this, Part 9, with a recollection correction. The desolate highway that I labelled as Flinders Ranges Way back in Part 7 turns out to be RM Williams Way (State Route B80). The last photo I took in Orroroo was at 11:10 am, and was taken with my smartphone, which had very thoughtfully adjusted the metadata to include the South Australian time for me as soon as I crossed the border near Renmark a few days earlier, and since I know from the math I did in Part 7 that it was 12:04 pm when I stood in the middle of that highway, I can safely say that I couldn’t have been anywhere else but 54 minutes up RM Williams Way from Orroroo. I still can’t tell from those two photos which direction I was going, but as soon as I can put a name to one of those hills I’ll have the solution. If I run out of patience on that front, I could always take Google’s Pegman for a walk out of Orroroo and see how long it takes to see through his eyes what I was seeing.
 
Here’s a cool satellite map of my Christmas Eve/Day route through the Flinders Ranges. The ranges themselves begin down at Port Pirie and continue northeast through Blinman and onwards until they peter out near a dry salt lake.
 

A Flinders Ranges Christmas Route

A Flinders Ranges Christmas Route


 
I took the Flinders Ranges on too quickly, and without any preparation. There is a large part of me that is longing to return there and see it properly. By the time I had reached Hawker, I had decided not to bother trying to take landscape photos with my SLR, since switching from my standard 18-55mm lens to my 75-300mm zoom lens every time a raptor came into range simply resulted in me slapping my forehead and going ‘damnit! Missed again.’ As a result, I found myself moving through the ranges much like a hunter; focused intently on capturing images of Wedge-tailed Eagles and Black Kites. When there were none of those about, I would have my smartphone camera on standby for the landscape shots.
 
Arkaba Hills Lookout

Arkaba Hills Lookout


 
Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound


 
I discovered this little Inukshuk in the shade of a tree at Hucks Lookout. I wrote a reflection upon it here, with a couple of alternate pictures.
 
Flinders Inukshuk

Flinders Inukshuk


 
There was also a fly communing with an otherwise lonesome purple flower of some sort.
 
The fly and the flower

The fly and the flower


 
Being well outside the spring flowering season, this was one of the only two flowers I saw that looked alive. There were clumps of these dry flowers about here and there; they looked like they would crumble to the touch, and I didn’t test them to see if I was right.
 
Crumbly looking flowers

Crumbly looking flowers


 
Against my better judgment, I decided to take Vincent through Parachilna Gorge from Blinman to Parachilna. The road was rough in parts but mostly traversable without difficulty. As majestic and awesome as it was, I felt a sense of fear at the possibility of getting stuck there overnight, so I didn’t stop once to soak it all up. I hung my camera out the window to snap a couple of mountain goats in passing, and that was it.
 
Parachilna Mountain Goat

Parachilna Mountain Goat


 
After popping out safely at Parachilna and back onto the relative safety of a paved highway, I returned to raptor hunting mode and finally achieved a few shots that made all the earlier frustrated attempts worthwhile. Mind you, it involved spotting a dead kangaroo a mile off, parking by the highway, and creeping up very, very slowly! These fellows are awfully skittish, and while they appear to glide casually and gracefully upwards in spirals, they make their getaway incredibly quickly.
 
Wedge-tailed Eagle and Black Kites

Wedge-tailed Eagle and Black Kites


 
Black Kite

Black Kite


 
Wedge-tailed Eagle - WOW!

Wedge-tailed Eagle – WOW!


 
Wedge-tailed Eagle - Oh my God!

Wedge-tailed Eagle – Oh my God!


 
Boss is gone. Let's clean up.

Boss is gone. Let’s clean up.


 
With Christmas Day drawing to a close, I continued at a fairly non-stop pace back through Hawker and Quorn and into Port Augusta, where I figured I would find a resting place for the night, but nothing presented itself as particularly restful, and everything was closed. Even McDonald’s was closed! So I kept going and wound up driving into Port Bonython just before sunset, where I was treated to a whole new world of beauty.
 
Fitzgerald Bay at sunset

Fitzgerald Bay at sunset


 
After so many days of unrelenting blue sky and dust, it was a glorious thing to watch the cloud shadows drift over the hills in the sunset, and to hear the water gently lapping. This is where we parked for the night, and slept like a baby.
 
Fitzgerald Bay sleepover

Fitzgerald Bay sleepover


 


Sydney to Ceduna return – Photo Essay (Part 8)

‘Twas Christmas Eve morning and all through Burra, Mount Bryan, Hallett, Whyte Yarcowie and Terowie, nothing was open and I needed coffee; two consecutive large flat white barista made espresso coffees, and, ideally, a pepper steak pie or some kind of pastry. It was beginning to look like I’d have to make do with tinned sardine and roasted bagel crisp canapés, and a gas-boiled billy of 43 bean flavour when, much to my delight, we found the town of Peterborough open for business. Not only were there at least two cafés to choose from, but the local supermarket was open as well. With my first coffee of the day in hand, I strolled around the supermarket for something substantial to fill my belly with for the next couple of days in the remote reaches of the Flinders Ranges: a large bag of salted peanuts, a packet of ginger snap cookies, and some jelly snakes.
 
The sun was shining right down the middle of Peterborough’s main street, and a cool breeze blowing. Ready for my second coffee, I wandered up the road to the next café to see if they could do better. I can’t remember if it was any good. I was thoroughly distracted by the atmosphere of the joint.
 

229 On Main Cafe

229 On Main Cafe


 
The staff very kindly allowed me to take photos while I waited for my coffee. Not wanting to have to leave too hurriedly, I passed on the pastry and ordered a fry up of bacon and egg roll, then set about admiring the collection.
 
A few of my favorite things

A few of my favorite things


 
I do remember the roll was a bit on the soft side for my liking, but the bacon and eggs were delicious. A final snap from the street and then we were on our way.
 
Capitol Theatre, Peterborough

Capitol Theatre, Peterborough


 
While doing a turn through the back streets of Peterborough, I spotted my first ever Mallee Ringneck.
 
Mallee Ringneck

Mallee Ringneck


 
Next stop was Orroroo; gateway to the outback and home of the widest street I believe I have ever seen. Also open for business and the opportunity taken for another coffee.
 
Orroroo - Gateway to the Outback

Orroroo – Gateway to the Outback


 
I was suitably loaded up with caffeine by the time we left Orroroo, and there was little that could stop me for a rest break between here and Hawker apart from frustrating attempts to photograph the raptors circling all about the highway. I did finally get the hang of it though. I’ll save that for the next part; this part is starting to feel a bit rushed, which I suppose is how it happened.
 


Sydney to Ceduna return – Photo Essay (Part 7)

14 minutes ahead as the crow flies

14 minutes ahead as the crow flies


 
I took the above photo of a crow flying from my backyard in Sydney at 4:17 pm this evening, then transferred the SD card to my laptop to check what time it is on my camera; the point of the exercise being to clarify what time it was when, on the Christmas Eve of 2014, I first got the idea in my head to pull over and stand in the middle of a desolate highway with my back to one end of it.
 
Flinders Ranges Way

Flinders Ranges Way


 
The timestamp on the crow put it (the crow) at 4:31 pm, so 14 minutes fast. While viewing the photo I was struck first by the timeliness of it, then by the awareness that my head was tilted sideways. The obvious response to this sudden awareness, I felt, was to do a custom/fine rotation on the image and put the little hand at 12 o’clock where I could see it straight without putting my neck out. Imagine my surprise when I found that a 46 degree rotation (of the crow) not only shows the big hand to be 14 minutes ahead of the little hand (like my camera is 14 minutes ahead of Sydney time) if you ignore the fact that both hands are the same size, but also if you ignore the basic fact that you can’t add minutes of time to degrees of an angle, then 14 plus 46 could either be a minute or an hour. That’s pretty much how I found Christmas Eve and the Christmas time passing: writing nonsense in my head out of stuff that doesn’t add up just to keep myself alert behind the wheel.
 
I’m a bit ahead of myself now. Let’s go back a bit.
 
Before Vincent and I were parked on the verge of the Barrier Highway in the last post, we were waking up in a Burra caravan park to the rumble of waddling juvenile duck quacks. If a brood of ducks is a badling, then the badling that this trio belonged to were terrible twoslings. Sorry, but you can’t expect nonsensical thinking to wear off a long distance driver overnight.
 
A trio of terrible twoslings

A trio of terrible twoslings


 
The volunteer at the Burra Visitor Centre the afternoon before had given me a bit of a local history overview: the copper mining boom is over, and if you assume too quickly that tourism sustains the place now (like I piped) then it should be known that they like to think they contribute to the state coffers by way of some agriculture also. Burra is certainly a charming town; I felt very much at home there among the 19th century architecture, the rolling hills, and the tidy greenery lined streets. And the townsfolk were friendly. I steered clear of the old mine lookouts; I see plenty of new ones in my line of work, and I feel confident enough from driving around the edges of them that once the resources dry up the land will return to its natural state just as it so clearly appears to have done in Burra, from what I saw of it. I could be wrong though. This from the Burra Visitor Centre:
 

It’s hard to imagine Burra as it was in the copper mining era, let alone before it… before the trees were stripped from the hills, to feed the furnaces of the now demolished smelting works. A time when the Ngadjuri people wandered freely through this same pristine location.

 
I guess I’m just thinking the kind of environment we’re leaving today for our children and their children might look a lot different from what we’ve been used to, but that doesn’t make it a shadow or mean that they won’t enjoy their own versions of what ‘The Bush’ is in their own time.
 
*
 
I had planned to wind up further along the journey with this entry tonight, but I’ve gone a little bit backwards instead. Not to worry.
 
It was 12:04 pm, South Australian Christmas Eve time, when I stood in the middle of a desolate highway with my back to one end of it, then to the other end of it. I’ve no way of telling from the photos I took which way I was going, but I was well past Peterborough and into the Flinders Ranges by then.
 

The other Flinders Ranges Way

The other Flinders Ranges Way


Night Like an Empire Falls

My contribution to Water Under the Bridge: IPM2015 has been published today at Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog

Night Like an Empire Falls.

The poetry on offer during this International Poetry Month is, as always, of a very high standard and I’m thrilled to be taking part.

Many thanks to Bonnie McClellan.


Sydney to Ceduna return – Photo Essay (Part 6)

Mount Lofty Ranges

Mount Lofty Ranges


 
It came to me in a dream. I was parked on a verge north from Burra by the Barrier Hwy, 20 km south of Hallet. The shadows of low cumulus clouds were dreamily drifting over the wind turbine-lined slopes of the Mount Lofty Ranges; the soft yellow glow of an immense wheat field backscattering off the dusty metallic grey paint of Vincent. I was genuinely happy, and had an inexplicable craving for Weet-Bix with butter and vegemite. I brought my journal out, and used Vincent’s boot to write a poem on.
 
   Like Starry Sparklers over the Mount Lofty Ranges,
   so are the windswept powers of turbines
   (insignia of Mitsubishi, in my informed fancy).
 
While my thoughts moved back and forth between the images in search of the next part, the apparition of a shingleback lizard appeared to me. I recognised it from the day before. It poked a dry gumnut flower with its blue tongue. “Like the exuviae of our nymphal instars, so are the fields of pinkish-brown cross-stitched with yellow dwarf thread,” he grinned, widely.
 
Happy looking shingleback

Happy looking shingleback


 
I stared a little disbelievingly out at him. “You shed your skin in pieces,” I said. “It’s not an exoskeleton that you can just wriggle out of.”
 
Without another word the shingleback turned, and toddled off into the wheat field.
 
Toddling off shingleback

Toddling off shingleback