Saturday, June 19

Lake Eyre- Home to drought and flooding rain

For the first time in excess of 30 years as if by way of a desert illusion Lake Eyre’s estimated 400 to 500 million tons of dry salt pan last year was briefly covered to a depth of 5 meters in water to realize its status as the largest ephemeral lake system in the world simply teeming with new life. For If you were to take just a cup full of soil from below the surface to add water amazingly that small single sample would yield hundreds of varieties of vegetation from the seeds and fish hatchlings from the eggs even after laying dormant for hundreds of years.

The birds were instantly aware of this rare event and swarmed in their multitudes to claim their share of nature’s temporary bounty as scientists scratched their heads to ponder how they were able to locate the water so quickly from so far away. It is estimated that such an event attracts well in excess of half a million water birds to Lake Eyre including even the common variety Seagulls who fly 650 kilometers from the coast to set up their breeding colonies.

But many became stranded in such a short lived bonanza as the last of the youngest new born pelicans left it too late to depart as their food supply rapidly dissipated with the onslaught of evaporation as soaring temperatures in summer inevitably always reach the mid fifties Centigrade or 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Their fate was sealed in the form of piles of bleached white bones to serve as a salutary reminder of nature’s grim reality. By summer all that remained were residues in the highly salty sub lakes as the desert bloomed .

Lake Eyre Basin is the lowest point of the Australian continent to stretch across the most arid area covering a land mass equivalent to the combined area of France, Spain and Portugal and home to only about 60,000 people – principally grazers’, miners and Aboriginals living in small settlements. Many hardy tourists flocked to the region last year to see what they envisaged was a once in a lifetime experience but amazingly this year we are witnessing a repeat performance. Torrential rain in the far North this year caused floodwater to travel down the dry Coopers Creek – to create one of the few remaining pristine occasional wild rivers flowing alongside desert terrain on either side whose rainfall barely manages 5 inches per year before finally filling up Lake Eyre. The birds have returned but avoided last years gatherings postions where some perished, opting instead for narrow island pockets of land within the lake itself.

I wonder if indeed we need to believe in miracles when nature itself seems so miraculous. Click here for pictures. The punt used to traverse the Coopers River was last used over 30 years ago when the dry creek bed was last filed with water.

The Australian landscape I think was essentially captured by possibly our most famous poet Dorothea Mackellar whose poem ’My Country ‘rallied against the prevailing English nostalgia at the time to relish her new found fondness for the Australian landscape. The poem has become an Australian favourite.

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die-
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold-
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand-
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea Mackellar

Sunday, June 6

River cruise

The Watershed ( highest point of the cruise) and presentation of certificates. The stadium in Nuremberg where Hitler addressed his troops and Hitler youth. Castle ruins at Heidelberg.
One of the 60 Castles along the Rhine river gorge.
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River Cruise

Crusing along the Danube through the Wachau valley. The magnificant baroque Cathdreal at Passau and a street scene in Regensberg.
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River cruise

Above is the cathedral at Cologne, the giant monument to celebrate German unification in 1870 and grape growing on the hills below at Rudeshiem.
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