The Loaves and the Onions

Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area is a small bay within Lincoln National Park. It only has five camp spots, and access is via a key from the info centre and a skull rattling 4WD road in. Only 15 vehicles per day are permitted entry, in order to preserve the rare and endangered local flora and fauna, and naturally, fires are prohibited. Matthew Flinders named Memory Cove after eight of the ships company ‘unfortunately drowned near this place from being upset in a boat’. Flinder’s cat, Trim, made the right decision to remain on the barque Investigator, and continued on board for another year or two.

 

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Memory Cove Conservation Area

In preparation, we conducted a round of all the local oyster fisheries in search of the mythical $10 dozen. The oyster folk were obviously out tending to their stacks as sheds stood open and unmanned. We then tried the local IGA chasing another long tale that they sold oysters for $11 a dozen. Crestfallen, we went to the only place open at that early hour – the local bakery – and consoled ourselves with a pie for breakfast. “Sauce?”, the ill-humoured woman behind the counter barked, wielding a large upended squeeze bottle with intent, “Um, yes, that would be great thanks!”, I stammered a little too eagerly trying to lift the mood, upon which the pie became mercilessly impaled on the bottle and about 300ml of sauce delivered into its meaty heart.

oysters at Memory Cove

Finally. Memory Cove

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Murphy’s Haystacks. It all began 1500 million years ago

The road from Smoky Bay to Port Lincoln follows the coast, but has just as picturesque vistas on the land side in the way of sweeping hectares of thriving agriculture. Every now and then brown signs signifying ‘photo opportunity’, ‘historical place’ or ‘point of interest’ will pop up and we randomly decide to check them out. Murphy’s Haystacks sounded like something worth a look, and the pink granite blobs formed 1500 million years ago were quite the oddity. They are on private land and entry is $2. A couple of caravans had camped overnight, owners and dogs emerging upon our arrival to leave a special kind of present for the next visitors. Which begs the question: Why do people choose free camps as an en plein air waste facility? Is this some kind of weird childhood rebellion?

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Fresh Fish Cafe. If it swims, they’ll batter it.

By the time we reached Port Lincoln, the tomato sauce in pastry had faded from memory and seafood again burned in our brains. The Fresh Fish Place is a local art-meets-ocean-related homewares-meets 20 kinds of battered fish-café and supplier. I took my seat at one of the curiously baroque chairs paired with recycled boat wood tables and was immediately aware I was ruining the selfie for a couple seated across the cafe attempting to get a shot of themselves in the Italianate mirror behind me. They motioned for me to move and spent the next 20 minutes failing to nail the insta story. With about three kilos of smoked everything we could find, we made our way into the mythical Memory Cove, past large emu families and teams of boxing kangaroos.

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Don’t care about the Duco

The only other people at the cove were a group of seven guys aged between 18 and 35 who covertly told Waz about the snakes around. They didn’t want to upset the little woman and besides, they had killed the snakes, so it was ok. National Parks camp sites are incredibly cheap, some as low as $6.50 per person a night, so what people do is book in one person and proceed to jam seven people on a site. But that doesn’t work, so they spill over into the Conservation area around their site, then come sunset, they light a fire.

 

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Lucky to be here.

Early the next morning, a ute comes flying into the bay in the style of Dukes of Hazzard. It screams to a dusty halt at the edge of the boys’ camp site. Park Rangers emerge and a 30 minute discussion ensues. Somehow the boys had already dug in the fire and got away with it all, leaving soon after the Rangers. A woman soon arrives and sets up in their camp spot. She has come to Port Lincoln for a wedding and the bride-to-be handed her the keys to her 4WD, loaded up with a swag and camp supplies and pointed her to Memory Cove. Moments later she appears asking if we have any need for eight loaves of white bread liberated from their plastic bags, or ten kilos of onions. Or a bag to put them in. We spent the next 30 minutes adding egg shells and chocolate wrappers to the mix, digging bait bags out of the high tide mark and throwing 30 bait squid back into the ocean. I’m distracted by the big questions. Were the onions on special? Why don’t seagulls eat the bait?

Loaves and Onions

The Loaves and Onions

I braved the extremely cool water in search of seahorses and weedy sea dragons. The weed was in beautiful shades of pink and green. A sea lion had popped up onto the rocks to check out Waz’s fishing results, so naturally I was expecting a Great White Shark to appear any moment. I stayed in until I went blue. It was time to head to Adelaide.

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The Upside

So how it is possible for an over-cleaning, hair curling/straightening, workout earring-wearing gal to contemplate any of this? It’s all about having the necessities – wine fridge, eqyptian cotton linen, and a Lagouile cutlery set. And a vehicle that can pull a camper trailer. Which is where Waz comes in. In the 14 days between Waz declaring we were to be on the road and departure, he avoided the distracting jobs like packing up and house maintenance, and applied himself instead to the purchase of a vehicle (bye-bye Telstra salary sacrifice and unlimited fuel).

Love knows no bounds like a man and his vehicle/trailer.
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Exmouth to Perth

Fearing death up Ship Creek, Waz made multiple trips to ARB, the mecca for 4WD enthusiasts needing gear ‘built for the harsh conditions of the Aussie outback’, and spent hours pouring over 4WD accessories from the eastern states. Faux necessities like a ‘snatch strap’ and random hitches were purchased, and a custom drawer/fridge slide fit-out ordered from Queensland. The vehicle was a no-brainer because it had a snorkel (what is it with guys and snorkels?) and UHF radio (listening to the truckie channel), cream sheepskin seat covers (already but a shadow of their original selves), dual batteries, rear coil airbags, one of those little mats on the dash, and a bull bar (OK, he had a point, that looks cool) with a rack of extra LED lights.

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The heart of WOKA

From Exmouth we were headed East, via Perth, for installation of the custom drawers. These drawers are felt lined, lockable, come with a sneaky pull out table (that I cannot bring to use because it is the only thing not ruined by travelling so far), and a slide out thing for the fridge with renders access to the fridge only available to those over 180cm.

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Dawn at Madura Lookout, Nullabor Plain

We like to do the 1300km trip in two days, usually 900km in the first and a fast run to Perth the next morning. Hours in the car are not spent in deep and meaningful dialogue, rather, we listen to true crime podcasts. I provide feedback to the podcast with things like “Why are you not checking under the swimming pool??!”, “Well, duh! Of course it was the husband!!”, and Waz says “SSSSShhhhh.”

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Not just a roadside stop, outstanding floral diversity – Boorabin camp.

Driving into Perth after only a few weeks away seems a little weird. Familiar, yet not home. After 24 hours in the big Western smoke, a stellar install of said draws by the immensely practical Geoff, and we were on the road again, and dreaming about oysters at Ceduna. We dropped in for a cup of tea and sponge at the farm of some lovely people we met at the Landor races. He has a transport business, so when I said we were leaving Perth, he said “Righto, we’ll see you at 2pm then.” We got there at 1.54pm. He also suggested a great little free camp up the line at Boorabin. Never mind wikicamps, Truckies are your goldmine for road trip nuggets.

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Boil the billy? That will take a massive fire. Madura Lookout, Nullabor Plain.

I’ve crossed the Nullabor seven times now, and it almost passes in a blur, except for the game of counting down to oysters. The other thing is that people tell me they imagine it is an arid desert scape. Not so! Vegetation and wildlife abounds, and free camps a plenty. We pulled in at dusk at Madura Lookout and after 30 minutes driving around and around, tempers fraying just a teeny bit at the edges, we gave in to the idea that stunning views were only possible with a night of flapping canvas.

Backpacker minimalists

Surely a home for teeny tiny people? I don’t understand. 100 extra points for the flag.

For all of my commentary on millennial backpackers, they have my respect. A very small 2WD car pulls up and four adults get out. They set about erecting a tent 1.5m x 1.5m suitable for five year olds camping out in the backyard. They then pull out two camp chairs and shelter from the relenting heat in a two square metre patch of shade. The others sit on the ground snacking on a bag of potato chips. At night they magically evaporate into thin air, then reappear in the morning. It is an eternal mystery to me. WHERE DO THEY SLEEP and WHERE ON EARTH DO THE COLD CORONAS COME FROM?

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Queen size or I don’t leave home.

For those people who cannot conceive of a life without comforts, I’ll let you into a secret. It’s pretty comfy. Our home is an Aussie Swag Camper Trailer. They were the gold standard Aussie trailer, locally made and thoughtfully designed, until foreign imports forced them out of business in February 2018. Waz bought ours one week AFTER we did our last four month trip in 2015.  I drove to Brisbane to pick it up and it only took 48 hours before I started talking out loud to myself.

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Last week: “Why would we need a groundsheet?!!”, he asked. (Hello, car snorkel.) This week: “Can’t believe you took so long.”

The Swag has a 60 Litre fridge, queen sized bed, raised hard floor (try getting up there, snakes!!!), kitchen sink and four burner stove. It also features a massive pull-out draw under the bed for your clothes which I attack with a constantly critical Konmari eye. As the weeks go by, more and more clothes are relocated to a giant suitcase in the car – Items Not Suitable For Camp Life – and basic utilitarian kitchenware is replaced with beautiful (Waz: “It’s an egg flip. WHY do we need a different one?”) utilitarian kitchenware. A gas hot water system means I get a shower of sorts. We have our Alessi coffee pot, retro enamel cups. It’s not exactly roughing it.

Until I am beset with flies, mosquitoes, sandflies, midges, ticks, no aircon, defiant 37 degree heat, 40km winds, permanently damp clothes in 80% humidity, and feet that require a savage scrubbing daily. Then I remember, you don’t get our day-to-day from the comfort of home.

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BONUS SEGMENT: Whats on the menu at WOKA?

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Wazza’s Outback Kitchen Australia Presents Finger food: A foundation of pure beef – without added hormones – and hidden vegetable, layered with foraged spinach, roast beetroot, fresh grated parmesan, heirloom tomatoes, and finished with Nonna’s green tomato relish.


Iconic Australia

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Excitement! It has been a while in development, but I can finally tell you all about the wonderful work I got to do with my great client OAMPS Insurance Brokers.

What began as a brief back in 2011 to produce some iconic Australian images for their marketing material, eventually grew into a fantastic brand refresh project, leaping from the pages of templates, to going live on the website, and now adorning the walls and meeting rooms of OAMPS offices.

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OAMPS Melbourne

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OAMPS Melbourne

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OAMPS Brisbane

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OAMPS Brisbane

So what is iconic in Australia? For me, it is so much more than the Sydney Harbour Bridge or a kangaroo. Australia is out-of-the-box. The incredible colour and variety of its land, eco-climates, and flora is vast and undervalued. While I love to travel to the more remote and difficult areas of this country, I appreciate that not everyone has the same will or ability, and so I aim to bring it to them. In a world of manufactured fun, beauty, and instant gratification, I like to encourage people to value the incomparable natural wonder that is Australia, and its contribution to the irrepressible Aussie Spirit.

So, how did we get there? The Marketing team and I began by going back to the beginning, identifying the very heart of what OAMPS is about. OAMPS has grown organically over its long history and although the name of OAMPS held a very strong connection with clients, the brand identity itself had become fractured and the way they presented to clients, very inconsistent.

We landed on the idea of representing aspects of Australia’s environmental and geological diversity; from rainforest, to coast, to the arid zones and treasures buried in rock. After story-boarding our way through sandy beaches and other obvious choices, we narrowed it down to a group of potential subjects. Over the next few months, I kept these ideas in my head as I travelled, ever vigilant for the ‘right’ image.

I credit the team for choosing the brave direction, leaving industry imagery behind, and instead, taking clients and colleagues on a journey to Australia’s wild heart and beautiful landscapes. Executed with Simon Long’s gorgeous organic graphic design, these images help OAMPS tell their story, where they have come from, what they value, and what clients can expect from them. This is Project Iconic Australia.

Boulder opal from Lightning Ridge

Boulder Opal from Lightning Ridge, NSW

When I first looked at this piece of boulder opal I saw a topographical map; an aerial view of the Australian landscape with broad dry plains, ridges and meandering waterways. I liked the ambiguity of the image and that the viewer may have to look closer to figure out what it is. I also like the way the opal forms between separate pieces of rock, tenaciously looking for an opportunity, just like the hardy and colourful characters who optimistically seek it. Opals are difficult to photograph, and often a photo does no justice to the range and depth of colour you can see with the naked eye. I spent hours trialling all sorts of angles, light sources and photographing different pieces of opal before I found ‘the one’. To me, opal represents the tough Australian spirit, ingenuity and perseverance, a precious gem wrapped in rock.

Apollo Bay rockpool with anenomes. Who knew?

As an island surrounded by ocean I wanted to represent the coast in a way that wasn’t simply crashing waves. Rockpools are a part of the Australian coastline. Highly resilient, they exist at the whim of tides, sun and human intervention. Rockpools represent carefree childhood summers at the beach, hours spent investigating each one for a sign of life, and dodging breaking waves to get to the best ones. Taking time to peer into each tiny ecosystem, you never knew what you would find, and creatures would only emerge from hiding to reward those with patience. Taking this shot, I had to discourage around 100 seagulls from landing around me and casting shadows. One of them left me a little white present in my hair.

Stag horn fern, Otway Ranges, Victoria

Stag horn fern, Otway Ranges, Victoria

Native to Australian tropics, the staghorn fern lives in symbiosis with its surroundings, seeking out the best position to thrive. It  symbolises Australia’s many forest and tropical regions and presents such an abundant contrast to the open arid centre. The scale, colour, delicate beauty and ingenuity of the staghorn appealed to me. Growing on the trunk of a tree it makes the most of its host’s water attracting ability, but does no harm to the tree. Thriving in the filtered light of a rainforest, this plant is sculptural and unmistakably tropical. Photographed it in the Otway Ranges of Victoria, a gutsy Bull Ant took its chances on my foot while distracted. Thinking it was a stick digging into me, I ignored it. For a week, the three bites I had gave me a cankle that could not be forced into any boot.

Spinifex grass, Karijini National Park, WA

Spinifex grass, Karijini National Park, WA

Spinifex grass is essential to the arid landscapes and dune ecosystems of Australia. Resilient and ubiquitous, it is one plant that is present where little else survives.  Appearing soft, it is actually very sharp to touch, and I recommend long pants when walking through it, although I never take my own advice and always end up with shredded legs. I have seen two-metre snakes, large lizards and scores of spinifex mice disappear into a single plant. The plant appears solid in the centre, so to this day I wonder where they go. Nothing beats the way light shines through it at sunset.

Devils Marbles, Karlu Karlu Conservation Reserve, NT

Devils Marbles, Karlu Karlu Conservation Reserve, NT

Created millions of years ago, and transformed from granite by water alone, they are symbolic of Australia’s ancient roots. I love the idea that we can walk around and touch something formed 1600 million years ago.  Granite graces the landscape all over Australia, in different colours and shapes, but the Devils Marbles are especially stunning. There are few sharp edges or straight lines in the mounds of rocks piled precariously, and the rich colour at dawn and dusk is arid Australia at its finest. I cannot imagine anyone visiting this place without being moved or impressed by it. When shooting this at dusk in January, biting flies that blotted out the sun tested my ability to retain courage under fire, and complete my mission. It was a radiant 34 degrees at 5pm, and I would have given anything for a biohazard movie crime-scene suit.

Gumnut, Great Otway National Park, Victoria

Gumnut, Great Otway National Park, Victoria

A more perfectly adapted plant to an environment beset by wildfire I know not of. Found in the woodlands of Australia, gumtrees connect us to resilience, regeneration and hope, even after disaster. When thinking about iconic Australia, I kept coming back to the gumtree, but as an image itself, I felt it was overdone. Looking closer into the actual seeds and life cycle, I developed a greater appreciation for one of the most uniquely adapted and beautiful plants Australia has. I love the fine detail in each gumnut across the varieties and the contrast between the leathery, hard, gumnut shell and the delicate tutu-like flower that emerges from it. I like the connection for those Australians who grew up reading about May Gibbs’ Gumnut Babies.

Most gumnuts are annoyingly out-of-reach and I spend many hours leaping up to snatch at them, or filling my car with broken branches (and resident bugs) picked up off forest floors for later research. This has spawned an obsession for gumnuts, and a calendar for my Mum. I discovered this particular gumnut in the Great Otway National Park in Victoria, on an extremely windy day with branches crashing around me. It felt like a long walk down to the coast and back up a trail to find this treasure. 40,000km of tyre and foot wear later, I have never found the same one again.

OAMPS Melbourne

OAMPS Melbourne


Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru is quite possibly the most over-photographed natural wonder in Australia, but I didn’t let that deter me from spending three days driving and walking around and around it looking for the new angle. What I like about this is that the sun had set leaving the moon to provide light. The stars are out though barely discernible at this size of image, and the 30 second exposure allows for the kind of cloud movement I would ordinarily avoid. I feel a roadie to the reddie coming on!

On the same day we had been to Kings Canyon and climbed Heartbreak Hill to the Canyon Rim. A sartorially splendid gentleman stood out, for both his jaunty scarf and ability to look Milan fabulous, and for being a good sport while his partner took a photo.

Massimo was certain a fashion forward pose would conceal his abject terror

Massimo was certain a fashion forward pose would conceal his abject terror


Cross my palm

The Australian Professional Photography Awards this year delivered me a Silver Award, and oh my, how I have grown.

Once crushed by the disappointment of my unrewarded works not considered worthy, I find myself in 2012 simultaneously thrilled my wedge-tailed eagle found friends on the judging panel, and that my other two (un)landscape images were not quite their cup of tea. High five for different strokes!

I traversed a most lumpy piece of ground in the trusty truck to get close enough to this gorgeous bird that wanted to fly off (but really didn’t want to leave without eating some greens). Now, I love a raptor as much as the next person, but the wedge-tailed eagles have my heart. Such a beautiful face!


Fleeting glimpses

There is a lot to love about a summer evening and a chilled beverage at sunset, on the Ceduna foreshore. Suffering from an embarrassment of riches in seafood, Ceduna is one of those magical places that owes its contained size to its relative remoteness. The people who live and work here are passionate about fishing, the region, and fishing.

Seated on the balcony and blowing the inherited smoke of other diners away, we were joined at our unfeasibly large dining table by a lovely farmer and his date. Generous with information on the region, garnered by generations of family, he pointed us in the direction of Penong and Cactus Beach. We were not disappointed.

In the fresh morning light we came upon salt lakes of coconut ice, and a surf beach that boasted allegedly one of Australia’s best left handers. Chrissie handed me her polarising filter. Oh.My.Goodness. As one who loves a watery vista, I really should have got one long ago, but I always thought it would be another filter hiding in those otherwise un-useable crevices of my camera bag, clocking up frequent flyer miles but never getting out of their little plastic cases.

SA, Penong, Cactus Beach

penong

Speeding away, Nullabor bound, Chrissie let me in on what I like to refer to as her Fleeting Glimpse technique which involves hanging your camera out the window of a vehicle travelling at 114km per hour, and defying the Vibration Reduction system of your lens. What I was going for here was the idea that you only catch glimpses of things as you speed by the world, you only focus on bits and pieces. It also greatly challenges my (some would argue) pathological need for order and precision. Rookie attempts, more to come.

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Fleeting glimpse, SA

Fleeting glimpse


Express touring

Leaving the charming Morgan motel, the Gawler Ranges beckoned. Granite hills, millions of years old. A manageable side adventure on the route west that I hadn’t visited before. Gantt charts and spreadsheets allowed a good three days for exploration. I pored over forums warning of flood and pestilence. I packed the compressor (for tyre management). Chrissie filled a bin with rations should we be waylaid. Perishing was not on our agenda.

Immersing ourselves in the weighty bag of brochures and promises Chrissie had sourced pre-trip, it became apparent we could base ourselves in one of the small highway towns and run day trips into the Ranges. We settled on a motel in Wudinna, a town we couldn’t help but call Wooden-eye.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit our three day intrepid adventure was compressed to a handful of hours. The radiant heat from the 1500 million year old granite mounds meant our dashes from the car were briefer than the wonderful landscape deserved, and the time of year delivered an arid and dusty scene; photos drained of colour and plant life doing its best to conserve energy. Uninspired, I whispered my apologies and promised to return in a future spring. I swear I heard the granite reply on the wind, in understanding tones, that it wasn’t going anywhere.

Gawlers Ranges, SA

Gawler Ranges

Granite, Gawler Ranges

Visit the most excellent Wudinna District Council website for decent info about the Gawler Ranges.

Tomorrow, the Coast!