Sunday, January 21, 2007, 09:51 PMThe town of Beechworth Victoria once again this year played Host to the Opera in the Alps set in the gardens of the La Trobe University Campus overlooking this historic & much visited town. Opera in the Alps was born at Mnt Buffalo for an audience of 150 back in 1995, today up to 4,500 people can attend this open air venue for the continuing passion of music & the great outdoors of Aus.
We left home in the stifling afternoon heat & hot wind raising up clouds of dust from the surrounding countryside bound for Albury on the Victorian border where we would book into our Motel & make ready for the final 40k leg of this journey to this open air Opera.
We note with some comment the outside temp is recorded at 41c as our Adventure begins
It takes 1.5 hrs to make Albury on the Murray River the border to Victoria & the heat does not let up. We arrive, hoping there will be some relief by the time this Opera commences at 8pm. We are aware some rain with storms is forecast & hope this will not spoil our outing, but the relief of such an event would on one hand be most welcome.
Such were the people arriving in cars at this hilltop venue we were glad to be early. It seems many wished to take advantage of lawn areas outside the Opera Grounds to party for a free Show while others wanted to partake of dinner before the baton was raised.
On the way to our seats the Women were flocking to sign something so not being one to be shy with a camera I went to see what this fuss was all about. It proved to be that during the evening a lucky ticket would be drawn giving the winner a "Full Facial!"
Yes someone has a sense of humour about this
Now that we know who is who Finding Wally will be a snack as Welcomes begin !
Hands go up for Wagga Wagga Oh My !
Hands go up for the U.S. & brings a gasp of appreciation from the Audience
A cooling breeze arrives as Conductor Benjamin Northey takes command of the 50 strong members of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Victorian College of the Arts, Australian Academy of Music and the Australian Youth Orchestra.
Up & young coming Star Catriona Bell thrilled the audience with her singing of Love Live Forever from Paganini. Then as the Choir & Orchestra treated us to Finlandia the only thing that was missing was the lightning because the thunder most certainly wasn't ! Anxious looks skyward about this time almost took precedent to the on stage events
Everyone just loved Marina Prior & Victoria Jones as some light rain happened along to bring the night to a close, although it was only short lived & all was well that ended well.
Light relief was taken on the way home with a visit to the other "End" of Australian culture at Tabletop north of Albury
Rain lovely rain all the way home & just 16c to delight our senses to the extreme of the day before ending our Adventure with this Opera in the Alps.
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Monday, January 15, 2007, 10:45 PMThe Summer Heat of this Drought year is oppresive with the monotony of each passing day baking the land & withering away lifes essential water supply to both farm livestock & Wildlife alike. The Kangaroos on my land come closer & closer even venturing onto our lawn around the house at night for something to eat.
There is but one waterhole left for them to drink & the fear of being so close to man at our home is put aside to take this water...For Kangaroos it takes time to drink as they lap with their tongue like a cat. At times I have been so close in my hide of camouflage that I can hear this lapping & they can hear the whirring of my camera but know not where this sound is despite smelling the danger of my presence... I see the muscles in their legs coiled like Springs to take flight at any second for they know a danger is near.
Danger aside though it is Oh so nice to put your feet in the water !
Others soon take comfort in this presence of safety.
Then suddenly as one All take Flight that is so quick it is hard to capture.
From the corner of my eye I caught the movement of something low & brown streaking in quickly to the waters edge but I have the big Male Eastern Grey in the Viewfinder so follow him to safety
Oh My God It's the savage salivating fanged wild beast of Meribah that has appeared to terrorize the Kangaroos
For a moment I caught the gaze of those burning eyes of this Wild Beast with the face that smiles ....Just smiles all the time !
I don't know that I can take any more. I thank God my battery went flat
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Friday, December 29, 2006, 03:10 PMJust a little post to say the boys have arrived safely at Makki with the plane touching down on Boxing Day. The repaired landing strip worked just fine & it was reported to have been used unexpectedly the following day when a flight diverted to Makki when their destination became clouded in.
The Lukins were expected to fly in yesterday the 28th
Tim David Rohan & Tristan now working on Road repairs with the tractor....Please see Ethiopia website link in Christmas Entry below for futher updates as & when they come to hand.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006, 10:22 AMI hope one & all had a very happy & safe Christmas Day & as I can no longer send wishes for yesterday I will say Happy New Year & Wish everyone all the best for 2007.
We shared our Christmas Day with Jen the wren's sister Pamela & husband Gene who are here from Alaska. Jenny's Mum Julie who is from Canberra was with us so it was only a small gathering. I suppose if anything we were rather quiet as each have children in many far flung places of the world to whom our thoughts turn. I know we were most anxious to hear some word from our two Sons who were arriving in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on a journey that is to take them to join Julie's son, Jonathan & family at a remote outpost in the Omo Rift Valley. I must say it was with some alarm we heard that a war has erupted with Somalia but are thankful this is over on the Eastern border which is the opposite side of the country to Makki in the South West where they are located. Jonathan had spent 13 yrs earlier at this Outpost amid the Mursi People with his family when serving as a Missionary & Vet for the Sudan International Mission. They have returned in recent weeks with a group from the Brindabella Baptist Church to man the Station while existing staff are away over Christmas New Year. One task at hand for them was to repair a tractor in two halves to make repairs to a grass landing strip for the light plane carrying the Good boys to land. We were pleased to learn that Steven from Brindabella the principal Mechanic had repaired this tractor & work was underway on the air-strip....The only concern now is rain as there has been a lot of it & some water was running over this grass air field in the bush.
Pam & Gene have two daughters Sally in Anchorage & Niki in San Francisco who spend their own Christmas with thoughts turned in the direction of Down Under.
We were just about to sit down to our Chrissy lunch when a telephone call was recieved saying smoke from a bushfire had been seen in our area. Fortunately though this was a false alarm caused by a large cloud of raised dust which looked like smoke.
So it was our Christmas day with the fellowship of family, wind blowing a gale & low temperatures for this time of year heralding some snow falling on the high Alps, an unusual event for Xmas in Aus.
Our Christmas Eve as when shepherds watched over the flocks by night
Behold through out the heavens there shone a holy light
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills & everywhere that Jesus Christ is born.
To Learn more of why our Australians are in the Omo Rift Valley of Ethiopia please see : http://webcaddy.com.au/ethiopia/
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 10:47 PMIt was half way between Hay & Deniliquin that I first noticed in the rear view mirror that Mo was looking about a lot more than usual. He often stands in the middle of his back seat box to make the most of the air conditioning & to see where we are going. I see his eyes through this letter box view looking around most times we go on Adventures & in this way I can often gauge whether he knows where we are or not. This time however he was looking around somewhat anxiously which I put down to the fact that he not seen the Plains before... That is where it is completely flat without any trees. I think he was worried with this foreign scenery or just where we were.
This Adventure Farm Stay to Elmsleigh between Hay & Deniliquin owned by Bill & Mary-Anne Butcher came about sooner than later with the hot summer due mainly to a window of opportunity with a few cool days arriving. I was therefore grateful to hear from Mary-Anne to say come on down.
As with Mo I had observed my landmarks pass by on the 3 hr drive like Mnt Arthur where we had been on another outing, the ridge over the river at Narrandera where in the past Aboriginies long stood gazing out over the sea of river gums below to their own landmarks of the Galore Hill & Kengal on the distant horizon.
We passed by the running tree I look for at Tubbo Station & Ron Clarkes Metal Scultpures at Waddi where I wanted to stop & enquire for Mary-Anne to see if Ron could make a flat metal cut-out of a Headless Horseman.
In the early years of droving cattle along the Long Paddock the Legend of the Headless Horseman was born. At this time in the 1860's a lone horseman would spook drovers cattle at night into stampede. News of these events spread quickly considering eye witness accounts claimed the horseman was headless.
No one was ever identified as being responsible but rumour had it in later years this person was suspected to be a butcher from the Moulamein area who hoped to collect strays after the nights work. To conceal his identity & further the legend the rider apparently rode with his coat collar high about his ears & lantern atop his head giving the ghostly appearance of a Headless Horseman...Later with my farm stay at Elmsleigh the Mystery would deepen when Bill explained to me that his family being Butcher were in fact butchers in earlier times...I wondered ! Could it be ...2 & 2 make 64
Turning East at the Royal Mail Hotel at Boorooban to leave the Cobb Hwy I notices several houses, a closed down School House with a Public Hall as is often the case in rural communities, along with conversely a shiny new Rural Fire Service shed.
Almost at once the Adventure began as just a short distance in on the dirt a group of Emus ran across the road in that swaying gaiting motion they have, a motion we might be more familiar with in Walking with Dinosaurs.
This is truly present day Walking (or running ) with Dinousaurs as those long legs stride out. Blind Freddie can see the similarity to Tyrannosaurus Rex even....The thing is, untill you see a mob of Emus running you don't know or make that connection that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Mo jumped to his window with an urgent look to put it down, I was already on the button & obliging but leaving a safety margin of glass so he would not fall out. I was not ready myself however, as the camera still lay in the bag on the front passenger seat. To late even then as they looked back down one side then the other before disappearing into trees of the nearby creek.
I arrived rather timely to find Mary-Anne at the homestead taking in the washing. There is still something I think very pioneering about rural scenes involving women collecting washing from lines out the back. She had come home from out in the field where she had been helping Bill silt scoop mud out of a dry Tank...This is after already spending a day working in town some 80k distant.
Tanks is a term used to describe the damming of water into large holes dug in the ground to provide stock with water. In times of drought when they go dry it is an opportunity not often presented over many years to clean out accumulated mud which may be up to 8' deep. A silt scoop essentially is a large 3 sided heavy metal box with a metal tail on the back something akin to a scorpian. The scoop is pulled along by an A frame on the open front, attached with heavy cables between 2 tractors. When this scoop is pulled through the Tank it fills up with mud which is then delivered away over the banks, the tail side tractor then pulls it back for some more lifting the scoop on its return due to the scorpian tail now being pulled down flat to the ground ....Savvy !
Mary-Anne showed me the Shearers Quarters to settle in before dashing off to feed hay out to hungry cattle. Mo took to looking about our new surroundings with busy little legs. I took it in to remembering & making similarities to the Ponderosa.
The Banked creek & dam at Elmsleighs homestead provided what can best be described as welcome relief to summer conditions & in particular this year of severe drought. I fore went the available kayak & boat to stretch my legs along the grassy bank to take some photos I could see happening of the setting sun bathing Pelicans making ready for the night.
Over the next 2 days I spread myself over visiting the variety of bushlands that existed consisting of the adjoining 4,000 acres of Boorooban Nature Reserve to the Sandhills & property where Bill & Mary-Anne have over the years planted many thousands of trees.
I even helped Bill to do some farm work with silt scooping of Tanks.
I ventured into the Enclosure as it is called being some 20 acres of bushland Bill fenced off that excludes rabbits to let native species re-generate.
It was here that Mo gave up on walking in the grasses of this new place because of the ongoing problems of prickles. He did the usual thing of stopping holding up a paw & giving me the Prickle Look ....Tis a very sad picture !
I then normally take care of the offending item with many consoling words & he proceeds on but not this time. The only thing I could do was carry him in my Back Pack, it must have been a bit warm in there but still he had his head & front feet out & didn't seem to mind one little bit. I sure noticed the extra 10 k though & by the time we made it back to the vehicle was glad to tip him out. I will have to make up a platform to slide in the back pack that he can stand on with maybe some shade cloth over the top for any future prickle ereas. In relating my idea to Jen the wren, she with a roll of the eyes thought that this was Yes, way over the top.
Elmsleigh held many attractions even at the farm level where not to say the least were the Sheep yards & Out Buildings. One old Shed in particular held many treasures for a photographer despite the fact that there is a resident Carpet Python which I was pleased not to find dangling overhead.
Late on the last night I ventured out onto the distant plains of Elmsleighs far flung reaches in search of the elusive Plains-wanderer bird. None of which were found due mainly to what was believed to be the sparse grass conditions of drought, but that did not matter as many other interests happened with this Farm Stay. I stopped by a Tank to listen in the silence of that midnight to perhaps one of these birds calling. The Heavens shone brightly & a soft cool breeze was caressing on the cheeks, but not a sound of the Gondwanaland bird could be heard. I could hear though Mo sniffing at my side so I turned on my Spotlight to see him facing into the breeze taking in the air with nose held high. In swinging the light out in that direction there appeared a number of kangaroos passing by in single file, they appeared as ghostly apparitions whitish in colour bouncing along in silence against the blackness. With no alarm or urgency they continued the journey with one being little taking longer hops. I switched off the light & moved away a little, there came the clanking & rattles of steel at work within the Windmill pumping water up from deep underground. One can see a long way on the plains at night & there on the horizon I caught the faint flicker of a light. My mind turned from a car to nights such as this when the Headless Horseman applied his business, I pondered about this remembering again what Bill had said about how it was thought he was a butcher....I wondered !
Perhaps, just perhaps somewhere in the dust of that old shed is an old old lantern...Just then on that dark night if a horse had snorted over my shoulder so help me I would have jumped clean out of my skin.
The next morning we made tracks for home with no eyes to be seen in the rear view mirror. Mo slept most of the way home so he must have had a good time. I know I did & wonder if he will know where we are when next taking an Adventure to Elmsleigh
If you would like to take a Farm Stay with Bill & Mary-Anne please see :
Following are Various Photos taken at Elmsleigh
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