‘In the Long Paddock’ Pt 1


Part 1: Penola to Pemberton

Fr Paul Hart PP

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Paul 100248 The Bight

Australia is definitely a ‘long paddock’, a very BIG country, with plenty of evidence of fires and flood all over this ‘wide brown’ land!

In early March 2012, I left Corowa while there was still lots of water from Wagga to Bendigo, but generally dry along the road to Perth, to Broome to Darwin and Mt Isa. Would you believe it, that the most unpleasant weather I found was at the Head of the Great Australian Bight as I was walking on the walkway on the cliff? Just then a cold southerly bluster hit me and no rain coat was handy.

I formally began my Long Service Leave trip from St Mary Mackillop’s Centre in Penola, S.A. It’s a great spot with a valuable heritage centre and has the feel of the presence of St Mary. The photo is one of the earliest schools and is well preserved there in Penola.

Paul 100223  Mary MacK's 1st School

From there I went down to the blue lake of Mt. Gambier and to Robe on the southern coast. It was here I pondered the name of our parish Church, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, a mere 1000kms upstream from the sea! That was because it was in Robe that I found this beautiful small church, which has the privileged position of overlooking the sea. Here the name is very fitting. I still puzzle over how Corowa earned the title St Mary’s Star of the Sea. Perhaps the mighty Murray was in flood when the first parish priest was searching for a name… Or was it the name of his home parish in Ireland? Will we ever know? After Robe, I returned for another night in Penola.

Paul 100222 SA Robe  St Marys Star of Sea

Next morning, I headed west and went via the Coorong National Park – near where the Murray runs into the southern ocean, and then headed north and into Murray Bridge for a couple of nights. With my friends we visited Goolwa precisely where the Murray River was running into the Southern Ocean.

There are many lovely areas to see  in every state along the way. Many have very good Visitors and Heritage Centres that record the life and times of each region and on my trip I was able to visit, observe, and think about Australia’s continuous development.

Heading north-west in S.A. I visited Bishop Henschke’s home territory of Jamestown and Peterborough (a large rail centre like my hometown Junee) and then on to Port Augusta, and saw Whyalla’s navy boat museum. The navy ship you see in the picture was somehow towed inland a couple of kilometres! It is the museum and, if you are fit, you can climb the ladders and steep steps inside to visit the different displays. I gave it the big miss this time. From there it was down the Eyre Peninsula to Port Lincoln with its fish, grain and Makybe Diva.[i]

Paul 100236 Maritime Centre at Whyalla

At Koppio, a few kilometres inland I found an amazing Agricultural village heritage centre coupled with a major display of the great Eyre Peninsula bushfire of recent memory. Just then, the weather was very hot and fire-threatening so I hastily left the area for Ceduna.The photo of the 1930s pub is at Streaky Bay near Ceduna.

Paul 100242 SA Streaky Bay nr Ceduna

From Ceduna it was due west across the ‘no-tree’ (Nullarbor) plain. The wind was up and, apart from the cold stop at the Bight and lunch at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, which had to be taken inside, rather than on a park bench because of the gusting southerly, I drove on to Eucla. Paul 100254 Eucla Whale

There the BIG WHALE was waiting to greet every newcomer. It was surrounded by twenty or thirty owners of antique and classic motorcycles heading east to a rally.

From Eucla, I descended from the Nullarbor plateau down the pass and later met classic cars also on the road east. I decided to stop at Cocklebiddy, because it had been a long day of 788kms, and after I enjoyed my dinner from the car fridge, I went for a walk on the 5th Hole of The World’s Longest Golf Course!  Yes, it’s one of a series of 18 holes at 18 Roadhouses and towns between Kalgoorlie and Ceduna. Each is featured with 10 square metres of artificial grass at the Tee and another at the Flag, but between each hole is pure moonscape. It’s a gimmick, used to attract Celebrity shows and fundraising events…Quite a course: 1406kms overall!

I had no bother with kangaroos or stock on the Eyre Highway, which is a good wide road now. It was my third time to drive across the Nullarbor, but the first time on my own. I thought to myself ‘This is a bit airy, but it’s not scary’; that was because of the regular roadhouses, I found it more welcoming than I had expected.

I had a cuppa at Balladonia Roadhouse and lunch at Norseman where I then turned south to Esperance. There I had arranged to meet old friends from Wagga, the Quigleys. They invited me to enjoy a pie or two while watching their granddaughters play soccer. I stayed a week and went for lots of walks and drives around the ‘Bay of the Isles’. I was invited by the Parish Priest, Fr Marian Brzozowski S.D.S[ii] to lead the Vigil Mass for Palm Sunday.

In Esperance there had been a long battle to eliminate the dust blowing up from the port where the ore trains from Kalgoorlie were unloaded. The residents were now enjoying a dust-free environment and greatly cherished pure sea breezes.

The journey continued west through Ravensthorpe and drier areas before reaching the Stirling Range and Albany. Here was another really lovely port with three harbours, a military museum village, and lots of history on display at the Whaling museum. However, up at the city lookout the winds were gale force and too strong for many seniors and young children. In Face Albany has three ports, which makes it special in Australian geographical status. The photo does not do justice to the ports, but it suggests the three bays that make up the ports.

Paul 100261 Albany Harbours

Then it was off along the coast road through Denmark to Walpole and the huge karri and jarrah forests. The Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants was a great experience. It brought me up close to the mighty karri and jarrah.  Holy Week and Easter was spent at Manjimup-Pemberton parish helping with the ceremonies. It also gave me a chance to catch up with W.A. relatives of the McLernan clan – my great grand-aunt’s descendants.

The big trees are awesome and they reminded me again of the great variety of God’s creation in the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.

[i] Makybe Diva is a British-bred, Australian-trained Thoroughbred who became the first racehorse to win the famed Melbourne Cup on three occasions: 2003, 2004, and 2005. In 2005, she also won the Cox Plate. She was owned by the number one fishing family in Port Lincoln where there is a memorial statue standing proudly on a grass patch in the main street.

[ii] SDS The Society of the Divine Saviour, also known as the Salvatorian Fathers.