Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Joanna PIII - Otways

Driving through the ranges, taking in the beauty of nature as it goes about it's business in the face of modern life & times.  The little things which show so much colour and will for life celebrating in their diversity of form provide for visual relief from the deep healthy green of the majestic ferns and fronds.

Cascading waterfalls zesting the air as the minute spray cleanses the air and soothes the soul.  Is this why we love them so much or is it the grandeur in their freedom of flow and timeless efforts to keep pushing ahead ?

Overcoming obstacles, finding new ways and bringing life and renewal wherever they go ... or maybe it is just that you might be thirsty !

Looking around and it is easy to see how vibrant the natural world is and how balanced it can be.  Now though such places are in themselves few and far between such that the Otways are one of the last great refuges for many Australian plants and animals.  In this 140,000 Ha sanctuary we find 97 rare and threatened species of flora and 77 rare and threatened fauna.  Among our furry friends are the elusive spotted tail Quoll, bandicoots, possums, Koalas, Kangaroos and more all guaranteed to bring wonder to the visitor from near and far.

Alas even here though we still see scars on the face of such beauty in the form of felled trees, their base still bearing the evidence of how simple and easy it is to destroy.  In a manner of hours something which has lived for 100's of years is brought to the earth to breath no more.

Given time to think about this and it starts to raise questions in my mind ... is there a sustainable way we can live and maintain these environmental qualities ?  What are the root causes and can we fix the system ? It seems we as a species are ingenious, dedicated and obsessed with improving our life in the obvious way through cars, houses, gadgets and such that we have become blind to the real value which we are destroying.  

 I guess when it is all said and done ... 

'life goes on'.  

But life would it be without these natural gifts and places ?

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Joanna PII - Otways

Named after Captain William Albany Otway in 1800 by Lt James Grant.  Grant was on his way to Sydney to hand over the 60 ton survey vessel ‘Lady Nelson’ to Mathew Flinders.

As fate would have it Grant was delayed on the way out and tasked to confirm the presence of a passage between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.

This he was able to do becoming the first European to navigate the entire passage West to East.  However lacking provisions and talent for serious survey work no detailed maps of the coastline were forthcoming, arriving in Sydney on the 16th Dec 1800 only to find Flinders had already left for England.

Sailing along the coast Grant would have been amazed at the beaches wriggling with seals, penguins, oceans brimming with fish, dolphins, and the air a haze of birdlife.  But possibly the most dramatic view would have been of the coastline itself.  Something straight out of the Jurassic Park movie set.  Steep sandstone cliffs rising in the air, paler limestone formations standing apostle like in defiance of the tempests which batter the southern coastline and vegetation dominated by giant flowering trees (Mountain Ash) dating back to the days of Gondwana kept company by sprawling stately tree ferns.  
Mountain Ash, Tree Fern lined road

A dense cacophony of life.

This is the Otways. 

More accurately this was the Otways.  Now 215 years later there have been a few changes.  Most notably extensive land clearing for a variety of purposes over varying time scales.  Consistent throughout and dating back to the 1840’s the desire for timber has had the biggest impact.  Initially harvested in response to gold rushes, fuel and construction materials in more recent times it has been clear felled as a source for woodchips.

Clear felling is the most destructive form of logging resulting in the decimation of the flora and fauna of the region, many of which exist only in this environmental refuge.  It is also said that logging in the area produced marginal if any benefits, socially or economically.  

Fortunately public concern and action led to a ban on such logging of native forest in 2008.  However plantations of pine (Pinus radiata) and blue gum (eucalyptus globulus) still dominate many vistas and contribute to catchment wide issues such as the spread of Myrtle Wilt Fungus and downstream water quality issues.

Having halted the destruction of native forest this was a win for the environment in the area however the industry is still lobbying strongly in other regions and there is now pressure mounting from investment in the dairy industry from overseas interests.
Pine Plantation on the Turtons Track, Otway Ranges

Dairy farming sprouted following the second world war when returned soldiers were offered parcels of land to transform into profitable farms under the ‘Soldier Settlement’ act.  Many failed but not before large areas were cleared and burned.  Since then farmers welfare has risen and fallen on the price of milk with recent times being particularly tough as a result of price wars between the major retail outlets.

Dairy Farm water trough and cleared pasture land
looking west across the Otway Ranges
Enter the overseas investors. Their catch cry is ‘increase efficiency’, ‘Increase productivity’ which usually translates to intensive farming practices.

SO what does the future hold for the Otways?  I don’t now but today is a beautiful day to explore!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Otway Ranges & Great Ocean Road 5th Feb 2015

Joanna P1

This weeks bright idea saw us go for a 2 day and 2 night camping trip around the Otway Ranges along the Great Ocean Road.  The destination was Johanna Beach which is an area which has claimed it's fair share of ship wrecks over the years and also a popular surf spot for established and not-so surfers. We were going there for the view and the history.

In order to do it though required an 11 pm departure from Melbourne (leaving after Trace finished a tour to Wilson’s Prom) and a 2 hour drive to our first camp site.  Not a big deal as I had all day to pack and was eager to get back out there.

So picking her up we made our way via Winchelsea, down though Deans Marsh, meeting up with the Great Ocean Road just east of Lorne.  A little bit concerning along the way was the rain and drizzle which didn’t seem to appreciate that we were on holiday and was making every effort to turn the normally relaxing winding roads into something of an adventure in their own right.

The idea of putting up a tent in the rain at 2 am was not something that was screaming appeal to either of us as we debated the merits of finding the first dry spot to erect our refuge. 

The initial plan to head straight to Johanna Beach was abandoned due to a moment of lucidness and realism and instead we set our sites on our own private little camp site right next to the GOR.

This site is something that seems to be a very well kept secret from just about everybody as there is never anyone there and it truly is in a remarkable place.  (Unfortunately I am not able to disclose its exact location however it is somewhere between here and there).

Pulling into our home for the night was a reward we both deserved and were greeted by dry skies and the lulling sound of waves breaking on the nearby beach. 

5 minutes to put the tent up, unroll the beds, brush the teeth and off to sleep ZZzzzzzzz

I'm Back :)

Long Time No ...

Well an apology is order I know.  Almost 12 months and nothing !  No pictures, no blog nothing!!

Well I guess that tells a story in itself.  If you had been following us on Facebook then you would have seen that we started our tour operations in Darwin last year and had a fantastic, albeit full on season which left us little time or energy for blogging that’s for sure.

The problem being that I am a Virgo ... which means I want to do everything perfect (including blogging) or not at all.  This required time and energy I did not have and to be straight up I would rather be out ‘doing’ than writing about it.

SO here I sit working out what kind of blog to do after so long.  How to catch up ? What to catch u ?  Should I catch up ?  And most important what can I do to try and make it so I don’t neglect it as I have done thus far and yet be worthwhile for all concerned.

My answer .... Randomness J

Trace and I lead a pretty random life and our adventures follow that schedule.  With this in mind I will be attempting to include bits and pieces of adventures when I get the chance.  Probably not full stories but enough to give you an idea of what’s going on.   If by chance you want the full story by all means give us a shout and presto !

So ... no catching up.

Simply here we are ...