Saturday, 2 October 2010


Last Tuesday, as part of our brief sojourn in Perth, amongst other things, we visited King's Gardens. Now I'm not into gardens, but my bride is, and there was no way I could weasel out of this commitment, being part of the incentive I offered her to put up with travelling with me across the Nullarbor on a train.
The gardens were spectacular, as was the amount of information about what was growing there. This information was conveyed by a volunteer guide, a bloke about my vintage, who knew what he was talking about, and was obviously an enthusiast on matters horticultural.

One of the more surprising facts I learned from him, is that large number of the many wildflowers that attract tourists in droves are actually weeds imported originally from South Africa.

As we walked around (quite a few kilometers as is turned out), I kept seeing plaques in front of trees planted to commemorate soldiers killed in wars past. I asked our guide if any of these were dedicated to casualties of the war in Vietnam. He said they were, but we weren't going to pass them on this particular walk. There was, however, a register of names I could check at the Information Centre in the gardens, when our walk was through.

I did this, but the bloke I asked directed me to another volunteer, a woman about my age, who was introduced to me as something of an expert on the Vietnam War.

This connection was much more immediate than I could have predicted.

Five minutes' conversation revealed the following -

This garden volunteer was married to a Vietnam Veteran who had served as a platoon commander in my unit.

 Her brother was my platoon commander from August 1969 until June 1970.

This bloke - a very good man - had died from cancer earlier this year. He lived in Nerang and occasionally I'd driven down from Toowoomba to meet him for a lunch and a talk about old times. He'd been very helpful correcting some factual errors in a manuscript I'm working on.

We spent some time talking about him, and about the amazing coincidence that had brought this conversation about. The odds against it, when considered in the cold light of day, are astronomical.

And then light dawned. Gibbo had set this up. He was up there somewhere laughing at us.

He was always a thoroughly well-organised digger with a dry sense of humour..

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Riding the Rattler (2)

The second half of this journey began at breakfast as we rolled across the Nullarbor.
The quality of both the food and the alacrity with which it was served was maintained. Part of the fun is interacting with fellow passengers, and on our train they were an interesting lot.

Apart from retirees and baby boomers spending their offsprings' inheritance, there was a sprinkling of tourists from Japan, Singapore and Europe, and a few backpackers. I was intrigued by a Japanese couple who carried all types of camera gear, and spent a lot of time leaping about to get unique shooting angles. I reckon they're preparing some publication or another.

Quite a few people seemed to be combining a journey on the Ghan with the Indian Pacific experience. I like trains, but two journeys of this length at once would have to induce a specific variety of cabin fever.

Don't get me wrong, travelling this way is relaxing - almost meditative, but the distances are vast.

We got off (detrained???) for a bit at Kalgoorlie, where we looked at brothels and a big hole in the ground. The mine was much more interesting than the brothels, and the bloke who mooned the bus as it went past added to the colour, if not the spectacle.
Kalgoorlie reminded me of Mt Isa. It's not the scenic capital of Australia, and like Mt Isa, looks much better at night. The floodlit open cut looked ike something out of Dante's inferno. There were signs everywhere explaining how the mining companies diigently rehabilitate the landscape once the area is mined out. I wish them luck rehabilitating this big hole.

They'd have to dig up half of Kalgoorlie to get enough fill.

Like many mining towns, drinking and brawling are popular pastimes. Again - reminds me of Mt Isa. In the Isa it was advisable to drink in the clubs, not the pubs, and if you were forced to drink in a pub, to avoid those where the furniture was bolted to the floor.

We swanned (pun intended) into Perth mid-morning. Apart from a dearth of taxis at the rail terminal, we had no hassles collecting our rented household appliance (a brand new Hyundai) and finding our B & B.

Now it's time to explore the sunny South West.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...