November 11, 2019

Western Australia's Silo Art Trail

Michael Osborne explores the Public Silo Trail in WA

Australian’s are amazing when it comes to creativity, in particular when times are tough in the bush. One only has to see some of the great inventions our forebears created to help them survive our climate.

As we are aware, our country is enduring one of the worst drought and dry spell for many a year. The people on the land are suffering and are looking at tourism dollars to earn some money to see them over until the next wet.

So along comes FORM.

FORM is an independent, non-profit cultural organisation that develops and advocates for excellence in creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia.

They come up with a concept - The Public Silo Trail – which is a partnership between FORM and Co-operative Bulk Handling Group (CBH Group).

One can imagine the conversation, ‘Look, we have all these giant white grain silos, so why don’t we get together with the local communities and check-out some artists and get a few murals painted on them.’ Might look pretty good!

The end result a 1,000km self-drive art trail that you can start in Perth, and head east and travel through Northam – Merredin – Ravensthorpe - Newdegate – Pingrup – Katanning – and down south to Albany.

One of the largest outdoor art galleries in the world.

At Northam we were taken to the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Centre. This is the best audio/visual presentation on indigenous people I have ever seen. I kept walking back and rechecking the exhibits as there was so much to try and absorb in the short period we had.

There are other attractions along the way, including a Yabby farm, at Kukerin where local yabbies are readied for transporting to the finest restaurants in Australian and around the world

At Newdegate you must visit the Hainsworth Museum, originally a corner store and tea room built in 1933 and now restored by the locals to a time-warp history piece.

Near Lake Grace we enjoyed a wine tasting at Walkers Hill Vineyard. A Chardonnay very dry and crisp with fruit tones. Their Shiraz is big and peppery. But the pick for me was their Drought Rose, plenty of fruit and a little tingle on the tongue.

On to Denmark. Next on our journey was Singlefile Wines, apparently named after the resident geese who would parade around the lake in s single file!

They gather fruit from across The Great Southern and create many award winning wines, including a very special Chardonnay.

Heading west along the cost we arrive at Walpole. This area is highly rated as a tourist destination, with so much to see and do.

We opted for a very special dinner cruise around the lake.

VERY Special: Why? Well in more than 45-years of travel, I have seen countless tour guides and presenters, but here we had Gary Muir! This man is a living legend; I have never experienced anyone with so much passion for his area. He had our group almost rolling around the deck with his comments and antics. I could fill this whole article with asides from his routine. But to do him and this wonderful lake and cruise justice you must not miss his daily cruise.

A short drive has us at The Valley of the Giants at Tingledale.

See giant ancient trees, learn about nature and then take the aerial adventure – The Tree Top Walk – A wheel chair accessible walk that slopes into the canopy of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and Walpole Wilderness, offering spectacular views over densely forested hills. Descending to the boardwalks below to explore the Ancient Empire Walk, you’ll enter a grove of towering veteran tingle trees. /

All of the towns along the trail have their own uniqueness and you will find that the locals are fully supportive of the visiting travellers, many of them arriving with caravans and others in campervans.

Most towns have a free parking area with facilities for the visitors to overnight and freshen up. Also caravan parks, motels and hotels of good to high-end levels.

We tried a variety of accommodation – from farm stay style at Mary Farm Cottages – which were modern fully equipped cottages in a beautiful setting.

At Katanning we were spoilt with staying at the Premier Mill Hotel, which because of its uniqueness really has to be seen and experienced. A former flour mill that was almost due to be demolished has been restored to an intriguing perfection by Nigel Oakey.

Heading then To Walpole we Glamped at the Coalmine Caravan Park. Modern fully contained tents which although compact, have everything you would need for an overnighted of a week or two. During the night there was a heavy downpour and the sound of the rain on the canvas was the best sleeping tonic.

Last on our adventure was Albany, where the grain is sent to sea. It is also the home of the National Anzac Centre honouring the memory of our incredible Anzac’s as over 41,000 departed from Albany’s harbour, the last time most ever laid eyes on their home country.

Food and Beverage. One thing I did see often was the sign “The Best Coffee in Town” and I will have to admit all we tried were excellent.

Food wise we found that many locals have formed a type of co-op to source fresh produce which they then created some extremely delicious presentations, in quaint country restaurants.

Words and images: Michael Osborne

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November 02, 2019

Kimberley Cruising On Wandjina Time


Time moves so slowly in the Kimberley, it might as well stand still. Adventure cruiser, Roderick Eime, faces off with the ancient Wandjina.

Their mouthless faces stare out from the rock ceiling, eyes wide and all-seeing. These are the Wandjina, invisible to mere mortals. The Kimberley of Australia’s North West is their realm and they rule supreme, governing the rain and the life-giving regeneration that follows.

We’re here in the famous cave at Raft Point, possibly the best known of all Wandjina rock art sites in the Kimberley. Their Dreamtime stories are kept alive by local indigenous people like the Mowanjum people from nearby Derby. Their Dreaming stories tell of the first Wandjina, called Idjair, who lives in the Milky Way and is the father of all the Wandjinas who went on to create the Earth.


“The Wandjinas gave the language, the culture and the laws of the country,” says Mowanjum artist Leah Umbagai, “They told us how we have to work the country and how we have to live. So all the laws, language and traditions we got from the Wandjinas. This is a very powerful person or spirit being that we believe in. We are here because of the Wandjinas.”

The oldest Wandjina art was created perhaps 4000 years ago. It is traditionally repainted every few years because the dyes and ochres would otherwise fade and deteriorate. Older still are the Gwion Gwion paintings, now so ancient they are fused in the rock itself and impossible to date by conventional methods. Researchers are confident they are at least 20,000 years old, probably older.

Coming face-to-face with these prehistoric murals is a humbling experience. All of a sudden you realise how fleeting your existence is and how little the Earth cares about your dreams and aspirations.
Even though we may be brief and transient visitors to this realm, it doesn’t stop us marvelling at the grandeur of the creations that surround us here in the Kimberley. The majesty of King George Falls in full flight ranks along with Victoria Falls and Niagara in terms of sheer beauty, if not water volume. The better cruise operators will bring their tenders so close that your whole body will shudder as the cascade plummets 80 metres into the river, enveloping you in a dense, misty spray.

The best way to access these remote wonders is by small ship and expedition cruising has found a solid niche in the Kimberley with more and more vessels plying these remote waters thanks to the accelerating tourism interest in the region. However, with the notorious six-metre tides, patchy charts and tricky currents, local experience comes into its own. This, coupled with the preference to smaller vessels, makes the Kimberley a premium destination for adventure cruise travellers.

One of the acknowledged preeminent operators, is the multi-award-winning True North Adventure Cruises who have seen more than 30 years of continuous operation in the region.

“We are very different to a big ship holiday,” said owner and founder, Craig Howson OAM, “Our itineraries are always activity-based and much more suited to travellers who are looking for a holiday that is also an enriching experience.”

Their luxury expedition vessel, True North, carries just 36 guests in superlative ‘barefoot comfort’, and lavishes guests with such activities as heli-fishing and flightseeing with their onboard jet helicopter, tender exploration into remote tributaries and ecological enrichment thanks to onboard scientists like Dr Andy Lewis, a passionate marine biologist and expedition leader.

For those looking for simpler relaxation, Craig’s team offers unsurpassed fishing in the many tributaries throughout the Kimberley where dedicated anglers can land snapper, mullet, queenfish, mangrove jack or even the legendary barramundi. If you can’t catch a fish in the Kimberley, then you really should give it up.

The Kimberley cruise season is typically between March and September as the weather transitions from wet to dry. Early season has the best waterfalls, while later is best for fishing. The choice is yours, because the Wandjina will be doing their thing regardless, just as they have done since the dawn of time.


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