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by Annette Flottwell

Books about Australia

Note: I've checked the availability of all books listed on the web while writing this. With one exception, they can be ordered at the mentioned links. Don't believe what Amazon says.

 

Travel & Tour Guides

Lonely Planet's Australia guides combine tour suggestions with locality information. Suggested excursions are meant for the curious and independent traveller, with a strong emphasis on tight budgets. Their exact informations regarding tour mileage, landmarks, permits, radio frequencies and contact are unsurpassed. The only disadvantage are the lengthy informations about where to stay or eat, as they have no chance to be up to date in Australia. You have to filter these carefully.

The premier choice is -of course- O'Byrne's Outback guide. Read the getting around and other general information chapters before you go- you can't do better. Before entering aboriginal land, read that chapter carefully. I've met Julian who wrote it, he's been working with them for years. This book has served us 8 years now and we bought the second edition because the first edition was falling apart!

The Western Australia and Queensland guides are addition you will find useful when travelling near the coast in these states. That is the north west WA and Far North Queensland. To order:

Of course, there is also the all-in one Australia book. It's not so useful for the outback and appeals more to backpackers.

 

 

Australia' National Parks

Who hasn't heard about Kakadu, the Pinnacles and of course Uluru /Katatjuta.

But these parks mentioned represent only a very small percentage of the total number of parks - including regional reserves, state forests and recreational areas - in Australia, and more than 700 of them are included here, from an in-depth to basic coverage.

There is also essential information on safety and regulations and outstanding maps on all regions and parks.

Camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, diving, birdwatching, skiing, and so on, are all catered for.

Ron and Viv moon are well known for their first hand information, so you can rely on this one.

But don't expect too much in the way of maps - they are from Hema and not very accurate. A geographic grid is missing, their is no terrain information so important for desert roads.

 

 

4 WD guides with GPS information

These tracks are covered by Gegory's 4WD Escapes, Volume 1 and 2

Unfortunately, the first volume is out of print now. You won't really need them before you arrive in Australia. They're true co-pilot's choices, with detailed roadbooks and all necessary GPS positions. Detailed maps with a fine geographic grid cover the described tracks, a poster size Australia map comes with Vol. One.

You can order them at Repco's together with a tyre pump or an engine oil drum. Hardly in a bookshop!

 

This is the Hema version of a 4WD guide. There are no roadbooks, no listed GPS positions (there are some in the middle of the text, but that's not the thing for the co-pilot) and the maps are from Hema - nice to drive Sydney Melbourne in a passenger car, see below about HEMA and AUSLIG maps.

BUT

It provides plenty of useful pictures hints, descriptions and genuine and up to date advice, which I find are a too short in Gregory's book.

Camping, hotels, and petrol stations are often listed with contact information, which is essential for remote places.

The National Parks accessible by 4WD are covered, too, so you don't really have to buy both of these books.

.The mapshop has almost all titles

 

 

Maps

Popular HEMA maps

The Discover Australia by 4WD guide above claims to feature detailed maps, so let's have a closer look at these. To keep images small, I have chosen the Sandy Blight Junction Road. Just where the bend between the words Robert Range is, there is a major turnoff to Tjukurla community. They didn't bother to signpost it, though. In fact, the Sandy Blight Jct. Road continues as the much smaller, 4 WD road, while the Tjukurla Road looks like a graded highway. Hema couldn't care less. So how will you find your unless you read Len Beadell VERY carefully?

The rockhole shown below and the range are of equal fame and can offer both shelter and water in an emergency. Thus it will definitely help to know where to get away from sudden currents. A couple of words give me no idea about the terrain!But a prominent ridge and a GPS reading will provide all the information you need.

Don't think the 4 WD guide has a different map elsewhere. The Gunbarrel map is no better. By accident, I met a HEMA mapping team at Cameron's corner and asked them why there isn't a usable grid in their maps. The answer was: They aren't meant to be used with a GPS.

Below, you'll see the portion in the red rectangle made by AUSLIG. Yes, I scanned them at the same resolution.

 

Which map would YOU rely on?

An online Map of Australia helps you to find the true origin of all maps on the official AUSLIG homepage. They do ship them overseas, too

AUSLIG home page and a sample.

Her you can find the right map and position by place name.

 

Biographies, reports and history

Please see the Len Beadell sectionfor Len's books. They're a must for the western desert!

Tracks by Robyn Davidson

This is the story of a women's lonely epic journey from Alice Springs to the west coast-

on foot with her three camels and a dog !

In the late seventies Robyn Davidson made that heroic trip, after a year of preparation. After earning money as a barmaid, she becomes an unpaid worker on a camel farm to earn her camels. But her ordeals aren't over yet. 14 months in the desert took their toll. One of my favourites. Very intense.

Mail for the back of beyond

is the the story of an Eastern desert legend.

Harry Dings transport company began in the late twenties a mail service for remote South Australia.

Later their mail runs stretched north to south-west Queensland, Outback NSW and along the Birdsville track.

Read how in the forties a truck driver fixed his clutch plate with a piece of an oil-drum, using only hammer and chisel. Or how they coped with the dunes in their heavy, 2 WD trucks.

Find out what outer and inner Birdsville tracks are about, or read a first hand information about half deserted towns like Yunta or Mannahill.

John Maddock has been the editor of a truck magazine for many years, so he truly is an expert.

Here is a link to Westprint

Early Pioneering

Life on a cattle station

In The Middle Of Nowhere Terry Underwood.

In the Middle of Nowhere is the compelling true account of 18 year old nurse Terry Augustus and John Underwood, a young born and bred cattleman she found flat on his back in ward 3 of St Vincents Hospital, nursing a serious spinal injury sustained while mustering cattle. John itching to get home to his family’s cattle station in the Northern Territory, promised Terry he’d write. After five long years of corresponding, John and Terry married and moved to their new home – a tent and a newly drilled bore in the middle of nowhere. Their love for each other was only matched by their love for this ‘last frontier’ in the heart of the Territory. Modern day pioneers they built their cattle station from scratch, and educated a new generation of Underwoods there, on the headwaters of the Victorian River, 600 kilometres south-west of Katherine. Times were tough but with the power of love and the strength of the family helped them overcome any obstacle.

Enjoyable -you only have to skip the lengthy marriage rituals!

This book is also from Westprint

 

 

 

We of the never-never by Ms Aeneas Gunn

This is also a cattle station story, only 100 years older! Read how Ms Gunn coped with a house which consisted mainly of verandas and promises.

This account reflects the pioneering spirit as no other authentic story. The Station mentioned in the book is in a small national park now - the land was given back to the aboriginals.

Here you will also find the origin of many Australian expressions. The book is available in 100 different versions, try to find an unabridged one. And read it in the original language.

 

Bruce Chatwin at his best:

The Songlines

The manic traveller Bruce Chatwin meets the outback - a very personal discovery.

You can like his style or not, as he often gets distracted and talks about the Sahara or England, but his observations are brilliant.

Whether his stories are true or not, no-one can tell, as he has been dead for ten years now. But if they aren't, they are very good inventions. He caught the spirit of the center all the same.

 

 

 

Tony Horwitz -One for the road

A fascinating insight into what we're all about on the highways and byways along
the outback track.

The funniest account on travelling the outback we ever read. Very realistic - Australia in the mid 80s. But in spite the fact some of the roads are all bitumen now, nothing else has changed.

 

 

Blokes and Sheds - Mark Thomson

(this is specially dedicated to Alain The Webmaster - may he find his Nissen hut or small aircraft hangar one day)

The secret rituals of Australian males. What is really going on behind the corrugated iron curtains of Australia's sheds

Venturing of this sacred male domain, Blokes and Sheds forages for answers to the most significant questions about shed ownership. Is it good to have a messy shed? A good shed is packed to the rafters with memories,mystery and know-how. Like a safety valve it releases the pressures of work and family, providing a haven where a bloke can maintain and repair his sense of identity. Any old building will do: the important thing is that it’s his. In this good humoured and affectionate portrayal of Australian sheds and their owners-occupiers, author and photographer Mark Thomson peers into the gloom, past the dartboard, the beer fridge and the piles of timber offcuts, to discover what goes on between blokes and sheds.

Meat Metal Fire - Mark Thomson

Is there anything more Australian than enjoying a barbecue? And in the same way Australia’s people come from a diverse range of backgrounds, Australia celebrates many different styles of barbecuing. Mark Thomson, author of Blokes & Sheds, and Stories from the Shed,explores the Aussie ritual of the barbie and such marvels of backyard barbecue engineering as the army tank barbie, the flying saucer barbie and the infamous ‘bikies’ barbie as well as some great mixed grills from all over Australia

Harper & Collins

Fiction

Peter Watt - Cry of the curlew & Shadow of the Osprey

The best books I found on my recent trip!

Squatter Donald Macintosh little realizes what chain of events he is setting in motion when he orders the violent dispersal of the Nerambura tribe on his property, Glen View. Unwitting witnesses to the barbaric exercise are bullock teamsters Patrick Duffy and his son Tom.

From this day forward, the Duffys and the Mackintoshes are inextricably linked. Their paths cross in love, death and revenge as both families fight to tame the wild frontier of Australia's north country.

Spanning the middle years of the nineteenth century, Cry of the Curlew is a groundbreaking novel of the dark side of Australia's history. Confronting, erotic, graphic, but above all, a compelling adventure.

Sometimes a bit bloodthirsty and drastic, but breathtaking. Try to get it somehow!

The sequel to Cry of the Curlew takes the reader on a journey from the hellish jungles of the northern frontier to Sydney and Britain

 

It is a time of sudden wealth for a fortunate few who grub gold from the Palmer River in the harsh and unforgiving Queensland Outback. A land, where the fierce Aboriginal warriors resist the invaders in a bloody guerilla war, waged on the northern frontier of colonial Queensland. It is a time when a battle scarred and war weary Michael Duffy returns to the land of his youth. A place where he is still wanted for a murder he did not commit.

Shadow of the Osprey is also the story of a woman's struggle to consolidate a fortune in a world dominated by powerful and ruthless men. Kate O'Keefe's search for power will bring her into conflict with her feelings for the one man she has grown to love - Luke Tracy, the American prospector whose turbulent life has led him from the Californian goldfields of '49 to the Eureka stockade in '54.

It is a story of two families bound by blood and separated by an ancient curse which reaches out to them from the shadows of a sacred place of a slaughtered people. And the evil incarnate of Captain Mort - who continues to shadow the lives of the two families - and all those close to them.

Peter Watt's homepage

 

Patricia Shaw

Patricia Shaw has been writing novels about colonial Queensland for more than twenty years. Her early works were a bit too romantic for my taste, but the later works come with very realistic characters and colourful adventures of the first or second generation pioneers. Hard to put one of her books away after midnight!

You will find a Queensland hard to believe today, amazing how the Sunshine Coast has changed in a 100 years.This story tells how an English governess finds herself when trying to proof a gold-digger's innocence. But she has to give up her imported beliefs and customs first.

 

The Glittering Fields is telling about W.A towards the beginning of the century. The last convicts are still working as slaves on the sheep farms.

A farmer and his former convict worker take part in the Kalgoorlie gold -rush and find a way to make money, but the farmer's wife will try to kill him for that..

 

 

 

Annette Flottwell