Tuesday, April 21, 2009


You know... Tangambalanga. It's at the foothills of Mount Murramurrangbong, south of Woomargama, north of Mullindoolingong, west of Tallangatta and east of Yackandandah.

"Aaaaah," I hear you say, "That Tangambalanga." Yep, that's the one - the one that means "place of the white clawed lobster" in the local aboriginal dialogue (Like, duh, I hear you add).

The fact is, Legion of Fans, is that I had absolutely no idea where Tangambalanga was until last week, when I was taken on a tour of that very fetching town and many others I'd never heard of, courtesy of the Upper Murray Regional Library.

True to my Sydney city-slicker, New-South-Wales-centric ways I even had to ask (and I was not joking or being a smart a**) what state I was in, while downing a beer at the Laurel Hotel in downtown Mitta Mitta. Fortunately only the publican, Kim, was there and she was gracious enough to answer me (it turned out I was in Victoria) rather than smacking me one in the mouth.

The other fact, and point of this post, is that I take my own country, Australia, very much for granted.

Mostly, the only travel I've done around Australia has been courtesy of the Australian Army, during my time in uniform. I've been to many places with the Army that might elicit an "ooh", or an "ahh" from an unknowing foreigner, but what I learned very early on as a young soldier was that the Army has a way of conducting its activities in the sh*ttiest parts of this great country of ours.

So, when I say I've been to South Australia with the Army, what I really mean to say is that I've been to the Woomera training and rocket-testing range (a little piece of Afghanistan, right in our backyard - dust, heat, flies and, until recently, Afghans). When civilian folk go to tropical Far North Queensland they go to Cairns or Port Douglas - I went to the bits with the Taipan snakes and leeches.

Ditto the Gold Coast (where I will soon be talking, on May 29 and 3o at the Literati writer's festival). There, holidaymakers enjoy the beautiful beach at Surfer's Paradise, while just a few kilometres inland at the Canungra jungle warfare centre infantrymen, such as myself 26 years ago, were treated to an experiential holiday in a lovingly recreated pocket of the South Vietnamese jungle, complete with booby traps and live-firing machine guns.

But I digress. There is little excuse for my lack of civilian travel around our wide brown land other than the fact that I've been too busy travelling around Africa for the past 14 years.

I can wax lyrical about Nelspruit, Hotazel, Pontdrift and Kariba, yet I'd be hard pressed finding Yackandandah or Dartmouth on a map.

The mobile library is a fantastic service and yet another reminder of how lucky we Australians are to live in a country where there is enough money to fill an RV full of books and send it out into the bush so that elderly and infirm people, and stay-at-home mums with little kids can find something to read. Sure, our health system is a bit creaky and we have far too many politicians (there is a direct co-relation there, I am sure), but it's great that in the age of blogs there are still people who read books and still people who are dedicated to providing access to them to all Australians.

I met lots of lovely people on the tour and some were even lovlier than others (these, of course, were the ones who had read all my books, or bought one or more on the spot). Also, a nice young part-aboriginal fella called Janda, who was about or 11 0r 12, I guess, asked me for my autograph (a first for me) after collecting a stack of books and fishing magazines to read. On so many levels, how good was that (and I don't just mean for my ego)?

Mobile librarian Margaret, who claimed to be a grandmother but was far too young for that to be true, piloted the reading rig with the skill of a long-distance truckie (though without the need for drugs or porn on board) through spectacular horse and cattle country and down winding valleys that charted the course of various unpronounceable rivers. Somewhere nearby were the Snowy Mountains (I think).

It's huntin', fishin' and campin' country and, in those respects, not unlike Africa. I saw plenty of four wheel drives loaded with gear, towing camping trailers and sporting roof-top tents.

Bizarrely, it all made me homesick for my nomadic life in Africa.

The grass is, of course, always greener on the other side of the fence, but if you can't, for whatever reason, get over the barbed wire then take a look around your own backyard. I'm typing this from a room with no windows, in the middle of Australia's largest city. I should be editing my seventh book, but instead I wanted to summon up some memories of Mitta Mitta and tale of Tangambalanga, as much for my sake as yours.

If I can't be in South Africa or Zimbabwe, then I think, right now, I'd much rather be at the foothills of Mount Murramurrangbong, or south of Woomargama...

What about you? Got a favourite hidden corner in your backyard where you'd rather be right now?


Trin said...

Having a VERY late lunch - seriously...
One of my favourite spots is a little town called Robe just at the Victoria/South Australia border - actually, not the town itself but just outside of the town. My ex and I used to just take off and see where we finished up (on the day) and we took a sandy track off the main highway just to see where it would lead - an amazingly beautiful little beach and endless views of the ocean.

Also love the Great Ocean Road and in particular, Loch Ard Gorge for its sheer presence and history of shipwrecks and Cape Otway - drive down is superb with the eucalypts, koalas everywhere and the magnificent countryside and views.

Another favourite (I have lots) is Walpole Inlet near the Margaret River in WA - magnificent - particularly if you can spend a week on a houseboat there - pelicans fishing in formation up the inlet in the early morning a very special treat to see, heaps of fish life, walking tracks, treetop walks etc etc - and of course - proximity of very good wines! Rottnest Island - I could just go on and on - Australia has some absolutely amazingly beautiful places - and you are right Tony, we do seem to neglect what is in our own backyards.

Anonymous said...


Herr Doktor said...

There is something very Henry Lawson about the last blog! You can't beat a diversion into the bush, my fav spot is a National Park near Dwellingup WA beautiful, peaceful etc..
Now the other question is you have obviously been traumatised by the military! You are going weak on me old boy harden up. I can remember you charging down range with a F89 blazing away, you scared the living @#$? out of me.Now forget the philosophical mood and back to editing. Dok

ali g said...

Spot on Doc. very Henry Lawson. Put it down to his Easter visit to Mudgee [the home of Henry Lawson] and the supping of the Pale & Wheat ale at the Mudgee Brewing Co.

tonypark said...

There was movement at the station...

Wait a sec.. that's the other bloke, isn't it?

Thanks all.

Ah, yes, Herr Doktor, with Anzac Day approaching I'm recalling fond memories of a certain Warrant Officer screaming at your good self and me; "IT'S A MACHINE GUN, FIRE IT LIKE A F*ING MACHINE GUN!"

I was surpirsed you didn't prescribe your usual teaspoon of cement.

dozycow said...

Warrant Officers are very scary people !

At the moment my favourite place to be is anywhere away from my desk, however there is a beautiful spot not far from here called the Boardinghouse Dam near the Heaton Lookout. It's a lovely walk & has lots of native birds & goannas everywhere.

TIS said...

My fav place is - depending on the lead levels of your right foot -about 1 1/2 hrs from Darwin, called Lake Bennett. Tis a beautiful place, with lots of wildlife (the animal kingdom kind), and a great spot to watch the lightening split the sky during the wet season thunder storms.