A State to write home about
A State to write home about

Stephen Scourfield looks at three new books about Western Australia.


HAVE YOUR KAYAK . . .

Martin Chambers first paddled a canoe when he was eight years old, has been doing so ever since, and has more than 30 years of experience in teaching guiding and leading outdoor activities. He was at the forefront of whitewater rafting tours and commercial sea kayaking expeditions in WA.

His new edition of The Canoe and Kayak Guide to Western Australia draws on all that experience.

It details more than 20 canoe and kayak locations from Exmouth to Esperance, complete with 36 sketch maps. The trips suggested are suitable for paddlers from novice to expert.

Here's an example, from the pages on the Murray River, near Dwellingup: "The Upper Murray, from Driver Road to Nanga Bridge, is suitable for canoeing or kayaking, except in flood. The gradient is small and the drops are discrete, with pools punctuated by fords and flowing river through tea trees. Avoid flood times. In flood, trees become hazardous and the river flows fast for kilometres at a time."

The area is then broken down into sections on Baden Powell Waterspout, Nanga Bridge to Scarp Road, Below Scarp Road and Coolup to Mandurah.

• The book is $24.95 from paddlesport and outdoor shops or martinchambers.id.au.


TRUE OUTBACK CHARACTERS

Snowy and Marie Brosnan have lived a true outback life and they are brought to life in the new book Desert Droving, Saddling and Shooting, as told to and written by Marion Hercock and published by Hesperian Press.

Snowy walked off the family farm in the Wheatbelt when he was 15 and got a job at Hamelin Station at Shark Bay, before moving on to other work, and learnt a lot about horses at De Grey Station, near Port Hedland: "Horses were important in those days, because they were used for droving, riding and racing. There were no aeroplanes and no mustering buggies, so all the droving was done on horses."

The idea of a droving life had been planted when he was young: "When I saw Chips Rafferty in The Overlanders I vowed that I would one day be a drover - it came true."

In fact, Snowy is one of few around now who drove cattle down the Canning Stock Route from the Kimberley to Wiluna, in the north-east Goldfields. His first time was in 1956 with a stockman called Mal Brown and 420 head of cattle.

"From the relatively grassy plains surrounding Lake Gregory, we headed south through the Great Sandy Desert - a pitiless, scorching, prickly terrain of sand dunes, which made for particularly heavy travelling for all, even the camels.

"At each well we would water the bullocks as much as we could, and we would rest at the dinner camp during the hottest part of the day in preparation for the afternoon drove. The heat, the flies, the glare - you'd think it would be a time for a doze, but keeping a constant eye on the cattle meant that the big sleep was far away. Droving's a boring life. Someone is supposed to have said it's like war - 90 per cent boredom and 10 per cent action and moments of absolute terror. I don't know about war, but I like the formula the other way."

Marie was born in Kalgoorlie- Boulder to parents who never showed her any love. She was married at 15 and had her first child at 16, followed by three more, but eventually left and met Snowy. They headed to the North West and shot roos, brumbies and donkeys. And Marie says: "I found out that the real-life cowboy was far, far away from the romantic character in the story books."

The lives of Snowy and Marie are remarkable and author Dr Marion Hercock presents it as a smooth and readable book.

• The book is $30 plus postage. hesperianpress.com


COLLIE'S LEGACY

The Collie River might be well known but the fact that it was named for Dr Alexander Collie who, along with Lieutenant William Preston, was the first European explorer to find it in 1829, is probably less so. Until now.

For author Gwen Chessel turns her attention to Dr Collie in the new book Alexander Collie: Colonial Surgeon, Naturalist & Explorer.

It is the first full biography of this Scottish pioneer who made a significant contribution to WA in the early days of the Swan River colony. He was a surgeon aboard the HMS Sulphur in 1829, accompanying Lieutenant- Governor James Stirling. Once in the new, wide brown land, and with the help of an Aboriginal guide, he explored the South West, making botanical, geographical and meteorological observations recognised as important to WA's development in the following decades.

The author has drawn on Collie's personal and insightful correspondence with his brother, and her careful research coupled with maps and archival images, bring to life the story of a man described as "an innately inquisitive nineteenth-century world traveller and humanist, who sought to bridge the divide between European and indigenous communities".

• The book is $39.95 and published by UWA Publishing. uwap.uwa.edu.au

The West Australian

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