Story Archive

Big Walk_6


Posted on April 26, 2015 by
on the road at
Mt York


Ralph and I are camped at Mt York at the far western end of the Blue Mountains, the point at which Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson stood looking over a valley now named Hartley Vale, and which was originally called The Vale of Clwyd. Within two years of standing here in 1813, Coxes Road was constructed by William Cox, the explorer's route across the mountains determining the first road.

In the abscence of a Go Pro and a selfie stick, the explorers had to make do with various engravings of their stern faces gazing over what they regarded as The Future, a biblical Land of Profit in the form of land grants. This new country held the promise of wealth that would create pastoral dynasties and feed the struggling convict settlement. Until the successful crossing, Sydney Town had been squeezed like a hot dog along the coastline as the impenetrable mountains held the colony's westward expansion in check. The zeal and conviction of 19th Century was about to be unleashed along the coach-wide Coxes Road cut into the sandstone below where Ralph now fossicks.


I've never met Heraclitus of Ephesus [c. 535 – c. 475 BC] the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, but I wish I had. It was he who said No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. I admit to similar thoughts if not the eloquence during a month long stay in the fishing town of Cooktown in far northern Queensland. Each morning some local men would cast off into same Endeavour River with the same line, wearing the same battered shorts and with the same morning greetings, mostly ending with 'you old bastard’. But the river was constantly refreshed with the tropical waters of the Barrier Reef and the fish changed with the seasons. The men, who I hung out with during the day, emerged the next morning in different states of repair, their lives subtlety changed by the events of the last 24 hours; a fight with their wives, or good news, or bad.

As no river remains the same, nor does the road. Today Coxes Road was variously covered in mist, then sunlight, then driving rain. Trees drop across it and rocks fall. As travellers wound their way down the mountain the road linked them to their destiny. 

The 22 convicts who built this Coxes Road were treated well. The historical sign says that after a day of extremely productive labour they were served an extra ration of cabbage. I can only imagine the reaction today ... well done men ... great work … here's some more cabbage.

The convicts' roads to this remote place had started with some offence in England deemed worthy of transportation, often as for little as stealing a vegetable, possibly cabbage, for their starving family. Now they stood in this wild remote place having helped build the road over the mountains. It was for them a road to freedom because each man was granted a full pardon at the end of the construction. 

The Aboriginal people to the west had already been devastated by European settlement, as disease spread like a spear through the ancient trade routes. Great nations like the Wiradjuri ceased to function within years of the road conveying the vibrant, powerful and expanionist Europeans westward. This little road was to the Aboriginals a road to destruction.

Those who crossed the mountains spread out into inland cities and towns, established farms and mined gold. Mothers and children, explorers and gold miners, a powerful legal system, notions of right and wrong, police and bushrangers, tradesmen and farmers were pressed like a new seal onto the melting wax of the old ways. The little road fed the characters from another world into a vast interior, becoming a road to prosperity for some, and ruin for others.

Little Ralph is a pure cattle dog. Within his genes lie the European strain of the Northumberland Drovers dog and the indigenous pure dingo. His genetic inheritance bestrides two worlds which is of no concern to him. The road is his natural home, each day spent on it just another bite size chunk of the moment.  

For me this is a road to Alice Springs and all the places along the way. If it carries me to riches it will be in the form of stories heard and shared, it may even carry me to health, or some understanding. Like Ralph when I see a road I embark upon it. I yearn to go where it takes me. 


R & r


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Stewart Peters
... here's to health and understanding! Keep us all updated. Great pic of Ralph surveying the landscape see ya mate Stewart
cheers Stewart. Thanks for lettng me stay over the BIG WET
Another great blog mate! I'm still aching from our mini "Big Walk"!  Cheers  Hugh 
Hey Hugh. Yes it was quite a day
Sharon Thiel
 In my head, I can hear you speak the words as I read them, Raymond! Your gift of painting the scenes as you share them  makes it so easy for me to picture what you describe! Thank you for allowing us to journey with you and learn more about this beautiful country and its history.  I wish you would consider doing a vlog (video log) at least  as an occasional addition to the blog. It would be awesome to see you and Ralph in the video as you talk about your trip! Godspeed on your journey,good weather and many friends ahead ! ❤️
Well I already do that with the Virtual Walker program which helps me along the way
What a wonderful history lesson, Raymond. You should give lectures to students, you make history come so alive! Love the way Ralph is almost majestically surveying the great world beneath him.  Looking forward to your next video. May all your dreams of great stories and people to be discovered come true.
Its on its way Ronna
Ingrid Petersson
Hi Raymond, Lovely written as always and I agree with Sharon, you paint your words so we can see what you see and I can see in the photo's that Ralph loves being out there. The start has been very tough for you and I'm so pleased that your mate Hugh could walk with you a couple of days. I look forward to the next video. xxx :)
Annie Downes
Raymond, as others have stated so well, you have a beautiful way with words, I too would like to thank you for bringing the story of this area to life.  "As disease spread like a spear through the ancient trade routes" and other equally descriptive quotes will stick with me for a long time.  The aboriginal people did not even rate a  mention when I was at school.  The photos of Ralph certainly look like he is in his natural element and it sounds like you are in yours also, an explorer, not only of the environment but of life itself.  I agree with Stewart, to health and understanding!  
your narration of your journey is very interesting, provokes memories, most entertaining, thank you so much Raymond and Ralph.  Makes me think on these places i have not seen for many years....wish i could journey with you, but this is almost as much enjoyment.
paul bateman
Great story and photo of Ralph, safe travels.
Lesley Hampton
I love reading about your travels Raymond.  Keep up the good work. Ralph is also a beautiful dog and growing up quickly. 
Beautiful words Raymond. Thank you. In the SMH Julia Baird writes about taking time to immerse yourself or to think. She says that "Immersion is so rare and gratifying that you begin to crave it once you taste it." Others have called it being in the zone.  This is your writing, that deep, considered, meditative prose.  Keep well. Lynn
I enjoyed reading that blog, Raymond. These are little slices and diamonds that one does not always learn in school history lessons. Europeans felt the world was their oyster to plunder the pearls from.  But that was then, in another time and place.  We know better now, or we should do.
Patricia Lang
Great read Raymond!

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Hi, Raymond. It was lovely to meet you and Ralph the other day and I'm pleased you had the time to sit and chat and have a cuppa. Hoping you're both keeping warm on these chilly nights. I'm enjoying reading your updates and wish you both health and happiness on you journey. Stay safe.
Jenny ever son
amazing Raymond I can just picture it thru your words and little Ralph just loves life to the fullest enjoy guys xxxxx
lee bruce
utterly fascinating. I love this post.