The most striking thing about entering the North West corner of the continent, the top end of Western Australia from the remote NW Northern Territory, is the magnificent old man boab (also the baobab of Africa & Egypt). These wonderful trees, which have captured the rains of the monsoon dot the landscape and are found from the coast of WA east into the Northern Territory, bloated in their push to survive an ancient red and harsh country.
They were a valuable food source for the Aboriginal tribes not only in their abundant fruit but also for providing water trapped in hollows in their twisted trunks. The tribal people chose the slightly immature (greenish rather than brown) fruit and found them best roasted. The pulp is similar to stewed fruit in texture and taste. If however the fire is too hot they will explode, so take care. The seeds in the fleshy fruit can also be collected and roasted and eaten like peanuts. Even the sap can be added to water to make a drink. The pith will dry to a fibrous sherbet with the seeds mixed in but this, though pleasant tasting will drive on a considerable thirst.
I found it hard not to stop and take pictures of these many magnificent trees, the next one seemingly larger and more majestic than the last, are remnant of Gondwana when the African continent was joined to the western edge of Australia, both clustered around Antarctica. Africa drifted away, taking with it a germ of humanity and Aus. stayed attached to Antarctica for another eon. It was then a tropical Eden of the Dreamtime.
In its own time the vast Australian continent too broke away and began its journey north towards the equator leaving the now circular currents of the Great Southern Ocean to isolate and consequently bury Antarctica in a tomb of ice. This kind of reminds me of the tale of when man was locked out of Eden. This all occurred as the continent which Gondwana gave birth too, slowly made its way north to become the largest island in the world, and the smallest of continents.
The living cargo that the continental Australian island carried, even then was like no other in the world. It was the land of mammals and it was unique in a world of prehistory. It also carried, likely another germ of man, yet isolated from the rest of humanity and one that will in time surely be discovered, but that is another concept.
They tell us that the ancient tribal Aboriginal Australians migrated in three great migrations between the ages of ice … I have trouble believing this is the singular factor. I figure that he simply was here and perhaps the science of the development and spread of man across the globe is the one that is really still being discovered.
Gondwana was a magnificent land and as it split into its continental drifts the germ of man didn’t surely simply rush off to the African end and depart. It doesn’t make sense to me. Anyway … it wasn’t only the germ of man, which was around back then, there were also some bloody wonderful plants. The least of which remain today and many are ageless in our concept of time like the recently discovered wollemi pine.
The boab is like this … it is a relic of a past age and it even looks like an old man of the deserts and lands of flooding rains. Its crown is a messy raw crest in this season, which look more like roots than branches and it appears someone planted the tree upside down in the earth and in doing so, the bloated belly of the tree drew a deep sustaining breath to survive until such time as it is put to rights again. Its bark is also ageless and wrinkled, a grey tone of ancient texture and it’s near naked crown in sits higher amongst the desert bush and spinifex grass which surround it. It is like a king who would sit still in his realm as his subjects sway and change, burn and are reborn around him. It reminds me of the storybook tale of the ‘King with no clothes’ who sits proud amongst his subjects.
I first wrote of the boab in a travelogue of the ‘Around the Campfire’ Series. Out on the Never Never is a tales of our travel across the continent, me and my Chum-in-law and neither of us was a spring chicken at the time. The tale serves to prove that it is never too late to fulfil a dream, however in exploring Perth we found the king of boabs fittingly in Kings Park and I recount his tale of his own travels in the first pages of the book. Yes… that that particular tree has travelled great distances. You might find the telling in the first sample of the ebook. The full travelogue is available in both ebook and print from Amazon and Smashwords (in a variety of formats).
This time round though, the title of King of Boabs should go to the prison tree, near the Gibb River road (Karunjie Track Junction), which is near the Wyndham end of the iconic bush road. A monster of a tree this natural landmark is truly a wonder to behold. He was a delight to find and to wonder over in the immensity and history of his existence. He once used to hold prisoners as an overnight lockup, both whitefellas and blackfellas, on their way into the young settlement nearby in the pursuit of colonial justice and the tree now has an historic character.
There are two prison trees in this region, one at each end of the Gibb River Road and both have a colonial history. The one to be found at the Derby end is the most famous and the larger of the two but I would love to hear the stories… if only trees could talk. The boab’s are just one of the many wonders of the region which we are fast falling in love with. The NW corner of Western Australia is a place like no other, reminiscent of Gondwana and truly a place where every Aussie should step at one time in their lives.
You can explore the Lore and Legends of ancient worlds in her stories.
The Spirit Children series, ‘Lands Edge’ Book 1, will take you into the heart of Sydney on an adventure into legend and time. ‘Through other Eyes’ Book 2, will take you deep into the histories of the Jenolan Caves. It has been newly released and is available now at Amazon.com
Explore contemporary tales of the ancient Kadaitcha, or the Featherfoot of a truly unique Lore in ‘The Dreaming Series’.
Or enjoy some of her lively travelogues and tales of past true life travel adventures, published in both e-book and print under Around the Campfires and Oldies at Large.
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