Australia: My Country - West Wind Hardwood

“I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding plains”

by Dorothea Mackellar Originally titled “Core of my Heart”


Australia may not be ‘my’ country but my youngest daughter lives there, and her heart is in Australia.  Nor was Australia on my ‘bucket list’ prior to her relocation but having just spent 4-weeks enjoying Western Australia, I know I’ve left something behind and I’ll be back, no question!

Jan read Bill Bryson’s book “In a Sunburned Country”; I’ve just finished it.  It’s apparent we are in awe of this country.  So little is known; so much yet to explore; so many wondrous things to experience.  Absolutely loved the dry heat!  Let me say unequivocally, “moss doesn’t grow there” and I’m a Vancouver girl – born and bred.

reading a sunburned country by Bill Bryson
January 2016 – Photo by Shelley Nielsen

There is a strong coffee culture in Australia.  Starbucks?  What’s that?  To date, Starbucks Australia has only 25 coffee houses; all located on the East Coast. Surprisingly in ordering a coffee there is a strong relation to ordering wood.  Coffee is ordered by length (long or short), colour (black or white); even angle of orientation (flat or not).  There is sublime joy in being able to combine an appreciation for coffee and wood.

And trees……….have I mentioned the trees…the smell in the air?  It’s eucalyptus wafting ever so slyly as soon as you step off the plane.

We visited Denmark, WA.  No kidding!  The town is called Denmark!  Now that’s gotta have some karmic meaning.  First it’s coffee and timbers; now it’s beer and wood-turners.  Truly Oz is a land of blissful pairings.

Shire of Denmark, WA  January 2016 – By Jan Nielsen

Near Denmark is Walpole Wilderness National Park.  Here reign the giant red tingles.  This walk takes you through a grove of 400+ year old giants leading to a gnarled veteran, known as Grandma Tingle, or the Gatekeeper.

Walpole Wilderness National Park, WA  Grandma Tingle – January 2016 – By Jan Nielsen

Also at park is the “Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk”.  This features a stunning walkway positioned 40 metres above the ground amid the spectacular heights of the tingle forest canopy.

Much of the plant life in this forest is unique to the south-west of Western Australia. Trees such as the tingle only occur in this small area and as such provide a window to the past. Some of the plants have origins that can be traced back 65 million years to the super continent Gondwana when Australia was joined with what are now Africa, India, Antarctic and South America.

There were so many wood-related experiences in Australia.  Stay tuned for our visit with the Wood Turners of Denmark; a group of retired, wood turners.  Then there is our multiple trips to Bunnings; Australia’s equivalent to Home Depot.  Ask Jan about Doug’s (our son-in-law) initiation to the world of the handy-man.  Better yet, wonder what Doug really thinks now that we’ve gone home.

Jan making new garage shelves
New shelves, cupboards and drawers for the new tools for the ‘new’ son-in-law.

Bunnings Warehouse in Mandurah, Wa
Bunnings Warehouse in Mandurah, Wa
Their wood selection seemed limited to pine, meranti and jarrah.
December 2015 – Photos by Jan Nielsen

Of course, we’ve made contact with a timber supplier:  Neale and Carla – great folk and their very beautiful boys, Loui and Bear; more on this next time.

Bear and Loui - Djarlimari Timber
Loui (left) and Bear – Courtesy of Djarlimari Timber

Did I mention our 3-night stopover in New Zealand?  What a sailing culture; the boats and their teak decks!  A wood purveyor’s delight!!  We made contact with Rod Marler of our sister organization of the Classic Yacht Association.  A meeting wasn’t to be; maybe a little something for next time but we did find their home ‘dock’ in Auckland.  Here’s Rod’s little piece of heaven.

1965 Hacker design 'Arohanui'

1965 Hacker design ‘Arohanui’ – Drawing Courtesy of Rod Marler – December 2015

Of course, the Māori’s deserve attention. With our limited time we were unable to have a more personal experience but we did make it to the Auckland War Memorial Museum and spent time perusing the Māori Collection.  Jan’s cousin, Corina spent a couple of years working for the Māori’s; should have taken her up on her offer to connect with friends; another something for next time.

Lastly, there was Honolulu on our return home.  This was our first time ever to Hawaii and such a wood culture there to behold and enjoy.

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii – January 2016 – by Jan Nielsen

Koa Staircase in the Iolani Palace

Koa Staircase in the Iolani Palace – January 2016 – by Jan Nielsen

Stay tuned for future newsletters.  Seriously this trip opened such experiences that only wood aficionados can wax poetic. I must have enough material to last a couple of years 🙂  Like a boomerang, this trip will be revisited.

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