As a culmination to the three week ‘Everything is Unknown – Exploration and Indigenous Encounter’ lesson, Class 4/5 set out on a road trip to trace the path of some of the explorers.
First stop was Brucedale farm, which has been in the Suttor family for nearly 200 years. David Suttor told us of his great, great….grandfather: learning the Wiradjuri language; and his friendship with warrior, Windradyne, which endured through the period of martial law and warfare. We stopped at Canowindra’s ‘Age of Fishes Museum’. A road builder’s discovery of strange patterns on a rock led to one of the world’s great mass extinction fossil sites.
We followed George Evans’ path to the Lachlan River. Like Evans and John Oxley, we were turned back by water. In our case, the dirt roads west of Cobar had been closed, blocking our access to the shearer’s quarters and the Ngiyampaa rock art. So all of our detailed plans for the week went out the window. Like Oxley, we changed course, across the fertile river plains of the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers, to the Castlereigh, following it to its source in the Warrumbungle Ranges.
By this stage, we had endured wet boots, clothes and sleeping bags, and the rain was ever present. At the campground, groups of children set out to explore, returning with reports of discoveries of places and creatures, which they had named. As the exploration ambitions were getting beyond a cooee call, three groups set out with adult support to explore mountains and plains. All returned with boasts of monumental feats, and no lives were lost.
Then we set off to find Pandora’s Pass, Allan Cunningham’s original route to the rich volcanic alluvium of the Liverpool Plains. Even the local tourist centre couldn’t tell us where it was. A chance encounter at the wonderful geological collection at Coonabarabran’s Crystal Kingdom confirmed our guesses, and we climbed the Liverpool Ranges on an ever diminishing road until we stood before the panorama of the Liverpool Plains at the very spot that Cunningham stood.
Gold fever was calling us, and we headed to Sleepy Sofala. We sought alternative accommodation after a great downpour at the end of the day. Staying at the Sofala Hall resulted in some unexpected encounters with local historians, and local hospitality. We stood in the street working out where Russell Drysdale stood when he painted. The next day, we (successfully) panned for gold, and went underground at Hill End. And then we headed home, full of stories of mud, charcoal, campfires, rain, feats of endurance and hardship, and of discoveries.