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Red sand country – food for the soul

Published 14 Jan 2021 by Angela Woltmann (volunteer caretaker)

Imagine this – rich red sand dunes stretching endlessly to the horizon, clothed in rings of golden spinifex, the valleys between laced with twisted silver gidgee, the clamour of Zebra Finches, sweeping by, and before you, a waterhole brimming with Waterfowl of every description, Pink-eared Ducks, Avocets, Black Swans and swooping Whiskered Terns. This is Ethabuka.

Shane and I had the good fortune to caretake here over Christmas. Expecting a festive season with a difference, we were prepared for a month of heatwave conditions, but to our surprise and delight we had three inches of rain in the first week and watched the country come to life.

Days fell into a wonderful rhythm, early morning doing physical tasks, the heat of the desert days spent, for myself painting the beauty of this place, and late afternoons checking fences, bores, and waterholes for condition and feral animals.

The red sands of the dunes are alive with tiny tracks that tell a million stories of what has happened through the night before, only to be erased clean again by the wind the following day.

After our summer rains, birdsong was joined by the song of frogs, and we even had a pair of Grebes make a watery home under the veranda.

Maintaining the vegie patch came with the added excitement of meeting the occasional Mulga Snake, and we spent evenings watching spectacular sunsets unfold over the vibrant coloured dunes.

There is a beautiful simplicity in desert life. The isolation and unforgiving conditions require proper preparation.

The absence of distraction from television and shopping opens up time. Some decisions come down to life and death and I found the day-to-day cares of my usual life slip away, as we prepared for our daily activities with these simple questions – did we have enough water? did we have recovery equipment? and did people know where we were?

The grounding this brings leaves room in life for the bigger questions, and some contemplation.

Such a place of serene beauty is food for the soul, and we thank Bush Heritage for the opportunity to spend some time in such a special place, and for the value and enrichment preserving places like this provides for all.

Landscape painting by Angela Woltmann Landscape painting by Angela Woltmann
Sand dune scenery that inspired the painting Sand dune scenery that inspired the painting
Over-night activity on the dunes Over-night activity on the dunes
Tarantula burrow Tarantula burrow
Unlikely house-mates Unlikely house-mates
Hoary-headed grebes under the back steps at the Ethabuka homestead Hoary-headed grebes under the back steps at the Ethabuka homestead
Zebra finches captured on canvas Zebra finches captured on canvas
Ethabuka Reserve - Christmas 2020 Ethabuka Reserve - Christmas 2020

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