Neil and Kate Stone and their two children, Emily and Daniel, took over the responsibility of caretaking Boolcoomatta Reserve from Meredith and Tony Geyer a few days after Christmas. They spent a day with the Geyers running through the day-to-day duties and then were left to their own devices for a 3-week adventure on one of our most iconic properties. Here Kate and Neil reflect on the experience.
Having visited Boolcoomatta previously in 2015 as part of a family camping holiday, the location didn’t seem so remote this time, and we really looked forward to our first ‘long’ stay at the Reserve. Our arrival coincided with thunderstorms from the west – and just as we were leaving Broken Hill we were warned by Tony and Meredith that heavy rain was falling at Boolcoomatta and it was possible that we may not be able to get in due to the slippery roads.
The reality of being at the mercy of the rain gods was suddenly evident. However, being stranded at Broken Hill certainly didn’t fit well with our plan and the “we’re almost there” mood in the car meant we drove out anyway in heavy the rain, which we were relieved to see passing fairly quickly. Once on the dirt road off the highway, we had a few exciting moments on the clay sections, which gave getting to the homestead a sense of adventure from the outset.
The stormy weather persisted for a few days – which was a spectacular sight in the dramatic Boolcoomatta landscape. The sunsets were quite a show. We hadn’t really expected to see any rain, or perhaps even clouds! About a week later we experienced an intense thunderstorm at night, such that the dry creek bed next to the Green House temporarily became a thunderous torrent. It was interesting to see the erosional impact of a 22 mm downpour on the arid slopes.
The handover induction with Meredith and Tony went really well and it was great to meet them again (coincidently we camped with them at Boolcoomatta as tourists 18 months ago). They're obviously dedicated to the reserve, with quite a lot of knowledge about the place. In reality, our tasks were not difficult and we could do things when it suited and when the summer temperatures permitted.
This worked well with the kids – Emily aged 6 and Daniel aged 4. A typical day entailed various activities, including a morning walk to check on the homestead pets, watering and maintaining the gardens and lawns, feeding the chooks, checking water tank levels and the solar power system and cleaning/sweeping the sheds and buildings. We maintained a holiday mood with morning outings and rambles to all corners of the Reserve, plenty of reading and siestas in the heat of the day, followed by late evening walks into the saltbush to catch the sunset skies and twinkling of the first stars.
The highlight of each day was getting out and about to some part of the Reserve, either by walking from the homestead early in the day, or taking the driving tours to check out the many natural and cultural features, or checking on dams, pumps and fences. Our wildlife encounters included daily sightings of mobs of emus with grown-up chicks, euros, red and grey kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles (sometimes at unexpectedly close range soaring overhead which at first sparked concern in our 4-year-old who thought he might be small enough to be of interest) shinglebacks and geckos at the house at night.
Kate’s new interest in birdwatching was well catered for, and included sightings of a pair of orange chats, a pink eared duck (on the homestead dam), Australasian grebe, coot, red-backed kingfisher, chirruping wedgebill, red throat, variegated fairy-wrens, thornbills and many other species not seen at home in the Blue Mountains.
Neil was keen to check out the potential habitat for Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies and we took up Al’s suggestion of visiting the colony at Bimba Hill in neighbouring Bimbowrie. We climbed up the boulder-strewn slopes and were lucky to see 5 or 6 rock wallabies on the way to the top. Neil also undertook a number of walks in the Wiperaminga Hills to search for evidence of these wallabies at Boolcoomatta, and collected some potential scats for testing.
From a family perspective, we enjoyed having a comfortable base house and enough spare time to explore and relax. It was a really good holiday. The kids enjoyed the wildlife, running and playing amongst the ancient rock formations, swimming in the homestead dam and helping to look after the chooks and homestead pets. It’s not every day you can watch mobs of emu saunter past your house at arm's length – unless you’re at a place like Boolcoomatta!
It was also great to meet Reserve Manager Al and his wife Karen and family at the end of the trip to hear about their lifestyle and work and the various projects being undertaken.
Thanks Bush Heritage for the opportunity!
Neil and Kate, Emily and Daniel