Under the Spell of the Australian Bush: Books, a Movie, a Walk

My daughter Sophie gave me a beautiful pair of silver and pearl dangly earrings. I’ve worn them every day since Christmas. I was wearing them, together with a long skirt, (and a spray of perfume), when we headed off into the bush, a few days ago, for a walk.

“Let’s buy ice creams and then stroll around the lake,” I suggested. No need to change into shorts and tough bush trail shoes. No need to remove dangly earrings. Not for a walk around the lake.

So we drove into town wearing our finery, and soon we were licking ice cream waffle cones as we watched the ducks gliding through the water. And that would have been the end of the story, but…

… to one side of the lake is the bush, and it beckoned.

“Perhaps we could just stroll a little way down the track,” I suggested, my feet already moving from the concrete path to the bush track. Everyone followed behind me, as they continued to lick.

I inhaled deeply. The bush smelt so damp and earthy and GOOD after recent rain! Water from the creek was running over the track, and so we jumped.

“Which way next, Mum?”

“Down there!”

Then up a rocky slope…

and then down the other side.

Long skirts were lifted away from our feet.

Helping hands were offered.

We were lured deeper and deeper into the bush. We had no choice but to continue. We were under the spell of the Australian bush.

After walking 3 kms, we arrived at the top of a steep set of rocky steps. There was a sign: 

Waterfalls, ½ hour

Only ½ hour more walking to reach the waterfalls? Surely we could continue on. And then as I peered down those narrow steep steps, the spell broke.

“Perhaps we should come back another day,” I suggested, “wearing more suitable shoes… and shorts instead of long skirts.” So we turned back rather reluctantly.

We picked our way down another loose rock covered slope.

We gazed up at towering rocks, and I pretended I was at Hanging Rock.

We peered down at the creek.

We took hundreds of photos.

And eventually we arrived back at the lake. 

Have you ever fallen under the spell of the beautiful Australian bush?

Unlike us, you might not have the opportunity to walk through the bush, but you could still come under its spell by reading Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay:

While Joan Lindsay’s haunting Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock is a work of fiction, the story is often considered one of Australia’s greatest mysteries.

In 1900, a class of young women from an exclusive private school go on an excursion to the isolated Hanging Rock, deep in the Australian bush. The excursion ends in tragedy when three girls and a teacher mysteriously vanish after climbing the rock. Only one girl returns, with no memory of what has become of the others . . .

I featured this novel in my podcast: Books, Music, Burnout and a Mystery! 

There’s also a movie version of Picnic at Hanging Rock:

Visually mesmerizing, Picnic at Hanging Rock is moody, unsettling, and enigmatic — a masterpiece of Australian cinema and a major early triumph for director Peter Weir.

And if you like Australian Eucalypts or gum trees as much as me, you might enjoy the book, Eucalyptus by Murray Bail:

Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Eucalyptus is Murray Bail’s best and most moving novel. 

On a country property a man named Holland lives with his daughter Ellen. Over the years, as she grows into a beautiful young woman, he plants hundreds of different gum trees on his land. When Ellen is nineteen her father announces his decision: she will marry the man who can name all his species of eucalypt, down to the last tree. Suitors emerge from all corners, including the formidable, straight-backed Mr Cave, world expert on the varieties of eucalypt. And then, walking among her father’s trees, Ellen chances on a strange young man who in the days that follow tells her dozens of stories set in cities, deserts, faraway countries…

Eucalyptus is both a modern fairy tale and an unpredictable love story played out against the searing light and broken shadows of country Australia. 

‘You will never forget what is at the heart of this book-one of the great and most surprising courtships in literature.’ Michael Ondaatje

There are some sensual scenes in this book. Just thought I’d mention that!  

If you’d like to hear about a few other great Australian novels, you could listen to my next podcast, episode 18, which I’ll be publishing tomorrow. As I discuss some of the novels I’ve recently read, I chat about unschooling writing and reading and coarse language. I hope you’ll listen!

The Angels of Abbey Creek

Did you know there is a bush walk story in my children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek?

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  1. Reply

    "Have you ever fallen under the spell of the beautiful Australian bush?" Why yes, I have. And did so again looking at your beautifully atmospheric photos. I'd really like to crawl into the computer screen…

    1. Reply


      While I was putting this post together, I was thinking about you. I know you share my love of the Australian bush. I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos. We really did have a wonderful time and I can't wait to return, dressed in more suitable attire, to continue the walk to the waterfalls. If the falls are flowing (we've had a bit of rain recently), I'm sure the views will be spectacular. I'll take my camera!

  2. Reply

    The bush looks so lush and green there, I wouldn't be able to resist either!

    1. Reply


      We have been fortunate with the weather. So far this summer, we haven't had any extremely hot days and we've had a fair bit of rain. It was good to see everything looking green and damp instead of dusty!

    • San
    • January 7, 2015

    So wish I could have taken that walk with you in real life! It is cold, grey and very rainy here!!

    Totally love the skirts that the girls are wearing!!

    San xx

    1. Reply


      I think you are much tougher than we are. I really enjoyed looking at your photos of your trip to the beach. It must have been so cold on that particular day, but you were still outside enjoying yourselves. When we went walking through the bush, it was warm but not hot. Perfect weather! I am sure you would have enjoyed walking with us. I would have loved showing you our beautiful bush!

      We are definitely skirt girls!

  3. Reply

    How enchantingly lush and green everything is! What a lovely walk. You must not be near the fires then, thanks be to God.

    It's a high of -2 and a low of -13 here, but at least we have snow. I really do love the winter, but I sure wouldn't mind a little bush vacation!

    1. Reply


      Yes, the bushfires are a long way from us. We have been fortunate so far this summer. The fire danger hasn't yet reached extreme conditions. 18 months ago the bush close to our home was burnt out in a huge bushfire which lasted for weeks. It was a very stressful time, wondering if we would have to evacuate and maybe lose our home, and so I feel for those people further south who are experiencing bushfires at the moment.

      Your temperatures sound so cold. The snow looks very beautiful but I don't think I am tough enough to survive your winters. I'm not sure I'm tough enough to put up with our hot summers either. Whenever the temperatures rise too much I start complaining! However the weather has been perfect recently. Nothing to complain about at all! Ohh! Wouldn't it be lovely if you could hop on a plane and come visit us?

  4. Reply

    I felt like I was was walking with you and your family, Sue. When you came to the 1/2 hour sign, I was torn, too. Yes, it was better to come back with more appropriate footwear and shorts or maybe not so long skirts. I've hiked a few times in skirts but not by design. I was always surprised how free I felt walking in a skirt. I imagined myself a 19th century woman of John Muir times or one of my female ancestors in the Philippines.

    I don't know if I've seen the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock. The story line sounds so familiar. It's definitely intriguing. I'll look for it. I know it fits at least 2 of the categories on reading challenge.

    Until later, Sue.

    1. Reply


      I often walk in a skirt during the cool of the evening when I head down the bush tracks at the end of our road. On the way home, as I climb the hill, I sometimes lift my skirt away from my knees, but on the whole, a skirt is suitable attire as Iong as I don't want to run. But some of the places we walk really require shorts and strong shoes. There's places where the tracks wind alongside deep ravines, and I have visions of us tripping over our skirts and hurtling over the cliff never to be seen again! I guess short skirts would be okay unless we're climbing rather than walking.

      I had to google John Muir because his name was unfamiliar. A naturalist and explorer… I shall have to read more. I also had a look at some photos of the Philippines. What a beautiful country! Oh yes, I'd like to explore that country wearing a beautiful skirt!

      If you read Picnic at Hanging Rock let me know if you enjoy it!

  5. Reply

    What a wunderful path to be walking. If I ever become rich enough to travel to the other end of the world, i*ll tage a walk in the Australian bush, you sure cast a spell on me. I must see if our local library will be able o lend me those books – it migth take a while …

    1. Reply


      If you ever come to Australia you will definitely have to walk along a few of our bush tracks. The cities, like Sydney, are full of tourist attractions, but the country is just as interesting. I love the quiet, the only sound being the birds, the native flowers, the beautiful colours of the rocks, how everything is huge and majestic but at the same time, intimate and friendly. Yes, the bush weaves a spell. It's easy to keep on walking and walking, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves we need to turn back because we are getting a long way from home.

      Yes, your library may not have our Australian books. I forget you live so far away in a different country. That's the power of the Internet, connecting us all so closely together!

  6. Reply

    I was under the spell of this post! Would have loved to be there…So beautiful. What a fun adventure. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I almost felt like I was there. It was a nice escape for a moment 🙂

    1. Reply

      Virginia Sue,

      I am so glad you enjoyed sharing our bush adventure. I enjoyed putting the post together, reliving our walk as I looked again at the photos. Thank you so much for reading my story and escaping into the bush with us for a short moment!

  7. We go for hikes in the woods rather than walks in the bush – but the spell is just as strong. We thoroughly enjoyed the bush walk chapter from your book – it's funny how things can be so completely different, and yet so familiar at the same time 🙂 I'm planning to mention your story in a post tomorrow to by the way – hope that's okay.

    1. Reply

      A hike in the woods sounds very attractive too! I love walking in the shade of trees. It's like entering another world. I would enjoy seeing your flowers and listening to the calls of your birds. I wonder if you see many animals as you are walking along. I saw a lyrebird in our local bush the other day which was a big thrill as they are not often seen. Apparently there are koalas in our trees too but I haven't yet sighted one, though a friend saw one on the track only a few days ago. The koala soon disappeared back up a tree when it noticed the friend's dogs. We sometimes see brown and black snakes, lizards, and the odd kangaroo or wallaby, and we hear loads of different birds calling.

      You are mentioning my story in a post? Thank you so much!! That is very kind of you. I do appreciate it. Now I've got a huge smile on my face!

  8. Reply

    Wow, I just love it…feel like I've been with you all on your walk!!

    Guess what arrived (finally) in the mail on Monday?? The Angels! We are absolutely diving right in. I started reading aloud and we're already up to "The Dinner Party." I must slow it down bc we'll be done in a blink!! I need a sequel.or for this to be a series! I want more on this family! And I see the Elvises in so much of The Angels' activities, conversations, traditions….it's simply lovely.
    The Passion Play had us laughing out loud…we needed to stop and catch our breath. That Annie is too much….she killed us. And she reminds me so much of Timmy at that age….he was always into things and darting off. Now, he's the opposite….so calm and complacent. And then the end of the chap, Mum's reaction to the emotions of the day —well, it was simply wonderful.

    I would love to write about The Angels in a blog post, when we've finished the book. We are switching back and forth between The Hobbit and Abbey Creek…see, you're in good company on our coffee table with Tolkien!

    Loving the walk and the summery fashions as we are in the midst of a deep freeze. It's our turn to be cold while you Southern hemi friends get the sun, right?!

    Love ya, Sue…see you soon in blogland/fb!

    1. Reply


      You're reading my book? Oh wow! Thank you. I'm glad you are enjoying the stories. You are quite right: There is a lot of Elvis in each Angel! The Dinner Party story is Andy's story. He used to do a lot of cooking for crowds before he became a school teacher. He helped cater a few homeschooling retreats and other functions, and he also enjoys cooking for friends. These days he doesn't find much time for elaborate cooking. Too busy with his lesson planning and marking of homework!

      There are two sequels. I am in the middle of editing The Angels of Gum Tree Road. (I have been in the middle of editing this manuscript for a very long time! I must get a move on.) The third book needs a lot of work but the stories are basically written: The Angels of Convict Way. In this book the Angels move to the city for a year and I have fun writing about their adventures in Sydney.

      I am so excited you want to write a blog post about my book. I'm also extremely grateful. Thank you very much! I like the idea of being in Tolkien's company. I hope he doesn't object to sharing the coffee table with me and my story!

      I am always fascinated by the differences in our weather. Yes, it's our turn for the sun. Actually we don't have much sunshine today. It's cloudy and a storm is predicted for later. But it's warm and not freezing like your weather.

      It's so lovely catching up with you. I've been reading your posts via email but must stop by to say a proper hello. Thank you so much for your encouraging, friendly comment. You bring joy into my day! Love to you too! xx

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