Home' The Great Southern Star : June 21st 2016 Contents “THE STAR” Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - PAGE 35
By Brad Lester
THE allure of the High Country is en-
shrined in Australian folklore, none
more so famously than in Banjo Pat-
erson’s classical poem, The Man from
Nearly 130 years ago, Paterson wrote of the beauty
of the mountains and the unique lives of those cattle-
men who lived and worked there.
The blue hues, scent of eucalyptus and rushing of
rivers make the valleys and ridges of the Great Dividing
Range a special place to be then and they still are now.
That is what has attracted the Allen families of
South Gippsland to a valley north of Dargo for some
Geoff and Jenny Allen of Nerrena are part of a
unique group of landholders along the banks of the
Wongungarra River and run cattle on grazing land with
nine other couples.
Each Easter, the landholders are joined by Geoff ’s
brother Don and Don’s son Trent, both of Inverloch,
in mustering and drafting hereford cattle on their high
country property for sale at VLE Leongatha saleyards.
Stock are rounded up over a day by a team of mo-
torbikes, quad bikes and utes. The Allens are joined by
Trent’s friend, livestock auctioneer Simon Henderson
of South Gippsland agency Phelan and Henderson, who
advises on cows and steers to sell and keep.
Geoff and his wife Jenny are part of the Friends of
the Wongungarra, a group of deer hunters who now own
and care for the land in the valley, grazing the pastures
to raise funds to run the property.
“It’s beautiful country up there. It’s totally amaz-
ing,” Jenny said.
“It’s just a place for everybody to relax and enjoy
hunting and fishing for trout in the rivers up there.”
By Tony Griggs, Hallston
THINK of the outback in Australia and
superimpose it onto south west Africa
and you start to visualise Namibia.
A country of vast open plains, interesting geography
inter-dispersed with big mountain ranges. The big five
game can be found in the world famous Etosha National
We started our adventure in the capital, Windhoek,
more like a large outback town in New South Wales,
nestled in sprawling open country covered in low ly-
This is big sky country.
The airport is 40 kilometres from town on a road
through rolling uninhabited hills.
Everywhere travelling to a destination in Namibia
seems to take four to five hours. We arrived without
baggage, lost in transit thanks to QATAR Airways, so
had to go to a modern mall to buy clothes before we
entered the desert.
We hit the road late for a five hour drive to Sos-
susvlei, an area of ancient desert among the oldest on
the planet where petrified timbers in stunning colour
contrasts are present.
To see the spectacular sunsets and sunrises we
stayed at the only accommodation available inside the
park, Sossus Dune. Stand alone accommodation on
stilts overlooking the desert awaited us.
Cracking a moet while watching the sunset on Dune
45 (the world’s most photographed dune) was about as
relaxing as one could get in this wonderful open coun-
You need to plan though as the nearest shops are
hundreds of kilometres away and logistics are not easy
to come by out here. Rainfall in Sossusvlei is a rarity,
with fog from the sea producing the only moisture for
creatures of the desert to survive on.
A five hour drive across amazing landscapes to
the coastal town of Swakupmond had us thinking of a
movie where the world has no humans. We felt like we
were driving across vast empty desert plains that went
on forever and as though we were the only two people
on the planet.
Swakupmond has a heavy German influence with
upmarket hotels, shops and restaurants to cater for
thirsty Aussie tourists.
The coast has a long history of marine activity with
some famous shipwrecks. Walvis Bay is an interesting
area to visit on a catamaran tour, with huge aquacul-
ture projects to cater primarily for the Chinese market a
world away. We feasted on local oysters whilst watch-
ing the sea and bird life float and fly by.
Heading north to Etosha National Park, we stayed
overnight at Twyfelfontein, a world heritage area in the
Kunene region listed for its ancient rock carvings from
6000 years back.
A motto we adopted was “Don’t pass a fuel station”
as they are few and far between. Phone reception is
amazingly excellent in the outback there. It would put
Australia to shame.
After a night in an amazingly located lodge (with
two star rooms), we moved on to the western gate of
I had read about this park since I was a child and
was excited to finally be here. To put the park size in
perspective, it took us the best part of seven hours to
drive from Dolomite Camp in its western area to Onko-
shi Camp in the east.
I had read a book written by an Aussie lass, who
once worked in Etosha, about the lions being the health-
iest in all Africa due to their isolation from the rest of
the continent and subsequent diseases.
It didn’t take long to spot some lions, as well as
giraffes, elephants, zebra and numerous oryxes, wilde-
beests and kudus.
One day we were privileged to sit parked at a water-
hole and for two hours witnessed a spectacle of 60 el-
Wildlife encounter: an elephant passes
at close quarters in Etosha National Park,
ephants battle it out with giraffes, zebras and oryxes for
much needed water. Needless to say the elephants com-
manded the waterhole. Young male elephants practising
their fighting skills came within metres of our car.
The matriarch males were two stories high and my
partner Linda commented after many years in Africa,
these were amongst the largest and biggest herd in one
location at one time.
After a week in spectacular and beautiful Etosha, we
drove down to the Waterberg Plateau, a plateau like we
had never seen before.
This vast area of land is elevated above the plains
and is 50km long and up to 30km wide in places.
Linda challenged my observation but I swore I saw
a feared Black Mamba snake on arriving at our accom-
modation. The accommodation door was never left open
Mambas are legendary for their aggressiveness and
being able to stand up to over two metres high and out-
pace a human.
A morning tour up onto the plateau saw us witness
a sunrise that only Africa can produce. Colours that her-
alded a new dawn left us standing quiet on the plateau
watching the vast plains out to 100km in the distance
change colours in seconds.
Finally, we had another four hour drive back to
Windhoek where our adventure started and then we
were off the next day to South Africa, to join a bunch
of Aussies at an Aussie/South African wedding in the
wilderness. Lastly we enjoyed a few weeks in Southern
Africa at game parks.
If you love the outback of Australia, you will take to
Namibia. It is tourist orientated and the people are pleas-
ant and respectful of visitors.
It is safe to walk around and easy to drive (left side
like in Australia) with a range of outdoor activities to
keep anybody remotely interested in nature fixated.
The country is well worth a visit but don’t forget
to take your binoculars and camera as the wildlife and
birdlife are spectacular.
High Country calls Allens
Idyllic country: cattle cross the Wongungarra River during the muster.
Ready to work: Geoff Allen with his OKA four wheel drive and quad axle trailer, one of the
rigs used to shift the cattle from the yards on the Wongungarra River up to a cattle truck at
the helipad on Mount Grant, a climb of 800m.
The Wongungarra is a four and half hour drive from
Leongatha, via Dargo, then to Grant, Talbotville and
Howittville. The last hour or so is via a narrow gravel
road unsuitable for large stock trucks, requiring cattle
to be transported from the property via a convey of ve-
hicles with stock trailers in tow to meet a truck at the
Dargo Helipad, or The Lookout as it’s often known.
Norm Geary of Boorool has driven the trucks that have
taken cattle between the helipad and South Gippsland for
the Allens for the past 20 years.
“You never know what the season is going to be
like. Last season was really good up there and we could
have had 60 head, but we usually keep it to 40 breeders
and calves because we know that’s what the property
can run,” Jenny said.
“It’s not just beautiful green grass up there. We still
have quite a lot of work to do.”
The Allens visit Howittville six to seven times a
year, including a week in winter, as do the other land-
holders belonging to The Friends of the Wongungarra.
“By bringing in two hereford bulls sourced by
David Phelan from Phelan and Henderson, from the
hereford sale held annually at Gelantipy, the group is
able to have cows that throw calves that are low in birth
weight and therefore have less calving problems, which
is very important when you are not there everyday,”
“The rivers up there dominate when the calving
times are and when the cattle are brought out, so we
have learnt over the years that summer is the best time
for calving when the rivers are low and the mustering
has to be done before the rains, so around Easter is the
best time for that.”
The Allens built yards from timber sourced from
clearing jobs Geoff undertook through his earthmoving
business in South Gippsland, and they continue to cre-
ate a farm that has survived snow storms and severe
The Allens’ link to the property that runs along the
river Wongungarra originated from their purchase of an
OKA four wheel drive from a dealer in Morwell. The
dealer gathered 10 couples together to form the Friends
of the Wongungarra in 1996.
OKAs have served them on the property, enabling
heavy loads to be carried or towed through terrain too
rugged for the average truck.
Many stories: Tony Griggs and Linda Nicol
explore the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, the
location of many shipwrecks.
Memorable sight: watching the sunset over
Dune 45 in Sossusvlei with Moet in the tree.
Big sky country
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