Blue Mountains Platypus for dinner? …… surely not!
Hard to believe ….. but true.
Not now, not today, not even yesterday (thankfully) but back in 1899, platypus were fair game, along with Lyre Birds, Possums, Wallabies and Kangaroo. If only the shooters of 1899 knew what the future might hold, they may have put down their rifles.
But Sid. R. Bellingham who wrote in his book Ten Years With the Palette, Shot Gun and Rifle on the Blue Mountains of which my son has a copy, appears to have been somewhat of a bush expert. This book pictured below was written in 1899.
This is a rare book. My father, as a teenager back in the late 1940’s, asked his grandmother (my great grandmother) could he have it. She said yes and luckily this book has survived under the care of my father who had it professionally rebound and only recently, passed this great book onto my son as a gift for his recent 16th birthday.
What’s for dinner?
As I delicately open the pages of 116 year old book, stopping on page 90, I am met with the title Platypus.
And I quote directly from the book …………….
“Platypus can be found on all the rivers throughout the Mountains. Towards the evening or in the early morning they are most likely to be seen, rising to the surface of the water, were (misspelt where) they will float motionless for about a minute and then dive. They are graceful and seal-like in their motions. The way to get a shot at one is to walk quietly along the banks of a river in the evening, keeping a good look out for both up and down the stream, and more especially watching any deep still waterhole with overhanging trees. If there is a disturbance of water, as if anything is swimming underneath- or any eddies- as if something had dived, proceed to where you can command a good view of this place without being seen, taking advantage of the cover afforded by any tree or foilage” (misspelt foliage)
Sid R. Bellingham goes on to explain the process of catching Platypus for dinner and concludes the section on this now rare Australian egg laying mammal with the following comments.
“From my own personal observation, I conclude that Platypi live together in pairs, as I have never seen more than two in the same waterhole. The fur of the Platypus almost rivals that of a seal, but the skins are so small and it takes such a number of them to make a rug, that I consider it a pity to shoot them for this purpose”.
How times change. As a protected native animal, you’d probably end up in prison if you shot one today.
The Kanangra-Boyd National Park is one of my favourite spot to take visitors with Detour Adventures*. The wilderness within this National Park was saved thanks to the tireless work of Myles Dunphy , the father of conservation in Australia and his son Milo Kanangra Dunphy. Myles Dunphy (born 1891 in Sydney NSW) worked hard researching, documenting and promoting the significance of the Kanangra area from about 1910. But he wasn’t the first to fall in love with the area.
Sid R. Bellingham started trekking the Kanangra region in about 1890, culminating with this very book written and published in 1899. The Preface of his book states the following.
“It is not the writers intention to attempt to describe the Blue Mountain scenery along the ordinary tourist’s routes.
His objective is to give to sportsman and others, full information concerning the wild and unexplored parts of the mountains, and the game to be found there.
The author has obtained this information, not by hearsay, but by personal experience, during 10 years exploring into the fastness (misspelt vastness) of the Blue Mountains”
Sid. R. Bellingham 1899
He writes on page 63…………….
“Kanangra occupies an isolated position in the heart of the wildest scenery, on the Blue Mountains. It lies about half-way between the Southern and Great Western lines, and is distant about 20 miles from the Jenolan Caves, from which place there is a coach road. There is also a bridle track from Burragorang to Kanangra , along which some good shooting may be obtained. Kanangra might justly be called the show-ground of Australia, so far as scenery is concerned. The views to be obtained here, are of greater magnitude than any other parts of the Blue Mountains. The cliffs are higher, the Gorges deeper, and there is a waterfall which rivals the celebrated Govett’s Leap”
He concludes his Kanangra section with the following….
“A good round tour of the Blue Mountains may be made, by leaving Sydney via the southern line to Picton or Camden, and thence to Burrorgorang by road. From this latter place a good shooting trip can be made to Kanangra, and from thence to the Jenolan Caves. From Jenolan Caves the usual tour through the mountains can be made, returning via the Great Western Railway to town”
The Coach Road to Jenolan Caves
Today, we refer to the coach road as the Jenolan Caves road. It’s a beautiful drive, leaving the Great Western Highway at the historic village of Hartley, climbing up out of the Valley and onto the Great Dividing Range. Following the caves road will take you up onto the watershed around the Hampton area. This watershed is significant and quite unbelievable as you’ve travelled well to the west of the Blue Mountains. Rain that falls on the eastern side of the road flows into the Sydney catchment via the Cox’s river yet rain that falls on the western side of the road flows into the Murray Darling catchment. Simple as that. One great example of where the road follows the watershed can be seen by taking a quick drive up Old Bindo Road from Hampton village.
Sid R. Bellingham may not have been aware or even interested in the watershed but he was very interested in Hampton. He writes………
“As there are many accommodation places and farms at intervals along the whole distance to Hampton, it will be found best to make one of the places head quarters, and after making inquiries as to the lay of the country and the game, work off into the bush shooting, returning at night to head quarters again. The principal game to be obtained along this route- is wallaby, opossum, and hares-parrots etc. An occasional native bear may often be seen sitting in some trees along the roadside. Some first class all round shooting was to be got in the valley below Hampton”
Sid R. Bellingham covers many things in this book including Coxs River, where to camp, sport and adventure at Jenolan Caves, Dingos, Lyre Birds, native bear (Koala) and opossums (possums) to name a few.
I was pleased to read in the opening comments that he doesn’t consider it any sport to shoot a sleeping “native bear” from the fork of a tree.
This is a recent photo (source: Detour Adventures) of my son’s Great, Great Grandmothers home in Hampton, NSW where this actual book by Sid R. Bellingham spent much of it’s life before it was passed onto my son by my father recently. This home in itself has a significant history to the Hampton area. It is located on the Jenolan Caves Road and was built around the time Sid Bellingham was visiting the area. Given his love of the Hampton area, I wonder if Sid Bellingham personally gave a copy to my Great Granny.
This is a great book in many ways. I think it is a remarkable time capsule of information of a by-gone era, seldom mentioned today. It has so much to tell us about Australian life in 1880-1890’s. We often hear about the plight of early settlers and farmers, gold miners and industry of that era but to me Sid. R. Bellingham seemed to be immune from the usual hard times, choosing instead to travel, explore and document his findings.
Thankfully this original copy of his book has lasted 116 years. It is a much loved and valued part of Australian history in the care of our family.
Another remarkable thing was this book was printed in 1899 in the then brand new Queen Victoria Markets (what we now call the QV Building) in Sydney. The Queen Victoria Markets building was only completed in 1898.
Shotgun and Rifle on he Blue Mountains by Sid R. Bellingham. A book about a wonderful part of Australia, well worth visiting. Fortunately, the only shooting today is with a camera.
You can explore and enjoy Kanangra-Boyd National Park with Detour Adventures in comfort, or if you own a 4WD, join us with a tag-along tour sometime.
* You can enjoy a day of adventure with Detour Adventures. visit www.detouradventures.com.au. OR www.facebook.com/4WDetour OR www.instagram.com/4WDetour. OR you can call me on 1300 4 DETOUR (that’s 1300 433 868). email email@example.com Follow me on twitter of you like @4WDetour #4WDetour
The Queen Victoria markets as the would have appeared in 1899. Source: cityofsydney.gov.au
The QV Building in 2015 Source: Detour Adventures