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In 1981 John Blay was awarded the Parks Writers Award. It started a life-long investigation of south-eastern Australia’s forests. Accompanied only by a fickle Zachary B. de Mule he set out on foot through the challenging escarpment country of Deua and Wadbilliga National Parks, walking all the way from Araluen to Bemboka. His researches and travels in the region have continued over the years, resulting in Back Country: trek through the Deua and Wadbilliga, an updated exploration of the most extreme, rugged parts of the south-eastern ranges.
His back country was to be found all around those forbidding mountains you see as you look inland from the far south coast of New South Wales. It’s crazy country for the most part, tucked between the Monaro and the coast, full of sudden shifts and faults and gorges and valleys too rugged for roads and forestry operations, and it had been tantalising him for years. On setting out into the upper Deua he found it was like going back in time. The characters he met along the way reinforced this impression. But most especially it was the stories he was told that brought the region and its wilderness to life for him. As time passed his growing familiarity with the flora and fauna also brought all manner of insights. The strange, radical landforms brought unusual plants, one of which was a wattle growing to over thirty metres that was named in his honour and now commonly known as the Brogo wattle.
Despite the hardships he went through, the book paints an extraordinary journey through place and time complete with wildlife, imagination and wit.
By the author of On Track: searching out the Bundian Way, this is the first part of a south east forests trilogy that brings to light the deeper, timeless back country values. His ongoing pilgrimage through the mysteries of the region’s natural history has stood the test of time.
“The wilder-ness, not areas designed to deny the old Aboriginal Country, but rather those where it is most evident, without the intrusion of roads and houses and highways and fences. Places owned by nobody, by everybody. The old lands. The wild country, where you experience that sense of the ancient Australia. I needed to open myself to it again. I was being called back…”
John Blay is a writer, naturalist and walker. He has written extensively about the bush and its people in poetry, drama and prose. The south-east forests of New South Wales have been his main focus for more than forty years.
Following its first publication in 1987, now long out of print, this much revised edition has been brought up to date with additional information, including preface, illustrations, afterword and index. It sits next to On Track in the continuing journey of discovery.