John Blay - Literary lunch - Feb 28th

About the Author JOHN BLAY is a writer, naturalist and walker. He has written extensively about the bush and its people in poetry, drama and prose. Since 2001 the south east forests of NSW have been the main focus of his work, often in association with the local Aboriginal communities. In 1981 John Blay was awarded the Parks Writers Award. It confirmed 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. Following its first publication in 1987, now long out of print, this much revised edition of Back Country 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.

John's 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 them he discovered was a wattle growing to over thirty metres that was named Acacia blayana in his honour. Despite the hardships and difficulty he faced, the book paints an extraordinary journey through place and time complete with wildlife, imagination and wit. After very many years the back country is still there, to all intents and purposes the same. But the world has changed radically since the days when it was made national park in 1979. In the beginning John’s aim was simply to put himself in the new Deua and Wadbilliga parks for an extended period and discover what it means to be thrown up against such rugged wilderness. But it has called him back many times since he began his long walk.In fact hardly a day has gone past in the intervening years when, as he says, he has not had cause to reflect on his times there and how they changed him and his view of life. The time has come now for him to revisit the back country and the book that was published in 1987. Although things are similar in all practical respects, the same territory and events from day to day, so many changes have come about since 1987 that when he set about reworking the text to bring it up to date, particularly in respect to the many changed scientific names of things, he found numerous processes that began then have only crystallised in more recent years. Time scales work differently in the back country.

You can visit John's website for more information here: Appreciation goes to Canopy Press for providing the above background of John, his journeys and his books.

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