Book and Video Recommendations

Work Completed, Canning by Phil Bianchi

 Books and Video's - click on the links/images to buy online

Walmajarri Plants and Animals by Mulan Community

Walmajarri Plants and Animals by Mulan CommunityA precious gift from the people of Mulan. 

One of two books I found most helpful in identifying plants to eat along the Canning Stock Route.

Walmajarri traditional biological knowledge merged with western biological science, beautifully illustrated with photographs of plants and animals together with bushtucker paintings.

Available in Mulan and Billiluna Stores and available online from Halls Creek Travel and Tourism

(Halls Creek Tourism were out of stock last I looked in November, but check again)


Bushfires and Bushtucker by Peter Latz

Bushfires and Bush Tucker by Peter Latz

This book is brilliant.

Whilst the book focuses on plants of the the Central Deserts, I found it to have the most information of any book regarding plants seen on the Canning Stock Route.

If you are keen on enhancing your Canning Stock Route experience and learning about the plants you see, track down a copy of this book and buy it!





The Human Race by Electric Pictures (DVD)

The Human Race
Be inspired .... by The Human Race.

Three men on a survival walk from Wolfe Creek to Wyndham - a distance quoted variously between 350 and 500 km. Simply beautiful....

Three walkers from three different continents:  35 year old American Dave Covey, German 61 year old German Rüdiger Nehberg and 72 year old Aboriginal Elder Jack Jugarie set out in 1996. They walked mostly alone, each taking a different route to their final destination, the camera crew keeping track of them and filming at meeting points.  This is their story.

Truly inspiring....


The Children of Tiger Wirirr by Kimberley Language Resource Centre (Alternate contact to the link - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

he Children of Tiger WirirrAn absolutely riveting book.

Bessie Doonday, Rex Johns and Veronica Lulu are the three children of Tiger Wirirr, a traditional Walmajarri man of Paruku (Lake Gregory) in the north-east corner of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia (Mulan and Billiluna). These personal accounts tell the remarkable story of a family's return to their father's country.

One of the stories tells of Aboriginal stockman Banjo's reason for killing Joseph Condren and Timothy O’Sullivan a the old Billiluna homestead. An account that is seldom told in Whitefella's history. What is told in Whitefella history is the murder in a few sentences and then pages and pages of the 30 day manhunt and killing of Banjo without trial.

Here you have an alternate account to balance understanding.

Grow your Own Bushfoods by Keith and Irene Smith

Grow your Own Bushfoods by Keith and Irene Smith

The first book I have come across regarding growing bushtucker. Growing real Australian food is something I would one day like to explore.

Whilst on the Canning I spread the seeds of edible bush tomato, hoping to return one day and find this garden flourishing.

The attachment to European foods is something I do not understand - not when the desert has worked so skilfully in producing plants and animals uniquely suitable to this land.




The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert  by Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat Lowe

The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert by Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat LoweThe Girl from the Great Sandy Desert is the story of Jukuna Mona Chuguna of the Walmajarri. Mona grew up in the desert and only came out after she was married. This is her story of transition from child of the desert, to woman living in a new world.

Sold as a children's book, I find I absolutely love this new work by Pat Lowe, providing the most tangible account of what it meant to be Aboriginal and to live in those times. I feel privileged with this new insight. Children travelling the CSR will love this book and perhaps you might too!

'Because of the isolation and dryness of the Great Sandy Desert, the Walmajarri were spared the fate of their nearest neighbours to the north, whose more fertile lands had been taken over by newcomers with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep.

They remained living freely in the desert until the lure of modern life gradually drew them, a few at a time, to the stations. By 1961, the Walmajarri Exodus was complete.'

'Water in the desert was scarce. There was no surface water except here and there in claypans and rockholes during a good wet season. For most of the year, people got water from wells or waterholes they dug at known places in the sand, often a day's walk or more from one another, and they had to remember exactly where these places were.'

Outback Survival  by Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper - Outback SurvivalWorth reading. Outback Survival is about survival for a short period of time in the desert. It is not about thriving and living in the desert. It is about having gotten yourself into a sticky situation and using the Bob Cooper principals to stay alive for a relatively short period of time, example 10 days, until rescue arrives, or getting yourself to a likely rescue destination. Yes, you may survive longer following Mr Cooper's principals, but the survival kit and methodology is designed for short term survival, not live off the land.

I found it had useful practices for example, handling panic before it took hold. This I used on more than one occasion. Panic can kill you. Stop. Sit down. Make a cup of tea. Eat some food. In that pause, calm returns and I was able to take stock of my situation and decide on a logical course of action. Then move.



SAS Survival Guide by John Lofty Wiseman

SAS Survival Guide by John Lofty Wiseman

Small and compact, full of tried and tested ideas.

Goes everywhere with me into the wilds.






Bear Grylls - Living Wild - The Ultimate Guide to Scouting and Fieldcraft

Bear Grylls - Living WildYes, yes, I bought one of his many books. Well actually two, but this one I finished reading recently, motivated by the fact that I wanted to get a lift into the desert and live out in the wilds for a couple of weeks near a water hole, learning more survival craft. The thought of carrying this large, heavy book ... well that is all it could be because every gram counts and this book weighs too much - 717 grams to be precise.

Did I get anything out of it?

The sales pitch says: The only other thing you'll need is this book!
Err. No. Too heavy. Too big. This is a coffee table kinda book, a gift. It stays at home.

Just a quick example of useful information, this in regard to your first line of defense in temperature control - clothing:

I like his thoughts on boots, same as my own - protect your feet, fully leather inside and out for breathability. Wear them in!
Woolen socks - yes - wear two pairs. My favourite are Falke liners and TK4's. Always have a spare set of dry socks - keep your feet dry to ensure they stay healthy.
There is a bunch of other stuff regarding layers etc - all good.

Water: There is the usual useless information about solar and ground stills. Just try make enough water using these methods whilst on the move. Plastic bags are heavy, the process is slow and the yield ... well, it may prolong life in a stationary situation, but useless for someone on the move.

To Sip or gulp? Bear recommends sipping, Bob Cooper recommends gulping water. You decide what works for you.

Nutrition: Something new I learned existed and must yet try - Pemmican ( equal quantities of powdered beef jerky/biltong and suet mixed together and kept in a water tight container) and Pinole (dried corn - whole or ground to a powder - just add water and drink) Google has some tastier sounding options, adding in ground dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
What is suet? Suet is raw beef or mutton fat with a melting point of between 45 °C and 50 °C. Its high energy calorie count is why it is deal for survival food.

There is an interesting article in Tracking, on 'Why things are seen.'

An easy read, can always learn something new, but not a book to pack when hiking.

Droving with Ben Taylor  ~ Up and Down the Canning Stock Route in 1946 by Ben Taylor

Droving with Ben Taylor by Len HillA lovely true story by a young man invited to take part in a horse drove up the Canning Stock Route in 1946, and then back down again with cattle that same year. In the capable hands of Ben Taylor, one of Canning's men in the days of well restoration, and now boss drover, we are taken on a journey as seen through the eyes of 19 year old Len Hill. He kept a diary.

I enjoyed 'seeing' the Canning Stock Route through this young mans eyes, noting with interest the well conditions, the decision making by Ben Taylor with regards to what wells they would visit, their condition, which wells they would pass and why; how they handled difficult situations like horses faltering due to exhaustion and thirst, encounters with the Aborigine, water restrictions, bush food and references to those who passed this way in drovers times.

The journey north on horse back was in February and March, providing insight into travelling in those hotter months and the hardships faced.

In the north, around Billiluna and Lamboo Stations near Old Halls Creek, we are taken briefly through the preparations which include a graphic and for me, horrific account of how cows are spayed, which leaves me wondering as to why we cannot see the monster in the mirror. If alien creatures or our fellow humans did this to women we would be outraged and condemning, but because we, the human race do this to what we consider lesser beings, it is accepted. I say again, we fail to recognise the monster looking back at us in the mirror.

There is also an interesting account of the buildings in those days with a brief look into daily Station life. The horrendous treatment of Aborigines caught killing cattle for food reminds me of the terrible history we too shared in South Africa. The invaders stealing the land, changing it, introducing a new species of animal for their enrichment, wielding a big stick upon the vanquished should they dare to try and feed themselves and their families on that feral herd - cattle.

And then the journey south with cattle in May, June, July and August.

The one detraction from this book is the poor editing, (who am I to talk!) but it never stopped me reading with enjoyment, only stumbling in language from time to time. Whilst I was horrified by some accounts, this is due to my sensitivity on certain subjects and most people will just enjoy the story for what it is -  an excellent account of another life in another time.

Born in the Desert by Marion Hercock and Georgina (Dadina) Brown

Born in the Desert by Marion Hercock and Dadina Georgina Brown
The story of Georgina Brown, one of the last of the Aborigine to come out of the desert. What happened to Georgina and her family in the Communities? The book tells her story.

Born in the Desert could have been better written. It does however give insight into a life and environment very different to my own with a few useful tips on how to survive in the desert.





Bush Food by Jennifer Isaacs
Bush Food By Jennifer Isaacs

Good bush tucker information in general, beautifully illustrated, but like so many books on the subject, a bit light with regards to what might be found out on the Canning Stock Route.





The Last of the Nomads
by WJ Peasely

The Last of the Nomads by WJ PeasleyA really good read. The 'Romeo and Juliet' of Australia, Warri and Yatungka, the last of the Mandildjara people left their tribe to live together alone in the desert.
A year after Georgina and her family were taken out of the desert, the couple were found and brought into Wiluna. This story recounts aspects of their desert life, the attempts to extract them in previous years leading up to that momentous event in 1977 culminating in their death in the Community.

This is what I learned regarding desert survival:

- Crossing this desert on foot without support or pre-positioned supplies, one must get used to being hungry
- Water places were only left when the source was dry and there was no more food to be found.
- The Aborigine did not aimlessly roam the desert hoping to find water. They walked purposefully to the next known likely available water. Often their path across the desert would be circuitous following the water, the rain and the seasons.
- Land is fired in small tracts, especially as the nomads leave an area, encouraging regrowth and animals to return to eat the new growth; thus promoting the return of food for the nomads when they themselves returned
- The Aborigine are nomadic but only to the land they are born. In the old days they did not usually seek to conquer another's land, but they did cross boundaries for social reasons, to settle vendettas, etc.
- Aboriginal people often talk about the cannibals of Lake Disappointment. In this book, the evil one is known as Ngangooloo. They avoid it and this was a problem in Well building and droving times. (In cross referencing the story of cannibals in other publications, there are other Aboriginal stories of a tribe in this area that ate people. Desperate times perhaps...)
- It is necessary to dig 1-2m for water on occasion (I dug to 3m twice)
- Sleep on warm ash to stay warm
- Use branches to make a wind break shelter
- In days gone by, gathering plant food was more effective and reliable than hunting animals, especially when in a weakened state.
- Opportunistic hunting is important. Always be ready to secure a meal. You might not get another chance for days.

P.S. - In 1976, the year before the search for the last nomads, Peasley met Murray, Kathy and Rex at Well 25 during their successful unsupported walk. This is mentioned in the book.

Work Completed, Canning by Phil Bianchi

Work Completed, Canning by Phil Bianchi

A comprehensive reference book on the whitefella's history of the Canning Stock Route.

696 pages of information, drawings and photographs regarding the efforts of those who surveyed and built the Wells of the Canning Stock Route, including the stories of the restorers who maintained them over 100 years, the drovers tales spanning 50+ years and the new breed of travellers who use the Canning Stock Route more in modern times than in ways it was intended.

Gaynor Schoeman, the Canning Hitch Hiker of 2010 and 2011 gets a mention.



Canning Stock Route by Ronele and Eric Gard

The Canning Stock Route by Ronele and Eric Gard

Out of Print

Well worth hunting down a copy on eBay etc. It will enhance your journey...






The Whole Story: A Walk Around The World by Ffyona Campbell

 The Whole Story: A Walk Around The World by Ffyona Campbell The story that inspired me to walk Every Step of the Way between Billiluna and Wiluna, without EVER stepping foot into a vehicle for ANY reason at any time.

Loved the fierce honesty of Ffyona's story.

An incredible woman who did something few can imagine. She walked around the world, starting when she was a teenager.

An amazing story combining a summary of events recounted in several of her previous books,  Ffyona talks candidly about the early part of her walk across America, where she climbed into her support vehicle, missing a section. Some might think nothing of it, but for Ffyona's personality type, it was an event that haunted her for years. Coming clean involved exposing her support crew who were complicit in the lie and alienating sponsors. She was crucified by the press and the public and went into hiding for years.

I learned from Ffyona's experience. She is an amazing endurance athlete, an incredibly strong willed person and I am so grateful to have read her story and ... 


Cleared Out by Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson and Yuwali

Cleared Out by Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson and Yuwali

'In 1964, a group of 20 Aboriginal women and children in the Western Desert made their first contact with European Australians—patrol officers from the Woomera Rocket Range, clearing an area into which rockets were to be fired. They had been pursued by the patrol officers for several weeks, running from this frightening new force in the desert.'

This is the story of Yuwali and that group of women and children.



Hunters and Trackers of the Australian Desert by Pat Lowe

/Hunters and Trackers of the Australian Desert by Pat LowePat Lowe is an English woman who immigrated to Australia. She lived for three years in The Great Sandy Desert with life partner Jimmy Pike.

This is her story with accounts of their hunting practices.

Robert Bogucki, the Alaskan fireman who went for a walk into the desert, prompting an international search and rescue, is also mentioned. Pat reports on the trackers involvement.




Out There and Back by Kate Leeming

Out There and Back by Kate LeemingA 25 000-kilometre cycle around Australia, including a supported ride up the Canning Stock Route from Wiluna to Halls Creek ... on a mountain bike (not fat-bike) .... in October 2004.

I found it an interesting read, the dynamics between driver and cyclist of most interest. How to keep an endurance journey on track under trying circumstances. Without her driver, this section of Kate's journey would not have happened.

Kudo's for holding it together and enduring ... never giving up.




Canning Stock Route Royal Commission by Phil Bianchi, Peter Bridge, Ethel Bianchi, Angela Teague and Maria Bloomfield

Canning Stock Route Royal CommissionUndoubtedly the findings were a whitewash by a government willing to turn a blind eye to the lack of humanity perpetrated on the Aborigine by Canning and his men, in order to get their stock route. The charges and evidence read like a horror story .... a history white Australians turn a blind eye to even today, just like the government did over one hundred years ago.

However ... it is this document that is often blatantly misquoted as being evidence of Canning's men feeding salt to the Aborigines. This is even written up on today's Australian Government website  by some lazy or biased 'researcher'.

Someone once said if you can't trust the government to give you the correct information, who can you trust? ..... Puleeze! Do yourself a favour; if the willful distortion of history pisses you off as much as it does me, grab yourself a copy and put the lazy journalists, biased organisations and individuals in their place with the facts. Ask them to tell you on what page that charge is on. Feeding salt is not mentioned ANYWHERE.

Honestly, there were a whole lot more horrendous charges made that do not get the 'airtime' that the salt lie does, if any at all. I mean rape is a minor infringement of human rights, right? It was only Aborigine women. Does not really count, right?

Rape is extremely hard to prove. The Royal Commission charge list presents a long list of incidents regarding this practice, but none of the women were brought forward for testimony and all the men bar one, closed ranks. Everyone except Blake wanted it to go away. I mean these men accused of rape had wives and children. Heaven forbid it be proven that they raped the 'native' women. Or worse, that what they did prevent them from building the wells.

But did the rapes happen?

The graphic accounts of chaining and what happened to these people is also there for your discomfort. It is confrontational. It is a history many were never taught at school.

If you want to get informed, start with this document. The results are not conclusive due to a very biased commission, but the charges and testimonies recorded are an eye opener. Cross reference history and make your own mind up as to what happened out there on the Canning Stock Route.

The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery

/The Future Eaters by Tim FlanneryFascinating ideas that left me pondering.

Under discussion is how European Australians fail to embrace what this continent has to offer in the form of edible indigenous fauna and flora or recognise the fragility of its minerals - both in agriculture and mining.  It is suggested that the umbilical cord of ideas and notions attached to Britain needs to be cut in order to make the most of what this new land has to offer .... and not destroy it with ongoing maladaption.

Without the megafauna and now the First People of this continent, devastating fires both natural and Australian Government prescribed, the land is steadily being stripped of life. Yes plant life does regenerate, but each year variety and bountifulness becomes less and less and soon the continent will become a true desert.

Tim discusses the extinction of the megafauna following human invasion - hence "the future eaters."

The vast majority of this country is arid land. Large animals, through browsing, kept foliage in check and the soil fertalised. When they were wiped out, combustible matter accumulated, resulting in catastrophic wildfires, causing more extinctions of both plant and animal and speeding up climatic change. Humans adopted a fire regimen for maintenance of the environment and for hunting what was left, the small animal species.

European occupation of Australia is an environmental disaster. Europeans sought to introduce familiar species from home with unforeseen devastating results. They also adapted their technologies to make agriculture successful, at least in the short term, but unsustainable in the long term.

It is argued that the land is being raped, the future eaten.

On its current course ... where is Australia heading?

A book for the heavy reader ... someone who likes to think deeply about a subject.

The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin

The Sheltering Desert by Henno MartinNot an Australian story, but useful information regarding living in the desert. This is the true story of two German geologists who, during WW2 in South West Africa (Namibia), escaped incarceration by disappearing into the desert for two years.

What did I learn?

- Firstly, it is a true story worth reading
- Get used to being hungry
- Hunting for food is hard work
- It takes a lot of energy
- A shot animal can often get away
- Dead animals bring scavengers that might become dangerous
- Waterholes are transient
- Flash floods can occur without notice. Be careful in riverbeds
- Catching birds with nets delivers a lot of birds with little effort
- A wounded animal can be very dangerous
- The mind needs to be exercised to stay healthy
- Basic hygiene important to maintain in order to stay healthy
- Many animals have difficulty recognising a human/danger if it is still, even if they look directly at the human
- Smell is more effective with animals detecting human presence. This includes the scent on my track
- Vitamin and mineral depletion leads to nerve damage - tingling, loss of strength, great pain. This is what forced them from the desert everntually.
- Fresh blood and raw meat is required to boost vitamin depletion
- When drying meat, keep it cool, plenty  of airflow, no flies and salted.
- Build a fly screen larder container about two six pack sizes for on top of my backpack where small pieces of meat can be hung whilst walking
- Don’t eat wild onion bulb type plants in South Africa – toxic. BUT wild onions in Australia are good bushtucker
- Follow converging animal tracks to water

Bush Tucker Map and Guide by Les Hiddins

The Bush Tucker Man Map - out of printThe Bush Tucker Man's website is no longer, but being stationed in the north, he did not really cover food that can be found on the Canning Stock Route.

What I did learn from him is to consult with and learn from the Aborigine as he did.

Enjoy his bush tucker man video's on Youtube.






Tracks by Robyn Davidson (the book is a fantastic read too)

Tracks - The Movie
Beautiful movie.

Did the book proud.

In a way, I feel it told my story. So much of what was shown reflected aspects of my own walk, emotionally and visually.





Go to top