Tourist trap: the natural allure of a sunburnt country
6 November 2005
2005 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited.
www.theage.com.au[http://www.theage.com.au]. Not available for
BOOK REVIEW: THE PURSUIT OF WONDER: HOW AUSTRALIA'S LANDSCAPE
WAS EXPLORED, NATURE DISCOVERED AND TOURISM UNLEASHED by Julia Horne
THE PURSUIT OF WONDER: HOW AUSTRALIA'S LANDSCAPE WAS EXPLORED,
NATURE DISCOVERED AND TOURISM UNLEASHED
By Julia Horne
The Miegunyah Press, $39.95
Warwick McFadyen Reviewer
THE notion of tourism, and of being a tourist, is so commonplace
these days that it's taken for granted. Everyday people metamorphose
into tourists for a while and then return to their other life. We inject
billions of dollars into its pursuit and the industry spends billions
of dollars in giving us what we want. The sense of exploration is still
there, of course, and in a few cases, of wonder.
Julia Horne takes us to another world - the foreign country
that is our nation's past. She is an authoritative, entertaining and
thought-provoking pilot and guide.
In The Pursuit of Wonder she takes the reader back to when a
sense of wonder was a constant companion to travellers. It's a
fascinating trip to the first days of white settlement and through the
19th century when the word "touring" was loaded with more connotations
than it is now.
Horne, a historian at the University of Sydney and author of
Jenolan Caves: When the Tourists Came, has set out on foot, by
horseback, boat and train to rediscover the sheer joy and, at times,
hardship of experiencing nature.
A featured quote from NSW politician John Lucas in 1863, sets the
tone of the work: "Never had anything given me such a conception of
indefinite space as this vast cavern before me. The same feeling - that
of reverential awe; and the same current of thought - the utter
insignificance of man, when face to face with the Creator and His works -
seemed to pervade the whole party as we gazed . . ."
Who comes home from a trip away with these flights of grandiloquence
nowadays? Australia was, of course, a new world and a strange one to
people of European sensibilities. Indeed, the senses would have been
working overtime to take in such basic shifts in perception as the
different light, the climate, the bush sounds, the harshness and the
gradation of harmony in the landscape.
As Horne writes, "implicit in much early travel writing was
'wonder', especially associated with observing what to European
explorers and travellers were unusual phenomena, and this prepared the
ground for an increasing Australian interest, even pride, in local
"By the end of the 19th-century, natural wonders as a destination in
themselves helped create local tourist interest and concerned primarily
with attracting Australian residents they were part of a broader
image-making process providing information about colonial life, its
social, economic and political characteristics, and its built and
The Pursuit of Wonder is divided stylistically into fact and
fiction - Horne in two sections draws upon contemporary accounts
of travelling to present a sort of fictionalised summary of the
experiences of travelling in the 19th century. The words are
interspersed with a treasure trove of illustrations - the artistic
representations are an integral part of the book, showing how
imagination and reality can commingle to present a view of the world.
"What magic did stalagmites hold for the 19th-century tourist? Why
were fern and waterfalls such big attractions at the turn of the
century? . . . Such questions take us into the territory of how culture
defines scenery, but also how the environment shapes culture."
The first mountain range to attract colonists' interests was the Blue
Mountains. Their contour and nature were such as to befuddle many
explorers wanting to cross them. In 1815, Governor Macquarie set out
from Parramatta to go across the mountains to the Bathurst plains. There
was a reason of commerce to the expedition, but the landscape also had
its effect on the governor. Horne quotes his writings: "Mountains
rising beyond mountains, with stupendous masses of rock in the
foreground, here strike the eye with admiration and astonishment . . .
We passed a very extensive deep romantic glen, full of picturesque and
Only 20 years later, a young Charles Darwin stopped off in the
colonies as part of a five-year voyage around the world on the Beagle.
Four days after his arrival in Sydney he was off to the Blue Mountains
"partly for geology, (he wrote) but chiefly to get an idea of the state
of the colony and see the country". Looking at the mountains he wrote:
"This kind of view was to me quite novel, and extremely magnificent."
The evolution of travel in Australia was not without its hardships,
but the hope of discovery and the wonderment it might bring were
A favourite illustration in the book is of a young woman being
hoisted in what looks like a barrel from a rocking boat to land at
Wilsons Promontory. As Horne reiterates, it was worth it for the
glories that might await the intrepid traveller. "Australia was not just
a land of sheep, wheat, bushmen and pioneers. It was also a place of
sublime landscape, natural beauty and stimulating travel," she writes.