Reading around, especially on homeschooling blogs, I hear again & again how great the Little House books are ~ & they are ~ but they are not the only books out there dealing with pioneering trials & tribulations so I am going to discuss the Aussie equivalent ~ Longtime Passing.
This may interest those who like a compare & contrast because exploration of Australia was a long, slow & painstaking process thwarted by one simple geological fact: The Great Dividing Range.
Without touching on the obscure & little known mishaps of European settlers who may or may not have preceded the founding of Britain's penal colony at Port Jackson in 1788, the first colony was built beside what is now known as Sydney Harbour & for quite some time settlements were built north or south because going west was nearly impossible. From north to south along Australia's eastern seaboard lies that formidable mountain range known as The Great Divide. Not the tallest mountains in the world. Not the most rugged. Not the coldest. Not the most impenetrable. But these mountains proved themselves formidable to would be intrepid explorers.
They may be the oldest mountains in the world. In practical terms this means they are well eroded & when rock is well eroded the soft stuff goes first & only the hard stuff remains ~ leading to deep un~navigable gorges, weird outcroppings, dead ends, blind gullies, & sudden sheer cliff faces. Going in a straight line is not remotely feasible.
Going in a straight line should not be a problem with a good compass but only some~one who has never had the Australian bush close in on them would think that. Long, long history of people lost in the Australian bush & very few are ever found again. For years the Blue Mountains were feared to be completely impassable. Anyway it took until 1813 before Blaxland, Wentworth & Lawson found their way across the Great Divide & things like roads & accommodation were still decades away.
Ah, yes, the Australian bush! Made up predominately of eucalyptus trees, commonly known as *gums*. I believe there are something like 2 000 different varieties though as one English visitor once tartly remarked, having seen one variety, why would you ever want to see another? lol. The thing with gums is they are mostly hardwood. Not easy to hack your way through a forest of eucalypt ~ & that's before you consider that choice variety known as *ironbark* ~ for a reason.
It is into these mountains, this terrain, the Truelance family comes to make their home. The Blue Mountains west of Sydney is some of the loveliest country in the world. The views are breath taking, the Candlebark country its rainforest heart. Just getting in or out was a feat in & of itself. The children, of necessity, did their lessons with mother at the kitchen table.
This story is semi~autobiographical, based on Hesba Brinsmead's own childhood & recollections, in the same way that Laura Ingallss Wilder based her books on her family history. This makes them uniquely authentic & though the time is round about the 1920's the Candlebark area was so isolated & the living conditions so difficult it actually has the feel of a much, much earlier time.
The books are out of print but still available second hand on~line for a quite reasonable price.