The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


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Not All Who Wander Are Lost – Part 2

I did some serious wandering during the last half of 2018  – and I may have been lost occasionally – but I justify that by saying I find a different way :)!

From my base at my nephew’s home in Bundaberg I looked at my options to arrive in Mudgee for a Solo Traveller’s Rally that I was attending in late September. One option was a pretty straight line south – a total of about 1150 kms.

But I found the other option a lot more interesting! I had nearly 3 months, after all! 🙂

 

This was a fabulous trip out to Western Queensland and New South Wales. The map shows my campsites and the times I stopped in caravan parks. As many place names aren’t on the map, my stopovers included Moura, in Queensland, where I camped at the Dawson River campground for about a week while I waited for a new tyre to arrive and be fitted. I did a really good job shredding one as I was coming into a little town called Banana of all places. What’s the saying – If you’re going to do something, do it well? I did! It was no hardship being at this camp ground, though, which had toilets, water and hot showers all for a donation to keep the facilities serviced. Moura has a mural on their water tower and as I left to head further west I came across the first cattle I saw on the long paddock. The drought situation only worsened!

 

My first caravan park stay was at Rolleston to do the washing and also catch up with a travelling friend, Rosanna, who I had met at Boulia in 2013. Other stopovers were Emerald, Jericho, Barcaldine, (to see the Tree Of Knowledge) and then Longreach where I indulged myself with some touristy things which were the subject of an earlier blog called A Tourist in Longreach. 

After a few days on the Barcoo River in Isisford I made my way to Yaraka and a catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen for 35 years. That is also the subject of an earlier blog – Yaraka the End of the Line?

I had a wonderful week with Gerry (pictured above) and her husband Chris, who are the publicans at the Yaraka Hotel- and Chris does a fabulous trip up Mt Slocombe at sunset, which is not to be missed. Then –

  • Blackall – claims the original Black Stump of the Australian outback and is the venue for our Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Solos Rally next May
  • Tambo –  home of the world famous (and very expensive hand made!) Tambo Teddies
  • Quilpie – a must visit to St Finnbars Catholic Church to wonder at the opal altar, font and lectern
  • Eromanga – the Natural History Museum is home to Australia’s largest dinosaur discovered on a property nearby
  • Thargomindah – where Brutus pulled up on the side of the road and refused to go any further until he was rescued by my favourite mechanic, Johnno, from Cunnamulla, who worked his magic and Brutus hasn’t looked back since.
  • Cunnamulla – home of the Cunnamulla Fella and, as I said, the best mechanic in the world (in my humble opinion)
  • Barringun, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales,where the old pub burnt down and there is now a pop-up pub
  • Bourke – a nostalgic visit to the place I first visited in about 1970 with my then husband, Rex, whose family owned the North Bourke Hotel – another pub that burnt down, although some years ago now
  • Trangie – who would have thought a little place like Trangie would make it to my list of memorable places, and it was a caravan park to boot. But Andrew, the host, made it a wonderful week, made even better by my sister joining me there

 

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A couple more lovely bush camps and it was time for the rally in Mudgee. I was pretty busy with committee work throughout the rally so didn’t get to enjoy a lot of the activities but there were about 300 motorhomes and a similar amount of people who attended and the program was chock full of activities. At the Poet’s Breakfast I recited my newest poem, Dry as Dust, for the first time. It was written as a reaction to the devastating drought throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Absolutely heart breaking scenes for mile upon mile of travelling.

With the rally over I was off to my next house sit in Casino, looking after a little dog for a fellow Solo when she went overseas. It was only a couple of weeks but gave me a great opportunity to see some of the New South Wales coast, an adventure I hadn’t had before.

 

I got more – and also less – than I bargained for! The rain came down in torrents for days, making it impossible to enjoy all those beautiful coastal towns along the way. It also backed up in the gutter around my pop top and seeped into every cupboard just like house gutters overflowing into the eaves and ceilings …. what a mess. Sodden toilet rolls, wet clothes, and, disaster – my deck of UNO cards got soaked and stuck together. Well, they went straight into the bin and onto the “things I want for Christmas” list! (Thank you Marion for my new cards)

 

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The weather was fabulous after I left Casino so I really enjoyed the coastline, fell in love with Nambucca Heads, caught up with a mad bunch of Solos in Buladelah, had new curtains made for me in Maitland by Solo friend Ros, travelled with fellow Solo Lynn for a few days through Gunning and Jugiong, stayed with my cousin Gretchen in Wagga Wagga and finally arrived at Lee’s home in Albury, the site of my last house sit for the year. And then it was off to my sister’s home in Nagambie, Victoria, for Christmas and New Year.

 

We also shared an adventure when a winemaker friend of Marion’s asked if we’d like to go to McLarenvale in  South Australia to pick up a couple of barrels of wine. This was known as the Two Tarts Wine Run and was shared with a concrete meerkat from the garden next door! I wrote about it in my blog The Travelling Tales of Monsieur M Kat.

I’m exhausted just writing about all the places I went to this year …..  this blog has made me realise what a lot of ground I covered! But none of this was done in a hurry and I loved every minute of it – well, almost ….. I could have done without all that rain. Oh, and it would have been better if Brutus hadn’t broken down but the upside of that is I found a mechanic who finally got him running better than ever before. For the first time in 3 years he hasn’t got a miss in the engine so that’s a win! Unfortunately, Cunnamulla is a long way to go for a car service 🙂

For those interested here is my Expenses Summary. My only income is the Aged Pension which is just under $24,000 a year. Thank goodness I had managed to save some of that to meet unexpected car repairs. But I’ll have to cut back on the Coffee and Cake I think!

Car Expenses $6626
Petrol $2564
Rego & Insurance (inc Roadside Assist) $1420
Maintenance $2642
Food & Drink Expenses $6768
Groceries, Butcher etc $3354
Coffee & Eating out $2498
Booze $ 916
Personal $2152
Hair, chemist, makeup, clothes, shoes etc
Camping Fees $1014
   
Utilities $943
Gas Mobile Phone and Internet
Fun Stuff $2161
Touristy things gifts, newspapers, lotto, subs
Van Stuff $1686
New porta potti, new laptop, new curtains, fridge repair, etc
Miscellaneous expenditure $2336
TOTAL EXPENDITURE $23686

People often ask in Facebook Forums “Can you live permanently on the road on the pension?” Answer is “Yes!” My lifestyle has certainly changed – I value things of little monetary value, my pleasure comes from the places I go and the people I meet. It’s a simple life and one I thoroughly enjoy.

I also began another blog in 2018 called The Daily Snail. So far it hasn’t been quite daily, but it gives me the opportunity to do short posts about where I am or interesting things I have seen. It takes the pressure off these ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ blogs on The Snail Trail. I hope you have a look at it and click on follow for more regular updates from me.

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Xmas photo at my sisters with her dog, Jack Russell

So much to look forward to in 2019 – February, The Silo Art Trail in Victoria, The Man From Snowy River Festival in Corryong, Victoria in April, CMCA Solos Rally in Blackall, Queensland in May followed by the Guiness Book of Records world record attempt for the Longest Line of RV’s in Barcaldine, Queensland.

And after that? ….

Roll on 2019. May it be a great year for us all!

 


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Falling in Love Again…

What am I to do? I can’t help it! So sang Marlene Dietreich many years ago, and many times over the last 12 months I have felt exactly the same. Unfortunately – or fortunately – however you might look at it – it’s not been with a fellow human but with my fellow humans’ pets.

I have been ‘off the road’ for  much of the last year as I have been pet sitting to give others the chance to ‘hit the road’, and me a chance to consolidate my finances for future travels.

All this began in October 2017 on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland when I looked after Chai, a dear little Milky (cross between a Maltese terrier and a Silky terrier). What a sweetie! Couldn’t help but fall in love with this darling.

Then over Christmas I kept Lily the cat and Lucy the dog company in Bundaberg while my nephew and his family had a well deserved holiday. Loved these two for a long time – and you can tell they made themselves right at home on my bed!

No sooner were the family home I took off to Bingara in New South Wales where I looked after a this delightful little doggie, CJ, for my friend Janet. As I was there for a couple of months I also got to know some lovely locals and share their Wednesday morning meetups for coffee. Thank you ladies for making me feel so welcome.

 

It was a quick trip back to Bundaberg and my next pet sitting experience – and what an experience it was! Two dogs – a Rottweiler called Cujo and a Pomeranian called Bella – talk about from one extreme to another! And both lovable and cuddly…

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Two cats, Millie and Columbia …. neither of these two were cuddly and Columbia could be downright nasty (and I have the scars to prove it!)

And then this adorable baby, who was very, very cuddly ….. DaisyMae …..

A few days later and I was in Image Flat near Nambour on the Sunshine Coast while my cousin’s family were away for some school holiday time off. Such a magical setting that I forgot to photograph all the animals but there were three cats, two dogs, four chooks and about 20 sheep. Unfortunately Wylie, the new dog that hadn’t been raised as a farm dog, spooked the sheep as I was trying to pen them at night and old Rambo took a dislike to me and knocked me off my feet, leaving me with a massive bruise on my thigh – and a bruised ego! Not only that, when cousin Geoff came to visit the next night Rambo did the same to him! (There is a poem in there I am sure!) Anyhow, it was all an experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world as it also gave me the opportunity to get to know Larissa, Walter and their three wonderful young sons Clinton, Christian and Keegan. And the view was pretty good to wake up to everyday, too.

So with my house sitting and pet sitting stints at an end I am, in the words of Willie Nelson …. ‘On the road again’…..

 


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The Myall Creek Massacre

Myall Creek and Myall Creek Station is about 10 kilometres out of Bingara towards Inverell. The Myall Creek Massacre occurred on the 10th June 1838, when 28 Aboriginal men, women and children were slaughtered by a gang of 10 white people.

What makes it stand out in history is that it was the first time that white people were punished for murdering black people.

So much has been written about the Myall Creek Massacre that I really can’t add anything to what is readily available on the net. It’s interesting to read reports from both the Indigenous and European perspectives. This cartoon was featured on a site called Creative Spirits with the caption

Myall Creek Massacre NSW

 

Aboriginal killings ‘run in the family’. The cartoon reflects that many colonists saw shooting Aboriginal people as a sport [15]. It also plays with the fact that many people see having some Aboriginal ancestry as ‘fashionable’. Graphic: Ian Sutherland

 

Gamilaraay Elder, Uncle Lyall Munro, 2013:

[The Myall Creek massacre Supreme court trials were] the first place white man’s justice done some good. Right across Australia, there were massacres. What makes Myall Creek real is that people were hanged, see. That was the difference.

This site of the National Museum Australia also provides details of the court case – there were two due to some of the white settlers  intimidating theoriginal jurors into staying away from the court. Eventually a jury was formed and 7 men were found guilty and sentenced to public execution. The following are quotes from the NMA page.
The colonial community of New South Wales was more outraged by the execution of British citizens than they were by the massacre of the Wirrayaraay people.

And then …..

The executions of British subjects for the murder of the Wirrayaraay people hardened colonial attitudes towards the First Peoples of Australia and shaped later behaviours on the Frontier.

In Australian English, the word ‘dispersal’ became the commonplace euphemism used to refer to the killing and massacre of Aboriginal peoples, which went on to take more insidious and devious forms: disease, starvation and the poisoning of food rations are just some of the ways that the Indigenous population was further decimated.

Meanwhile, perpetrators took better steps to cover their tracks and avoid prosecution.

In 2000 a memorial site was opened on Myall Creek, set up by both indignous and non-indignous people. It is a memorial not just to this local massacre but to all massacres around Australia. The Bingara website lists the words on the 8 memorial plaques that are placed at the memorial.

Every year on the Sunday of the June long weekend, hundreds of people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, gather at the site to attend an annual memorial service. Descendants of the victims and survivors, such as Aunty Sue Blacklock, Aunty Elizabeth Connors and Uncle Lyall Munro, as well as descendants of the perpetrators of the massacre, such as Beulah Adams and Des Blake, come together to remember and reflect on past atrocities, as well as to express shared aims for the future.

Gamilaraay Elder Sue Blacklock, one of the founders of the memorial site and service, talked about what the annual service and the reconciliation process means to her in a 2013 SBS interview:

It has lifted a burden off my heart and off of my shoulders to know that we can come together in unity, come together and talk in reconciliation to one another and show that it can work, that we can live together and that we can forgive. And it really just makes me feel light. I have found I have no more heaviness on my soul.

When I spoke to  local Bingara people about some of the topics I was going to blog about they were upset that this dark part of their history was included. I get the feeling that when people write about Bingara, the Myall Creek Massacre features high on the agenda and I hope I’ve been able to show you, through my other blog topics, there is a lot more to this friendly town than this historical blot on their landscape.


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I’ve Seen Sawn Rocks!

Sawn Rocks at Mt Kaputar National Park in New South Wales are an amazing cathedral like formation, the result of a lava flow from the Nandewar Volcano between 17million and 21 million years ago – I find that time frame hard to get my head around!

The forty (40) metre high cliff face visible at Sawn Rocks is the sheared off remains of a basalt lava flow from the (now extinct) Nandewar Volcano ….The striking columnar fractures are a result of the cooling process: the basalt cools from the outside toward the centre, causing shrinkage cracks to form, commonly, in a hexagonal pattern. The shape of the columns is attributed to tensional stress. When the molten rock within the basalt lava flow cooled slowly and, importantly, evenly, this enabled the individual crystals within the molten rock to align perfectly with each other.

While this type of six-sided (hexagonal) ‘organ piping’ is not rare to lava flows it is exceptionally rare to find them so perfectly formed and preserved and Sawn Rocks is recognised as being one of the best examples of columnar jointing in Australia.

 

Some of these pillars had fallen to the ground and sheared off to look like perfectly formed paving stones.

Mt Kaputar is the highest peak in New South Wales outside the Great Dividing Range and when I went on a guided tour there we were told that from the top of Mt Kaputar there is nothing to obstruct a view all the way to South Africa. Obviously it needs greater vision than I have but isn’t it interesting to think there is nothing as high or higher for just over 11,000 kilometres.

Mount Kaputar, Mount Kaputar National ParkTwo volcanos pushed Mount Kaputar high above the plains, and millions of years of erosion have carved a dramatic landscape of narrow valleys and steep ridges. Many of the mountains are ancient lava terraces. Experience ancient history for yourself by standing on Lindsay Rock Tops – an excellent example of a lava terrace.  (Information and photo from http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au)

Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei), Mount Kaputar National ParkNow here’s something you won’t find in any old back yard! Mount Kaputar is famous for a very unusual, colourful local – a bright pink slug. It can be seen after rain on rocks, trees and amongst the leaf litter. Not what you’d call your common garden variety of slug.

 

Sawn Rocks is located 64km out of Bingara on the road to Narrabri. On the way you pass the ancient Rocky Creek Glacial Area. The glaciers that we are more familiar with were formed about one million years ago but this glaciation is very old, dating back some 290 million years to the Carboniferous Period. A vast amount of weathering and erosion occurs in over 200 million years, so all the original glacial landscape features have been eroded away and replaced by those typically associated with running water.

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Bingara is a perfect base to explore this wonderful landscape. It was recently named the Free Camp Capitol of Australia and the town values all the different tourists who discover all it has to offer. Can you say “I’ve seen Sawn Rocks”?

Roxy Theatre, Bingara NSW


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It’s All Greek To Me

New York has its Greek Theatre – Bingara has the Roxy, a magnificent Art Deco theatre built by three Greek partners from the island of Kythera, in Greece, in 1936.

 

Bingara is justifiably proud of this testament to its cultural history and the Roxy was faithfully restored and reopened in 2004 after languishing unused on the main street since 1958. Step into the theatre and you step back in time, with the original ornate plasterwork, lighting, paintwork and … atmosphere!

Although The Roxy certainly made a statement at the time it was built, it sadly affected the bank statements of its developers who were declared bankrupt. Unfortunately for the developers descendants it became one of those things that the family didn’t talk about and its history was nearly lost to them. Peter Prineas, a grandson of one of the founders stumbled on to his connection when

His attention was drawn after reading a newspaper article about the reopening in 2004 which mentioned three Greek immigrants from the island of Kythera, the same Island his parents came from.

While researching some of the history of the Roxy I came across this great story from the ABC presented in 2017 that is well worth following by clicking here.

Only recently the wonderful retro cafe re-opened and it’s worth calling in for a coffee just to reminisce about other Greek cafes you’ve been in with laminex table tops, timber booths and milkshakes.

The Roxy Greek Museum is also housed in the Roxy building and you can incorporate it into your tour of the Roxy by asking at the Information Centre, which is also in the building.

The mission of the Roxy Museum is to evidence, explain and illustrate the story of Greek immigration and settlement in the country areas of NSW and Queensland in the first half of the 20th Century. This was a period when most Greeks owned or were employed in cafes and a considerable number conducted picture theatres.

So there you have it! I hope this hasn’t been all Greek to you but inspires you to travel to Bingara and call in to experience the fabulous Roxy for yourself.

Happy Campers: There is loads of free camping along the Gwydir River and a neat little Caravan Park right next to the swimming pool and opposite the Gwydir.


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Orange is the New Black

I’m currently house and dog sitting in Bingara, New South Wales and thought I would share with you a delightful celebration this community enjoys. (And my thanks to the Northern Daily Newspaper for the catchy headline)

Many towns plant Memorial Avenues of trees to pay tribute to the soldiers from the area who didn’t return from the wars. Bingara chose to celebrate and remember their fallen soldiers from World War 1 and 2 with a Memorial Avenue with a difference – they planted a living memorial of orange trees.  But it is not just the trees that honour their dead, it’s the tradition that has grown along with the trees and how they have become a symbol of community pride.

Bingara Oranges

In spring, the heady orange blossom perfumes the air, while in autumn the fruit develops and ripens on the trees. The tradition is that on a designated day only local school children pick the fruit. This year 2018 it is on Friday July 6.

During the year, all Bingara residents leave the oranges untouched, even the children, who are taught the significance of the trees.

This respect, self discipline and pride in this unique memorial has been carried on since the 1960’s, from one generation to the next. In some cases, those picking the fruit are the third or fourth generation to do so.

It can get a bit nippy in Bingara! (photos from bingera.com.au)

As the tradition has grown it has morphed into the Bingara Orange Festival which follows the orange picking day. This year it happens on Saturday July 7.

Each year the bar is raised even higher, with the inclusion of new initiatives and each year a new theme is announced, keeping the festival fresh, innovative and attractive year after year. However, one thing that never changes, is the memory of those who have fallen and for whom the orange trees represent.

I think this is a wonderful local initiative and a fantastic community tradition that helps to shape the identity of this little town of Bingara.

 

Utes in the Paddock, Ootha


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Utes in the Paddock

Every now and then someone comes up with a crazy idea that captures the imagination and becomes a reality. Utes in the Paddock at Ootha, New South Wales, is a typical example of this. Ootha is situated about 430 west of Sydney and boasts a population of 94!

Ootha

They are all Holden Utes – what could be more Australian than that – and several artists have displayed their own interpretation of the iconic ute! Unfortunately the paint work has deteriorated on several of them and they are fading away but I hope you can get an idea of this crazy initiative in the middle of nowhere.

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You’ve gotta love the Aussie sense of humour 🙂 Thanks Ootha for keeping it alive!