So this year’s Mother’s Day in Sydney (and NSW in general) will be at least partly spoiled by the NSW government. All thanks to two – that’s 2 (only one more than ONE!) – cases of covid (apparently) being found in some part of Sydney. The state government are imposing some further restrictions for a three day period. Masks are to be worn for the next three days on public transport and shops and in pubs and restaurants, but of course not when eating or drinking. It just makes life a little more difficult doesn’t it. And the new rules will include this Sunday. All for these two supposed cases. Of which we know very little. Like are these people dying? Are they even ill? Is it just that they have anti-bodies (naturally or otherwise)? Who knows? Nobody in government or most of the media ever asks these questions. Frankly I couldn’t care less. I just wish these people would grow up.
I tend to get most of my news from the radio these days when I am driving. When I heard about the new “covid restrictions” being imposed the following story was about the vaccines. It reported that there had been six (that’s 6 ! Four more than 2) cases of blood clots from people who had recently received the vaccine. But the news reader simply read that part out and moved on to something else. After a few minutes on the previous news item of the 2 covid “cases”. Unbelievable isn’t it? Sadly it’s true and it’s happening. All too often.
At least here in Australia there is an alternative voice in the media which does ask the questions I posed above. Sky News Australia articles can be found on YouTube as well as the TV. They do try to show up the government’s knee-jerk reactions – and more.
Actually, I have just remembered. This Sunday Dani has another birthday party. In one of those activity places with games and trampolines and climbing frames etc… Usually packed full of germ ridden kids spreading and exchanging their bacteria like a load of two legged viruses in a petri dish like environment. Sounds great! Wonder if it will be cancelled?
The state of New South Wales has implemented a cash giveaway scheme to inject some money into the local economy. It is called ‘Dine and Discover’. We got ours a couple of days ago. I guess other states are doing similar so called ‘stimulus’ schemes.
Basically they are giving every adult in NSW $100 worth of vouchers. There are four vouchers each worth $25. Two ($50 worth) can be spent in the hospitality sector such as pubs and restaurants, while the other two are for entertainment and cultural activities such as concerts or entry to certain attractions. The official line is “to encourage the community to get out and about and support dining, arts and recreation businesses.” Encourage? Hardly. Who is gong to turn down the chance of free money? Then again, that old saying springs to mind, “Nothing is free”. It all has to be paid for somehow.
We had to wait a while as obviously when the government is handing over cash – or in this case gift vouchers – for free, then there will always be people eager to wait in line. Personally I think it’s bloody crazy but hey. If it’s there for the taking why not? It will only go to someone else if we do not claim what is rightfully our share of this mad handout. As far as I am concerned my vouchers will be spent in one particular area of the hospitality sector. One that I have already been supporting right the way through this “pandemic” – when they have been allowed to open that is… $50 still buys a few beers over here.
It begs the question: Wouldn’t it have been better not to tank the economy in the first place by forcing businesses to shutdown and then not have to inject wads of cash to get it going again? Just a thought….
This week I actually got around to submitting my application for Medicare for Dani and myself. Dani’s mum does not qualify being (full) Spanish, but as I am a British citizen I qualify under a reciprocal agreement for free health care between the two countries.
I wasn’t sure Dani would qualify as his passport is Spanish but after a quick check the ladies in the office said that he did. He will now be on my Medicare card when it arrives. Again it’s free medical care so although we already have private health insurance (a re-requisite to getting the visa) this will be easier to use as most medical places charge first when private insurance is used then you claim it back. With Medicare most (I am told) do not charge as it is covered by the state. We shall see how that actually works in practice. Not that I am keen to use any of the medical services of course.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know about this or that I hadn’t completed the paperwork. It was just that every time I went near the office there was always a long queue just to get in the bloody building. This particular day however there was only a queue inside the building.
Once inside one of the two security guards asked me had I experienced any covid symptoms. I just said “no” but could have easily said something like, “No mate, I have been too ill with TB and the Hep. C hasn’t helped.” I am sure he wouldn’t have known what to say. The world has gone covid nuts. It’s like there is no other illness or ailment. So pathetic.
The future does not seem good for us being able to travel out, then fly back into Australia. Not in the foreseeable future at least (I think). They are not even allowing Australian citizens to return to their own country! I know that sounds bizarre but it is all down to the numbers and how many they can deal with in “quarantine” when they return. Still, I find that failure to recognise their own citizens rights a scandal.
While we commemorated an excellent ANZAC Day with a fairly large gathering of people, other parts of Australia were not so lucky. In Victoria (that most communist of states in Australia it has to be said) old aged veterans were barred from attending services as the numbers were strictly limited. To 400 – or was it 4000? Anyway the crowd size limit was relatively small. So many veterans and indeed many other citizens were unable to really take part.
Yet later in the same day a crowd of 75,000 attended an Aussie Rules Football game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (aka MCG). Unbelievable right? The same state officials allowed this to happen were the ones locking out old veterans wanting to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. It beggars belief doesn’t it?
In Western Australia…
Meanwhile in Western Australia (WA) they have recently had a Covid panic. Apparently a few tested positive (whatever the hell that even means these days) in hotel quarantine. I think. Again, as I pay such little attention to the propagandabullshit news these days I may not be fully accurate with that but it’s close enough. The knee jerk reaction of the WA “leaders” was to close the state border and lock everyone down (again) for several days. This included ANZAC Day.
These people are lunatics. Idiots. They allow 75,000 to watch a game then come out with random (new) figures each week for how many can attend a wedding or funeral. And then whether or not they can dance or sing at these events. Really! They must sit around a table once a week while one person selects an event/activity card blindly from a sack (at random like a prize draw) while another presses a random number generator button for how many people can take part in said selected event. At least I hope that’s how they do. Because the alternative is too scary. If they are sitting in an office thinking they are producing these numbers scientifically and correctly then we have truly had it! It is utter madness.
But who are the real fools? The fools who make the stupid rules or the fools who follow them?
Anyway. Time to climb off my soap-box again…For now… Enjoy the week ahead.
Yesterday was a busy day for Daniel. A very full day; involving a sporting debut, hard partying and a trip to an iconic venue for some live sport.
International Sporting Debut
In the morning Dani played his first ever official football match. His first football game representing one of his school’s teams in the local kids league. That’s real football – soccer if you prefer… It is a seven-aside game which is great for kids that age. No sense at all in playing on a full size football pitch at that age.
Clearly a novice, he was substituted a couple of times (as were one or two others). A few of the squad had clearly been playing for a couple of years or more. The difference in class was stark but Dani was not alone. There were two others in his team who were just as bad. Or should that be ‘just as good’? It was quite funny to watch. They lost but managed to score three goals. Dani said the official score was 5-3. I think the other team scored more like 7 or 8. I lost count actually. Anyway the main thing was that he enjoyed it. He will improve.
Party On Dudes!
Within a couple of hours after the football match he was off to a party at the home of one of his classmates. An eighth birthday party full of year 3 boys. The birthday boy’s sister (who is in year 6 of the same school) organised a live game of ‘Among Us’ and according to Dani she did a great job. I think there is a little bit of a crush going on there…
If you don’t know what that is I can tell you that it is a kids video game and that particular age group absolutely love it. The theme of the party was in fact ‘Among Us’. The boys absolutely loved it. they all seemed completely worn out when all the parents turned up to collect them. Take a look at the photos and you will se why. It looks like something out of that infamous John Belushi movie, Animal House. A Frat House Party!
No rest for the wicked. Back home to change then off out again to meet some of Dani’s mum’s colleagues at a bar near to a sporting event we had tickets for.
Mostly worn out we dragged him to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for his first live Aussie Rules Football game. The ‘footie’ as they say here. The Sydney Swans vs The Geelong Cats. I really thought he might fall asleep before the end but he enjoyed it. The games last two hours which is way too long for me but this particular game was exciting right to the very end. Sydney Swans scoring to take the lead in the final minutes and then somehow holding out even in the final seconds. Amazing advert for the game and one that Dani will not forget in a hurry. There was a decent sized crowd there too. I reckoned about 30,000.
It was not my first taste of Aussie Rules but I till think it is an odd game. For one thing there’s 7 or 8 referees involved although I couldn’t really count them as they never kept still. Plus I had had several beers during the course of the game. It was one of those occasions. Honest.
By the time we left the stadium and walked to our bus route it was quite late. Needless to say Daniel was absolutely knackered. That was one full day.
In fact, it was such a busy day that we forgot that Sunday is Mother’s Day – in Spain! I suppose Dani forgot it really. Well, at least I remembered Mother’s Day in the UK (just). And the eAustralian Mther’s Day is next week!
Could there have been better timing for a movie about the power of ‘Big Pharma’? You decide. Crisis is a film about the bad side of drug supply – whether it be illegal or (supposedly) legal.
Based around the USA’s continuing opioid epidemic, the movie runs three stories in parallel, two of which converge. The main characters for the three threads are:
Gary Oldman playing university professor Dr. Tyrone Brower,
Evangeline Lilly as Claire Reimann an architect battling her own oxycodone addiction while searching for the truth about her son’s death.
Jake Kelly, an undercover DEA agent trying to bust a cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation and played by Armie Hammer, .
Note:I didn’t know about Hammer’s real life antics until after watching the movie when I looked him up online, so I will just review the film and let you read about him separately (if you wish).
The illegal drug business…
Undercover agent Kelly is trying to arrange a big drug deal for illegal opioids across the Canadian border by making contact with the leader of the ring known only as ‘Mother’. Meanwhile Claire Reimann’s son turns up suspiciously dead and she starts her own investigations while trying to avoid falling back into her old drug habit.
She finds that her son’s death is related to one of his friends who was caught by police running drugs across the border for the Montreal based cartel. The youngster is subsequently killed in prison and it seems that Claire’s son was just a loose end.
She drives into Canada determined to find the man responsible and where she will cross paths with the undercover agent. The grieving vengeful mother and the DEA agent trying to catch ‘Mother’ in the act are on a collision course. I won’t spoil the ending to the convergence of these two plot lines but you may just see it coming before it happens.
The legal drug business…
Meanwhile a new opioid is undergoing lab-rat trials. Dr. Brower’s team at the university have been testing a new drug for a major pharmaceutical company. They discover some nasty side effects of the drug and Brower brings this to the attention of the drug company’s contact (played by another British actor Luke Evans). It just so happens that the same pharma company funds much of the research at the college (as they do in real life of course). The new drug is supposed to be a ground-breaking “non-addictive” painkiller and the pharma company is keen to rush the drug to the market (and of course make a fortune!).
The pharma company applies pressure to the university and Dr. Brower’s job becomes threatened unless he hides the findings in his report. His name is dragged through the dirt when the university fabricates stories of sexual harassment. The drug company has close ties with the government (as they do) and despite Dr. Brower’s attempts to bring out the true findings of the research the new “non-addictive” opioid is approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Now why does that ring a bell with recent real life events? Hmm… Let me see…
Definitely a film that grabs your attention and pulls you deeper into its plot lines. This movie has obvious similarities with two things. One is the 2000 movie Traffic. It is hard to watch Crisis without comparing it to that excellent movie. The other is the Coronavirus farce that has been unfolding in real life. Was the timing of this movie deliberate? Releasing a movie showing the pharma industry as untrustworthy while our governments are trying to get us to trust them blindly with vaccines yet to be FDA approved. It is an odd one…
This movie definitely does not paint the FDA or Big Pharma in a good light. Probably rightly so. But it also exposes the huge opioid epidemic particularly in the USA where (I have read) more than 40,000 die of opioid addiction every year. The film ends with a sobering note flashed on screen: More Americans have died from opioid abuse in the last year than died in the Vietnam war.
There are some good acting performances but Oldman – who is usually excellent – was not at his best. He resorts to shouting too many of his lines almost trying to be like Al Pacino.
I give this movie 4 out of 5. Not as good as the excellent Traffic, but definitely worth watching.
Sunday was ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. Last year it was more or less cancelled due to that covid nonsense. This year there were plenty of ANZAC parades with lots of people in attendance. We were in Jervis Bay to witness a very community friendly march and service to commemorate those who gave their lives for the freedom we still enjoy. A freedom that allows us to celebrate such days.
ANZAC Day at Huskisson
The small seaside town of Huskisson was the setting for the ANZAC Day parade. This little town sits more or less in the centre of the various Jervis Bay communities. It is the centre for tourism in the bay area and it is easy to see why it is such a popular spot for holidays and short breaks.
Around the bay to the south lies an Australian Royal Navy base so the naval forces were well represented. There were plenty of ex-servicemen who took part in recent conflicts and those right back to the Vietnam war. As a British born person I forget that Australia took part in that war. Whatever the outcome and whatever anyone may say about that war the men fighting there were trying to help the Vietnamese. Fighting for their freedom. Many Vietnamese eventually made Australia their home.
The local State Emergency Services (SES) also took part. These are the people that rescue you if your area gets flooded and put their lives on the line to fight wild forest fires. Both of these disastrous events have occurred over the past twelve months in this area. Many of these brave people are volunteers.
Several local schools joined in the march paying their respects to those that lost their lives. That was nice to see.
The short march ended at the town’s war memorial where there was a service. The event was well attended and it was a real pleasure to witness the strong community spirit. The area certainly did the ANZACs proud this year. Well done Huskisson and the Jervis Bay area.
Back to our outback adventure last summer holidays…
From Wilcannia it is a one hour (93km) drive to the tiny outpost of White Cliffs. This is one of the main opal mining areas in Australia along with Lightning Ridge (central north NSW) and Coober Pedy in South Australia.
The small town has a population of around 200 although there are several stations (ranches) in the surrounding area that would increase the overall catchment figure. Despite the tiny population the local primary school opened in 1895, and has supposedly operated continuously ever since.
I am always amazed how these places were founded, and even more fascinated how anyone came to be here in the first place. How on earth did European settlers discover opals in such a remote location? Well the story goes like this…
In 1884 the first opal in the area was found, by a group of kangaroo hunters. One of them left the group to track down a wounded kangaroo and picked up a pretty stone which he spotted on a tone covered hill. They all suspected it could be opal and when they found a jeweller he confirmed it. Even though that first opal was not considered “precious” the jeweller advised the group that finding such opal could still be much more profitable than kangaroo hunting. The group filed a claim and started digging for opal. Five years later in 1889 the first precious opals were discovered and the opal mining industry began in earnest. The town was established in the late 1800s and opal has been mined ever since.
Other opal mining areas have similar ‘pure luck’ tales. It always makes me wonder how many other areas remain untouched out there… for opals and other minerals.
Many of the locals live underground where the houses remain cool in the heat of the summer. In places like White Cliffs it gives the impression that the already small population is almost non existent. Most of the visible properties are motels, the tourist centre and the odd shop. But everywhere you look there are the usual signs of opal mining just like we had seen in Lightning Ridge.
One local entrepreneurial couple even offer guided tours of their large underground home. I think it cost $10 for adults (kids free). Very interesting.
Here are a few more shots from inside the underground home:
There are even a couple of underground hotels (one more a B&B) in the town and we stayed in the (famous) White Cliffs Underground Motel. It seemed like a good idea at the time of booking – being underground and definitely “different”. In reality the place has been allowed to decline. Badly. The rooms have no facilities as there is little if any ventilation for things like kettle steam and a fridge would just heat the room up (defeating the object of keeping cool). Similarly there are no en-suite bathrooms, only shared facilities dotted about the establishment. They were OK but when you are already paying a premium to stay in this unusual place such lack of luxuries soon hit home.
The place was pricey but was very busy – I believe because of high demand due to the novelty factor. (It’s the classic ‘been there, done that’ crowd – which I am ashamed to say we fell in with on this part of our trip.)
They also asked us not to leave food in the room as they openly admitted to having a ‘mouse problem’. We saw one running down a corridor on the first night, but no more after that, although there was ‘evidence’ (i.e. mouse droppings) inside the almost rotten wardrobes that passed for room furniture. It struck me as very odd that they didn’t seem to doing much to deal with the ‘mouse problem’. There were no sign of traps or anything else that a vermin extermination company would deploy. It was as if the owners couldn’t care less. Enough people were booking and wanting a piece of the famous outback underground dwelling experience. Having spoken to some of the staff I think something will need to change fairly soon. It seems the hotel is also struggling to retain their workers.
We will not be going back there for sure and I would recommend anyone wanting to stay in White Cliffs to use one of the other motels or B&Bs.
First Solar Power Plant
National grid power was not available in White Cliffs until 1993. Before that people used their own (diesel) generators. But in 1981 an Australian National University experiment became what is considered to be the world’s first solar power station to be used commercially just at the edge of the town. Fourteen parabolic collectors covered in 2000 tiny mirrors, focus the sun’s energy onto a spiral absorber. There the temperatures reach between 555°C and 1000°C. Water was passed through the absorber, quickly turning into super-heated steam. The steam was then piped to drive a steam engine which in turn drove AC and DC generators. The DC generator charged 300 volt batteries providing power at night. It managed to produce 25 kilowatts which was enough to power the local hospital, school, hotel, post office and 12 residences.
In 1996 the station was connected to the national power grid and enhanced to provide 50 kilowatts of power. But in 2005 it was closed and I have no idea why… It was supposedly “mothballed” so should be able to restart with not too much hassle. Don’t you think that is really odd considering how we are now constantly bombarded with “green” energy propaganda? I do.
We were only passing through the small town of Wilcannia on our way from Cobar to White Cliffs. And that’s the problem. Too many people just pass through this town.
Wilcannia sits on the banks of the Darling river. It is an example of a once prosperous town that has gone into decline, with no sign of how and when it will recover. But the town definitely leaves a lasting impression.
It is easy to see that this was a once prosperous town. The buildings tell you that. This was a thriving river trade port town…..”Was” being the operative word. Wilcannia used to be known as the the “Queen City of the West” back in the early 1900s when the river trade transported goods down the Darling river, on to the Murray river and then to Adelaide. When the railways and roads arrived it was all over for the river boat transport industry and along with it the towns that had sprung up along the river routes also began to shrink.
There is a motel a petrol station – sadly mainly used by passing tourist to fill up and move on. A small supermarket seems to be the only place to buy anything – certainly the only shop that was open. There is also the Wilcannia golf club where you can get a cold beer and do all the usual gambling activities that seem to take over these places. But it is certainly not family friendly. We went in and were forced to sit in a crummy, dank, back room because Dani is underaged. Hardly the sort of place to entice families of tourists is it?
Basically that’s it. There was a nice looking café-cum-art gallery (see photos) but it was closed and there was no sign as to when it may be open. There is the Hotel on the main road junction but again not much sign of life.
The Sad State of Wilcannia…
…and other similar towns. It is hard to see what can be done to restore any kind of prosperity to places like this. Tourism would seem to be the only answer. But as we have seen in other remote or outback towns, there is nothing there to keep tourists entertained. No bars, cafes or restaurants on the main streets. Of course those types of business need tourists in order to thrive. It’s a classic chicken and egg situation…
I am not sure what the answer is, But I do know what the answer is NOT:
There is a lot of money being wasted by supposedly well intentioned groups. Any money thrown (away) at the projects these kind of groups operate would be much better spent setting up sustainable businesses that will attract tourists and keep them in the town. Invest in things that will make people want to spend time in the area rather than just passing through. The large local Aboriginal population needs real direction not political activism. I have a few ideas if anyone wants to discuss it.
Hope for the future?
On a more optimistic note however there is a fairly newly developed camp site on the other side of the bridge. There was also the time of year. Summer, especially school summer holidays, does not seem to be the peak time for visitors in this part of the world. Maybe it is a little more bustling at other times of the year? I would like to find out…
Despite the town centre being a little run down, the lure of the outback is all around. The huge Paroo-Darling National Park lies to the north and east – although too far out to make a real difference to the town’s decline. Without doubt the one thing you notice in Wilcannia is the number of well preserved (or recently renovated) old buildings. It would make a great film set with some wonderful examples of colonial architecture. It is quite an attractive town and could easily become a bit of a tourist hotspot.
Here’s another one I wrote a while back and forgot to post. This was from our time in and around Dubbo (December 2020).
On our second day in Dubbo the weather was not that good. So, what better than a visit to an indoor tourist attraction? Not so much indoors as underground. We drove about half an hour south of Dubbo to the small town of Wellington to see the Wellington caves.
The Wellington caves are just south of the town, off the Mitchell highway that links the towns of Dubbo and Orange. There are three caves at this site but only one of them was open. As luck would have it the one that we were allowed into was the one I would have chosen; ‘the Cathedral Cave’.
The other two are an old fossil phosphate mine and the Gaden cave. The Fossil & Phosphate Mine is a completely restored underground mine from over 100 years ago. The rock walls have thousands of fossil and bones embedded in them. Old dinosaur bones from this site are spread across the world’s museums. While the Gaden cave seems to be a smaller version of the one we entered.
The Cathedral Cave contains Wellington’s famous stalagmite. The inspiring limestone and crystal formation reaches a staggering 15 metres in height. Highlights of the tour include the Altar, Headache Rock and The Well.
Tours of the caves began back in the 1885. Since then they have been popular with visitors, scientists and palaeontologists from all over the world.
Known as Altar Rock which is 32 metres in circumference at its base and over 15 metres high. This place is similar to other caves I have been inside but I can definitely recommend it.
Star Wars bar…
For a small town Wellington seemed to have plenty of bars although some seemed to be very recently closed down – That’ll be the virus crap again! Of all the bars we could have stopped for a quick drink we chose an Australian version of the Mos Eisley Cantina – better known as the Star Wars Bar (from the first ever Star Wars movie, Episode IV – A New Hope, in case you are not familiar). I guess all small towns have one of these places…
The place looked like it needed some money spent on it and was certainly one of those bars where the regulars like to enjoy more than just the odd drink. Still, it was friendly enough – as these kind of places tend to be, if they are not on a planet like Tatooine that is.
Sadly many of not all of these places will close forever because of this virus garbage. Certainly in countries that have been much harder hit by lockdowns etc such as the UK.
Devils Hollow Brewery
On the road back into Dubbo the Devil’s Hollow Brewery is worth a visit. Another great example of the thriving craft beer industry. For me their beers were not that good. I have certainly had better at similar brew pubs. Maybe I am getting fussy. Who knows? All our tastes for these beers are very different so don’t let that put you off. The set up was ideal, the food was good and the place got very busy before we left. The place is located on a small industrial estate just south of the town. If you are ever in Dubbo I can recommend it.
One of the things I wanted to see was a large open cast gold mine. Something I had seen on documentaries on TV but never in real life (so to speak). I had seen online or read somewhere that the town of Cobar had two such places.
Due to rain we were unable to drive down the Darling River unsealed road between Bourke and Wilcannia. But there was always the option to take the slightly different route to Wilcannia on the main roads, and via Cobar. The town of Cobar is in the central west of NSW about 750km from Sydney on the eastern edge of the outback.
The Peak Gold Mine
Actually this mine produces copper as well as gold. That’s two for the price of one. Pull all the rock out of the ground and process it not only for the precious gold but also for the increasingly valuable copper.
The place is well signed, just outside the town and has a free to enter viewing platform overlooking the mine. Not sure why so many other similar places we came across never allowed this. Really odd I thought. The views into the bowels of these mines are fantastic.
Sights like this always impress me. It’s the sheer scale of these operations.
The Big Beer Can and The Big Verandah
The Australian penchant for making ‘Big’ things is on display in Cobar town centre too. And what better than a “Big Beer Can”? Especially on a hot day.
Sadly the hotel/pub was not open. But there was another hotel just down the street which had its own claim to fame on a list of big things…
The hotel verandah (or balcony) is 130m long and wide enough for four runners to race (and come to a stop) a 100m sprint. It is said to be the longest hotel balcony in New South Wales. Better than that the pub was actually open for a cold one.
Moving on West…
Cobar is yet another place that deserves more time to be explored. But our accommodation was booked and so it was back on the road. The long straight drive down the Barrier Highway to Wilcannia and White Cliffs.