Diego Maradona Mural

Maradona Inspiration

Hidden in the middle of the most bizarre of Sydney’s suburbs – Alexandria – sits a huge warehouse building that has been converted into a massive shop for all things football. The place is called Ultra Football. (That’s real football by the way.)

As if to inspire all the youngsters who go there looking to buy their football kits, is a giant mural of the one and only Diego Armando Maradona.

Football shop pays homage to the greatest player ever (in my humble opinion).

This is a brand new painting too. Copied from a photo of Maradona in his days playing for the Italian club Napoli back in the 1980s. We watched the artists putting the finishing touches to it last weekend when Dani went to a kids party nearby. Leaving Dani at the party, his mum and I went for a meal just a few metres away from this mural. Sharing the same building, sat in the corner of the sports shop/warehouse, is a small Italian restaurant called Curva Cucina & Bar. A very good little restaurant I might add, even if the location is a little odd.

Beside the mural is the new (“special” 4th) Napoli club shirt designed as a cross between Napoli’s traditional blue and the blue/white striped Argentinian shirt. I don’t know as I don’t follow football much these days, but I guess they brought that shirt out as a tribute to Maradona when he died last year. He would have loved wearing that one for sure.

Many young kids today, just getting the football bug, may not know Maradona. They may well know Messi and Ronaldo, but Maradona was far better than both of them – in this old dad’s opinion. This Maradona mural should prove a worthwhile investment for the people at Ultra Football as it should attract a lot of attention from true football fans.

Alexandria

The suburb of Alexandria can only be summed up in one word – weird! The area has a peculiar mix of just about everything from shops, cafés, office & apartment blocks to converted warehouses like ‘Ultra Football’. There are plenty of car showrooms too including all the top brands such as Ferrari, Porsche and Tesla (to name just a few). There are also several micro-breweries in the area so not all bad. In fact one of them appeared in an earlier blog post – see here

Not at all my scene but hey… Perhaps I will explore more and write a separate post on Alexandria. After test driving that Ferrari…

Fred Hollows – A Tribute to a Great Man

Fred Hollows

Do you know anything about the late Fred Hollows? He is someone I had never heard of before visiting Bourke. But this man definitely deserves a special mention. Once I found out about this man I was so impressed I just had to go to the Bourke cemetery to pay my respects.

The Fred Hollows and his Legacy

Fred Hollows was born in 1929 in Dunedin, New Zealand. Originally studying to become a minister, he got a summer job at a mental health facility that opened his eyes to a different ways of thinking. He decided to study medicine, and after graduating he began assisting eye surgeons. Fred became so interested in ophthalmology, he moved to the UK to specialise in it. He returned to Australia in 1965, and became Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales.

In 1968, after seeing two senior Aboriginal men as eye patients, Fred went north to where they lived in the Northern Territory. He was so shocked at the poor standard of health in the camp, particularly in eye health. Fred was especially concerned by the large number of children and adults suffering from blinding trachoma. In 1971 he was later asked to go to Bourke where he found the same shocking conditions. It was then that he decided to do something about it and fight for better eye health.

Fred and his (now) wife Gabi worked together on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program. This took them to over 465 Indigenous communities in outback Australia. Fred also visited developing countries including likes Nepal and Burma where he saw the same poor eye health.

“It’s obscene to let people go blind when they don’t have to.”

– Fred Hollows

Fred pioneered the factory production of affordable intraocular lenses (IOLs). These lenses were used to treat cataract and significantly cut the cost of restoring sight. The lenses were expensive when made in countries like Australia, but cheap and accessible when made locally. He realised that by setting up factories to produce the IOLs cheaply in places like Nepal and Eritrea it would make a world of difference to so many who would otherwise be blind.

Fred’s work took him to many developing countries in order to train eye surgeons. Even though he had developed cancer he once discharged himself from hospital to fly to Vietnam to undertake such training.

This is a line from a poem by Bruce Walker

Fred Hollows grave beneath the sculptured stone

Gone too soon…

He was so well thought of that nobody called him Professor Hollows or Dr. Hollows. Just Fred. And he liked that. Fred had such an affection with Bourke and the people in the area that he asked to be buried there. His grave is surrounded by rocks from nearby Mt. Oxley. They are laid out in the shape of an eye.

Fred died in 1993 and was given a state funeral before being taken to Bourke where he was laid to rest. The original grave stone was replaced in 2006 by a sculpture that embraces his love for the area, climbing and nature. Its polished surface is reminiscent of the clinical grade plastic intraocular lenses that were used in cataract operations that restored sight to those who had gone needlessly blind.

Every once in a while you discover someone quite remarkable. Someone who truly can be called a great human being. Fred Hollows is one such person.
Fred’s work is continued by The Fred hollows Foundation.

Final thought…

I was never going to try and write a full biography for Fred Hollows here in a relatively short post. But his story, of how one person can make a huge difference, is truly inspiring. I would urge you to research the man and find out more about Fred’s story.

‘Man vs Food’ near Sydney’s Primary Water Source

The Damn Dam was Close… But What a Find!

After all the rain we have had I thought it would be a good idea to go up and see the main reservoir for supplying Sydney. It lies to the west of Sydney. It’s called Lake Burragorang and the water is held back by a large construction known as the Warragamba Dam. As luck would have it every route near the dam – which is normally open to the public – was closed. We were not the only tourists trying to get a look at the full reservoir. Quite a few people had the same idea as myself and many cars were turning back at the sight of locked gates. We will try again in a few weeks time.

It was lunchtime so we decided to find somewhere local. And what a great little restaurant we found.

Pietro’s Italian Restaurant 

Normally I would have thought that was a wasted trip. Over an hour out of the city. But then we stopped to find somewhere to eat. And we found a little gem!

Pietro’s Italian Restaurant is in the small village of Warragamba. The village was only constructed in 1940 as a worker’s settlement for construction of the dam. We had a quick look inside and it was getting busy. It seemed like they were expecting a few large pre-booked parties but they had one table free. From my first quick scan of the joint I knew we should take it.

Like Man vs Food!

Saturday nights and Sunday lunchtime Pietro’s has a set menu; $70 per person for a nine course meal. Some of those plates are not large but others would be enough on their own for many people. This was like that American TV show Man vs Food. Great! Fantastic! What more can I say?

The quantity was never in question. There was no way we were going to eat everything. When the final dish turned up – a 12 inch pizza! – I just had to ask if we could take it away with us. The quality was very high also. This was a great find and a return is definitely going to happen. Only next time I want to pre-book and intend to take more time and make the meal last a lot longer.

For the record we had:

Cold meat and cheese
Fillet steak
Arancini
Pasta dish with bolognaise sauce
Pork belly with a large plate of chips
Large Pizza
Salad
Meat with potatoes and peas
Calamari

One of the larger dishes of meat potatoes and peas
Not a great photo but these calamari were as tender as I have ever tried.

Before all that they even served up a plate of meatballs in Napoli sauce as an appetizer! A meal in itself for some! Absolutely amazing if your a food lover. Ultimately it was 10 dishes/plates/courses. It was all fantastic but the pork belly and calamari were particularly excellent. We ended up taking away a full pizza and half of the past and calamari dishes. That will be more than enough for an evening meal at home.

The untouched pizza
The complimentary meatballs – almost gone.

So as a soon as we can visit the dam I will book a table for this huge feast at Pietro’s. Maybe I should get into training. I can start by watching a few episodes of Man vs Food…

Here is a link to the restaurant: https://pietroitalianristorante.com.au/index.php

Floods in Australia

By now the rest of the planet is probably aware that there has been plenty of rain and floods in many areas of Australia. Particularly the east coast and more specifically New South Wales.

Not exactly a new thing…

A similar thing happened just over a year ago. It was a perfect opportunity for the opposition parties to have a go at the country’s Prime Minister. Blame him for the floods? Yes. There is no depths that these low life politicians will stoop to. They had already been blaming him for the dry period and more specifically for the many forest fires that had occurred – mainly before we arrived last year. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of the PM but pleeeeaaase!!!! As if any politician is in charge of the weather.!!! About this time last year he would have continued to get a load of shit for the rain but then that coronavirus showed up. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Apparently – from people I have spoken to – it is quite normal to get a couple of years of wet autumns following a particularly dry period. So this was to be expected (as far as I can tell).

Also, just like the whole country was not on fire just over a year ago, the whole of Australia is NOT under water now. Yes, there are thousands who have been evacuated from their homes (many as a precautionary measure) but the vast majority of them are living on flood plains. Yes. That’s right. It is as simple as that. There has been a shit load of rain and many houses have been flooded. Mainly on the banks of large rivers. So let’s not turn this into some end of world event. And definitely let’s not mention that “C” change word eh? Because that’s bollocks as well.

Meanwhile…

Today the sky was mostly clear and blue. The sun shone and the temperatures reached 30ºC. That’s 86ºF in old money (or American dollars – as the USA still works in Fahrenheit). Not bad for an autumn day. A huge change from the constant rain of the last seven days or more.

Plenty of people took to the beaches and the waves today in Sydney. You would think the sun hadn’t shone for a week. And in fact it hadn’t. It has rained continuously for a whole week. There has been talk of 50 year flood levels even 100 years. Who knows? But the reservoirs had to fill up some time. It is just not a regular occurrence like it is in, say, northern Europe.

Maroubra Beach at 5pm today. Anyone would think the sun hadn’t shone for a week.
Mahon rock pool, just north of Maroubra Beach

Bourke – Gateway to The Outback

There’s a saying that “The Outback” begins at Bourke. Rather at the Back o’ Bourke – the back of beyond – across the Darling river where you are officially said to be “out back”. Hence Outback.

Located some 800km northwest of Sydney, the first thing I learnt about Bourke was that I had been pronouncing it incorrectly. It is actually pronounced how you would say burk (or berk), which is British slang – calling someone a berk is to call them a stupid or silly person. I had been pronouncing it like “boar” with a “k” on the end.

The small town of Bourke (population about 2000) sits on the south banks of the famous Darling river, just west of its start. The Darling river winds its way through this part of Australia almost like a coil. So much so that it is about six times longer than the actual distance from its start to where it meet the Murray River way south of here. Check it out for yourself on Google maps or similar.

Old Bourke Wharf 

The old wharf could do with a bit of John Murray influenced painting I reckon. Especially the back walls. Under the wharf is out of sight, so there are signs of blatant vandalism. That said the wharf is historic. It was formerly the largest inland port in the world for exporting wool on the Darling River. The town would have been very busy in those days – from 1860 up to 1930.

Vandalism. Paint damage on the old wharf…
I wouldn’t even call it graffiti!
Once a very busy loading and unloading dock on the Darling River.

The Bourke court house is unique in inland Australia, in that it was originally a maritime court and to this day maintains that distinction.

Inland Bourke’s maritime Court House

More Buildings

Because so many people used to pass through here with the loading and unloading of the river boats it was normal that some would stop over. But now some of the hotels that once thrived are mostly empty. There are some quite grand designs too.

The Fabulous Art Deco Central Australian Hotel. Now sadly empty.

One of the saddest sights for me was the wonderful Central Australian Hotel. Still standing solidly like a forgotten temple of art deco architecture, this awesome building is now closed and empty. Such a waste! Apparently Bourke’s one and only Art Deco building. I hope somebody does something to restore and reopen this building.

Fitzgerald’s Post Office Hotel. Still used but hardly thriving.
Gidgee Guest House. Another seemingly under-used place

It’s all a bit sad in my opinion but it is hard to see where anything like a revival can come from. Tourism would seem the only industry likely to expand in these parts – and only then by a small amount.

The town centre does have a certain charm and there are several heritage listed sites including the old court house and post office.

Bourke Post Office – Built 1880
The lorries running through this part of the world are long and known as road trains.

Problem…

The problem we had here was that pretty much everything was closed. Not due to Covid-1984 – for once – but due to it not being the “visitor season”. Despite being the kids school summer holidays this period is normally just too bloody hot with temperatures reaching into the 40s. The main time for visitors – and when things like the river paddle steamer runs – is usually April to end of November. Add to that the fact that there had been a few big downpours of rain recently which meant that most of the outback unsealed roads were closed (see below).

Bloody typical. We came all this way and can’t do most of the things we had planned.

River Boats?

Despite there being enough recent rainfall to close most of the local dirt roads, the Darling was too low for the paddle boats. Again, we were out of season!

A river boat sits anchored north of the town.

North Bourke Bridge is Australia’s oldest movable span bridge and one of the most historic bridges in New South Wales. First opened in May 1883 it is the sole survivor of the first two lift bridges built in New South Wales.

North Bourke Bridge

Bourke’s Own Cola Drink!

Forget Atlanta, USA; the home of Coca-Cola. Forget Harrison, New York state, the home of Pepsi (OK, I admit, I had to look that one up). Bourke has its own cola. Splashe Cola! Now I am no expert as I generally do not like the stuff and hardly ever drink colas. But according to our new resident cola drinks expert – Dani – this Splashe Cola was fairly good.

Bourke’s very own Splashe Cola!

The company currently makes ten different beverages. The name of the company used to be Rice’s Cordials until 1998 when it became known as Back o’ Bourke Cordials. I prefer the new name…

Outback Roads…

Australia has around 570,000 km of unsealed roads. That’s about the same distance as to the moon and half way back! It is inevitable that you will end up driving on some of these roads. The condition of these roads varies from compacted dirt – which turns to rusty-red mud when it rains – to loose gravel. Sudden pot holes and large rocks come as extras – if you are unlucky.

A typical gravel road in these parts. Passable, despite recent rains.

Many are passable with two wheel drive vehicles but many are off limits without a 4×4 motor. Even with the four wheel drives when it rains the local council may try to close some of the dirt roads. This is exactly what happened when we were in the Bourke area.

The plan was to try and drive the unsealed route from Bourke to Wilcannia, following the Darling river. But the recent luck with unsealed road closures around Bourke forced a quick rethink. Plan ‘B’ was to head directly south to Cobar and then take the Barrier Highway to Wilcannia.

Not what we wanted to see. Most dirt roads closed due to the rain.

Down to One ‘Degree of Separation’… from Thor

Last year I wrote about one of Dani’s school assignments. You can read that post here.

Basically the kids were asked to write about a famous Australian and Dani chose Chris Hemsworth – aka Thor from the Marvel comics movies. I then wrote about how many ‘degrees of separation’ there are between Dani and Thor. There were two – or three – depending how you interpret that stuff.

Well now there is only one!

Dani’s Spanish grandmother knows Chris Hemsworth’s daughter’s Spanish grandfather. We knew that some time ago. But what are the odds that their grandchildren would end up being classmates? Now Dani knows Hemsworth’s daughter! Well actually the odds are a lot lower these days. Much lower than when we were living on the other side of the world in the northern hemisphere. 

Being in the same country helps. As does being in the same town or city. And it turns out that the Marvel Studios has relocated to Sydney for some years so most of the regular actors in their films have also relocated to the city. All that has definitely reduced the odds. 

Selfie? Yeah, it’s fine…

Dani is cool about it but it must be hard for kids of famous people. Especially when half of the boys in the school have sports bags or lunch-boxes with Marvel characters all over them – including Thor of course.

People have asked me if I have seen Thor at school pick up time. Well I haven’t and I doubt that famous people do that sort of thing. But if we do meet at the school gates and he wants to do a selfie with me, I suppose I will let him.

But I draw the line at signing T-shirts.

Film Review – Papillon (2017)

Not to be confused with the 1973 film version of Papillon starring Steve McQueen as the French convict Henri Charrière; this 2017 version totally passed me by when it first came out.

I recently spotted it on DVD in the local library – and given that the 1973 version is highly ranked in my top movies of all time – I thought, ‘OK I will give it a go’.

I seemed to recall putting something in a post about the original McQueen movie and so I watched this new version. And in fact I did mention both way back in this post (click here… ) when talking about classic great escape movies.

Papillon 2017

Unfortunately this movie, while quite good, was always going to be compared to the 1973 film. You just can’t help it. What did the film makers expect? Well, sure enough, on that basis, it was just not as good as the original.

It could have been better because the original movie was not without it’s flaws. The annoying Dustin Hoffman as Papillon’s fellow convict Louis Dega for one thing. But what does the new version go and do? It puts Rami Malek (aka Freddie Mercury) in the roll of Dega. Not nearly as annoying but certainly less convincing. He just doesn’t feel right in this roll.

The Plot and Lost Opportunity…

The 2017 film starts by trying to show us how Papillon lived – and let’s not forget,  stole – in the 1930s Paris crime scene. This was a divergence form the original movie but (for me) was the poorest part of the new film. The plot is then almost exactly the same once the prisoners leave for the French penal colony of French Guiana. Why wouldn’t it be? (you may well ask). Because it is all taken from the book of the same name, the autobiography by Henri Charrière; “Papillon” himself.

Well actually it isn’t. As is usually the case with films and books, the book is quite different. And often much better. (I also found the book in the same library. More on that one in a book review to come…) In the real story the character of Dega is not a constant presence. I understand that casting Dustin Hoffman in the roll in 1973 meant that he was going to have plenty of script. But the new version did not need to do that. It could have introduced new characters and phased Dega out of the picture. More true to the book.

In short the book is way too long and drawn out to be made in to a two hour (or so) movie. But herein lies the problem with the remake. It makes no attempt to use different sections of the book. It still ends at the same point when Papillon escapes Devil’s Island. Papillon made himself a lovely sack of coconuts (so to speak) for that escape, but that was by no means the end of his tale. I was hoping that the new version would go into some detail of the events that followed the jumping into the sea clutching his ‘bunch of coconuts’. But it didn’t.

The only difference is the 2017 film then jumps to the late 1960s when Charrière flies back to France to hand over his handwritten manuscript for publication. And that’s it! What about the (best part of) 30 years in between?

Critique (in as much as I can be bothered)

Papillon is played by English actor Charlie Hunnam who is not a bad actor, but he is also not Steve McQueen. And again, it is impossible not to compare the two. The film sets and general acting are fine but the overall this 2017 movie was a missed opportunity.

One fine example is the second (and longer) term Papillon spends in solitary confinement. Who can forget the state of Steve McQueen in the 1973 film when he had served that punishment? But that was not what happened. The real story (in the book) of how he came to get out of his second spell in solitary actually makes for far more interesting cinema.

All that said, I would expect newcomers to this story to enjoy the 2017 version. The real life based tale is a compelling one after all. But I would urge them to watch the original film also.

The best thing that came out of this remake was that it inspired me to finally get around to reading the book. I will give this 2017 movie 2 stars (out of 5). But my tip to anyone who has watched the McQueen version of this movie is to just read the book instead.
In fact, everyone should read it.

Gunnedah to Bourke

There are several routes you can take from Gunnedah to Bourke. We took the quickest and most obvious one but it was still an interesting journey.

Narrabri

First place we passed was Narrabri. A town of around 6000 people and some interesting old buildings.

Is that an Art Deco McDonalds?

Pub in Narrabri

Narrabri Old Gaol and Museum

We were fortunate enough to catch an old second hand book shop before it closed down. They were giving books away for free – but really asking for any donation. So we paid a small amount and left with a handful of books each.

Australian Telescope…

Just over 20km west of Narrabri is a place of astronomical importance to Australia. This is the home of the Australian Telescope Compact Array (or ATCA for short). This is called the Paul Wild Observatory. It is an array of six antennas, each 22 metres in diameter, used for radio astronomy.

Like all telescopes the rule of thumb is the bigger the telescope the better the range and signal. For radio telescopes, the larger the dish the more detail can be seen (or heard). But having a dish of (say) 100m in diameter is not practical. So, these dishes are connected as if all small parts of a much bigger dish. This compact array mimics a dish of 6km in diameter. The five dishes at this site are mobile while the sixth dish is fixed and located 5km away. The five mobile dishes move on railway track that is 9.6m wide and 3km in length.

The original array can still be seen on the drive into this observatory. Almost hidden by the trees, rusting and only the frame structures remaining.

Remains of dishes from the old telescopic array

We then made our way over to Walgett to pick up the B76 road to Bourke. That road took us through the town of Brewarrina.

Brewarrina

The town of Brewarrina has a small population of not much more than 1000 inhabitants. As soon as we drove into the place I noticed some familiar artwork in the form of murals.

Several examples of John Murray’s artwork can be seen around the town

Back in 2019 the Brewarrina Shire Council came up with an art project initiative to add a splash of colour to the town and improve the community’s mental health. The resulting artwork and indigenous culture has brightened up the town and (according to what I have read) the people who live there.

Local children were asked for their input about local culture, indigenous stories and what Brewarrina meant to them. This information was used as a brief for artists John Murray and Jenny McCracken. John Murray we already knew from Lightning Ridge and Dani recognised his artwork immediately.  Jenny McCracken of course painted the water towers in Gunnedah – see previous post – and is (I discovered) an internationally renowned  mural artist and Australia’s most highly-awarded pavement artists.

Both Murray and McCracken are non-indigenous so they painted in their own style. The local children then added the finishing touches with traditional dreamtime painting. The results are colourful murals on what were once drab grey or beige walls.

Even the public toilets got a fresh new look

Brewarrina Traditional Fish Traps

Brewarrina sits on the Barwon river and there is an excellent example of ancient Aboriginal fishing traps. The traditional fish traps at Brewarrina are made up of almost a half a kilometre long complex of dry-stone walls and holding ponds on the river. These fish traps are the largest group recorded in Australia and are cleverly arranged to allow fish to be herded and caught during both high and low river flows.

The Brewarrina fish traps

Aboriginal fishing traps on the Barwon river

The Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps is historically and culturally a very important place. It was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register in August 2000 and added to the Australian National Heritage List in June 2005.

Sadly Brewarrina, like many other small towns we would see on this trip, is somewhat in decline. The main industry of sheep farming was set up by using boats on the Darling Murray river network back in the late 1800s. The railway line that followed in 1901 was closed in 1974. While farming still exists there are far fewer people passing through the town than in the days of the paddle boats and railways.

One thing I note of when reading about Brewarrina was it was the home of the first Indigenous published author – one Jimmie Barker. I must look out for his bookThe two worlds of Jimmie Barker : the life of an Australian Aboriginal, 1900-1972 – as I think that is just the kind of book I will find interesting.

Brewarrina Hotel. Classic example of a hotel in small town Australia

We only planned on passing through Brewarrina on this trip as we would stay a few nights at Bourke. If I passed this way again I would stay in Brewarrina and see more of the area.

Next stop Bourke; the so called ‘gateway to the outback’.

Heading for the Outback – via Gunnedah

Flashback to January 2nd. Day one of our big road-trip and a long drive from Sydney to Gunnedah. A distance of 450km taking about 5 hours. We started early which seemed to make leaving Sydney fairly easy. But it did rain most of the way.

The route took us north close to Newcastle, then inland along the “New England” highway, passing places called Aberdeen and Scone; all still in New South Wales.

Scone

Other places we passed through include Willow Tree, Muswellbrook and Curlewis. None of which I had ever heard of. We stopped in Scone, named after the Scottish town, for breakfast. Scone is a farming area but it is also famous for breeding thoroughbred race horses. It is known as the ‘Horse capital of Australia’ and there are plenty of stud farms to prove it.

Scone Anglican Church

It turned out that there was no place open serving food. We ended up using the McDonald’s on the edge of town. Most of the small towns we passed through had a McDonalds. Not something I think of as being good for a rural town, but it is the way things are going.

Scone is a pleasant enough little place and could be worth a proper visit for one of the horse racing festivals. One building that stood out for me was the old art deco cinema on the main high street. This beautiful building was being restored. This was taken over two months ago and I have rea that the elegant art deco façade has since been revealed in all its former glory. Another return visit must do…

The Civic cinema in Scone – being renovated

Coal

I knew the area north and west of Newcastle was a big coal mining region. There are several signs of mining and coal fired power stations along the route. I did not know that Gunnedah was so dependent on the coal industry.

Tribute to the coal town’s miners

Gunnedah from one of the area’s lookouts

Farmland as far as the eye can see. But also coal!

Gunnedah is a thriving, smart and clean little town. The wealth generated by the coal industry obviously helps. However, there are many ‘greens’ in Australia who would shut the industry down without a second thought. I won’t print what I think of those types here but maybe you can guess.

Gunnedah Town Hall

Sculptures in a town park

We saw several long coal trains along the way and many small towns have a rail link. If the coal industry is closed down there is no way the passenger trains could pay for the upkeep of the railways in this part of the world. The coal industry is very profitable in Australia. I see no reason to stop it.

Why have I never seen one of these before?

A small kids park near the town centre had an unusual but clever swing. It incorporated one of those baby swings with a normal (adult) swing. The parent can sit facing the baby/toddler while both move together. What a great idea! Why has nobody thought of that before? Maybe they have been around for while, but I had never seen one.

What a great idea.

Koalas and Art in Gunnedah

Gunnedah is also famous for being a centre for koala spotting. We tried al the main spots around the edge of town but had no luck. We did see a fair few of the ubiquitous kangaroos however.

Vietnam war artwork is not something you see very often, but Gunnedah has some. The artist Jenny McCracken painted an old water tower  – after it was converted to a museum – with commemorative murals to those who fought in that war. This has become part of a growing interest in this part of the world – known as the Australian Silo Art Trail.

Another fine example of silo art is the painting of Dorothea Mackellar and an extract from her famous poem “My Country”. This has been immortalized on this 29 metre high, privately owned maize mill in the town. Silo artist (yes that is a real thing now!) Heesco completed the artwork. More on Heesco to come…

Dorothea is famous for writing one of Australia’s most iconic poems, “My Country”. Here is the famous second verse:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
Who says this old dad is uncultured eh?

On to the Outback

By 9pm I was ready for bed. There was another long drive the following morning; some 550km to Bourke, the start of the real outback.

OK, this all happened two months ago and I need to catch up – quickly! So over the next couple of weeks I will add posts for the rest of the outback adventure. I need to hurry. In three week’s time Dani will be on school holidays again and we will be off again…

Orange – Major Fruit Growing Town (but not oranges)

On the way back from our trip to Lightning Ridge we stopped for a night in Orange. As the name suggests this area is a big fruit growing area. Apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums, but oddly not oranges! The reason is simple. The climate is too cool for growing oranges. As the town sits at about 860 metres above sea level it can have regular frost during the winter. Despite that the area is becoming an increasingly popular place for vineyards and hence wine-making.

The main industry is agriculture but there is also a large gold mine about 20km from the city. Cadia is the second largest open-cut mine in Australia, behind the the so called ‘Super Pit’ at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The area around Orange experienced a gold rush during the mid-1800s.

We had passed through Orange on the Outback Xplorer train to Broken Hill several months earlier. But the train route passes the edge of town so you never really see anything. This short visit we had a good old look around the town.

First Impressions

My immediate impression once we started walking around the town centre was that Orange is a thriving place. For example, there did not seem to be any empty shops.

That particular observation changed in an instant after a car sped round a corner where we were waiting to cross, mounted the opposite curb (the one we were heading to) and crashed through an empty shop window. One way to notice an empty shop I suppose. The driver was clearly stunned but OK. He must have just lost control or forgotten where the brakes were? Dani thought it was exciting. I should have taken some photos but it really took us by surprise. Amazingly the car missed the people opposite us waiting to cross. It could have been a lot worse.

This eatery helped foster the Ned Kelly fascination

One of the ‘historical’ buildings on the self guided waking tour

The shop front boarded up following the crash

Apart from that one place of business however, I really didn’t notice any empty shop fronts. All that after the crazy year 2020 everyone has been through. Not bad I thought…

The town has plenty of historic looking buildings and we followed the heritage trail map we picked up at the tourist information. Here are some of them…

Courthouse

I can’t remember what they were or what they were famous for but the walk was pleasant enough. It also took us into Cook Park where there were various non-native trees including some giants.

One of several Giant Sequoias

Cook Park, Orange

Inside the park

A typical leafy street in Orange

Bandstand in Cook Park

Leafy street scene near Cook Park

Pubs. Lots of them!

Another thing I liked about Orange was the number of pubs it had in a relatively small area. Probably the highest density of pubs I have seen so far in Australia. Here are a few photos of some of those watering holes…

The Blind Pig. A gin bar and place to get blind drunk…

Royal Hotel at night

Great Western Hotel opposite the station

Only in Australia?

The Parkview Hotel

Royal Hotel. Another Art Deco pub

The Gladstone pub. Nothing fancy on the outside…

Hotel Canobolas from the cenotaph in Robertson Park

In Australia many of the “pubs” are also “hotels” of course. (Don’t ask me why but I do need to get to the bottom of that one.) So they also serve decent food. There are also a relatively large number of restaurants in the town centre. So it’s a great place to visit just to relax for a weekend of eating and drinking .And that’s before you try the area’s wine cellars.

Museum

Not the best museum I have seen I will admit. But there was an interesting exhibition of propaganda through the world wars. here are some of them.

Dani watching a war-time propaganda film

Model Railway

Matthew Park just one block off the tow centre had the best small gauge rideable model railway set up I have ever seen. But it was closed. You guessed it. Bloody Covid crap again! Anyway this model railway had multiple shunting lines, several routes, two bridge crossings and a “station”. Check it out below…

Dani’s feet put the scale into perspective.

With several routes this model railway is the best I have seen.

Bridge crossing

Entering the mock station

We never saw any of the fruit growing, wineries or gold mining (old or new) on this visit – just the town. But I think it’s fair to say that we liked Orange. Another visit, with a proper plan to explore the surrounding areas, is already in my mind.