We have now been in Australia for two years. Wow! Two years! Where did that time go? Well I am going to tell you… But of course you can guess as you will almost certainly have been through the same…
Believe it or not…
Today marks the two year anniversary of our first full day here. Almost all of that time has been under the bullshit covid – formerly known as coronavirus – regime. Yes the whole two years. They hadn’t started closing pubs and shops etc but they had just announced the first cases of “coronavirus” in New South Wales. I had forgotten that it had already effectively started when we arrived but fortunately I did write a post two years ago when all this was bubbling away on the news. See that post here.
Also they were talking about delaying the kids’ start of school year two year ago. I blogged about that one too, in this post – here. They didn’t delay that school start but then they closed schools for somewhere between two and three terms over the past year. That’s almost a school year! Daniel started school almost two years ago and on Thursday goes back to begin his third school year in Australia. Again they have been talking about delaying the school start. I think in Queensland (or maybe some other state – really don’t care any more and am not following the “news”) they are actually doing just that. Stupid wankers!
Meanwhile Dani is grounded for the final two days of his school holidays. Such is life eh…
One State Only
As for travelling we had hoped to visit my cousin and his family in New Zealand; that land down underer – to quote that classic comedy series The Flight of The Conchords. But we have not even been able to leave the state of New South Wales within Australia let alone travel outside for almost all of the two years. And anyway New Zealand is even more mental than Australia when it comes to covid. No sooner do they announce an easing of travel restrictions than NZ close their borders again. Totally nuts!
We have managed to see plenty of great places in NSW however and of course there really are plenty more to see. In some cases we have made return visits to our favourite spots. So it has not all been lockdown and gloom. In fact far from it. I have to look on the positive side. The first “lockdown” was more of a mock-down. Many shops stayed open and it only lasted a short while before the pubs reopened etc… Of course we should all be realising why that was now.
Then last winter they really went for it. Of course that was to force – I mean persuade – people to get vaccinated for something that was barely a threat. Anyway now they are after the kids so what the hell this our third year here will be like is anybody’s guess…. We shall see. But it seems no different back “home”…
Tomorrow is Australia Day. Can I be bothered? Probably not. The whole thing just seems like a chore for Australians so why should I bother? There is something so false about tomorrow’s “celebrations” that just pisses me off. It is so hard to put into words. I heard the authorities have cancelled the parade in Melbourne, but I think things are still going ahead here in Sydney. Maybe I will find an ‘Invasion Day’ protest and see what goes on there… Probably neither. Not exactly a party spirit for celebrating our 2nd anniversary here is it? I know.
Again, looking on the bright side (or trying to), Dani enjoys school and has made a fair few friends so we just all need to get everything in perspective and keep on carrying on….
On that note, I have a post to write about a 50 year anniversary of one of my all time favourite albums. If I don’t do that today I may spend part of tomorrow (Australia Day) writing it.
I first wrote this post back in August, during the middle of the most unnecessary over-reaction in the history of Australia – the pointless lockdown. I wasn’t sure when I should post it but now seems a good time. That lockdown was all about getting people vaccinated. And the intention was to “roll out the vaccine” (yes they still use such salesman-like phrases) to the youngest ones among us. Last week (10th January) the Australian national and state governments began vaccinating kids as young as FIVE !! Yet the media frenzy was all about a n unvaccinated tennis player entering the country. You could almost smell the subterfuge. Something is wrong in the land down under.
Why on Earth…?
Read the title again. Read it out loud. CHILDREN DO NO NEED THE VACCINE!
Why are our governments pushing to give the covid vaccine to children? It’s a fair question to ask. What do you think the answer would be if you managed to get face to face with one of these “leaders”?
They cannot say that it is to protect them from the virus. Because children are not dying from the disease. That is one of the few well known facts about this odd virus. There are any number of reasons why that may be the case, but it remains one of the few things that we all know to be true. And we have known it right from the start of this so called “pandemic”.
My advice would generally be to avoid the news. But of course I realise that is not the case with most people. So here is a bit of advice you can easily follow…
The next time you see, hear or read anything in the media about vaccinating children (or even young adults) just listen to the way the conversation is directed. You will (and I can guarantee this at least 99.9% of the time) hear the media person or the “medical expert” turn the conversation around to vaccine safety. They will talk about how rare blood clots are. They will tell you that children have even less chance of dying from these vaccines. It’s all about the safety of the vaccine. NOT the fact that children do not even need the bloody thing. If you are still paying any attention to the news these days please try it.
Why is this?
So, why are they spinning the debate into a vaccine safety thing? Well first of all if they get into the real conversation that they should be having then whole argument about vaccinating children just goes away. Vanishes. Vamoosh! Gone! Because (as I stated above) all data and everything we know since the discovery of this virus tells us that it does not kill kids. Plain and simple.
However, the vaccine safety argument is one they can have because it is one they can win. Or at the very least throw out convincing arguments. I am vey sceptical about this whole thing but even I will agree that there is an incredibly small chance of having a serious side effect and even less of dying from these vaccines. But that is not the point!
That is not to say that I or anyone else should not worry about the longer term effects. In these early days such long term effects are unknown. It’s really that simple. They could turn out to be nothing or they could be really terrible. We will know in a few years I suppose. Fingers crossed eh…
A little perspective…
But the initial vaccine safety thing? That is an argument that I will not get involved in. Quite simply, because I don’t need to. And that is because there is absolutely no need for children to have the vaccine. If you want to get into statistics and figures, then the chance of covid killing your kids is less likely than any number of things you allow them to do every day. If you do allow your 5-11 year old children to be vaccinated then please -I beg you – do not let them:
go out on their bikes,
go near plants where bees may sting them, (around 12 a year die from bee stings!)
go surfing (more killed by sharks in Australia in past year than kids killed by covid)
cross a road
put anything in their mouth – including food!! (choking causes 11% of child deaths under 8 years of age)
But don’t worry… Really
OK, I know that all this may seem melodramatic but it is just a list of some of the things that are statistically far more likely to kill a child than this virus. Don’t worry about any of them though. In fact just don’t worry. Life has always been full of risks. The only problem is when you start worrying about them.
What did that U.S. president once say in the 1930s? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (That may not be 100% accurate but it was something like that.) Whatever else Franklin D. Roosevelt may (or may not) have done, that saying is as true today as it was (or may have been) then.
Even more importantly, do not worry the children. Tell them that the virus is not dangerous for them. Above all, do not allow them to be frightened by media nonsense which is all just pressure to push more vaccinations.
Here’s hoping that enough parents can see that their young kids do not need these vaccines.
The town of Parkes lies 355 km to the west of Sydney but just under 100 km from Orange. Dani and myself passed through Parkes on the train to Broken Hill just over a year ago. But you see absolutely nothing on the train as the line sits on one side of the town. It wasn’t until months later that I actually bothered reading up on Parkes and found out what it is most famous for…
The Elvis Festival
It all started in 1992 at the Gracelands Hotel when the owners (Elvis fans) decided to host an Elvis Presley themed dinner night at the hotel. Over that dinner things were discussed that turned it into an annual event which grew and grew over the years. It eventually became a huge event taking over the whole town and is now a big tourism boost for Parkes.
The festival is held on the second week of January to coincide with the “King’s” birthday (January 8th). Although this year (as well as last) the festival did not take place due to bloody covid restrictions (Grrrr.…). At least this year it has been rescheduled for April. All the hotels are already fully booked with long waiting lists if anyone drops out. I know because I checked….
Various examples of Elvis inspired artwork decorate the town, sometimes where you least expect it. Not that many but just enough…
Even one of those rhino statues – made and distributed to gain support for the Taronga zoo save the rhinos thing – has been given an Elvis suit.
There are quite a few pubs in Parkes which will obviously go down well during the Elvis festival as they host various Elvis based shows and concerts. Here are some examples…
It’s down an the end of Lonely Street (or so I thought)…
With a motel named Gracelands, I expected there to be another hotel name in the town. I asked someone in a pub if there was a Heartbreak Hotel. My question was wasted. She looked at me as if I had just grown a second head. Clearly not knowing what Heartbreak Hotel meant (relating to Elvis). Over in Memphis, the King of Rock & Roll turned slightly in his grave. Well, I guess not everyone in the town has to be an Elvis fan.
It’s amazing what a good welder can create with some lumps of scrap metal. Especially if the welder is inspired by Elvis….
Like so many towns in this part of the world Parkes sprouted up as a gold mining town only to become a farming area once the easily accessibe gold ran out.
Of course the town is named after another famous person, Henry Parkes. Sir Henry Parkes to give him his full title – but I can’t really bring myself to use that word since a certain Tony Blair recently received the same “honour”. Sorry Henry mate!
Unlike Blair, Parkes was a great statesman (as far as we know) and after his first visit to the town (then called Bushmans) in 1873, he secured a new hospital, roads and telegraph lines for the people of the town and they duly renamed it Parkes.
He may not be as well known globally as the ‘King of Rock n Roll’ but he too has a statue erected in his honour in the centre of town… A fitting tribute to the 5 times NSW Premier.
Parkes is also a famous astronomical location. Just north of the town sits this large radio telescope operated by CSIRO. With a diameter of 64 metres, it is one of the largest single-dish telescopes in the southern hemisphere. It has been operational since 1961 but has had several upgrades over the years. It is now said to be 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first built. Wow! That’s what I call ‘upgrades’.
Just like the Outback Explorer train route, Parkes was my launch point into the outback. From here it was north to Bourke via Nyngan – plus a few small towns on the way…
This is a brief but incredible story of an industrial complex and the town that grew up around it. The town is called Newnes and it became a genuine “ghost town”
Most of the famous “ghost towns” like Silverton (in the far west of NSW) or Hill End (north of Bathurst), were never fully abandoned. Also these places retained a full time population that deals with the tourists that pass through – more so now than ever, perhaps.
Whereas places like Silverton now exist almost as tourist resorts, Newnes is totally different. And yet it is far more accessible than remote outback town like Silverton. It lies only 3 hours from Australia’s biggest city and less than an hour from the (relatively) large town of Lithgow on the western side of the Blue Mountains.
The story starts here, at the entrance to the enormous Wolgan valley.
The Wolgan valley is huge. Inside the wide valley are homes, farms and there is even an exclusive $3000+ holiday resort. By the time you follow the Wolgan river to the site of Newnes the sheer valley walls close in to form a narrow gorge.
A low key yet impressive entrance to the property, the resort is still some way off. This is the road access but it is more likely that visitors to this expensive resort fly in by helicopter.
Oil-shale was found in the Wolgan Valley in the 1860s and by the turn of the century several individuals and companies had started work (of sorts) on the main Wolgan deposit. There was actually more activity in the Capertee Valley, north of the Wolgan. However, there was nothing on a major scale until the Commonwealth Oil Corporation (COC), Ltd. started work in 1906.
Mines were established (one each side of the Wolgan river) but it was soon discovered that quality and quantity of shale was not that good and the first mine was soon abandoned.
Construction of the main works site was started in 1906. This included the construction of shale oil retorts, various distillation areas, oil storage tanks and washers, plant for the refining of the various finished products, a power station, workshops, etc., These were extensive works and were well built as can be seen by the extensive ruins that stand to this day. It took up to 1911 for the initial stages to be completed and the retorts charged for the first time.
Meanwhile the 50km railway line that linked the works with the main western line (near Lithgow) took only around one year to complete. Despite many problems that was an incredible achievement. It would take at least 12 months just to get the planning approved today – without laying a single length of track!!!
The town (named after Sir George Newnes, the chairman of the C.O.C.) was also built to house the workers and their families. The town grew to a population of 1,600. The company built a brickworks adjacent to the refinery area where most of the “common” bricks used for the plant construction were made. The company also started a coal mine to provide coal for use within the plant. This coal was found to be a good coking coal, so coke ovens were built and a spin-off business in metallurgical coke was established.
The C.O.C. had bought out its only opposition in the area; the New South Wales Shale and Oil Co., Ltd. The purchase price of this going concern was only £50,000 and this should have sent warning signals to the C.O.C. considering the much larger amounts that they were already spending on their as yet untried properties at Newnes.
By late 1911, after spending some £1.6 million, the company was experiencing trouble with their Pumpherston retorts, (a Scottish retort). Expensive modifications were needed to fix the problem, but attempts to raise the money failed. The C.O.C. went into receivership and, with industrial unrest making things even worse work at Newnes stopped in February 1912.
During 1914, the C.O.C. entered into a joint venture with John Fell & Co., Ltd., a company with years of experience in oil and Australian oil-shales. The retorts were modified and operations resumed. Fell avoided new developments at Newnes, concentrating on using and improving what was already available. The coal mine was reopened in 1916, but the coke ovens remained idle.
By 1922, costs forced Fell to close the oil-shale mines. In 1923, he started processing imported oils at the Newnes plant, but needed coal to work the power station and some of the plant. The mining unions had “blacked” the works until oil shale mining resumed. Work restrictions had limited the supply of oil-shale from the mine to a point that made operating the refinery uneconomic. Fell had no option but to abandon Newnes. Changing technologies and the increasing demand for fuel for cars had also made the Newnes plant obsolete.
By the late 1920s, the mining leases at Newnes were held by a bloke called Mr. A.E. Broue. The “Shale Oil Investigations Pty. Ltd.” company was formed and acquired the rights to the oil-shale works. However, it soon became apparent that the new company was mainly interested in “investigations”, rather than actual production. So, Broue decided to go it alone. Unfortunately, Broue had no capital and soon got into financial trouble after only a short period of mining.
This was now the Great Depression and pressure was mounting on the Commonwealth Government of the day to do something about unemployment. It was decided to use £43,000 to reopen Newnes. Work began in mid-1931 using the No.2 mine and the workable sections of the oil refinery. Production was mainly gas oil but motor car fuels and kerosene were also extracted and sold.
Following a change in government, emphasis again shifted away from production back to “investigation”. Work ceased at Newnes in March 1932.
In 1934 a body called the ‘Newnes Investigation Committee’ recommended the abandonment of Newnes and the establishment of new mines, works and town in the Capertee Valley. Rather than use some of the Newnes works and the railway, it was decided to instead build a pipeline to transport the finished oil In 1938 work commenced on these plans and the new industrial complex was born in the Carertee valley. That place was called Glen Davis.
With the decision to establish Glen Davis, most of those people who still lived at Newnes finally left. Many parts of the Newnes works were recovered and shipped to Glen Davis for re-use. The Newnes railway was pulled up and a petrol pipeline laid in its place. In 1946, what was left of the works was sold for scrap. Most of the privately owned buildings had been removed by their owners, while the old company buildings were readily sold due to the short supply of building materials during and after World War II. Recovery of material continued into the 1950s, while a few buildings still stood until the early 1960s.
Industrial Folly? Or Bad Luck?
Was it just a huge con? Did the owners pay for the building of the site or was that all financed by the banks? Will we ever know? I do not claim to know. But the company involved was a successful business and there was coal and shale to be mined. There was definitely oil based products to be extracted from that shale.
Over the years, some of the owners clearly seemed naive at times. Also union actions and political upheaval were a big part of life leading up to the Great Depression. Despite all of that there is something special about places like Newnes. To me these places are the epitome of pioneer spirit. It never ceases to amaze me what can be built in such a relatively short time and in such remote locations. Whatever their faults the people who saw and seized these opportunities deserve more credit than they receive. The ability to just get things built just over 100 years ago puts most modern day projects to shame.
The old Newnes Hotel is the last surviving building at Newnes belonging to the mining period. During the 1940s, the Newnes Hotel continued to operate with some of its trade coming from weekend visitors from the ‘new town’ of Glen Davis who hiked over the valley. By the late 1950s, increased car ownership and better roads led to more visitors coming to Newnes. Thanks to the quaint old Newnes Hotel the area became a popular camping spot.
Unfortunately the hotel original location was on the bank of the Wolgan River. In 1986 during a large flood, the river changed course and damaged the hotel structure. The building was moved by volunteers in 1987, but it sold its last beer in October 1988. Today it is being renovated and restored to its original condition including being transformed (in part) into a museum.
Next to the Hotel are a group of cabins so tourists can stay on the site of the old town. Closer to the industrial complex there are a couple of basic campgrounds. Peace and quiet guaranteed. Even in this real ghost town.
The closure of the refinery and processing works was followed by the imminent death of the town of Newnes. Yet amazingly a similar industrial activity started up in the adjacent valley to the north. That site – called Glen Davis – will be covered in a future post.
Taree is a decent sized town that sits on the Manning river about 320 kms north of Sydney and about 17 kms from the coast. The town grew mainly from farming and now has a population of over 26,000. The town centre has plenty of shops and businesses but it is not the prettiest town that’s for sure. In fact if they ever write one of those “Crap Towns” books about Australia then Taree may well make an appearance. (Maybe there is a such a book. Does anyone know if there is such a book?)
The Big Oyster
One thing that Taree is (kind of) famous for is having one of those “Big” things that seem so popular in Australia. I have posted about these in the past. It is a strange piece of Australiana where even the most bizarre “big” things have become tourist attractions in their own right. The Big Oyster is one of about 150 sculptures and large structures sprinkled across Australia. It is actually marked on Google Maps, yet it seems to be completely pointless and out of place. As well as being more than a little ugly. But there is a reason for it and sadly, for the town of Taree, it is something not many are aware of.
The huge fibreglass model was built in 1990 to honour the booming oyster industry in the town. Over 3 million of oysters are taken out of the Manning river each year and it is still a thriving industry. It was first opened as a restaurant and themed gift shop, and the public could enter inside it to take in the views from the teeth-like windows. But when that business closed a car dealership took it over and the inside of the “oyster” is now closed to the public.
The Big Oyster is that it was built by the same people who built the Big Merino and the Big Prawn but is hardly as well known as those two well photographed beasts.
There are plenty of shops and a couple of old fashioned hotels (pubs) worth checking out. The riverside setting is not too bad either.
It is unlikely Taree will be on anyone’s road trip list but like so many places there is always something to have a look at. Maybe knowing about the oyster farming would encourage more people to see the Big Oyster and spend a little time in the town.