One Year In Australia

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of our arrival in Australia. Hardly a great year for most people around the globe was it? Yet on reflection I think we have managed to see and do as much as possible. All in New South Wales though, not the rest of the country. That still gives us plenty of scope though.

Bathurst and Surrounds

Right now we are staying in the town of Bathurst where we will be for Australia Day (26th Jan.). There will be blog posts to come about this place and the surrounding area as well as catching up on the other adventures we have had during Dani’s long school summer holiday. Then of course there is his return to school coming up at the end of the week.

A Year of Lockdowns etc…

In Australia we certainly seem to have escaped the worst of the dreaded “lockdowns” and other virus related nonsense (unless you were in Melbourne). .There is still plenty I don’t agree with in the handling of all that but in New South Wales I think we have been lucky (if that is the correct word to use?). That said, I am still not a fan of Sydney and would much prefer to live outside of the city.

Whichever way I look at it though, that year definitely went bloody quick

Who Were The Banana Splits?

I was reading an old blog post the other day that mentioned The Banana Splits. I have been meaning to write about the characters in those whacky shows ever since, so here goes…

The Show

The Banana Splits Show ran from 1968 to 1970 but was repeated countless times on TV stations around the world. Especially through the 1970s. The show was a Hanna-Barbera production but instead of their usual cartoons it featured live scenes with actors in funny animal costumes playing in a fictional rock band called The Banana Splits. The show centred around the Splits’ clubhouse and was interspersed with a mix of cartoons and live action series. The Banana Splits band were; Fleagle (Guitar and singer), Bingo (drums), Drooper (bass guitar) and Snorky (keyboards). They played a type of bubble-gum rock as well as the instantly recognisable theme tune. The show was fast paced, slapstick with some decent tunes. It was exactly as it sounds – Completely Nuts!

The Banana Splits was a landmark moment in children’s TV; the show was the start of a whole new genre of youth TV and helped shape an entire generation. The first generation of TV kids. My generation in fact!

The Cast

The show’s catchy theme tune (the Tra-La-La song) was written by Nelson Winkless. He managed to get his sons to play three of the Banana Splits characters although their names were changed for the credits to avoid any suggestions of nepotism. Here is a rundown of the people who played the costumed characters and those who did the voices.

Fleagle (the dog) was played by Jeffery Winkless (credited as Jeffery Brock) and voiced by Paul Winchell. Winkless died in 2006 of a brain tumour aged 65 while Winchell died a year earlier of natural causes aged 82. Winchell voiced many Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters including Dick Dastardly. He also was the voice of Tigger the tiger in the Winnie the Pooh movies.

Bingo (the gorilla) was played by Jeffery’s brother Terence (credited as Terence Henry) and voiced by Charles Dawson Butler. Terence Winkless is still alive, but Charles Dawson died in 1988 of a heart attack aged 71. He was also the voice of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry hound and Elroy Jetson among many others.

Drooper (the lion) was played by the third Winkless brother Daniel (billed as Daniel Owen). The voice of Drooper was Allan Melvin who played Sergeant Bilko’s sidekick Corporal Steve Henshaw in ‘Sgt. Bilko’ (aka The Phil Silvers Show) that ran for 5 years and 143 episodes between 1955-1959. ‘Bilko’ remains one of the most well known and loved TV shows of all time – and still very funny, over 60 years later. Melvin also voiced many Hanna-Barbara cartoon characters. He was also the voice of The Banana Splits show’s unseen announcer. He died in 2008 from cancer aged 84.

Snork/Snorky (the elephant) had a slightly more chequered career. He was initially suited by James Dove but only in the first season’s song segments. He was replaced by Robert Towers for most of the other parts of the shows. It is not clear why, but a third actor (Jay Larremore) is also credited with playing Snorky. I read some time ago that one of the actors playing Snorky was doing so much cocaine that they called him Snorty – but I think that was just a rumour. But who knows? The way they all ran around the stage they could have all been on it!

Snorky of course had no voice as he only honked. Apparently James Dove, the original Snorky, was previously a voice-over artist. He also once stated that he was fired as a result of not being able to get along with the Winkless “kids”.

Unfortunately for the actors anyone could wear those furry suits. When the show did nationwide tours they ended up hiring locals to fill the suits, hence saving on expenses. One of the Winkless brothers (Terence) later starred in a few films and later produced and directed. Robert Towers went on to play an alien of sorts in a Star Trek spin-off. Other than that the acting careers of the furry suit wearers never really took off.

Well that was the suits and the voices. what about the actual band who played the instruments and sang the songs? Nobody seems to know. It’s all a bit of  mystery.

Music and Buggies

‘Over Hill and Highway the Banana Buggies Go…’

Apart from the catchy Banana Splits (Tra-La-La) title song the show featured the Splits playing various tracks in keeping with the music of the time. The songs were written by well known or soon to be known artists.

Songwriter and musician Al Kooper who was in the band Blood Sweat & Tears and later played with and produced Lynyrd Skynyrd also wrote a song for the show. This track, “You’re the Lovin’ End”, is one of Kooper’s creations:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjiaafdbL1E

You can find another groovy tune, “I’m Gonna Find a Cave”, here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cfHKmQ2ZzI

One of the shows featured the funky “Doin’ the Banana Split”. It was written by the upcoming soul icon Barry White.

The Splits darted around in their cool Banana Buggies, (mentioned in the title song) and there wasn’t a single kid in the world who didn’t want one of those Banana Buggies. They were modified versions of the amphibious six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle known as the Amphicat. The Amphicat also appeared as a ‘moon buggy’ on the cult sci-fi series Space: 1999.

I can still remember watching the live action sequences that were filmed in the amusement parks at Six Flags Over Texas (in Arlington, Texas) and Coney Island (in Cincinnati, Ohio). They looked great to me when I was only 7 or 8 years old. I so wanted to visit those parks.

Years Later…

There was a cartoon version years later and in 2008 the show was introduced to a new audience in the original costumed format. But only for a few shows on the Cartoon Network. Nothing ever got near the popularity of the original series however and few if any shows have ever had the same impact.

For some inexplicable reason the Banana Splits were revived in 2019 through a feature-length comedy/horror film. It is called The Banana Splits Movie (no real thought gone into that one eh?), rated MA15+, and is definitely not aimed at the same audience as the original TV show. Our four heroes are turned into animatronic robot killers. I have absolutely no idea why they decided to make the Banana Splits into a gory slasher body count movie. But I intend to find out and will post a movie review, as and when I get to watch it.

Ned Kelly Fascination

My son has recently taken an interest in one of Australia’s most famous (or should that be infamous?) historical characters. Ned Kelly.

He spent a lot of time during our recent road trip asking me questions about the late 19th century outlaw/bushranger. Most of them I am unable to answer so I told him he would have to find a book at the library and read about Kelly for himself.

Where and how?

I am not really sure what sparked this sudden thirst for Ned Kelly knowledge. It may be that in many of the places we have visited they sell Ned Kelly memorabilia, usually images of him in that home-made suit of armour. That classic image of Kelly. It has certainly captured my boy’s attention.

What do I know?

My knowledge of Ned Kelly is minimal. Basically what most people know. He lived in the late 1800s had a small gang that included his younger brother and of course fought the law wearing that home made armour.

The only other thing I knew for sure about Kelly was that he was hanged by the neck in the Old Melbourne Gaol. I know this because I visited that gaol when I first came to Australia way back in the early 1990s.

Ah, and THAT movie…

Then of course whenever I think of Ned Kelly I instantly have this image of an old 1970 movie about the outlaw. Disastrously played by one Michael (aka Mick) Jagger in one of the worst acting performances I think I ever saw. Sorry Mick. You are a talented songwriter and excellent frontman for a great band – possibly even the best ever performer on stage. But acting? Nah. On the strength of that Ned Kelly performance it’s hard to believe anyone took him seriously afterwards. Yet I think he has recently appeared in a new movie.

It is hard to believe that shortly after recording the album Let it Bleed which features classics such as Gimme Shelter, Midnight Rambler and You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Jagger went and made that crap movie. Then shortly after making that movie he re-joined his band and made the classic Sticky Fingers album. Apologies, I am getting carried away with that dreadful acting and forgetting what this post is really about. This is not about Jagger this is about Kelly…

Ned Kelly for kids…

Surprisingly there were quite a few books on Ned Kelly in the kids’ section of the library – as well as a few more about bushrangers in general. Dani chose one and off we went. Now he can read up on his new found interest and tell me a thing or two about Mr. Ned Kelly.

Should I mention the Jagger movie? I see it is freely available online. Maybe I will keep that one to myself until he asks… As he will expect me to sit and watch it with him. Not sure I could suffer that torment…

Here is the Ned Kelly book that Dani is reading

The Avalon Cluster (and more)

We got out of Sydney just before they more or less put the place on lockdown. Not a UK style china/stasi lockdown but still a big pain in the backside for anyone living there. Apparently – and this is the part I just have to laugh at – there is a new mutated covid virus strain and it came from the UK. One Aussie returning home so they say… The media love it of course and constantly refer to it as “the more highly contagious UK strain” (or words to that effect). Hilarious. Yeah mate. It’s flu season in the UK so if anything this “new strain” is the 202/21 winter flu you fools! It more or less  happens every year. 

If you think back to exactly one year ago when the “Chinese” coronavirus was first being talked about they made similar claims. “It is highly contagious” or “It’s deadly”. Both of which have proven to be completely false. Yet here they are again reeling out the same old lines for this so called “UK strain”. What a joke!

The Avalon Cluster

No, not a name of a new band . Or even an album. Although any kids starting a rock band living in the northern beaches should use that name. I have no intention of copyrighting it. Hang on. Could I? Hmm… Remember folks, if you buy an album by The Avalon Cluster in the future you heard the name here first.

Apparently all the panic in Sydney started after they had been testing people in the northern beaches area of Sydney and found a few “cases”. The “cluster” of “cases” was supposedly around the Avalon Beach area. Hence “The Avalon Cluster” was a term the media lapped up with gusto. Then along came the new UK variant strain. You would struggle to make this shit up. Really. 

I think maybe they just felt that New South Wales got off too lightly in all the covid hype and lockdown panic. Well, that’s my take on it anyway. . But I still think it is a great name for a band.

Problems – other than Covid…

Meanwhile all this has not had much of an impact on places and things we want to see. The biggest problem so far has been that we are outside of the “visitors season”. Whereas places have been closed “due to covid” on some of our previous trips, this time we had simply missed the boat. Crazy eh? Despite being the middle of the school summer holidays this port of the world was not expecting many tourists. Usually because the temperatures are too high for most people . The main season for visitors we were told finishes at the end of November / start of December. Also for things like river boat trips the water level was simply too low right now so they shut up shop…

Worse still – and those in the middle of a northern hemisphere winter right now may find this hard to believe – too much rain has prevented us from going to some places. Roads, either unsealed gravel or simply dirt roads, have been closed because of the weather. Even to four wheel drive vehicles. I guess the authorities don’t want to go through all the hassle of having to pull people out of the mud so they close the roads. It makes sense to me. 

More to come, Soon…

Despite all this we soldiered on and made the most of what there was to see and do. In the coming weeks there will be plenty of posts about the places we visited and the things we saw.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Just outside Dubbo, where there is so much open space, sits the Taronga Western Plains zoo. It is more like a cross between a zoo and what in the UK (at least) would be called a ‘safari park’.

The ticket allows you access into the zoo for two consecutive days so there is not necessarily any rush to get around and see everything on the one day. Also it gives you a second chance to see some of the more shy or just plain lazy animals. How many times have you been to a zoo trying to spot an animal only to be told it is sleeping inside or under something and well out of sight?

Getting Around

There is a 6km road circuit weaving around the zoo passing right beside or close by all the animal enclosures. There are four options for getting around. Firstly you can drive your car in and stop off at the many parking spots then checkout the animals nearby.

Second option is to hire a large golf buggy. This costs extra and is really no different than driving your own car through the zoo roads, but there were plenty who thought it was a  good idea. Third option is to rent or use your own bicycle. Lastly of course the oldest form of transportation – walking.

On the first day we chose to walk while Dani rode his own bike. It was hot and sunny and after a while it became quite hard work. Fortunately it was a Friday and many of the schools were still not yet on holidays so it was very quiet. At times we had whole sections of the zoo to ourselves as we strolled/pedalled around.

An alternative way of getting around the zoo…

Dingo

Animals

The wildlife (or should that be ‘captive’ life?) is made up mainly of Australian and African animals who are used to the same temperatures that Dubbo experiences. As you wander around the roads and paths you quickly notice that it has been carefully created to give the feel of a real safari. The animals are mostly separated by moats and/or fences that lie low and basically well out of eyeshot.

The beautiful and endangered Bongo.

Is that a pair of Bongos?

The vast spaces they have to roam also makes it feel a lot more like the wild than a zoo. There is even an actual safari section where you board a bus/lorry hybrid with open windows, just like on some real African safaris, and venture into a huge enclosure where the giraffes, zebras and several other non-meat-eating animals are free to roam. That part costs an extra $10 each but for someone of Dani’s age it really is like a proper safari.

Asian elephant

Timing. Hippos spend a great deal of time under water. But they do come up for air…

Cheetahs are fast but there is not enough space for them to stretch their legs here even though this is a large zoo.

There are several species of rhino, lion, giraffe and Sumatran tigers. Elephants and various types of large antelope type animals – some of which I had never heard of. These  include the very rare and beautiful bongo, the eland and addax.

Sumatran Tiger

Lion

Magnificent Eland

This zoo has quite a few of them

The Galapagos Giants

 I had seen them on TV wildlife films but never in the flesh/shell. The famous Galapogos tortoise. And they really are huge. The problem is that you do not have anything to reference their size on these photos. Trust me they are big. About the size of a large pig maybe? Yeah, that’s about right.

Giant Galapagos Tortoises

These creatures really are bigger than I thought.

Most of the big land animals are here too. (Asian) Elephants, hippopotamus as well as lions and tigers. However, there was not much in the way of monkeys and apes. Understandable in some ways. The Siamang apes were good entertainment though on our first day. On the second day it rained a lot so they kept themselves well covered in a suitable box…

The mating pair of Siamang apes shelter from the rain

A far more active Siamang Ape when the weather was fine

There are other well known predators like the cheetah and that old favourite the African Wild Dog – aka Painted Dogs. Next to the elusive painted dogs were the ever popular meerkats. At the time we arrived to see them there was a TV crew filming the Australian version of ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife’, with two of the contestants (?) sharing their date with the cute but mischievous meerkats.

The Farmer Wants a Wife. The ‘wife’ wants a pet meerkat…

The ever popular meerkats

How Many Types of Rhino?

I never knew there were so many different types of rhino. This place has three of them. The extremely rare Black rhino, the endangered White rhino (both African) and the largest of them all, the largest of all the (Asian) Greater One Horned rhino.

A pair of White Rhino

The Greater One Horned Rhino. An Asian rhino.

Interesting Fact: There is no colour difference between white and black rhino. The white rhino gets its name form a mutation of the Dutch word for ‘wide’ – “Weit” (pronounced vite? Well, something like that). This is because the white rhino has a wide squared top lip which makes it a great grass mower.

Other things…

Near the centre of the zoo is the Billabong Camp where you can camp out and wake up to the sound of roaring lions. There is also the ‘zoofari lodge’ chalets which sit directly opposite the safari area (see above). With low fences hardly noticeable you can have breakfast with a giraffe leaning over toward your cabin terrace. Needless to say these book up fast and were full when we booked our Dubbo accommodation.

Close encounters from the safari truck

Safari truck/bus

Giraffe, zebra, ostrich, blackbuck and white rhino free to roam together just as they would in Africa.

Animals mix close to the safari cabins

Curious giraffe

The rare Push me-Pull you Rhino

Zebras mix with other animals in this part of the zoo

On the second day we drove through the zoo. It was a shorter visit to catch up on the animals we missed the first day and to see a few favourites once again. It was a Saturday, it rained and it was (relatively) very crowded – enough reasons for making our second visit a quick one…

Then a Thought Occurred to me…

While I was reading the information about how endangered some of the animals are I had a moment of inspiration. A bright idea, a brainwave or light bulb moment if you will. Have a read and tell me. What do you think?

Australia is huge and in places, very sparsely populated. With so much open land there is no reason why some of the animals could not be introduced into the open/wild. Without the same threats of human encroachment and poaching/hunting they would surely thrive. Look at how the camel population in Australia has rocketed. Once they were let go after being used as beasts of burden (just as they are in their native middle east and North Africa) they have settled into their new environment and their numbers have soared.

Could a similar thing be done with some of the planet’s endangered species like rhino? A safe and huge country like Australia is the perfect place to save them in the wild.

Can Australia save these endangered animals?

There is far more space in this country for rhino than this zoo

This little fella was free to just fly off…

The Big NSW Outback Adventure

It is the first day of 2021 and we are packing for our summer holiday. A two week road trip around the New South Wales Outback.

The planned route is ambitious I will admit. Half the battle is getting out to western NSW. Plus the long haul return back to Sydney of course.

Heading Out to the Outback…

On the way out we intend to go via a part of NSW we haven’t seen yet. Via the north eastern inland area of NSW. Once as far north as Narrabri the route will take us west to Walgett (a town Dani and myself passed through on the way to and from Lightning Ridge). Continuing west as far a Bourke, apparently the quintessential outback town (we shall see).

Outback New South Wales planned route – Part One

From Bourke we will have to play it by ear as the weather will play a big part in which roads (or dirt tracks) we can or can’t take. We do not have a Four-Wheel-Drive vehicle! That said many unsealed roads are passable for two wheel drive cars. It will depend on how much rain there is.

The safer/easier option from Bourke is to head south to Cobar then west again to Wilannia. From Wilcannia it’s north again to White Cliffs. The original trip we wanted to do was in South Australia visiting the famous mining town of Coober Pedy. White Cliffs is meant to be similar in many ways to Coober Pedy with underground dwellings built by the miners so as to avoid the harshness of the outback heat. Again, we shall see.

Return to Broken Hill

For Dani and me the next part of the trip is a return to old ground. Broken Hill. Not that we are too bothered. We both loved it there. For Dani’s mum however it is a first visit to the “Silver City” area.

On our first trip to Broken Hill – by train – we missed the final train stop of Menindee as the sun had set. The Menindee town and area is now on our hitlist.

Then it will be back to Broken Hill and south on the ‘Silver City Highway’ to Wentworth which sits on the meeting point of two of Australia’s most famous rivers the Murray and the Darling. The Murray river in this region also forms the border with the state of Victoria, so a possible visit into Victoria may be on the cards.

Mungo National Park

The Wentworth area is also a launchpad to the Mungo National Park. From what I have read about Mungo it looks and sounds amazing. It is described as one of Australia’s most soulful places and the most accessible slice of the true outback.

Then it is mostly about the long return drive to Sydney. No real route planned yet but probably via a night in Goolgowi. From there on there are a couple of options… But it will be mostly driving.

Outback New South Wales planned route – Part Two (and return)

The big adventure begins tomorrow morning – early (which will no doubt annoy Dani who loves his sleep). As stated above it is an ambitious trip covering well over 3600 kilometres (taking in to account little detours and local routes) and at least 40 hours driving. It will be tough for sure but the rewards should be worth it.

So much for this: UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011

I just found this in my list of Blog draft versions. What you see below I wrote back on 2nd April shortly after the UK had ushered in the first lockdown and major panic of this ridiculous Covid-1984 thing.  Almost nine months later I found it, re-read it and added some comments in italics, just as a way of marking how well my predictions and thoughts back in April were. Take a look…

Amazingly you can still download that “strategy” document from the link (below). Surprised it hasn’t been taken down? I am.

UK Government Document from 2011

Unreal. This document is the one and only government document that addresses what will be done during a flu pandemic. The whole strategy was done in response to the (first) SARS scare in 2010. Remember that one? When various governments and the World Health Organisation tried to frighten everyone. Saying that there was going to be a pandemic and millions were going to die? That one didn’t work did it? But they learned a lot from it as clearly this one did work (for them).

They produced this strategy document in case it happened (again). I would urge you to take a look at it and compare it with what the government actually did:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213717/dh_131040.pdf

Some Examples from the Strategy Document…

Sections 4.18 to 4.22 look fairly calm don’t they? A calm and logical approach that you might expect from our leaders. Not a headless chicken approach. Right? Well keep reading…

Section 7.4  – under “Business as usual”  – basically says that the government wants the country to carry on as normal as long as possible while taking basic precautions. Also that there are (or were) no plans to close borders stop gatherings…

Yes. It really says those things! In other words, Don’t Panic! (But panic they did!)

Sections 4.12 to 4.17 discuss facemasks and respirators. (At the time I had no idea how they would cut straight through this plan and force everyone to wear the mask muzzle.)

There was even a mention of emergency powers in clause 7.30. In this clause the strategy says that even if emergency powers are enacted they will only last for 30 days. In fact it goes as far as to say that such emergency measures are “designed to be time bound” to those 30 days.

Compare that with what happened…

That’s 30 days of emergency powers. Not 6 months and definitely not 2 years!! They didn’t even try to implement these measures they just leap-frogged them and jumped straight in to emergency powers overriding the 30 day rule in section 7.30 for f*ck sake!

At the first sign of it being a pandemic the government should have used what they already had at their disposal. But they didn’t. There was a huge knee-jerk reaction. More follow-the-leader and copying other countries’ actions instead of trying to implement what they already had in place. – since 2011!!! The government panicked. Massively freaked out and fucked us all over. How can that not be deliberate? (I am claiming this one! I was and still am 100% correct on this.)

As for the new ‘Coronavirus Act’ – yes they really do call it that – it gets much, much worse. In place for 2 years (if they wish) with a review after 6 months. But get this. They can change it to whatever ministers want it to be at any time during the so called ‘crisis’. Basically it is carte-blanche for totalitarian governance. With no further parliamentary agreement they can suddenly declare that you can never leave your house. Not for exercise nor even to buy food. Obviously they would have to have some rationed delivery service in place otherwise people would just tell them where to go (in no uncertain terms). But the point is they can do this type of thing at any time. Such is the extreme dictatorial power they have just given themselves. (If I had published this post back in April you may have laughed at this point. Who’s laughing now?)

This really is a bad time for liberty and freedom. Many have warned against it. I guess we will have to ride it out and see which way it actually goes. For the time being at least. I think they have seriously misjudged people’s patience. But then maybe that is the whole point. Maybe this is just a test. Pushing it so far just to see what the reaction of the people will be? (I think I was spot on with this one.)

Maybe this is some kind of push towards this ‘zero carbon’ economy they have been talking about? I really would not write off anything at the moment. Whatever it is, it will surely start to become clear – or unravel – in the next few weeks. (Aha… almost ten months on and we are still nowhere nearer knowing what is really going on. In fact the governments – some more than others – have stopped trying to be honest and are just making things up as they go.)

You really never know. These are very testing times..(Well that part was correct.)

Old Dubbo Gaol

Definitely one of the two places you must visit in Dubbo is the Old Dubbo Gaol.  Here is an account of our visit to the Gaol…

Old Dubbo Gaol

Now almost surrounded by modern building the Old Dubbo Gaol is yet another insight into the early world of Australian crime and punishment.

The Dubbo Gaol was erected on the site of the original courthouse. Officially opened in 1887 and closed as a gaol in 1966, it was reopened as a tourist attraction in 1974. Built much later than the first gaols in Australia this was not an original convict residence. It is also not very large. Of course the population has increased but the size of the modern prisons here are so much larger it does make me wonder. Are there proportionally fewer or more prisoners now than back in the 1800s? Does anyone have that information to hand? Can someone  tell me?

Situated just behind the main shopping street in Dubbo the Old Gaol is easily missed if you are not looking for it.

Off the main street down a side path

Old Dubbo Gaol Main Gate

One thing is for sure the punishment back then could be far more severe. The gallows standing in the centre of the grounds are a clear indication of that.

A timely reminder of how punishment has definitely gone softer

Exercise Yard

Cells, Stocks and The Hangman’s Noose

As always in these places the cells look forbidding and scary places. Especially those cells reserved for a bit of extra punishment, where all the light is cut off.

All smiles from a tourist kid but these were grim places

Uninviting conditions in these old cells

Scary characters lurk in some of the cells.

The last person to be hanged in New South Wales was in 1939 – surprisingly decades before the last hanging  in the UK. Before that however it is thought that over one thousand prisoners had been hanged in NSW. Only eight of those were executed at Old Dubbo Gaol.

The gallows in the prison court yard are a forbidding sight. As if that is not scary enough, inside one of the rooms is an example of the Hangman’s Noose.

The hangman’s gallows at Old Dubbo Gaol

It’s one thing being a tourist, quite another having to stay in these things for a long period…

A Hangman’s Noose

Protecting the Guards…

When the prison guards went out on their rounds they would use a special key to turn  clockwork devices known as  the ‘Watchman’s Tell Tale’. The spring inside would be wound up every hour. If this was not repeated the spring would unwind and set off an alarm bell. The alarm would alert the chief prison warder that either the guard had come to harm or was not doing his duty.

The Watchman’s Tell Tale

Some interesting facts…

  • Amazingly the place was set for demolition in 1974 but was saved by the actions of a handful of concerned citizens. Good for them I say.
  • Of the eight men hanged in the Gaol, two were Aboriginal, two were Chinese and one was Danish.
  • The gaol housed women as well as men although there were only a few female cells.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It was always going to happen. After nearly twenty years of wearing my hair long it all came off yesterday. Not quite all off but ‘grade 3’, which after having it in a pony tail for so long is basically the same as fully shaven.

I thought it was thinning out so decided the best thing to do was cut it all off and have a proper look. It turns out that yes it is thinning out but only a little. A little extreme I know, but after 20 years a new hair-do was overdue. Now I have a mix of grey, blond and dark (ish) hairs and that  makes it appear a little patchy. A bit like my facial hair when I grew that… Dani thought it was all very funny but I can’t persuade him to have the same hair style.

Anyway, I can regrow it. I suppose. It should only take a couple of years to get it back to how it was just over 12 hours ago… Must always remember to wear a hat in the sun now.

In Trouble in the Bulli Beach Rip

Christmas day and Boxing day came and went with little to write about. The weather was poor mostly cloudy and it rained. So much for Christmas on the beach in Oz eh? But then we had a very nice day so off we headed south of the city to Bulli Beach.

Why Bulli beach? No particular reason. It could have been any of the beaches between the city and Wollongong really but it seemed a good place to head for.

Trouble in the Rip

For those who don’t know; a rip current, (usually just called a rip) , is a specific kind of water current that can occur near beaches with breaking waves. The rip is a strong and narrow current of water which moves directly away from the shore, cutting through the lines of breaking waves like a river running out to sea. A rip current is strongest and fastest nearest the surface of the water. It can be surprisingly powerful as Dani’s mum found out.

She decided to take one of his Christmas presents – a body board – for a trial in the surf. No sooner had she started than she drifted off to our right. She wasn’t far out but seemed to be struggling to get back to shore. For a while it wasn’t clear of she was trying to get back on shore or if she was trying to body-board. I know she is a pretty good swimmer so was not immediately concerned. But then it all went on a bit too long…

As luck would have it an experienced surfer was in the immediate area and spotted her and asked if she needed help. He kind of towed her away from the rip current to a from there she was able to swim and walk her way back to the beach. Exhausted by now and only just realising how close she was to disaster.

We all saw the funny side of it later but it just goes to show how powerful the rip current can be. There was after all, a reason why the safe bathing area complete with flags and life guards, was the opposite side of the beach. It is unlikely Dani’s mum will try anything like that again soon.

Bulli and Its Beach

Bulli is a small commuter town about an hour out of Sydney – although today it was very busy with plenty of like-minded people making the most of the break in the unusually dull weather.

The beach is one of three running up this stretch of coast. It has one of those old fashioned rock pools at either end. Another sure sign that safe swimming may not be the main attraction of this beach? Perhaps.

Bulli Beach Rock Pool. A safer place to swim.

Bulli Beach looking south

We also found this little gem just behind Bulli station. A great little microbrewery and pub. OK, the Christmas hangover didn’t last long eh? But you have to love these places.

Resin Brewing microbrewery and pub

On the route back to Sydney we stopped at one of the lookout points high up on the cliffs overlooking the famous stretch of coast road (including the sea cliff bridge) and Stanwell Park Beach.

View south from lookout