Two cannibals eating a clown. One turns to the other and says ‘does this taste funny to you!’…….

I absolutely love that joke.  It is my favorite joke of all time but the not so funny thing is, I actually dislike clowns.  Immensely!!

That is of course, with the exception of these handsomely cheerful guys………..

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Nostalgia hit hard as the 163rd Gawler Show came to town.  Held over three days, and run by an amazing group of volunteers, the Gawler Show celebrates all that is country and community.  The people watching alone is well worth the admission price but there was also entertainment, animals, agriculture, arts, fireworks, pigeon fanciers, blacksmithing, exhibits and rides.

The Gawler Show is not only family friendly but it is people-no-kids friendly and it immediately transported me back to my childhood.  I definitely left with my heart a little lighter and my jeans a little tighter.  Honestly, where else on earth can you deep-fry just about anything, put it on a stick and sell it as food.  No where of course.

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Gawler Show snapshot……

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This is a prize winning pigeon…….

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As is this…….

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Don’t you hate it when the cow has better hair than you on the day……..

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The 164th Gawler Show is the last weekend of August 2020.  Here are my tips:

  1. GO
  2. Pre-purchase tickets
  3. Watch where you step when around the cattle pavilion
  4. Eat a Dagwood dog
  5. Go hard or go home in sideshow alley
  6. ENJOY

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I loved my time at the show and as I looked back and saw the Ferris wheel for one last time it reminded me of the lovely old Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, State Fair.   Toward the end of the film, Pa Frake says “I’ve got that nice, tired old feeling” and on my walk home, long after the sun had set and the cold had begun to cling, I realised I too had that nice, tired old feeling…….x

The rabbit hole…….

Well, its official.  I am a million miles behind on my blog!  It seems I always have a ‘to do list’ which never shortens……no great observation there!  Time just keeps marching  forward with such inexplicable speed.  Days turn into weeks and those weeks a month and before I realise it, I have not even logged onto my site.

Sometimes I feel as though I have fallen down a rabbit hole.  There has been travel (those posts will come I promise)  but it is the garden, yard and house which takes up most of my time.   Not that I am complaining about the garden.  I find it awfully easy to breathe out there and this space, my ocean substitute, has such an effect on the soul.

Things are progressing well.  Over the  past 7 months I watched as the birds slowly returned along with the lizards and bugs.  On warm winter days, I have seen blue tongues, the odd bob-tail, penny lizards and skinks which has been wonderful and although I was worried I would not get a winter crop in, we have enjoyed fresh spinach and rainbow chard, rhubarb and an abundance of herbs.

The garlic will soon be ready for harvest and a bed of lettuces, chillies and two rows of ‘Manchester Table’ carrots have been sown along with dwarf green beans.  In another bed the waiting soil, enriched with compost and manure, is ready for the sowing of heirloom tomatoes, basil and parsley, daikon and Asian greens.

And in the midst of all this, our sweet little companion Zoe turned 13.  I do so love this little old cat and all her expressions are known to me.  The long slow blinks, the gentle head butts, the different purrs and mews.  A rough start to life – Zoe arrived at a Melbourne shelter neglected and abused – and after almost six months of care by the wonderful shelter staff she was ready for adoption.  Finally adopted, the family returned her after just four days.  Luckily for us, she was back up for adoption and nine years on, Zoe is as lovely as the day she came home.  Thank you for choosing us Zoe xx.

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Always adopt, don’t shop…….

She is also a great gardening companion and is happy to catch some winter rays when I am in the enclosed vegie patch.

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The weekend is just around the corner and although I have a couple of things planned, I will be hitting the laptop in a concerted effort to catch up a little…..not just with the blog but with those so often in my thoughts.

For me, the thought to create good intent means I really need to live good intent so with the very best of intentions, here goes……..x

Moving on…….

I can’t believe it has been almost 6 months since I moved to South Australia, the sea and salt of Newcastle left well behind.  For someone who has consistently moved, I still find the actual act of moving onerous.  Putting my life into boxes once again, the mix of emotion, the sorting, the photos – photos of those no longer with us, babies who are no longer babies and those no longer in my life for various reasons.  Boxes which tie to a collective past, a reminder of everything beautiful and egregious in my lived life.

After living in so many different places and countries, you would think I’d be used to moving.  Luckily for me, I have always unpacked with a roof over my head and with an openness for new adventure.

There has been much happiness to be found in my return to SA.  I guess some things just align with your soul.  It has been an incredibly busy time and there has been some travel yet I bow my head with a mingling mix of shame and guilt as I have lost touch.  Too many excuses but none of which I will use.  I have been busy, too busy – one of my many failings.  I try but fail.  I will be in touch soon with those dear to my heart whom I miss.  You know who you are.  I promise.

There has been a change of season during this time too.  Winter has arrived to SA.  The wattle is out in all its golden gloriousness.  I snip sprigs during my wanderings (one of the small yet special things about living here) and have the blooms throughout the house.  It is cold and crisp today with a chilled liveliness.  I can hear the occasional bird and the very, very distant hum of a train on the tracks given the air is so clear.

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I am missing the warmth of summer with its harsh light and that of my washing drying on the hills hoist in under five minutes and smelling so acutely of sunshine.  Now though, there is time for moments spent in my favourite room, fire side with the little cat for quiet company which is loveliness itself especially when it is rainy and cold.

I am also finding happiness in the restoration of the garden – the house will have to wait, it is ‘livable’ now!!   The garden is a huge undertaking so I work, rest a little, get more inspired then enjoy the solitude of getting back out there.  Its not a race.  There is no right or wrong, just an enjoyment of each moment spent there.

Some areas are no longer overgrown with dead plants, trees, weeds or rubbish.  I am hand pulling everything and composting what I can. Three huge skips have already been filled with ‘rubbish’ from the yard.  Plastics, drug paraphernalia, that which cannot be composted and more rubbish.  There were good renters and not so good renters in the end.  I can’t fret about it, these things happen.

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Gardening has become a passion again.  I love how the soil becomes ingrained under my finger nails and fills the small cuts, scratches and lines of my hands.  A welcomed tattoo from mother nature.

I am a very organic gardener, no herbicides or pesticides.  A healthy environment devoid of all chemicals so there will be ‘cycles’ of weeds to combat for months to come before eventually dying out.

In the heart of all this gardening there has been much compost making.  ‘Brown gold’, much coveted and which during the heat of summer was breaking down from scrapes, organic matter and garden waste into beautiful friable soil in only a matter of months.

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Cuttings, seedlings, succulents and colour have taken up residence in my collection of old, worn terracotta pots and rusting wash tubs and with the winter sun, are doing well.  The bees, bugs, lizards and birds are returning.  Everything outside has been finally swept clean of dust and dirt and it all feels so much better.

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The patch is beginning to take shape again too. I look forward to it being once again filled with berries, fragrant herbs, leafy greens and the root veg of winter.  It is an enclosed area, the wire allowing the small birds and insects through but it keeps the ‘bandits’ at bay.  The possums, as endearing as they are, do love the tender seedlings and blackbirds, the newly mulched soil.

Re-establishing the fruit orchard will be the next venture after completing the patch.  Something else on the ever growing list of ‘to-do’.  The once thriving stone fruit trees and citrus are gone but then so have the roses and natives which also once filled the yard.

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The fruit orchard.  Next on the hit list

The vegie patch, February 2019

Slowly getting there, March 2019

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May 2019

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My favorite gardening companion…….x

The garlic is spouting and the leaves have dropped, there is frost on the ground and occasionally rain in the gauge.  These are lovely liminal times.

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There are more weeds to pull, seeds to plant, garden beds to turn, trees to replace and wattle bloom to collect.  Small but ever joyful moments in South Australia……….x

Bound for South Australia…….

The South Australian border seemed a stone’s throw from Broken Hill.  As we travelled, there was still that overwhelming magnitude of land and sky and as the sunlight flooded down, we crossed the state border and the outback slowly made itself distant……

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We passed through small towns, passed rail lines and flocks of glossy black crows, saw pale sun bleached signage and watched the hot sun slowly move across the sky.  We saw hundreds of sheep in the driest of paddocks with nary a twig for shade and only hours later, saw hillsides of lush green vines.  I saw so many small things on this road trip which widen my heart that at some point I may well have wished I could drive on forever.

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The first night back in SA was odd.  The evening so hot and the sky so clear yet it somehow felt a little strange to be back.  I finally fell in to bed, warm and full of lost sleep and woke to this early morning view of ‘my backyard’.  The stunning Barossa and all it has to offer is right on my door step.

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So yes, we are in SA and back living in a lovely town full of community heart, walking tracks, heritage and history, and old sandstone buildings.  Established just over 180 years ago, the town smelt so acutely of summer heat and dust when we arrived.

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I had forgotten how small our home is.  A little place of crumbling plaster that is neither grand nor obtrusive but certainly a home of charm and squeaky floor boards.  The house and yard have suffered terribly under five years of rental neglect but as I drove up the dirt road which leads to the back of our property there was a feeling of coming home.

But nothing makes it home more than having our sweet little cat with us again.  Zoe stayed with her wonderful vet in Newcastle before boarding a flight to SA just as we arrived.  We are so grateful she is happy and settled and we could not ask for more.

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Jetlag recovery mode……..x

Home isn’t where I am from but it is where I live at that moment.  Each place I have lived has always served some sort of purpose yet I cannot help but wonder if when we leave a place, we leave a little of ourselves behind and if fortunate enough to return, we find a little something in the going back.

Often times, there is much negativity spread about South Australia but that could not be further from the truth.   It is one of the driest states and it has a reputation for serial killers but The Adelaide Markets, the wine regions, the craft beers and gin, the rad festivals, the food scene, the coast line, beautiful Adelaide, the state where a man was shot by his own camel! (I know right), Kangaroo Island, Wilpena Pound, Haigh’s Chocolate and 1,000 and one other things far outweigh the pessimism peddled by some.

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This is an amazing state so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and if you can’t find something nice to say or love about South Australia then there really is no hope for you…….x

You can’t do that with a ping pong ball??!!…….

I need not pretend of our exhaustion after travelling in the heat.  Days where it was almost too hot to think let alone drive yet I loved the outback.

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Though the heat was demanding and equally suffocating and the flies drove me mad, the outback is a place unrivalled in its dramatic energy and remote magnificence.  Dusk would see the big sky fill with colour. Pink’s and gold’s, shades not imaginable, would fade away to a huge rising moon followed by a night sky filled with a million tiny stars. Morning would come again with a sun which seemed to explode with heat and light.

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Droughts in Australia are merciless.  Even the feral animals, those introduced who normally thrived in harsh conditions, were dying off in these dust bowls.  I lost count of the number of sun bleached bones and skeletal remains I saw…….

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Broken Hill was a welcome oasis.  A remote desert frontier somehow rougher and smudgier than most large tourist-friendly towns, caked with dust and baking away in the heat.  And then there’s that soil. That rich burnt ochre which surrounds the town.  A colour so vivid you could not dream up a better backdrop if you tried.

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We stayed at the aptly named Oasis Motor Inn.  A passé little place – neat, quiet, well located and scrupulously clean. I highly recommend it. Once settled, we grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the pool which was absolute bliss!

Good pool soak done and dust washed from our throats, we headed on a short walk to the town centre in search of number one on my list of top five fabo things to see in Broken Hill’ – The Palace Hotel.

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There are a number of remarkable and beautiful buildings in Broken Hill yet this is the most famous with its cast iron balustrades and gloriously kitschy and stunning interior of colourful murals.  It also featured in the wonderfully iconic Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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Famished, we headed to the dining room for a meal largely held in silence.  We had argued during our walk.  Some vague, tepid argument which had been quietly simmering away of something I had held to weeks before leaving Newcastle.

The character of the hotel and the murals are fabulous yet the food was disappointing.  Nothing was ‘house-made’ and all in all, the dining experience was somewhat lack-lustre.  Thing is, I could have eaten there every night if only to sit amongst the painted murals, old furniture and the clatter of other peoples conversations.

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We healed our spat over processed desserts then headed to the Sidebar.  Sunday nights are good in Broken Hill as most tourists have disappeared for the night or simply moved on.  There were only two other people in the bar so the cocktails, a Japanese Slipper so green and quaint it made me smile, and the Martinis were all well made.

Navigating the quiet streets, we wandered back to the motel.  There was little left of the days fatigue and my spirits were lighter and somewhat lifted due to that remarkable hotels interior.  The next day we headed out to Silverton.

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Set amongst hot, wind-rippled sand and dust, Silverton, with its one pub and population of less than 40 people – it once boasted a population of 3,000 people – is a quirky little dot on the map.   This is also another location of more iconic Australian movies.

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The Silverton Hotel is one of Australia’s most filmed and photographed pubs.  A great place to find a cold beer, good food and to browse the film history of the area.

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On the outskirts of Silverton is an historic cemetery, a raw and harsh reminder of how life was lived in the early days of settlement.  Under a brutish sun we padded about in respectful silence.  Hot glittering sand filled my sandals and my feet were pricked by bone dry spines and thorns yet it mattered little just to be in this most remarkable of places.

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Three nights in Broken Hill was enough for me to explore, wander and to understand why we cling, with such sentimentality, to some things and not others.  I guess in the long run, most things will be okay and for me, it was all going to be okay.

There was no pressure to move on but South Australia awaited………x

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Footnote:  Quote in title from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Felicia –          “Oh, you can’t do that with a ping pong ball?!”

Bernadette –   “Do you wanna bet”

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‘Ping pong ball reaction’ – image courtesy RockyMusic.org

What no one tells you about Wilcannia…….

While on the road, although spirited and optimistic, I held two hearts.  One was enjoying the outback and the balanced beauty of this land.  That vast and very remote landscape of spindly saltbush, scrub and Mitchell grass so dry neither feral goat nor cattle could eat it and the bone-dry river beds where I could taste the dust and smell the eucalypt.

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The other, the one furthest from me, craved the ocean swell.  Things like that cannot be taken for granted.  I will never deny the beauty of the ocean and the call it has to me which sometimes feels like an almost physical tug.

Before leaving Cobar and with the early morning sun flooding and the day already heating up, we u-turned back to Fort Bourke Lookout to view the open cut copper mine.   The huge land scar is profoundly deep.  A yawing chasm of dirt with the rich mineral belt clearly visible, devoid of vegetation and with the township of Cobar as its backdrop.

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Christ it was hot and it had not even gone 8:30 am.  I could feel beads of perspiration run down my spine, soaked up by the waistband of my shorts.  It was time to move on.

Packed in my car were not only treasured items but a relentless optimism always dragged along for good measure.  I am forever charmed by what others find frustrating, unattractive or irritable.  Made inquisitive by negativity and pessimism and driven by a need to accept what others do not.  Case in point, Wilcannia.

In almost every town I had stopped, folk – generally of a certain demographic – advised me NOT to stop in Wilcannia.  The advice was to drive straight through yet I had an entirely different view on the matter.  Plus many months prior to me knowing of this move, my dear friend Keith (aka one half of the ‘dirty chai runners’) told me if I ever happened to find myself skulking around the vicinity of Wilcannia, I should drop in.  So I did.

Located on the banks of the Darling River with its rich history and lovely heritage listed sandstone buildings dating back to the late 1800’s, Wilcannia was once a thriving river port during the great river boat era of early Australia.

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I noted the rusted security grills, boarded up buildings, small pockets of graffiti tags and the smattering of locals all of which exist in most small towns.  These were the things I had been warned of yet on first impression, Wilcannia did not appear the shit hole I had been told to avoid.

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We pulled up in the main street, parallel parking outside of the IGA and headed inside.  We had planned to grab some bread rolls, ham and cold drinks before heading down to the river.

The store had neither bread nor ham and nor did it have any fresh fruit or veg with the exception of a couple of bags of spuds sweating and sprouting in their plastic sacks.  Processed food, bags of chips and double that of cheap confectionary lined the shelves alongside soft drink and other dust laden products.  The store was as depressing as the woman on the register and I could not reconcile at how this vulnerable community must cope.

We headed across the highway to the Liberty Road House which I will happily recommend.  There were two young guys behind the counter who after chatting with them, cheerfully whipped up a couple of rounds of fresh sandwiches.  Their openness and honesty about the town, the frankness of themselves (one was on community service) and their outlook on life was refreshingly honest.

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Eventually I wandered back out into the heat of the day to watch the vehicles on the Barrier Highway continue to drive straight through, their passengers not daring a sideways glance to the town, its heritage or its residents.  I was perplexed but not entirely surprised because this is what no one tells you about Wilcannia.

They do not tell you of the once thriving town of paddle steamers and how Wilcannia was known as Queen City of the West.  They do not tell you about the beautiful sandstone buildings built from locally quarried stone.  They do not tell you about the uplifting healing project which came to unite this remote community and they certainly do not tell you about the local cemetery which is less than two k from the edge of town.

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Wilcannia has one of the oldest cemeteries in western New South Wales with grave sites dating back to 1866.  The cemetery is a nod to our rich pioneering history, tragedy, resilience, cultural preservation and a new and colourful tradition.

Among the eroding headstones and rusting iron are war graves, family plots and the poignant graves of children, often tiny infants, too numerous to count.  Many sites have fallen into disrepair, many are unidentifiable and many remain unmarked.

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The cemetery, set amongst old gums and saltbush, was incredibly quiet and astonishingly hot yet we managed to spend hours here.

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Due to the large Indigenous population in the area, Wilcannia has a death rate a third higher than the national average.  Death is an expensive business and made even more difficult by isolation and a low socio-economic status with some Indigenous grave sites being without a headstone for more than 25 years.  But all that changed when an inspiring art project recently began teaching people the skill of mosaic head stoning.

The ‘Paaka Thartu Karnu Healing Project’ teaches people the art of mosaic and in doing so, beautifully personal and affordable headstones are being made for departed loved ones.

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This is an odd thing to state but this cemetery is achingly beautiful with its mix of mosaic headstones and heritage grave sites all of which simultaneously uplift yet break your heart.  I loved the mosaics for the richness, inspiration and closure they bring and there is no overstating the power that gift must offer those left to grieve.

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We spent hours in the cemetery and were the only ‘visitors’ except for the local roos and the time spent there instilled in me further how inaccurate and misleading the image peddled of Wilcannia really was.   Yes there was poverty and a weariness to the town but this is also what made it so very, very real.

Time moved along yet somehow, it seemed not to matter much out here. We did however, need to hit the road again as we knew from experience we did not want to travel these highways after dusk and Broken Hill was just under 200k away.

As I rounded a bend I spotted a large dark shape by the very edge of the road.  It was fresh road kill.  A once massive black feral pig, no doubt slain by a road-train due to its size. Checking the rear mirror for another driver, I veered to the opposite side of the road.  Just as I did, a huge monitor lizard longer than the width of my car darted out from behind the carcass to run straight across in front of me.

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I hit the lizard immediately, the force so great my car lurched and shuddered and the wheels lifted. My hand went to my mouth and I looked in the rear view mirror to see, thankfully, that death had been instantaneous.

With tears welling I pulled up then stepped out of the car.  Devastated by what I had done, I looked back to see the huge goanna splayed across the road.

I stood for a moment then squatted in the red dirt and cried. I sobbed into my hands, the power of my desolation wracking my body.

Eventually, I walked around to the front of my car to view the damage flecked in blood and scaly skin. I cared little for the damage to my car, my thoughts only of the damage I had just inflicted upon the local wildlife population.

My husband, who had been driving ahead of me, realising I was no longer behind him doubled back.  Pragmatic as ever, which I often take to heart, he asked if I was hurt then surveyed the damage.  His rational ‘get it together and get back on the road’ kind of approach skewed deeply but I am one who refuses to fall into a pit of self-deprecation……although I did believe the death of the such a majestic beast warranted it on this occasion!

Car sorted (of sorts), emotions back in check (of sorts) and back behind the wheel I pulled out onto the highway.  Broken Hill after all, awaited.   My car made some noises I had not heard before and I did stop occasionally to check the front wheels, axel and bumper were still attached.

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He looked how I felt……

In the afternoon light the town of Broken Hill finally came into view yet my mind was still back in Wilcannia.

I guess it is so very easy to lose perspective sometimes and forget just how damn lucky most of us are.  Even on my worst days, those difficult and terrible days, I am still acutely aware of my own privilege and for this realisation I am grateful.

Perhaps we all just need an opportunity, people who love us and those who believe in us by looking past the shitty bits to find a richness of potential.  Wilcannia just doesn’t have that yet, not everyone does, but I feel very certain it will come……..xx

About as bogan as a fourteen year old mother of four…….

Loaded up with things too precious to leave to the removal, I drove out of Newcastle.  My bones called for the ocean but I did not look back.  Instead, I focused on the drive ahead which would take me along the Golden and Mitchell Highways’ toward the outback.

The days’ heat had already begun to take hold and by dusk it had fatigued with a weariness you feel almost down to your marrow.  We had our eyes on the west but still stopped at small rural townships along the way.  In these places, some of which seemed to carry the immense weight of sadness and neglect to them, I was challenged to consider why the residents have stayed.  Towns that seemed years ago to have been a world of hard work and prosperity now have very little to show for it.

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After just over 3 hours of driving, we pulled up outside the White Rose café in Dunedoo.  This is one of those rare old milk bars.  The kind that used to be around in all country towns during the 50’s and 60’s.  Stepping through the doors of the café you are met with an assortment of tables and sturdy hardwood chairs, a curved metal counter, polished glass and milkshakes made the old way by plunging a long handled dipper into a vat of ice cold milk.

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The food was okay but not great and the wait can be long but perhaps the cafes’ charm is that it succeeds on nostalgia, kitch and as an air conditioned comfort stop for a hodgepodge of travellers.

 

Fueled by a steak sandwich and a GI Blues milkshake, it was back on the road where I occasionally stopped to stretch my legs or take a photo.  I was also not adverse to stopping roadside, eroding tiny parts of the landscape as the stock pile of water and ginger beer I had on board quickly diminished.

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The sun continued to beat down, dry grass crunched under my feet and the land was parched.  It was a hot and tiring drive along the baking sheets of tar with little relief except for the ginger beer.  That was until we pulled up in Nyngan…….

Now it seems we like things BIG in Australia.  The Big Pineapple, The Big Banana, The Big Prawn, I think you get the big idea.

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Nothing like a big, sunshiny yellow banana to make you feel good 

And where better to erect a Big Bogan other than right on the edge of the outback in Nyngan New South Wales.

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Should you ever find yourself skulking along Bogan Way, or around the banks of the Bogan River or just mossying along Bogan Street which, by the way, are all smack bang in the Bogan Shire, you will happen upon this iconic structure.

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Dwarfing all around, this impressively tall thong wearing stubbie holding statue – who looks uncannily like Hulk Hogan – is about as Australian as it gets from his Southern Cross tattoo and huge-ass esky right up to his mullet.

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Hulk Bogan…….

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Big Bogan

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Little Bogan

I seemed to get my second wind in Nyngan.  Perhaps it was the break from the weariness of the road or perhaps it was just because I had a soft spot for this fun but often scorned and ridiculed effigy.

Late afternoon, and after clocking up just over 9 hours on the road, we headed to the copper town of Cobar for the night.  The 130k run from Nyngan to Cobar was slow going as unpredictable herds of feral goats (more than I have ever seen in any one location),  a random old sheep or two and the occasional kangaroo grazed or moved about right by the road side.

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Cobar eventually came in the relief of a cold shower, cold beer and a Chinese meal at the local bowls club where it seemed half of the population of the town had gathered for happy hour.

Later that evening and back in the motel room although bone tired, I could not sleep.  I felt so very far away and the ghosts of the life I had lived in Newcastle from the beautiful ocean waves, my favorite coffee haunts, the lanes and street art, the sea caves and everything and everyone else in between bled through.

The air conditioning unit above the bedhead hummed and I eventually fell asleep knowing that morning would bring with it the blank slate of another day.  I had wide open spaces, the languid pace of the road, blood red soil and forgotten townships to slow me right down and the thought of it all filled me with a freedom and longing only this kind of travel can bring…….xx

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