Friday, 24 June 2011

From South Australia to Northern Territory

Before leaving Broken Hill I was advised most strongly by the lovely family history ladies that all fruit and vegetables would be confiscated at the manned Fruit Fly stop in South Australia. As I had a large bag of potatoes, another of onions plus the aforementioned pumpkin, I spent a few hours cooking up a pot of Potato, Pumpkin & Onion soup using some powdered stock (it turned out to be very good), also cooked some potatoes whole to use later in potato salad, and caramelised some onions and managed to squeeze the plastic container of these into our tiny freezer compartment. Our fruit had all been eaten so felt quite smug when approaching the stopping place in S.A. However it was the Queen's Birthday holiday Monday and so not manned! Any amount of fruit and vegetables could have gone through to South Australia - and only your own conscience to trouble you.

Had an overnight stop in Port Augusta and then a long drive north to Coober Pedy. We had stopped here for a few days several years ago, so the opal mining landscape and very arid surroundings did not surprise us. What did surprise us was being laid low by the continuing very bad colds we were both experiencing. We rested quite a lot, visited the local chemist for medication, and as a treat, had excellent pizza from John's Pizza Bar & Restaurant. A few drives around the mining town confirmed that little had changed in two years.

When we finally left we only drove several hundred kilometres to Marla for our overnight stop - before continuing the next day onto Alice Springs stopping at Eudunda Roadhouse for lunch. While giving Jessie a walk and drink, we got chatting to a man who came up to admire our dog. It turned out that he was a professional photographer (unfortunately can't remember his name), but he had taken a lot of outback photos and one of a ute and blue heeler dog had been published around the world and had earned him quite a bit of money. Our Jessie could have been the next big doggy model!

Next stop was a week's break at Alice Springs. I'm always pleased to be here in the very heart of Australia - it's our third visit. Even in the four years since our last visit we can see the town has grown quite a bit. Our neighbours in the caravan park here had their portable air cooler out for repairs - seems it had a resident mouse (there is currently a mouse plague in the outback!) eating all through the filters, etc. It had got in during one of their overnight stops. Another park neighbour had one cheeky little mouse running across their bed. Luckily we've escaped this experience. It's astonishing who you meet in the parks - in this one we have one of Peter's old workmates from Lysaghts/Bluescope (and his wife) who now live just around the corner from us in Hastings. We've enjoyed catching up on old times.

While here, we've had a good look around town, visited the local cemetery for Peter's volunteer work photographing the CWGC graves (29) and whilst there also viewed the very nice Albert Namatjira grave. Sadly the cemetery itself just by the old wartime runway, is not very well maintained. The major cemetery - Alice Springs Garden Cemetery on the other hand is just beautiful - probably the loveliest one I've seen ever.

I loved the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame which is set up quite beautifully in the old Alice Springs Gaol buildings - as well as honouring the earlier outback pioneer women, it also showcases Australian women's achievements through the years. I was especially pleased to see details of Miss Eva West of Traralgon (my home town) who was one of the first women to qualify as Accountants and who was Shire Secretary of Traralgon Shire during the war years. My parents always spoke well of her and Peter's father used to do carpentry repairs to her house and Peter remembers her quite well.

The Araleun Cultural Precinct has an outstanding set of buildings devoted to outback history, development, natural history, arts and crafts, etc. and currently they have an exhibition entitled The Track: 1000 Miles to War focusing on activities along the Stuart Highway during the World War Two period. Defence force units were stationed along the Highway form Alice Springs to Darwin, engaged in road and airfield building, establishing bases and infrastructure and preparing to defend northern Australia. Stories, photographs, and archival material of the period has been assembled into a fascinating exhibition. Dad was one of those soldiers in the 148th Transport Coy who drove the transports from Alice to Larrimah. Several years were spent serving this way - extremely hard work in an unforgiving, hot, dusty environment.

Yesterday we drove the 127 kilometres to Hermannsburg to visit the old Lutheran Aboriginal Mission. It had been set up in 1877 by German missionaries and it was to be a permanent self-sufficient community. The work involved must have been incredible in such an alien (to them) part of the world. By 1891 the first missionaries felt broken men and the mission was abandoned. Then it was re-started three years later and continued for 88 years. The local Arante people were taught many crafts/skills and also the German language! Their own Aranda language survived to this day - but German didn't. The outstanding artist Albert Namatjira came from this Mission and his lovely outback watercolour paintings are world famous.

We've also watched and photographed The Ghan train leave Alice Springs for its long journey down to Adelaide. Seeing this iconic train coming through Heavitree Gap (the southern entrance through the MacDonnell Ranges) was quite something,

Monday, 13 June 2011

From Hastings to Broken Hill

Left Hastings as planned on Monday - early afternoon - and made it to Wedderburn where we had an overnight stop. Nice friendly, dog-loving people at the park and so Jessie became the centre of attention lapping up all the pats and admiration. On Tuesday we had a long drive up to Mildura and over the river to Wentworth. All along the way much evidence of the severe flooding that that area of Victoria had suffered only a few months back. Charlton has especially been affected with many insurance companies managing to find a tiny clause in the policy to avoid paying up. Makeshift signs line the road: "AAMI - Not lucky", "Elders - thanks for nothing", "CGU - 0" etc. etc. The local people believe they have been forgotten - the publicity re their plight come and gone. Such a sad situation.

Driving on up from Wentworth we stopped for a cuppa at a roadside layby, and met a truckie with his dad and son driving up to Broken Hill with a load of (I think) cardboard flat packs and also towing a trailer full of butternut pumpkins. Guess who was given a free pumpkin? People are always ready to stop for a chat and already we've met some really lovely people on the road.

Broken Hill - arrived Wednesday afternoon and found a lovely caravan park with excellent facilities. Brilliant blue sky day but a bitterly cold wind blowing. Drove about 20 minutes from BH on Thursday morning to Silverton - an old mining town and had a good look around the area. A few 19th century stone cottages, a pub and several churches remain, but with it's classic outback scenery the town has been used for settings for a few films including Mad Max II and the "A Town Like Alice" TV series. The old RC Church (St.Carthage!?!) is the same one that is on my Arthur Lindsay oil painting which I've always loved.

Really enjoyed our few days in sunny Broken Hill even though there was a bitterly cold wind. The Art galleries were beautiful - especially Pro Hart and Jack Absolem galleries. The Miner's Memorial situated high up on what was the mined-out Broken Hill, displayed the names of all miners who had died since the mining began there. A beautiful restaurant nearby also perched high up on the hill and overlooking the town was good for a coffee stop one day. Another place enjoyed was Bell's Milkbar (You've landed in the 50s!) - retro milkbar with great milkshakes/floats/spiders and waffles. 1950s Decor with laminex tables and chairs, 1950s music, syrups/cordials, old fashioned sweets - remember Old Gold chocolates and boxes of Winning Post chocs?? Great fun.

I called in one day at the Broken Hill Family History Group premises and had a lovely chat with the ladies on duty. Very small room packed with filing cabinets, index card drawers and 2 computers. The amount of indexing and collecting of local history that they do is incredible. Much is recorded on index cards which they find easier than collating onto a computer program. All the schools in the area have a series of lever-arch files containing photos of all year levels of every year. They are attempting to add names to all the class photos. Total membership is about 60 with about 10 doing all the hard work! (But very happily, I might add).

The Railway Historical Museum was a must-see especially for Peter and I went along for a casual look-see. Was well and truly rewarded when I came around a corner to be confronted with a huge lathe inscribed "John Lang & Sons, Johnstone". Almost fell over in shock as this company was my Scottish grandmother's family firm. I had researched quite a bit about the company when in Paisley, Scotland last year but the firm now no longer exists. What a incredible find. It really made my day.

Finally, after all our sightseeing, it was time to move on - next to South Australia - Peterborough, Port Augusta and all points north.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

2011 Australian Trip - On the Wallaby

Not long to go now and with winter in full swing here in southern Victoria, Australia, it will not be too soon to head north to see and experience the Australian outback and enjoy some sunshine. The caravan is being packed and we've carefully added extra water tanks, jerry cans for spare fuel and loads of non-perishable food. Maps, guides, first aid kits, bedding and clothing are included and only last minute items such as fridge items need to be added. As we are taking our old dog Jessie, all her equipment/bedding and bags of dog food have been packed.

All the electronic equipment (Peter's domain) - including laptop, wireless internet USB, battery chargers, cameras, TV, solar powered digital radio will all make our trip more comfortable (we hope!), and I've added a stash of books, knitting and sewing just to keep me going for the three months we plan to travel.

Fingers crossed, Monday is historically "D" day and also our departure day. Next posting will be in about a week's time.