We wander in and wonder at the beauty of our "Land Down Under".

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Small Town Memorials

Does the title of this post ring a faint bell for you? In trying to come up with something to get me started, I realised that the major theme of the past three days has been small towns. Passing through, stopping here and there. We deliberately took a longer route to get to our destination, partly to get off the main roads, partly to see some places we hadn't been through before. So, we passed through lots of small towns.

Getting back to the title, when I first met Di she had a slim volume of poetry on her bookshelf by Geoff Page.  Here is the eponymous poem of that memorable little book, published in 1975:

Smalltown Memorials

No matter how small
Every town has one;
A few names inlaid;
More often full-scale granite,
Marble digger (arms reversed),
Long descending lists of dead:
Sometimes not even a town,
A thickening of houses
Or a few unlikely trees
Glimpsed on a back road
Will have one.

1919, 1920;
All over the country;
Maybe a band, slow march;
Mayors, shire councils;
Relatives for whom
Print was already
Only print; mates,
Come back, moving
Into unexpected days;
A ring of Fords and sulkies;
The toned-down bit
Of Billy Hughes from an
Ex-recruiting sergeant.
Then seen each day -
Noticed once a year;
And then not always,

The next bequeathed us
Parks and pools

But something in that first
Demanded stone.

I guess the poem stuck with me. There are some gems in that little volume and I recommend hitting the link to it I've inserted above.

After spending a couple of days poking around the Moruya/Batemans Bay area while we had a bit of work done on our camper trailer we set off a bit later in the afternoon than we'd anticipated. We were pretty keen to get up and over the main range before the forecast heavy rain hit, so we didn't waste any time once we were on the road. There was a bit of road works happening on the steep slopes of Clyde Mountain that held us up briefly ...


... but no problems with bad weather conditions. 

Once up this obstacle the first place of interest is the old town of Braidwood, which has preserved much of its historical architecture. This might have been what helped us decide to eschew the motorway once we reached the plateau, and head further inland instead. It was a bit of a punt, but luck seemed to be with us. Traffic was light and we motored along for a couple more hours before passing through Harden and on to the adjoining hamlet of Murrumburrah where we discovered free camping in a park just off the main road. Brilliant luck, as we got the canvas up just before a big thunderstorm hit.
Here's what the day's journey looks like on Google Maps:

Lightning flashed off and on through the night and it rained enough to leave quite a few large puddles all around us. We finally packed up the next morning at about 10:30 when the rain eased to a steady drizzle. It was fun passing through towns like Cootamundra, famous as the birthplace of the great Don Bradman.

A little more than an hour later we found ourselves in Junee, a well-preserved historic railway town. It was so attractive we decided to stop and have a look around. Here's a beautiful hotel built in 1896 :

There is a lovely little square in front of the old railway station (which is still in use), probably built so that folks had plenty of room to manoeuvre their horses and buggies. Here's a panorama of the railway station that doesn't really do it justice ...

There was even a train stopped at the station ...

Junee was built as a railway town to serve the surrounding farming district, and the station houses a huge café still operating today ...

It was really a bit early for lunch but we decided it would be good to enjoy the atmosphere of this old café so we stayed for a bite before pushing on.

A few more hours of driving took us through towns with names like Coolamon, Lockhart (another pretty little town), Jerilderie, Finley, Tocumwal and Numurkah. The latter wasn't really en route, but Di wanted to divert via there as it was where her paternal grandmother lived before moving to Tasmania. Sure enough, the first thing we saw as we entered town was the Numurkah war memorial ...

We looked closely but there was no-one by the name of Lapthorne (Di's grannie was Florence Lapthorne) represented on the memorial. After years of driving too far for too long when we're on  the road, we've finally decided that we will take a good break every couple of hours and walk around a bit when we're doing long drives, so we took a stroll around Numurkah. Sadly, it wasn't one of the more attractive towns on our journey. About the only building that we found which had retained a sense of grace was the old courthouse ...

By this time we had left the rain behind. We'd picked a spot the night before that we thought would make a good overnight stop, but because of our late start we had our eyes peeled for something a bit less far down the road. We spotted a lovely little park in Echuca, but overnight camping was not allowed. We decided to push on a little more briskly to Tarrick Tarrick National Park to allow us time to find something else in case that didn't work out. (The slight worry was that it is a dry-weather-only road, and, according to our parks guide, suitable only for "small vehicles" - whatever that means. It turned out to be perfect. We arrived well before dusk. No problem getting in and we had the place all to ourselves, after about seven hours of driving (I admit that we were travelling a little faster than recommended for some of the time ) ...

This morning we spent a couple of hours wandering about enjoying the park before we left at about 10:15. The park features a beautiful forest of Callitris Pines and a couple of gently-rounded granite domes. There were wallabies around camp and bigger kangaroos bounding about as we drove in and out of the park. Di even saw some galahs to photograph, so you get cockatoos ...

... and a kangaroo (two if you look closely) ... 

in this post!

In the previous photo you can see evidence of the granite slabs and domes I mentioned. Here's an image of the top of Mount Terrick Terrick ...

Nestled in shady and sheltered spots were lots of gorgeous little orchids. Here's an example ...

Back out to the highway at Mitiamo, turn west for 25 kms, then north on the Loddon Valley Highway for 10 kms to Durham Ox. West on the C267 for 21 kms to Boort, then southeast on the C266 to Charlton, and another delightful surprise. This town was badly affected by flooding in 2011 but must have a brilliant sense of community spirit. There was wide speculation that the town might never recover but what you will see if you ever visit is a vibrant little community that seems stronger than ever. As we entered town we noticed a sign that said "Travellers' Rest", and parking for large vehicles. We thought we might stop and look around, so we pulled into a shady flat spot. It turns out that this travellers' rest area has been built in the area where the old Charlton Sale Yards were ...

They've got a great little park straddling the Avoca River complete with a pedestrian swing bridge. The first thing that really caught our eye was this four metre long sculpture ..

It turns out that it was from the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and celebrated the participation of Kenya (apparently swordfish abound off the coast of Kenya).

The town has provided a great little area for passers-through to stop and have lunch in the shade ...

... a free camping area complete with a campers' garden ...

After doing a loop through the park, across the river and back along the main road our attention was caught by this neat little car on the footpath ...

It was sitting outside a shop called "Gallery 79". We got talking to the guy who ran it. The shop had been totally ruined in that big flood of 2011, just a year after he'd moved in. You'd never know it now. Here's what it looks like today ...

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos inside: we were too busy talking with the fellow who runs it. His name is Geoff Coote, and he's a pretty neat guy. His current passion is steampunk, and he's made some amazing creations. In case you don't know what steampunk is and don't have the time to find out right now, here's a brief summary: Steampunk is modern technology—iPads, computers, robotics, air travel—powered by steam and set in the 1800’s.
If you'd like to find out more, here's a link. We did spend a bit of money in the shop: a little something for someone special, can't say more here because we don't want to give the game away now, do we?
If you ever find yourself passing through this corner of Oz make sure you allow yourself a little time to meet Geoff and savour the delights of his creativity.

After our hour in Charlton it was really time to get to where we were headed. We stopped briefly in Horsham to get some groceries, then at the Arapiles Mountain Shop to pick up Di's climbing shoes that she had sent in for resoling and then off to Natimuk Lake. So, here's what today's few hours of driving looks like on the map ...

And here's where we're at for the next three weeks in case you'd like to drop by ...

And now it's time for bed
there's climbing to be done in the morning!

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