Location: Manning Valley
Date: July 2008

July 20, 2008. Goodness me! Another mini odyssey already! This time it's the transport we used before Henry and Carl started the automobile craze. I visited Taree Showgrounds for the Mid-Year Dressage, Showjumping and Hacking competition. The dressage took place yesterday (when I visited the Beaut Utes display), but at least I got a few shots of today's showjumping and general atmos. Horses are such lovely creatures. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

You certainly know you're in the country when you visit a place like the Taree Showgrounds. However the location also serves as a trotting track, and is used for various other community functions. At one stage I advised a women not to step back any further, unless she wanted to decorate her shoe with a pile of horse manure. "We're used to it," she said.

One sight I found particularly impressive - apart from the magnificently groomed animals - was little kids sitting on the backs of those giants and riding them around as if it were second nature... confident as all getup. So cute dressed in their riding breeches, boots and caps! Earlier today it was pretty nippy and I was undecided about doing a mini Odyssey, but the day warmed and improved, so off I went. Even then, I didn't expect to get many photographs, but I did.

Don't ask me who won or whatever, I wouldn't have a clue... I was there soley to capture a few images of equine majesty and a bit of atmosphere. A woman and her daughter happened by and I heard the mother remark that it would cost money to have a photograph taken. Hehe. I explained that I wasn't the official photographer - just a fraud - and that I'd be happy to photograph the daughter astride her mount. I gave them the AO site addy and my email addy. (Pics 35 and 36).

I noticed that there was an absence of blokes. I think I saw one boy, but he was washing a horse. Even the announcer on the PA system was female. Maybe it was a girl's day out, or maybe blokes are more the rodeo type instead of dressing up their horses like dolls. You know what blokes are like... all huff and puff and no decorum.

But I enjoyed the experience, and managed to keep the soles of my shoes clean. Click here for the photo album

July 19, 2008. Back to Wingham this morning and the Showground for the Beaut Ute Show. Well, I gotta tellya, Wingham Showground is about as countrified as you can get... straight out of the 1920s... and charming. I love all that old stuff. First off, as I drove there, I noticed I was being followed by the same model car as mine, except it was a ute. Americans call them pickups, but our utes (an abbreviation of utility) are based on regular sedans, not trucks. When I arrived, the ute parked next to me, and the driver and I got chatting. He drives his daily and uses it for work and play. So I took a couple of pics of the two 'sisters' side by side. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Before photographing the beaut utes, I wandered around the showground to get a few atmos shots of the old cattle sheds, etc. Then I heard small motor bikes... motocross types, so I went to investigate. Yeah, a couple of young blokes were taking flying lessons on those things, so that was a bonus in the pictorial department.

As I wandered around the area where all the utes were on display, I couldn't help noticing that almost all of the owners were modern-day cowboys, complete with cowboy hats. I also noticed that there was a not-so-subtle one-upmanship battle going on with the bull bars (sometime called roo bars in Oz) fitted to the front of their machines. The bigger the better... or so I gathered. Many bordered on the absurd. One of the cowboys - a generously proportioned bloke in his mid 20s, sporting a big cowboy hat, jeans, black shirt and boots - was holding a can of orange soda, which I thought was mildly hilarious. Hehe. What a contrast!

Obviously a lot of work, dedication and love goes into those machines, some of which are works of art. One big mean-looking fella was spraying his mags and giving them a clean, just like grandma did with her silver. That looked a bit odd too but I didn't say anything except that his car was "pretty" - not a wise choice of words, come to think of it. But I survived intact. One bystander asked the owner what he did in his spare time. "I don't have any," was the gruff reply, but I laughed anyway.

You'll notice various signage such as Bundaberg Rum (a Queensland brew) plastered over many of the utes. I asked one young bloke - the Jim Beam one - if it was sponsorship. Nope, it's just a thing with these guys... something with which most of them identify, a sort of club badge. I also asked him if the one-piece hinged cover on the rear tray was standard. "Yep, standard accessory from Ford." I noted that he had a mattress in the back, complete with pillows and a little cuddly toy (his girlfriend's feminine touch). "Not much headroom," I said. "You can say that again," his girlfriend volunteered with a laugh. And then the guy added, "Yeah, not a good idea to lift your head all of a sudden." Hehe. But he says it's great for trips away. There ya go, no cans of paint, tools, ladders and whatnot for this guy... only a mattress... and a cuddly toy. Oops!... and his girlfriend.

The competition is mostly between Holden and Ford, but I spotted a lone GMC. My Oregon friend Richie just sold his so I thought I'd include this one in the album in order to make him feel bad and burst into tears. Oh, and the little puddy tat caught under the front wheel of one of the utes? What a sick joke, but I had to laugh. How gross! On the other hand, these ute cowboys are not the most gentile of characters. Click here for the photo album

July 13, 2008. Another quick trip, this time to Wingham along Comboyne Road out to the Wingham Sporting Complex and adjacent Manning Kart Club (track). The club has a special promotion this month to attract new members and enthusiasts, and is offering members of the public - from 7 to 70 - a chance to try one of these little machines for free. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

I hoped to see a little old lady try her hand at karting but there were none in attendance, and I wasn't about to throw on a frock and a bit of lippy just to satisfy demand. But there were lots of kids, plus "seniors" (basically kids in disguise). The younger kids took it pretty easy around the track but the older ones did the "hey, check me out" trick as they risked life and limb.

No, seriously, about the only damage a driver could do is rearrange the stacks of old tires that border the track and/or put a dent in his/her pride. The karts are quite safe. They have an exceptionally low center of gravity which is about an inch away from severe gravel rash on the you-know-what. They have an accelerator, a brake and a steering wheel (sometimes a handle bar). That's it. No gears. Well, except one. Go. The gear ratio can be changed by fitting different gear wheels to the rear axle to suit different race tracks. Other than that, you simply plant the right foot and go for it.

Kart engines are usually 100cc, and some karts are fitted with twin engines. The engines are not from motor cycles or lawnmowers - no sirree - they're the genuine article and specially made for karting. This is a serious business, folks.

When I arrived, I noted that there were separate areas for spectators and participants and owners. Well, you know me... so I whipped out the Sony and went marching into the forbidden zone. Nobody complained so I asked one of the officials there if I could get permission to do a little happy snapping. And that's what happened. Ya know, when you carry a pretty serious looking camera, people think you're from the press or whatever. You can get away with murder!

Some of the little kids - all dressed up in their racing outfits and wearing helmets - looked magic, and it was great to see them having such a wicked time with "big kid's" toys. Let's face it, some kids never grow up - and I'm happy to say that I'm one of them. Click here for the photo album

July 9, 2008. Taree again, folks! But this time I toddled up to the Manning Regional Art Gallery to check out an exhibition by local Aboriginal artists... and I'm here to tell you, it is stunning. Those guys are so talented you gotta see it to believe it. The group is called Gangga Marrang (pronounced Goongga Murroong) whose members are based at Purfleet, just up the road. The gallery supervisor, Jane, told me not to take photographs of individual paintings front on in order not to infringe copyright, so the pics I took are of group paintings, from an angle. But that's cool. They turned out pretty good. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Purfleet doesn't always get favorable publicity around here so it's refreshing to witness the positive side of the Aboriginal settlement's residents. I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I was by Gangga Murrang's artists. One of them - a young man - was at the gallery working on his latest masterpiece. I asked him about the paints he uses (one of the bottles looked like something you'd squirt on a hot dog). Apparently, the paints are made from natural substances such as various clays and pigments obtained from... well, whatever they're obtained from. Don't ask me... I'm a dummy. As I watched him adding dots to the painting, it struck me that Aboriginal painting must take a helluva lotta patience, not to mention focus. But, as you'll see from the photos, the effort and patience is well rewarded.

Aboriginal art has been around for tens of thousands of years, but it's only fairly recently that the world has taken notice. It's an artform that is both culturally significant and entertaining. The colors are awesome, and there's a great deal of joy to be gained from admiring their beauty. The young artist in residence agreed with me that there's no need to look for hidden meaning or any sort of academic gobbledeegook... they're simply objects that please the eye and brighten any room. Actually, I've never seen the gallery look so stunningly gorgeous. It really is a visual treat.

I'd like to thank Jane for giving me permission to photograph the exhibits, and the young man who gave me permission to photograph him while he worked. It was a pleasure as well as a privilege. Click here for the photo album

July 03, 2008. When I did the Stebercraft shoot a few weeks ago, Cherie - one of the front-office girls - told me about a local 'must see', Booroowhangary Rainforest Gardens, a private hobby garden operated by Bob and Carol Dixon on Buckets Way, between Purfleet and Tinonee. Booroowhangary is Aboriginal for 'Garden Island'. So that's where I went this morning. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

I'd been warned by Carol over the phone to watch for the potholes, but they weren't half as worrying as some I've negotiated on back roads. The new creek bridge had just been installed. There's no big sign out front... the gardens are more of an interest for Bob and Carol rather than a commercial enterprise. Occasionally, they organize a special event such as a jazz concert in the grounds - they even have a specially-built stage there. Today, the gardens were visited by a bird watchers group, to whom I was introduced after chatting with BWer Celia who told me a bit about the place.

When I first arrived, I went to the wrong house! There, I met two very large dogs, both of whom, fortunately, were on the other side of a fence. Not sure what breed but they were B for Big. The older one made it quite clear I wasn't welcome, but I was almost licked to death by the younger. Then the owner arrived and pointed me in the direction of Booroowhangary, just across the next paddock where I was greeted by more friendly critters... a few cows, some of whom were determined to stand their ground on the road despite the approach of TT.

I met Bob, who was busy gardening, and who invited me to wander around the place. I didn't know where to start! Bob and Carol have a small cottage there but live elsewhere... in town according to Celia, but the Dixons also own a local farm. As I mentioned, the gardens are their pastime/hobby, and they're quite happy for members of the public to enjoy them. By the way, as much as Bob is a keen gardener, he's also a keen golfer and follower of football.

Booroowhangary is a charming 6 acres, and most of the pics are self-explanatory. There's a mix of open lawn areas surrounded by many species of trees and shrubs, plus a number of little nooks and crannies filled with ferns and other rainforest plants connected by timber walkways. The property is bounded on one side by the meandering Manning River. All very peaceful and charming, and an ideal place for a picnic. The bird watchers were enjoying tea and cake when I arrived, as well as a chin wag. "What kinda birds do you watch?" I asked. "Male ones," said a cheeky lady.

It's a brilliant winter's day with full sunshine. In fact, it was quite warm and I had to ditch the sweater. I got to chatting with one of the BWers, a bloke about my age. We were standing near the old Austin A40 and he mentioned that his first car was one of those. "Mine was a Morris Oxford of the same vintage," I said. "Wouldn't pull the skin off a rice custard." Later, he said that if our first cars weren't so damn slow, we probably wouldn't be standing here talking to each other now. Hehe. Yes, boys and cars can be a pretty lethal combination. Mind you, that little old lady who managed to mow down six people on a suburban sidewalk yesterday wasn't too flash either.

Some of the people I met, including Bob, suggested that the gardens are always changing with the seasons, so it's a good idea to visit maybe two or three times a year. Carol said the same thing. I'll definitely go back in a few months time, especially when the lotus are in flower. They are the most magnificent things.

Oh yes, the lily pond. I stepped to the edge of the pond to get a close up of the lily and... oops! The ground was wet and soft, and I nearly took a swimming lesson. Luckily, one wet shoe was the extent of the damage.

That yellow backlit flower (082), incidentally, is called a bottle brush. I wonder why? There's probably another name for that species of bottlebrush (there are many) but don't ask me what it is. One of the BWers asked me if I was a plant or a bird person. "I take pretty photos," I answered, "and I don't worry about anything I can't spell."

I don't know the history of the timber carvings scattered about the place, or who created them, but I suspect they're locally made... perhaps even by Bob and Carol themselves. I found a plaque at one point that dedicated the garden to the memory of Sir Roden Cutler. (Thanks, Gary for using your own hankerchief to wipe off a bird dropping before taking the pic. Ew!). So I imagine Bob Dixon is pretty well connected.

So there ya go, a most enjoyable photo shoot. And I can't help thinking that if the Israelis and Palestinians conducted their meetings at Booroowhangary, they'd reach a peace agreement a lot quicker. Click here for the photo album


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