Location: Manning Valley/Hastings
Date: September 2008

September 27, 2008. From Taree in the Manning Valley I traveled north to Hastings and Port Macquarie along the Pacific Highway to check out HMB Endeavour, the replica of the ship that Captain James Cook used for his voyage to the South Seas and his visit to New South Wales (later named Australia) in 1770. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article. For technical specs and other info about the HMB Endeavour visit the government web site.

Port Macquarie is a bit over an hour's drive north. The Pacific Highway is currently undergoing a major upgrade so max speed over a long stretch is limited to 80 kph. The machinery is incredible, and there's a stack of it. The upgrade is not limited to just one section at a time but many sections simultaneously. You drive past an area with maybe a dozen or more heavy vehicles and, a little further along, there's another area with another dozen or more heavy vehicles. I must have seen hundreds of bulldozers, diggers, massive trucks and all sorts of heavy-duty machinery on the way to my destination. No doubt the project is costing billions. And another thing I noticed... a couple of crosses with flowers marking spots where people had been killed in motor accidents. So the upgrade to four lanes will be worth the bucks.

Yes, the ship is a remarkable sight. I'm not familiar with Port Macquarie but as I drove into the main town center, I spotted the tall masts beyond the roofs of the buildings. Parking was at a premium (made worse by Saturday morning shoppers) so I parked a few blocks away. That was fortuitous because I took a walk through the foreshore park and photographed the ship as I approached it from a distance. It's not big by modern ship standards but the Endeavour is still a pretty large and impressive vessel. Cook sailed here with a crew of 90+ on board.

The style of boat is called a bark, designed for cargo. The original Endeavor was built as a collier. Normally, a bark would employ a crew of 12 or so, but Cook's open-ended voyage over three or so years required a crew of 90+. To provide sleeping accommodation for those extra people, a mid deck was installed. It's only about 4 feet high from deck to ceiling. There were two dwarfs - little people - on today's tour of inspection and even they had to stoop. Actually, I began to feel somewhat claustrophobic after a while, and was glad to get to the Captain's cabin at the stern. Yes, the Captain had it pretty good - first class, with those gorgeous large hatches at the rear and plenty of headroom. No, not windows - hatches. Even so, his separate "bedroom" was rather cramped.

By the way, it pays to be a fossil. My ticket to board the Endeavour was only $8 - a concession ticket.

The replica is about as close to the original as possible - some of the timbers are different - oregon for the hull and Western Australian jarra for the decking, etc. But the actual construction of the vessel is exactly the same as Cook's ship (except for some modern inclusions such as refrigeration which are hidden below decks). Inflatable rafts, for example, are housed in boxes covered with black cloth on the main deck so as not to detract from the authentic appearance of the boat. There were no lifeboats on the original Endeavour. The "lifeboat" suspended above the main deck is not a lifeboat... it's a workboat, used to go ashore when the ship was anchored in unihabited harbors. All those large "nails" you see on the outer hull are made of wood. They don't rot and they don't rust. Tar is also used to prevent corrosion - you see it on the ropes and pulleys and between the deck planks.

The large iron stove in the galley has two boiling compartments; one for vegetables and one for meat. The food was placed in rope bags which were lowered into the boiling water and then raised again when the food was cooked. Occasionally, a sailor would find a rat on board and catch it. He then gave it to the cook to boil. It was considered a delicacy. Fresh meat! Woohoo! Sailors were given two hot meals a day, and cold leftovers at night. I suspect the sailors on board the Endeavour these days enjoy a much improved menu.

Ah, yes, the cannons. Apart from the biggies, there are smaller ones called "scatter cannons". They were used to shoot small iron shot over the heads of spear-wielding natives in their canoes who appeared to be a tad aggressive - and scatter them. Oh, yes, and that black thing with a hole in it? That thing that looks suspiciously like a toilet seat? Guess what? Yes, folks, one parked one's butt over the side and did one's business. There was no toilet paper so one used a bucket of water to cleanse one's ikky bits. Not all that charming but... it did the job.

I'll admit that I have no desire whatsoever to sail around the world on that wonderful ship, but I was certainly glad to have the opportunity to board her and savor the atmosphere of seafaring life in the 18th century - despite the crowds of 21st century sightseers. There were people everywhere! And long queues. BUT, checking out a replica of the ship that Captain James Cook sailed to Oz to chart the east coast is something special. And I was there - in living color and CinemaScope. It's a marvelous piece of workmanship and a wonder to behold. It may not be a QE2 but then it was never meant to be. Click here for the photo album  and/or... For technical specs and other info about the HMB Endeavour visit the government web site.

September 21, 2008. Off to Wingham again, this time for a sheep display. Sheep? Oh, well, why not? I arrived fairly early - 10am, and discovered that the shearing demo wasn't scheduled until 1pm. There wasn't a helluva lot to keep me occupied so I left before the shearing. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Anyway, I got to meet Bruce. He's the big woolly guy with the purple halter. The young bloke who owns him said he wasn't for sale. "I love him." Bruce was still a lamb when the young bloke's folks bought his mom, so the seller threw Bruce in for nothing. "He'd be furious now if he saw how big Bruce has grown." So there ya go, Bruce and the young bloke are inseparable mates. Bruce was destined to be shorn later but, as I said, I didn't hang around.

The young bloke's mom told me that Bruce weighs about 100 kilos... pretty hefty for a sheep. Even shorn, he'd still weigh around the 90 mark. I noticed that most of the adult sheep have "Roman" noses. My guess is that they're related to animals such as camels and llamas.

The mother also admitted that it's easy to get attached to some of the animals. "Most of them are just animals - they're on the farm for a purpose and that's it. But others are given names and become pets and it's not easy to part with them. A few live out their lives on the farm as pets."

And does the young bloke eat lamb? "Yeah, it's okay, I guess."

It's spring so it wasn't surprising to see that some of the ewes had their little lambs with them. Such cute little critters, and the young bloke was happy to pose with one of them. He was a wealth of knowledge, by the way, and knew a thing or two about poultry as well. He had a rooster badge on his baseball cap. Definitely a farm boy. And speaking of boys, those male sheep - rams - surprised me with the size of their hangers. Whoa! HUGE! Picture two coconuts in a pair of Speedos.

Oh... and the black-headed sheep that almost ate my camera? His name is 'Bear'... as in 'Woolly...' His dad's name is 'Teddy'. Another member of the family is called 'Paddington'. Hmmm. I guess sheep breeding has its share of eccentrics.

So then I checked out some of the woollen goodies made by the Wingham Yarn Spinners, as well as the spinning machines themselves. They probably haven't changed in design for centuries. After that, I called by the local river for a few pics and then headed home. Pity I missed the shearing demo. But there will be another day. Click here for the photo album

September 10, 2008. Back to Tinonee Orchid Nursery. I was there in winter, a few months ago, but now that it's spring, there are many more plants in flower. And this time, I managed to operate the camera with better results. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Macro photography is not easy, particularly in available light that is subdued. Depth of field becomes a hyper critical issue. Nonetheless, only a few pics needed to be discarded. Some of the remainder just make the grade, but most are pretty good.

Gardening is not my thing. My own gets absolutely minimum maintenance. But if other people like to potter about their gardens and get their hands dirty, I'm more than willing to observe and admire their efforts... and take photographs.

For me, orchids are exceptionally beautiful things and worthy of the attention of even the most non-horticulturally inclined. Their colors and markings are truly stunning. This gallery of photos is not so much about orchids per se, and the art of growing them, it's simply about the natural wonder of color and shape... a pleasant bunch of pretties.

Don't ask me what their botanical names are... I failed Latin. And, anyway, it doesn't matter. If they inspire you to visit your local orchid nursery to plant a few in your own garden, fine. Otherwise, just enjoy Nature's paintbrush. Click here for the photo album


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