Location: Manning Valley
Date: October 2008

October 25, 2008. North from Taree towards Port Macquarie along the Pacific Hwy, then west to Wauchope and Timber Town, which has the same initials as my car. Timber Town is a faithful recreation of a town from the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the timber-getting industry was in full swing. It encompasses 87 acres of blackbutt forest and is a living breathing depiction of a sawmiller's village from a century and more ago. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

87 acres? I feel like I walked half way to Perth during my three and a half hours of wandering. But it was worth it. At every turn there's something to catch the eye... or the camera. The whole experience was fascinating but my favorite is the old steam engine and the 15 minute trip through the forest. The track is narrow gauge... the narrowest I've ever seen. The loco weighs 16 tons so it's roughly a third the weight and size of the biggies. But it's cute.

By the way, the loco engineer is the whole kit and caboodle... station master, ticket seller, conductor and driver. At one point during the trip, he stopped the train at a "fuel" siding and even loaded the timber himself. So he's the fireman as well. Oh, yes, and the public relations officer... he entertains the kids at the end of the journey.

Life was pretty tough as well as simple back in those days, and the cottages were tiny... a small weatherboard square divided into four rooms (or two front bedrooms and one full-width room at the rear for living and dining. Laundry and bathing were done in a shed in the back yard - even the bathtub was timber! That's also where the loo (the outdoor dunny) was situated. Some of the cottages also had a separate detached kitchen at the back of the house.

However, some of better class cottages featured large, wide, three-sided verandahs where residents could sit and relax. and enjoy a cool breeze in summer.

The town streets were dirt. Boardwalks served as footpaths. It's just like the little towns I remember from the old black & white westerns I saw at the Saturday matinees when I was a kid.

And the bullocks... as docile as could be, and quite content to obey the instructions of the whip-cracking handler. The young girl - the assistant and possibly the handler's daughter - was the quintessential tomboy. She can crack a whip with the best of them. As the large beasts wandered through town, the girl stood on a trailing chain, riding it like some sort of skateboard - albeit a slow one. However, she did a bit of fancy dancing when the chain sliced through a large bullock pat (ew!) of which there were many. Come to think of it, the dirt streets in Dodge City - depicted in Hollywood westerns - were devoid of horse and cow manure. Not so in real life, folks. When you walk around Timber Town, you need to watch where you're going! *Splat!*

My only disappointment was when I visited a restaurant after walking several hours. I was tired, thirsty and hungry, and looking forward to some real country cooking. Yeah, right. I ordered 2 scones and a pot of tea. The waitress thought I meant scones and tea for two. No, no, no, no. There's just li'l ol' me! Anyway, we sorted that out, but I was less than impressed by the mock cream and commercial jam. The scones were nice... baked on the premises, and the tea was leaf tea as opposed to tea bags... but mock cream? And ordinary commercial jam? In a 19th century environment? I don't think so.

Speaking of food and beverages, that weird looking thing in 134 and 135 is a coffee grinding machine. Imagine have to deal with that thing at 7am when you're desperate for a cuppa.

So here we are in the 21st century living the life of Riley compared to everyday life a century or more ago. Those people did it the hard way, and probably worked from dawn till dusk just to make a living. Timber Town is more than just a theme park; it's an education and well worth a visit. Click here for the photo album

October 18, 2008. Back to Wingham, this time for the Akoostik Music Festival in Central Park. The festival features a number of singers and bands over the weekend but I went there specifically to grab some pics of the young bloke who opened the show, 17 year old Smokin Joe Robinson. He won Channel 7's Australia's Got Talent competition when he was just 16. Let me tell you, this kid can play. If you're unfamiliar with Smokin Joe, just do an internet search or try this link for a couple of video clips. Here's another link to a magazine interview. AND... you can click here for the photo album (pics I took today) or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

I arrived about 30 minutes before Smokin Joe's performance and took a few atmos shots just to give you an idea of what the scene was like. The town park is smack bang in the middle of the CBD, and was designed that way by the town's founders back in the mid 19th century.

When Joe was introduced at 1pm, he took the mic and said g'day to the audience: "Won't be a tick, just gotta plug a few things in here." Then, for the benefit of newbies, he explained a little of his history as a performer. "Here's a song I wrote about 6 months ago." I had to laugh at that... 6 months? Well, he IS only a teen. Despite that, he plays a lot of songs written decades before he was born... old standards and Beatles songs and jazz classics.

I tried to capture some of the excitment of Joe on stage but he's just one kid, ya know... not a whole damn band. However, he might as well be three musicians all rolled into one. He's the base player, the lead player and the rhythm player... all simultaneously. He called it "running bass"... the thumb (with a pick attached) plays the bass runs while the others do the melody and rhythm. Occasionally, he takes his hands away from the strings to treat the guitar body like a pair of bongos. He's just incredible. And likeable. And chatty. He handles himself in front of an audience with great aplomb, especially for one so young. I dunno about pre-stage jitters but he sure didn't show any nerves during his performance. He was totally relaxed. And the audience loved him.

The kid not only plays like a trooper, he also writes his own material, some of which he recorded in Nashville while he was there recently. He's a pretty down to earth young bloke so he gives his songs - even though they're incredibly sophisticated - cool names like "Flea Bites" hehe. 

Joe is a Kempsey boy. Kempsey is just up the road from Taree. It's also the birthplace of the most famous country singer/musician/songwriter Australia has produced, the late Slim Dusty.

Everything about Joe's performance revolves around his guitar playing. He taps his feet and bounces around a little but he ain't no Elvis Presley. He doesn't need to be. His playing is so captivating that it's more than enough. It's hard for me to imagine that Joe will improve his technique. I say 'will' because I figure he ain't finished yet. But I really don't know what superlatives critics will use to describe his playing when it gets better hehe. He's already bloody mesmerizing.

I was lucky to get the pics I did. I didn't bring my monopod with me so all zoom shots were hand-held. I had to flick a few blurry ones, but most turned out okay. So there ya go... one day the kid will be an oldie and these pics of his youth - especially playing at a country fair - will be historically significant. Oh, and no, I didn't get to speak to him. I suppose I could have but I got the feeling it might be inappropriate or intrusive. However, I will contact him and let him know about the pics on Aussie Odyssey. If he wants the originals, he's more than welcome. Click here for the photo album

October 5, 2008. Off to the Old Bar Festival again for part 2, and another attempt to beat the record for the most Kombis gathered at the one spot at the one time. I was there last year and took a bunch of pics. This year I tried to capture something different photographically. A Kombi's a Kombi's a Kombi. Yeah? Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

This year I tried to capture more Kombi interiors and different perspectives. I also spoke to more owners. Several of them own a whole Kombi collection! One bloke I chatted to for quite a while bought a split-screen model that was a wreck, then spent his time restoring the thing - doing all his own rust removal and welding. After a while, he got tired of all the hard work and let the Kombi sit in the garage for 3 years before he revived his interest. "You're fortunate to have a trade like welding and mechanical knowledge." "I'm a horticulturalist. I taught myself how to do the welding and mechanical stuff." "Oh... right... a horticulturalist who fixes old Kombis. Fair enough." Anyway, he's done a fabulous job (pics 044 to 051). In one of the pics, you'll see him and me chatting while I take the photo. Which one? The hubcap one. Cute, huh? The larger version is inside.

I sold my Kombi pop-top camper back in 1996. Silliest thing I ever did.

In one shot, two girls are sitting on the grass playing cards. So I thought... okay, that's something different. In another, a large dog guarding its owner's Kombi pricked its ears when I arrived. Oops! Oh yes, and I couldn't resist taking a pic of the little kid riding in his toy Beetle.

So there ya go, lots of fronts, backs and interiors of Kombis. At one stage I was pretty close to the airfield and managed to get a few good zoom shots of a joy-flight helicopter, and one of a powered hang glider. The surf? What surf? When I arrived, it was flat as a tack, and later it was choppy. So... no surfing pics. Nonetheless, it was an interesting couple of hours - and I wish I still had my Kombi. Click here for the photo album

October 4, 2008. Today was my second visit to the Old Bar Festival, this time for 2008. There was a big and enthusiastic crowd that enjoyed lots of activities, but I missed a few attractions scheduled for tomorrow. No worries - I'll return to check out another attempt at breaking the record for the most VW Kombis assembled in the one spot at the one time. Last year they had over 190. Let's see how many turn up this year. Today, there was a display of vintage and classic cars. I was hoping to get pics of kite surfing but the surf was mush. However, I did manage a few shots of parachutists. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

The short trip from Taree to Old Bar was fine, and organizers of the Festival had the visitor parking under control. I couldn't resist a pic of Tough Titties parked next to a Kombi.

The parking lot was right next to a fun-rides area for the kids, so I grabbed a few pics of that. Then I ventured to the sports oval to check out the display of vintage and classic cars. Many of them were repeats of previous displays so I chose to photograph cars I hadn't seen before. I just love that old '54 cherry red MG (053-056) - what a gorgeous classic. How I wish I could take that for a drive. I was also pleased to see a Wolesley 1500 (my second car) but even more pleased to see another painted exactly the same color as mine - pink and gray (048-049). It could even be the same one! I was 20 when I had the Wolesley, and that's 43 years ago! Sheesh.

I also owned a series of Chrysler Valiants over the years, including the two on show (057-060). Oh... and the Holden Monaro GTS (019 & 021) is Tough Tittie's flasher sister. Cheeky bitch. And who's that kid who hogged the camera in 065? I dunno, but I felt like telling him to pull his Speedos up. I didn't because his girlfriend probably liked them the way they were.

Moving right along... as I checked out the old Ford (073), a bloke asked me if I'd brought TT along with me. He's seen me around town and asked if I'd like to join the Manning Veteran and Vintage Car Club... "we get together occasionally and have some fun". But I declined. Clubs and gatherings are not my thing. I don't think he was all that impressed with my attitude. *Pout*

I followed those two young surfers (103) down to the beach, hoping to get some surfing shots but the local surf was mush. I watched the pair walk along the beach to my left until they were two dots in the distance. No thanks. I thought about driving down there but... well... I'm lazy.

And those surf lifesavers in 104? They're middle age ladies! I mean, really... that would be like being rescued in the surf by your mother. How embarrassing. What happened to the Bronzed Aussie image?

After wandering around in the sun for a while, I was desperate for a cold beer, so I headed for the tent. Inside, I noticed two rough-looking Aussies drinking from tiny cups. What the...??? Have Aussies gone girly? Then I realized it was a beer and wine tasting. "Do you blokes mind if I take a pic of you drinking that stuff? I'll tell all my American friends that it's normal procedure here in Oz to drink from delicate little containers. Those Yanks will believe anything." So the guys happily obliged, and I love the pic. I - by the way - being the butch hero type with my Aussie bush hat on, bought a ridgey didge, fair dinkum BIG glass of beer for $3.50.

There was a skateboarding thing happening near the surf club and I could hear this kid hogging the microphone - he couldn't shut up. Yadda, yadda, yadda for hours on end. So I thought "I gotta get a pic of this endless talker who's hell bent on being a superstar" but when I did, he SHUT UP. He's the one wearing a baseball cap and sitting in a white chair (120). I heard the kid next to him give him a short lecture about talking too much, so the kid got all peeved and stormed off. Hehe.

So that's about it. I'll check out the scene again tomorrow with all the Kombis. Hopefully, the surf will be better (looks like we might get a storm overnight) so that I can capture shots of kite as well as regular surfing... and whatever else presents itself. Click here for the photo album


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