Location: Manning Valley
Date: November 2008

November 30, 2008. Off to Booroowhangary Rainforest Gardens, Taree, for the third time. The lotus flowers were blooming, although not very many because of the unseasonally cold recent weather. After photographing the motor rail at Taree railway station (story below) I drove out to Booroowhangary, which is only 5 minutes out of Taree on The Bucketts Way. I met Bob Dixon (wearing a T-shirt with more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese) who took me on a tour of the gardens. He knows almost every shrub and tree on the property. And why wouldn't he? There was nothing but weeds and scrub on those 6 acres when he first bought it some 16/17 years ago. Now it's a paradise. "We laid all the paths and borders with concrete made in a hand-mixer." Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article. 

I was surprised to discover that the old Booroowhangary Cottage is just a facade, behind which lies a hot-house. When I first saw the facade on vist # 1, I thought it was a proper dwelling! Fooled! Don't you just love the old ice chest inside the door of the facade? We had one just like that when I was a kid. 

During the walking tour of the gardens, Bob said that everytime he takes a walk around the property he sees something new- it's forever changing. He is somewhat peeved with visitors who miss the detail... who can't see the trees for the forest (or can't be bothered). Bob uses chicken manure as his exclusive fertilizer, and no pesticides whatsoever. The entire place is organic - and all the wildlife, both resident and visiting, is free to eat whatever it wants. I managed to capture a few pics of water dragons, a prehistoric looking lizard about 2' long of which there are many living in the garden ponds. They're a bit skittish so I had to use the zoom and approach with caution. Bob says they'll eat anything... fruit, bugs, snails, whatever they can scavenge. The last of the dragon pics shows a second one on a lower rock, rather well camouflaged. 

The carp I photographed in one of the lily ponds were being fed bread by Bob at the time. And the last pic in the series is of a bower bird's nest - now abandoned because the breeding season is over. Bower birds' favorite color is blue... hence all the blue decorations (whatever they can find) designed to attract a female. It's the male that builds the nest and decorates his lair. "Would you like to see my bluey collection, darling?" 

I asked Bob if he was into horticulture and familiar with all the botanical names when he started Booroowhangary. "I knew bugger all." He said he read a lot of books and then did a landscaping course at tech college "but by then we knew more than the teachers." He invited me to stay for coffee but serious storm clouds had gathered and I fled. I've taken a raincheck on the coffee, but I look forward to next time and a long chat with a man who, without doubt, has a lot of interesting stories to tell. Click here for the photo album Another Booroowhangary photo story is at the bottom of this page, and another - the first - can be found in Journal 0011 (July 2008)

November 29, 2008. Can't resist those old trains, so this time I headed off to Taree railway station to check out a 1920s restored motor rail that was booked to take a number of passengers on a trip to Gloucester for lunch. I didn't go on the trip, but at least I took advantage of a good opportunity to take lots of pics before departure time. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article. 

The trips are organized by the Rail Motor Society based at Paterson (just north of Newcastle) in NSW. The society is a dedicated bunch of volunteer enthusiasts whose mission is to preserve the state's railway heritage. The local Taree organizer is Ted (picture 044) who invited me to visit the railway station at 8:30am - 90 minutes before the train was due to depart. It was running a little late but that was okay... I took some generic pics of the station and also had a chat to Ted about his involvement. You can check out the society's web page here.

Motor rails were used in outer metropolitan areas where the rail line was available but not electrified, and where the use of steam locos and large diesel locos was not warranted because of relatively small passenger numbers. 

While the rail motor was waiting at the station, a goods train appeared and gave me the opportunity to take a few more pics. Those goods trains are a mile long if they're an inch. I spoke briefly to the driver of the motor rail who told me that the diesels (as opposed to the petrol motors used in the very first motor rails) don't have a regular gear box. The diesels have a 'converter' that gets the engine started. Then, once the train reaches a speed of 60 kph, it automatically goes into 'drive'. So basically, the transmission is two-speed automatic - start and cruise. 

I was lucky to visit the driver's compartment at the 'back' end (which was to become the 'front' end for the trip to Gloucester) as a young father took a pic of his son posing in the driver's compartment. I wasted no time in asking if I could take a pic. "Yeah, mate, no worries." And the little bloke was terrific... big smile and all. (038). I asked the boy if he was gonna drive the train and his dad said, "He wishes! He would if he could!" Yeah, boys and trains... peas in a pod. 

Another pic I couldn't resist was an old bloke about to munch on a traditional Aussie meat pie. Looks like he licked off almost all of the tomato sauce before I got a chance to take the pic! (031). 

And the cigarette butts on the rail line? (017) Not a pretty sight. As another photographer commented, "People just don't care." Well, certainly some people don't. It's a bloody disgrace, actually. Thoughtless. 

Taree railway station was a major stopover back in the old days. It featured a 'refreshments' room where you could buy a cup of tea and a sandwich, and other 'comfort' rooms that are no longer used. Rail travel is not as popular as it used to be. Air and bus travel have usurped rail's former prominence. Old fashioned romance has taken a back seat to modern-day efficiency which is a bit of shame I reckon. 

Oh, yes, those big black things mounted forward of the carriage roof, on either side of the headlight? I hadn't a clue what they were until I took a good look. They're radiators... cooling apparatus for the diesel motors. Funny place to put them but... not much choice, I guess. Meanwhile, congrats to the Motor Rail Society for keeping out historic machinery ticking. Click here for the photo album

November 20, 2008. This is a quickie... right outside my front door. I was clipping the digit nails when I saw an old Toyota Tiara arrive and park in front of my house. It's a 1963 model bought in 1966 by the female half of an elderly couple, and has been in the 'family' ever since. "We've been all over the place in it," said the woman, "from Sydney to Armidale several times, up to Queensland." The Toyota is their second car. Every time the first car - a Holden Commodore - breaks down or needs servicing, they drag out the old Tiara. And she just goes and goes and goes. I remember those old Toyotas - the first to arrive in Oz when I was in my late teens. They were based on English cars. The front is copied from a Ford Zephyr and the rear is copied from a Hillman. I hadn't realized that until the old bloke pointed it out... then I could see the resemblance. Quite a modest beginning for a company that now sells millions of cars all over the world, and that is at the forefront of automotive technology and innovation. Click here for the photo album

November 15, 2008. In keeping with ancient Roman tradition, the Royal NSW 41st Battalion, led by pipes and drums, marched into Taree today only to be stopped by the local constabulary before the diggers were granted official access to the city. It was all ceremonial, of course, but provided an unusual spectacle. Only a small crowd of spectators was present ("No worries, mate, I'll watch it on the TV news.") Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article. 

But not everything went smoothly. As the army proceeded down the main street, I walked past an elderly lady in an effort to keep up with the parade. For whatever reason best known to her, she changed direction behind me, tripped and fell. I stayed to help. Of course, it was all my fault. "You walked past me!" And then, as I tried to help her to her feet, another woman gave me a dose of her vitriol for not handling the rescue situation correctly. Anyway, I remained at the scene while the army marched into the distance. Bye bye. The medics arrived a few minutes later and patched up the old dear while she was threatening to sue Council. It's a wonder she didn't threaten me as well. 

The parade eventually did a u-turn and marched into Queen Elizabeth Park where I took more pics. As you can imagine, there's not a lot of action at such a ceremony - it was all rather peaceful, with long inactive periods between speeches and what not. 

However, I did notice that some of the older diggers were quite well fed... if you get my drift. Hehe. Later I spoke to an army rep at the recruitment information van. "Don't even ask," I said after taking a few pics. "I'm too bloody old." He surprised me by saying that a lot of the kids these days "had no heart", and that an old bloke like me would probably "show up" the younger generation. 

Then I told him about old Kev, my next door neighbor who's since gone to God. "He was in the air force, and he said to me one time that I was a lazy bugger and that the army would sort me out in five minutes." "That long?" one of the nearby soldiers remarked. "We take about 30 seconds." Hehe. 

Later, just before I left the park, the mayor, dressed in his ceremonial robes, walked past me as he chatted to one of the army officers, and I said, "Nice frock"... but he either didn't hear me or decided to ignore me. Yes, I know... I shouldn't be allowed out. And another thing, it crossed my mind what might have happened had the mayor spotted a soldier with something out of place, or shoes that weren't shiny enough. Would he have reprimanded the bloke? I think not... it would have upset the smooth flow of proceedings. And speaking of shiny shoes, the mayor's looked positively dull and dreary by comparision to the soldiers'... you could almost see your face in theirs. 

Anyway, I appreciate the opportunity to photograph a bunch of Aussie diggers doing their thing, and I hope you enjoy the pics. Click here for the photo album

November 5, 2008. Two days ago it was the 7th anniversary of my friend Cody's death in an auto accident. He was just 19 and all set to attend university to study marine biology. It was a terrible shock to all his friends and family. Devastating. This web site is dedicated to Cody's memory. He often mentioned to me that he had a special place on Table Mountain where he would go to contemplate life and "sort out" his problems. He had a few special places, but that one was his favorite and it meant a great deal to him. These photos are not of the exact spot, but similar, and serve to demonstrate what a beautiful view he had from "his" mountain. Trust me, Cody was one in a million... probably more like one in a billion. He was easily the most special person I've ever known. Click here for the photo album

November 2, 2008. Back to Booroowhangary, the magnificent gardens just out of Taree, on the way to Tinonee. I got a call on the mobile (cell) this morning from Bob to say that the water lilies are at their peak, and to get my tired old butt out there. I thought lotus and water lilies were the same thing but no. They're most likely related, but water lilies sit on the water surface whereas lotus grow on long stems (which are edible). The lotus will flower in 3 weeks from now. The lilies will still be in flower then but the leaves will have yellowed which is not the best of looks. Right now, the water lily leaves are a beautiful rich green. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article. 

I'd planned to use my back-up Kodak camera just to give it a bit of a workout, but then decided to go with the Sony because it always gets great results. I didn't wanna take a chance on missing the lilies at their peak. However, as Murphy would have it, the clouds arrived and the sun disappeared, which meant that the lilies didn't open up as much as they would have in full sun. Nonetheless, they were a pretty sight. I'll return in 3 weeks to photograph the lotus. 

Yes, I should have used my monopod for the zoom shots but, no, I risked it and settled for hand-held. Luckily, all but one of the pics turned out pretty well. 

Bob's a very amiable bloke. For some reason, when I first met him, I thought he was ex-military or something like that. But, no, before becoming Bob the Gardener, he was Bob the Fruit & Vegetable man. So there ya go... he knows a thing or two about planting things. 

One of the trees he showed me is a tulip tree. According to certain "experts" it won't grow in a place like Booroowhangary. Guess what? Bob said "grow, ya bastard" and it paid attention. Mind you, if he said that to me, so would I. However, the resident possum is not afraid of Bob, and insists on eating the flowers. (Pics 043, 051, 052) 

I suggested to Bob that maybe plants that aren't supposed to thrive in Booroowhangary's particular climate and soil conditions choose to disobey Nature because of the environment... in other words, the company... it's very friendly, with lots of different species having the time of their lives. You know... kinda like one big flora party. He nodded. 

Bob's other passion is golf. He loves to play "even though I can't". I didn't want to shove the camera in his face, so I took a pic of him wandering down the path (from a distance), pruning shears in hand, ready to circumcise a few trees - "the poor things". (Pic 072). He said he was impressed by my previous set of pics. He loves photography too, but he admitted to my ability to see things differently to the way he does. "Why didn't I think of that?" he said. Yeah... that's the way it is - we don't all see the same thing the same way. 

When Bob is not sending a little white ball down a fairway, he spends his time at Booroowhangary. He says his wife is a talented artist... well, so is Bob. The gardens are a real credit to him. Click here for the photo album


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