Location: Manning Valley
Date: May 2009

May 16, 2009. The Manning Valley Home and Lifestyle Expo is being held in Taree this weekend, at the Bushland Drive Racecourse. First time I've been there, and I thought it was quite impressive for a country course.

However, I wasn't too impressed with the Expo. Mind you, I'm not a home owner who needs solar power, a new kitchen, a swimming pool or a shed. Lots of people were there, and the huge carpark was almost full. I did take an interest in the displays of camper trailers, however. One was Cub. Not sure what the other was. But they're bloody expensive... almost the same cost as a full-blown caravan. Way outta my league.

When I arrived, I bumped into a lady from Stebercraft. We're always doing that. So we chatted for quite a while. They'll be launching another big cruiser shortly - and they're thinking of entering the previous one (journals 0017/0018) in the boat of the year comp.

Later, a bloke at a stall spotted me and we talked about camping/traveling. Actually, HE talked. I hardly got a word in. I was exhausted by the time I managed to flee. Click here for the photo album.

May 2, 2009. Whizzed out to Ghinni Winery at Ghinni Ghinni yesterday - just north of Taree on the Pacific Highway. I was there in January 2008 and met Tony Hammond, the winemaker. This time, Tony's property was host to a display of alpacas drawn from local farms.

Alpacas, originally from South America, are related to llamas and camels but they're much cuter. Their fleece is also highly prized, as is their poo. There were bags of both for sale at the expo. Waste not, want not.

As I made my way around the pens, photographing the critters, one of them said something in alpacan. I had no idea what it meant, but I mimicked it. It responded and so did I. Then it happened a third time. All of a sudden I was this bloke's best friend, and he allowed me to scratch the mop of fleece on top of his head.

The owner, Justyn Phillips (who's obviously spent a lifetime explaining, "That's Justyn with a 'y' and Phillips with two 'l's'"), came over and we got to chatting about alpacas, of course. "He doesn't normally like strangers to scratch his head," Justyn said, so I felt quite honored. I gave Justyn my Sony to take a pic or two of me getting along famously with my new friend, but the alpaca soon tired of the whole dreary business while Justyn tried to figure out how to operate the Sony. Eventually, Justyn used his own Canon, which then led to us chatting about cameras. Later, he emailed me the 2 shots he took.

Justyn runs an alpaca farm, "Justeph Alpacas" at Lorne, not far up the highway from Ghinni.

After our chat, I walked over to the Winery tasting room and reacquainted myself with Tony, who was busy serving samples of his produce to quite a few customers. He's very proud of his liquers and so he should be... they're delicious. I tasted a raspberry one... Mmmm! And also a peach and something or other. Mmmmm, again!

Tony does almost all of his marketing from the winery but he also mentioned that a restaurant asked for a bottle of his chilli liquer to use in cooking. "But I haven't heard anything for a few weeks," he lamented. I suggested they're probably still unconscious. Tony didn't hear the joke even though his customers laughed. Click here for the photo album.


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