Location: Manning Valley
Date: June 2009
June 30, 2009. June (winter) weather continues to be pleasant
- fine and 23 C today - so I had a little chat with myself and convinced
myself to take Bluey for a run in the countryside... Lansdowne,
to be precise, which is a short drive north of Taree and to the
west through lovely rural countryside. Some people might drive through
and say "there's nothing here", while others like me drive through and
are enchanted by the village atmosphere and quaint sights.
One place where I stopped to take a few pics near a railway crossing
and bridge, brought about 57 local dogs to the fore to let me know that
this was THEIR territory. But they were cool... bloody noisy but cool.
I tend not to get ruffled ya know... I just say quietly, "It's okay mate,
no worries. I'm just taking a few happy snaps."
Railway crossings interest me. Not sure why, probably because they haven't
changed much since the old days. There's something endearing and cute about
them... unless your car conks out half way across the tracks when the bells
are ringing, of course.
And speaking of bells, I also love old country churches. Again, there's
something sweet and sentimental about those cute little buildings and those
adorable windows. I just love 'em to pieces even though I'm not religious.
Mind you, a bolt of lightning and a thunderous voice from the heavens could
change my mind about that fairly swiftly.
Oh, yes, the yellow tree outside the big silo thing... that's a wattle
tree which is Australia's
Lansdowne is a collection of residential dwellings and a general store.
That's about it. Oh, and a water storage tank. Nearby is a national park.
I stopped there for a while and had a bit of a poke around when a couple
turned up in a 4WD. They parked, dragged out the trusty portable BBQ and
were getting ready for lunch when I left... but not before saying g'day
and hooroo. They had a lovely dog too... looked like a cross between a
German shepherd and a husky.
I suppose the things I saw today are pretty ho-hum to locals who see
them every day and take them for granted. But not to me. To me, it was
a most pleasant way to spend a few hours. Click
here for the photo album.
June 28, 2009. Winter proper is just around the corner so I took
advantage of today's sunny weather to take a bit of a run. I'd intended
to visit Cundletown and Lansdowne, but Cundletown was as far as
I got. Cundletown, just north of Taree up the old Pacific Hwy along
the banks of the Manning River, was a separate town back in the
old days, but is now virtually a suburb of sprawling Taree.
Quite a few times on my travels I'd noticed an old bakery cum antiques
shop at Cundletown and thought "I must photograph that one day". I intended
to take just a pic or two before heading off to Lansdowne (which will have
to wait for another day) when I saw Graham Mewburn and Irene sitting on
the verandah of their tumble-down cottage right next door to the old bakery
cum antiques shop. They were having breakfast. Graham said something about
my being the squillionth person to take photos of the ancient telephone
booth out front. We got to talking and the next thing you know I'm invited
inside to check out his photography on RedBubble.
Yes, he's quite a talented shutterbug. But make sure you come back here
to Aussie Odyssey when you've finished checking him out... or there'll
be trouble. BIG trouble.
fascinating bloke, tho. He busks around Taree to make a buck... no accompaniment.
He just opens his mouth and sings. He doesn't need a microphone either.
He gave me a demo on the verandah and it drowned out the local traffic,
including the airport's. "When I thank people for their donations they
inevitably say 'no, it's me who should thank you!'" He's in the process
of releasing a CD.
After a bit of chat and a cuppa made just how I like it (compliments
of Graham), I remembered having met him one day a few months ago when he
was cleaning a restaurant's windows (another thing he does to make a buck).
He told me he was a ex-bus driver from Melbourne and espoused a whole bunch
of philosophy which ended with: "We all have the power to make the world
a little bit worse or a little bit better. Which would you rather do?"
Eccentric? Worse. Oh yes, Graham is a dead-set loony, certified in fact.
The genuine article, or fair dinkum as we say in Oz. And if you heard his
laugh, as I did, you'd be instantly convinced. He admitted to me that he's
an authentic psychopath. However, I was somewhat peeved when I learned
that he was not the dangerous type, more the hugging type. I was hoping
to see his collection of axes, knives and other implements of murderous
mayhem but he doesn't have any. Nonetheless, he was happy to meet me, a
comrade, a soul buddy, a person who believes in the value of being a tad
unhinged. We agreed that if it weren't for colorful people like
us the world would be utterly and insufferably boring. That's our story
and we're sticking to it.
Anyway, it was getting a bit late to do the Lansdowne thing so I drove
just up the road and took a few pics of the old Post Office, and then a
few more down by the river. Luckily, a pelican decided to glide through
the frame as I pressed the shutter. Click
here for the photo album.
June 23, 2009. Taree again. This time just over the Martin bridge
to Bucketts Way and Saxbys Soft Drinks. Yes, I know, me of all people
going to a soft drinks factory. But I do love ginger beer, which is what
made Saxbys famous way back in the mid 19th century. Check
out the official Saxbys story here.
I was greeted at the front office by Colleen (I think) who then introduced
me to operations manager Chris Murray, a casually dressed young bloke who
looked more at home on a football field than an office. I asked him where
his shirt and tie were. "This is 2009," he explained, "not the dark ages."
Fair enough. He's a lovely bloke - very friendly and helpful, and took
me on a personally guided tour of the factory.
I'm not sure what I was expecting. Saxbys is a rather small operation
staffed by maybe half a dozen workers on the factory floor, with about
the same number in the office. It sort of reminded me of a model train
layout only much bigger. Instead of tracks, the system uses conveyors to
transport bottles from one end to the other. Today they were bottling ginger
beer in plastic bottles (PET) rather than glass. Occupational Health and
Safety regulations prevent members of the public (like me) from touring
the factory when glass is being handled. In fact, Saxbys don't encourage
public tours of the premises at all, so I got lucky. It's my magnetic charm
Upstairs are giant stainless steel vats where the sugar syrup is made.
Sugar and water. Nothing to it. Boom boom. The syrup is then gravity fed
to a machine on the ground floor which mixes it at a prescribed ratio of
syrup to essence. Today it was ginger but Saxbys produce a whole range
of different flavored drinks. Actually, I was about to photograph large
containers of prepared essence upstairs but Chris said that was a no no...
it's all secret ingredients! Oops! But that's okay. He didn't shoot me.
Once empty bottles are fork lifted onto the start of the conveyor system,
they go through a fairly complex process that involves steam cleaning,
filling, capping, labeling and packaging. Meanwhile, other machines do
the mixing of ingredients and aerating of the final liquid before it's
fed into the bottling system. The entire procedure is precision manufacturing
that runs like clockwork, and is totally fascinating to watch. However,
each of the workers keeps a keen eye on proceedings to make sure nothing
goes wrong. Occasionally, human hands need to intervene to keep the system
running smoothly. You can see Chris at one point (pic 033) checking labeled
bottles for quality before they head to the packaging area. From there,
the boxed contents are delivered to pallets ready for dispatch.
Later, I tried to photograph close-ups of old stone bottles which didn't
turn out too well because of the lighting. In fact, shooting pics in a
large factory with only the aid of a built-in flash isn't ideal by any
stretch. But you get the idea.
Old glass bottles I found particularly intriguing lack a flat base for
standing upright. During the 1800s, they were transported by ship to Taree
because a) there was no glass manufacturer here and b) once filled, they
needed to be laid horizontally to keep the corks moist and airtight for
shipment to the local market.
The final pic in the album is of the horse-drawn cart used by Saxbys
back in the early pioneering days. I photographed it when I visited Timber
Town last year. These days, the company uses huge semi trailers to distribute
their product nationally. What a contrast!
Saxbys has been in operation since 1864, and is still a family owned
company. Chris pointed to the photograph of the current managing director
Ian Turner, a Saxby by marriage, and said, "If it weren't for this man,
we'd be owned by Coca Cola." Ian and his father George formed a co-operative
with other independent bottlers to resist takeover bids by multi-nationals,
which earns them a very big Brownie Point in my book. Go the independents!
My thanks to Chris Murray and the girls in the front office for being
so helpful, and educating me in the ways of putting yummy things in bottles!
BUT... Saxbys recipes shall forever remain a secret. Click
here for the photo album.
June 15, 2009. The roundabout just outside this house in Taree
has its share of events... people in motorhomes and old Toyota Tiaras.
Just now it was a huge tow truck that came to the rescue of a broken-down
B double trailer. "You'd be totally pissed off on a Monday morning," I
said to the driver as I appeared with the Sony camera. "You can say that
again," he replied but he was a friendly bloke. He said the problem was
a wheel bearing. "I'd have lost a wheel if I'd gone much further." I remarked
on the height of the prime mover. "You'd get an attack of vertigo up there,"
I said. "Nah, mate... only two steps up to that one. Some are much higher
than that." I also remarked on the way the tow truck driver crawled around
under the broken-down truck, putting his trust in the lifting mechanism
that raised it a few feet off the ground. No way you'd get me under that
thing, baby. No way. Anyway, I took a couple of pics and bade them farewell.
here for the photo album.
June 13, 2009. Pretty good weather for June (early winter) -
sunny and 20 C. So off I went to Old Bar beach, about 15 minutes
east of Taree, for the Saltwater Wine Surf Classic. I heard
the bloke on the PA say that conditions were very good. The surf wasn't
all that big but to me, a non-surfer, the shape of the waves looked ideal.
Today, Saturday, the quarter and semi finals are being held. The finals
will he held tomorrow. I'm not a fan, so I just went there to practice
a bit of surf shooting and get some atmos shots. It was a tad boring, to
be honest... not a big crowd. But that could change tomorrow.
The section of beach chosen by the organizers is about a kilometer north
of the main beach, on a dirt road that leads to the mouth of the Manning
I set up the Sony with the telephoto extension which looked rather pathetic
compared to the huge barrel lenses the other guys were using. As a consequence,
I wasn't able to get those kind of maxi close-ups you see in surf mags.
Moreover, I don't have the patience required to stand on the beach waiting
for a surfer to choose a wave. I lasted about 10 minutes. Those other guys
with the big lenses were pros (I imagine) and probably stayed on the beach
all damn day.
I'm a bit grumpy at the minute because I blew a few chances to talk
to the locals and give this story some human interest. A couple of cheeky
grommets made a comment but I failed to take advantage of the situation
to include them in a few shots and "interview" them. Dammit. I must work
on that in future. It's weird. I can talk my head off to most people but
there's something about surfers that scares me.
Oh... and the pic of the wave without a rider? That's a pic of a wave
without a rider. I do like the ingenius clothes prop made of driftwood
to hang wetsuits and other damp clothing on, however. Very clever.
Later, I took a few shots of Old Bar township just to give you an idea
of what it's like. There's not a lot there - a main street with a few shops
and that's about it. Okay, a rap over the knuckles for not doing a better
job. Maybe next time. Click
here for the photo album.
June 06, 2009. Okies, off to Wingham about 15 minutes
drive west of Taree for the Holden FX & FJ championships held
at the showground. FX and FJ Holdens (Australia's first car!) were built
between 1948 and 1956. They are Aussie icons just as much as the Harbor
Bridge, Uluru and Ned Kelly's helmet. The parent company of General Motors-Holdens
is GM in the US. Holdens have always been the smaller Aussie version of
the American Chevrolet. You
can read the Holden story online here.
I'd visited a vintage Holden show a few years ago at Wingham, but this
expo was bigger, attracting proud owners and enthusiasts from far and wide.
While I was there snapping away with the Sony, judges with their checklists
were going from car to car to tally up the points and choose the eventual
winners in various categories.
Many of the cars were impressive, some as good as the day they left
the showroom, while others have been seriously modified. One had a 5-liter
V8 sitting under the bonnet/hood. Whoa! The original Holdens were fitted
with a 2.2 liter 6 that developed 60 bhp.
When I put the photo album together, I decided to gather a few pics
from the internet in keeping with the era, just to give it a bit of a 50s
flavor. However, there is one pic of a Bush radio that was taken at the
show. All kinds of people from all walks of life, young and old, were in
attendance... everyone from rev-heads to curious onlookers, all having
a wonderful time admiring the gleaming machines of yesteryear. Yes, those
are the long-gone days of a bygone era - no TV, no satellites, no man on
the moon, no computers or internet, no DVDs, no digital cameras. It was
another world but the old Holdens are still here to remind us of a simpler
time when pinball machines and jukeboxes ruled.
As I left, I spotted a 1956 Holden in the carpark. That was the model
that immediately followed the last of the FJs. Then I wandered around the
market stalls just to capture a bit of atmos. Fruit and flowers make lovely
pics. And the honey? Yes, I bought a bucket of Ironbark Bush Honey from
Tamworth - 9 bucks. One lady had a trailer load of pumpkins. "That's a
lotta pumpkins," I said. "I've got two tons of pumpkins in my drive at
home," she replied. Jeez... what the hell do you do with THAT many pumpkins?
here for the photo album.
June 04, 2009. So there I was at home, bitching about all the
rainy weather we've been having lately - and consequently no mini Odysseys
- when a bus pulled up in front of the house. Well, not quite a bus - a
converted bus - a motorhome. So I whizzed outside with my Sony and took
a few pics. Then I saw movement inside. Oops! I was about to be shot for
trespassing... or something. But no, Phil stepped outside the bus and introduced
himself. Then Rose stepped outside and he introduced her. Two vagabonds,
touring Oz. "That's my dream," I said to Phil. "But not quite as fancy
Remember Mick from Tasmania? He pulled up outside in his Izuzu motorhome
about a year ago. So today's encounter was a little bit of deja vu.
Phil, Rose and I chatted for quite a while before they wandered into
town on foot for a bit of sightseeing. "We'll show you inside when we get
back." And so they did - we chatted for about 2 hours. Phil bought the
bus some time ago when he was still working as a truck driver, piloting
big rigs interstate. Then he spent 9 years fitting out the bus in anticipation
of traveling Oz when he retired. 9 years? Wow, that's dedication. But he's
done a great job. He showed me pics of the bus after he bought it for $10,000.
It was a regular school bus from a country town. He gutted it, designed
all the internal fittings - lots of nooks and crannies and storage areas
- and did all the work himself with a little help from his relatives and
friends. The end result is a very comfortable and roomy home on wheels.
"It was just what I wanted," he explained. "Right size, and with the two
front seats forward of the door." He rearranged a few things, like the
side windows, and also fitted 2 extra compartments between the front and
rear wheels. The existing one holds deep cycle batteries, the second is
a tool box, and the third houses a slide-out BBQ. Solar panels are fitted
to the roof.
Phil recommends having a Honda generator (that he says are whisper quiet)
to supplement the solar panels, which are pretty useless during cloudy/wet
weather, plenty of which we've had lately. But he and his lady love life
on the road and couldn't be happier. "There's no shortage of company on
the road (Phil loves a chat), there's a new view every little while, and
we get to visit a lot of wonderful places."
Being a fairly large vehicle, I wondered if it was pretty much restricted
to sealed roads and caravan parks. "Nope, we've never stayed at a caravan
park. Too bloody expensive." That surprised me. So the bus is quite capable
of negotiating dirt roads to take advantage of "out of the way" national
parks and public camping areas. Sometimes not so public hehe. Interestingly,
Phil is retired - his only income is a pension. "Rose and I live quite
comfortably on my pension," he said. "We have everything we need." I was
happy to hear that because I'll be in the same boat.
Fuel? "Not a problem. We travel short distances, camp for a few days
or even a few weeks. So the cost of diesel is not an issue."
It was a lovely experience to meet Phil and Rose. We all got along like
a house on fire. If I'd met them on the Odyssey, we probably would have
shared a barbie around a campfire and chatted well into the night, lubricated
with a few "quiet ones" as Phil calls them. Click
here for the photo album.
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