Home again. The first leg of the research trips for our book is over – sort of. Actually, it is nothing like being fully complete – but the travelling part is behind me – for this part – I think. Prior to embarking on this trip I had established contact with yet more people – for both the book and for other reasons but have been provided with heaps more contacts – for stations and/or people who have been living in the outback, throughout SA, NSW, WA and a couple in the NT. I will be contacting all of these people, along with re-visiting the participating retired pastoralists, in the coming weeks. Suggestions/thoughts/ideas continue to pour in as does info about stations and their histories – from all over the place. All so good.
Before I continue, though – I have been extremely remiss (probably more than once and I am sure it will happen again) in that I did not mention the famous Blinman Pub Pizza Night, which Sally Henery took me along to on the Friday night I was at Alpana Station. These yummy pizzas are made by the pub owners and staff on the spot – and are nothing short of sensational. Believe me – this statement – coming from moi – is quite something – as most who know me well also know that I am not a ‘pizza person’ – having ‘out-pizzad’ (is that a word?) myself in my twenties – but even I couldn’t resist those of the pub. And the variety – fantastic. That was also the time of my reunion with Mary Fisher – and meeting many other people, most of whom are coming onboard.
After leaving Julie and Justin McClure of Kallara Station, north of Cobar, I spent a couple of days in the town itself – the intention being to contact the owner of another station, south of Cobar – but sadly, I was unable to reach him. He will not be missed out though – as with so many others which are now coming onboard, our contact will be by mail and telephone – and email where possible. Instead, I did have the opportunity to have a chat with Sharon Harland and staff of The Cobar Weekly, before visiting the Cobar Primary School to take photos. Sharon has also put me into contact with another talented young lady – the girl who sang the national anthem at the Cobar Races – and, who, I believe, is a truck driver at the mines, when not singing. There will be more about her later (I hope) – and a photo in the book. The Principal of the primary school has been wonderful enough to throw his support behind our book – he showed me around the school and gave me (almost) free reign to photograph – and photograph I did. The libararian was also wonderful enough to lend me a book about the history of the school, which I will be returning as soon as I can. I also met a couple of teachers who have come from the city or other areas and now teaching ‘out there’ – they will all be coming onboard, hopefully. All have such interesting stories to tell.
Moving on from Cobar, north east to Dubbo and then turning north to my next property, Uralla, out of Coonamble. Home to Marg and Charlie Beck, with one son, Ant, also living and working at home. More amazing hospitality, dished out by the bucketload – by country people – will it never end? I hope not. Marg and Charlie, like Sally and the McClures before them, were nothing short of FANtastic. On my first day there they took me for a wonderful drive to Baradine, dropping into the Pilliga Forest information centre – absolutely fascinating – then onto Coonabarabran before going into the mighty Warrumbungle Ranges – I saw first hand the absolute devastation caused by those nightmare fires which swept through earlier this year. How awful for those people. Miraculously, the observatory was left unscathed – how is beyond me – but it was. The views – again – spectacular. Marg had asked me if I like ‘rustic’ buildings. I do. The next day, we drove out to another of the Beck’s properties around Coonamble. And here were those rustic buildings – on seeing them for the first time – I was speechless. For those who know me – this is a rarity, although is becoming more common as these trips continue. Rustic? Absolutely. And something more – again, I just couldn’t get enough. Marg was more than spot on with her description. More photos – heaps’n’heaps of them but do not feel I caught the true ‘spirit’ of the buildings. Judge for yourselves, in the book.
My absolute heartfelt thanks to Marg, Charlie and Ant for their wonderful hospitality and – everything. Again also to Sally Henery and Julie and Justin McClure. You are all – wonderful. Simple words really cannot describe how I have felt throughout this first trip.
Just a little aside here – it might be noticed that there is not a photo of the actual house on Uralla, the Beck’s main property, whereas the houses on both Alpana and Kallara have been included – the reason being that both the latter are stations which have moved over to include tourism – something which more and more properties in Australia are being forced to do – simply in order to survive. It is not an easy life out there and they’re not exactly getting any help. However, Uralla does continue to be a working property only – but not without struggling. Some more photos will be included in the book.
By the way – I returned home and found that I have actually lost a bit of weight! Not through lack of eating – believe me I have never been fed so well, or so much, or so healthily – throughout the journey – all the best home cooked country food and piles of it. I also did a lot of walking while away – which would have helped – but I think the major cause of my weight loss – or should I say – lack of weight gain would be – no junk food. No take away. Just good wholesome food – oh – also some superb home made chocky – and those pizzas. But otherwise – need I say more?
The final part of this first research trip was a quick visit to Sydney before flying home to Perth – and my family.
Next stop – watch out Qld. Three to four weeks up there – really looking forward to that too.
Read all about – everything – in the book.