The World is an amazing place .... go and be in it

Monday, 24 December 2012

In search of a brilliant career.....

The night rumbles with an electrical storm that only granite tableland country can give – bolt strike after bolt strike shoots and explodes across the sky in spectacular fashion, the thunder vibrates through our room located in the 1880’s terraces of the Alpine Heritage Motel at Goulburn.  We chose this place on the basis of price, the signage outside says ‘from $65pn’.  What I don’t realise until well after we’ve left the next day is that this building once belong to my 3xGreat Uncle, Charles Rogers, who had the terraces built as an ‘add-on’ to his Great Arcade.  The Great Arcade is long gone, now little more than a car park with high colourbond fencing but the terraces still stand gracefully with their lace balconies, arched windows and chain hung chandeliers.   

We had arrived mid evening in Goulburn with a drizzle of rain and a chill to the air.  After settling into our cheap and cheerful little room with its slight lean, we wandered off to the historical Hibernian Hotel for a good old fashion, country pub meal. We’re greeted with an interesting menu which offers a  dish that needs a waiver – the “Hibo Hero Hot Burger” –  its beef patti infused with three types of chilli - birdseye,  habanera and the Ghost Chilli (the world hottest!) - is served with gloves and milk.  The menu states you must sign a waiver upon ordering it and it’s not suitable for people with heart and digestive conditions. I decide the lamb roast and 3 veg looks pretty good.

Goulburn is our first town on the map for today’s touring and is probably more famous for it’s Big Sheep than its literary pursuits.  Before anything is decided (or even eaten) I’m in the information centre sourcing out the walking tours and am make that ecstatic to find a self-guided walking tour of Miles Franklin. That right, the Miles Franklin!!!! For any writer (Australian writer that is) the most prestigious Australian award of all is that named after the young writer Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin who at the age of just 18 wrote and published the Aussie classics – My Brilliant Career and My Career Goes Bung.  These books set in Goulburn mention many of the town’s buildings, streets, churches and sights.  I am in heaven....

Dragging Big M around the streets, I hunt down all the Franklin haunts and add to them  those also mentioned in the Heritage Walking Tour of Goulburn – pointing out the building where Dr Waugh in 1848 first invented baking powder (in  Market St),  the grand Victorian Italianate style courthouse where a servant of the Franklins was tried for stealing (he’d made his getaway on a stolen horse, stopped at Marulan for refreshments and was caught – probably couldn’t find his way out of the place according to Big M) and  the fabulous Goulburn Railway Station... it’s orange. 

After wandering around the parks looking at cute rotundas, fountains made of sandstone and art deco buildings with egyptenate embellishments (the Elmslea Chambers), Big M puts a stop to it when I suggest we go in search of the Trinity Catholic College Toilet Block.  Yes that’s right, I wanted to go look at a toilet block.  It’s nothing grand at all, but is a part of our political history... the toilet block located in the play ground of the former St Brigids was where the School Strike of 1962 started and  the fight over public funding to private schools began.   
We leave Goulburn and slip into the first small village off the Hume,  Breadalbane, a blink or you’ll miss it community with a couple of pretty sandstone cottages then followed the old highway past rolling caramel coloured fields dotted with granite boulders and stop at the marker stone of the Hume Hovell Expedition which began on 17 October 1824. 

Big M and I look around; there is absolutely nothing around it except endless fields and wide blue skies.  Why this exact position to start an expedition we ask each other.  Who and how was it decided that this spot was the start point?  

We drive on, slightly bemused about the marker in the middle of no-where and drive into Gunning, another gorgeous village filled with quaint stone buildings, gorgeous shop facades  with vintage signage, leadlight windows and quirky display; like the sheepdog taking a bubble bath on top of a shops awning, and the Gunnings Holden Wall of Fame that sits alongside the wall of the local garage. 

We stop to get a better look and Big M gets chatting with the owner/mechanic who tells us he is the third generation to own business  since 1924, his grandfather originally owned  both it and the garage at Dalton. He proudly shows us thru the big old ‘junk filled’ workshop and Big M is in heaven as he drools over the garage paraphernalia that spills out everywhere and original Holden dealership signs and memorabilia. 

Although Big M is a Ford man through and through, he certainly appreciates the ‘art’ of this bygone era.  As well as the history lesson on Gunning, our new friend tells us about the fight the community is having with the mining company that is trying to sink gas wells in the area, in particular around the community of Dalton and he tells us how crazy it would be considering Dalton is the “earthquake capital of Australia”.
This puts Dalton on our “one day is today” list.  It’s a little off the track we’re following, but we make a way to it and find another delightful village of a handful of cottages, quaint post office and the Royal Hotel (c.1865) with a great art installation out the front of it; a hitching post with two amazing steel horses – Australian Stock Horses – saddled up and ready to ride off into the sunset. 

Just down the road from the pub is another find – a rock featuring 40million year old fossilised leaves in minute detail.  Although we don’t feel the earth move (turns out Dalton sits on a fault on the earth’s crusts and receives persistent tremors – minor of course) we are quite moved by the prettiness and charm of the village.   From Dalton we follow the road, then a dirt track to Browning where we find another grand double storied  multi-chimneyed with enormous arched windows railway station....painted bright orange.
Rambling through these villages has made time slip away too quickly and we receive a phone call from Bud asking us when we’ll’s Christmas eve afterall. The sky is also starting to get cloud build up, another major storm is brewing so we decide to put Yass on the next time list and make a lightning bolt stop at Jugiong for coffee but it’s to no avail, the place is too gorgeous to just dash in and out and I take a wander thru the park, drool over the beautiful old 3D iron sign announcing Jugiong a Murrumbidgee River Village and fall in love with the white church that sits above the village.
Big M finally gets me back into the car and as we head straight down the highway towards Gundagai, rain starts to fall and the sky gets blacker. As we get closer Big M suggests we also bypass Gundagai – “it deserves at least a whole day” he says, and he’s right,  I read that Gundagai has more than just a dog and track, but has Captain Moonlight and Ben Hall, not to mention some amazing railway bridges, fascinating architecture and historical galleries.   
Our last stop is Tarcutta the halfway point for truckies and it’s obvious by the enormous parking bays and lots that this village belongs to the movers of our great land. Across from the Halfway Cafe, where Les Murray wrote his poem ‘The Burning Truck’, sits the Truck Drivers Memorial dedicated to the truckies who have died whilst doing their job.  It’s a beautiful memorial and we’re both moved and very sadden to see so many, many names listed. There is a paragraph that reminds us of the personal cost to truck drivers especially at this very time of the year, the eve before Christmas  

“This vocation demands many a high price, in the loneliness of the long haul, missed family events and in some case the ultimate sacrifice of life...”

A full storm hits, a whiteness envelops us and and the rain falls so hard we’re forced to slow to a snail’s pace.  Thankfully, it passes quickly but unfortunately not without damage, evident as we drive through Holbrook.  The village has copped the full force of the storms winds and there are trees and fences blown down, across the road and a late model car crushed under a tree in a driveway.  Locals are wandering around inspecting the damage and out of respect we decide to not stop and instead add Holbrook to the new growing ‘next time’ list.

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