On The Road, New South Wales/Queensland

Journal

2014 ROAD TRIP TO QUEENSLAND

DAY 1
Monday 7 July 2014
Eltham to FINLEY,NSW

It was a cold morning and a late 10.30am start before we finally left Eltham on our road trip to visit my cousin Aprile in Queensland and begin a painting trip with our camper trailer. We headed out towards Shepparton and had a couple of stops to the Subaru shop for some rubber floor matts and across the road to a 4×4 store to have our trailer hitch sorted out. We are wondering about the weight of the car/trailer ratio. We are being reassured its ok, but to look at the way the weight is hanging on the back tyres makes us wonder if indeed we will see any wild back Qld country.

The days are cold and short and of course the sun sets early. We had very little daylight time left before we headed into a camping ground for the first erecting of our new camper trailer. It wasn’t all that difficult; second time around. And for $20 a night very reasonable for a powered site. Not that we needed power – we had our own battery pack and nothing with a power plug; thought I did use it to charge my phone. This was the first night for setting up the bed. It was an incredibly warm and comfortable night, under the doona – the air outside was somewhere around freezing.

DAY TWO
Tuesday, 8 July 14
FINLEY TO DUBBO

About twenty minutes to fold up the camper. There is a lot of mucking around with all of the gear and getting things in and out of the trailer.

There seems to be a bit of heavy weather heading our way from the north west. the weather report on the TV news seemed to confirm that too. Of course rain will put a damper on any camping. Snow down to low levels!! At least for now we are in the hotel and that will help. Tomorrow we just keep on pushing up north.

Not much to report about the days activities – road, trucks, trucks, caravans and more trucks. Stands of grey box trees, Murray pines and iron barks.

Passed through the town of Jerilderie NSW where my father was born and had a look at the very old school my father must have attended. He was born in 1903 and the school build the century before…

Decided it was best to try and hurry up and get to Ipswich as fast as possible and not spend too much time setting up the trailer and its cold and winter is not the best time to be camping.

Took a motel at Dubbo for the night – in the morning there was a thick white frost covering everything and we had to scrape the ice off the windscreen when we finally got away.

DAY THREE
Wednesday 9 July 14
Sheepyard (Near Lightning Ridge, NSW)

Heading towards Ipswich and saw a sign to Walgett. I had often wondered what had become of Walgett. Many years ago I spent some time in Walgett with an Biggibilla, an Aboriginal friend and an artist Jenni Roe. We were travelling with Biggibilla with the task of meeting the Aboriginal community and setting up an art school. I was to teach painting, Jenny ceramics and Biggibilla to teach the local youth about their culture. Biggi was an elder from the region; he had told us. Jenny and I were to return to Melbourne and put together the funding proposals for a three month stink in the community. We spend a fortnight putting together details papers about the cost of art materials and all sorts of bits as well as some funding for ourselves. Never heard a word about our submissions. Much later we heard that the manager had taken off with the funding… Was this true? Who knows. It’s more than 30 years ago now and I wanted to go and have another look at Walgett as we were so close. So we department from our first task and headed north west instead.

My memory of Walgett was of buildings boarded up with steel grills over the doors and windows and it being an unsafe place to wander at night. At least Biggi had Jenny and I pretty nervous. Sure enough, the shop fronts were still pretty dismal looking with wire grills and steel doors. We found a lovely café run by a community for the disabled. It was very clean and the food good and simple. Paintings and carvings were also part of the show. There is a art community now. Clearly something must have happened during the years.

Leaving town we saw a sign to Lightening Ridge. It was also out of our immediate route. But oh so close and once more I had always wanted to visit the opal mining town. So now we are completely off track and heading to Lightening Ridge.

The country is very dry now and the green has all gone from the landscape. We are in quite rugged country with Bulloke and desert trees.

We see a turnoff to Sheepyard and other opal communities. We keep on to Lightening Ridge and call into the tourist centre. I found the chaos and business of the town a little too much. Where to camp for the night? Everything seems so full of people. Tourist information says to head back to Sheepyard if we are really interested in looking for opal and no you do not need a permit to fossick. It you did go for a permit you need to also complete a safety program. It was 75 ks back to Sheepyard. What to do? We were loosing light. OK, lets go. We take the drive back towards Walgett and turn right to Sheepyard. It’s a dry looking country now. Plenty of sheep on the road looking for a feed and far too many colourful wild goats on the way. The road was also littered with dead roo carcasses and sheep that had been hit.

As we entered into the opal mining sites the country became rougher. White mounts of stones from exploration sites littered scrub. The landscape seemed generally grey; grey trees, grey earth grey road; with areas of red sand. The opal mining dumps grew bigger and soon all sorts of rough tin humpies appeared. It is a real hill billy community. Bush humour abounds with signs nailed to trees that read ‘cars with brakes give way’ and this way to the Hilton and so forth. Tin sculptures litter the community – bits of car bodies and broken vehicles everywhere. Mine shafts that are left dangerously unprotected that are too deep for snakes and other wild animals to crawl out of. Abandoned equipment and dreams that are made and broken everywhere. Sheepyard is a pub with a generator and old buses and huge dumps of underground earth piles everywhere.

The publican says we can pitch our camper just by the old bus. We do and find some colour and potch in the mullock heap first up. Beginners luck! And then we see much potch in the tailing. We were told there was not much around – all been picked over. There is soooo much tailing everywhere and there must be so much opal in these mounds. Its easy to see how opal fever begins. We set up the trailer and cook a sort of stir fry with some of the fresh food we have. I didn’t want to go to the pub – beginning to crave the sense of outback and getting away from people. As soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops quickly. Soon it’s cold and time for bed. There has been a strong wind all day and lighting a fire seems out of the question and its now too dark to really get a feel for our surrounds. We heat up the hot water bottles and what a difference it makes. We sleep well.

DAY FOUR
Thursday 10 July 14
Sheepyard (Near Lightening Ridge, NSW)

Cold morning… I wear leggings under my jeans. Take a stroll down a wash away creek in the hope I am avoiding wandering onto any opal claims. There is evidence of claims everywhere and not a good idea to step onto another person’s patch. Fossicking is considered OK around these parts as long as its not on a lease. Pretty soon I am finding potch and little bits of colour and pleased with my find along the dry sandy creek bed. It seems to me a good place to begin as surely the water that washes off the mullock heaps into the creek would wash the dust off the stones. The such a find dust the white clay like rock; its into everything.

Meanwhile Mervyn has been talking to the lady at the pub and she has suggested we go and fossick on the nearby tailing dumps – where all of the new tailings go and where most people fossick. We drive back and have a look and my god – there is just so much to look at it seems impossible to know where to begin. and its so fresh I cannot imagine looking through all the stuff. We look for a while and give up and think the old mullock heaps seems simpler. Even if they have been over many times they are weathered and to my mind easier.

We drove around and looked at the other communities in the district and at all of the old make do bits of equipment strewn through the scrub. This area is what Lightening Ridge used to look like – a back block hill billy wild west place. The residents live in make do humpies, though some even have bricks and motor and cactus gardens. Most humpies have tin and poles and not much else; perhaps a few old car bodies for parts. Most cars are in need of panels; though there are quite a few new looking 4 x 4 vehicles; perhaps the more successful miners. Deep shafts litter the place; some with pieces of tin over them and others with a star picket fence and barbed wire. There is not much to prevent falls if you were not careful.

The people are mostly wiry with long grey beards and its obvious water is scare. The dam where the washing of the rocks takes place through old cement mixers is also dry.

Called into a community shop that is also an art gallery. Mostly knitted and crocheted goods from locals. There were small vials of opal and two jars of colour stones that I admired.

Overnight I thought about those stones and whether they would be a good buy or not; given we were going onto Queensland back to Lightening Ridge the next day. I did not buy them…

Made a fire in the mullock heap next to the camper and cooked vegetables in the camp oven. A pretty little black and white flycatcher hung around. I made a pastel of the quickly changing pink mauve sky over the tailing piles. Mervyn did two small pastels while I was stone hunting earlier in the day.

DAY FIVE
Friday, 11 July 14
St. George, Queensland

Woke to ice inside the tent… Thought it was very cold overnight. Extra Cold. Unbelievable. Mervyn got out of bed and made a fire. Even our gas stove didn’t want to work it was so cold. Have taken to wearing thermals to bed; under the pyjamas.

Most of the time in leaving camp is about how much time it takes to pack the boxes away; not how much time to set up and pack up the camper. That’s now the quick bit…

It was past midday by the time we left Sheepyard and drove back past the other communities. Called into the Art shop for another look at the coloured stones. Had thought about them during the night. They were really lovely and I bought both jars for a good price…

Back in Lightning Ridge I knew I had got a bargain when I looked at the range and price of the opals on offer in the store. There surely were some beautiful stones for sale; but the price… I think I saw the best and most vivid black opals I have ever seen today in the shops in Lightening Ridge. For sale also was a stunning large piece of polished Labarordite that had come from Canada. It would have looked good in my showcase…

There was not much daylight left by the time we left The Ridge and actually crossed the border. Parts of the countryside are so dry and any stock we saw was sadly thin and close to the road. It breaks my heart to see cattle sitting by the road; I can still see them in my minds eye.

Leopardwood Trees and Quantong trees, Bulloke and other desert trees give character to this corner of the country. The flat dry gave way to some grassier pastures as we headed back east towards St. George. We deliberated as to whether to keep driving – or stay at St. George. It’s just that the sun goes down so early and there is not much time to drive in daylight. Seems too dangerous to drive at night judging by the carcasses lining the roads. We really only came a couple of hundred kilometres today.

There is a noise that appears to be coming from the wheels when we make a turn. Must be all of the fine white dust we are carrying in everything – opal dust.

We decide to stay at St. George. This is new country for me. The largest town in this part of the state. Several motels and warm showers. Time to stop off for a good shower and a meal in town. A night or two of camping and the odd motel – and maybe we will get to sit under a tree and camp for a few days in one place… I wonder.

Eltham – home again

We arrived back in Tullamarine airport Melbourne on July 5 at 6.00am. Our flight from Korean was thankfully boring and uneventful. It is good to be home. The garden is lush and needs attention and winter has settled in. It’s interesting how quickly we forget the seasons and what being cold feels like. It’s away with the Mongolilan summer clothes and the search for last seasons winter attire again. Where we’re my boots…

Trish kindly came early and open our house, turned on the heater and dusted the last two months emptiness away. How lovely to come home to a lightened warm house with a kind smile for a welcome and a little sartie poodle dancing frenetically all over us. We felt welcomed hme and loved. And Trish had even brought in fresh milk for Mervyn, and rice milk for me. A cup of tea. So good to be home and with the familiar.

I think it is important to go away at times just to realize how good we have it in Australia. I know now we have our own little paradise at home. We have a good house, land for a garden and studios to work in.

We stayed one night and then headed off to Digby to check out our Digby dacha. It has been many months since we have been to Digby. We were greeted with a mice plague!

The mice had been partying through out the houses even the bedding had to be washed and dried before we could go to bed sometime in the early morning! Lesson: – never leave a house vacant for so long. All of the cupboards with food, or even without food had been raided. It could not have been worse. We through out all our food and washed and cleaned everything. It was too disgusting to make a cup of tea and all I could think of was selling the cottage as it seemed too far and too difficult at that time of night to contemplate keeping!

Anyway, the next morning after it was all clean and snug again and we after that blissful quiet country sleep I was once more pleased to have our little cottage. It is safe for the next while… And we vow somehow to come down here more often.

As I write it is Tuesday and we will leave tomorrow for ELTHAM. Much of our Digby the has been spent doing nothing. Relaxing and contemplating the past two months in Mongolia. There is much to do to catch up back in ELTHAM, but that can wait…

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Mongolia to Korea July 3/4

The last day of Our two month journey to Mongolia. We had an restless sleep last night, Mervyn was sleeping sitting up because he was coughing too much and I, well, just could not sleep.

In the morning we rechecking our packing and adjusted every thing again to get correct weight in our bags. We were just a little over and hoped that would be ok. A lot over means the dreaded excess baggage. Tugsoo came down and suggested we really aught to post our painting home instead I’d paying excess on them. There are 10 kilos in the works on paper and photographs. So off to the post office we went and the strange shape didn’t concern the ladies who know us now. Cost, $130 instead of $400 at $10 kilo excess baggage on korean airlines. And onelessbaggsgeto worry about. It should follow us home in about ten days. The ladies are great, they scotch taped the whole package to waterproof the cardboard outer case.

More rest then lunch with Tugsoo’s family. And we watched a movie of dollops choice. Toy farm or so,etching like that. She had already watched once today. She is starting to say a lot of English words. She wants very much to learn English. She is only four and I am certain by our next trip she will be speaking good English.

Apparently there were two more newspaper articles published today about our show in Mongolian newspapers. Unfortunate that we were. Unable to get any to being home. I am hoping Tugsoo will send them on.

The family came to the aiort to see us off on our midnight flight. They decided it would be better to get out of city early because of the traffic and head out to the hill and enjoy the last moments of Mongol countryside.

Well, was that a surprise. We drove out up into the beautiful lush green hills to the national park only to see the development of large houses that would not look out of place in the wealthy suburbs of Melbourne. Large McMansions some three and even four stories taking several block sizes to bu old. There were new apartments being built. Houses and houses under constructional there were paddocks that did not look anything like Mongolia anymore. Fences everywhere. Steel picket fences, timber fences, dry stone rock fences, cement block rendered fences. Some with a ger sndno house inside the fence. It appears as if the community here had come out and out a tape about a plot of land and made their claim. All the the bu idling work is illegal. All of the houses and apartments are build in the national park. This is what the Mongol political corruption is all about. My friends say these houses are owned by political party members and embers of parliament. Some want the houses to be demolished. The law forbids houses to be built on this national forest and still it goes on with a ferocious intensity. The houses are on cleared land and I wondered what came first because the back houses are in the thick treed forest.

In this forest live all of the wild Mongolian animals. Bears, wolves, deer and the small creatures. The land houses sit on have the remnants of herders flocks of sheep, some cows and horse roaming through the building sites. It all appears incongruous.

We drove up through the houses to the gates of the old soviet hotel Tugsoo wanted to show me only to find guards and a gate barrier. Nope. We were not allowed any further. The guard said th ey were repairing the road, but his comment seem thin on the truth. What was happening further up the hill? We may never know.

We go elsewhere,Tugsoo said. We came back down through the many builders carrying soil and materials by hand and w it’s buckets. We went up another hill and this one was so beautiful… Till we noticed the white marks in the grass and tape carving up the landscape. This alley too soon will be an illegal housing lot. This is the new Mongolia. Welcome…

At the back of this road we came upon a ger camp. It was the best kept ger camp We have visited. Historical, clean. There were gers constructed of the earlier time ger with the higher roof and these gers were highly decorative. Missing was the broken glass, papers and rubbish strewn around other ger camps. The largest ger on the world claims fame here too. The camp is set beneath a forested hill.

We stayed here for dinner.the Restaurant ger was clean and decorated its the many skins of wild animals. Most of them I am saddened to report were the grey and white skins of snow leopard. At first I could not believe these skins could be real as their were too many. Hundreds! They had come from confiscations at customs we were told.

During dinner we were also accompanied by a wonder traditional young man playing the horse hair fiddle and singing a throat song.

July 3 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

This morning we packed and replaced our bags several times relocating items until each bag appeared to weigh somewhere around what is the maxium baggage allowance for Korean airlines. We are much the same as when we arrived with our exhibition of works. Expect to pay same as our flight Australia to Mongolia.

There was quite a bit of food left in the cupboards which I donated to the lady under the stairs for herself and the two small children who live with her. I feel sad about her situation and try nt to think too much about the hundreds of people who live in utter poverty here and whom would think our lady fortunate to have the space under the stairs in the apartment block.

I heard a out a scheme yesterday that helps women in hardship fund a ger on condition they also learn to grow food. One of the criteria in the scheme is that the applicant needs to own their own land. So what happens to the people under the stairs?

Tugsoo, Unench and daughter Dooloo came and picked us up to take us to their country dacha ger this afternoon. We had such a wonderful day in the summer sunshine looking at the green grass filled hills. Saaina, Tugsoo’s husband is living in the ger at the mo,ent while the rest of the family are in our apartment upstairs.

After lunch we drove down to the river and enjoyed the edge and watching a horseman ride his horse into the river and many people playing along the banks. We came across a group of young people with a car all smashed up and bogged in an awful muddy piece of road. It looked as if they were tagging and hooning around. Never the less Unench was able to winch them out with his strong prado vehicle.

A little further on we came to a green plain with a herder shifting his flock of goats. He was on a horse as well as leading another horse with foal. He sat still on his horse for me to photograph him. I will not be able to upload pics until I get home and to my camera.

So now we are here at the final night in this apartment… Watching Q & A on a grainy tv on Australia network after a great dinner at the Wang restaurant in Chingis khan hotel.

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July 1 2012 Ulaanbaatar

The realization we are leaving here in a day or two has just hit us as we headed into the UMAGallery to pack up our exhibition. The last few days have been a little difficult as we begin the wind down being in Mongolia and think again of Eltham. Not much food shopping anymore and we are working out how to get all the stuff home. Yes, still stuff as well as the boxes we have sent by UB Post. It’s is far cheaper to send goods to Australia by regular post as to pay the $40 excess baggage fee at the airport. We will probably still have excess baggage as we have the paintings to bring home.

This morning we three visited the nearby monastery to do as the monk artist yesterday suggested. He had told me I needed to visit the monetary 58 times and pray. Tugsoo had offered to continue the good work on my behalf after we leave.

The process was a little different to what I had understoodl I was led to believe we would see a monk and he continue the good words of guidance. Instead, Tugsoo and I lined up at a glass window where several women were taking money. It seems you have to tell the ladies what you wish to pray for and pay what you think is reasonable and say how many times the monk will say a prayer for you. Tugsoo suggested I pay 5000tg approx $4.00 and the monk will pray ten times. My prayers will be read tomorrow morning. Oh, I was a little disappointed. I had expected a meeting with a priest and a sense of enlightenment. This instead was just a monetary transaction. All I received was my receipt with the tg amount and the number of prayers. I understand it is up to each individual to offer the amount of money and number of prayer times.

After this transaction we were ready to head into the city. I wanted more. I headed into the beautiful temple and Tugsoo and walked around the large carved hard red wood timber rosary that lay at the feet of the enormous gold Buddha. As I caressed each giant red wooden ball I was reminded of the small redbud balls carved years ago by hand by Grace. She would have really loved to have seen these giant red sculptures. The wooded balls were shiny from the many human hands that had touched them.

We were given at the door a little packet of holy water in a plastic sealed bag. This was to be used in the evening to wash. Tugsoo said it was ok to add more water to the concentrate. We were also shaded in a sealed bag some ground cypress to burn. I think and hope it is cypress for it looks and smells very similar to marijuana. You can s mell if often burning in small cal drums around the city and in particular at the black market.

I had also been told yesterday not to receive gifts from anyone offering a patterned cloth. It was ok for me to buy and pay for a patterned item, but not to receive as gift. If I did receive it I was to pass it on to someone else. I would also benefit from white and green cloth. I bought a white and green silk from the Buddhists, and a green set of beads.

As we left the temple and headed by foot into the centre to the gallery a dog began to follow us. He was limping a little. He had kind eyes and Mervyn and I liked the company. I did not have any food to give him. Mervyn though the dog just liked to be with us for the company too. He crossed roads with us and stayed within a foot step or two. I gave him a pat but also remembered we had not had our rabies injections. Dogs here we have been told can pass on rabies just by licking you and it is not a good thing to catch. So we all kept a healthy distance while enjoying each others company. At one point we crossed the road or ‘j’ walked really and had to step over one of the small iron fences in the street. oh dear, momentarily I had forgotten our friend and as I stepped out of the way of the traffice saw the dog looking st how he was to get over the fence. Now if it was our poodle sartie he would have just jumped; or slipped tween the iron bars. Our friend dog was too large. It happened just near us was a bit of fence with a iron rod missing. I showed our friend dog the whole as as the traffic started bearing down he got it and stepped though. We were all together again stepping though the rough streets and deadly man holes without covers together.

We passed a golden statue of a man in boots. The sculpture was leaning against a pole. I was surprised to see the dog see the bronze boot and shy away. It was as if he knew what a boot can do…

We made it to Sumbucca square and Togsoo went off to gallery while Mervyn and I went in search of last minute shopping such as the Mongol Messenger and the artists book we looked st yesterday. I also admit, I did want to buy a fury camel I had seen some weeks ago. Tugsoo had said to visit a bookshop across from the square. We had hoped our friend dog might meet up with the other dogs that hang out in the park by the city square but no. Our friend dog was still with us. This time he stayed close as we all together negotiated the road. We went into a book shop and he sat and waited. Did not find the book. It was hot now. The street too sunny and for friend dog too, he was looking a little tired and hot but he kept with us and waled in any shady patches in the street. At another road crossing (with lights) he sat Dow in the green grass under a tree and we thought perhaps now he had enough and may stay in the cool. The lights turned green and up he came with us.

Across the other side of the road was a small stall selling drinks and sweets. I bight a bottle of water, and a paper cup. The water was cool. I poured a cup of water for friend dog and held it out to him. He would not drink. I put the cup down on the path and he drank gratefully. It was time to leave each other. I put the cup to the edge of the street in the shade. Friend dog seemed to know it was for him and we parted ways. He sat with the cup of water and did not follow us any more.

There was a man selling street paintings on the corner too. He was smiling with amusement as he watched me buy water for the dog. He seemed a kind person and i like to think they two shared some time together.

Eventually after eating Indian food for lunch at a great little restaurant we came across, buying last minute items we, we made it back to the gallery to pack up our show. Already the next batch of artists were waiting for us to leave so as they could hang the next show.

It didt take too long. Back at our apartment we repackaged the works and Mercyn took all of the canvases off the stretchers and rolled them up again in readiness for our flight on Tuesday.

Dinner with another Mongolian Tugs poet, and Tugsoo as well as two Soroptomist members from New Zealand. We met Tugs yesterday when she delve us around to the Mongolian artist collectors gallery apartment.

Two more sleeps to the airport…

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June 29 Ulaanbaatar

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On the way to our exhibition we walked into the city from our apartment and visited the newspaper office, Mongol Messenger and the editor said my story will be published tomorrow but without a bionic of my name as story was about me so really I just wrote our story. The UB doesn’t seemed to have published the second story I wrote so its a pity a whole story wasted. Indra asked me to write a story of impressions of Mongolia to be published after Nardam. I will have time to return home and reflect on the past seven or eight weeks

We also visited one of Tugsoo’s artist friends who had the largest private studio I have yet seen in UB. He has been exhibiting in many countries, good money for his work and has large, bright spacious apartment gallery. He had invited us to visit at the opening,

It was another full Ulaanbaatar day with many people visiting the gallery and one other tv interview for Eagle TV and another newspaper. The TV was on one hour after they came and repeated at 11.30pm. We caught the late viewing and it was quite a long story with many paintings and comments by all of us but mostly Tugsoo speaking over our voices.

There are many Mongolian artists who come to gallery and want to have connections with Australia, or have been to Australia. We seem to be gathering a growing number of name cards and I am all but out of business cards.

The weather is getting hot. The elections have been called in favor of the democratic party but with some disputes. Apparently there were some greens seat held.

We left the gallery in the late afternoon and attended an opening of Korean and Mongol art at the history museum. This is where our last show was held. Suurel opened this show. Anyway, we went off to the children’s Park and saw a traditional dance and music show and later dinner with the Koreans. Many speeches later we were invited to exhibit with the group next year in Korea.

We will see…

It is not hard to find an opening or performance in Ulaanbastar. There is at any onetime an array of artistic activities to see. Tourist season is also hitting yo as the artists hit the streets with. Bundles of art in folders to sell tourists for a reduced price and because you are good customer, even a better price. They stand in streets and at cultural venue doorways. It’s all part of the color that is Mongolia.

Just thought I would add this pic from the Gobi desert…

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