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Published: October 18th 2010
On Wednesday morning we said farewell to Coonababran and headed towards Tamworth. It wasn’t too long a journey today, about 200 kms. We stopped in Gunnedah, had our sandwiches and then had a wander into town through yet another very well kept park. We were in Tamworth nice and early and decided to stay in the Top Tourist Caravan Park which was about 4 kms north of the town centre. There didn’t seem to be many easy pitches available but after a bit of indecision and advice from other campers we plumped for one at the bottom of the park near the river. One very pleasant old gentleman whose name was Milton McFarlane gave me a fridge magnet with a scene on of Lake Macquarie that he had painted - I’ve added it to Tiddalik the Frog on the microwave. We set up and had time to go for a drive up to the Lookout from where there were great views of the surrounding countryside and the town.
On Thursday, even though rain was forecast, it looked as though it was going to be a reasonable day so I got the sheets in the wash and on the line and
gave Sweetie a clean inside. Graham got busy cutting and fitting the off-cut piece of carpet we had bought in Coona and then had another look at the faulty catch on the awning. New neighbour, Alan, from Perth, another friendly, practical Aussie, had offered to help and while they were checking the sliding extension bars they found another Huntsman spider hidden inside. Alan, fortunately, was able to wheedle it out and deposit it down on the riverbank. Later on in the day he returned with a replacement bolt that fitted the faulty catch and although it was not a permanent solution it meant that the awning could be extended fully. Then Graham found yet another Huntsman spider in the opposite awning bar so Alan got rid of that too. Awning bars are obviously the place for a family of spiders to live. Help! - how many more of them are hidden there? We suspect they got in there while the caravan was parked in Mansfield - Sarah had often mentioned the small and dangerous Red-Backs but never these giants (shiver!). Actually they’re harmless but their size makes them appear very threatening.
We drove into town and bought a set
Miner's Statue Plaque
On the 26th March 1988 14 miners of Preston Pit Gunnedah went on the longest 'stay down' strike in history. They emerged 56 days later having won back the jobs of 91 miners and secured the future of the mine.
of steps and some guy ropes for the awning, had lunch and then as it was still dry drove to Marsupial Park - a free volunteer run park. We had a pleasant stroll round but didn’t see a single marsupial (apparently kangaroos and wallabies roamed the park!). There were plenty of birds including a few parrots in a large netted area but it was a little disappointing. We drove back down the hill and stopped at the botanical gardens which was run on a similar volunteer basis and was still being developed. It was a wonderful, tranquil garden with different themed areas and will become a lovely peaceful place for the people of Tamworth to come to. The weather still held out and all the washing was dry so all in all it had been another good day.
The weather forecast for Friday had been grim and, sure enough, we woke up to rain. Alan and his wife were leaving today but didn’t know where their next stop would be - their only plan was to be back in Perth by Christmas. We thanked them for their help and waved them off. Next, on Alan’s recommendation, we found our
way to ‘Tow World’ and purchased some restraints, to stop the awning flapping when it’s windy, and a proper catch which Graham will use eventually to replace the temporary bolt that Alan had fitted to the awning extension bar. We drove to the Information Centre again which we had visited yesterday, but this time paid to go into the ‘Walk a Country Mile’ exhibition. Tamworth is, after all, the ‘Country Music Capital of Australia’ so even though it’s not quite our thing we were determined to find out what the fuss was all about! The exhibition was very good with excellent displays and lots of old information detailing how country music had developed in Aus over the years. Graham was thrilled when he found ‘The Singing Kettles’ listed as having received a top award, together with an old photo. He had heard of them before when we were in Tasmania a few years ago. After that we went into town, had a bit of lunch and then found the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. It was another great place and the lady who greeted us obviously loved her involvement with it. We sat and watched a DVD on Frank
Ifield - why you may ask - well, mainly because he was born in England though raised in Australia! His career began to flourish at the time when both Graham’s and my interest in modern music began. The DVD was fascinating and we found out quite a few facts about him such as, before they were famous, he invited The Beatles to tour with him and one night they were booed off the stage. Also, Frank was the first artist ever to have three consecutive number one hit records in the UK charts, one of which was ‘The Wayward Wind’ (!) - quite appropriate given what happened to us later. The Aussies love him and he lives in NSW now not too far from where he grew up. The second part of the DVD was an interview with an emerging Aussie country singer called Troy Cassar-Daly. We had never heard of him but he impressed us enough for us to look out for one of his CDs.
It had rained most of the day but by the time we got back to the caravan the wind was pretty fierce too. It was too bad to attempt getting the awning
down but Graham fixed the restraints on and pegged it down with guy-ropes. We then just hoped for the best. We went to bed but the wind was swirling around and buffeting the van and the rain was belting down. We would have preferred to have put the roof down but that would have been risky especially as the awning is permanently fixed to it and was still out. After a while we got up and dressed as neither of us felt comfortable - we both felt as though it could turn into a disaster. We had a cup of tea, Graham had some Tim Tams and I finished some fruit bread so at least we felt a bit better! After a couple of hours the weather eventually calmed down enough for us to go back to bed (fully clothed) and we were thrilled in the morning to find the awning still there and in one piece! We didn’t want to risk towing the caravan in such blustery conditions so booked in for another night. But so as not to waste the day we went off to find ‘The Big Golden Guitar’ which is a Country Music Gallery of Stars
Wax Museum. It was a bit naff but still interesting. They had plenty of gimmicky things in their shop to keep us amused for a while. After that we found the Bi-Centennial Park which had head and shoulder statues of some of the great Aussie Country Singers and over the other side of the park a very impressive bronze statue of a digger and his ‘Waler’. The term 'Waler' was given to the Australian horse that became legendary in India, in South Africa during the Boer War and in the Middle East during the Great War of 1914 to 1918. British troops gave the horse its affectionate name as it was bred in New South Wales. During the First World War many thousands of horses were loaded onto ships and transported west.
The sculptor had depicted an Australian Trooper saying farewell to his Waler horse in the deserts of the Middle East at the end of World War One. The horses were either killed in action, sold to other armies or shot in the desert by a Trooper's mate, rather than their old companion be left behind to become beasts of burden. Eric Bogle wrote a very poignant song
about this called ‘It’s As If He Knows’.
After that we headed back to the caravan park hoping we might get some sleep that night.
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