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Page 59





More from Singleton then on to Tamworth

Mike and Pauline

Welcome to Page 59 of our tome. ("Tome", there's a good word for you.) As I mentioned on the previous page, we were visited in Sydney by my brother, Mike, and his lovely wife, Pauline. Since I have no more to add from Singleton just yet, here is a picture of some empty wine glasses with the four of us in the background.

Mike, Pauline and us

Taken at Le Kiosk at Shelly Beach, Manly. From left to right: Pam, Mike, Pauline and yours truly.

How Big Is Australia?

The map shown below is one I 'acquired' somewhere along the way showing Australia with several other countries - and Texas - overlaid. (That's Texas, U.S.A., by the way. The real Texas is 80 km west of Stanthorpe in Queensland.)

You know how Americans love to brag about how big Texas is? Well, our home state of Western Australia could swallow Texas 3½ times and still have room for two countries the size of Switzerland. And then some.

Big Oz Map

Area of Texas = 691,027 km². Area of W.A. = 2,525,500 km². Area of Australia = 7,682,300 km².
(Source: Macquarie Concise Dictionary, WordGenius V3.5.4 2004, Revised Third Edition)

Meanwhile, back in Singleton.

The ground beneath the Hunter region is rich in coal, consequently there are several open-cut mines scattered around the region, most of them within the Singleton local government area. These local mines directly employ 12,000 people. Take into account the 4.5 multiplier effect in jobs created because of the mines and it becomes evident that if the mines closed, so would Singleton. Do not, however, imagine Singleton as a dirty, ugly, industrial town as it is just the opposite. In our travels around the area we never saw a coal mine, just rolling green hills, vineyards and cattle. Neither did we see military personnel, at least not in uniform, yet there is a large army barracks a few kilometres out of town. We visited its Infantry Museum which Pam claimed as 'blue time'.

In theory, time spent looking at blue stuff earns Pam credits which she can later cash in for pink time. In theory.

The caravan park where we stayed is different from most of our temporary homes in that there were few travellers like ourselves. Most of the occupants were workers employed by, or as a result of, the coal mines. We didn't make any new friends though everyone we spoke to was pleasant and friendly. In this park we had our own personal en suite toilet and shower so we didn't need to use the shared facilities. Our site, with the en suite, only cost around half of what we were paying in Sydney.

The Singleton town centre was within easy walking distance across the old bridge over the Hunter River which encouraged us to take some much needed exercise. Singleton proudly boasts that is has 'the largest sundial in the world'. Whether this is true or not I couldn't say, but it certainly was large. Unfortunately there had been some work done on the paving around its base and though the work seemed to be complete, a temporary wire mesh fence around the site had been left in place. This rather hampered my efforts to take a good photograph.

Sundial

The world's largest sundial - and a free plug for Woolies.

We were there at three o'clock (Eastern Standard Time) on the afternoon of 23rd of December and checked the sundial's accuracy.

Three O'clock

At three o'clock the leading edge of the sundial's shadow fell right through the centre of three o'clock.

It was absolutely spot on though I can't vouch for other times of the day or other times of the year. Because the sundial was so high we could almost see its shadow moving.

Changing the subject entirely, Singleton's water comes from Lake St. Clair, a large lake created by damming the neck of a valley into which flow several creeks. You'll be relieved to know that I didn't note the statistics of the dam's capacity; sufficient to say that the water level was well below full.

Lake St. Clair

Lake Saint Clair from the dam. In the distance the water continues around to the left; most of the lake is out of sight.

Dam Parapet and Pam

The parapet along the top of the dam was built without any consideration for those with short legs.

New tent campers, two parents with a teenage son and daughter, moved in next door to us on Christmas Eve. Pam decided they were not experienced campers in short time. That was reinforced when the mother walked into our en suite and used it. Pam was waiting when she emerged and left her in no doubt that she was out of order. We watched them depart on Christmas morning. Having packed up their bedding and other personal stuff they stacked it behind their 4x4 ready for loading. They then collapsed and packed their two tents onto their small trailer. That done, Dad jumped into the car and, after reversing a short way, came up against an obstruction so he gunned the engine and ... backed over all their belongings. Merry Christmas, neighbours. And.....

Merry Christmas
Tamworth and the Conclusion of our 2007 Plan

You may remember that when we left Tamworth in 2007 we formulated a plan to take us through the Blue Mountains, the Snowy Mountains, Canberra then up through the centre of Queensland to Normanton. In Normanton we had to wait for a replacement for a broken caravan spring before travelling east to Cairns. From Cairns we tracked north to Cooktown then south again by a different route to end up back in Tamworth. Here are some stats. for that journey: Our 2008 Plan, again starting from Tamworth, will involve approximately the same amount of travelling but will deposit us in Perth on the west coast for Christmas. That plan is mapped out on Page 58.
Tamworth (continued)

Yes, back to Tamworth for the annual Country Music Festival for the third year running and what a wonderful welcome we received in the Paradise Tourist Park. We were given a good site and found ourselves surrounded by campers from our own state, Western Australia. They had already formed a group and we were invited to join them. The first Happy Hour we attended lasted 3½ hours! The park management joined us and it was great; so very different to Singleton.

Another bonus was that the area had received regular rainfall and the grass was soft and green. Last year, what grass remained was brown and crispy dry with dust and grit blowing in the wind. There had been no flow in the Peel River which had consisted of a series of stagnant pools along the river bed. This year however . . .

Peel River

. . . the Peel River was alive and well having been flushed by recent rains.

Could this be the end of the terrible drought that's brought heartbreak and ruin to so many farmers? It's too early to say yet, but the signs are good.

In the middle of the first night we were awakened by a loud bang. A tree branch had broken in the wind and dropped on our caravan roof. Fearing the worst, I asked the park management if I could borrow a ladder to check for damage. Due to liability considerations they wouldn't lend one to me but said they would get one of the blokes to check our roof. There must have followed a series of Chinese Whispers which resulted in a bloke arriving with instructions to cut off the branches that were rubbing on the caravan roof. We were out when he called. There were no branches anywhere near the roof so he shook his head, took his saw and his ladder and went away. We finally got him back again and he told me to climb the ladder and check the roof for myself. We'd now come full circle.

There was no damage but had there been it was preferable to discover it immediately rather than during the next rain storm.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 59 was completed on 9th June 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.