Welcome to Page 155. The journey from Emu Park to Temora is about 1,600 kilometres by road so, being in no hurry, we took it in stages. Stage one took us to Possum Park for five days . . .
Possum Park is a quite unique caravan park situated about twenty kilometres north of Miles, Queensland. It is located in beautiful bushland about one and a half kilometres from the nearest road, the Leichhardt Highway, and a long way from human habitation. This place used to be called "RAAF Kowguran Sub Depot to Number 3 Central Reserve Explosive Store"; quite a mouthful. It consisted of twenty well-dispersed underground concrete bunkers and twenty five wooden accommodation and administration huts. At times this depot stored 2,500 tons of bombs and explosives. Transport was by rail. That was back in the days of WWII when I was but a babe and many of you weren't born.
In 1985 Julie and David Hinds purchased the bunkers on 360 acres of land and RAAF Kowguran etc., etc., became Possum Park. The bunkers still remain, some converted into modern self-contained tourist accommodation. Bunker 18 became the caravan park office . . .
In the day, there would have been no air conditioner or roof vents to reveal to a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft that there was something of interest below the ground. I was invited into one bunker and the occupiers told me the temperature was very stable - there was almost no need for the air conditioner.
Many bunkers are still to be developed. There are also old railway carriages converted into accommodation and many sites for caravans and tents.
The first day we remained in the caravan and tried to catch up on correspondence, this web site, etc. The second day we took a look around the park but took a wrong turning and ended up in a maintenance area. Not before we'd taken some pictures, however. The grounds of the park are attractively planted with a lawn and many colourful bougainvillea shrubs.
The park is very quiet, the only sounds being insects and birds for most of the time. We have a whole section to ourselves except for one uninhabited caravan.
When I opened our door this morning, several apostlebirds immediately ran towards me, squawking. Pam handed me a Ryvita and I sat outside with them all round my feet and crumbed it for them. Two crested pigeons joined in, much to the chagrin of the apostles which did their best to chase them away despite their own beaks being already full. Next came a beautiful blue faced honey eater which watched with interest but didn't approach closer than two metres. Soon it was joined by a miner which also just watched the larger apostlebirds. Lastly came a Kookaburra which, having determined there was no meat on offer, didn't stay long.
We liked the peace of Possum Park so much that we extended our stay by another day. That had the added advantage of shifting our journey to Goondiwindi to a Sunday which I prefer; there are less trucks on the road. Not that I have anything against trucks - quite the opposite; I have the greatest respect and admiration for truck drivers. However, knowing that they have a very difficult job and tight schedules I make it my business to hinder them as little as possible. This can mean frequently pulling off the road as they catch us up so they don't have to slow down and go through a dozen gears to regain speed after passing us and usually appreciation for this consideration is signalled by a quick left-right-left flash of their indicators. However, when there are a lot of trucks going our way, this constant slowing or stopping becomes tiresome, thus the preference for Sunday travelling.
Yes, I know I've said all this before but make allowances; you too will be old one day.
Our trip to Goondiwindi (pronounced Gunda windy) was uneventful. It started raining as we approached the town which had the effect of gathering all the red dust we'd acquired earlier into blobs, making the car and caravan look pretty disgusting. As always, we'd researched the town's caravan parks before travelling and decided upon one which sounded nicer than the other two.
Wrong! Our system doesn't often let us down, in fact this is the first time, but . . .
We thought we'd driven into a junk yard for old caravans. What a dump! We made a quick appraisal - we had intended a four-day stay - and drove straight out again. We asked good old Alice for advice and she took us to a much nicer park.
The manageress greeted us as if we'd walked in to her reception office with a steaming turd in each hand. If she didn't have a slice of lemon in her mouth I don't know how she managed her facial expression, but her attitude matched it to perfection. Not once did she show any inclination to be pleasant. I glanced at Pam and there was no need to speak; in an instant our four day stay became an overnight stay. Your loss, Mrs Bitch, we can just as soon spend our money elsewhere. Ever think you might be in the wrong job?
Next morning saw us head south again towards Gilgandra, however crossing the state line into NSW meant putting the clocks forward and thus losing an hour, so when we arrived at the little town of Narrabri (bri as in sky) we decided to stay the night.
The following morning I was awakened by the roaring of the wind and tree debris falling on the caravan roof. This could mean a very bad day for towing a high caravan or, equally possible, a very good day. The compass revealed the wind was blowing almost straight from Narrabri to Gilgandra. Couldn't have been better.
On the way we passed through the little town of Coonabarabran. Do you like these quaint names? I do, though I can never remember them. Usually they are derived from the Aborigines' name for the area. If I may quote from Wikipedia: "The meaning of the word Coonabarabran is said to probably derive from Kamilaroi language 'gunbaraaybaa' meaning 'shit'". Perhaps not such a quaint name in this case. Let me chose a better example.
The town of Dogwood Crossing was established by explorer Ludwig Leichhardt in 1884. He named the local creek Dogwood Creek after the abundance of dogwood trees growing along the creek bank.
Wikipedia again: The name 'dog-tree' (had) entered the English vocabulary by 1548, and had been further transformed to dogwood by 1614.
When a settlement developed at the creek crossing it became known as Dogwood Crossing. What a lovely name and what a crying shame it was later changed to bland 'Miles' after some local M.P. If I were mayor I'd change it back.
Another example (which I've mentioned previously) is a town that was named 'Quart Pot' after a drinking vessel, long-abandoned by a miner, was found by the side of a creek by explorers. The creek was named Quart Pot Creek and the name Quart Pot attached to the town which developed. Again it was an 'establishment' figure which caused the demise of that quaint, romantic name. Some bishop thought Quart Pot 'unseemly' and had it changed to Stanthorpe. Not much romance in that name, is there? It puts me in mind of a Yorkshire colliery brass band for some reason.
The last time we stayed at Gilgandra it was an overnight stop. At the time I wrote:
Gilgandra is quite a small town on the Castlereagh River. The caravan park was situated on one bank of the swollen, muddy river. We found it an informal and very friendly park run by a husband and wife with whom we felt an immediate rapport. The rain had paused and we were able to set up the caravan wherever we chose as the place was all but deserted. After the wet journey, a priority was to wash the road dirt off the caravan. No sooner had I got out the hose and bucket than the thunder, which had been threatening for some time, became serious; the sky was very black and suddenly it bucketed down, trapping me for half an hour in the toilet block, of all places. When it passed over I washed the 'van and then we walked to the local pub where we had a few drinks and something to eat. And that, in a nutshell, was our visit to Gilgandra; a friendly place but with nothing to hold the tourist. We left the following morning.
Well, now we are back for five nights and would you believe, even as I write, the clouds have burst and rain is bucketing down to the accompaniment of loud thunder claps. Maybe it's us, d'you think?
Next morning dawned bright and sunny and we went into town to stock up on supplies. Gilgandra seems to have the usual advantages and disadvantages of all country towns. Lovely friendly people but a lack of selection and high prices when shopping.
Pam was very keen to buy poppies for Remembrance Day, two days hence, and to learn the venue for the 11 a.m. service. She's very keen on these sort of occasions, is Pam, and rightly so. However, of poppies there were none. Mainly, I think, because November 11th is more of a British remembrance occasion; Australia actively remembers the fallen on ANZAC Day, 25th April.
Well, we learned the location of the cenotaph and that the service is to coincide with the dedication of a new wall of remembrance.
A small crowd had gathered at the cenotaph when we arrived at 10:55, mostly, but not exclusively, older folk. The service was held under a hot sun and was not affected by a bunch of Aborigines drinking under a nearby tree; they were reasonably quiet. So too were the many giant road construction vehicles at the adjacent intersection of the Newell and Oxley Highways which was under major repair. Somebody had had a word and they agreed to stop work for an hour out of respect, which was nice.
Gone are the days when all traffic came to a standstill and drivers switched off their engines for one minute's silence, but at least the day is still remembered. Despite what some feminists would have us believe, these occasions are not about the glorification of war - far from it. They serve to remind us of the horror, suffering, misery, tragedy and senselessness of war - the sheer waste - and to spare a few moments to think of the troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere today. To think of their loved ones at home, missing and worrying about them, and to look about us and realise afresh how lucky we are in Australia. Glorification? Try Hollywood for that.
One nice touch about the Gilgandra ceremony was the real, live trumpeter
instead of the all too frequent scratchy tape recorder. On the down side,
an old lady of at least eighty nudged me and asked how I'm getting on.
I told her I was fine and asked after her, wondering if I should know
her. Then she told me she'd thought I was her uncle! I said,
God, do I really look that old? and she laughed.
Services Wallnext to the cenotaph wall.
And so it came to pass that we left Gilgandra and journeyed 435 kilometres to Junee. (The emphasis is on the knee, not the Jew.) Junee is a little railway town and from our site in the (only) caravan park we could see the occasional freight train rumble through, never hauled by less than two giant diesel locos. Behind the caravan there was a small lake with ducks and a few fish and to our right was a lush, green sports field with a grain silo beyond.
We were in Junee (the name means
me) because the caravan parks in Temora, 58 kilometres north, were
fully booked. That's where we really wanted to be; the Aviation Museum
at Temora was hosting its first major air show based on 'warbirds', old
and new. We travelled there from Junee.
Warbirds Down underair display at Temora
The weather was near perfect for the spectators at the display but a gusty cross wind made things a little 'hairy' for the pilots, especially those flying smaller, light-weight aircraft. The organisation was first class, even more so considering it was a first for the Museum which has David Lowy, heir to the Westfield Shopping Centres fortune, as its founder, president and main sponsor. David, a former Australian Aerobatic Champion, flew his mark sixteen Spitfire several times at the display.
The show was dedicated to 75 Squadron of the R.A.A.F. which celebrates its 70th anniversary next year. Many of the Squadron's personnel were present and they'd brought two F/A-18 Hornet fighters with them, one of which gave a very impressive display of its capabilities. Just prior to that there was a tribute to 75 Squadron in the form of a formation fly-past of five of the aircraft that it has operated over the years; a Kittyhawk, a Mustang, a Meteor, a Sabre and an F/A-18 Hornet. Only a Vampire and Mirage were missing - and even then Temora's Vampire was on display in the hangar, grounded by a maintenance problem.
The very fact that a Hornet could fly slowly enough to formate on a Kittyhawk is testimonial to its marvellous flying capabilities. With the wick full up it trundles along at almost twice the speed of sound.
Now, shall I show you lots of aeroplane pictures? Would you like that? I took over five hundred.
On a show of hands, two thirds of you voted 'No'.
Tell you what, anyone who likes aeroplane pictures click on: Temora Airshow
Everyone else . . . that'd be you, Mother, and the lady who logged on by mistake . . . read on.
I trashed over sixty per cent of the air show pictures as soon as I downloaded them. There are problems in taking photos of fast moving jets from below, not the least being that the camera sees mostly bright sky and adjusts the exposure accordingly so you have to override it.
Let me explain it this way; the light from an Australian sky on a fine day is intense. The amount of that light reflected off the underneath of an aircraft is not intense. It is what remains when the light from the sky has bounced off the ground losing much of its strength, then reflected back again from the underside of the aeroplane losing even more intensity. And that's the light that enters the lens from your subject. Without compensating adequately, all you'll see on your picture is a black silhouette.
Did I compensate? Yes, but clearly not sufficiently for the conditions. Another problem is that if you get the aircraft exposure correct, that beautiful blue sky with white fluffy clouds will just be plain white on the photo - hugely over exposed. If you have the software, the expertise and the time, you can expose for the underside of the plane and photograph it several times as it flies over. When it's gone, reset the exposure for the sky and photograph that. Then later, select the best photo of the plane and superimpose it on your picture of the sky. It's time consuming but good fun.
That's enough excuses for bad photography, let's move on. Where was I? Ah, yes, at the Temora Air Show. The Army sent along a very smart, professional band to entertain us until the flying started.
Sometimes, however, something got into the musicians and they all started acting crazy, sometimes running around like headless chooks.
All things considered, the staff at Temora Aviation Museum are to be congratulated, as is Temora Council and the emergency services and a whole lot of catering people and other organisations which slotted in seemlessly to make the whole day run like a well oiled machine. I hope the Museum repeats the show next year; the staff claim it will be even better.
No, it's not a mistake, a couple of days after the air show we left Junee and set up camp at the caravan park at the airfield where the show had been held. We like the town and plan to stay for a week or more.
Footnote: This re-working of Page 155 was completed on 5 April 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.