Pam's Journal for May 2007

Tuesday 1st May 2007.

Peter fixed the water pipes under the caravan this morning whilst I did some more jobs inside. In the afternoon we walked into town and checked out the shops and surrounds. For a very small town they have a remarkably large supermarket, looks really fresh and a huge variety of food. We wandered back to the caravan park via the Bowling Club where we had our own little Happy Hour and then went on home. Everyone here is very friendly, except in the pubs where no one talks to you. We expected a similar town to Coober Pedy but it is nothing like. It is an opal mining town but doesn't seem to have the charm of Coober Pedy.

Wednesday 2nd May 2007.
We walked into town to have another look around and to go back to the supermarket. Yesterday we bought some cashew nuts but were charged for chestnuts which are a lot more expensive. I told the cashier this and she refunded me the whole amount, not just the difference. We were impressed. We had a wander around town and then found a nice coffee shop - not Gloria Jean's, but very nice and cheaper. After lunch we went on a tour of the town and opal fields. It was really very good; we crammed so much into three hours. Our tour guide could talk for Australia and it was difficult to ask questions as she rarely stopped for breath. We did however get a real insight into life in Lightning Ridge. I guess the highlight of the tour for me was the Black Queen, a house made from bottles. The lady who built the house was a teetotaler because her first husband was an unpleasant drunk. She vowed she would never drink, nor stay married to someone who did. Hence her second husband was also teetotal. The house she built is really lovely and so different. The current owners have a remarkable oil lamp collection which is worth a lot of money - strange the things you find tucked away in these small outback towns. I know Peter has covered the Whorehouse Lamp on the webpage but what he didn't tell you was that the brothel where the lamp was used was frequented by men who worked at government departments. When they needed a traffic light system putting in place, what better system than the one used on the lamp at their favourite place. So now you know why we have red amber and green traffic lights. How true it all is, who knows, but it makes a nice story to tell the tourists. Once the tour was over it was time for Happy Hour so we headed to the pub. It must have been pay day today as all the 'characters' we hoped to meet previously were in the pub today. A very chatty lot, one group invited us to join them which was nice, so we sorted out all the country's problems over a glass or two. Or three.

Thursday 3rd May 2007.
We did the Red Door Self Drive Tour today, mainly to take photos and we also went back to the Black Queen, which incidentally gets its name from the myth that 'the black opal of all time' is buried on this property somewhere and it is called the Black Queen. Whoever finds it will be very wealthy indeed. Gayle, the current owner, told us a really spooky tale. She and her husband were on holiday at Lightening Ridge when they came across the Black Queen which was for sale. Gayle walked up to Joan, the previous owner, and told her she thought they had been sent to buy the place. Joan and Gayle's husbands were taken aback, to say the least. Then Gayle told them she had been having the same recurring dream since she was a little girl. She has dreamt that she would live at the Black Queen and she said it was exactly like her dream. Gayle dreamt of this long before it was even built. So Gayle and her husband left their high flying jobs and moved to Lightening Ridge. She said it nearly cost them their marriage as it has been a hard road, but luckily they made it through. They leave L.R. in October each year for four months to live in their other house in Sydney. Before they leave they have to pack away all those beautiful lamps and put them in secure storage. After we left the Black Queen we did our supermarket shopping and then went home for Happy Hour which, I might add, was alcohol free tonight.

Friday 4th May 2007.
We had a longer walk around town this morning calling in at the Historical Society, various opal shops and an art gallery. We ended our walk by calling in the coffee shop for a 'good' cup of coffee. We cannot make coffee in the caravan at the moment because, since we arrived in Lightning Ridge, our coffee percolator has been playing up. We didn't do much in the afternoon, just read mainly. Happy Hour again was alcohol free; we kid ourselves by putting diet coke into wine glasses.

Saturday 5th May 2007.
Get ready day today, washing, cleaning and packing away. Another Alcohol Free Day.

Sunday 6th May 2007.
We were ready to leave around 8.00 a.m. which is really good for us. Our Guardian Angels gave us a dream run through. No hitches, hardly any traffic and reasonable roads (even though in places it was bumpy, but Pete Mate reckons it wasn't). We arrived in Mitchell around 3.00 p.m. and received a warm welcome from the lady in the office. The park looks nice; the ablution block is all en suite style, bathrooms which are unisex so we can wash each others backs if we really want to. We were invited to Happy Hour next door so our short run of AFDs has ended. We had a very pleasant time and met some very nice people.

Monday 7th May 2007.
We had a really lazy day as we both felt jaded after the long journey yesterday. We had a quiet Happy Hour with our diet cokes.

Tuesday 8th May 2007.
We walked into town in the morning. Along the way we saw the murals painted on the concrete supports of the bridge, they were very good. We had a look at the Artesian Baths and enjoyed a coffee in the coffee shop adjoining. Alas our coffee percolator in the caravan has died and gone to heaven. We have decided not to buy another one as the coffee never tasted as good as they can make in the coffee shops. Plus it was quite heavy. As we frequent coffee shops wherever we go, we won't die of caffeine deprivation. After coffee we walked on further into town, had a look in a place that advertised you could look at their old things for free. I tried to leave Pete Mate there but they wouldn't have him. The place was full of junk which needed a clean up, I reckon they had some good stuff there but it was hidden amongst the mess. From there we went in search of the famous courthouse where the Kenniff Brothers were tried. Pete Mate reckons they hung the wrong man. After that we wandered back up the street, found another café and ordered Caesar Salads for lunch. It wasn't the best Caesar but it was still enjoyable. We then wander back to the caravan where we spent the rest of the afternoon doing our hobbies.

Wednesday 9th May 2007.
We went back to the coffee shop at the Information Centre and then I drove the car into town to do some supermarket shopping. I dropped Peter off to do some research on the Kenniff Brothers, and then he was going to walk back. The shelves containing fresh food in the supermarket were almost bare so tomorrow I will have to return when the truck has delivered. I'll have to get used to shopping in country towns and find out what day the truck arrives. After I had done my shopping in various shops I drove home thinking Peter would have been home a long time ago. I was therefore surprised to find him still out. He arrived much later having read through the court transcripts of the trial - no wonder he was so long. We have decided to stay a few more days in Mitchell as it is a pleasant, friendly town and we don't want to arrive too early in Longreach as we will have to hang about there waiting for the restored QANTAS Boeing 707 to arrive.

Thursday 10th May 2007.
We walked into town via the coffee shop. The coffee is very good there. We had a little shopping to do plus Pete Mate wanted to check out some facts regarding the Artesian Bore. We did some shopping in town and walked back to enjoy a quiet, lazy afternoon.

Friday 11th May 2007.

After lunch we walked into town via the coffee shop. We then walked up to the Horse Whisperer's place where we paid $5.00 each to see a show. It was wonderful to see how the man, John, put Honey, the horse, through her paces. The affinity those two shared was very special and it was a pleasure to witness it. The show lasted for about an hour but John continued to talk to anyone who would listen. Pete Mate didn't want to leave but I was getting quite desperate for the loo. We walked very quickly down the street. The first toilet in sight just happened to be the pub, but by this time I wasn't fussed where I went! Pub was good. We of course then had to stay and have a couple of drinks and chat to the barmaid, Louise from Basingstoke. She was back-packing around Australia. We then walked home for dinner.

Saturday 12th May 2007.
Apart from packing up the caravan and the usual cleaning, Peter washed the outside of the caravan. We are allowed to do this here but once we move on it may be banned due to the shortage of water. We went for a coffee and did some shopping.

Sunday 13th May 2007.
We left Mitchell around 9.00 a.m. and had a good run through to Blackall. We stopped for coffee at Augathella and lunch at Tambo. Tambo's tourist brochure recommends a visit to Tambo Teddies; this is an opportunity not to be missed. Well, I had a look inside the shop - which was closed, so I had to peer through the window - and it wasn't anything special. Not a patch on the shop where Annie came from. Whilst travelling along, our rear view mirror fell off the windscreen. Apart from giving us a fright it smashed into Alice (the GPS) but she is okay. On the way to Blackall it started raining, which is a novelty to us as we haven't seen rain for a while. We arrived in Blackall after 3.00 p.m., received a warm welcome and an invitation to a camp fire dinner. It was special for Mothers' Day at $12 per head. We set up camp, in a mire of wet and mud, and then wandered across to the camp kitchen area. We sat with some really nice people, enjoyed a lovely dinner, (more so because I didn't have to cook it) and listened to some funny Bush Poetry. Then we went home to bed.

Monday 14th May 2007.
We had a lazy morning, as we tend to do after travelling the day before. In the afternoon we went into town had a quick look around and then visited the Wool Scouring place. I was led to believe it was a working wool scouring plant, run by steam. It is purely a tourist attraction though they do crank up the steam engine to show you how it used to work but we didn't really get the sense of how it all was. So I decided, as it wasn't what I expected, that it was a Blue Day but Pete Mate disagrees. We made some purchases on the way home including a nice bottle of red. We have really cut down on our drinking so this bottle was really enjoyable.

Tuesday 15th May 2007.
We had a walk into town to check out if they have any decent coffee shops here. We found one that served very nice coffee in huge cups, so I guess we will return there for seconds. We called in at the information centre, the young lady there was extremely helpful giving us a list of places worth a visit. When we left there Pete Mate went off in search of Blackall's original bore and I returned home via the bottle shop. You have to get your priorities right, plus I did mention the coffee was huge so an urgent visit to the loo was looming. In the evening we attended the Bush Poet's hour of comical verse, followed by another camp-oven dinner. It was as good as Sunday night, even more so because I didn't have to cook or wash up. It is tradition here that the men wash up. We shared our table with some nice people; one couple looked and acted as though they had been married for many years. After the soup 'he' got up with all the other men and washed the dishes. Instead of staying quiet she made some remark and said she was going to tell a friend of hers that he actually washed up. Once the next course was finished he point blankly refused to wash up. All the cajoling in the world would not budge him. I was sitting next to a really nice German lady called Margaret. In the end she got up and washed the dishes for them. Wouldn't have minded being a fly on their caravan wall when they got back! All good fun in a caravan park.

Wednesday 16th May 2007.

We walked into town to check out all the tourist attractions. First on the list was the Black Stump but as Pete Mate has already had his grumble, I won't add to it. We then had a look at Jackie Howe. In 1892 he shore a record of 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes. This record still stands for the type of clippers he used. In his time he was involved in local politics, owned the Imperial Hotel and designed the Shearer Shirt - a blue sleeveless vest. We then headed towards the coffee shop, Pete Mate taking photos of the petrified wood and Sir Thomas Mitchell's Memorial clock. After coffee we walked some more to look at the Pioneer Bore. The place was covered in ants so I didn't hang around too long. We walked home calling in one of the two supermarkets on the way. We had a quiet Happy Hour tonight with our diet cokes.

Thursday 17th May 2007.

We went into to town to do the grocery shopping. We went to the coffee shop only to find it closed; we then went to another one which had been closed since October last year. We then saw a sign for cappuccinos outside the fish and chip shop. We were left without any choice as it was the only place open. We were pleasantly surprised as they made good coffee. After coffee we walked back to the supermarket to do the shopping. This is where frustration sets in and one appreciates shopping at Woolworths. These little country towns are very limited in what they have to sell, so you wander around trying to find substitutes for the usual products you buy. Once that was done we headed back to the caravan. We had Happy Hour amongst the sand flies this evening which didn't bode well for later that night, as it is always the middle of the night when they start to irritate.

Friday 18th May 2007.
I walked into town, mainly for the exercise, but also to pick up a couple of things from the shop that I forgot yesterday. It was a funny old day, I couldn't settle to anything. I did some more on the family tree, some knitting, reading, puzzles and watched the television. Pete Mate read his book.

Saturday 19th May 2007.
It was our get ready day today but as most of the things were already packed away we were a little lazy. We walked into town, mainly for the exercise, had a coffee and walked home. In the afternoon we read and knitted.

Sunday 20th May 2007.
We weren't in too much of a rush as the journey today was only about two and half hours. I was just about ready when Pete Mate announced another bolt on the caravan had broken and the wheel would have to come off for him to replace it. So it was on with the old working clothes, the inside of the caravan became partially 'unpacked' again and I sat outside and read. I decided to walk up to town for the newspaper, on arrival at the newsagents found out the papers didn't arrive until 10.30am. At least I had some exercise. We finally got away around 11.30am and had a good run through to Longreach. We set up camp and by the time we had finished chatting to our neighbours it was Happy Hour.

Monday 21st May 2007.
We enjoyed a fairly lazy morning. In the afternoon we took Billy into town for a new windscreen. We had to leave him overnight so we walked the rest of the way into town. The plan was to have a couple of drinks and then walk home. One drink led to another and we ended up staying for dinner and caught a cab home. We enjoyed the company of a very nice NSW policeman who was on holiday. He probably didn't really appreciate telling us about his work whilst he was on holiday and trying to get away from it all.

Tuesday 22nd May 2007.
Pete Mate woke up with some sort of bug. We walked into town and collected Billy, found a reasonable coffee shop and did some supermarket shopping. Pete Mate was feeling worse so we came home.

Wednesday 23rd May 2007
Pete Mate took it easy today as he was still not feeling good. I went into town for a browse or two.

Thursday 24th May 2007.
I didn't have a good night as I had one of my 'episodes'. I haven't had one for over a year so I thought they had gone - but alas, no. So it was a take it easy day for me. Pete Mate was feeling much better so he did some maintenance on the caravan.

Friday 25th May 2007.
We went to check out vantage points for the arrival of the 707. We then called in at the Qantas Museum to confirm the arrival date. They know as much as we do, which isn't much. From there we had a look at the Railway Museum which wasn't very good. We then booked our trips for the next two weeks, one on a stage coach, the other on the river. Then we called in at the Starlight Hotel only to find they don't make sandwiches for lunch so, alas, we had to have a drink. We did some shopping and then headed home. We enjoyed a Happy Hour with our neighbours Iris and Harry who were a really nice couple.

Saturday 26th May 2007.
We did a few chores in the morning and then walked into town for a drink at the Starlight. We were surprised it was so quiet. After a couple of drinks we walked home again.

Sunday 27th May 2007.

In the morning I did some washing and chores, and in the afternoon we went to the Starlight. We arrived home in time to enjoy Happy Hour with our new neighbours Margaret and Adrian, who leave tomorrow. Caravan dwellers at Longreach are mostly transient, moving on after a couple of days. Being here for the long haul we are constantly saying hello and goodbye.

Monday 28th May 2007.
We didn't do very much today. I did some more washing and ironing and Peter worked on the website. In the afternoon we visited the R.S.L. club but it was very quiet so we walked up to the Starlight. There was a bit more life there so we stayed. We are spending way too much time in pubs. I can't believe I just said that.

Tuesday 29th May 2007.

We walked into town, mainly for the exercise. We had an appointment at the doctors. We needed our scripts renewing but we were also due for our flu jabs. We were kept waiting the customary half hour and then some more. Once out of there we needed coffee and lunch. We have found a really nice café run by a French-Canadian lady who cannot spell, so her menus are interesting. After lunch we did our errands and then had a drink at the Starlight before heading home. We were half way home when a car pulled up and offered us a lift the rest of the way. We accepted as Peter was carrying a heavy shopping bag - fruit can be very heavy, you know. We had a very quite Happy Hour on diet coke.

Wednesday 30th May 2007.
We went into town to do the Cobb and Co tour. We arrived at 10.00am for 'Smoko' which apparently would have been a typical Cobb and Co morning tea. We then were told a little bit of history about Cobb and Co. We then all boarded the stage coach. Peter went up on the top so he could play cowboys. It was very cramped inside with three people on the back seat, three on the middle bench and three on the seat nearest the front. I sat on the latter, back to the 'engine', and reckon it was the best seat as we didn't get mud and dust when we did the gallop. It was good fun and your bones were given a good shaking, it ironed out all those creases. I wouldn't have liked to travel from Blackall to Longreach in it, as they used to. When the ride was over, part of the deal was to watch an old Australian movie. This one was called Smiley Gets His Gun. I thought it was so funny as it was so corny. Grumpy complained off and on throughout the movie as he dislikes watching movies at the best of times. Once out of there we had a couple of errands to do and then we called in the pub for one drink. Strange how often one drinks leads to another and we ended up staying there all afternoon. No Happy Hour tonight, as if we needed it!!!

Thursday 31st May 2007.
We spent a fairly quiet morning and then after lunch we went into town to do the grocery shopping. Once that was done we headed home and today it was not via the pub. Once home Peter changed the oil and filter in Billy. You are not supposed to this in caravan parks but some owners are obliging as long as you don't leave a huge mess. Anyway once Peter had completed it and cleaned everything away we sat outside the caravan and had Happy Hour. As we didn't have new neighbours it was again a quiet one.

And so ends May.

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