ACROSS THE PLENTY

From Mt Isa we drove south west to Urandangi, a pub, a couple of houses and a small aboriginal community near the Georgina River. The last time I visited Urandangi was 1988 and before that 1982. Not much has changed. The store has closed down and the pub now sells essential supplies. Trees have grown taller, the pub has changed hands and the fuel pumps are newer.

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Urandangi 1988

We called into the pub for a beer and to catch up on all the local news, then drove down to a waterhole on the Georgina. As I sat and watched it get dark on the waterhole I could hear a faint hiss. It turned out to be the inside dual wheel on the truck.

Next morning I got to try out this handy device I purchased from the Mining Expo in Mt Isa. A Torque Multiplier – guaranteed to remove the most impossible truck wheel nuts. It worked a treat.

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After fitting the spare we headed back into Urandangi to use their compressor and mend the puncture.

A donkey and a small horse were entertained for ages watching me break the bead on this rusted rim.

Once the puncture was mended we headed down to Tobermorey station and across the Plenty Highway. The road was surprisingly good compared to the last time we used it. A few big patches of bull dust and corrugations, but mostly fairly smooth. Parts of the road appeared to have been recently graded. Our last trip across this road was after a dozen road trains had beaten it to a strip of rock and pulverized bull dust that could swallow a car.

Along the road the landscape varies from big plains of Mitchell Grass to tortured looking rocky outcrops and gibber plains

Approaching Harts Range, the size of the mountains increase and they take on the typical Central Australian pinks and purples.

Plains Turkeys are fairly common along the road. They walk slowly with their heads in the air and stand about 750mm tall.

Cool Mornings – even with the sun shining.

WEST TO WINTON

With the Studio to Studio Exhibition finished and a couple of other commitments out of the way, it was time to load up the truck and head west. I have a two day workshop in Winton, and will be judging the 2012 John Villers Winton Art Award. The plan after that is to explore the Diamantina basin before winding our way up to Mt Isa for another two day workshop. If the night time temperatures are still above freezing in Alice Springs we will stock up in Mt. Isa and head to Alice via the Plenty Highway and Eastern Macdonalds.

We drove through some incredible storms between Longreach and Winton. After four years of good rain the country is weirdly green, the cattle are fat and plentiful and the station owners are smiling.

The wild west – Main street Winton

After the workshop we celebrated Sash’s birthday in fine style at the Tatts Hotel

Big moon rising over suburban Winton

Willie Mar’s Chinese market garden operated in Winton from 1923 until it fell victim to the 2000 flood.

Jessica and Craig , who organised the John Villers Art Exhibition and Workshop in Winton, took us out to the Rangelands Escarpment for drinks as the sun set. What an awsome sight.

Nick Caves story “The Proposition” was filmed here at Ranglands and on nearby Bladensburg National Park

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We camped a night looking over Scammy’s Lookout – what a place to watch the sun go down – You can see all the way to India.

From Scammy’s Lookout

Plenty of grass means plenty of kangaroos bouncing through the landscape.

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After miles of nothing we stumbled across this water hole on our way down to the Diamantina.

At Larks Quarry an impressive building protects footprints made by stampeding dinosaurs 95 million years ago.

Strangely, the structure won a building award in 2004 but had to be closed in 2012 to demolish unstable rammed earth walls. We were lucky enough to arrive a couple of weeks after the building was re-opened (minus many of the rammed earth walls)

NEW YORK

New York is a bit of a shock after twenty four hours in transit. Everyone seemed to be on full throttle and we were barely idling. We caught a cab from JFK Airport to our apartment in the city.

We were lucky enough to be a couple of doors from an amazing bar called Mono Mono, where they play analogue music 24 hours a day from a collection of over 30,000 jazz LP’s. What a great place to get over a long flight.

Mono Mono – the left hand wall is 12 shelves high, stacked with LP’s. A conveyor system circulates near 50 records at a time, around the ceiling and through the DJ’s booth, where an awesome sound is delivered through old valve amplifiers.

New York architecture is fantastic. Old brownstone buildings with external fire escapes and no elevators – no wonder there are a lot of skinny people in New York! Up and down six floors every time you want to go out would be hard work.

East Village,  has some mighty bars. We haven’t had a chance to visit this one yet, but it looks pretty interesting.

McSorleys Old Ale House is just around the corner from us. It is the longest continuously  running license in New York and inside looks as if it hasn’t changed since it was opened – sawdust covered floor, old wooden refrigerator and a collection of dust covered photographs and junk accumulated over the past 150 years. All they sell is their own ale – dark or light, and for some reason when you order one they give you two. No wonder they have been operating for 150 years.

Tucked down some of the side streets are some interesting shops. Trash and Vaudeville sold some bizarre fashions,  or they would be bizarre in any other city, but in New York nothing really seems bizarre.

Casual Sneakers

Comfortable walking shoes

In New York there is not a lot of car parking space so they stack them neatly,  one on top of the other.

Even the police cars are down sized so they can fit more on the streets.

When I was a kid, there was a story going around school, that if you dropped a penny from the top of the Empire State Building, it would embed itself inches into the concrete below. We walked right around the Empire State Building and, sadly, there were no embedded pennies.

The huge orange billboard in the center of the photo above (detail below) gives a constant readout of the number of tons of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Its a pretty scary number especially when most people see it across the hood of a V8.

Maybe the billboard will change that? New York has a large fleet of hybrid Ford taxis.

If you dont want to drive, New York has to be one of the easiest cities to get around. The subway system is great, public transport is cheap, the streets are laid out in a logical grid and there are taxis everywhere.

The F train

It’s also flat and networked with bike paths, so riding a bike is a popular mode of transport.

We stopped to listen to this band in Penn Station. They were great, so I bought two of their CD’s. When we got back to our apartment I discovered one of the CD’s was made in 1998 – back when the guy playing guitar was just a little kid! Just shows, you shouldn’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment when you are visiting New York.

The cavernous, air conditioned Staten Island Ferry Terminal, providing free public transport to the people of New York. A pleasant contrast to the money making business the remains of  Australia’s  Public Government transport system has become.


Statue of Liberty and Helicopter


New York from the Staten Island Ferry


Brooklyn Bridge


Wall Street

TILPA PUB

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From Broken Hill we took the road to Wilcannia then followed the Darling river to the little town of Tilpa. Tilpa pub doesn’t see too many visitors, mainly passing shearers and local farmers.

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The pub walls are scrawled with names from the past 40 years (or whenever texta colors were invented) I stayed at the pub 25 years ago and it hasn’t changed a bit.

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While we were there, discussion around the bar was centered on the pet sheep overdue for shearing. There was a shearer at the bar with a set of 12 volt clippers, so it was decided to shear the sheep then and there. Coaxed to the front of the ute by a handful of twisties, the poor old sheep was flipped over and shorn before she even knew what happened.

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After all the excitement, another handful of twisties for being a well behaved sheep.

WILLIAM CREEK PUB

Half way between Maree and Oodnadatta, on the southern edge of the Simpson Desert, is the William Creek Hotel. It was established in 1885 as a watering stop and provider of refreshing beverages for the original Ghan railway.

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It is the closest pub to Lake Eyre, which normally doesn’t mean much, but this year the Lake filled with water and the pub was busier than it has ever been.

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Entering through the front door is thirsty work if you stop to read all the business cards, student ID’s and numerous other items of social importance.

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Once inside it is very hard to leave. Not just because of the excellent beer …

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…the abundance of  fascinating literature covering the walls, ceiling  and any other vertical surface will keep you reading for hours!

A pub not to be missed if you are traveling the Oodnadatta track.

GHOSTS OF GWALIA

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Gwalia, once the second biggest gold mining town in WA, is now almost deserted. The “Sons of Gwalia” mine closed in 1963 and the population of over 1500 disappeared overnight. The first mine manager, 23 year old Herbert Hoover, brought in cheap Italian labor to help make the mine profitable.  Hoover went on to become the 31st president of the USA. Most of the abandoned cottages built by the workers are still in good condition thanks to the hot, dry climate.

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Gwalia’s State Hotel was the first state owned pub in WA. Built to counter the sly grog trade in the town, it is a stark contrast to the makeshift dwellings of the workers.

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The Sons of Gwalia mine has since reopened and, judging by the size of the hole in the ground, must be doing fairly well.

KALGOORLIE / COOLGARDIE

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Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie are the two major towns in WA’s Southern Goldfields. They are both typical of the over the top gold mining towns of the late 1800’s. The banks, government buildings and, most noticeably, the pubs are all very impressive and contrast sharply with the humble dwellings constructed by the miners.

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One of the more spectacular gardens in Coolgardie relies less on water and more on discarded junk to keep it vibrant and attractive

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The main streets in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie are wide enough to land a jumbo jet on. Apparently they had to be that width to turn a camel train around.

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Frightening statue of man trying to turn around a camel train. – Coolgardie

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Interesting tall corrugated iron building – Coolgardie

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Attractive stone government building – Coolgardie

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Coolgardie RSL and Marvel Bar Hotel

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One of Kalgoorlie’s more spectacular hotels

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Exchange Hotel in the center of Kalgoorlie

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Metropole  Hotel in the Boulder district on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie

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Court Hotel – Boulder

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A couple of hundred kilometres north of Kalgoorlie things are a little less opulent. The Kookynie hotel is the only remaining business in town. The faded for sale sign on the wall suggest its days may be numbered.