In this series of posts, I draw on diary records to recount some of the road trips we have taken in recent years.
Our destination today was a city in the central west of New South Wales called Forbes, where my Italian cousin has a trucking and haulage business. We were not expected until late afternoon so we took our time getting there. We turned northwest, away from the alpine area, and stopped at each major country town along the route. Gundagai, a small town famous in bush poetry and songs, is where “the dog sits on the tucker box”. It’s a reference to the faithful dogs that travelled with the bullock drivers, and/or drovers (the people driving livestock on foot to market) in old times, and tucker box is where food is stored (“tucker” = Aussie slang for food). This is sheep, cattle, and pasture country, at a much lower elevation than where we had just been.
Cootamundra was next, a major rail junction and home of the “Cootamundra wattle” a beautiful yellow bush flower, often seen on national emblems. We looked at their well-maintained historic railway station, toured the extensive nearby museum and had a “yarn” (a talk) with the volunteer who was in charge that day. Cootamundra is a main junction point, and in former times, train crews would swap over here, and sleep in the building that now houses the museum. Each room is dedicated to a different topic. Well worth losing an hour or two in there.
Then onto Young, which is famous for cherries, and about to hold its annual town festival the next weekend, when people could pick their own cherries. We bought a 2kg box of cherries on our way out of town and then had to share them around over the next days, as they don’t last long out of the refrigerator. We had a picnic lunch in the Chinese gardens just outside town, and there were two black swans with two half grown cygnets on the pond there. There were tiny blue wrens and willy-wagtails as well – a cheeky little bird with a long upright tail feather.
Lambing Flat was the former name of Young, so named in the gold rush days. in 1860-1861 it was the site of violent anti-Chinese demonstrations. Chinese were present in large numbers in the gold fields. Various events between them and the Caucasian miners led to hostilities towards the Chinese that affected Australian-Asian relations even into the next century. These gardens are a tribute to the violent and inhumane treatment they received. As you see from the photos, they are typical of the beauty and delicacy evident in Chinese culture, even though set in what can be a harsh climate.
Our final stop was Grenfell, a town that Bill had visited years before when our son was jackarooing (like an apprentice farmhand), but I had no clear memory of visiting. We took a self-guided walking tour around the historic buildings, but this was a hot sleepy Monday afternoon, and I guess everyone who lived nearby was out trying to get the harvest in. The town itself was deserted, although we did have a browse through a very modern art gallery which we found open. This is wheat country, and the crop was forecast to be the best in years, due to the recent rains. Everywhere we went we saw bales piled in the paddocks, either in large squares or more commonly in huge round bales, depending on which harvester had been used. I was a little confused whether it was barley or wheat being grown, as it was very low, maybe only a half metre high, but I was told that it was a variety of wheat popular with farmers as it grew more grain and less straw.
I had never visited my cousin in Forbes and I was expecting to arrive at a dusty old farmhouse with two or three trucks in the yard. What greeted us was a modern, large, full-brick, low maintenance home, surrounded by a couple of acres of land planted out with fruit trees and vegetable gardens, and not a truck in sight. Turns out that he has a huge trucking empire, with staff and separate premises, and he runs the lot from Skype and the telephone in his home office. We had arrived at a busy time for him. Not only does he have the contract with council to cart road building materials, but he is also hired by farmers and businessmen to move harvesting machinery from one property to another, as well as other specialist haulage jobs for defence. Everyone had work on at this time of the year, the weather being hot and dry and leading in to summer.
It seems as if we were so excited to look at his property that we forgot to take any photos.
Here is a little tidbit about Forbes, courtesy of Wikipedia:
One of Australia’s most renowned bushrangers, Ben Hall, was shot dead in gun battle about 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the north-west of town on 5 May 1865. Hall and his gang were famous for stealing 77 kilograms (170 lb) of gold and £3,700 from the nearby town of Eugowra in 1862.
Kate Kelly, the sister of bushranger Ned Kelly, lived in the town. She drowned in Lake Forbes while saving an Aboriginal child during a flood in 1898 and was found in a lagoon of the Lachlan River, just outside Forbes.
Both Ben Hall and Kate Kelly are buried in Forbes Cemetery.
Next Destination: Dubbo