December 2008

1—5 Dec

For the first couple of days it seemed strange not being on the move, no tent or panniers to pack etc.  This didn’t last long, we’ve now slotted into a routine of rising with the sun around 5.30—6.00am, sitting on back step with a cup of tea, bit of brekkie, minor chores around Warwick Castle, cycling into town trying out cafes for the best coffee, reading papers, mooching about, waving to people we pretend to know, joining library, checking out local Farmers Markets, resting, reading books, chatting with neighbours (we’ve now met Doug as well as Terry), having a G&T & beer on front step with nibbles at 5.00pm, cooking up a storm in our designer kitchen followed by watching mind numbing Christmas tele programmes.  The pace is hectic and the atmosphere electric. Stay tuned for more gripping action.........

Greg has been busy on the net and arranged for what I am sure is the first of many wine delivery’s. Five cases arrived on the front balcony and like long lost children, each is caressed and fondled before finally being lugged inside and put in the second bedroom. We, of course, think we’re living in luxury with proper cutlery and crockery, a kettle, space we can lock up things and a roof and floor that doesn’t leak, a fridge that makes ice and so on. Strange how we can live quite successfully without these things for almost 8 months and still crave them as well.

The weather has been unsettled with some sunny, warm (27-32 degrees), cloudy and drizzly days and nights while the storms that pass over us head for Brisbane and the east coast and pummel them over again. We’ve been lucky to date, but I suspect our turn will come.

6—27th Dec

Warwick really is a beautiful town, its roses are in full bloom and there are hundreds and hundreds of brightly coloured crepe myrtle trees also in bloom lining the streets, a spectacular sight.  We feel very lucky to be here.  Settled in 1840 by grazier, Patrick Leslie, after Brisbane, Warwick was the first town in the future colony of Qld and named after Warwick, near Coventry in the UK.  Connected by railway to Ipswich in 1871 its fertile hinterland filled with mixed farming—wheat, grape & wine making, potatoes, oats, tobacco, dairying, butter, cheese making, pigs & bacon curing & the area prospered as evidenced by substantial sandstone buildings & houses.  We never tire of walking around the wide streets marvelling at the well manicured gardens.

It’s environs are equally attractive, the countryside a vibrant green from recent rains, we’re apparently seeing it at its best at the moment.  Out of fear of again turning into Telli-Tubbies we’ve ridden the Settlers Route, an historic route incorporating the villages of Killarney, Tannymorel, Emu Vale, Yangan & The Hermitage, other rides have been to Allora, Junabee & out to the Southern Downs pub along Sandy Creek Road, all relaxing rides along quiet country roads with magnificent scenery overlooking rich farm and grazing land with the mountains separating Queensland from New South Wales behind.  Most of these towns were joined by railway at one stage but these have, in the main, been ripped up and now roads and trucks supply most of the freight and all of the passenger transport.  Smarter people than us have thought about this, but it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Southern Downs Steam Railway—One Sunday we rode into town past the railway station and noticed activity around the Southern Downs Steam Railway, the train was all fired up.  We thought the train was still being restored so rode to the station to see what was happening.  As luck would have it a car rolled up and Lorna hopped out with her picnic basket, the ideal person to ask what was happening.  The steam engine had just undergone 12 years of restoration and needed to pass an inspection making it legally operational so this train trip was for all the volunteers & members only.  However at Lorna’s persistence she spoke to the relevant members to see if we could join them and they agreed as long as we joined as members to cover us for insurance, we happily did on the spot.  So 30 mins later we were on 1 of 2 beautifully restored carriages winding our way to Hendon 20 mins away, surrounded by the excitement of the volunteers, watching a trail of cars following the train & the locals madly waving from their houses hearing the toot of the train.  The engine passed its inspection, we’re now looking forward to the first passenger trip on the stream train on Australia Day long weekend (26 Jan) in conjunction with the Allora Heritage Festival. 

Our neighbours—the best you could ask for—Doug has kept us stocked with veges from his garden—corn, toms, onions, pots, beans as well as suggesting various sightseeing trips, Terry who lives 2 doors up and loves his garden has a wealth of area knowledge having lived in the same house his grandfather built & we’ve had tea/cake with Joyce (87) opposite who disappears inside when the cricket is on.  Over the back fence is Paul, Julie & family supplying us with eggs from their chooks.

Eating Out—Our restaurant experiences have been varied both with food and service.  I’ve become a member of the local RSL club, a yearly membership of $7.70 giving a further discount on meals already of good value.  Bryson’s Cafe & Cafe Jacqui are our 2 favourite cafes,  serving very good coffee. The restaurants, like many in the country, are magnificently preserved pieces of 1970’s architecture and design.  Acres of carpet with tables dotted here and there, plastic ivy and succulents are all the go. All these establishments have been designed with the same brief you may apply in an Asian casino i.e. admit no natural light, draw the blind or frost any window that may permit any view outside, ventilate using only air conditioning, play no music (other than bloody Christmas carols over and over) and light using fluorescent tubes or halogen lamps with no dimming. Never under any circumstances allow dining outside...that area is reserved for smokers! The staff, almost without exception, are warm, welcoming and obliging and the food, while well cooked is pretty un-adventuresome. The wine lists are pitiful, which is OK here as most people seem to drink beer or pre mixed spirits, again rum and coke being a favourite. We on the other hand don’t, and some real shockers have been presented as being acceptable to serve with food, when in reality they should probably be handled with gloves as an occupational health and safety precaution. Fortunately we both like cooking.

Christmas—Calls were made to the UK wishing my Dad & sisters a great Christmas before they disappeared around the country & overseas for their own festivities.  My Dad at 92 has such a busy social life it’s hard keeping up with him!  The day before Xmas we visited our local butcher early to pick up a loin of pork.  Both he and his wife had been up at 2.00am and were already busy, not even time for a coffee.  They hoped to finish at 5.00pm and escape to the coast for a well earned rest. Christmas Eve, we went to one of the better pubs for a drink and dinner. I had a great Pork chop and Greg his usual steak and chips before walking home, Xmas morning we went for a long walk around Warwick expecting to see lots of activity in the homes, it all seemed relatively quiet, perhaps they were indoors preparing lunch.  Certainly it was all very quite, except for Greg’s grumbling about how much he hated Christmas day and the reasons why which included a) I’m an atheist, b) no newspapers, c) crap TV, d) pubs closed (he’s got a point there),

e) everyone busy meeting everyone else's  expectations and no one actually being all that happy with the result and on and on he went.  Having said all that, he spoke with his Mum and called both his brothers before we got onto with our day. For our lunch on the front veranda we dined on pate followed by loin of pork with lots of crackling, apple sauce, cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes, pumpkin & onion & green beans followed by cheese & fruit.  It was accompanied by a glass of bubbly followed by a chardonnay & very good Tasmanian pinot noir.  The cooking of the pork was fraught with danger as Greg set off the smoke alarms twice (mutter, mutter, mutter). We have an oven that can best be described as temperamental.  It switches itself on even when the dial is set to off, the thermostat has been factory set to lukewarm or incinerate and the grill has no thermostat at all.  Never the less we both ate well, drank well.  Needless to say we both felt like stuffed turkeys afterwards.

Warwick Boxing Day Recovery Races (don’t forget the cricket)—the joy of living here is  you can walk to these events.  We read these races were for the 30s and under, they probably would be the ones recovering, however it was a mixed crowd so we didn’t feel out of place.  This was a much smaller race meeting than Roma, approx. 3000 here as opposed to 50,000, which meant you could get closer to the action especially seeing the horses in their stalls before and after the races.  My bets were mainly based on the look of the horse, Greg’s a combination of looks and race guide info, we fared better on the 5 races than at Roma with Greg getting two 2nd’s & my horse, Halo Boy, romping home to win in the last race!  We’re looking forward to the next meeting on 31 Jan to improve our skills further.

Cape York Research—We’ve started our research for our trip to Cape York next May.  Our cargo ship trip with Sea Swift from Bamaga (top of Cape York) back to Cairns has been booked for 5th July giving us heaps of time to cycle the 1200klms from the base of the tip.  The Cape is a popular trip for 4WDs and a few silly cyclists too!

28 Dec to 31 Dec—Our first lot of visitors arrived, Greg’s Mum, Robin, drove all the way from Sydney (825 klms) as well as our good friends, Chris & Julia, of Ridgeview B&B fame, located in East Gresford. They all came armed with goodies including Robin’s delicious home made Xmas Cake & home grown veges from Julia’s allotment & much, much more.  Having access to 2 vehicles was wonderful & we ventured to Queen Mary Falls plummeting 40 metres followed by a beautiful lunch at Spring Creek Mountain Cafe, the perfect place to take in breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.  Our afternoons consisted of games of frisbee & boules in the backyard then relocating to the front yard for pre dinner drinks watching the blazing sunsets.

We all think the same about New Year’s Eve, who can stay up to be jolly til midnight, so after our exhausting backyard activities were all in bed by 10pm!