January 2009

Jan 1—Happy New Year—We all piled into Chris’ car and he drove us to Stanthorpe & the Granite Belt Villages, the coldest quarter of the hottest state in Australia.  Its pulling power is as much about its wine industry, national parks + orchards as its reputation for bracing nights & crisp clear days.  Being New Year’s Day there wasn’t much open in Stanthorpe & we weren’t interested Granite Belt wines (not our favourite!) however the highlight of the trip was the stunning countryside—rolling hills, Angofphra red gum trees & granite boulders after which the area is named. 

Jan 3-6—Chris & Julia left early for their long drive back to Ridgeview, Gresford. Robin was leaving later that afternoon so we hopped in her car & drove along the Sprint Route via Pratten & Leyburn.  It’s named after Leyburns Historic Vintage Motor Sprint which attracts 1000s in August for a 118 klm round trip.  We back tracked to Allora to have coffee at our favourite cafe in this very pretty town, then visited the Heritage listed Glengallen Homestead along the New England Highway at Warwick.  This sandstone homestead was inhabited & derelict for 75 years remaining frozen in time as it has since 1867. 

We were really very flattered and appreciative that Chris, Julia & Robin had driven such long distances to visit us and none of us are quite sure when we’ll see each other again. That afternoon Warwick Castle was quiet once more, Greg and I felt a bit flat, there were no activities in the backyard nor front yard so we walked into town & had dinner at The Palace Hotel.   However, activities will resume this week with the arrival of Mally & Karen from Gunnedah along with their beasties, Jaimie & Benny. In the interim the Australian Cricket team are in the throws of losing the Test against a very competitive South Africa and we are watching this unfold from the comfort of our lounge. This nail biting and exhausting activity is only interrupted by the occasional visit to the cafe, or to the shops for supplies. Greg assures me it would be “un-Australian to do anything else”. I think the novelty of mowing the grass has worn off for Greg.

Jan 7—31—The arrival of the beasties Jaimie (8) & Benny (7) saw some top class cricket played in the back yard followed by a BBQ catching up on Mally & Karen’s news.  They’d travelled 6 hours from Gunnedah making their way to Coffs Harbour to attend a wedding, as always it was great to see them all and appreciated their extended detour to see us.  The next day we drove out to Queen Mary Falls & had a BBQ of sausage sangers in the park while being swarmed upon by thousands of flies, we didn’t hang around for long.  Later that evening another game of cricket with James & Alex from next door, whose Mum, Julie, handed us loads of fresh eggs...yumm....We proudly showed off Warwick to Mally & Karen with early morning walks, drives in the countryside & walks around the town.  We’ve found we miss our time with friends and family and it’s good to slip into familiar banter and conversation around a table and of course primed with good wine. The time went too quickly & before we knew it we were waving goodbye to our friends.  Here’s Benny’s thoughts of his visit—Warwick Castle (ugly) , breakfast (bacon burnt), Greg (bald & smelled), Wellsy (Ugly Betty)..thanks Ben, we’ll look forward to our next catch up!

Our Neighbours & “Scabby Cat”—We’re still being supplied with all sorts of goodies from our neighbours-eggs, beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs, apple cucumbers, home made date & walnut loaf, apple pie & biscuits, the last 3 being made by “Mum” (Terry’s Mum) who at 92 bakes such delicacies in her wood fired stove, even in the summer!!  It’s Terry who grows the magnificent Tuberous Begonias (see photos), which are amongst the most spectacular of all the begonias, we love to look around his & “Mum’s” garden, they & we get such joy from it.  Terry’s bike now sports my old cycle seat & a clean chain, for a 20 year old bike it still in perfect condition as is his 30+ year Ford Falcon Station Wagon lovingly covered in his garage .  Our back neighbours, Paul & Julie, invited us along to The Southern Downs Hotel, aka Sandy Creek Pub, with friend’s of theirs, Kerry & Don.  We all piled into the hotel’s courtesy bus along with 5 kids & had a great night.

We’ve been adopted by a skinny, feral cat which we’ve named “Scabby Cat”, not friendly enough to pat, beats up other cats & yells to be fed, how soft we are.  If I could get my hands on him I’d whisk him to the vet to get his manhood taken away, perhaps this would fatten him up too.  ‘Look out Scabby, that what she did to me + you’ll probably be fed lentils soon too“ Greg warned him!!   Hopefully the next tenants take pity on him & continue to feed him.

Cycle Trips—We’ve been invited on a bike ride by Jonathon.  He’s lives in Stanthorpe (about 70 klms away) & being a keen cyclist noticed our bikes in town & waited until we appeared to chat to us.  The ride he’s suggested is going through some magnificent country however when anybody suggests a ride we get quite apprehensive as we’re not fast cyclists, Jonathon says he’s not either, wait until he rides with us though!  Still in anticipation of this ride & to keep our fitness & svelte like figures maintained (!!) we’re riding 2/3 mornings each week having visited Killarney pub for lunch (70 klms), coffee at Allora via Bony Mountain (72 klms), Leslie Dam (32 klms) & Junabee (30klms)....by 10th Feb we should be ready for the climb to Queen Mary Falls and down into the gorge.

Simon & Camille, friends from Sydney, arrived for a couple of days before heading to Brisbane to visit a sick friend.  On the evening they arrived we went to the Sovereign Hotel down the road for few quick beers before lighting the BBQ on the front lawn for dinner. The next day we took them, or rather they took us, to the magnificent Carr’s Lookout & ate next door at Spring Creek Cafe, 1km above sea level, with views over the valley to Mt Wilson & Mt Superbus in the dramatic Scenic Rim.  Dinner at the Palace Hotel before heading home (the pubs closes on Saturday night at about 9.30pm) to have a few beers on the front step. Again wonderful to see more friends from Sydney and hear their news.

26 Jan—Australia Day!  Our steam train ride on the “Downs Dasher” to Clifton (1.5 hours) then a transfer by bus to Rudd’s Pub at Nobby for lunch.  We camped opposite this pub the night before we arrived in Warwick.  After more than a decade of hard work it all came to fruition this long weekend when the “Dasher’s” 2 restored carriages filled with passengers eager to catch a different kind of glimpse of the Southern Downs countryside.  With more carriages being restored & more trips planned this should bring tourism benefits to community.

Other Stuff-The weather is unusually hot (around 30˚C ) sticky at the moment so after our leisurely ride into town for coffee at Bryson’s Cafe we’ve been watching the Aussies get beaten by the South Africans at cricket & the tennis players being sizzled in the 40 degree heat in Melbourne at the Australian Open.  In between Greg has been battling with a warranty issue with our leaking tent for the past 7 weeks, finally resolved with a new tent arriving.  Our bikes have had new seat posts installed (old ones had to be cut out as rusted in), I’m “wearing in” a new leather saddle (hopefully more comfortable than my last seat) & were also awaiting replacement rear mudguards as our current ones are cracked.  On top of that reading, daily crosswords, office admin, going to movies & deciding what & where to eat keeps us busy.  We have yet to visit a new Indian restaurant, we sampled the Italian fare at the Golf Club, food good however the highlight was the entertainment, we can’t remember the young lady’s name but she played solo guitar with a most amazing voice.  With a friend Dazey (Allan Day) arriving in a couple of days, neighbours coming over for a BBQ, more bike rides, friends from Brisbane arriving on 14/2 & planning for our garage sale in 3 weeks, our last few weeks in Warwick will fly by.