Broken Hill Road Trip – Part 3

This is the third and final post about my recent road trip to Broken Hill. You can read the other two parts: Spring Road Trip to Broken Hill and Road Trip to Broken Hill Part 2 by clicking on the links.


Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end and the final stage of my road trip to Broken Hill was the drive from Cobar to Orange for an overnight stop, and then back home to Wollongong.

Cobar to Orange

Another full day of driving. I am not sure why I add that detail. Firstly, it’s a road trip! That’s what you do on road trips – drive! Secondly, this is Australia; it’s a long way between towns, so of course, it’s a full day’s driving!

The desert is well behind us, the roads are good, and we’re up to Disc 8 of the Steven Fry Chronicles. The fields on either side of us are now filled with waving grain crops, there’s some yellow canola and the ubiquitous purple of Paterson’s Curse is still brightening things up. It’s a curse because it is toxic to livestock and in particular horses. Sheep can tolerate eating some, but the weed spreads easily and degrades pastures.

We started early after a good rest at Cobar Caravan Park. The low background hum I heard the night before is still present. Machinery? Something to do with the mine? Before we leave town we visit the Fort Bourke Lookout where you can peer right down into an open cut mine. Even with the steel cage between you and the sheer drop, it’s a bit scary. 

Iain, without a safety harness!

Nyngan

Our first stop, 130 km east is the town of Nyngan. Some people may remember Nyngan being flooded in 1990 when it was isolated for many weeks and its people evacuated. Nyngan is on the Bogan River. Just mentioning that is enough to make many Aussie’s smile. BOGAN!! Seriously?  I take my hat off to the people of Nyngan! What a terrific sense of humour they have. Nyngan has a Big Bogan! A bogan being Aussie slang for an uncouth or unsophisticated person. Nyngan’s Big Bogan certainly is a tourist attraction. We had to line up and wait to get a photo. He’s in a park across the road from the Beancounters’ House, presumably an accountant’s office. 

The Big Bogan – and Michele!

Australia has a propensity for “Big Things” as tourist attractions. Like The Big Pineapple in Nambour, Queensland, The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW. There was a Big Potato in Robertson NSW that looked like a big poo! The Big Prawn, The Big Oyster, The Big Lobster! One of my personal favourites The Big Merino in Goulburn. Anyway, I digress, 

Another scenic route (aka the long way round!)

Nyngan also has a couple of seriously good op shops. Michele, my travelling buddy and I had made a point of stopping at op shops on our road trip. We came away with some good buys and contributed to local charities. (Don’t worry folks it fits in with my year of zero pledge! I will get rid of as many items as I bought when I get home!) Next time I travel, I am going to take a close to empty bag and buy what I need from op shops as I go.

After Nyngan we head south and travel through some very small towns and right about now my phone which has been mucking up, decides to fail altogether. We don’t have a map. The roads are well signposted but I like to have an idea of where we are and how long before we get to our destination. We stopped in the small town of Tottenham, the geographical centre of NSW, to buy a map without any luck. Next Tullamore, still no map, but the phone has come back to life. Next Trundle and Parkes, our lunch stop.

Parkes – The Moon and Elvis

Parkes is a little bit famous for a couple of reasons. It has an Elvis Festival and secondly, it has a large radio-telescope which played a crucial part in the Apollo Moon Missions in the 60s and 70s. The movie, The Dish, was set in Parkes. Although we didn’t visit the dish this time, we had a great lunch at Wholesome Blend,  a healthy, tasty salad bowl and a good coffee. 

Elvis with a chainsaw?

As you do when you visit places like Parkes, we checked out the real estate prices. Very reasonable indeed!  I decided I could live in Parkes. Only four and half hours from Sydney and three and a half hours to Canberra, it’s close enough, but far enough away from city life with a good community around you. It’s even got the NBN (broadband internet).

The broad plains and rolling landscape between Parkes and Orange are delightful. Bands of yellow canola are interspersed with the green of wheat and other grains. We pass through Manildra and it’s flour processing mill and roll into Orange about 3 PM.

I took this back in 2012.

Orange

We have told our AirBnB host we’ll be arriving at five so we stop at Cook Park. Cook Park is a cold climate park and is set out in the shape of the Union Jack with bisecting diagonal pathways. It was certainly worth the visit with some colourful peonies and tulips on display. 

Orange hosts a Food and Wine Festival and is renowned for its “foodie” status. There are a lot of wineries in the surrounding area. However, we found it hard to get something for dinner.  Because of COVID restrictions, most places required a booking. We hadn’t booked and everywhere was packed because of reduced seating requirements.  After two circuits around town, we managed to get into the Parkview Hotel and had some very fine bangers and mash. (Pork and fennel sausages, truffle-infused mashed potatoes and squeaky fresh green beans.) I must admit I was ruing my Year without Alcohol pledge in such a fine wine town but trust me my soda water was delicious! (Note: no non-alcoholic beer or kombucha  in a cosmopolitan Orange pub even though it was available in Silverton!) 

The AirBnB The Swales was marvellous and I’d highly recommend it. Our host Mal was helpful and the very canny way they were able to divide their substantial home into two separate sections by simply closing two connecting doors, was very clever. They provided the makings for a good DYI breakfast.

Last day on the road.

Orange is about 4 hours from Wollongong so we did not plan any further stops and left town around midday after scoping out op shops and having one last look around. We bought a bottle of wine to give as a gift to Louise who had lent us our desert dress-ups. (See this post) Heading east from Orange there are places to stop and if you’re not in a rush to get home, have a look at Bathurst and Katoomba. Katoomba is the heart of the Blue Mountains and is a popular day-trip spot for tourists and locals. After that, it’s just suburbia and traffic and life back in the saddle! Sigh!

From Jewel-sea to far horizons.

It was great to see the blue-blue ocean again and smell the salty air but as I looked at my still dusty, insect-splatted car with the red bull dust trickling out from behind the number plate, I remembered how beautiful the flat red heart of Australia is too. 

The words of Dorethea’s Mackellar’s poem sprang to mind and I concur with her wholeheartedly.

I love a sunburnt country, 

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges, 

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons, 

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror – 

The wide brown land for me!


I’m planning my next road trip already! Six weeks in Victoria in 2021, provided the border is open of course! 

PS: We didn’t get to finish the 12th and final disc in Steven Fry’s Chronicles, we ran out of time!  

A mere 2,700 odd kilometres!

PPS: My phone ended up dying completely two days after we got home. $530 and a new screen later it’s all good! 🙁

PPPS: I now have a large touring map book under the front seat of my car.

Furious Fiction 16 – October 2020

My, my the year goes quickly when you punctuate it with monthly Furious Fiction entries! This month I am pleased to say, I was able to use the prompts to progress my story about Frankie the Flamboyant dresser. It’s getting a bit darker than I had originally anticipated and I hate to say, without meaning to, that I am beginning to appropriate the plot line from the Handmaids Tale! Oh dear!!

Furious Fiction Prompts for October

This month’s Furious Fiction prompts were:

  • something had to get caught
  • use the words object, wound, band and elaborate
  • the last two words must be ‘the moon’

This story was written in less than 2 hours on Sunday night. I got back from my Broken Hill road trip late Friday night and had heaps to catch up on Saturday. I was not going to enter but the prompts were an easy target this month.

Stats for Furious Fiction for October 2020: 487 words, started 8:10 PM Sunday, submitted 10:05 PM Sunday.

Chapter 6: Jeremy’s Friend

Justice O’Mallory hung his wig and silk gown on the coat stand as he surveyed the drab congregation gathered in his wood-panelled office.  Normally a loquacious host, O’Mallory was wound up and on edge because Jeremy, his clerk, had brought along an unvetted guest, Thomas Ball. No one had ever seen him before, but it was clear he was not one of them.

The presence of this Ball fellow was problematic. Firstly, it meant the gathering was now twenty-one and not twenty people. O’Mallory could imagine tomorrow’s headline – JUDGE BREAKS GATHERING LIMITS!  Secondly, it meant they needed to be exponentially more careful about what they said.

This particular band of silks, once considered a little left of centre, were now bold subversives. Ever since the Ultra Conservative Party had come into power, the “Silk Pyjamas” as they called their troupe, were fastidious about who they let into their weekly soirees. After all their whole object was to find a way to overturn the Government.

While there was no need for an elaborate cover story to explain their being in Chambers late at night (what was more normal than a group of red-nosed legal eagles getting smashed on a Friday?), there was a need to ensure no-one was around to rat them out. Who knew where Thomas Ball fitted in? For all O’Mallory knew, Ball could be a UCP spy!  

———-

The UCP had burst onto the scene during the Pandemic with their promises of a return to the “Old Normal”. The changes they made to the laws were incremental. Under the guise of a widely lauded pro-environmental, anti-consumerist platform, their first Parliamentary Bills were to enact a strict monochromatic dress code (The Fashion Laws). Next, other civil liberties like freedom of movement, and freedom of association, sensible to stop the spread of the Pandemic, remained in force long after any community transfer of the virus had ended.

The leaders of the UCP had been very clever. Trading on the simultaneous moods of hysteria and complacency within the general populous, they had essentially locked down democracy without it even being debated.

———

O’Mallory sat in his Chesterfield swirling his whiskey, and reviewing his day. He’d sent yet another poor sod to gaol for wearing brightly coloured clothes. He sighed, it was unjust. He knew for a fact that the UCP hacks secretly wore red boxer shorts. It was their hypocritical trademark, reminiscent of a Masons’ apron.

Caught up in his thoughts, O’Mallory’s reverie was broken when Jeremy and Ball approached.

“Your Honour, I know I was out of line bringing Tom, but I knew you’d want to meet him”.

“And why’s that?”

As Tom sat down next to O’Mallory, his pink socks flashed from under his grey trousers, he didn’t try to hide them.

“Tom is that investigative journalist we’ve been looking for. The one with the whistle in his pocket… the one who’ll blow the UCP to the moon!”


The next step is to get Justice O’Mallory and Frankie in the same room together with Tom Ball. This might be a bit tricky since Frankie is in gaol. After that, several of the high ranking politicians will be found en flagrante in coloured dress ups and the Fashion Laws will be quickly repealed to prevent them being gaoled. I am thinking there’s three more chapters at the most in Frankie’s story. After that I’ll link them altogether and publish it as one long story. That’s a job for 2021! I might not be writing a winner but I am having fun.

Is it just me or is everyone in a COVID funk??

I published this on September 16th but it turned up in my drafts folder… not sure what happened there….

Am I suffering (post)-COVID funk? Last week I talked about the idea of mini habits suggested by Stephen Guise and the strategies used by Michele Bridges in her 12WBT Challenge (12 Week Body Transformation) as ways of getting myself off the couch, or more correctly out of bed and into action.

Let me set a few things straight, it’s not that I am NOT exercising or eating OK it’s just that I know I can do better.  A lot better. I know that once it’s done I feel GOOD after I have exercised first thing in the morning. That smug sense of self-satisfaction gives me a real boost for the rest of the day. My problem has been maintaining or re-establishing my preferred routine.

There have been two factors that have led to my routine crashing around my feet, one novel and one that happens every year. Firstly, the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 and the second, winter.

Been here, done that, sort of.

I can see from my Facebook memories that this time last year and the year before and most likely the year before that, I was in a similar space. On top of that, we have COVID.

Speaking with friends, reading social media posts and a quick search of “post COVID funk” on Google shows that I am definitely not alone.  There are a plethora of articles already published claiming   we’re all feeling like this. That is, unmotivated and not liking it.

Articles published by the Sydney Morning Herald right through to a blog post about getting back into your bass guitar practice are offering support and advice.

The advice is consistent. Get off social media and get outside (after you finish reading this post of course). Stop watching the news. Eat well, sleep better, connect with friends.

The bass guitar blog even agrees with me on the benefits of mini habits

It is common to hope for motivation to show up to make us want to practice. But a more useful strategy is for us to show up for a small, doable task – regardless of motivation being involved or not – and then celebrate the fact that we did the task.

Motivation is overrated.

Regular short practice bits (and feeling better about ourselves for having done them!) are underrated.

Focus on a short task – one scale, one verse of a song, one technique exercise. Then high five yourself for having done them. The good feeling the high five creates will have you coming back tomorrow. (If you want to know more about this, check out this book).

More serious concerns

My personal situation is not a dramatic problem and I anticipate my laziness will begin to evaporate once we head towards spring and the mornings are brighter and warmer. I have a secure “essential job”, I have a house where I can retreat to if needed. I really have very little to worry about.

There are real concerns that some people will develop more serious health issues and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the months of uncertainty and stress. For many Australians, particularly those on the east coast, COVID hit when we weren’t yet over the devastating fires of summer. Just as families were getting back on their feet, we were locked inside. Health care workers and other “front line” people haven’t had a chance to catch their breath. They have lurched from one crisis to another.

According to a report from The Black Dog Institute (one of Australia’s peak mental health bodies) people who have had  positive diagnosis of COVID-19 are also at a specially high risk.

“In past pandemics, patients who experienced severe and life-threatening illnesses were at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, months to years following their illness [12, 13]. Appropriate systems and supports need to be put in place to screen patients, especially hospitalised patients who have survived COVID-19, to screen for common mental health problems and to provide appropriate psychological supports.”

Problem solved.

I have spent enough time wallowing and when I look at the hardship some others are experiencing, I am embarrassed. I need to recognise the privilege I have and stop whingeing! I’m going to use the idea of mini habits and JFDI to drag myself up by the shoelaces and get out there and exercise.

Next month, I  am going to look more closely at mini habits or more specifically Tiny Habits. I will post a review and executive summary of  the Tiny Habits book by BJ Fogg. (Similar idea to Guise’s mini Habits)

In the meantime,  I am off for a run.


If you are suffering from severe anxiety and are seeking more useful help than I am talking about here please reach out to people who can help.  There are some great resources here at the Black Dog Institute’s website.

Australian readers can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for mental health support.