Jonesy – The Musician

I tend to get inspired by people who go against the odds, people who do life outside the box.

Most of you know me and how in my own life I detest the run of the mill existence where life runs to a routine that tends to grind out my creativity, crushes my excitement for living, quenches my thirst for adventure and creates fear and trepidation for trying new things. I hate my “Comfort Zone”.

This is why I’m attracted to the Grey Nomads at Dumaresq Dam who play musical instruments and sing.

You see, they all started to play, sing and write in their later years. Two of the group picked up instruments for the first time only months ago. I love their complete lack of concern about how good or bad they are at it, they do it for the challenge and the pleasure.

Each of these individuals has a story that’s touching and sometimes heartbreaking but they live a happy and contented life in spite of that. They refuse to act according to the life script written by the unseen hand of social conformity.
They harm no one, break no laws, and live in peace with those around them. They’re generally not boisterous and loud, nor do they stick their chests out in self pride or continually interrupt conversation to inform all around of the extent of their knowledge and experience as is often the case in small groups.
These are humorous people without needing to be obscene or base in order to be funny.

So it’s this crowd who inspired me to visit the Armidale Music Store and purchase a Ukulele!

Now I played the “Uke” as a kid and “graduated” to the guitar in the very early teens but apart from a couple of years resurgence when I was at sea on the “WJ Scott” I’ve never seriously picked up an instrument since.

I’ve often thought about taking it up again but I look at the talent of musicians who’ve dedicated themselves to their instruments all their lives and up against them I believed I’d look like an idiot.
Well you know what? I will and I couldn’t care less!

I thought the Ukulele was best since a guitar would take up too much room in the van and would be difficult to play in the car while travelling with Kerrie driving.

The Ukulele I was going to buy was $29.95, just a modest instrument to start off. As I looked at the brightly coloured Ukes hanging on the music store racks, another took my eye. Larger and made with an obvious quality it stood out in a beckoning sort of way. I enquired about it and the shop assistant took it down and played a couple of notes.
The mellow richness resonating from those first couple of notes had me sold as completely as Kerrie can be sold on a slab of chocolate in a Lolly shop.

It’s a Baritone Ukulele, about half way between a conventional sized soprano ukulele and a guitar. Constructed of a light coloured timber with black fret board it’s lovely to look at and easy to hold.

The new Baritone Ukulele - Even matches the Aussie Wide timber panelling!

The new Baritone Ukulele – Even matches the Aussie Wide timber panelling!

After getting it home and playing around with it for a while I was surprised at how quickly the basic chords came back to me after almost 50 years.

The chords for a Baritone Ukulele are different from a soprano Uke as the Baritone is really the first four strings of a guitar. I downloaded a few chord charts and song sheets off the net and a couple of “How to Play the Ukulele” videos from YouTube. The blokes from the Grey Nomad group gave me some song sheets and off I went into a wonderful new world of being able to make music – although “music” is probably stretching it a bit at the moment. I can’t tell you the enjoyment I felt from the first few hours of playing around with this instrument.
It’s so nice doing something just for the pleasure of it without needing to be “Good at it”.

Here’s the difference between a standard Uke and a Baritone Ukulele and how it SHOULD be played…

Christmas morning worship

Kerrie was as excited as any young child waking up on Christmas morning.

We opened our gifts and cards while overlooking  the beautiful, peaceful lake at Dumaresq Dam from our bedroom window.

I cooked Kerrie’s favourite breakfast of Eggs Benedict made with fresh ham off the bone and brewed an espresso coffee which we drank as we soaked up the stillness of the morning.

After a hot shower and dressing we headed off the 14 kilometres into Armidale to the Uniting church in the centre of the city.

Armidale is a historic, cultured sort of town and its many beautiful old churches bare testimony to the extent of the Christian faith of the early townspeople.

As we drove into the city centre and parked beside Lambert Park with all its beautiful old trees and its exploding colour from a thousand different flower species, we noticed first that all the churches were crowded. People were quite literally swarming into the city to attend church showing that the Christian heritage of Armidale is still very much alive and well.

We walked along the street to the sound of church bells! It’s been so long since we’d heard the sound of church bells ringing out over town. It was a wonderful sound and it added so much to the atmosphere of Christmas. We just walked slowly on soaking up the atmosphere as the sound of the bells became interspersed with the sound of a pipe organ playing Christmas Carols as the voices of a congregation already in worship rose in song. It was a sound we’ll never forget.

We made our way into the beautiful historic old Armidale Uniting church to warm greetings and quickly filling pews. Stained glass windows, polished pitched roof timbers, large brass organ pipes and polished timber pews all combined to take us back to a time when church was a major part of life.

The Uniting Church Armidale

The Uniting Church Armidale

The church quickly filled to overflowing with people – children, teenagers, middle aged and elderly. As the worship started it was a delight to listen to the music of the huge pipe organ and to sing the Christmas songs that are so powerful in their words. This experience is what we longed for, to be in church on Christmas Day singing carols – the full verses not just the popular verses – and to lose ourselves in the significance of the words as we sang them.

The Pipe Organ in the Armidale Uniting Church

The Pipe Organ in the Armidale Uniting Church

The lady Minister, Anita Munro, preached a message that was so significant for today’s world. She spoke of the extent that our lives are influenced by the perfect world of media representation. The perfect wife taking perfectly ironed clothes straight out of the washing machine, her hair and makeup also perfect.
The immaculately dressed family at play inside a designer home sparkling with colour coordinated furniture, clean and nothing out of place. The parent filling a shopping trolley to overflowing with expensive stuff and, as a result smiling happily in a desperate attempt by the media  to make us feel that unless we do the same we’re just not normal.

She spoke of how far removed from reality this media inspired version of life is and how the event that changed the world 2000 years ago, the birth of Christ, is also the subject of a media distortion.

Almost every aspect and circumstance of the popular view of the events that led to the birth of Christ are completely out of whack with reality. The vision we are sold of the Christ child in the warm manger, wrapped in a clean white cloth, not a blade of hay out of place with the whole scene lit with the cosy glow of lanterns and surrounded by perfectly clean animals, mother immaculately dressed, is so distorted that any thinking person would laugh at the story.

The reality of the story, of course, is vastly different from our popular conception and the Minister skilfully related at least something of what the real scene would have been like.

As the service closed and we left the building to warm farewells and a bag of fresh bread that was handed to anyone wanting it, we felt we had captured a little of the Christmas’s of our past.

It’s worth us coming back to Armidale next year just for this Christmas morning experience.

This series of 5 audio broadcasts from Chuck Missler is, in my opinion, the best teaching ever on the real Christmas Story.

 

Christmas on the road.

Well if you’re away from family and friends for Christmas the next best thing is to be with like minded people out in the country enjoying nature at it’s best.

A toast to good friends and food.

A toast to good friends and food.

 

More of the crowd.

More of the crowd.

This is how Chris and I spent our Christmas day. After going into Armidale to church in the morning,which Chris will tell you about, we came home to prepare our contribution to Christmas lunch. There are about 11 caravans/campers here at the moment and little groups have formed. Ours had 16 people from 7 of the vans. Each had been given suggestions on what to bring from Linda who organising the lunch. You need someone like this for any event to run smoothly.

Allan & Linda Brisbane, Helen & John Tasmania

Allan & Linda Brisbane, Helen & John Tasmania

One of the gifts I received from ACU when I left was a new recipe book to help me find keep “The best of” recipes. You know the way it goes, everyone has a special recipe and on the road is the best place to find them. Your world opens up, it’s not just your family and friends swapping recipes. These people have the time and the experience of a lot of years and professions and most of all years living on the road.

The menu for lunch was large and varied. Dips and crackers, Bruchette platers and vol-a-vents and prawns freshly cooked in a scrumptious sauce. Ham, turkey, chicken, pork and  lamb were the meat choices, someroasted on an ingenious spit. The salads came out, roasted potato/sweet potato in a whole egg creamy mayo, fresh coleslaw, tossed salad, waldoff salad and my new addition to the recipe book a mango salad. Yummy. There were the hot roasted vegies as well. No one went hungry and we could have fed a small country. Then came the desserts. Rum balls, cherries, home made plum pudding, Christmas cake and a rum & raisin ice cream cake made with sponge rolls around the outside with the ice cream in the middle. This all went down with brandy custard and rum cream.

It’s amazing what can come out of a caravan fridge and oven. Everyone of this group is living on the road permanently. We are the newbie’s, being on the road for only a year. They have seen places we’ve never heard of and we write down places they recommend.

The food covers came in very handy as the flys came for Christmas lunch.

The food covers came in very handy as the flys came for Christmas lunch.

After the food was put away – so the fly’s could leave – the musical instruments came out, guitars, banjo’s, ukelele, harmonica’s, gidee sticks and a Murrumbidgee River Rattler. We spent the rest of the afternoon singing. Occasionally one or two would wander away to have a nanny nap and then, when refreshed, would come back  to join the group once more.

Greg writes a lot of his own songs. Jim accompanies Greg on the Ukele.

Greg writes a lot of his own songs. Jim accompanies Greg on the Ukele.

Linda on the spoons, Bonny on the Gidgee sticks.

Linda on the spoons, Bonny on the Gidgee sticks.

Kay on the Murrumbidgee River Rattler, John with his Harmonica and Helen enjoying the music.

Kay on the Murrumbidgee River Rattler, John with his Harmonica and Helen enjoying the music.

 

Allan plays the Banjo as well as the Ukele.

Allan plays the Banjo as well as the Ukele.

 

Rosco and Norm enjoying the lunch. Norm was our Santa for the day.

Rosco and Norm enjoying the lunch. Norm was our Santa for the day.

 

Kim and Ted have a converted bus with "Kim & Ted's Excellant Adventure" painted on the back.

Kim and Ted have a converted bus with “Kim & Ted’s Excellant Adventure” painted on the back.

 

Greg and Chris discussing how to change the world.

Greg and Chris discussing how to change the world.

We spoke to all the family between Christmas eve and Christmas day. Chris got his Lifesaver bottle that we’ve wanted for a while. I got spoilt. I received a Kindle eBook reader so I don’t have to have a supply of books in the van. As well, I got a new travel cup. This one doesn’t leak so it won’t drip over the Lambs wool seat covers. I also received a voucher for a massage and facial in the next town of choice. Thank you Lacey for doing up the voucher it looked great.

Our christmas decorations for the van.

Our christmas decorations for the van.

 

Chocolate decorations, so no storing needed only eating. Now thats what I call useful.

Chocolate decorations, so no storing needed only eating. Now thats what I call useful.

 

All in all Christmas 2011 was a great day.

A visit to Wollomombi Falls

Although today was a bit dismal weather wise we decided to visit the Wollomombi falls about 40 km south of Armidale.

We were told this was a “must see” and that, because of the recent heavy rains, the falls were at their best.

Arriving at the Oxley Rivers National Park we walked the 150 metres from the car park to a viewing platform jutting out from sheer cliffs that plunge 220 vertical metres to the river below.

Looking to the south from the lookout the falls offered a truly spectacular sight. To the left the Wollomombi falls were seemingly erupting from out of invisible caverns within the sheer rock walls.

Millions of megalitres of water cascades to the valley floor 220 metres below.

Millions of megalitres of water cascades to the valley floor 220 metres below.

What actually was happening was that the river was flowing full force across miles of lush tablelands around where the tiny town of Wollomombi stands. On its arrival at the point where the tablelands abruptly give way to a huge cavernous gorge the river explodes over the edge sending huge torrents of water far down to the bottom. The force and weight of the river’s flow, now with no river bed to transport its load, casts it’s waters many metres out into space before, as if surprised to be travelling through mid air, it tumbles with awesome power onto the valley floor far below.

This process happens twice as just to the right of the platform another river, The Chandler, takes the same course over the gorge’s edge from the tablelands further to the south.

The Wollomombi and Chandler Falls combine into one river on the valley floor

The Wollomombi and Chandler Falls combine into one river on the valley floor

The flows from the two falls meet at the bottom of the gorge and form one river. The aboriginal meaning of the word Wollomombi perfectly describes the scene far below on the gorge floor – “meeting of two waters”.

We walked a further 350 metres to another lookout, Checks Lookout, where the view was even more spectacular.

We could see the results of the tremendous upheavals of the past where pieces of the sheer cliffs had broken off and tumbled into the gorge, often resulting in the massive chunks being crushed on the way down to form a sandy, loamy soil that gives a tiny and precarious foundation for new plant life to spring up.

One cannot help but ponder on the cataclysmic forces that combined to torture and split the land in such a way long ago and also at the wonder of the plants that have managed to survive for many years clinging to smallest of clefts in the cliffs.

We could easily have wiled away many mores hours exploring the walks around the falls but the rain arrived in waves of heavy falls that made the tracks sloppy and difficult. As a result we headed back to Armidale and the Dam, stopping briefly at the tiny village of Wollomombi.

We’ll hopefully go back to this area before we move on again.

Mood swings of the Lake

The lake at Dumaresq Dam is almost menopausal in its changing moods.

The Dumaresq Lake in a peaceful mood

The Dumaresq Lake in a peaceful mood

Although always beautiful it changes almost hourly.

When canopied by a clear blue sky the sun creates explosions of yellow amid the deep greens of the surrounding bush covered hills. When there’s no breeze this colourful mood incorporates deep reflections on the lake surface broken only by a swimming Duck or a diving Cormorant. The reflections perfectly mirror the colour explosions in the surrounding bush on the still water and if it’s very early in the day this mood is set to a symphony of sound created by thousands of birds.

 

It’s this mood I like best. It’s as if the lake is in a selfish “It’s all about me” mood, because there are no humans yet awake and the lake can be itself. I am a solitary intruder, a silent onlooker, not creating voice or using the banks for walking, or casting a line or sailing a vessel. Not creating smoke or smell from a BBQ or batting a ball. The lake loves these human interventions, but not at this time of the day. Yes, the lake is itself at this time and it seems to love the experience.

The weather can change quickly up here in the New South Wales highlands and it’s the weather changes that influence the lake’s moods the most.

Late yesterday the mood became sombre and brooding. As a heavy rain storm advanced toward the lake the surrounding hills became enshrouded in low cloud and the darkness of the higher storm clouds prevented the explosions of colour from appearing, instead leaving the dark greens to dominate.

The lake’s surface became dark, reflectionless and a little angry as the rain poured down. The torrents of water from a thousand streams birthed in the high hills burst into the lake from every corner and from every bank causing a roaring cascade of water over the dam wall. All the wildlife had gone, seeking shelter in branch and vine, reed, log and burrow.

Human intervention is again rare when the lake is in this dark mood. All but the foolhardy soul desperate for a glimpse at the scene are secure and dry in their warm little mobile homes.

In the very early morning when the darkness is deepest and the natural symphony is at its quietest, the rain clouds briefly dissipate and allow the lights of a billion stars to cast sparkles on the now perfectly still lake surface. The moon’s glow picks out the dark shapes of the surrounding hills and trees until a cloud passes in front of it, erasing the bluish hue of this momentary illumination.

Morning again brings the tranquillity but this time the sun and clear blue sky mingle with a gentle breeze that creates tiny wavelets on the lake surface the delicate crests of which capture the sun creating a sparkling blanket of glistening diamonds across the surface.

Then the smell of morning coffee and breakfast wafts through the air and the occasional door is opened. A voice is heard here and there and this signals that the lake is no longer alone, it is has a human dynamic. The addition of people seems to usher in a different mood on the lake. It’s as if it is willing and proud to offer itself for the enjoyment of countless souls through the ages.

More Characters from the Dumaresq Community

We carried our chairs and a cool drink over to the centre of the little community where there’s a sizeable motor home parked under a huge tree. Around the tree is a pile of cut logs, the camp fire made from a dissected gas bottle, (the favourite method of cooking for thousands of Grey Nomads), and some chairs arranged in a circle.

Melodious voices and some musical instruments can be heard from this little corral at various times during the day and this time we were invited.

We were met with a friendly bunch of about thirteen people, one with a Guitar, another with a Ukulele, a lady with a set of Gidgee sticks and another lady with a Lagerphone or Murrumbidgee River Rattler, (An upright pole on which are screwed beer bottle tops. The sound is made by hitting the instrument on the floor, at the same time striking the middle section with a solid piece of wood.

The main character amidst the melody makers was Greg who played the guitar and sang most of the songs, a collection of bush ballads of which many were written by Greg himself.

In the words of his songs, Greg’s personal experiences and emotions were exposed and the way that he turned those experiences and emotions into musical stories was a delightful demonstration of how he interprets his life and the lives of those around him.

From a song called “Black Soil Road” we could easily envisage the truckie driving a Two Decker stock truck trying to get home before the rain turned the black soil road into an impassable swamp.

The melancholy song written for an Aboriginal who told Greg about losing his wife of 35 years to cancer was very moving.

The next day after talking to Greg I discovered he was also an ex commercial fisherman starting out on Cray fishing boats out of Tasmania and eventually owning his own Moreton Bay prawn trawler.

Although he hasn’t written any songs about the sea, he’s penned many poems which he’s promised to let me read. I eagerly await this opportunity.

We also met Ted and Kim who are living in a bus which they converted themselves.

Like Norm who we wrote about yeaterday, Ted also sports a spectacular, long white beard easily reaching his lower chest. Ted and Kim are avid bird photographers. They have a deep knowledge of, and an obvious passion for, Australian bird life and they maintain a Flicker site for their photos.

I had to include this link to their site and a couple of samples as these photos are simply awesome.

Click to enlarge this image of a Swamp Hen and you'll even see the expressiveness of the eye

Click to enlarge this image of a Swamp Hen and you’ll even see the expressiveness of the eye

 

We know how difficult it is to capture a shot like this one of a Scaley Breasted Lorikeet

We know how difficult it is to capture a shot like this one of a Scaley Breasted Lorikeet

 

These tiny Fairy Wrens are incredibly difficult to photograph - Look at the calrity of this shot.

These tiny Fairy Wrens are incredibly difficult to photograph – Look at the calrity of this shot.

Little Boy Lost

There’s another story from around this area that I remember as a school kid in New Zealand.

It’s centred around the town of Llangothlin about 48 km along the New England highway from Armidale.

At 9:00am on Friday, 5 February 1960 a 7 year old boy, Steven Walls, became lost in the New England Ranges in country that was described as “Man killing country”.

Four days later at 2:00pm on Monday, 8 February and against all odds Steven was found.

Stevan Wall recovering in hospital after his ordeal with mum and dad - Sydney Morning Herald

Stevan Wall recovering in hospital after his ordeal with mum and dad – Sydney Morning Herald

Steven and his father were out rounding up sheep on their property at Llangothlin and a small number broke away from the main flock. Jacko, Steven’s father said matey (which was Steven’s nick name) get Bing the dog and round up the strays. Jacko told Steven to meet him by the farm gate with the big log when he had found them. There were two farm gates with big logs and Steven waited by the wrong gate and after waiting for a long time, Steven decided to go and look for his father.  Four days later he was still looking for his Dad.

He was found sitting miserably on a log on a densely timbered mountain slope, seven miles from where he was first lost. Apart from exhaustion, he was little the worse for his ordeal in the bush. More than 2000 searchers turned out for what developed into Australia’s biggest ever hunt.

When he was found he was saying ‘Where’s my Daddy? Where’s my Daddy? Bill Scrivener who found him reportedly asked, ‘Why do you want your Daddy son?” Steven replied ‘Because he’s lost and I’ve been looking for him.”
The search by thousands of locals, including Aboriginal trackers and expert horesmen and bushmen from as far away as Warialda, inspired Johnny Ashcroft to write the hit song “Little Boy Lost” that was number 1 on the hit parade for 6 weeks both in Australia and New Zealand in 1960.

The incident was also immortalised in a movie that was made in 1978.

This is the song which backs a clip from the movie.

Dumaresq Dam History

Kerrie took a drive into Armidale today while I stayed home to get a few things done.

I had the pleasure of the company of two of the residents of the little nomad community,
Norm and Roscoe.

Both of these interesting blokes are long term travellers with Roscoe living in his caravan and Norm in a motor home. We had a great chin wag for a couple of hours and it turns out that Norm who sports a huge long white beard is a old commercial fisherman and also shares my deep and longstanding mistrust of the mainstream news media.

He gave me a photo he took of the dam wall last year when he came through here. It is such a contrast to the wall as it appears today I thought I’d include this shot.

The Dumaresq Dam wall as it looks at the moment

The Dumaresq Dam wall as it looks at the moment

The Dumaresq Dam wall at this time last year - 2010

The Dumaresq Dam wall at this time last year – 2010

There’s almost no history about the Dumaresq Dam on the internet so I’ve decided to write a little about the dam here. Fortunately there’s a notice on the wall of a picnic block at the dam with the story of its beginning. This piece is taken from that notice and was compiled by Maria Hitchcock of the Dumaresq Progress Association/LAG Inc. Armidale Dumaresq Council. The photographs are also copied from the board and are courtesy of Ian Forrester, whose grandfather, Robert William Borland Snr was the engineer in charge of construction.

Following settlement in the Armidale district in the early 1830s and establishment of the town of Armidale in 1848, the area attracted more and more settlers. Townspeople relied on water extracted from private wells and from the Dumaresq Creek but this was in short supply, especially during long dry spells. In 1883 the construction of the railway line led to a huge increase in water consumption. It soon became clear that the town needed to plan for a secure water supply for the future. A suggestion to dam Sam’s Swamp on Duval Creek and transport water by pipe to several reservoirs in town was recommended then later rejected by a Parliamentary Committee which met in Armidale in October 1892.

A view of the inside of the Dumaresq Dam wall

A view of the inside of the Dumaresq Dam wall

Council subsequently called for the erection of ten 1000 gallon tanks and stands the
next month and Public Works took over the temporary supply of water in February 1893.

In January the following year a well was dug at the gasworks. It was 36 ft deep and 9 ft wide but it was emptied in 2 hours during dry weather. At the same time a partially cased 10ft deep well with a timbered pipe was dug in the creek for fire fighting.

Things were getting desperate.

Another view of the inside of the Dumaresq Dam wall

Another view of the inside of the Dumaresq Dam wall

The following year in 1894, the Chief Engineer of Harbours and Rivers visited Armidale and as a result Public Works recommended the construction of a dam on Dumaresq Creek. Council insisted that local labour be used to prevent an influx of unemployed from other towns and this was confirmed a year later.

The stone crusher and engine at the Dumaresq Dam

The stone crusher and engine at the Dumaresq Dam

Things moved fairly quickly at first. In March 1895, tenders were called to clear 42 acres for the reservoir. Two months later, Mr Davis, Supervising Engineer of Harbours and Rivers visited Armidale and called for tenders to lay a pipeline from the dam to a service reservoir.

Dumaresq Dam wall under construction - The Ghostlike image is a reflection of me taking the photo from the notice board.

Dumaresq Dam wall under construction – The Ghostlike image is a reflection of me taking the photo from the notice board.

Then the construction struck a few problems. New tenders had to be called in November to clear and fence the dam site and the following April (1896) the contractor Mr Wilson abandoned the project. Council asked if the new contractor could use the engine and stone crusher left behind. This was agreed to and Major Wigan met with Public Works to discuss the construction. He suggested that it be completed using day labour. By August 1897, the dam was completed. It was 62 feet long buy 36 feet high and held 102 million gallons when full.

A timber pipeline was laid to a service reservoir near the town. Residents quickly connected to the town water supply in response to them now being rated for water.

Construction of the wall at Dumaresq Dam

Construction of the wall at Dumaresq Dam

All did not go smoothly at first. The rotting vegetation in the dam caused the water to be undrinkable for some time. The railway asked for 10 million gallons annually and the Council came into conflict with the Government departments which claimed exemption from water rates resulting in a large loss of revenue which was needed to pay supply accounts. By 193, the original timber pipeline which fed the dam suffered severe white ant damage and was partially replaced with metal pipe. By 1960 it was entirely metal.

A caretaker’s cottage was built on site and some foundations and remnants of the garden can still be seen at the entrance to the reserve.

The caretaker was responsible for agisting stock, repairing fences, looking after the boat and boatsheds and scouring the pipes. In 1946 a new cottage was built and Mr Handebo, the caretaker, would walk the length of the pipeline into town to inspect it for leaks. He died accidently a year later and the cottage was moved to the filtration plant in Armidale.

The caretakers cottage at Dumaresq Dam

The caretakers cottage at Dumaresq Dam

Other dams were built in the district to supplement water supplies. Puddledock Dam was constructed in 1928 and Gara Dam in 1954. The severe drought of 1964 – 1965 stretched all these supplies and serious steps were taken to ensure a secure water supply for Armidale.

The huge Malpas Dam near Black Mountain was completed in 1968. Dumaresq Dam was gazetted as a recreation reserve in 1972 and the public picnic shelter was constructed in 1978.

A tour around Armidale

There’s a free guided bus tour of Armidale that leaves every day at 10.00am and we’d heard it was a very worthwhile experience so we booked to take the tour today.

The guide was a thouroughly delightful old gal named Jennifer who combined a quick wit with her vast local knowledge of the city both historical and current. Her cultured speech complimented the many historical places of mainly British heritage and we were delighted with the tour around this beautiful city that boasts a grand history from rural industry to gold mining and higher education. The grandest buildings were the city’s many old churches the schools and the university.

St Peters Anglican Church

St Peters Anglican Church

A Fat Bellringer

A Fat Bellringer

Inside St Peters Church

Inside St Peters Church

Because of the cooler high country climate the gardens and trees were very English especially those surrounding the historic buildings.

We never tire of hearing about the history of this country and the people who built it. The courage, vision, commitment and sheer hard work of the early settlers of this land are a constant inspiration to us.

We loved the tour of Booloominbah, the magnificent residence surrounded by beautiful grounds that was built by the colonial grazier, Frederick White for his family of seven children. He and his wife Sarah had already lost five children in infancy and during their
time at Booloominbah tragedy struck again when another daughter, Ethel, drowned while on a picnic near Armidale at the age of 22.

Booloominbah - The White's family home

Booloominbah – The White’s family home

The entry hall of the house has a magnificent stained glass window and an ornately carved fireplace at the base of a highly polished timber stairway.

This magnificent stained glass window graces the entrance of Booloominbah

This magnificent stained glass window graces the entrance of Booloominbah

Today it houses the administration offices and meeting rooms of the University of New England but hearing the history of its inhabitants made us look beyond the elegance of the structure and try to glimpse the daily routine of the house when it was a family home.

The Railway Museum was fascinating also. The Armidale railway station is now the “end of the line” for trains travelling north of Sydney that once ran to Brisbane until the late 1960s.

The beautifully maintained railway station

The beautifully maintained railway station

There are many historically significant places in Armidale, Australia’s highest city,(altitude), and the Heritage Tour is a delightfully relaxed way of seeing them.

The remainder of the day was wet and overcast so we spent the afternoon cosily sheltered in the Aussie Wide listening to the rain.

Early Morning Magic

Stepping out into the cool morning, before anyone else at the little Dumaresq Dam community was about, revealed a remarkable sight. A blanket of mist was moving like some dispossessed spirit across the lake and extending up into the surrounding hills.

The water on the lake surface was like a mirror and as ducks swam along they created wakes from their bodies which was the only disturbance to the water.

Thousands of birds added a symphony of sound that was perfectly orchestrated to fit the
moment.

It was a brief time of complete peace and tranquillity that lasted until the warming rays of
the rising sun transformed the misty blanket into countless water droplets that quickly fell to and became part of the waters of the lake. Even as I grabbed the camera to try to capture the scene the mist was dissapating.  In a few minutes the lake was transformed back to its blue surface colour, now with a trillion sparkles emanating from the sun catching the tiny ruffles on the water caused by the gentle breeze that had arisen.

I was glad I was able to be a solitary onlooker into that moment. Even though I knew it was a combination of millions of random consequences working together and triggered by the predawn temperature reacting to the moist air, it was as if it had been meticulously planned just for my benefit.

The morning mist over Dumaresq Dam - Dissipating even as the photo is taken.

The morning mist over Dumaresq Dam – Dissipating even as the photo is taken.

 

Four more travellers appeared during the night and the little community has suddenly swelled to 11 vans and motor homes.

We spent the day bringing some parts of the blog up to date such as the About Us page, the Our New Home page and the Our Old Home page. We also started planning for two new websites, a product that we can sell at local Farmers Markets as we travel and the continuing conversion of our programs to web based applications.

We took a walk around the lake in the afternoon and although it was very boggy in parts it was a delight to view the little lakeside mobile community from across the other side of the lake.

The Aussie Wide from the "Other Side" of Dumaresq Dam

The Aussie Wide from the “Other Side” of Dumaresq Dam

The upper reaches of the Dumaresq Dam

The upper reaches of the Dumaresq Dam

We met another resident who is also New Zealand born, from Wellington, and has been in Australia one year longer than me, thirty five years, and also like me has only been back for three short visits.  She invited us to join the group that meet in the middle of the park each afternoon and we look forward to that.

Two more vans arrived late today.

While we nearly all need a generator from time to time most tend to use them sparingly, just to top up batteries on a cloudy day or to add a little power for short periods. Some travellers, however, have rigs with more electronics that can be run by solar power alone, requiring the almost constant use of a generator. We’re hoping the latest arrivals are not of this group as we love this spot and we don’t particularly want to move on just yet.