Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Interior

We are now starting our trek southward, back to Sydney. Only this time we are heading inland, since we toured the coast on the way up. For the first time we are seeing significant numbers of sheep; to this point we have seen mainly beef cattle grazing in the fields. Of course, this meant that we had to stop in an observe the activity on a sheep farm; which included the sheering of the sheep.

Our furthest point north was the town of Brundaberg, which is famous for its rum distillery. Given that this is only a short distance from the Tropic of Capricorn, it is not surprizing that we noted many unusual crops being grown in the fields, including bananas, pineapples and sugar cane. Much of the coastal area is a tropical rainforest setting, but the interior is a high plateau of rolling hills and flat plains, which will eventually give way to the vast stretches of arid desert of the Outback. We also came across numberous wine valleys, and sampled a few of their excellent products. Each area has its distinctive taste, and they specialize in different varietals.

Passing through the town of Kingaroy, we saw a huge mill and learned that the town is the peanut-processing centre of Australia. Spotting a peanut-hut on the main street, w

e simply had to stop to sample the wares, and to try out the local product, which is both fresh and very tasty.

That night we stopped in the town of Toowoomba, (no doubt an aboriginal word meaning 'place of fresh-flowing water'), which is a major transportation hub linking the coast with the interior. Since the government is cutting back on the railroads, (does this sound familiar?), the roads have been clogged with large semi-trailers, and they roll through town all day and night. We also learned that Toowomba is the home of Southern Cross Industries, which manufactured everything from farm implements to aircraft, but is most famous for having produced the Southern Cross Windmill, a fixture of farm life in Oz. In all there were some 200,000 of the distinctive windmills sold in the country, and you can't drive more than 5 minutes in a farming area without spotting one. Many of them are still working; proof that low-tech can also be effective.

The next night was spent in Warrick, and we could begin to see flowering cactus plants, sagebrush and other indications that the area was more arid. Oddly, in the past weeks the area has received the most rain it has experienced in 30 years, which compensates for the droughts of the past 5 years. Slipping out of the state of Queensland, we simply had to stop at the roadside pub that bills itself on the north side of the building as The Last Pub In Queensland, and on the South side of the building as The First Pub In Queensland. Translation for non-Aussies; Pokies means that it has Poker Machines (VLTs) Counter Meals means there are no waiters; you have to order and pay for pub meals at the bar, just like your drinks! Carleton is a brand of beer, and Mid means they have Middies (small glasses of beer), in addition to the Schooners, and the Pints. And under the Truth In Advertising Laws of Queensland, the pub is obliged to disclose that it also has Ugly Staff, a Crabby Cook, a Stinking Dog that inhabits the pub, and Bloody Parrots that are so loud they drown out all conversation when they congregate in the nearby tree at dusk!
In addition to all of this, we stopped in at yet more excellent wineries to try out the local product, although at one we did discover some odd creatures cleaning up the leftovers from the Fall Harvest!

Aussie Oddities;

- the highest railroad station in Australia is located, naturally enough, in a small town called Summit;
- the General Store in Summit; it also features the curbside petrol pumps;
- an egg-salad sandwich, done Australian-style. It has egg, lettuce, carrot, onion, bean sprouts, beets, cucumbers, and cheese. Just to spice things up, it also has a strong curry flavouring added. An acquired taste!
- We thought that the Astronautical Observatory was a little over-stated; it was about 6 feet tall!